So it turns out there are a lot of people trying to make money online off of other people trying to make money online, which we knew. I wrote about this pyramid-y phenomenon in the post Black Hat.
As usual, a step back for context. Two weeks ago I wrote about the Google Dance. My niche site, which I started three months ago as a way to travel and write about it, had suddenly started showing up on page 4 of google, without my doing any more than writing articles. I wondered if Fraser Cain, founder of Universe Today, who said offsite SEO was obsolete, was onto something. I continued writing articles for the section pertaining to the keyword that was ranking well, creating a pretty deep resource for anyone looking to read more about any of 5-6 topics. This wasn’t the standard “500 words on a topic popular on market samurai” niche site. This was ultimate resource shit. The google rank bobbed into the mid-20s, fueling excitement I might be able to skip the “learning curve” most of my idols experienced, and monetize right away.
Well, it’s not that easy. Which is good, from the standpoint of giving advice to others. I would hate for a reader of Breaking Ferriss to attempt to implement my advice and fail simply because I got lucky.
My site has settled in the mid-30s for my keyword, and that’s where it will probably sit until I can increase my site authority a bit. The fact that it’s ranking so well with just content is a sign I chose a good keyword. Now it’s up to me.
Which brings us back to the 500-pound gorilla in every webmaster’s closet: SEO.
I’ve written in previous posts that I believe every type of link building except natural link building will soon be obsolete. That includes expired domains, currently the rage. Let’s get this out of the way up front: I may be wrong. If you’ve read this far you know I’m no expert, but neither, necessarily, is a guy whose whole livelihood depends on expired domains. What I see is steady improvement of the search engines in distinguishing genuine buzz from manufactured buzz, and if you think expired domains don’t differ from genuine high PR (page rank) sites in some fundamental ways that algorithms will eventually be able to sniff out, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. (Sure, John Smith for state senate 2006 may have a high page authority, but I’d rather get a link from a real, live webmaster, thank you very much.)
But there’s good news. There is a way to make even the old-school relationship-building it always comes back to easier, and I love it. Perry Rosenbloom, proprietor of fine business such as SEO Sherpa, discovered a way to “scrape” google results for groups and foundations related to your niche. Do the google search for your keyword, do the meta-search to trawl your results for organizations and foundations. A little leg (eye, index finger) work to discover the name and contact info of the president of each organization, a little mail merging after writing a personal message, and presto! Potentially hundreds of opinion makers in your niche just got a personalized email offering your content to their members.
Key word is “offering.” Not hard-selling. It’s astonishing now many people get this wrong.
Luckily, I’ve received a few such emails myself this week, and the reactions they elicited from meis a useful guide for how potential colleagues are likely to relate to your emails.
Which brings us back to the opening sentence of this post. The overwhelming majority go something like “I’ve noticed your site could be getting a lot more traffic.” Somewhere in somebody’s mom’s basement, the inventor of the SEO Spam Robot is chuckling heartily, because he’s the only person making any money from these messages.
A little further up the totem pole are messages that were probably written by a human being, but that seep with arrogance and totally misunderstand the basic value-adding proposition of a business deal. “I read your site and used to have the same problem. Now my site’s ranked on the first page.” Well, how did you solve my problem? The question is never answered in the email or comment. Because, of course, this is somebody doing link building for a site specializing in making money online. Beyond the unsettling questions the fact that these so-called experts are spending their time making no-follow comments on low page-authority sites- about the lowest leverage SEO there is, raises, it’s not very sporting not to offer advice, and real “gurus” like Pat Flynn and Spencer Haws rarely withhold information like that.
So you want to avoid looking like a spam bot or used car salesman. There actually is a Ferrissian best-practice for this, and it’s to make a genuinely helpful comment or open an email with a disarming overture, then suggest content you believe might be helpful – instead of just linking to your home page – and leave it there.
I got just such an email last week, and I have little doubt it was mail merged. I didn’t care. Whoever penned it – or her assistant in her stead – had done her research, and offered some thoughtful comments on how she and I may be on the same “train” (my analogy, not hers). She didn’t ask for a link and she didn’t need to. Her site is definitive. Page authority 66, and brimming with useful, user-reviewed, affiliate-monetized content. She’ll get a link from me because her site’s a great resource, and she deserves it.
Of course I played the same game in the reply, offering a couple of my articles I believed would be useful to her readers, and saying I would appreciate any thoughts. I didn’t ask for a link either – she knows the dance we’re doing and she’ll link to me if she feel its useful and or appropriate. I wouldn’t want it any other way. The rarely discussed truth about junk links is their terrible conversion rate.
I don’t want people on my site unless they want to be there – it’s a waste of their time and its worthless to me because they won’t click on my ads or affiliate links.
So there we are. Stage Two for the SEO Sherpa method is deploying it large-scale. In my research for my articles I’ve been running across many other bloggers in my niche, and I’m excited to hit the ground running with full on White Hat (only hat?) SEO.
More on the particulars, plus another discussion of music, in my next post.