Are Affiliate Marketers just Spammers?

affiliate marketersRecently I was reading a book on SEO (search engine optimization) and I noticed the author used the term “Affiliate Marketers” in the book.  He was not using the term “Affiliate Marketers” in a positive way though as he used the phrase in place of “spammers” when referring to people that utilize Black Hat SEO techniques to rank websites in Google and other search engines.

Usually when I read SEO books, report, or material I see the terns such as spammers, black hatters, link spammers, etc.  The author of this SEO book decided the correct term was “Affiliate Marketers” which from what I could tell meant he had an extremely negative opinion of people that refer to themselves as Affiliate Marketers.  In addition he didn't seem to believe that affiliate marketing provided that great of an ROI (return on investment) and does not provide value for small to medium eCommerce businesses the majority of the time.  (Unless they have the resources to manage an affiliate program.)

I don't want to reveal what the book I was reading was and who the author is but I find it interesting that well respected figure on SEO would take this stance.  Since attending Affiliate Summit I would have to agree with the author though.  Honestly there were lots of successful affiliates there that make tons of money being spammers basically.  Their goal is to make the most money and they will use as many Black Hat SEO methods to rank in Google (and Bing I guess) as long as they work.  They don't produce content so their usually course of action is to scrape it from other blogs or websites, throw the text into an article spinner, and then run some scripts or automated backlinking software to rank a site for 1 week to a few months.  The affiliate link laden deal or coupon sites then earns a shitload of money before the affiliate company knows they are victim of affiliate fraud or the site gets de-indexed by Google.  Often times though Google's search engineers are too idiotic to actually read search results (because they are math nazis) and take down a spammy website until it's waaay to late though.

Do I think affiliate marketing is completely bad?  No, not at all since I use affiliate links on this site.  I just do it in a way that's reasonable and I'm completely upfront when I use affiliate links.  I've build mini-sites before but after Penguin 2.0 I've found they don't do well.

While I think there's a middle ground in terms of Black Hat and White Hat SEO techniques, affiliate marketers can't legitimately got to conferences like Affiliate Summit and complain about the bad reputation you get in the business.  Most of my assumptions about people that engage heavily in affiliate marketing were really only confirmed and cemented.

Do you think it's fair for Search Engine Optimizers to have such a negative opinion of Affiliate Marketers?  If you do affiliate marketing and consider yourself an “affiliate marketer” why do you think most internet marketing professionals have the view that you are just spammers?

White Hat SEO Techniques, There are None

white hate seo techniquesAnother SEO article in response to a question I got asked recently.  This question was about SEO and more specifically what White Hat SEO techniques I use.

Friend: “Adam, what are your White Hat SEO Techniques? What tools do you use?

Me: “There are None!”

You might think this is a strange response but that is the reality for SEO companies.  I do mean that, there are virtually zero White Hat SEO techniques marketing and search engine optimization companies use to rank sites and build links.

Yes, White Hat SEO techniques do exist and people do use them.   However, most of them are ridiculously time consuming.  This includes guest blogging, submitting to article directories, social bookmarking, web directory submissions, straight up link requests, social media, etc.  You could do all this yourself and do it all manually, meaning you don't have a computer program or bot do it.  That's just not the way a lot of companies operate though and most will automate a lot of these tasks.

Big SEO agencies and firms that have a plethora of SEO tools and staff will still use programs to speed these tasks up.  The reality is it's a pain-in-the-ass and they can spend money on SEO tools and software to do it quicker.  The real question is why wouldn't you do the same thing?  Even if you feel it's Gre yHat SEO or Black Hat SEO, it's what people do.  Nobody is playing fair and it's not like it is a secret.  I'll give you an example.

Lately I've been working on a local SEO campaign for a client.  When I did a link analysis on the competitor ranking in the number 1 spot in Google I saw the company had a bunch of paid links in directory sites with the anchor text for the keyword phrase.  Technically it is against Google's guidelines to accept money for a link or pay for links, but why would the SEO agency or the company ranking 1st care?  They ranked the site 1st and did their job and the company is gaining business because of the favorable search ranking.  Even it is a Greyhat SEO or even Blackhat SEO technique it's not like Google has caught them.  I honestly doubt they ever will.  It's been at the number 1 spot for quite awhile and lots of people buy links.  It's been going on since the beginning of SEO practically and even the people in the 2nd and 3rd spot paid for links.  So, what am I going to do?  Recommend to this client we buy links from these directories and other sites to rank quicker, but I will explain Google's guidelines to him.

Get this through your head, just because Google says they don't like something or certain Blackhat SEO technique will not work, that actually is not always the case. Google tells you how they wished everyone acted and they wish the Google search engine worked.  The way Google's algorithm actually works can vary a lot from what they say and can be quite frustrating for those new to the world of SEO.  Follow all of Google's BS advice and you will not get anywhere.  Most professional SEOs are going to tell you the same thing.

I will be honest a lot of the tools and techniques I use are not considered “Whitehat SEO.”  I can't pull data in any other way without using some Google trickery.  If you read my article on “6 Questions to ask a Search Engine Optimizer Before you Hire Them” you will understand why.

The big issue with Google is that they are out there in California holding hands telling themselves how awesome they are since they build self-driving cars and Google Glass.  The believe everyone is in this internet thing together in a hippie commune and people will help each other out with links when necessary.  That is never the case and if Google search engineers, especially Matt Cutts, wanted a reality check they should step out of their Google bubble and get out in the ‘real world' of trying to build and rank a website.  They should also go read articles and posts that rank in Google instead of looking at fucking numbers all day, since nobody gives a shit about your algorithm.  They only care when it doesn't work.

You might think this is jaded, but I am only trying to convey what reality is.  If you want to compete I'd recommend you go out there and see what SEO Tools and Software you could buy to speed-up your link building.  There are White Hate SEO techniques just… nobody sticks to them.

6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools

seo software and toolsIf you are a search engine optimizer, internet marketer, blogger, or small business owner you are probably always looking for ways to get an edge over your competition.  This makes you always on the lookout for new search engine optimization (SEO) software and tools to buy to add to your SEO toolkit.

Companies that build and sell SEO software and tools won't like me saying this but a lot of times I see people needlessly waste money on these SEO programs.  To be honest with all of my readers I've been one of those people.  If you have also wasted money on SEO software I can tell you that the issue, like buying anything, is that you don't ask yourself the right questions before opening your wallet.  To try to save my blog readers time, money, and hassle I've decided to make this list of “6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools.”

1. Do I need this SEO Software or Tool?

Sounds pretty simple and like common sense, right?  Not quite.  A lot of people will just buy any SEO program or tool because they saw on some forum or blog that it was supposedly really useful.

What you need to understand is that most SEO software and tools have fairly good affiliate programs.  Meaning the blog or site owner gets money if you click through their link to buy it.  (Just so everyone is aware I have nothing against affiliate links and use them on this blog.)  The reason I want you to realize when someone is using affiliate links is that most people don't.

Consider if the person is recommending the product on the merit of it's usefulness or if they just want to collect affiliate money.  Just because someone recommends something doesn't mean you have to buy it.

2. What will I use this SEO Tool for?

I guess this goes into question #1 but I'd recommend you ask yourself this anyway.  You need to have a clear idea of how that SEO tool or SEO software you are going to be paying for will be helping your online business.

If you can't think of an area where the tool will help you, then just don't buy it.  If the SEO tool seems legitimate, you know what you will use it for, and it's going to fill a specific SEO need you have, then go ahead and open your wallet.

3. Is there good Documentation and Tutorials?

Before I put any money on the table for SEO tools or SEO software I like to check the website and see if they have a reasonable amount of documentation.

For instance I want to know if the software has any bugs.  Issues with certain operating systems might be something you want to think about.  If you use Mac computer you will probably need to run most SEO programs in Parallels, which emulates Windows in a virtual environment.   Most SEO developer don't spend time making a version for Macs or Linux desktops.  Often times in the documentation they will state if there are issues of it's been tested in Parallels or WINE (like Parallels but for Linux).

I also like to understand how the SEO software works and what it does.  Is an SEO tool that can be used for whitehat or is just for blackhat link building techniques?  Consider who built and who the developers are behind it too.

The creators of any SEO software should have clear and easy-to-understand video and picture tutorials on how to use it and state specifically why you need it.  This will make your decision for question #2 easier.

4. Is this SEO program Easy to Use?

If you don't understand how to use the SEO program and software, you will have just wasted your money.  If you check the documentation and tutorials this should give you a clear idea of the difficulty for picking it up.

I've personally found that most SEO programs and tools have a learning curve higher than average.  So you will need to put time into learning but do consider how much time you want to put in. 1 hour or less?  A week?  Keep in mind a lot of SEO programs are built by programmers and NOT people that are great with intuitive design layouts.  Often they focused on making things easy-to-use, but failed miserably.

Most creators of various SEO tools will offer a short free trial period before you buy so you can see whether it's useful, easy-to-use, and will fit your needs.  They vary in length but usually are between 7-30 days for a free SEO software trial period.  Some don't but I'd take advantage of any free trials.

5. Is the Support Good?

If support is non-existent or isn't helpful, don't buy.  I've been surprised by how many times I've needed to contact support for an SEO tool due to an unexpected bug or issue.

I usually recommend you send an email after looking over the documentation, FAQs, and tutorials and see how long the response time is and what the response is like.  If they seem helpful and answer your questions clearly that's a good sign.  If not, you might want to move on and keep searching for another SEO software with the tools you need that has responsive and helpful support.

6. Can I afford these SEO Tools or SEO Software?

A lot of SEO tools comes with monthly subscription costs which can be quite costly.  The reason for this is that most SEO programmers know that marketing and SEO agencies often charge a king's ransom.

Most of us probably don't have a huge amount of money to drop on every single SEO tool that we feel we need.  So don't break the bank by overextending your finances.  Again, it's common sense but if you can't afford something don't buy it.  If you feel you need that SEO software with a monthly subscription cost for your toolkit ask some friends or family with websites that wan't better Google rankings if they want to split the monthly cost with you.  All of you could then save a ton of money learning and building links on your own sites.  You will have to all collectively ask questions 1-5.

I usually try to find SEO software that does not have a monthly or yearly renewal.  I like to pay once and forget about it.  That's just easier for me and my wallet.  Also I like to weigh whether the software will cover the cost of buying it.  Meaning can I make back what I spent on the SEO tool?  You should consider the same thing too.

Sometimes it might be worth it to check around first to see if there is something for free that can fill your SEO needs.  Honestly for something like basic keyword research you probably won't need much else besides the Google Keyword Planner.  If you want free keyword rank tracking all you need is Google Webmaster Tools.  Most of the time though you will find you need to spend money on buying an SEO tool, unfortunately.

Final Thoughts on Buying SEO Software and Tools

My final recommendation would be to just watch out for any shyters selling useless SEO tools or ones that will get you banned or deindexed by Google.  There are a lot of people selling useless products out there and I met plenty at Affiliate Summit.

I hope you've found my “6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools” useful and helpful.  If you want to refer to these next time you are considering purchasing any SEO Software and Tools feel free to bookmark this article.  If you have any questions or comments to add feel free to leave them below.

Paid Links, one of Blogging’s Dirty Secrets

paid links

A few weeks ago I was reading a few successful and highly trafficked blogs.  I was quickly looking through what I thought was a well written article when all of a sudden the article flow came to a halt and I noticed something interesting but not unusual… paid links in the article.

Was I surprised?  No, not really since paid links are one of the dirty little secrets in blogging and the SEO (search engine optimization) industry that nobody really likes to talk about.  However, I will since I am not afraid of touching on taboo internet marketing topics I will.

What are Paid Links?

Paid Links are pretty self-explanatory and sound exactly like what you think they are.  It's when a site owner or blogger agrees to place a link on their website in exchange for cash.  The link is mostly always a DoFollow link which passes pagerank onto the other site.  Sometimes the SEO company gives you the article content and other times they'd rather a blogger work the link into an article so it makes sense.

The amount of money a company has to pay is usually determined by a site's pagerank, age of the domain, authority of the site, amount of traffic, and the authority of the blogger.  I've seen some people charge as much as $1,500+ per year for a link.  Sounds like a lot but when you hear what some SEO agencies charge, some bloggers should be asking for more.

In case of of the big time blogger I was reading she probably charged a lot for the link since it was for freezing women's eggs (embryos).  More importantly her demographic seems to be women 22-40 years old.  The medical company was aiming for wealthy women 20-30 years old probably.  (Although the article and blog is not entirely aimed at women.)  Most people know that health (and fitness) is a very profitable internet vertical.  If you are in fertility and cord blood and can manage to get paid for a link for it, that's some serious money.

What does Google think of Paid Links?

Google frowns upon companies and people paying for links and it is against their Webmaster guidelines.  (It would be good to read them if you haven't by the way.)  However, few people that engage in paid link schemes get caught.

Since Google is not on the side of bloggers making any real money honestly… fuck them.  They are many ways to monetize a blog but few that pay well enough so you can make a living.  Paid links are one of the best and most profitable solutions if you are someone with an authority blog.  (Of course creating an authority blog nowadays is no easy task.)

The blogger in question will probably never get caught and will not face any Google penalties.  I don't like she was using paid links and misleading her readers, but quite honestly it's not like I don't understand why she was doing it and haven't seen it before.

Keep in mind Google employs engineers that can't read for shit.  Just look at search results for competitive topics like domain names, web hosting, medicine, etc.  Low quality spammy sites still rank 1st or 2nd in a lot of cases.

How Did You Know the article had Paid Links?

It wasn't like the blogger explicitly said, “Hey these are paid links.” but I knew immediately since;

  1. The article lost it's flow at that point.
  2. They were medical related sites for freezing women's eggs.  Which in turn made me say, “WTF is this?”
  3. The keywords used were highly competitive.
  4. It was deep linked URL.

When you add it all up it was clear this blogger's article on, “6 Things to do in your 20s to make your 30s good” had paid links placed in it.  At least that is my “expert” opinion.

Paid Links Conclusion

Next time you are reading one of the millions of blogs out on the internet I encourage my readers to be aware of paid links.  It's good to be aware of how other bloggers monetization and content strategies.  This is why I try to read a wide variety of authors and bloggers.  You get an idea of how they target their content and who they is reading them, especially when you notice paid links.

On this blog I've had plenty of link requests but since it is a personal blog, I do not accept any of them.  I haven't been offered money for this blog yet but if a person or company did, I wouldn't accept it.

What do you think of paid links?  Is it ok for a blogger to use them to cover the costs and time they need to put into a blog?  Should they be upfront with readers?  Have you been offered money for a link on your site?

The Creative Process in 6 Steps

Some people are always talking about “The Creative Process” and how they work on their projects and ventures.  Most believe and are under the assumption that they have the creative process they have is quite unique and nobody else works the same way they do.  Well, despite what you might believe about your work habits or have heard most entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, etc really all have the same creative process.  Here is the The Creative Process in 6 Steps.

the creative process

1. This is Going to be Awesome

This is the first thought you have when brainstorming an awesome new website, app, or slick new invention.  You haven't fully fleshed it out but all you can say and think to yourself is, “This is going to be Awesome!”

At this point in time you are too scared to tell many people about your idea in fear that someone will steal it.  (People really only steal ideas when they are successful though.)  You tell friends and family and they validate the idea saying, “That's a great idea!” and encourage you to follow through.

2. This is hard

At this point you probably started searching for a perfect domain name for whatever you have in mind.  Most likely are you wen through all the easy names first and realized that you are not going to be able to find a suitable domain to registered for $10 bucks easily.

This makes you resort to trying different domain generators trying to figure what to call you great new idea.  While searching for a domain you start to realize that your idea that you believe nobody else has come up with before might actually not be so original.

Also as you start making plans and surveying the market you realize launching a product, writing a book, starting a forum is going to be a lot harder than you have anticipated.  This is usually when you get extremely frustrated and say to yourself, “This is hard.” and you start questioning why you followed through with your idea.

3. This is turning to Shit

As you get further along with your project you realize that that things are not going as well as you planned.  Maybe you should have spent money on a domain in the aftermarket as the name you have doesn't fit you company and vision.  The team or person you choose to build your product or software doesn't have the same entrepreneurial quest as you, and therefore isn't doing it right.  Whatever it is the your idea is turning to shit and you are getting really upset since it's going as well as you hoped or expected.

4. I am Shit

There comes a point when you are not angry at other people, but you are very uspet at yourself.  Maybe your original idea and concept was as good as your first thought?  The people that you contracted and hired are doing are doing a job you deem “acceptable” but for some reasons it just doesn't seem to be working and you are not sure why.  A lot of self hate and loathing will manifest itself at this point in the the entrepreneur's creative process.

5. This might turn out Ok

There will come a turning point and you starting believing and knowing that things will be “Ok!”  Maybe your website is picking up traffic or you've starting to sell some of your product after you attended a trade show or blog conference.  The sun is finally starting to shine and you start feeling good about all the hard work you've put into your idea and project.

6. This is Awesome

When the finishing touches have been added you say, “This is Awesome.”  All those long days, hard nights, and effort has finally paid off.  You have the feeling your idea and projects are going to be fine and you've done a great job.  Entrepreneurial fame and awesomeness is just around the corner.

The Creative Process

If you think The Creative Process you go through is a lot different than this, I seriously doubt it.  I'd love to to hear opinions and thoughts though.  What is your creative process for projects and as an entrepreneur?  Is what I wrote here pretty accurate?

Link Requests are really Annoying

link requestsRecently I've been getting a lot of Link Requests from various people and content marketing companies.  While I can understand why people do this and why people will ask for a link, sometimes it just gets really annoying and is a waste of my time.

Some people might be wondering “What are Link Requests?”  Essentially a Link Request is when someone asks to place a link on your website.  Most of the time people offer to guest post or blog in exchange for placing a link in the article.  In my opinion this is a perfectly fair practice and Google doesn't have a problem with it.  (As long as the article is reasonable and wasn't written by someone who isn't a native English speaker from some far off Asian country.)

However, what I have a problem with is when I get email Link Requests like this;

Dear Adam,

Hello, my name is Jimmy. I'm the webmaster and editor of
Shitty-Affiliate-Laden-Web-Hosting-Site.com. I'm writing to plug our newest article
on our blog: 101 [Shitty] Google+ Pages for Web Hosting News and Tips. I
thought that you and your site's audience might be interested in having a
look. Check it out:

“Link Goes Here”

I would appreciate if you could link to our article if you find it of
interest. And please feel free to e-mail me with any questions or suggestions
for the list.

Thanks,
Jimmy

What did this guy do wrong?

First it's clear he spent too much time writing his horrible article instead of actually reading or looking at my blog or anything I've worked on.  He doesn't point out any content that I've written that he likes nor does he give me a compelling reason to link to the shitty article.  So he really doesn't know who my audience is.  Second, why the fuck would I send visitors to look at a blog post covering 101 Google+ pages about web hosting on an affiliate laden site?  Seriously, do you people think I haven't been around the block and consequently that I am a idiot?  The site this guy runs offers little value outside of the fact that he makes money on affiliate links.  It's not even like this site posts reviews or offers good web hosting advice on the blog.  He's probably one of those people at Affiliate Summit I would have met and largely ignored.  By the way nobody has the fucking time to look through so many social media pages on a blog post.  In addition a lot of those Google+ pages didn't cover web hosting or only did on occasion.

I've changed around a few things but the email is basically intact.  I did add the URL though, which I thought was a nice touch.  🙂

My reply to this Link Request was, “Not sure why I would link to the article.”  Since the domain name for the website was 4 letters and when I checked the domain history it was clear they had bought it from someone, I casually asked how much they paid for it.  Since it's been several days and have not had a reply, I know I am not getting one.

This didn't surprise me actually as “Jimmy” probably didn't send out the email but had a Virtual Assistant (VA) do it.  Pretty common for ad laden sites and SEO (search engine optimizers) do farm out these emails.  However, if by chance you do get a reply I recommend you reply back.  Not only did they make me annoyed sending the email but they've made me pissed even more since they didn't respond.  Why would I ever work with them in the future?

Let me make this clear to my readers and anyone who is going to send Link Requests my way.  I DO NOT link to sites that are just affiliate link wastelands.   If you contact me straight up asking for a link there better be a good fucking reason or you will get an email that will make Satan happy.

Have you ever gotten annoying Link Requests?  Do you respond or not respond?  Is it good to be nice or make so that these people never want to contact you again?