Quick House Keeping

published on October 22, 2007

Just a few quick notes here for you on this Monday morning (have I mentioned how much I just LOVE Mondays?)…

  •  The guy who was sure he wouldn’t win, did in fact end up winning the drawing. Scott from chipseo.com, congrats you won a phrase of your choice for a month. I’ll drop you an email if I haven’t heard from you by this evening.
  • I have meetings all this week at work and a lot of preparations for them as well so I’m going to be a bit scarce for a week or so.
  • However, if you’ve wanted the chance to write a guest post for Blogging Experiment, now is your chance! Just submit your post to me via email (blogex[at]bloggingexperiment.com) and the best submissions will be published. Don’t forget to include a quick line of information about yourself as well as a link (here’s a hint, optimize your anchor text!) or two to the website of your choice. I’ve already got a couple of posts lined up but I wanted to open up the option to everyone.
  • It appears BlogRush is throwing the baby out with the bathwater in implementing their new quality standards. I said in the beginning that they needed to have some sort of quality check but if techipedia doesn’t meet the standards, they might want to go back to the drawing board.
  • Chris Garrett has published yet another great set of posts. If you haven’t read it already, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Making Real Money Online series.

So, there you have it, a few quick house keeping notes and don’t forget about the guest posts. It’s a great chance to get a bit of extra exposure and some free links!

Reader Discussion: Are Bloggers Journalists?

published on October 18, 2007

One of the major stories in blogging this week was the US House of Representatives passing legislation that, according to a CNet article, “would shield journalists–and some bloggers–from being forced to reveal confidential sources in federal cases.” While the actual definition of which bloggers actually receive this protection changed significantly from the version that was proposed, the bill is still a significant development in the short history of blogging. And actually, several of the questions I was asked while participating in the Goodmind study centered around this issue as well. So, in light of this important development, I thought it would be a great topic for this week’s Reader Discussion session.

Do you consider yourself a journalist? Do you think bloggers should be afforded the same rights and protection under the law as journalists receive? If you had to make a distinction, how would you determine which bloggers do or do not qualify as journalists? Congress limited the protection to:

“a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.”

Do you feel that’s a reasonable limitation or is it too restrictive or even too broad?

Please share your opinions in the comments below. One commentator will be selected at random and will win a phrase of their choice free for one month. Make sure it’s a useful comment though, I’m going to be very strict on which comments do and do not qualify for the drawing

EDIT: A couple more details on the drawing. Only phrases that are not currently sold are available. Also, each post will count as it’s own separate entry but don’t draw out into three comments what you could say in one. Oh, and no talking to yourself 😉

The Sopranos Lessons on Blogging

published on October 17, 2007

the SopranosI’m not quite sure how I managed to pull it off, but I didn’t watch a single episode of The Sopranos until after the show’s final episode had aired. I think it was some sort of backlash against all the hype that surrounded the show when it took off. I know, I know, there’s really no good excuse but I’m in the midst of righting my wrong. I’ve been absolutely hooked on the show for weeks now and burned through all 5 and a half seasons that are available on dvd. And, since Heroes Lessons on Blogging went over so well I figured hey, why not right? Ok, look, I realize the word “blogging” was probably never uttered by any character during the entire 8 year run of the Sopranos, but that doesn’t mean HBO’s hit show didn’t dispense more than a few pearls of wisdom about the subject. So, here they are, The Sopranos Lessons on Blogging.

(Note: this post contains spoilers if you’ve not seen up to season 6.)

Hard work gets you “made”.

In the Sopranos and just about ever other mafia movie, being “made” is everything. You make more money, you’re protected, basically, you ARE somebody. In early seasons of the show, Christopher was impatiently waiting to be made. In the end, it was his hard work and loyalty to the family that earned him that position. Blogging is the same way. Just like New Jersey’s “waste disposal” industry, hard work and consistently producing results is what separates the “made” men from the dime a dozen bloggers. Very few of the top bloggers were instant A listers. Unless you’re already a celebrity, you should be prepared to have to work your way up the ladder. It likely won’t come when you want it, but if you keep your nose to the grindstone you’ll eventually experience the success you deserve.

There’s always someone gunning for you.

Tony Soprano after being shot by JuniorEven the closest members in Tony’s crew jump at the chance to take over positions or territories when they become open. When Uncle Junior shoots Tony and sends him into a coma it doesn’t take long for the jockeying for position to begin. Not only do the “capos” try to endear themselves to Carmella, they also begin making their case to succeed Tony as boss if he doesn’t make it. When Johny Sacks gets tired of waiting to inherit the throne in New York, he tries to put a hit out on his own boss. The point is, there will always be someone gunning for you. One of the great things about blogging is the ability to interact with other bloggers. But, as you become more and more successful, you’re going to face more and more criticism, even from people you used to consider friends. That’s just human nature. In fact, if you aren’t making at least some people mad, chances are you aren’t doing something right. Whether people love you or hate you, at least they have passionate opinions about you. It’s indifference that is killer, which conveniently brings me to the next lesson…

Be compelling.

If there’s one thing Tony and his crew know how to do, it’s to convince people to see things their way. Now sure they tend to use lead pipes, baseball bats, and other implements of destruction, but the point is, when they confront someone, they put forth a pretty compelling argument. Obviously I’m not suggesting you start to run some sort of online protection racket but you definitely should be compelling. Present your opinions, take a stand, write convincingly, use examples, do whatever it takes to be remarkable in some fashion. Sure you won’t always make friends (as we discussed in the previous lesson) but if you’re not making an impression, you’re doomed to failure. Tony is both the most loved and hated character on the show. But no matter how people feel about him, they all pay attention when he makes a move. That kind of status is what you should be striving for as a blogger. Whether people love your blog or hate it doesn’t matter, as long as they keep coming back to it.

Protect your reputation.

Vito got outed and it cost him his life.This may seem like a contradiction, but in fact it goes hand in hand with the previous lesson. Anyone who’s watched the Sopranos for long will realize most of the characters spend a LOT of time worrying about and/or protecting their reputations. After Tony gets out of the hospital he’s worried that people think he’s gone soft. So what’s he do? He beats the ever living crap out of his bodyguard who hadn’t done anything wrong. When Vito finally gets outed as being gay, his brother-in-law Phil ends up whackin him for bringing shame on the family. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. While I’m not suggesting you attack anyone, your reputation is all you have when blogging. The online world is fairly anonymous. Anyone can claim to have done anything and make it fairly convincing. Naturally, readers have become very skeptical. It’s no coincidence that Darren Rowse, Shoemoney, and John Chow are some of the top bloggers in this industry. They’ve proven that they can make money online and they’ve built their reputation on that fact. If it were shown that in fact one of these bloggers was flat broke and had never made a dime on the web, their credibility would be shot and they’d lose their readers at an amazing pace. In blogging your reputation is every thing. You work tirelessly to build it up, and yet one mistake or action could bring it crashing down. You should keep this fact in mind with every sentence you type and every interaction you have with someone. The lesson is simple; protect your reputation.

Be prepared to do time.

Throughout the Sopranos we watch as wise guys get pinched for one offense or another. Time and time again we see them decide to become rats to save their own skin. When contrasted to some of the other characters that openly brag about the amount of time they spent in jail because “They never said a word” this lesson becomes quite clear: if you’re going to do the crime, be prepared to do the time. In the case of blogging, the “crimes” are hardly ever actual crimes. But whether it’s trying to game Google, trying to artificially inflate your Technorati or Alexa rankings, or using someone else’s content, chances are there will be repercussions for your site and/or your reputation. I’m not necessarily saying don’t do these things, but if you do them, you’d better be prepared to do the time. Know what you’ll do if or when Google bans you. Know how it will affect your site if Technorati refuses to list you in their rankings. For all the criticism I’ve leveled at John Chow, this is one area he’s usually quite good at. While he certainly complains about Google dropping his site into obscurity for even the most specific searches, he also has enough other traffic to live without the visitors Google could deliver. If your site or worse yet, your lively hood, depends on Google, you’d better be careful not to piss them off (and then work on becoming less dependent on one source of traffic or income but that’s another lesson for another post).

Distractions are dangerous.

Part of what made The Sopranos great is that every single character had one or more flaws that they continually fought against. As a viewer we’d see most of the slip ups and disasters coming a mile away but none of them were more obvious than Christopher’s decent into drug addiction. At first it started out with a little snort here and there but before long he was spending more time getting his fix than he was actually working. He became distracted and if he had been anyone other than Tony’s heir to the throne, it would have cost him his life. Obviously blogging is far less dramatic and I haven’t heard of anyone yet losing their life over blogging. However, the life of your blog is definitely at risk if you can’t avoid the distractions. As I said earlier, blogging is often times a grind and about pure determination and if you’re head isn’t in the game, it’s going to show in your content. This lesson doesn’t only apply to how you write, but what you write as well. If you’re constantly taking your blog off topic and find yourself writing less and less about your niche, readers will abandon your blog and it will die a slow death that anyone watching will have seen coming from a mile away.

Nothing is more important than family.

The Soprano familyIn just about any mafia movie or show you’ll always hear about “the family” and the Sopranos was no different. Part of what made the show so unique though was that we actually saw the interactions between Tony and his actual family. Viewers watched as his marriage struggled along, as his children grew up, and all the crazy interactions with his extended family. In many ways, the show was about Tony and his family more than it was a show about the mafia. Countless times Tony reinforced the emphasis on family by saying or sometimes screaming that everything he did, he did for Carmella and the kids.

As previously mentioned, blogging is a lot of hard work. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the tasks and day to day activities. It’s easy to forget to take a day off every now and then or make sure you spend time with your family. What I’m trying to say is that it’s often easy to lose sight of your priorities and that almost always leads to becoming burned out. Darren has written on ProBlogger several times about setting boundaries and making sure he spends time with his family. Since blogging isn’t my full time job, I often struggle with balancing time off with time off work that I spend working on the blog. My wife is pretty good at reminding me most times but this is definitely one lesson I’m still learning. Whatever your priorities are, whether it’s your family, friends, or whatever, the point is to make sure you keep your blogging in the proper place in line.

So, there you have it, The Sopranos Lessons on Blogging. Like I said, I’m sure blogging wasn’t what the show’s creators had in mind but I think they all apply. With such a successful show I’m sure there are plenty of others. Feel free to share any lessons I might have missed in the comments below!


What an Interview Can Do For You

published on October 16, 2007

A while back Adam McKerlie of The Computer Zone emailed me asking me to participate in a group post about why I started blogging. I along with several other bloggers agreed and Adam asked us all a very simple question “Why did you start blogging?“. He then compiled the responses into a single post and the result is well worth a read. And, while I’d probably link to the it simply because I’m included in the article, I think Adam’s post does several things well that we could all learn from.

The first aspect is probably the most obvious, it’s a good read. Each and every day more blogs spring up and more people make the leap to begin blogging. Personally, I found it very interesting not only in participating, but in reading the other responses as well. When Adam emailed me, I hadn’t really asked myself that question before and I think a little bit of self analysis is always good from time to time. I think the post prompts the reader to ask themselves the same question and will probably inspire several comments if not all new posts. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Adam received several links from bloggers that decide to write their own “Why I started Blogging” posts. In my experience, bloggers love to let others know where the found something and Adam has put his blog in a position to profit from that natural reaction.

The next aspect of the article I wanted to highlight is the built in support it has. As I mentioned previously, I probably would have linked to this post at some point simply because I was featured in it. While that might strike some as vain, I’m certainly not alone in this, in fact, I’d say I’m in the majority. People like to be talked about (especially if it’s in a positive manner) and it’s just natural that we will let our readers know when we’re featured in a post or on another blog.

Basically, by including me in the article, Adam didn’t have to ask me for a link or a mention on my blog. He simply let me know that the post was published and where I could find it. As the popularity of this blog has grown, I’ve received more and more pitches for story ideas or items people would like me to cover. While I certainly enjoy getting the chance to check out new services or blogs or whatever, the best approach I’ve seen in my experience both in pitching and in receiving pitches, is to simply let bloggers know your resource is there.

Last and perhaps most importantly, articles like this are easy! Sure you have to spend time emailing bloggers and compiling the data but for something that could turn out to be a pillar post, receive social media attention, go viral, or all of the above, it’s relatively easy to create. For example, my interview with Muhammad Saleem about social media took very little effort on my part, attracted several new links, and was very close to becoming popular on Digg.com! The part that took the longest was simply formatting the text so it was easy to read. Now I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t mind it when other people create my content for me. If you’re looking to create a resource that will receive some attention from other bloggers in your niche and attract some links while you’re at it, asking other people questions is a great way to go.

While you’re thinking of your next great idea, don’t forget to go over and actually read the post on The Computer Zone and consider subscribing to the RSS feed as well. There’s a lot of quality content there you won’t want to miss.

Reader Question Session: Which Plugin are you Using?

published on October 15, 2007

Usually for Monday’s Reader Question Sessions I pick and choose which question to answer. However, today there was an overwhelming number of questions in the comments and my inbox, all about the same thing. And, since I’m a big proponent of the “give the people what they want” school of thought, it seemed foolish to discuss anything else. So, for all of you who have asked:

Are you using a WordPress plugin for the Friday Phrase auctions? If so, which one?

Here’s your answer… Link a Dink!

Many of you have asked if I’m using the WP Affiliate Pro plugin that was featured on Dealdotcom and mentioned on a few websites. The truth is, I wanted to, in fact I have a copy of the plugin, unfortunately it does not create search friendly URL’s. I was told that they were aware of this limitation and planned to address it in a future version. But for now, I was forced to look elsewhere.  I also found a plugin called aLinks but that looked more complicated than what I needed and I wasn’t really interested in the Amazon, eBay, etc links.

Finally I found Link a Dink which not only created search engine friendly URLs but it also was simple to install and just as easy to use. Also the update notes answered a couple of the questions I had such as would it interfere with existing links (it won’t) and will it affect the text in the comments (it does). Link a Dink is far from perfect, and there are a couple of features or options I’d like to have (the ability to limit the number of links on a given page etc.), but it certainly gets the job done for now. Who knows, after a couple of months of Friday Phrase Auction income maybe I’ll hire a programmer to write one to my own specifications.

Another plugin that I’ve not yet played around with that looks like it might very well work for this type of thing is Smart Link by Semiologic. Had I come across this option before Link a Dink I might very well have used this one. It’s free and appears to offer a bit more advanced options. If any of you readers out there try it or have used it in the past, be sure to let us know what you thought of it. Also, if you know of any other plugins that would do the same type of thing, please share that as well. The more options we have to choose from, the better.

Glitches in Show Top Commentator Plugin

published on October 12, 2007

I’ve noted a couple of times how many people of the same name comment on this site. We’ve got a few Tim’s and more Steve’s than I know what to do with. However, until today I didn’t realize can actually cause a problem with the Top Commentator list I display to give a little something back to those of you who contribute to the discussions on this site. As it turns out, the plugin I’m currently using (Show Top Commentators) is name based. So, for instance if Steve from hmtk.com commented 20 times in a month, he’d probably make his way to the top of the list. Unfortunately, if I then approved a comment from someone else named Steve (or using the same handle) that had linked their name to a different site, the last Steve to comment would get the link in the Commentator list! Obviously that’s not what the plugin was intended to do. Also, if someone commented multiple times under different names, they could conceivably take up multiple spots on the list all linking to the same site. That’s not something I’m terribly fond of either so I’m looking around for other solutions that can address this issue.

If you know of a plugin that works a bit better, please let me know. In the mean time, please don’t abuse these glitches or I’ll just have to deactivate the plugin. Also, if you are using the same plugin, you might want to double check your list and make sure you’re actually rewarding your top commentators. I’ll be sure to update this post when I find a better option.

How to Profit from Google’s War on Paid Links

published on October 11, 2007

Link, Paid Links, and FUDIn case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or so, Google has recently kicked it’s war on paid links into high gear. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pause for a minute and go read a couple of articles on this extensive list. No seriously, it’s ok, we’ll wait…

Ok, so now that everyone has been treated to a healthy dose of FUD, let me explain a few things to you. First of all, yes, if you openly sell links on your site and Google finds out about it, they will likely punish you. This had been under debate for a while, I’ve always told people to go ask John Chow, but it’s now official. In fact, Google went even further and dropped the visible page rank scores for several sites such as Mr. Chow’s, Andy Beard’s, and plenty of others. However, contrary to what Google would have you believe, they can’t detect all or even most of the paid links. And rather than following the crowd and kowtowing to the all-mighty G, this is a great chance to zig when everyone else is zagging. Rather than allowing this recent flurry of activity by Google and the mass panic among bloggers and website owners to worry you, view it as an opportunity for you to increase the amount of money you make online.

Of course that brings us to the question of the hour… HOW? The answer is relatively simple. Continue to sell links. With more and more website owners falling for Google’s intimidation tactics, the supply of available links is going to diminish. However, the market for those links is well established and as long as it remains beneficial to buy links (and trust me, it’s still VERY helpful to purchase links), that demand isn’t going anywhere. So, as we all learned in grade school, when the supply drops but demand stays the same, prices go up. Those of us who continue to sell links will have less competition and will be able to sell more links, charge more for the links we’re already selling, or both!

Unfortunately there is a bit more to it than just sitting back and doing nothing. You are going to have to change the WAY you sell links. First of all, don’t flaunt it. The point here is to remain under Google’s radar so if you mention selling links on your site, don’t call it that. Call them contextual ads or something more subtle. Also, don’t join any programs that publicly list their inventory. From here on out the best types of programs are going to be the ones that operate away from prying eyes or better yet, one’s people aren’t even supposed to talk about. (I’ve heard, TLA has something that fits the bill, hint hint.) Also don’t simply list paid links down the side of your site under the header of “Sponsored Links” or “Advertisers” or something like that. Work the links into your text, make them look exactly like any other link you’d drop on your site. Besides, those types of links carry the most SEO value so you’ll be doing your customers a favor.

The biggest problem link sellers are going to have to overcome will be advertisement. One of the nice things about the link broker sites was that they brought advertisers and publishers together in one place. However, I would expect to see more sites cropping up that offer private methods of doing the same thing without risking exposure. Also, publicize your advertising and when someone contacts you, mention that you also offer links. If you have more than one site, when someone contacts you about purchasing advertising or links on one site, mention that you have a network of sites that you’d be willing to place links on. Place listings in different marketplaces mentioning you sell links but don’t include your site(s) URL. Post links for sale in webmaster forums but again, force interested parties to contact you before divulging what you’re offering. Put a message at the end of your advertising page that explains you offer other advertising options with details available upon request.

With large numbers of bloggers and webmasters dropping out of the link market due to these new Google measures, you may very well be able to add to your monthly profits when everyone else is losing a source of income. By standing apart from the crowd, you can pad your bottom line and even INCREASE link sales, you just need to be smart about it, and remain under the radar. Good luck, and if you’re looking to buy any text links, email me, I might know a guy 😉

Reader Discussion: Social Media = Lowest Common Denominator?

published on October 10, 2007

Last week, we had our first ever Reader Discussion about whether or not we as bloggers need to be careful what we promote. To my surprise and delight, it went over better than I had even hoped for. We had, and actually are still getting, fantastic comments that resulted in a great discussion. Since it went so well, I thought we’d give it another shot. This week I’d like to focus on the closing line of a recent Open Road post. The author, Matt Asay, finished off his post with these thought provoking questions that actually touched on a discussion I had with several other bloggers earlier in the week:

Are Digg and the popularity sites doing more harm than good? Do they make a cheap headline worth more than real analysis?

I’ll admit, being a fairly avid user of social media sites such as Digg, my first reaction was an indignant “Of course not!” However, as I began to think more and more about the subject, the question became a much more legitimate and difficult question to answer. When I announced that I’d be offering comprehensive SEO site reviews as one of the advertising options on this site, I asked for your opinions on whether or not I had abandoned my goal of documenting this experiment and making it something that could be replicated. Fiar left a comment saying I shouldn’t “set the definition of “anyone” to the lowest common denominator.” As I went back to reconsider the questions posed by Mr. Asay, that comment sprang to mind and I realized that in some sense, that’s exactly what Digg and the other “popularity sites” are doing. By requiring a certain number of votes on an article or submission before it is promoted for the masses to consume, aren’t these sites just rewarding the content that appeals to the widest segment of readers? When so many people with so many different ideas, beliefs, and opinions all congregate in one place, won’t popularity be limited to in essence the lowest common denominator?

As I mentioned earlier, a group of bloggers and I had actually been discussing a similar topic earlier this week. One person mentioned that at times it seems like the pieces of content that we spend the most time on and put the most effort into are NOT in fact the ones that see the most success on social media sites. During the discussion, the idea was floated out there that perhaps some of the more time consuming articles or pieces were in fact too advanced for the hoard that frequents the social sites. My problem with that suggestion is that the crowds of people that use social media sites are not stupid. Granted many of the comments left on submissions are far from what I would call sophisticated but there’s no denying the intelligence level. However, when you incorporate the idea that perhaps these sites cater to the topics and submissions that the majority of the users will agree on, the theory that the more advanced submissions don’t do as well suddenly becomes not only plausible but possibly explainable as well.

So, now I’m putting the questions to you. What do you think? Are social media sites like Digg and others simply catering to the lowest common denominator? Like Mr. Asay asked, are they doing more harm than good?  Are they placing more value on a great headline rather than substantive content? If so, is there any way around it? Weigh in with your thoughts and opinions on this week’s Reader Discussion in the comments below. Also, if you missed last week’s it’s not too late to jump in, the more opinions and ideas, the better.

Discount Day!

published on October 9, 2007

I’m not sure if I missed the memo or something but apparently it’s discount day on the web. I’ve come across 3 different sites that are all offering the same 15% discount on their products. To be fair, a couple of these have been running for a while and I just discovered them today but I figured I’d pass all the info along toyou.

Text Link Ads

Text Link Ads is once again offering a 15% discount off your entire purchase if you type holidays into the promo code section. Here’s a tip for you though, TLA is always offering a 15% discount, whether they are publicizing it or not. No matter what month you decide to purchase your links in, you can get 15% off by typing the current month in the promo code section. The first time I tried it on a whim because I had just missed the deadline for the previous discount. Once they publicized another month based promo code, I realized I was on to something.
P.S. If you’ve never purchased links from TLA, remember, you get $100 in free links with your first purchase of $25.00


It’s been a while since I talked about WordTracker but it’s still in my opinion one of the best keyword research tools out there. I’ve purchased annual subscriptions for a couple of years in a row now and obviously wouldn’t continue to do so if I didn’t think it was well worth the price. However, they say good things come to those who wait and in this case, it’s true. Wordtracker is now offering a 15% discount on both monthly and annual subscriptions. Simply type us-affiliate-monthly-2007 or us-affiliate-annual-2007 in as the promo code and thank me later. Obviously you’ll want to use the monthly code for monthly subscriptions and the annual code for annual subscriptions. That should be pretty obvious but I’ve read some of the comments my readers leave lol 😉

Best of the Web

I have to admit, 15% off is nice, but Best of the Web (botw.org) is not only offering the discount, they are also offering you a chance to win $10,000! You read that right, $10k. To enter, you simply have to enter the promo code WIN10K during checkout. That code will give you the 15% discount as well as work as an automatic entry into the big cash drawing. The code is good on any of BotW’s offerings which are as follows:

As if that weren’t enough, BotW also offers a way to make money online. They have an affiliate program which, according to a post today by Shoemoney, earns him $2,000 a month and until his post, had largely flown under the radar. The program is incredibly simple to use; you don’t even have to use the typical affiliate links that we’ve all become accustomed to. You just register your site as an affiliate and from then on every link to botw.org will automatically act as an affiliate link. The program pays out 25% of your referral’s spending which includes the recurring spending when someone renews their listings or sponsorships. What’s more, Shoemoney worked a deal with BotW so that if you enter the promo code shoemoney30 upon signing up for the affiliate program, you’ll get an extra 5%, for a total of 30% of your referrals’ spending. I’m sure Shoe’s going to be making a nice chunk of change off your signup as well but as far as I’m concerned this is the kind of arrangement where everyone wins.