Sam Harrelson

Are Links Dead in Online and Affiliate Marketing?

gap.jpgAre links, as we know them in online and affiliate marketing, done for?

In order to answer this question, I’ve narrowed the discussion down to three areas: Leverage, Authority and Long Term Encouragements. Certainly, there are other areas and in the editing process of this post I cut a few of these out and merged them with the three categories above.

However, as online marketing continues to mature, we have to confront this question about the long term establishment of links as the primary tool for connecting advertiser to publisher or merchant to affiliate or network to partner because links, by their nature, do not offer enough flexibility and data gathering for developing trends (RSS, social web adoption, social networking, more intelligent web users, uses of the internet outside of World Wide Web).

Should you ditch the entire concept of linking in order to be progressive? No.

Am I advocating the complete replacement of links with something that can accommodate for attention data? No.

However, online (especially the affiliate) marketing should realize the importance of the need to look beyond the link.

So, here’s your Holiday Homework:

Think about and respond to the notion that links are dead, especially in relevance to affiliate marketing. I’d like to prescribe the areas of Leverage, Authority and Long Term Encouragement as the fields of discussion, but if your point is valid you can certainly travel outside those lines to make your point.

Here are some connections you should consider when thinking about the issue:

-Technorati, Techmeme


-AdSense Gaming

-Page Rank Problems (or Alexa)

-Participation from Readers/Audience

-Types of Traffic Delivered (Sustained or “Digg Effect” waves)

-Relevancy for Consumers and Individuals

-Value of “Attention Data”

Leave your comments for quick thoughts, or you can submit a longer piece similar to last week’s homework submissions on CPA Networks and Affiliate Networks. I’ll be posting some of your results next Tuesday after the Holiday and include a link to your blog or company. You can email those in, or if you prefer you can send in a voicemail (828.338.2129) on my Skype line which I’ll publish as a part of the post. The deadline is 3pm Friday Tuesday Nov 28 (thanks, Jonathan).

I suspect most of you will initially call me an idiot (I’m close) for questioning the present and future leverage and authority of links. However, put some thought into it, be creative and think of how using other means to reach users can enhance your program/network/platform/offer.

Links Are (Still) Dead

I first wrote that “Links Are Dead” in 2006, and pretty much got shouted out of the blogosphere. I kept up the mantra over the years. Looks like Google agrees with me now…

But over time, URLs have gotten more and more difficult to read and understand. As web functionality has expanded, URLs have increasingly become unintelligible strings of gibberish combining components from third-parties or being masked by link shorteners and redirect schemes. And on mobile devices there isn’t room to display much of a URL at all.

Via “Google Wants to Kill the URL” – Wired

Moving beyond links

I’ve long argued that “links are dead” (going on a decade now). Some of that was hyperbolic to discuss the need for a better mechanism to derive value or information from one site to the next or from a marketing campaign.

It looks like Google might be moving beyond links as well and towards more of an “entity database” where the connections and relationships between search terms are prioritized. I can get behind that.

The idea that we can push our rankings forward through entity associations, and not just links, is incredibly powerful and versatile. Links have tried to serve this function and have done a great job, but there are a LOT of advantages for Google to move toward the entity model for weighting as well as a variety of other internal needs.

Source: Google patent on related entities and what it means for SEO – Search Engine Land

Transcending Links in Affiliate Marketing


The part of my Affiliate Marketing Manifesto (see below) which has garnered the most attention is #3. Linda Buquet has started a thread on her 5StarAffiliateMarketing Forums, so you can participate in the conversation there as well…

3. Affiliate Marketing Transcends Links
Links hold affiliate marketing hostage. Just as Jeremiah wore a yoke around his neck to show the coming servitude of Israel to the Babylonians, we affiliate marketers should heed the writings on the wall pointing us towards the dangers of positing all of our hopes and futures of industry sustainability and industry credibility on the link. Clickfraud and AdSense farms are just two examples of the sinful state we will enter if we continue down the path of praising the link while ignoring the individual doing the action of clicking. Give readers, consumers and individuals the chance to elevate themselves and your program by not insulting their intelligences with links.

Just before Thanksgiving (Nov. 22… scroll down), I posed the question (and encouraged response… of which I received none!) of how and why affiliate marketing should start to move away from links. Here’s the main point of that argument…

“However, as online marketing continues to mature, we have to confront this question about the long term establishment of links as the primary tool for connecting advertiser to publisher or merchant to affiliate or network to partner because links, by their nature, do not offer enough flexibility and data gathering for developing trends (RSS, social web adoption, social networking, more intelligent web users, uses of the internet outside of World Wide Web).”

Just today I was passed this post about the death of “information architecture” (how information on the internet is spread). There are more similarities in my argument for a move away from links in our marketing programs and the idea that the way we share information in a link-based system is slowly eroding than at first seem evident…

In many ways, the success of Google’s Pagerank algorithm was the harbinger of all this. The simple idea that people’s actions model meaning better than a directory (even a flexible directory) is a critical step forward in thinking about the Web. The innovation we’re seeing with folksonomies, recommendation systems, social networking sites…all have their roots in the idea that modeling what people actually do on the Web is the best way to provide answers for them. And, perhaps more importantly, it is an admission that we simply can’t predict the future…we can’t design a perfect information architecture, and to attempt to implies that the world we’re modeling doesn’t change.

My argument for such an evolution away from links revolves around the idea that as individuals change the way they process information on the webs (web-based office programs, feed readers) and social platforms (Second Life, MySpace, Facebook, etc) affiliate marketing has to change the way it interacts with these individuals based on their attention communications and kinesics.

Rather than trying to rebrand affiliate marketing with a new name, opening up possibilities by moving away from links and towards other means of transferring data, deals and offers could position affiliate marketing as the future of the online monetization experience.

What do you think?

Linkshare’s Flex Links and Mobile Links

Linkshare has announced new mobile and video/embed object initiatives within their affiliate interface.

It’s great to see the major affiliate networks moving into these areas!

I mentioned yesterday that Linkshare is releasing a series of interesting new platforms within the affiliate network’s interface.  Here’s the update on those: Flex Links (a video link embed platform), Mobile Links for pay-for-performance tracking in the mobile space and Link Locator 2.0 for enhanced web services.  All in all, this is a great step ahead for the affiliate network space as the performance market continues to mature and encompass other areas than traditional (or "1.0" if you will) affiliate sites.

Linkshare’s Flex Links for Video, Mobile Links and Link Locator 2.0 Roll Out

Blogging Isn’t Dead

I’d have to disagree with this…

Blogging is Dead – But Long Live the Blogosphere – exploreB2B: “While the thought process remains the same today (‘Here is what I think, read my blog’) – the effect is minimal, if anything at all. A viewer may read an article on your blog, maybe even find it interesting, but then never return. Memory of the author, ideas in the post (and certainly the URL), are long forgotten amongst the array of activity online.”

The main reason I would disagree with the sentiment that “blogging is dead” is because it isn’t. Sure, the concept, tools, and way we write our blogs today have changed since the inception of blogging back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but blogging is far from dead.

Even though people aren’t doing the type of hyper-personal blogging which they were doing back in the late 90s and early 2000s anymore, blogging as a medium is still very valid and a great way to carve out your own space on the web. Blogging is a key part of what we consider the open web since it uses “old-school” components like RSS and a blog isn’t a walled garden you have to log into. The type of trade-offs you have with walled gardens such as Facebook are nonexistent when you start your own site given that you run it on your own server, etc. It’s a geeky process and takes a little bit of heavy lifting here and there, but it’s worth it considering that you keep control over what you do.

I started my first blog (and I still write there) on a whim back in July 2011 and I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done on the web. The magnificent thing about writing your own site is that you can learn so much from others and yourself. You practice and become a better writer and as you devote a little more time to it here and there, you learn about a few other things too (like design, SEO, moving things around on a server, and what you should and shouldn’t put on a site). Looking back at some posts I wrote in 2011 and last year, I have to cringe and scratch my head a great deal, but that’s part of the learning process that comes with anything on the web.

I’ve learned a ton and continue to learn from writing my own site and writing here on MarketingTrends. I’ve blogged elsewhere in the past, but there’s something about writing your own blog that’s so satisfying and in a way, fulfilling to yourself as a writer and user of the internet. While folks who say that blogging is dead have a point because the way we view blogs and publishing in 2013 has changed and adapted a lot over the years, declaring blogging “dead” isn’t justified. Blogging, while old-school (also see email marketing and RSS, neither of which are “dead”), is still one of the best ways to build a solid reputation and name for yourself on the web.

I’d say the feeds that I’m subscribed to in my RSS reader of choice (currently ReadKit) are a solid 50/50 split between bigger sites and smaller blogs written by folks in the industry or just people whose stuff I enjoy reading.

One of the first things I tell anyone looking to go beyond the walled garden principle on the web is for them to go buy a domain name. It’s dead simple and pretty inexpensive. If they want to go beyond that, I’d tell them to go get their hands dirty with a hosted solution first (Tumblr is great for this and I also love Shareist) and eventually move their stuff over to a self-hosted WordPress site (or Movable Type if you’re into that). With all the things we have at hand in 2013 (Squarespace, WordPress, etc), there’s no excuse for why you shouldn’t have your own space on the web.

“And if your words are good, people will read them.”

Thanks for reading our blog.


Why Are Lyrics Sites So Profitable? (And How Bob Dylan Wins)

rapgenius SEO mistake

Dumb SEO Mistake

Lyrics searches area a major deal, especially in search advertising. Do a search on Google or Bing for your favorite song with “lyrics” attached and you’ll see a number of results. Companies such as AZLyrics, Sing365, MetroLyrics, SongMeanings, Lyric Freak etc all tend to out rank even artist sites as they compete with each other for the very profitable first or second position.

Despite their shady legal status, intense competition, inability to do much in the way of paid search, and dubious marketing tactics they are thriving.

Why are there so many of these sites and why are they so profitable?

It’s a matter of simple economics. Despite the rise of social media like Facebook or the presence of “old school” avenues such as newspapers or billboards or television spots, Google has created and maintains the easiest and (far and away) most profitable advertising channel ever developed by humans… its search index. While modern marketing and advertising agencies might try to sell you on other channels, Google search is still the money maker and can be a make it or break it for your company whether you’re making money by CPM (ad placements, impressions etc) or via CPA (visitors actually have to do something on your site like click a link or buy a product or subscribe to a service for you to make money).

Things are further complicated when you consider that there are two main ways to “advertise” on Google and it’s a fairly democratized process if you’re willing to get over the initial hurdle of learning how to work with tools that Google provides freely and in all earnestness such as Webmaster Tools or AdWords. Combine those with Google Analytics on your site, and you’re 80% of your way to being a full blown marketing agency. It’s not hard and Google intends to make these tools as pedestrian friendly as possible on purpose. If more people are spending just a few dollars a day on rankings, not only does it add to Google’s bottom line directly but it also encourages companies like mine to spend more and more (money and time and attention) to stay relevant and profitable.

It’s a fantastic growth strategy that shows no signs of slowing down while newer companies such as Twitter or Facebook still struggle to get their advertising platforms off the ground. The difference is that Google’s search advertising is a very impersonal yet highly engaging experience for both advertisers and users.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc are all using very antiquated notions of brand advertising and cost-per-impressions to lure in larger brands for initial investments while alienating users with more billboard-style advertisements. Until these social media companies figure out the magic that has made Google’s advertising such a success (with future proofing beyond anyone’s recognition as Google continues to tweak its algorithm and suck us deeper into its advertising infrastructure with great products, services, phones, wearables, cars, robots etc), they don’t stand a chance. Simply put, you can’t do cost per impression advertising with any large scale success in 2014 and beyond (and only Google and Amazon get this on the web).

Democratization is profitable.

Lyrics sites, in particular, are easy to set up and advertise. The content has already been generated and is fairly easy to obtain (legally or illegally). The long tail potential of this content to keep generating pageviews overtime is immense. Google any song you can think of and you’ll see the first four pages are completely filled with lyric sites. Add to that the understanding that if a user visits your lyric site, they’ll probably be spending anywhere from 3-5 minutes average on your site reading the lyrics or singing along to their googled song. That’s incredibly valuable in a world where the average page view on a content site is somewhere in the 1.5 second range over time (median). More time = more money in the algorithmic world of internet marketing because those people click things, buy things, sign up for things and/or go places linked on your lyrics site generating you all sorts of income channels. It’s a win-win.

One of the few artists who “get it” happens to be Bob Dylan. If you google any song by Bob Dylan, you’ll see a collection of lyrics sites but you’ll also see Whoever is in charge of Dylan’s site and licenses to his music understands this economy and has listed every single Dylan song along with full lyrics (themselves a trademark). Instead of going after lyrics sites with trademark and copyright takedown letters, Team Dylan has successfully put themselves at the top of the lyrics search. Well done, Bobby.

Lyrics sites aren’t the only type of site that fall into this category and the entire affiliate marketing industry has been riding this understanding for over a decade and shows little sign of slowing down (despite Nexus laws in states looking to charge tax on these types of transactions which does make things a little more cumbersome but not crippling).

With a little knowledge of python scripts combined with basic HTML to create a site, you could launch a lyrics site in a matter of minutes. You’re a millionaire! Congrats. Oh wait… you’ve got to get people there.

The trouble comes with the traffic question. This is a very difficult question for many businesses and the reason why I have a company. I help businesses solve this problem by figuring out the “now what” part of making money on the internet. It’s fascinating, challenging and difficult work that is part counseling, part robot engineer, part luck and a lot of statistics and higher level math logic. At least that’s what I make it out to be. Your mileage my vary depending on your time and willingness to succeed.

Generating traffic is seemingly easy. I make a great site based on great content and Google should send its fleet of robots over to properly index my lovely site and send that information back to the mothership. In no time, I’m on the front page for “Justin Bieber Fan” and I’ve got a million page views daily. Wrong. Because of the ease of construction, the fairly easy-to-stomach “costs” associated with getting reliable content (there’s a canonical version for every song’s lyric), and the continual replenishment of highly valuable and sought after information (Bieber, Beyonce, Miley, Jay-Z, Kanye etc are pretty consistent in putting out albums every 12-15 months and the labels space them out so as to not have two hit albums hitting the streets on the same week or even month), there’s little disincentive to start a lyrics site (beyond the legality and all).

Getting traffic to a lyrics site is the main hurdle to economic reward. Of course there is Twitter, Facebook etc available for getting folks to a lyrics site, but the main route of traffic flows from Google.

Within Google’s search platform there are two main ways to “advertise” and get eyeballs and hopefully clicks. The first is organic search. As the name suggests, this type of search and traffic is generated naturally. While not the same metaphor as organic milk or butter, organic search is generally thought of as where you naturally fit into Google’s algorithms based on content’s intentional or unintentional search engine optimization (SEO). If I create a new site for a real estate client, I have to wait a few days for that information to get properly indexed by Google’s robots that are constantly crawling the web like tiny information scavengers. I can help that out using Google’s Tools but if I’m making highly valuable (to Google) content such as a personal blog, that information will surely get indexed and put in the right place. For instance, if you Google “sam harrelson” you’ll find this blog in the top spot. I’ve done a few SEO tweaks but all of that indexing by Google is because of organic traffic. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been linked to by the New York Times, major blogs, etc but I haven’t “paid” for any of that. Organic traffic can be your best friend if you’re doing the hard work of churning out content. Google likes to reward those who feed their machine with this soylent green of human capital.

On the other hand, there’s what we call paid search. Using paid search effectively is seemingly more intensive and difficult than just putting up blog posts and waiting for Google to send you money. That’s partly true but not the whole story as paying for search is an art in itself but no more of an art than properly doing organic search (with intention) the right way. The difference is that paid search does require money. You pay to be listed in the wonderful tiny little text ads along the side (or top) of Google search results or in YouTube results or in GMail inboxes etc that have launched a thousand companies. Those text ads are incredibly efficient and responsible for both Google’s success as well as the success (and failure) of many companies. Writing ads that fall into the strict guidelines is nothing short of an endeavor that has tested the patience and humanity of many a marketing professional. But they work. Oh boy do those text ads work.

However, they can be expensive. It’s not uncommon for a large advertiser such as Wal-Mart or Target to spend over 300 million dollars a year on various paid search campaigns. National or regional business commonly spend thousands of dollars a month on search ads within Google. Whole companies run their businesses based on these ads. For instance, back to the affiliate marketing industry, there are many companies that exist just to get traffic from these ads within Google to large retailers such as Amazon or Overstock or REI, and in-turn get a small cut of any transaction that a person makes. Those companies probably have a site but the emphasis isn’t on keeping visitors on the site as much as getting them to make what’s called a conversion (buying something or subscribing to something). Making these text ads work is one of the underpinnings of my business so I am paid to care about these details and make sure I’m keeping up with my homework as the algorithms and keys to success withing a paid search campaign are constantly evolving with Google’s brain as well as the web.

Where does all of that money go? What are businesses paying for? In a nutshell, if you do paid search you are in an auction of sorts. It’t not as much fun as a Storage Wars bidding feud, and there are no collectibles or antiques to be had. Instead, you’re bidding on words. We call them keywords, but they are effectively just a collection of letters.

It has always been fascinating to me that the most incredible and effective method of advertising ever created by humanity is based on the very simple premise of bidding on ancient technology created sometime around 4,500 years ago in a small and dusty population center by merchants looking to make sure they knew how many barrels of beer to send down the Tigris river from Sumer to Ur or Uruk.

Here’s a better explanation than I could make of how Google uses its “Adwords” platform to house the auction for these letters and words:

How does Google AdWords work? - infographic
Infographic by Pulpmedia Online Marketing

It’s neurotic and fun work. But it works and will continue to work for both advertisers, businesses and especially users. Some say search is dead, but I say it’s only evolving and will continue to be more effective than social media ads.

With this knowledge in hand, let’s go back to our lyrics site. While these sites are major spenders in Adwords and have a very competitive keyword space. It’s not uncommon for keywords such as the title to the latest Miley or Jay-Z hit to be in the hundreds of dollars. However, these ads have been controversial since Google got into the ad business 10 years ago and don’t appear in most searches because record labels and attorneys see this as Google profiting from the work of illegal (or non-copyright compliant) lyrics sites. It’s a tricky issue with many parameters.

As a result, lyrics sites resort to organic search as the main current of traffic flow. There are various SEO tactics to help them and the highest ranking sites are doing an enormous amount of behind the scenes work to make sure their lyrics to Hotel California show up above a competitor.

Another tactic to increasing their organic search placements is to get links from other sites. Sometimes these are paid for but mostly they are acquired freely. Getting links has been one of the double-edged tools that Google has long loved and hated for ranking sites properly. PageRank itself (one of the first algorithms used to index sites and named after Google co-creator Larry Page, not a reference to webpage as widely thought) is based on the recognition that who links to you matters:

Google has invented many innovations in search to improve the answers you find. The first and most well known is PageRank, named for Larry Page (Google’s co-founder and CEO). PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

When Google became the most used search engine sometime in the early 2000’s, it became critically important to rank well (unlike Yahoo or Alta Vista who ranked sites in a more hierarchical index format that had less recognition for inbound and outbound links). Google PageRank was a real and incredibly important development for how we process information and has quite literally changed the world (for the better in my opinion). In the early 2000’s, SEO became the hot ticket as a result of this recognition of Google’s growing power on how people find, discover, and ultimately visit sites.

Being humans, we always look for the shortest path to riches. Thus was born link building. Google now has very strict rules about swapping, buying, asking for, and trading links as they continually try to best the blackhat SEO gamers.

However, with the rise of blogs in the early 2000’s came the rise of the hyperlink. Getting and giving links to other blogs you read or enjoyed was common. Blog software such as MovableType, WordPress, Userland Radio etc all included easy ways to add links to what came to be known as a blogroll. Including a link to a friend or colleagues blog in your public blogroll was akin to favoriting them on Facebook or +1’ing them on Google Plus today. We all did it and it benefited us with both recognition and traffic. Google liked blogrolls because it helped them see who was connected to who and which sites were seen as more valuable than others. Very quickly, this time of link economy became much more valuable to Google than something like the number of views a site might have gotten. It’s still the reason that blogs like this can compete with major sites like the in search results.

Yet, there was an ugly underbelly of paid links and link begging from companies and marketers looking to circumvent the system. Even though Google cracked down on the practice, it continued and it’s still going strong today in a number of forums, email groups, and sites that I won’t link to here.

So it was shocking to see a somewhat reputable company (at least in Silicon Valley) resort to link begging on Facebook in order to get more organic links for the newly released Justin Bieber album…

Their business depends on their search engine ranking position SERP’s on Google. Hyperlinks connect the web and determine SERP’s. Thus, the most powerful weapon RapGenius can deploy is a series of powerful hyperlinks. You can see in Mahbod’s email that he is asking for hyperlinks from high-page rank sites personal blogs with anchor text that mentions tracks from Bieber’s most recent album.

via RapGenius Growth Hack Exposed – John Marbachs Blog.

Search Engine Land and TechCrunch has more on Rap Genius and here’s the fun Hacker News thread for your reading pleasure.

I wouldn’t call this a “growth hack” at all.

RapGenius quite literally made a stupid mistake that shows either a complete lack of understanding for how Google and marketing works or a naivety akin to my 6 year old daughter’s understanding of the internet. I cannot fathom how a company with $15 in funding from very reputable venture companies would make this sort of either blatant or unintentional mistake. Cautionary tale indeed.

In any case, this is a lucrative market that shows no sign of slowing down. Despite the shady legal status of the whole idea of a lyrics site, the inability to do much in the way of paid search, the intense competition based on democratization, and the dubious tactics of its biggest traffic generators, lyrics sites have evolved with the underbelly of the web and thrive.

Some of them just need better marketing.

Yahoo (Still) Slipping Affiliate Links Into Organic Search Results

Yahoo’s redirection of links and its “Paid Inclusion” platform is nothing new or newsworthy. However, it’s always a good thing to shine a light on the process of how affiliate links are treated by the search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask) in order to understand where the affiliate industry stands in its attempt to gain mainstream understanding.

Clearly, we in the affiliate marketing industry need to do more in the way of outreach and general education initiatives to let companies and individuals understand how the industry works and how concepts like affiliate links should interact with search engines.

In other words, not much new here.

(Thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick for the link):

If you search on Yahoo, all of their organic results (not the sponsored links) are redirected through This is nothing new and they have been doing this for quite some time to record click metrics.

However, sometimes Yahoo gets sneaky and slips some affiliate links in those redirects. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a close look at the results for “cheap flights:”

Yahoo Is Dropping Affiliate Cookies

Links and the Persistance of Memories

Doc Searls riffing off of Dave Winer’s post about the history of podcasts here…

Doc Searls Weblog · Why durable links matter: “We can find these historic details because links have at least a provisional permanence to them. They are, literally, paths to locations. Thanks to those, we can document the history we make, and learn from it as well.”

As usual, Searls says some incredibly important things (and gives some great links such as Anil Dash’s The Web We Lost) in a small space.

However, as a middle school teacher I constantly try to reinforce the idea of not just “portfolio spaces” (each of our middle schoolers has a blog that they get to design, set up, create etc) and why links on blogs and personal spaces are so important to the health of the web. It’s a difficult concept for anyone to understand. Why worry about links to things when we have Google for information, Facebook for social, Instagram for pictures and Spotify/YouTube for music?

Doc points out the best reason possible… permanence. The “HT” part of HTML and HTTP are important signals as to how and why the web exists. To be able to look back and learn or reflect on information that we create as we encounter this new digital landscape is so important.

For example, I didn’t know Allen Stern personally but he was a rather important figure when I started to get involved in blogging and what has become the social web. His blog CenterNetworks was a constant source of both information and traffic for my own marketing blog (CostPerNews) at the time. I was saddened to learn of his death late last night and went on a trip down memory lane to see what I could find from my own linking to Allen. Sadly, most of it has eroded by my own actions over time. I’ve started blogs and either sold them or abandoned them. I had to rely on the wonderful WayBackMachine. However, I wish I still had that content that I produced by linking to his work or thinking on what he thought up first.

Instead, I’ve posted in walled gardens that cease to exist or are inaccessible to the outside web. I’m more guilty than anyone for relying on services like Twitter or Facebook to deliver content when I should be posting info, ideas, pictures etc on this space and then letting those services aggregate as needed.

So, learn from my mistakes.

Create your own blog. Live on that blog and let other services slurp your content in as you intend.

Create a real and lasting digital footprint.

Leave a legacy so that your kids’ kids can read your portfolio or your blog just as they can read the paper versions (if you please).

Create a healthier web.

R.I.P. Allen.

Weekly Insight 11/17/2006

weekinsight.GIFThe podcast this week was an interesting experience. Only three of the regular cast were able to attend (Lee, Jeff and myself), so the conversation felt more personal and directed than it has in the past. There’s always a different dynamic in a conversation such as this when only a few people participate as compared to four, five or six.

Again, I think we are slowly increasing the quality of talk and Jeff has done a nice job of improving some of the audio attributes.

Of course we cover the debate over CPA networks and affiliate networks which has raged on the comments here on the site over the last week. I have to defend my policy of not regulating comments in terms of requiring subscriptions, and voice my reasons for having this site in the first place. Jeff elaborates on some of his points he was hoping to get across in the podcast, and Lee provided a couple of great points (which need to be discussed further) in terms of affiliate value and the nature of the industry as the paradigm of online marketing continues to shift.

After listening again, I do realize there were a few points I let Jeff off the hook when I should have stepped in and corrected or disagreed with him (I’m sure you’ll hear them). For example, as a point in our discussion on affiliate networks and his point that the networks seem to be whithering on the vine. That’s not a completely accurate statement, and I wish we could have gone deeper into defining how many things affiliate networks (such as CJ) are doing well in some respects. I’m working hard to call out people on their mis-steps and over generalizations on the podcast, but it’s a work in progress.

Oh, and I make the point again that LINKS ARE DEAD. That might be a subject discussed here on CPN in the near future.

All in all, I’d recommend this as a supplement to the week’s previous discussions on networks.

I encourage thoughts and responses in the comments section!

Weekly Insight

November 17, 2006

Download the Show (mp3)

[EDIT 11/19 2:00AM: This will be my last time of participating on that podcast as well.]

Buying Links: Good or Bad?

At the Summit West this year, one of the most talked about moments was the back-and-forth between SEO expert Wil Reynolds and Jason Calacanis during Wil’s session.

Here’s Wil’s take:

Well the BIG topic – buying links to help boost your SEO rankings, let me say again…if you properly analyze your landscape you can determine if you may or may not need to buy links. If you do, you should buy ones that are actually on GOOD sites – while producing great content is the ideal, you may have to prime the pump a bit with a few strategic bought links. This is an advanced tactic, if you don’t understand what makes a good vs. bad link, don’t buy one!

As you can imagine, Jason was not too supportive of the link buying tactic and has called out Google and SEO’ers many times over the issue (and created a company to combat the problem he sees in search today).

And thanks to the power of the interwebs, you have the chance to see the throw down (not really) between Wil and Jason (or head over to YouTube to see the annotations that Wil has added to the video… they don’t carry over to embeds):

The video also shows why you should be going to the Summit in Boston this August. Unlike many of the shows I go to, there is both real substance and real discussions that go on during the sessions. This is just a taste of that.

TaborBlog » Blog Archive » “Making Live the Dead”

Big in Japan: Web2.0 Is Dead and Japan is the Next Hub of the Web?

Robert Sanzalone of Blognation Japan has an interesting interview with Zooomr’s Kristopher Tate in which he expounds on his vision of web development’s future.

He’s almost got me convinced…

Kristopher: My goal is simple. I’m going to make Japan the next center of the web!…

I really want to get bloggers excited in Japan. It doesn’t seem like they have much forward voice here. That needs to change. The bottom line is this: Web 2.0 is dead — the brand is. In the valley everyone is scrambling for new ideas. But Google and Facebook have sucked up core talent. There isn’t anything new or exciting happening there. It’s become a bubble. Japan holds the second largest GDP globally. It’s infrastructure is amazing. 3G is here and people know how to use technology.

Read the rest here.

Chromecast is dead Name wise at least Thankfully…

Chromecast is dead. Name-wise, at least. Thankfully. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE(d) Chromecast, now Google Cast. Great decision, Google.

TaborBlog » Blog Archive » “Making Live the Dead”

TaborBlog » Blog Archive » “Making Live the Dead”

Churches Should Realize That Branding is Dead

As with many things to do with marketing and messaging, churches are way behind the curve when realizing that relationships are much more powerful than advertisements or fancy branding.

Marketing data points have already moved larger brands to this realization but there’s still a large vacuum in the world of nonprofit and religious org marketing that keeps outreach trapped in the pre-internet days.

The Best Marketers Will Realize That “Branding” Is Dead And It’s All About Community Activation And Relationship Building. David Minifie, CXO & Executive Vice President, Centene Corporation

As a CMO, I wanted to elevate from Advertising (like personal injury lawyers) to Brand Building (like Harley Davidson).  As a CXO, however, my perspective has changed.  I want to take Transactions (like glancing at the newspaper sports scores), turn them into Engagements (like reading Sports Illustrated) and then elevate them into Relationships (like being a Cardinals fan in St. Louis).  Manufacturers that focus on branding and not relationships…beware!

— Read on

TaborBlog » Blog Archive » “Making Live the Dead”

TaborBlog » Blog Archive » “Making Live the Dead”

My Tweets, Links, Music, and Books

Tweets, Links, Music, and Books - Sam Harrelson

I’ve put together a page here on my blog to aggregate all of my updates, music listening patterns, bookmarks on the web, and books I’m reading:

Twitter: updates etc

Music: iTunes / Spotify / Google Play Music / Pandora / Last.FM

Bookmarks: Pocket and Pinboard

Reading and Books: Goodreads

I was pretty proud of myself. I like having all of my consumption in one spot. I’m working on Instagram now, but they don’t have RSS feeds and clearly aren’t fans of users pulling their own pics out of their silo.

Tweets, Links, Music, and Books – Sam Harrelson.

Phishing Scam Targets (Dumb) Twitter Users Opening DM’ed Links


It had to happen sooner than later:

Phishing Scam Spreading on Twitter | Chris Pirillo: “A few minutes ago, I received a direct message from one of my twitter followers:

“hey! check out this funny blog about you… jannawalitax . blogspot . com”

DO NOT VISIT the URL in question. It will redirect you immediately to a suspicious domain
: twitter . access-logins . com – notice the subdomain? “

Twitter needs to deploy a trusted login system for 3rd party apps instead of relying on users to always input their usernames/passwords. Soon.

Oh, and don’t open DM links from people you don’t know. Why in the world would someone do that?? Did we not all learn our lesson from email? Sigh.

Maybe this will cause more people to slash-and-burn the people they are following to actual people they know and/or trust (like I did last month) rather than binging on thousands of follows.

[Updated: This comment on Chris’ post is the voice of reason in the Twitter wilderness:

Best way to avoid these kind of situation is to not ‘follow’ everyone! Its just pointless as there is no way you can ‘really follow’ every single one of them..It just causes an information overload and makes this ‘useful service’ not so useful anymore..

If you are not following that person, he shouldn’t be able to send you a DM….Right? So if you follow people carefully, you can actually control how much ’spam’ you get.

Following everyone is like away your home address to everyone you meet so that they can send you Junk.

Preach it, Saad Kamal.]


Golden Twitter Links

First, congrats to my pals Lisa Picarille and the FabulousSavings team for winning Linkshare Golden Links last night. Also, a big congrats to the excellent nominees like Mike Allen, Scott Jangro and Stephanie Agresta.

Second, this year’s Linkshare awards event was made possible by the live tweeting of people like Missy Ward, Stephanie and Lisa P. That was a tremendous service and all of us following you thank you three for doing that. It’s amazing to me how events like the Linkshare awards take on more of an industry wide communal feeling because of something like Twitter. Now, just fast forward a couple of years into the future when we all have live streaming video capabilities on our phones and we’re live broadcasting from events like that (or is that even kosher?).

Nevertheless, boundaries are falling and Twitter has become a big hammer between that wall of attendees and remote viewers who wish they could be there.

Third, Shawn, Lisa, Jim and I made a friendly wager on this week’s GeekCast regarding the results of the Linkshare awards. Needless to say, I won (since I clearly know more about the industry than the others on the show):

Affiliate Marketing Blog by Shawn Collins: “Prior to the awards, Jim Kukral, Lisa Picarille, Sam Harrelson, and I shared our predictions for each category on the weekly GeekCast show.

Below are the picks each of us made, as well as the winners (in yellow).

* Jim: 8 for 14
* Lisa: 7 for 14
* Sam: 9 for 14
* Shawn: 5 for 14 “

So, it looks like free drinks for me in Boston on behalf of the other GeekCasters. OR, if you’d like to get tons of exposure for your business, you can sponsor GeekCast for that evening and we’ll mention you a few dozen times during a live taping. Get in touch with any of us if you’re interested. Great chance to get your name out there!

And of course, thanks to the Linkshare team for putting on what sounded like another great event.