Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Using Google Earth for fun and profit

I just learned about the intriguing story of Nathan Smith, a musician who thinks he has found buried treasure. Using Google Earth he saw what he is convinced is a centuries old Spanish ship, reputed to be carrying a massive load of silver and gold, buried under mud in Texas. The location is on private property, so he's now engaged in a legal battle to be able to dig up the site, and take possession of whatever riches he might find.

This would almost certainly not be happening if he didn't use Google Earth. It's an astonishingly powerful tool, and I'm sure there'll be many more stories like this.

I've actually used it to make a few bob myself. See, I distribute flyers through the suburbs of Sydney to promote various affiliate programs. (It's a surprisingly effective method, by the way, particularly for local, geo-specific programs.) I've also done letterbox drops for various small businesses (though I'm not doing that now).

If what I was promoting with this method was tailored more towards young and single people than older family types, I would focus on apartment blocks as opposed to houses. If I didn't know the area I was going to do already, I would log into Google Earth and have a look at it. It was very easy to find the apartment clusters this way.

Have any readers used Google Earth in a similar way? Or do you have any ideas as to how it could be used?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blog plagiarized

I recently discovered that someone has been lifting the content from this site and publishing it on a blog. I won't link directly to the site because I don't want to give him the benefit, but the URL is "findfreearticlesonline dot com" if you want to have a look.

It's an amazingly cynical thing to do. Apart from the fact that it's morally wrong to just nick people's stuff, it's not even worth it in the long run because the search engines will always index the original first.

I have disdain for plagiarists and scammers. I also pity them, because they are so lacking in character. Why go to the trouble of doing something so clearly unethical when you can put the same time and energy into creating your own content or promoting a genuine, good quality product or service and ultimately reap greater rewards? Doing what they do is stupid as well as pathetic.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MySpace and Twitter's party animals

Recently, details of a party were posted on Twitter, resulting in 150 drunk youths gatecrashing it and ruining the house in which it was held.

This event is reminiscent of the huge party that made Aussie party boy Corey Delaney world famous. That particular shindig was promoted on MySpace.

These events give some idea of the massive reach of these sites. They also doesn't reflect too well on the kind of people who use them.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Twitter, Facebook and defamation

Here's a story that illustrates how the rapidly changing face of the internet has ramifications for the law: UK celebrity Jordan made headlines when she claimed that she had been raped by a famous celebrity. Numerous Twitter uses posted tweets naming who they thought the guy was.

These have been deemed defamatory, and the celeb named could win substantial damages. However, it might not be worth it in the end because of the speed with which new tweets are posted.

Another story that involved legal issues and social media occurred earlier this year after the Victorian bushfires. Facebook users posted photos of the main suspect, leaving them up in defiance of a court order.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Friendship" meaningless on Facebook

I know that a lot of people get right into Facebook. But I don't like it at all. I think it's a complete waste of time, to be honest.

One thing that really annoys me is this use of the word "friend". I thought a friend was someone that you actually met regularly in real life, cared about and gave support to. But most Facebook "friends" are anything but. They just add you to their list so that they can get an ego boost, or to promote events, products and other things.

If people want to do that, fine. They just shouldn't use the word "friend". (I know that the users themselves don't choose that word. It's built into the site design. But the fact that so many people seem at ease with its misuse is a bit of a worry.)

The allure of Facebook is that it makes its users feel important, as if they're celebrities. And you only have to look at celebrities to see how dysfunctional their relationships are!

I know some may think I'm a Luddite for saying this, but I'm anything but. I think the internet is a fantastic and revolutionary tool. (Obviously, I'm right into blogging!)

But there's a real problem when people would rather spend hours "poking" each other, posting silly photos of themselves, chatting with six people at once and playing stupid games online instead of actually conversing one on one and face to face. The fact that so many people are addicted to this already is quite depressing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Should website building be methodical or intuitive?

When it comes to website building and promotion, there seem to be two general approaches you can take. One way is to be methodical and detached. You spend hours and hours doing lots of keyword research, exhaustively sussing out your competition. Using this detailed information you choose a traffic pulling domain name, then carefully optimize each of your pages. Building the site itself and then gaining backlinks to it is almost a formality.

The other way is to depend much more on intuition. You just get an idea for a site, then throw down some relevant content as soon as possible. You then let it develop organically, checking your stats as you go, seeing where your traffic is coming from and then building on that. With this approach you are basically making it up as you go along.

So which is the best approach? Of course there are many who would who say the first one is vastly superior. You may spend many hours in preparation, and comparatively little in execution. But this will be worth it in the long run when you are pulling in solid targeted traffic for years on end without having to do much more work.

I prefer the second approach, however. While I do think it's a good idea to give a lot of thought to what you're going to focus on - and you should certainly do some keyword research in choosing a domain name (unless you are using it primarily for branding, as opposed to SEO) - I think you can easily overdo the preparation.

Why? Because the fun of website building is in sharing the information. Just having some good useful content up there is a great feeling. Okay, so it's not optimized yet. But you can always do that later. The search engines will index the changes when completed and you will have done no permanent harm to your site's potential in the long run. It's not set for all time once you press "publish"; it's dynamic and alive and always a work in progress.

The other reason is that you can't predict what your competitors will do. You might spend weeks finding low competition, high traffic keywords to focus on and thereby isolate a juicy little traffic vein. But in a few months there may be six other webmasters who are also onto it, reducing your flood of visitors to a trickle. There's also the possibility that the search engine algorithms change to your disadvantage.

If both, or even just one, of these things were to occur your site's rankings could take quite a hit, and you'd feel very much like you'd gone right back to square one. But if you use the more intuitive and improvisational approach you can take these changes much more in your stride and keep developing your site with enthusiasm.

Psychological benefit of a custom domain

There are many reasons why it's a good idea to publish your blog or website to a custom top level domain. Among other things it's usually shorter than a subdomain, making it easier to remember, and it's also more highly regarded by the search engines.

But there's another less obvious benefit: You become the "master of your own domain" both literally and figuratively. And that gives you a greater sense of ownership and therefore empowerment and focus. It's kind of like moving into an office and putting up a sign out the front which reads "open for business". If you haven't done it yet you'll see when you do - it's really quite a powerful effect.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dofollow and Keywordluv plugins and spam

There is still quite a buzz about Dofollow and Keywordluv blogs, with more and more of them popping up all the time. But bloggers are also removing these plugins at a very high rate.

The reason: They attract an awful lot of spam.

All the more reason to write thoughtful comments if and when you do find such blogs.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Choosing a domain name for a business

A couple of days ago I saw a sign that got me thinking about website promotion, and earlier today I saw another one! I was on my way back home to Newtown in Sydney, going through the neighboring suburb of Camperdown, and I saw a manicurist's shop that had a very witty and memorable name: "Manic Cure". The website address was listed also: www.manic-cure.com.au. This got me thinking about domain name choices.

It seems that the business owner, or her online adviser, decided on this name because it was memorable or good for branding. It does seem to be an established business, so word of mouth and years of offline advertising in Sydney would mean that many thousands of people already know of the name and remember it. The site must get quite a few hits from searches for that particular name, "manic+cure". (Actually, if you do type these keywords into Google, the search suggestion drop down menu lists "manic+cure+camperdown", so that is clearly the case.) Given this brand awareness, it seems like a good strategy.

But there's another way the business could have gone in choosing a domain name. That's to ignore the catchy title and just choose keywords that would ultimately pull in traffic regardless of previous awareness of the business. For example, the domain could be something like "www.camperdownmanicure.com.au" or "inner-west-manicure.com.au".

The success of this strategy would of course depend on how much competition there was for each of the terms used. I didn't check that. However, I did check to see how many local Australian Google searches there were for keywords "camperdown" and "manicure". These were 301000 and 33100 respectively. These are pretty good numbers! There's bound to be a small percentage of searchers who combine those two terms, and you'd be nailing them (no pun intended!) pretty much straightaway. Some link building with these keywords would have to bring in some pretty good search volumes for other, related search terms over time. While some of these searchers would already know about the business, many would be completely unaware, I'd imagine. So that could be a good long term way of getting more exposure and gaining new customers.

It seems to me that the above example has relevance to all businesses in choosing a domain name. That is, do you use the domain for branding, to build upon what you have already done, or do you use it to try and pull in new customers searching for what you offer?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A sign of the rise of free classifieds online

Just about anyone with an internet connection must be aware of the boom in online classifieds sites by now. There are squillions of them, with more popping up almost daily.

It's such a huge shift that it's seen as one of the major causes of the worldwide decline of print media. Before the internet, many newspapers relied heavily on the revenue from classified advertising, particularly the real estate listings. These were often called the "rivers of gold". But with so many people advertising for free or next to nothing online, those rivers have pretty well dried up. And without all that cash flowing through the coffers, there's been less and less left to pay journalists, editors and other staff members.

It's a big change, and you see evidence of it online all the time. And today, I saw its impact offline. I was travelling in a bus through Marrickville, in Sydney's inner west, and I saw a big street sign that said something like "advertise for free". Underneath it was the URL Ubuysell.com.au.

I'd never seen this particular site before, so I made a mental note of it and had a look when I got home earlier today. I did a backlink check with Yahoo and saw that it had very few backlinks. That's probably why I hadn't seen it in searches. Still, it seems pretty well established, having been around for a few years. Quite a few people are advertising stuff. Obviously that sign has been working very well!

Webmaster moves from Weebly to Webnode

I have posted on the great free website creators Weebly and Webnode before. Here's an illustration of how similar they are: A webmaster who originally used Weebly for his site has moved it to Webnode.

He's clearly achieved a more zany and vivid look with the Webnode template. But I think they are both quite effective.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Weebly, Yola, and Webnode increasingly popular

Curious about the website builder and host Weebly, I just did a news search for it to see if it was making any headlines. What I noticed was that underneath stories about the company itself, there were lots of articles in which Weebly sites were mentioned. The list went for several pages.

I did a similar search for Weebly's main competitor, Yola. It had several mentions, but not nearly as many as Weebly. Webnode had a similar number, with most of its mentions in news outlets from non English speaking nations.

No doubt many of these mentions came as a result of the website owners sending in press releases to the various outlets. Still, it showed just how popular these free website builders have become.

The growth of internet addiction

China's internet addiction clinics have been in the news lately because of the recent deaths of a couple of patients. There are hundreds of these clinics now, developed to cope with the massive of social problem of 10 million online junkies!

Interestingly, no other country has such a big problem. This seems at least in part to be a cultural issue; a consequence of how different countries define addiction. That is, what in one country may be described as mere overuse of the internet is deemed a pathological problem in China.

That said, the Chinese aren't just making the problem up. America has just opened its first internet addiction clinic. It will be interesting to see how many more spring up there and in other parts of the world.