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Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

Link building campaigns shouldn’t have a start-and-stop date — they should be ongoing, continuing to earn you links over time. In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, please warmly welcome our guest host Paddy Moogan as he shares strategies to achieve sustainable link building, the kind that makes your content efforts lucrative far beyond your initial campaigns for them.

Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links

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Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. I’m not Rand. I’m Paddy Moogan. I’m the cofounder of Aira. We’re an agency in the UK, focusing on SEO, link building, and content marketing. You may have seen me write on the Moz Blog before, usually about link building. You may have read my link building book. If you have, thank you. Today, I’m going to talk about link building again. It’s a topic I love, and I want to share some ideas around what I’m calling “sustainable link building.”

Problems

Now, there are a few problems with link building that make it quite risky, and I want to talk about some problems first before giving you some potential solutions that help make your link building less risky. So a few problems first:

I. Content-driven link building is risky.

The problem with content-driven link building is that you’re producing some content and you don’t really know if it’s going to work or not. It’s quite risky, and you don’t actually know for sure that you’re going to get links.

II. A great content idea may not be a great content idea that gets links.

There’s a massive difference between a great idea for content and a great idea that will get links. Knowing that difference is really, really important. So we’re going to talk a little bit about how we can work that out.

III. It’s a big investment of time and budget.

Producing content, particularly visual content, doing design and development takes time. It can take freelancers. It can take designers and developers. So it’s a big investment of time and budget. If you’re going to put time and budget into a marketing campaign, you want to know it’s probably going to work and not be too risky.

IV. Think of link building as campaign-led: it starts & stops.

So you do a link building campaign, and then you stop and start a new one. I want to get away from that idea. I want to talk about the idea of treating link building as the ongoing activity and not treating it as a campaign that has a start date and a finish date and you forget about it and move on to the next one. So I’m going to talk a little bit about that as well.

Solutions

So those are some of the problems that we’ve got with content-driven link-building. I want to talk about some solutions of how to offset the risk of content-driven link building and how to increase the chances that you’re actually going to get links and your campaign isn’t going to fail and not work out for you.

I. Don’t tie content to specific dates or events

So the first one, now, when you coming up with content ideas, it’s really easy to tie content ideas into events or days of the year. If there are things going on in your client’s industry that are quite important, current festivals and things like that, it’s a great way of hooking a piece of content into an event. Now, the problem with that is if you produce a piece of content around a certain date and then that date passes and the content hasn’t worked, then you’re kind of stuck with a piece of content that is no longer relevant.

So an example here of what we’ve done at Aira, there’s a client where they launch a piece of content around the Internet of Things Day. It turns out there’s a day celebrating the Internet of Things, which is actually April 9th this year. Now, we produced a piece of content for them around the Internet of Things and its growth in the world and the impact it’s having on the world. But importantly, we didn’t tie it exactly to that date. So the piece itself didn’t mention the date, but we launched it around that time and that outreach talked about Internet of Things Day. So the outreach focused on the date and the event, but the content piece itself didn’t. What that meant was, after July 9th, we could still promote that piece of content because it was still relevant. It wasn’t tied in with that exact date.

So it means that we’re not gambling on a specific event or a specific date. If we get to July 9th and we’ve got no links, it obviously matters, but we can keep going. We can keep pushing that piece of content. So, by all means, produce content tied into dates and events, but try not to include that too much in the content piece itself and tie yourself to it.

II. Look for datasets which give you multiple angles for outreach

Number two, lots of content ideas can lead from data. So you can get a dataset and produce content ideas off the back of the data, but produce angles and stories using data. Now, that can be quite risky because you don’t always know if data is going to give you a story or an angle until you’ve gone into it. So something we try and do at Aira when trying to produce content around data is from actually different angles you can use from that data.

So, for example:

  • Locations. Can you pitch a piece of content into different locations throughout the US or the UK so you can go after the local newspapers, local magazines for different areas of the country using different data points?
  • Demographics. Can you target different demographics? Can you target females, males, young people, old people? Can you slice the data in different ways to approach different demographics, which will give you multiple ways of actually outreaching that content?
  • Years. Is it updated every year? So it’s 2018 at the moment. Is there a piece of data that will be updated in 2019? If there is and it’s like a recurring annual thing where the data is updated, you can redo the content next year. So you can launch a piece of content now. When the data gets updated next year, plug the new data into it and relaunch it. So you’re not having to rebuild a piece of a content every single time. You can use old content and then update the data afterwards.

III. Build up a bank of link-worthy content

Number three, now this is something which is working really, really well for us at the moment, something I wanted to share with you. This comes back to the idea of not treating link building as a start and stop campaign. You need to build up a bank of link-worthy content on your client websites or on your own websites. Try and build up content that’s link worthy and not just have content as a one-off piece of work. What you can do with that is outreach over and over and over again.

We tend to think of the content process as something like this. You come up with your ideas. You do the design, then you do the outreach, and then you stop. In reality, what you should be doing is actually going back to the start and redoing this over and over again for the same piece of content.

What you end up with is multiple pieces of content on your client’s website that are all getting links consistently. You’re not just focusing on one, then moving past it, and then working on the next one. You can have this nice big bank of content there getting links for you all the time, rather than forgetting about it and moving on to the next one.

IV. Learn what content formats work for you

Number four, again, this is something that’s worked really well for us recently. Because we’re an agency, we work with lots of different clients, different industries and produce lots and lots of content, what we’ve done recently is try to work out what content formats are working the best for us. Which formats get the best results for our clients? The way we did this was a very, very simple chart showing how easy something was versus how hard it was, and then wherever it was a fail in terms of the links and the coverage, or wherever it was a really big win in terms of links and coverage and traffic for the client.

Now, what you may find when you do this is certain content formats fit within this grid. So, for example, you may find that doing data viz is actually really, really hard, but it gets you lots and lots of links, whereas you might find that producing maps and visuals around that kind of data is actually really hard but isn’t very successful.

Identifying these content formats and knowing what works and doesn’t work can then feed into your future content campaign. So when you’re working for a client, you can confidently say, “Well, actually, we know that interactives aren’t too difficult for us to build because we’ve got a good dev team, and they really likely to get links because we’ve done loads of them before and actually seen lots of successes from them.” Whereas if you come up with an idea for a map that you know is actually really, really hard to do and actually might lead to a big fail, then that’s not going to be so good, but you can say to a client, “Look, from our experience, we can see maps don’t work very well. So let’s try and do something else.”

That’s it in terms of tips and solutions for trying to make your link building more sustainable. I’d love to hear your comments and your feedback below. So if you’ve got any questions, anything you’re not sure about, let me know. If you see it’s working for your clients or not working, I’d love to hear that as well. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You)

"Knowing the business of writing and content marketing gives you an advantage over other (directionless) writers." – Stefanie Flaxman

You may love to write.

You may get a lot of positive feedback on your writing.

And you may have even picked up many great writing gigs over the years, solidifying your status as a professional writer.

But something is missing.

It’s difficult to balance writing for your existing clients and attracting new clients. Consequently, your writing income varies at different times throughout the year and the work you love to do never quite feels sustainable.

TET: the backbone of a sustainable writing business

Whether you’re just starting your writing business, or you’ve been building it for a while and are hoping to make it more financially secure, I have 15 tips that support a healthy, productive solopreneur venture.

To make the advice manageable, I’ll list five tips under three important categories for anyone working for themselves: Technology, Education, Tools (TET).

The success of a writing business depends on so much more than your ability to write.

Educating yourself on the business of writing and content marketing gives you a huge advantage over other (directionless) writers.

My TET Talk below — not to be confused with a TED Talk ”</p

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The 5 pillars of sustainable SEO

Forget the “black box” approach to SEO, I’d like to introduce you to a far more effective approach. One thing I urge clients to do is to forget any kind of short-term approach designed to trick the Search Engine Algorithms. You need to think long-term. That’s why I developed the “5 Pillars of Sustainable SEO” and I’m going to share these with you today.

The 5 Pillars of SEO framework is rooted in a strategic and holistic approach to SEO, placed within an integrated digital marketing strategy. It focuses on audience development and brand reach. Let me take you on a tour.

The 5 pillars

  • Foundation: Keyword Research
  • Pillar 1: Technical SEO
  • Pillar 2: User Experience
  • Pillar 3: Content Marketing & Outreach
  • Pillar 4: Public Relations
  • Pillar 5: Social Media
  • Ongoing: Analytics and Reporting

The foundation: Keyword Research

Keyword research is arguably considered to be the most important aspect of an SEO strategy, as it establishes the keywords and key-phrases an SEO campaign is to target by matching current search queries (often specific to a target geographic location) to keywords relevant to the business/website. Understanding how people search for your product, service or content forms the very foundation of SEO.

Keyword research data is used within the pillars:

  • In technical SEO, it is used in information architecture and for title tag updates.
  • In social media & PR, keyword research drives the thematic focus.
  • In content marketing, keyword research guides content plans and internal page linking.
  • In UX / UI it drives a top-level direction for designers.

Getting keyword research wrong leads to driving unqualified traffic and a sub-par user experience. Understanding the difference between head (general/popular) and long-tail (specific) keywords is essential to setting up structured goals throughout a SEO campaign, as head keywords tend to individually attract more traffic – although long-tail keywords account for 70% of total user searches.

Some of my tools of choice for effective keywords research are:

  • WordTracker’s Keyword Tool
  • Google AdWords Keyword Tool(now the Keyword Planner – ed)
  • Google Search (using ‘related searches’ results and competitor title tags)
  • Übersuggest Google suggest scraper tool
  • Client interviews and research to understand industry terminology
  • Google Analytics

Keyword research sets SEO apart from other marketing disciplines such as PR, Social Media and content marketing.

Pillar #1: Technical SEO

As Google needs highly accessible websites it can crawl and index, technical SEO is an area where Google offers significant support, including:

  • A dedicated Webmaster help & knowledge centre
  • The Webmaster Central forum
  • Google Webmasters YouTube channel
  • The Webmaster Central blog
  • Google Webmaster Tools (dashboard management for technical SEO)
  • Matt Cutts

Technical SEO broadly involves dealing with issues such as Indexation (and pagination), site speed (page load times), meta tags, rich snippets (micro-data mark-up), Keyword research, Information architecture & URL structure, and site management (using Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools). I’ll go into a few of these aspects in more detail below:

1. Indexation:

Covers how thoroughly and accurately search engines are able to access or ‘crawl’ publicly accessible web pages on your website, ensuring that ‘crawled’ web pages are added to the index database of search engines.

The key areas to note for maximum indexation involve:

  • Generating XML sitemaps (submitted to each search engine).
  • Optimising internal linking within web pages on your site.
  • Managing how deleted pages (which can lead to 404 errors) are handled.
  • Resolving duplicate content issues.
  • Being aware of (and working with) Query Parameters, Canonicalisation and Pagination – the goal is to include your publicly available site in the index of search engines for possible search queries.

Recommended tool: Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

2. Speed:

Website speed is essential for technical SEO and user experience. Slow loading websites are frustrating for both site visitors and search engines spiders. Keep your site’s page load time under 3 seconds – I would recommend:

  • Using Google PageSpeed for measuring both home page and inner page speed,
  • Using Yahoo’s YSlow Plugin
  • Using the Pingdom website speed test tool
  • Tracking page load times in Google Analytics by adding the following lines of code to your Google analytics tracking code:
    _gaq.push(['_trackPageLoadTime']); _gaq.push(['_setSiteSpeedSampleRate', 10]);
  • Optimizing CSS and JS files

3. Micro-data (rich snippets):
Micro-data is the marking-up of HTML content into standardized categories of content. The result of micro-data mark-ups is structured data that can be sorted by attributes in databases.

Schema.org is the universally accepted Micro-data standard employed by all major search engines, and the following are some of the types of content can be structured using Schema:

  • Creative works: books, movies, music recording, recipes, TV series
  • Embedded non-text objects: audio clips, images, videos
  • An event
  • An organization
  • Google+ Authorship (of an article)
  • A place, a local business, a restaurant
  • A product in an e-commerce store
  • An offer
  • A review
  • Breadcrumb navigation

Schema.org provides full reference and documentation at http://schema.org/docs/schemas.html.

4. Information architecture:
Defining the hierarchal structure of your website is critical for both user experience and search engines. Information architecture should link with keyword research and also establish a URL structure for your site.

5. Bing & Google webmaster tools:
Google, Yahoo & Bing provide webmasters with website administrative dashboard interfaces for managing indexation, site speed, micro-data, search queries etc.

Pillar #2: User Experience

User experience is an essential pillar of SEO – creating an intuitive and accessible website with users in mind makes it easy for visitors to navigate, retrieve content and stay longer on your website. ‘Average time on site’ and bounce rates serve as engagement indicators that display the value your website offers its visitors. Think about branding, user experience and ease of payment (for eCommerce). A website should offer a solid user experience – which is an on-going process.


Matt Cutts talking about User Experience and High Quality Content

Two key aspects of User Experience are:

1. Responsive design:
As multiscreen i.e. tablet & smartphone adoption grows, so creating a mobile responsive website has emerged as a critical facet of user experience. The number of devices, platforms, and browsers that you need to work with your site grows daily. Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.

2. Image and video driven content:
Images and videos convey messages a lot faster than written words, and given that most content is skimmed through on the Internet. The visual web is increasing. If your website’s audience communicate better through video or images, adopt an image/ video driven layout and user experience journey. Video, particularly, is the closest thing you have to a face-to-face encounter.

Pillar #3: Content Marketing & Outreach

Building a site that offers a superior user experience with technically sound SEO is not enough for search engine success. Creating and promoting good quality content that aligns with your store’s product is the next step – think about how you can offer complementary content both on and off site to help increase sales.

For an e-commerce store, consider running video reviews/demos or even TV shows, like DigitalRev’s YouTube photography show, the most subscribed and viewed photography on the Internet).

Content does not only come in the form of text – content can be consumed as video, audio (podcasts), images, Infographics, whitepapers, competitions, webinars or hang-outs, guest blog posts, mobile apps, email newsletters and research. Establish a content marketing engine that supports your brand, website or e-Store.
Promoting your ‘high-quality’ content encourages publishers and bloggers to discuss and link to. All good stuff for your marketing.

Pillar #4: Public Relations

PR is still hugely relevant and arguably the most effective way to promote your brand to its target audience. Traditional media has evolved and taken an online form continuing with influencer engagement and outreach. Bloggers have emerged in the PR space and are now critical for all SEO campaigns. Media sites still rate amongst the most authoritative and trusted sites to acquire reference backlinks from, for search marketing. PR by its nature is very people-focused and aims to ensure that a broad or targeted audience becomes aware of your brand.

Pillar #5: Social Media

“Content is fire, and social media is gasoline” – brilliantly coined by Jay Baer.

Social media is the final pillar of SEO. People spend more and more time on social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Pinterest or other, and this is where we increasingly discover and engage Brands.

It was in 2010 that Matt Cutts admitted that social signals really do figure in organic SEO. Everyone is still debating how strong an impact channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn really have, but it’s very clear that any company that’s not active on G+ is missing out on an easily won SEO gain. If you’re not already using Google Authorship, it’s time to start right now. Authorship helps Google assign credibility to your content, and can result in higher Search Engine results. Marketers are still figuring out how to best deal with the Facebook Graph and its semantic search possibilities, but with all that Big Data gathered from Facebook users, it’s an area to keep a close eye on.

When you integrate Social with your SEO and Marketing strategy, don’t forget to think about your own site as well as the various channels. Make your onsite content so great that people want to share it. Give them the tools to do that – like social media share buttons.

Remember that the consumers and customers of tomorrow are spending more and more time on the social media of today. Companies and marketers need to go where their audiences spend time.

Conclusion

Remember, the principles laid out in the 5 Pillars are all about integrated digital marketing and sustainability. Be certain to continually evaluate your performance with your analytics, and track the performance of each marketing effort. This will give you a good guide as to where you may excel, and where you may need to do better.

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Passive Online Income vs Sustainable Online Income

Is there such a thing as “passive” income? Generally no. A person can cash out existing brand equity and exposure, but if they cash out too aggressively and/or do not reinvest enough then they are ultimately cashing out their market position and will eventually fade.

Does Google Make “Passive” Income?

Online there are some network effects that are hard to beat. MySpace had them over Facebook & only lost due to years of systematic incompetence & mismanagement. And even Google has to claw and fight for every percent of search marketshare.

A person could say “well Google makes passive income” and I would counter that with “not really.”

So far this month Google has made about a dozen search interface changes or tests & the underlying relevancy algorithms have likely had at least 3x or 4x as much change.

Keeping Google’s Marketshare Costs Big Money

The propaganda Google spreads include statements like: “users keep coming back to Google even though they have a choice of a search engine every time they open a browser”

While Google maintains that their monopolist marketshare is due to user appreciation of superior technology, a ton of their exposure is paid for. I was helping a friend set up a new laptop and the amount of Google added to the machine made me feel like Google is the new Norton or Symantec.

If you use the Internet Explorer browser to access the web it comes with a Google Toolbar.

That toolbar defaults to enhanced features enabled.

Google also pays for Chrome to be installed in the laptop.

If you are curious enough to click on the pinned Chrome logo then when it opens they try to set it as your default browser.

If you do use Chrome regularly you see Chrome store ads bundled right int he browser.

Even if you don’t use Chrome or the Google Toolbar in Internet Explorer then whenever you use Google they suggest setting it to your home page.

And even if you don’t change your homepage, Google paid to be the default search box on Toshiba’s default start page!

If your default search provider isn’t Google when you install Chrome they use an option screen to help you change it, with Google being the first choice

Either Google is fibbing when they state how much of their existing marketshare is due to superior quality service, or they are hedging a risk of losing marketshare to Bing by buying placement everywhere they can. And to me this really highlights one of the big issues with truly “passive” online income. In spite of Google’s success (& the great network effects they enjoy), even Google feels the need to spend hundreds of millions of Dollars a year buying exposure for their own browser, buying default search provider exposure in 3rd party browsers, and ensuring new computers are filled with promotional Google crapware.

This sort of cross promotion is everywhere, from ads on Youtube promoting Chrome

to Gmail ads highlighting featured Youtube videos

and Google+ games having Chrome ads integrated as special items in the game

right on through to Google buying display ads promoting display ads.

Facebook realizes how powerful this cross-integration is & thus buys ads on Youtube as well.

But if you want to leave Google’s ecosystem it takes a lot of effort, as Google is willing to advertise the Google alternative aggressively wherever they can.

Google recently extended their ecosystem of cross-referencing further by automatically adding Google Related to Google Chrome & the Google Toolbar, which recommends Google content within the browser no matter where you are on the web.

Google’s bundling not only follows users around the web & personalizes ads, but it also bakes right into the core of their relevancy algorithms. Eric Schmidt stated “the internet would be better if we knew you were a real person rather than a dog or a fake person. Some people are just evil and we should be able to ID them and rank them downward.”

Either you sign up for a Google Profile or you suffer the consequences! Forbes published (then quickly pulled) an alarming article titled “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Dies.” Wired followed up spreading a similar message & a new Google trusted stores rating system for merchants was also spotted.

With so many attempts at lock-in there is no surprise that some other browsers which have partnered with Google are considering moving on.

This is not to say that Bing doesn’t do marketing as well. They just are not as slick about it.

Policing Advertisers Costs Billions

In addition to evolving their core relevancy algorithm, Google has to police advertisers who are willing to be deceptive, market counterfeit goods & use the lowest common denominator. When Google is too loose that can cost them a pretty penny: they just paid a $ 500 million fine to the US government for ads from Canadian pharmacies. The DOJ claimed Mr. Page knew what was going on:

Mr. Neronha said those efforts amounted to “window-dressing,” allowing Google to continue earning revenues from the allegedly illicit ad sales even as it professed to be taking action against them. Google employees helped undercover Justice Department agents in the sting operation evade controls designed to stop companies from advertising illegally, he said.

“Suffice it to say that this is not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own,” Mr. Neronha said in an interview. “This was a corporate decision to engage in this conduct.”

Likewise, it costs Google a lot of money to deal with lawsuits that arise due to their business practices & lack of respect for copyright with photos, books & videos. They eventually had to develop an expensive video footprinting technology to adopt DRM features on Youtube.

And building the partnerships Google has to run Youtube isn’t easy. They pay something like a half-cent per video view & if you create a site with a “no soup for you” message (like the above Google page) for markets where the finances do not work out then you are violating their search guidelines by cloaking, whereas Google overly-promotes YouTube in the search results and is free to count ad views as video views (once again, against Google’s guidelines).

New Niche? New Lawsuits

Eric Schmidt highlighted how the lobbyists write the laws & then Google went out and hired over a dozen lobbyist firms. Anything that disintermediates search costs Google a cut of revenues.

While Groupon is still unproven as a business model, Google was willing to spend $ 6 billion to buy it in order to avoid the risk of missing out on a new form of local ads.

Mobile search now represents 12% of the search market. To look in their dominant search position onto the new devices Google:

  • build a new operating system to give away for free
  • paid carriers a revenue share (in addition to giving it away)
  • likely violated Oracle patents (that will likely cost them in the B’s)
  • had other patent issues which required Google to spend $ 12.5 billion buying Motorola (that is nearly 1/3 of the cash Google has built up through their IPO & saved profits in the 10-year history of the company)

Sneaky ISPs Redirecting Search Traffic

What is worse for Google, is in spite their default status, their huge ad budget, and being large enough to be sued regularly, even all that isn’t enough to keep all the traffic they pay for, as there is widespread hijacking of search traffic by ISP providers.

Google Isn’t Passive, but ___ Is

Google may have bit off more than they could chew & are certainly doing anything but being passive. But maybe some other companies that make great money are doing so passively. Offline that is certainly true in many instances, but online passive companies tend to disappear.

Look at all the work Yahoo! has done with their news box & their sports vertical, yet when you back out the cash on the books & the foreign investments the company isn’t valued at much above $ 0. AOL has also cratered. In spite of their huge traffic streams they are not growing with the market due to search bypassing them & niche players picking them apart one vertical at a time. Running a portal profitably & sustainably is anything but passive.

Even deep into the long tail at the other end of the equation the profits may be every bit as scarce. Demand Media’s accounting techniques show that they were far better at growing revenues than growing profits & the company may never be profitable.

The Limits of “Search”

Google & Bing keep eating more of the value chain through content scraping & a more interactive search experience that include new ad formats, like coupons & product ads with pictures.

In addition, search companies are challenging the boundaries of search by creating vertical media & ad networks that compete against a wide array of publisher websites.

The Huffington Post

Autonomy / Fast Search

Groupon

BankRate

MapQuest + TomTom

The Yellow Pages

Dell / HP

That “Shady” Competitor

When Google talks about “protecting users” one of the case studies / angles they push is the health angle:

The paid post at the top happens to be about brain tumors, which is a really serious subject. If you are searching for information about brain cancer or radiosurgery, you probably don’t want a company buying links in an attempt to show up higher in search engines. Other paid posts might not be as starkly life-or-death, but they can still pollute the ecology of the web.

While Google was using the life-or-death approach to policing link buying outside of their AdWords ad network, Google was knowingly selling search ads to Canadian “pharmacies” providing illicit drugs in the US. The official settlement document lists how Google insiders knew work-arounds to the automated systems & were working directly on managing the ad accounts associated with the illegal activities. Google had done so for over a half-decade & only changed their approach *after* they knew a sting operation was underway.

For those scoring at home, this has been Google’s approach to the health vertical:

  • 3rd parties buying links that *could* influence search results for important health topics = morally reprehensible
  • Google selling links *within* the search results for important health topics to criminal organizations = totally reasonable

Given the above investigation, it is not surprising that they shut down their health records initiative. They had already spent all their credibility.

Google may protect you from some third parties, but Google can not protect you from Google. :D

Not only can Google hardcode the algorithms toward promoting certain websites (while editorially discriminating against other webmasters for doing the exact same thing), but Google also actively invests in the publishing ecosystem, which pits them directly against anyone who doesn’t receive their largesse.

Webmasters are told that having networks of similar websites is spammy. And yet, Google invests is a company that owns about 7 copies of the exact same business model in the exact same niche as a roll up.

As we saw with BeatThatQuote, Google owned-and-operated websites get penalized for a shorter duration of time for the same offense that other websites get penalized for longer periods of time for. It was only through *repeated* exposure of the absurdity on SEO blogs that Google decided to treat their own property like they treat a typical webmaster.

You can also do nothing wrong, but have your model undermined by looking too similar to a company that is exploiting Google’s relevancy weaknesses & forces Google to apply retribution. A lot of small ecommerce sites were purged in the content farm update. What is so sad about that is that if not for accounting games & selling stock as a business model a lot of the biggest “success” stories in the content farm might not even exist.

While the above section focuses on Google, it could be about any competing business that touches the web…a bank which uses bogus accounting driving smaller banks out of business, a company that receives no bid government contracts associated with bribes & uses those “profits” to price dump in related fields, an ISP redirecting your traffic, etc. No matter how clean a business model looks at a glace, there is some gray area where businesses meet & exceed the numbers quarter after quarter.

Look, for example, at the sorts of links NetZero puts in some of their customer emails

And those links point at the illegal “fake news” styled $ 1 trials (with endless unstoppable recurring billing).

Look closely at any mainstream media site & you will run into those ads.

Are Passive Revenues Impossible?

It really comes down to how you define passive.

If your site doesn’t evolve & isn’t aggressively marketed then eventually a search engine or another competitor will pick away at your advantages until you are soon found ranking #2 then #3 then #7 then #20 then invisible. Or you might get clipped by an algorithm all at once in a sudden stop torch job that makes your site essentially invisible, or it may be a slow & painful debt by a thousand cuts.

This is one of the reasons I generally prefer to have a site with a 30% or 50% profit margin over one with a 90% or 95% profit margin. Sure high margins are great while they last, but if you don’t reinvest enough over time an algorithm or a competitor will eventually torch some of those high margin projects.

When it comes to online income, passive and reliable are not synonyms.

If you saved the margins you made while they were there then you are lucky, whereas if you adjust your lifestyle to that level of income & don’t save anything then dark times have appeared.

It turns out having passive frugal spending habits & active savings habits are crucial if your lifestyle relies on “passive” income. ;)

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