Thursday, October 02, 2008

Voting? Turn to the Web

If you hadn’t heard yet, there’s an election coming up.

I’ve not fully decided who I’m going to vote for, for President, anyway. I’m getting close, but I tend to hold off on announcements. The candidates aren’t exactly fighting over my endorsement anyway. Even if they were, that’s not the focus of this article. This is all about how I’ve been arriving at my conclusions.

I’ve been frustrated, both this season and in elections past that the mainstream media (television, press, etc…) seems to be interested less and less in issues and plans, and more and more in reporting on the foibles and name-calling of the candidates. As an avid follower of “the new media”, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and twitter tweets. Much of those, also, are more interested in pointing out why their chosen ‘date is the best and why the other should go away and crawl into a deep dark hole. Very few seem to point out anything of real substance.

And the candidates themselves seem to revel more in short sound-bites and one-liners (mixed in with the frequent barbs at the opponent), rather than actually spelling out their plans.

There’s actually a good reason for this. That’s what the public is asking for! We tend to catch up on what’s going on by watching 2-3 minute short reports on the morning shows, and skimming the headlines and the first paragraphs of the newspapers. Television producers edit down campaign speeches, given in front of throngs of cheering admirers, and pull out the most clever, the most inflammatory, and the most exciting five to ten seconds of the hour-long speech. It ends up being little more than watching a minister preach to the choir.

There’s a segment of both the populace and the punditry that have been decrying this trend. “Don’t just criticize the current administration! Don’t just try and make us afraid of your opponent! Tell us what you’ll do differently!” they call out.

That’s where the web comes in. I decided, last night, that I was also sick of the shallowness of the campaign so far, and began to research the candidates in earnest. I started visiting their websites and reading their positions on issues of interest to me. I wanted to make an informed decision. Here’s the steps you should go through to do your homework before election day.

1. Make a List

Of all the things that all the ‘dates argue about, which ones matter to you? The war in Iraq? The economy? Education?

2. Prioritize

Of all those topics, which ones are really the most important to you? Are any of them deal-breakers in your mind? As you’re setting them in order, also jot down notes about how you feel the government should deal with each of those issues.

3. Check Who’s the Strongest on Your Highest Priorities

Then, hit the candidate’s websites. I’ve listed them in reference below. Check them out and see which ones most closely match your stand, your values, your beliefs in your most important areas. Keep in mind no one candidate is likely to match your views on all the issues. You want to pick the one that matches your views the most closely on the most critical issues.

That’s who you should vote for.

Remember that the things you read on these sites are campaign promises. Once the candidate is in office, he/she will have lots of pressures to adapt to. Keep in mind that neither candidate is in office yet, and so neither one is privy to information that they will receive upon entry to the white house. Also, they will have to deal with congress debating and voting on everything they say they will “fight for”.

You never know exactly what will happen. Even still, voting, and casting an educated ballot, is a privilege many of us take for granted.

In Alphabetical Order:

Chuck Baldwin - Constitution
Bob Barr Libertarian -
John McCain - Republican
Cynthia McKinney - Green
Ralph Nader - (Independent)
Barack Obama - Democrat

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why I Blog

At the end of this month, Mo’ Boy turns 6 years old. To clarify: Mo’ Boy is a blog I started in October of 2002, and have continued, with more or less regularity, to this day.

Now, there are blogs in the bloggosphere which are older, and longer running. But there are a whopping lot more that have come and gone in the intervening six years. My blog still continues.

Back then, I had only heard of blogging. I’d been reading about it as the buzz on the ‘net circles was just starting. I didn’t really understand it yet, though. Still, I looked into it, and started reading and following some blogs. It wasn’t long before I realized that I could use this to promote my music website.

I thought about my audience, and about what they would like to read, and started writing. Now, many years later, I find myself re-reading some of those early postings and smiling. I think back on how I felt, and who I was when I wrote those words. I reflect on the changes that have happened in the world and in myself. I notice the many things that have not really changed in six years, either.

I sit here thinking about why I do it all. Why I blog. I came up with some good reasons.

• I can learn

A lot of the time I spend with blogs is not spent with my own. I’m constantly reading and following other people’s blogs. As I do that, I’m learning. I can learn about practical things like how to use social networking to promote a business, to personal things, like how to show my children I love them more. I also learn quirky stuff like how to make a great Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread. A lot of times, in order to write about a particular topic, I’ll have to do some extra research. That helps me learn, too. Even though all this learning helps me to do specific tasks, I also get an overall sense of the zeitgeist of the ‘net.

• I can teach

I like to think that in my old age, I’ve managed to learn a lot of useful things. And, since I don’t always have an audience that’s interested in sitting down and listening to me pontificate, I can blog about it. I’m not arrogant enough to think that my blogging is going to change the world, but I do know that I occasionally will say something that will help someone else. At least that’s what some of my comments say.

• I can think and reflect

It’s hard to slow down. We’re all running and trying to pack as much into our twenty-four hours as we possibly can. Once in a while it’s good for me to stop and think about something. When I have to write about what’s happening or what’s going on, I have to contemplate and understand it. That thought process of writing, helps me to sort out a lot of my own issues.

• I can connect

By posting blog entries, I establish an audience, and I begin to connect with them. At times, as I’m writing, I’ll think, “So-and-So will really like this one!” or “Man, this one will really get That-One-Guy’s goat!” It’s a very cool thing to read a blog I follow regularly, and suddenly see him mentioning my blog. That’s a very validating moment.

• I can preserve

It’s a very cool thing to be able, now, to go back and read what I’ve written six years ago. I can sense my own growth and progress. I can understand myself much better.

• I can promote

When I first started, this was the one that focused first in my mind. Can I make this drive more traffic to my website? The answer was, and still is, OF COURSE! Blogging and using the bloggosphere is vital to the ongoing success of any website. Inbound links, incoming clicks, and interconnectedness and acceptance of your audience, all are great reasons for a business to blog.

But I also love the other reasons!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Linking is dead?

For years, now, I’ve been hearing SEO gurus blather on and on about how “linking is dead”. Let me clarify a couple of points about this.

First of all, what they’re really saying is that reciprocal linking is dead. This old idea of “you link to me and I’ll link to you” is old and moldy and should be buried. The primary focus of their reasoning is that Google doesn’t give much credit to links in link pages, and so therefore, it won’t boost your search engine ranking.

Second of all, reciprocal linking isn’t dead, really, either. I want to talk about that a little bit, and then share a very recent example.

See, the whole point of internet marketing is to establish inbound links. That is, links from other web pages and sites to yours. There are three reasons to do this:

1. Search Engine Ranking

Google especially, but also Yahoo and others will rank the results based on how many inbound links a page has. More links equals more importance and popularity which equals higher ranking. While most search engine optimization gurus agree that reciprocal links don’t count as much as, say, an in-content text link, they still count. Most gurus also think that this is where there value ends. But that is also not so.

2. Spidering

“Spiders” are programs that the search engines send out to “crawl across the web” to update their information on old sites, and add new ones to their databases. If your site has lots of links coming in from lots of different places, your site will be hit (or “spidered”) faster, and more often. Reciprocal links work the same as any other links for the spiders.

3. Directly clicking traffic

This is the biggest reason to do reciprocal linking. If you find the right sites to swap with, and you make it work, then you can get lots of in-clicking traffic from them. Currently, about 15-25% of my visitors on any given week come from my reciprocal links. The traffic is targeted, and it bypasses the search engines entirely.

About two weeks ago, I was working on one of my sites, which is all about my church- and scripture-based card game. I was out looking for link exchanges and I found a site that had resources for families and Sunday school teachers. Perfect for my site’s theme and audience, I thought!

I emailed them and set up the link exchange. Soon after that, I noticed that I was getting an a lot more newsletter signups as usual. Pleased, I went into my site reporting and discovered that because of that one link, my traffic increased by a factor of ten that first day. Since then, of course, it has tapered off, but it has settled into a level that is still much higher than the original average by a factor of about 2 to 2.5.

In other words, because I set up one link exchange with one site, I got hit with an immediate flood of targeted traffic, many of which joined my mailing list, and my overall visitor count has doubled.

And the pundits and gurus say that reciprocal linking is dead.

Long live linking.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Avast, Ye Scurvy Dogs!

I just came back from the dollar store, buying some supplies for one of my (now) favorite holidays. No, not Christmas, though I enjoy that one very much. Nor is it Halloween, another one of my spoooooky favorites. As a patriotic American, I love Independence Day. Anyone that reads any of my other blogs knows that I believe that Election Day should be a federal holiday. And I love Labor Day and Memorial Day because any day that gets me off work with pay is definitely worth celebrating! But this isn’t about any of those, either.

And I’m not talking about Congress appeasing some obscure lobbyist group by naming a day after them, like “National French-Fried Orchid Week”.

I’m talking about the International Talk Like a Pirate Day! What is it, you say? Well, it’s just like it says. It’s a day where you talk like a pirate. Well, for those of you who might be historical purists, it’s really more like “Talk Like a Robert Louis Stevenson, Disney-Style Pirate”. Celebrants of the day go about their normal daily lives, but saying things like, “Arrrr!” and “Ahoy, mateys!” to their families and co-workers.

In other words, it’s a chance to get absolutely silly and get away with it.

Why am I mentioning it here?

Primarily because the awareness of the holiday and its spread is really a story of natural internet promotion. It’s a story of how a unique idea caught hold and grew. It contains lessons we could all learn about web promotions.

According to the creator’s official website, the idea began as two friends began shouting at each other in a friendly racquetball game. Their tone turned to the sound of pirates, and before long, they had decided that a day like that would be fun. They chose a date and began to celebrate it each year.

They kept doing this annually, among friends, but it didn’t really take off until they sent an email to humor columnist Dave Barry. As any good humor writer would, he saw the comic potential, and jumped right on board, writing about it in his column.

At that point, the internet took over. Message boards and forums all over the ‘net ran crazy with the idea, and it’s been steadily growing with fan sites, YouTube videos, and blogs ever since. It’s also played into the ongoing internet pirates vs. ninjas joke.

So what can we learn from it?

First of all, it started as a concept, something unique, and they created an idea around it. They didn’t say, “Let’s find some generic products and try to sell them.” They had a clever idea and they presented it to the world.

They also found the right outlet. They “hooked in” (pun maliciously intended) with their audience, by connecting with humorist Dave Barry. Knowing who can reach your audience and going after them is a key principle in internet marketing.

They got some buzz going, and before they knew it, they were out there. The buzz caught on. Whether they knew it or not, they were using social networking like masters.

So, It’s time to let your inner pirate out! September 19th! Mark your calendars, and shiver yer timbers!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.
Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How to Be an Expert… Without Looking Like an Idiot

So much of your work and your time on the web is spent writing. You may write content pages for your site. You might write articles for posting in directories. You have a blog to start and maintain. It can all get overwhelming

There are a lot of reasons why people don’t like to write. For some it’s tedious. Doing things with words is boring. For others it’s intimidating. Maybe they still have memories of getting their high school term papers back from their teachers dripping red with ink (that looks strangely like blood).

For others, I find the fear goes even deeper than worrying about sentence structure and punctuation mistakes. These people fear that they don’t have anything of value to say. “I’m not an expert! What could I possibly write or say that would be of any use to anyone?”

1. Everyone’s an expert on something.

Everyone has some part of their life that they are very knowledgeable about. A hobby, a task, a routine, even life itself could be an area of expertise. If you’ve lived at all, you’ve had experiences, and those experiences are valuable.

2. You don’t have to be “an expert” to be an expert.

Too often we ascribe “Expert-ness” to people with college degrees, or years of success in business. Let’s give these people their due. They do have some special knowledge and skills, and they have the papers to prove it. Still, that doesn’t mean that we have to define our abilities by their standards. Like the Wizard of Oz said to the Scarecrow: “Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma.”

The reality is that as long as you can present information that’s valuable in a way that people can accept and apply, you become an expert in that information.

3. Don’t claim to be an expert

What makes phony experts look like idiots more than anything else is when they claim to be more than they are. Inevitably, they will be discovered and when they are, it crumbles.

No one knows it all. Don’t claim to, and you won’t let anyone down.

4. You’ve learned a lot in life, draw on that

I once worked with a lady who was establishing a website targeted to single moms. Her husband had left her when their children were young, and she had worked, struggled, and raised her family. When she was creating her website, she felt like she couldn’t write articles about it because she had no credentials.

No credentials? She had lived it! She had been through it. As long as she told the story of her life and her experiences and didn’t claim any more authority than that, then that would be all the authority she would ever need.

5. Teach from your mistakes as well as your successes.

Sometimes I do something and it blows up in my face. Sometimes I do something and it just messes me up a little, or slows me down. Rather than hide those errors, profit from them. Share what went wrong, what you learned from it, and how to prevent it, so others don’t make the same mistake.

Sometimes, reading about mistakes is more fun, too!

6. Quote other experts. Synthesize.

The word “Synthesize” means to combine elements of different sources into something new. One way to be an expert is to read a lot of what other experts have to say, then combine them into your own ideas. Make sure that when you do this, you give due citation to the original author: “So-and-so from says such-and-such, but Whats-Her-Name from says This-and-so. I think that the real answer is to do This-thing…”

7. “Make your words soft and sweet. You might have to eat them someday”

Always remember that nobody knows everything, and facts that you’re certain of today could come into question tomorrow. Advice that is clear this month could be bad advice six months from now. Be aware that you could be wrong, and choose your words carefully.

8. You’re an expert when people value your information and opinions.

As you share your information, your experiences, and your thoughts, other people will find value in it. They will come to recognize your expertise. When that happens, you will be an expert.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Technology Leveling the Playing Field

In America we talk of a society of unlimited opportunity. Communism aspired to a “classless society”, but never quite achieved it. Countries and social experimentors have long tried to make a utopia of total equality.

But we’ve still got the poor.

I first discovered this for myself as I walked the streets of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, working for my church in the early ‘80’s. I grew up in a small town in Indiana. I’d seen people who were of a “lower socio-economic status” before. But I wasn’t prepared for what I encountered in that impoverished nation. I worked with and interacted with people who lived, with their entire families, often extended families, in small 10x10 huts. In at least on instance, I worked with a family that literally lived in a cardboard and wood frame house.

As I’ve lived here in America again since then, I’ve seen that even though we have a higher standard of living on average, we have people that are in that same condition living here.

Lots of solutions are constantly proposed and implemented. Most of them involve giving away money and food. Others travel and provide much-needed medical care, or help to build homes, schools, community centers, and churches. All of these are valuable and wonderful. Sometimes I wonder just how much impact they have.

Still, we keep doing them. We all help as we can, one bit at a time.

What I’d like to share now is about a few efforts that people have been putting forward using technology that have both had an impact, and promise to have a big impact on the future.

Micro Loans

One thing that has always frustrated may who are in more wealthy countries is that we are constantly barraged by pleas for help. Give, give, give, and there always seems to be more need. Because once the money you’ve given is used up, the recipient still needs more. It’s true that we need to share, but at some point the recipient needs to improve their situation in order to really fix the problem.

Micro Loans are one approach to this problem. Here in America, it can take a lot of money to start a business. Overseas, in an impoverished, developing nation, a craftsman can begin to earn his or her own living as a business startup with very little startup capital. With as little as $200, in some cases, a person in a distant land can begin to be self-sufficient., one of the primary sites for setting up microloans, reports that few loans default.

Once the loan is repaid, the investor can reinvest in another entrepreneur, donate the money to Kiva for operational expenses, or even withdraw their money.

Through the technology of the Internet, people are connected and able to help each other and themselves around the world.

One Laptop per Child

In the technological world, there are two big divisions: Those that have access to technology, and those that don’t. Technology and information can’t help those that can’t plug into it. The “One Laptop Per Child” program has been working for a long time on a design for a rugged, easy-to-use, and inexpensive design for a laptop. Their goal was to get the cost down to around $100 each, so that by donations and purchase by governments, schoolchildren in developing and impoverished nations around the world could have access to the information and learning associated with the Internet.

They succeeded in getting the laptops made and released, and have already distributed over 400,000 units. They’ve also been developing an eBook reader that can be bought for only $85.

Still, there are many more than 400,000 poor children in the world. Go to and learn more about the program and how you might be able to participate.

There are lots of opportunities to use technology to serve those around you. These are only two. Join in and see if you can help!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How to Comment on a Blog

I’m a blogger.

I know. So is everyone else, these days, so that’s not especially news. However, in addition to sharing my soul and my life with total strangers and ‘net passers-by, I also participate in the other side. I also read lots of blogs.

Blogs are cool that way. You can write what you want to, put it out there, and other people read it. It’s like having a column in a paper. If you’re good enough and clever about it, you can even make it pay. It’s a little different than paper columns, though, because if someone wants to, they can talk back to you. They can leave comments. It becomes interactive and turns into a community.

Bloggers have an interesting relationship with commenters. In a lot of ways, getting people to comment on your blog is like validation. It’s like someone else out there acknowledged your existence. In some ways, the more comments your blog generates, the more your perceived value. If there’s lots of discussion, then you’re getting people thinking, and you generate a bigger audience. Even if the comments disagree, it feels good to the blogger that people are buzzing.

Some bloggers take that to an extreme, becoming intentionally controversial just so that they can get more comments.

As a reader of blogs, I can join in the party. Not only that, but it can also help promote my website, since many blogging systems allow me to set up a linkback to my site when I post a comment. Doing that is fraught with danger, however. If you just show up at someone’s blog and post a flagrant (or even a subtle) ad to your site, you can be perceived as a spammer. At the very least, your link will get deleted, and you could get a really bad rep.

So, how do you go about leaving an effective comment on someone else’s blog?

1. Make it relevant

This is the key. What you write has to not only be relevant to their blog, it should be relevant to that posting on their blog. If it’s also relevant to your audience, even better!

2. No “AMEN” comments.

In the world of internet forums, few people are more annoying than those that take up bandwidth posting “Me, too” messages. The same is true in the Bloggosphere. If “Amen!” is all you have to say, don’t say anything. You want to add value to the conversation, not just be a dittohead.

3. Keep your comments short.

Of course, you don’t want to write an encyclopedia, either. My rule of thumb is: If I can’t say what I want to say in two short paragraphs or less, then I should write about it in my blog. Then I can come back and post a comment that points to my blog entry.

4. No empty ad comments.

And while we’re at it, simply saying, “Hey, come check out my website!” is a short trip on a fast train to deleteville. If your comment is going to get deleted anyway, why post it in the first place?

5. Don’t get snarky.

You can disagree, but disagree politely.

6. Be passionate, make your point

Even though you want to keep it short, and keep it polite, don’t hold back your energy. Write what you want to say and show ideas and evidences that support your point. Put it out there, and people will click to see what else you have to say.

7. Include your address

Most blog commenting systems have it setup in the comment form to create the link. If not, include your address in your comment.

If your comment is good, insightful, and relevant, the blog owner won’t mind you getting a link out of it. You’re also giving the blog value by adding to the comment pool and the conversation. And it’s a great way to promote your site as well.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chrome, The Cloud, and My Computer

Google’s making big news again this week. They’ve entered the web browser wars.

A web browser is the program that you launch when you want to see websites. It allows you to type in an address, or click on an icon and retrieve the web page there and see it. Without your web browser, there would be no web. The web browser allows for the connectibility of documents, the interactivity of information, the sharing of media, and the transfer of money.

For a long time, the only web browser software that really got used in the world has been Microsoft Internet Explorer. True, there are other browsers. The only one to take a significant swipe at any sort of market share has been FireFox. Current tracking puts FireFox at about 18% of web use, with Safari, mostly Mac users, trail at a little over 6%. Not mentioning Opera and a few miscellaneous others, that leaves Microsoft with the lion’s share, at about 73%. That’s a sweet lead to have, for Microsoft.

And, now, to add to that, is Google’s Chrome, launched in beta test form just days ago, as of this writing.

I downloaded it, installed it, and played with it a little bit. So far, it seems to pretty much play like any other browser. The biggest noticeable difference is the lack of plugins and customization. It’s simply too new to have any of that stuff, so things that I rely on in FireFox, like TwitterFox (for managing my twitter tweets), or Foxmarks (a bookmark sync-ing system) aren’t there yet.

As I was reading about it at Google, and discovered that the biggest features are hidden, under-the-hood sorta stuff. One thing is that every tab in Chrome is a separate process in the computer’s mind. That means that it has it’s own memory block, and it’s own chip of processing time. That means that if one tab locks up, or gets some malware going in it, that tab can shut down or lock up, and the others will remain active. Currently, with MSIE and FF, if one goes down, the whole program locks and needs to be restarted.

Another part of the Chrome appeal is more about what it will be able to do in the future. It’s really been designed to be a platform for using web-based applications in a process that many have dubbed “Cloud Computing”. To understand that, we need to take a step back and talk about the ‘net of the past.

For years, now, as programmers have been talking about how programs and computers interact with the ‘Net, it has been referred to as “The Internet Cloud”. This is mostly due to the way that information is broken up and bundled into “packets” and tossed around the ‘Net. Individual packets go from server to viewer through different routes, from ‘net hub to ‘net hub, and finally get reassembled at the viewer’s browser. It’s really tough to know, for example, what hubs or even what countries your email might have gone through to get to your next-door neighbor. So, when we talk about the ‘net, we often say that something comes from “the cloud” or we upload something into “the cloud”, because we have no idea where it’s going or where it comes from.

Now, there’s a movement going on these days among software makers, and web companies, to make a big change in the way we use our computers. Take a simple thing like writing an article for a blog, or a company newsletter, for example. Rather than opening up a copy of MS Word that I have on my hard drive, I could jump to Chrome, and login to my account at Google. I could open up a document using the Google Docs word processor and type my article. When I save it, it would be saved on Google's servers. I could also save it to my local hard drive, if I wished. So, Instead of using a word processor on my own computer, I would use one on the web, and I would access it from the 'Net, using my web browser. That's how I wrote this article.

Currently, Google Apps includes a word processor, a spreadsheet, a form creator, and a presentation software. Google also has an online email app, as does Yahoo, MSN and many others. Clickincome's Clicksitebuilder is a web-based app to help you create your website.

Because all of these direct-use applications are hosted and used via the Internet, this is referred to as "Cloud Computing".

What are the advantages? Well, as a user, I can access my documents and my applications from anywhere that I have an Internet connection. I'm not tied down to one computer. Another big advantage is that, currently, it's free. I don't have to pay Google anything for the use of their software. Now, in the future, some software companies are looking at other models for funding the programs, like subscriptions or pay-per-use models. Others are seeing that it can remain free and be paid for by advertising revenues. Sure beats paying $200+ for MS Office!

The downside is that the online programs are not as robust in features as the desktop varieties yet. There is also a lot of debate over security. For example, if I'm hosting my files on Google's server, can they open it up and read it? Or is it protected?

The biggest feature of the Chrome Browser is it's future possibilities. It's being designed from the ground up to be a working base from which Cloud Computing apps can be run. Currently, many of these apps have to struggle to make themselves compatible with current browsers. With a solid platform like Chrome, it's possible that web-based computing can really take off.

That is, assuming that Google can get enough users to jump to using Chrome. That all remains to be seen, of course.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Affiliates 101 Part 4 – Cooking up Success

A long time ago, when I was in college (back in the Jurassic – I majored in rock breaking), a friend of mine made me some chocolate chip cookies. They smelled good, but they looked pretty normal. Nothing special or fancy about them. They looked like, well, you know, cookies.

Still, I’m not one to turn down a CCC when it’s offered. I took a bite and died. They were the most incredible chocolate chip cookies I had ever tasted. Just the right texture, delicious flavor, absolutely incredible. I was in awe! I had to know the secret!

So, I asked the guy what he’d done to cook them.

“You know, I just baked them. I keep an eye on them so they don’t get too done…”

What was the recipe?

“Just a normal CCC recipe. Nothin’ special…”

So what made them taste so incredible?

“Oh, that! I just don’t scrimp on the ingredients. I don’t use margarine, I use good butter. The chocolate chips are Ghirardelli’s, and it’s good flour.”

I learned something very important that day, and I’ve learned to apply it over lots of different situations. That is, that there are three parts to any system: Input, Process, and Output. If you change any one of the first two, you’ll see a corresponding change in the third.

Think of it: If I’ve been baking cookies and they always turn out bad, or at least not as good, I could change a lot of things about it. I could change the process, for example. I could adjust the temperature of the oven, or I could be more careful about the time of the baking. I could mix the ingredients better, or make the dough balls smaller or larger as they need to be.

Or, I could change the input. I could, as my friend did, choose higher quality ingredients. I could follow the recipe closer to make sure that I’m more accurately balancing the amounts of ingredients. I could put in more chocolate chips. For my money, you can never have too many chocolate chips.

Either, or both of these efforts will, in the end, make for a better cookie.

What on earth does this have to do with your website’s affiliate programs?

There are two things that you can change about your website efforts that will make you more affiliate money. One is the input, or the number of the right kind of people coming to your site, and the other is the process, or the way you set up your site to encourage them to click to the retailer and make you money. It’s all just simple numbers. A certain amount of people come to your website. A certain percentage of them will click on an affiliate link and buy. If you want that last number to be higher, either increase the amount of people that come into your site, or increase the percentage that click. Or both.


First of all, do all you can to drive traffic to your site. Try Inbound linking, social networking, lots of good keywords in lots of good content, participation in forums or viral marketing. These are all good ways to get more and more traffic into your site. If you drive more in the front door, more of them will click out the back door to buy.


Having good information that entices people to buy is a big part, like we talked about doing last week. Having affiliate links with products that relate to what you’re writing about in your content will make more people want to click on them. Making good product recommendations can help as well. And, if you’re promoting your site in areas that relate to your site’s focus, then the audience that arrives at your site will be more interested in your content and your links, so they’ll be more likely to want to click and buy. All of these things will increase your conversion percentage.

Running an affiliate site takes a lot of time, both in terms of maintenance of the site and ongoing promotions. But it can be very rewarding, both financially and personally. I say, go for it!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Affiliates 101 Part 3 – Focus and Content

There are lots of different ways that you can use affiliate programs. Some are good, others not so much.

The single worst way that I’ve ever seen affiliate programs used is in a general shopping site. This is where a webmaster creates a site that is nothing but page after page of unorganized, unfocused affiliate links. I’m always amazed to see someone use this strategy, but it keeps popping up. I don’t know why.

First of all, since there’s no focus, there are no strong keywords. And without strong keywords, the search engines will basically ignore the site. Without a focus, there’s no information, so why should anyone come there in the first place? If I want to buy a book, I’ll go to first. If I want to find out about underwater basket weaving, I’ll go to a site about it, read about it, and then maybe buy a book about it.

So, in creating a site that’s using affiliate programs as either a supplement to other products, or as the sole method of monetization of the site, keep these two things in mind: Focus and Content.


So, the first thing to do is to make your affiliate site ABOUT something. It should be something that you’re excited about. If you’re not driven by the topic, then you’ll have a hard time creating the content, and a harder time caring about all the work you’ll have to put in to update and promote the site. Find your passion and make a site about it.

As you’re choosing your focus, be careful that it doesn’t get too narrow. My example of underwater basket weaving is probably a bad one, because there are probably not a lot of people searching for things like that. Take a quick tour through the keyword selector tool at, and test a few words that relate to your topic. This will show you just how “in demand” a particular area of interest is.

Be careful that it’s not too broad, either. That can be just as difficult. You’ll be competing for audience with a lot of other sites. If there are too many, you might want to narrow your focus a little bit, and carve out a smaller niche. A google search will tell you how many other sites there are in a particular keyword area, too.


With a focus, you can start creating content on your affiliate program site. Content is what draws people there, and what keeps them there. If there were no information, only products, they’d shop for a minute and then move on. Tell them how to use the products you want them to buy. Tell them about the things your site is about. Tell them about why it excites you so much.

Then, in the middle of the content, when they’ve gotten stoked about doing what you’re sharing, give them a link to buy those products at the retailer’s site that you’re affiliated with.

Like this: Mazimize the value of your affiliate program by reading The Super Affiliate Handbook: How I Made $436,797 in One Year Selling Other People's Stuff Online!

This method covers all the bases. It gets the people there, by using keyword-rich content. It hooks them into reading and learning, giving them real value. Finally, it directs them to make the purchase. That’s how to make an affiliate program work!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Affiliates 101, Part II

A Tale of Two Sites

I wanted to start off with two examples of good affiliate websites. The problem is, the sites I wanted to use as examples are ones that I encountered many years ago, and I no longer remember their addresses. They might not even exist anymore. Still, I can describe my experiences with them, and use that to help us all learn what makes a good affiliate site.

The First Example: Affiliates for Dummies

I had been searching the web for only a few minutes, looking for a particular Dummies book. You know, those books that take a supposedly complex topic and teach you about it in simpler, non-technical terms. The theory is that even a dummy could understand it and learn it if you teach it on the right level.

I clicked off this search engine to a site that had hundreds of these books. They had reviews, text clips, featured books, all organized by topic. I searched through them, found the one I wanted, confirmed that it was, in fact, the correct one, and clicked on the link to buy it.

And suddenly, I was at the page for that particular book, ready to complete the purchase.

At the time, as now, I was avidly studying internet business, and so it struck me really hard just how ingenious this strategy was. Most of the affiliate sites I’d encountered up to that point simply included a link to the main page. This one allowed you to link to a specific product. The affiliate site owner could select products, introduce them to their site visitors, recommend buying them, and finally, send them off to do that. I could tell, even back then, that this would be a far better model than simply sending people off to the main page of a retailer site and hoping they found something they wanted to buy.

It also showed the site owner as a very clever entrepreneur, seeing business opportunities where none had existed before. I mean, here he set up this site selling the Dummies books. He didn’t have to get any stock, he didn’t have to find a dropshipper, and he didn’t even have to get permission from the publisher or sign up as a dealer/distributor. All he did was build a site and send people to to buy.

And all he would have to do to make that site successful is to make sure that there was plenty of traffic coming in the front door.

The Second Example: Doctor, Doctor…

Another example of a great use of an affiliate program crossed my path not long after the Dummies book site. I was checking out the website of a particular doctor. His site was actually very well done, as far as doctor’s office websites went. I don’t remember his specialty, but the site was filled with content articles and information about the various infirmities and treatments that his practice dealt with.

And, as is often the case in academic writing, at the bottom of each article was a bibliography. By chance, I moused over one of the books mentioned in the article, and suddenly saw my cursor flip from the arrow to the pointing finger, indicating a link. I was intrigued. I wondered where the link would take me. I clicked.

Again, I was suddenly at the page for the book in question, ready to buy.

This doctor had found a slightly different way to apply the same concept. The only thing he did “wrong” (assuming he was actually trying to make some money off the book sales), is that I had to accidentally mouse over the book title to discover that it was a link. There was no underlining, no announcement, no nothing to instruct me to click on the book title. Even a simple “For more information, click here” would have directed more traffic there.

So, from these two experiences, I learned several excellent lessons about how to use affiliates effectively.

  1. Fill your site with content about a specific theme.
  2. Find products that relate to that theme
  3. Link directly to those specific products in your affiliate links.
  4. Let people know that those links are there to be clicked on.

If you’re going to do a site with affiliates, it’s best to make them be as strong as possible right from the beginning!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Affiliates 101, Part I: What It Is

Once upon a time, a new struggling internet company named was sad. It wanted to advertise its products better. It wanted to be better known. It wanted to become a household name. All without spending very much money.

It knew that having lots of inbound links would help it rank higher in the search engines. It also knew that a lot of links and referrers would boost their traffic.

It looked out on the ‘net horizon, and saw another net company named Geocities doing interesting things. They were helping people create “personal web pages”. Amazon thought, “How could we get all of those people making personal pages, and others all over the net, to point to us and our products?”

This creative company thought and thought and thought and finally had a wonderful idea. It thought, “What if we kicked back a little money from each sale to whoever sent us that customer?”

The smart little company did so, and soon became one of the world’s largest-ever retailers.

…And thus was born the Affiliate Program. Soon other sellers were creating their own affiliate programs. Today, children, the ‘net is covered with referral banners and affiliate text ads.

What an incredible burst of Win-win thinking it is! Everyone comes out ahead. The big retailer gets more inbound links, better ranking, and more customers. The small site owner gets some coin thrown back. Suddenly a little website about the family can make a little bit of lunch money.

Well, things have kept on growing. Now, there are those that make their full-time as affiliates, sending traffic to and remotely selling product from larger retailers. It’s not just pocket change any more.

How does it work?

Very simply: There are two websites involved. One is a big one, which we’ll call the “Retailer”. This is the one with all of the products, the one that actually processes the orders and does the shipping and fulfillment. The other site is the small one, which we’ll call the “Affiliate”. This one does the promotions and sends the customers to the Retailer.

The Affiliate has a site and has created a special link to the Retailer’s site. This link has a lot of hidden information in it. The most important part of this is the Affiliate site’s user ID. Along comes a customer clicking around in the Affiliate’s website. The customer likes the products that are displayed, and clicks to buy them. Suddenly the customer is at the Retailer’s site. The Retailer has tracked this customer from the Affiliate because when the customer clicked, it carried the user ID of the Affiliate. When the customer buys something, the Retailer keeps track of that, and adds a commission percentage to the Affiliate’s account. Once enough customers come from that Affiliate, and the commission reaches a certain amount (usually $25 or $50) they send the money to the Affiliate.

This is a great way to make money off of a website. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages of using affiliates.


  1. Simple signup: It doesn’t take a lot of paperwork or government documents to set up an affiliate relationship with a Retailer. Not like some dropshippers or wholesale distributors might require.
  2. Scope: If you’ve got a site about something, virtually anything, you can find an Retailer with an affiliate program somewhere that is selling something that relates to it. At the very least, or will sell a book about it.
  3. Credit Card Processing: Since the Retailer is handling the money, you don’t have to have a merchant account, and so, don’t have to pay those requisite fees


  1. Shopping is difficult: When someone buys one of the products you provide, they are actually leaving your site to go the Retailer site. Getting them to come back and shop more can be tricky. You also can’t build a mailing list off of your orders, because someone else is taking the orders.
  2. Profit: Since you’re dealing with the Retailers, and your commission is essentially coming out of their profit margin, that percentage is going to be relatively small. Usually, it’s between %5 and %10 of the retail price.
  3. Traffic: In order for there to be enough sales at the Retailer to make you any significant commission, you have to have a lot of traffic in your front door. Most of your work will be in promoting your website and bringing traffic there.

In the next few articles, we’ll be talking about how to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages and make a site that will bring in the money!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Content? I’m Cuil With That…

There’s a new search engine in town, and it’s generating a lot of buzz, both good and bad. It can be found at (pronounced like: “cool”)

Up to now, almost all search engines had adopted, to some degree, the Google model. That was that the biggest chunk of your search engine effectiveness was determined by your link popularity. If a lot of other websites “showed you love” by linking to you, then your site ranked higher. You became “important”, and “popular”.

The assumption is that sites with a lot of inbound links are going to be better quality sites, and therefore, more deserving of a #1 ranking. Generally speaking, that works. If I’m out searching, and there’s a big list of possible sites that could match what I’m looking for, it would be helpful to see the best ones first, right?

Is there a problem with that? Of course! Several problems, actually.

First of all, we’ve all been to little, out-of-the-way restaurants where the food and the service are absolutely incredible, right? Popularity isn’t always the best gauge of quality. McDonalds is extremely popular, but not many people (outside of their own marketing department) would claim that their food is “the best ever”.

Second, a site might be popular, and important. It might even be a great quality site. But if it’s not what I’m looking for, I don’t care. If it’s not relevant, then what does it matter how many links it has or who’s recommending it?

Third, it does open lots of opportunities to “game” the system, by creating links on your own, or even going out and buying links. A popular activity is, for example, writing articles with links back to your website and dotting them all over the web. On the one hand, that’s a legitimate activity, and a good way to establish inbound links. But if, in order to promote one website, you’re writing 20-30 articles, then aren’t you really just adding to the glut of information on the web? Are you really adding value?

But then again, as an avid blogger, I don’t have much room to talk, eh?

So, along comes a search engine, with a new model. It’s claiming a number of differences when compared to the current big boys.

First of all, they claim to index many, many more sites. Google is actually getting selective of the sites it includes in its index. Cuil claims to have indexed more than three times the number of documents that Google has. That means more opportunities to be included, but it also means much more competition for the top slots.

Second, their ranking criteria are based on a complex formula of analyzing the content of the pages in their database. They don’t just look at keyword matches, but also the context of the match, the location, the surrounding words. They look at alternative meanings and interpretations. Their goal is really to find the most relevant site, the site you’re probably looking for, instead of the “best”, or the “most popular”. What that means then, is that as a webmaster, to rank well on, you’ll want your site’s content to be well crafted. You'll want lots of good information, peppered with good, relevant keywords.

Finally, they also say that, unlike Google, they don’t keep track of user statistics. There has been a lot of fuss lately over privacy among Googlers. “Cuil analyzes the Web, not its users,” they say. While I applaud this strategy from the perspective of freedom, I think they’ll have problems getting and staying competitive that way.

Will they have the impact they want on the search engine world? Who knows? I’m intrigued by their approach, and I’d love to see someone challenge the big boys. The bottom line, in my mind, is that it will take some time to dethrone Google, or even compete with Yahoo. If they can simply survive that long, they might do it.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Social Networking for the Anti-Social

Not too long ago, I was working with a student, and after a few of our meetings about social networking, he admitted to me that he just didn’t like it. He wasn’t interested. He didn’t like having to interact with people, and he thought that blogging in general and reading blogs especially was a complete waste of time. He didn’t see any benefit in it at all.

Well, there are, of course, lots of benefits to social networking as an internet entrepreneur. You get to interact with your customers, and you get to find and draw in new customers. You get to see what’s happening in your industry on a constant basis, and you get to put your finger on that pulse. You establish yourself as an expert, an authority, a name that people respect and will come to for answers.

But what I think was really bugging him was that he was probably more the loner type, who enjoys being quiet by himself.

But that got me to thinking. How would a person engage in the activity of social networking if they fundamentally don’t like being social? To disconnect from it isn’t an option. It’s becoming more and more a core part of internet marketing. If you don’t do it, you miss out on the incredible amounts of traffic, links, and ranking that it can bring you. Running an online business without it is very much like trying to run a marathon with a limp. You can do it, but it’ll hurt, and you definitely won’t win.

Here are some thoughts:

1. If You Think it’s Boring, You Just Haven’t Found Your Good Bits.

A story: A few years ago, my brother-in-law came over. At the time, he was a card-carrying technophobe. His passion, for example, was playing authentic roots folk music on the banjo and the concertina. He barely tolerated the technology of the CD, as long as it was playing his favorite string band. He thought the internet was a stupid waste of time. Even though it was hard for me to argue against that point, considering much of my own vapid browsing, I kind of took it on myself as a challenge to bring him into the 21rst century. I knew that dragging him kicking and screaming to the ‘net wouldn’t help. I had to tease him to it.

So, this one particular day he came over, and I said, “Hey, come look at this.” I had done a Google search for “concertina”. That caught his interest. He had never seen a website about concertinas before.

“Can you search for…” and he told me the name of some concertina maker. “Of course!” The long story short is that he spent the next hour and a half in front of my computer clicking around folk music websites that he’d never known had existed. Finally, my sister had to pry him away from the chair to get him to go home.

Now, he’s an expert on youtube, and fills his iPod with folk music from iTunes.

My point is that I’ve learned that most people who think the internet is dull and pointless do so simply because they’ve never found anything they consider interesting on it. Once you find what grabs you, then it has value. So, if you think that blogging is a waste of time, it might be because you haven’t found the right blogs yet.

Which leads me to my next point:

2. 99% of the Internet is Irrelevant. Focus on the Relevant.

Some folks worry that they are missing out on something if they don’t look at everything that appears to them. If they miss one email or spam, or if they don’t check out that website that someone told them about, their life will be somehow diminished.

Not so.

If it doesn’t have anything to do with your interests, your life, or especially your business, it’s OK to ignore it. Sometimes it’s good to have a general awareness of life beyond your circle, it’s true. Read the news, stay aware. But don’t drown yourself in a vast ocean of meaningless information, either.

It’s OK to click away, and the Delete button is there for a reason.

3. Words is Where it’s At

There are many who say they don’t like to read or write. Unfortunately, that’s just a part of life on the ‘net. Yes, it’s full of cool visuals, graphics, and video. Still, however, it’s a text-driven medium. You read your emails, you read web pages and blogs. You communicate with your customers via the written word. It’s vital.

Some people still struggle with typing and the keyboard. This can be a real obstacle. While there are good type tutor programs, the best way to learn is simply practicing. Write something at the keyboard every day, and you’ll surprise yourself how little time it takes to learn.

4. Social Networking is a Tool to Bring Traffic and Links

Some guys like to go shopping in hardware stores. I don’t. Some guys look at a saw or a wrench and see a way to have fun and relax. I see a growing list of projects that I have yet to finish. It’s not relaxing to me, it’s more stressful.

The hammer isn’t what stresses me, it’s the project that I don’t like. But I also realize that I want the project done. So, I can either take the hammer and use it to complete the project, or I can hire someone to use his hammer and finish it for me. Either way, someone’s gonna use a hammer.

Social networking is the same way. If you don’t like to use it, I hope you realize that it’s important that it be done. While it IS possible to hire someone else to do it for you, it’s also very likely that most internet startups don’t have that kind of budget. So, because I don’t have the money to hire someone to build my deck, I have to pick up the hammer. In the same way, a beginning internet entrepreneur still needs to learn how to use the social networking sites.

5. The Internet is the Most Social Place for Anti-Socials

Finally, when you think about it, is there a better place for loners than the internet? All of the social interaction is via your internet connection. You don’t have to worry about being judged face-to-face. You can relax in your own space, your own home office, and just interact. You can set up links, set up connections, and all on your own terms, at your own pace. It’s a more safe way to break out of your shell.

Remember that it’s critical that visitors come to your site, and the best way to do that is to go out and invite them.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Government 2.0

With all the talk about how social networking is changing the ‘net, and the advent of the truly interactive web 2.0, there’s a lot of talk about how to take our government social as well. As we become more and more electronically connected to each other, we can use this technology to better shape our democracy.

All this came to mind after finding out about a presidential debate that was brought about using Twitter. The theme of the debate was Government and Tech. The debate was carried out by a New York Times editor, and tech-related staffers from both McCain’s and Obama’s camps.

I read the transcripts of the “debate” which was really more of a “conversation”. It had a lot in common with face-to-face debates, in that it was mostly rhetorical, full of promises, and nothing was really resolved. A big difference was that each posting, being on Twitter, was limited to 140 characters, so at least the political blathering didn’t go on and on. Still, reducing the commentary to little text bites like that didn’t really allow anyone to go into any detail.

It did get me excited, however, that the two parties had considered the possibility of discourse over the ‘net, and were embracing it. It got me thinking about the plusses and minuses of interacting with our governments online.


1. Automation of the Mundane – There are a lot of day-to-day things that could be and should be run off of websites. In many states, for example, you can long into your state’s website and apply for a business license. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just pay our traffic tickets online? Not that I get traffic tickets, of course…

2. Better Access to Real Information – Along with the mundane tasks of the day, there are often a lot of government interactions that are strictly informative. Suppose you need to check the zoning of a particular address. It would sure be cool to be able to just look it up online. Want to know which roads are slated to be fixed this year? Go to your city’s website!

3. Interaction Among Voters – One of the real benefits of Government 2.0 that we’re already seeing is that voters are connecting up with each other, sharing ideas and opinions. We are discussing politics more and more online, as opposed to only face-to-face. As I consider the positions of other voters around me, it allows me to not just vote for my own situation, but to consider the needs and lives of others.

4. Breaking News – Often the internet community is privy to information before even the traditional news media. People that are connected to the right sites online can get information on government goings on, often as it happens. For example, you can track the progress of bills that could impact your life as they move through the legislative process.

5. More Ongoing Documentation for Historians – As we generate more and more information and opinion, these years will be much better documented than in our early history. There will be much more fact and discussion to draw from when the books are being written. The challenge will be, of course, to separate the opinion from the fact.


1. Haves and Have-Nots – We’re already dealing with this issue in other areas of society. We need to be careful not to disenfranchise those that either don’t have access to the technology, or don’t know how to use it.

2. Doesn’t overcome apathy – All of this information is well and good, assuming that people care enough to look it up. All the blogs in the world won’t impact anyone that doesn’t read them!

3. Spreading Rumors – Often because of the immediacy of the net, but also because of its anonymity, it’s a great medium for spreading rumors or even outright lies. Sorting the clear truth from the murk can be a challenging task. We all need to develop some good critical thinking skills to be able to analyze what’s being said.

4. Security Issues – As we’ve seen with electronic voting, as more and more actual governmental tasks go online, the need to keep that secure is stronger and stronger.

5. Regulation Issues – When we talk about the ‘net, we like to talk about freedom and the ability to say and do what we want. But even as we walk the streets there are police. Will there need to be laws and regulations governing the ‘net? If so, how will they be enforced? How will they be monitored? How will that effect our freedom to say what we want?

6. Taxation and Infrastructure – Along with issues of freedom, another issue that gets netizens rabid is the thought of taxation. While I don’t want to pay any more for the net than I have to, just like everyone else, someone’s gotta build the infrastructure, and someone’s gotta pay for that. Who will it be? And how will all of those issues impact the look and feel of the net in the future?

And always remember, as you’re out there celebrating your freedom of speech on the ‘net: Just because we have better ways to talk doesn’t always mean we have better things to say.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cool or Creepy? Google Maps Street View

I was looking something up on Google Maps the other day.

This is one of the great technological advancements that the ‘net has brought us. Think of it. Your friend invites you over to his house. He gives you an address, and starts to tell you the complicated directions to get you there. You stop him and say that you already know how to get there. How is this possible, as you’ve never been to his house? Well, while he was rambling, you were looking it up on Google Maps, and now you can see very clearly how to get there. You can print out the map and take it with you. You’re good to go!

Doing it is really simple. Once you’re at the address above, you simply enter a street address, or a city name, and the state or country. Click “Search the Map” and it’ll go right there, assuming where you’re going is actually on the map.

Once you’re at the map, you can zoom in and out using the scale in the upper left. You can navigate North, South, East, and West by either the buttons there, or by simply clicking in the middle of the map and moving it over. It’s a great tool for finding your way.

There are other cool features. One is a button for traffic, so you can see current traffic conditions on major roads and plan your route. Another is the terrain feature. I live in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, so that’s a kind of cool feature. A flip of another button and you’re looking at a satellite image, rather than a map. Zoom in on your house! Cool, huh?

Well, we just had our house built a couple of years ago, and the satellite map shows a hole in the ground with the foundation poured. A bit out of date, but we’ll allow them that.

But then it went from cool to a little bit creepy.

I clicked the button called “Street View”. This one gives you photographs of what you’ll see from the street. The pictures are taken by a set of cameras mounted on top of a car as it drives the streets of America.

Now, that’s all cool and fascinating if I want to do a virtual visit to New York, or Yellowstone National Park. But when I looked at my own house, it was a different story. No half-built empty foundation here. No, there was a picture of my completed home, with all of my flowers and landscaping in the front yard, and my son’s bicycle flopped there on the ground, right where he usually leaves it.

Suddenly it got really personal, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it.

And I’m not alone. A couple in Pennsylvania sued over it, claiming their privacy was violated. Others, not so benignly, have been photographed sunbathing in bikinis, or leaving adult bookstores, getting arrested, or even soliciting prostitutes.

The lawsuit hasn’t gotten them very far. Pictures of their home publicly available from the Allegheny County's Office of Property Assessments website anyway. In addition, Google hasn’t done anything illegal. They are on a public street when they take the pictures, and the pictures they take are the public view.

My big concern is that while, technically speaking, having a picture of my property available at some obscure corner of a county officers website is one thing. Having it be so easy to view at a site so trafficked as Google Maps is another. It kinda makes me look with suspicion at cars driving slowly down the street. At first, I would have just assumed it was the Home Owners Association yard police making sure my lawn was mowed and trim. Now it could be Google!

I’m just not sure I want it to be quite so available to the public!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shampooing Your Website

Q: Why do computer programmers take such long showers?

A: “Apply, lather, rinse, repeat”

Of course, anyone who isn’t a programmer is probably (pardon the pun) scratching their heads over this one. Most of us, of course, realize that the “Repeat” part of this set of instructions is only applicable to the first time or two that you encounter it. Once you realize that your hair is clean, you don’t need to keep repeating, right? That’s just common sense, right?

In the world of the online business, however, I actually encounter people with the opposite problem. Rather than locking themselves in an endless loop of scrubbing their scalps raw, they seem to miss that last step when it comes to working their websites. In a word, they give up to early.

They can apply the shampoo, lather it up, rinse it out, but if it doesn’t show immediate results, they don’t bother to repeat it. It goes like this: I’ll teach someone about a promotional strategy, say, blogging. The idea is to find some blogs, read them, and post some relevant comments on them, thus creating some buzz and even a few linkbacks.

When I meet with them again, and I ask how that went, I hear, “Oh, yeah. Did that. It didn’t work. What a bust.”

You went out and found some blogs relevant to your audience?


And you posted comments..?

“Yep. Well, I found one. It was sorta relevant.”

And you posted a comment?

“Yeah. I just said I agreed with him.”

Did you find any other blogs?

“No, just the one. And it didn’t help. I checked my traffic. Didn’t bring a single click to my site.”

Can you see where I’m going here? The power of most of the strategies, especially in the social networking, web 2.0 is in persistence. Ongoing effort. To do something just once isn’t going to bring in any results, and certainly not enough to decide if anything is a go or a bust.

Let’s look it over.

  • Apply

First of all, you apply the strategy. Get the basics all set up. Find the blogs. Set up your own blog. Set up profile pages on social networking sites. Find some link exchange partners. Get the basics moving and prepared.

  • Lather

Start to work that strategy. Contact the owners of the other sites for link exchanging. Submit some articles, and write some blog entries. Leave some comments on other people’s blogs. Find some “friends” or contacts on the social networking sites.

  • Rinse

Take a step back and check your results. Are you starting to see any traffic? You might see some begin to drip in. Which ones are showing some action?

  • Repeat

This is the clincher. Do it all again. And again. As you keep up this process, you’ll start to see which efforts are bringing in the most results for your site. Just like everyone has different hair, everyone has a different site, and different approaches will work better or worse. Just ‘cause we want to keep repeating, though, doesn’t mean to keep working a particular strategy that isn’t bringing in any results. Focus more effort on another approach. But keep on repeating.

Maybe the programmers aren’t so silly after all.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Social Networking Resources

with help from John Newman

As I’ve been working and learning about all the many types of social networking sites on the net, and as I’ve been sharing that experience with others, I’ve been asked if it would be possible to compile a list of resources to use to explore.

Now, there are so many sites, it would be impossible to include them all. What my colleague and I have compiled here are some of the biggest and most well-known and used. In addition to all of the general ones, however, there are a lot of smaller ones that are about a specific subject area. I call them “Micro-networks”. I can’t begin to list them here because there are so many possible subjects. Go and Google and you shall find…

So, here they are, broken down into five basic categories. A note about the categories, too. You might disagree with the way I’ve set these up. You might think that one of them should be in this other category, or whatever. That’s fine. Many of them could easily crossover and be in multiple lists. Others contain features of multiple categories (MySpace, for example, really is a community, but it also has a blogging feature).

What do you do with this list? Dive in and explore it! Enjoy it! Discover the vast world of interactivity!

Blogging – These are sites to help you setup, maintain, and promote a blog. Some, like Blogger and LiveJournal are site primarily for creating and hosting blogs. Others, like Technorati and BlogCatalog are all about helping you to find good blogs. The “Ping” sites are those that help you to alert search engines and directories when you post a new blog entry.

Personal Publishing – Personal publishing is tough to define. In a lot of ways it could be like blogging, but it’s a bit different. It’s basically a place where you can share information about a topic and links to other sites and resources about that topic. You can share your knowledge, your ideas, your self with the world!

Social Bookmarking – These are places where you can show the world what you thing are other great sites. Help other people find good information, including your own websites!

Communities – Interact with people on the ‘net! Make friends, build a contact list, find your niche and your audience.

Micro-Blogging/Life Streaming – This is a way to interact with other people in a surprisingly immediate and direct way. Tell others what you’re doing at the very moment you type it. Adding something to your site? Tell your audience all about it. Find a great new resource? Share it with a tweat!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Everyone’s an Expert on Something

Social Networking, Part V

“You know everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.” (Will Rogers, New York Times Aug. 31 1924)

This has always been a favorite inspiring quote, in my mind. The idea is that no matter how much you know, or, how much you think you know, there’s always someone else who knows more about something else. This thought keeps us all humble.

The inverse of it is also true: “You know everybody is an expert, only on different subjects”. It’s this flip side that really gets me excited. I meet with a lot of people, helping them get their sites and their businesses started. Many of them aren’t sure what to do with their venture. They don’t feel like they have anything they’re really good at, or passionate about. With a little bit of conversation and personal reflection, they almost always find something that they know about, that moves them.

Part of it comes from the idea that we have to have some kind of credentials to be an “expert”. All you need is life experience. If what you’ve learned in your life can be applied to someone else’s life and make it better, then you are an expert on that thing. That’s all you need to know. You can even be a bad example and a good teacher at the same time. Read Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, and you’ll see that easily 75% of the examples he uses in the book are of his own failure to live his own seven habits. This is not “Do as I say, not as I do”, this is “See? Look at the mistake I made, and let’s all learn from it!” Still, there are few that would say he didn’t qualify as an expert.

There is one social networking site built on the notion that “Everyone’s an Expert on Something!” They allow you to set up a site to show just that. This is Squidoo is one of the “Social Bookmarking” type of sites that we mentioned last time. It’s a place for you to share your favorite sites and resources about a topic, by creating a “lens” site. I think it’s called a lens because you look through it to see a topic more closely. Here’s how to use Squidoo:

  1. Choose a topic

First of all, you want to select the topic of your lens page, and make it focus on something that both relates to your website and products, as well as relates to your audience. If your site sells tents and sleeping bags, your lens could be about camping and campsites. If your audience is senior citizens, and your site is about retirement planning, your lens could be about Medicaid or other financial issues relating to the over 50 set.

  1. Sign up and make your first lens

Go to, and register. In the process, you’ll be creating your first lens page. There are a lot of elements you can include on your page. The two most important ones are text and links. You’ll need text to include a lot of keywords, and links so that you can send people back to your website. Once the basic lens page is completed, add some content to it, so that there’s some substance there.

  1. Add links to it

A squidoo lens is all about linking. Start out by linking to any site you have that relates to the audience and the theme of the lens. Obviously your own website main page should be at the top of this list. Add links to the content pages in your site as well.

Then, go out and find other sites to add to the links section. Think: “What resources would my audience like to see?” If you include these resources in your lens, the site becomes more valuable to your audience, and they’re more likely to click through it.

  1. Spread the love

Once you’ve linked to someone else, contact them (usually via email) and tell them! They’ll be pleased that you thought their content was valuable enough to include on your site. They might even link back to your lens or your site as a result!

  1. Find other lenses and lensmakers, encourage linking

Finally, friend up with other relevant lensmakers, and encourage cross-linking of both lenses and sites. Keep adding more resources. And I don’t just mean straight links. Add YouTube videos, or blog feeds. Anything that will increase the value of your lens, and so indirectly, your website.

Remember that it’s this interconnectedness that drives the ‘net, the search engines, and eventually, all of e-commerce.

Take it from an expert! ;-)

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.