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.