Share and Share Alike

Last May I decided to start this blog as the key driver for my personal branding strategy. The idea was that, in order to attract attention, I would share my most valuable ideas and insights. My geeky side loves to teach and share, but my business side tries to prevent me from releasing potentially sensitive information that might give my competitors a leg up and negatively impact my business.

For years I had been part of that big group of SEOs and Internet marketers that enjoy great success, but don’t necessarily see the need to risk reducing their share of the pie. So in the spirit of the holidays I want to share what I’ve learned about sharing so far. If you are part of that tight-lipped group that think in the same way I did before, I want to tell you why you need to change and what is in it for you if you do. Read more

Eyes Wide Shut — Don’t Outpace Yourself to Reach Your Goals

If you observe successful people you notice that success, both online and off, requires setting far-reaching goals and working hard enough and consistently enough to achieve them. What are less obvious to observe from these winners are the steps and pacing necessary to reach a goal. Let me illustrate this with a favorite allegory of mine.

A long time ago there lived a true martial arts master. He trained and had as his disciples only the best and most skillful fighters of the time. He put them through extremely grueling and challenging tests over the course of five years. It was certainly worthwhile, as upon completion they proved virtually unbeatable against all other opponents in every martial arts tournament they entered.

One day, a young apprentice came to the master. He was very talented and eager to learn, but wondered if there was a way he could learn everything in far less time. Five long years, he thought, was just too much.

“Suppose I practiced twice as long each day as the other students?” The master replied that it would take him 10 years to finish the training that way. “What if I practiced all day, every day, including weekends, and only slept for a couple of hours. How long would it take then?” The master replied that it would take him 20 years. Frustrated now, the disciple asked once more, “Why is it that each time I tell you I will double my efforts and dedicate more time to finishing the training you say it will take twice as long?”

The master chuckled. “The reason is obvious. If you do what you say, you will always have one eye fixed on your goal. But you need both eyes on the tasks at hand to reach your goal. Working with one eye alone, it will take you twice the time.”

Blogging and SEO with both eyes open

Let’s say you want to be the Darren Rowse or Rand Fishkin of the blogging/SEO world. Instinctively you would try to publish one or more high-quality posts each day, and do a massive amount of networking, guest posting, conference speaking, interviews, link baiting, and so on. The end result: you would burn out in less than a month (week?). However, if you take your time and write carefully researched posts and publish them when you feel they are truly ready, network and build your readership gradually, form lasting relationships with other bloggers, and try to learn as much as you can, you have a better chance of succeeding. And, most importantly, you will have both eyes open when you spend time with your family and friends. 🙂

Up Against the Walls — Using your head to succeed in marketing

I’m not sure where I saw this video, but it left a permanent impression in my memory. Two burglars are holding up a corner store at gunpoint. The clerk instinctively pushes a button and protective doors and screens fall swiftly to protect him and the cash machine. The alarm sound is unbearable. The burglars are caught completely off guard. One bangs against the door several times with no success; apparently, he assumed the door was locked from the outside. The other pauses to think and, coming to his senses, halts his partner’s futile thrashing and opens the door simply by pulling the handle. It was really funny. 🙂

As marketers we sometimes act like that burglar, banging against the door out of fear and habit. We don’t spend any time researching our target market or carefully preparing an offer that is appealing. We simply try the easiest and most annoying thing first: force out mediocre content on anybody we can get a hold of. As long as spamming yields some results and can be automated people will keep doing it. But I think it is far more beneficial (effort/reward) to just open the door by the handle; i.e. understand what people want and give it to them. (On the other hand, the more lazy marketers there are, the more rewards remain for us hard working ones. 😉 So maybe I shouldn’t be complaining!) Read more

Winning the (right) race

In every race there are winners and losers. Sometimes though, winning is about choosing the right race. Recently there was a Youmoz post asking if the A-list was closed. Apparently the author feels that he has written some great content but has not received any mention or “link love” from the big boys. I am sure many of my readers are also bloggers and would love to be on the A-list—I sure would like to. But are you doing what it takes to get there? Are you targeting the right A-list?

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Success is about not giving up

boxer.jpgOne of the most important lessons in life I learned in college. My grades were high enough to qualify for honors, but I was too confident in my abilities at times. I did not study much and even failed one of my classes, which incidentally disqualified me automatically from graduating with honors. I remember how that affected me and how it affected my performance for the rest of my college career. When I realized that I might fail that same course during my “second round” at it, I grew what you might call a pessimistic attitude. At this point, I sat myself down, reflected about my attitude, and decided to turn the tables around. I made a commitment to never give up. In hindsight, I am glad I had this experience because it taught me that in order to succeed you need to fail—and to try again until you reach your goal. Read more

Why you should target the most competitive keywords

competition.jpgEverybody writing about SEO will tell you that it is not a good idea to optimize your site for the most popular keywords in your niche. What are your chances of success if you tried to rank for “internet marketing, where there are about half a million websites ranking for that term and most likely many savvy competitors?” I want to tell you why I chose to ignore such advice years ago, and how I was able to reach heights I couldn't have dream of by doing so. Of course it is also clear why the guys at the top are so eager to give such advice—nobody likes to face more competition. 😉

I remember reading such advice five years ago when Sumantra Roy's KEI was a key ratio to identify keyword opportunities. I similarly recall an earlier period when I was still working on salary and planning to branch out on my own. I used to ask my friends and colleagues, mostly engineers, whether they thought that starting a business was a good idea. Their answer was always that they didn't think so. “Why leave the security and comfort of a paycheck every two weeks?” “Why take unnecessary risks?” After a while I realized that I was asking advice from the wrong people. How could they provide advice for something they didn't have any experience with? I decided to trust my instincts instead, and put my confidence in taking calculated risks. Read more

Grade School Blogger: Seeking attention through controversy

fight.jpgFor marketers, branding is an easy concept. For me, as a technical guy, it took me a while to get it.

The more people aware that you or your product exists, the better the chance that they will buy from you. Simple, right?

But how do you get people to notice you in the first place? One of the most cost-effective ways is to get people to talk about you naturally. That is what is known as “word of mouth,” or in a broader sense, viral marketing. Link baiting could easily be called viral link-building because the concept is the same: get people to link to you naturally.

Expert marketers are well aware that the best way to get attention is to appeal to others’ emotions. Get others to stand up from their chairs and they will write about you, link to you, and so on. What happens when, instead of appealing to others’ positive emotions, you appeal to their negative ones? Like calling them names, ridiculing them, getting personal. Most of the time you get a lot of attention, but is it worth it?

Let me share a childhood experience that illustrates my point… Read more

Freakonomics: How to lose money by saving

saving.jpgI am never going to understand why some people don't value their time properly. If you work for yourself, or if you plan to do so in the future, one of the first things you need to learn is to charge yourself an hourly rate—the higher the better. Why? Because affording yourself the maximum rate will prevent you from wasting your precious time on things that are not worth it.

Let me give you a recent example. My top developer, Harold, was hired by a big local telecom here in the Dominican Republic for a freelance programming gig. While working for another company as a consultant he had created a piece of code and now that code needed maintenance. He quoted them a few thousand dollars for the whole project and they went back and forth for several months trying to get the lowest possible price. In the end, their relentless penny pinching saved them the astonishing amount of $800.

I have to say that saving is good and I like to save as much as possible, but read the rest of the story to learn when you lose by saving. Read more

On gurus, Google, and gaining marketshare: Leveraging your position as number one

guru.jpgA lot of people read blogs, books, articles and other materials from so-called 'gurus' that made it big. Readers are hoping to do the same but I know that no one will match success by simply following a guru’s advice. I am not saying this because I think those gurus are necessarily dishonest or are holding back (though most are), but because I've learned that you don't become successful by following a specific formula—especially not a formula that somebody else gave you.

Why? Because success is in many ways all about competition. If you learn things from other people's playbook, they already have the first-comer advantage. You too need to be the first somewhere. You need to find unexploited opportunities of your own.

In this post, I want to tell you about my personal experiences with pay-per-click (PPC) and what I’ve learned over the years. I started my first profitable site back in 2002 on borrowed credit with a CAD$3,000 limit. I turned that $3k in $4.5k with PPC and affiliate commissions—a 50% ROI. It was my first time as an online marketer, an online baby step. And now, several years later, I own a 7-figure per year business, I employ several talented individuals and have time to post on this blog! Read more

Checkmate: Strategic vs Tactical SEO

robotchess.jpgIs SEO just a game?

Consider two chess players, Mike and Tom. Mike has never been able to win against Tom. Mike knows all the rules of the game: how to move every piece, when to capture, when to castle; he even knows all the tactical ideas like forks, pins, skewers and discovered attacks.

Mike's problem is that while he knows all the rules and has read a lot of chess books, he still looks only one or two moves in advance. It is very hard to prepare a winning plan looking so short-term. Tom on the other hand thinks at least five moves ahead and moves all his pieces so that they complete his master plan. Tom anticipates all of Mike's moves and prepares for them with a strong counterattack.

The world of search engine optimization is no different than this. As SEOs we need to think ahead of our competitors and, more importantly, we need to be on top of search engine advances. The world of search is moving so fast that any slacker will be left behind, with no time or opportunity to catch up. Check and mate. Read more