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These three things may really change the face of web applications. Google gears lets you store information locally so you can use your web application offline. Right now the only program I know that uses Gears is Google Reader. There is a standalone program for Windows and a Firefox program for OS X that will let you use the Gears capability. With Google Reader it lets you download your feeds and read them offline. The capabilities are very limited. You can’t change the category of a feed. It will only let you mark them as read and then sync. Even with just this basic functionality it is a huge step forward in web applications.
This week it was announced that there would be no SDK for the iPhone. Apple expects developers to just write web applications for anything on the iPhone. Obviously this is pretty limiting–especially when the iPhone has been touted as running an actual version of OS X. To help give people a way to test their applications, Apple released a beta version of Safari for Windows.
In Google’s discussion about Gears, they said that they are making a version for Safari. If this happens and if it is something that Apple will incorporate into the iPhone, it could give developers the capability to create applications on the iPhone that go well beyond current web applications.
I read a story about a poll that was taken of high school students. The object was to find out how much they expected to make once they were out of college and had a few years of job experience. The average expected salary? $145,000 per year.
I think this may be one of the reasons that American’s accumulate so much debt. Students graduate and start spending money based on what they expect their salary to be–not necessarily what is realistic. Their high salary expectations can encourage them to go deep into debt in obtaining their education–after all a 6 figure salary is only a few years away. When they get out of college they are starting out with a huge amount of college loans, but their high salary expectations keep them spending away.
Within a few years they are drowning in debt and looking for credit counseling, debt consolidation loans or even bankruptcy. By the time they come to the conclusion that they aren’t going to be making that much money the damage is done and they are deep in debt–beyond what they can fix by simply being financially frugal.
- Google Crime
- The act of doing something with your website that Google doesn’t like. Using paid links, cloaking, etc. are examples of Google Crime. Google crime is punishable by a penalty in their rankings or being dropped from their index entirely.
Google is asking people to submit sites that are selling or buying links. This is an interesting move. It sounds like their goal is to test some new algorithms that will automatically discount the value of links if it appears they have been purchased. My guess is that they aren’t going to manually go through and penalize sites, they are just going to try to set the algorithms to discount any PR that comes from paid links. At least that is what I hope they do. It is possible that they may penalize sites for selling links or penalize sites for buying them.
This seems unlikely. Google tends to favor algorithms over manual penalties. It appears that their mindset is to make the Google results reflect what is popular on the web. Since paid links are now part of the game, they will adjust their algorithms accordingly.
Here are some of the side effects I think this will have:
- Lists of links will lose a lot of value. Blogrolls and the like will probably stop passing as much PR because they tend to be formatted and placed in ways that is similar to paid links.
- Editorial links will probably become more valuable. People will probably sell incontent links instead of just links on the side of the page to help make the links keep their value.
- Some pay-per-post type sites may stop requiring “Paid Review” disclosures. It seems that if Google wants to discount paid posts, they are going to have to look for the terms “Paid Review” or “Sponsored Post” or a PayPerPost badge.
So how can Google detect paid links using an algorithm? Here are a couple thoughts:
- Look for the keywords. Things like “Sponsored”, “Advertisers”, “Paid Review”, “Sponsors”, etc. and discount the page rank passed by links near those terms.
- Look at the location. Links grouped together in a list to the side of the content may increase their paid-link score. I think Google already does this with blog comments. Links in comments seem to be weighted less than links in the actual story.
- Look at context. Lists of links that go to sites that seem out of character. For example, if Google knows that 50% of the personal finance blogs link to Yahoo’s online quote system, that link might not look out of character to find in the sidebar of a personal finance blog. However a list of links that doesn’t appear on any similar sites may look out of character.
- Look at how the links change. Links that remain static for a year may have a lower paid-link score than links that are swapped out with new links every month.
A week ago I sat down and decided to see what type of traffic is generated by having a link from John Chow. I posted a bunch of comments and made it to the top commentator’s list where I remained for a week. At the end of the week, I had a total of 48 visitors from JohnChow.com. Most of them came from the main page. 47 came to my front page. The other probably followed a deep link from the review John did of www.productivity501.com.
I was actually surprised at how low the numbers were. With a paid review and a sitewide link in the sidebar and a link on a bunch of comments, there were only 48 clicks. I’m curious how many unique visitors John gets in a week. I haven’t been able to find it in any of his posts, so I’m guessing it isn’t very high.
John is doing an excellent job of marketing his blog and revealing just the information that will help him become more popular. It will be very interesting to see if he can keep this up to the point that the blogs popularity becomes on par with the image he is projecting.
There is quite a bit to learn from watching his site and most of it isn’t showing up in the posts.
Leadership501 is a site full of articles about leadership. I created it to be a reference for people looking to improve their leadership skills. I have found that much of the current leadership writing either focuses on being inspirational or very theoretical, so my goal is to try to create something that is practical and useful. Something along the lines of “Here is how to handle situation X and why you should handle it that way.”
Today I ran across a blog with a post that was linking to the site with some good things to say about one of my articles. Jason says he liked my article enough that he read the entire thing. I’m glad he liked it because when I was writing that particular article I remember thinking, “This is pretty long. I wonder if anyone will actually read the whole thing?” I decided that even if no one read it I need to write it for myself.
In his post he makes some good points about setting goals and walks the reader through his goal setting process. It is worth reading. I like where he said that in the initial stage the only “rule” is that if he thinks it, he writes it down. Anyway it is worth a read and his blog is one I’ll be adding to my RSS feeder.
Gary Lee (www.mrgarylee.com) is running a workstation contest for people who work from home, so I thought I’d enter my photo of the work area I had setup in Durango Mexico. (My current desk is undergoing the tax season and newborn baby insurance bill attack, so it will probably be a few weeks before I see my entire desktop again).
Anyway if you click on the photo you’ll get a bigger version and a longer description. Basically this was the setup I used when we were in Mexico. There is a cable modem behind the monitor and all of our voice and data ran through that connection. On the desk are two cell phones. One is a Blackberry with the voice part forwarded to our Vonage phone line. I used it for email. The second is a phone our friends loaned us that had a local Mexican number.
I don’t know that my workstation on the little plastic table will win any awards in the US, but for a place to work full time in our bedroom, it worked out great. I’m a big fan of large monitors so the 24 inch flatpanel was almost a necessity. I was a little worried about being able to take it into Mexico. If the custom’s officials thought it was a flat panel TV, I could of had a problem. I had it packed in a large monitor bag that was designed for carrying around the big iMac. It worked out well because the officials didn’t even try to look in the bag.
One problem I had with this setup was the folding chair I was using. It was slightly bend so three or four times a day it would just collapse. I’d generally catch myself before I ended up on the floor, but it kept me on my toes. I must say that my trusty leather desk chair that I’m back to using in the US is very welcome.
Here are a few initial thoughts:
- The links look like regular links. They aren’t the double underlines that other inline ad links use. This might cause some confusion because users can’t tell what ads are actually in your text and which ones came from Amazon (until they are moused over).
- You have the ability to determine the maximum number of ads per page to tailor things for your audience.
- The ads don’t show up immediately. You Amazon has to scan your page first kind of like the Google Adsense Bot.
- Some of the ads don’t seem particularly well targeted. They match the word, but not necessarily the meaning. For example a page about cell phone batteries had an ad linking to a fiction book with the words batteries in the title.
All in all it looks like a decent way to monetize some content, but I’m concerned about the confusion for the users. They may not look at any of your links once they have clicked on a few and discovered that they are links to Amazon.
I have been reading John Chow for awhile. I can’t even remember how I originally found his site, but he is quite good at generating a community.
In February ReviewMe was having a 50% off sale. Normally they split their revenue with the blogger, but for February they were giving up their half. I had a contest I was running at www.productivity501.com to try to get some feedback, more readers and some inbound links. Since I was specifically targeting bloggers, I though John’s site would be a good place to advertise. After all, many of his readers were there because they reviewed John’s site in exchange for a linkback. I decided to go ahead and pay the $125 review fee and see what would happen.
The day the review went live, I got a modest spike in traffic as shown below:
So I got an extra 500 visitors which wasn’t anything too dramatic. A nice boost to be sure, but very temporary. However there was something else going on:
Notice that while the JohnChow post sent me 12.24% of my traffic, in the same period downloadsquad.com sent 19.51%. The DownloadSquad traffic was from a comment I left on one of their pages just as it was getting popular in Digg. My comment went live 3 to 5 hours after John’s review. The DownloadSquad post ended up getting about 600 Diggs, so it was popular, but not one of the bigger stories of the day.
Now another question is which site gave the most value over the long term. So if we look at Visits by Source from Feb 28 thorugh March 22:
So in the period of almost a month, John Chow sent me 284 visitors and DownloadSquad sent 418. The 284 visitors from John Chow cost $125. The DownloadSquad traffic was free.
Oh and the traffic from JohnChow was probably overstated slightly because I also comment on his site, so some of the visitors could have been from my comments. (Right now I’m listed in his top commentators links because on a whim I decided to see what type of traffic that would produce–not much.)
Now there were some differences in the traffic, John’s readers visited an average of 2.5 pages each visit. DownloadSquad readers only visited 1.3. However the real thing that would matter is conversions–how many people decided to review my site and enter the contest. I don’t know exactly where everyone came from, but it wasn’t many.
The contest hasn’t taken off as I had hoped, but that is ok because I’m using the data to help me refine the way I do contests. I was hoping for John’s review to spark a bunch of reviews in his readers. I think I made a mistake in matching my contest to my audience. John Chow readers do have blogs, but are focused on making money online. They are not necessarily writers, so a contest that is based on their writing skills isn’t necessarily appealing to them. They think “others can write better reviews than me, I shouldn’t even try.” A contest that targets their linking “skills” would probably be more appealing and attract a larger audience.
I am considering modifying the contest to try to make it rely less on quality writing to see if that helps. (The contest lets me change the terms if we haven’t reached 150 reviews by the end of the month.) I’m also working on getting some traffic from a larger blog that seems to cater more to people who like to write.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about John’s review. He did a good job. I’ve just learned a little more about how to refine my audience targeting and I’d rather do that with a $125 investment than a $5000 one.
John is very good at marketing. He is pushing the fact that he is in the top 100 of Technorati as making a link from his blog very valuable. I guess it might be if you have a brand new PR 0 site, but even with a link on his sidebar today sent me only 14 visitors (so far it is 9pm). This is the same number of visitors I received from a small blog I’ve never heard of that happened (and definitely isn’t in the Technorati 100) to linked to one of my stories this morning.
John’s expertise is at trading people something that costs him very little in exchange for something that is worth a lot to him. For example, putting the top commentators on his blog is pretty inexpensive. He markets it as something that really helps the bloggers promote their own blogs. For him, it keeps people rabidly commenting on his posts. (I know because I sat down and wrote about 75 comments yesterday evening just to see how much traffic it would send.)
Basically what John has done is created all the impressions of where he wants to be:
- Reviews and links from a bunch of different blogs – by offering a “valuable” link back in one of his posts.
- Massive amounts of comments – by offering a “valuable” link in the sidebar.
- Being listed as a top 100 blog – by getting incoming links and manipulating Technorati. I would expect a top 100 blog to have more than 3779 RSS readers.
By creating an image of what he wants his blog to be, he will probably achieve it. He likes to call this “being evil”, I would call it “being smart”. I see people on his blog moaning that they don’t have the money to pay John for a review ($500 as we speak) because they think it would really help their blog take off. It probably wouldn’t. They can get more traffic just by being quick to comment on Dugg stories.
So what do I think of my $125 investment in a John Chow review? From a traffic standpoint it was a flop. From a conversion standpoint it was a flop. From an educational standpoint, it was a bargain.
By the way, if you are interested in an iPod Shuffle, you should consider entering the contest.