Friday, 27 January 2012

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma - part 1

In 1939, Winston Churchill described Russia as "A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma".  If he were alive today, he might use the same phrase to describe Google.

Many SEO experts have made a living trying to work out exactly what parameters Google uses to decide which websites appear on its first page and which are relegated to the unseen hundreds of pages that follow it.  Google plays its cards close to its chest and, it is said, frequently changes its parameters (no doubt to keep the SEO experts on their toes).

Nothing wrong in that, of course.  If everyone knew exactly what to do to get to the top, and proceeded to do it, Google would have to resort to pulling names out of a hat in order to assign places on the first page.

However, Google's secrecy and unapproachability is not always so benign.  In recent times, while constantly urging people to advertise on the web using Google Adwords, it has also been banning many others from ever using this method again.  Some of those banned have been serious advertisers, spending thousands of dollars a month on their campaigns.  So why have they been banned?  In many cases it's hard to tell.

Google refers to it as a 'suspension' rather than a ban - but since there is no way of appealing against it and since it means that the 'suspended' person cannot use any of his or her accounts to advertise ever again, 'ban' seems to be a more suitable word.

If you go into Google and search for " adwords account suspended" you will find over 82,000 results.  And if you look at the first few pages, it seems that many of these are written by people who do not understand why they have been banned.  

Google's Terms and Conditions state that people cannot advertise anything that contravenes any law in the countries in which the ads are shown and that they cannot advertise anything that violates its policies 'as revised from time to time'.  The first is, of course, reasonable and sensible.  The second is where the trouble lies.  

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Finding Your Niche

One of the major buzz words in internet marketing has to be 'niche'.  There's a lot of disagreement surrounding this little word, not least of all how it's pronounced.  The British use the French pronunciation - 'neesh', while the Americans call it a 'nitch'. At the Armand Morin Live seminar that I attended in London, each time Armand said 'nitch', the audience would, with one accord, chorus back 'neesh'.

But the disagreement doesn't end there.  Some people say that you should look for small niches because those such as internet marketing, dieting and personal development are so overloaded with marketers that it makes it very difficult for a newcomer to get a toe-hold.  Others say that it is precisely because these areas are so popular that they make a good starting point - popularity means that there are people out there who are hungry for whatever information is available.

Some experts say 'follow your passion'.  But, as others point out, if your passion is French ormolu clocks or the life cycle of the sea horse, you're not going to sell many e-books.  To sell a lot of information, you need a large market.  And so the advice from practically every expert is to check out what's being searched for on the Google keywords site.  If only a handful of people each month are searching within that niche - forget it.

I knew someone a year or two back who made a very expensive mistake by not checking out her market.  She opened a mini leisure centre where her main offering was a floatation (sensory deprivation) tank.  She thought it was wonderful and assumed that others would too.  She advertised widely - but no one was interested.  If she had checked on Google before she started, she'd have discovered that fewer than 2500 people a month worldwide search for the term 'floatation tank'.  Little wonder that there weren't many people in her immediate vicinity looking for that facility.

And it's the same online.  You can produce a wonderful website and a brilliant and informative e-book and you can spend a fortune advertising it - but if no one's interested in the subject, no one will buy.  Of every person who reaches your optin page, probably only 30-40% will actually give you their email address and proceed to the next page.  And of the 30-40%, perhaps two percent will actually buy - that's six people buying out of every 1000 who visit your site.  So how many do you need to drive to your site each month to make the venture worthwhile?  The advice to do the maths before you start seems very sensible.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Finding a Mentor

In today's uncertain economic climate, more and more people are looking to the internet as a way of making money - either to supplement their income or else to provide an income after they've been made redundant.  But the question is - where do you start?  Some people are lucky enough to find a good teacher straight away.  But there are an awful lot of rogues out there.  And there are also quite a few people who've made good money on the internet and honestly try to teach others how to do it, but seem to lack the ability to do so.

I'm a great fan of Armand Morin.  His teaching materials are superb.  I went to an 'Armand Live' event some time ago - three days, and a wealth of information.  But his stuff does tend to be expensive.  Worth it, without doubt, but a difficult decision if you're on a tight budget.  However, if you've got the money to spare,  his Internet Marketing Explained is a superb course.  Or, if you want a less expensive, monthly tutorial course, try his marketing tutorials.

In the UK, Simon Coulson has proved himself a trustworthy teacher, and his Internet Cashflow course, which comes in monthly installments, is not expensive.

Kissing Frogs

I've done a few internet marketing courses in my time, been to a number of seminars and bootcamps (all of them highly enjoyable) and spent some money on courses.  And I'm now at the stage where I know who I trust - who will deliver techniques that really work - and who will give you only part of it, or nothing at all.

Perhaps most important (to me, at least) is ongoing support so that I can ask about things I don't understand or that don't seem to work.  So many courses and information products seem to lure people in by promising that 'this will work' but then, when it doesn't, offering no backup.

I like the ones that offer a money-back guarantee.  It means they've got confidence in what they're teaching.  Although, of course, there are one or two scams in that area.  Some time back I downloaded a training report on driving traffic to your website.  The advertising blurb said it would teach you to drive traffic 'from scratch'.  I'd just set up a new website and it sounded as though it might be useful.  Turned out that you had have to have a certain number of visitors to your website already in order to make it work.  Added to that, the instructions on how the system worked (it was to do with using a script) were totally incomprehensible - and I'm fairly computer literate.  I emailed the seller . . . no reply.  I emailed again . . . still no reply.  I went to the website and tried contacting the helpdesk through that . . . no reply.  I'd paid via Paypal and put in a complaint and, eventually, I got my money back. 

Another time I downloaded a training report on 'a completely new way of driving traffic to your site' by a seemingly respected internet marketer.  When I read it, there was nothing new about it at all.  Unfortunately, this one didn't have a money back guarantee.  I protested to the seller that the blurb had been misleading but - yes you've guessed it - I got no reply.  A good case of buyer beware!

They say that to find a prince you've got to kiss a lot of frogs and, yes, I've kissed one or two in my time.  But it's been worth it because, ultimately, it led me to the mentors who know it and teach it, who offer support for when you're stuck or you don't understand, and who really want you to succeed.