Google Slapped Me – Somebody Call The Whaaaaaambulance

This is what I’m hearing from a ton of site owners and their SEO firm representitives in countless emails over the past few weeks, begging me to spend my time cleaning up their messes for them.

Here’s how it started:

Over the past couple years, businesses and website owners contracted with shady little self-proclaimed SEO/Internet Marketing gurus (most of whom I suspect were really just teenagers [or adults] working from their parent’s basements with a pirated copy of BookMarkingDemon, SENuke or some similar type of automated link spamming software).

So these businesses/site owners contracted these people to go around the web and drop their spammy links anywhere and everywhere that they could. From using crappy machine-written articles mass suubmitted to thousands of article directories to posting unreadable comments on thousands of blogs to creating tens-of-thousands of fake profile pages on forums and other community sites.

There were even a couple of brazen creeps over at the Warrior Forum selling monthly lists of community sites where these other creeps could go spam their links via fake profile creations. I’m not ashamed to say I wish for sudden and painful ends to their online careers.

For those of us who own sites that were being targeted by these mass link dumping efforts, it has been an endless battle. Nothing short of completely taking our sites offline could prevent the avalanche of spammy links coming in.

IP Banning was useless, the big players were running their software over private proxy networks with rotating IP’s.

Captchas were a joke, they were paying pennies for captcha-breaking services.

Whatever software updates or new obstacles available to us, they would be past them in hours.

It got to the point where on several community sites I run or my company is partnered with, we just resigned to go with a manual review for all new member registrations. That’s a lot of man hours invested just to ensure that anyone who wanted to participate in our communities was actually human and sincere. It also slowed down the registration process since reviews couldn’t be done in real-time, meaning many legitimate people who registered were put-off by having to wait for approval, and never returned.

[NOTE: between my personal ventures and my business partnerships, I/my company are connected with about 100 different web sites currently, more than half of which are community driven, and that number has been as high as over 200 in the past, so I'm talking about a lot of sites and time and labor here]

Fast forward to today:

Recently, Google finally brought the hammer down on these types of spammy link building tactics, and in doing so have inflicted great pain on businesses and site owners via search ranking penalties applied to their sites as a result of using such spammy techniques to manipulate the search results.

Yay for Google!

And now, on a daily basis, me or my support team are getting a flood of emails from businesses, site owners or their “new” SEO firm reps begging us to spend even more of our time and resources on their antics, via requests that we manually comb through our sites and remove all these spammy links that they paid some creep to drop on us in the past, because Google says their mess needs to be cleaned up before they’ll get their rankings back.

I’m having a serious struggle with this one. On one hand I really don’t like having the spammy links on my web properties, and these douchebags[def] are being considerate enough to provide the exact URL’s of the questionable links, making it fairly easy to address on our end.

However, if I add up the time and labor investment we’ve been forced to make over the past couple years already fighting against these creeps, I imagine it’s well into the tens-of-thousands of dollars. It almost seems like these clowns should offer to pay us for the link removal service now, after all they certainly paid to have them spammed onto our sites in the first place, despite all of our efforts to prevent it.

I’ve been hesitant in replying to these individual requests so far, and until I decide what is most appropriate for my sites and business I’ll likely remain so. But damn, the requests sure are flooding in fast with teary-eyed, penalized site owners hoping I’ll play janitor for them soon.

Everything Is A Campaign

One of the best pieces of advice I received early on in my business came from a man I had met at a local business owners meeting. He was in his late 80′s at the time, and had actually been retired for nearly twenty years already, having sold his business for several million dollars; but he came to these meetings regularly to stay connected with the local business community and provided lots of valuable guidance to young or new entrepreneurs like myself at the time if we were willing to listen.

I was, and I owe much of my success to his many tidbits of wisdom, but the one thing above all else that I can directly connect to real profits and growth for me was this, he said to me one evening “everything is a campaign”.

At its core what that means is, you have to plan everything you do as a piece to a larger pie. You never just advertise, you never just network, you do these things with a set goal in mind and a long-term strategy that you’ve planned for already.

I think the easiest way to explain this, is with the exact example he gave me during that conversation so many years ago. I didn’t record or write the conversation down, so I’m going to paraphrase here:

He asked me to “Look at the weekly in-store coupons that retailers run. They often lose money from those sales when customers use the coupons, because the discounts are often higher than their profit margins on the particular items. So, why do they offer them?”

My reply was “Because almost nobody comes into a store and buys one thing. So, they make up the losses on the additional items the customer purchases.”

He said, “Nope. They do it because the most valuable customer is a repeat customer that becomes a regular customer. The lifetime value of a customer who comes into your store once every week or two is so great, that taking a loss on something once early on to establish the goodwill and relationship is a no-brainer.”

When I think about that now, you could easily apply it to what online marketers, especially software and information product sellers, have been doing for years too. They give away free products, ebooks, reports, demo/trialware software, just to capture email addresses. It’s the same thing as an in-store coupon, because getting that intimate connection with customers that allows you to actually walk into their life any time you want via their Inbox, and make them an offer, is absolutely worth trading that free product for early on in the relationship.

But, this isn’t just about customer acquisition, those are just simple illustrations to help package the underlying concept that everything is a campaign, and must have a long term goal and strategy behind it to be successful.

Your entire business is a campaign. You start at one place with a goal to reach another. You will plan and work to reach that goal, and that’s the definition of a campaign. Each thing you do along the way, should also be a smaller campaign that flows fluidly into your larger campaign.

Let’s assume that in looking at his business, an online marketer decides he needs to increase his social networking because after looking at the numbers from his limited attempts so far, he sees that it’s a profitable use of his time for his business (it isn’t for everybody, despite the hype).

At this point, let’s say the online marketer has a few hundred followers on Twitter, a few hundred likes on his business Facebook page, a few dozen subscribers to his YouTube channel, and each video he uploads usually gets about 100 to 200 views. He also has an email list that he’s been building for years, long before the social networks came on the scene, and he has a few thousand people on his list.

From these hypothetical numbers, the problem is clear to see. If his goal is to increase his social networking, than he needs to start by increasing the numbers of people he’s connecting with on each of the social networks.

So, what’s the “Easy Button” one-stop-shopping solution to that?

There isn’t one. There are dozens of ways to increase your reach on social networks, but no single way that will lead to satisfying results. For that, he must think beyond just increasing his numbers and into how that will impact his business as a whole.

The key is always to build a campaign that utilizes several (or all) of those dozens of options, and to tie it all together into a cohesive campaign with the big picture.

Leverage what you’ve already got, use that email list, use your web site and/or blog, look for ways to create cross-overs to get your Twitter followers to also begin liking your Facebook page, and your Facebook community to begin following you on Twitter. Get all of them to visit your YouTube channel, and give them a reason to subscribe when they do. Give all of your followers and subscribers a reason to share your content with their friends and circles.

Once you’ve completely leveraged what you already have, expand outwards. Look at ways to reach new people. This can be anything (or everything) from traditional article marketing to buying PPC ads. But whatever methods you add into your campaign, tie them all together.

For example, just writing an article and submitting it to some article site with a link to your blog, or web site, or social network profile, isn’t going to be very effective, even if you’ve got a great landing page, unless that landing page has a direct and logical next-step connection with the article content they came in from.

Fortunately, that logical next-step connection isn’t very hard to create with a little planning.

With an article you’re giving readers some piece of information that should answer one of their internal questions, once they have that piece of information what’s going to be their next question or pain point? Ask and answer this for your niche demographic, and you’ve got the next-step connection to add to your landing page.

Now, take that to the next level. Your landing page exists to either capture their email address, or make a social network connection with them by trading content. They either submit their email address to get the free report or ebook or whatever you’re offering, or if you have some sort of content locker setup they have to follow you on Twitter or Facebook to access the content. Either way, you’re trading with them.

But, once the trade is done, don’t just stop because you’ve got them in your “funnel”. Being happy to have them in your auto-responder sequence at this point is a wasted opportunity. Think of that as the bonus, not the end of this campaign. This is where you can tie the smaller campaign of growing your social media presence with the overall campaign of growing your business.

Right at this moment, you know exactly where their mind is at. You’ve just walked through two steps with them, answered two internal questions for them, so what’s their logical next-step again?

With all of the information and answers you’ve just provided to them, will they logically have another question? Another point of hesitation? Or maybe it’s more logical to believe at this point they’ll be ready to purchase a solution? If you know your market, you should be able to anticipate what they need now and give it to them.

The point is, getting a purchase is the real target, so you keep moving them along, giving them answers to their questions until they reach that stage where their only choice is to buy a solution or continue living with the problem; even if the problem is simply not having the product, that’s a legitimate problem if the product empowers them in some way.

By staying with them until the only logical next-step is to buy or live with the problem, you’ll see a much greater return on your efforts, and still have them in your “funnel” for future marketing too.

That’s how everything is a campaign.

Most people (and by most people I mean the majority of people who aren’t having success), would see increasing their social network followers as the goal, and direct their efforts at simply increasing those numbers.

When you see everything as a campaign, you learn to tie all of your efforts into your overall business campaign, which means there are really two goals. First, to get them into your “funnel”, either with a social network connection or by getting their email address. And second, to turn them into a customer that pays you for something as soon as possible, because that’s what your business campaign needs in order for you to move from your starting point to your target point.

Nothing you do should ever be an island. It shouldn’t be isolated in application or short-term in concept. Everything you do needs to be part of something bigger, and planned out to tie-in with your entire business in some way.

Stay Focused

Following up on yesterday’s posting, something else I’ve observed over and over again with people trying to build an online income is that the ones who do it successfully often say things like “I can’t believe how simple it was”, or “everybody should be doing this, because anybody can”.

While people who struggle to earn any money seem to spend all their time looking for some sort of Easy Button or Magic Bullet that they’re sure is out there but they just haven’t found yet.

Folks in that second group are their own worst obstacles, not because they’re looking for something that doesn’t exist (though they are), but because they’ve convinced themselves already that things are more complicated than they really are, and it’s that mindset that has them seeking some helper application or system that they don’t really need in the first place.

There’s no mystical secret knowledge to be found, and none of this is rocket science.

You give people value, and they’ll trade for it with their money. That’s the core engine here.

When you peel back all the layers of B.S. that are created so that others can sell their products to you, then you see that it really is just a simple process of trading one thing for another.

And once you see that, it also becomes easy to see how simple it really is to make however much you need or want to with your online ventures.

For example, let’s say you want to build a $50,000 per year income stream. You can do that with less than 100 customers…easy.

Get 99 customers to pay you $42.10 per month, done!

Seriously, 99 x’s $42.10 = $4,167.90 per month, and $4,167.90 x’s 12 months in a year = $50,014.80 per year. A $50k income stream with less than 100 customers.

When you look at it like that, you realize that your job then boils down to just providing $42.10 worth of value each month, and getting 99 people (less than 100 customers) to trade you for that value.

Can you get 99 customers on the web? According to 2,095,006,005 people around the world are using the Internet as of March, 2011.

That’s 2 billion with a “B”. Can you offer something of value to less than 100 of all those people? If you breath I believe you can.

To improve the odds, I like to use what I call the “3 to 5 to 1″ rule, which means for every $1 people pay me I want to give them at least $3 to $5 worth of value back, so if people are paying me $42.10 per month I would want to provide them with $125 to $215 worth of value each month in return, but that’s still not very hard to do.

Think about it, (using the high number of my equation which is $215) can you give deliver $215 worth of value with a whole month to do it in? If you can, you’re set to build a $50k income stream with less than 100 customers.

This all describes just one model that uses a monthly membership type foundation, there’s a lot of other ways to build revenue streams online too, I just picked this one model and wanted to demonstrate how simple it really is when you focus down beneath the B.S.

And there’s tons of ways to build membership or monthly recurring businesses online if you went that route. From ongoing training or support to software access (or support) to information to services…you (and your ability to focus) are your only limitation with it.

Think Big, Start Small

I’ve worked and talked with a lot of people over the years who wanted to either supplament or completely replace their regular income with an online business, and I’ve probably learned as much–or more–from helping them as they did from me.

You see, I like to study people. No matter what the venue or circumstances are, it’s my nature to watch and pay attention to how people view and react to different things, and by observing people in this way it usually gives me insights that I can rely on for improving my own business and life.

One of the more obvious tendancies I’ve picked up on with people looking to build an online income stream, and it doesn’t matter if their goal is to earn spare cash or a full time living from it, is that nearly everybody seems to anticipate it will happen very quickly.

News shows, talk shows, magazines, Internet Marketers selling money making systems–they’re always telling stories about someone who just threw up a simple website and suddenly the money or fame came rolling in to them.

Sure, that happens once in a great while, maybe 0.0001% of the time even…but for the vast majority of people that isn’t the reality you’re going to see. It’s just what gets told in stories because it makes for good info-tainment.

The best advice I ever got, and that I think I’ve ever passed on to others, was that it’s crucial to think big, but start small.

By that I mean you should be plotting your course to a grand ultimate goal, but the waypoints between starting out and getting there should be made up of small, obtainable steps.

There are a few reasons why this is such good advice. Having incremental goals between where you are and where you want to be lets you measure the success and failure of everything you’re doing along the way.

Some things will work for you, and others won’t. If you don’t measure and evaluate as you go, then you’ll soon find yourself overwhelmed with things to do, and many of them won’t be benefiting you anyway.

Small step goals give you plenty of opportunity to adjust your course as you go. There will be new challenges and new opportunities that you never imagined when you first started that pop up from time to time, and if your focus is on the “big picture” of your end goal, you’re likely to trip over these sudden obstacles and completely miss these moments of opportunity.

Smaller goals are more obtainable goals, and with each one you reach you’ll find yourself gaining enthusiasm about what you’re doing rather than growing frustrated by chasing some far-off goal all the time.

It’s okay to say to yourself “I want to reach $250 per day in earnings and quit my job”, that’s a fine and obtainable end goal to start out with, but you should have 10 to 20 waypoint goals between the Zero per day you’re starting from and that $250 per day level.

Start small, set a $1 per day income goal. Believe it or not that’s one of the harder goals I’ve seen for many people. It takes a lot of effort and learning to actually build a consistant income stream of just $1 per day.

But, once you get over that hurdle, it starts getting easier. I’ve found that it’s easier to increase earnings from $1 per day up to $10 per day than it is to just reach that steady $1 per day mark starting from scratch. So you see, by setting your first goal small, it will force you to really focus down on what you’re doing and you’ll get there quicker.

Once you reach that first goal, set your next one at $5 per day, or $10 per day, just keep it close. Once you get to that one, set your next goal at $20 or $25 per day, then $50 per day, and so on.

With each goal you reach you’re going to be building on top of success, which gets easier and easier as you go, plus by keeping your goals close you’re going to stay focused on what’s most important to you and your business at that moment in time, thus avoiding pitfalls and being prepared to explore sudden opportunities that arise.

A New Look And Trashing Some Old Crap

I decided it was time to update the theme for my blog, so I spent a couple hours with Gimp and W3Schools to create the new design. There may still be some minor bumps in it here and there, I’ll work them out as I go–feel free to comment about any you find and let me know abut them.

I wanted something cleaner, faster, and laid out to focused on displaying the content over every single online haunt that I can be found at like my last theme did. I left icon-links at the top of this new design for my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I’m pretty sure most visitors didn’t need links to my profiles on MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Digg, Orkut and a dozen other places where I might visit once a month now. (If you do need those links, I’ll leave them on the About page of the blog just for you)

With the new theme comes lots less noise, meaning I didn’t need all of the plugins my blog used to have (there were 41 of them suckers active here).

I trimmed that down to about 7 or 8 and deleted the rest. Between the cleaner theme and 30+ fewer plugins, it feels like my blog lost about 50 lbs. of dead weight.

And while I’m at it, I’ve decided to go back through every post I’ve made over the past 5 years, and I’ll be deleting a bunch of those suckers too.

A lot of the stuff I published years ago is very outdated now. Some of it I’ll update and keep if it’s worthy, but much of it is so wrong now that there’s no point in giving it life support, I’m just pulling the plug with it…it’s the more humane thing to do.

Which brings up an interesting question; should bloggers delete old and outdated posts that can’t be revived with an update?

I did some searching to see what others have said about this, and it seems most people agree you shouldn’t do that.

They give reasons that range from SEO purposes to broken links leading to pitch-fork mobs chasing you down after enough of them hit your 404 error pages.

My opinion though, is that if you have a nice and friendly 404 error page, one that apologizes for the missing content and offers suggestions for other content on your blog that may be of interest to the visitor, as well as an easy search function, then that’s far better to give to people than an old post of useless or bad information.

So, if you notice some things missing around here that’s why.