The 30 Day Challenge: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – Part Three

The Ugly

This is the third and final part of my series on The Thirty Day Challenge: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

I’ll admit that I’ve done the Thirty Day Challenge for three years straight now, despite what the Wickedfire forum thinks about it ๐Ÿ˜‰ I also admit that there are some things worth learning throughout the 30DC. Each year I learn something new, even if it is only one or two things out of the 50+ videos you have to watch. For me, the 30DC is a good refresher course of the basics.

It can be a good place to start for anyone who has never done internet marketing before. I’ve actually recommended it to a few good friends of mine who have been interested in getting into internet marketing, BUT with a few warnings.

First….

DON’T BELIEVE EVERY WORD THEY SAY

The whole 30 Day Challenge crew is great at marketing themselves as “gurus”, but they’re not. Don’t get me wrong, they are good marketers and they do know their stuff. The problem is that so many beginners jump into marketing without anyone else to turn to, join the 30DC and follow it word for word like it’s the “Good Book.”

I like the Thirty Day Challenge, but I don’t like everything they do.

I’ve found year after year, that they push an idea on participants as if it’s proof positive and then the next year have to explain that something went wrong with the tactic they showed you which was completely “unforeseen.”

DUDE! How did you not think spamming the hell out of Tumblr and HubPages and Squidoo wasn’t going to get your mini-site taken down? There are wrong and right ways to do things in internet marketing and the Thirty Day Challenge rushes through it too fast to get everything right.

One thing that I find funny is how the whole crew will act like they do the 30 Day Challenge for free each year out of the kindness of their hearts. While this may be true to some extent, there are other reasons for it. If you don’t see those ulterior motives, you haven’t been in internet marketing long enough.

Once you sign up, you are on their list. You will get lots of emails from Ed pushing his products or other internet marketing “teachers” products and services in your inbox regularly. He DOES explain that the links are affiliate links, so I guess that makes it a little better. At least it’s a good marketing tactic that builds trust within his list. I’m not saying what he does is a bad thing either. They all deserve to be compensated for their work, but they should be straight forward with the challengers. Actually Ed mentioned something about this in an email he sent out a couple of days ago, so maybe he’s trying to be a little more transparent for the upcoming challenge.

If you follow through with the challenge, you’ll also notice that they like to push costly services almost as if you’ll fail miserably in marketing if you don’t buy them. Take for example Traffic Bug. A service that basically spams social networking, bookmarking and directory sites and places your sites or minisites, articles, etc. into completely irrelevant directories. I have a feeling Traffic Bug is behind a lot of the “technology” spam posts hitting Sphinn’s recently submitted section.

The other big product they push within the challenge is Market Samurai. To be fair, this really is an awesome piece of software. It does a whole lot stuff and makes research and writing content easier. The 30 Day Challenge crew leads you to believe that this thing will be the deciding factor in making you a millionaire. I’ve never heard so much praise for some keyword research and link analysis software. It does cool things and is worth the one-time price, but don’t you think you’re laying it on a little thick guys?

When the Thirty Day Challenge is over, you finally get to see why they did it all… Thirty Day Challenge Plus. You can sign up for about $30 or so per month and can cancel anytime. Now it starts to make sense doesn’t it? I’m completely fine with this. This is how this type of marketing works. They have to make money and put food on their tables too right? But, what I’m not OK with, is that they continuously deny there is another reason for having a free month of affiliate marketing training, other than that they are just some nice guys.

What really set me in motion to write this post was a video they put together at the very end of last years challenge, telling people that they now have the knowledge to be SEO consultants.

I don’t like to see novice marketers taught how to spam or “half-ass” their way into a career. I didn’t like how they put out a video telling all of those people that they now have enough knowledge to go out into the world and become SEO consultants after 31 days of training. This is why people think SEO’s and Internet marketers are snake oils salesmen. I’ve been doing internet marketing professionally, not just in my free time, for about 5 years and I still don’t call myself a “guru.”

If you’re Ed Dale, “Guru” Bob, Caro, Dan Raine or any of the other members of Thirty Day Challenge, I hope you don’t take offense to this post although I completely understand if you do. I don’t mean to be so hard on you all. I’ll even continue to recommend the challenge to other people, but it’ll come with my own personal warnings.

See you tomorrow when the next 30DC, I mean “The Challenge”, kicks off!!!

The 30 Day Challenge: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – Part Two

The Bad

This is the second part of my series on The Thirty Day Challenge: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

While the 30 Day Challenge can teach you a lot as a beginner, there are a few things that can be very annoying about the program. One of the first things that I noticed when I first joined the challenge was that everyone is so cheesy – Ed’s team and all of the challengers.

It’s understandable why Ed’s team is so happy and pleasurable, because they have an image to keep up, but the 30DC participants are the cheesiest group of happy-go-lucky people you will ever enncounter. I haven’t heard so much life-affirming crap in my entire life. I guess this is what they need to continue on, but it’s really terrible to read it all day on the forums.

Maybe I’ve become hardened by working on the internet for so long, but I think it’s so annoying.

Another annoyance is that the 30DC followers are complete lambs. They do absolutely anything and everything Ed tells them to do. And don’t disagree with him or his team. If you disagree with anything the 30DC has told you, the fanboys/girls will tear you to pieces. They don’t want to hear your side and won’t give you the chance. Don’t even try, because you’ll never amount to Ed Dale in their minds.

I guess I really have it in for the participants because here’s another gripe against them. They are the biggest thread jackers ever. Nobody knows how to use the search function on the forums, no matter how many times they are told and people are constantly jacking threads and blog posts with their own completely unrelated questions. It’s really hard to find an answer to a question when there is a thread with 60 posts on it and only 4 helpful answers spread throughout it.

My final gripe is that the moderators and senior members on the forums are practically useless. If you ask a question, they basically tell you to use the search function. For lots of questions from the beginners, this is appropriate advice, but this seems to be the natural answer for just about any question anymore.

I know how to use the search function and quite often I’ve found that I just can’t find the answer. Sure, there are threads asking your same question, but they were never answered either. The moderators really do need to put some of these questions together and make them sticky. I’ve followed the forums for a long time, I even set up an RSS feed to catch all posts and I’ve noticed that people always ask the same thing. Setting up stickies for these questions would free up a lot of time for the moderators to answer some of the more advanced questions.

All in all, I don’t think this post was too mean. A few gripes here and there is all.

BUT!!!

Wait for tomorrows post. Out comes The UGLY side of the 30 Day Challenge. This one is sure to ruffle some feathers.

The 30 Day Challenge: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – Part One

The Good

This is the first part of my series on The Thirty Day Challenge: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

I put this post together in anticipation of the 30 Day Challenge, now renamed as The Challenge, which starts on Thursday, or July 1st, 2010.

I’ve enjoyed participating in the 30 Day Challenge for the last three years. I’ve been doing internet marketing professionally for a little over 5 years, so I had quite a bit of experience before taking part in the challenge, but I have Ed and his team to thank for getting me started in the world of affiliate marketing. I’ve completed the challenge all the way through each year and I’ve watched every single video so I feel that I have a good enough grasp on the program to provide you with a sort of “review” of the challenge.

Firstly, Ed is seems to be a really nice guy. The whole team is very friendly actually. They are a likable bunch, which makes the challenge very comfortable to newbies. I’ve never met any of them in person, but I’m sure they are all great to hang around with.

The entire team is usually extremely helpful too, which is so important during the 30 Day Challenge because newbies need a TON of handholding. They obviously can’t answer all of your questions, but they try their best to get to most of the questions 30DC’ers have. It takes a lot of work to manage the forums, especially because a lot of these people can barely operate a computer. Hundreds of thousands of people take part in the 30DC, so can you imagine how many questions they get each day? Not to mention the repeat questions from all of the people who don’t know how to use the search function. The forums are a great resource for you though, since thousands of questions have been asked. Most of the time your question will already have an answer there.

Here’s what the 30DC is all about.

They teach affiliate marketing to newbie internet marketers and I mean a lot. The whole course is very basic, but to someone who has never done internet marketing before, this course is massive and very advanced. As mentioned earlier, many new 30DC’ers seem to barely understand how to use a computer, so can you imagine having to teach them how to set up a website, do keyword research, optimize it, sign up to affiliate program and set up a Pay-Per-Click campaign? Now way! It’s great that Ed Dale has a program to help people like this learn to make money for themselves.

The 30DC crew are very smart. Most of them have been in the internet marketing business for a long time so they have a good understanding of how it all works. Ed keeps up with the latest related internet marketing news, services & gadgets and always lets his followers know what’s going on.

He usually promotes some interesting products and classes from other well-known marketers in the industry also. Not all of them are great, but beginners can learn more and more if they have the money to purchase some of these more advanced offerings. I would recommend instead spending more time on the internet researching and reading than spending money on more classes though.

You can learn almost everything you need to know for free online by following top SEO and marketing blogs such as SEOMoz and Search Engine News as well as keeping up with the hot topics section over at Sphinn. That’s a usually a good start.

One of my favorite things about Ed is that he’s always looking out for latest internet marketing and geek tools. He introduced many people to the Flock browser (which now sucks, but was awesome then), the LiveScribe pen, cool cameras and microphones, firefox plugins and more. Even if all these things aren’t necessary, they’re definitely a lot of fun to play around with.

If you’re a beginner in any form of internet marketing I would highly suggest you take part in the 30DC Challenge. It’s actually shortened to just “The Challenge” this year, but it starts on July 1st, so you better sign up soon.

As mentioned above, this is the first part of the series of The 30 Day Challenge: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Come back tomorrow for The Bad. I have a feeling it’s going to upset quite a few people!

Using Competitive Link Intelligence From Majestic SEO

To analyze link data from your competitors websites using Majestic SEO, you will need to purchase a paid subscription. There are plenty of plans available for whatever your needs may be and it’s very affordable.

Judging The Level of Competition

This is probably the most useful if you’re an affiliate marketer or someone deciding on selling a new product. Visit the Compare Domain Backlink History page to get a quick preview of the backlink progression of your competitors websites. You can register for a free account to compare more than one site. If your competitors are earning a ton of links, you might have a hard time overthrowing them from the search results. Keep in mind that if all of their links are low-quality, you shouldn’t have to worry much as long as you work on getting high quality links.

Finding Advertising Opportunities from Image Links

After creating a full report for your competitors website, you’ll find a column labeled FlagImageLinks in the Excel spreadsheet. Using this, you’ll often be able to find places that your competitor may have purchased advertising spots or banner ads. If that audience looks targeted, consider purchasing advertising from those same sites.

Getting Links Where Your Competitors Are

This is the low-hanging fruit and can be a great place to start obtaining links quickly and easily. One of the most common uses for competitor link data is finding out who is linking to their sites and trying to get links from them as well. Of course if they are linking to your competitors they should be interested in your site too.

Discovering Similar Sites That Will Link To You

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

You don’t want your link profile to look exactly like your competitors and if you hope to compete you need to get links that your competition doesn’t already have. Review the types of sites that link to them and what their audiences are like. Start to think about other places similar to these sites for more places that you can contact for links. You can also search for those sites in Google and then click the “Similar” link to see who Google thinks is related.

fuit tree image courtesy of MrB-MMX

Fortitude is a New Online Magazine That Pays You To Write For Them

Fortitude is a new service from the creator of the popular Qondio service (formerly Quassia) created a couple of years ago. Fortitude is very similar to Qondio in that you write articles and submit them for everyone to read, but what makes it different is that on Fortitude you get paid for what you write.

You probably see crap like this on Twitter everyday, but I’m writing about Fortitude because this is finally one I have a good feeling about. You don’t get paid for every article you write, but you do get paid for every article that hits the front page. They have an algorithm in place that will choose about 1/4 to 1/5 of total submissions per day to place on the front page.

Fortitude isn’t an article directory like Qondio is, but instead an online magazine, so they are very strict on the quality of articles they place on the front page. Also, because of striving for quality and pleasing their readers, links are nofollowed meaning you won’t be getting any SEO love.

After reading the “invitation” email, I was ready to sign up right away, but when I got to the sign up page I realized that the service isn’t free and costs about $1.99 per month. After reading the FAQ’s and thinking about it for a while, I decided to bite the bullet and paid for a one-year membership.

Honestly I don’t think of myself as a great writer, but writing is something I absolutely love to do and hope to get better at. In fact, I plan to head back to college later this year to work on earning a degree in Journalism and signing up to Fortitude felt like a perfect first step in making me try that much harder to create “Front Page” quality articles.

While I don’t think I can get rich from writing for Fortitude taking into account my current writing skills, I do believe I can at least make my money back and more. They also have an excellent referral program too, so if you decide you want to sign up, please do so using my referral link ๐Ÿ˜€

The sooner you get into the program the higher your referral payment will be, but after June 7th you can receive $8 per person.

Sign up to Fortitude early and get three months free. Even if you catch this post late, the pricing they offer is still a sweet deal.

image courtesy of ionushi

Reclaiming Links From Sites That Have Shut Down

Often when I’m doing competitive analysis, researching niche directories or reviewing industry related “round-up” articles, I’ll come across a few dead links. If you come across a domain that no longer exists that tightly matches the content of your own site, you can try to reclaim their incoming links to point to your own site.

First, visit Yahoo Site Explorer and enter the URL of the abandoned domain into the field labeled Explore URL.

Click the “Inlinks” button near the top of the page then change the “Show Inlinks” drop-down menu to say “Except from this domain” and to “Entire Site.” Right below the drop-downs you’ll be able to export the first 1000 results to TSV. This is the maximum amount you can export. Once downloaded, change the file extension from TSV to .xls so that you can view it in Excel.

Next, check the Page Rank of all of the pages in your spreadsheet using these Page Rank checkers:

If you know of any others that work well, please leave me a comment because I’ve been looking for other options. I prefer the first PR checker that I’ve linked to, but it’s not completely reliable. Sometimes it will check thousands of pages at once and sometimes I can only get it to do 200 at a time, so you may have to mess with it a bit. I’ve even noticed that it sometimes times out in Firefox and then works completely fine in Opera or Safari.

Not all of the data returned from these bulk PR checkers is accurate but it is for the most part. Also keep in mind that these are only checking PR from the main domain and not for the specific pages you enter. You can copy directly from the page once the scan is complete and paste it into Excel. You may have to right-click in Excel and choose Paste Special > Unicode Text for it to paste appropriately.

Once you have all data in your spreadsheet, sort by Page Rank and start trying to reclaim links from the domains with the highest PR, since they are most likely to have the most trust and authority.

Why I Won’t Buy an iPad

I can’t think if any actual reasons how an iPad could be any more useful than my laptop for work or business. I don’t know anyone who owns one and I’ve only spent about 10 minutes playing with an iPad at the local Best Buy so I admit that I don’t have a lot of experience with how it works.

From what I understand, it’s basically like an iPod Touch or an iPhone (which I do own). I’ve heard that it will (or already does?) have business software created specifically for it, such as a word processor and spreadsheet program much like Microsoft Office. While that makes it sound a little more useful, I don’t see why I would rather take that on a business trip or to a client meeting when I have a fully-featured laptop that has everything I need.

For pleasure on the other hand, I think an iPad would be great. If I wanted to read a book in bed or browse the internet on the couch, an iPad would super-simple and easy to use.

One of the biggest problems I have is that it doesn’t support Flash and since I would use the iPad mostly for web browsing, this really bothers me. I understand that Flash is a dying technology and is practically useless on mobile devices, but I thought of the iPad as more than just a large iPhone and I had really hoped Apple would have included Flash capabilities more like a desktop computer.

This isn’t to say that I would never OWN an iPad though. I’m just saying I would never BUY one. At least not for the price it’s selling for right now. For $200 more than the selling price of an iPad, I can go buy a brand new fully-featured Macbook.

This is why I’m hoping to win one instead ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ll enter a few contests here and there as I see them on Twitter, such as this one from hiTechPedia.com. I never win any contests, but you never know how things might turn out.

If I win, I might have a complete change of heart about the iPad and may even be able to provide some real reasons on why anyone should buy one. Here’s hoping ๐Ÿ˜‰

*image Courtesy of Apple

Is SEO Necessary For New Business Owners Anymore?

I came across a forum post on DMOZ quite some time ago with a new business owner asking if SEO is necessary anymore. Why this person was asking for this type of advice from DMOZ, I have no idea, but one of the forum moderators chimed in stating that SEO was not necessary. He said that hard quality work is all it takes and that utilizing meta tags is pointless. This is all the “advice” he provided. There really is a lot more to SEO than meta tags.

I do agree that doing hard quality work is very important and is what really counts when building your website, but although meta tags are an extremely small part of SEO, they can still provide value.

When it comes to ranking, these fields are generally useless, which the Google guidelines will tell you, and although Google is the most well known search engine currently, they aren’t the only one available to use, and many other search engines don’t go by the same rules.

If you place the appropriate keywords in the meta keywords tag, it can help a site stay away from a duplicate content filter. This tag can normally be avoided, but it’s a nice fallback, just in case. And as previously mentioned, some search engines may still be using it. Heck, it only takes a couple of seconds to fill in anyway. One thing to note though is that if you utilized the keywords meta tag, you leave your research open for competitors to find.

The description meta tag will not help in rankings, but with the right description, you can entice visitors into coming into your website. Also, if you’ve ever noticed from doing a search in Google, your search query will appear in bold in the description. This is proven to draw the eyes of the user into that listing. I think that makes the Description Meta tag fairly important.

Ok, so those are my thoughts on meta tags, but there is much more to SEO than that.

Keyword Research

  • High Volume
  • Low Competition
  • “Buyer” keywords

On-Page Factors

  • Title tags
  • Meta tags
  • Alt attributes
  • Internal linking
  • Header tags
  • Keyword emphasis (bolding/italicizing)
  • Page load time optimization
  • Broken links
  • HTML and XML sitemap
  • Custom 404
  • Robots.txt
  • Canonical Issues
  • Site architecture analysis

Competitive Analysis

  • Domain age
  • On-page factors
  • Visibility
  • Traffic
  • Incoming links
  • Paid search campaigns

Off-Page Factors

  • Analytics review
  • Incoming backlinks
  • Citations
  • Local optimization

A lot of this may not fit into some peoples definition of “SEO” but would instead call it “SEM” or search engine marketing, but the inexperienced don’t really care about semantics and only want their site to bring in more money. This is why I lumped it all together into the somewhat outdated term.

To answer the original question of the new business owner, no, search engine optimization isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you ever plan to have a successful online business that brings in enough money to put food on the table, then yes it is.

Marketing Is as Simple as Shuffling Cards

ChildsPlay Marketing has come up a fun and creative way of coming up with new marketing campaigns for your business and it doesn’t require hiring an expensive consultant. All it takes is a quick shuffle of a deck of cards. Well three decks of cards actually.

The ChildsPlay Marketing Cards are three different decks of cards that each have a different function.

The first deck will help you choose which audience you’ll be targeting for your next campaign, such as active clients, uncovered prospects and best clients.

The second deck of cards will help you choose a special offer to provide to the audience chosen. Here you’ll pull choices such as free samples, money back guarantees or even a simple “thank you” letter.

The last deck is where you’ll figure out which communication vehicle you’ll be using to pull off this campaign. You’ll find choices such as hold music on your phone system, mail-outs and web seminars.

All three decks come in a cool tin and cost $69. I don’ know how many cards come in each deck, but all three combined can provide more than 125,000 ways to market your business according to their website. Check out the cheesy video below to see them in action.