Google Panda About To Eat SEO Professionals?
1 Deadly Trick That Converts (Even On Affiliates)
Man, Laptop And World: How To Travel Efficiently

Google Panda About To Eat SEO Professionals?

Google has rolled out Panda update 2.2, and webmasters around the world are staring in awe as their sites dance around the rankings like uncontrollable drunks. The sense of confusion is growing, and incredibly mixed results are being reported.

I’ve had affiliates telling me their sites have surged to the top of Google for ultra competitive terms. Others seem to be drowning their sorrows at the prospect of a long-term stay in the dreaded Sandbox.

It’s rare that I post about SEO. There are two reasons for this:

  • SEO requires more management than my paid traffic campaigns (which earn a lot more money)
  • I believe SEO to be rapidly heading towards extinction.

For those who, like me, rarely stick their heads out of the rabbit hole to see what’s new with the world of SEO, let’s take a look at the disputed intentions of the Panda update.

  • Google wants to reward websites that offer engaging content and a rewarding user experience.
  • Google wants to punish websites that scrape content and leverage thousands of weak backlinks.
  • Google wants to place the responsibility in the user’s hands to determine whether a website deserves to rank well.

Google has always publicly encouraged engaging content, but the algorithm has struggled to match the stated objectives. Panda seems to be changing the game, or at the very least, taking a sincere hack at it.

Naturally this is going to rip a new one for many affiliates, especially those who use SEO as their primary means of driving traffic.

SEOMoz has an excellent article explaining the likely repercussions of Panda. The overwhelming message is that SEO…isn’t really SEO anymore. The easiest way to game the system is to actually play along with the system.

If ranking well becomes a question of designing engaging websites where the user is left with a positive feeling, a sense that he hasn’t been shafted by Johnny Rogue Affiliate on a commission crusade, then surely the SEO professionals of the future will be forced to prioritise their work around the shit that truly matters – satisfaction in the eye of the end user, rather than an algorithm and it’s thousand loopholes.

I have long seen SEO as an inefficient middleman between excellent content and the interested readers who would want to find it. My own sites have generally responded well to the Panda updates, which is encouraging given that I spend about 2.4% of my working day giving a damn about SEO.

If the most important factors for high rankings finally shift towards user-engagement measurements, then isn’t it time SEOs changed their job titles? Wouldn’t it be ironic if after optimising for local SEO terms, they had to rebuild from scratch as UEOs? I can see a growing demand for User Engagement Optimisers…get the domains ordered, guys!

Likewise, if Google wants to reward brand-driven websites where little thought is given to keyword phrase density and second tier backlinks, then I’d happily invite the Panda in to my home for tea and biscuits. Fuck it, I’d even scrub up nice for the occasion.

I am as clueless on the next move as everybody else, but I would guess that Google will be using engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time on site, return visits and a whole host of social sharing monitors to weigh up relevance. It wouldn’t surprise me in the future if Google took one look at your Analytics, smelt the bullshit, and didn’t even bother to count the backlinks.

Ultimately, nobody can say for sure what the true scale of the Panda changes are. It’s too early to measure the ranking fluctuations with any conviction. But what matters is the intention. Google is clearly taking a stand against the webmasters who blast thousands of blog comments and 500 word articles in their attempt to fake relevance.

It would be very rich of an anti-SEO blogger such as myself to hand out SEO advice to those who have based their professional careers around the craft, but I’m going to do it anyway.


Assume that Google had a blackout and no longer existed, how would you get customers to your site? If the answer is “By shifting my focus towards Bing and Yahoo”, you’re doing it wrong!

Recommended This Week

  • If you’re not already registered on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny

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  • If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Feel free to add Finch to your Facebook. Yes, this is the right link. My real name is not actually Finch. Also follow me on Twitter Love you long time. Thanks for reading.

1 Deadly Trick That Converts (Even On Affiliates)

When I chose my apartment in Bangkok, I unwittingly engaged in a sales process that has been tried and tested through the annals of time to produce enormous results.

Estate agents are masters of the art and will spare no blushes in the execution, even if you’re smart enough to know exactly what’s going on around you.

Here’s the situation. It’s 9am in the morning and the estate agent has arrived at your hotel. She tells you she has a few properties to view, and you eagerly jump in the back of her car to get started.

The first property is an absolute dump. Situated in the middle of no man’s land, no aircon, no transport connections and for the estate agent, no hope of a conversion. Of course, I play along nicely and express that it’d make a great home…for the right Thai family. Did she really think she could get me to a sign a contract for the exact property I wasn’t looking for? No, she didn’t, but she knew it would butter me up for what was to follow.

I vividly remember cruising from property to property, the specifications marginally improving to match my needs with each visit. By the end of the day, my girlfriend and I were exhausted and ready to retreat to our hotel room to mull over the options.

But wait! There’s one more place I’d like you to see… I think it might suit what you’re looking for.

Lo and behold, she hits us with the single best matching property of the day so far, and we’re both convinced that it’s right for our needs. The perfect size, all the aircon we could guzzle, fantastic sweeping views of Bangkok and a snooker table. A motherfucking snooker table. How did she know I’d fall in love at first sight with my own snooker table?

Maybe it had something to do with the email I’d sent a week ago casually stating what I’d really love in a dream apartment.

This leaves you to ask the question: Was she intentionally wasting my time with a bunch of crappy or “good, but just not quite there” properties? Or was it a fantastically executed tour-de-force of how to setup and nail a conversion?

No prizes for the right answer. Estate agents deal with people like me every day, and get many more opportunities to study the human behaviour than I do to prepare for the exploitation of it. I would tip my hat to her if I had one. It’s simply one of the most effective sales techniques in the book.

Use the power of contrast to create indecision and uncertainty based on the information you already have, before unleashing the ultimate solution that goes above and beyond all that came before. As long as your subject is suitably torn up to that point, there really is little he can do to fight the tactic. Besides, he’s getting what he wanted. Why put up a fight?

Okay, so how can we apply this art of contrasting to boost our affiliate campaigns?

The one commodity an estate agent has that an affiliate marketer rarely gets to exploit is time. While I was being driven around a city I had lived in for just 3 days in the back of somebody else’s car, an affiliate marketer has little “holding rights” over the subject. We have so many options to not listen to a sales pitch (exit the page, browse another tab, get distracted by our balls) that retaining attention becomes the most important stage of the process.

If we go back in time 18 months, you will recall a sweeping craze that involved dual-selling affiliate offers on the same page. Hey, if the reader is happy to buy an acai supplement for $39.95/month, why not hit them with an additional colon cleanse kit for $19.95/month? The upsell seems artificially cheaper after the customer has already invested in a more expensive item. Another valuable asset of contrasting.

Take one look at the GoDaddy checkout process to see the bastard child of Upsell in all his gory detail. Fuck you, GoDaddy. I only wanted a domain and now I’m sitting on 4 dedicated servers, an SSL certificate and enough Adwords vouchers to run my own charity. What part of No Thanks did you not understand?!

Even if we don’t intend to sell two items, it’s possible to sacrifice one as a way of accentuating the most attractive qualities in the item we do want to sell.

How many Plentyoffish members have heard of Match.com? My guess would be pretty much all of them. You can very easily throw up a landing page on POF that attempts to “sell” some basic and uninspiring benefits of joining Match. It’s not going to create much of a stir, but it does one thing very well. It butters up the reader for a more attractive proposition.

So when you hit them further down the page with a largely unknown, new and exciting dating offer, that offers a niche angle relevant to their needs (targeting a Divorced demographic with a Divorce niche offer, for example), you leverage the power of contrast to create a much greater incentive in the reader’s eyes. It’s very subtle, but super effective when executed well.

Dating is just one vertical of many that can be exploited in this way. My favourite angle is to develop the classic long sales pitch – notorious for shilling Clickbank products – only to give away something 100% free at the end. Gaming registrations, downloads, even zip submits if you can get the traffic cheaply enough.

Conversion rates soar in to the sky, particularly if you nail a demographic that is already keyed in to how these long sales letters are typically used.

One of the most effective landing pages I ever built was a flog that promoted $3 job search leads. It was ridiculously profitable because it leveraged the expected extravagance of a flog’s claims, and then gave away something for free when the user wasn’t expecting it. I drew my own conclusions that most of the success was actually down to the contrast from what other affiliates were doing.

Whatever the reason, a little contrast can go a long way. Take a lesson from the estate agents of the world!

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Man, Laptop And World: How To Travel Efficiently

Over the last seven months, I feel like I’ve spent more time logging in to hotel Wifi systems than I have in my own office. When you make the decision to travel, whilst working on the move, efficiency becomes a major issue. How can you get the most out of your time, while severing many of those hours in pursuit of greater thrills?

I recommend travelling to anybody who has the chance. If your business is self-managed, it makes little sense to constrain your time and freedom to a single city, especially if you already know that city inside out. Many people cite the influence of outside factors for not being able to travel.

“The wife won’t let me…”
“The kids are too much work…”
“I’m tied in to a rental contract…”

Admittedly, those with less ties than myself have more problems to solve before they can take off around the world, but none of the factors are hammer blows to the idea. They just take a greater leap of faith and/or commitment to overcome.

If you’re stuck between indecision and lack of information, here are a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Travel as lightly as possible.

If you are a notorious hoarder of junk, traveling is an excellent excuse to throw out the crap that’s being cluttering your garage for so long. When I moved to Thailand, I completely overestimated how many clothes I would need, and indeed what type of clothes I would need. Sticky heat-trapping shirts barely cool enough for the English winter? Definitely not going to be needed in Bangkok. Did I bring them anyway? Of course I did.

It’s tempting to fit a lifetime’s accumulation of crap in to your suitcase, but ask yourself one question. Is this so important that I can’t buy a replacement while I’m away? The answer to most items will be no. Traveling light makes moving around much easier, not to mention saving you many many pesos in excess baggage charges.

2. Hotel Wifi has a recurring tendency to suck balls.

I’ve learnt that if I don’t do research beforehand, fate will typically conspire to hand me a shitty hotel Internet connection. Working from a laptop instead of a dual screen Mac took some adjusting. Working from a laptop on 56K dial-up speeds merited a full blooded sucker punch to the balls. If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure the Wifi is good and included free of charge. Or risk paying £30 for a few hours of patchy usage at somewhere like Novotel Rim Pae. Screw you, Novotel.

3. Don’t stay in flash, rich, luxurious hotels.

Wifi is worth investing in if you’re running a business from your laptop. But I’ve never understood the craze behind booking hotels for $500/night. Ultimately, a bed is a bed. Unless you plan on doing something other than sleeping in it, why pay through the nose for something that rarely gives you a true taste of the place you’re visiting? Overpaying is considered by many to be a macho display of ballin’. Invariably, traveling with set requirements of the pampered existence you need to get to sleep at night defeats the bloody purpose of traveling at all.

4. Learn the language.

My biggest regret as I move on from Thailand. It’s difficult to truly appreciate a culture if the standard conversation leaves you scratching your head and whipping up Rosetta Stone on the smartphone. Learning a few basic phrases is a must, while learning conversational basics will give you a much better understanding of what’s happening around you. Not to mention, a whole new world of local prices become accessible once you display a better grasp of the native vocab than a regular tourist.

5. Dropbox.

Dropbox is the new rage. Okay, to most people, it’s yesterday’s new rage. I was slow to jump on the bandwagon, but I’m glad that I did. By using Dropbox, you can afford to pull a Tim Ferriss. Sod off the face of the Earth completely, leave your laptop behind and restrict work to bursts of activity in an Internet Cafe just outside the Angolan Jungle. Dropbox gives you access to your important files anywhere, synchronizing them across devices and affording you the title of Digital Nomad.

6. Use time differences to your advantage.

Initially, I was concerned about the time difference when I first moved to Asia. Companies and reps based in the UK, Canada and America would still be asleep while I was busy with work. What if I needed to talk to them? It didn’t take long for me to figure that this was a great blessing in disguise. Zero distractions and zero interruptions. By the time those in America had woken up and replied to my emails, I would be happily relaxing and unwinding in the sun.

7. Have back-up support in place.

When you’re traveling, even with laptop in tow, it brings peace of mind to have somebody ready and waiting to act on any emergencies. I hired a Virtual Assistant from EasyOutsource.com, which is by far my favourite place to recruit cheap but talented labour.

You can have all your mundane tasks handled by a full-time VA for as little as $250/month, although I would recommend you invest a little more for quality’s sake. It’s also better to hire a combined workforce rather than a single employee. An individual is just as prone to “sick days” at inconvenient times as you were back in the day job. Hiring a team removes this worry.

8. Reduce any unwanted papermail before leaving.

In the UK, I use the Royal Mail’s redirection service to have my post sent to family while I’m away. If it’s important, I’ll have them send it on for me. This costs £8/month for domestic redirection and up to £30/month to have mail routed overseas. It’s a good idea to deselect paper statements from your online credit and store card accounts. Who needs to be reminded of yesterday’s vanity purchases, anyway?

For tax purposes, I have any important documents from HRMC sent to my Thai based address. This is easy to do by updating your current profile after receiving the Government Gateway ID. For everything else, I don’t stress. If it’s important, I’m sure the sender will find a better way of contacting me.

9. Tell your bank and credit card issuers where you’re traveling.

Very important and the source of much frustration while I’ve been attempting to use ATMs overseas. Fraud detectors are sent in to a frenzy if you withdraw £500 from a Cambodian street market. Your bank will routinely cancel payments and refuse to process ATM withdrawals if you don’t make it clear over the phone that you will be traveling to a particular region on a certain date.

For this reason alone, I chose to open an HSBC Advance account before moving to Asia. They have a strong presence abroad and it’s reassuring to be able to walk in to a branch that knows your name if you have any problems.

Recommended This Week:

  • If you’re not already registered on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny

  • Help a virginal Finch. Subscribe to my new FinchSells RSS feed. And if you don’t already follow me, add FinchSells to your Twitter.

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