The (Malevolent) Genius of Google Adsense

When I started blogging at this site, I threw in a Google Adsense ad basically to fill up a column.  That was a year ago.  Today, on a whim, I decided to check out my earnings.  As you’d probably expect, I have about enough in the account to buy an 18 pack of domestic beer.  

Luckily, I like domestic beer.

So I figured, I might as well take the payout.  Why leave it with Google?

They had an answer for that question: we do not pay out until you have earned over $100.00.  That is exactly where the genius of this program lies…how many people end up providing free advertising to them because they never manage to cross the payout threshold? 

You see, Google has it all figured.  They think about Adsense (and probably everything) with a very simple premise:  Take lots of pennies everywhere and it will add up to something big.   Hence the payout threshold is higher than with similar products, and the cpc rates are a little lower.  

Am I shocked? No.  I’ve heard grumbling for years.  Google Adsense is the bottom rung for web advertising, with virtually no barrier to entry.  

So after a year, no payout for me.  Google you owe me a beer…actually an 18 pack.

Google Social Toolbar

I’m ready to vent here.  Are we, as community builders, becoming so lazy that we don’t want to take the time to build in the social media features we want for our sites, the way we want them?  Do we really need to have Google package them up and provide them for us, the way they want them?

Two days ago, Google announced they were releasing the Google Social Toolbar, which is really a misnomer, as it isn’t really a toolbar at all, rather it’s a toolpack that site owners can embed in their sites.  From Techcrunch:

Basically, the social bar is a small strip that webmasters can layer on top of any web page, either at the top or at the bottom. That way, website visitors are provided with a bit of information, and the bar also lets them interact with any social feature the site incorporates through drop-down gadgets. As Software Engineer Christopher Wren explains in the announcement blog post, this is a good way to save on pixel space and keep putting the actual content of the site forward first.

The Google Social Web blog explains:

  • On the far left, visitors can join your site, see their identity, and edit their profiles and settings.
  • Your visitors can also delve into your site’s activity stream to see what’s happening throughout your site. It includes links to recent posts made anywhere on your site, helping other visitors quickly find where the hottest conversations are taking place.
  • The wall gadget can host a discussion for the whole site, a section of pages, or each individual page, letting your visitors easily read and leave comments.
  • Lastly, visitors can see the other members of your site, check out their profiles to see how like-minded they really are, and even become friends.

These are for the most part functions that you should have addressed on your site by proper design (have I not told you that social media is an important tool in your toolbox?).  Why would you want discussion about your site going on at another site, where the readers are seeing ads from which you do not profit?  If discussion is needed on your site, add it, but for God’s sake don’t hand that traffic and it’s revenue over to Google for free.

We are looking for good value adds for our sites, such as the ability to share content ala Facebook Connect.  What we don’t need is a convenient way to off load our revenue generating traffic.

If you’re going to build and manage a site, then do it.  If you want Google to do it for you, then don’t come running to me when you want to “monetize it”.

Google Kills 6 Services

Google announced late last week that they were killing 6 of their services, Dodgeball, Google Catalog Search, Google Mashup Editor, Google Notebook, Jaiku, and Google Video.  Additionally, the Jaiku service is going to be an open source project from here on out.

From Informationweek:

In addition to Google’s announcements about the elimination of 100 recruiting positions and the shutdown of offices in Austin, Texas; Trondheim, Norway; and Lulea, Sweden, the company said it would close Dodgeball, Google Catalog Search, Google Mashup Editor, Google Notebook, and Jaiku. It also said it’s discontinuing the ability to upload videos to Google Video.

Okay, Google isn’t infallible.  Most of this makes sense, certainly the moves to eliminate redundant development paths such as with Mashup Editor and without question Google Video, which should have shutdown within weeks of the YouTube purchase years ago.

Still, I question stopping development on Google Notepad (it will remain available for the foreseeable future) which was a useful project that isn’t redundant and is in fact, quite unique.  I suspect that little development projects won’t be the future for Google.  The question we then ask is what do we lose?  Will we ever see the benefit of the Google 20% development projects again?  Indeed, do we really expect the 20% development rule will still be in effect?  I think not…

How Technorati Gave Away Their Special Sauce

I used to use Technorati to find compelling blog posts to share and comments.  It was rather convenient to be able to go to one spot and find out what people were saying in blogs around the globe and to easily search.  One of the most compelling features, for me, was that it was an application designed with blogs only in mind.

This morning I was looking a set of compelling blog posts on the anniversary of 9/11.  So I fired up my Google Chrome browser and headed over to Techorati.  Strangely, the homepage was infested with non-blog newsources such as, time,com, etc.  The ration of mainstream media to blog posts on the homepage was around 3 to 1, with blogs drawing the short stick.

So I did a search on my topic, and once again, tons of mainstream media results, although they were at least clearly identified, once again my results bore lots of topics from big media.

Part of the problem is that lots of big media is now using blogs as a part of the content strategy.  The New York Times is blogging using WordPress MU and many other papers and news channels are as well.  Hence they get submitted along with the rest of the unwashed masses.  And since they’re big media with big readership, they jump to the top of the authority heap. Authority is one of the measures that Technorati uses to rate your blog – in my case, an authority of 9, which used to be 40+ when I blogged at Vario, and a rating of 705,000 or so, vs. the Vario rating somewhere under 100,000k when I was active there.

I guess blogging has come to the big time and media’s realized it finally.  I just wonder if there’s going to be any room for the rest of us when all is said and done.


Technorati. Old Tools Don’t Die. They Gather Dust.  – Global Neighbourhoods

What’s wrong with Technorati – Neville Hobson

Technorati and Me – Thornley Fallis

Top Ten List of Apple IPhone Apps used by Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton while they were Eaten By Sharks

Traffic stats – the red headed step child of statistics, damned lies cloaked inside a slathering of untruth and then wrapped in that un-Godliest of file formats, xls and used to bludgeon all that is sane and rational out of your web strategy.  This is the stuff that reduces grown webmasters, those mastadonian throwbacks of an earlier tech era, to tears, and enables the airline magazine reading, conference attending execs to think they actually have a handle on what’s happening.

The truth is that the only true measure is cash.  The cold, hard green stuff, the only thing that slays the monthly mortgage beast, or allows us to consume fossil fuels with reckless abandon.

Now the stats for this blog have got me completely befuddled.  Yes, I can see what is happening, and I see that all too clearly.  The problem is that I have little notion of how I should react.

From the top:

  • I notice from from MyBlogLog Stats that I’m getting 300 or so readers a week, up from 50 or so a couple months ago.  Google confirms this.
  • The primary referer for those users is Google Images, specifically if you search for “sharks” which will show an image from one of my posts from June in the #2 spot.
  • My “One and Done” rate is (the site bounce rate) is threw the roof.  I have lots of traffic that simply isn’t engaged.  They’re coming to the wrong site and leaving.
  • That image is in danger of being hot linked all over the web.  Google images is the place people generally go to find image for use on their blog, and frankly, it’s where I found the image in the first place.  I am worried someone will live link, and I’ll end up getting a huge bill for bandwidth (this site is setup to withstand a visit to the Digg homepage or slashdotting).

Eugene and Tom, tell me I should be flattered.  I’m not so sure.  Perhaps it’s experience, perhaps its just my inbred belief that things tend to go from bad to worse, not good to better.  So what are my options:

  • Do nothing – my wife’s beliefs aside, this is not my strong point.  I hate inaction…
  • Throw in an htaccess rule protecting the images, then sending an adverisement for my site to anyone who links live.  Nice idea, but frankly it’s hypocritical.  I live link…a lot.  I know it’s bad, but darn it, I like having images.
  • Go with Tom’s suggestion: start doing more shark content.  Darn it, if they’re coming for sharks, then sharks they’ll get.  I guess this is a good one, except for the fact that I have little access to shark content.  Even though I once was almost shark food…and wear a mako shark tooth around my neck, and have a set of mako jaws on my wall above this very computer, that was caught on my boat while I was captaining, by my father.
  • Delete the image and wait for it to drop from Google.

Sadly, here is what I see:

  • Writing about sharks = actually making something out of this blog.
  • Writing about Social Media = sending lots of smoke up the chimney, and getting readers who’d never, in a million years, click on an advertisement
  • Writing about the Death of Print Media = talking to myself – its a dead issue, and no one is reading my posts about it anymore.

I guess if I really thought I wanted to monetize this blog, I’d start writing posts like “Top Ten List of Apple IPhone Apps used by Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton while they were Eaten By Sharks.”  Then wait for the diggs to roll in…

That, I think I might be able to do…and for the record, I miss the days when I used to get paid to write stuff like this (and paid well, I might add…)

Epic Post – How to Monitor Social Media for Free

Okay, we all know that social networks are out there and that we should be making use of them.  But how do you monitor what’s going on in the vast ecosystem of Twitterverses, MySpaceDoms and FacebookVilles?

David Churbuck has been doing just that for Lenovo for the past two years and he’s sharing the lessons learned in this post: “Try to Detect It” which I consider a must read for any web marketing pro or business owner/senior manager.

Free: yup. It costs nothing to detect the chatter about your company. There are two solid solutions for blog search – perhaps you’ve heard of Google? Thought so. Google Blog search is a good thing. And then there is Technorati, which sort of defined the space. Both are great tools, but you can automate searches of specific keywords and phrases and then syndicate those searches as RSS feeds out into a blog reader such as Bloglines or (in my case) Google Reader. Then you just need to remember to scan the blog reader a couple times every day.

The best part is that it’s true, unlike so many “Free’ claims.  You can measure a lot of this stuff in some very novel ways.  I’ve been doing some of this back channel to detect mentions of some new sites I’ve just launched and it works.  Plus it’s always great to walk into a meeting armed with facts, especially when everyone else is essentially unarmed.

The media landscape has changed, if you hadn’t noticed.  Trade magazines are dinosaurs and if you’re relying on them to tell you what’s going on in your industry, you’re woefully out of touch.  Not only should you be monitoring what’s said on websites, you’ve got to find a way to monitor what’s happening in the social networks like Twitter, when product talk can affect you without your ever knowing it.  If you’re not monitoring, now is the time to start and Churbuck has given you an excellent primer to jump start your efforts.

Local Search Optimization – Your Path to Success

The secrets of local search optimizationI recently rolled out the site and in reviewing the initial search results are very interesting. To begin with, some background.

Power Up Generator’s previous site was a single page, which hadn’t been optimized at all. They didn’t every turn up #1 when you searched on their own name.

My initial survey of the site brought forward a problem for search optimization: they do business across New England. Yet no one searches for “new england” when they look for generator service, parts, sales, etc. They search for the state.

So I was faced really with the chore of optimizing not for a single base keyword set, but 7 variants of that set. Here’s how I answered the challenge:

  1. The pages were handcoded using php and tableless css design to minimize the code on the page. This provides a better keyword density, which is the first and most important thing.
  2. I made full use of the metatags, title and description to echo the important keywords.
  3. H1, H2, bold text are your friends. These identifiers are how search engines find important text, such as your keywords.
  4. Image alt tags – by all means they should describe the photo, but they can also be used to restate your keywords. Instead of “Foobartronics HK236 Johnson Rod” you use “Foobartronics HK236 Johnson Rod – My prime keyword here Products.”

That’s pretty much it. I always load a Google Sitemap and load the site in Google Webmaster Tools, then set up a Google Alert for anyone linking to the site. Then it’s a matter of watching your analytics package and fine tuning.

Not sure it can work? Check this result less than 2 weeks after site go live…

Then try replacing Vermont with any other New England state.

    Humans Search Better

    Who’d have thunk it? An article in Wired Magazine entitled “Algorithms Are Terrific. But to Search Smarter, Find a Person.” notices the growing trend of search firms using real meat-space residents to fine tune their results rather than relying on algorithms. The dirty little secret: algorithms can be gamed while humans are tougher to fool.

    Personally, I’ve been using Mahalo, Jason Calacanis’ new company and I am really liking what I see. The results are pertinent, and spam/splogger free. Give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean.

    The vogue for human curation reflects the growing frustration Net users have with the limits of algorithms. Unhelpful detritus often clutters search results, thanks to online publishers who have learned how to game the system. Users have tired of clicking through to adware-laden splogs posing as legitimate resources. And unless you get your keywords just right, services like Google Alerts spew out either too much relevant content — or not enough.

    Even with armies of paid contributors, however, the curators can’t cover Google-scale territory. They’ve had to make tough choices about resource allocation, opting to focus on topics and sources with the most mainstream appeal. Mahalo, for example, has plenty of curated listings dedicated to videogame cheats or Page Six celebrities, but it defaults to Google search results for topics like UAVs or Russian nesting dolls.

    True, some of my more arcane searches don’t get the results I’d hoped for, but for much or what I need, the spam free goodness is there. Get ahead of the curve and give it a shot.