Saturday, November 22, 2008

Is the Wall Street crunch biting Google? The rest of us were lunch long ago!

As we put the finishing touches to THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE, we've been looking at the price of copies from Amazon and so forth ... and US postage rates ... and the continuing Wall Street slump ... and the recession that's hitting the world like a Mack truck. Customers stopped shopping for luxury goods a while ago, and even online business are suffering. Make no mistake: everyone, everywhere, is touting for business. Even Google itself is starting to make noises to see if they can scare up fresh business!!

A newsletter arrived in one of our mailboxes (don't ask me which) this morning ... from Google Money Pro, or something -- what makes the name stick in my mind is that the acronym is (!) GMP. Which amused me greatly.

The gist of the newsletter was (and it's already been trashed, so I can't copy/paste it and quote directly), "Ever wondered why big-time Internet marketers make money, and you don't? Give us [an undisclosed sum] and we'll sign you up for a course, and show you how to make money out of (whatever; more than likely Adsense when you get right down to cases)."

Literal translation: "Give us $500 (or whatever it turns out to be ... they wouldn't tell you until they had you on a string, and you have to make a TRANS-PACIFIC PHONE CALL to get yourself into this deal) and we'll show you how you can make more money from selling your stuff, and/or the ads you're carrying on your pages."

There are so many problems inherent in this, it hardly bears thinking about. Your money will probably not be refundable, if the scheme doesn't work, because the operative word in the above pitch has three letters. C. A. N. Wait till you try to get a refund; the company lawyer will be swift to tell you, there were no guarantees -- what, you didn't read the fine print?!

Another guru whose newsletter arrived in one of the mailboxes the other day says words along the lines of, "The income will take care of itself, once you have a lot of traffic." The direct statement is very much appreciated! It's how to get the traffic that's got everyone absolutely stumped.

A year ago, the answer was, "Keep it real, keep it keyword rich, get your on-page criteria right, build content, content, content, get some high-quality inbound links, get into the Directories, and leave the rest to Google." This is the SBI! model, and one imagines it worked like a charm in 2006 and 2007. They sell their package for Can$300 per year as a subscription to their services, engines, servers, forums and so forth.

The trouble is, it doesn't work so well these days. You can have sites and blogs with many hundreds of pages of top-notch material, keyword rich, and superbly crafted; and they score 10 visitors a day. In total. Not each. 500 pages of tip-top content, impeccably built ... scoring 10 visitors between them all.

Now, since it takes about 250 page impressions to average a "click" on a Google ad -- for which they pay the publisher something in the regions of maybe 20c (could be 10c, could be 30c ... so long as it's not an ad on a gay-friendly page; those pay 1c or less) ... well, you can see how long it'll take you to get any money out of this. Do you recall an old saying, something about it being less problematical to get blood out of a chunk of rock, or a turnip, or something!

In other words -- bottom line time -- it's all about getting traffic; it's damned hard; nobody really knows how to do it ... though a lot of "gurus" will be happy to take $49.95 from you today, to tell you their "sure fire system" ... and even Google itself is sending out newsletters, trying to scare up some new customers!

Uh ... huh.

As you'll have noticed, we use StatCounter to monitor site traffic, and through their pages we discovered there's also something of a horror story happening behind the scenes. It's something called "click fraud," and it's turned into a billion dollar industry -- absolutely illegal, of course, and thriving in places like Nigeria, Romania, India, Russia. Have a look at this:

It's not just the article itself which is gob-smacking, it's the users' comments which flow on.

For example:
Maya Says: November 6th, 2008 at 1:37 pm
I will take the opportuinity of this post to send my message to Google accounts who disabled my Adsense account recently for invalid clicks without any explanation or warning. After they disabled my Adsense account it occured to me to check my Adwords accounts only to discover that I paid $ thousands for click fraud so I stopped all my ads. I lost 2 months revenue in Adsense and Google would not discuss or tell you why, because as they say, this would help people learn how Google detects click fraud. Let me tell you that any techniques based on IP address and cookies they are using are useless. These things can be reset every second these days and I can give you simple software that can do this. IN FEW WORDS, PAY PER CLICK ADVERTISING DOES NOT WORK ANYMORE.

James Says: November 6th, 2008 at 4:14 pm
My business has been killed by click fraud. I quite a lot of research on the issue and click fraud is big business that is perpetrated by well organised, very sophisticated and determined criminal organisations.
Google has long stopped repeated clicks from the same IP. More likely the clicks are coming from compromised computers (botnets - of which there are millions in the world) or click farms, etc.
To identify click fraud look for spikes in Click through rate and especially Cost Per thousand impressions (CPM). However, these are less useful as indicators as there is now large scale impression fraud (as I say, the people who do this are very sophisticated).
If you find your company being killed (as I did), Google (which profits from click fraud and therefore has no incentive to do anything about it) will do absolutely nothing to help you.
Pay per click is one of the biggest frauds the world has ever seen.

Be warned, there's also an increasing amount of banana oil gathering in the sump below the original article. Some of it, from at least one poster on the Subcontinent, sounds borderline racist, certainly phobic about foreigners with "strange names," and "faraway places" like the US! Certain other commentators are becoming snide and/or idiotic as the discussion goes on, but by and large there's some interesting stuff and the real gist of this is ... PPC is not just a waste of time, it's dangerous too!

In fact, here's an ad that's just started to run ... you want to put money into online advertising, when THIS is going to happen?!!

However, none of this changes the fact that selling product online (wetsuits, meatballs, second hand cars ... gay thrillers!) starts with TRAFFIC, and these days the old traffic-generation models don't seem to work anymore.

Keep it real, with rich with keywords. Have hundreds of pages, all of the optimized to be irresistible to the search engines. Get good-quality inbound links. Be in the directories.

Right now, there's a chorus of voices being raised around the world: "Done and done. Where's the traffic?" Because the model was followed to the letter, and you're still scoring five visitors!

The chances are, it's all down to a handful of statistics. Bear with me...

There are more webpages than there are people on this planet -- not counting blog posts; but since blog posts feature in Google searches, you'd have to say there are probably three pages for every person on the planet. Google searches offer 10 results per page. The average surfer apparently only looks at PAGE ONE. The exceptional surfer (say, yours truly) looks at the top 3-5. The "get your site onto Google Page One" models have now been touted for years, and SBI! alone claims over 100,000 happy customers. So, there are probably about ten million people worldwide, working on the same system of "reality, keywords, content, impeccable on-page criteria, inbound links, Directory listings."

Fair go, guys: they can't all win. Lately, you probably have about 100 sites about -- for example -- the French language, all of them meeting the Google search criteria to a perfect tee. They'd fill the TOP TEN pages -- but the specialists insist that average surfer only looks at page one. And the first page is almost certainly going to be dominated by 1) Wiki, 2) Bookstores selling how-to books, 3) colleges offering courses for a grand a pop.

Fine, if you're a bookstore or a college ... but subsequent pages will be full of MORE colleges and MORE bookstores ... and somewhere about page 15 or 20, the incredibly exceptional surfer would get down to the personal pages that s/he really wanted, pages which have a lot to say without asking for money right off the bat ... sites which offer something as a trade: you give me your time, I'll give you my info -- and if you wanna click on an ad while you're in my neck of the woods, well, that would be lovely!

It's all about traffic ... and for sites which don't form an interface for a major online book dealer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, whatever, wherever), or a college, the website publisher is more than likely fighting an uphill battle which the existing traffic-generation models can't win -- not because they're not sound ideas: they are! But too many people have bought into the system, and they can't all win. If Google gives 10 results per page, and there are 100 "winners," all of whom followed the cookbook instructions perfectly ...

The field is open, right now, for The Next Monster Idea. The guy (or gal) who can figure out how to direct traffic will make a gajillion dollars.

Um ... anyone got any ideas?!

Ciao for now,

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