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Conversations with an Underground Text Link Seller

Since Google have cracked down on the selling of text link ads on blogs text link selling has gone underground (as I wrote back in October last year).

One example of this is the semi regular request that I get from text link sellers offering to buy in post text links on single posts on my blogs. Over the last week or so I had an exchange with one such text link seller and thought I’d share it for a few reasons:

1. to highlight the tactic

2. to show the persistence of those selling these links

3. to give those of you considering selling links in this way a tip – play hard to get and hang out for a higher offer

4. while it’s a frustrating exchange at times it was almost comical and I thought others might appreciate a giggle

Before I share the emails – I should say that I get these requests at least every second week and they almost always go in a similar fashion to this conversation. As a result I’m getting more and more blunt in my responses.

I should also say that I choose not to participate in this activity mainly because I don’t want to put paid, non disclosed links in my posts as I think it compromises my content. I’ve written more about why I reject this type of offer at the end of this post. That’s my personal stance on it but I’m interested in yours.

Here’s the email exchange:

======

Hi,

I am interested in placing paragraphs on your web site http://www.problogger.net only on internal pages (not on home page) . Please let me know if you are interested then we will discuss more in detail. I can offer you best to make it worth your time.

Thanks

Shawn

======

sorry but I don’t do this type of thing

Darren

======

Thank for your reply but I am going to send you proposal may be you influence by my offer.

I am interested in placing paragraphs on specific pages. An example of this can been seen at bottom of

http://www.lindseywebdesign.com/

Below the “small business webmaster design tips”

another example

http://www.fingersdontfing.com/

below the blog post.

The paragraph will be custom written to match the content of your website and you will have the right to edit anything. The text links will go to non spam and related websites.

However, since these links are on specific pages. I would be paying only one time fees and the paragraphs will stay permanent i-e as long as the page stays however, I would be purchasing many of these and it would be a good amount.

Let me know if you are interested and I am going to offer you the following price for the specific pages.

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/02/05/what-is-a-blog/ – $150

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/14/blogging-for-beginners-2/ – $150

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/04/02/blogging-is-about-writing/ – $150

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/05/07/top-5-group-writing-project/ – $150

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/01/06/about-darren/ – $150

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/06/27/a-z-of-professional-blogging/ – $150

This will brings the total of USD 900

If you place my all paragraphs on your pages i will give you 1000$(100$ bonus).

PS: Please send me your paypal ID or any other?

Kind regards

Shawn

=====

sorry but I’m not interested

Darren

=====

I can give you $200 per page

Shawn

=====

I’m sorry but I don’t do this type of advertising – it compromises the quality of my content to have you insert paragraphs of information to my posts.

Darren

=====

you can write my paragraph by yourself

and I can give you $225 per page per paragraph

let me know if you are interested

Have you nice day

Kind regards

Shawn

=====

thanks for the offer shawn but I just don’t do text link ads.

Sorry – it’s just not something that I do

Darren

=====

Thanks for your time

I can give you $250 per page per paragraph if you are interested.

Have you any other website where you can easily place my paragraphs

Kind regards

Shawn

=====

sorry shawn but I’m not interested.

Darren

=====

how much you want for per page?

Shawn

=====

I try a new Tactic

At this point I decided to try ignoring him. I thought it had worked because for just over a week I had no more emails. I rejoiced! But then…..

=====

Hi,

I am interested in placing paragraphs on specific pages not on home page (only on internal pages). An example of this can been seen at bottom of

http://www.lindseywebdesign.com

Below the “small business webmaster design tips”

another example

http://www.fingersdontfing.com

below the blog post.

The paragraph will be custom written to match the content of your website and you will have the right to edit anything. The text links will go to non spam and related websites.

However, since these links are on specific pages. I would be paying only one time fees and the paragraphs will stay permanent i-e as long as the page stays however, I would be purchasing many of these and it would be a good amount.

Let me know if you are interested and I am going to offer you the following price for the specific pages.

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/02/05/what-is-a-blog/ – $200

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/14/blogging-for-beginners-2/ – $200

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/04/02/blogging-is-about-writing/ – $200

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/05/07/top-5-group-writing-project/ – $200

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/01/06/about-darren/ – $200

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/06/27/a-z-of-professional-blogging/ – $200

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/08/15/search-engine-optimization-for-blogs/ – $200

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/12/06/how-bloggers-make-money-from-blogs/ $200

This will brings the total of USD 1600

If you place my all paragraphs on your pages i will give you $1700($100 bonus).

If you agree then please send me your paypal ID or any other?

Kind regards

Shawn

=====

Hi Shawn

we had a full email conversation about this last week. We sent emails back and forth. The conversation was me saying I’m not interested and you upping your offers.

I’m still not interested in doing this. I have a website in which I pride myself on providing genuine and transparent advice. I don’t take money to link to sites as text ads.

Darren

=====

Thanks

you can write my paragraphs by yourself according to your page content only place my link.

I am again up my price to $250 per page per paragraph, a paragraph contain 4-5 links

If you have any question please ask

Kind regards

Shawn

=====

I’m not interested.

Darren

=====

$300 per page per paragraph

You have to right to cancel my any link if you don’t like anyone.

Shawn

=====

No thanks – I’m not interested

Darren

=====

last and final price

$400 per page per paragraph

Shawn

=====

do you promise that this is the last one?

In that case – no – I’m not interested.

Darren

Why I Wasn’t Tempted

This ‘last’ message was just an hour or two ago – so whether it’s truly over I’m not sure (I certainly hope so, it’s been distracting). It’s certainly been an interesting ride though – he went from $150 per paragraph to $400 a paragraph. While this sounds a lot I wasn’t even tempted for a few reasons:

  • For starters it’s too risky. The examples that he gave of what he’d done show ‘paragraphs’ that to me obviously didn’t ‘fit’ on the pages. They stuck out like a sore thumb to anyone looking at them.
  • Secondly it’s too cheap. $400 for a paragraph with 4-5 links in it makes it $80-$100 a link. This isn’t a monthly payment – it’s a one off for an indefinite period. Text links on pages with page ranks as high as the ones he’s targeting go for a lot more than this kind of rate when you consider that they often pay per month. Over time his $80-$100 a link is nothing at all.
  • Thirdly it compromises the quality of my content. Even with the offer to write the paragraphs myself I’m not willing to link to sites that could have a dubious quality. This kind of thing can impact you on numerous fronts – SEO for one and reader experience for another. The sites you link to impact not only your bank balance but potentially your reputation.

But again – that’s just my thoughts on this – what do you think?

Update

But wait there’s more…. just now I got this email:

=====

How much you are willing for per page?

Shawn

=====

$10,000

Darren

=====

Lets hope that ends it :-)

Update 2

one more email from my ‘friend’:

oh

i cant give you that price per page

anyway thanks you give me time

Have you nice day

Kind regards

shawn

Keyword Research for Bloggers

CopyBlogger has a fantastic five part tutorial on keyword research for bloggers. Really valuable stuff from Brian as usual.

Write a Guest Post For ProBlogger

update – I now have enough offers to write posts and am closing off applications. If you have already submitted your name and have heard back from me with login detail then you’re free to submit your post but unfortunately for others I can’t take any more as 100 people have already applied. Thanks to everyone for participating.

Over the next month I will be traveling quite a bit (first a short break with my family and then I’m off to SXSW). While I’m gone I would like to feature both some of my own posts (written in advance) as well as some high quality guest posts from the wider ProBlogger readership.

If you have a blog tips that you’d like to share with ProBlogger readers then I’d like to invite you to submit it using the process outlined below.

A Word of Warning

Let me say right up front that I will not be able to use everyone’s posts. Any time that I’ve done something like this I have been inundated with submissions and I fully expect to only to be able to use 10-15 submissions. I don’t say that to discourage you – but to attempt to get some realistic expectations.

What am I looking for?

  • I’m looking for practical blog tips on any aspect of blogging (writing content, advertising, finding readers, affiliate programs, design, blog tools, SEO etc). Basically anything you’ve seen me cover before in terms of topic is fair game.
  • I am looking for posts of any length – as long as they’re helpful to readers I don’t mind if they are long or short
  • I’m not looking for posts from web celebrities – just quality content
  • I’m not looking for posts with lots of self promotion. You’re welcome to mention what you do and will have a byline link but let your quality content promote you.
  • I’m looking for content not published elsewhere – not because I’m wanting to keep all the good stuff for myself but because of issues of duplicate content. Feel free to post on the same topic elsewhere – but it needs to be in an original form.

How to Submit Your Tip

The way I’m going to run this is to set up a WordPress.com blog. If you’d like to participate I’ll ask you to submit your tip on that blog. Posts will be stored as drafts and not go public until I select those that I wish to publish and I’ll then transfer them to ProBlogger.net. Here’s how to participate:

  • To participate you must signup as a WordPress.com user before applying. Get your WP account here.
  • If you’d like to participate you need to email me with GUESTPOST as the subject line to (EMAIL ADDRESSED REMOVED AS SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW CLOSED)
  • In that email you need to tell me the email address that you used to register as a WP.com user.
  • I’ll then create a user account for you and you can enter your submission as a post in the blog. I’ll be looking for the best quality posts as well as posts in a format that I can use (ie include as much html formatting as possible).

You can express your interest and send me your WP login details for the next 24 hours or so but after that I’ll have to close things off. Once you’ve sent your login details I’ll email you with further information on how to submit your post.

My hope is that this process will highlight some great new voices, teach us all a lot and help improve ProBlogger. I’ll try to use as many submissions as I can but again cannot guarantee to use everyone’s so please don’t be offended if I don’t select yours.

update – I now have enough offers to write posts and am closing off applications. If you have already submitted your name and have heard back from me with login detail then you’re free to submit your post but unfortunately for others I can’t take any more as 100 people have already applied. Thanks to everyone for participating.

Call with Yanik Silver and 4 Web Entrepreneurs (and Me) – 20 Feb!

Last year I was fortunate enough to be invited by the web-famous internet marketer Yanik Silver to speak about blogging for money at his Underground Seminar (there’s another one coming up at the end of March) It was an amazing week which taught me so much about internet marketing.

Since that time Yanik and I have kept in touch and he asked me to write a guest chapter in a book with him an a number of other web entrepreneurs. The result is Moonlighting on the Internet which hit stores this week. It’s not a book about blogging for money – but rather is a broader introduction to a number of ways of making money online including blogging (as well as ebay, info products and more). The point of the book isn’t to show people how to get rich quick but how to add smaller but significant income to your online ventures.

As part of the launch of the book Yanik is doing a call on 20th Feb at 8pm EST (short notice I know) with myself and the other co-authors. You can register for this call at this registration page. It’s a free and live call and one I’m looking forward to.

The thing I love about interacting with Yanik is that he comes at blogging from a completely different perspective to me (and his questions usually reflect it). He’s been incredibly successful in the internet marketing game (I’m talking VERY successful) and while there might be things about internet marketing that do clash a little with blogging there’s a lot that can be learned from these types of conversations.

Chris Garrett and Darren Rowse Talk Blogging

Got a spare hour (55.24 minutes to be exact)? No me either – but if you want something to listen to today while you blog you might like to listen to a podcast interview that Chris Garrett did with me a couple of days back – The Story of the ProBlogger – Darren Rowse. Towards the end of it I even announce a small new ‘project’ that I’ve been working on for the last five months that is going to be ‘released’ at the start of June.

Delicious Popular Page Posts Analyzed

Today I spent a little time looking at the popular page on delicious. Here’s a few of my scribbled notes looking at the headings (click to enlarge a little).

Delicious-Popular-Analysis

I find doing this type of analysis quite inspiring as I think about the type of posts and construction of titles that I might do in coming days.

Lessons from Tower Defense on How to Reinvent Your Blog

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein*

Defence-TowerTangent – I’m not really into gaming (online or offline) but I do have one weakness – Tower Defense (warning – following that link could grind your blogging to a halt for a great deal of time).

I am no expert at this game but I enjoy the challenge that it brings.

Last night I was playing Tower Defense and just couldn’t get past a certain level (towards the end of ‘hard’). At around midnight (I told you this game is addictive) I looked back at the last hour or so of playing and realized that I was insane (at least according to Albert Einstein) – I’d been playing the game over and over again in much the same way (setting up my towers in much the same pattern each time). Of course I got much the same results each time.

It wasn’t until I radically changed my approach that I finally progressed through the level that I’d been stuck on.

Einstein’s definition of insanity can apply to many activities in life – one of which is blogging.

Have you Hit a Brick Wall With Your Blogging?

One of the questions that I ask bloggers hitting brick walls with their blogs is how long ago they tried something completely out of the box on their blogs? What I find is that in most cases those that I ask reflect back on their last 6-12 months of blogging and realize that they’ve been stuck in a rut and doing the same sorts of posts over and over again, looking to promote their blog in the same places over and over again and really not straying far from a pattern of blogging which is proved to be unsuccessful.

I’m not arguing that bloggers need to make every post that they write completely random or out of the box – but if your blog is stuck in a rut perhaps it’s time to do something unexpected or different.

  • One place to start is look at your style and voice of posting. Check out these 20 types of blog posts and pick one that you’ve not done before (or ever).
  • Another thing to do is to spend some time reading, commenting and interacting on blogs, forums and social media sites outside of your normal surfing routine.
  • Why not pitch a story that you’ve written to a blogger that you’ve had no contact with before?
  • Another suggestion is to write a post that is slightly off topic – on topic related to your blog but something that surprises your regular readers a little.
  • How about writing a post for someone else’s blog instead of your own – a guest post?
  • What about writing a post pitched at a different level than normal? If you normally write advanced posts, write something simple for beginners or if you’re usually writing for beginners try a more advanced post.

* This quote has been attributed to numerous people. Albert Einstain, Benjamin Franklin and also Rita Mae Brown.

Top 5 Recommendations for MarketMe.com

It’s time to summarize and consolidate over 10,000 words worth of advice and suggestions given to MarketMe.com as part of our community consultation program. While there’s a great depth of knowledge to be mined from the comments on the launch post, I want to highlight the top five most common recommendations here.

Before we start, I’d like to congratulate Jim Goldstein for winning our 1,700 StumbleUpon visitor prize for the best review. It’s no surprise — Jim is a web marketing strategist and was kind enough to share his recommendations for free.

Here were the top 5 recommendations made by the ProBlogger readers who critiqued MarketMe.com:

1. More gripping content presentation

The most frequently mentioned feature of the blog was the ultra-short and image-free post-excerpts on the main page. Many readers felt that this made it difficult for them to become hooked by a post before deciding to click through. The lack of images also contributed to what a number of readers felt was a design without enough visual interest.

It seems that the blog operates on the WordPress platform, which makes this problem easy to fix. Switch to using full posts on the main page and insert a ‘More’ tag in posts to excerpt them where you like. This will allow you to insert the ‘More’ tag at a natural segueway, allow images to appear in the excerpt and prevent post previews trailing off at random points with an ellipsis. Having images on the main page will also help to add more visual interest.

2. More visual interest

Many readers also felt the blog didn’t excite their eyes or grab their attention enough, some using the word “clinical” to describe it. While I do think image-enabled post excerpts will help with this issue, other possibilities include:

  • Adding another color or shade to the site.
  • Using more interesting typography and bigger headlines.
  • Adding more graphical elements to the design.
  • Experimenting with a more lively theme.

3. Adding more professionalism

A number of readers were disappointed to see irrelevant links in the footer of the site, some of which link to low-quality webpages. Needless to say, links to adult and poker websites do not lend a business blog any degree of professionalism, even if they are hidden in a footer.

Proofreading mistakes were identified by several readers and seemed to inform the way they saw the authority of the site. I think a few slip-ups are inevitable but if it’s a regular problem it might be worth getting someone else to go over posts before publishing. Sometimes there’s nothing like a fresh set of eyes to spot mistakes.

4. Emphasizing key points in posts

A few readers felt that the content wasn’t effective enough in emphasizing key points and gripping scanners with sub-headings and so on. Dividing separate ideas with H3 or H2 sub-headings is good for readability and good for SEO. Bolding key sentences and using italics to emphasize certain words and phrases can also help add a gripping texture to each post.

5. Improving the header

These key points were recommended for improving the header element of the site:

  • A more vibrant logo. The current logo, while professional-looking, is very similar to the rest of the theme in terms of color. It’s not very eye-catching.
  • A punchier tag-line. A number of readers felt the blog’s tag-line, while descriptive, was too bloated to be read ‘at a glance’ (the way most readers consume tag-lines).
  • The subscription buttons are hidden. It’s great that there are subscriptions icons high up on the page, but they’re so well-blended as to avoid grabbing attention. I’d suggest adding bigger subscribe icons between the header and ‘About’ box — which is broken in IE.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, ProBlogger readers felt MarketMe.com offered well-written and useful content but felt the site’s lack of visual interest made it seem unremarkable at first glance. Best of luck to Brandi and Tim in sorting through the advice and deciding on some changes!

You can send an application to Darren if you’d like your blog featured and reviewed at ProBlogger for $250. Click to get more information on our community blog consulting services.

Six Defining Moments of a ProBlogger

There are defining moments in everyone’s lives that often get looked back on as times that determined how things eventually played out.

My reader question for today is to ask for you stories of defining blogging moments.

  • What are the most important decisions and discoveries that you’ve made as a blogger?
  • What realizations did you have that shaped your blog (for good or bad)?
  • What circumstances do you now look back on things that changed your blog’s course?

Let me look back on six of my own blogging ‘defining moments’:

1. Discovering my first Blog

In 2002 after an email with a link from a mate I arrived on a site called Tall Skinny Kiwi. At the time I was about to plant a new church and was wanting to connect with others who were exploring emerging ways of doing Christian Community. Tall Skinny Kiwi did just this and it hooked me in as I saw hundreds of others from around the world discussing the very thoughts I was having here in Melbourne. That first experience of a blog showed me how powerful the medium was at giving individuals voices and helping them to form communities around particular topics. I started my first blog that very day. I often wonder how different my life would be today if instead of following that link from a friend I’d deleted the email.

2. Mistakenly Starting My first Commercial Blog

My first commercial blog was a complete accident. My wife and I were about to embark on a tip to Morocco, Spain and Portugal back in 2003 and on the spur of the moment I decided to buy myself my digital camera to help capture the trip. I wanted to share my images from the trip so just before we left I started a photoblog so that my friends and family could follow our progress – here’s one of those first posts. I also published a short review of my digital camera. On returning from our trip I discovered that no one had viewed my images (not a single person) but that the review of my camera had been read by hundreds. A light went on in my mind as I began to wonder how a blog with hundreds of digital camera reviews (and links to reviews) as well as other digital camera news would go. I transitioned the blog into one that covered digital camera news and reviews. This ‘accidental’ beginning led to me starting a blog that for a year or two grew into a full time venture. These days I don’t blog much on it and it’s earnings are much lower but the experience shaped my future blogging ventures.

3. Discovering AdSense

Around the same time as I accidentally started my first commercial blog I came across a system that enabled web masters to make money from people clicking on ads on their sites – AdSense. At the time I had not even considered that blogs could make money – I was more than happy to do it for the love and treated it purely as a hobby. However on discovering AdSense I thought that I’d give it a go and see if I could earn enough to pay my ISP costs and perhaps even my blog’s hosting. A few days later I’d earned my first few dollars from AdSense and had begun to dream about how I could build more sites that might one day buy me that laptop computer that I’d been eyeing off. AdSense has now earned me in excess of $400,000. It virtually paid off our first mortgage – I wonder what would have happened if I’d never experimented with it that first day.

4. Discovering Chitika

The 2nd biggest income earner for me in blogging has been Chitika. I look back on my journey with them over the last 2-3 years and almost take them for granted and think of them as always having been there – however it all started with one of the Chitika team leaving a comment on one of my posts. I don’t even remember what the comment was – but the person was one of the management team at Chitika and they invited me to test their ad network. Now I get a lot of these types of comments and can’t respond to them all but on this day I did and I’m very glad for that as Chitika has generated over $300,000 in income in the last 3 years. It’s another of those ‘moments’ that I look back on and shake my head with relief!

5. Starting ProBlogger

ProBlogger started in September of 2004. Before this time I had been blogging in a fairly general way on many topics on my original blog. On that blog I covered everything from spirituality, to culture, to photography to blogging. Actually the topic of blogging and exploring ways to make money from blogging had become a bigger and bigger focus to the point that some readers who were not interested in the topic started to complain. I began a separate blog on blogging on a subdomain of that blog and when I did I started to see it get good traffic and began to see the sense in investing in a standalone domain. The name ProBlogger was something I got on a whim. I’d not heard anyone use the term before but it seemed to ‘fit’ with a hunch of what I was seeing myself become. The .com name was gone (and wasn’t being used) but the .net version was available so I snapped it up. Little did I know that the term ‘Pro Blogger’ would become used to describe bloggers making a living from blogging – I certainly didn’t think it’d be anything more than my blog’s name. Starting ProBlogger was one of the best things I’ve ever done – it opened up wonderful networks of friends and business partners, has led to opportunities to start new ventures, write books and other resources and travel the world speaking about blogging.

6. Revealing My Income

Another related ‘defining moment’ from the early days of ProBlogger was revealing my income from blogging. After blogging on the blog for a few months as well as expanding my other blogs I had the realization one day that I was on track to earn over $100,000 (six figures) in a year. I didn’t really tell anyone about it at first (well not anyone except for my wife) but after a while I mentioned it in an interview on another blog. I didn’t really think about it or have too many ulterior motives for doing so – but it turned out to be a move that had some really positive impacts. It got picked up by a few other bloggers and I was asked a lot of questions about it. There was also quite a bit of anger around it too as at that time blogging was seen by many as something that was not about money at all. I followed it up with a post on ProBlogger explaining more and that post got picked up by Slashdot and sent more traffic than I’d ever seen in a day before. In many ways this ‘launched’ ProBlogger to a new level of readership. Yes it caused a few headaches with the controversy but it also brought a level of credibility for me as an authority on the topic of making money from blogs.

OK – so they are six of my ‘defining moments’ as a blogger (listed in the order that they happened). What defining moments have you had?

  • What are the most important decisions and discoveries that you’ve made as a blogger?
  • What realizations did you have that shaped your blog (for good or bad)?
  • What circumstances do you now look back on things that changed your blog’s course?