How Google Dissed John Chow

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that Google didn’t change their algorithm just to knock John Chow off the first page for “make money online”. But the title is less dry than “Examining Google’s New Algorithm”.

I thought newcomers to search engine optimization might appreciate a discussion of what might have been adjusted in Google’s algorithm. I stress might since nobody outside of Google knows for certain.

First, some background. Google lives by the word “relevancy”. They made their money by showing first in search results those pages that were most relevant to the search term the user typed. The basic algorithm they used was to examine links to a site.

Back in those days, a link to a site represented a site owner’s opinion of another site. If a site owner linked to a site using the anchor text “make money online”, then you could be fairly certain that the owner thought the site was highly relevant to that phrase. If lots of sites did the same thing, then Google concluded that the site was highly relevant, and showed it highly placed in search results.

That’s an oversimplification, but will do for our purposes.

Fast forward to today. Google hates paid and solicited links. The reason is that these links do not represent a site owner’s opinion of another site. As far as Google is concerned, those sorts of links destroy the relevancy of the web. John Chow’s review for backlink scheme was just a high profile version of what goes on quite a bit online. It’s been duplicated often enough, though, that Google could have decided to discount the effect of such a review scheme on search engine rankings.

How do they know if a link is due to a review scheme like John Chow’s or not? Google can look at two qualities to have a fairly high degree of confidence in identifying review schemes.

First, normal posts on a blog have a relatively low link density (the number of links on the page compared to the rest of the content). John Chow’s review posts had a high link density. They were short with lots of closely spaced links.

Second, each link from one of those review posts went to a site that then linked immediately back to

That sort of reciprocal linking isn’t unusual, but combined with the link density of the review post, it’s highly suggestive of some organized review scheme.

My guess is that Google put those two qualities together, and then discounted the relevancy value of any of the links involved. That put back where it normally would have been, before the review scheme started. Which, in my opinion, is a fair indicator of his blog’s relevance to the phrase “make money online”.

The lessons we can take from this is that any sort of review trading or reciprocal linking must appear to be natural to Google to avoid being penalized. Natural links don’t spontaneously appear closely spaced in time, or as direct reciprocal links in pages with high link density.

So I think a review scheme like John Chow’s could still work, but the approach would need altered to make it seem less artificial and more organic.

What do you think?

FFA Pages Work, but for Whom?

If you’re new to Internet Marketing, you may not have heard the term “FFA page” before. It stands for Free For All page, and is a way to advertise a link of your absolutely free.

The basic idea is that you go to an FFA page and you’ll see some number of advertising links (often up to one hundred). In order to add your link to the page, you need to click on one of the existing links and/or enter your email address (different FFA pages use different approaches).

Here’s an example of an FFA page. It’s perfectly safe to leave a link here if you want to see how it all works. You’ll get a single confirmation email in return, and that’s it.

The lure of FFA pages is easy to understand. They’re free advertising, and since in many of them you have to click on a link to leave a link, this means that anyone who leaves a link after you might be clicking on your link.

But they don’t work, at least not for you.

What’s more, they’re not designed to work, at least not for you. The problems with an FFA page boil down to two factors.

First, your link is one of hundreds, so the chance of a person clicking on your link is slim. If they do, there’s no requirement they leave your page up for any length of time, so they won’t even read it. But at least it’s free, which is more than you can say for pop-under traffic.

Second, the people who visit FFA pages are other people like you, who have websites to advertise and online business opportunities to sell. They don’t want to buy your opportunity, they want you to buy theirs!

So, how do you get FFA pages to work for you?

Run one. Every person who posts a link, and there are quite a few of them, receives an email with your message in it. If you tried the example FFA page above, you received an email that included a message from me. While that message just points to this article, it could have just as easily pointed somewhere else.

Where to Get an FFA Page

The best way to get started running your own FFA page is with a free service, Link Scout. By joining Link Scout you get an FFA page of your own that goes into the Link Scout rotation, so you’ll start getting hits to it without any effort on your part.

They also have a number of other tools for advertising web sites, such as a search engine that displays your featured links (this also goes into their rotation).  You can also bid Link Scout points for keyword positioning in their global search results.

There’s far more available at Link Scout than I’m going to go into here, since my focus in on FFA pages.  It’s free to join, so take a look around it and explore the features.

Here are my stats for Link Scout since I signed up on May 18th.

The main bit I want to point out is that I’ve received a fair amount of traffic to my various Link Scout provided sites, all without any advertising on my part at all.  It’s all due to being in the Link Scout rotation.

Also, notice that hits to the FFA pages are low.  Link Scout’s FFA pages don’t seem to get as much traffic as others.  Link Scout is worth a look because it’s free and you do get traffic, but if your focus is running a high traffic FFA page you’d be better off with Traffic Wave. 

Traffic Wave is not free, but they do have a 30-day free trial.  And the way their commission system works, I can afford to upgrade your account to paid status for the first 30 days so you can take a look at all the features provided.

My statistics for Traffic Wave FFA pages are a bit better than Link Scout.  I’ve averaged about 150 people per day leaving links on those pages, again without any advertising on my part. 


I would never recommend advertising on an FFA page, because they’re not designed to be an effective means of advertising.  What they are designed to do is generate leads for the person running the FFA page. 

In my example FFA page above, all I do with those leads is refer them to this blog for helpful information.  You could just as easily try to sell them on your opportunity.

But that’d be a mistake, too.  Tomorrow I’ll share the best way to make contact with these leads.

If you’ve just discovered this  blog, be sure to check out my $100 Review My Blog contest.  Write a review of the blog to have a chance of winning $100!

John Chow Dissed by Google?

I was doing a Google search on “make money online” today, as part of research for this blog (you never know what you’ll find through search engines), and was surprised to see that was not in the top 2. Paging down, I finally found John’s site on page 4.

Considering the success of John’s review scheme to spread links to his site with the “make money online” anchor text around the Internet like dandelion seeds in a stiff wind, this is an interesting development. I can only assume that something fairly recent changed in John’s site to cause it to drop in the Google rankings.

This brings up a couple of great points for everyone involved in search engine optimization.

First, don’t be afraid to go for competitive keywords. Google’s algorithm changes all the time, and sites change all the time. Sometimes there’s a conflict between those that knocks the top positions down or moves lower positions up.

Second, search engine optimization is an ongoing effort. You can’t simply optimize a site for keywords and then leave it alone. You need to keep track of your positioning and react to changes to maintain your position. Pages get dropped from the index or put into the supplemental index and you’ll need to fix it. Keeping on top of SEO is a moving target.

I have no doubt that John will figure out what happened and fix it soon. Hopefully he’ll blog about it to let the rest of us know.

Edit: John just posted in his blog (see link above) about this, and is blaming a change in Google’s algorithm. Since Google has been talking about their plan to discount paid links, John’s review scheme probably falls under that category, so he’s discontinued it. My contest is still on, however. I’ll be adjusting how I do the backlinks to make it appear more natural to search engines.

$100 Review Online Opportunity Contest

When talking about contests in the comments in this post at Jane May Blogs, Jane pointed out that a contest predicting the page rank of Online Opportunity was a long term affair (we wouldn’t know who won until August or September), and that every contest needed a cool prize.

I’ve taken her advice to heart, and am now discontinuing the predict my page rank contest. To be fair to Ronaldo, the one entrant, here’s a link to his blog which contains a variety of topics, including how to make money online as a prize just for entering the predict my page rank contest.

The Review My Blog contest has a deadline of June 16th. A review must be posted on or before June 16th to qualify. The grand prize is $100, and all entrants get a backlink with anchor text of their choice.

The review must link to the top level of the blog with the anchor text “make money online”, and to this post detailing the rules. Here’s an example of appropriate linkage.

Online Opportunity is a blog about how to make money online. Right now Jay’s holding a contest for the best review. To enter to win $100 see the rules here.

Reviews may be of any length and may be positive or negative. The absolute minimum is a couple of sentences with appropriate linkage.

Reviews will be judged subjectively, on categories such as the depth of the review, how insightful it is, how helpful the comments are, how entertaining it is, if it made me spit out my drink laughing, etc. Basically, which one I like the best (negative reviews can certainly qualify on all counts). The winner gets $100 via PayPal (alternate arrangements can be made, too, if you don’t do PayPal).

And since I’m stealing paying homage to Randall Cornett’s contest of the same type, if I end up winning Randall’s contest that prize money will be added to the prize money for this contest, making it a cool $200.

To enter, write a review with appropriate linkage on your blog, and then post a comment here with a link to the review and the anchor text you’d like for your link back.

Good luck to everyone!

Recent Site Updates

Just a quick post to highlight some recent updates to the site:

Quoter Plugin

I’m now using the Quoter plugin on the blog, which allows you to quote from other comments, or even to select and quote from text in the post itself. It works great, and is the next best thing to threaded comments (which will take some work to integrate with the new theme).

More Recent Posts

I wasn’t happy with how quickly recent posts were falling off the end of the list (I suppose I should stop with the three-post days!), so I increased the number of recent posts showing to 10. This creates a bit more symmetry with the popular posts list, which was listing the same number of posts.

My Blog Log Widget

I’ve changed the My Blog Log widget to show more recent visitors, at the cost of removing their names.

What do you think about the changes? If you have other suggestions you think would improve the site, let me know by leaving a comment.

Toolbar Page Rank versus Live Page Rank

Everyone obsesses on the public page rank that Google calculates once a quarter or so, to the point of actively seeking links from high PR sites in order to increase their PR at the next update. That quarterly PR is known as toolbar PR, because that’s what shows in the Google toolbar for pages you’re viewing.

In fact, toolbar PR is a nearly useless metric.

PR does play a part in search engine result positioning, but that’s live PR, not toolbar PR. Live PR is continually adjusted by Google as they crawl the web.

When I posted about doing reviews of Online Opportunity in exchange for a backlink from a PR 0 blog, that was tongue in cheek. My toolbar PR is 0 because the blog started just about when the last PR update happened. But my live PR is higher, because I’ve been accumulating backlinks all along. Since it’s live PR that helps in search engine results positioning, a link from Online Opportunity is a good thing.

How good? That’s the part we don’t know yet. The only value of toolbar PR is to give you an idea what the live PR for a site was during the last PR update. For established sites, you can be relatively confident that the live PR of the site is right around the toolbar PR. For new sites, toolbar PR is not a reliable indicator of the site’s live PR.

So in addition to the review for backlink offer, I’m going to start a contest. Predict the toolbar PR of Online Opportunity at the next update (probably in August or September), and win a prize! Enter the contest by leaving a comment on this post with your prediction.

Since there are only eleven possible answers to the question, it’s likely we’ll have multiple winners. So the prize has to be something that can be provided to multiple people.

Any suggestions?

Why This Is Not A Review of John Chow’s Ebook

I was going to just ignore John Chow’s ebook and get on with posting new material. I’m not particularly fond of rehashing the current popular posts, and I have a backlog of original content to add to the blog.

But, when you write a blog about making money online, and one of the world’s most successful bloggers writes an ebook about making money online, people are going to wonder if you’re paying attention if you don’t at least mention it. So this post is about why I’m not reviewing John Chow’s ebook.

It isn’t evil

John seems to take great pride in calling his distribution of a free ebook to drive traffic to his site “evil”, and his readership buys it. The fact is, this technique has been around for years, and can’t really even be considered particularly clever these days. It is a good solid technique that works well, though.

It’s repackaged forum posts

Everything in the ebook is available in the archives of John’s blog. There’s no value added here, no roadmap for beginning bloggers to follow. Just a jumble of posts that you have to wade through to create your own roadmap. I put this on par with collecting public domain documents into an ebook and distributing it.

John’s blog is not about making money online

Despite the huge success of his positioning for the keyword “make money online”, John’s blog is no longer about making money online. It’s for making money online. Displaying advertisements on a blog that attracts newcomers to the idea of making money online is misleading. Someone new to the Internet or blogs might click on an advertisement and think it’s something John endorses. That’s one of the reasons I do not, and have no plans to, display ads on this blog.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with repackaging old forum posts into an ebook and giving it away to boost traffic to your site. But there’s also nothing original about it, and it doesn’t really deserve the hype it’s getting.

What do you think?

Using Opt In Lists To Boost Conversion Rates

So you have a website where you hope to make money off visitors. Unless you’re making money with advertising, this usually means that your visitor is going to have to buy something. Your conversion rate is the ratio of people who actually buy versus the number of total visitors you have.

At a minimum, you should know what your conversion rate is. If you don’t, then you’re missing out on a lot of data your website can give you, including priceless information on which keywords your visitors are using to find you. Use some form of web analytics to track this information, which will include the total number of unique visitors. Your sales software should be able to tell you the number who bought.

An average conversion rate is 3%. This means that if you get 100 visitors, on average only 3 will buy something. When you’re paying for advertising to get visitors, a low conversion rate means you’re not getting much return on your advertising investment.

There are three classes of people who will visit your website. Those who are ready to buy, those who have no intention of buying, and those who want to buy but are undecided. You can’t do much to affect the first two classes, but the last class, the fence sitters, can be converted. On a normal website, though, they’ll look at all the available information and then leave, intending to make up their mind later. Maybe they forget, or buy from someone else later. Either way, you’ve lost a sale.

The primary problem online is that you can’t have a conversation with the fence sitters. In a retail store, a salesperson could talk with them and get an idea of what might be keeping them from buying, and provide information to help them decide. Online, where do they get that type of interaction?

From opt in lists. They allow the fence sitters to start a conversation with you. Autoresponders take the role of the salesperson, giving the standard information most customers want to know.

Here’s how it works: you put a form on your site where customers can ask for more information about a product. They fill out just their name and email address. No billing info is sent, and they’re not asked to make a commitment of any kind. A fence sitter is more likely to do this than to jump into buying. Once they click submit, the autoresponder goes to work.

You would have had to have previously written a series of email letters about the product, with common questions and links to answers on your website. Each letter is personalized, so appears to be a conversation with the customer. Well written letters make the customer feel like they’re having a personal contact with you. The autoresponder sends each email in the sequence you specify, at whatever intervals you specify.

A typical series of automated letters will start out with the information the customer requested, and then a day later check back with them to see if they have more questions, and then a day or so after that offer them a special price if they haven’t bought yet.

At any point, the customer can reply to the email and contact you directly, breaking out of the automated sequence of emails.

Stay on Topic

With today’s spam regulations, it’s easy to get into trouble with an opt-in list. The key is that users have signed up for more information about a specific product or service, so you’re allowed to send them a nearly unlimited series of emails, about that product or service. You don’t have a license to send them emails about different products or services (that comes once they’re a customer and they agree to receive your “special deals newsletter”).

Getting blacklisted by spam lists is a Bad Thing for your business, so stay on topic.

See It Work

To see an autoresponder in action, put your name and email into this form and click Submit. You’ll get a three day series of emails I setup just for this post. Note that this series will not try to sell you anything, it’s just an example so you can see how the autoresponders work, in case you’re one of the few on the Internet who have never signed up for these before.

Request Your FREE Report: More Information From Online Opportunity
Your First Name:
Your Email:

These days, any website that doesn’t use opt in lists is missing out on converting fence sitters into customers. Getting visitors is only half the battle. Converting them into customers is the other half.

The undisputed king of autoresponders is Aweber Communications. The chances are good that you’ve signed up for at least one series of mailings from someone using Aweber’s autoresponders.

I also quite like Traffic Wave, which is the company I use for autoresponders. Both companies offer much the same services at much the same price. Both also use their own autoresponders to provide you with more information on their own services.

You can sign up for Traffic Wave’s demo emails using the following form (note that while the letters are personalized to appear to be from me, they’re the standard Traffic Wave demo letters):

Request Your FREE Report:
How Autoresponders Can Make You More Money

Your Name:
Your Email:

And this one for the Aweber demo series:

AWeber Demo

Make Money Online with Urbanread

At the risk of spamming my own blog (this is the fourth post that’ll show up in the email subscription feed for the day), I just ran across something that deserves mention.

One of the objections to Squidoo lenses has always been that you’re shaing Adsense revenue with everyone else. And, Adsense has restrictions about the site that displays ads, which leaves out some sites.

Urbanread attempts to solve both of those problems with their “News with a Profit” program.

The basic idea is this: you paste the Urbanread code into your blog, website, or Squidoo lens. The Urbanread code uses an iframe, which is allowed by Squidoo, so no worries about trying to use javascript on a Squidoo lens. The code will display a news headline along with a link to read more.

When the user clicks the link to read more, they’re taken to a page at Urbanread that lists various web-based articles on the topic. The page at Urbanread includes Google Adsense ads that have your Adsense id in them. When a user clicks on one of the Adsense ads, you get the money for that click directly into your Adsense account.

The page also contains non-Adsense ads that, presumably, feed back to Urbanread to make them money.

Urbanread is still in beta, but there are some issues they need to fix. Most important is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to target the news to a specific topic. This makes it suitable for a non-niche website, but not for a website devoted to a specific topic.

For example, here’s the current headline being shown by the Urbanread code:

As you can see, it isn’t targeted to the topic of making money online. This makes it unlikely that anyone reading this post will actually click on it to read more (unless you do it out of sheer perversity, now that I’ve said you won’t).

Another problem is that the Adsense ads are still displaying public service ads. This could be because Urbanread is still in beta, but it’s not a great sign. You don’t make money with public service ads. Edit: the ads are now showing non-public service ads, so no worries there.

The technology used by Urbanread is nothing new. You’ve always been able to use an iframe on a Squidoo lens or web page to display content from another web page, including Adsense ads.

What Urbanread does is make it easier to implement. You don’t need a web host to put your Adsense code on, you just copy in their code to your Squidoo lens or blog. In fact, their integration with Blogger makes it a one click affair to add Urbanread code to your Blogger blog. Take a look at my personal blog to see the results.

Urbanread also makes it seem as if you’re providing a service to your readers by giving them news links. This could be a powerful strategy, assuming that they allow some targeting of news topics so you can match it to your page’s content.

So, right now I’d say that Urbanread isn’t quite ready for primetime. They do offer referral bonuses, though, so if you assume they’ll work out the issues involved eventually, it makes it worth signing up now. With proper subject targeting, this would be a powerful tool for Squidoo lenses and blogs.

Getting started with Urbanread requires signing up for an Adsense account if you don’t already have one.

Make Money Online Reviews

I’ve decided to join the ranks of those bloggers who emulate John Chow in providing backlinks for reviews. In fact, I’ll pretty much just duplicate John’s offer. I’d love to just copy and paste his rules below, but I suspect he has much better lawyers than I do. So here are the rules:

You write a review of Online Opportunity, good, bad, or indifferent. Criticize my choice of colors, compliment me on the logo, or just ask why on earth I usually post at half-past midnight. It’s up to you. The only hard and fast requirements are:

  1. Link to the Online Opportunity homepage with the anchor text “make money online”
  2. Link to this post describing the rules of the review
  3. Your review should actually be a review, and not just a paragraph with the above links.

Here’s an example that would be appropriate as the start of a review:

Online Opportunity is a blog about how to make money online. And because Jay’s such a nice guy, he’ll give you a link back to your site if you review Online Opportunity.

What you get:

  1. Links from a PR 0 blog. This is a bit of a wildcard really. The blog had no backlinks during the last page rank update since I was in the process of putting it online, and now has backlinks from the likes of and others. How high could it go in the next update?
  2. The anchor text of your choice for a link to your blog’s main page.
  3. A link to your review of Online Opportunity using anchor text of my choice.

When you have posted your review, use my contact form or post a comment here letting me know where the review lives, and what anchor text you’d like for the link to your main page. And because I am such a nice guy, you can even request the anchor text “make money online”.

I’ll post a batch of reviews every week, generally Friday or Saturday.