All About Content

SEO/SEM Firms Using Paid Blogging …

Posted by Melanie Phung on Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 10:35 pm

… for themselves.

It seems there’s an inordinate number of search marketing firms using paid blogging services like PayPerPost and Blogsvertise to build links to their own sites. Apogee Search, for example, is using PPP to advertise its services for helping small businesses get Top Google Rankings (what seems like it would be a very competitive phrase, but the results for that search don’t seem very authoritative). I don’t know why exactly, but this strikes me very much like when personal injury attorneys advertise on late night TV — I guess it’s kosher, but it strikes me as dĆ©classĆ©.

Here’s an interesting quote from Apogee’s site: “Remember there is only 5% of the SEM industry that is worth trusting” (which I’d rewrite: Remember, only 5% of the SEM industry is worth trusting… except I think that’s awfully pessimistic.) And another one: “Starting with SEO instead of PPC is a red-flag of common industry malpractice.” Say what?

I really don’t think fostering mistrust in search engine optimization firms is a great strategy for promoting your own search marketing firm, but there seems to be an awful lot of that going around.

This has been a paid post (filed under Blatant Advertising) via PayPerPost.

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Category: Link Building,Paid Content

My First PayPerPost Entry

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 11:13 pm

I’ve blogged in the recent past about doing sponsored postings for Blogsvertise and ReviewMe, but I’d never done a paid posting for PayPerPost, the first company to gain any traction in this advertising niche.

(And too bad I hadn’t because I could have earned some pocket money just for talking about it — right now PayPerPost is paying out for participants to recap how much they’d earned so far — talk about self-referential.)

Just to keep on this week’s topic of text link ads, I’d chosen to do my inaugural PPP post about a site called encyclocentral.com and one of their encyclopedia entries* in particular: Text Link Ads.

I think I get what this site is trying to do: get great rankings for all sorts of different search terms — like Wikipedia has managed to do — but to monetize all that traffic with AdSense. Relatively speaking, there are a lot of Google ads on each page. But also quite a bit of copy. Okay, great, so let’s talk about the copy. What does this reference site have to say about text link ads…:

“Text Link is a way of organizing material that attempts to come across the inherent limitations of traditional text and in particular its linearity.”

Huh? Never mind the typos in the rest of the entry, but just… huh? No one is going to link to this as authoritative information.

Was this written by a random text generation algorithm? (tangent: my favorite random text generator is the Postmodern Essay Generator at elsewhere.org. Just reload for fresh pomo nonsense.)

I really don’t intend to make every paid posting an exercise in ridiculing the advertiser, but that entry was just outright strange. The idea behind the site was sound I think, and I don’t think it would have taken that much more effort to make the entries readable, so why start spending money on advertising when even just a little lipstick would have made the pig look presentable at first glance? And also, why isn’t there any real navigational element on the site? That’s the weirdest thing. I guess they are really intent on not letting you click on anything besides the ads.

Verdict: Good idea, terrible execution.

* They give Pharmacy as an example page, but I still need to include a link to that article in here to pass the PPP check.

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Category: Paid Content

And Another One Joins the Fray (SponsoredReviews.com)

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, January 22, 2007 at 10:11 pm

A new pay per posting service is coming onto the scene. According to Blog Herald, SponsoredReviews.com raises a new question: at what point are you guaranteed to get a biased review no matter the blogger’s pledge of honesty? The thing that sets Sponsored Reviews apart from PayPerPost, ReviewMe and Blogsvertise is that the bloggers are the ones to set the price — apparently up to $10,000. At that price, who would criticize their sponsor?

Read the article and tell me what you think. In the meantime, I’m going to go sign up at SponsoredReviews.com and check it out.

Oh, and stay tuned for a follow-up to my comparison of the various paid blogging services — this time from an advertiser’s perspective.

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Category: Monetizing,Paid Content

Paid Posting: Advertising Dollars Not Well Spent

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Generally I have a policy about not doing paid postings for sites or services with which I’m not familiar. However, last week one of the paid blogging networks I belong to sent me a link to a website so atrocious that I can’t help but post about them and why I hope you don’t give them your business.

(The terms of the service don’t require that I write something positive, only that I mention the link 3 times. However, even if they decide not to pay me at all for this negative posting, I think there’s some value in doing a site evaluation.)

The owner of the site explains that after 9 months in the Google Sandbox, http://www.searchengineoptimizationtoronto.com/ is ready for prime time. The marketing pitch on the homepage (highlighted to draw extra attention to it) is such:

we trust ourselves to optimize your site to be search engine friendly and save no means to drive you a descent [sic] amount of targeted traffic.

Unfortunately, I don’t trust this SEO company to get anywhere near any of my sites, despite the promise:

“We are so clear and ethical in our SEO practice, and we will definitely do useful things for your site includes adding useful content to your site…”

Besides absolutely butchering the English language, other issues I see with the site itself are:

  • Bad, table-based depricated code used for layout, despite style sheets being defined on every page. Not that code load is a huge issue on a site this small, but the code for each page is probably more than 5 times as long as it actually needs to be. Looks like a classic case of Used-FrontPage-itis.
  • Misplaced tags (meta tags residing outside the HEAD tags). Again, having a site not validate isn’t exactly a death sentence, but on a site this simple and small (and one built by a professional SEO no less) there’s no excuse for that.
  • No use of H1’s and H2’s to define the hierarchy of the content (again, despite the fact that all of these are defined in the in-page CSS, AND the fact that the pages actually do use headings that are defined with “bold” tags)
  • The one page that actually looks like someone spent more than 5 minutes on it total — the plan comparison chart — appears to have been stolen almost line-for-line from another website.

I could go on, but I’m a little disheartened that I just keep finding more things that would have been caught by the most cursory pre-launch QA. I’m a LOT disheartened by how even less attention seems to have been paid to simple proofreading. The site’s writer needs to take his own advice to heart: “So I need to remind every web master and all seo people that seo is a matter of good content.” Yes, it is. And this, sadly, is an example of content that does not inspire any confidence.

I can forgive non-native speakers who struggle with the language, and I can forgive lay people who don’t know the first thing about code, but I cannot recommend any SEO who can write neither a complete sentence nor the most basic HTML.

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Category: Paid Content

Paid Bloggers Required to Disclose

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, December 21, 2006 at 9:28 pm

The Federal Trade Commission last week issued an opinion that bloggers being paid to engage in word-of-mouth marketing must disclose that relationship. According to the Washington Post, WOM advertising is already covered under existing FTC regulations that govern commercial endorsements. The opinion meant to clarify that “such marketing could be deceptive if consumers were more likely to trust the product’s endorser ‘based on their assumed independence from the marketer.'”

Mary K. Engle, FTC associate director for advertising practices. “We wanted to make clear … if you’re being paid, you should disclose that.”

On Monday, PayPerPost sent its bloggers an email titled “PayPerPost Requires Disclosure / by Marketplace Participants”

Company Follows Disclosure Policy.org Launch with Transparency Mandate

ORLANDO, FL ā€“ PayPerPost, the leading marketplace connecting marketers with bloggers, videographers, photographers, podcasters and social networks, announced the second phase of its full disclosure model, whereby participating Consumer Content Creators are required to disclose their sponsored status. The new Terms of Service, effective today, will bring greater transparency to the growing Consumer Generated Advertising industry.

Read the full release here

I’m signed up for Blogsvertise, PayPerPost and ReviewMe. PayPerPost is the only service that emailed me about the new requirement (although ReviewMe already had this requirement in place).

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Category: Monetizing,Paid Content,Social Media