Sunday, August 08, 2004

Shameless Self-Promotion

In the past month or so I've made an effort to increase the frequency with which I post here, together with shamelessly publicizing this blog in various places in an attempt to increase the amount of traffic I receive. With more readers and feedback the motivation to continue posting remains high. The immediacy (and ease) of the medium is what keeps it going to a large degree. A website or blog of any kind will become more popular only if there is:

1. A constant influx of fresh content and

2. An attempt to disseminate the address and draw new readers in.

Of course there are other factors as well such as page design and obviously the quality of what is being posted. Once a certain image has been created and a site reaches a sort of critical mass, the flogging is no longer necessary and simple word of mouth and reader loyalty takes over.

Amazingly, in the early going many neglect the first tenet while focusing more on getting the word out that they in fact have a site regardless of what appears therein. In my research I've found a vast number of sites, discussion boards and directories of various kinds devoted to discussing and pontificating on which is the best way to publicize and increase traffic to websites. As with all endeavors, an esoteric jargon springs up regarding the topic that has become so important to so many, different theories have their adherents and various individuals try to exploit the desires of many.

The two most important facets of publicizing a site are search engines and getting link backs to your page on other sites. The two are related as the more web locations your site is linked on, the more credibility and recognition the search engines will give to you. This makes it more likely that you will appear near the top of the list when a search is done using key words as related to your site.

Because of this fact there are many dodgy online businesses that guarantee a person a top listing with all major search engines and increased traffic. There are also many ways to cheat the system such as slapping up dozens of sites with the sole intention of linking back to the one main site you operate. Just as with a student cheating on an exam, the energy spent trying to put one over could be time creating legitimate content (i.e. studying) and building up a readership through genuine hard work. With the potential to make money at stake and the key factor necessary to keep people coming back one skill that most people today lack--the ability to actually write moderately entertaining copy--many take whatever route is available.

This site,, is one that offers itself up as a sound, reasonable voice regarding how to market a website effectively. It is one that at first glance seems different than the others. What distinguishes it?

1. First and foremost it is well written in a simple, easy to understand and logical way. Also, it is not fraught with scads of typos and butchered syntax.

2. The writer points out important facts that are not always apparent to newbies and he does not resort to nonsensical jargon. What most people forget when trying to teach someone something new is that the assumptions they as the teacher hold regarding the topic at hand, is not known by those seeking the info. Patently obvious but a major error committed by poor teachers of any subject or discipline.

3. He doesn't immediately ask a person to sign-up or provide credit card details. However, as I discuss later, he does deftly make requests for payment that are woven throughout in less brazen ways than most sites.

4. He does provide what ostensibly seems to be valuable and effective information...

5. He points out the obvious absurdities regarding claims made by others and in the process further highlights his approach and advice as being unique. But is it really any different?

Throughout this simply designed site with the seemingly large amount of free information he has achieved that which is accepted to be the most important way to increase traffic to any site: link backs and referrals on other sites. Links to his site and praise show up on numerous discussion boards and sites I perused as well as other internet sites that I regularly visit such as this location. The apparent qualitative difference resonates...

However, it becomes clear to anyone who looks a bit closer that what he offers is simply more nuanced, and more cleverly presented than any of the other ham-fisted amateurs who are trying to dupe people. His information is different in degree not in kind. He accomplishes this in a number of ways.

As mentioned, his writing style is readable and often entertaining. The bulk of words surrounding a particular recommendation is little more than filler though, passed off as thorough instruction but really masking the fact that he is providing that which is available elsewhere to anyone with common sense. Specifically, he demonstrates his ability to extrapolate in his explanation on how to correctly register a site for Yahoo's search index database. The gist of his instruction could be summed up in a few sentences but he stretches it out to many hundreds of words. What he says is really patently obvious and reiterated by Yahoo on the very page where you submit information to be listed on their index.

He does emphasize a few points that might expedite the process but a person has really no way of knowing if this is the case unless they have previously botched an application (a person would have to be a real fool to fail at the simplistic procedure) and then tried again using his obvious tips. He does provide testimonials of people claiming just such an experience though impossible to verify their authenticity. Such a tactic has always been the stock and trade of self-anointed gurus; when a dubious claim arises simply provide "real" first person accounts.

Utilizing the most common logical fallacy of "causation" ("after this therefore because of this"), is likely how he convinces many people of his supposed wisdom on the subject. A person follows the steps for registering with Yahoo, bulked up with his entertaining banter and advice skillfully framed as if the person reading is privy to inside information. Then sure enough, shortly after having submitted your site to Yahoo, you will see traces of their web spiders having crawled your site. Again, something which would happen if a person went to Yahoo's site and registered without any prior advice.

That which he accuses other dodgy sites of, is something which he ultimately practices as well. He is much more clever in his approach, avoiding blaring out the paid services which he smoothly segues to at various points but which are not the centerpiece of his appeal. He comes across as knowledgeable and benevolent because of the quantity of free, but superficial advice he provides. Of course, the site submission tool that appears on the side bar and is mentioned in passing various times is what requires payment. The same type of submission service that he knocks others for selling.

Something else that for me is suspicious are the handful of places where he urges you to type in the details of your site so as to see a demonstration of various free tools he touts as advantageous to marketing your site. Would this result in a flurry of spam, a clever ploy to collect and sell that information to the other affiliate sites he mentions? Not sure...

The biggest giveaway however, is the listing of sites which he claims are ones that have demonstrated to him a professional appeal that necessitates his giving them a plug. It is obvious that these are individuals who have paid him for this service simply because their amateur quality highlights them as anything but exceptional.

The irony in all this is that because he has reached a level of popularity with so many online locations where his site is referred to, those who have coughed up and are linked to on his site (I am making the assumption that those listed are ones who have paid) will get some hits because of it. Just as I slam his ultimately disingenuous claims that his advice is qualitatively different than others I also say check it out for yourself.

It's interesting that regardless how well-written something is, it's almost impossible for the writer's words to not ultimately betray them if the person listening or reading pays close enough attention. That tinny, shrill falseness that the worst of shameless hawkers exude so obviously, still is not enough to clue many fools in as evidenced by the never-ending success of pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing scams. It's more subtle here, done so well that it almost becomes legitimate. Together with the endless number of individuals looking for something that is too good to be true, the popularity he has achieved is not surprising.