Brief history of the past year

I haven’t had much to say on this blog – especially relating to my personal movements, etc. Due to public outcry on Revenews, I had to basically explain what’s been going on. A lot of this is not yet committed to paper, so I’m being a bit sketchy about some things. I promise a full update next month to all my readers, so please be patient – the wheels of change are turning in my life, and it’s sometimes difficult to air them publicly whilst things are still underway. The Revenews post linked above should provide sufficient insight into what’s going on from a high level. I hope that satisfies any major questions in the short term!

SEO Copywriter

SynthaSite is currently recruiting for a full time SEO Copywriter based in our Cape Town office. If you or anyone you can know has the required experience, please forward your resume to careers@synthasite.com!

Check our the SynthaSite careers page for more information on other positions available.

Online Reputation Management

One of the companies that I am involved in, (disclosure: as a non-executive director & shareholder) is Quirk, which is an eMarketing agency. Quirk has just launched an exciting new product called BrandsEye today, which plays in the realm of Online Reputation Management (ORM). BrandEye has been in development for a long time now and it competes with other services such as Trackur, which is headed up by Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim.

ORM deals with managing the huge flux of information, opinion and reviews about your company and your brand online, and both these services make it very easy to track what’s being said about your brand – good and bad. As a business owner, it’s extremely important to understand what’s in the public domain, as a poor online image can really impact your business negatively. The skills and resources to monitor what happens online are not usually available to the average business owner, and therefore it really makes sense to outsource it to a service that can really monitor what’s happening on the web.

The fact that both Andy & Rob (CEO of Quirk) – both of whom I highly respect – have launched similar services within a few weeks of each other, speaks for itself on the opportunity in this space to assist businesses in understanding how to control and manage their brand online. Companies such as Dell & Telkom have had some online PR nightmares with Dell Hell & Helkom – and perhaps these are extreme cases.

In the world of Web 2.0, where sharing is caring, you can expect users to offer more opinions about more companies online and sites like Yelp can make or break a local business if they do no know what people are saying about them. This part of social networking really allows the cream to rise to the top and businesses need to look inward to improve their products and services in order to remain competitive. I see a major marketing exploding in ORM, so I wish both Andy & Rob all the best!

Thoughts from Affiliate Summit West

I know this blog has been quiet – I’ve been travelling a heck of a lot this past month, and I also attended the Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas! Good to see all my old friends again! Here is a post I wrote at the summit, covering the keynote address:

Affiliate Summit West 2008 kicked off today at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas with Jim Kukral (from) the conference MC and Jason Calacanis (CEO, Mahalo) providing the Keynote address.

Jim reiterated the clear fact that Affiliate Marketers play across not only Search marketing, but also email, display and the entire range of online marketing tactics and strategies. With over 3,000 attendees this year, it’s hard not to see how critical affiliate marketing is in any online marketing strategy.

Jim introduces Jason as the founder of Engadget and the Weblogs blog network, which was acquired by AOL a few years ago for about $25m+.

I met Jason briefly before his keynote, an honestly, I didn’t recognize him. He also didn’t go to great lengths to tell me who he was, which I always find is a very redeeming quality (i.e. he introduced himself as Jason, and not Jason Calacanis – which I would have recognized).

Jason starts with a quick background on the Internet, by delving into Usenet and how it has evolved from a great knowledge sharing environment, to a spam honey pot.

Jason calls content that is designed for the purposes of selling a product, using copied content, “Affiliate Spam”. Jason basically went on about how people are polluting the Internet with spammy content and how even Google can’t deal properly with this spam. Remember though, Jason’s startup, Mahalo, is focusing on taking Google listings and hand sifting through them to remove spam, so his experiences will be a bit biased.

Here are some of the points he put across:

Arguments against gaming the search engines (Black Hat SEO):

Human powered search can’t be gamed.
The semantic web is impossible to game.
Increasing number of niche high-quality sites will make it impossible to compete
Arguments for gaming

Any system can be gamed:

Gamers are getting smarter and smarter
Social networks, social news, and social search are ultimate covert marketing system

The Brutal Truth according to Jason:

“You guys think small. Holding up a six figure check is just pathetic.” – which is a direct swipe at Jeremy. That’s your industries biggest success? Really?
SEOs and Affiliate gamers are some of the smartest, most resourceful people I’ve ever met.
Jason would like to hire some of the top SEO people.

What should you do? (Selfish version – i.e. what Jason wants you to do, for his business benefit)

Stay the course
Keep polluting the web with low quality sites
Increase the amount and complexity of the gaming in social news and bookmarking sites like: dig, delicious and StumbleUpon
Find new ways to covertly advertise unsuspecting users
Be more creative in your use of malware, adware & click-fraud

What should you do? (Unselfish version)

Realize you’re the bottom of he food chain and fight up
Create loving, long-term relationships with users, based on high-quality content and services.
Give up a life of crime and instead of holding up $100,000 checks.
Realize that you guys are smarter than half the folks working at large internet companies
Bottom Line:

“Someone in this room could create the next dig, StumbleUpon, Flickr, Gawker, or Weblogs, Inc.
Someone in this room could create the next Yahoo, Google, PayPal, Facebook, MySpace or eBay.
But you probably won’t, because you’re wired for making the quick buck and because you’re afraid of the potential disappointment that comes from trying to do great things and failing.”


    Short Version:

Jason is basically taking a swipe at every affiliate out there, by saying that chasing the short term buck, is not creating true value. To an extent, I agree. Affiliates are very opportunistic, and they will take the cash today, instead of the promise of tomorrow. Jason is very right in saying that the next Yahoo or Google etc could be created by someone in the room, but instead, many are focused on making short term returns. Jason is 100% right on all accounts, assuming that everyone is a money hungry affiliate.

The reality is that many people in the industry do live in Silicon Valley and do not have access to capital and therefore don’t have the opportunities to create the next Yahoo or Google. These people live in countries where it may be impossible to raise capital – so the monthly cash flow from affiliate marketing is great. Many people can’t move there for personal reasons (family, etc). And what’s wrong with being an affiliate and making a decent living, with little stress? My point is that there are different strokes for different folks. Affiliates could achieve everything that Jason says they could – but why would they want it?

Yeah – I know, those who know me personally probably think it’s rich coming from me. Sure, I’m trying to run a Web 2.0 startup and build some great value, but having gone through the startup stresses for many years – I know it’s not for everyone, and that’s the part that Jason missed. The cream will rise to the top, if it wants to. I know many great affiliates who sit waiting in the weeds for the FedEx cheque to arrive (You know who you are :-) ) – and they absolutely are smart and capable, but instead, choose to focus on family and lifestyle – and there is nothing wrong with that.

And on another note – 6 figure checks are not the affiliate marketing industry’s success. Companies like Clicks2Customers do well into 8 figures, and they’re not the only ones – but the only difference is that these are real companies with employees and costs – not affiliates sitting at home. Jason would be proud :-)

Anyways, for you affiliates that don’t want to chase the “big one”, don’t feel obliged – for those who do – good luck, it’s a tough road, but well worth the journey…