Category Archives: Marketing

Forum Spam Sucks! Learn Forum Marketing the Right Way.

I was just going through one of my forums and noticed something I hadn’t seen in a few years. A 3 year old forum post was brought back from the dead by a brand-new member of the site, whose comment had NOTHING to do with the discussion at hand. While his post was not any form of SPAM, it was what I’d call a junk post . . . just some garbage posted for what you’d think was no reason. While I normally would move or delete such a post, I was curious if there would be some kind of follow up, so I decided to let it go for a bit.

Fast forward two hours
Another post showed up on the same thread, this time by another new member. This post, answered the non sequitur of the first new poster, but in doing so, pointed him to this awesome website that demonstrated what he was talking about.

Spammers will Never Learn!
Promoting yourself through forums is a great way to get traffic to your website, but pulling this crap isn’t the way to go. Its just amateur hour! Of course, upon doing a quick IP lookup, Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber had the same one . . . SHOCKER! The posts were removed, along with my two new friends (who, I’m assuming you now understand was the same idiot person).

How to Use Forums to Market Your Website

Forum marketing is one of the most simple, effective and FREE ways to market, period. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Join a forum that is related to the niche of your website, and after doing so, be sure to read their site rules. Every site has a different set of rules or guidelines to work within . . . break the rules like the idiot I mentioned before and you’ll likely be booted. That said, 75% of the forums out there (I pulled that number out of a hat, but from what I can tell, it works!) don’t do any kind of moderating, so the entire thing is going to be a haven for spammers – posting here is a waste of your time . . . move on!
  2. Create a forum signature. Again, be sure your signature complies with the rules of that forum. Make sure to include your website in your signature. I’d also recommend using your real name. People are more likely to have some kind of interest in you and your links if you’re willing to put yourself on the line by telling people who you are.
  3. Get active by posting RELEVANT content on the forum and by participating in different conversations. Don’t just post a bunch of fluff. Engage in conversation and get involved. As you spend time on the forum, people will get to know you (make sure you’ve got a personal avatar uploaded), and eventually, they’ll likely want to visit the link in your signature.
  4. It is that simple! You don’t need to post nonsense posts that link back to your site or manipulate the forums by posting a one-two combination like the aforementioned bozo. Just get involved and you’ll soon see actual gains in traffic from your engagement.

Good luck!

Important Features for Mailing List Software: Suggestions Needed

DadaMailI’ve been using the same mailing list software for close to five years now, a platform called Dada Mail, which is a perl script. While the software is free (GREAT!), it has a lot of limitations. I have little control over bounce rates, click tracking, and other essential bits of data which are important for any email marketer.

To be honest, I’m not much of an email marketer in the first place, and I’m guessing that if I had a more advanced platform, I’d likely be further on my way.

Shopping for a New Mailing List Solution

One of the most important features that I need in a mailing list solution is a software package or web-based system that will allow me to directly input data from my own forms. Most packages that I’ve found don’t allow it.

AWeber Mailing ListA Look at AWeber

Sadly, one of the most highly recommended email marketing software solutions I’ve found, AWeber.com does not have an API that allows this. Their package has EVERY other feature that I could want, including:

  • Autoresponders
  • Unlimited Campaigns
  • HTML Email Templates
  • Email Deliverability (NOTE: I’ve heard from a few people that their delivery rate is WAY higher than most other software)
  • Blog Newsletters
  • Email Web Analytics
  • Subscriber Management

Essentially, they’ve got everything I need, and the price is decent ($19 for 0-500 subscriber and $149 for 10,000-25,000 where I fall in), but that API issue is going to keep me away. The only other downside I’ve found is that if you have multiple lists, duplicate subscribers count twice for their pricing schema. It isn’t a huge deal, but we often create lists that are subsets of our master list for marketing purposes and this could
end up costing some real money.

Is PHPList the One?

I haven’t found another web-based piece of software yet that does everything that AWeber does with an API so I can use it with my forms, so I’ve been hunting for server based applications instead. I hope to find something soon . . . there seems to be one called PhpList that has some promise, but I haven’t fully gone through and tested it yet.

Does anyone have any mailing list software suggestions? If you’ve read the post, you know what I’m looking for . . . let me know what you’ve got!

Are Large Corporations Resorting to SPAM for Marketing? Yes They Are!

Ready for another rant? Seems like I’ve been doing quite a lot of that lately. This time, it is about something that I’m sure all the bloggers can relate to: Corporate Comment Spam. It seems that the corporations have indeed resorted to non other than comment SPAM to promote themselves

In the past 3 days, I’ve had to deal with comments from the flunkies of two large corporations: AOL and the The E.W. Scripps Company, which owns HGTV. I’ve chosen to leave out the identities of the perpetrators as the purpose of this post is to to expose what corporations are up to, not to call specific people out.

  • HGTV Comment Spam

    I at least give a tiny bit of credit to the guy who has SPAMMED our Real Estate Investing for Real blog comments twice in the past 3 days. It seems that he tries to relate his spammy commercials to the topic at hand. Here’s the latest (I’ve colored the acceptable part in green and the SPAMMY Crap in red):

    Its funny that you should mention Los Angeles, I live there and you are right on. Since the average price of houses is so expensive the take for an agent is ridiculous. Btw, a $350,000 in LA will get you a fixer-upper. I wanted to ask anybody who is reading this…have you seen the show Bought & Sold on HGTV? I work with them and have been alerting people of the show because I think its worth seeing, if you’re into real estate at all…It basically shows 12 different agents trying to show houses and close the deal. It gives you huge insight into the way homes are marketed and how price levels are decided upon in the Northern New Jersey market – which is one of the toughest markets in the country. You can check out a preview – [VIDEO LINK REMOVED] – It’s on Sundays at 10PM e/p time on HGTV. Definitely worth checking out. It’d be funny to see them do one here in LA.

    I actually erased the first one he did, otherwise I’d also share it with you as well. I sent him an email asking him to immediately stop wasting both of our time (his writing and my deleting) and explained what netiquette was. We’ll see if he comes back for more!

  • AOL Comment Spam

    AOL is also guilty of dishing out Hawaii’s favorite meat concoction. First I received a form email from someone at AOL trying to get me to blog about their new real estate section. It was impersonal, badly formatted, and poorly written (formatted as received):

    Dear Bloggers,

    I’m a Promotions Manager for AOL Real Estate, and have read your real estate
    blog. Your insights are thought provoking and often times right on the money.
    I
    would love to get your opinion about an “Inside Stories of…” series we are
    currently running. We interviewed various players in the real estate process
    for
    candid (some harsh) realities of the business. I know you’ve posted about such
    subjects, and thought you could take a look at what we’ve done, and offer a
    fascinating perspective; good, bad, or ugly.

    I’ve included our entire lineup for this original series below. If you decide
    to blog and need more info from me, please feel free to contact me anytime.
    Thanks for your time.

    We’d love to be involved on your site if you’d like to link to our home page,
    [LINK REMOVED] we have a lot to offer in exciting original
    content,
    listings, investing information, and staging/home improvement.

    Thanks,
    ~Name Removed

    After going through my daily SPAM scan, I noticed a message that my filters caught written by the same person, as a comment on my most popular post on the blog.

    Check out Unstructured, the official editor’s blog, AOL Real Estate.

    [URL REMOVED]

    Had I gotten the email or the blog SPAM, I would have just ignored it. In conjunction, the campaign to plug AOL’s new real estate site just hit a bad nerve. I decided to write the author back:

    Name Removed-
    A few things. First, It would be great if you had actually personalized the email you sent me instead of sending a form email that probably went to every other real estate blogger around. I’m surprised that a company of AOL’s financial backing couldn’t consider such an obvious move. It looks poorly upon you and your company.

    While the site you are looking to promote is good, your tactics are nothing but amateurish. I was quite shocked to look through my blog’s comments to see that you’ve also gone and SPAMMED us with your site’s link.

    I’ve had bloggers with 2 weeks of experience conduct themselves with more netiquette and web professionalism. I have no intention of supporting your site thanks to your tactics.

    I hope you reconsider how you’re approaching people in the future.

    Sincerely,

    A few of my friends and fellow bloggers recommended that I CC the email to her bosses at AOL. Sometimes I’m a jerk, but not that big of one. I’m not trying to get her fired; I just want people to learn what is and is not okay online these days.

Conclusion

We all know that people are spending more time online these days, corporations included. Apparently the online marketing teams for large corporations want eyeballs at any cost! I think the “street teams” of old, who kept busy handing out promo items on street corners, have given way to a group of young hired SPAM teams. They’re hitting the social networks, forums, and now, the blogs.

Apparently corporations still don’t understand online netiquette. Way to go! Piss off the whole online blogging community while you’re at it! Little do they know that the backlash from the internet can be fast and relentless (we all saw what Digg went through last week), and by ignoring the established “rules” of order online they are setting themselves for a fall.

Anyone think I’ll help promote HGTV or AOL Real Estate now?

5/11/07 UPDATE: Not a day after I wrote this post, HGTV has gone and sent a different person to once again SPAM our blog. From our comments:

May 11th, 2007 at 8:38 am
It seems more and more people are getting into the real estate business these days, without a clear understanding of how the biz really works. For those of you looking for a better understanding, I suggest checking out the new reality show Bought & Sold on HGTV. It’s a great show about the inner workings of the real estate and the lengths brokers will go to just to get the deal. Check it out: [LINK REMOVED]. I work with HGTV and you won’t believe what happens this season. Good luck, and enjoy the show! Don’t forget, the show airs Sundays at 10pm. I’m sure you’ll find it beneficial! Have any of you seen it yet?

How to Support Your Fellow Bloggers & Favorite Websites

I found an article through Kevin at BloggingTips about how to support your favorite bloggers. This article covered quite a few great points and I thought I’d go into 2 of them with some more detail.

Both of the steps I mention can really make a difference for your favorite sites, and spreading the word about them can make a difference for you as well!

The 2 Best Ways to Support Your Favorite Websites

  1. Socialize the Blog or Site
    If you find a site, blog, article, etc. that you find interesting or helpful, one of the best ways to support it is to “socialize” it. Of course, the original form of socialization is word of mouth, but email works great too! Let your friends and family know about the site and tell them to let their friends and family know about it. Many of the most popular websites have all grown on word of mouth campaigns.

    In addition, by submitting it to different social networking and social bookmarking sites, you increase the exposure opportunities for that site. Sites like Netscape, Digg, Reddit, Del.icio.us, Ma.gnolia, MyBlogLog, MySpace, Facebook, etc. are all wonderful tools for sharing the love. I make it a habit of social bookmarking or Digging any article or site that I think is a great one, because I hope that someone will do the same for me. If we can spread the idea of helping one another out by doing this, I think we’d see lots of great, semi-unknown, sites climb to prominence. There are tons of these sites around, but people don’t realize how easy it is to do their part to help those sites out.

    If you like a site, an article, a blog, etc., then Bookmark It! It is that easy!

  2. Visit the Site’s Advertisers
    These days, most websites have some sort of advertising. Many webmasters (like myself) support their work online soley through that advertising. While we all become semi-blind to ads these days, it is extremly important that we do our part to help our fellow webmasters by visiting the advertising on their sites. Imagine if even a small percentage of your users happened to visit the ads on your site (provided they are some kind of PPC ads)? Be careful not to overdo it, though. Clicking too often on a site’s ads can constitute click fraud, something you don’t want to do.

    Even visiting ads that may not be PPC is helpful to websites. Advertisers always look at the amount of traffic they get from a site when considering whether or not they will extend their campaigns. If you do your part by visiting these ads, you help the sites to retain advertisers and increase revenue. You also help the advertiser by finding their site . . . the more eyeballs, the better!

    Remember not to just click on any and all ads. Visit those that look interesting to you.

    Like with socializing, if we can build this mentality around the ‘net where people support one another’s advertisers, I think a lot of people would be a lot happier. The advertisers would get increased exposure (which is what they are paying for) and you’d be supporting the owners of your favorite sites, blogs, etc. If only 25% of a site’s visitors supported its advertisers, I’m sure the resulting increases would be beyond remarkable!

    If you like a site, an article, a blog, etc., then visit its advertisers! It is that easy!

By following these two simple and EXTREMELY helpful tips, you too can support your fellow bloggers and favorite sites, and hopefully they will do the same for you!

Please bookmark this site and help spread the mentality! (click the Share This link below)

Affiliate Sales Model or Guaranteed Ad Purchase: Which to Choose?

I was approached this afternoon by someone who was interested in promoting their real estate-related program to my site’s users. This advertiser wanted me to promote an online webinar and was willing to give me a commission for any sale made from people who went through the seminar and purchased their service. While the commission was fairly good, we felt that the odds of someone actually going through their entire webinar and then purchasing their product were not phenominal.

Choosing Between a Guaranteed Return and a Potential Greater One

We considered proposing a PPL (pay per lead) model to them, but felt that by doing so we were providing this company with tons of free branding for little in return. As a result, we decided that we would only work with them as pure advertises. They were welcome to advertise their program on our site, but would have to pay our full rates. If they generated any sales or leads, that depended on the users of our site.

What would you have done?

Do you go with the guaranteed advertising buy or do you provide free branding for someone on the remote chance that someone will go through all the steps (sign-up, webinar, sale) and buy their product?

In the best case scenario, we’d be able to charge for advertising and also get an affiliate payment per sale, but that isn’t ever going to happen. I tried to negotiate a few deals like that years ago and was simply laughed at. Was worth a shot, though!

Creating an Effective Business Logo Design

One of the first things that you’ll need to do when starting a business is to create a logo to represent your company. It seems like this may be a simple thing, but it is often more difficult then you think!

Some Logos Are Timeless

There are certain logos we’ll never forget: Apple, CocaCola, McDonalds, Google, Nike, Target, etc.

I don’t even need to show these, because we all have them imprinted in our minds. Pretty amazing!

I wish I could write a post about what constitutes a great logo. I don’t have any magic formula, but I know one when I see it. Creating a timeless and effective logo is not an easy undertaking. Large corporations often times spend millions of dollars on their brand.

I recently found a great resource to help you out with any logo questions (which actually inspired this post) called the Logo Design Blog. According to the site, the 5 characteristics of a highly successful logo include:

  1. Uniqueness
  2. Relevancy
  3. Appealing
  4. Consistency
  5. Contrast

For more details, read the post; it goes into detail about each of these characteristics. In another interesting post, the site discusses the various constituents of a logo, which include symbol, sign, emblem, or slogan. It is a great place to start learning more about logos.

What Not to Do in Creating a Logo for Your Company

While I can’t tell you the formula for a great logo, I can talk about what isn’t great. Since I’ve spent a lot of time in the real estate world, I have seen countless logos from companies who are all looking to create a brand for themselves. The interesting thing is that at least 90% of these logos have some kind of roof or home as part of the logo. While this seems logical, and we even played with a roof-esque logo, does it differentiate these companies from one another? No.

They all pretty much have the same theme and in my mind, are simply clones of one another. They do nothing to help people recognize the companies.

The Evolution of a Logo Design

I believe that an effective logo is one that instantly provides brand recognition. Lets compare the various iterations of my company, BiggerPockets, Inc.’s logos over the past several years.

early logo

This first version of the logo is nothing but disasterous. I thought that because the site was about making money with real estate, that money should be the central theme. This is nothing but an amateurish slapped together logo that does nothing to further our site’s brand.

roof logo

Here we are making the mistake most companies make when it comes to designing a logo. They shoot for the obvious. Our little blue roof did nothing to differentiate our brand. We were yet another real estate related site . . . nothing more, nothing less.

cleaner logo

In the above logo, we started to realize that the roof shouldn’t play as prominent a role. We wanted people to focus on our name, BiggerPockets, which represented what people would get from our site. This began an evolution towards our differentiation.

unique logo

This logo actually came from one of my high-school students (I taught school for several years). I wanted something fun and unique involving money and a big ‘ole pocket. While this design certainly stood out and let people know more about who we were, it was a bit amateurish as well. We were going in the right direction, but hadn’t quite done it just right.

clean and unique

This final and current logo of the company, I believe, hits the nail on the head. It is certainly unique, and represents who we are. By itself, the iconic man in the pocket, representing how big your pockets can become, is symbolic of our site. I am extremly pleased with this logo, as I feel that it is clean, unique, and expounds a message. Does it have what it takes to become timeless? I suppose that is up to you and everyone else out there!

A Great Resource for Creating Your Logo Design

After I knew that my student was on to something with our logo, I decided to have some professional graphic artists clean it up for me. To do that, I found a great service that everyone should utilize: SitePoint’s Logo Design Contests. All I did was give the brilliant (and not so brilliant) graphic designers on Sitepoint (a huge and amazing webmaster forum) some ideas of what I was looking for, and let them run with it. There were many wonderful ideas put forward, and I was able help the designers modify and clean their logos up until I had somthing I was happy with. The best part about running one of these contests is that it is affordible and you do get many ideas to choose from.

Never Accuse Your Customer Without Having All the Facts! AND Don’t Steal People’s Content!

Last week, I wrote an article about good customer service and used the example of how EzineArticles.com failed to live up to their promise to contact me about a situation. I am happy to report that I have finally been contacted by the company. The interesting thing is that the company broke another cardinal rule, research first and accuse later.

Don’t Assume You’ve got All The Facts Until You Do!

Here is the content of the email I received:

Hi Joshua,

Your account is suspended because your article “Hiring the Right
Property Manager for Your Rental/Income Property” has content that is
exactly the same as this piece:

http://www.wcrt.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1526

…and is not attributed to you. We require that all submitted
articles be either original articles written by you or articles to
which you have an exclusive right to. Please keep in mind that to
have an exclusive right to an article, only your name may be
associated with it. If you purchased this article as part of a pack
or received it from a distributor/affiliate site, so have others so
you do not have an exclusive right to it.

Can you please explain the above? What is the source of your article?

Abby

http://EzineArticles.com/

A few things . . . first, wouldn’t it make more sense if they had contacted me last year when I submitted the article with their inquiry? Instead, I was flatly banned WITH NO EXPLANATION. They assumed I was the one who was not the original author instead of doing 1 of 2 things: 1) contacting me asking me to prove I am the author or 2) doing 1 minute of research to see if I was the author. A google search of the first line of the article in question reveals the truth:

A little article I wrote back in October of 2005 called: Things to Consider when Interviewing Property Management Companies comes up immediately. It would be very clear to see that the duplicated article that they were talking about was written January 30, 2006, 3 months later.

In addition, the email assumes that I was the one committing the copyright infringement, when in fact it was someone from another site doing it. I was guilty until proven innovent! This is certainly not the way to run a service.

What Can Be Learned Here?

  • Don’t assume that you have all the facts until you actually do.
  • Choose your words wisely. In tone and content, it apears as though the people at EZineArticles are accusing me of stealing someone else’s articles. Accusing someone is not the way to make them happy customers/users.
  • If you say you’re going to respond to someone in 24 hours, then do it.
  • Don’t get on my bad side! (just kidding . . . kind of . . . )

Further Implications of The Situation
I am somewhat thankful for the whole controversy for one reason: I was able to discover that one of the users of my company, BiggerPockets’s forums was stealing our materials and posting them as his own. As a result, I emailed him asking him to immediately remove the article from his site, and warned him that I would contact his host if he failed to comply. We shall see what happens . . . back to my 7 Steps on How to Protect Your Website’s Copyright When Someone Steals Your Content.

I’ll keep you posted of any further developments!

The Power of Effective Follow-Up in Marketing

Photo Title: Telephone - Photographer: tnimalanIn a post about using social media sites for networking a few days ago, I mentioned a website called Geni.com. As a result of the post I was contacted by someone at the company and they have now offered to send me some fun branded swag. It was never my intention to get cool free stuff by writing this blog, however I’ll take it.

Why should anyone care?
FREE PUBLICITY!

This type of thing happens every day by good companies. It is called a follow-up. As I offered positive publicity for the company in the form of a review, they felt compelled to thank me, and rightly so. They now have more publicity (this post), and if I get something great like a sweatshirt / t-shirt / jacket (hint – lol), I’ll roam the streets wearing their brand on my chest. On top of that, I’ll probably write yet another post about this once I do receive the swag, if it is indeed something cool, and bring even more attention to the company.

What is the lesson we can take away here?
The lesson is not “If you send me cool things I’ll write about it”, but is that if you effectively follow up with your users you do much more then you know. Another prime example of this can be seen in a post I wrote yesterday about a company that failed to follow up with me on a problem I had with their website. Instead of putting out positive energy for the company, they now have a nice scathing review. Even despite the post, they have not to this point gotten back to me.

To build a strong and effective marketing campaign, you must keep your follow-up in mind. Failure to do so can become your downfall . . . be careful!

Article Marketing with Ezine Articles: “What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate!”

There are tons of different techniques for promoting your business or website, and one of the more popular ones is by using article marketing. Simply put, article marketing is the act of writing articles about a topic with the goal of getting the readers to contact you or visit your website. I will cover article marketing in more detail in another post, but I wanted to talk about an experience I’m currently going through with a very popular site called Ezine Articles.

Like many other article submission sites, this site relies on authors to log in and submit articles which are then published on site. Anyone can use the article on their site, provided it is not altered and provided the byline is included.

The Failure of EzineArticles.com
Back on March 30, 2006 (YES, LAST YEAR!) I signed up and submitted an article to the site. As I’m a busy guy, I forgot about the article, but came back to the Ezine site recently in hopes of submitting another one. To my shock, I noticed a bright red notice: PROBLEM – Not Live. Trying to figure things out, I saw in tiny font, a notice “Problem: General Error – Please contact us to find out more.” Of course, I contacted them and waited.

It has now been over a week! Despite a message telling me that I’d be “contacted shortly”, I have not heard form a sole. The irony is that they have an autoresponder sending out the following message:

Hi,

Thank you for contacting EzineArticles.com’s author support center.

Every email is human reviewed and our normal response time is within
24 business hours, Monday thru Friday.

Thanks!

http://EzineArticles.com/

Looks like there is a lack of humans or something over there!

Now, I’m just another angry customer. The people running Ezine Articles have failed to establish an efficient customer service platform and people like me have fallen in the cracks. Instead of getting free positive publicity from me about how great their site is, they now have to deal with this post, telling people how they have failed to do what they set out to. People sometimes say “any publicity is good publicity” – that is certainly not the case here!

As the famous quote from Cool Hand Luke goes, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”!

What is the lesson to be learned?
Customer service is #1! If you can’t keep your users happy, especially in this day and age, the backlash can be quick and extremely powerful.

BTW – I sent a trackback to the company’s blog and the blog of the guy I think is in charge. Lets see if they have a response now . . .

The Direct and Indirect Approaches to Forum Marketing

Forums (aka. message boards or discussion boards) are incredible resources. Not only are they helpful for learning and helping others, but they can also be valuable tools for marketing your business or website. There are two approaches you can take in using forums for marketing; the direct approach, or the indirect approach.

The Direct Approach

Some might call this the SPAM message of forum marketing . . . I certainly do. The direct approach is basically the hard sell. You go to forums that are in the niche you want to market to and pitch your stuff. Have a gardening business and want customers . . . go to a gardening forum and post a few messages telling people what you do and sell yourself. Everytime I see someone do this, they post multiple messages around the site that are all sales pitches; on a good forum, these posts are typically removed very quickly as is the member posting them.

Is this method effective?
It depends. If you happen to catch people who are looking for someone like you, then it probably is. On the other hand, people don’t like things shoved down their throats. The hard sell typically turns people off. Many forums have rules forbidding such behavior outside designated thread areas for that exact reason. The hard sell is ineffective mostly because there is no long-term way to sustain it. You can’t keep posting ads on a forum without being asked to stop.

Would I recommend the direct approach?
Absolutely Not! Many forum administrators consider these posts to be SPAM. Posting ads on forums can get you banned very quickly in most reputable discussion boards.

The InDirect Approach

The indirect approach is more of a soft sale technique. The premise of the indirect approach is by participating on a site and helping others, you will gain the members’ trust. Eventually, you will be seen by those people as an expert in your area and they will start flocking to you. I witness this every day on my real estate forums. Many of our members are extremly helpful to others on the site. They spend their time giving advice to anyone who needs it. Soon, buzz around the site starts flowing and that member begins to get extremly busy. We have members who have built their businesses through the goodwill they have generated on our forums.

Is this method effective?
The indirect approach is simple and effective. I have used it to build traffic for many websites that I run, and see people use it on our forums as well. Don’t believe it? Try it out yourself!

How do I implement the indirect approach?
To effectively use the indirect approach, just follow the 9 Steps To Growing Your Business Using Forum Marketing.

How to Network Using Social Media Sites; Improve Your Networking

Technology can be a blessing and a curse. In terms of networking, it is absolutely a blessing! Over the past few years I have connected with so many people from my past and I owe most of that to social sites I’ve participated in on the ‘net. I thought it migh be nice to share some of these and how they can be used for networking. Note that this list is not comprehensive – it just covers many of the more popular (or useful) sites and how best to use them.

Mainstream Social Sites

Myspace
myspace.gif
While teaching high-school, there was nothing more annoying then to see the students trying to sneak on to MySpace to talk to their friends. While the site is deeply flawed (we all know about the drama), it has been a great networking tool. Many people use it for marketing, but if you ‘re not looking to SPAM the universe and simply want to reconnect with people from your past, it is pretty helpful. I’ve used it to get back in touch with high-school and college friends, and keep my eyes peeled for new people worth reaching out to.

Networking Rating: 4 out of 10 (good for friends & past acquaintences)
My Myspace Profile

Facebook
facebook.gif
Facebook is very similar to MySpace, but I have found the interface to be much easier to use and much cleaner looking. It has also been a great resource for finding friends from my past, but in terms of business affiliations, I have not found it to be of much use.

Networking Rating: 6 out of 10 (good for keeping up with former friends / fellow alumni)
My Facebook Profile

Business Networking Sites

LinkedIn
linkedin.gif
LinkedIn has, in my estimation, the most promise as a business tool. It is focused on business networking, and has tons of features that make keeping in touch and finding new affiliations/partners/employees very easy. It seems that your LinkedIn profile is becoming something like your online calling card. I love searching for people with interesting resumes to see how we’re connected . . . “linkingup” with them becomes really easy, and you know that people who reach you from the site are looking to keep it professional. While there is still room for improvement for the site, it really has become the standard for all other social sites in terms of business networking.

Networking Rating: 9 out of 10 (great for business networking)
My LinkedIn Profile

FastPitch
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I just learned about FastPitch Networking from Rich Swier’s Startup Florida just yesterday. I know very little about it and have yet to do more then just play around on the sites main page, but I definitely see some promise in the site. According to Rich, the site is “a premiere destination for business professionals looking to market and network their business.” As I learn more, I’ll be sure to share it!

Networking Rating: ??? (great potential for business networking)

Using Blogging Networking Sites

MyBlogLog
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It is hard to find a blog today without the MyBlogLog widget, showing the recent readers of that site. While it is fun to see who has been on your site, you can also use this little widget for networking. The great part about it is that you can then go and find out more about these people by seeing their profile. If you encounter someone interesting, you now have a great in. I’ve used MBL to link up with quite a few people, some of which I continue to stay in touch with. It is really all about creeating opportunities, and this is just another tool to have in the shed!

Networking Rating: 9 out of 10 (great for common interest networking)
My MyBlogLog Profile

Event Based Sites

Meetup.com
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Truth be told, I have never attended a Meetup, but I’m starting to see the value of the site. While it seems great for things like making friends or finding people to play with (sports and the like or otherwise if that’s your thing), it is designed for networking. I think most of the value is in attending events for people in your business niche. Want to meet programmers – go to the local programmer meetup . . . looking to link up with entrepreneurs – go to the entrepreneur meetup. I’ve signed up for my first meetup and hope to let you know how it all goes . . .

Networking Rating: ??? (not sure yet)
My Meetup Profile

Using Non-Traditional Social Sites for Networking

Geni.com
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I found Geni.com while doing some research on my genealogy. This site is not only a place to build your family tree, but also a hub for family networking. I started my tree less than a month ago and there are now over 1800 members in it. The site allows users to create profiles and like most social sites, to communicate with one another. You never know when that 3rd cousin once removed is going to turn into the lifeline on your next business venture. I’ve already used it to link up with family I’ve never met after moving to Colorado. It is an absolute addiction and worth checking out!

Networking Rating: 10 out of 10 (perfect for family networking)

Cool Tools & Articles About: Wikipedia, Link Love, Site Popularity, Social Search Engines

Here are some useful and very cool tools and resources for any webbie:

Maki, author of the extremly cool blog (which I just discovered today) Dosh Dosh writes an extremly thorough article aka The Ultimate Guide on How to Get Your Website Listed in Wikipedia which really is what it says. If you’ve ever wondered about getting some link love from the uber-encyclopedia Wikipedia, this is the place to find out how to go about doing it.

Ever wondered how popular your site really is? There are plenty of sites that measure different metrics, but the new Popuri.us (1169 diggs and counting) helps consolidate all that data. Just enter your url and find out: Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, Compete Rank, Quantcast Rank, Google BackLinks, Yahoo BackLinks, Live Search BackLinks, Technorati Links, del.icio.us Bookmarks, Bloglines subscribers, WHOIS Info, and DNS Info. If possible, I’d somehow find a way to integrate feedburner info to this, as it has become the de-facto metric for measuring a blog’s success.

There must be hundreds of lists on how to get others to link to your website, but Wendy Piersall guest blogging at Darren Rouse’s Problogger finds the best of the best in The Ultimate Guide to Getting Lots of Link Love. Broken down into categories including The Best of the Best, Link Strategy, Linkbaiting, Relationship Building, and Buying Links, the list covers pretty much anything you could ever think of when it comes to getting links. This will surely help newbie webbies!

Lastly, I wanted to share with you a site I learned about from the self-proclaimed evil one, John Chow’s frequent guest blogger Michael Kwan (that was a mouthful!). I have to admit that I no longer use Yahoo or MSN to do any searches, probably out of laziness, but Google has been my SE for a while now. That might change . . . the new search engine / social engine YouAnimous or AfterVote (calls itself both I think) combines the results from Yahoo, MSN, and Google with stats and the ability to vote on results. It is really cool and I believe, has a lot of promise. Search engines use algorithms to calculate ranking, but that ignores simple human logic. By adding the human element, it seems that results should be more relevant. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Are Alexa And DMOZ Down For The Count?

knockout.jpgWhat is going on with Alexa and DMOZ. Both have been having problems for weeks now.

Alexa simply does not load most of the time. Are they in the midst of a major update? I’m shocked that they have not addressed the problem publicly! So much for PR.

DMOZ has had problems with their submission engine for some time now. I’ve heard from editors over there that even they are unable to log in. I’m currently getting a “404 Not Found” error when visiting the site!

So . . . are two of the busiest websites in the world down for the count, or are they working on something really BIG? Either way, they are losing the respect of many people by not coming out and letting everyone know what’s happening.

Spin control anyone?

Increasing Search Engine Rank with Trusted Links

Most SEO experts will likely agree that gaining inbound links is one of the most important steps in growing your website. The methods for gaining those links continue to evolve with time. In the old days, we used to email other webmasters and request reciprocal links. That faded as the ‘net grew and people started to SPAM every site around in an effort to get some links. People used link farms and uncounted other techniques to get links. With the advent of blogs and forums, building links has become somewhat easier, provided you have something useful to say.

As the search engines have improved their algorithms, they have maintained one factor in ranking that still stands true:

Links from “trusted” sources are more important than links from newer, unknown sites. With that in mind a quick tip from Darren at Problogger.net explains an easy to get backlinks from these trusted sources. He explains that links from sites with .edu and .gov extensions help increase search rankings.

To get these links, just find forums or blogs with the extension and get involved in the discussion. You will naturally create backlinks to your site with forum signatures and your blog comments. Locating good sites is easy too! Just search for:

“keyword” forum site:.edu
“keyword” blog site:.edu
“keyword” forum site:.gov
“keyword” blog site:.gov

Replacing keyword with the topic you’re interested in, and start posting!

While this is a great “trick”, be sure you don’t start spamming. Any trust you may gain from “respectable” inbound links will quickly be lost if you start pissing everyone off and being spammy.