by Bill Sardi
Recently by Bill Sardi: Channeling Rothbard
True, Moses, Jesus and Churchill didn't need the internet to be etched into the memory bank of millions of modern-day humans. School textbooks and Sunday Schools did a good job of imbedding the names of these men into our brains.
With libraries that house millions of paper-printed books across the globe folding due to the growing reliance upon electronic information, it is clear, if you want to make a name for yourself, if you have something to contribute to mankind, you had better get your contributions archived and ranked online.
Electronically accessed information goes one better than words in print, it can recreate the original event when certain words were first uttered if those spoken words were captured on film. For example, you can hear Winston Churchill utter his famous 1944 "We shall fight them on the beaches" speech here. Or listen to John F. Kennedy's legendary 1961 "Secret Societies" speech here.
And with a growing class of functional illiterates, maybe your best contributions had better be captured in sound or audio/video, not just in printed language. It is estimated there are 40-44 million Americans who are functionally illiterate. You narrow the number of potential consumers of your written words by a billion if you choose to pound them into your keyboard as that many people on the planet are believed to be functionally illiterate.
How does the world find you?
What I'm primarily concerned about is Google's search engine algorithm that attempts to rank home pages on various topics by the quality of their content, which is judged by a number of factors include and quality of backlinks and twitter followers.
Google says it is attempting to evaluate website content to eliminate false measures of page rankings. So-called search engine optimization (SEO) experts have sprung up to help you optimize Google searches for your name or topics related to your name, products or services. But SEOs are divided into white hat and black hat operations. Google is attempting, via its continually update algorithm, to obfuscate the black hat SEOs. Top-line SEO firms should prod you to work on generating quality content for your site rather posting computer generated content to generate traffic. The black-hat SEOs have come up with a variety of nefarious methods to produce undeserved top page rankings on Google
Measures taken to gain traffic and links
You can actually hire firms now that will buy links on spam sites, creating the backlinks that prompt Google to raise your page ranking. This is not to denigrate SEO companies, only to say one must distinguish the white-hat from the black-hat operators.
There is a business website that comes to mind (no, I won't ridicule them nor give them publicity they don't deserve by linking to their site) that has graphics of women in low-cut blouses, interviews with porn stars, titillating pieces written to attract males — this website's obvious target audience. The competition to provide eye candy to attract males to websites, especially financial sites, is major big time. This doesn't necessarily create traffic that would turn into buying customers for advertisers on that site, but it's obvious some advertisers are sticking around, which means this pandering to males must work.
Daniel Van Bogelen of Sand Dollar Marketing in San Luis Obispo, CA, our primary consultant for this report, says if you want to generate traffic through search engines, then you first gain attention. But it doesn't necessarily mean using the search term "motorcycle," which is largely a male-dominated audience, to attract males to your website about finance. It means you'll need to consider optimizing your website and your entire online presence, including your link profile and your social networking footprint, so that your website content will gain attention and then create sufficient interest to get viewers to spend time at your site and then "help them buy."
However, if you have any conniving enemies or competitors, they can buy webspam and direct it at your home page, which when detected by Google's traffic-cop algorithm, down-rates your website and buries it on page 23 of Google's search page. You could even have to pay an extortion fee to remove the negative backlinks that Google's algorithm has detected.
Is Google's new algorithm working?
Yes, Google's new algorithm eliminated 12% of all online searches where content farms were creating poorly written articles stuffed with keywords to artificially elevate webpage rankings. But I don't trust Google either. It has secret components of its algorithm which I'm sure involve profitability, that is, ranks the sites that generate the most income, not the best content, for Google.
Google is a for-profit entity and certainly has the right to maximize its profits. But if Google is saying content is king and then its secret algorithm prioritizes profits, this may confound your efforts to generate traffic at your site based on content.
It may not dawn upon you that Google is pushing you towards advertise using Google Adwords while saying you need to improve content. Google works on two streets, one is free page ranking and the other is paid advertising. Don't develop crossed wires over this in your efforts to optimize traffic to your site.
If you are buried on page 23 at Google Search and can't develop deep content at your site and there is no way you can compete with the big boys by bidding top price for Google Adwords, hiring an SEO agent may not be fruitful.
The curse of creators of original content on the internet is not only that their reports and comments are often stolen and placed online elsewhere, but that Google has no electronic mechanism that can effectively evaluate the significance of what creators create. Google may want to encourage websites to post quality content but it just may not have tools that are able to adequately recognize this. Certainly Google wants a search experience to be precise and successful. If relevant websites are linking to your site you may not have a beef with Google.
The non-commercial model is not Google's "cup of tea"
For example, I have a non-commercial website that attempts to provide self-help information about perplexing health problems. There are no ads at that site, even for the health books I have written. I don't want to have my hand out and demand money before I offer help to sometimes desperate people searching for answers for emergent health problems.
This non-commercial model doesn't fit Google's model, which is to create click fees and affiliate fees, which essentially are kickbacks to vendors. The Federal Trade Commission is meek on this issue. There needs to be disclosures that a webpage receives fees in the form of click fees and affiliate fees for posting Google ads adjacent to articles.
Google itself is party to these kickback schemes, such as allowing phony product rating sites to be created which ends up lining Google's pocketbook. I think Google requires a statement "Ads by Google," but this doesn't adequately inform online searchers that the website hosting these ads also receives a cut — a click fee.
There is criticism that Google has implemented its new search engine requirements to reduce traffic to websites from searches on standard searches on Google and force them to pay for a Google Adwords campaign. The recently introduced Google algorithm to rank websites appears to be fashioned to reduce free services and increase revenues.
Imagine you went to the New York Times or NBC network television and attempted to air a bogus rating of products that covertly directs you to a product the rater receives a kickback for. Those advertising venues would reject your ad idea outright. But these kinds of schemes are widely tolerated by Google.
In regard to phony health webpage rating sites, there is the Health on the Net Foundation (HON) that is self-policing, and the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission (URAC) that charges fees small non-commercial sites cannot afford. Drug makers create phony consumer pages on a certain topic that covertly promote their products. The only way to avoid getting conned by these sites is to click on the "about us" tab.
BusinessWeek.com attempts to rate health information websites and lists government sites first (National Institutes of Health or prominent home pages for prestigious medical clinics, like The Mayo Clinic). A specious website for the National Health Council offers to be a one-stop directory of groups like the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, groups which often beg for money and have contributed zero to health promotion and have delivered a lot of misinformation over the years.
An example would be the American Cancer Society's false claim that cancer patients are surviving longer following treatment now than years ago. Cancer is just being detected early and patients are still dying on the same calendar day. Rates of heart disease have declined in recent years, but more likely due to greater consumption of wine or dietary supplements rather than what the American Heart Association nebulously attributes to improved drugs and surgery. Top webpage rankings do not equate with delivery of truth.
Unique content = ?
The KnowledgeOfHealth.com website that I write and edit provides original content that cannot be found elsewhere. For example, I recently explained why gastric bypass surgery seems to cure diabetes once and for all, something that physicians say they can't figure out. Another recent report reveals a likely reason why aspirin often induces asthma, again another malady modern medicine cannot explain. I have also written why a common vitamin deficiency induces gluten intolerance, something both alternative and conventional medicine have not been able to explain.
I appear to be the only health journalist on the internet to advise the public away from undergoing a colonoscopy, a procedure that has only a remote chance of saving your life. At least I could not find a parallel report on the first ten pages of a Google search.
I uncovered the fact a cardiologist in the 1970s cured heart disease with a natural molecule. This was before the era of statin cholesterol-lowering drugs. That achievement was, and is today, overlooked.
I imagine there are hundreds if not thousands of health reporters around the globe. Many are biology trained and savvy in the language of medicine. But not one of them happened to report that the life expectancy of Americans, which has been rising every year without ceasing since the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918, took a sudden dip in 1993.
Not a single health reporter chose to chase down the reason for thousands of extra deaths in that year. I went to Morbidity & Mortality Reports to determine that an outbreak of nursing home deaths late in that year produced the dramatic decline in American life expectancy. I was able to link that fact with the provision of flu vaccine to nursing home residents for the first time in that year.
Apparently journalists all over the globe missed this tragic event that is widely revealed in life expectancy charts issued by government sources. Or did they choose to avoid it? It would have caused such a setback in the government's vaccination program that no one would have dared undergo vaccination for the flu for fear of a mortal consequence. The nation's news media is often witless and complicit with government propaganda.
Have you ever wondered why the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people while no subsequent flu pandemic has produced so many deaths? I investigated and found aspirin tablets that happen to deplete vitamin C were over-marketed in 1918 and this is the most likely reason so many people died of the flu in that year.
A doctor contacted me online and asked who did I think I was, the Mayo Clinic? He couldn't believe an independent journalist could uncover such a tragedy as this and dismissed my report outright. The rest of the medical journalists couldn't have missed this one, right?
When a number of recent studies linked the use of calcium supplements to heart attacks among postmenopausal women, the dietary supplement industry chose to circle its wagons and defend their most popular selling $1 billion-annual sales product. I have been the only journalist to explain why postmenopausal women should avoid calcium supplements. By the way, I often post my articles at a more frequented website that allows me to borrow their larger online audience, like I did the above calcium report (thank you LewRockwell.com).
While I'm a big fan of vitamin pills, the idea of adding more calcium to the diet is fraught with mortal consequences. I have had to go against the grain, being the sole dietary supplement advocate to agree with the scientific reports on this issue.
Back to Google
The point here is that Google has no way to adequately evaluate the valuable content at my website and wouldn't be expected to. Plain and simple, Google page rankings in reality rely upon savvy readers who backlink from their sites to yours to rank your pages. But readers may not recognize that quality of uniqueness of what you or I have written.
My reports are often dotted with links to reports published in medical journals. There is often careful analysis, not just repetition of what researchers previously said. This is a higher standard than medical journalists at The New York Times adhere to. None of my efforts to create credible and checkable content gets me a top page ranking with Google.
Buried by intent
If you feel your unique and valuable message to the world is getting buried in the billions of newly posted pages of online information, this is not necessarily the result of the sheer numbers of websites offering information, it is more likely by design. Hiring an SEO firm may or may not fix your problem. You are working in partnership with Google, which subjugates your profitability objectives under theirs. Google is a $26 billion organization whose business objective is to elevate its most profitable sites to a top page ranking. However, this can be inherently unfair.
For example, I publish a short downloadable e-book on how to remedy gallstones. But my Natural Health Librarian website has to bid for Google Adwords with the likes of the Mayo Clinic that is willing to pay more for a top page ranking because gall bladder surgery is a big-ticket item. My 32-page $24.95 book, which talks about how to avoid surgery, can't compete.
Google sometimes takes the lion's share of the profits
Another interesting part of online marketing is realizing that Google may take the lion's share of the sale. Only about 1 in 300 consumers searching for information about gallstones that arrive on my website elect to purchase the e-book. So we have to pay for the other 299 clicks @ 7-cents per click, or pay Google nearly $21.00 plus the credit card processing $1.25 plus 2% of the sale, so that we currently make only $1-2 per book.
Consumers wonder why we charge so much for such a short book that they have to print out. We have to tell consumers we barely make a profit on the e-book. In fact, the webmaster makes all the profit to maintain the website, as an author I make nothing. I consider it all public service. For every 100 e-books we sell, we make ~$100-200 and Google makes ~$2100.
If you don't want to commercialize your site and make it a sub-station for Google's advertising department, and have all manner of unsavory ads — even those of your competitors — show up on your own webpage, then you may have difficulty generating traffic. Most serious-minded online newspapers today, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, are forced for financial reasons to post online Google ads on their front page. I thought I'd never see that day.
The first step in your gaining new viewers at a commercial or non-commercial website is to grab their attention, then pique their interest, next create desire and finally, "help them buy," even if it's just buying into your ideas.
A good SEO service will help you do all of these says consultant Daniel VanBogelen who preaches that "where the crux of success in a storefront business is location, location, location, in the online arena, content, content, content is the governor of SEO. Make sure that content adds value, or it will never gain traction and you'll be left in the rain, holding your soggy website contemplating the hours you've wasted," he says.
You can't completely ignore page rank, particularly if you are going to take your online venture from the amateur stage to a professionally productive site that knows how to gain traffic like an airplane pilot know how to maintain altitude.
Even magnet sites like Coca Cola that can play on their brand name can't ignore SEO, so it is even more critical for you to attend to that aspect of your online business. Because SEO is a moving target now that Google's algorithm is always in a state of change, it may be difficult to optimize traffic to your site using your own amateur skills.
On the other hand, it is not wise to completely rely upon Google ads or to generate traffic to your site. It is just too vulnerable to being diverted by competitors. Speeches, radio interviews, book signings, are among the various ways to generate web traffic offline.
The internet has the potential to help you to reach more people than you ever imagined. But for many small-time authors and entrepreneurs you had might as well bury your work six-feet under the ground in what I call online insignificance. Furthermore, there may be no such thing as giving away information for free any longer. If you want a substantial number of people to view your free content you are likely going to have to pay to give your information away.