// Internet Duct Tape


Posted in Marketing and Promotion, Startups and Business, Technology by engtech on April 29, 2008

Marketing, Branding and Promotion

When we look at technology we use everyday, the great success stories all have one thing in common: competition. They all achieved their success despite healthy competition, or perhaps because of it.


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How to Generate 100s of Backlinks in Minutes

Posted in Marketing and Promotion, Microsoft Windows XP and Vista, Technology by engtech on March 25, 2008

Bloggin Tips and Tricks

In 25 ways to get an insanely popular blog Skellie describes 25 models for blogging that leads to an ever increasing audience. There’s one she missed out on: the abrasive model.

  1. Say something bone-headed so people clamour to their keyboards in order to prove you wrong.
  2. Make commenting on your post as hard as possible so that people will respond with blog posts of their own instead of a comment.


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Tip: Send Amazon or iTunes Gift Certificates Anonymously

Have you ever wanted to send a gift certificate to someone anonymously? One of the problem with electronic transactions is that quite often they tell the recipient exactly who you are. This isn’t a problem when it comes to gifts for your family or friends, but it can be more tricky if you are running an online contest for your blog.

photo by lilit

Why Anonymously?

There are several non-creepy reasons why you might want to send an anonymous gift certificate. Perhaps you are blogging pseudoanonymously? Or it could be that your PayPal / Amazon account is registered to an email address that you don’t want to share/publicize? There are many reasons why you might want to keep your Amazon or iTunes account information private but still send someone a gift certificate.

Use a Proxy

If you wanted to surf the web anonymously you would use a proxy that would act as a intermediate between your web browser and the web sites you are visiting. The same technique works for buying gift certificates. There is an online service called Prezzle that will let you send “wrapped” gift certificates to other people. If you use Prezzle to send someone a gift certificate, the recipient will see the sender as Prezzle instead of your real identity.

There is a small service fee for using Prezzle.

Hot Tip: Make sure the gift certificate matches the country of the person receiving it! Often companies like Amazon and iTunes won’t let them transfer the gift certificate to the store for their country.

Tim Ferriss’ Four Minute Blog Training – The 9 Rules You Need to Know

Posted in Marketing and Promotion, Technology by engtech on July 25, 2007

tim ferriss blog idiot stupidWhat can a man who routinely slams corporate office culture for building boredom and people who waste their workdays with internet addiction have to say about writing a blog? Darren Rowse at Problogger has the scoop and now you can too with this no money down, no holds barred, straight for the jugular look at blogging from a man who has reached the New York Times Bestseller list.

Tim on Strategy

1. Polarization is Key

No one is interested in the middle ground. To be remarkable threaten the “3Bs: behaviour, belief, or belongings.” “I want at least one person to call me a liar per post or I don’t feel I’m pushing the envelope enough.”

2. Go to the Source

The biggest source of traffic is links from popular blogs and writing guest posts for them. “Borrowing traffic is a lot faster than creating it, and the former often leads to the latter.”

3. Be Diverse

How does your niche subject relate to everything (and anything) else in the world? Explore.

Tim on Technique

4. Headlines are Everything

“If you have a great headline, you can get great pass-along. If you have a mediocre headline, even a world-class post will be ignored.” “The headline doesn’t even need to describe the article or post. It has just one purpose: to get them to read the next sentence.”

5. Formatting Matters

“Add at least one graphic to each post, bold/italicize more to make the posts easier to scan and digest, and I would also discuss more topics that nearly everyone feels they can comment on.”

6. Post Less Frequently

It allows discussion to happen. “People have a lot of crap information being forced upon them, so I only want to add [] when I have something worthy to say.”

Tim on Monetization

7. Use Tact to Make Money

People don’t care if you’re making money, they only care if it interferes with your message.

8. Ethics are Easy

Pick sponsors from other industries that you’d never write about.

The Most Important Tip

9. Create a Community

Build a community that you would want to belong to.

You can read the entire interview at ProBlogger. Tim is the author of The 4 Hour Work Week [Wikipedia] and writes is own blog. I haven’t read the book yet, but I do strongly agree with his advice on blogging.

3 Surefire Ways to Advertise Your Blog on a Shoe String

People always talk about how to sell ads on your blog, but it seems that no one talks about how to buy ads for your blog.

time is money
(photo by riccardo)

Time is money.

Trite, but true. One of the handiest “life hacks” is to figure out how much money your time is worth (after taxes) and use that to as a basis for deciding if a time saving service is worth it’s cost (assuming you have disposable income). The classic example is to hire help for around the home or to go out for dinner. Compare the spent time doing it yourself to the money you’d spend paying someone to do it for you and find an acceptable ratio.

One of the greatest lies told in the blogosphere is “write better content to get more readers and more traffic.” Great content without promotion will always fail to reach wide audience. Some form of promotion is always necessarily, usually by getting links from a more popular site, or by having a reader base that promotes your content for you.

This is how I know that I’m not a writer: the best writing comes because you have something to say, not because you’re trying to achieve some level of popularity. I know I have thought “why write if no one is reading?” Obviously, I have some deep-seated issues involving being unpopular in elementary school and trying to find validation on the Internet instead of finding my own happiness inside me; consider this my cry for help.

time is money - playground nerd
(photo by peregrino)

Writing content takes time and so does marketing. I would estimate I spend more time promoting my site, networking and building relationships with other bloggers than I do writing content. My combined focusing on writing and promotion is the only reason why anyone has every read my site — not because my content attracts readers like bees to honey.

Writing and promoting leads to lost hours, but time is money. Is it possible to replace time spent on marketing with money spent on advertising?

My time is worth around $20/hour to me. Blogging is my hobby, not a money making venture. This would be purely to reduce time I already spend — not an attempt to “grow my business.” Can a small monetary investment replace my own time building links?

In an hour I can probably drive around a guaranteed minimum of 100-300 hits to a blog post by prepping it for search engines, submitting it to social networks, contacting other bloggers and plugging it in forums and blog comments.

The sums of money are small because 1) I’m not doing this as a business investment and because 2) it is harder to compare time to money with larger sums of money. I also feel that small sums are more realistic to what a blogger can afford. This is my first time trying to buy advertising so the results may be laughable — please give better advice in the comments.

Three Good Ways to Buy Blog Ads (and Two Bad Ways)

BAD: Strange Schemes – RentMyChest – $50/life

Everyone has heard of the Million Dollar Homepage due to the massive main stream media coverage it garnered. Lots (and lots) of similar ideas sprung up. Chris Pirillo came up with the oh-so-strange RentMyChest.com. Buy a linked word on his chest for $50 for life. Result: the traffic is low — less than three hits a day. Ratio has been less than 10 hits/dollar so far.

AVERAGE: Social Networks – StumbleUpon Advertising Campaign – $10/once

Any blogger who has had a post stumbled has seen the how they turn the referrer url into an ad for StumbleUpon (genius). They are the most straightforward with a direct cost per vistor of $0.05 a hit. $10 got me 200 hits, although my stats software only said 130 (my fault for having too long of a landing page). There were only three positive stumbles, which didn’t lead to any increased SU traffic once the campaign was over. Ratio is 13 hits/dollar. (It should have been 20 hits/dollar but I want to keep the metrics even with the rest.)

GOOD: Blog Advertising – Adbrite – $12/month

I chose to buy an ad on the popular blogger Violent Acres’ site because the cost was so low. I chose the “I support Violent Acres” text which made me the second most popular ad on the site with around 7-9 hits a day. When the author wrote a post directly about her advertisers that lead to an increase of around 100-180 hits for two days. Ratio was about 40 hits/dollar.

GOOD: Social Networks – StumbleUpon Sponsorship – $20/year

It is harder to measure the results of this. By becoming a sponsored StumbleUpon community member an account gets featured more often. But being a solid well-networked member of the StumbleUpon community seems to be a much bigger factor than whether or not you are a sponsor. I’ve seen StumbleUpon block users from submitting articles from certain blogs, but when contacted SU never responded.

GREAT: Group Writing Project with Prize / Contest – $15/contest

Group writing projects are a great way to get links and interactive community participation. The downside is that their success is largely a factor of how well they are promoted – Probloggers like Darren Rowse can get over 300 links in a group writing project. I got 23 links, 1000 hits and more importantly new readers because of my first contest. I consider it a resounding success. Ratio was 67 hits/dollar.

My second contest did 49 links and 1450 hits, and my third contest did 19 links and 860 hits.

Is it worth spending money to promote your blog?

I’m still divided on it. The results aren’t going to be any better than what you can build naturally through promotion, but it can be a good way to give support to other bloggers/sites you enjoy. Contests seem to be a great way to engage your readers and help build a community around your blog — but there isn’t any time savings compared to how you would normally promote a post. Running a contest is worth it for building up your community but it isn’t a short-cut (and too much self-promotion can drive away readers). Spending the same time and energy on something else other than a contest would likely get similar results.

buy and sell blog ads promotion links
(photo by greefus)

Ways to Advertise Your Blog (That I Didn’t Try)

Directory Listing

More info on SEOMoz: ” I think that this is a ton of bull. I think that you can blow a load of dough and a lot of time chasing these links – which are mostly going to be low quality – and bring you very little real traffic.”

Blog Advertising – Text Link Ads

The ads are served as part of the web content so they pass ad-blocking software and are counted by search engines. It’s like buying your way on to the blogroll. Text Link Ads would charge $69 to $83 per month for a single link on my blog — so it’s out of my “on a shoestring” price range. One thing I’ve noticed from being on many blog rolls is that they don’t usually lead to many hits. More info at SEOMoz.

Blog Advertising – Direct

Some blog owners who sell ads will allow you to negotiate direct prices. This is a better deal for both parties because there is no middle man. DailyBlogTips writes about direct sale from the seller’s point of view.

Blog Advertising – Networks

“Most blog networks allow users to purchase credits with money, and the price is really convenient. You should be able receive hundreds of visitors or to get thousands of banner impressions for less than 10 dollars. Some blog networks that sell credits include Blog Explosion, Blog Soldiers and Blog Advance.” More info at DailyBlogTips.

Blog Advertising – Sponsored Reviews

PayPerPost, ReviewMe and SponsoredReviews all let you find bloggers who are will to write about your site if you give them some cash. It could be a good way to target blogs that have the same niche, although there is no guarantee they’ll have anything nice to say about you. Blogging Tips talks about his experience buying reviews. Buying paid reviews can be a great way to promote a contest.

RSS Advertising – FeedBurner

FeedBurner has been selling ads in RSS feeds for a while, and that’s only going to increase now that they’ve been bought by Google. You are targeting people who read blogs and people who subscribe to RSS feeds. They have detailed demographics on the audiences. aVC talks about buying Feedburner ads, and how each subscriber makes him around $0.60/month on the ads he sells through FeedBurner.

Search Engines – Google AdWords

” Adwords is probably the most efficient method to generated raw traffic for your website. In order to get started you should create an account, add lots (by lots I mean hundreds if not thousands) of keywords that are related your site and set the maximum Pay-per-Click rate at $0.01. After that raise the rate by $0.01 every week or so until you start getting the desired amount of daily clicks.” More info at DailyBlogTips. You can also directly target a specific site using Google AdWords.

Social Networks – YouTube

This is like direct blog advertising, but instead you contact the creators of popular videos on YouTube and ask them to embed a watermark with your blog url for a small price. WebLogHits talks about their experience.

Social Networks – Facebook

Facebook lets you create flyers with 5000 impressions for $10. This sounds like a great ratio, except that so few of those impressions click on the ads.

Social Networks – Digg and User/Submitter

There are several underground sites that will “vote” for your site on social link sharing networks. This can lead to you getting banned from those networks, and isn’t like to be worth it in the long term. Digg seems to bring less hits and less links then it ever did before.

7 tips for buying advertising for your blog
(photo by thoth92)

7 Tips for Buying Advertising for Your Blog

  1. Niche
    • Buy ads from sites that would have a similar audience who would also appreciate your content.
  2. Deep Link
    • Instead of linking to the front page of your blog, link to a particular page that gives the reader value. Try to convert them into a regular reader.
  3. Other Blogs
    • By buying ads on other blogs not only do you support other bloggers but you are targeting an audience that already reads blogs.
  4. Choose Sites that Directly Mention Their Sponsors
    • A link in the sidebar only gets a fraction of the hits compared to a blog that directly thanks the people who have sponsored them.
  5. Mention the Site You Are Advertising On
    • Ads that mention the site they are advertising on cut through the blinders people have when reading websites.
  6. Avoid Pyramid Schemes and Pay Directories
    • They don’t work. When was the last time you clicked on a link on a million dollar homepage or on from a blog directory?
  7. Ad-blocking
    • If the ad would be blocked by ad blocking software then you might think twice about using it if you have an audience that uses ad-blocking software.

This was written as part of Daily Blog Tips “Project 3” contest. Vote for it by linking to this article from your blog!

Create Buzz by Doing the Unexpected and Being Remarkable (Puzzle Quest Case Study)

Posted in Games, Marketing and Promotion, Technology by engtech on June 01, 2007

puzzle quest nintendo ds screenshotA game company called Infinite Interactive have a break-away hit on their hands with a new game called PuzzleQuest. Their success has come from two key differentiators:

  • Mashing the puzzle gem (IE: Bejeweled) genre with the old school Japanese RPG (IE: Final Fantasy) genre.
  • Releasing a demo for PCs over the Internet even though the game was only available for the Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable handheld consoles
  • (and possibly) very limited available at game stores causing scarcity and a lot of buzz around how hard it is to find a copy

The Heath brothers [wikipedia] rate unexpectedness as one of the six rules of sticky, memorable, and interesting ideas. Seth Godin recommends that products be remarkable in his book the Purple Cow [wikipedia]. The qualities of being unexpected and being remarkable are most successful when they are intertwined.

Being Unexpected

puzzle quest nintendo ds pc game demo downloadInfinite Interactive has reached a new audience by offering a PC demo of the Puzzle Quest. Demos, or free limited-play sample versions of games, are a tradition in the PC gamer domain, but are relatively new to the console market. The Xbox 360 with its built-in internet connection and hard drive is a perfect marketplace for try-before-you-buy game demos. The Nintendo DS hand-held console has been experimenting with downloading game demos at supported stores, but their severely limited demos still don’t give you a good feel for the game.

PC video gaming is in a slump. Between World of Warcraft and the many choices on the console market, as well as an ever increasing number of HD-TV home theatre setups, console gaming has been taking an ever increasing marketshare away from PC gaming. There just aren’t as many quality computer video games being made anymore. Puzzle Quest recognizes that most console gamers are former PC gamers and that a PC connected to the internet is by far the easiest way to distribute a demo for a handheld console without a hard drive.

Most games are written to work on multiple platforms these days, so offering a PC demo for a console game isn’t as hard to do as you might think. I’m surprised it isn’t done more often.

Being Exceptional

PuzzleQuest is an excellent gem matching puzzle game AND an excellent RPG. They might not meet the depth of story of a Bioware roleplaying game, but they have solid game mechanics that are quite addictive.

The game has all the features of modern RPGs:

  • Branching storyline based on player actions
  • All combat is done by solving gem matching puzzles against an opponent AI
  • Matching gems builds up mana that lets you cast spells that affect the game board
  • Different skills affect how you gain mana, gold and experience during puzzle combat
  • Different classes gain skills at different rates and can cast different spells
  • Different items give you different modifiers for puzzle combat
  • Acquire different companions who help you during combat
  • Capture enemies to learn spells from them
  • Capture enemies to gain mounts
  • Capture runes to craft items
  • Capture cities to increase your income

I was really surprised at the depth of activity available, and more importantly how fun it is.

puzzle quest action screenshot

The Proof is in the Pudding

Since being released on the Nintendo DS and PSP, Puzzle Quest has found an ever increasing audience. The buzz that has grown around their game has led to announcements of future releases for Xbox Live Arcade and the PC. The biggest problem I had after playing the was trying to figure out where I could get a copy of the game.

  • Found out about it on Penny Arcade (Puzzle Quest comic 1, Puzzle Quest comic 2)
  • Hours spent playing PuzzleQuest PC demo (I replayed it three times)
  • Spent at least 30 minutes trying to find a torrent for the full PC game… before I realized it was for the Nintendo DS.
  • Tried to find it in no less than 8 local game stores (ended up using Amazon)
  • Picked up a copy of one of their PC games in the bargain bin (Battlecry 3)
  • Got my own Nintendo DS so I’d stop hogging my girlfriend’s

My own experience with Puzzle Quest shows how successful it has been. Infinite Interactive has done an amazing job jumping from the flagging PC game market to handheld games, and I look forward to a day soon when they overcome the distribution issues and the game can be found at your local store. But why wait until then? You can download it and give it a try now.

An Introduction to Reputation Management (by guest blogger Tim Nash)

This is a post by a guest blogger.

Tim Nash is a reputation management consultant, co-founder and primary consultant for Venture Skills a “New media” IT company which specialises in search engine optimisation, reputation management, and technical side of online marketing. When not working at Venture Skills, posting site reviews on forums he can be found teaching at a local university where he lecturers in Search Engine Optimisation and Information Retrieval.

My name is Tim and I’m a reputation management consultant. I’m helping engtech out by doing a guest post for his blog.

But what is reputation management?

Let us start with a formal quote:

Reputation management is the process of tracking an entity’s actions and other entities’ opinions about those actions; reporting on those actions and opinions; and reacting to that report creating a feedback loop. All entities involved are generally people, but that need not always be the case. Other examples of entities include animals, businesses, or even locations or materials. The tracking and reporting may range from word-of-mouth to statistical analysis of thousands data points. — Source: Wikipedia

This is a very dusty but surprisingly accurate description of reputation management, be it in commercial business analysis or on a personal level. There a three basic areas to reputation management:

  1. Finding out what people are saying about you
  2. Creating a persona or brand image
  3. If needed defending this image


Blog Marketing Explained

Posted in Links, Marketing and Promotion, Technology by engtech on January 11, 2007

My buddy Tony has the helm of Problogger.net this week and he’s written a truly excellent post on blog marketing. Blog marketing is as much (if not more) work than blogging itself. His advice is 100% accurate based on my experience and I’ve yet to see such a concise list of “Everything you need to know about making your blog popular”.

Here’s the summary for those of you who like to try before you bu… er, read.


The Secret to Blog Success is in the Title

Posted in Marketing and Promotion, Technology by engtech on November 22, 2006

Modern Life is Rubbish has a good quick read on title do’s and don’ts that goes well with Copy Blogger’s series on magnetic headlines (CopyBlogger is one of those must read websites for bloggers).

Having a good title is the easiest way to increase readership. There is usually a relationship that one out of five people will read an article after seeing the title. It’s worth taking the time to improve that ratio.

  1. Why You Should Always Write Your Headline First
  2. The Cheater’s Guide to Writing Great Headlines
  3. Do Key Words in Post Titles Really Matter?
  4. How to Write a Killer “How To” Post That Gets Attention
  5. 7 Reasons Why List Posts Will Always Work
  6. Why Some People Almost Always Write Great Post Titles
  7. 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work

North America’s Next Top Blogger? – Be a celebrity first

Posted in Marketing and Promotion, Technology by engtech on November 14, 2006

GoogleBlogoscoped interviewed top bloggers about their most popular posts. Deep Jive Interests breaks it down into three habits:

  1. Breaking real news (or rumours that become news)
  2. Providing unique analysis and commentary
  3. Posting on something topical and sympathetic

Good to note. What I think is also worth mentioning:

  1. Innovating and started blogging when it was new (IE: get into vlogging now)
  2. Playing to their strengths / staying in their niche
  3. Applying their strengths to a popular topic
  4. Already having celebrity status for another reason

This is something that shouldn’t be played down. Quite often top bloggers are where they are because of preexisting real world influence.


chartreuse on Paris Hilton – the new sex tape

Posted in Links, Marketing and Promotion, Technology by engtech on September 19, 2006

Okay, not really a sex tape.

For those of you who have never read chartreuse, he’s a blogger who often writes about “the new media” using short sentances and beautiful pictures. He has a great blogging style that really shows the impact of less-is-more.

He hits it out of the park again with this piece on why Paris Hilton is famous — and it can be a great lesson for anyone who is getting their heads around this attention-based web2.0 socialization thingamabubble we’re in right now.

It didn’t take long for designers and club owners to realize that Paris Hilton was a walking billboard. So they embraced her. She paid attention to them, so they paid attention to her.

(What’s of note is that chartreuse does this himself, often throwing out links to other bloggers people may not have heard about — it you link to them they might link back. Synergy.)

Is having attention enough to launch a start-up? Flickr, MySpace and YouTube be damned, probably not. Having a lot of eyeballs doesn’t mean you don’t need a business plan (even if we have to reteach this lesson every 8 years). But not having attention can sink even the best laid plans.

>> Why Paris Hilton Is Famous (Or Understanding Value In A Post-Madonna World)

And just because how often am I going to do this with a tech blog: Paris Hilton washing a car


Building PageRank Through Bribery

Posted in Marketing and Promotion, Technology by engtech on July 23, 2006

Now this I think is an interesting idea. You see companies do this all the time with contests, so why not individual bloggers? A blogger in Italy is giving away a 60 GB Video iPod to a person at random who links to his blog between now and August 4th.
It should be interesting to see how long it until this really takes off. At the moment there doesn’t seem to be a lot of incoming links. I’m sure that it will, as a free iPod seems to be the price point for most people to sell their own mother. In the long term this will probably be a much cheaper method of generating word of mouth advertising than a real ad campaign. It really seems that generating organic word of mouth campaigns is taking off as a way of dealing with the “new media”.
What’s interesting about Lotek’s contest is the lack of boilerplate to protect the contest:

  • You could provide a link, but make it rel=”nofollow” so that it doesn’t increase the search engine ranking. This would be a way of entering the contest without contributing to increasing his PageRank.
  • No definition of what can be linked from. Bookmarking in del.icio.us is considered a valid entry. Posting a link in a forum could be considered a valid entry.

I’ve heard of link exchange bribery before (that is the fundamental principle of webrings), but I think this is the first time I’ve heard of a non-corporate blogger creating a contest to promote their site. Leave a comment if you know of any other examples.

>> Lotek » Blog Archive » Contest – I give away as a gift my black iPod Video 60GB for a link

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