Back Links Rants Search Engines

Travel Bloggers Selling Links and Making Money – Should You To?

For fucks sake – I am over this whole  -“Google hates me”, “I must please Google”, “is this OK with Google” shite going down in certain circles.

Google is a company.

Google is a search engine that using a superbly complex algorithm.

Google doesn’t give a shite about you – because you are not Google’s customer.

I think a lot of people need to get over this unhealthy relationship with Google. Because as it is now Google appears to be winning the war – which war? The propaganda war.

You know spreading mis-information and fear – the oldest propaganda trick in the book. And its working.  Take for example the bullshite about buying and selling links. Google hates it. Of course Google hates it – links are what their search engine algorithms are still (mainly) based on. The reality is though, its pretty darn difficult for Google to know when a link is – well just a link – and when a link is a paid endorsement.

So often times you can get away with lots of paid links. But even more importantly:

If you are not ranking in the search rankings anyway why the hell wouldn’t you sell links – it could be a nice little earner! 

Selling links is gaming the system, well that’s true.  Selling links will get you thrown out of  Google’s index, it will get you sent to the pergatory of the 999th page, your site will be deindexed and your sins will never leave you!  Selling links is immoral!

Google doesn’t want you to sell links, or buy links. However that’s just a preference they have, because it helps their business model if you don’t. Selling links is bad for Google’s business model: selling your kid sister is immoral – see the difference?

I call bullshit on the rest of it. Lets start with the immoral bit first. This would frankly perplexes me. Google’s algorithm depends in part of counting the links to the page the more likely Google is to rank that page near page 1 (gross simplification there). So people who want their site on page 1, will acquire links to get them to page 1.

  1. by social media linking to them
  2. by guest posting;
  3. by links from other places  they control.
None of those links are paid for though – so they are OK. But if I take money  for a link on my site – then its immoral and wicked and polluting the electrons of the Internet ??? Pleeeese. It sounds like a business proposition to me.
Google is Part of the Competitive Environment - Not a Moral Authority - or Your Friend

Selling Links in 2011 

The link selling industry is alive and well. Most of us who have active blogs, particularly a site which is anywhere on the first couple of the pages of the search engine results will be familar with the email:

“Dear webmaster I love your site – I would love to provide some free content to it – the content is very well written and highly relevant to your readers. In return we will want just one tiny, little link.”

That’s the first offer – they want their link for free. You could try saying yes – and then no-following the link 🙂 Always amusing that one! Better yet – negotiate a decent rate – and then make sure the post doesn’t annoy your readers.

Decide on a Business Model 

You either want to sell links or you want to rank in the search engines – I suggest you don’t want to do both on the same blog. You also want to pick your niche. For example, there is no point selling links in the Internet Marketing niche.  Anyway there are plenty of affiliate programs which readers are interested in, and which pay me  commission.

Other niches are different. Take, for example travel. The affiliate programs in travel don’t seem to convert well – who goes to a blog to book a flight or a hotel – most travellers know how to spell expedia or hotelclub – and they go there direct. Travel on the other hand is an enormous global industry. An industry which is going more and more on-line. Having your travel site on page 1 of a search listing is very, very worthwhile.

And so travel blogs can do very well from: sponsored posts and paid links.

Now there are lots of business reasons to NOT do sponsored posts – You might want to check out this interview with Gary Arndt from  But that’s for you to decide.

Paid Links and Sponsorship and Advertising – Same, Same – Not Different

Apparently advertising is OK but paid links aren’t – well that’s what some in the travel community seem to think. I call bullshite on this one -plus a pile of mis-information in the post and the comments which caused me to write this.

Not one of the sites I reviewed for this post no-followed any of their paid links: sidebar, footer, links under “Advertising” headers, widgets, or in-content links – either declared or not. As far as Google is concerned – if they want to come the heavy – they are all paid links unless you no-follow them.

In practice – if they are actually links to affiliate programs – then Google will probably not care.  If they are links to landing or home pages of the advertiser – for which you are not getting a commission for – Google’s reviewers are going to assume you are being paid.

After all why the heck would anyone want to go to any of these advertisers – when they are on a travel blog?  Yeah I outed the guys buying the links – not the bloggers being paid – rather see the pimps in jail not the pros if you see what I mean?

So if you are going to do paid links –

Do Paid Links Smart

Here’s how. You  need to put all the paid links posts in new category – I suggest that you don’t call it “Paid Links” – maybe “Guest Posts” or “Miscellaneous” might be less obvious.

Make sure that category doesn’t appear on your front page, and remove it from your RSS feed. So now you have money in the bank and you haven’t annoyed your readers – that’s a start.

I would seriously consider re-writing any “Advertising/Press” page you might have to include that you always “no follow” paid links, whether you do or not. Yeah take the moral high-ground if you want – but really Google is in the habit of shooting first and asking questions later. You can always negotiate the deal with the advertiser in private.

If you are caught up in a manual review – then you need to appear to be doing the right thing.

Also putting links in older posts – is far less likely to be annoying to readers, particularly if they aren’t posts which show up in your “greatest hits” list.

Don’t even think about doing paid links on a blog which also uses Adsense – “Don’t make Google Look Stupid” is the appropriate mantra here.

Google Hates Paid Links But Seems To Be Ignoring All But the Most Blatent Sellers Currently 

I’ve been watching the most blatant sellers of links in the travel niche for a few months, including a page rank update last month. The worst I’ve seen is a drop from 4 to 2 for someone who has a paid link at the bottom of almost every post. I’ve seen no reports of deindexing.

Google really doesn’t seem to care about the travel blogger’s selling links – at the moment. Whether the little furore I linked to above, will make a difference, its hard to know, but bets would be on not, but this is game not without risks, make your judgement.

The reality is – why you can get away with selling links, you are getting cash in hand, real cash, real return. If it all goes to custard and you get penalised – the worst thing that will probably happen is that you will lose your Page Rank. Page rank and search engine rankings are not related. PR is certainly not related to social media – your community won’t notice.  Yes it may affect your future earnings – but at least you still have the cash.

My cynical take is that the people buying the links are also big Adwords advertisers – they are Google’s customers and Google doesn’t want to piss them off.

If you do get done for selling links – here’s what to do:

  1. delete the offending posts or add the “no follow” attribute to the links; and
  2. ask for reinclusion by Google.

In fact there have been some pretty high profile cases of sites like selling links – seems like they recovered from it.

Making Money Online Self Publishing

I Got My Writing Mojo Back

I’m an adult, I’m not scared of the dark, I don’t believe in ghosts or monsters. But I was scared – really, really scared – of this:

Scary, scary file - lurking on my computer

Not the program, Scrivener, – its cool, it was the outline – the outline for my next book. That File.

It was just so scary – I had to hide from it for a month. Eventually I decided it was too hard, I went around it – wrote a bunch of content for Lis’s Travel Tips – content which is quite similar to what will be in the book – but they were just long blog posts – I can write those!

As Tracey pointed out in the comments of my last post – you actually don’t need spectacular sales to make money selling indie non-fiction. Although she missed the future value of money ($3k today is worth more than $3k paid out over 10 years) – her point is valid:

Basically what I’m saying is that it’s about volume (amount of books you have) and repeat customers.

I knew that, I knew I had to write more books, for goodness sake I’d written one,  why was the next one so bloody hard?  I dunno maybe its just me – having done something out of confort zone one, doesn’t make it that much easier to repeat the exercise. Weird

However as a student of time management and procastination I knew that I couldn’t manage the problem if I didn’t measure it. The problem was two -fold:

  • I was writing enough;
  • I wasn’t writing my books

I decided to start counting words – yeah like rocket science, right?

I decided to start with the easier problem – the first one. I started writing – last week I wrote a total of over 8000 words  (I don’t count comments, forums, social media, only words written as articles either on my sites or to promote my sites). It was a little scary – I was guest posting – something I’ve never actually done. But amazingly I persuaded some bloggers to publish my stories: Wellington Sculpture and Paris in the Snow . But it wasn’t as scary as That File.

OK so my output was up, and it was good for marketing – but I really needed more  product to sell. I needed to deal with That File.

Now Dave in his clever little Pond decided to start with some motivational board. Post your goal – make it public, and either win or fail – if you fail – well it was bad – the Duck Booed

  1. Monday: Stated aim: 5000 words, achieved 5153, 13 articles for an auto-responder series. Yeah thanks to info in the Duck Pond – I’m finally going to send emails to my lists (want more Lis’s travel tips  – sign up for the Newsletter here.
  2. Tuesday – I didn’t state a publishing aim – instead I spent the day sorted out how to actually use AWeber (yeah really I’ve never used it to actually send mail LOL) and editing some of the words I’d written so I appear literate.
  3. Wednesday – OK lets try writing today. 5000 words. Not sure what I want to write about: of course I have books to write,  a ton of keyword focussed articles to write, hell I could even write some backlink articles. Did none of it – massive Duck Boo !
  4. Thursday – I opened up That File. It didn’t bite – it was more like -” hey hello Author – nice to see you, been a while”.  The structure wasn’t bad. I found the notes that I’d written on the plane – fitted them into the plan. I decided I needed a chapter on a place I hadn’t been to – I did some research. By 10:30pm I had about 1100 words. But I’d promised myself 5000 words. By 1am I had those words.

Would I have stayed up if I hadn’t promised publicly that I’d write them – nope. Where they great words, nope, the grammar is awful and the typing was falling off markedly towards the end. Doesn’t matter – they can get edited, they are not final words, but they are a start, and having some words rather than a blank screen, is about 80% of the way to the goal.

So today is Friday – and I have another 5000 words to write on my book! Later!

Self Publishing

Update on Indie Non Fiction Sales: Month 3

Ouch, bugger, yuck, is there any surprise why people give up on this game. You want instant satisfaction – buy chocolate is my only advice. Indie non fiction books is not  going to give it to you! Indie non fiction books aren’t going to make you rich overnight!

Some times it doesn't just rain, it hails

My September Stats are rubbish:

  • 5 books sold
  • 4 books sold

Frankly I’m surprised that the UK sales are doing so (comparatively) well – for a book that is such an American search term- just goes to show that the English can read American but not the other way around.

I didn’t sell anything directly from – but thanks to their distribution system which sends my books to retailers I can’t get to  apparently back in August I also managed:

  • Apple 1 book sold
  • Barnes&Noble 2 books sold

So yes I guess it is worth getting your book formatted right and into their premium catalogue!

What I do have is a promotion plan going forward, I’ve developed it while avoiding writing the other books – because my brain does stupid stuff sometimes.

I’m building an email list. Its something I’ve resisted for years. As part of my “I hate marketing” mindset I of course particularly hate marketing email lists – after all I’m bloody expert on them – I am forever subscribing to them 🙂

But I have a new approach – and its not spammy, and its something I’d even admit to in public. It provides value to the subscriber AND its not even additional work for me!

But I’m not telling you the details. Why not? Its not original – the idea was provided in Zen Duck’s Forum – for free – you might want to check it out – and no that’s not an affiliate link. Really I’ve been in a lot of SEO forums over the years, kinda been there, done that. But Dave bullied me, and then he gave me a free membership, and I’ve got my money’s worth. I just think you would too.

Hell I might even get so enthused to start of a mail list here too …. just kidding, maybe…

Making Money Online

Making Money Online – Your Mind is Your Biggest Enemy

I cocked up a client’s site today -well not their site -the new website is just fine and they are happy, but I stuffed up their email. I hadn’t realized that I needed to add a MX entry to redirect the mail sub-domain to ensure that mail still went through their current provider. It took me a few hours to figure this out between several calls to find out who the email provider was and then get the right tech details from them, and a live chat session with Hostgator to make sure I didn’t fuck it up further.

I was working under pressure, people’s email was heading out into the interstitial void instead of their inboxes. I didn’t know WHAT an MX record was at the start, I just knew I must have caused the problem. I chased the people I needed to find the right technical info, I learned a lot about how email works on the Internet, I implemented the solution.

I focused and worked and sorted it out.

I looked up after 3 hours, decided the dog needed a walk and I needed a coffee.

Then I wondered – why? Why can I focus that well on a technical problem, and yet I struggle so much with focusing to write the bloody books I need to write, develop the sites I need to develop. Get to the income goals I need to reach?

As I walked I thought about why I was good at technical support.

Its just a little bit broken, Christchurch earthquake damage

I learned how to do technical IT support before I even knew what the job involved. I arrived in London in 1986, with no money, the right to work, and desire to work in London and not the North Sea (thereby precluding working in my actual profession – geology).

So I became a typist, a legal typist to be exact, it paid better. I could touch type, I re-did my resume and I started working for a small agency based in the City specializing in secretaries for legal firms.

This was before Windows was invented (yup Word was not the first word processor. Google: DisplayWrite, WordStar, Word Perfect). I ended up being their troubleshooter – there were bazillions of WP packages and quite a number of operating systems (CP/M anyone?). No standard operating system, no plug and play printers. The “network” was large floppy disks, usually poorly labeled. There was no email, or google to find the answer. They’d usually lost the manuals. If the secretary was away and the partner needed a contract printed out for a client – they needed me. It was fun, I had no fear, and nothing to lose, I was well paid and I learned a ton in a short space of time. I don’t remember ever failing either.

A few years later, back in New Zealand, I set up a unix network from scratch. By myself, with a mixture of toll-calls to the supplier in another town, and the manuals. It was mission critical, and it worked well. I had no unix qualifications, no experience, in fact I didn’t know what a systems administration WAS, but someone had to do it – that turned out to be me. I worked stupid hours for months, I was well paid, I learned a ton. I don’t ever remember thinking I would fail, or what if we didn’t get it working right, or what would happen if something went wrong.

These days you’re not allowed administration access to similar servers unless you have a several qualifications, and lots of years experience. From what I’ve seen in more recent work places, they fuck it up more often than I did. But at least there’s always a paper trail and someone to blame. Must truly dreadful doing IT support these days for most corporates.

Which gets me back to – WTF does Lis’s ancient history have anything to do with making money online? It explains something – well to me anyways. It explains why, when faced with a white screen where a website should be, I fix it. When the emails get lost, I find them. I don’t panic, I don’t worry about whether or not it can be fixed, I just find out what I have to do, and I fix it.

So I have this other problem. My income has declined significantly this year. There are three main reasons:

  • hubpages stuffed up
  • the US$ collapsed (I’m paid in US$ but I don’t spend US$ at the supermarket)
  • I fired my long-term client who had got way too picky about their backlinks

The first two were out of my control, the third was simple ROI investment decision.

The net result was that last month, for the first time in a VERY long time, I spent more money than I earned.

So what did I do – did I deal with it by say, figuring out what the problem was, finding out the solution, and then working hard? You know just like when I had to do technical stuff which scares the crap out of lots of people?

Nope – I panicked. I couldn’t focus, I flitted from Facebook to Twitter to G+. I wasted over a month.

And the really, really stupid thing is – I don’t actually have to problem solve. I know how to fix my income problem, I need to build more websites, build more backlinks, write more books, sell more books, and ensure people go Christmas shopping while using my Amazon Christmas link!.

I just have to do the fucking work. How dumb – one wasted month. Time to start writing.

I’m no good at this pop-psyc stuff – but if you aren’t succeeding have you looked at the guy in the mirror lately – he may be the problem…