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The Affluent Blogger http://theaffluentblogger.com Write Your Way to a Full Time Living Online Thu, 03 Nov 2016 22:44:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 Bury Negative Online Reviews With These Three Underused Reputation Management Strategies http://theaffluentblogger.com/website-promotion/bury-negative-online-reviews-reputation-management/ Thu, 03 Nov 2016 22:44:04 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=1158 Online business directories have a great deal of power — and consumers know it. A negative review on a popular directory such as Yelp can greatly hurt a business’s ability to acquire new customers. It’s not uncommon for customers to “punish” companies by leaving negative reviews on Yelp and other websites when they’re unhappy.

If customers have harmed your business’s reputation by posting negative reviews, the best thing to do is evaluate the situations that caused them. If you evaluate your business honestly, are there some things that could be changed to prevent negative reviews in the future? Are you doing a good job of encouraging your happy customers to leave positive reviews? Is there something that you could change about your SEO strategy to minimize the impact of negative reviews in the future?

Even if you already have an effective strategy for reputation management, the fact is that you can’t prevent all negative reviews that may appear online. There may be some times when a negative review appears in spite of your best efforts. When that happens, you need a fast method to bury the review before it can harm your business’s reputation. In this article, we’ll present three powerful methods of minimizing the impact of negative online reviews. Add these tools to your reputation management arsenal today.

Lower the search engine ranking of a negative review.

One of the reasons why negative online reviews can damage a business is because business directories such as Yelp, Facebook and Google Places for Business have very good search engine rankings. A negative review of your business on a popular directory could easily end up on Google’s first page for keywords relating to your business. You can potentially drive negative reviews off of the first page, though, simply by creating new pages that outrank negative pages.

Creating a brand new page that starts out with a high search engine ranking isn’t easy. When searching for potential websites on which to create new pages for your business, start with business directories and social media websites. Have you created pages for your business on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus? Could you create a YouTube page and upload a few videos? Pages on popular websites such as these tend to rank very well on Google without a lot of work.

Don’t forget that you can also make Google AdWords work for you as a reputation management strategy. Google displays sponsored listings first on search results pages. If you create an advertisement and bid on the keywords that cause the negative review to appear, you’ll immediately push the review down one position on search results pages.

Advertise on other websites.

Retargeting is one of the most powerful tools available to online marketers today. Tracking cookies have made it possible to advertise to people only under very specific conditions. You can display advertisements only to people who have searched for your business’s name on Google, for example, or to people who have visited your business’s website. Many of the world’s most popular websites belong to advertising networks that utilize retargeting, since displaying retargeted advertisements earns publishers a great deal of money.

So, how should you utilize retargeting as a reputation management technique? First, create a banner or rich media advertisement that portrays your company as highly professional, competent and trustworthy. In other words, you want to create an advertisement that portrays your company as exactly the opposite of anything that a negative review might state.

Next, simply add your advertisement to a network that uses retargeting. Some of the most popular retargeting networks include AdRoll, Perfect Audience and Chango. Facebook and Google AdWords both utilize retargeting as well. Target the advertisement to people who have searched for your company’s name, visited your website or viewed the negative review.

Utilizing retargeting as a reputation management technique probably won’t have much of an effect on your sales figures in the short term. However, cultivating a positive overall impression of your company can pay great dividends over the long term. By displaying an image that portrays your company in a positive light to people who have already shown an interest, you’re subliminally sending the message that your company is trustworthy and the negative reviews are false.

Confront the issue.

The best defense is a good offense. In addition to using reputation management techniques to lower the search engine rankings of negative reviews and cultivating a positive image for your company, you should confront the negative review directly and try to correct the problem that caused the review.

Begin by approaching the customer if you can. Do whatever you can to rectify the problem that caused the negative review. If you can change the company policy that made the customer unhappy or appease the customer in some other way, you should do so. After you verify that you’ve satisfied the customer fully, ask him or her to remove the negative review.

It isn’t possible to please every customer. If you can’t convince a customer to remove a negative review in spite of your best efforts, post a response on the website where the negative review appeared instead. Explain your side of the story. Tell the website’s users what happened from your point of view, and describe all of the things that you did for the customer to try to make him or her happy. Ideally, any reasonable person who reads your response will conclude that you did everything possible to please the customer who left the negative review and that your company is not at fault.

Did your company play any role in causing the negative review? Did you have an unreasonable company policy that was in need of refinement? Was there a problem with an employee or your business’s facility that needed to be addressed? Sometimes, a negative review isn’t entirely bad because it exposes some aspect of a company that requires change.

If you changed something about your company as a result of a negative review, tell people about it! Write an article describing the problem and explaining the steps that you took to correct it. Create a press release about the article so news agencies will pick it up.

Conclusion

Writing an article describing a problem that you found within your company and the steps that you took to correct it essentially ties together all of the points that we’ve discussed in this article. If news agencies pick up the press release, it’ll create additional Google News search results that Google may display at the top of the results page when people search for your business. Each new result that appears at the top of the results page pushes negative results down.

In addition, submitting a press release about a positive change within your company helps to foster a positive image. If a person searches for your company and sees the press release before noticing any negative results, that person will have a positive opinion about your company before he or she has a chance to view the negative results.

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The Power of Influence: How Affiliates Increase Sales http://theaffluentblogger.com/affiliate-marketing/how-affiliate-marketing-increases-sales/ Fri, 09 Sep 2016 13:25:47 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=1155 You’ve got the products that people want, and you’ve hired the best writers to describe them. You’ve built a website that looks spectacular, and you’ve connected it with all of the most popular social media services. So, why aren’t people flocking to buy your products?

No truly successful online business handles all of its promotion independently. Many business hire PR firms, but PR firms are expensive — and they can’t even guarantee results. Do you know what type of online promotion actually is a sure thing, though? It’s affiliate marketing. Since launching an affiliate program costs almost nothing, you can only benefit — and the benefits are often enormous.

The Power of Influence

Why do companies pay celebrities to endorse their products? Celebrities earn endorsement money because they influence others. Many people will at least consider buying the products that their favorite celebrities claim to enjoy.

The concept of celebrity endorsement has carried over to the Internet in a big way — with a big difference. Today, there are a great many “celebrities” whose spheres of influence are much smaller than those of film and television stars. Nevertheless, within those spheres, the “celebrities” of YouTube, Instagram and Twitter have great influence.

Consider YouTube user Jaclyn Hill. If you don’t watch makeup tutorials online, you might not be familiar with Hill’s work. If you are one of her 3.5 million YouTube subscribers, though, you want to emulate what you see in her videos. You also know that she dutifully lists every product that she uses in the description area of each video. Now, why would she do that? The answer begins with an explanation of what affiliate marketing is.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Amazon was perhaps the first company to launch an affiliate program with long-term success. Since Amazon launched with such a large inventory of books, it was difficult for customers to discover products unless they already knew what they were looking for. Amazon’s affiliate program made it possible for someone to recommend and link to products. If a potential customer clicked a link and bought a product, the person who created the link received a bounty.

Many people looked at the Amazon Associates Program and thought, “Why would I market to my friends and risk alienating them for a $1.00 share of their next book purchase?” However, entrepreneurs looked at the program and realized that the real way to earn money was to market Amazon to the entire Internet — and modern affiliate marketing was born. Since Amazon’s affiliate program was one of only a few with the potential for high payouts, many entrepreneurs built businesses focused almost exclusively on advertising Amazon’s products.

Amazon’s affiliate program has been running for approximately 20 years at the time of writing, and Amazon’s affiliate links claim approximately 4.6 percent of the entire online advertising market. Amazon created the model that virtually all other online affiliate programs attempt to emulate: seek out people with the power to influence others and share profits with them when they generate sales.

Modern Affiliate Marketing

We return now to the subject of Jaclyn Hill. Most of her videos are step-by-step guides explaining how to achieve certain looks using cosmetics. Many of Hill’s videos include links to Sephora, a popular cosmetics retailer. Sephora offers a commission rate of 5 percent on all sales that affiliates refer.

Now, affiliates never share the details of their earnings with others. Would you want anyone to copy your business model if it works? A popular Jaclyn Hill video tends to receive about 1.5 million views, though. Let’s suppose that one percent of her viewers click a Sephora link. Of those, five percent purchase goods worth at least $100. That’s $75,000 of revenue for Sephora — and $3,750 in affiliate commissions — for recording a single video.

As a business owner, you often don’t need to do much to promote your affiliate program. Professional marketers will find you if you have a unique product and attractive affiliate terms — it’s what they do.

Recent Success Stories for Merchants

Look no further than prominent selfie snapper Kim Kardashian for another example of how someone with influence can spur product sales. The LuMee is a smartphone case with integrated lights that brightly illuminates the face for more appealing selfies. Entrepreneur Allan Shoemake began marketing the LuMee in September 2014. By May 2015, he had sold just 4,500 units and was ecstatic about the fact that his company was “six to seven months” from profitability.

Then, something happened. Kim Kardashian was spotted using the LuMee case at the 2015 Grammy awards. Overnight, everyone wanted to buy the phone case that made Kardashian’s selfies look so perfect. In January 2016, LuMee and Kardashian formed a partnership — and then things really began to take off. During 2016, LuMee’s Web traffic soared, improving the company’s worldwide ranking on Alexa from nearly 1 million to 193,846 at the time of writing. Starting from almost no traffic at the beginning of the year, LuMee.com now receives an estimated 73,800 visitors each month.

Conclusion

Realistically, not every company can hope to attract free celebrity endorsement. However, the fact is that every profitable affiliate marketer is a “celebrity” of sorts because building a following is necessary for success. Even if a YouTube user has 10,000 followers rather than 3.5 million, he or she is a celebrity to those 10,000 followers. An affiliate marketer’s goal is to influence as many others as possible — because that’s how affiliate marketers make money. That’s why your business needs an affiliate program — because a good affiliate marketer is better than any in-house salesperson.

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Is Shareaholic Injecting Ads Into Your Website? http://theaffluentblogger.com/tips-and-advice/is-shareaholic-injecting-ads-into-your-website/ Thu, 30 Apr 2015 01:30:52 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=1148 If you’ve seen that friendly “Sharing is caring!” slogan once, you’ve seen it a million times. It’s one of the hallmarks of Shareaholic, a WordPress plugin that automatically adds social media buttons and related post recommendations to the posts and pages on your website. Shareaholic looks great and is easy to configure, and its ubiquity means that your readers know how to use it without any prompting on your part. I run it on many of my websites.

If you’ve been downloading updates for Shareaholic without checking the plugin’s configuration, though, you may be in for a bit of a surprise; recent updates for Shareaholic inject ads into your website by default, without your consent. Take a look at this screenshot showing Shareaholic’s default monetization settings after applying an update:

Shareaholic Injecting Ads Into Website

Shareaholic Injects Affiliate Links

By default, Shareaholic monetizes your content in three ways. When displaying recommended content from your website, Shareaholic may inject “sponsored recommendations” from other websites. If someone clicks a sponsored recommendation, you may earn a few cents. Secondly, Shareaholic may track sales made via direct links to merchants such as Amazon. According to Shareaholic:

This new feature is native to your visitor’s experience and compensates you (the publisher) anytime a visitor makes a purchase based on a link from your site. The intention is to help monetize outbound links for you which probably would not have been monetized otherwise ie. it’s “found money” or extra income for you!

So, when this feature is enabled, the plugin will detect when you link directly to a merchant with whom Shareaholic has an affiliate relationship. If the click results in a sale, Shareaholic presumably splits the affiliate commission with you. While this certainly might be a good arrangement for those who lack the time or desire to join relevant affiliate programs and monetize their own websites, I do take issue with the fact that this is done by default, without your consent, simply because you chose to update the plugin.

Shareaholic Injects Display Ads

The final new “feature” that I discovered upon updating Shareaholic is one that I find even more distasteful: a display ad that is shown when a user shares your content. According to Shareaholic:

We’re displaying these targeted ads to generate revenue, so we can continue offering free apps that help you expand your reach and make money too!

The revenue generated by these display ads goes directly to Shareaholic — not to you. Again, this feature is enabled by default, even if you previously had other monetization options in the plugin disabled — and this is on top of the earnings that Shareaholic presumably generates from the data they collect on keywords, post titles and click-through rates — and the earnings generated from sponsored content.

How to Disable Shareaholic Ads

If you’re here, you’re probably looking for instructions on how to disable ads in Shareaholic and stop the plugin from monetizing your content without permission. I recommend following these steps each time you update Shareaholic, as any new monetization “features” added to future versions of the plugin may be enabled by default.

  1. Expand the “Shareaholic” heading in the WordPress dashboard and click “App Manager.”
  2. Click the “Edit Monetization Settings” button at the bottom of the page.
  3. Move all sliders to the left to disable injected ads in Shareaholic.
  4. Click the “Save Settings” button.
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WordPress XMLRPC.PHP Vulnerability Affects Shared Hosting Sites http://theaffluentblogger.com/operating-a-website/wordpress-xmlrpc-php-vulnerability-affects-shared-hosting-sites/ Fri, 05 Jul 2013 04:24:14 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=1129 What do you need to do to bring down a WordPress website on a shared hosting service? Hit its xmlrpc.php file about 25 times simultaneously, it seems.

In the past month, I have learned more about WordPress security than I ever cared to.  It began with an email titled “TOS/CPU” from my Web host, HostGator. Apparently, a small group of IP addresses primarily belonging to the OVH Web hosting company had been flooding my WordPress xmlrpc.php file, causing abnormally high CPU usage. As a result, my account was temporarily disabled pending resolution of the issue.

During this ordeal, I learned that WordPress has essentially become like the Windows of the early 2000s; so many websites run WordPress that it has become one of the preferred targets for hackers. Although the creators of WordPress release a constant flow of security updates, still more holes are being found. I also learned that a denial of service attack from just one IP address is more than enough to bring a website down — at least temporarily — when it’s on a shared hosting plan. If you think your shared hosting service has enough resources to deal with a clumsy denial of service attack from just a handful of zombie servers, you’d better think again.

XMLRPC.PHP WordPress Vulnerability

If you’ve seen a post online beginning with “The Importance of Clickbank Marketing Software,” you’ve been looking at a hacked website — and it’s one of many. To date, at least 310,000 WordPress websites have been hacked and forced to display this post.

WordPress XMLRPC Clickbank Marketing Hack

Hundreds of thousands of WordPress websites have been hacked to display Clickbank spam.

You might think that your website isn’t vulnerable to an xmlrpc.php attack if you’re running the latest version of WordPress or have XMLRPC disabled. However, neither of these is enough to protect you. I disable XMLRPC functionality on my WordPress websites by default, because I never use it. The hacked website was fully updated, had no secret email address for remote posting and used a long, complex administrator password that couldn’t be guessed via brute force login attempts. In spite of these precautions, one of my websites was hacked and forced to display this post.

The Aftermath of XMLRPC.PHP Hacking

It would be bad enough if I could have simply deleted the spam post about Clickbank and been done with this situation, but the hacker was able to do far more than that. Around the same time, I noticed on my HostGator cPanel that automatic backups were no longer being done for my account because the number of files had ballooned to well over 100,000. It turned out that somehow, through the xmlrpc.php vulnerability in WordPress, the attacker had managed to send tens of thousands of spam emails from my server. Each one resulted in a bounce-back message. Even after I cleaned up the mess, it took HostGator several days to resume automatic backups.

Even then, the issue still wasn’t resolved. The fact that one of my websites was successfully hacked seems to have put it on a list of targets for botnet zombies, and every day my log file is inflated by thousands of lines from different IP addresses attempting to access my xmlrpc.php file and getting 403 or 404 errors. Each time this happens, the website displays a full error page, which is about 800 KB in size. At times, this has been enough of a load for an attack from just one IP address to slow the website down or cause HostGator to temporarily disable it due to high CPU usage. Think a denial of service attack needs to be distributed across many IPs to bring down your shared server? Think again — and every time I ban one IP address, a different one appears on my log.

Securing XMLRPC.PHP With Plugins

I did a bit of research and determined that the Bad Behavior WordPress plugin might help to secure my website from xmlrpc.php attacks. Sadly, it only made the problem worse; although it blocked any access attempts from blacklisted IP addresses, the attack was primarily coming from IPs that weren’t blacklisted. It also prevented many mobile phone users — including people on Android phones — from reaching my website. However, Bad Behavior didn’t prevent any attempts to access xmlrpc.php. I then tried the WordFence firewall, which was extremely configurable and feature-rich. Unfortunately, speed tests revealed that WordFence had made my website slower for all users because its PHP script took several seconds to load.

Securing XMLRPC.PHP With .Htaccess

HostGator, to their credit, has been extremely responsive throughout this ordeal. Their support department has never taken more than 12 hours to respond to my messages. Their staff has been friendly and have never tried to punt the issue back to me as “not our problem” as many shared hosting services might. However, I don’t really think of their latest solution as a true resolution for the issue. They’ve added the following to my .htaccess file:

htaccess block xmlrpc

Simple .htaccess modification to block xmlrpc.php attacks

In theory, this should prevent any further successful attempts to hack the website because the server prevents all users — myself included — from hitting the WordPress xmlrpc.php file. However, anyone who attempts to access the file still gets a full 403 error page, and the 800 KB error page — when accessed about 25 times simultaneously from just one IP address — is enough of a load that HostGator has still needed to temporarily suspend my account due to high CPU usage while they worked on another solution. HostGator also tried modifying xmlrpc.php to make it a zero-byte file, but I still received the dreaded “TOS/CPU” message a few days later.

Deleting XMLRPC.PHP

When this ordeal began, I searched for information about an xmlrpc.php vulnerability in WordPress that might allow someone to force spam content to appear on a website. I wasn’t able to find anything, which leads me to believe that Automattic is not yet aware of the vulnerability. To keep this from happening to your website, I think it would be very wise to consider deleting or renaming xmlrpc.php until more information is received. Don’t assume that will be enough to keep your website safe from a denial of service attack, though. As my experience has shown, a denial of service attack from just one IP address can be sufficient to bring a shared server down.

OVH Ignores Hacked Servers

If you have a website on OVH Hosting, you should seriously consider looking for another hosting provider. From this ordeal, I’ve learned that their network is rife with hacked servers located around the world. These servers have become zombies that can attack any website at a moment’s notice. To date, here is the full list of botnet IP addresses that I’ve been forced to ban:

  • 188.138.33.41 | DE-INTERGENIA
  • 42.118.184.225 | FPTDYNAMICIP.NET
  • 221.0.94.78 | UNICOM-SD
  • 94.102.52.51 | NL-ECATEL
  • 198.100.146.228 | OVH-ARIN-2
  • 198.27.66.217 | OVH-ARIN-4
  • 198.27.66.218 | OVH-ARIN-4
  • 198.27.66.219 | OVH-ARIN-4
  • 198.27.66.220 | OVH-ARIN-4
  • 198.27.66.221 | OVH-ARIN-4
  • 198.27.66.222 | OVH-ARIN-4
  • 198.27.66.223 | OVH-ARIN-4
  • 142.4.211.189 | OVH-ARIN-3
  • 176.31.100.222 | OVH SAS
  • 188.165.230.24 | OVH SAS

Notice a certain name appearing more frequently than the others? It turns out that a significant number of OVH servers — both shared and dedicated — have been hacked and are operating as a botnet. I’ve contacted the OVH Hosting abuse email address twice, providing them a list of IP addresses and a copy of my server logs. I’ve received no response. If you’re an OVH customer, consider yourself warned.

What Can You Do?

As I mentioned above, I believe that the best way to prevent your WordPress website from being hacked through a vulnerability in xmlrpc.php is to delete or rename the file. However, that will do nothing to prevent denial of service attacks if your website becomes a target. I’ve suggested to HostGator that a firewall rule would most likely stop any attempts to access my xmlrpc.php file before they can create a load on the server, but to date they haven’t done this. I expect to see another “TOS/CPU” message in the near future, as deleting the file or creating an .htaccess rule does little to reduce the server load these attacks cause. At present, that leaves me without a real resolution to this issue. What should I do? What would you do?

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Types of Affiliate Marketing Bonuses http://theaffluentblogger.com/affiliate-marketing/types-of-affiliate-marketing-bonuses/ Sun, 19 Aug 2012 06:27:44 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=1118 When you look for affiliate programs to join and promote on your website, it can be extremely valuable to find programs that offer bonuses for exceptional performance. A bonus can provide great incentive for you to devote as much energy as possible to promoting a product, and some companies offer extremely generous bonuses that can really enhance your financial situation.

Tiered Affiliate Programs

Two-tier affiliate programs allow you to recruit other publishers to sign up for a program through you and promote a product on their own. With this system, you have a chance to earn money even if you are not actively promoting a product yourself. When your second-tier affiliate receives a commission from a sale, you receive a smaller percentage. Although the amount of money earned from individual sales may be small, the effort required to earn money from a two-tier affiliate program is very small.

One-Time Bonus

A one-time bonus with an affiliate program usually kicks in when your lifetime sales total has reached a certain minimum amount. For example, a company might five you a one-time $500 bonus when you have sold $5,000 worth of products in your lifetime as an affiliate. These programs are excellent when you believe that your efforts will produce a small trickle of sales rather than a steady volume each month.

Commission Increase

If you plan to produce a steady volume of sales each month, an affiliate program that offers a commission increase may be the way to go. For example, an affiliate program might have a default commission rate of 10%, but the commission rate might increase to 15% if you sell more than $1,000 worth of products in a given month. Commission increases may work on your sales totals for the current month and increase your commission retroactively for all sales made during that month. Other merchants offer permanent commission increases based on your lifetime sales total. The V2 Cigs affiliate program is an example of this; affiliates start out with a 15% commission and can work up to a 25% commission as sales increase.

Personalized Commission

If you know that a company enjoys a healthy profit margin and believe you’re one of its best affiliates, don’t be afraid to ask for a personalized commission that’s higher than the company’s normal commission structure — especially if you’re planning a new promotional effort such as an e-book or new website. Tell the company what you’re planning and let them know that you’d like your affiliate relationship with them to be at the center of that project. The worst they can say is no, but if they have the profit margin to spare, they’ll often agree.

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Digg Link Building Tutorial http://theaffluentblogger.com/website-promotion/digg-link-building-tutorial/ Sat, 04 Aug 2012 01:25:56 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=1113 Digg.com is a social news service that is among the most popular websites in the world. According to Compete.com, the website receives more than 1.3 million visitors per month at the time of writing. Digg can be an excellent website through which to promote a business, as popular links are displayed on the website’s front page, exposing them to Digg’s large audience. Create a link to your website on Digg and promote it by notifying as many people as possible and encouraging them to vote the link up.

Creating a Link on Digg

Step 1

Navigate in your browser to Digg.com. If you don’t already have a Digg account, click the “Join” button at the top of the screen and enter your email address as well as your preferred user name and password. If you have an account, click the “Login” button at the top of the page and provide your account credentials. After you log in to your account, the screen displays the current top stories on Digg.

Step 2

Click the “Submit Link” button. This displays a pop-up window with the title “Submit a Story.”

Step 3

Type the URL of the link you want to promote in the “Submit a Story to Digg” field at the top of the window and click the “Check URL” button. Digg automatically fetches the title of the page and displays a selection of thumbnail images.

Step 4

Edit the title of the page if desired.

Step 5

Click the arrows below the thumbnail image to cycle between the images found on the URL you entered.

Step 6

Use the “Description” field to provide a few sentences about the link you are promoting. Avoid using overly promotional language, but make sure that your description will entice users to click.

Step 7

Click a button such as “Technology” or “Business” at the bottom of the window to categorize the link.

Step 8

Click the “Post Story” button to post the link on Digg.

Promoting a Link on Digg

Step 1

Place a Digg button on the page you are promoting. Digg provides the necessary source code that you can paste into the page, allowing readers to digg the link directly from your website rather than visiting Digg.com.

Step 2

Leverage your social media contacts on other services such as Facebook and Twitter to get more Diggs. Encourage your friends to visit and Digg the page.

Step 3

Contact influential bloggers within your niche and tell them about the link you are promoting. The bloggers that enjoy your link and post it on their websites can potentially bring thousands of visitors to your website, many of whom may click the Digg button.

Step 4

Submit press releases about your link. Many agencies syndicate press releases to major online publications. This increases the number of inbound links pointing to your website, which can improve its performance in search engines.

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DMCA Takedown Tutorial: Protect Your Online Content http://theaffluentblogger.com/tips-and-advice/dmca-takedown-tutorial-protect-your-online-content/ Thu, 21 Jun 2012 10:59:09 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=1007 If you publish content that performs well on search engines, another webmaster will eventually attempt to steal it; it’s almost inevitable. What’s important is how you deal with it. Thankfully, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act exists to protect people from content theft, and you don’t need to be a lawyer to make the DMCA work for you.

Content Theft Can Happen to You

I’d like to begin by telling you a true story: at the end of 2011, I was given pre-release access to a product that was certain to be a hot seller within its niche. I had a great affiliate program through which to promote the product, so I immediately set to work on putting together a small website explaining every aspect of it. One page of the website was a comprehensive instruction manual — something the product lacked. The website attracted a great deal of traffic and became the Internet’s only true authority site about that product.

However, several months later, something horrifying happened: the Chinese manufacturer of the product decided to take the manual and begin distributing it to American resellers without consulting me. The American resellers, not knowing that the Chinese manufacturer wasn’t the original source of the manual, begin printing the manual and publishing it online.

This could easily happen to you. You might put something online thinking that it’s just another affiliate website, but you never know if that will be the one that really catches on and attracts parasites from all over the world. If you are working on a project that you believe has real potential, register your content with the United States Copyright Office. Why? Anything that you create and publish online automatically has copyright protection. However, the theft of a registered work may entitle you to statutory damages. If the stolen content is unregistered, you’ll have to prove that the theft has damaged you monetarily to receive compensation. Obviously, you’ll want to consult a lawyer about the particulars of your situation before you decide how to proceed.

So, let’s get to work on getting that stolen content offline and removed from search engine results pages.

Web Host DMCA Takedown

The first thing you’ll do is contact the company hosting the offending website. McAnerin International hosts the DMCA takedown notice that you’ll be using as a template. You’ll be sending the host a notice indicating that you expect them to remove or disable access to the stolen content within 24 hours.

  1. Download and open the Web host DMCA template.
  2. Find out who is hosting the infringing website. Who Is Hosting This is one tool you can use.
  3. Find the host’s contact information from their website. If possible, look for an address such as “legal@company.com” or “DMCA@company.com.” Otherwise, use whatever contact information is available. You’ll also need the address and phone number of the Web host.
  4. Find the contact information for the website owner who has stolen your content if possible. If the website doesn’t belong to a business and no contact information is available, check the domain registration information using a WHOIS search.
  5. Type the Web host’s contact information in the Recipient Information area.
  6. Enter your contact information in the Sender Information area.
  7. Describe the nature of the content theft in detail. The DMCA takedown template has spaces for you to insert the original text, the infringing text and the URLs on which both appear.
  8. Enter the contact information of the person or company who has stolen your content.
  9. Save the DMCA takedown template and email it to the Web host.

Google DMCA Takedown

The next step in the DMCA takedown process is to remove the stolen content from Google’s search results pages.

  1. Navigate to Google’s content removal page and select the Web Search radio button.
  2. Select the I have a legal issue that is not mentioned above radio button.
  3. Select the I have found content that may violate my copyright radio button.
  4. Select the Yes radio button to indicate that you are the owner of the stolen content.
  5. Select the Yes radio button to indicate that you wish to proceed.
  6. Identify the type of content stolen and then click the This Form link. This brings you to Google’s DMCA takedown form.
  7. Enter your contact information.
  8. Describe the copyrighted work in detail. Be as thorough as possible, especially if your page also contains content that wasn’t stolen.
  9. Provide the location where Google can find the content that was stolen.
  10. Sign, date and submit the form.
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Affiliate Sales Down? Top Five Causes and Solutions http://theaffluentblogger.com/affiliate-marketing/affiliate-sales-down/ Wed, 20 Jun 2012 04:50:48 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=993 You’ve tried to ignore it, knowing that the whims of the Google gods change at a moment’s notice — but it’s halfway through the month, and you can’t fool yourself anymore; your affiliate sales are down, and you don’t know why. In this month’s featured article, I’d like to present a few suggestions that I’m hoping will help you diagnose why your affiliate website has suddenly stopped performing.

In reading this article, I want to stress one key piece of advice: if had a healthy website previously — you enjoyed strong traffic and a decent conversion rate — you shouldn’t go changing things randomly because you can easily make the problem worse. Research thoroughly, find the most likely cause of the problem and set about making changes in a methodical fashion until you find the solution.

Problem: Website SEO Issue

One of my most successful websites is a product review website based on a theme called InReview. The theme converts like crazy but it lacks an option allowing users to see all of the reviews on one page. So, I created a nice table allowing people to sort through every review I’ve published, and linked to the chart in the website’s sidebar. A few weeks later, I noticed something odd; my individual reviews were getting a lot less traffic. When I searched for keywords exactly matching the titles of individual reviews, Google would show me my website’s “All Reviews” page. I added the “All Reviews” page as a service for people who wanted to browse my website’s content without clicking through a lot of pages, but I didn’t think that was the page people wanted to see if their search keywords indicated that they were looking for a specific review. Not only that, but I was losing search engine rankings because the “All Reviews” page wasn’t optimized for the multitude of keywords that the individual reviews were ranking for. It turned out that Google had interpreted the “All Reviews” page as a “View All” page, which they prioritize when indexing content.

Solution: Audit Website SEO, Examine Recent Changes

If your affiliate sales are down because you have lost rankings and conversions due to an SEO problem, you need to audit your website carefully before making any changes. Remember that it can take weeks before you see how an SEO change on your website affects search engine performance, and if you start changing things willy-nilly you may find yourself worse off than when you started. Carefully think about every change you have made recently until you find what you believe could be the problem. Make one change and wait before you change anything else. In my case, I noindexed the “All Reviews” page and within a few weeks, Google started showing the correct results for my keywords again.

Problem: Traffic is Down

You can’t get conversions if you aren’t getting the traffic. If your affiliate sales are down, check Google Analytics to see if your website is getting less traffic than it did previously. If your traffic is down, it’s time to start looking at why. Did you receive a temporary boost by posting about a current event that now receives less search volume? Has the buzz began to cool off after a recent burst of social media activity?

Solution: Post More Great Content

If your affiliate sales are down because you’re no longer receiving a boost from a hot article or post, the good news is that you clearly know how to write for traffic. The bad news is, you’re going to have to do it again. Make the most of those temporary boosts as they happen. In the meantime, focus on writing evergreen content that will generate consistent traffic.

Problem: Google Algorithm Change

Google algorithm changes are scary — you may not know just how scary these changes can be until you’ve watched a website go from a big earner to a complete loser overnight. In the past few months, the Big G has been instituting a major crackdown on over-optimization of inbound links — particularly links excessively targeting specific anchor text. I recently saw an interesting article on SEOMoz about link penalties and how you can identify whether your website is affected. Generally speaking, though, it’s pretty simple — if you’re using a blog network such as Linkvana or building links in any way that allows you to select your own anchor text, Google is targeting you. Pull those links down before it’s too late.

Solution: Optimize for User Experience

The solution here is pretty simple; you don’t have to worry about Google algorithm changes bringing your affiliate sales down if you optimize your website for the best possible user experience. Write high-quality, engaging content that users will enjoy and want to share. One of the most interesting websites I found recently is called CopySean; the author frequently writes about his techniques for maximizing social media engagement to the point where he doesn’t need search engine traffic at all to earn money. Social media recommendations and shares are powerful votes of confidence, and search engines are only going to use it as a ranking signal more in the future.

Problem: Affiliate Links are Broken

I work with a merchant who drives me crazy sometimes. Every couple of months, they make small changes to their products and change the URLs of their product pages without redirecting the old URLs. This is a ShareASale merchant, and I’ve enjoyed great conversions by deep linking to their products. When they change their product URLs, though, my affiliate sales go down the tube because people who click through get a big old 404 error.

Solution: Audit and Fix Broken Affiliate Links

Periodically, you need to audit your affiliate links to make sure that they are active and go to products that are still available. I strongly recommend using a PHP jump script for your affiliate links, as it makes the process of auditing and correcting them much easier — especially if you have multiple websites. Correct one entry in the script and all of the links on the associated website are fixed instantly.

Tip: If you have a merchant that constantly changes product URLs on you, you could tell them but may not actually want to. If a merchant changes the URL of a product without redirecting the old one, they lose link juice and social media signals temporarily. During this time, you may outrank them on SERPs for their own keywords.

Problem: New Competition

In competitive niches, people launch new websites constantly — and some of them may be more willing than you to break the rules. Some may use blog networks and comment spam to gather thousands of backlinks. Others may buy established domains and convert them to spammy affiliate sites. Some may even steal your content — it’s happened to me. All of these tactics may bring your affiliate sales down temporarily because these spammy websites may displace yours on SERPs.

Solution: Analyze the Competition and Take Action

When I see a new website pop up on Google’s first results page for keywords I usually rank well for, the first thing I do is load up SEO SpyGlass and see where the website’s backlinks are coming from. In most cases, I’ll find that the owner of the website has bought an established domain with plenty of inbound links and is riding a temporary wave of link juice. In this situation, your best bet is to wait; old links from unrelated websites provide little benefit in the long run. In other cases, I’ll find that the website’s owner is using link spam with exact match anchor text. Google provides a way for you to report spam in search results; you have to do this through your Webmaster Tools account, so make sure that your house is clean first. Alternatively, you could take a “wait and see” approach; I’ve never seen Google take action on a specific website reported as spam, but they information you provide could be used in a future algorithm change. If your content has been stolen, Google has a page allowing you to file a DMCA takedown notice, which will result in the removal of the content from SERPs. In the near future, I will be writing a DMCA takedown tutorial that will describe this process in greater detail.

Thanks to Flickr user Jerry Bunkers for providing this article’s lead photo.

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How to Nofollow WordPress Category Navigation http://theaffluentblogger.com/operating-a-website/how-to-nofollow-wordpress-category-navigation/ http://theaffluentblogger.com/operating-a-website/how-to-nofollow-wordpress-category-navigation/#comments Sun, 17 Jun 2012 02:07:07 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=984 I recently had a major problem recently with one of my WordPress websites: the website’s category archives were outranking its posts for many searches. For example, in some cases I’d search for something like “Troubleshooting Problems With the 1999 Acme Blue Widget” and Google would consider the “Widgets” category archive the most relevant result for the search.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to skip the background information and see the instructions for how to nofollow the category navigation links in your WordPress menu bar.

Archives Outranking Posts

When your category or tag archives outrank your posts on a WordPress website, it can lead to two very serious problems. First, if a user lands on a category archive page when he actually wanted to see a post, it means that he still has more searching to do once he reaches your website before he’ll be able to see the information he wants. In this situation, many users will click “Back” and try another website.

More importantly, consider the situation above from a keyword density standpoint; in this situation, your post about troubleshooting problems with the 1999 acme blue widget is probably the most relevant post on your website for a variety of keywords such as “1999 blue widget” and “blue widget problems.” Keywords such as those probably appear multiple times within the post, while they probably appear just once on the category archive page. If Google selects the archive page as the most relevant one to display, you’ll probably rank poorly against other websites because they appear far more relevant to Google than your category archive.

Should You Noindex Your Category and Tag Archives?

A lot of people use plugins such as WordPress SEO by Yoast to eliminate potential duplicate content issues with WordPress by noindexing items such as category, tag, author and date-based archives. WordPress SEO is a great plugin, but if you’re simply noindexing content as a knee-jerk response when Google displays your category archives instead of your posts, you may not be handling the situation in the best possible way. In my case, I had added lengthy text descriptions to my category archives in an attempt to rank for more general keywords. I didn’t want to noindex my archives, as doing so would make the category descriptions worthless from an SEO standpoint.

Why Category and Tag Archives Can Outrank Posts

Before we move on, one thing I want to mention about WordPress SEO and duplicate content is that you shouldn’t waste your time trying to fix what isn’t broken. In my case, I had a website with a legitimate problem that was causing me to lose search engine rankings, traffic and conversions. None of my other websites had this problem, so there would be no reason for me to add “nofollow” to my category and navigation links.

How can you be certain that your category archives are outranking your posts? Perform several searches on Google with your exact post titles wrapped in quotation marks. If your archive pages appear before your posts, you have a problem. In my case, I believe that the problem had something to do with the fact that the website had a rather extensive category-based navigation system in which some posts appeared under multiple categories. Posts appearing under only one category were ranked properly, while posts appearing under multiple categories were ranked improperly. The fact that every page on my website had do-follow links to every category meant I was sending PageRank to the archives, causing them to appear more relevant to Google than the posts themselves.

Nofollow WordPress Category Navigation

Initially, I looked for a plugin that would add “nofollow” to all of the category links in my website’s navigation bar automatically. It turns out that WordPress already has this ability if you’re using custom menus.

  1. Open the Menus screen under the Appearance heading of the WordPress admin menu.
  2. Click the tab for the menu you want to edit.
  3. Click the Screen Options tab at the top of the page and select the Link Relationship (XFN) check box.
  4. Close the Screen Options tab. Each time you click the arrow on the right side of a menu option, you’ll now see a field titled Link Relationship (XFN).
  5. Type nofollow in the Link Relationship (XFN) field for each link to which you want to add the “nofollow” attribute.
  6. Click the Save Menu button when you are finished.
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Using Google Suggest for Long-Tail Keyword Research http://theaffluentblogger.com/tips-and-advice/google-suggest-keyword-research/ Thu, 17 May 2012 01:37:44 +0000 http://theaffluentblogger.com/?p=975 If you have a website focused on a single product or type of product, you may occasionally have difficulty coming up with new topics about which to write. Long-tail keyword research can be extremely helpful with these because it gives you new topic ideas based on keyword phrases that real people have searched for. I have previously written about using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool for keyword research, but the problem with the GAKT is that it only shows keywords which have received significant search volume. If the main keyword you’re working with is already considered “long-tail,” you won’t receive additional keyword ideas from the GAKT. In this case, Google itself is an excellent tool for keyword research thanks to the Google Suggest feature.

Researching Keywords With Google Suggest

Researching Keywords With Google Suggest

Google Suggest can help you build a list of hundreds of long-tail keywords in minutes.

Begin by visiting Google. Search for anything and click the Gear button on the results page. Select Search Settings on the drop-down. Click the Never Show Instant Results radio button under the Google Instant Predictions heading. Finally, click the Save button at the bottom of the page. Disabling Google Instant doubles the number of keywords that Google Suggest will show you.

Return to Google’s front page. Type your primary keyword, insert a space and type the letter “a.” Google Suggest will display as many as ten different keyword suggestions in a drop-down. Back over the letter “a” and type “b.” As you go, I suggest using Excel or a similar program to record all of the keyword suggestions displayed for each letter. Don’t forget to try numbers as well. By using a few different seed keywords, you can get hundreds of different keyword suggestions in this fashion with little effort.

Once you’ve created your list of long-tail keywords, you’re going to want to organize them in some way so you know which keywords you should tackle first. I like to use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool for this; simply copy the keywords out of Excel and paste them into the GAKT. If you organize the keywords in a single column, each will appear on its own line when you paste them into the GAKT. This way, you can simply paste and click the “Search” button. You’ll then see how many people have searched for each keyword, both within your own country and worldwide. Export the list as a CSV file and paste it back into Excel.

Although the GAKT will not show how many people have searched for certain keywords if they don’t receive consistent search volume, the fact that a keyword appears in the Google Suggest drop-down means someone has searched for it. If you search for some of these extremely long-tail keywords, you’ll probably find that there aren’t currently any good results. If your website has a decent amount of authority, you should easily be able to claim the first position on the results page by providing good content about that keyword.

Using Google Suggest Automatically

Ubersuggest Keyword Research

Übersuggest finds keywords automatically using Google Suggest.

Admittedly, using Google Suggest for keyword research can get a bit old after you’ve run through the alphabet with a few different keywords. When you get tired of performing your keyword research manually, give Übersuggest a try. This tool runs through the entire process I’ve described above automatically and generates a plain text file that you can easily paste into Excel, the GAKT or another tool.

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