Spirit of the Entrepreneur!

Entrepreneurs posses a driving spirit:

You hear it all the time from famous business owners: They started flexing their entrepreneurial skills by selling lemonade on the corner, building gadgets in their garage or hosting weekly college beer pong tournaments before they were running multimillion-dollar companies. It would appear that behind every mogul that is successful a kid who was raised knowing these people were born for business.

But what is it that sets entrepreneurs apart from the remainder? What is it which makes people certain of themselves sufficient to just take the prospect of failure head-on and have the determination to emerge on the top? It requires a special types of individual to create a notion in motion, riding the highs and lows from humble beginnings to ultimate success.

The spirit that is entrepreneurial is a gift that inspires other people to end up being the best they could be. From passion and positivity to leadership and aspiration, here you will find the entrepreneurs that most usefully define the entrepreneurial character.

Passion:

No body embodies the term "passion" quite like Richard Branson, creator for the Virgin mega-brand. Part of Branson's passion lies in his insatiable appetite for starting businesses. Established in 1970, the Virgin Group has expanded to a lot more than 200 organizations, ranging from music, publishing, mobile phones and space travel. "Businesses are like buses," he when stated. "There's always a different one coming."

Element of Branson's appeal is he not only has passion for business, but an incredible passion for life. Branson is well-known for an adventurous streak and zest for a lifetime, making him the most admired business owners for their power to have a work/life balance that is successful.

Positivity:

Jeff Bezos knows the charged power of good reasoning. Living by the motto that "every challenge is an opportunity," Bezos attempted to create the bookstore that is biggest on earth with just a little internet startup called Amazon.

Amazon.com established in July 1995, was able to sell $20,000 per week within two months. By the  end associated with the '90s, however, the dot-com bust had brought Amazon's stocks from $100 to $6. To incorporate insults to injuries, experts predicted that the launch of Barnes & Nobles' competing website would wipe out Amazon. Rather than hiding for fear of losing, Bezos came out fighting with optimism and self-confidence, pointing down to critics most of the positive things his company had accomplished and would continue to do.

Bezos proceeded to expand Amazon, which now offers anything from publications to clothes to toys and much more. Bezos claims his spouse likes to state, "If Jeff is unhappy, wait 3 minutes." Thanks to Bezos' good thinking, Amazon.com has grown into a $5.7 billion company.

Adaptability:

Having the ability to adjust is one of the greatest skills an entrepreneur can have. Every business that is successful must be willing to enhance, refine and customize their services to constantly give customers whatever they want.

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page take this idea one step further by not merely reacting to improve, but leading the way. Google constantly leads the internet with revolutionary and new ideas that allow people to see and do things in many ways they couldn't have did before (think Google Earth). Making use of their ability to often be one action ahead, its no wonder Google is one of the many powerful organizations on the net.

Leadership:

A good leader is some body with charisma, a sense of ethics and an aspire to build integrity within an organization–someone who's enthusiastic, group oriented and a teacher that is great. Most of these characteristics had been embodied by the late Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, a company that has helped more than half a million ladies fulfill their fantasies of purchasing a company.

Ash's tale began as a mother that is single, working in sales for a home company many different items. Despite being one of many compannies with sales that are top for 25 years, Ash had repeatedly been refused the promotions and pay raises her male co-workers had been getting. Fed up because of the real way she was being addressed, Ash started Mary Kay Inc. in 1963 with $5,000.

Ash was most commonly known for being a motivator that was a powerful inspirational frontrunner, producing a business with a "You may do it!" mindset. Her sometimes over-the-top incentives included the famous pink Cadillacs she would provide top sales directors. Thanks to her effective leadership abilities, Ash was called one of many in a business that is influential in the last 35 years, and her company was recognized as among the best businesses in America.

Aspiration:

At age 20, Debbi Fields don't have much. She had been a housewife that is young with no business experience, but exactly what she did have was an excellent chocolate chip cookie recipe and a dream to talk about it changing the world.

Fields opened her very first Mrs. Field's store in 1977, despite being told she was crazy to believe a company could endure entirely on attempting to sell cookies. Fields' headstrong dedication and ambition helped her develop her small cookie shop into a $450 million business with 600 locations within the U.S. and 10 foreign nations.

Dennis Roeder
Contributor

  

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Google Uses Alexa’s Information For Ranking and Indexing!

The Alexa Toolbar: Why You Need this Piece of "%#*&%@#".

Google Uses Alexa’s Information For Ranking and Indexing!

So you’re probably wondering why I have the Alexa Toolbar Installed on my browser and why I tell my fellow marketers, webmasters and SEO gurus to do the same.

It’s simple. The Alexa  toolbar monitors all my surfing and collects information about what domains I visit. They don’t know that it’s “me” – they collect it as anonymous user data and use it to rank your web sites. Not only does Alexa use this information for determining where people surf on the web but so does google. Let me repeat that fact so it sinks in:

Google Uses Alexa’s Information For Ranking and Indexing!

Installing the Alexa toolbar and surfing your own site will absolutely help you get your sites indexed by Google more quickly. I just started this blog today, and the GoogleBot has already come by without any inbound links!

Because the Alexa toolbar is such a pile, no one ever keeps it installed. So just by updating and surfing your own site daily, (assuming NO ONE else does), you can get your Alexa ranking from 5,500,000 or “no data” to around 300,000 in under a month and to 100,000 in 3 months.

Alexa Rankings and Google PR are two of the main factors uninformed people look at when considering link exchanges. (Page Rank is completely useless BTW we have a white hat PR 4 site that gets 20 visitors a day and unranked sites that get several thousand per day).

If you remember the Nielsen Company, famous for the Nielsen Ratings, you understand that what is put on television was once determined by what a minute fraction of TV viewers watched: The people with a Nielsen box on their TV Set – The Nielsen Families. Having the Alexa toolbar installed on your browser is like being a Nielsen Family for the web. Your surfing habits will determine what is most “popular” and what sites should be ranked higher in the SERPs.

Alexa’s Toolbar is a Great POWERFUL SEO tool.

That was reason enough for me to install the Alexa Tool Bar. Download it for yourself, and watch your Alexa Rankings Skyrocket over the next several weeks. We know Google looks at the Information, which means that Yahoo and MSN are probably looking at it too.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How Being Genuine Can Strengthen You, Your Business, and Your Company

Glenn E. Fleming, MD, MPH, Contributor, MarketHive

Recently, I came across an article written by Mamta Chhikara (http://hive.pe/eC), which goes on to list and describe specific qualities that a genuine person possesses:

*They don’t seek attention = Modest

*They’re not concerned with being liked = Confident and Authentic

*They can tell when others are full of it = Intuitive (a good judge of character)

*They are comfortable in their own skin = Self-assured and confident

*They do what they say and say what they mean = Integrity

*They don’t need a lot of stuff = Simplicity

*They’re not thin-skinned = Easy-going

*They’re not overly modest or boastful = Humble

*They’re consistent = Dependable

*They practice what they preach = Genuine, Honest

Always keep these traits in mind not only as business but also as an individual.   As entrepreneurs seeking to gain trust, authority, and a growing customer base, we should always be cognizant of the foundation of inbound marketing, which involves:

*Performing due diligence for you and your company

*Performing due diligence for your targeted audience/clients/potential customers

*Engaging with your targeted audience/clients/potential customers

During the process of engagement, we should always be aware of the above traits of genuineness.  Your future colleagues and customers will be looking for these traits and will likely have the following thoughts/concerns:

*They want to know if you are confident in your company and/or product.

*They will likely be more concerned about the content/effectiveness of your product and/or character more than shiny “bells and whistles.”

*You should be able to eliminate illegitimate leads or potential colleagues within minutes of engaging

*Your customers and your colleagues want to see that not only do you use the product in question, but also that you use the product well and are able to demonstrate the product’s effectiveness to your colleagues and potential customers

*Most of us can eventually “smell” an inferior product or individual within a short period of time.  A usual warning sign is too many “bells and whistles.”  Simplicity is the name of the game.  If it’s too complicated or if it feels like the product (or individual) is too flashy, then it may be perceived as ineffective or disingenuous.

*Your customers and colleagues want to know that they can reach you during tough times or emergent situations.  Are you easily accessible via multiple modalities of communication (i.e., phone, text, email, Skype, etc)?

Now, I am not one who typically needs validation in anything that pertains to who I am as a person but I felt markedly refreshed after reading this article.  Am I a genuine person?  Hell yes!  

Depending upon where you are or whom you are conversing with, we may describe a genuine person as either "the real deal" or "being real."  If you are a fan of Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central, then you are already familiar with his catch phrase "Keep It 100."  It's the same concept and I believe being genuine is parallel with having integrity as well as the other above traits.  

Not only does a genuine & authentic person display his authentic self at all times (obviously with some adjustment for discretionary purposes), but he also "says what he does and does what he says."  He is honest about who he is and his actions reflect his character regardless of the setting.  

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

41 Tips that Get Over 10,000 People to your Email Sub List

Of course, not everyone struggles to reach these different stages.  Some people skyrocket to success in a few weeks, other people do well with traffic levels but not with your mailing list.

This particular blog has well over 10,000 people on the mailing list and gets a few thousand visitors per day.

In this post I’m going to show you a few really cool lessons I’ve learned while building it up to this level – a level that I think it genuinely attainable by any blog.

Let’s do it.

 

How to get to that magic 10,000 email subscribers mark

As always, I’ve probably forgot a lot of really cool things.

1. You need a strategy

Without an overarching strategy you are just blogging blindly. I spend a lot of time working on my blogging strategy because it gives me a laser-focus for what I want to achieve in the short and long term – and I know exactly what outcome I want from every article that I write. If you want more email subscribers you need to make it part of your strategy.

2. Your traffic sources matter

Some niches prefer Google traffic, others prefer referrals. Either way, you need to figure out which one works for you and go after it. Not all traffic is created equal. If you aren’t getting conversions it might be because of the places your visitors are coming from.

3. You need your own host

If your blog is on a free host with a free domain name you are shooting yourself in the foot from the start. It’s time to start a WordPress blog on your own host and make use of all the plugins and extra features that this allows you. Do it early, before it’s too hard to move.

4. A fast blog can make a huge difference

Speed matters not only for Google rankings but also for conversions. This study showed that for every second your blog takes to load you lose a massive amount of conversions. Figure out how to make your blog faster – it might mean a new host, a cache or some tricky coding fun.

5. Making friends will make or break you

The people that you connect with (both blog owners and readers) will make or break your blog. The more genuine connections you can make the more likely you are to grow a blog quickly as they help promote it and give you the right advice.

6. Free eBooks and courses still work well

Offering a free eBook to email subscribers still converts better than offering nothing. People are reading eBooks more than ever thanks to all our new portable devices. If you can give them something good you’ll make an instant impact.

7. You need to use Aweber or similar

Aweber is a service that hosts your email subscribers, lets you send them a free eBook after they subscribe, gives you access to a huge number of stats and also lets you design your own opt-in forms. It’s not hard to use and makes a huge difference to how a professional blog can function.

8. Costs add up

Website hosting, email subscriber hosting, advertising, purchasing images, etc. all adds up. A blog like this one costs around $300+ a month to keep online. Unless you are making a strategic income from it the costs can make it not worth while.

9. Your goals are important but can often change

It’s extremely important to have goals for your blog or website but it’s also important to make sure that they change if they need to. If something isn’t working and you’ve given it a lot of time and effort than it’s sometimes better to be strong and let it go and try something else.

10. You still have to sell the list

Just because you have a mailing list doesn’t mean that people will automatically subscribe. Don’t just stick a form in your sidebar and hope that people will give you their details – sell it. Mention it in posts, develop landing pages, talk about it in your guest posts. You need to let people know what’s going on.

11. Split testing can change your business

Glen wrote a really good post about split testing and how it can literally grow your conversions/income by 1000%+. You can split test your landing pages, your opt-in forms, your mail outs, etc. and see which versions works best. It’s easy to do nowadays so there really isn’t an excuse not to. Just make sure you’re testing things that matter and giving them enough time to show meaningful results.

12. Write on other blogs more than you write on your own

A lot of bloggers just write on their own blog and then wonder why no one is reading it. Well, it’s probably because no one knows it exists! Use guest posts as a starting point to get your name out there. Write more on other blogs than your own until you have a big reader base.

13. Text is great but other media is growing

Writing is, in my opinion, still the most powerful form of content on the net. People read a lot and not everyone can watch videos at work. But things like podcasts, videos, info graphics, etc. can play a huge role in getting you new and improved traffic.

14. SEO is dangerous

Relying on Google for anything is, as I’ve said before, a really stupid idea. They constantly change their algorithm and cause websites to go from fame to misfortune and visa versa. Play around with it and obviously try to do all the right things when it comes to blogging SEO and getting heaps of traffic but don’t ever rely on Google for your main source of income alone.

15. Advertising is a good idea

Dabbling in advertising can produce some really cool results. You don’t have to spend much. Try out Paid Discovery on StumbleUpon to give your posts a bit of a boost. There is nothing wrong with promoting your blog in this way.

16. Colors make a difference to conversions

Things as simple as colours can have a huge impact on how well your product or opt-in form convert. Again, you want to split test this stuff but I’ve noticed big changes in sign ups when switching my sidebar button from green to red and so on.

17. Social proof works in different ways

My friend wrote a really cool post on how different types of social proof can influence people in different ways. He explains it a lot better than I’m going to so have a read of the article and try to test whether social proof statements like subscriber counts are right for your blog.

18. Less is not always more

The idea that less is more is rarely true for a blog. You want more traffic, more subscribers, more sales. Of course, if the traffic isn’t any good it won’t make a difference, but try to to use ideas like “a small number of loyal subscribers” to stop you from growing a mailing list with a HUGE number of loyal subscribers.

19. Research is important

I spend a moderate amount of time researching keywords and competition before I write a blog post. It makes a huge difference about where I rank and how well the post is received. I show you my methods for this in Subscriber Special Ops – but until that opens up you might want to figure out your own ways to research before you write.

20. Pop ups work

I don’t care what anyone says.

😛

21. HelloBar is a great way to divert traffic

The bar at the top of this site is called HelloBar – a website/tool owned by Neil Patel that lets you put a message and a button up top and then split test two different versions. It’s a really cool way to divert traffic to a landing page or a mailing list sign up area. And it works really well.

22. Trying new things can inject a bit of magic

As I wrote in a recent post, sometimes you just need to do and try new things to see huge changes take place on your blog. You might not always know why it’s working but trying new things and failing is better than being stuck at a plateau for months on end.

23. Tracking and stats give you real insights in to what’s working

The statistics that you get in Aweber, Google Analytics and so on give you valuable insights into what is working. You can even use services like Crazy Egg to see where people are looking and clicking on your website. This stuff takes out a lot of guess work and lets you focus on real metrics.

24. You need to be different

Being different is the most important thing you can do online. Find a way to make your brand stand out from the crowd and then push that difference as often as possible.

25. What works on their blog might not work on yours

Sometimes I have “borrowed” ideas from my blogging icons after hearing how well it works for them only to find that it completely tanks for me. It’s a good lesson – what works for one blog doesn’t always work for another. And, yet again, this is why you need to split test different ideas and make sure what you think it the source of a success is actually the true source.

26. Find different reasons to mention your list

At the top of this post I mentioned that SSO was closed but that it would be open again soon and be announced to the mailing list. Moments like that are a very powerful way to get new email subscribers. Find different methods like that to work your mailing list in to your content and you’ll see new and curious subscribers on your mailing list.

27. Explain it in a really simple way

A lot of people who visit your blog will have absolutely no idea what a mailing list is or why they might want to give you, a total stranger, their personal email address. Spell it out for them very clearly, whenever you can.

28. The successful strategies change regularly

Something that I’m really only just learning is that successful strategies change regularly. I used to try to be really conservative with my online stuff because I was worried about compromising a “long term” blog for short term gain. But, what I’m seeing now, is that most of the successful people go after lots of little short term things and push them hard while they are working.

29. Don’t sell too early

Once you get to a certain level of subscribers it can be tempting to sell your blog/website and make a quick dollar (or 20,000). But what I sometimes regret is that I didn’t stick with that blog because I reckon it would probably be pulling in at least $100,000 a year by now. Just because you’ve reached one of those milestones, don’t sell up.

30. The homepage header works

You know those blogs that have the first half of their homepage devoted to an opt-in form? Those things work. I’ve heard of people who have them converting at 10% of all homepage traffic. You can get one of these added to your blog by a good designer and coder probably for a couple of hundred dollars.

31. Don’t forget mobile death windows

Not everyone can afford a beautiful responsive theme and some of us are too lazy to launch their beautiful responsive theme (guilty). But at least make sure your opt-in forms and pop ups work for mobile users. For example, if you use the lightbox version of the pop up you might find that people on iPhones have trouble closing the pop up and thus might exit your site without reading your content.

32. Target your offer in different segments

One thing you can do in AWeber is create different segments. So, you might have one landing page that lets people subscribe to your updates, another landing page that let’s people subscribe to updates only about “watermelons” and so on. By doing this you can target your offers and go after selective sources of traffic to ensure you’re really honing in on what people want.

33. Be consistent in your mail outs

One thing that I have learned the hard way is that inconsistency really gives subscribers the shits. If you tell them that they are going to get updates once a week don’t send them updates three times a week. You’ll lose them very quickly.

34. Email subscribers often hit “spam” first

Related to the last point, often you’ll find that an email subscriber will mark an aggressive or inconsistent email campaign as “spam” as opposed to just unsubscribing or deleting that particular email. Perhaps it makes them feel better but more likely it’s just easier to send it all into the spam folder dungeons.

35. Don’t be afraid to lose lots of subscribers

And now to throw a spanner in the works from the last three points – don’t worry about losing lots of subscribers. Every time we send out an email to the list we lose between 30 and 60 subscribers. That’s good. It means you’re getting rid of people who aren’t interested/aligned to your content.

36. What gets people to open an email might not get them to click through and buy

I ran an email campaign recently where I split test two different subject lines. The first email had an open rate of 41% and the second email had a dismal 26%. The funny thing was that the second email converted better than the first. I think this shows us two things: noise (attention grabbing tactics) doesn’t always lead to conversions, and that split testing is vital.

37. WWSGD?

There is a really cool plugin called WWSGD which stands for What Would Seth Godin Do that puts a little dialogue box at the top of your post and welcomes people based on cookies – new visitors get a message that old users don’t. But you can take this further. For example, if you came from Twitter you might get a message like “Hey there Twitter user! Check out our posts on getting the most out of Twitter”. These types of WordPress plugins are an amazing and easy way to attract more email subscribers by getting people deeper in to your content.

38. Tell me why I don’t like Mondays (but Sunday is okay…)

I’ve also found out that Monday is terrible for new posts, even though some people say it’s the best day. For me the best days are Tuesday and Wednesday but test for yourself.

39. Always be tired

Generally I find that the best traffic is around 9am East Coast time which tends to be around midnight in Australia – unless it’s daylight savings. Sure, I could set an automatic scheduler but I find that readers really love chatting to me in the comments section and if I’m in bed I get a lot less interaction. So – always be tired.

40. Redirect those comments

One of the coolest things I ever did on this blog (and one of the most popular and widely copied posts on my site) was redirecting comments to a “thank you” page using a simple plugin. As soon as someone leaves a comment for the first time they’ll get redirected to a little page that thanks them for their interaction and shows them the mailing list and some other cool content. It converts at around 7%.

41. Be genuine

Unless you can make all of this come together in a genuine way you’ll find that your readers will know. People are looking for a place/person to connect with – offer them genuine friendship through quality content and you’ll grow in leaps and bounds.

What has worked for you?

Growing an email list is one of the most important aspects of a successful blog. It is your mailing list that allows you to promote your content, sell products and launch new projects. So, what has worked for you? Leave a comment and let me know if I’ve missed anything obvious.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Why You Must Become An Entrepreneur

Why You Must Become An Entrepreneur

If anyone has lately been searching for a job lately it soon becomes clear that it’s not just startups that do not want traditional employees, Google does not want them, small businesses don’t want them, agencies don’t want them.

Becoming an Entrepreneur

Who do they want then? Entrepreneurs

And companies are using lots of resources to get them.

For example 30% of large tech companies have already set up a seed fund to provide capital for startup entrepreneurs. In the administration of traditional companies, entrepreneurship is more sought after than ever before in history. The use of the term “intrapreneur” dates back to 1992, but it is historically at the present era that intrapreneurship has become a global phenomenon with companies hiring entrepreneurs-in-residence, holding “hackathons”, which are company-wide startup competitions, and encouraging employees to work on creative projects by allowing them a percentage of their regular hours to learn entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurial worker has become a popular person. However, the question is then, Where does that leave employees who were molded in the tradidional way, the ones that you could tell what to do and they would do it. Does that literally mean that everyone needs to become an entrepreneur?

The robot model wherein employees just do what they are told is quickly becoming outdated.

Consider an appliance building factory. You can either hire two people at $50,000 per year or buy a robot for $100,000 that will serve you for 15 years, with no coffee breaks, 365 days a year 24 hours a day and no absences due to Illness and the like.

No wonder robots are catching on. The current world robot population is around 10 Million. In South Korea, where the highest number of industrial robots exist there are 347 robots per 10,000. How valuable are these robots? By 2030 it is estimated that robots will perform as well as humans at most manual jobs. That means that it would be good to look into the future and consider our job prospects, whether our jobs will still exist in 10 years.

The good news is that there is one quality that robots don’t have – a human factor- which distinguishes robots from entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have the capacity to understand humans, to know the problems humans are faced with and to be able to create value out of nothing.

Suppose You Don’t Want To Become an Entrepreneur

What if entrepreneurship just rubs you the wrong way? You are a very good at what you do and you just want to keep things the same? Ok, then let’s suppose in your lifetime there will not be any robots able to do what you do. Well, there is another problem you have to deal with: other people. There are people living in other countries who are willing and able to carry out the same work you do for less, being the same level of a specialist as you may be. In many areas of work roles does not matter if other people live elsewhere. And here is a compelling statistic; wherever you live, there are probably other nations where the type of work you do is cheaper. For example, IT coders from Russia code for 3 times less money than American coders. If we consider India, the rates would be even cheaper. But what about the newly emerging labor sources?

If there might be any safe haven from this entrepreneurialization of labor, it might be that your creativity would prevail to preserve your merit. If it falls to you to be creative perhaps this would preserve your particular niche of employment. However you must consider that an entrepreneurial creative type person would probably try to leverage his creativity outside his main job, so that he would receive more recognition as being someone who is considered to be creative. This creative aspect could be manifested in blog posts, an interesting ebook or an exceptional profile on LinkedIn.

So everything resolves to this: you need to be someone who can create their own opportunities and market the result. That’s entrepreneurship. If you happen to be a mid-level manager, you’ll never rise to the top unless you are able to create substantial value for the company, measured by profit. That’s what it means to sell. And if you don’t want to rise in the ranks, then sit tight, your replacement will probably be someone more dynamically entrepreneurial.

For those who are not happy about this turn of events, this state of affairs is actually a betterment of the workplace. The world is becoming better, but in order to stay competitive you only have to do one thing; you have to change with it – and the best way is by learning to become an entrepreneur.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Rise of the Entrepreneur — Get Started Now!

Rise of the Entrepreneur — Get Started Now!

While being your own boss can be scary and a little risky, it’s not as difficult as people think. You do have to be someone who loves his freedom, likes to be able to set his own schedule and likes to work on things he’s excited about.

Is that all there is to it? No, it takes a ton of hard work, and an ability to learn from your mistakes, and an ability to get up and go again.

Let’s briefly look at some of the things that will help you on your journey to freedom.

First: Can Anyone Be Self-Employed?
Not everyone should, because some people just love working where they’re working, they love the people they’re working with, and they absolutely love what they do. They couldn’t be happier working on their own. And, that is probably great if you want to be in the same situation year after year.

But … there’s a fallacy that those who start their own businesses or work on their own are somehow born with an “entrepreneurial spirit” that the regular workaday employees just don’t have. They aren’t “risk-takers”, they aren’t self-motivated, and they just can’t manage themselves.

That is just a load of excuses.
Sure, some people like the security of a regular paycheck, but if recent events have taught us anything, it’s that this kind of security is an illusion because they usually spend everything they earn and are no farther ahead at the end of the year as when they started.

Sure, some people are afraid of starting their own business, because it means they have to figure out things they know nothing about … but don’t we all do this, anyway?

No-one really likes being told what to do, or work on what someone else wants to do. We all like freedom, but we allow our freedoms to be sacrificed out of fear.

It’s this fear that stops us. And so the question really becomes: can anyone overcome this fear?

It is possible. Whether you’ll be successful at overcoming the fear, and at starting your own business, is another question — it takes work, and time, and an ability to accept failure and learn from it.

How to Overcome the Fear
Ask yourself: what’s the worst that can happen?

For some, it’s that you’ll lose your mortgage and become bankrupt. But that’s happened to millions of people recently, and they’re OK. They just can’t get another loan soon, but they’re still living. For others, it’s a fear that you’ll be out on the street or hungry. Ask yourself, though, if you have a safety net: family and friends who will take you in if it ever comes to that.

That’s the worst case scenario. Now ask yourself: is that likely to happen? Probably not. If things get bad, you can take a job with someone else, or try a new tactic, or figure something out so that things don’t get that bad.

Stay Lean and Small
Lean and small and hungry and nimble and flexible are good things. It means you don’t need to pay a lot of bills, you don’t need a huge amount of revenues, and you can change as you need to. Big corporations need to make huge revenues, need to sell millions, and have a hard time changing because of a massive corporate structure and thousands of meetings and lots of invested time and lots of people who are resistant to change. Small and lean has none of those problems.

Don’t start with a lot of expenses — start small, with zero or almost zero expenses.

Sure, not everyone can start for free, but you can start small.

Want to run a ballet studio or fitness studio? Start by going to your clients, or start in your home, or do it at schools and use their space. Want to start in retail? Start online, with a cheap host and free web software. Want to be a marketer? Do it out of your home, with a cell phone, a computer and a car. Want to be a landscaper? All you need is a lawn mower to start out. Want to start a health clinic? Operate out of your home, or make house calls, in the beginning.

There are lots of ways to start out cheap — if your business requires lots of money, think about scaling it back or finding a different way of doing it, for free.

Starting out cheap means it’s hard to fail and easy to succeed.

Start Right Away
Don’t wait for perfection. Figure out the simplest way to start, and just start. Don’t worry about taking a bunch of expensive courses — just do it, and learn as you go. You might even start for free if possible, so that you can gain experience and as you get better, you’ll get good word of mouth.

Start out without an office, a website, business cards, employees, and a lot of equipment and software. Sure, you’ll need some of those fairly soon, but you don’t need them to start. Well, unless your business is a website — then you’ll need a site, but those are cheap.

You can get a business card later. You can set up your accounting structure later. You can figure things out as you go. The important part is just starting.

Does that mean you don’t need to plan? Well, you should, but don’t overdo it. You should give a lot of thought to what you’re good at, what you can offer, who your target customers are, how you’ll make money, how much you should charge, how you can add value beyond what is already offered out there. But don’t let it stop you — if you can’t decide on something, just start and adjust your targets as you learn.

On Quitting Your Day Job
For most people, it’s best to keep your day job at first, just so you have some income while you get the business started. Work in the morning, on your lunch break, after work, even during work if you’re not super busy — just don’t get fired. This is a good way to fund your start up — have a steady income and get the business going until you’re ready to quit the day job.

For some, quitting the day job is best right away, because it gives them the kick in the butt they need to get moving. It’s scarier this way, of course, but there’s no better motivator. This is best for people who don’t have a big family to support — singles or couples without kids — or if you do have a family, perhaps you have some savings you can live on for at least 2-3 months while you get the business off the ground.

Even if you quit your day job, you might be able to do some freelancing or consulting business to get some regular income right away, as you also get the business going.

What to Do
First, you should choose something that you love and know a lot about. If you love gardening, do something related to that. If you love writing, do that. You should ideally have some experience, or be willing to put in a lot of hours learning at first. If you’re already good at something, and you love doing it, you’re off to a great start.

Next, you should figure out what you have to offer, and how it will be different than what’s already out there. How will you meet people’s needs in a new way? Who needs your service or product? How will you reach them? Where do they go now, either in the real world or online?

And what’s the simplest way you can reach them and offer your product or service? Simplest means the least work, the least amount of steps and complications, the easiest for the customer, the least expensive, the least amount to start up.

And how fast can you get started? What’s the bare minimum you need to get started? For many, this is signing up for a free web account and putting up some content. For others, this is calling the right people and meeting with them with an offer to provide services. And that’s all — get the basics started, and add the rest later.

Again, you can get the business card later. You can figure out accounting and corporate structure and all that later. You can refine your marketing and product later — just start, and keep improving.

Never Stop Learning, and Never Stop Failing
Failure is not the end of your business. It’s just the beginning.

You have to take the attitude that failure won’t stop you from making it on your own. If your business doesn’t get off the ground, learn from that. And try again, but do it better this time. You might need to get a job temporarily to fund your life as you make another attempt, but that’s OK. You do what you gotta do.

Failure isn’t a reason to get depressed, to quit. It’s a learning opportunity. Failure is a stepping stone to your success.

And if you make it, don’t take that as a reason to get complacent. You should always be learning, always improving — not because you’re not satisfied with what you’ve done, but because if you stop learning, you’ll stop having fun. There should always be new challenges, new things to explore, new skills to learn, new ways to grow.

One more thing: do not be afraid of hard work. You’ll work harder than you ever have. Becoming an entrepreneur is not about laying around in a hammock and drinking Margaritas. Although you can do that, when you want to. It’s about loving what you do, about working hard to build something you’re proud of, about pouring your heart and soul into something rather than giving it to someone else. Make no mistake about it: you’ll work hard, or you won’t succeed. But you’ll love every minute of it.

Should you Start in a Bad Economy?
Yes.

This is the best time to start. This is a time when job security is low, so risks are actually lower. This is a time to be lean, which is the best idea for starting a business. This is the time when others are quitting — so you’ll have more room to succeed.

And with social media and networking taking off, this is the easiest time to start a business, the easiest time to spread the word, the easiest time to distribute information and products and services.

And while the big corporations may struggle in a bad economy, you’re small and lean, which means you don’t have the fat that the big guys have, you are able to adjust to the market much better, and you’re less subject to the problems of financial markets, real estate markets, and other external realities.

But What If Everyone Were Self-Employed?
What if everyone were in business for themselves? Would this be a horrible thing? I can imagine a world of tiny businesses and free agents. I think people would collaborate — with many people — but they’d do so as free agents, not as employees. And that’s a huge difference. A world of difference. Because then they’d come in as equals, and they’d be collaborating because they want to, because they’re excited about a project. Then the world of trying to motivate employees disappears, because people are motivated already — they’re excited, they have freedom, they choose to do the work.

Origional article by Leo Babauta

Dennis Roeder Contributor

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The 23 Suggestions to Improve Your Writing Skills

The 23 Suggestions to Improve Your Writing Skills

Words are hard.

Whether you're a published author or just getting started with blogging, it's not always easy to string words together in a way that makes sense, sounds good and makes the reader feel something.

But every marketer should be able to write — and, more importantly, every marketer can write. It's just a matter of finding the writing environment that works best for you, expanding your vocabulary, asking for feedback (and listening to it), and practicing.

Luckily, there are a slew of great tools you can use to help improve your writing. Check out the list below, and feel free to add the most helpful ones you use in the comment section.

1) ContentIdeator

The Content Ideator is an easy-to-use topic generator tool that's similar to Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Input your noun of choice, and it will show you all the results related to your keyword. You can view up to 90 pages worth of topics according to your search.

For example, if you enter the keyword "writer’s block," the Content Ideator will generate more than a hundred potential topics such as:

    Writer's Block — How To Overcome A Writer's Greatest Curse
    Writing Prompts To Overcome Writer's Block Considered — Case Study
    How to Write an Outline: I've Got Writer's Block and No Time Until My Deadline!

Check out other tools first unless you’re up for digging to find the topic that speaks to you.

2) Portent’s Content Idea Generator

This tool is a piece of cake to use, and its chalkboard background makes it fun to play with. Simply add the keyword, and hit the "enter" button. You get one title and content suggestion each time you click.

This generator has some personality, adding witty comments and jokes in bubbles alongside the topic suggestions. If the title isn't what you expected or seems silly, you can refresh it as many times as you wish to find a gem. (The only difference between a content idea generator and a blog topic generator is that the former lets you fill in only one keyword per search while the latter allows you to enter three.)

3) 750 Words

Another way to practice your writing is to do a "brain dump" exercise using a tool like 750 Words. "Brain dumping" means getting all that stuff in your head down on paper — without having to worry about incomplete ideas, tangents, and private stuff.

It's not blogging or status updating — it's just you, writing whatever you want on a totally private account, without ever having to title your content or tag topics or share with your friends.

What it does do is track your word count so you're sure to write 750 words (about three pages of writing). Plus, it's gamified, which makes it kind of fun: You get a point for writing anything at all, two points for writing 750 words or more, and more points if you write consistently. And every time you write, it'll give you some cool statistics on how much time you spent writing, the feelings and themes of your words, and so on.

4) Twords

Publishing content on a consistent basis is crucial in the blogging world. Our own research concludes that companies that commit to regularly publishing quality content to their blogs tend to get the most website traffic and leads — and those results continue to pay out over time. Tools like Twords can help bloggers commit to writing consistently.

Twords calls itself "the app that nudges you to write." It notifies you when you haven't written in a while so you can keep yourself accountable — and even gives you the option to connect with others who will help keep you accountable. It also tracks your writing so you can start to see patterns for the days you're blogging more versus less, and so on. Finally, it includes some cool resources like a prompt library and articles about habit formation, writing resources, and so on.

5) Swipe File

If you had asked you what a swipe file is, You would probably reply with something like this:

"Umm…does it have something to do with stealing?"

Swipe files aren't stealing. In fact, they're not even borrowing.

Basically, a swipe file is just a folder where you can curate cool stuff you come across, like advertisements, copy, emails, etc. "Save things that make you click, sign up, laugh, or go 'whoa!'" says the post. The purpose? To flip through it for inspiration.

Christopher Penn defines a swipe file as being "a collection of stuff that has worked, arranged in such a way to inspire you and give you future ideas." Sounds simple enough, right? Actually, we put together swipe files all the time without knowing it.

Brides put together binders full of pictures and wedding planning articles. Interior designers create mood boards. If you've ever used Polyvore or a similar site, you've (in a way) made a swipe file. By putting together resources that spark new ideas, you're doing yourself a favor in the long run. No marketer, copywriter, or creative professional can go through his or her career without getting stuck. It just happens. We're human and when the idea well runs dry, we have a tendency to give up.

The importance of a swipe file isn't its size or its diversity of material. It's the swipe file's ability to help you through creative roadblocks.

As SEO copywriters and marketers, we can keep a swipe file filled with headlines, social media campaigns, blog posts, landing pages, lead generation techniques, calls to action…if it helps you write great copy, include it there. It's that simple.

In terms of putting together your own swipe file, there are many tools that you can use. Personally, here's what I use or have used to put together my own collection of inspiration:

I have three techniques I use for my Swipe Files

1. I copy the article, ad, blog, whatever and paste it into a MS Word document then save it to my dungeon of articles and it is huge. But remember text based files can be searched. I use UltraFileSearch

2. I also keep track of reference and interesting sources, blogs, news feeds to curate content with my online bookmarking service @ Delicious as well as my browser's bookmarks.

3.I use Pinterest as another alternative swipe depository and it also gives me brand credibility and SEO juice.

6) Help me Write

If you can’t decide what you want to write, let the community make that decision for you. Simply, add your ideas, share them, ask your friends what they’d like to read about, and write and publish! By knowing what your audience wants to read before you even start writing, ensures you’ll have readers as soon as you hit publish and will save you time.
 
7) Trello

Writing efficiently and organizing well is a part of writing well. Use a tool like Trello to collect content ideas, assign them to different members of your team, attach due dates, collaborate with other team members, track their progress, and move them from conception to completion.

8) Draft

Putting the edits you made to the forefront of its interface, Draft shows you where and what you’ve changed, giving you the option of accepting it or reverting it back to what it was originally. What’s even more useful is the Mark Draft feature that saves that version of your work as you go.

With many other options that make iCloud and Google Docs seem dated, this tool can help you write and share your writing for other presentations not limited to blogging.

9) Quora

Quora is a great place to go for crowdsourced answers if you want to reach outside your network. Simply search for a keyword, follow topics related to the topics you're interested in, and/or post your own questions.

10) oTranscribe

If you're writing something that includes an interview with someone else, oTranscribe is a great tool that'll make the transcription process much less painful — allowing more time for your own writing and analysis.

It's a web app for transcribing interviews created by Elliott Bentley, a graphics writer at Wall Street Journal. The audio player is integrated with the editor meaning you won't have to click back and forth. You can pause, play, rewind, and fast-forward using keyboard shortcuts. Every second, it automatically saves the transcription to your browser's storage. You can export it to plain text or Google Docs.

11) Coffitivity

Ready to start writing? Here's a tool that'll boost your productivity. A study out of the University of Chicago found that a moderate level of ambient noise, or "white noise," helps people be more creative. While there are a lot of white noise generators out there, Cofftivity is my favorite. It offers non-stop café background sounds at varying intensities, from "Morning Murmur" and "University Undertones" to "Lunchtime Lounge" and "Brazil Bistro."

12) Tomato Timer

If you like to write with a little pressure (or you're just on deadline), then Tomato Timer is useful (and free). This tool offers a "Pomodoro" option, which refers to the Pomodoro technique: a time management technique created by Francesco Cirillo based on periods of distraction-free work followed by short breaks — which is supposed to be optimal for productivity.

13) ZenPen

A clean and minimalist approach to where you write. Blocking out visual distractions, with features to stylize the text, add hyperlinks, and block quotes.
 
14) Power Thesaurus

Power Thesaurus isn't just any thesaurus: It's a crowdsourced thesaurus that provides alternative word choices from a community of writers. The word suggestions are totally original, and are based on the editorial work of a team of writers and years' worth of reviews visitors' suggestions.

15) Twinword Writer

Here's another help that'll help you if you get stuck on a word and don't want to leave your browser or skim through synonyms. If you type using Twinword Writer, it'll automatically sense if you pause because you're stuck on a word. Then, it'll analyze the context of your writing and open a box suggesting alternate words you can use. You can also click any word to get suggestions. A better writing environment for delivering your ideas and thoughts in the most suitable vocabulary. Everyone from journalists, bloggers, marketers, to amateur cooks, students, and daily writers improve their writing.

16) Squirt

Letting you read an article one word at a time, Squirt enhances your reading speed. You can also use this tool to improve your grammar and spelling errors, and improve your brain’s transition between flow of thought and writing output.
 

17) Factbrowser

While you're writing, you may find you need to support your ideas with research. Tools like Factbrowser search facts, stats, reports, studies, and surveys. Their research covers a wide range of topics, including social networks, gaming, specific industries, holidays, coupons, marketing, and so many more.

18) BrainyQuote

You may also find you want to include a quote from a famous author, politician, celebrity, or any  public figure to strengthen your writing or inspire your readers. BrainyQuote is a library filled with millions of interesting quips that you can search by a speaker (from Aristotle to Dr. Seuss to Audrey Hepburn) or by topic (like peace, success, leadership, and more).

19) Grammarly

Once the actual writing part is done, it's time to edit. While human editors will be able to catch most grammatical errors, editing tools like Grammarly are great tools for triple-checking before you press "publish" or "send."

Writing for many is a challenge, even for me. It takes focus, determination, and some confidence. But it is the foundation of the Internet, you know information.

I put this list together to help make it a little less stressful. It should remain a challenge because we should embrace challenges. That is what makes us, especially as an alpha Entrepreneur, right?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributer

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How to Target the Right People with Mobile Marketing

mobile marketing

How to Target the Right People with Mobile Marketing

Everywhere you go, you can see someone using their cell phone. Many times they are not using it to talk, but to search the Internet, downloading an application or accessing a social networking site. Why not use that knowledge to grow your business? Here are some mobile marketing tips that are sure to get you going.

If you operate an off line business like a restaurant, small store, or any other local location, make sure that you are emphasizing your location in your mobile marketing. Businesses like these have a much larger niche market, and someone just driving in the area for a while might love to stop in and grab a bite to eat.

Focus on using mobile marketing especially for customer retention. If people have already purchased from you, they are more likely to welcome mobile communication from you if they are pleased with your product. Try to reach new prospects, but never lose sight of the opportunity you have with people who are your customers already.

Whether you are running a large business or a small home business, you need to sit down and develop a social media policy that sets the standards of what should and should not be done through social media. This is going to help you and your company from the many things that could possibly go wrong.

Get training. Many vendors actually offer training programs on how to safely and properly run a mobile marketing campaign. These people will educate you on everything from how often to send out deals and messages, to the regulations you will need to follow while your program is ongoing. Take advantage of this.

Your natural inclination may be to send out unsolicited messages with your new mobile marketing campaign, but spamming people is never the way to go in any campaign. It is a huge turn-off and can possibly leave a permanent stain on your reputation and cause you to lose regular customers.

Make a social marketing policy. Every business should have policies to help dictate proper behavior, and mobile marketing is no different. You should make sure that every member of your company is aware of and understands that policy, and take steps to ensure that it will be followed in any event.

Remember that mobile marketing landing pages are different from standard landing pages, and they need to be streamlined to be viewable. Make sure that you do this right, because mobile landing pages are invaluable when it comes to generating leads and acquiring those customers who are constantly on the go.

Make it easy for one recipient of your mobile marketing ad to send it and they probably will! Prior to publishing your promotions, make certain that they are simple to forward to others and even include some incentive to the original recipient for doing so and you will have an instant ad booster!

You realize how many people are using cell phones, blackberries, or any type of mobile device and how much you can use that to help your business grow. Apply all the advice that you have learned in this article to really make your business launch quickly to the next level.

 

Ida Mae Boyd
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The Amount of Questionable Online Traffic Will Blow Your Mind

The Amount of Questionable Online Traffic Will Blow Your Mind The World Wide rip-off

Click Fraud Detection PPCSecure

A few weeks ago, Lindsay Buescher, senior manager, analytics at Carat, read an article on Adweek.com about a company called FreeStreams.com that was pumping up its traffic by enticing Web users into accidentally visiting via hidden links on sites that house pirated content. As it happened, one of her agency’s clients, Red Bull, was a FreeStreams advertiser. Buescher was determined to find out what was going on. Her team discovered Red Bull video ads were running on FreeStreams through two different networks, including ValueClick, a publicly traded company. (ValueClick says it has since stopped working with FreeStreams.)

That wasn’t something Buescher had run into much. She kept digging. After about three weeks, Carat was blacklisting 77 more sites for Red Bull beyond FreeStreams. Many of the sites didn’t actually sell pre-roll ads, which was what the client was supposedly paying for. Some were merely gaming sites with interstitials. Some were sites that didn’t even exist or were blocked by her company. Others ran video inventory continuously. Many were simply a case of “fraud,” she found.

In the end, Buescher’s efforts resulted in not only a lot of legwork but also a $150,000 refund for the client. That’s hardly enough to set the industry on a different course, but to Buescher it said something. “Red Bull is spending 90 percent of its online budget direct with publishers,” she says. “Imagine if they weren’t.”

It might not matter either way. That’s because the online ad industry is facing a swelling crisis, one defined by fake traffic, bogus publishers and invisible Web visitors, a trend first investigated by Adweek in an online story, “Meet the Most Suspect Publishers on the Web,” published March 19 of this year. Once thought contained to a handful of rogue players that had figured out how to exploit ad exchanges, bogus ad inventory, as it turns out, is rampant. In fact, according to numerous sources across the ecosystem, fake traffic is essentially systemic to online advertising—it’s part of how the business works. And a slew of top companies are involved in this—whether wittingly or not. “You see it with almost any partner you work with,” as Alan Silverberg, media platforms director at Moxie Interactive, puts it. “From AOL and Yahoo to Facebook, from pure-play partners and the network space to portals. We can’t stop it,” he says, referring to the preponderance of questionable traffic. Though for many publishers, it may be a question of whether they can’t stop it, or won’t. Adds Buescher: “It’s the whole business. We see this even with direct-to-publisher deals. It’s really the media planners’ fault. But when you start seeing partners breaking contracts … no one has time to monitor 3,500 sites when they are just cranking, cranking, cranking out plans.”

Of course, there are plenty of those who think this is being blown out of proportion. Some in the online ad world see bots, fake traffic and the like as a manageable nuisance, hardly a crisis. But the ranks of the alarmed are growing by the day.

During a recent interview, online ad veteran Wenda Millard, president of Medialink, made the bold claim that a quarter of the online ad market is fraudulent. “What we have found is the devaluation of digital media is causing us to lose about 25 percent of the roughly $30 billion that is being spent,” she reported. “It’s stolen [ad revenue].” In defining fraud, Millard lumped together piracy, nonviewable ads, ads stacked on top of one another, inappropriate content and, of course, deliberate malicious behavior, in her analysis. “In most people’s wildest dreams, they wouldn’t imagine how much [questionable traffic] there is,” she says. “People should be very, very worried.”

Let’s start with individual publishers. A group of Web-traffic analysts that did not want to be named for fear of pointing a finger at potential clients has identified a dozen well-known sites that exhibit questionable traffic patterns, including Break, CollegeHumor, Complex, Crackle, Entrepreneur and Totalbeauty. One source of information the group examined was comScore’s cross-visiting reports, which revealed that each site on the list has a high percentage of visitors who also visit sites suspected of living on bot traffic.

For example, Break, CollegeHumor, Complex, Gamespot and Crackle all have a high cross-traffic index with sites like Mommyhotspot, featuring parenting content, as well as Missoandfriends and Dreammining, a gaming hub aimed at young girls, plus a variety of sites frequently blacklisted by ad buyers. According to Augustine Fou, founder of the Marketing Science Consulting Group, Dreammining raises many questions. Using Alexa data, Fou found Dreammining’s top search term to be “mining of selena,” which exhibits zero traffic on Google, he points out. The site also has a high at-work audience that doesn’t match its demo, while the second- and third-largest domains driving traffic to the site are “possible click farms,” he says.

Fou also looked at Mommyhotspot, which had unidentifiable domains driving traffic and barely any inbound links, per his analysis.

The overall pattern Fou and others examined—sites like Dreammining and Mommyhotspot sharing audience with Break and Crackle—does not in itself directly implicate these branded sites in anything scandalous, though it might strike some as unexpected that a group of guys’ websites share traffic with several young girls’ sites, let alone girls’ sites possibly employing click farms.

But a deeper examination is revealing. According to an analysis conducted by a Web-traffic expert who did not want to be identified citing confidentiality agreements, all these sites, whether wittingly or not, have some level of “bogus traffic.” Research companies regularly discount traffic from Web publishers before reporting data like unique users or impressions because such traffic looks questionable. And even they don’t catch everything. In this case, an Internet security expert suspects these sites (Break, College Humor, etc.) might all be purchasing traffic from the same vendor, which is likely employing bots.

Adweek reached out to Ben Edelman, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard, who has done extensive research on Internet architecture, advertising, traffic patterns and fraud detection, and who has built a proprietary Web crawler he uses to detect curious activity. Edelman says via his proprietary tracking tools, he’s gathered evidence that Crackle, College Humor, Break and others regularly employ “invisible traffic”—i.e., these companies deliver their entire sites via iframes or tiny pixels on other sites that no one else can see.

Consider the guy-oriented Break (which last week was reported to be merging with Alloy Digital). Edelman found that Break.com loads invisibly through a variety of complex methods. In one instance, a company called Ptp22 redirects Break traffic through a variety of middlemen before it is loaded invisibly via iframe. (The list of go-betweens includes Marketwithmogul and TooShocking.)

Another company, Deplayer, conducts the same kind of operation. Adweek was unable to find contact information for the company.

Analytics firm SimilarWeb would seem to provide more supporting evidence. Some 25 percent of Break’s traffic comes via referrals, much of it from the adult category. The top referring site isn’t Facebook or Twitter but a firm called ClickSure, which sells Web traffic. In Edelman’s opinion, Break knows it’s buying such traffic. “But [this traffic doesn’t deliver actual] users who can see the site or any ads on the site. But there are indeed ads on the landing page. I saw ads for AT&T,” he says.

“We occasionally use the common practice of trade link sharing, which accounts for a small percentage of traffic,” says a Break representative. “We consistently work in the interests of our partners and have created high standards to vet traffic for quality issues. We have immediately suspended suspicious providers in question for further exploration.”

(UPDATE: Carat's Buescher says her agency has found that a campaign purchased through Break is running on three piracy sites: allmyvideos.net, divxstage.eu, and movreel.com. They admitted to it," she said. Adweek has reached out to Break to respond).

Edelman says he has been tracking Crackle for years. That site, which is owned by Sony and features a series starring Jerry Seinfeld, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, exhibits signs of invisible traffic, says Edelman. According to SimilarWeb, 18 percent of Crackle’s traffic comes from referrals. Among the site’s top referrers are Inttrax, Lnksdata, Redirect.ad-feeds and Contenko. Some of these companies are known for selling pop unders, adware and the like, per Edelman.

A source close to Crackle says the site cleaned up some of its traffic sources from years past but still occasionally encounters suspect traffic when marketing the site via various ad nets. The problem is described as “minor and the firm takes measures to address it.” Also, per sources, College Humor has noticed suspect traffic patterns from traffic purchased from outside vendors and has taken steps to eliminate it.

“Complex typically shares visitors with quality sites such as GQ.com and Vulture.com,” adds a Complex spokesperson. “In August we conducted a small, one-off traffic vendor test that delivered impressions that fell far below our standards, and we quickly terminated the relationship. We take seriously the matter of bogus traffic and we support any and all industry measures to address the problem.”

Beyond direct publishers with invisible traffic, what about the assessment from Moxie’s Silverberg that the Facebooks, Yahoos and AOLs of the world could be touched by the questionable traffic issue?

In Facebook’s case, the company has wrestled with scammers creating fake profiles and selling artificial likes. It’s a problem that’s mostly under control, according to a Facebook spokesperson: “As part of our ongoing site integrity efforts, we have recently updated our automated systems to remove ‘likes’ on pages that may have been gained by means that violate Facebook’s terms. On average, less than 1 percent of likes on any given page will be removed.”

Facebook is generally a closed environment. But it’s the wide-open, murky world of ad networks, ad exchanges and real-time bidding that experts say is rife with fraudulent activity. That’s because clients continue to look for huge quarterly CPM decreases and expect the Web to deliver cheap, efficient results. Meanwhile, agencies benefit from marking up ad inventory through their trading desks. Every vendor is plugged into every other vendor and platform, and sellers are incented to drive the most clicks at the cheapest rates possible. Thus, this ecosystem is practically begging for scammers.

“A certain set of conditions has led to a proliferation and explosion of this, and everyone will be touched by this problem to different degrees,” says Steve Sullivan, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s vp, ad technology. “Add in retargeting and audience buying, it really represents a challenge in differentiating quality impressions vs. non quality.”

AOL and Yahoo both operate in the network exchange realm. And experts consider them among the good guys—the companies that have billed themselves as safe havens in this lawless space wouldn’t be vulnerable to bogus traffic. But exchange buyers say that even these companies can be vulnerable to questionable traffic. Take AOL’s Advertising.com, which has long billed itself as a premium exchange. However, ad buyers reveal that AOL campaigns sometimes feature chunks of inventory going to unidentifiable sites, reported back as “dummy publisher” or “house account.” AOL will also deliver major swaths of inventory to companies like Swaave, which will return a 0.0 percent clickthrough rate. CTRs are low these days, but not that low. A look at Advertising.com’s inventory mix includes properties like the live video chat platforms ooVoo and Tinychat, the Web-browsing disguiser AnchorFree, as well as companies like Integri and JCarterMarketing—essentially other ad nets. Meaning that buyers who come to Advertising.com for transparency may not find it, leaving it open to all sorts of deception. “We see these [kinds of] companies selling ads on 20 to 30 ad networks,” says Carat’s Buescher. “The percentage of inventory on our blacklists is astounding.”

“Whenever you buy from someone who won’t tell you where your ads are running, there is a real danger they are ripping you off,” says Zach Coelius, CEO of the ad tech firm Triggit.

According to one ad buyer, Ad.com’s supply currently includes questionable inventory and “copyright-infringing sites.” An executive from a major agency trading desk confirmed that Ad.com runs ads “on suspect sites and reports back traffic from unnamed publishers.”

AOL’s svp publisher services Dave Jacobs declines to discuss specific partners but says the company employs an in-house quality-review team that is constantly monitoring these issues. Jacobs adds that Advertising.com only works with other ad networks on a site-by-site basis—and never buys blindly. He was unable to discuss why some clients receive reports with traffic from the likes of “dummy publisher,” while maintaining that such a practice was not common.

“We think we are at the leading edge of protecting our partners,” he says. “We are very much focused on maintaining blacklists. With Ad.com, our focus is the direct-supply area. There may be instances where we can identify opportunities to deliver subset audiences outside our network. It’s not unusual for any company in our position to evaluate multiple sources of supply … but with our network, we’ve been focused on telling a story that is about premium.”

Similarly, Yahoo’s data-driven targeting platform, Genome, has billed itself as a tool that “allows you to benefit from direct access to Yahoo premium inventory, publisher partners such as MSN and AOL, and comScore top 1,000 through a simple, streamlined transaction point.” Yet Genome campaigns can also include unnamed sites or properties like the file-sharing site MediaFire and the ad networks eHealthcareSolutions and Blackboxmedia. Meaning Genome buyers may be flying blind, while the platform is vulnerable to abuse.

“Yahoo takes supply quality very seriously,” said the company in a statement. “We are committed to maintaining a healthy marketplace with our advertiser and publisher partners, and use technical and procedural safeguards to support that commitment. … Genome uses a combination of internal tools and third-party services to help maintain the quality of the network. Our Genome network purchases inventory on specific sites based on quality and audience, and regularly provides advertisers with site lists before and after a campaign runs for increased transparency.”

“In the spectrum of networks out there from reputable to sketchy, I’d put AOL and Yahoo on the reputable side,” says Chris Paul, gm, svp at VivaKi. “The most common issue is when new sites join the networks without being fully vetted for advertisers’ content standards by the network administrators.”

Agency trading desks also deliver lots of inventory on networks into which buyers don’t have much insight. Often buyers will receive traffic reports listing buckets of inventory from something labeled “microsoftadvertisingexchange,” say insiders.

While the display market has seen dicey practices growing for a while now, the challenge of bad inventory is suddenly escalating in video, where CPMs can be 10 times greater than display. Take the BrightRoll Exchange. Besides housing loads of inventory from the aformentioned Freestreams, the company also delivers large volumes of inventory via sites like Fave.tv and Videoswag.tv. Plus, it delivers lots of ads via "opaque sources" or sites it doesn't report on, as well as a good amount of blacklisted inventory, per buyers. One buyer says his company blocks one in four impressions sold in the exchange.

BrightRoll CEO Tod Sacerdoti says that in the case of Fave.tv, that inventory wasn’t supposed to be available. The site was on a list of unapproved URLs from an Israeli company called HIRO. Sacerdoti notes that BrightRoll does provide an option for buyers called “tier 4,” adding, “We recommend people question it.”

But overall, Sacerdoti says, BrightRoll is an open platform that plugs into nearly everybody selling video, and is not something that the company can be expected to police. It’s not “BrightRoll’s inventory, after all. The BrightRoll exchange is the inventory in the entire industry,” he says. “Is there an inventory problem in the industry? Yes.”

Indeed, the ad exchange space is so fraught with danger that companies like the independent trading desk Digilant run massive reports every week tracking which companies are peddling the same ad inventory on different exchanges—with completely different labels. According to Digilant COO Nate Woodman, the situation is so ungovernable that the agency has found instances where it’s ended up buying impressions from itself. Digilant blocks one vendor, CPX Interactive, for this reason. Woodman says that companies can blacklist sites all they want, but that they are better off creating whitelists—i.e., lists of preapproved sites. “The problem there is, that will kill your performance,” he says. Why? Because when you’re just out for clicks, bot sites perform better.

And the bot guys are slick. “As soon as sites get on blacklists, there is little incentive to maintain them,” explains Kiril Tsemekhman, svp, chief data officer at Integral Ad Science. “Then a new site pops up.”

And so, the problems persist. John Snyder, CEO of the keyword-targeting firm Grapeshot, says he’s lost business because his company won’t sell bad inventory. “We’ll hear, ‘Your competitor got great clicks,’ but all on two sites and it was all fraud. But it’s these optimization algorithms that find those clicks.”

Says Woodman: “When we try to tighten things up, our measured performance goes down. There is an incentive among buyers to let the floodgates open. And publishers need more money, so they ignore.” So the bad traffic persists. “We need to fix this as an industry,” he adds. “Somebody needs to give a shit.”

The IAB seems to. Per Sullivan, the organization is working on devising a standard for publishers akin to the Good Housekeeping Seal. He’d like to see the biggest stakeholders get more aggressive about the problem, including brands and agencies. “If buyers came out and said, ‘I will only buy from certified vendors,’ that would change things,” he says.

Carat’s Buescher thinks bold steps are needed and urges more of her brethren to take big steps. “It’s a sad thing,” she says. “There is no single provider out there that can fix this. Until then, all brands should have a manager that handles brand safety.”

Original Author: Chuck Reynolds

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Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The Alleged $7.5 Billion Fraud in Online Advertising

A 'Crisis' in Online Ads: One-Third of Traffic Is Bogus

As Digital Advertising Climbs Toward $50 Billion This Year, Marketers Battle Fraudulent Visitors

Billions of dollars are flowing into online advertising. But marketers also are confronting an uncomfortable reality: rampant fraud.

 

About 36% of all Web traffic is considered fake, the product of computers hijacked by viruses and programmed to visit sites, according to estimates cited recently by the Interactive Advertising Bureau trade group.

 

So-called bot traffic cheats advertisers because marketers typically pay for ads whenever they are loaded in response to users visiting Web pages—regardless of whether the users are actual people.

The fraudsters erect sites with phony traffic and collect payments from advertisers through the middlemen who aggregate space across many sites and resell the space for most Web publishers. The identities of the fraudsters are murky, and they often operate from far-flung places such as Eastern Europe, security experts say.

 

The widespread fraud isn't discouraging most marketers from increasing the portion of their ad budgets spent online. But it is prompting some to become more aggressive in monitoring how their money is spent. The Internet has become so central to consumers, that advertisers can't afford to stay away.

 

Digital "is too important," says Roxanne Barretto, assistant vice president for U.S. digital marketing at L'Oréal SA, which recently uncovered evidence that an online ad purchase was affected by fraud and other problems. "Slowing down spend represents a missed opportunity to connect with our core audience."

 

Spending on digital advertising—which includes social media and mobile devices—is expected to rise nearly 17% to $50 billion in the U.S. this year. That would be about 28% of total U.S. ad spending. Just five years ago, digital accounted for 16%.

 

The big question is whether attitudes will change if signs of fraud increase. Many people in the ad business are worried. Ziff Davis Inc. Chief Executive Vivek Shah, the chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said at the group's annual conference last month that Internet advertising was facing a "crisis."

 

Several big advertisers—including L'Oréal, General Motors Co. and Verizon Communications Inc. —have found that some of their online ad purchases were affected by fake traffic, people familiar with the situation say. Such examples threaten advertiser confidence in the effectiveness of digital compared with traditional media, such as television.

 

"When you bundle bots, clicks fraud, viewablity and the lack of transparency [in automated ad buying], the total digital-media value equation is being questioned and totally challenged," says Bob Liodice, chief executive of the Association of National Advertisers trade group. Advertisers are beginning to question if they should increase their digital ad budgets, he says.

 

By SUZANNE VRANICA

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Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Be As You Are ….