Steph Grenier On Generating Traffic For Your Website

I think I mentioned that I don’t really like ebooks the last time I reviewed one.  Please incorporate that total hatred by reference here.  Nonetheless, I gave that ebook, which was written by a professional colleague, an unreservedly positive review, because I sincerely think it will help many of my readers sell software.

Now I’m in sort of a conundrum — I received a copy of another e-book to review.  I respect the author greatly.  The other author who I already gave a positive review to praised the e-book lavishly.  So what’s my problem?

Well, frankly, I can’t imagine the book being all that useful to you, with the exception of three pages that are absolutely dynamite.  (It very well might be useful to some folks who don’t read this blog.  Why write a review for them, though?)

The story in 60 seconds: Steph Grenier of LandLordMax  wrote an e-book on How To Generate Traffic To Your Website.  (I also contributed a chapter to a real on-dead-tree book that Steph is getting published later this year.  The project is unrelated.)  The e-book includes 136 pages, with quite a few full-page annoted screen captures of Google.  We’ll call it about 120 pages of content, in which he covers 11 chapters, from SEO to Blogging to AdWords.

If you do the math there, that is about 11 pages per subject.  Now, supposing you were trying to explain blogging in 11 pages or less to someone who had never heard of the concept before, what do you think you could write before running out of space?

Well, maybe a good introduction to blogging for someone who is never heard of it.

And that is, in a nutshell, what about 95% of the e-book is.  A good introduction to SEO, AdWords, or blogging, for someone who has never heard of the topic.  At all.  If you have done any significant reading on the topics, this e-book will not teach you much that you don’t know.

Example excerpt from the chapter on Blogging:

[One reason why to blog is that it] can personalize your business. Instead of being just another faceless website it can give your website a second personality. It can give it that personal touch that people like. A lot of sales are through emotions, and people like to connect with people they like and trust. If you’re honest and real on your blog, and not just writing what you think people want to hear, you’ll create a personal bond with your customers. This will create long term traffic.

That paragraph is true.  It is fairly well-written.  It just doesn’t teach you anything you don’t already know if you habitually read blogs.  If you have ever read a blog post about why to blog, which are legion, you know it already.  If you already have a blog, you know this in your bones.  This section is also representative of the depth this book goes into on almost all subjects.  If you’re a non-technical small business owner who reads email but isn’t quite hip on this whole Internet thing yet, you might well learn quite a bit from this chapter.  If you’re running an ISV, this is almost certainly going to be akin to having a computer programmer sit through a middle school Algebra I lecture (“OK, class, I’m going to introduce a deep concept — sometimes, instead of a number, you can do math using a letter!  We call this a variable.”)

Topic Selection

I’m somewhat interested in SEO and linkbait, as long time readers of this blog know.  I really can’t recommend the chapter on SEO that much — if you have read almost anything on the subject you already know everything written here, and the topic selection leaves much to be desired.  For example, it covers Keyword Density (a metric which is, frankly, useless because it leads to no actionable insights on how to write your pages) at multi-page length.  Meanwhile, it almost ignores methods of getting links.  (Which is a shame, because this would have been a great time to mention the next section.) 

Three Pages I Really Loved

Pages 52-54 are, far and away, the best part of the book.  It provides a case study (incredibly rare in this book – most of it is basic techniques unconnected with any real examples) of how Steph used a free calculator on his website to double his traffic.  If this had been written elsewhere in the book, the level of detail would have been something like:

Freebies do attract traffic. Unfortunately it’s not always good traffic, some people will only come for the freebies and leave, but many will also stay and re-visit your website in the future (and possibly tell others about it). If you’re a blogger, they may read your other blog posts, buy your services, etc. If you’re a company they may look through your website for other interesting pages, they may tell others about what they found, etc. Freebies have always been a great way to attract attention and traffic. The key is how well you can convert the traffic coming from the freebies.

(Actually, the chapter on Freebies does start out like that.  Nothing you didn’t know already.)  But when grounded in the case study, the chapter suddenly becomes much more useful.  It examines the calculator from multiple points of view — promoting the freebie (which I’d call linkbait, incidentally, and mention REPEATEDLY in the SEO chapter because I will *guarantee* you this did more good for Steph than all his metatags could ever hope for) with a press release, for example.  If the entire book was like these three pages I’d be telling everybody I knew to go out and buy it today, but sadly they are an anomaly.

A Trend I’m Not That Fond Of

One of the reasons I hate e-books is they have a distressing tendency to turn into MLM schemes, with folks writing e-books to promote e-books to…  you get the general idea.  So when I see affiliate links in an e-book, that generally sends my spidersense tingling.  It means that the reader is paying for the privilege of reading an advertisement.  Moreover, unlike say an advertisement in your favorite magazine, rather than being adjacent to the content and clearly marked as not influencing the editorial judgement, these these affiliate ads are built into the content.  Example:

Today what we’ll attempt to do is give you an overview of the most effective SEO techniques at your disposal. I can’t hope to cover everything SEO related, there’s too much material. Indeed, I’d recommend the SEO Bookby Aaron Wall as further reading. I bought his EBook about 2 years ago and I still continue to personally reference it as a great resource. And as new SEO techniques surface and others expire, Aaron continues to update his EBook.

I broke that link intentionally.  Now, SEOBook is a great resource, I’ll agree.  I joined Aaron Wall’s (the author’s) training program for $100 a month, and feel I have gotten enough out of it to justify my first month (ask me about the second in another month).  But if you had found the chapter on SEO a little lacking in the useful detail department, and clicked on that link to go from the beginners’ class to the intermediate one, you’d have caused Steph to pretty much double his money on selling the book to you. 

This troubles me — not because making money on the Internet is a bad thing or anything, but once you start down this road, it becomes difficult for the reader to differentiate between the advice that you’re giving because it is solid advice and the advice you are giving because it offers a solid commission.

Similarly, Bob’s review also uses affiliate links for both Steph’s book and the inline reference to SEOBook.  And we’re off to the Internet Marketing races.  Instead of focusing on selling products of value to customers, we start down the merry path of cannibalizing members of our community for revenue by selling them on the dream of being a successful uISV.  They, in turn, then get to make money by selling the same products to other folks dreaming of being successful uISVs.  Who get to sell the same products to others hoping to be uISVs.  Instead of being an involved community of software entrepeneurs, it would be a community of MLM hucksterism, which does not bring value to anyone and doesn’t generate any revenue from outside the pyramid.

This concern is why I don’t put affiliate links on my site.  Keep in mind that I have the utmost respect for both Steph and Bob, I just think this trend is not in the long-term best interests of this community.

Review In Ten Seconds

Steph Grangier: great guy, successful uISV.  This book: not so hot for most uISVs.  If you buy it: save time, read and implement pages 52 to 54.

No Responses to “Steph Grenier On Generating Traffic For Your Website”

  1. tc7 March 20, 2008 at 1:58 pm #

    Patrick,

    Thanks for writing this. Your ‘Internet Marketing races’ paragraph summed up exactly my immediate thought on starting to see these reviews: that the well-known mISV bloggers would start into this treacherous cycle of promoting each other’s books, regardless of actual value.
    Good antidote to my natural cynicism.

  2. Bob Walsh March 20, 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    Pat – Just speaking for me, I can understand your concerns re “we’re off to the Internet Marketing races” – that’s one of the things I struggle with. There’s a whole industry of get rich quick con artists out there selling each other – and the unsuspecting – crap.

    I use affiliate links on my site – but I never have and never will – recommend a product, book, service, ebook or anything else just to have an excuse to put an affiliate link in front of people. If I think a particular book is worth praising – like Head First Software Development, which I hope to review this week at my site – I will include an Amazon affiliate link.

    Why? Because since I decided to go down the career path of helping microISVs succeed, there’s not a lot of money in it. Matter of fact, there’s very little money in it. I really have no interest in helping corporations succeed – something I’ve done for 25 years – but I can’t ignore the financial implications of what I’ve chosen to do, so those tiny affiliate fees are very welcome indeed.

    One last point about Steph Grangier’s ebook: Yes, it is an introductory text if you will – and all the people out there just starting out with this whole microISV thing will benefit from it, in my opinion. Please don’t forget for one of us that have started our own company, there’s 50x wage slaves yearning to be free!

    You post – as do most of your posts – is good stuff! It convinced me to add both an [aff.} bug from here on in, and to add the point above to my post. Keep ‘em coming!

  3. Rich March 20, 2008 at 4:57 pm #

    My god, my (already healthy) respect for you just doubled. You didn’t attack the author, and you didn’t try to talk around your issues with the book, and you wrote a somewhat uncomplimentary review.

    Tip of the hat to you. Tip of the hat also to the (assuredly male! ;) ) Steph, who regardless of any opinions did in fact write an ebook, is in fact receiving money for said ebook, and is clearly doing some things right on generating traffic. Thanks for the effort, and the both of you inspire me.

  4. Phil March 20, 2008 at 10:22 pm #

    Good post Patrick, I was beginning to sense a trend developing. All respect to Bob, but it was kind of creepy seeing every one of my mISV blogs I read reviewing his book, especially when most don’t often review books at all and when it seemed so blatent that Bob was like “heres my book, please review it publicly on your blog!”.

    Almost all of us read Ian, Andy, Gavin, Andrey and Patrick’s blogs to the point that I don’t have to do anymore then say their first names. If a book from one of our clique is mentioned just once on Planet mISV or BoS, I’m pretty sure 80% of the potential buyers will then be aware of it.

    And affiliate links seem like fishing for quarters out from under a vending machine. Sure you make a*little* money, but you’ve probably lost more in prestige/respect.

  5. Bob Walsh March 20, 2008 at 11:32 pm #

    Phil – that’s what’s called ‘buzz” :) Seriously, Andy, Gavin, Andrey and Patrick are not the kind of guys who would have had a nanosecond’s hesitation in telling me if they thought my first ebook was rubbish. I’m gratified and honored they – and others – thought it was both worth their time to read and worthy of recommendation.

    Re the 80% – actually not. For every person who posts at say BOS, there’s about 10 who just read. I’ve looked over my sales logs and very, very few names I recognize.

    Re fishing for change – I should try that! The “microISV market” is not fertile grounds for consultants, not big enough for published books, not concentrated in one place strongly enough for live seminars/workshops. The way I look at it, when I read for example a really good review by a blogger turning me on to Zen to Done, why not use the affiliate link since that blogger added value and saved me time?

  6. Stephane Grenier March 21, 2008 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Patrick,

    Firstly I’d just like to say I’m sorry that you didn’t find the book very good. On the good side I’m glad that you were honest in expressing your true opinion, I respect you for that.

    In regards to the book, I suspect there might have been a miscommunication on my part. I would have loved to write an advanced book on the topic but the reality is that for such a book the market is too small (I don’t know the full numbers but I suspect Bob has a better idea from his book Micro-ISVL From Vision to Reality). I therefore elected to write for the newer ISV’ers, website owners, bloggers, etc. The reality is that for every successful microISV there’s about 1000+ other people with websites that want to generate traffic. If you look at BoS the majority of posts are about pretty introductory topics.

    To explain further, let’s use some metrics which will make it more understandable. I also wrote about it here: http://www.followsteph.com/2008/03/04/ebook-update/ but I’ll cover it here again with different numbers because I could only speculate at the time I wrote the blog post.

    The price of the ebook is $28.95. PayPal charges me a little over $1/sales. Adding other admin costs (accounting, etc.) let’s say the price is $25.00/ebook. The total time it took me to compile the book is 350 hours. Assuming my contracting rate is $100/hr (which is not accurate but very easy to calculate), than that means I have to make back $35,000 to cover my time costs. At $25.00/ebook, that means I need to sell 1400 copies.

    Of course the metrics aren’t quite that simple. After I launch the ebook I also have to spend a good amount of time and money on marketing and advertising to make it successful, to get those 1400+ sales. Although this is below the actual numbers, let’s round it to 1500. In other words I need to sell 1500 copies to break even!

    Can I do this within the MicroISV community only? Can I do it with an advanced book within the microISV community? The fact that we can pretty much name off the successes by first name and know who we’re talking about tells me it’s a very small audience… I don’t think I can sell 1400 copies which means I have to broaden my readership.

    Therefore I elected to create an introductory to intermediate book on traffic generation. Yes for people such as you Patrick who are already very familiar with this world there’s not that much new. You’ve been there, done that. It’s like trying to write a book on how to play basketball to a Michael Jordan. I need to target the amateur to weekend warriors, not the Jordan’s. There’s just too few of them, and I’d be going over everybody’s else head.

    I hope that makes more sense you why I targeted the demographic I did.

    Btw, it’s great to see that although we differ in opinions, it’s not a flame war. That’s very rare, and shows the professionalism of us all!!!

  7. Stephane Grenier March 21, 2008 at 8:55 pm #

    I just realized I hadn’t commented on affiliate links in my previous comment. And indeed this is a very hotly debated topic. My personal view, as I mentioned in my ebook, is that if you’re going to recommend something, even if it’s profit, it had better be very good! Even though you might make some money, you’re reputation is still at hand. Your reputation is always your primary concern because if you recommend garbage it will come back to haunt you in spades! So only, and I do mean only, recommend products if you believe in them, affiliate links or not.

    That being said, there is a lot of debate online whether it leads down a slipery slope. Some people completely oppose affiliate links, others pretty much only use affiliate links. I’m in the middle, I will only refer a product or service if I truly believe in it, whether I post an affiliate link or not. AND only if there’s a convenient affiliate link. For example in the ebook there’s no affiliate links to Perry Marshall’s ebook which I highly value.

    What’s even more interesting, at least for me, is that most people don’t really associate Amazon links as affiliate links. They are. I’m not saying you use them Patrick, I suspect your site is exceptionally clean of all affiliate links, it’s just that a lot of people use Amazon links. Is that a good or bad thing? I don’t know, but I figure if I’m going to recommend a book I might as well post an affiliate link to Amazon.

    Something else that’s interesting to me, and this isn’t aimed at you Patrick because we already know and respect your view on this topic :) What about Google Adsense? These can almost be considered affiliate links in one sense. If you have Adsense or Amazon links on your websites than I don’t think you can negatively view the use of affiliate links because that’s what you’re doing yourself. In your case Patrick, you use neither. You are a purist and a rarety! And I congratulate you on this!!!

    For me personally, I’ve gone the route of include these to be able to cover my costs of running my blog. Btw, they don’t fully cover the costs, especially not if I include my time. But they help…

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