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Why I no longer use Yahoo! answers…

Posted by Mark Harrison on June 22, 2008

Over the past six months, I’ve been trying to help people on Yahoo! Answers UK, specifically when they ask questions about Property and Renting.

Today, I had three emails telling me that I’d violated their “guidelines” and that my answer had been deleted…

I wrote to them asking “why?”, but rather than replying, they sent me a few more, and then a message telling me that my account has now been suspended because I’d caused too many breaches.

Let’s have a look at the naughty things I’ve been doing:

A sample question:

I have spilt a drink on my carpet and it wont come out – i have even called in a professional carpet cleaning company. Where do I stand with my deposit? I have been a tenant for over 1.6 years, the stain is faided but would this be considred fair tear and wear or will i lose my deposit? If this is the case my insurance covers accidental damage will this be on to use? thanks all

My answer:

It would depend on the condition of the carpet at the time you moved in and how long you have been in.

If there were already stains, then you may find the landlord (or agent) doesn’t charge, or charges a nominal amount.

Likewise, if you have been in for several years, then the view might be taken that normal wear and tear would have required replacement anyway.

If, however, the carpet was in “top notch” condition, and you’ve had 6-12 months in the place, then you could be charged for the replacement cost of a carpet WHETHER OR NOT the landlord actually fits one when you move out. (The landlord has the choice of either spending the money, or accepting a lower rent for letting a shabbier place.)

In any case, your check-in inventory should show the condition of the carpet at the time you moved in. If it doesn’t, the landlord is a fool! If it does, and you’ve signed it saying the carpets are in great condition, then I’m afraid there’s a deduction coming your way.

It is worth speaking to your insurance company sooner rather than later – if they’ve sold you a policy that covers for sorting out “accidental damage”, and you’ve paid them the premiums, then they should pay out!

Yahoo wrote me the following:

Violation Reason:Community Guidelines and/or Terms Of Service Violation

That’s it – no explanation of what guideline that answer might possibly have violated.

So, that’s it, I’m afraid. I find that Yahoo!’s system is just too much hassle. I’ll now only be answering questions on this blog and to my newsletter subscribers and paying customers.


Posted in Web Marketing | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

SEO – Zero-sum game explained

Posted by Mark Harrison on February 28, 2008

A couple of days ago, I used the phrase:

SEO is inherently a zero-sum game

This got picked up in a conversation here about a specific SEO competion, and Knox commented:

That would be hard to explain to the millionaires we’ve created.

I think I’d better explain what I meant by the comment.

A “zero-sum game” is a technical term from economics – it’s a situation where, for every winner, there is a loser.

Two kids arguing about how to share a chocolate bar is zero sum – for every extra ounce that Bobby gets, Billy gets an ounce less.

By comparison, most types of business aren’t zero-sum… If you create a business, then (assuming you’re any good) there’s more wealth into the world as a result. Creating, say, a chip company that turns sand into microprocessors creates more wealth, because it turns low-value resources into high-value resources. (Most people would pay more for a bag of Pentiums than a bag of sand.)

It’s the whole “secret sauce” of the market economy we’ve had in the West for the last 2-300 years that value can be “created” like this.

No-one can create an extra slot on the first page of Google (OK, apart from Larry or Sergey.) So for every person an SEO specialist helps get onto that top page, someone else gets pushed down.

It’s that “Google ranking” that’s zero-sum.

Where SEO stops being zero-sum is in the money it can make. If someone who is better at creating wealth out of clicks gets a good slot on Google, the for the economy as a whole, it’s not zero-sum.

Which leads to the slightly odd conclusion than SEO is good for the world economy, but only if it’s used mainly by good value creators.

So, I have a plea… if you are considering using SEO in your business, then make sure that your business is good at making money from visitors first. It’s not only good for you, it’s good for the world 🙂

Posted in Web Marketing | Tagged: , | 33 Comments »

The greatest real estate agent in the world contest, aka “The dumbest idea in the world”

Posted by Mark Harrison on February 19, 2008

One of the things that still amazes me about Internet Marketing is that some people still fall for the idea that you can build a long-term business through coding hacks to make your website appear high on Google.

I’ve met some people who’ve coded their websites like this… and some who have had their websites banned by Google for using tricks designed solely to manipulate their search rankings.

Google are motivated to delivery high-quality search results – they employ thousands of really smart programmers to constantly refine what they’re doing and weed out the Search Engine Hackers crowd.

Which is why I find things like the “Greatest real estate agent in the world” contest stupid. This is a contest run by a US website to see WHO can score top in Google for that phrase.

Of course, if you go and ask Google, they make it very clear what counts:

  1. Having good quality, regularly updated content
  2. Having a clear structure that makes it easy for people to navigate
  3. Having lots of other sites linking to you (and links from high-quality sites themselves count for a lot more than spam sites – indeed, sites with little content bar a “links” page often are flagged up as spam sites and actually REDUCE the score of the sites they are linking to!)

Note the complete absence of things like code hacks 🙂

The problem with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is that, for a while at least, it works. You do notice your traffic climb. In the meantime, everyone suffers – because customers get a much worse set of results… which is why Google can, and do, just stop listing sites that are working to get a high listing rather than working to help customers. (Ever wonder why all those “Squeeze page” sites spend so much money on advertising – because they aren’t getting listed in the normal search results!)

Anyway, the person who is currently top, before the competition started, and therefore possibly does have a claim to the title the greatest real estate agent in the world, is a lady called ardell dellaloggia.

She’s obviously a little surprised at the competition and has written some amusing things about the “prize” (a one-year subscription to a high priced service, with the obvious lock-in after that.) The reassuring thing is that she’s never tried to game the system – just concentrated on writing useful content and building relationships.
Thanks to Lani of RERevealed for letting me know about this foolishness.

Posted in Web Marketing | Tagged: | 15 Comments »

Actually, you can get back a customer!

Posted by Mark Harrison on December 29, 2007

Back in February, I wrote this post about what I perceived as a poor experience with Gieves and Hawkes, the Savile Row tailors.

It would appear that things have improved, since over Christmas I got an email from their Marketing Director that started:

I was recently made aware of the blog you wrote in February of this year regarding Gieves & Hawkes response to your email of the same month that pointed out the spelling mistake on our website.

[… ]While some time may have passed and the ‘horse could be said to have bolted’ I certainly believe it is never too late to make amends or in this case clarify a miscommunication.

The email went on to thank me for taking the time to point out the initial error (long-since fixed), and explain the chain of events that led up to my being unhappy. It would appear that there was miscommunication on both sides.

While, obviously, there is a far greater burden of responsibility on a supplier to communicate effectively with a customer than there is on a customer to communicate with a supplier, I must concede several things.

  • I was harsh on Gieves for doing this
  • Their Marketing Director has clearly (once he was aware of the issue) taken steps to try to get me back as a customer

The happy ending is that I am looking forward to getting over to them and seeing what they have in the sales.

Posted in Building Businesses, Companies I Like, Web Marketing | Leave a Comment »

Internet Marketing Workshop – 8 free tickets

Posted by Mark Harrison on November 23, 2007

My friend, Daniel Wagner, has an Internet Marketing course aimed at individuals rather than businesses.

As such, it’s relatively short (just over 2 hours), and in an evening.

The next one is Thursday 29th November, at the Selfridge Hotel in London, and costs £97 per person…

… but, Daniel’s offered me 8 free tickets for subscribers to the newsletter – unfortunately, he offered them to me just AFTER I’d sent out the newsletter for November.

Hence, we’ve agreed that I can offer them to readers of my blog.

If you’re interested, you can find out more, and apply for a free ticket, at Daniel’s website, by clicking here.

Posted in Web Marketing | Leave a Comment »

How well do you know your parents?

Posted by Mark Harrison on August 22, 2007

I’ve just come back from a rather good party – after all, my parents are only going to have one Ruby wedding anniversary.

Meeting some of the family I’ve not seen for 10+ years, and hearing some of the stories about my parents’ wedding, I’ve realised how little “hard footprint” they left back in the 60s – a few family photos, and personal memories locked in peoples’ heads.

I, on the other hand, have presumably left a huge footprint that will be available to my children via Google (or whatever takes over from it over the next 15 years.) Flickr photos, this blog, the YPE newsletter, but also tens of thousands of posts on mailing lists ranging from Morgan cars to Home Automation, via a whole range of wild and wacky niches.

Anyway, the reason I’m thinking about this is that I’m again co-hosting The Old Grey Video Test with Nik Butler and Phil Campbell tomorrow. (23rd August)

The next episode is live at 20:00 (UK Time) here. We’re doing it as a live show on Operator11, so if you’d like to come along, then you can participate in the show – if you have a webcam, we can bring you in by video – otherwise the “live online chat” will be running throughout the episode.

Nik, Phil and I are all in our 30s, all with young children, and the theme for tomorrow’s show is indeed “what our children will be able to discover about us.”

Posted in Blog marketing, SNO, Social Networking, Social Networking Optimisation, Web Marketing | Leave a Comment »

Good blog design really affects rankings

Posted by Mark Harrison on August 21, 2007

If you’re blogging (and, of course, you should be), then you will probably be interested in reaching as many people as possible.

One way to do this is by submitting your blog into the “blog lists” – the likes of blogtopsites, and blogtoplists and so on.
If truth be told, not that many people find my blog because of those (about 2-3% of readers of this site), but some do.

While most people deny that they are influenced by what others do, but there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that actual “peer validation” is something that most of us find hard to ignore. Presumably, because of that, I’ve noticed that the higher I rank in the lists, the more hits I get through them. There is definitely a positive feedback loop going on, anyway.

Over the space of a week, however, I rocked from about 150th place in the “Real Estate Blogs” list on BlogTopSites to 88th, and it’s all because of a design change.

There are three ways to see my blog:

  • You could come to the main blog (seeing lots of articles) (about 1/3 of readers)
  • You could come to a particular article on my site (about 2/3 of reader)
  • You could be reading this article on another site that “syndicates” what I write (no idea, by definition I can’t see those figures)

The various blog lists tend only to count those readers who come directly to my site (so, SingingPig, Ubuntu, you aren’t helping my ratings 🙂 ).  The way they tend to do this is by looking at how many people need to see the “icon” (which you’ll find in the left hand column of this site.) The icon gives a rating of how well I do on their lists, and the more people who load a page including that icon, the better I do…

The old design of my site only showed the stuff in the left and right columns when people were seeing the “main site page” – ie viewing lots of articles. This meant a poorer experience (because there was no indication of what else there might be of interest in the blog) and meant that those people were being excluded from the blog list ratings.

The new design of the site has the columns visible, even when you’re reading one particular article… so as far as the list sites are concerned, I suddenly have three times as many readers.

And sure enough, not only have my ratings improved, but actually, I can see rather more people come in referred by those list sites.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the vast majority of people reading this blog have just found it by searching on Google for things like “Property Negotiation”, “foreclosures UK” and “Mortgages”, so the whole “concentrating on property” seems to be what most of my readers are looking for.

Posted in Blog marketing, Web Marketing | Leave a Comment »

Kyte TV – impressive customer service!

Posted by Mark Harrison on August 8, 2007

A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with Phil Campbell about the power of Video Blogging.

I remembered that I had a little USB webcam in a crate, so I plugged it in, and tried a couple of the sites he recommended.

I’m going to be reviewing in the future, but I thought I’d talk briefly about first.

Nik Butler recommended that I try them, and for fun set up a game of Mornington Crescent, with the rules being that anyone could play, provided they post their move as a videoblog entry. The results are hardly going to go down in history as a masterpiece of the videographers work, but did show how easy it was to provide video content with a cheap camera, an ordinary laptop,  a fleece  blanket, and a couple of Ikea Takt clip spotlights. (OK, it’s clear that the lighting needs improving.)

Mary tried as well, and blogged about the results last night. That was when the impressive bit happened. Within 15 minutes of her blog entry, one of the developers from Kyte had noticed that someone had been blogging about them, and posted this comment, that explained how she could actually have the video embedded within her blog.

I could blog on about how easy the service is to use, but the thing that’s really come away with me is how much the team at Kyte must really care about their (non-paying!) customers to do that kind of thing.
Well done, well done.

And yes, I do know, thanks to that, how to embed the video – the fact I’m not doing so is a decision made of choice, not ignorance 🙂

Posted in Companies I Like, SNO, Social Networking, Social Networking Optimisation, Video blogging, Web Marketing | 1 Comment »

Free audio downloads from web marketer, Mark Anastasi

Posted by Mark Harrison on August 7, 2007

Last year I went to a fantastic seminar run by Mark Anastasi. Since then, he and I have stayed in regular touch, despite the fact that he’s moved to Cyprus.

He’s agreed to give away 4 free live recordings where he explains:

  • How he went from broke to financially free in just 28 days
  • How he sold over $1,000,000 in ebooks over the past three years.
  • How he now makes over $1,000 a day in passive income
  • How he set up 43 fully-automated cash-generating online businesses in less than 14 days and how you can do the same!

Claim your free download now here

Mark agreed to let my blog readers have access to this special giveaway for the next few days. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity!

Here’s what you get (for free):

  • “Ebook Millionaire – How To Create A 24/7 Automated Money-Making Machine On the Internet” (80 minutes, MP3) – recorded live at the ‘Millionaires Bootcamp’ seminar in June 2006. (normally $97)
  • “The 6 Keys To Wealth – How I Increased My Income 20-Fold In 20 Months” (82 minutes, MP3) – recorded LIVE at the ‘Millionaires Bootcamp’ seminar in June 2006 . (normally $97)
  • “The Truth About Making Money – The Secrets of The Millionaire Mind” (52 minutes, MP3) (normally $67)
  • “‘Rich’ Thinking vs ‘Poor’ Thinking – How To Think Like A Millionaire” (ebook) (normally $27)

Claim your free download now at (You will need to register with him to receive download details.)

Posted in Web Marketing | 6 Comments »

Yes, there will be a market crash (for both technology stocks and property)

Posted by Mark Harrison on August 3, 2007

Yesterday, I was involved in two separate conversations, both of which ended up being about market crashes.

  • Firstly, I’d been  asked to record a CD about property investment mistakes for Nightingale Conant, and one of them was buying in the wrong way for where we are in the market cycle.

I believe that there will be another crash in both markets. I have to believe this, because I can only believe one of two things:

  •  This Government (and the other world governments, given we live in an interconnected world) have put such a firm framework for continuous growth in place that, irrespective of what happens in the future, and who gets elected, we have seen the end to boom and bust


  • Boom and bust is still with us – the last few years have been relatively boomy (in both UK property and technology stocks)… so bust will come at some point in the next few years, sure as day follows night (but with less predictable timing.)

There are some common things that get wheeled out in every bubble, since, well, Tulipmania in 1636-7:

  1. It’s different this time… this one tends to get used by people with strong vested interests, either because their jobs depend on it (rational denial), or because they have invested heavily in a sector and hope it’s true (irrational denial). Experience of the last few hundred years has shown that “it’s different this time” tends to get used more and more frequently, the closer we get to the crash.
  2. People will still need/use XXX (a place to live, social networking sites)… OK, but if this were “sufficient” reason, then the property crash of 1989-94 would not have happened, nor would the .com collapse of 2000. There will be winners and losers – some will go on to be worth far more, some will “tread water”, others will go down in value.
  3. XXX has a vested interest in saying there will be a crash. OK, so we do 🙂 … but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to be wrong. (See also point 1)

What I can’t do is tell you two things:  I can’t say WHEN the crashes will come, nor can I say how deep they’ll be.

But, boom and bust is here to stay…

Posted in Property Investment, Social Networking, Web Marketing, Wikinomics | 5 Comments »