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Google is desperate to promote Helpouts. I first realized this when I saw the following spam message in my email inbox.

Shortly after a friend sent me a screenshot of a onebox promoting Helpouts in the SERPs.

That's Google monopoly and those are Google's services. It is not like they are:

  • being anti-competitive
  • paying others to spam other websites
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Let's slow down though. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself:

Google has its own remote technology support service similar to Mr. Gupta's called Google Helpouts. Mr. Gupta's complaint alleges Google may have been blocking his advertisements so Google Helpouts could get more customers.

Oh, and that first message looked like it could have been an affiliate link. Was it?


Let me see

What do we have here?

Google Helpouts connects you to a variety of experts--from doctors, parenting experts, tutors, personal trainers, and more--over live video call. The Google Helpouts Ambassador Program is a unique opportunity to spread the word about Helpouts, earn money, and influence a new Google product--all on your own schedule.

As an Ambassador, you will:

  • Earn extra income–receive $25 for each friend you refer who takes their first paid Helpout, up to $1,000 per month for the first 4 months.
  • Give direct feedback and help shape a new Google product
  • Join a community of innovative Ambassadors around the country
  • Receive a Helpouts gift and the chance to win prizes

We all know HELPFUL hotel affiliate websites are spam, but maybe Google HELPouts affiliate marketing isn't spam.

After all, Google did promise to teach people how to do their affiliate marketing professionally: "We will provide you with an Ambassador Toolkit with tips and suggestions on creative ways you can spread the word. You are encouraged to get creative, be innovative, and utilize different networks (i.e. social media, word of mouth, groups & associations, blogs, etc.) to help you."

Of course the best way to lead is by example.

And lead they do.

They are highly inclusive in their approach.

@homosexualwentz Help is here! Use the code IFOUNDHELP for $20 off a 1-on-1 session w/ a trusted tech expert today:— Helpouts by Google (@Helpouts) May 12, 2014

Check out this awesome Twitter usage

They've more Tweets in the last few months than I've made in 7 years. There are 1,440 minutes in a day, so it is quite an achievement to make over 800 Tweets in a day.

@Helpouts did google helpouts really just reply to a tweet of mine?— Emma Klinger (@Emma_Klinger) May 15, 2014

You and many many many many thousands of others, Emma.

Some minutes they are making 2 or 3 Tweets.

And with that sort of engagement & the Google brand name, surely they have built a strong following.

Uh, nope.

They are following over 500 people and have about 4,000 followers. And the 4,000 number is generous, as some of them are people who sell on that platform or are affiliates pushing it.

Let's take a look at the zero moment of truth:

@Helpouts I really don’t want to pay for support.— Krishna M. Sadasivam (@pcweenies) May 14, 2014

Thanks for your unsolicited commercial message, but I am not interested.

@baileyboo612 @Helpouts what the heck??— logan™ (@logangaspard) May 13, 2014

You're confusing me. Some context would help.

@Helpouts Hi, who can help me? , do u have an email for talk there?— Pamela López (@karlismkt) May 15, 2014

No email support, but support "sessions"? What is this?

@Helpouts $1.00 a minute? No thanks...— (@Owennn_Marsh) May 14, 2014

Oh, I get it now. Is this a spam bot promoting phone sex?

RT "@Helpouts: Help is just a click away! Helpouts by #Google has Apple tech experts who can help out today." … No, just no— Johnny Blanchard (@JonnBlanchard) May 15, 2014

Ah, so it isn't phone sex, but you can help with iPhones. Um, did we forget that whole Steve Jobs thermonuclear war bit? And why is Google offering support for Apple products when Larry Page stated the whole idea of customer support was ridiculous?

@Helpouts MAN I'VE ALREADY TRIED GOOGLE— mya ☪ (@gleebegay) May 15, 2014

OK, so maybe this is more of the same.

@Helpouts hahaha I'm not going to pay money for things that probably won't even help me.— Nate Morse (@nt4343) May 16, 2014

Cynical, aren't we?

@Helpouts no, that's too expensive— Mahalah (@Mahalah_faye) May 16, 2014

And cheap?

@Helpouts im not paying— ononnah❄ (@ononnahh) May 15, 2014

Really cheap. :(

@Helpouts fu I'm not paying for help— Sam (@ttihweimmas) May 14, 2014

And angry?

@Helpouts Chill out!— Atsuro Kihara (@atsuro_enbot) May 15, 2014

And testy?

@Helpouts then why the fuck arent you fixing my mentions if youre such "trusted tech experts"— bianca // KIAN 4/6?? (@lawlorfflower) May 13, 2014

And rude?

@Helpouts no— Abby Williams (@abbywilliams96) May 15, 2014

And curt?

@Helpouts no— spongebobs weave (@googlingcraic) May 15, 2014

Didn't you already say that???

@Helpouts fuck you— Samuel (@SamuelJones69) May 14, 2014

Didn't you already say that???

@Helpouts what the heck— hey cal (@holycalum) May 14, 2014

It seems we are having issues communicating here.

@Helpouts ok I fucks with it. Next time try not to spy on my tweets lol— E (@Easy_Eli) May 14, 2014

I'm not sure it is fair to call it spying a half day late.

That was 11 hours ago @Helpouts— 28 (@5SOSmaryam) May 14, 2014

Better late than never.

@Helpouts I fixed it already maybe? Thank you tho automatic message— Megar (@AH_Megan6) May 15, 2014

Even if automated.

Good catch Megar, as Google has a creepy patent on automating social spam.

@Helpouts Sorry, but I'll just ask my friends because they are free and I need to do the homework right now.— Emma Raye Mosier (@EmmaRayeMosier) May 15, 2014

Who are your real Google+ friends? Have they all got the bends? Is Google really sinking this low?

@Helpouts Classmates over corporations, Google. I'm not interested.
BTW please don't censor the European internet.— Hash (@saikorhythm) May 15, 2014

Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

@Helpouts This is hilarious. If I ever need it I know you guys have this, thanks!— Gabriella (@Gaby441) May 14, 2014

Humorous or sad...depending on your view.

@Helpouts thanks! is there also a Helpout on how to shameless self promote yourself through twitter? just wondering— Etta Grover (@ettafetacheese) May 14, 2014

There's no wrong way to eat a Reese's.

Google has THOUSANDS of opportunities available for you to learn how to spam Twitter.

As @Helpouts repeatedly Tweets: "Use the code IFOUNDHELP for $20 off" :D


All the above Tweets were from the last few days.

The same sort of anti-social agro spamming campaign has been going on far longer.

@Helpouts fuck off— Dagger Anderson (@daggeranderson) May 8, 2014

When Twitter users said "no thank you"...

@Helpouts THIS SHIT AINT FREE— mariam / 20 (@psychoticamila) May 8, 2014

...Google quickly responded like a Marmaris rug salesman

@Helpouts leave me a lone— mariam / 20 (@psychoticamila) May 9, 2014

Google has a magic chemistry for being able to... with slow computers.

We need to fight spam messages (with MOAR spam messages).

@shelleyamybeth Lets try to get rid of all those Spam messages. Check out #Helpouts by Google for Wordpress help.— Helpouts by Google (@Helpouts) March 25, 2014

In a recent Youtube video Matt Cutts said: "We got less spam and so it looks like people don't like the new algorithms as much." Based on that, perhaps we can presume Helpouts is engaging in a guerrilla marketing campaign to improve user satisfaction with the algorithms.

Or maybe Google is spamming Twitter so they can justify banning Twitter.

Or maybe this is Google's example of how we should market websites which don't have the luxury of hard-coding at the top of the search results.

Or maybe Google wasn't responsible for any of this & once again it was "a contractor."

Categories: google
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This week’s Free Shirt Friday comes to us from Clients From Hell. The site features a collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers. If you would like your company featured on Free Shirt Friday click here. Looking for an SEO service that won’t get you banned?


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We’re at the start of 2014.

SEO is finished.

Well, what we had come to know as the practical execution of “whitehat SEO” is finished. Google has defined it out of existence. Research keyword. Write page targeting keyword. Place links with that keyword in the link. Google cares not for this approach.

SEO, as a concept, is now an integral part of digital marketing. To do SEO in 2014 - Google-compliant, whitehat SEO - digital marketers must seamlessly integrate search strategy into o

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ther aspects of digital marketing. It’s a more complicated business than traditional SEO, but offers a more varied and interesting challenge, too.

Here are a few things to think about for 2014.

1. Focus On Brand

Big brands not only get a free pass, they can get extra promotion. By being banned. Take a look at Rap Genius. Aggressive link-building strategy leads to de-indexing. A big mea culpa follows and what happens? Not only do they get reinstated, they’ve earned themselves a wave of legitimate links.

Now that’s genius.

Google would look deficient if they didn’t show that site as visitors would expect to find it - enough people know the brand. To not show a site that has brand awareness would make Google look bad.

Expedia's link profile was similarly outed for appearing to be at odds with Google's published standards. Could a no-name site pass a hand inspection if they use aggressive linking? Unlikely.

What this shows is that if you have a brand important enough so that Google would look deficient by excluding it, then you will have advantages that no-name sites don’t enjoy. You will more likely pass manual inspections, and you’re probably more likely to get penalties lifted.

What is a brand?

In terms of search, it’s a site that visitors can use a brand search to find. Just how much search volume you require is open to debate, but you don’t need to be a big brand like Apple, or Trip Advisor or Microsoft. Rap Genius aren't. Ask “would Google look deficient if this site didn’t show up” and you can usually tell that by looking for evidence of search volume on a sites name.

In advertising, brands have been used to secure a unique identity. That identity is associated with a product or service by the customer. Search used to be about matching a keyword term. But as keyword areas become saturated, and Google returns fewer purely keyword-focused pages anyway, developing a unique identity is a good way forward.

If you haven’t already, put some work into developing a cohesive, unique brand. If you have a brand, then think about generating more awareness. This may mean higher spends on brand-related advertising than you’ve allocated in previous years. The success metric is an increase in brand searches i.e. the name of the site.

2. Be Everywhere

The idea of a stand-alone site is becoming redundant. In 2014, you need to be everywhere your potential visitors reside. If your potential visitors are spending all day in Facebook, or YouTube, that’s where you need to be, too. It’s less about them coming to you, which is the traditional search metaphor, and a lot more about you going to them.

You draw visitors back to your site, of course, but look at every platform and other site as a potential extension of your own site. Pages or content you place on those platforms are yet another front door to your site, and can be found in Google searches. If you’re not where your potential visitors are, you can be sure your competitors will be, especially if they’re investing in social media strategies.

A reminder to see all channels as potential places to be found.

Mix in cross-channel marketing with remarketing and consumers get the perception that your brand is bigger. Google ran the following display ad before they broadly enabled retargeting ads. Retargeting only further increases that lift in brand searches.

3. Advertise Everywhere

Are you finding it difficult to get top ten in some areas? Consider advertising with AdWords and on the sites that already hold those positions. Do some brand advertising on them to raise awareness and generate some brand searches. An advert placed on a site that offers a complementary good or service might be cheaper than going to the expense and effort needed to rank. It might also help insulate you from Google’s whims.

The same goes for guest posts and content placement, although obviously you need to be a little careful as Google can take a dim view of it. The safest way is to make sure the content you place is unique, valuable and has utility in it’s own right. Ask yourself if the content would be equally at home on your own site if you were to host it for someone else. If so, it’s likely okay.

4. Valuable Content

Google does an okay job of identifying good content. It could do better. They’ve lost their way a bit in terms of encouraging production of good content. It’s getting harder and harder to make the numbers work in order to cover the production cost.

However, it remains Google’s mission to provide the user with answers the visitor deems relevant and useful. The utility of Google relies on it. Any strategy that is aligned with providing genuine visitor utility will align with Google’s long term goals.

Review your content creation strategies. Content that is of low utility is unlikely to prosper. While it’s still a good idea to use keyword research as a guide to content creation, it’s a better idea to focus on topic areas and creating engagement through high utility. What utility is the user expecting from your chosen topic area? If it’s rap lyrics for song X, then only the rap lyrics for song X will do. If it is plans for a garden, then only plans for a garden will do. See being “relevant” as “providing utility”, not keyword matching.

Go back to the basic principles of classifying the search term as either Navigational, Informational, or Transactional. If the keyword is one of those types, make sure the content offers the utility expected of that type. Be careful when dealing with informational queries that Google could use in it’s Knowledge Graph. If your pages deal with established facts that anyone else can state, then you have no differentiation, and that type of information is more likely to end up as part of Google’s Knowledge Graph. Instead, go deep on information queries. Expand the information. Associate it with other information. Incorporate opinion.

BTW, Bill has some interesting reading on the methods by which Google might be identifying different types of queries.

Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer program products, for identifying navigational resources for queries. In an aspect, a candidate query in a query sequence is selected, and a revised query subsequent to the candidate query in the query sequence is selected. If a quality score for the revised query is greater than a quality score threshold and a navigation score for the revised query is greater than a navigation score threshold, then a navigational resource for the revised query is identified and associated with the candidate query. The association specifies the navigational resource as being relevant to the candidate query in a search operation.

5. Solve Real Problems

This is a follow-on from “ensuring you provide content with utility”. Go beyond keyword and topical relevance. Ask “what problem is the user is trying to solve”? Is it an entertainment problem? A “How To” problem? What would their ideal solution look like? What would a great solution look like?

There is no shortcut to determining what a user finds most useful. You must understand the user. This understanding can be gleaned from interviews, questionnaires, third party research, chat sessions, and monitoring discussion forums and social channels. Forget about the keyword for the time being. Get inside a visitors head. What is their problem? Write a page addressing that problem by providing a solution.

6. Maximise Engagement

Google are watching for the click-back to the SERP results, an action characteristic of a visitor who clicked through to a site and didn’t deem what they found to be relevant to the search query in terms of utility. Relevance in terms of subject match is now a given.

Big blocks of dense text, even if relevant, can be off-putting. Add images and videos to pages that have low engagement and see if this fixes the problem. Where appropriate, make sure the user takes an action of some kind. Encourage the user to click deeper into the site following an obvious, well placed link. Perhaps they watch a video. Answer a question. Click a button. Anything that isn’t an immediate click back.

If you’ve focused on utility, and genuinely solving a users problem, as opposed to just matching a keyword, then your engagement metrics should be better than the guy who is still just chasing keywords and only matching in terms of relevance to a keyword term.

7. Think Like A PPCer

Treat every click like you were paying for it directly. Once that visitor has arrived, what is the one thing you want them to do next? Is it obvious what they have to do next? Always think about how to engage that visitor once they land. Get them to take an action, where possible.

8.Think Like A Conversion Optimizer

Conversion optimization tries to reduce the bounce-rate by re-crafting the page to ensure it meets the users needs. They do this by split testing different designs, phrases, copy and other elements on the page.

It’s pretty difficult to test these things in SEO, but it’s good to keep this process in mind. What pages of your site are working well and which pages aren’t? Is it anything to do with different designs or element placement? What happens if you change things around? What do the three top ranking sites in your niche look like? If their link patterns are similar to yours, what is it about those sites that might lead to higher engagement and relevancy scores?

9. Rock Solid Strategic Marketing Advantage

SEO is really hard to do on generic me-too sites. It’s hard to get links. It’s hard to get anyone to talk about them. People don’t share them with their friends. These sites don’t generate brand searches. The SEO option for these sites is typically what Google would describe as blackhat, namely link buying.

Look for a marketing angle. Find a story to tell. Find something unique and remarkable about the offering. If a site doesn’t have a clearly-articulated point of differentiation, then the harder it is to get value from organic search if your aim is to do so whilst staying within the guidelines.

10. Links

There’s a reason Google hammers links. It’s because they work. Else, surely Google wouldn’t make a big deal about them.

Links count. It doesn’t matter if they are no-follow, scripted, within social networks, or wherever, they are still paths down which people travel. It comes back to a clear point of differentiation, genuine utility and a coherent brand. It’s a lot easier, and safer, to link build when you’ve got all the other bases covered first.

Categories: google
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