Why You Should Embrace Negative Press

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Recently I did a podcast with Techcrunch writer Duncan Riley. During the interview Duncan caught me a bit off guard when he asked about how I deal with bad press. I forget exactly what I said but I think it was something along the lines of “it comes with success”. I have thought about it a little more and thought it would make a good digg bait post to have like “top 10 reasons you should like negative press”. But as I started to write that post I thought I needed to tell my experiences and thoughts more.

Let’s go back to the beginning… I had a great story that people loved to hear. I mean… I used to be fat, in debt, going nowhere with my life and I turned it around. A few people started to read this site and could connect with me. Those who did not like me just left. I offered advice for people in regards to Google AdSense, business and other advertising methods along with just business advice as I was just getting started myself. A lot of people seemed to benefit from the advice I was giving them.

Then one day it happened about 4 years ago this fall. Some anonymous person somewhere in the world posted on one of the biggest webmaster forums ever that I was running a huge network of scraped content MFA (made for AdSense) websites and had all these theories about me and how that was how I was making all my AdSense money. I was outed. I did own all those websites and was scraping aggregating data from wikipedia and putting AdSense on the sites. Was the AdSense account mine? No… Were these sites listed anywhere on the search engines? No… Does that matter? LOL HELL NO! It was big news in the forum that this “Money Making Guru” was making all his money from scraper sites. Nobody even brought up until the 5th page that I was already freely posting these pages/domains in a case study.

People could not post fast enough. In a short period of time there were thousands of people viewing that thread. People were posting how I had let everyone down… how I was going to get sued by Google… how I was the biggest scumbag in the world… How I had ruined my reputation forever. All these people who had disliked me for whatever reason now had a great opportunity to jump on the hate train express headed right for casa de Shoemoney. I think at that time this site (googleninja.com) had about 100 readers. It was way before I switched to shoemoney.com I did not have many blog posts and it was years before I every posted the now famous Adsense Check.

Anyway I was pretty shaken up about the thread. I thought I was going to get a call from Google any minute telling me my accounts were disabled and I needed to repay all earnings. Sure enough I got a PM on the forum minutes later from someone named “AdSense Advisor” with the subject “Google AdSense MFA Network”. SHIT…. I did not even open it until days later. When I finally did open it I was stunned to see it said “Wow they really like to witch hunt people here” -ASA. I wrote back and asked if I was in trouble or anything with Google and Adsense Advisor responded saying that it did show up on The AdSense Team’s radar but they obviously could see how much money they made and if they were in violation. I never heard from anyone at Google again about the subject… Also my friend whose Google ‘s account was used on those pages never got a warning or anything.

Not too long after that a very similar thing happened with Matt Mullenweg of wordpress/akismet/automattic fame. He was outed for having TONS of scraper pages on wordpress all plastered with AdSense.

From the Article:

Matt Mullenweg, founder of the popular open source weblog software WordPress, and CNET employee, has admitted to gaming the web’s search engines by hosting tens of thousands of “articles” that contain hidden, paid-for keywords.

This news ripped through the blogosphere faster then a speeding bullet. Even though I was using wordpress and really liked it a lot, it was actually the first time I had ever heard the name Matt Mullenweg.

About the same time I was reading this article someone sent me about a girl that was the “Leading AdSense Expert” was really a blackhat spammer. Her name was Jennifer Slegg and she had a site called Jensense. It was the first time I heard her name or of that site. But once I got to jensense.com I read a few of her articles and realized she really knew what she was talking about.

So anyway those are examples from YEARS ago. I have probably been outed or attacked thousands of times since that first time… But I still remember what that first time felt like. Its a feeling in your stomach like you just received some devastating news…. after all someone is attacking something you have been putting your heart and soul into building for years. I think I handle the personal attacks better then most people. Being VERY overweight for so many years and dealing with the insults, jokes, and personal attacks that come with that really made me somewhat numb to them.

But guess what? You put yourself out there as the authority or the expert and as much as you love when people right positively about you the negative headlines will suck in more readers for people trying to get their 5 minutes of fame. Suck it up… it comes with the territory. People can give their opinion on you all day long… It is perfectly legal. Now if they state things as fact that are not then you can legally go after them… but honestly that is probably not worth your time. In the last 5 years I have sent 1 cease and desist letter. The person stated a bunch of things as fact on his site and has since altered the post to be of his opinion. I have no problem with that. Looking at that particular situation now the C&D actually got him to post a ton more on the topic and generate a lot of traffic and links to this blog.

Sadly many people will never get past the personal attacks and public criticism. They will let it cripple them. Every business and public figure needs to embrace negative public attacks/reviews/criticism and here are reasons why:

  • New visitors – Whenever there is a new “shoemoney sucks” or “shoemoney is a scam” post you will notice a ton of new visitors that have never visited your site before. Just like how I had never heard of Matt Mullenweg or Jensense above until I saw those negative posts the same will apply to your visitors. Its like you just launched a PPC campaign…. only its free traffic!
  • Authority status – When someone criticizes you it means they think enough of you to take time out of their life and give you a free critique. They consider you an authority.
  • The long term effect – Long after the buzz from the post has gone away visitors will still return to your site. Odds are they wont even remember how they got there.
  • Free Labor – I can’t tell you how impressed I have been with how hard some people will work to try to discredit you. Sometimes even small groups will become infatuated with everything you do. Its truly amazing. They are the best PR ROI you will ever see.
  • Any press is good press – yes I know its cliche right? I wrote a while back about how there is no such thing as bad press when you have a quality product. I strongly believe that. As much as people like to label others as “mindless sheep” people will form their own opinions when they come to your site. And when you have a quality site with quality content… thats the win. Like my disclaimer says, “You should question everything. You should come up with your own thoughts and opinions and not trust some stupid blogger.” I STRONGLY believe that.
  • The Links – Its hard to criticize someone without linking to them. You can bet almost every negative post about you or your company will include a link. These of course give you more authority status in the eyes of search engines and also the click through traffic is nice.
  • Bringing you back to earth – I could get lost in the shoemoney “spotlight”. Being I was such a loser the first 2/3rds of my life its nice to be recognized for my accomplishments. Being a rock star in the industry is pretty awesome. Being in magazines.. newspapersTV. Getting attacked/insulted online gives me some humility (yes a little bit) and also makes me focus on what matters and actually got me to that point- Working hard on our businesses. It also reminds you of the people who dunno what a “shoemoney” is and they loved you way before anyone gave a shit what you said online or how successful you were in your businesses.

Lets look at the John Chow “Making Money Online phenomenon”. The guy is blasted more times than Britney Spears parenting techniques. Yet you would never know it by looking at his blog. The guy just comes across as genuine. He is so transparent and people can relate to him. I first discovered his site because he had been banned by digg and someone in the webmaster radio chat room was saying that he was screwing himself trying to hard to make money. Guess who laughs last on that one? Also you would NEVER know by John’s posts that anyone has ever criticized him. He just plugs away doing his thing and recently has been featured by many major media outlets including entrepreneur magazine and the Leo Laporte TV show.

Still not so sure negative press is a good thing?

Lets do a search on Google for the “rich jerk” who has a ebook and forums for sale. (click on image for full image).

Notice how a good percentage of the titles of these sites are negatively slanted? Notice how when you goto there site they are all affiliates of the program? Do you really think people would spend money on PPC if scam marketing did not work?

In mobile marketing one of the more lucrative ringtone affiliate programs – Blinko forbids the use of bidding on “blinko scam” in PPC. That seems kind of odd… It tells me a couple things… 1 that people are actually searching for blinko scam and 2) that it must convert to sales.

The bottom line is if you want to put yourself out there just know that negative press is coming. Its not a bad thing… in fact its part of being successful. The more authority you gain in your niche the more people will swing at you… Its just the law of averages and your reach is going to grow.

134 thoughts on “Why You Should Embrace Negative Press

  1. Julien

    Shoe It comes with success. So that jerkoff’s biggest claim to fame is getting a C&D from you? Everyone knows your reputation and it speaks for itself.

  2. Lynx

    I guess this is a response to Jons post over on Wicked Fire???

    As negative as the post was it has promted this post from you, zac johnson has posted an affiliate cheque at long last and john chow has posted some of the best tax posts ive seen in a long time.

    So yes, the post was pretty harsh on you all and its water off a ducks back. But man, it didnt half work into getting the accused to pump out some good content!

  3. Tom Beaton

    I think people trying to discredit you is a natural part of the process. The first sign of success in many cases. Once you have fielded a couple of scandals and come through positivly then you have truly established yourself.

  4. Money Never Sleeps

    @ lynx, you are right, that Zac check story is awesome…and John Chow is making me more money with those awesome tax posts!

    @ shoe…you are a true success story! You and John Chow are true pioneers in the blogging world!

  5. Richard

    Another secret exposed by you, Shoe…

    The best examples of this can be found in any occurrence of public figures “shaking off” bad publicity. Politicians especially.

  6. Money Never Sleeps

    Shoe….trust me man! I’ve read all the recent stuff, don’t let it bother you, don’t worry about it. Concentrate on your work, follow the lead of John Chow and just continue to pump out posts and cash your checks. If your making money, who cares what others are saying…who cares!! Be greedy!

  7. Tim B

    You provided bad press for a certain SEO company only a few days ago. By your reasoning, you helped them.

    Why provide bad press, if it may help its target?

  8. Matt Coddington

    I agree that all press is good press, but what I get more from this article is that you seem to be saying that scammers win. Spamming, scraping, and pushing get rich quick schemes … are these things to aspire to? I don’t think so =/

  9. Blogfeld

    Good stuff Shoe! I have total respect for someone who can come flying out of a windfall of criticism, with all the money too!

    I submitted your post to digg!

  10. Digital Vegetarian

    Here’s some minor negative press.

    When you run a contest and post these rules:

    FUCK they ended it prematurely so i can’t win now. bullshit. fuck it.

    feel free to complain on the shoemoney blog. it CLEARLY SAYS:

    Three finalists will be selected by Jeremy and Ted by February 11th, 2008 based on the quality of the blog post (yes, it’s subjective). Public voting between the three best posts will take place the week of February 18th with the winner selected at midnight easter on February 22, 2008. Airline travel allowance up to $500 for international bloggers. Hotel selected by Izea staff. We are not responsible for applicable taxes on prizes. Void where prohibited by law.

    Its BAD FOR YOU to end it early and announce the winner before midnight.
    right now it is 12:23pm Pacific time. 3:23 Eastern time. The winner is to be selected what TOMORROW at midnight…. or better yet 9:00 Eastern time.

    So why did you end this contest early. If you wanted me to not be in it, just say so. this is really not fair. anyone?

    please approve this comment.

    Aaron from Digital Vegetarian – re: ROCKSTAR SEO

  11. Vizion

    Another good post man. I recently came across this last fall. My site was only online for 2 years or so and more active in the last 12-16 months and we were nominated by Vh1 – well, i had owners of other sites saying all types of nonsense because they didn’t get mentioned…either way it brought more users than the actual nomination

  12. Solo Programmer

    You missed one of the best benefits of negative press. Unless you and your products are perfect chances are they can be improved. If you’re willing to take negative comments and find the suggestions you can better yourself or your product. Think of it as free market research/product testing.
    And if you want to really draw the ire of the crowd try selling a community based site to “the man”. I got death threats over that one.

  13. RacerX

    Totally agree. I really like both sites, but especially sinc you both come off as realguys. Not someone throwing down marble tablets from a mountain saying “Follow me or perish!”

  14. RacerX

    I agree you want to fill seats, but I think how negative PR affects you has something to do with the type of blog/site you run. I agree it would draw to a make-money site, probably not so good for a medical site!

  15. Money Never Sleeps

    because John Chow recieves tons and tons of bad press but he just keeps going…he could care less! As Biggie said: “If they hate than let them hate and watch the money pile up!”

  16. ZakShow

    Yep, there are a lot of people that can hate someone just because he is successful ! Hell, what a life ! but you haven’t got anything to do, just move on.

  17. Jim Kukral

    Great point Matt. Sometimes I think you want to have it both ways Shoe. Nothing personal. I’m talking about branding here. Your actions define you, not press.

  18. Terry Tay

    Negative press seems to intrigue people and they just have to look. It’s like driving by an accident scene, everyone turns to look to see what happened.

    The same goes when someone posts a negative comment about your websites or blogs, people want to go and see for themselves. If the negative goes viral, you could end up with thousands and thousands of people coming to check what all the fuss is about.

    ~Terry

  19. Syed Balkhi

    i agree because just recently someone post on digitalpoint johnchow sucks … and the blog is crap and many people posted in there … didn’t know the site exists. … And now they know…

  20. big money

    That got me thinking a little bit, I have a very faint memory of when I first knew of the Shoemoney, but I don’t remember if it was negative press. A keystone keeps sticking out in my mind along the lines of Halo and Chalupas for some reason, but I don’t exactly remember how this was related to Shoemoney or why these were important…

  21. big money

    I guess this makes sense sometimes. When something is boring like stagnant water, sometimes you can really stir up the pot with negative publicity to get things volatile again, works in science as well.

  22. big money

    Mister Shoemoney, I also forgot to mention how I tell people about the Shoemoney site and ask if they know what Shoemoney is or Digital Point. lol, 100% of the time no one knows or even knows how to build a website or what pagerank is, I’ve never met another webmaster in person. I just tell people to take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes.

  23. File Snatcher

    Great post! This was one of the best things I’ve read in quite a while. I do remember reading a thread at dp about about you being a scammer or something, I didn’t hate. I tried to figure out what you were actually doing and if it would make money. : )

  24. Douglas Brown

    Incredibly inspirational post Joe. I have been facing a little criticism here lately as my site has been growing quickly. This post kinf of puts all of that in perspective.

  25. Bent

    Hey..shoemoney that a good stories..Just like this site http://kennysia.com. owned by kenny sia himself, even lot of people hate him very much..reality is his site still no.1 in Malaysia and singapore. Winning several award and indicate as celebrity blogger in both of country..Tq

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  27. Popular Wealth

    If you follow up on this – I’d like to see the line drawn a little stronger between “embrace” and “create” bad press. Great post as usual though, Good stuff Jeremy.

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  29. steve

    Yeesh. That’s a whole lot of stuff to swallow. You know, it’s a lot harder to escape the negative on the web these days. Things get archived, set in virtual stone. It can get kind of intimidating (even for a former small-time blogger like myself). One story I’ve got is that I got into a little flame war with the editor-in-chief of one of the biggest tech sites on the internet, and it was his rep vs. mine, and you can imagine who went down – but boy, was I ever swinging…

    Wanted to let you know about a newsreader out there that exists that bases it’s content on what the user actually WANTS to see. It’s called ‘Sprout’. Very intuitive, quickly learns what you like to read and what doesn’t interest you. There’s a free trial on now. You can find it here: http://www.yoursprout.ca.

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  31. Tim

    Thanks for the post! In the past few months I got 2 different people calling me a cheater in my industry. I felt the need to lash out, but I tried my best to keep out of it. In the end it passed away and hasn’t affected me negatively.

  32. Search Engine Optimization Journal

    This was definitely an interesting read. We would have to agree that not all negative press is bad for you but of course there is that press that can truly ruin you (depending on which industry you are in). Glad to hear that bad press only boosted you to where you wanted to be!

  33. Paul

    What a great post. It is sad that people will go that far because of jealousy and greed. I am glad that you were able to get through it otherwise I would have never found this site. Congratulations and i wish you luck in all your future businesses. I hope you wish the same for us.

  34. Debby Banning

    Jeremy,

    I think that you brought up a good point that negative press can draw more traffic to your site and turn them in to readers.

    The object is to take the negative press and turn it in to a positive for you.

    ~Debby

  35. Business Loans

    Jeremy:
    People are afraid of bad press just like they are afraid of competition. The latter says that what you are trying to do makes sense and that there really is a market. The former says that people are paying attention to you and that they are noticing you. Both are very positive aspects of your being in the marketplace.

  36. IMAlliance - Make Money Online

    Meh its a fact of life that anyone who can hide behind their keyboard and computer screen all of a sudden have such bravado behavior and can not be held accountable to what they say.

    In the end it comes down to the fact that they are usually jealous about some part of your success so will do whatever they can to bring a discredit to the work you have put in.

    Regards
    Marc

  37. Simlock verwijderen

    Why you should embrace negative press? Because frankly of the reason it is enhanced if you are pretty doubtable about your increasly focus on it. If you get joined as an respectively good owner, you will get more exposure in later times.

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  39. Dan Horton SEO

    Any PR is good PR really isn’t it. As for the overweight jibes can relate ;) still gives you a stronger backbone, if not a sarcastic tendancy. Good to meet you shoe, well done with the weight loss too. D

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  41. Brent Hodgson

    I’ve got a client at the moment whose main critic ranks well for his name – with some pretty pointed commentary on my client’s activities.

    It’s pretty clear that the controversy is getting those pages ranking well (Google tracks CTRs from SERPs)

    We have a little data that suggests it’s actually costing my client sales too.

    So yes – the word “scam” works.

  42. CodeFreedom

    Just recently here in Australia I have seen what I think was one on the best stage managed negative press strategies I have seen.
    One of the big summer sporting money pullers here is international cricket. Last season was a record breaking year as Australia played the old enemy England. It was probably one of the most exciting and most anticipated cricket confrontations in years. Australia had unexpectedly lost “The Ashes”, a 130 year old trophy help by the most recent winner of cricket “Test” series between Australia and England after dominating, often humiliating England for 16 years. (For the record, Australia smashed England 5-0 in the 5 match series).
    This summer’s cricket was looking much less exciting, no disprespect intended to the visiting nations. The ticket sales were well down and the excitement, as compared to last summer was just not there.
    Australia won the first 4 matches with relative ease and it was obvious from the feigned excitement of the commentators for the remaining two matches, that there was a lot of people turning off their TVs and going and doing the gardening instead.
    Without going into huge detail, after that fourth match, an onfield comment gy one player to another was branded as racist and hit the front pages for about a week, an umpire’s integrity in the fourth match was questioned and was susequently removed
    from the umpiring panel. All of a sudden we had dipolmatic tensions between the two competing countries Australia and India; and there is a lot more Indians than there is Aussies !!
    I could not helpbut thinking this was all about nothing – but was it ?
    All the while the incident was on the front pages and the lead items on the evening news, to me it smacked of quite a fortunate and interesting event in a dull summer of cricket.
    By the time the fifth match came around, everybody had put down their gradening tools and were back in front of the box; andthe commentators were even more exited.
    The racist comments were deemed not racist at all, and all players were friends again. India won the game with new umpires and the possibility of a drawn series was all the media talk now.
    While of course I can never prove any of this was a planned event, I would suggest that Cricket PR people were rubbing their hands together and couldn’t believe their good fortune.
    Negative press is good press.

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  44. Brewster

    I always find it amusing the way that the posts on dp that slate John Chow’s blog becode so popular so quickly. It’s JC that has the last laugh

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  47. Bryn Youngblut

    Thanks for linking back to this older post. There’s definitely some good advice here for people who might think negative press is bad. I personally have always told people to embrace it.

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  55. Smart Boy Designs

    This post really puts bad press into perspective. You’re 100% correct. How oftentimes do we hear negative press regarding someone – and then instantly everyone in the country knows about that person, and looks them up on the web. As they say – there’s no such thing as bad news.

    Great post.

  56. Swanie

    Truly remarkable post. Although it could bring more traffic, it’s not easy to take such attacks. Those who can stand it succeed.

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  58. Fitness

    Time to change my marketing approach. I’ll set up a situation where someone can frame me for doing something really bad, then reap the traffic rewards. :)

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  63. Andria Colonnese

    I have been looking for good information on gardening and think that your site is a good source of information. It is hard to locate reliable recommendations on the Internet, but I think I can put this to use! If you have any more good suggestions, please let me know. Thanks a bunch!

  64. Chris McCann

    What a frickin’ awesome article! As a 19 year old entrepreneur I am just now experiencing the 1st wave of the haters….so I cannot begin to describe how much this resonated with me and my entre journey. Thank you Shoemoney.

  65. ACME Squares

    I think the effect of bad press depends on the product, and to what extent reputation matters in that field.
    Some products you’ll sell more regardless; others the bad press will cause customers to shy away.

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  71. Gerard Willis

    Hello Jeremy,
    Your post on how to handle negative comments has helped me with my new blog in case it happens again.

    I had a blog on golfing accessorizes it wasn’t big and I got a few good comments, but one day some bad comments started coming in criticizing my blog and they started to unsettle me.

    I didn’t want to check my comments any more it felt weird like the commenter’s knew me or me can see me, which was stupid I know. Eventually I lost my blog through financial problems.
    Gerard.

  72. Don Lawrence

    Negative comments beg for replies that neutralize. You can’t be everyone’s pal and buddy, be nonoffensive on every issue, and be true to yourself. That being said, love what you mentioned about being viewed as an authority. Handled correctly, the reply can reinforce the “authority” perception. I reply to all comments, good or bad. Like you have articulated in your post, someone took the time out of their busy little life…I beleive in showing the same respect.

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  74. Nicholas John

    bad press can be good and bad, what makes bad is when the press about you is true you find yourself having to bob and weave your way out of it. What makes it good it draws attention to you making you popular, once you know you are clear of wrong doing simply do damage control and clear you name keeping the spotlight on you.

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  82. Ryan

    Frankly, I’m terrified of receiving bad press about me. I’m awesome :) How could someone not like every single thing I do?

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