Why You Should Embrace Negative Press

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.