Friday, March 11, 2011

What can Charlie Sheen teach us about SEO?

SheenI’m assuming everyone is at least marginally aware of the whole Charlie Sheen fiasco but if not, here’s a quick primer and here’s his craziness set to music.  He has definitely been in the news lately and there is a lot we can learn about this tragic trajectory he is on but I want to focus on what we can glean about SEO from him.


Crazy brings the eyeballs

No doubt about it, controversy sells.  In our Post-Modern culture, everybody’s opinion is valid and has weight and the biggest sin anyone can commit is having a strong, inflexible opinion or saying someone is wrong.  Fortunately, we all know deep down that this is wrong, not every idea is a good one and some people shouldn’t be listened to.  Do you want to make your blog post stand out?  Have a strong, controversial opinion about something in your niche and back it up with a well-reasoned argument.  What are the things in your niche that are so universally accepted that no one even thinks about them anymore, are they still true?  There’s an old story of a man who was newly married and noticed that every time she cooked a ham, she would slice a few inches off the top making it flat on top.  When he asked her why she did that she said she didn’t know it was just something her mother always did.  So he went to her mother and asked her the same question and got the same response.  Next he went to the grandmother and asked her why she always sliced a few inches off the tops of her hams and she replied, “so it would fit in my oven!”  Because the women never knew the reason behind something, they just kept doing what they had always done even when there was no longer a need for it.  Take a look at your niche, what are the things that everyone is doing for outdated reasons?  What is a stance you can take that is so far from the norm that people will be compelled to discuss and argue?  (And link back, and repost, etc…)  Take a stand, have an opinion, and be prepared to defend it.

Content makes them stay

Once you have built a little trust and gotten a short-term boost to your traffic numbers, you have to continue teaching and providing content or the people will eventually go away.  Charlie Sheen is learning this right now as the arc of how much the public cares about him is in its inevitable decline.  You can’t always be crazy, eventually there has to be some substance.  If you are an actor, you have to entertain and if you are a blog, you have to inform.  (You can entertain also, but you can’t just entertain)  Not every blog post has to be a home run with tons of backlinks and comments, you can make a very good living at this just hitting solid singles, you just have to hit a lot of them.  Give the people good content and you will see your numbers rise.

Relationships are key

The relationship between Sheen and his co-workers has gotten so toxic that even if all the issues were resolved it would be very difficult for these people to work together.  In the online world, relationships are crucial.  Very few blogs are an island unto themselves and most of us rely on the goodwill of our community to help us grow.  Not only do you need to foster a good relationship with your readers but it often helps to have a good working relationship with others in the same niche.  For your readers, are you answering questions quickly? Responding to email? Keeping them informed through social media?  For the other writers in your niche, are you working with them?  Involved in guest posts or button swapping?  Commenting on their sites?  Promoting them on your blog?  Keeping our online relationships solid can be tricky at times but the rewards are worth it.

I hope that we all have enough tiger’s blood in us to improve our sites and keep winning!


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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do Emergents confuse Natural and Special revelation?

I’m reading Gabe Lyons’ new book The Next Christians and while I will do a full review later, one theme in particular keeps popping up that I think is indicative of some of the problems I have with the Emergent movement as a whole.  One of the points the author makes is that the next generation of Christians care less about the open evangelism that marked his religious forefathers and more about impacting the world around him (or her) in a positive way.  He brings up the TWLOHA movement that had its shirts in Hot Topic stores but decided to remove any mention of Christ from its in-store materials so as not to offend any potential customers.  He also mentions a movement called “Fringe” that has concerts and art shows to promote, not God, but beauty.  One quote in particular caught my attention. “When the next Christians create culture that promotes beauty, they give people a glimpse of the beauty of God.  There’s no need for a logo [of a church or ministry], because the beauty itself belongs to God and is a pronouncement for His existence, love, and desire for the world.” (pg 98-99)

Are we to exalt God…or Christ?

At its core, this type of thinking confuses natural and special revelation about the character and nature of God.  Natural revelation is found in the first half of Psalm 19.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. – Psalm 19:1-6

The psalmist is pointing to the heavens and stars as proclaiming the glory of God and I think we can safely include other types of beauty in this list.  I concede that art, music, sculpture, and a host of other pursuits are beautiful and the ability to experience and enjoy beauty is a gift from God but the Psalm doesn’t end there.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. –Psalm 19:7-14

Now we have special revelation, or the Word of God that tells us exactly who God is and how we should respond to Him.  It simply isn’t enough to use art or beauty and expect people to be able to make the jump from “That’s beautiful” to “I should love God”.  The chasm between those two statements is simply too large for anyone to make.  Beauty alone is not enough, it must be coupled with the Word of God and instruction on how to have a relationship with the God that made that beauty possible.  If an organization fails on this point, it has no right to call itself Christian because it does not point anyone to Christ.  At best it could call itself Deistic because all it’s doing is pointing to a formless, definitionless God that makes no demands on His followers and offers no real grace.

If you are involved in this type of organization, I implore you to realize that if you are a Christian (or a Christ-follower or whatever hipster term you are using this week) you are not called to point people to “God” but to the very specific “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.  Beauty and art alone will not cut it, it must be joined with instruction on what to do next.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Ted Haggard on Biblical Restoration

Ted Haggard interviewed on restoration

Click Here to view embedded video

I have to admit that I have a certain fascination with Ted Haggard.  Ever since his scandal broke (I had not heard of him before that) I have followed his story with a kind of macabre fascination with the hope that something positive will result from his shame.  And to be truthful, there have been some positive, God-glorifying things that have happened; most notably that his wife chose to stick with him through this and they are working to hold their marriage together in the midst of this (self-imposed) storm.  But when it comes to Ted himself, he seems to go out of his way to do the dumbest thing imaginable at every turn and this video is further evidence of his self-delusion that he is the victim and we should all act like nothing ever happened.  Before I speak about Ted directly, I want to use this video as a starting point to look at the Biblical concept of restoration.

Biblical Restoration can only happen within the church

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us instruction for how to deal with a brother (or sister) that has sinned.  The goal of this process is to restore our brother to right fellowship with the church (vs 17), therefore before someone can be Biblically restored they have to submit to the leadership of the church elders and agree with them that what they are doing is wrong and needs to be stopped.  If the elders that God has established over that church deem it necessary for certain disciplinary measures to take place (accountability groups, counseling, cessation of public ministry for a time) then the brother should willingly and happily follow their instruction, convinced that God has placed his elders over him for his good. (Heb 13:17)  In fact, if the one who sinned rejects the leadership of his elders and decides to do what he wants, even if the person has stopped the particular sin that started the process, he has not truly repented and should not be restored to full fellowship with the church.  In fact the church as a whole should assume that he is unsaved (Mt 18:17) and treat him as they would any other sinner by witnessing to him and commanding him to repent.  (And in Ted’s case they should most certainly not join his church or submit to him as Pastor)

Biblical Restoration and Worldly Restoration are completely different

On of Ted’s complaints is that he has seen Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Michael Vick and others restored to their former place so K-Mart, CBS, and the NFL are better at restoration than the church.  The difference between the church and these companies is that these churches couldn’t care less about the eternal souls of these people and only care about the bottom line.  If Ted’s church had only money as their main concern then you can be sure that Ted would have been right back in the pulpit after a short time away but to their credit they were more focused on the man than the money and asked him to undergo a long process of restoration.  Ted’s efforts to say that the church should be more like the world in this respect shines a light on what is the problem with Ted really is, a defective and world-like theology.  Instead of going to the Bible to see how restoration should actually be done, he is going to the world and taking their advice and modeling his theology after K-mart and the NFL.  Unfortunately for Ted, that is not how either the Church or Jesus Christ Himself restores his people. 

I will still watch the Ted Haggard story as it unfolds, hoping and praying that somehow he realizes his sin and goes back to the church elders that loved him enough to confront him on his sin and not gloss it over as the world does.  Unfortunately, the longer this goes the more distant the possibility of that happening becomes.


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Thursday, February 17, 2011

What does Google's Social Search for your SEO?

Today Google announced an update to their search results that incorporates the results of your social graph into your search results.  This has existed for a while but was relegated to the bottom of the results page, now the results will be interspersed throughout the page.  What does this mean for your SEO?

It is now more crucial than ever for you to get your readers to follow you through your social media outlets.

The great thing about this is that even if you get someone to follow you through FaceBook or Twitter and they never really engage with your blog, your blog posts could potentially be on their search result page.  For instance, lets say someone liked your FaceBook page one day on a whim (maybe because of a contest on some fantastic article you wrote years ago) but are not what you would consider your “core readership”, if they happen to search something relevant to something you wrote at some point in the past, your post will be right there for them to click on.  This will increase your traffic in direct proportion to the size of you social contacts. If you haven’t already been focusing on your social profiles, now is the time!

You need to be even more focused on higher rankings

The flipside to this is now that more real estate on Google’s result pages will be taken up with posts from people’s social contacts, you need to be even more focused on improving your ranking for your favorite keywords.  If you ranked at #8 or 9 for a particular phrase, you may not show up on the front page at all anymore.  This means more backlinks, more focused content, and a lot more time spent on the SEO side of your business.  This would be a great time to outsource some of your SEO needs to an company like SEO Assistant.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Best of Today's SEO - 2/10/11

Google Wedding Planner – Google has assembled some very helpful resources for anyone planning a wedding. Why?  Because Google is determined to be in every niche.  Look for Google Alligator Farm and Google Sewer Cleanout coming soon.

How to write an ebook – If you aren’t following Blogging with Amy I suggest you do so.  This is another great post in her ebook series going through the step by step process of writing a book and taking it to market.

Google rolls out Two Factor Authentication – So much of our online lives goes through our phones that security is becoming more and more important.  Here’s a great way to keep your data safe.

How to triple your blog post ideas – Running out of things to post about?  Here’s an easy way to get more post ideas.

200,000 people check in to Super Bowl with FourSquare – Seeing as how this happened across the street from me and it was utter chaos for a week, this doesn’t surprise me at all.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Does God want us to be androgynous?

Earlier today, Jennifer Wright Knust wrote an opinion article on CNN saying that the traditional understanding of male-female relationships and homosexuality are wrong and the Bible’s original plan for mankind was not heterosexuality but androgyny.  Her thinking here is that Adam’s original form had both sets of genetalia until God split him with the creation of Eve.  Not having anything in the Bible to support her hypothesis she is forced to quote non-inspired ancient texts and non-canonical gospels like the Gospel of Philip, a text known for its heretical Gnostic teachings.

Despite her claims, androgyny was never God’s plan, the creation of Eve happened before the fall showing that this was God’s perfect will for His creation. God intended from the beginning to create both male and female but created Adam first to make a point about authority and headship.  Adam represents man and the man is to be the leader and final authority (under God) in the home.  He is to be the provider and protector and ensure the safety and well-being of his home just as Adam was responsible for the garden.  Eve came from Adam as a sign that neither man nor woman is complete without the other, that man and woman complement each other and bring each of their strengths and weaknesses to a relationship that will be strengthened over time.

God’s creation of Adam and Eve give us a clear picture of what marriage is supposed to be. One man and one woman, committed to each other and to God.  Despite the introduction of sin messing up the divine order, that is still God’s plan for each of today. No matter how much modern Bible scholars want desperately to undermine the Bible’s clear teachings about sexuality, they will always fail and the truth of the Word will endure.  God’s will for every man and woman is to be celibate until marriage and marriage can only be heterosexual.  The homosexuality that Paul condemned is the same homosexuality that exists today, that word has not changed its meaning over the intervening 2,000 years.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Seven Spirits of God

Rev 1:4  John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
Rev 1:5  and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
Rev 1:6  and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

What are these seven spirits?

This is a tricky phrase that only the Apostle John uses and only in the Book of Revelation.  He uses it three other times (Rev 3:1; Rev 4:5; Rev 5:6) and each time it refers to the Holy Spirit.  There are two possible reasons why John chose to refer to Him in this way.

1 – Seven is the number of perfection

Through out the Bible in general and Revelation in particular the number seven is used to symbolize perfection or completeness.  Beginning with the seven days God took to create the universe, through the seven pairs of clean animals on the ark, to the seven times blood had to be sprinkled on the altar for atonement; time and time again we see the number seven pop up.  In Revelation alone John uses the seven motif many times including the seven churches in Ch 2-3, seven stars, seven lampstands, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowl judgments.  This is one of the reasons John gives a warning about adding to are taking away from anything in the book because to do so would mess up the groups of seven he has included.  So John may be highlighting the fact that the Spirit of God is perfect and in every respect, God.

2 – The Spirit has a seven-fold ministry

John may have also been referencing Isaiah 61:1-2 where the Spirit of God is shown empowering His servant to perform seven important tasks.  He brings good news to the poor, binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims liberty to the captives, frees those who are bound, proclaims the year of God’s favor, proclaims the day of God’s vengeance, and comforts those who mourn.

Whether John meant both of these possibilities or just one or the other, it is clear that John meant for us to see these “seven spirits” as the Holy Spirit.  We see here that the Spirit of God is always before the throne while simultaneously working out the will of God on the Earth.  Nothing created can be in two places at once, only the omnipresent God can do this.  John is showing us that the Spirit of God is the third person of the Trinity, completely God but not all of God.  The Spirit is fully God yet only one member of the Trinity, ever before the throne and always working on the Earth and in the heart of every believer.  The Spirit of God is God but He always points us to the Son and the Father as the objects of our worship and adoration.

We also have access to the throne of God if the Spirit of God is in us.  We can pray for the blessings of God through the power of the indwelling Spirit and in the name of the Son and one day we also will be before the throne of God in both body and spirit worshiping the Triune God.

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