Sunday, September 30, 2007

Newsletters and repeat business

Repeat business is so important, so precious, like a gift and a vote of confidence all rolled into one. Successful small businesses know this very well. It is their very lifeblood. If you own a business on the internet, it won’t take you long to come to realize that repeat customers and repeat visitors are like gold.

Repeat business is like an investment that deposits a dividend into your account each month. Far from being a sporadic thing, or a one-time deal, repeat business should become the very foundation of your business. It is the “base income” or “residual income” that you can depend on each month, to be supplemented by your new sales efforts. Only a fool, such as a car dealer in a large city, would depend upon one-time new business income alone, and forego almost entirely the gold mine of repeat business.

How do you get repeat visitors, repeat customers? You do it just like Mom and Pop at the neighborhood grocery store used to do. You treat people right. You get to know them as well as you can. You make them comfortable. You give them what they’re looking for. You make them part of the family. And most importantly, you treat them as respected people, even when they aren’t buying anything from you.

If you treat your visitors, customers, like a piece of meat--like car dealers do--you may end up making a one-time sale, but you’ll never see them again. When people think about their car-buying experiences, they cringe with disgust. Car dealers make you want to go home and take a shower. You feel dirty when you leave. Car dealers are the spammer equivilent of the retail world. But you knew that.

Yes, I haven’t forgotten--I’m still talking about newsletters. Honest I am.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Email marketing

Email marketing. Cringe.

Don’t you hate spammers? Me too. What lowlifes. I can’t think of enough bad words to call them. They waste our time, fill up our mailboxes with trash, hijack our email addresses, cause us to spend money on antispam software that never really works. Arrrgh! I hate them!

I hope you will never be so totally rude as to impose yourself on another human being by sending out spam. If you are reading this blog, I just KNOW you have more class than that.

The point of this post is to remind you that you don’t have to be a spammer in order to use email marketing. You just have to work hard to win people’s confidence and slowly build up a legitimate list of people who really want to hear from you.

Not spam. Newsletters. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Window Dressing

More about the monetization of your website. That is, more about the actual setup or layout of your store’s floorplan.

One assumes you are using your main websites as more permanent “stores” of some kind, and are using your blogs as “funnel sites” to these stores. Your stores--your regular websites--probably have much more permanent content than your blogs, in that you are not making drastic changes to them frequently. Insead, you are either adding or deleting specific products, or you are freshening the wording in your sales brochures.

These website stores usually consist of either an online mailorder catalog of your products that you want to sell and ship, or they consist of colorful, interesting, and informative “brochure pages” which describe and promote the features of the products of others, one product per page. In the case of the former type, there will also be included a checkout counter.

In any case, you will want to use your blogs as a much more informal meeting place where you can sit down and have coffee with your customers and passersby. Here you can discuss the issues of the day, anything that is dear to your heart, anything at all you want to share with your friends. Obviously, the conversaton often turns to what you do for a living. It is only natural, in the process of this friendly social discourse, that you invite them to visit your store.

But the blog, in my humble opinion, is not the place for the hard sell. People are there to relax and get to know one another. Indeed, you should leave some business cards on the table of your blog, but don’t use your blog to beat people over the head.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Making tracks

Just so you don’t lose sight of your goal, the purpose of getting other people to link to you is to increase the number of visitors to your website. The purpose of getting more visitors to your site is to get more people to take the desired action with regards to the products or advertisements on your site.

I wonder if it has ever occured to you how important it is for you to get in the habit of regularly commenting on other people’s blogs? We all go out and read other people’s blogs. We look for tips on how to do things better. We scrutinize the layout of their site. We want to copy success. That’s good. But too often all we do is read and look at these other blogs--and use their ideas without “paying” for them.

I would advise that you start leaving a trail for others to follow you home. Start commenting. Do make your comments short and do make sure your comments are relevant to the original post. If all you do is give yourself a commercial, you will soon wear out your welcome.

Many of us dream of how good it would be if we could get some of these successful blogs to link to us. Many of us can’t afford to actually advertise on these sites, though. That may be true in terms of cold hard cash, but there are other ways to pay your way.

One of those ways is to contribute to the progress and enrichment of the other person’s blog content. That is to say, you should make pithy helpful comments. In return, it is not unreasonable that the source of your information, your own website, be mentioned in return. No overt commericals, though. Include your link either in the specific place the blog owner has provided, or somewhere else, smoothly, in the flow of the text of the comment.

Short. Sweet. Interesting. Helpful. A good way to make friends in high places.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monetizing your site

So far I have mostly been talking about how to drive traffic to your website. There is still more to talk about in that regard, but for the time being I want to shift gears and spend a little time discussing some specific things you need to be putting in place to create an income once visitors begin arriving in large numbers. That won’t happen for a while, so in the meantime keep advertising and keep adding interesting and useful content that is relevant to the subject of your website.

While you are waiting for your advertising, linking projects, and search engine optimization to start paying off, it is time to begin putting your monetization programs into place.

By monetization programs, I mean the things you want people to click on when they DO start arriving. If you are going to be a store and sell merchandise and ship that merchandise to your customers, then get your virtual store set up and ready for your customers. If you are going to make your money by selling the products and services of others (an affiliate publishing site--what I call a “magazine site”) then get your affiliate ads and intermediate links set up.

Simple. Clear. Not cluttered. Interesting. Entertaining. Informative. A joy to shop there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Keep it simple

Store or magazine?

Some people try to do both. They try to sell their own products on their website, and they also put up ads for other merchants. Maybe this tactic works for some people but it has never worked for me. Have you ever been shopping at Walmart and seen signs telling you to go to other stores? Or have you seen signs advertising products that Walmart doesn’t carry? Me neither.

I say you should make up your mind. Decide if your website is a store or a magazine. You can indeed do both--just not on the same website, in my opinion. I don't think I would even put up Adsense ads on a retail store site. It isn’t that you don’t want to mention the name of competing stores; it’s just that the point of sale is the wrong time to do it. Even if the ad is for a store that carries completely different merchandise than you do, that's not the point. If you are a store site and you are on the verge of making a sale, don't take the customer's mind off following through with the purchase right then and there.

If you are running an online store, don’t do ANYTHING that might get in the way of your customer’s decision to buy. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being needlessly greedy. Concentrate on doing one thing or the other well. Use separate websites for stores and magazines.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Store or magazine?

Is your website a store or is it a magazine? Are you selling merchandise and shipping it to your customers? Or are you selling advertising space to other merchants?

If you are an affiliate marketer, then you are essentially a publisher whose website consists of interesting material which visitors like to look at--just like a newspaper or magazine--and you make your money from the advertising you sell (just like a newspaper or magazine does.)

Unlike a newspaper or magazine though, you don’t get paid for simply running the ads. People have to buy something from the advertiser before you get a cut. In certain situations (like Google Adsense) you get paid if people simply click on the ad. They don’t have to buy anything from the merchant in order for you to get paid. The pay is much lower for a click, though, than you would get for a commission on a sale.

In either case, if you are an internet publisher, your job is to get your visitors interested enough in a product to click on the link. If you are an internet merchant, then your job is to get people to actually buy the merchandise that you are showing pictures of on your website.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Linking to quality websites

In addition to relevant content, another thing the search engines like to see are quality links. Quality links tell the search engine that people find your site interesting, and are returning and even recommending it to their own visitors. That’s good.

But don’t fall into the “link exchange” trap. If hundreds of unimportant low-traffic sites link to you, so what? Quantity is not nearly as important as quality when it comes to sites linking to you. In fact, quantity is not that important at all. Do what you can to induce good quality sites which have high traffic to link to your website. Again, this is accomplished by offering relevant content and interesting content.

If you write a good article on a subject of wide interest, don’t be afraid to call it to the attention of the webmaster of a large website with a similar audience demographic. Ask him to consider linking to your article. Be polite. Don’t be annoying by writing to him everyday.

Links from quality sites are helpful in your ongoing struggle to optimize your search engine rating. Of course, the link itself will also bring you some new visitors. Make sure your house is clean before they arrive.

Be nice. Try to make friends with other webmasters. Be willing to help each other. The alternative is to stay up all night trying to implement scams. Why bother, when it is so easy and more fun to do it right?

Quality content. Quality links. Be nice. Make friends.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Search Engines 2

Speaking of Yahoo and Google, these are pretty much the only search engines you really need to be thinking about pleasing. There are others, obviously, but if you rank highly on these two then the rest will take care of themselves. Don't make it complicated. You don't have to pay anyone to list your site on 500 directories or search sites. That's a waste of time. You will be amazed at how many of the other search engines know about your site shortly after you show up on Yahoo and Google. That's because the other sites pretty much rent Yahoo and Google's search info.

Keep your site clean and uncluttered, keep it simple, use metadata descriptions and keywords for your pages (at least for your home page), write honest natural text, don't try to fool the search engines. Know their rules and play by their rules. That's my advice.

Is there anything else you can do to help get your site higher on the search engine horizon? Oh, yes. To be sure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Search Engines

There is more than one thing to consider when you are trying to optimize your website so the search engines can find you, of course, but the first thing you will want to think about is relevant content.

Search engines strive to return content that seems to be relevant to the words or phrases their searcher has entered. That makes sense. One thing you can do to help is to include metadata which describes your site subject succinctly, and offers several keyword suggestions. Metadata is not seen by your site visitors, but it is seen by the search engine bots who roam the internet at night. More often than not, you can control the caption of your page, the short description that is displayed on the search engine's results, simply by taking the time to do this simple step.

But beyond that, the best advice would probably be to let the actual visible text on your pages flow naturally. Don't try and get cute with using key phrases over and over again in your sentences, or, worse, type a bunch of nonsensical key phrases. There was a time when that would work, believe it or not, but the search engines are much too sophisticated today. When they crawl your pages and evaluate your content, they will know who is being naughty and who is playing nice. So play nice. If you try to fool them like you did in the old days, you will only make them angry. And you don't want to make Yahoo and Google angry.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The ultimate librarian

In ancient days of long ago, if you wanted to find out about something, you went to your local library and asked the librarian for help with your learning project. She or he would then point you in the direction you needed to go in order to quickly find the learning reference materials that would help you in your project.

Think of a search engine as the ultimate friendly librarian. A search engine is more than that, of course, but for the time being it is helpful to use the librarian metaphor.

When a person turns on the computer and connects to the internet, he is interested in one of three things. He wants to learn, he wants to shop, or he wants to be entertained. Your job as a proud website owner (internet store entrepreneur) is to provide all three of these things. You need to teach, you need to entertain, and, of course, you want to sell something along the way.

In order to begin his travels on the internet, the user will type in an address in his browser (or he will click on a button which types in an address for him.) If the address he types in is, or any other merchant's address, you as an internet store owner are out of luck. But if he types in the address of a search engine instead of a direct website address or one of his favorites, you still have a fighting chance. That is to say, the search engine might recommend your website to him.

Fat chance, you say. Fat chance indeed. But the truth is, there are truly several things you can do that might influence the gatekeeper librarian. Doing these things is what is known as Search Engine Optimization. SEO. For starters, it wouldn't hurt you to study up a little bit about how search engines work, how they rank websites, what they are looking for. Armed with that information, you can begin to rearrange and remodel your website accordingly. There will be more written about this later, of course.

Before we talk about how search engines work and how to optimize your website's profile with them, you should begin at once to do things which change your website from just a selling place to a delightful place which educates and entertains as well. Why restrict yourself to just selling? I do understand why you have a website--to sell things and therefore make money. But first you have to get the customer to walk into your store, right? In order to do that, you have to catch his--and the search engines'--interest. More to come.

Repeat after me: "Content is king. Content is king. Content is king..."

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Ah, yes. Traffic.

The key to making money on the internet, regardless of what you are selling or advertising, is traffic. You already knew that. If you have a ton of traffic, that means tons of people are already clicking on your ads--and that means you are making money.

There are two ways to get traffic (people) to your site. Either you advertise or you rank highly in the main search engines. Preferably both. Advertising your site can mean many things, of course, but it usually means buying sponsored ads on Google and Yahoo. You need to do this if you are serious about making money on the internet.

Basically, you brainstorm and come up with keywords and keyphrases you think people are likely to be searching for (with regards to the subject of your website) and then you bid on some of those words or phrases. When people see the ads and click on them, they arrive at your website and you get charged for the click. There is no guarantee the visitor will buy anything or even click on one of your ads. All you are paying for are eyes showing up on your website.

The other thing you should be working on to increase traffic to your website is Search Engine Optimization. SEO. This is a little less straightforward than simply buying advertising, but it is also more fun. For some of us, anyway. With SEO, content is king. You have probably heard those words before. Believe them.

More about content later.

Monday, September 10, 2007

First way

Already I have concluded that there are only two main ways a person can make money on the internet. You either sell a product or you sell somebody else's product.

Well, that seems obvious, but I never really thought of it quite that way before. It sounds simple. Apparently it's not, though, or else we would all already be rich.

The first one is pretty straightforward, like having your own store down on the corner in Yourtown, USA. Here's how that works: you rent a building for your store, you stock the store with merchandise, you hire employees, you advertise. Customers come into your store, they buy, you get rich. Easy, right? Sure.

You can do the same thing on the internet if you've got something to sell. Your business address is the domain name of your website; the merchandise you sell can still be pretty much anything you want to deal in; you advertise; your customers look at pictures of your merchandise instead of the real thing; they buy online; they can't carry it home from your store, so you ship it to them; you get rich. In the old days before the internet, even before they had computers, they had a name for this: mailorder.
Don't take this lightly. It works for zillions of people on the internet, from Walmart down to Mom's Gift Shop. It really, really works. (Did I mention you have to advertise?)

Second way

The second main way to make money on the internet, selling somebody else's products, is a little less straightforward.
Selling the products of other people is called Affiliate Sales. **Affiliate Sales** are two words you need to add to your vocabulary if you are thinking about going into business on the internet. Millions seem to be doing it. Only about three are making any money. No, that's not exactly true (don't run away--come back here!), but it really does take work. Work, work, work. Now, most of the people who will be wanting to sell you their **Get Rich Quick on the Internet** books and manuals will tell you just the opposite. They will tell you there is no work involved at all. So perhaps I am just being stupid.

Anyway, Affiliate Sales, like the sales of your own products, can take place in real life or on the internet. In real life they call this being a traveling salesman or a newspaper publisher. Almost always it takes place on the internet, though. Basically it entails you setting up a website that is cute and catchy and putting advertisements on it. In essence, you become an online newspaper or magazine that advertises things for sale. Unfortunately, most would-be millionaires forget why people buy newspapers and magazines. It is because they have something inside them besides ads.

On the internet, though, it takes more than just having an interesting or clever website. You have to know how to play the Search Engine game. Oh!--it boggles the mind!

Saturday, September 8, 2007


I want to gather information about some of the ways people are making money on the web from home. Then I want to post my findings on this website as a sort of resource for my fellow investigators (you) to peruse.

I admit that I will probably try some of these things from time to time. You probably will too. If I ever get rich doing it, I’ll let you know. Of course, if you find something that works for you, I hope you'll share your discovery with the rest of us.

You will find many off-topic posts and personal posts. This is because (1) I am interested in other things besides how people make money on the internet, and (2) this is a personal blog.

I am humbled that you are reading this.