Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What the heck is RSS?

The most simple answer is that RSS is a technology that allows you to keep up with what’s happening on your favorite website without actually visiting and reading that website everyday (or 10 times a day.)

It used to be that if you liked a particular website you “bookmarked” it or put it in your “favorites”. That made it easier for you to quickly visit that site again, without having to manually type in the site’s address. How quaint.

Now all you have to do is open a free RSS feedreader account (Google Reader, for example.) You give it a list of your favorite sites you want to keep track of and you get notified everytime one of them updates. All you have to do is check your Reader account every once in a while. It’s as easy as checking your email (and no mail to answer.)

More and more websites (especially blogs) are offering RSS feed subscriptions. It’s easy to subscribe to them. They’ll love you for it too, because bloggers really like to have regular readers. So look for the (usually) orange RSS feed link and click on it if you find the site interesting and want to be kept up-to-date.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Google: can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em

If you ask internet travelers who or what Google is, chances are they will simply say that Google is a search engine. They use Google to find things on the internet. True. To an internet entrepreneur, however, Google is much more than that.

A lot of people who are trying to eke out a living on the internet these days, trying to make a buck doing something they love to do, have begun to think of Google as some sort of mysterious internet god, on whose good graces their internet livelihood depends. Indeed, Google itself has lately seemed to fancy itself as some sort of supreme arbiter of all things internet: Google giveth, and Google taketh away, or so they seem to think.

Here’s the truth: Google is a website. You have a website. I have a website. Google has a website. Google earns a living by selling something on the internet. So do you and I. And all of us, Google included, live or die on the internet depending on whether people do or do not visit our websites.

Google’s income is derived from selling advertising. Many of us regular people try to make money selling advertising, too. We all have our methods of attracting traffic to our websites. Google’s gimmick to attract visitors to its website is that it has discovered a way to index the internet pretty well, and thus has made itself useful to internet travelers.

Unfortunately, Google’s success in being useful has put them in a position of being able to hurt some pretty good people. Over the years, Google has slowly changed from simply publishing what is essentially a dynamic “telephone” book of names and addresses, and selling some “yellow pages”-type advertsing, to thinking they have the right to establish the criteria under which all “good” businesses should operate.

There is a huge leap between simply providing an honest list of internet denizens along with a brief description of what they have to offer, to telling internet searchers whether or not this or that business is “good” or not. Worse, Google gets to define what “good” is—or so they seem to think of late.

All this seems kind of uppity until you step back and realize you are doing the same thing. So am I. We all decide what appears or does not appear on our websites. We don’t feel an obligation to be fair about it, either; our decisions are arbitrary and final. Our goal is to produce the most effective website we can produce. I think that is Google’s goal as well: not just content but relevant content. That’s what Google wants to return to their searchers.

Then again, you and I don’t have the power to affect so many people with our websites like Google does.

I read somewhere a quote by a Canadian politician which wittily, though superficially, summed up the essence of Canada’s love-hate relationship with the USA. This quote keeps popping into my mind as I sit here and try to analyze our own relationship with Google:

“When you are compelled to sleep next to an elephant, you tend to sleep with one eye open. Every time the elephant decides to roll over, it affects your life.”

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's all about information

Above all else, the internet is about information. Finding information, selling information, sharing information. Make sure that some aspect of this basic fact is included in each of your blog posts.

Providing some sort of information “niche” is a great way to attract return visitors as well as first-timers. Look around the web: you will see sites that give sports scores, weather forecasts, schedules for this or that event, or just plain gossip about a particular niche topic.

The point is, if you keep hacking away at your particular niche area of interest long enough, you will begin to rank with the search engines on that subject. That’s good from a new visitor standpoint. Then, make sure your content is interesting and entertaining (or useful, if you are trying to provide a specific service) and that will help you bring them back again and again. Always be trying to build that base of “core” site visitors that form your “regular readership.”

Search the web to get ideas on what other people are doing. Find out what successful blogs are doing, even if they are not exactly in your area of interest or expertise. Don’t steal from them—simply incorporate their general ideas into your website. Variations on themes is a big part of what makes the world go ‘round.

The internet is huge. The search engines are easy to use. If you run out of ideas to try, or run out of writing ideas for your blog, then shame on you!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

If you can’t fight them...

I used to get upset at the supposedly honest and upright people with legitimate info-packed high-traffic blogs who allow that get-rich-quick crapola to be advertised on their websites. You’ll even see a bunch of that false advertising on Google Adsense. And then I thought about it, and I don’t get QUITE so upset anymore. If Google and others can find a way to take some bucks back from these preditors...hey! Why not?

Of course, the money to pay for that Google (and other) advertising initially came from poor suckers like you and me, but that’s our problem for being gullible, right? I don’t know. It still doesn’t seem right somehow. I guess I’m even doing it myself—at least by proxy. I run Google Adsense advertising widgets on my website, and I’m sure Google has plastered plenty of this opportunistic false advertising in them. If they haven’t already, they sure will now that the keywords for this junk has appeared in my posts. I give up. What can you do? Sometimes you feel like just joining them. For now, I’ll keep trying to resist the temptation. As much as I can. Character counts. At least for a few people. [Not Google.]

Caveat Emptor, eh?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Get rich quick on the internet

Do you want to start earning more money than the world's top-paid corporate CEOs? Do you want to start earning a lot of money without doing any work? Do you want to get rich in less than 10 days? If you are in the mood for some snake oil today, here are a few Get Rich Quick claims we have seen making the rounds lately:

1. The world's most fantastic false advertisement:

"The 12 Month Internet Millionaire. The Amazing Money-Making Secret Of A 28-year-old Convicted Felon Who Earns More Money Per Year Than The CEOs Of FedEx, eBay(R), Amazon, Time Warner, Apple Computer, McDonalds, Microsoft, Nike, Yahoo, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, And Goodyear Combined!"

2. Meet Andreas, the Super Forex Trader. He wants to share his secret with you:

"Please let me introduce myself, my name is Andreas Kirchberger and I make an extrordinary living trading the forex market. I used to work for the Deutsche Bank as a forex advisor but i had to quit because a question kept nagging me and even haunted me in my dreams: Why should i work, sweat 8 hours a day, making other people rich, researching reports and monitoring market movements? That`s why I and 2 colleagues developed the Forex Killer, the only working forex signal generator on the market today. I`ve already made hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here is a screenshot of my swiss bank account. Would you believe that all I did to generate this sum is spending a few MINUTES a day adjusting some easy BUY & SELL ORDERS???"

3. This guy tells how easy it is to sell Google ads:
"I made $57,317.01 in just 87 days..."

[The 1 cent is what makes this believable.]

4. And here's Michelle...advisor to corporate giants. Very believable indeed:

"My name is Michelle McAllister and I have to share my life changing story with you. I'll tell it to you straight: The CEO's of Nike...Ebay...Amazon and Walmart are tripping over their own feet to give me money! These million-dollar-a-year fat cats, know squat about their customers! So they pay 'normal' people like me to tell them the word on the street."

[Have you no shame, Michelle?]

(Caution: be prepared to be bombarded by sticky and relentless popups, confusing exit choices, and audio-video headbeaters. [And, surprisingly, none of these fabulous multimillionaires have learned to spell.] Have fun, if you think this kind of thing is fun.)

These claims (and many, many more) were found at the headquarters for this kind of thing, Clickbank:

Here’s the thing: they work. They really do. They have always worked. These kinds of ads have worked for decades (centuries?) before anyone ever thought of the internet.

I don’t mean the PLANS will work. I mean the outrageous ads work for the sellers of the ebooks, because you (and me, sadly) buy them. It seems to just be human nature to want to believe there is some inside secret to easy riches.

Here's one final one for you:

The Rich Jerk. Blah Blah Blah. Who Cares.

Who, indeed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Getting people to visit your website

By now you have certainly descovered the real “secret” to making money on the internet is traffic. Visitors. Customers. In fact, instead of writing about “how to make money on the internet,” perhaps we should retitle this blog to “how to get people to visit your website.”

Once your blog (or store website) is set up and ready to go, a large percentage of your time from then on out will consist of thinking up ways to increase your traffic. You will advertise, of course. You will find ways to get successful websites to link to you. You will make friends. You will create a following of regular repeat visitors by making sure your blog is informative and entertaining (or that your store catalog offers a great selection of merchandise.)

And, all along the way, you will work to improve your ranking with the search engines. And don’t forget newsletters and forums and RSS feeds. Whew! It really is work. Running a blog or an online store is certainly no “lazy way to quick riches.” Which leads us to our next bit of entertainment: we are going to test your credibility by reviewing some internet get rich quick schemes that are currently making the rounds. You’re gonna love it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Putting product reviews on your website

With your site up and running for a while, it is time to get serious about your initial monetization, even though you don’t have much traffic yet. Of course, if you will be selling your own merchandise, you will have already set up your catalog and payment center during the website setup process.

If your website is a blog, and you have decided to monetize it by offering advertising space and by promoting affiliate advertisers’ merchandise, then you will be wanting to start placing your ads and product reviews tastefully throughout your website.

Remember there are two types of ads, and that you will be most probably be using both. Pay per click ads create revenue for your website if you have high-traffic, and affiliate ads (in the form of product reviews, not banners) will earn you a commission on products sold through your website by that advertiser.

Be aware that many advertisers require a certain level of traffic on your website before they will become affiliated with you. That makes it a little harder for you at first, but there are very many other advertisers who don’t have this requirement--so don’t worry. Pay per click advertisers are especially picky about not advertising with low-volume new sites, so you might just concentrate on affiliate sales at first, until your site traffic increases.

Once you have established relationships with advertisers and have written and posted your product reviews, it is time to concentrate fully on building traffic to your website.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Setting up your blog

After you are clear about what you really want to do, and have a plan on paper, then you can go ahead and start setting up your website. Knowing exactly how you want it to look, or nearly so, will make this job a lot easier.

Get a descriptive domain name for your blog or store, then choose a webhost after doing research. Choose a webhost that offers the features you need, offers decent service, and is reasonably priced. In general, don’t expect much help from your webhost in setting up your website unless you are willing to pay extra for this help.

There are several ways to set up your website using software that doesn’t require you to know how to code, but it is to your advantage to learn how to code anyway, since that puts you much more in control of how your site looks. You can do this little by little though. Making little changes to the existing css is a good way to get your feet wet.

After your site is up and running, with the basic elements in place, it is time to begin monetizing. Actually, if your site is a blog, you don’t have to monetize right away. You can start blogging and get in the habit of regular writing. But at the same time, you should be visiting the blogs of other people so you can be getting monetization ideas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Steering by the wake, not

So you start with a plan.

Just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You dont need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free

The great Paul Simon said it so well, didn’t he? He wasn’t talking about blogging, but the words still apply.What do you want to accomplish? If you were a total success today, what would your website look like and what would be happening? Start with creating a general, preliminary, mission statement or an objective. Write it down. Make it only one sentence long. State your purpose or desired end result. Start the sentence with the word “to.” It might look like this:

"To earn a living on the internet by creating an interesting blog about _________, which is properly constructed and monetized so as to attract a large readership of people who are also interested in _________."

Or, it might short and sweet, and look something like this:

"To create a blog about _________ for the purpose of interacting with like-minded people."

A textbook mission statement would be all-inclusive of the essential points and elegantly concise and direct to the point. But I ‘m not asking you to create a corporate mission statement, or even one that encompasses each and every one of your desires in one sentence. Instead, I am using this exercise as a tool to get you to start putting your thoughts on paper in such a manner as to begin to clarify, in your own mind, what you want to accomplish.

If this format is awkward for you, then just make a list of things you think you would like to accomplish with your new blog, and another list of things you think you would like to see included in the format of your blog.

Above all, don’t just start out, sink or swim, by inflicting your disjointed thoughts about life on others. Think it through. Don’t start until you can clearly explain it to yourself. Make a plan, Stan.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Steering by the wake

This also involves two things: creating a business plan, and executing that business plan.

I’ll bet you would be surprised at the high percentage of would-be entrepreneurs, both online and in the real world, that skip part one and go straight to the execution part. This is good news for their competition.

I have put execution before the plan several times in my life, to my personal grief and financial loss. I remember one time when I was very young when I was working in a job that I absolutely hated. More than anything, I wanted to be independent. To me, that meant I wanted to be self-employed.

Without really thinking about what I wanted to do, much less how to do it, I went out and rented a building. Incredibly, that seemed logical to me. After all, no matter what business I chose to open, surely I would need a building. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!

So there I was with a building. It came with some fixtures and equipment left behind by the previous bankrupt owner. An ice cream shop. All I had to do was clean it up, buy some product, turn on the lights, unlock the door, and begin to count my money. Of course the next step was equally as logical: I quit my steady job right away. I had realized my dream. I was independent.

Are you laughing? Don’t. Just look around at all the unplanned blogs and other websites on the internet. The ones that look terrible, have nothing to say, and are monetized so ineptly. They have rented a building. They have dragged some undesirable basic “stock” into that building—stock that they may know nothing about. They have pasted a lot of signs in the front windows. Now they are sitting back and waiting for people to bring them money.

What could I have done differently? What important step did I leave out? Have all these new internet store owners already quit their day jobs? I hope not.

I think it was the great American sage Yogi Berra who once made the comment, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else.”

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blogging for dollars

The actual mechanics of earning a good living from a blog are very simple and straightforward. In fact, there are only two things you have to think about and work at. It is HOW WELL you do those two things that determines whether or not your blog will make you any money or not.

Everything you do will fall under one of these two major categories:

1. Setting up and maintaining your blog
2. Driving traffic to your blog

There are many specific things you have to do, and there are many subtleties and variations as to how you decide to do them, but they will all fall under one of those two main categories.

Interestingly, the actual act of blogging—of writing posts—falls under the second category, not the first.

In order to understand new concepts, it is often helpful to compare these new ideas to things we are already familiar with. With that in mind, let’s compare the opening of your new blog with something you may be more familiar with: the establishment of a “regular” business—say a grocery store.

In such a comparison, setting up your blog will include pretty much all the things you would need to do to open a grocery store. Driving traffic to your blog would include all the things you would do to induce customers to come into your store.

Here we should pause and note the difference between the two words “shop” and “buy.” The word “shop” implies you have induced people to come into your store to look around. The word “buy” means they have purchased something from you and given you money. In the blogging business, this distinction is important because you can make money either way.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More popup talk

When I talk about popup windows, I am referring to the kind that appear unexpectedly and uninvited when you least expect it. They fill the whole screen, or nearly so. They interrupt your train of thought. They actually attack you. They have one purpose: to put the high-pressure sales pitch on you.

We have discussed how some businesses—like big-city new car dealers—treat their customers like they were a piece of meat to be devoured, giving no thought to the feelings or humanity of the customer. All they see are dollar signs. I hope you have decided not to be like this with your online business.

One of the rudest things you can do, if it is your object to be rude, is to use big ol’ nasty popup windows on your website for things other than the helpful amplification of information. The kind of popup we are talking about takes over the whole page and tries to manipulate the customer or beat them into submission. It doesn’t offer unobtrusive and helpful information--often you don’t even have to click on anything for the popup to appear in all its blinking rude glory.

When you start to read the message on the homepage of a website, and you get to the second sentence, and a huge offensive popup window opens on top of the information you are reading, what does that say to you? What does it say about the person who wants you to spend your money with them? What does it say about their opinion of you and your feelings?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Balloons vs. Popups

A balloon is a little window which opens to give brief information or a helpful suggestion about something a computer user has questioned. We’ve all seen them. Even our computer’s operating system uses them to tell us little things.

There are several differences between an info balloon and a full-blown popup window. A popup window doesn’t briefly explain or provide instant help that is needed. A popup window is intrusive. A popop window tries to manipulate you and take over your life for a moment. In short, a popup window is like a car salesman.

Most of us appreciate getting a little extra discreet information when we need it. Balloons are a non-intrusive way of getting this done. We are used to balloons and mouseovers and “hovers” in the computer world. But we have never quite gotten used to popups. Perhaps you feel they are rude and intrusive. You would be right.

I hope you will make your website as clear and helpful as you can. I hope you will find polite ways to give your customers the information they need without acting like a car salesman. I hope you will never consider treating your customers like car salesmen treat their customers. In short, I hope you will never even consider making a big blinking popup window appear in front of your customers’ faces univited.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Use newsletters to build loyalty

As you continue to broaden the circle of your internet friends, don’t forget the importance of offering a newsletter. Keep your newsletter interesting and entertaining, and be sure to talk about things that were not discussed on the regular blog. Use a newsletter to make friends and to build a solid base of regular visitors to your website.

Don’t send out your newsletter so often that you irritate people and defeat your purpose. They should look forward to receiving it because of its interesting content. For the same reason, don’t put too much advertising in your newsletter.

Make sure your newsletter is sent out regularly. Keep in touch, so that your blog readers are reminded of you. A newsletter is also a good place to run unique coupons and other special incentives that are not available to the general web population.

Along the same lines as a newsletter is the offering of an RSS feed. This also will help keep your regular readers in the loop and help keep them in your big happy blog family.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Another really important thing that will increase traffic to your website is when other sites begin to link to you. As usual, there are several ways to get people to do this, but the most important way is the same: content. That is, make your content interesting enough and entertaining enough and useful enough so that people will WANT to link to your information and articles.

When you have been producing quality content for a while, you can begin mentioning it when you are out reading the blogs of other people and when you are making comments on those blogs. Also email the owners of popular blogs about your subject, and briefly tell them you have written an article they may be interested in reading, and give them the link to the article. Don’t do this very often, until you build up a circle of friends by making the rounds like this.

That’s really what the Web is all about--reading each other’s material, inviting them to read yours, interacting. If you continue to be a frequent commentor on other blogs, you will begin to get noticed. People will begin to visit your own blog as well, and many will begin to link to it.

The simple act of commenting on several blogs on a daily basis will in itself bring you some additional traffic, even if the visitor doesn’t actually put up a link to you on his site. You can’t be a wallflower in the blogging world. Most people are friendly. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Otherwise nobody knows you are lurking silently out there. Silent lurkers don’t make any money.

Work to become known, without being intrusive. Work to build up a circle of internet friends. And--always--return the favor by linking back to these people.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


As with any business, you must advertise. They say word of mouth is the best advertising. This may be true, but it is only useful if you have the patience to wait a hundred years or so for it to pay off. In the meantime, you’ll need another job. These are tongue-in-cheek statements, of course, but the intention is to remind you again that no matter how pretty your site is, no matter how scientifically it is monetized, it takes too long to make any money if you just sit back and wait for people to notice you and tell their friends about you.

Advertise. Be very proactive in this regard. Many things you do to get traffic to your site technically fall under the umbrella of advertising. When you strive to get people to link to you, is that not advertising? But what this post is about is direct advertising that you pay for. Generally this is in the category of pay-per-click advertising.

Whether you choose the most obvious, Google’s Adsense, or whether you choose another of the several very good other sources that have been springing up around the internet, you just need to do it. This generally involves setting up an advertising budget you can live with and bidding on keywords--words that describe the subject of your business. Then the advertising company can run your ad where it will be most effective.

How many other ways can you think of that come under the heading of advertising?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog purpose

Although you must pay attention to how your website is perceived and classified by search engines, as we have just been talking about, it is important to pause and remind ourselves that there is something more important than search engines we should never forget. That point is that we are first and foremost writing for the readers of our blog. In other words, you are writing because you have something to say.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in our search engine placement that we end up basically writing for Google and Yahoo and not our readers. There is a delicate balance to be kept here. I don’t think I was wrong in my last post to say that you should always be mindful of how search engines work when you write. But never go so far as to write FOR search engines instead of your audience.

If it comes down to a choice between writing naturally and writing in a stilted manner to please the search engines by conciously including certain words, I say always go with the natural flow of your writing--don’t pay THAT much attention to what the search engines might want to see!

There is no reason, however, that you can’t still pay attention to the titles of your posts, and make sure they are to the point and descriptive. Something as seemingly small as that is helpful to the search engines and also helps define your subject for your readers.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Titles of blog posts

One big way people find you is by typing in search terms in a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, so it is important that you set up your site in such a manner as to facilitate the search engines not only finding you, but in accurately defining your site’s subject matter.

People used to get very inventive in this regard, to the point of being deceptive. Running a blog, on the other hand, helps take care of this important function almost automatically. Over time, the many, many words you write in your blog help the search engine robots understand what you are all about more and more accurately. This is because key words and key phrases are repeated naturally in the flow of writing, without you having to contrive awkward sentences that contain keywords.

But you can still refine this. One way is to pay attention to the titles of your posts. Make them short and pithy and descriptive of what your post is about. I have a tendency to get cute, as if I were writing chapter titles in a book. When you are dealing with a robot, don’t get cute. Be simple and straightforward.

There are whole industries which have sprung up on the subject of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM.) That’s how important it is. If you are in business on the internet, keep the search engine robots always in your mind as you work on your site. Make working with search engines second nature.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Making money with your blog

By now you have discovered that building traffic to your blog is the main thing you need to concentrate on. Odds are, if you are successful in your efforts to drive traffic to your website, you will make money. You can have the most beatiful website in the world, and you can have it perfectly monetized and strategically set up, but no merchandise will move out the door if you don’t have customers. Fact of life.

We have had several posts about how to bring traffic to your internet store, and of course there are more things you can do that we haven’t talked about yet. But let’s go back for a moment and summarize some of the main points you need to be taking action on in order to build your traffic.

Search engine optimization (SEO.)
Advertising on pay per click services.
Getting important successful sites to link to you.
Using other blogs and forums to get your site exposure.
Working to build repeat business.

Let’s briefly go over each of these points, so you are clear about what each step means.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Site setup and monetization

1. Choose the type of internet business you want to set up.

Do you want to sell physical things and then ship that merchandise to your customers?

Or do you want to sell other people’s products for a commission, while also selling advertising space on your website?

2. Set up your “store”--your website. Choose a webhost who is reliable and who offers everything you will need, at a reasonable price. How you answered number one, above, will determine how your website will look.

If you are selling actual physical merchandise from your website, then your website will look like a mail order catalog, and it will have a way for customers to pay.

If, instead, you want to be a commissioned salesperson for other businesses, then your website will consist of product reviews and a method to direct the partially sold customer to the real merchant’s website. You will also most likely display at least a few pay-per-click advertisements on your website.

3. Putting things on your website that people can read, look at, click on, and so forth, is called monetizing your website. When visitors to your website can read about things, look at things, click on things, and take other actions which will bring you an income, then your site is monetized.

All of these things take effort, research, and merchandising skills on your part, but these things are the easy part. The hard part comes next: getting potential customers to look at your stuff.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Take action

The best-written self-help book in the world won’t help you get rich unless you put the information into action instead of just putting it back on the bookshelf. Similarly, you can read 50 blogs a day that explain how people are making money on the internet, but just reading them will not put a single dollar in your pocket.

Many people seem addicted to learning how to do things. They have inquisitive minds. They are good thinkers. They know how to analyze. But they don’t seem to make any money. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. It is so important that you DO something, however small, to get the ball rolling. Knowledge is just potential until you put it into action.

I’m not saying you should jump right in over your head without having a plan. Not at all. Just don’t wait until your plan is perfect. It never will be. The trouble with analyzers is that they are really planners at heart. They see their job as one of figuring things out and finding out how things work. I speak from personal knowledge and experience here. Many thinkers believe they are procrastinators, that putting things off is their problem in life. It isn’t. It’s just that once they have figured out how to do the thing, their job is finished. They then abandon the project and go on to the next problem or area of interest.

Be sure to include in your business plan a list of actual sequential steps you need to take in order to implement your system. Make sure the first step is something you can do right now, this very minute. Then put that system to work as an actual real-world monetization program.

If research scientists and inventors never shared their discoveries with others, what good would any of them be? Don't just think and plan. Do something.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Developing your blog's theme

After you decide upon a subject you are interested in, go ahead and start researching that subject on the Web and blogging about your findings. At the same time, begin working on your main website. This is the website whose domain name you own and is the place where you will be displaying your product reviews and product pictures.

Is it absolutely necessary to have two websites working in tandem like that?--both a blog and a “regular” website? Of course not. You can do it all with a blog alone if you are careful to keep it simple and straightforward. But if you choose to do it that way, please blog from your own website with your own domain name. You will be taken more seriously than if you “sub-blog” from a free blogging service, such as Google (blogspot) or the free version of Wordpress. Not that you can’t use Wordpress software and templates, for example, just do it from your own official website if you possibly can, instead of one of their free blogs.

Of course, even a free blog from Blogspot or Wordpress is better than doing nothing. Get up and get going! Get started today! But normally you will be using the free blogging services as “funnel sites” for your primary business sites. Nothing against Blogspot or Wordpress, obviously--I use them myself and they offer a great service. It’s just that you have more control over your destiny when you have your own “real” website.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Choosing affiliate partners

I would recommend that you first make a list of your personal interests. This is because you will tend to do a better job talking about products or subjects that you personally care about and find interesting.

This holds true not just with with the advertisors you affiliate yourself with, but also with the theme of your website itself and your blog for that website. To be successful, and to have fun doing it, please consider working with some subject you like. So start by making a short list of your personal interests. Golf? Antiques? Travel? Whatever.

Your blog should be about this subject. Share your thoughts and discoveries about that subject. Explore that subject and talk about it on your blog. Make the design theme of your main website along the same lines as that subject so that the interface between the blog and the store website is smooth and natural.

Finally, it will then be a natural step to choose advertisers to be affiliated with which offer products and services that have something to do with that main subject. You will be attracting visitors who are searching for information about that subject--that’s why I think it is a mistake to try and blog about more than one subject on one blog, or even to try and sell more than one major category of products on one website store.

Of course you have more than one interest. That’s because you are such an inquisitive and interesting person. Just make sure you have a separate blog (and website store) for each subject you want to talk about.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Affiliate Sites

The first thing you need to do if you intend to set up your website for affiliate marketing is (of course) become affiliated with some good merchants. “Good” means they have attractive merchandise that will sell, they treat their customers right, and, very importantly, they pay you promptly. “Good” also means they offer a reasonable commission percentage on sales, good enough to make it worth your while.

Generally, you have two choices. You can hook up with individual merchants directly, or you can join a managed affiliate program such as Commission Junction or Linkshare. If you become a member of a managed affiliate program, you will be able to get your advertising materials all at one place, your records will be kept for you, and you will be paid by the program management company rather than by individual merchants. That is, all your commissions will be collected from all the individual merchants and you will be sent one total check each month. As this is being written, Commission Junction pays when you exceed the monthly commission minimum of $25 (otherwise it is rolled over to next month) and Linkshare sends out a check each month regardless of how small the amount might be.

If you choose to deal directly with individual merchants, then you will get a check directly from that merchant after you meet that merchant’s required minimum amount. This is often $50 but can be as high as $100. Some merchants have lower minimums, but $50 seems to be average. In all cases, your commissions continue to be rolled over from month to month until you do meet their cumulative minumum for them to cut you a check.

Affiliate programs are free to join for publishers like you. Never pay to join a program.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Affiliate marketing

Many online entrepreneurs have decided that affiliate marketing is the best way to go. There are several things about affiliate marketing that are indeed attractive. The most obvious thing is that you don’t have to keep stocks of merchandise on hand or have a billing or shipping department. You don’t have to deal with complaints.

Affiliate marketing refers to the selling of other people’s products on your website. But it is more than simply setting up a website and placing a bunch of ad banners on it. I’m not sure if that ever really worked, but it sure doesn’t work now.

One thing you will still have in common with regular “store” sites that ship merchandise, is that you still are faced with the problem of getting visitors to your website. All of the things we've already discussed concerning traffic and how to get it still apply with an affiliate marketing site.

Blogs work very well, both in positioning themselves for search engine traffic as well as generating a really good repeat visitor base. Most of the monetized blogs you see are affiliate marking sites. Some make money on pay per click, such as Google Adsense, but primarily they get paid a commission for selling the products of others directly, rather than simply sending others traffic. There is money to be made with both, so don’t neglect pay per click opportunities.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

More backend

Backend sales are different than “point of sale complimentary add-on sales.” I just wanted to clarify that. Offering your customer something else that truly goes with the item she just bought is not rude. It is thoughtful and helpful. Especially if it was your INTENT to be thoughtful and helpful. Complimentary add-on sales is very different than going after the customer relentlessly by sending her more stuffed animal offers every three days just because she once bought a stuffed teddy bear from you.

Here’s the real test: does your action feel like you are trying desperately to squeeze one last drop of blood out of the sale? Or does it feel like a genuinely helpful act?

I do understand that many of these things probably seem puzzling to some of you hot-shot bird-of-prey internet marketers who happen to be reading this little blog, because that is not how you were taught to sell. I get it. And that’s ok. In the long run it just leaves more money for me and my “be helpful” advocates.

We are not in the business of “overcoming objections.” We are in the business of trying to be of service to our buyers.

Here’s a life-hint: whenever you tell a salesman “no” and he continues selling as if you hadn’t said anything--the way he has been taught to do--he is in the act of trying to manipulate you.

Finally, “backend” or “back end” is also a term often used to describe the things that go on to keep your site up and running. This includes the setup and restocking of your store, the maintaining of inventory, the bookkeeping, and the uploading of changes. The back end of a website is the same as the back end of a bricks and morter store, as opposed to the “front end” of the store where the customers are. Back end in this sense simply refers to the ongoing administration of your website, and has nothing to do with what we were talking about above with regard to the “hard sell.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Backend sales

Some people refer to repeat business as backend sales. I have never liked this term, and mention it only for those who have seen the term and aren’t quite sure what it means.

If someone makes a purchase from your website, you then know what kind of merchandise they are interested in--or so the theory goes--and with that information you can target your marketing to that individual more effectively.

I personally am not a believer in this internet store state-of-the-art gospel, even though many successful internet marketers swear by it. Why not?

1. Just because grandma buys a stuffed teddy bear from you doesn’t mean teddy bears are her main interest in life. Or that she is personally interested in them at all in the future.

2. Immediatly jumping on a customer when they have just paid you a compliment by making a purchase on your website is pretty tacky in my book--something a car dealer would do. Dear piece of meat, thanks for buying a car from me. Now how about life insurance? No? Then how about some undercoating spray? No? Then how about...

These are not complimentary sales. They are blood-squeezing.

Why can’t you just say “thank you” and let it go at that? Just keep sending out your attractive catalogs and helpful hints (I’m talking about your monthly newsletters) and stop beating your customer over the head. Do YOU like to be constantly “targeted” like that?--or are you so used to it you are numb to its rudeness?

By all means, do keep sales records and make notes of buying patterns. That's not what I'm talking about exactly. Doing that falls under the category of being helpful. I just don't think you should immediately make assumptions about a person's buying habits after just one sale to them. Yes, I realize Amazon does this constantly, and they are successful. I don't know. I still don't like it.

Concentrate on repeat business, and in doing things to deserve it. That’s what I say. Relax! Don’t be so hyper! Concentrate on being helpful instead of becoming a bird of prey.

Build it right, and they will come.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Newsletter signup

Before you start trying to sign people up to receive your newsletter, take some time to think it through and envision exactly what the newletter will contain. The best way is to create a sample issue and work out the problems as you develop it. Also you should begin paying closer attention to the newletters you already receive, making note of the things in them you find interesting or attractive. You can also get ideas for formatting by reading other newsletters.

When you are clear about how your newsletter will look, and what you intend to be saying, then it is time to begin advertising it on your website. Tell your visitors you have a newsletter. Create a form for them to sign up. Have an autoresponder script set up to acknowledge their signup. Some people go so far as to have them click on a verification link in the autoresponder email. This is to be doubly sure it was the real email address owner who did the signing up. Don’t hesitate to do this. Your goal is to have a nice clean list of real people who want to hear from you and who are interested in the subject you are talking about. If that list doesn’t grow as fast because of your screening procedures, then so be it.

This blog is probably not the place to get into the technical aspects of setting up a newsletter. You can readily learn the actual mechanics about doing newsletters on other specialized “how-to” websites. But do consider putting out a newsletter in an effort to create more of a personal bond with your visitor-customers. If you do it right, you won’t regret the effort it takes.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Keep in touch

A newsletter is not just an email filled with advertisements and sales pitches. Emails like that are called spam. Instead, a newsletter needs to contain NEWS--news about things related to the subject of your blog or other website.

With the advent of the popularity of blogs, the need to publish a newletter of some kind would seem to be diminished. After all, the news items are already being published in your blog, right? While there is a lot of current news being talked about on your daily blog, there is still room for a newsletter. The real purpose behind a newsletter is to keep in touch with your friends who read your blog, and your customers who have made a purchase from you.

In light of this, be sure and include things in the newsletter which do not appear on your blog. If your website is a store that sells merchandise that you ship out yourself, then be sure and include a few private specials in the newsletter that are not known to the general public, as well as special coupons if you use coupons in your business.

Often, rather than try and fit all this into a short email (these things DO need to be short!) some newsletter authors send only the headlines and subtitiles, or basic info and coupons, in the email itself. They then include links that will take the reader to the actual fancy newsletter, which of course is really simply a dedicated page on your main website.

Not more frequently than monthly, please.

The biggest key in making this work is, as always, finding ways to make it interesting and useful to your commercial family. Don’t send your emails to people who aren’t interested in what you are doing. You will only waste your time. The goal is to have the best list, not the longest list.

I think it was Mark Twain who admonished us not to waste our time trying to teach pigs how to sing: “You’ll waste your time and annoy the pig.”

Your visitors are hardly pigs, of course--it’s only a quote.