Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Are You Running a Content Site or a Link Farm?

I've done both. And I've decided that not only is running a content site more satisfying, it's also more profitable. How do you know if your site is a content site or an affiliate link farm though? James Martell tells you to build sites with a lot of content pages, but I've seen some of his sites, and honestly, a lot of them are affiliate link farms. Same with a lot of Site Build It! sites.

Here's the difference. The reason for a content site is the content. You might monetize the site by having affiliate links or other paid advertising on the site, but the reason people are there is to read the content. The content is unique. It's useful. It's worth reading, it's worth visiting, and it's worth bookmarking. Search engines will list it highly because users will like it.

An affiliate link farm might have "articles". But a lot of them are just re-hashes of other articles online. Even if you're not using a software like Articlebot, if the only reason your articles exist is to draw traffic to your website so that you can refer your visitor to some affiliate links, then your site is an affiliate link farm, not a content site. Even if you have 300 pages of "articles".

I'm not drawing a moral distinction. I have good friends running affiliate link farms. Some of my own sites are still affiliate link farms. There is room on the internet for advertising, and even sites devoted solely to promoting advertising. Heck, that's why newspapers have classified's sections, and there are newspapers that are made up exclusively of classified's. So there's nothing wrong with having a website made up exclusively of advertising.

Just don't call it a rich content site, because it's not. And if you haven't tried it yet, give a rich content website a try and see if you make any money with it. I think you can, and I think you can make a lot of money with it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Why I Don't Use Affiliate Links in eBook Reviews

You may have noticed that most of my ebook reviews do NOT include affiliate links to the ebook in question, and you might have wondered why, especially since this is an affiliate marketing blog. The answer is really pretty simple if you think about it: how good a review could it be if the goal were to sell you the product? Doesn't that just make it an "advertorial" instead of an honest-to-goodness review?

My goal with the ebook reviews on this site are to provide other affiliate marketers with authentic and honest recommendations about whether or not to buy certain ebooks. These are of course only my humble opinions, but they are not attempts to sell or shill these ebooks in exchange for a commission. I'm not 100% convinced that there's much money to be made selling affiliate ebooks anyway, although maybe some of the sites that do really well in the SERP's for certain ebook titles do allright with it.

On a slightly parenthetical note, I've been giving some thought to writing an ebook about affiliate marketing. I've read some of the major ones, and I suspect that I might actually be able to add a different perspective. Most affiliate marketing books I've read have been overly promotional and short on actual content. (Although Martell's book and Rosalind Gardner's books are both pretty good on the content side of things.) But I might enjoy writing, and someone might enjoy reading, some content on how to be an affiliate webmaster and be proud of what you're doing because you're adding value to the internet community instead of just getting a quick paycheck.

A friend of mine wrote on an affiliate marketing board I frequent that one of the most common mistakes in affiliate marketing is having too little respect for your visitors and customers, and another is trying to make as much money as you can in a week or else you'll die. (I think I'm paraphrasing a little bit.) How true. That about sums up why I'm not using affiliate links in my ebook reviews--I have too much respect for the readers of this blog, and no need to make as much money as I can in a week. I want to make a lot of money over the next year or two or five instead. And to do that, I need readers who trust me and come back to the site time and again.

And the easiest way to develop trust is to be trustworthy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

CAP Spring Break - Miami Beach 2005

I'll be joining some other webmasters at the CAP Spring Break even in Miami this weekend. My wife and I haven't been anywhere together since we got married 3 years ago, so this is sort of like a honeymoon for us. The point is that I won't be blogging quite as much while I'm in sunny Miami. Although I probably will post some pictures and stuff when I get back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Review of Google Cash by Chris Carpenter

I owe Chris Carpenter and his GoogleCash ebook a great debt. Google Cash was the catalyst that enabled me to leave my day job and become a full time internet marketer. The book was published online in 2004 and has spawned a couple of imitators, but it's also spawned an entire army of people using the Google Cash system to make money online. I'm not sure the Chris Carpenter was entirely aware of the effect he would have on internet marketing.

In brief, here's the Google Cash plan of action: you create Google Adwords promoting companies that have affiliate agreements. You send the traffic directly to your affiliate link, rather than having a link to the affiliate merchant on your website. You track your ROI very closely. You absolutely must know how much you're making per click and how much you're spending per click so that you'll be able to maximize the profitability of your ad campaigns. It's a good system, and on the surface, it seems pretty easy.

But some things have changed in the internet marketing world since the initial publication of Google Cash. One major change is the increased amount of competition on Google for keywords. When GoogleCash was written in 2003, it was fairly easy to find a profitable product to promote where you could get on the first page of Google results paying only a nickel a click. Now that several thousand people have read Carpenter's ebook, your competition for profitable niches has become much higher.

Another major change in the industry is Google's new rule about showing a particular display URL more than once in their sponsored results. At one time, you could find 7 or 8 ads all for the same company in the results of some searches. That's no longer possible, since Google's new policy is to only show each URL once for a search. If multiple ads are running that go to the same URL, the ad with the best click-through ratio times cost per click is the ad that gets shown, and the other ads are not shown.

This is not to say that Google Cash is no longer a workable system. In fact, there is quite a bit of support at Adword Mentor in the discussion forum there. The system definitely requires some tweaking now. For one thing, if you want to make sure that your ad is going to show up, you'll more than likely need enough web knowledge to at least be able to create a landing page for the program that gets high click-through's and conversions. A couple of hours spent reading a basic Frontpage tutorial should be enough to get you through this part.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most profitable niches are extremely competitive, so in order to make money, you really need to focus on creating a huge list of what are called "longtail" keyword phrases. You're going to be much better off and make much more profit with the Google Cash system if you have 1000 longtail phrases picking up 5 clickthrough's a month at a nickel each than you will if have you 10 competitive keyword phrases picking up 500 clickthrough's each at a dollar a click. (Do the math and you'll understand why.)

The only real criticism I have of Google Cash is that they make the same mistake that so many other ebooks make: they make it sound like making money with affiliate programs is super easy and requires little effort. In fact, affiliate marketing can be difficult and frustrating, and it can require a lot of effort in order to be worthwhile. There is less hype surrounding this "get rich quick" mentality with Google Cash, but there are still enough hints of it surrounding the book that it's worth mentioning. I also think that, like most ebooks, it's overpriced at $49, but at the same time, if you learn one distinction or one new technique that you weren't already aware of, you could easily make that $49 back in a day or two.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Lifetime Commission Affiliate Program Directory

Lifetime Commissions is a site run by Glennys Faulds, who is an associate of Allan Gardyne's. Glennys also runs Pay Per Click Search Engines, and Allan is well known for Associate Programs. Lifetime commissions is an interesting site because it's a directory of affiliate programs who pay commissions for the life of the customer. It's an interesting and good business model, especially if you're a big fan of ongoing revenue streams.

Lifetime Commissions includes an affiliate tutorial which is well thought out and well written by Allan himself. The directory of affiliate programs that pay lifetime commissions is organized by categories like autoresponders, education, dating, and domain names, to name a few. There's also a category for the top 3 programs, which are listed as Sitesell's Five Pillar Program, the Secrets to Their Success program, and

I'm only peripherally familiar with the first two programs, and I'm not at all familiar with the third program. BUT the 2nd program, Secrets to Their Success sounds really interesting to me as a customer and I might get a subscription to that one. According to the description at Lifetime Commissions, Secrets to Their Success includes archived interviews with mom and pop websites that earn over $100,000 a year through their web businesses. This is the kind of heavy content original website that earns money day-in and day-out on the web. I'll probably check it out and add a review of it here in a couple of days.

Heck--I might even sign up for their affiliate program. They pay $6 a month on all memberships you sign up as long as the membership is still active, which isn't bad.

On a slightly paranthetical note, I've promoted some dating affiliate programs and a couple of adult programs which were monthly-fee membership based that would be considered lifetime commission programs, and I liked promoting them. Most gambling affiliate programs are lifetime commission programs too if you opt to go for the monthly revenue share option instead of the CPA option.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Mini Site Profits Ebook Review - Phil Wiley

I bought a copy of the Mini Site Profits ebook today from Phil Wiley for $67. One situation I've seen when searching for a review or any discussion of any online marketing ebooks is that they're almost always just sales letters for the ebook rather than an actual review of it. I'm a Clickbank affiliate, but I am not promoting a link to Mini Site Profits. This is an honest review from a real affiliate webmaster in the business.

What I Liked About Mini Site Profits

The strategy outlined in Mini Site Profits is a clear and easily accomplished strategy. I suspect that some of Google Cash's inspiration came from this ebook, and it's entirely possible that with the recent changes in Adwords policies at Google that people are running back to Mini Site Profits for reference in a world where you can no longer buy traffic and send it directly to a merchant.

The core idea of the book is that you can build a mini site in a short period of time and create profits from it, especially if you do a great job of preselling the product. A minisite is defined in this book as a site that sells only one product or promotes only one affiliate program. Wiley sub-divides these mini-sites into micro mini sites, mini themed content sites, and value added mini sites. He gives a formular for creating mini-sites that do a great job of preselling affiliate programs, but I won't go into detail about that here other than to say that it might apply to some products but it could very easily not be appropriate for other products.

What I Would Change About Minisite Profits

Mini Site Profits was apparently published originally in 2001 which makes the ebook almost five years old. Unfortunately, in the affiliate marketing business, information can grow dated very quickly, and that would be my major criticism of this ebook. The information on search engine optimization is clearly dated--in fact there are several references to, which of course no longer exists. There are other references to smaller PPC engines that are no longer in operation.

What was most disappointing were the example sites, the majority of which are no longer online. I understand that ebooks are sometimes a product of when they're written, but when paying $67 for internet marketing information, you hope to find something that's been updated. Some great examples of ebooks that are constantly being updated are Aaron Wall's SEO Book, Planet Ocean's Unfair Advantage, and James Martell's Affiliate Handbook.

There are screenshots of some of the example minisites in both the examples section of the book and in the success stories section of the book, but many of the example websites are no longer online. This makes me question the effectiveness of the Minisite strategy. If it was a strong internet marketing strategy, I'd think most of those sites would be too profitable to let fall by the wayside. Or at least the majority of them would be. (That being said, I can understand that situations change, and a product that would be available and popular at one time might well become unavailable and not-so-popular later.)


To be a really worthwhile value, Mini Site Profits would need to be completely updated with example sites that are still live and with information about search engines that is current and up to date. I do not recommend this book at a price of $67, although if you're a raw beginner, you may find some value within. I think Google Cash would be an ideal value if you did decide to buy this book as a companion volume to it. The synergy of the Google Cash techniques and the Mini Site strategies might make a very good start to an online business for you. But if you have the money to spend, I recommend going with another product like Sitesell, James Martell's book, or even a good seo book and/or a Webmasterworld supporters subscription.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Narrow Niche Market or Competitive Keyword Phrase

Traditional wisdom in affiliate marketing is that a new webmaster should target a small niche that doesn't have a lot of competition. Reasons for this probably include the self-confidence that getting quick traffic and revenue brings. It also possibly includes the thinking that a narrow niche is going to convert better and be a lot easier to get market share in. But I question traditional wisdom about everything when I can.

Competitive markets include things like web-hosting, online dating, travel, poker, mortgages, etc. Essentially anything with a high profit margin is generally pretty competitive, especially when it comes to picking up search engine traffic. Traditional wisdom has it that a new affiliate webmaster can't penetrate these markets because of the high levels of competition for them. I have a different opinion about this. I think that the best thing an aspiring webmaster and SEO can do is target the high competition phrases.

Here's why. I cut my teeth in the affiliate marketing business on the gambling industry. Nothing is more competitive than online gambling, online casinos, and online poker. Again, mostly because it's so profitable. But as a result of learning how to get SERP's in such a competitve niche, I'm now a skilled enough amateur SEO that I can pick up good SERP's for almost any keyword phrase I want, especially if it's a fairly non-competitive phrase. And that means money in the bank.

Here's something else to think about. If you want to be a great poker player, or chess player, or golfer, are you going to play constantly against the worst players you can find? Or are you going to get your ass kicked over and over again by playing the best out there? Olympic athletes become Olympic athletes by training hard, not by competing against wimps.

Should you target a non-competitive niche for your first affiliate site? Sure, if you want to. But you should also consider starting a site that targets something really competitive and profitable, just to see what you can learn from the experience.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

New SEO Blog from the Folks at OptiLink; Gambling Lawsuit

Optismarts is the new SEO blog from Optilink. I used Optilink a few times when I first started. I haven't used it lately, but it's a great software for doing link research and finding new link partners. So far the blog looks pretty good; I definitely like the style.

Not related to the previous paragraph, there's a class action lawsuit against Google, Yahoo, Overture,, et al regarding online gambling in California. You can read the article in the Las Vegas Sun and also read the actual text of the filing here. This lawsuit was not good news when it was filed, and it's bad news now that the courts have refused to dismiss it. I'll be sure to update the blog with additional info if and when I have it.

And a final note about weblog networks. There are two notable ones out there right now, WebLogs Inc and Weblog Empire. I have aspirations in this area too. (This little site being one of my own forays into the world of attempting to generate an income by blogging.)

Keyword Price Index Drops 15%

Marketing Vox keeps a keyword index which measures the average keyword price for online advertising, sortuva stock market type index which measures advertising revenue. According to them, the average keyword price has dropped 15% month over month from April to May. Much of this drop is attributed to changes in the mortgage industry.

This is probably of interest to affiliate marketers for a couple of reasons. I might be an opportunity to pick up some mortgage related keywords at a bargain. Or it might be an indicator that now's not a good time to launch a mortgage related affiliate site.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Affiliate Quiz: Do You Have What It Takes to be an Affiliate Marketer?

Are you thinking about trying to make money as an affiliate marketer, but you're not sure it's for you? Here's a quick quiz I dreamed up to help you answer the question for yourself. Scoring information after the quiz.
  1. Do you work hard? (Be honest.)
  2. Do you enjoy working?
  3. Do you believe in the slow and steady approach to making money?
  4. Do you save money on a regular basis?
  5. Do you know or are you willing to learn html?
  6. Do you know or are you willing to learn to write well?
  7. If you fail at something, are you willing to try again? And then try again if you fail at the next thing? And then try again if you fail at the next thing again?
  8. Do you have enough money saved to live for six months without an income?
  9. Do you keep a to-do list?
  10. Do you read a lot?

Give yourself 1 point for each "yes" answer and 0 points for each "no" answer. If you score below a "5", then affiliate marketing is probably not for you. If you scored a 6 or 7, then you might make it as an affiliate marketer, but you've got some challenges to overcome. If you scored an 8 or above, then you've probably got what it takes to work as an affiliate webmaster and make some decent money.

About the questions.

  1. Do you work hard? If you're not willing to work hard, then you will not be successful as an affiliate marketer unless you're really good at delegating responsibility and you have a lot of money available to you for outsourcing.
  2. Do you enjoy working? Affiliate marketing is not an easy road to riches, and it's not for people who hate working. You get to set your own hours, but to be successful and stay successful, you absolutely must be willing to work hard and like it.
  3. Do you believe in the slow and steady approach to making money? You might be able to make a quick buck in affiliate marketing if you're the type that doesn't mind spamming blogs and autogenerating tons of bogus content, but those techniques don't work nearly as well as gradually building quality content and links over time and enjoying the benefits of that type of traffic. And if you want to make a lot of money with affiliate programs, the best way to do that is to be a long term success.
  4. Do you save money on a regular basis? If you're an affiliate marketer, you are self-employed. If you can't save money on a regular basis, you won't be able to pay your income taxes or ever retire. Neither are good for a self-employed person.
  5. Do you know or are you willing to learn html? While it's not strictly necessary, knowing html is extremely helpful if you're going to be an affiliate webmaster. The more you know, the more you'll make.
  6. Do you know or are you willing to learn to write well? This is another of those items that you can outsource if you have to, but you'll make a lot more money if you're able to do it yourself.
  7. If you fail at something, are you willing to try again? Not every website will work. Not every affiliate program will make you money. If you quit because something doesn't work, you're not going to make it as an affiliate webmaster unless you're very lucky.
  8. Do you have enough money saved to live for six months without an income? If you don't, you're going to need to keep working a day job, which will cut into the amount of time and energy you'll have to run your affiliate business. It can be done, but it's not easy and it takes more of a toll on you.
  9. Do you keep a to-do list? When you start making money from affiliate websites, you're going to start having ideas about how to make more money. You'll think of content to generate, places to find links, and new niches to explore. If you don't keep a to-do list, you'll forget and/or lose some of these valuable ideas.
  10. Do you read a lot? It's important to keep abreast of what's going on in SEO (search engine optimization) if you're going to succeed as an affiliate webmaster. To be able to do that, you're going to need to read SEO blogs and forums. You'll need to read until your eyes hurt. You should also be reading a daily newspaper, a weekly news magazine, and several monthly magazines that you're interested in, and also various books about subjects that interest you. This will keep you thinking three-dimensional and keep ideas about trends that will affect your marketing flowing.

White Tank Top Lover

To me, this is a brilliant example of a narrow niche site. An Ode to White Tank Tops

Why is this of interest to me as an affiliate marketer? It's interesting to me because it's as narrow a niche as I've ever seen, and it's probably the definitive resource for that niche. They're not currently running any affiliate advertising that I can see, but they could easily be running affiliate ads for Adult Friend Finder or even one of the other online dating sites that offer "steamy" ads. And of course, they could run Adsense on these pages if they wanted to.

I'm not even sure why this particular person decided to run this on a Geocities site, but I love the concept. It's a site full of picture of beautiful celebs and models wearing white tank tops. (I think there might have been a photo or two that might be considered offensive, so if you're particularly prudish, stay away.

What are you interested in that could turn into a narrow niche site that makes money? Take something general and competitive, and add an adjective or two to narrow down the niche. Maybe you're a professional wrestling fan. But maybe you really LOVE the wrestling figures from the 1970's. Write a website profiling the biggest names in wrestling from the 1970s' and make it the most definitive site on 1970's professional wrestling out there. I guarantee it would make money, and there are probably as many ideas out there as I have readers, and then some.

(Interestingly enough, I did some more looking around on the website, and it turns out that it's run by a woman. Looks like she hasn't done any updates or made any changes in a couple of years.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Google Search Result Quality Evaluators

This post should be required reading for any webmaster who wants to receive Google traffic over the next few years. It pretty clearly describes in detail what Google search quality evaluators are looking for in a website when determining whether or not it's a quality website. Of course, if you stop to think about it, most of the criteria are common sense and unremarkable: create quality content that adds value to the web experience of the user.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about that concept is that so few webmasters are actually willing to do such a thing. The web is full of low-quality sites full of banner advertising and affiliate links without any original content. I've often said that in the long run, the health and well-being of the web are what's at stake when you launch 1000's of spammy pages. If you destroy the internet user's experience by providing tons of advertising with no useful content, then you'll eventually destroy that entire marketing channel.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Ken Evoy, Sitesell, and Site Build It

Ken Evoy is the marketing guru behind Site Build It, which is a remarkably hyped and marketed tool for beginning affiliate webmasters to build their own affiliate site. If you're someone who doesn't know html or Frontpage, and you're not sure how to get started, then Site Build It is designed to take all the hard technical work out of the equation through you. Ken Evoy offers a whole range of tools in order to help an affiliate marketer make the most out of her Site Build It website.

Site Build It includes keyword research tools, brainstorming tools, on-page SEO tools, and site-building and hosting tools. The idea behind the Ken Evoy's Site Build It affiliate plan is actually pretty simple, and you don't necessarily need the tool in order to achieve success as an affiliate marketer. James Martell's system works too, and traditional content website design and for that matter blogging will also do the job. But the plan for SBI works like this:

You brainstorm things that you're interested in and might be able to write content about. You then research keywords. Then research affiliate programs related to your keywords. You write your content, then paste it into the Site Built It tool and publish your site to the web. You pay attention to the results you're getting, and then make changes to your strategy based on those results.

I've not personally used Site Built It, and I'm not one of Ken Evoy's affiliates. But I have watched the Site Build It fourm at Associate Programs, and I've seen several example sites. Based on everything I've seen, Site Built It is a product that I would like to try for myself at some point. The only drawback I've seen is that most SBI sites have similar looks and feels, although that's a minor point. After all, most blogs have similar looks and feels, but people still write them, and they still do well.

Site Build It offers an affiliate program that's highly recommended, but I'm trying to minimize the actual number of products that I'm promoting here in the blog, and trying to focus on providing well thought out content that's useful to people. The monetization will happen almost by itself, I think.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Getting Backlinks to your Website

Getting people to your site invariably involves getting backlinks to your website, both for the traffic those backlinks bring, and for the better search engine results you'll see from having those backlinks. I've been studying and thinking about linking and link building for quite a while now, and I've got some strategies that I use to get links to my sites that I think are well worth using.
  • Isssue a press release announcing your site's launch. Naturally you'll include the name of your site and a link to the site in your press release.
  • Submit to some of the better quality directories on the internet. You can find lists of web directories in a lot of places, but try Strongest Links --they have a solid list of directories available there. Also, be sure to look at the quality of the sites listed in the directory, and don't bother listing with a directory that is obviously listing any site willing to cough up a listing fee.
  • Write articles and submit them to free articles sites.
  • Trade links with other quality sites related to your niche.
  • Join forums related to your niche and include links to your website in your signature line.
  • Make legitimate comments in blogs related to your niche.

Things not to do in order to get backlinks to your site:

  • Spam blogs.
  • Spam forums.
  • Join link farms or free for all pages.
  • Trade links with crappy sites with little or not content.
  • Send blatant form emails to every site and email address you can get your hands on requesting link trades.
  • Submit to crappy directories who list any site willing to pay their fees.

Any of the above can do a lot more to hurt your search engine rankings and traffic than it will potentially help your SERP's.

One final piece of advice: set goals, create an action plan with specific steps, and work the steps of your plan.