I have a new domain acquistion shorti.es .
Not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, ideas thus far are:
- URL shortening service shorti.es/ – a likely outcome
- An affiliate website for biscuits, namely shortbread – not very likely
- A random website for people in shorts to post photos online of themselves in um…shorts – even more unlikely
- A blog type thing with short stories. from budding wordsmiths – perhaps
- A website for people to buy stuff for little people – um, you just never know
That’s it, for now I can’t think of any others – maybe you can in the comments
Any niche can make money
I was on twitter earlier and saw a tweet from Patrick saying that you can’t earn a commission from a car blog.
Whilst I get what he is saying on the traditionally available content and relationship route (CJ.com ) etc, the reality is though that (IMO) you can of course, make money from virtually any subject all you need to do is create the relationships with the suppliers and do what you choose to do well.
It’s an interesting subject and very evident throughout most SERP’s. Successful blogs and sites with developed affiliate models are doing very well indeed, just go do a query for anything, you might find this site called ebay or moneysupermarket or amazon.
The great thing about online is that you don’t need a million quids worth of stock to earn a pound note, you just need to get the positions and add the value. The value add part being the hardest.
It could be interesting to explore it a little and see where it all goes. So let’s look at the thing and consider the sorts of questions someone should ask himself, what are his options, is it a closed playground, those kinds of things.
Local or Global – Macro or Micro Choosing a Start Point
Does he specialise and zoom on in to a particular facet of his target, or does he go broad and address a wider sphere? What will be his USP? How can he improve on what’s out there? Will he get a ROI? How long will it take? Will he lose his investment? Are just a few of the questions our imaginary Mr X would need to ask himself.
He might want to cast his net wide and have as broad a platform as he could. Let’s say he has a blog or a site where he talks about eggs. He talks about the sizes, the types, the suppliers, the politics, the news items, the market, the industry in general. As part of this offering, he might also set up up a little egg wholesaler directory of suppliers categorised into localities and specialisms and discuss the relative merits of each, giving suppliers an option to appear high or low in the offering for a small fee.
Sooner or later he’ll have a resource that’s textually rich. He’d soon find his site ranking for related phrases like “Egg wholesaler location”. Once he’d attained the rankings, it’ wouldn’t be so difficult to persuade people of the benefits of paying that little extra fro a premium slot. Newspapers and offline media do it that way everyday, it’s worked well for decades. Pixel space versus column inches, there’s very little difference, it’s about bums on seats and eyes on the message.
Alternatively, he might want to keep it all reasonably tight, focusing on a sub aspect of it all. He might want to develop the whole agricultural angle; developing relationships with farmers, the impact on prices through drought affecting crop yield, the environment, animal welfare. Drawing stories and strands globally, through the creation of forums and community tools, enabling producers to share and debate ideas and topics and ethics and what not.
Whatever he decided, if he done it well, injecting passion ,enthusiasm and added value to the space for those people with the need, he’d soon find himself earning money.
I picked eggs as an example as it is a topic that on the face of it, isn’t that interesting to most people so is probably a whole lot harder to monetise than most. It’s probably a whole lot more fun to look at something that’s closer to home or perhaps easier to think of in terms of practical everyday applications with mass appeal.
Developing the offering and doing things better than your competitors
A look at any vertical out there will show you that there are various levels of maturity. Take forex or finance as an extreme example and you’ll see that it’s a very developed space. Loans, stocks, shares and trading is one of those areas that offer huge potentials for return with lots of products and offerings. Content that empowers investment decisions is one of those premium facets that people pay for, people want choice, people want options, they like to feel in control of their purchasing decisions; a site that assists in that process is a definite asset.
I like the mybuilder.com idea, it’s a great site to use as an example in illustrating this point. A very simple concept, attempting to answer a question that’s asked a 1000 times a day by a 1000 different people worldwide. “Do you know where I can find a good, painter, decorator, plasterer, tiler etc?”. This site puts people in touch with tradespersons who can bid for jobs and services, read reviews of their work and find answers to their needs. Give it a few months, with the right SEO and they’ll be ranking for terms like “where can i find a plasterer in london?” and other such questions.
It’s very niche, very targetted and very useful – Whilst the gumtrees and the craigslists of this world have their place, much of what they offer is presented poorly or just too damn anonymous to be trusted. People want to have confidence in an offering after all, no one wants to get burned.
A look at the search volume for related terms is kind of tricky to measure definitely (people search in diverse ways) but to keep it general there is obvious volume out there for related terms
If they were to buy this traffic on exact match from google then they’d be looking at these kinds of CPC’s. The table below shows CPC and volume data for UK specific traffic for the search term followed by location, so ‘builder in London’, ‘plumber in london’ etc.
Multiply these globally and add in a little phrase variances and the potential for such a tool becomes a little more obvious for all stakeholders, owner, service provider and user.
At the moment, gumtree and craigslist get the volume for these searches (dependant upon locale and query) , simply because they’ve been around longer and have better authority scores and link citations. Yet a look at the difference in offering shows a huge disparity between what is presented SERP wise and what is known to be out there.
Search for Builder in London and Google gives you lots of choice, but not very much else to go on. The sites it returns are a mix of local results (google local) and other basic one service offering type business, directories or advertorial services. This isn’t a bash Google type post, I’ll save that for another day; however what I’m trying to say is that in terms of what is presented, the options are still limited. There are no ‘confidence’ builders, there isn’t anything in that SERP to differentiate a poor service provider from a good one. I’m still left to do the whole research and due diligence thing myself.
A click through to Gumtree shows a random offering of things. Various providers, but nothing that really installs any confidence, nothing to make me think, cool – I’d have to email them and ask them questions and ask them for references and do all the usual due diligence.
The type of site that I’d like to see there isn’t there though, I just happen to be lucky in that I know it exists already.
The Mybuilder.com site is far superior in that enables people to sign up and register and offer their services and for people seeking such services to review and put out quotes for tender. I can select by area or service type and I get an ebay style profile page with reviews and feedback and price guides and various other bits of information that I’d use to help inform a decision.
Confidence is increased and as a result I’m more likely to purchase or enquire.
So what am I saying? Without sounding like an advert for mybuilder.com, I am saying that within the SERPS there are hundreds upon hundreds of opportunities to do things better and succeed. Mybuilder.com has taken a commonly asked question and developed the idea further, fulfilling the need that exists.
Go ask any lazy travel affiliate marketer out there today about Google and bar raising and you’ll get a good idea of the facts around how you just can’t afford to lay back and rest on your laurels. You have to keep pushing the technology, you have to offer service and usability over and above those of your competitors because if you don’t then you are just a click away from some SERP evaluators death clicks somewhere, and heh, if you need an idea then maybe you can go to Y! answers for inspiration (caution contains potentially offensive textual material of the dumbest kind)
Agree with what I say? Disagree even? Do feel free to comment. 🙂
There’s more than one route to the chip shop
Against the backdrop of a bunch of negative posts about bloggers and Google and their general anti blogger behaviour, I thought it might be useful to just touch on a method or two that I’ve not discussed here so much that might just help fill the void for those worried about any further actions from the Google monster down the line.
If you are worried about getting hit more than you already have, then this could be a post for you.
Before the meat and potatoes though, I just wanted to add a few words on some of the nonsense and hypocrisy on all of this. The bottom line is do what is right for you and your blog. Don’t get too caught up in safe theories. Weigh it all up and decide what is right for you and go for it.
It is my opinion that the next stage of the Google actions could possibly be a dumping of ranking ability or a removal from their index of bloggers who promote advertisers via the use of advertorials with KW rich anchor text.
I don’t think that it really matters if a company invents a new metric and calls it something new as ultimately savvy advertisers will know that at the end of the day, a good dofollow link is still a good dofollow link.
The creation of new metrics as a buy in tool does virtually nothing to reduce the impact on any text link dependent algorithm of 10’s of 1000’s of bloggers writing about 1000’s of different topics so IMO, I can’t really see how Google or any other company dependent in this way can publicly stand by and do nothing…well it could, but I think it unlikely, especially when word gets round that advertisers using this method are seeing a good ROI. Google will not only be exposed to arguments that say that their algorithmic index is corrupted by paid advertising, they will also see a potential loss of income as advertising dollars are diverted to alternative more cost effective streams.
Yet in the same breath, it’s kinda funny that when you think that virtually every single page in any competitive KW SERP is in some way there by virtue of a paid leg up from some tech savvy SEO, then you do begin to smile and see the inconstancies of any defence.
The perceived distinction between their algorithmic results and their paid ads is as important today as it was when they first started, if that perception is diluted, and their SERPs actually become more relevant into the bargain, then the urge to click those ads might just diminish too.
Google like to insist with their mantra that so long as it is of quality and of use to their users, then ultimately they are happy to send traffic to people in search of good on topic stuff. I’ll leave you to work out why the same can’t be said for bloggers being paid to write about on topic services and products for companies. It seems like it’s ok for a company to use an SEO or SEO methods to boost themselves up the SERPs, yet not ok for individual bloggers to enagage in actions that help do the same.
Be they paid blogger or paid SEO, both have the same outcome, potentially. The only difference is that someone somewhere decided that the paid blogger route had a greater potential for loss of advertising income.
Where to go to next for your blogging pennies and dollars?
So, you’ve tried adsense, you saw that it sucked for your blog, you’ve looked at Kontera and Bidvertiser and Adbrite and Ebay and all the other bunch of stuff out there that’s vaunted as a good way of earning money and found that without adequate traffic levels it just hasn’t paid, what next? Where to go?
Niche affiliate blogging
In this blog here I talked about how we all have our interests in life, every single one of us. In virtually every area of life there is a product or service that could be of benefit in some way. It’s how we humans work, we like to do stuff and we like to have tools and things to help us do it. Be it food, clothing, transport, love, toys…you get the picture I’m sure.
There are a literally 1000’s of affiliate programs out there today, with millions of products looking to be bought dissected and discussed, millions.
All you have to do is identify the products that interest you, or that you have a little knowledge about and write about them.
How you do that is entirely up to you. The trick is to be able to write about things in such a way that your visitors and readers will be inspired sufficiently to want to buy the product or use the service. What you want also, is for people to find your reviews in search engines too, write good stuff and people will link to it, it’s that simple. By getting people in ‘buy’ mode, you’ll be getting visitors who are actively seeking product reviews or the products themselves in the search engines. Search engines have no problem with affiliates, provided that they add value. An affiliate review or discussion of a service or product is one such way of adding value. You can do this via all manner of ways too, the only real block is the limits of your imagination.
Finding the right kinds of products and services
You could just go into your favourite search engine and type ‘product keyword’ affiliate program. You might get lucky too. You could also type into a search engine affiliate programs and take a chance with those you find, alternatively you could just sign up with one of the great ones that you know others have used and are reliable. I guess this is where I come in and get to recommend 2 that I’ve used that not only have a fantastic range of items, but have actually paid out too. In other words, they are a safe bet.
It’s very simple, both offer a similar route. In short, you search for a product or brand that you wish to discuss, apply to the program, and wait to see if you are accepted. Once accepted, you can choose from their inventories and discuss whatever product it is you wish to write about. In most cases you are paid if a visitor from your page clicks through to their page and performs a pay trigger action. A pay trigger action could take the form of a sign up, a lead generation or a sale.
You get a choice in terms of what you put on your pages.
An upshot is that you can still make money from your blog and you don’t have to be reliant on programs that could jeopardise your blog or content long term through clashing with some search engine monolith.
A downside is that you ‘ll need to take into account that if you are too brand specific then you could find that at some point down the road the brand has left the program or that the product no longer exists. It’s one of the reasons why I’d sugest going with a big provider like those mentioned as both have great tools and a wide segment of markets.
Keeping your readers happy
I think it also needs to be said that you have to think about your readers too. If you suddenly start writing a load of shitty stuff about products that bore the pants off of people then you’ll quickly see a big exodus and lose the very essence of what attracted people to you at the outset. Perhaps a good initial approach would be to allocate say one post per week to a product or service, or a 80/20 split between what you usually say and what you are reviewing.
If you are smart then you should be able to take an idea and put a different spin on it. The last thing you want to do is create some thing that is very little other than some snooze inducing advertorial.
Take this post from a Perfume Gift blog and you’ll see how the writer has injected a little humour and supplemental content to discuss a product called love scent pheromone. It doesn’t just say, ‘buy this love scent pheromone product ‘ expecting the sales to rock on in, no, it attempts to get behind the science and explore the whole phenomenum a little, making it all a little more appealing than it perhaps may be. Laughter and mirth are much underrated selling tools. Another good example of a niche blog is Darren Rowse’s Photography Blog there are lots of others too, I’m sure you’ve encountered them along your travels.
The bottom line is that if you can retain your style and add a new angle adding value into the process, then you can suceed in doing well with this stuff and making yourself some good money online. We live in a world built on commissions and kickbacks and %’s, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.
Blogging for profit?
Ok, not everyone wants to monetise their blog – some people equate money and blogging as some kind of dirty word almost. Some people still like to write for the hell of it and couldn’t really give a rats arse for any kind of monetary payback. Their payback is the reward that comes from getting people involved or simply venting their spleen on a topic near and dear to them.
Its not for me to pour scorn on any money hating anti capitalistic mindset, we can all rant and rave about market inequalities and the evils of money until the cows come home, yet nothing changes the reality of life, which is, we all need the stuff and to have a productive life, we tend to get out and find ways of acquiring it. The easier that task the better no? why work for the man, when you don’t have to, or at least not as hard maybe.
Earning yourself a passive income stream
Blogging and monetising that writing is an excellent way of creating passive streams of income. Passive streams of income are like bank accounts with lots of dosh in them. You get interest monthly and you don’t have to do very much for it.
Getting affiliate cheques every month is quite a pleasant feeling, trust me. 😀
Blogging for profit isn’t like traditional methods of selling ones labour. You can actually own the means of production, which is you, yourself and sell yourself as that product. Decide upon how much you charge, how much you are paid, when you take your breaks. IOW, it really has the potential to free you from traditional forms of work. Your traffic and authority levels can truly give you what you need. All you have to do is do the leg work and build something of value.
Blog Optimisation Experimentation and Cultivating your Niche
So, having tentatively established that there isn’t anything really evil about making money from your blog/s I just wanted to share some of the programs Ive used and see if I could get a little feedback from people with regard to their own experiences.
We all know that there are lots of ways of monetising ones blog. I’ve blogged on quite a few programs and have shared some of my experiences and gave opinions too. I’ve dabbled with paid reviews, and have recently added the buy me a beer plugin too, just to see if anyone actually uses the thing. After all it cost me $0.00 and took me 22 seconds to install. If I get one beer bought for me, I’m quids in 😀
It is very much early days for me. Many of my past web monetisation efforts have been in affiliate market sectors outside of the blogosphere. This is kinda cool though really, because Ive learnt a great deal about what it takes to get traffic and getting people to click through to stuff and funneling them along various paths which is absolutely central to any monetisation aim. I’m continually experimenting with the blogs I use and the methods I employ too, you have to, why wouldn’t you even, call it BO (Blog Optimisation) without any stink.
It’s a well known fact that some markets are definitely more lucrative than others. People also tend to guard their niches with their lives, as a saturated niche becomes that much harder to play in and compete with.
Every niche is different. Different people interact in different ways dependant upon what they are after. If you can ID those behaviours and tap them in to what you do and how and why you do it, then that’s a very good start in understanding what they are all about; as obvious as it is to say, it needs to be said nonetheless knowing your readership and giving them what they want is a key component in successfully monetising your blogging efforts. Sure, you can’t be all things to all men, but you can certainly be the populist and appeal to your greatest constituency.
Blog Monetization feedback
I put up a little poll recently and some of my readers have clicked on the ‘other’ option. Perhaps I should have added other options that covered the various sponsored blog type options that exist. Sponsored Reviews , Pay Per Post, ReviewMe then there is the buy-me-a beer thing that seems to have gotten people chin wagging all over the shop, ebay and Amazon, auctionAds, Azoogle and a few more I’ve probably forgotten about already.
I don’t have one to hand, but it would be kind of useful to have a list of all the various programs out there today and hear of peoples experiences with them. None of those check out my affiliate link type posts please, I’ll delete those in a heartbeat, but if you do have some experience of a program that you’ve used and are really happy with or sad with even! Then I’d love to hear all about it.
Maybe a quick Pros and Cons type comment even.
In parts one and two we looked at the initial database set up, inserting data into our database using csv and sql files, layout and content issues, relative to both using our database and how we can use other providers to both add value and gain additional income revenue; as well as url and navigational topics relative to getting the most from our page templates and site structure.
In this part we are going to look at a typical hotel content page and see how we can best maximise the data we have.
As we already know, we have a database that is made of two distinct tables. The tables have a number of fields that we are going to use to populate our page. Unlike the umbrella pages that we previously looked at, we are going to use all of the data we have to create a unique page for each hotel.
To recap we have a number of fields that can be loosely classified as follows
Easy come easy go…
It’s no news to say that the days of easy rankings with easy commissions are long gone. With some search engines, it just no longer works. Anyone, and lots are, can whack up a DB or add a feed from some central source. It’s child play, and from a search engine viewpoint its just not welcome. They’d be happy to kick yo ass as soon as look at ya, and who could reasonably blame them? You can have the most well linked, beautifully constructed site in the world full of some mythical kw density perfection, css’ed to the nth with elements positioned to the max, but if you aren’t saying anything new, then the chances are that things could get pretty serious pretty quickly. Search engine death could well become you. Sure, you’ll get spidered, but expect to go supplemental pretty quickly, and if that don’t happen then you might get extra lucky and get lumbered with a nice fat -31 ranking penalty.
Fat or thin?
Over the years, there’s been quite a bit of discussion on what constitutes a thin or a fat affiliate. Lets look at travel. Fat boys like tripadvisor for example, are flying with lots of top spots on a range of travel related kw’s whereas others are floundering.
I recall a time when for like, 4 or 5 years a particular little travel network absolutely kicked arse on all of the big 3, Google, Msn and Yahoo. Be it ‘hotel in town‘ or ‘town hotels’ these guys had top spots usually in the top 5 positions. They were nothing other than a well constructed, well linked network of affiliate feeds that did little other than pump out content that their suppliers provided. It really was an education to look at what these people had done. Their strategy was for the time, basically fab. They hosted a variety of big sites across a variety of IP’s. They mixed pages up with a mishmash of approaches doing things like varying page element factors, curtailing product description content, differing kw and kp densities, different navigational placement, text types, god you name it they’d factored it in one way or another, and it paid them big dividends. I guess really it was a day when it was all about getting as many pages into the search engine db’s as you possibly could. Their duplicate content filters were so underdeveloped that provided you did enough variation in the places that mattered, ie page naming, title tags, H tags general kw peppering here and there in your content spread etc, then you’d be pretty ok. In fact you got massively rewarded and could do some great stuff with inward link creation too. You didn’t have to worry about going out and sourcing zillions of links from here there and everywhere, you’d just create your own and ensure that they were appropriately placed and hidden across a network of unidentifiables, albeit in the sense of what the spider saw and registered at least!
A different breed of engine
Today of course, these guys are nowhere to be seen, at least not in any recognisable guise. Their network was nuked and they don’t rank for jack no more. Things like the Google eval team have given people using that particular strategy a short sharp shock.
New generation networks, if they hope to have sustainable long term SERP viability have to be a whole lot smarter in 007. Content feeds and databases, particularly with regard to outputting their contents within a site needs special attention – noindex tags, robot exclusion protocols really are serious considerations, to not do so could really be a huge folly. Drastic?,Perhaps so, but what with duplication filters and all, the question is one of almost can you afford not to?
Sure, there will always be those who look to employ methods for circumvention, all that lovely content is just too good to pass up on after all, right? Not sure about you, but I’ve seen all manner of interesting adaptations; things like replacing keywords and phrases programmatically so that an aspect of a phrase like um…this hotel is decorated to a fine standard is changed to read… this fine placename hotel is adorned to a splendid configuration instead, or variations upon that theme. I’ve seen sites that rank well by using contractions of product descriptions, eg chopping the first 40 characters from the phrase and outputting the remainding 180 chars. Ive seen others that just hide them all together, via a document.write or iframe method. Some go as far as employing people to write phantom reviews, and some even write programs that write reviews on the fly! It really is incredible to see the ingenuity and nous that people have with this stuff, it really is the most elegant of elegant of spamination. I think its fair to say that people do this because they realise that things may well be tenuous, they know that unless you are whitelisted then you need to tread very carefully as your income stream is very precarious.
As simple as adding value then…
Perhaps its simple though, isn’t it all about thinking in terms of adding value, going above and beyond what your competitors are doing, seriously asking yourself will you be able to pass some random manual inspection, which lets face it, if you are ranking in a competitive earning space, you are likely to receive sooner or later. You’d be an idiot for thinking that just because you managed to outwit the bot via some clever use of string functions, or tag placement or link generation that a human wouldn’t pick up and notice something amiss.It isn’t unreasonable to assume they’d ask whether your site handles all the look up processes – Does it check for availability – Are the payments handled insite, or do they go off elsewhere?- They’d see through a hidden frame or include or some obfuscated url redirect, you just will not be able to get away with what you once did, and if you think you will then, i wish i could share your complacency, as any serious examination of what you do would look at exactly some of these things.
On the positive, some of the better providers and networks do offer more advanced solutions of course, this helps insulate both them and their partners and is basic good business sense, but lots don’t too and for those who are getting hit via various penalties resulting, its a bit of a shame at best and a damn tragic waste at worst.
Should these guys be helping their income generators in this way?
If you are a search rep then you’d prolly say no, it sucks and doesn’t help in the goal of delivering varied unique content, but OTOH why would any big supplier expose themselves to the vagueries of singular url streams of income that could be cut off at the whim of a policy shift. I know what I’d say of course, I go with the majority scatter and seed approach. Watch the darwinian process evolve and reward my best performers. I’d also help nurture and protect newcomers too, my future top performers. Give them tools to get their users interacting, enable the creation of communities, feedback tools, make it all that little bit different, employ advisors to help steer and encourage and generally add value all round, but I guess i’m me, and not some multi layered corp that moves real slow.
I’ve used travel as its any easy example to flesh out and one that I’m at least familiar with. I do wonder whether other sectors face similar challenges; I expect they do no doubt to both lesser and greater extents, especially in some of the mass product markets. It would be great to read some inputs, feel free to call me out!