Start with why…

I recently attended Comms By The Coast in Brighton and whilst there were lots of interesting speakers and presentations this video struck a chord with me the most.

“Start With Why” is a TED talk by Simon Simek and I’m going to leave you to watch the video and then be filled with self doubt about why you actually do a lot of what you do!

Stirrings at Ramsgate Port?

From the look of these photos sent in by one of my readers (taken at 1:20pm today) it does look like there are some things going on down at the port of Ramsgate to suggest that it is getting ready for Euroferries to start their service. New check-in/security cabins  have been delivered and there is also new signage which shows check-in signs for cars, coaches, and freight. The fact that there is a sign for coaches implies that this is indeed for Euroferries as to my knowledge this is not something that Transeuropa Ferries offer although the freight would indeed be a sign for them.

4112721758_d8d97d986e_o-9682051 Check-in/Security Cabins Check-in signs

These signs haven’t been put -up yet, and so there is no indication for when the service will start, but are a good sign (excuse the pun)  that the port is getting prepared for that time. You can see a few more photos here.

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Updating this blog

This blog really is a bit boring isn’t it? It’s typical that I can put so much time and effort into making other websites but when it comes to my own I opt for the default template and zero character.

I have tried to have a play with the theme and if you have visited over the past couple of weeks you will have noticed some different themes in use but they didn’t really do anything for me. I think I just need to sit down, decide what I want from this site, and actually put some work into it which sounds easy when I’m just typing here.

How nice does this site look? Clean, simple, and concise. I think my problem is that I don’t actually know what my blog is about. It started off as a personal blog, then a blog about Ramsgate where I was desperate for content and visitors, and now it’s shifted to me reporting on my online ventures with niche sites. With over 7 years worth of archives it’s hard to know what to do.

Most of my spare time online is spent researching passive income and finding ways I can increase my earnings outside of my 9-5 job and I think this is where the site has to go next. So the plan is:

  • New site structure
  • New theme
  • Better content

If I can monetise this site then that will be an added bonus but I will do this in a smart way so as not to be too in your face.

Is that a deal then? Watch this space.

ITV is too bloated and needs to change

It was announced today that ITV are planning to cut jobs and costs after it reported a loss of £2.7bn for 2008. The majority of  this is due to the write-down in the value of it’s assets, and they are also blaming a drop in advertising revenue, but I’m sure there is a much deeper problem to all this…. ITV is crap.

I can honestly say that I never watch any of the ITV channels unless they is a local programme of interest or if there is some live sport on. This is my total viewing of ITV1, ITV2, ITV3,  ITV4, and CiTV… yes there really are five ITV channels and what is there actually to broadcast on all of these? Gone are the times of the bloated 90s and early 00s when companies would expand beyond their needs just because they could, and now that the bubble has burst all the squandering and wasting of money is becoming public, just like in the banking market.

We live in a capitalist society and I accept that companies can grow, expand, push-the envelope, but with that and the risks associated, they have to understand that there will be a point when they stretch themselves too far, and it takes a ‘simple’ economic downturn to expose the weak foundations it was all build on.

Of course I feel for those that will lose their jobs, or communities affected by closures of businesses, we’re not just talking about ITV here, but there have to be failures and there always will be failures, but we should from these and restructure. ITV got too bloated, the quality of programmes got too diluted, and now it’s time to downsize and restructure.

ITV is the biggest commercial television network in the UK, broadcasting the most talked about television and making a major contribution to the UK’s culture, economy and communities.- www.itv.com/about

It shouldn’t be about ‘biggest’, ‘most’, ‘major’, it should be about doing your job properly. I know that ITV rely on advertising, where as the BBC of course get our licence fee money, but I am happy paying that due to the quality I get from the BBC. I can see that this going to start getting a little complicated and I’m not sure where I’m going now but at the end of the day ITV have to accept that they have to change, and hopefully they will use this opportunity to have a total rethink, cut the fat, and get back to “making a major contribution to the UK’s culture, economy and communities” and not just relying on cash-cows like X-factor to keep bailing them out.

Public Niche Site Project – Who’s In?

It’s usually pretty hard to get people to reveal their moneymaking websites publicly because it’s all too easy for someone else to come along rip-off your idea and content, and end up with you losing out on revenue. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve had it happen to me. Hell, I’ve even seen sites doing well and thought “I’ll have a bit of that action” and created a site in the same niche (but obviously with my own unique content).

At the end of the day it’s never good to share a site that is thin, offers little, and can be easily copied. If you don’t create a strong site then you’ll easily be pushed aside by others. I am tempted though to start my own niche site project. What do you think?

Pat from SmartPassiveIncome.com created his SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com site a few years ago and it’s grown into a site that regularly brings in at least $2,500 dollars a month from AdSense revenue. Nice eh? When he started disclosing how much he was earning there were many who tried to copy his site but they have never been able to match what he is doing.

Spencer from Niche Pursuits started his own public niche site last year and BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com is an affiliate site based on product links to Amazon. It’s not been going long and in March it earned around $80 and looks set to keep going and earn more.

Those are two example of two different types of website: Informative/Resource and Product/Review. Each has it’s merits and each has its potential pitfalls.

I have made more money by informative sites utilising AdSense than I have product sites using Amazon and that is partly because I find it harder to rank product sites on Google as it normally favours brands and places them higher in the rankings. That said in 2012 I did sell £20,000 worth of products through Amazon earning me £1,000 in affiliate referral fees so I don’t completely suck.

So I think I’ll start my own public niche site project and see how it goes. I’ll be doing everything from scratch and perhaps you can follow along with me? Is anyone up for making this a competition? Pop a comment below if you fancy taking part and let’s see if we can make some money!

The plan will be as follows:

  • Pick a keyword/product to target
  • Buy a domain
  • Build a site
  • Get content
  • Start ranking
  • Start earning

It sounds oh so simple doesn’t it? I can already say that I will be using Amazon to monetise the site as a bit of a challenge so I just need to start some research into what I can actually create a site about. hmmm. As I said if you want in on the action then just comment below and I will be completely public in everything I do. Sounds like fun eh?

My First Amazon Affiliate Sale

A lesson for everyone is that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, and with that advice I’ve been looking at trying to diversify my income streams from solely Google AdSense and create some new websites that focus on promoting Amazon products using affiliate links.

Most of my niche sites monetised through AdSense are promoting services etc and so moving onto sites that promote a physical product has been a change and initially I didn’t quite get it. My AdSense sites don’t require me to be a salesman. I write content, insert my Ad code and Google does the rest, but with Amazon products I need to promote the products well enough for people to not only click on the link but also make a purchase.

I’m happy to say that I made my first sale yesterday and will be receiving 5% of a £42.99 product which works out as £2.15 income. It’s not a massive amount but it’s still nice to know that someone out there appreciated my recommendation and bought that item and hopefully once I build up traffic I will get more sales. With more sales also comes a better percentage too.

As I mentioned earlier I found the transition from AdSense sites to Amazon sites quite hard and have made a couple of dud sites where my lack of focus and understanding of affiliate sales meant they haven’t succeeded, but I decided to purchase Chris Guthrie’s Niche Profit Course over the Christmas break to try and remedy that and I believe it was a great decision. I’ve read Chris’ blog for quite a while now so I know how successful he has been and was happy to make this investment.

Niche Profit Course provides step-by-step instructions in video format modules so you can build your own site from scratch.

Some of the information I already knew but I’m still learning and went through each module to build my new affiliate site. The real perks of the module are the free Azon Theme (retails at $77 on its own) and the live case studies where Chris reveals several of the sites he owns that are currently making money.

The Niche Profit Course costs $97 but a quick tip is that if you try and close the tab, you will get a pop-up offering $20 off so you can get the entire Niche Profit Course plus Free Azon Theme for only $77 which is less than £50.

So that’s my sales pitch done, but I have honestly found the course very useful and am sure that yesterday’s sale will be the first of many.

How are things with the niche sites?

I don’t post here that often but what seems to be the overriding theme normally is that I’ve not really done that much and I’m still earning money through my sites. Both of these remain mostly true although there are always peaks and dips in both with earnings and my productivity.

Anyone involved with SEO and Internet Marketing (IM) will have felt the pressure from Google over the past year with their constant algorithm changes, penalties, and what is seen as constant changing on the goalposts. What was correct last year is now frowned upon and this has seen many drop out from IM as they’ve seen their profits disappear. As I’ve always said this is a hobby of mine, I don’t depend on the money, and I have a full-time job, but the extra money comes in handy so I’m sticking to it and I’m still doing okay.

What have Google done?

Okay, so basically the majority of traffic to niche sites comes from Google and it used to be fairly easy to get your site ranking if you knew the game to play. Pick an exact match domain (EMD), put up some content, get a few links, and hey presto you had a top 10 site for your keyword. Google have removed the bonus that EMDs had in the rankings, penalised sites with poor backlinks, and penalised sites for the quality of their content, and with that it’s seen a lot of sites bomb.

Rightly or wrongly this has had a big effect on the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Positions) and whilst it has removed a lot of poor quality sites it has also taken some good ones along with it which is hard for those who have done everything right. Of course Google don’t owe us anything, and the way they are changing it may be that Google isn’t quite the place it started off as as they look towards their own profits.

How have I been effected?

With previous updates I’ve managed to get by as generally my content is of a high standards and unique, and I’ve never really build a huge amount of backlinks, so Panda and Penguin (Google Updates) have knocked me a bit but I’ve always managed to get up and get sites ranking again. Profits have fluctuated (see My Year in Niche Websites post) but I’ve always got back to where I’ve been earning and increased on it.

This has been true since I stopped publishing my income reports and Google’s EMD update knocked my back down and this month I have made just over £400 as opposed to just under £800 last month but I think I can get my sites earning more again soon.

Goodbye Amazon Associates

What the EMD update did was knock my big affiliate site off the SERPS and that went from earning £180-£200 a month to earning peanuts and that’s a bit sad and means I am solely relying on AdSense for my niche site income. If I’m honest with myself the site was quite thin but it was nice whilst it lasted and I don’t think I can get it ranking again. I’m actually steering clear of product websites and it looks like the big boys have snuffled the top places and Google are taking the rest with their own results.

Authority Site?

I know it’s the way to go, but my ‘real’ job has taken a lot more of my time and it’s meant I’ve done nothing to the site which I’ve promised for the last 6 months. It’s still there, with one article, and that isn’t enough to launch it so it’ll stay on the back burner. It is something I want to do so it’s not dead yet but it may be a while until it sees the light.

Any Questions?

I know a few people pop by here so have you got any questions about niche sites? Want to let me know how you’re doing? Pop me a comment below.

Google AdSense vs Amazon Associates

Over the past month I have created a couple of websites focusing on Amazon Associates as the income generator rather than Google Adsense which I’ve used on my sites so far, and I though I would give you an update on my learnings so far.

Google AdSense

I’ve been using Google AdSense as my main source of revenue since I started buiding niche sites in May 2011 and as you can see from my Income Reports I’ve been doing okay and averaging around google-adsense-8320793£200 ($306) a month with a total income of £1642.32 ($2,559.98) for 2011. Compared to some other internet marketers this isn’t a huge sum but it is certainly something and I think it shows that I can make money from AdSense and can create sites that will get people clicking.

The sites I create often provide a user with information, usually for a service, and visitors will be tempted to find out more from the adverts on my sites. An example could be if I set up a site about ‘dog grooming’, I would explain what it is, how much it costs, etc and then AdSense adverts would also be on the site hopefully featuring dog grooming services near the visitors location. They will click on these links to find out more and I don’t really need to sell the link to that person. They found out enough information from my site and then instead of going back to Google and searching for local dog groomers they will click on the handy links on my site.

What I have noticed is that for an AdSense monetised site to be successful you need to have good traffic as it really is a numbers game. You cannot control what the visitors do once they are on your site and ultimately your revenue depends on the AdSense advertisers for a variety of reasons:

  • Cost Per Click (CPC) – Although you will have targeted keywords for your site with a certain average cost-per-click, advertisers budgets do vary and if high payers drop out you will notice this and lower CPC ads will appear on your site. You may still get the same amount of clicks but you will be earning less.
  • Click Through Rate (CTR) – You will have created a site with the aim of giving people enough information for them to want to find out more by clicking AdSense adverts on your site. If the adverts are poorly created by the advertisers or don’t give the visitors a call to action  or motivate them then they may not click them. In the worst case there could be no one advertising dog related products and you get zero clicks.

At the end of the day you have virtually no control over the adverts appearing on your site (emphasis on virtually) as this lies with Google and their advertisers and so I would say that you will need to play the percentages to guarantee an income from Google AdSense. Even if you do have a low CPC and low CTR, a higher volume of visitors will mean a higher income. Of course if you choose the right keywords, have a high CPC and nail your CTR then more visitors will mean great income for you.

Amazon Associates

With Amazon Associates I have had to change my strategy for creating websites as the focus is completely different for promoting physical products. When you create an Amazon affiliate site you need to realise that the visitor is probably in a buying mood and if you can get them onto your site then you will be on your way to making a sale.

With an Amazon Associate site you do not get revenue for people simply clicking links. If you get people to the Amazon site via your site then a cookie will be placed on the visitors browser for 24 hours, and if they buy anything from Amazon in that time, then you will get a basic 5% commission of the cost of that product with the commission percentage rising depending on the amount of products sold e.g if you sell 21 items in a month your commission rate goes up to 5.5%.

When I create this type of site I am not really creating a ‘niche site’ with highly researched information but more usually writing product reviews, product comparisons, etc and inserting links all pointing towards the specific product page on Amazon using a personalised affiliate link. I put these links in text like ‘find out more about this product’ leading the visitor to Amazon and hopefully a sale.

With Amazon you have more control over CPC and CTR, although those are not strictly terms applicable with it, and perhaps we should add ‘coversion rate’ into the mix.

  • CPC – There is no cost per click with Amazon, but if the site visitor is in a buying mood and I am promoting a high-price item of £100 then my CPC could be 5% of that meaning £5 commission. This is certainly higher than most clicks on AdSense, but obviously it will involve 2 clicks from the user, one from my site to Amazon, and then one to ‘buy’.
  • CTR/Conversion Rate– I have found that if I get a visitor to click through to Amazon then my sales conversion on my Affiliate links are at least 10%, meaning 1 in 10 people I send to Amazon will buy something which is pretty good I think and certainly much better than the CTR with AdSense.

My new amazon site has had 112 visits in 3 weeks, and from that I have had 65 affiliate link clicks through to Amazon and have made 9 sales of products totalling £10.66 commission. I’ve not had a huge amount of visitors but I am converting well and the income is much higher than if I had an AdSense site with only 112 visits.

The downside to all this is that SEO is harder for these tyes of sites than a niche Adsense site as you are producing less unique content and there is more competition so you have do work harder to differentiate your site from large shopping sites who are also selling these products. Focus on one type of item for your site and then don’t just stick to reviews, but also include  things like Top 10 lists, which will mean at least 10 affiliate links, and product comparisons e.g Xbox versus PS3 where you can create more content for your site, more keywords, more backlinks, etc which is all good for SEO. Don’t be content with just copying product reviews from Amazon as this will rank you nowhere and don’t waste money on plugins that will promise a fully-populated affiliate site as they will do nothing unless you have original content.

Conclusion – which is best?

I believe there is no right or wrong choice between Google AdSense and Amazon Associates as it all depends on the type of site you are creating. Are you providing information and a service or are you promoting a physical product?

  • Information/Service – Monetise your site using AdSense and as long as you can get enough visitors and have done your research you will earn money. With AdSense you need visitors but do not need to sell to the visitor and so you can put an advert on any page and you will probably get some clicks. More visitors means more revenue though and a poorly researched niche will mean only earning pennies.
  • Physical Product – If you are creating a site promoting a physical product then you will need to rank highly in the SERPS, but you can earn more per visitor depending on the products you are promoting and you will need fewer visitors to make a sale as they are already in the buying mood.

I would also add that keyword research for an affiliate site is easier than for a niche site as you can select a product you want to sell e.g ‘hairdryers’, put it into Google Keywords Tool, and then find out related searches and try and get a domain from that, where as for niche sites you have to come up with the initial topic first which is one of the hardest parts.

The best thing you can do is utilise both AdSense and Amazon and create a variety of different sites so you have a diverse income stream. This revenue is not cast in stone and many people have been affected by only focusing on one method. AdSense users have had their accounts blocked (for a variety of reasons) and US users have had their Amazon Associate accounts blocked due to state tax laws, and in both in both cases income dropped to zero. If you can spread yourself out you may still get hit but these actions, but you can lessen the blow by having other income streams.

Shot through the heart

Grrrhhh…. looks like I’m going to be paying for 2 hosting accounts now!

I told you before about the problem with 1&1.com in that I could only have 2 MySQL databases with my hosting when I really wanted a lot more. The service with 1&1 has been fantastic, but as I run a lot of site using MySQL I really wasted to have a single database dedicated to each individual website I host.

I thought I’d found the answer in Heartinternet.co.uk as they were offering a really good deal, which included 50 MySQL databases, for only £8.99 a month (around £10 including VAT). I thought this would solve my problems, and so today I signed up, ordered a new domain, got the hosting, and then started to have a good look around.

On my 1&1 I host lots of domains all pointing to various directories on my hosting, and as I wanted to start transferring over content and domains I went on the search for something like this. Hmmm.. it was a little odd that only 1 domain name was associated with the new hosting account, and that there didn’t seem to be the option to add new ones. Yes I could order new domains or transfer old ones in but I was starting to get a little worried. They do have a function where you can add in a ‘ghost’ domain, so you can play around with directories before you transfer over, but this was the final nail in the coffin as I could only choose one domain for the hosting plan!

Now I knew what I was lookin for, I search the FAQ and other areas and finally found out that ‘domain mapping’ for a SINGLE domain would cost me an extra £19.99 a year! Considering I have around 20 domains already that could prove very expensive! F**k that!

When I signed up it was luckily only on the monthly plan, so one option is to cancel, and the other option is to keep it, but purely use it for the MySQL databases which are what I really wanted them for. I can carry on using 1&1 and just consider the extra £10 a month I’m spending as a top-up for the databases as I would be paying a lot more than that to add the feature to 1&1.

I’m still annoyed though that Heart Internet didn’t just have a big banner saying ‘You can only host 1 domain on this account…or pay through your ass for more.”

On a hosting package with 50 MySQL databases, 10 gig webspace, 50 gig data transfer, 10,000 mail boxes, etc you would expect that being able to host multiple domain would be included. Bastards.

So what do think I shoud I should do?

I really need the MySQL, and I can still use the webspace for my business website I’m setting up (www.thanetmedia.co.uk) as well as storing demo sites, but once the sites are live and need a domain I’ll have to transfer them over to 1&1.

I think this is what I’ll have to do, which whilst it isn’t perfect, it’s the closest I can get to having what I want.

The final option though is to sign up for a Reseller account which is £30 a month (+VAT), which can host unlimited domains but which is a lot of money… too much for the moment.

I really do feel like I’ve been mislead on this. Grrrhhh!!!

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Update: I’m going to try and cancel my account with Heart Internet, but we’ll see how easy that will be. If I’m just using it for the MySQL databases then I’ve seen a few other possible hosts (In the US) which are much cheaper.