Leap Year

Today is pretty much the only day you can say doesn’t happen every year. Which is appropriate, because it isn’t every year I launch a forum, either.

February has been the month for The Advisory Panel launch for me. I’ve focused most of my time and effort on it. As a way of saying “Thanks!” to the early joiners who’ve been participating, I’ll be sending the ones who posted at least 15 messages during the month $5 via Paypal.

I plan on holding regular contests at the forum. The contest for March will reward the person who is most active in the forum during the month. I’ve installed a plugin to the forum that tracks all sorts of activities and rewards them with credits. The person with the most growth in credits during March wins the contest.

The prize is yet to be decided. One idea was to give away a complete niche blog on a subject of the winner’s choice. I’d do the keyword research to figure out how the blog should be targeted, I’d host it on my hosting account, pay for the domain name, setup WordPress, install plugins, etc. The winner would just need to log in and create content.

I’ll finalize the prize fairly soon, so check at the forum for details.

How Much Can You Afford To Pay Per Click?

The first advertising exercise finished over at The Advisory Panel, and as a result I discovered that some of the PPC basics I took for granted weren’t very clear to everyone. So I figured it was time for a post about them.

When you’re paying per click for your advertising, you have to make sure that you can show a profit after paying for the clicks. So there are some calculations you can do up front to give you a good idea how much you can pay per click. Let’s look first at a statistic that most merchants give you.

EPC is the average earnings per hundred clicks. This is the dollar amount you can expect to make when you send one hundred people to the merchant’s page. This is usually reported by the merchant as an average across all the traffic they’re sent. You may also get it reported for your specifically after you have enough traffic being sent.

Keep in mind that since the merchant’s EPC is an average over all their traffic, you might be able to do better than that if you’re sending well-targeted traffic to them. You might also do worse, if the traffic you send isn’t very targeted.

So, let’s say that we know the EPC for a particular product is $54.07 (this is the actual EPC for a particular product you can market through Commission Junction). So what do this number tell us? Well, nothing exactly, but we can use it to come to some first guesses about what we can afford to pay per click.

If we think we’ll make $54.07 per hundred visitors, that means our income per visitor is $0.54. Remember that each visitor is a click we had to pay for, so we have to pay less than $0.54 to make any profit.

Now, you cannot rely totally on merchant’s EPC figures. Those include a wide variety of traffic, and no doubt include some traffic sent by marketing superstars. But as a rough guess for planning out a PPC campaign, you can use EPC to come up with an initial keyword bid.

Given the numbers above, we could look at various targeted keywords and decide if they could be profitable, based on whether we could get our ad at position 3 or 4 for under $0.54. Ideally we’d be far enough under that we make a decent profit.

This is most definitely not the entire story! You also have to track your own results, and adjust based on what you’re actually earning once you start getting enough traffic. Traffic must be well targeted, or you’ll be wasting money.

But it gives you a rough idea of how to evaluate keywords to see if you might be able to earn from them.

Internet Marketing Success — My First Hub Page

Okay, I finally got around to creating my first Hub over at Hub Pages.

For anyone who missed my first post on it, Hub Pages, Giving Squidoo A Run For Their Money?, Hub Pages is a Squidoo like site that allows you to easily create single web pages focused on a topic. Unlike Squidoo, which uses arcane profit sharing calculations, Hub Pages just uses your Adsense, Amazon, and Ebay ids when displaying a certain percentage of the ads. So you know exactly how many impressions and clicks you’re getting.

My first hub is called How To Achieve Internet Marketing Success. It was intended as an expanded version of my post, How To Succeed In Internet Marketing, but ended up getting way too long.

So what I finally did was make the hub more of a motivation and intro for what will eventually be a large number of more detailed hubs on various Internet Marketing topics (as if I need more places to create content!) Assuming, of course, that it looks like Hub Pages is a good place to continue to create content.

Oh, and I know that it would have been a nice idea to create a hub that was on the same topic as one of my Squidoo lenses, to compare the results from both, but I couldn’t quite make myself write a hub on a topic that I’d already covered. So that experiment will have to wait until I’m feeling in the mood to repeat myself.

I’ll report back in coming months on the earnings from this hub.

The Psychology of Monetization

Recent comments on posts here have got me thinking about the psychology of monetization.

There are good reasons to monetize a site from the very start, and good reasons to delay monetization. Some of the reasons are appropriate for one niche and not another, so I wanted to go through some of the factors that I’d look at in deciding to monetize or not.

Perceptions of Sites with Ads

I tend to see sites that have a lot of ads but little content as spammy looking. When I write a site that is spammy, then I don’t have any trouble putting ads on it from the start. When I write a site that I want to be viewed as more of a quality site, then I like to delay ads until I have enough content that I think a few ads are warranted.

Value of Early Traffic

In the early days of a site, the amount of traffic coming in is low. Assuming a 20% click through rate on ads, if you’re getting 5 people a day to the site initially, that means you might get 1 click a day. If you’ve chosen your keywords well and written your content well, you might get $1 for that click (although often it’ll be less).

Early traffic just doesn’t add that much to the bottom line, so for quality sites I like to focus early on building the best site possible, and worry about monetization later.

What Are The Keywords Worth?

While site level keywords might be picked because they can get $1 or $2 per click, the chances are good that most pages on your site will monetize at a lower level if you’re using something like Adsense. If you use a site side widget to put ads on every single page in the site, then you might only get $0.20 per click on some pages.

Is it worth $0.20 for a visitor to leave your site by clicking an ad?

My preference is to monetize only on pages whose keywords are worth enough to make it profitable for the visitor to leave the site. I might lose them anyway, but the chance is also there that they’ll look around the site more if not every page has ads on it.

Focus on Monetization

When I start to monetize a site, I tend to focus on tweaking various monetization options in order to get the most out of the clicks I’m getting. And I usually slow down on content creation, because that isn’t my focus.

So for my personal nature, monetization a quality site early would work against me.

Plans for the Site

What are my plans for the site? Is it primarily a MFA (made for Adsense) type of site, where the goal is to get the ad click from search engine traffic? Or is it more of a quality site, where the goal is to build repeat traffic by offering valuable content?

Or something in between?

I monetize MFA type sites from the very start, because that’s their entire reason for being, to get visitors to click on ads or affiliate links.

Quality sites I delay monetization on, for the reasons talked about above, until traffic is at a decent enough level to warrant it.

No Right Answers

Those are some of the things I think about when deciding when to monetize. I’ve started a topic over at The Advisory Panel to discuss this topic, so if you’re a member come on over and jump in! And if you’re not a member, it’s free to join.

So when do you monetize, and why?

Smoking Hot List Review

Rick Katz of the Big Dog Heavy Hitters report has created another free report, called Smoking Hot List.

The Smoking Hot List report talks about the importance of capturing your visitor’s contact information, rather than simply directing them to a program’s affiliate page. Who buys into a program on their first visit? You’ll have questions you want answered, you may go to some other review sites, etc. If you just send traffic to a program’s sign up page, then you’ve lost any opportunity to be the person who answers their questions and helps them succeed. The commission will go to whoever does those things.

So the report recommends capturing their information into an autoresponder list, and following up with them via email. Don’t even say what program you’re promoting on the sign up page, just say what it can do for them. That way you have a lot more time to follow up with them and figure out what is keeping them from succeeding.

There’s a lot more in the report, and true to form, you have to opt in to a list to get the report.

On the back end, Rick offers the use of the Smoking Host List report to build your own list. You join Rick’s co-op club, and get access to not only the Smoking Hot List report, but can also participate in the co-op itself (if you remember my review of the co-op, it’s the only program I’ve seen online that actually lives up to what it says it’ll do, namely put you into profit quickly). And for everyone who joins the co-op through your Smoking Hot List page, you get a direct commission.

So you’re building a list and getting paid to do it.

This program is ideal if you don’t have a website and want to build a list, or have had trouble building lists before. Rick’s co-op club has worked out very well, so I don’t doubt that the Smoking Hot List pages will work out well, too.

Click here for the full Smoking Hot List report.

Site Build It! Day 10

If you’ve been following along with my SBI! series, you’ll recall I was last on day 7. How’d I get to day 10 already?

Day 10 is monetization, and is triggered by you reaching 30 pages of content on your site. When that happens, the monetization module unlocks, and gives you access to some very cool analysis tools.

Keep in mind that you don’t automatically monetize at this point, but 30 pages of content is a good milestone. You also want to be getting some traffic, at least 20 to 30 unique visitors a day. If you aren’t getting the traffic, then the time you’ll spend monetizing could be far better spent creating more content.

The SBI! monetization tools pull data from Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing, along with data culled from your website’s referrer logs (those tell SBI! what keywords people are actually finding your site with). All that data is then run through some analysis and provided to you in three ways.

The Content Building module shows you the relative keyworth of all of your site’s keywords. Keyworth is a number that SBI! came up with that is a one-number summary of the keyword demand, supply, Adwords and Search Marketing prices, traffic, etc. Sort by the keyworth column, and you have the keywords you want to target at the top of the list.

The Content Building module helps you to focus your content creation on the pages that will give you the most monetization benefit. You’ll still create pages for all the keywords eventually, but you might as well do it for the most valuable keywords first.

The Ad Selling module shows you a list of all your pages, along with how many visitors you’ve gotten to each page, and the Adwords and Search Marketing estimates for how much the keywords for those pages are worth. Since this is a page oriented module, if you don’t have a page for a keyword it won’t show up here.

This module shows you what the most valuable pages are to place either Adwords or Search Marketing ads on. And it’ll tell you which is better for each page.

The PPC Buying module provides you with all sorts of statistics that are useful if you plan on driving traffic to individual pages on your site with PPC campaigns. You have to be able to effectively monetize before this makes sense, so I haven’t gotten into this module. But it looks to provide the same high quality analysis as the others.

Once again I’m extremely impressed with the quality of the tools that SBI! provides. The monetization analysis tools provide the data needed to make rational decisions about how and when to monetize to the greatest benefit. Most people creating niche sites do this haphazardly, but SBI! gives you what you need to do it systematically.

Click here for a quick tour of what SBI! provides.

Be Careful When Picking A Niche

As an Internet Marketer, it’s tempting to pick niches solely based on supply and demand.

That’s how I picked the niche for my neglected niche site I’ve talked about before. Of course, I didn’t know as much then as I do now about what makes a good keyword pick for a niche, so the site doesn’t get as much traffic as I’d like. But it does get traffic, and does earn money.

I took the time to make a site that satisfies Google’s criteria by giving it a privacy policy, a contact form, the works.

The problem is that it’s a niche that makes sense to monetize through affiliate programs to grant writing services, such as Uncle Sam’s Money.

Think for a moment about the sort of people who are looking for information on getting money for free from the government. These are typically people in trouble, who desperately need help. They often represent organizations who need help quickly to remain afloat.

And these people all use the contact form to ask for help.

If I cared less about people, I could just ignore the emails or filter them into a trash folder. But if I were that sort of person I wouldn’t be writing an advertising free blog about making money online. So I answer the emails, trying to help them get answers to their questions. This always involves doing some web research to find a website that will really answer their question, since mine is a typical Made For Adsense site…it provides enough content to attract search engines and to justify affiliate links, but nothing original.

This is another reason that a quality niche site on a topic you love is a great idea. Whatever niche you pick is one where you’ll be able to truly help your visitors, because of your passion and your knowledge. Picking a niche solely on the basis of supply and demand and throwing up a typical MFA site is bound to disappoint a large percentage of your visitors.

So pick a niche based on where your passion truly is, and you’ll be able to help your visitors at the same time as you’re earning yourself a living.

Have You Ever Wished Spammers Would Get Smarter?

I’ve had the odd thought lately, that I really wish spammers would start getting smarter about their marketing.

I have hundreds of spam comments hit this blog daily (27,500 or so since the blog was launched). They’re all the same technique. Do a search on specific keywords, leave a spam comment on posts with that keyword, and the comment is always just keywords with links. They’re probably using something like Trackback Submitter, or whatever the current version of it is called (and just using the name of the software in this post is nearly guaranteed to make it a target for spam comments).

I’d be embarrassed to run an advertising campaign that way.

I mean seriously, they have no idea how effective any particular post is. Granted, they’re trying for SEO benefit primarily, so they cannot use any link redirection to track traffic through the link. But that’s okay, because they don’t want traffic, they want higher positions in search engine results.

But if I were designing the software these people are using, I’d put in some monitoring portion that would track whether the comments were getting through, and if so how long they lasted before being deleted. After all, you don’t get SEO benefit from links that either don’t appear, or only last for a few days before being deleted.

That sort of feedback would allow spammers to focus their energies on the sites that provide them with benefit, and to leave my site alone.

So, yeah, sometimes I wish spammers would get just a bit smarter.

Breaking Into The CPA Arena

CPA (cost per action) advertising is the way that sites like Treasure Trooper and Cash Crate make their money. They get paid when you perform whatever action they ask you to perform, and then they give you a part of what they made.

It’s been traditionally hard to break into the arena of making money through CPA advertising, because the ad networks that handle CPA ads want sites with high traffic. Typical blogs won’t get approved.

Up until now, that is.

The Multiple Stream Media Network is a relatively new CPA ad network, and so they’re more willing to take a chance on “low” traffic sites and blogs. I’ve recently been approved there on the basis of Online Opportunity’s traffic stats, which come to about 3,100 United States visitors a month (the region they’re primarily interested in).

CPA advertising is attractive, because you don’t need to get someone to actually buy anything, but rather simply fill out a form. The information required differs from ad to ad, but it’s often just filling out a name and email address. This pays anywhere from $1 to 3 per person, so can be decent money if you get the right sort of traffic.

Like any sort of advertising, test to see if your particular mix of traffic does best with CPA or CPC (such as Adsense ads).

If you have a site that’s a bit low for traffic for the established CPA networks, you might give Multiple Stream Media Network a try.

SBI! Value Exchange

I’m into day 7 of the Site Build It! action guide, which covers building traffic.

I’m actually still in day 6, building content, too. In the later stages of the action guide, the days overlap a fair amount. In fact, I skipped ahead to day 8 to get my “Contact Me” page built recently, and then came back to days 6 and 7.

But what I wanted to cover in this post is the Value Exchange tool in day 7.

One of the prime techniques in day 7 is building quality inbound links. If you know enough SEO to be dangerous, you know that a link building campaign is a great way to boost your positioning in search engine results. If you know a little more SEO than that, you also know that quality in-context links are worth their weight in gold, when compared to general directory links. Directory links help, but they don’t give you the boost that even one really good in-context link does.

The Value Exchange tool helps you to locate sites that’ll give you those in-context links. It’s primarily a link exchange program, which have gotten a bad reputation, for good reason. The way that link exchanges are typically done among blogs is that one person will offer to blogroll another person’s blog, in exchange for them doing the same in return. This sort of generic site-wide link offers little SEO benefit, and might actually cause a site to be penalized if you do too many of them.

What Value Exchange does is it offers the opportunity to exchange quality in-context links with another site in your same niche. This is the sort of thing that happens naturally. I find a site in my niche that covers a topic really well, so I link to them for more detail in a post about that same topic. They have a post about at topic that I cover really well, so they link to me. Search engines don’t penalize this behavior, because it’s expected.

Value Exchange simply makes it easier to find those other sites in your niche, so that you can negotiate an exchange of quality in-context links.

At least, that’s all it does if you don’t own an SBI! site. If you do own an SBI! site, then Value Exchange has another level to it. The software analyzes the web logs for your site daily, and pulls out any referring sites and puts them into a list of inbound links. You can easily check out the site that’s linking to you and see what if the link is quality or not.

If you’ve made a link exchange arrangement with a site, Value Exchange will check the status of that link daily, and let you know if they remove their link (an unethical technique that some webmasters will use).

Value Exchange also calculates the Internet-wide oomph of your link campaign, as a number between 0 and 100. 0 means that you have no inbound links that are attracting traffic, and 100 means that you could not possibly be doing any better. They’ve arbitrarily chosen CNN.com as their basis for comparison, so CNN.com is a 100. CNN.com gets a lot of incoming links!

Part of what goes into this number is not just the number of incoming links, but the quality. Are the links used in context and with suitable anchor text that will help your site rank higher in search engines? Then the link counts for more. General directory links count for less, niche directory links count for more than general directory links, but less than in-context article links. You get the idea.

While the scale goes to 100, the most that a small niche site can really hope to achieve is from 50 to 60. When you get to 50, you know that you’ve positioned your site as well as you reasonably can with respect to inbound links. It’s time then to focus on other aspects of your site.

My current SBI! niche site is at 12, which is in the range that means the link building is having an effect on search engine placement, but a lot more work is needed. Which is reasonable, since I’ve just started link building.

The deeper I get into the Site Build It! action guide, the more impressed I am with the tools. They’re truly useful, and tailored to be useful in just the way you need them to be.

You can participate in Value Exchange without owning an SBI! site, but you won’t get the link monitoring benefit. It’ll still be a great way to find other sites in your niche for the purpose of exchanging quality in-context links.

Click here for the Value Exchange page.