Neglected Niche Site versus SBI

Regular readers will remember that I’ve done a couple of neglected niche sites.

The basic idea is that you write a niche site and then forget about it for months at a time. You might submit it to some directories, but other than that you do absolutely nothing with it. Eventually it starts to get some traffic, and earn some money.

The first neglected niche site I did earns about $30 a month from Adsense, and about $50 a month from affiliate sales. For about 8 hours of work over the last six months, that’s not bad at all. I wanted to see how a quality niche site built with the SBI tools compared to a neglected niche site.

So I did the keyword research to pick a niche I could write quality content for, and put together a neglected niche site using the same formula I used for the first. I used WordPress to create the niche site, and wrote just enough content to justify placing affiliate links. Total time spent, about 4 hours.

Once that was done, I bought an SBI site and started working through the SBI Action Guide. Over about four months I created content, and last month put some Adsense ads on the most visited 10% of the pages. I actually targeted a more competitive keyword for this site than for the WordPress based one, to give the SBI tools a test.

Both sites have been live for about the same amount of time. What have the results been so far?

The neglected niche site is still waiting to get out of Google purgatory and get ranked for its keywords. Total number of visits to the site in the last four months is 15, mostly from Google. This actually matches pretty well with my first neglected niche site, which started ranking well only after three or four months.

The SBI site in that same time frame has had about 2,000 visitors, split among the Google, MSN, and Yahoo search engines. Traffic has been trending upward the entire time, so the future looks good for this site.

Income from the neglected niche site has been $0. I just put ads on the SBI site March 10th. The first month’s income there was $16. I don’t have affiliate links on the SBI site yet, but plan to add those soon.

The SBI site hasn’t caught up yet to the first neglected niche site I created, but I have no doubt that it will before long. The traffic on the first neglected site is no longer trending upward, but has plateaued. The SBI site is still stretching its legs, so I’m not sure how high the traffic there will go.

I’ll be back in a few months with an update, but at the moment I’m convinced that writing quality content and using advanced tools (such as the SBI tools) is a far better investment of time than churning out mass quantities of made-for-Adsense sites.

Where To Get Great Post Ideas

Most people who blog understand the need to produce regular content at regular times.

Regular content means that Google knows when to visit your page to find your new posts, which means that your posts get indexed nearly immediately. When you don’t produce regular content, Google will not visit your site as often, delaying when your posts are available in search results.

But, producing content on a regular basis is often hard! Especially if you’ve chosen daily posting. Coming up with great content every single day just isn’t possible.

So some posts are one-offs, posts you write to get some content on the blog, but they’re not what you consider to be great posts.

Where do the great post ideas come from?

From your recent experiences. If you’re writing about making money online, for example, you must be out there actually trying to make money online (more than just through your blog). That way you’ll run into the same problems and issues that your readers do, and when you run into those problems and issues…write a post about how you solved them.

That makes the posts relevant, and improves the value of your blog to your readers. If all you do is recycle whatever is on other blogs, then you’re not providing value.

Whatever your niche is, be active within it and the great post ideas will come. Don’t just write, but do.

P.S. Yes, this is one of those one-off posts. The sponsored blog over at The Advisory Panel is getting close to going public, so I’m spending a lot of my online time working with that. It’s exciting to see a project like that grow, and I’m looking forward to doing more sponsored projects when the first one is running well.

Using WordPress To Create Mini-Sites

When you’re planning on doing an Adwords campaign to sell affiliate products, you need a mini-site to boost your quality score (for more info, see my post on Adwords quality scores).

But how do you make a mini-site?

Search around for information, and you’ll see some software programs that are supposed to create the sites for you, and some graphics, and some templates. Unfortunately, a lot of the templates are nothing more than single page sales letter templates, not mini-sites. A mini-site is a small collection of pages hooked together with navigation links, not just a single page.

The software programs sound better, after all you fill out the information, click a button, and the mini-site is made for you. How much easier could it be? What the sales letters for those programs typically leave out is that it’s up to you to provide the graphics for the site. So if you’re doing a mini-site about dog grooming, you need to provide relevant graphics of dogs looking like they’ve just been to a spa.

And even if you do that, you still have to upload the files to your hosting account via FTP, insert Google Analytics code for tracking, etc.

Personally, I find it much easier to just create my mini-sites with WordPress.

Sure, WordPress is a terrific overkill for managing such a small web site, but if you’re already using WordPress for your blog then you have a base of experience to draw from to slap up a small web site quickly.

Here are the steps I go through to use WordPress in this way.

Install WordPress

If you haven’t done this before, do a Google search for help. I’m assuming you’re probably already running a WordPress blog, and can manage this step. Install using a different database than you use for your regular blog.

Install Sticky Menu Plugin

The sticky menu plugin is a terrific plugin that lets you specify exactly what should be in a listing of links. Many WordPress themes default to the main navigation links showing all the pages in your site. You often don’t want all the pages to show, so the sticky menu plugin lets you control this.

Install Google Analyticator

The Google Analyticator plugin takes care of adding your Google Analytics tracking code to all the pages on the site. I recommend not tracking admin visits.

Install Google XML Sitemaps Plugin

The Google XML Sitemaps plugin creates a sitemap.xml file in the format expected by Google and Yahoo. This makes your site seem more professional, and will help to get the content indexed.

Install Psychic Search Plugin

I’ve mentioned the Psychic Search plugin before. It lets you know what people are using the search box on your site to look for, and not finding. That may indicate new pages you should create.

Install A Contact Form Plugin

There are a few good ones of these. Lately I like to use the secure form mailer plugin. A contact form is important for your mini-site to improve your Adwords quality score.

Install a Caching Plugin

I use WP-Super Cache. A caching plugin will help reduce server load, and you’ll hardly ever be changing the site, so it can benefit from caching quite a bit.

Create A Landing Page For Each Keyword

Create a content filled landing page for each Adwords keyword you want to target. The content must be unique, and helpful. Do not try to sell a product! Provide useful information that will start to condition the visitor to want the product when they finally click through to the sales page.

Making a landing page for each keyword allows you to get the best quality score possible for that keyword in Adwords.

Miscellaneous Pages

Include an About page and a Privacy Policy to boost your Adwords quality score, and a Disclosure page (if required by the affiliate program). For example any Clickbank related product requires a disclosure page.

Install A Niche Appropriate Theme

One of the great things about WordPress is that there are tons of free themes available, for a wide variety of niches. Pick one that fits your niche and install it, and your site automatically looks good.

I recommend not putting Adsense or other ads on the site. This will boost your quality score, and helps to keep from losing visitors to competing affiliates. Also, don’t bother with plugins that deal with posts, because you won’t have any posts on this blog.

Using WordPress to create your mini-site can take a frustrating process and make it into an hour’s worth or work or less.

When A Great Deal Isn’t So Great

I was over at the Site5 web hosting site earlier today, and saw their latest special. It gives you way more disk space and bandwidth than you could ever really use, for $3.50 a month.

It seems like this always happens in web hosting. You sign up with a host under a really great deal, and pretty soon they’re making the deal even better. But not for you, because you signed up under the old plan. That’s just the way web hosting goes.

When I see the $3.50 a month for Site5 hosting, I start to think about getting a second hosting account. They’re offering unlimited websites, so you could easily run all your sites off the one hosting account. I don’t particularly need a second account, I haven’t outgrown the one I have now, but I’m a sucker for great deals.

So I start through the order process to see more of the details. I get to the part where it talks about pricing, and I see that the $3.50 a month price is only available if you prepay for 10 years. Let’s be realistic here…10 years is practically an eternity in web hosting terms. Site5 may not still be around, or I may not still be around, or I may decide to go live on a tropical island without Internet access.

I can’t imagine any good reason for paying for 10 years of web hosting. I’ll prepay for two years to get a better monthly rate, but 10 years is just ridiculous. So I look to see what the rate is for two years, and it’s $6.95 a month. That’s still a good deal, but is double the “special” price. Special pricing is fine, but it’s a bit dishonest to make it available only for a length of time most people wouldn’t use.

I’m still extremely happy with my own Site5 hosting, and don’t have any plans to switch. But I’ll make sure to read the fine print on any web hosting offers that seem too good to be true!

Guest Bloggers Wanted

Want to have your writing featured here?

Looking ahead to the one-year anniversary of Online Opportunity, I’m interested in doing something different than I’ve done before. The anniversary, measured by the date of my “Welcome” post, will be April 18th, just a bit over three weeks away. I’d like to take a little time off daily blogging during that time, and give readers who want some more exposure for their writing an opportunity to guest blog here.

So if you think you want to give guest blogging a try here, contact me and let me know what topic you’d want to write a post on, and give me a couple of links to posts or articles you’re especially proud of. If your post idea sounds on topic, I’ll ask for a first draft. If that looks good, you can finish the post and be featured here in a few weeks.

Some ground rules:

1) Posts must be of the educational variety. You can post a tutorial about something, you can explain something that is widely misunderstood, or whatever. But no posts that simply advertise the latest opportunity, and no opportunity reviews.

2) Posts should contain an “About the Author” section at the end where you say who you are and have two or three links to sites of your own. I reserve the right to disallow links that are to spammy sites, since in Google’s eyes it’ll be my blog recommending that site.

3) Inside the post, link appropriately to sites you recommend. An affiliate link is okay, as long as it adds value to the post’s topic. Again, no links to spammy sites, unless they’re an example of how to not do what you’re teaching.

I’m willing to take a fairly large number of guest bloggers for this, assuming the quality of the posts are suitable. And one person can do more than one guest post if you want, although I’ll give preference to showcasing as many different authors as possible.

I’m looking forward to driving some traffic your way!

How To Split Test Adsense Ads

I’ve been planning, thanks to suggestions made by commentors in recent posts (PayPerClickTrick and On Stage Lighting) to do some split testing of Adsense ad colors and formats.

If the term split testing is new to you, the basic idea is that you run ads two different ways and see which one works best. “Works best” can mean whatever you want it to mean…best click through rate, best earnings, etc.

My plan had been to do serial split testing. Run ads the way I have them for a two week period, record the click through rate, impressions, and earnings, and then run them with different colors for a two week period. I would wait to change formats until a later test, since one of the critical parts of split testing is that you must know what causes any change in results. So if I changed both the color of the ad and the format, and the click through rate went up, I wouldn’t know which change caused it. It might be that it’s the different format, and the changed color is actually hurting my click through rate.

Change one thing, test it, and see what the results are before changing anything else.

Another option is parallel split testing. This is where you run both sets of ads at the same time, rotating equally between them for all your web visitors. Visitor #1 might get blended ads, visitor #2 would then get ads of a different color, visitor #3 would get blended ads, and so on. I prefer parallel split testing because it equalizes any possible seasonal factors. For example, my two week period for blended ads started on March 11th, and will end March 24th. March 24th is the day after Easter here in the United States, and that might have an effect on web traffic and click through rates.

By doing parallel split testing, both ad variations would be running at the same time.

One of the tricky parts about parallel split testing is that you really want each visitor to see only one ad variation. A simple rotation scheme on a page load won’t do that, since any given visitor might reload any given page on your site. If they reload it they might see the other ad variation. Changing ad colors on a visitor will get their attention, and will definitely skew the results you’re trying to measure.

Each visitor should see a consistent ad theme on your site, and it should rotate on a per-visitor basis.

I’m still hunting for a suitable script to do this for advertising on a WordPress blog. There’s a split testing plugin out there that is for Adwords campaigns leading to your blog, not for Adsense on your blog. There’s another one for split testing different variations on your posts. That one looks very interesting, but wasn’t what I wanted.

I did find the most excellent Who Sees Ads? plugin for managing ad display. The plugin will allow this with some custom PHP programming added. With the plugin, you can define rules under which visitors will see any particular ad. You could display ads only to new visitors and not to your regular readers, you could display one ad to visitors from the Unites States and another to visitors from India, you could specify that each visitor should see an ad only X times, etc.

One of the options in the plugin is to use a custom PHP function to determine if an ad should be shown or not. I think, with some custom PHP code, that I can manage to get a PHP function that will alternate between displaying ad variations with the plugin on a visitor basis, and not a page load basis.

The only problem is time! For the meantime, I’ll stick with serial split testing, and begin my two week period of testing non-blended ads tomorrow.

Look back in two weeks for the results.

Update: I just found the WP Spinner plugin. It’s basically a plugin that will rotate different content on your WordPress site. They say it can be used for split testing, although I’m not sure if it’ll show the same content for a particular visitor, or if it’s a simple rotating on page views mechanism. I doubt I’ll give it a try, since the programmer in me wants to write some PHP code for use with Who Sees Ads, but you might check it out if you’re looking for split testing plugins.

The Advisory Panel Looking For Bloggers

The first sponsored blog over at The Advisory Panel is getting under way.

The niche chosen for the blog is stay at home jobs for parents. Topics could include freelance writing, ebay, affiliate marketing, etc. It’s a fairly large niche, but unified by the focus on parents who want to earn an income from home so they can stay with their children.

As a sponsored blog, the blog is hosted and paid for by the forum. Advisory Panel member volunteers will write the posts, and keep any affiliate income from links they put in their posts. The blog-wide advertisements will also generate income, and that’ll be split between the authors and the forum.

We’re only expecting each author to make one post a week. We’ll make up for that by having enough authors that the site itself is updated frequently enough to keep both the readers and search engines happy. And one post a week is easy enough for most anyone to fit into a busy schedule.

So if you’ve been wanting to try your hand at blogging, and the topic sounds like something you could write about, head on over to The Advisory Panel and toss your hat into the ring. We need a limited number of authors, but I expect this to be a sort of revolving cast. Authors may write for the blog for a few months, and then branch out into new blogs of their own with what they’ve learned from the experience.

Using Quizzes to Catch Web Surfers

I don’t spend a lot of time these days surfing traffic exchanges or the PTR sites, since I’m spending a lot of time at The Advisory Panel, and creating content for niche sites. But now and then I do to get a sense for what’s being promoted.

Normally they’re all the same, they show you an affiliate page, which is pretty much 0% effective at getting results (I really get tired of seeing that beach bum with his laptop). The more advanced people show you an opt-in page for an ecourse, and give you just enough information to make you want more, so you sign up.

But today I came across something that completely hooked me and kept me on that site for a good five minutes.

It was a quiz about Search Engine Optimization.

This was brilliant! A quiz is an immediate challenge to the surfer’s knowledge. If you can target the topic of the quiz to something the surfer feels they know, or feels they should know, then you’ve got their attention. And for anyone trying to make money online, search engine optimization is a natural topic.

All told, I went through 17 pages of quiz, answering various multiple choice questions. I went back later and looked at the ad I clicked to get to the page, and it mentioned a prize of $50,000 for one lucky person who took the survey. But that was only afterward, I normally don’t pay any attention to the ads, it’s the sites that I evaluate.

And at the end of the quiz? I had to enter my email to get my results. You’d better believe, that after wading through 17 pages of questions, I was darn well going to enter my email to get those results.

This is the first time I’ve seen this technique, and I have to admit I’m surprised. It worked so well, although that might just be because it was new. But if you’re sending people to a landing page and having trouble getting them to stick around, try putting the start of a quiz on that landing page.

You just might build a targeted list out of it. And the answers to the quiz questions can be a guide to what products the person might be willing to buy.

Improving Your Adsense CPC

A couple of days ago I started hunting for information on improving the cost-per-click (CPC) you get with Adsense ads. I was a bit tired of losing visitors from my sites for an 11 cent click (that’s an extreme example, but it happens).

I know that the amount you make per click with Adsense is dependent on a number of factors that you don’t control directly, including your click-through-rate compared to other sites in your niche. But I knew that Adsense allows you to block specific websites from displaying ads, so I basically wanted to find somewhere that provided a list of low paying sites.

I ran across this post pretty quickly: How To Improve Google Adsense Revenue. The post covers the basics, and is a great tutorial if you’re new to Adsense. It didn’t cover what I was looking for, but it’s a quality post that’s worth a look.

I also found this post on Blocking Out Unwanted And Miserable CPC Sites. It talks about a database called Ads Black List that was exactly what I was looking for in the first place.

Ads Black List allows you to enter all the domains you run ads on, along with keywords for those domains. It’ll then search its database of MFA and low CPC sites and see which ones target those keywords. You get a list of those in a format suitable for copying and pasting into the Adsense competitive ads filter box.

Now ads from those sites won’t show up in your Adsense ads. This helps block those doing Adsense arbitrage, or just those who pay a really low CPC.

I’ve just used this for my sites, so don’t have anything to report on the results. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update: Since I wrote this, I’ve seen a bit of increase in CPC for my sites. I don’t have enough data yet to make a conclusion, but the initial increase seems to be very good.

The Advisory Panel On The Move

To a new domain name, that is.

I’d originally hosted The Advisory Panel on a subdomain of this blog, because it was an easy and inexpensive way to host it. I figured I’d see what happened with the forum, and move it to its own domain name later.

Well, later came, and I just recently completed the move. It was a bit of a hassle, which reminded me I should have just started with its own domain name. After all, a domain name is only $9 these days, less if you use a coupon code.

One of the hassles that cropped up was the need to copy the actual forum files from one directory on my server to another. Now, I’m technical enough that I was able to log into the shell and use a single command to copy the entire directory structure to the right place. Lacking that knowledge, though, this would have been a pain.

After the copy, various config files had to be updated with the new location. There weren’t too many of these, because most of the forum doesn’t care about the actual directory it lives in. But it’s a pain to have to go back and touch these config files a second time, when you’ve already done it once setting up the forum.

Switching over to the new domain name was a bigger pain. There are numerous settings in vbulletin that use the domain name, and I had to track down each and every one of them and change it from to I would only know that I missed one of them when I went to the forum and, for example, didn’t see the images of smilies I should have seen when composing a post.

Oh, and a note for anyone who tries to move a forum to a different domain…clear your browser’s cache after the move. I actually saw the smilies even though they weren’t really there because of them being in my browser’s cache. It was only when I logged in from a different computer that I realized something was wrong.

I still have a mildly annoying problem that I haven’t been able to figure out yet, involving the site navigation menu. It worked fine before the move to the new domain name, and doesn’t quite work right now.

So my advice for anyone who is thinking about starting a forum is to break down and spend the $9 to give the forum its own domain name from the very start. It’s far less hassle than trying to move it later!

If you’ve tried to get to The Advisory Panel lately through a bookmark into the forum itself, you’ll have to update those bookmarks. The old main address will automatically forward you to the new address, but no deep links to the old address will work.