Picking A Subject For Your Best Selling Ebook

So you’re convinced that you need to make the switch to creating products rather than selling someone else’s products. And ebooks seem simple enough to create, so you decide to write an ebook and sell it. But how do you come up with the subject of your ebook?

Your first instinct will be to write an ebook about Internet Marketing.

This is natural. After all, you’re trying to make money online, and have been investing a huge amount of time (and probably money) trying to learn how to do that. So you’re steeped in Internet Marketing lore, and have probably started to realize that much of what people do doesn’t work well. So writing an ebook that tells people what does work for you seems like a natural choice.

The problem is that there is so much information out there about Internet Marketing that prospective buyers have no way of knowing if you’re giving them good information or not. And most people are giving away ebooks to build lists, so it’s hard for someone to justify spending money on yours unless you have a track record of success (or at least the perception of a track record of success).

So, if an Internet Marketing ebook would be a hard sell, what else is there?

Let’s face it, you may be really into making money online, but you also had a life before Internet Marketing. You had hobbies, you had things you were naturally good at, other things you weren’t so good at but really interested in, etc. You may not get to do all that as much now as before, but you have all that knowledge in you.

Pick your ebook subject out of that wealth of non-Internet Marketing knowledge. If you’re an avid golfer who had a lot of trouble correcting your slice, write an ebook sharing what worked for you. If you’re a rock climber who found lots of good places to climb in Ohio, write a guide book telling others where they were.

By venturing outside the Internet Marketing world, you’re improving your odds a bit. In the Internet Marketing world, every prospective customer is also a potential competitor who is trying to sell their own ebook. Outside of that world, the vast majority of your prospective customers would never think about writing an ebook and selling it. Plus, no matter how many people want to make money online, there are still a lot more involved in any of the major hobbies.

You’ll still have to market your ebook, of course, but that’s all part of the learning curve.

Cash Crate Increases Commissions

Cash Crate, a popular get-paid-to (GPT) site has recently increased the amount of commissions you get from new members.

Their basic commission structure is still in place. You get 20% of what your first level referrals get, and 10% of what their first level referrals get. This can amount to quite a bit of money over time, as your referral base grows. You can boost those numbers by referring more active members from the United States. The majority of offers are good only for those members, so they increase your commission rate when you refer more of them. After referring 50 active U.S. members, you get 25% of what your first level referrals make instead of just 20%.

That basic commission structure is one of the best I’ve seen in these sorts of programs. The recent addition adds on another $3 to what you get from your first level referrals who earn their first $10 payout.

When one of your referrals makes their first $10 payout, you’ll have earned 20% of that, for $2. You get a bonus $3 for them making it to their payout, for a total of $5. That’s very generous!

Another thing I like about Cash Crate is that the payout amount is low enough anyone can make it. My Inbox Dollars post walked people through making their first $30 payout…using those same techniques, a Cash Crate member can easily breeze through their first $10 payout.

Click here to join Cash Crate.

Blending Adsense Ads With Your Site

You’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to blend Adsense ads in with your site, so they don’t stand out. The default Google palette for Adsense ads looks nice, but the blue color scheme really stands out too much if your site is all greens and yellows.

But actually blending the ads with your site’s colors can be a bit confusing, so here’s a tutorial. When you’re creating Adsense ads, you get to specify the colors for the border, title, background, text, and URL. But you can either choose from a set list of colors, or you can type in a strange mix of letters and numbers.

Choosing from the set of available colors is pretty much useless. You might get close to your site’s colors, but it probably won’t be an exact match. After all, there are only 55 set colors to choose from, and thousands of colors for site designers to choose from.

So that leaves you typing in numbers and letters.

Those numbers and letters are called the RGB value, which stands for Red, Green, and Blue. An RGB value is actually a series of three two-digit numbers. In this case, the digits are in a numbering system called hexadecimal, where the digits are 0 through 9 and A through F. So FF is a valid hexadecimal number.

The three components of an RGB value specify how much red is in the color, how much green, and how much blue. All zeros means that the color is black, all FFs means that the color is white.

How do you figure out what you need to type in? The easiest way is to use a color grabbing program that lets you pull the RGB value straight off your web site.

If you have an advanced graphics editing program, it probably has a color grabbing tool in it (it usually looks like an eye dropper). You’ll have to use the Print Screen button to take a screen capture of your web site, then paste that into your graphics editing program to be able to grab colors from it.

If you don’t have a graphics editing program that will give you RGB values when you grab a color, then you can download a free color grabbing program. This one is pretty popular, although I’ve also used this one.

However you do it, what you’ll end up with is a way of pointing to a specific part of your site, and getting the RGB value for the color at that point.

Adsense Color Palette Here’s how you’re able to edit the colors Google will use for an Adsense ad. What we want to do it match each of these colors to the colors on your site.

Now that we have a way to grab a color from the screen, we can pretty easily do that. You’ll copy and paste RGB values you grab from your web site into the edit boxes for the ad colors.

Adsense Sample Here’s an Adsense sample ad, with the various colors shown. Note that whatever color you choose for the border is also used for the area around the “Ads by Google” disclaimer.

The hardest part of this entire process, for me at least, is figuring out what colors on my site need to go into which areas of the ad. Here’s the process I run through.

I first pick the spot on my site where I want the ads to appear. That may be in a sidebar, at the bottom of posts, or wherever. That spot will have a background color already defined in my site’s theme. I use the color grabber to get the RGB value for a spot in the background where I want the ads to go, and copy and paste that into the Background field in the ad palette. The background color will generally be white (FFFFFF) if you’re putting ads in posts, but it depends entirely on your site’s theme.

The next bit I work with is the border. Again, I look at my site, around the area where I want to put the ads, and see if any of the theme’s elements are surrounded by borders. I’ll use the color grabber to get the RGB value for those borders and use that as the ad’s Border color. If there are no borders, then I use the same color as the background.

The title color should be the same color that all other hyperlinks are on your site. Normally the default in Adsense is fine, but if your site’s theme has changed the color of hyperlinks, you’ll want to grab that color and use it as the ad’s Title color.

Same with text color, use whatever color text is in the spot where you want to put the ad. In posts that’s normally black (000000), but again your site’s theme might change that.

The URL color is pretty much just up to your own personal preference. You general don’t want it to appear as a clickable link, even though they can click it. Google’s default colors tend to understate the URL, so I usually go with a color a bit grayer than the normal text color. The default works well on a lot of color schemes.

By the time you finish this process, you should have an Adsense ad block that looks like it was custom designed for your site. And if you click on the “Save as new palette” link, you’ll be able to choose this same color scheme for future ads without going through the entire process again.

How To Know What Your Readers Want

I’ve been running a fun little plugin lately called Psychic Search.

Psychic Search is a free plugin that records searches using your WordPress search widget. There’s a wealth of information in those searches about what your readers want. For example, I know that a topic some of my readers want to know about is how to import sql. I can only imagine that they’re trying to figure out how to restore a backup of a blog, perhaps. I have a variety of technical tutorials, but haven’t done one on importing sql yet.

I also know that Ann Seig’s Renegade Network Marketer book is still pretty hot, judging from the number of searches done on it. I’m also getting some insight into how people like to search for things. For example, a common search for Ann’s book is “Renegade Marketer”, even though that’s not the title. So it pays to have a bit of variety in your posts so that you can hit all the common ways someone will search for topics.

Psychic Search gives you two separate listings of searches. The first listing are those searches that returned no results. These are topics you may want to create a post on, if enough people are searching for that information on your blog. The second listing is all the searches, where you can see how many results were returned. This gives you an idea of what information is most in demand on your blog.

Click here for the Psychic Search page.

Landing Pages Bridge The Gap

I talked a bit about the Adwords quality score yesterday, and the importance of landing pages.

Let’s expand on landing pages today, because they’re important for more than just boosting your Adwords quality score. Basically, what’s good for your quality score is good for your campaign.

So what’s the purpose of a landing page outside of quality score issues?

Think about marketing a particular product through an affiliate link. You aren’t the only one marketing that product, and the chances are good that all the best keywords already have players with money to toss around. Breaking into those keywords would be expensive. So we target long-tail keywords. How do we come up with the long-tail keywords to target?

We brainstorm unique reasons why someone might want to buy the product.

Let me use the product from the first advertising exercise over at The Advisory Panel as an example. The product was the Liar Card, a calling card that can tell you if the person you’re talking to on the phone is lying. Advisory Panel members brainstormed that people might want to use this if they don’t trust their car mechanic, if they think their spouse is lying to them, if they think their children are lying to them, etc. There are lots of reasons why someone might want to use this card.

But, if you send someone who doesn’t trust their mechanic to the Liar Card landing page, you’re relying on that person to put two and two together and realize they can use the card to double check what their mechanic is saying. Most people won’t do that.

A landing page is your opportunity to get between your Adwords ad and the product sales page, and explain how your visitor’s need and the product match up. A landing page for people who don’t trust their mechanic would walk them through the process of getting a Liar Card, calling their mechanic, and would suggest specific questions to ask the mechanic. Take as much independent thought out of the process as possible, and you’ll have higher conversions.

So while a nicely targeted landing page will increase your Adwords quality score and make it cheaper to get clicks, the real purpose is to bridge the gap between the problem your visitor has and the solution you’re offering.

Making Adwords Quality Score Work For You

Smack in the middle
Creative Commons License
photo credit: ogimogi

I haven’t made nearly the progress I had planned to make going through the Adwords training. What I have gone through, though, shows me that I understood more than I thought I did about how it all works. I’m still missing the trial and error practice that goes into getting good at it, but that’ll come in time.

One of the things that I realized I already know lately is something I see a lot of people on forums ignoring, and that’s the importance of the Adwords quality score.

The quality score for an ad is used to calculate the amount you’ll pay per click for a given ad position (or even if your ad will appear at all). The lower your quality score, the more you’ll have to pay to have your ad even show, let alone be in a high position. Gone are the days when it was a simple bidding war to get the top position. Now, the top position may be paying less than you are for position 10, depending on the quality scores of the ads.

So how is the quality score for an ad calculated?

Google uses some historical data for the keywords you’re targeting. That’s the same for everyone. They’ll also use the overall click through rate (CTR) of all your past campaigns (this is what bites me all the time, since I started using Adwords without knowing what I was doing, so my average CTR is very low).

Also important is the relevance of your ad text and keyword to the search query the user typed in. For example, if your ad is targeting the keyword “blue shoes”, and the ad text is relevant to buying blue shoes, and someone types in “Elvis blue suede shoes”, your ad isn’t particularly relevant. So it’ll show in a lower rank for that search query than if someone had typed in “buy blue shoes”.

The meat of the quality score, and what you have the most control over, is how relevant your destination page is to the keyword and ad text you’re using. This is really what kills most people.

Let’s say that you link to a merchant page listing all the shoes they sell, and you bid on the keyword “new work shoes”, thinking that anyone typing that in is prime for buying a nice pair of new shoes. But the merchant’s shoe page doesn’t have the term “work shoes” anywhere, so it isn’t particularly relevant for the keyword or the ad text. So you’ll have to bid higher to get your ad to show and rank well.

This is the reason that linking to merchant sites directly isn’t such a great idea. Instead, link to a landing page that you create that is highly relevant to the keyword and ad text you are using. That way your bids will be lower.

Single page landing pages are not enough, though. Google looks for the quality of the site itself, not just the landing page. You’ll need to create a full mini-site, complete with privacy policy, contact form, navigation menus, etc. That will boost the quality score for your ads, too, further lowering your cost per click and raising your ad rank. Basically, create a mini-site the same way you would a regular web site, and optimize it for your ad keywords in the same way that you would optimize it for those keywords in SEO terms.

So with all this extra work, how do you make the quality score work for you? Well, if you put in the extra work, all of a sudden you can bid less to maintain your ad’s rank, which means more profit for you.

As I experiment with mini-sites, I’ll report on the results and include any tips I come up with for optimizing them.

This Week At The Advisory Panel

A quick highlight of some of the goings on at The Advisory Panel this week.

In the Site Critiques section, we pick a blog each week and do some critiques of it in various areas, such as the adherence to the niche, the quality of the content, the way it’s monetized, etc. We’re just starting talking about John Chow dot com today, so head on over and chime in with your opinions.

Niche selection is ongoing in the sponsored blog. That’s a blog written by a group of member volunteers. I pay for the blog’s hosting and provide the technical support, and the volunteers share in the proceeds from the blog. This is all happening in one of the private sections of the forum, available to members only.

In the Shameless Self Promotion section, we’ve heard recently from Rosa, who won the 2007 People’s Media Award, and from Lori, who will be having a guest post published in a very high profile blog. Click through to read the details and congratulate both of them.

I’m also looking for PPC experts to run the advertising exercises. Those are the ones where members brainstorm unique ways to market a particular product, and we then run PPC campaigns to test out the ideas. Profits are shared among all the participants. If you regularly run profitable PPC campaigns, and are a mentoring sort of person, contact me for more details on getting involved.

Those are some of the highlights. Feel free to click through and read the public sections. When you register and confirm your email, you’ll get access to the private sections as well.

Click here for the Advisory Panel.

Picking A Forum Host

Regular readers know I recently started up The Advisory Panel, a forum to allow Internet Marketers and others looking to make money online a place to network.

This was my first forum launch, and I wanted to share one of the technical bits I’ve discovered that came as a surprise.

Discount web hosts will generally provide you with some number of MySQL databases for your monthly fee. For example, at Site5, you get unlimited MySQL databases. A forum takes up only one database, so I figured I’d host the forum on my Site5 account.

Before I go on, let me say that I run about half a dozen WordPress web sites off my one Site5 $5 a month hosting account. And I’m not even close to hitting the bandwidth and disk space limits on the account. For anyone running multiple blogs, I’d highly recommend Site5.

The server I’m on there has been having some odd MySQL problems now and then, and that’s led me to further investigate some of the database statistics on the account. It turns out that there’s a maximum number of connections any one application (e.g. forum or WordPress blog) can have on the database at one time. For WordPress blogs with caching, this isn’t a big deal…most people are not actually doing anything to need the database at any one time. They go to your site and spend most of their time reading, and only a little time going from post to post. Many don’t even click past the front page where your most recent posts are shown.

But for a forum, there’s quite a bit more clicking around to see different threads. As the number of members online at any one time grows, the limiting factor is the number of database connections the forum can make at one time. Go above that number, and your forum shows MySQL errors instead of content.

At Site5 that maximum is 15. Since most people at a forum still spend a lot of time reading, I’d say that 15 connections could support 100 members online at once. The Advisory Panel hasn’t hit that number yet, so this isn’t an issue, but if you’re planning on building a forum into a large membership, you’d do well to pick a web host that has a higher figure.

Other discount web hosts give you 20, or 30, maximum connections. Better, but still not great. In my research for a place to move The Advisory Panel as it grows, I’ve found only one web host that doesn’t arbitrarily limit the maximum number of connections. Hosting Matters allows a forum to use as many connections as the machine will allow, subject to the fact that these are shared hosting accounts. If your forum starts to use too many connections and adversely affects the other sites on the server, then you’d be expected to upgrade to a dedicated server.

Keep in mind that I haven’t actually used Hosting Matters, so can’t comment on quality of service, uptime, etc. But just from the perspective of supporting a high traffic forum, it seems like a good place to try.

And if you’re planning on running a forum at a different web host, find out what their maximum number of SQL connections is before starting the forum.

Marketing Outside The Lines

What’s holding you back in your online career?

If you’re like me, when you first started out, you knew next to nothing about marketing online. And before you say, “I don’t want to know anything about online marketing, I just want to make money online”, marketing is how you promote a product, promote a blog, promote yourself, etc.

So what I did when I first started out was I joined systems. These systems had a vested interest in me becoming a good marketer, so they provided training. The training told about using email signatures, traffic exchanges, etc. Over time, I realized the basic mistake I’d made.

A system doesn’t need for every member to become a great marketer, they just need a whole lot of members to become mediocre marketers. So that’s all the training you get. Sure, they’d give you better training if they could, but most of the people who create the systems are only mediocre marketers, too.

The absolute best lesson I learned about marketing online is to break away from what everyone else does. Market outside the lines, try something that you’ve thought of, not something that you’ve read about. Break rules and see what happens. It’s through this process that you learn how to do business online effectively.

In short, be yourself, and don’t try to be who everyone else is.

How To Do What You Hate

I don’t know about you, but there are certain things I just hate to do.

Offline, dishes are one of those things. I’ve found that the most effective way to do dishes is to do them as they get dirty. But, I’m also a great procrastinator, so when I just have one dish I’ve dirtied, it’s far easier to put it in the sink than wash it. So I do. The same with the next dish, and the next, and so on. Pretty soon, I’ve procrastinated to the point where the pile of dishes is this insurmountable obstacle that I can’t possibly do anything about.

Online, updating plugins to new versions is one of the things I hate to do. Upgrades are important for security reasons, but you never know when an upgrade will cause some problem with other plugins. It’s hard for me to mess with something that works, even though it might be more secure after I finishing messing with it.

The strategy that I’ve found to get through those tasks I hate, whether it’s dishes or updating plugins, is to start with the easiest single item, and just do it. I don’t think about the huge pile of dishes, or the large number of plugins, I just do the easiest one. My sneaky way of talking myself into this is to tell myself that I’ll just do the one and then quit. I’ll have made my gesture, then I can do something fun.

But when that one item is done, I talk myself into another. And another, and another. And pretty soon, the pile’s almost gone, and I feel pretty good about having done it all.

So the next time you have something to do that you hate, lie to yourself that you’ll do just part of it, and then reward yourself with something fun. It works!