By Stephen Spry
While the Google income has been kind to me over the years, I was still looking for alternative income sources… as you do!
So there always has been a need for a useful “Plan B” to supplement my income long-term, instead of putting all my eggs in the Google basket!
Over the years, I’ve tried several things to do just that…
I’ve tried several affiliate marketing“networks” with varying degrees of success. The most successful one has been with the promotion of the digital products available through ClickBank. Considering my sites were beginning to attract a LOT of traffic, it was easy to sprinkle quite a few ClickBank links in the form of articles/reviews or product listings, to generate a fairly “regular” income of $250-$500 a month. Not much to really write home about, but a good start.
The biggest problem I’ve found with affiliate marketing however has been with those networks where the advertisers change often… No sooner do you get a campaign up and running, and you’ll find it’s closed down because the advertiser can’t pay… or their budget is all gone…
It makes it hard to build a long-term business from this sort of thing when you have to work on “fixing” things every few days.
Which means that careful selection, recording and monitoring of EVERY affiliate link you have is essential if you enter this field.
And don’t promote every single product you can… be selective, test and continue with only those ones that actually work for you!
In early 2004 I decided to set up an offline business (an Internet Service Provider – ISP – actually) which involved going back into the real world, renting premises, phone lines, paid advertising… Yep! The whole shebang!
Yeah I know… What WAS I thinking???
Needless to say, things were just starting to go fairly well after 18 months or so, with around 400+ monthly customers – the point where it starts to get profitable.
But the wholesale company I used decided to go belly-up and out of business in an instant in September 2006.
Oh… I so-o-o love life’s little lessons 🙂
And that’s why I had to go…
Back To Google
Since I knew my sites can earn money from Adsense, it made sense that if I had more pages… I’d earn more from Google. And it isn’t really a plan “B” as such… because I was actually doing things that increased my dependency on that source of income.
But at least it was income, and that was what I needed right then and there at the time!
So back to Google, and expanding my virtual real estate to (hopefully) increase my earnings by creating a few thousand more pages carrying Adsense ads…
That meant expanding on the content offering in my existing sites, in particular now carrying thousands of “vacancy notices” at Careers OnLine (grabbed from a major job network using RSS feeds) was a big hit there then, and still is a good earner to this day.
I also tried different combinations of the Adsense ad formats to see which converted better (using the “channels” feature to help with stats) – and found out that this varies a lot depending on the site they are placed on.
It also meant setting up even more “directory” type sites, seeing that was a model I was very familiar with. And because we planned on doing this on a large scale – mixing web site listings, product descriptions and articles – I even wrote some custom software to handle everything for us!
In early 2006, a “themed” network of eight sites was established. But 2.5 years on, despite them pulling in an average of 18.5k unique visits a month, they were earning practically zippo from Adsense. In that time, these sites made under $1,000 in Adsense income… not good! And the affiliate income from the “products” advertised, and through afflinks in articles… well that ws not as good as expected.
For some reason, this directory type of site went “out of favour” with Google at the time, and that was reflected in the number of ads that were NOT shown on the network. Strange… considering my other sites were doing O.K.
In October 2008, I had one last ditch attempt to “fix” this… and re-used all the web listing data that had been submitted, to make ONE bigger site (instead of the 8 “themed” ones). And I ditched the product listings and articles from those sites cos they were not performing well at all.
Use What You’ve Already Got
An important part of any “expansion” is to re-use existing content wherever possible whether it is “borrowed” from other sources – i.e. the RSS Vacancy feeds from a major job network – or if it is my OWN content – e.g. re-using the existing web site listings I already have in different ways.
So, using the Latest Sites submissions which indicated they wanted reciprocal links, saw the establishment of a site I had planned for some time (pre 2006).
Linking Works was a directory of people who say they ARE very interested in exchanging links with other interested webmasters. And building in-bound links to your website is still a very important part in determining how well your site is placed in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
I’m also re-using the Australian web site listings from Come On Aussie at another site called Advance Australia Fair. The development of this site allowed me to experiment with CSS to design a more functional site.
OK… while these are still “directory” type sites, I hope the “flavour” is slightly different enough to encourage Google to think they are not the standard “run-of-the-mill” directories that they don’t really like (i.e. the link farm model).
Somewhere during this “phase”, I also discovered a great website thumbnail service. The inclusion of thumbnails adds a good visual element to these sites and makes them more attractive to visitors.
I also had a go at establishing another site which attempted to show how useful RSS feeds are. The plan here was to create a directory of RSS feeds which, again, people could add their feed to. But the parser I had written was not robust enough for that purpose.
Since early 2007 I’ve also been looking at the “Internet Marketing” niche to see what I can make of that.
Now, this niche is NOT what you would assume it to be… It is NOT about “marketing online” as the name might suggest.
It is seen to be more about “how to make money online”… and it has been a very strange area for me to get my head around…
Probably because there are an awful lot of scams in the area… lots and lots of useless products on how to chase the “lifestyle” dream of getting rich quick overnight using the Internet! Sheesh!
Now while there’s lots of money to be made selling that “dream”, I like to sleep at night and have not been able to come to terms with promoting any products that I am not really comfortable with!
So I’ve spent a lot of time “researching” the area, and developed several sites to see what works and what doesn’t.
And while those sites seemed to get “reasonable” traffic, Adsense didn’t earn a cracker in this niche! Seems these people don’t like clicking on the ads.
And as far as making a fortune by “reviewing” useful Internet Marketing products as they come out… well, a super affiliate I am not!
I have “discovered” a sub-niche that people are very interested in – how to develop WordPress membership sites – but it is still very much an area where they would rather try the “free” options instead of buying a decent solution… oh well!
Re-Visit And Re-Vamp!
So while I sat back and thought what I could “do” with that niche that could actually “help” and offer something of value to a very hungry market, I’ve taken the time to re-visit many of my existing sites and do some much overdue maintenance on them – including a total revamp of a couple of these to bring them into the 21st Century (told you it was much needed!).
And that process included an ongoing redesign of some of these sites which began in October 2008 to be based on using my now preferred CMS (Content Management System) which is WordPress – the same software I use here and on most new sites I work on now – even for my clients.
Apart from making things look fresher, and the content easier to manage, these changes DO also attract additional traffic (Google likes WordPress based sites, and the RSS feeds they generate), and that traffic has resulted in additional Adsense impressions and earnings (in those niches where people click on ads).
People supposedly like this type of site because of the more “social” aspect of the design – i.e. the ability to comment on each page, and to engage in conversations with other users… but that’s something that takes time and effort to develop!
For a lot of sites I have, it is hard to get people to leave any/useful comments. I certainly have plenty of comment spam to deal with… and thankfully most of that process is automated! But real, useful comments are few and far between, and you may, in fact, be better off ny turning that facility completely OFF. Testing will determine what works best for your site.
However my point is that using WordPress as your CMS is a great way to go!
You use the software to build and manage your websites EASILY!
With the range of “plug-ins” available, you can do almost anything you like using the WordPress software, which by the way, usually comes FREE with cPanel web hosting where the Fantastico option is offered.
Something to look out for there 🙂