Plan “B” Possibilities

There was (and still is) a real need for a β€œPlan B” to supplement my income long-term, instead of putting all my eggs in the Google basket! So I’ve tried several things to do just that…

Affiliate Marketing

First up, you’d put affiliate marketing into that bag… I’ve tried several “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 article/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!

OffLine Business

I’ve also 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… the whole shoebang! Needless to say, that was just starting to go fairly well after 18 months or so, with around 400 monthly customers (the point where it starts to get profitable) when the company I purchased from decided to go belly-up and out of business.

Oh… I so-o-o love life’s little lessons πŸ™‚

And that’s why I went…

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 to increase 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) has been a big hit there! And trying different combinations of the Adsense ad formats to see which converted better (using the “channels” feature to help with stats).

It also meant setting up even more “directory” type sites, seeing that was a model I was very familiar with. So a “themed” network of eight sites was established in early 2006. But recently, although it was pulling in an average of 18.5k visits a month, the whole eight sites were earning practically zippo from Adsense. In 2.5 years, these sites made under $1,000 in Adsense income… not good! Seems that this type of site went “out of favour” with Google, and that was reflected in the number of ads that were NOT shown on the network.

If you’d like to see where it is now… check out the October 2008 “revamped” version at Latest Sites which seems to be doing a much better job (you can also add your URL for free over there).

Use What You’ve Already Got

An important part of any “expansion” is to re-use existing content wherever possible – i.e. with the RSS Vacancy feeds from a major job network, and re-using the existing web site listings I already have access to in different ways.

So, using the Latest Sites listings which have indicated they want reciprocal links, has seen the establishment of a site I’d had planned for a some time (pre 2006). Linking Works is a directory of people who ARE very interested in exchanging links with other interested webmasters.

I’m also re-using the Australian web site listings from Come On Aussie at another site called Advance Australia Fair. This one has also allowed me to experiment with CSS to design a more functional site (and to give credit where it is due… the design is based loosely on the search results pages at cuil.com).

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).

Internet Marketing

Since early 2007 I’ve also been looking at the “Internet Marketing” niche to see what I can make of that. 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 πŸ™‚

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! 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 have developed a couple of sites to test the water… to see what works and what doesn’t. And while those sites now seem to get reasonable traffic, Adsense still doesn’t earn a cracker in this niche! Seems these people don’t like clicking on the ads.

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 a redesign of some of these sites (still in progress as at October 2008) to be based on using my now preferred CMS (Content Management System) which is WordPress – the same software I use here.

It’s too early to tell at this stage, but I’m hoping that apart from making things look fresher, and the content easier to manage, these changes will also attract additional traffic (Google likes WordPress based sites, and the RSS feeds they generate), and that traffic will result in additional Adsense impressions and earnings. People also 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 also takes time and effort to develop!

New Plan “B”… or is that “E” by now… I’m not too sure…

To bring things up to date, that “reflection” has provided me with a new direction I am now taking!

By going “back to my roots” and working on my sites… I was reminded WHY I have been doing this since the mid 1990’s… I’ve been reminded of the main reason why many of my sites actually exist!

And that’s to teach people about doing business online!

Although I’m no longer “officially” a teacher, it seems I’ll never actually stop trying to teach!

And THAT now forms the basis for my first “real” venture into the Internet Marketing field with a site which takes people right back to square one with their online learning, so they can (hopefully) set up in business online properly!

I’m currently developing content for a complete course in Internet Marketing based on my 13 years experience online as a web designer.

My intention is to offer access to the first few modules for free so people can get a good feel for the type of content on offer, and the style I use to teach it. I would then hope a significant number of these “students” will sign up to a continuity program where they can step through the remaining modules of the course for a recurring monthly fee.

It’s the “ideal” mix of what I’ve learned you need to be “successful” in the IM niche, and that includes:

  • having your own “fresh” product to promote to a hungry market,
  • offering great value for free first,
  • using a continuity/recurring income model,
  • building your list of prospects and “cultivating” a relationship with them,
  • providing both front and back-end opportunities, and
  • leveraging affiliates and joint venture partners.

As this is only just now in “pre-launch” phase (end October 2008), I can’t yet report on any outcomes right now… I’m too busy keeping my fingers crossed to see how it goes πŸ™‚

Conclusions

A few things are obvious from all of this:

  1. You are trying to build a business online, so approach everything from a business perspective. If you think of it as a hobby, it won’t have the “legs” to go the distance!
  2. If you rely on other people for anything, be careful that WHO you use can’t have a significant negative impact on your business.
  3. Things do NOT happen overnight – they WILL require a lot of planning, preparation and implementation – so approach what you do online from a long-term perspective.
  4. You need to try lots of different things, and not everything you try your hand at will succeed, and there are varying degrees of “success” in everything you do. Do lots of testing, and learn from what doesn’t work.
  5. If something works for you, devote time to improve on it (as opposed to using that time to chase new and unproven ideas)
  6. Don’t try to do too many different things in different niches at once. You’ll lose focus on what’s happening.

Posted by Stephen Spry  

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