February Earnings

7 Mar
2010

Very briefly – a bit of a decrease for february. This was expected due to the huge surge in january for my main site offering gym membership. February saw this site earn £570 – down by £75, but the decrease wasn’t as much as it could have been due to LA Fitness having their tracking down all but the last 4 days of january, so the 30 quid i made from them in Jan was massively improved upon in February.

Other sites of mine (and no, sorry, i still am not happy giving details on this blog, as they’re still being improved and i don’t want competition just yet!!) made a combined total of £76.

This gives me a total for February of £646 – down £47 on the previous month. However with the increase from my smaller sites, i’m pleased i’m heading in the right direction.

“Starving Affiliate” mentioned that this is less than minimum wage, however i’m not writing about my other bits of freelance work on here – only the affiliate stuff. So although i claim to be doing affiliate work full time, at the moment it probably only equates to 15 to 20 hours a week spent on it. I still have some small pieces of website work for other folk that keeps me busy and some guaranteed income coming in. I don’t really WANT to be doing it, but as some affiliate programs take as long as 60 days to pay the commissions, i have to do some other work until i get january’s money coming in. The observation that it’s less than minimum wage, however, is a good one – to begin with when you first start sites up, it’s a lot of effort and time for no return at all – until you get it up on the search engines (unless you go for PPC) it’s totally unrewarded. The way i see it though, most of the work i’ve done over the past 2 months isn’t on my main site, so although i’ve been paid just a hundred quid or so for probably 100 hours work, i’ve also been paid around £1300 for about 10 or 12 hours work keeping my main site up to date. The aim is to eventually have 5 or 6 main sites like this, each paying me over £100 an hour for the work it takes just to keep them updated with the latest offers or prices. Nice work if it all comes together!

affiliate pleasure

17 Feb
2010

ahhhhh.

i’m a happy man.

the best thing so far about affiliate marketing is my current situation – i’ve just been to the pub to watch the football, drank 3 pints, played 2 games of pool, and although arsenal lost (i’m not a fan as such, but i like that they try to play good football, so against the pork’n'cheesers, i’ll support ‘em!) i’ve had a wonderful night – good company, nice night out, plus…. the fledgling affiliate dream, i’ve made twice as much money while i was out of the house as what i spent!

I’m still a long way from my target, and i’m thinking of setting much lower targets along the way – my next being to get to averaging 50GBP a day (per month, per week, etc… the next after that to not have a single day in a month of less than 50GBP, but at the moment, where 30GBP is a reasonable day, today is a lovely one – 40GBP total (barring some late night action), but half of that was while i was relaxing down the pub! affiliate heaven!

Over the last week i’ve found myself doing a lot of “dabbling” with various web applications to see what i could use to get good content onto my sites fast, plus get good, well displayed offers from affiliate marchants as easily as possible whilst still allowing some customisation. I’ve found EasyContentUnits to work very well, and am happy with those for small sites, but if you start to build bigger sites and want to use lots of product feeds, it’s going to get very time consuming. There’s also not a whole heap of “comparability” to the products – you select the ones you want to display, and that’s about it. So i’ve also been dabbling with Affilistore - now this is a lot more effort to get set up in the first place as it runs a whole site if you want it to – you have to install it, make changes to the template, find relevant product feeds from merchants, and i’ve also been manually editing the product feeds to only take products i want to be displaying in my store – but once that is done, i think it’ll give me better long term useability for large scale comparison shopping sites. Both are great products though, and both useful for certain types of site.

Now to my main point though – that’s all i’ve been doing for over a week now. Dabbling.

I’ve learnt a lot, and got one or two old sites on the way to being updated with fresh relevant content, but i really need to be concentrating on one or two sites at a time, maybe for a week to 10 days, and get the site done, updated if old, or finished if new, and online, running, ready to make me money. Then hit the old linkbuilding to try to get some visitors! Currently i’m having fun dabbling, but when i sit and look at what i’ve achieved since the last post 8 days ago, i’m somewhat disappointed.

This week, i will be working on 2 sites only, with no dabbling with new ideas, just simply using what i played with last week to get the 2 sites to a finished state where i’m happy to start trying to promote them and get them earning me money!

custom 404 page

9 Feb
2010

A big problem when a site starts to get rather large, or you run pages from product feeds, or you decide to restructure… any of the above and more, is that at times, pages in your site might have a URL change, but still either have incoming links from other sites, or still appear in the search engines (perhaps for some strange long-tail search phrase, but none-the-less, it may still appear).

What can be extremely handy in that situation is a custom 404 Error (page not found) page. Rather than potential customers getting a blank screen, or a message from google/bing (other search engines available) saying the page doesn’t exist, it’s far better to give people the page you want should that happen – maybe with your normal headers and menus, but a nice message informing them the page doesn’t exist, but they can browse  the site for an alternative product!

What is even better about this idea, is it is simply one line of code in your .htaccess file, which for starters will be in the same root directory as your home page, or alternatively you can have a separate one for each directory of your site.

So – first go write your 404 error page, name it something sensible (eg something-sensible.html), then edit your .htaccess file to add this line of code at the end:

ErrorDocument 404 http://www.monthly5k.co.uk/something-sensible.html

of course, if you’re using wordpress or joomla or some other well developed sort of content management system, this will be done for you as part of the system,  but for many smaller specialist systems (some shopping carts, affiliate store packages, etc) you’ll probably need to create your page through the system itsself, and use that new pages URL as the one above.

6 nations fever

8 Feb
2010

A week since my last post, and in that week i’ve been getting to grips with EasyContentUnits. I’ve taken advantage of their birthday offer where i get my first month for just one pound, and decided to give them a try – and so far i’m quite impressed. It is indeed easy to produce the units, and I’ve decided to get my Rugby shirts site updated a bit (could do with a better header graphic too, but that can wait til i can pay for it – search engines don’t care!). One problem i’ve hit so far is when merchants on the supported networks are suspended for late payment, there is no warning on the ECU site, but it’s a very small concern – aside from that, the units are easy to create, nicely customisable and i’m hoping using the javascript version of inclusion, that although you miss out on the text content of the products for the page, so you would have to write extra content yourself, that google can’t follow the links in the javascript, so won’t penalise you for affilate links! My rugby shirts site currently sits top of Bing for the term “england rugby shirts” (strangely for a .co.uk site, it’s top for worldwide search, but not listed for uk only?) but it’s nowhere on google. absolutely nowhere. this could be simply not enough incoming links, but i’ve a suspicion it’s also to do with the site previously having lots of affiliate links on it.

About the rugby – i’m delighted to have found a French channel on my cable tv that shows the rugby – i was anticipating from here in Bulgaria to be stuck with low quality streams on t’internet, but once i got into it, i was quite enjoying the french commentary – i didn’t understand it all, but it seemed a lot fairer, level headed and positive than the usual whining negative drivel from Brian Moore.

Anyway – great to see a battling victory over the Welsh on saturday – big performances from Haskell and Nick Easter (who i still feel is too lumbering for international rugby, but has some good ball skills) well done to the front row, who i thought might be shown up by the supposedly strong welsh pack, and we were awesome in the lineout to steal a lot of ball. Concerns are still there about the defence – we seem to defend very narrow, and we’re very lightweight out wide too – we seem to be offering the outside to try to push the opposition into touch, or isolate the runner from support, but it’s not comfortable viewing with Tait at outside centre and Monye on the wing not being the best tacklers in the world!

I still think the Irish are the side to beat, as they have a fairly settled and experienced side with some real matchwinners in there, but at least England are heading in what seems to be the right direction.

January Earnings

1 Feb
2010

I’ve not got as much done as i’d hoped in January, but i’ve updated a lot of my gym membership site, am still waiting on a couple of chains to get back to me if they have any affiliate schemes or want to advertise, and am almost ready with a couple of old sites i’ve updated and added some fresh content and affiliate links to – i’ll be announcing those when they’re ready to be seen, along with the lowdown on what i’ve used on them.

Right – the nitty gritty… during january i earned:

So that gives a grand total of £693 in January. I’m pleased as i’m getting back to making some money, but also a little disappointed as Janaury is the best month for gym referrals, and i was hoping to hit the ground running – sadly LA Fitness had big problems with their tracking which took almost the whole month to resolve, so i only made 32 quid out of them – hopefully an increase in commission from them will help to make up for that next month. With a bit of luck i can get a couple more offers, get some more work done on the gym directory i’ve had problems setting up, and also get 3 old sites fully updated with current merchant offers, and making me some money.

Something that i often find with sites – people will start them just writing in html, as that’s the easiest thing to do with a WYSIWYG editor. As the site grows, it becomes ever more unmanageable, so eventually you may well need to think about putting things like page headers, footers, menus etc into separate files, which are then included on each page – that means when you need to change the menu that is on all 35 pages of your site, you only need to change one file!

Now then – the problem…. you need to use php to do this (or other scripting language, but i use php). by default, your server probably won’t parse html files for php code – why would it, as it’s extra work for the server, and if you have a .html or .htm extension, you would usually stick with plain html code.

The obvious solution is to simply rename all your files with a .php extension – but that causes problems in that if you have some incoming links to your site, and some pagerank for the existing pages, you lose it!

There is one solution of using 301 redirects, however i find it much easier to add 1 line to your .htaccess file, which tells the server to parse all your html files for php scripting!

here it is – the one line that solves all your problems……..

AddType application/x-httpd-php .html  .htm

 

and you’re done!  now you can start to make updating your rapidly growing website much easier.

I’ve never really been into all this Apple stuff. I just don’t “get it”.

I have an ipod – it’s lovely. I really like it. But it’s basically the only product of theirs i understand, as it has a simple function – storing, ordering and playing my music collection. It does it very well, and never goes wrong – i’ve had a couple of cheaper players, and their software simply doesn’t compare. Apple produced something which looked good, there was a genuine need for, and works very well.

 I’ve never seen the point of an iphone – they’re nice looking, but fairly expensive, and (i’m sure people who own them will argue) they don’t do anything more than most other similar competitors products, however i understand that there is a market for them, as they do a job, and it’s a bit like buying a new oven – some people will go for the one that does the job and cooks your food, and some will go for the one with 153 different settings, voice activated and is sleek polished steel -your meal will still be the same, but it’s more to impress your dinner guests.

Now. Apple are releasing their latest product, the Ipad – and i simply can’t get my head round what the hell anyone would want one for?

They claim it’s going to fill the gap that netbooks were aimed at, but failed to fill – the gap between smartphones and laptops. The gap where you don’t want to carry round something bulky all day just to send emails, look at photos and browse the internet, but your small screened and no-keyboard smartphone isn’t up to the job.

Firstly – is there really a gap? Is this not the reason this “gap” wasn’t filled? Of course Apple have huge teams of researchers and they surely have looked into the market and done their surveys, but I would suggest that most people that answer these surveys are wowed by the idea, but in practice, you’re still going to be carrying round the equivalent of a textbook all day long, which would really piss me off. It’s difficult to go get your shopping and perhaps have 3 or 4 beers down the boozer if you’ve got this damn book-sized thing to carry the whole time - forget it’s “only 1.5 pounds!! (about 700g)” - it’s the physical size that gets in the way, plus being scared of damaging it - not to mention you can’t put it in your pocket, so you have to keep an eye on it if you put it down anywhere in public, as someone might nick it. You may as well carry round a laptop!

And do we really need to access the internet at all times? for these prices you can have a reasonable laptop at home with far bigger than their 64GB maximum storage, and take your blackberry/N97/iphone/ etc out with you to get any vital emails while you’re on the move. Take your laptop out when you really have to be in touch with everything!

So as you can see, i don’t think there’s much use for it. Saying that though, there are some good things about it, and they’re the same things that i feel separate the ipod from other mp3 players, and the iphone from similar capability phones. The software is slick, graphically rich, and looks very easy to use. Apple clearly know their market on that front, and look like they’ve hit the mark again with the product being able to do a little of everything for everyone, from the touchscreen keyboard, the email client, the web browsing, downloadable libraries, games – everything looks very glossy and intuitive. It’s mobile internet solutions for dummies.

Perhaps that’s why i don’t get this product, as it seems to be designed for people who have no time to sit down at a laptop, who have no real need for any of the functions of this new product, but simply have a very short attention span and want everything here, now, but for only 5 minutes before they’re bored and want to do something else. Perhaps this is the market that is spoken of – it can satisfy peoples cravings to look at facebook, and it also looks good as a fashion accessory. There’s a whole swathe of people out there that are indeed just like this – we’ve all met them, they love big brother and the x-factor. They need to see what the latest news is on katie price and peter andre, and spend more time when they’re out with friends on the phone texting and chatting to other friends than they do talking to the people they’re out with. I think THIS is the demographic Apple are aiming for – and I wouldn’t be surprised if the sales pitch and marketing will manage to make quite a large number of sales – but i really don’t think this is a groundbreaking product that will still be around in even 5 years time, more like just the latest fashion accessory.

To most people who start out from the bottom in affiliate marketing, there is one piece of advice that they will almost always hear very early on: “find a niche market”.

The reasoning behind this is that whilst the biggest commissions, and most searched for terms are usually found in areas such as insurance, mobile phones, holidays or satellite/cable tv packages, there’s almost no point trying to enter these markets and competing for these sorts of search terms, as there’s already a lot of very big movers and shakers with big sites, many sites, teams of people optimising them, and huge budgets to do so. If you do decide to (where the “almost” comes into the above), you probably need to target one specific small part of one of the above (eg rather than just “holidays to greece”, perhaps target “island hopping holidays in greece”). It’s called long tail keywords, and can be an extremely profitable science of its own, but i’m not going to delve into that right now.

With those ruled out, us ordinary folk who might be able to knock up a few simple sites and spend a small amount of time and money trying to push them up the rankings need to find a “good niche”. One where we can still make money through affiliate schemes, there is still some reasonable amounts of searches for this product niche, and not too much existing competition on the first page of the search engines. It’s not difficult to find 2 out of those 3 things, but all three in one niche? It tough, but when you do, it’s the perfect combination to jump into making a site, getting it up there, and hopefully making some good commissions before too many people spot the same niche and it gets all competitive!

Over the next few weeks, i’ll be setting up a couple of sites where I think i’ve spotted just that niche – not huge moneymakers, but ones i hope with a reasonable initial effort of making the site could make a few hundred pounds a month without too much extra work, and once they’re up and running, i’ll be explaining why (i may not be right of course, and will welcome arguments as to why i’m not!). I’ll give data such as how many searches for various terms there are each month, which programs i’ll be initially promoting, and what the existing competition is like.

It’ll be interesting for me at least to see how they go over time – and i’m sure if they’re very successful, i’ll have people reading this and setting up rival sites, which will also be interesting - to see how they fare, and how i manage to cope with the sudden addition of competition who may either be following and copying what i’m doing, or more scarily may be far better at this stuff than me!

Disaster struck last wednesday, as the hard drive on my laptop failed – now i DO back up occasionally when i remember, but clearly as the last 5 days has shown, i simply don’t do it often enough, and because i’ve always just occasionally backed up work to a flash disk, it’s rammed this home as i realised the photos and music i’d collected over the past 3 years had all disappeared as i’d never bothered with those folders!

thankfully a lot of my work stuff is online – already uploaded, so i guess i only lost about 10 days of work, and a few image files that i’d received by email before christmas and hadn’t got round to using, but it’s still a lot to redo, plus the loss of all my emails, and the fact i’ve now had to shell out for a new laptop and install all the relevant software again!

I’m going to try and take positives from the situation – it’s not fatal, i’ve learnt a lesson “reasonably” cheaply, and i am now the proud owner of a lovely new laptop with Linux Ubuntu installed as i’ve finally had the guts to leap away from windows of whatever flavour – i got fed up of XP updates, etc. I’m also now the proud owner of a portable external hard drive (500GB) which i intend to use at least once a week to make sure if this happens again i’m not quite as distraught as this time!

I’ll probably write a grumble at some point about Ubuntu, but so far, from getting all my email accounts set up, and downloading and installing all the essential software (openoffice instead of microsoft office, filezilla, skype, a couple of editors for php, html and css) it’s all gone very smoothly, and everything has been easy and worked first time! I’m delighted i didn’t opt for windows 7, as i’m sure i’d still be wading through whatever idiots guide they have to the new features, and clicking popups to say YES, I REALLY REALLLLLY want to open a new browser window. The genius of Ubuntu so far seems to be that it doesn’t let me mess with the basic operating system, but i can do just about anything else i want without being warned by “helpful” advice prompts every 10 seconds.

Well, back to work now, and back to trying to remember and replicate what it was i’d done over the last 2 weeks!

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