Make Money Online with Commission Junction

Earlier in this series I talked about how to make money online with several of my favorite companies, but one that has the potential to be my favorite company is Commission Junction.   That is because they have the affiliate programs of pretty much all of the top companies out there.

In a recent post, Affiliate Tip talked about how Commission Junction Dominates the Internet 500, meaning of course that they run an overwhelming percentage of the affiliate programs of many of the internet’s top 500 companies.  Obviously you are doing something right if most major companies choose you. Of those that don’t, most house their affiliate programs internally.

If you decide to place more focus on affiliate marketing, and you decide to partner with CJ, the first thing you’ll notice is that the site is a little old fashioned and sometimes the navigation can be a little difficult.   With that said, after using it a bit it really isn’t that bad to find your way around.

Some nice things about Commission Junction:

  • Top Companies – As mentioned above, you’ll find many of the top companies with Commission Junction.   These products are familiar to internet buyers and many buy them anyway, so it can sometimes be easier to sell their products.
  • Huge Selection – Pretty much every keyword is covered, so no matter what kind of niche blog/website you are starting, you should be able to find at least 1-2 companies/products to promote.
  • Banners – Some affiliate companies just offer affiliate links.  With most companies in CJ, you get a nice selection of banners, including 468×60 and 125×125.

So far, my success with Commission Junction has been minimal at best, but I’m planning to switch some of my focus to CJ products in the future.  My hope is with a little focus, I can push that number up and continue to diversify my online income.

Make Money Online with Amazon Associates

Does your website, eStore, or niche blog sell a lot of products? If the answer is yes, one thing you should definitely check out is Amazon.com’s affiliate program: Amazon Associates.

This is arguably the most popular affiliate program on the internet and with good reason. Anything sold on Amazon can be linked to from your website and you get paid when your traffic buys their products. What this means is anyone that blogs about video games, movies, books, etc. can make a lot of money with the proper use of this program. Amazon Associates also give you a lot of options for promoting their products, including text links, pictures, buttons and a variety of keyword triggered techniques.

Though Amazon does not offer the most competitve payouts on the market, they have developed a strong brand and trust with the online shopping community, making them an excellent choice to affiliate yourself with. They do have a tiered system, however, so if you send them a lot of business, your percentage will go up giving you more profits.

Amazon Associates also offers something that you won’t find with most affiliate programs and that is the ability to refer people to Amazon for a particular product and get paid for EVERYTHING they buy. In fact, if you refer someone to Amazon to buy a book and they decide not to, but they instead buy 2-3 other things, you will get paid for those things. In other words, when using Amazon Associates your goal is simply to get people over to Amazon. They do the rest of the work, which is why I really like this affiliate program.

One of my goals going forward is to spend more time and focus on targeting Amazon Associates products, as I am personally very far from maximizing my income with them. I am currently in the process of finding related products for existing websites so I can work a few affiliate links into those posts. Once that is done, I will launch a site or two that is focused specifically on forwarding traffic to Amazon and see how that goes. Expect future posts about what I’m finding works and what doesn’t work as I try more things.

Integrating Amazon Associates Into Your WordPress Blog

If you’d like promote Amazon on your WordPress blog, there are a few WordPress plugins available. One is the WP-Amazon WordPress plugin and the other I’ve found is the Amazon Links Pro, both of which allow you to easily integrate AA into your blog.

If you aren’t already a member, I recommend you check out Amazon Associates!

Foreclosure Affiliate Program: Foreclosure.com

One of the popular niche sites to run right now (and for good reason) are foreclosure websites/blogs. In the United States right now we are close to being in a recession with unemployment rates skyrocketing and the number of foreclosures going up each day. It is only natural for a affiliate marketer to recognize the potential in this market and attempt to make money online with it.

One of the top Foreclosure affiliate programs right now is Foreclosure.com. Not only do they pay affiliates a pretty nice percentage, but now they also help you setup your affiliate site with a new Foreclosure WordPress plugin. Affiliates using the WordPress Foreclosure Listings plugin get a complete real estate search and navigation environment that queries the Foreclosure.com database in real-time, meaning with a good foreclosure domain you have the basis for your website right away and you can just build around the plugin.

So far, the best use of this plugin I’ve found is FindForeclosures.com, but there are many others as well. If you find yourself targeting the foreclosure niche in some way, I would definitely recommend you check out Foreclosure.com.

Update: I decided to go out and make a quick foreclosure niche site to see if I could get this plugin to generate some extra affiliate income.  You can see my new foreclosure niche site here:  Recent Foreclosures.  If it does well, I’m sure I’ll go into more details in a future post.

How To: Doing a Trademark Search

Okay, so I promised to explain how to do a trademark search in my last post, so here it is as promised.  However, first I want to ramble a bit about when or why you would need to do a trademark search.

Doing a trademark search is a process that is very important for domainers, as investing in trademarked domains can be both risky and very costly.   An example would be purchasing something like FacebookApplications.com.   Because the term Facebook is trademarked, if someone that isn’t Facebook purchases a domain like this, it can easily be demonstrated that they are trying to make money off the Facebook name.  In other words, if Facebook goes after it, the courts will turn this domain over to Facebook.

If you hand registered the name trademark risk probably isn’t a huge deal, but domainers will often spend $100,000.00+ for individual domain names, so they need to know their investment is safe.   This is why generic domains are so valuable, because they are terms that can’t be trademarked (an example would be the term restaurant, instead of the term McDonalds).

Anyway, I digress.  For affiliate marketers or anyone that builds a lot of different smaller websites, a trademark search can also be important.  If you are starting a company with the name or plan to invest many years into a website, you’ll want to know someone can’t just come and easily take it from you.

In order to do a trademark search, you just need to do the following:

  1. Visit the US government’s sitesearch page.
  2. Click Search at the top of the right menu.
  3. Click New User Form Search (Basic).
  4. In the Search Term field, you’ll want to enter your domain name.
  5. Click Submit Query.

When doing your search, you’ll want to make sure to search for your term with and without spaces.  An example would be if you were looking for Slick Affiliate, you would try both “slick affiliate” and “slickaffiliate”.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying trademarks, both in how they work and how people lose trademark battles.  I’m also married to an attorney, which helps as well.  Any other questions about trademarks or trademark searches?  Please let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to elaborate!

Learn Article Marketing with Article Marketing Domination

When you become an affiliate marketer, one concept you need to become very familiar with is link building.  In other words, you need to learn how to generate inbound links to your niche website or blog that you’ve created.   This is especially critical when you are not adding much content to the website.

There are two popular strategies often used to build inbound links.  These two choices are using web directories and using article directories.   In the past I’ve talked about blog directories, so I figured with this post I would cover article directories, which I’ll admit is a method I’ve only begun experimenting with recently.

The basic idea behind article directories is that you can write an article of your own website, then submit it to several article directories.   These sites get free content for their website and you will get credit for both an inbound link to your website, as well as an opportunity to sell your product to the reader.  If your small niche site focuses on 1-2 products, tease the product in your post so people will click the link at the bottom and head over to your website.   As long as the article directory stays in good favor with the search engines, you get credit for a link, a chance to help sell your product, and it has more of a long-term gain over using link directories.

If you think about it, the power of article marketing should be obvious, but learning some of the little tricks to launching a successful promotion can sometimes take months and even years to learn.    That is why I turned to Josh Spaulding’s Article Marketing Domination eBook for guidance, because Josh bares all when sharing his secrets to success.

In his eBook, Josh goes into detail about how to write your article to improve clicks, which article directories offer the most benefits, etc.   Much of this stuff I could probably have picked up on my own, but it would have taken years of experimenting and documenting results to get the information I got from Josh’s eBook.

If you are interested in learning more about article marketing, I recommend you check out Josh’s eBook, which has received excellent reviews from many of the internet’s top affiliates!

How To: Finding a Good Business Name

Since Monday’s post about starting your own business, I’ve received a lot of positive response as well as a few questions.   My friend Mark of MeAndMyDrum wrote a great followup post about what you might not know about DBAs and also asked the question about how I came up with the name for my new DBA business, Apricot Media:

How far did you go to ensure the name you picked, Apricot Media, was unique? All I’ve been doing is coming up with interesting names, then running the ideas by GoDaddy. If the URL is available, then I feel that I’m 95 percent certain it’s a viable option. But it’s that remaining 5 percent that I’m worried about. I figured the next step is to Google the name, but any other places I should consider?

I left Mark a detailed follow up comment, but figured this would also make for a great post here.    So, how do you go about finding a good business name?

In the old days, people would create a business, pick a name, then go attempt to register their domain name.   It is now the 21st century and things don’t work like they used to.   Now if you are going to start a business, and in particular an internet-based business, you need to find a good dot com domain, THEN name your business based upon what you find.    There are some people that still go the other route and end up with long and awful domains for their business, a non-dot com domain, or they spend $10,000+ for their dot com business name. 

In my situation, with the name of the business on hold, I went in search of a business good domain name.  It has become quite the trend for businesses to have the word “Media” in their domain, and I decided for me personally that I also wanted the Media suffix in my domain name (just personal preference).  It was with that mindset that I went out and began my search.    Here are some other things you need to consider with your search:

  • Brandable – This is by far the most important.   If you plan to allow room for your business to grow, you’ll want to avoid using anything personal or that you are attached to in your domain name/business name.   This includes using your first name and/or last name, etc.   Think long term!   What if I want to sell this business someday or hand it down to my kids when I retire?  A brandable domain name also has a resale value, where as a personal one probably won’t. 
  • Spelling – Ideally you’ll want to find a name that does not have alternate spellings or pronunciations.   If someone hears your business name via word of mouth and goes to type it into the browser, will they know how to spell it?  Is it memorable? 
  • Length – I personally focus on domains under 12 total letters/numbers, but the general rule is 15 and under.   In my case I wanted media at the end, so I needed 1-2 words that were under 10 total letters.  
  • No Trademark – I know about I said above that Brandability is the most important, but technically I lied.   Legally speaking, this is my far the most important.   Do a trademark search before spending any money on the domain.   You don’t want to get all your accounts and processes setup then have someone take the name from you.   I would also recommend doing a quick Google search to see what shows up when searching for your business name, use the WayBack machine to check its history, and check the alternate extensions to see if others are using your potential business name.  In my case, I noticed the dot net was taken, but it is a company outside the United States and appears to not have a web prescence or a trademark so I feel I’m okay. 

I know this may seem complicated, but it really isn’t.   This is the thought process that goes through a domainers mind EVERY time a domain is registered/backordered/purchased.  Even though you aren’t a domainer, you really need to follow this thought process when registered a domain and especially when doing something as important as naming your business. 

I know a lot of people don’t put a lot of time or energy into naming their business, but this is a big mistake in my opinion.   If you aren’t willing to set yourself up for success, how are you going to succeed?   You’ll want to check the public registry, but if you don’t find what you are looking for, spend some time at Sedo or Afternic searching for names, check backorder lists for good names that are dropping, etc.   If you have to spend $50.00, $500.00, or even more to get the name you want, it is worth it.  You need a name that your business that looks/sounds professional and that you can grow into.

Once you’ve found your dot com domain and have possession of it, you can now name your business!   I would also recommend regging the other extensions (at least the dot net at a minimum if it is available). Mark’s post goes into greater detail about getting a trade name, etc.  

As far as what you do with the domain, it is fairly irrelevant.  Once you own the dot com, you have the power and essentially the ownership of that name.  Owning the dot com domain is sort of like the internet version of a trademark!   If your business is internet-based, you’ll probably want to put a splash page up of some sort.  This can be via WordPress or old school HTML.   That is basically what I’ve done with Apricot Media, which gives my business a homepage, provides people with both information about my business and a way to contact me, as well as it filters interested traffic to a few of my main sites.   By using WordPress, I can later easily add pages to help grow its ranking and become more findable.

This weekend I’ll try to get a post up about how to do a trademark search because I know there will be some questions about that.   Any other questions?  Let me know in the comments below!

Make Money Online with E-Junkie

When I came out with my May Income Report a couple weeks ago, many people were surprised that my primary earner for the month of May was a company called E-Junkie.   Based upon what I have been hearing, many of you either have never heard of it at all or you weren’t aware that they had useful products that people would actually buy!

I’ll be the first to admit that at first I wasn’t overly impressed with E-Junkie.   I actually signed up originally because there was an eBook I wanted to promote and their affiliate program was through them.    After looking around their website and learning how to navigate and create my affiliate links, I stumbled into their marketplace (shop tab) and started looking through the different categories that either interested me or that I already had related indexed content.   I was surprised to find a few things I had written about in the past that I was promoting for free.   

After signing up for each product and getting my affiliate links for each one, I grabbed my copy of the WP Affiliate Pro WordPress plugin and began adding affiliate links to all my old posts with a single click for each affiliate link.  Once done, I looked around and found some other products that I felt I could convert sales on and added them to my existing BANS site, niche sites, or created small sites to promote them.   The rest is history. 

Unlike previously reviewed affiliate programs, E-Junkie seems to specialize in digital products (though they do have merchandise as well), and it is easy to find products with huge percentage payouts.   You’ll find all sorts of digital goods like eBooks, training classes, tutorials, and also a lot of services like dating services, foreclosure consulting, lessons, etc.

So far, my only complaint with E-Junkie is that they don’t actually collect the money when a sale is made.  They simply manage the affiliate program for sellers.  Sellers have to login and manually make a payment once a month, or however often they want to.    I have a contact within E-Junkie and she informed me they are actually working on this, so hopefully this will be fixed soon.   I’ve only had a problem once; otherwise, I sometimes have to e-mail people and remind them to pay their affiliates, but it has never been a real problem getting paid.  

Firefox 3.0 Now Available For Download

I know I’ve become notorious for really long posts lately, so I’ll make this one really quick!   I just wanted to let everyone know that you can now download Firefox 3.0.

If you’ve been following this site for awhile (or you dig through the archives), you’ll know that I have a serious man crush on Firefox, so this is a very exciting day for me.  Even though I always try the betas and release candidates, there is nothing like making it official.

If you’ve tried out Firefox 3.0, what are your thoughts?

When To Start Your Own Affiliate Business

So you’ve been working really hard and started to make money online.  Now what?   Depending on how much money you are making, the answer could vary, but I recommend you at least consider starting a formalized business and operating under that business name.

What does this mean exactly? In my situation, for many months now I’ve been pulling in $1,000 or more from my online activities.  This income consists of a bunch of different sources with the primary income coming from affiliate marketing, but I also get a portion of it from domain sales and blogging advertisements/AdSense.   When I would get paid each month, I would just send that money over to my checking account and pay bills or drop some into savings, etc.   Sound familiar?

If you are making under $500.00 a month, this probably isn’t for you, but once you start making more than that, it is my belief that you should at least consider moving your activities over to a formalized business.

Should you decide to at least looking into starting a business, you’ll probably be trying to choose between an LLC (limited liability company) and running your business as a sole proprietorship.   Both types have advantages, but to start I recommend most people go with the sole proprietorship because they are easier to setup and you don’t have to completely separate your business assets/debts from personal assets/debts.   The one exception to that rule is domainers who run a signfiicant legal risk due to owning domains with possible trademark violations.  When your domain portfolios value gets into the 5 figure our higher range it is probably a good time to go with an LLC.  Operating under an LLC requires complete seperation from personal and business, so it requires a lot more paperwork, more accounts to manage, etc.   But the significant reduction in risk makes it more than worth it.

Edit: The day after I posted this, Jonathan Volk wrote a very detailed article about finding the best corporate structure which I think our readers will enjoy.

Why Operate Under a Business Name?

To be honest, there are a LOT of advantages to this and very few disadvantages in my opinion.  For the purposes of this post, lets look at the advantages of a sole properietorship:

  • Tax Deductions – This is probably the most important reason.   I know my business expenses (domain renewals, advertising costs, PPC advertising) were going up as my income went up, and now that I am operating under a business name, I am able to deduct these things come tax time.   Before I was paying taxes on my full online income without deducting the expenses I have to run the business.   If you go the route of a sole proprietorship, you are also able to find a lot of additional deductions once you’ve made the switch, such as cell phone costs (if your domains are registered under that phone number), buying new desktop/laptop computers and equipment, etc.  If you aren’t sure what qualifies, you’ll want to consult a qualified accountant.
  • Tax Identification Number (TID) – When you operate under a business name, you can use a TID instead of your social security number when you sign up with all of these companies.  This is more secure for you personally and really convenient.
  • Better Accounting – Having a separate Paypal account, separate checking, savings, and credit card all make it much easier to track income/expenses and figure out exactly how much you truly are making each month after taking out your expenses.   This will also help you figure out how much money to put aside for tax time!
  • More professional appearance – If you are buying advertising from someone, would you rather buy from Joe Blue or Blue Media?   Which one sounds more professional?  Probably a bad example, but you get the idea!
  • Business Cards – This isn’t necessarily needed for people making money online unless you attend a lot of events, but it is nice to have the option available.

Introducing Apricot Media

I guess I haven’t really mentioned it yet here, but it obviously fits with the theme of this post so I will go ahead and make the official announcement.   About a month ago I finally finished making the complete transition over to my business name Apricot Media, and I am already extremely glad that I did.   Things have really gone great so far!   I finished setting up the domain awhile ago (though it is more of a splash page right now) and with the help of my friend Mark, I was able to get a great logo as well, which can also be used for business cards, fax coversheets, or whatever I want to use it on.   More importantly, I have a professional “media” email address that I can use to conduct business under.

RIght now, Apricot Media is more of a name than an internet presence, but remember that it is CRUCIAL to own the dot com version of your business name before you launch your business.  You will want to secure the dot com domain name before you pick your business name, even if you aren’t using it right away.  That is a big reason why when I was able to successfully acquire this incredible multi-thousand dollar domain name, I decided to use it as my business name (after doing a trademark search to verify there wouldn’t be issues there).

One of the great things about the internet is all of the options you have available to you, so I hope everyone is at least considering setting themselves up for success over time.   Have you considered converting to a formalized business?

Join Market Leverage and Win Great Prizes

Lately Zac Johnson has been on a Market Leverage promotion spree, and his latest Market Leverage campaign is centered around a huge number of great prizes that he is practically giving away on his personal blog.

Here are the prizes up for grabs:

  • iPod Nano
  • USB Drive Pen (3 Winners)
  • $200 ML American Express Rewards card
  • Flip Video Camera *The NEW MINO
  • BONUS: iPod Touch

Here is all that you have to do to be prize eligible:

1.) Join Market Leverage through this blog.
– Prize: iPod Nano (Referred affiliate with highest June earnings.)
– Prize: $200 American Express Gift Card (random winner)
– Prize: Free Shirt & Sticker (to all new referred ML affiliates)

2.) Blog & Link to this post on your Blog
– Prize: Flip Video Camera MINO (random drawing)
– Prize: USB Drive Pen (random drawing)

3.) Leave a Comment on this Promotion or Market Leverage
– Prize: USB Drive Pen (TWO random winners)

4.) BONUS PRIZE: iPod Touch
– To any affiliate that joins through this blog post, if you earn the most commissions in July with MarketLeverage, you will win a Free iPod Touch. (only applicable to referred affiliates through this blog)

Check out Zac Johnson’s contest page!