How To: Using .htaccess to Cloak Affiliate Links

In August of last year I explained how to hide your affiliate links, which received some good feedback.   That post is my preferred method, as it uses PHP redirects to cloak the affiliate link and allows me to upload a single file to multiple websites.

The drawback of this method is that these can still sometimes look like affiliate links.   If you’d prefer to have better looking affiliate links (though it requires extra work to setup), this method is probably better for you.

Here are the steps that you need to cloak your affiliate links using your .htaccess file:

  1. Access your .htaccess file.
  2. Type the following:
  3. redirect 301 /french-toast http://YourFrenchToastAffiliateUrl

That is it!  On this site, this would take the URL of slickaffiliate.com/french-toast and redirect the user to http://YourFrenchToastAffiliateURL.

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!

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!

Tips On Moving Your Website

As most of you probably remember, I moved this site to a new domain back in January of 2008. Prior to that time, this blog was known as Kyle’s Cove. It has been about 3 months now since the move and everything has settled nicely, with traffic continuing to grow from where it was prior to the move, and I am much happier with this domain name.

For anyone that is considering moving their site to a new domain name, you’ll want to first really think it through and make sure that is what you want to do. Your site will take a hit for a couple months and it can cause some frustration for readers, but it can be worth it in the long run if you do it for the right reasons.

If you’re wanting to move your website, I ran across some great tips from Google to follow when moving your website:

  • Test your processes by moving only one directory or subdomain first. Check to see whether those pages are appearing in Google’s search results before moving your entire site.
  • Don’t just redirect all pages from your old site to the home page of your new site. Try to redirect all pages on your old site to a relevant page on your new site.
  • If you’re thinking about changing your domain and redesigning your site at the same time, consider doing these things separately to minimize the risk of error.
  • Check both external and internal links to pages on your site (which can be done using Google Webmaster Tools) and try asking webmasters to change any links pointing to your site to use the new domain.
  • Don’t allow your old domain to expire until at least 180 days have passed.
  • Add your new site to Google Webmaster Tools, verify you own it and submit an XML sitemap containing all the URLs. Keep your old site too so that you can keep an eye out for any errors.

The bold option above was done by me to emphasize that one, as I felt that was the most important part of the transition.   It helps keep backlinks valid and helps Google’s spiders properly index and replace your posts.

How To: Add Ratings To Your Blog

Have you ever noticed that many blogs now collect instant feedback from their users through a AJAX based rating system? This has become a popular trend around the blogosphere, allowing readers to give quick feedback on your posts instead of requiring them to take the time to submit a comment. As of today, adding a rating system to your blog has just gotten a lot easier.

Whether you use Typepad, Blogger, or WordPress to do your blogging, you can now easily add a rating system to your blog through Outbrain. There is no registration required and it is available for free for you to use. For Typepad and Blogger users, you can use a 1-click installation method to get this done. For WordPress users, you just need to download a WordPress plugin and you’ll be all set.

Once setup, Outbrain will place stars below your posts and allow your readers to let you know what posts they like by rating them between 1 and 5 stars. It also looks like it will work with your feed as well, but I haven’t been able to confirm this.

Update:  You can now add ratings to your WordPress feed as well.

How To: Create Your Own Feed Flare

One of the great features of having your feed with Feedburner is the ability to easily integrate your website’s feed with one of their most popular features, FeedFlare. This can be found by going to the Optimize tab and clicking on FeedFlare.

However, unlike in the movie Office Space where you are required to have at least 16 pieces of flare at all times, with FeedFlare you can pick how many you want to display and actually choose from a bunch of existing flares, or create your own custom flare for your feed. I’ve seen numerous reasons for creating a custom flare, ranging from adding a copyright notice to your feed, to announcing contests, promoting posts, or even advertising affiliate links to your readers.

Making a custom FeedFlare is actually pretty easy, so I decided to draft up a quick post on how to make one. First, you need create a document in the .xml format and paste some code into it. In order to simply this part, I just went ahead and created a document that you can right-click and save (and name it whatever you want). Now edit the document and fill in the appropriate information in the fields where it asks you to.

Once you’ve got your document saved, just follow these steps:

  1. Upload it to your website somewhere (most people just drop it in there public_html folder).
  2. Locate the URL of the document (if placed in the public_html folder, it should be at .
  3. Now go to your FeedFlare section of your Feedburner account and paste this URL where it says “Add New Flare.”
  4. Activate your new FeedFlare!

Any questions? Post them in the comments below!

How To: Adding a Custom Google Search Engine to Your Blog

Back when this blog was located on Typepad, I had no trouble setting up my custom Google Search engine. This was ideal because it allowed me to possibly earn money when people searched my site, but more importantly, it displayed better search results than the standard search box, and it did it all from within the blog.

Since switching to WordPress at the beginning of this year, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting one set up that worked correctly, so I’ve been using the default WordPress search. I’ve tried various things, from Google Search plugins for WordPress, using plugins that allow code in posts, etc. No matter what I try, I’ve yet to have a successful search engine that displayed search results from within this blog.

Yesterday Maki made a post on Dosh Dosh that looks to cure my problem titled How to Set Up Google Custom Search and Make Money. In addition to explaining why you should do this, Maki includes a step-by-step walkthrough with pictures to help make it easy. Great job Maki!

I’m going to be going through the process this weekend and getting this blog set up with better search results.

Ultimate Guide to Using StumbleUpon

While browsing around the internet you may have noticed people mention StumbleUpon or seen a “Stumble It!” link posted at the bottom of many blog entries (you can find one at the bottom of this post). If you haven’t used StumbleUpon before, you probably aren’t familiar with what exactly the service is. My hope is that this guide will give you everything you need to know in order to find success using StumbleUpon.

What is StumbleUpon? StumbleUpon is a website owned by eBay that allows users to discover and rate all sorts of web content, including webpages, photos, videos, games, and even news articles. Website is discovered via their web browser plugin, which is available for most major web browsers.

Why should I use StumbleUpon to find good content? StumbleUpon shows you one site at a time, rather than seeing a bunch of news stories summarized on a single page (like Digg). This allows you to look over the post, rate it (if you choose to), and move on to the next one. Digg instead relies on users to provide accurate descriptions of the post. If the description is poor, no matter how good the post is, it won’t generate very many views due to the poor description given to it.

How do I join StumbleUpon and get my toolbar? In order to become a stumbler, you’ll first need to set up a free account. This can be accomplished by visiting their official website and registering your own account. You can then download the appropriate toolbar for the web browser you use primarily. If you are a Opera user, you’ll have to go off their site and download the Opera Stumbler.

How do I go about stumbling the internet? After your toolbar has successfully installed, you will probably need to restart your web browser. Once the restart has completed, your StumbleUpon toolbar should show up. In the far left corner of the toolbar is a Stumble! button. By clicking this, StumbleUpon will randomly take you to a site that fits within one of the categories you elected to see.

How do I rate websites? A big part of what makes StumbleUpon so special is that the users ranks the sites that are stumbled, which helps StumbleUpon to determine what sites to show others with similar interests. In order to vote, you’ll simply need to stumble the internet and click the thumbs up (I like it!) or the thumbs down icons. After voting up or down, you can then click Stumble again to take you to the next site and repeat the process as you go. If you accidentally click the wrong one, you can just click the other one to change your vote, or re-click the incorrect one to remove your cast vote.

How do I find friends on StumbleUpon? StumbleUpon has made it easy for users to find their friends with their friend finder. If you use GMail, Yahoo! Mail, Windows Live Hotmail, AOL, or Facebook, you can log in to your account from that page and it will let you know if any of your contacts are already on StumbleUpon! Once you’ve added your friends, you can adjust your toolbar to always search for pages that your friends have given a thumbs up to.

How do I install a “Stumble It!” button on my website to encourage people to Stumble my work? This is actually pretty simple if you are a WordPress user. Simply use the following code some place within the post:

<a href="http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=<?php the_permalink(); ?>&title=<?php the_title(); ?>"> Stumble it!</a>

Why would I want my posts to be stumbled? If your goal is traffic, StumbleUpon can do this just as well, and often better, than Digg. StumbleUpon has a similar yet different effect than the well known Digg effect. Rather than getting a flood of visitors over a short period of time like Digg offers, StumbleUpon will instead give you a large number of visitors over a steady length of time.

What separates Digg and StumbleUpon? Both are user generated social sites that rely on submitted content, however StumbleUpon will actually recommend stories through their rating system, allowing you to stumble on to sites that you are more likely to enjoy. You are also less likely to find breaking news, but are more likely to find useful content that is bookmark worthy.

That should cover just about everything you need to know to find success with StumbleUpon. As you find useful posts while exploring the blogosphere, I recommend you take the time to write a quick review or at least give a thumbs up to any posts you think others would find useful. It helps promote other bloggers who do good work, and you’ll often find that those same bloggers will stop by and stumble your posts every now and then!

How To: Hide Your Affiliate Links on WordPress

There is no doubt that if you are interested in using your blog to make money online, it is important that you take advantage of the income potential that is available through the use of affiliate links. You can generate additional income in a variety of ways depending on the service, ranging from set payments for each qualified referral, to making a percentage of any referrals income for an established period of time.

There are many different theories covering the most optimal ways to display your affiliate links, but the most common ones involve a variety of methods for hiding your affiliate links. The idea behind using this theory is that readers will click on it thinking it is an internal link on your site, rather than taking you to a third party site. But, as we found out yesterday, there is an additional benefit! When all your website’s links point toward an internal address on your domain, you can control and update the URL easily. This helps avoid dead links whenever a company changes a URL and makes it easy to update your affiliate links when the need arises.

As for setting this up, it is actually pretty easy if you have a self-hosted WordPress blog. Here are the steps I took when I hid my affiliate links for this website:

  1. Create a folder called “Go.”
  2. Create a .php document (this can easily be done with Notepad) and name it after the appropriate affiliate link you are using. Now paste the following code into the document: <? header("Location: http://youraffiliatelinkurlhere"); ?>
  3. Save it into the “Go” folder created above.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until you’ve created a .php file for each affiliate link.
  5. Go to your FTP and upload your “Go” folder directly to the public_html folder.
  6. Update all your affiliate links to point towards your new redirect!

Your redirect will look something like .

There are other ways to do this, such as not using PHP or altering your .htaccess file, but this is how I created mine. Any questions? Feel free to post them below!

Several Posts Receive Much Needed Upgrades

This post is just a quick note to let my readers know that I’ve been going through and updating several of my popular posts that were sort of outdated, including several in my popular ‘Best of’ series.  If you haven’t visited them in awhile, I recommend you checking them out!

Here are three that have received the most changes:

  • Best of: WordPress Plugins – I found a few that I use that I had yet to add to the list, and removed a few that haven’t updated in awhile or had better versions now available.
  • Best of: Thunderbird Extensions – The categories have been redone to make more sense and added a few I’ve recently discovered.
  • Best of: Greasemonkey Scripts – This list has probably grown the most since its original publication of all of them, and will continue to grow as I discover more useful scripts.

Many of my ultimate guides, users guides, and other ‘Best of’ posts have also received many improvements in hopes of keeping them current and useful.