Importance of Finding Affiliate Marketers You Can Trust

Most of you will remember that last month I gave my thoughts on the Make Money Online (MMO) niche.   Basically (in my opinion) if one of those guys is talking about something, they are either being compensated for talking about it (paid reviews), or they are getting paid when you purchase it (affiliate payments).   In other words, pretty much every post they make is self-servicing in some way.  Trust me when I say that people that make money online aren’t eager to share their secrets without some compensation, and overall these people are no different.  Most of the people that are actually making money online, are to busy doing that to blog and help others.

One thing I like about affiliate marketers is the community that has formed around the industry.   Though an affiliate marketer typically won’t give you the exact URL of their top performing websites (with good reason as readers would copy it or compete with it), they are often very open and honest about their techniques and more than willing to help others.

One strong method I recommend to people entering this field is to find a very select group of people (3-4) that you can trust.   Within this group, everyone should be 100% open and honest with each other about their business models and an understanding should be in place that you will not directly compete with others in the group.   This way when you have a new idea, you can run it by the group and get their input before spending the time and money involved with launching a new campaign.   With this method you can use others input to save a lot of time and money launching bad campaigns, and you can help your friends to succeed at the same time!

Unfortunately, the life of an affiliate marketer can sometimes be very secluded as most sites are run anonymously.   I’ve found that some good ways to meet people are by running an affiliate marketing blog and probably more important is to be active on message boards.  If your budget allows it, you’ll also want to consider attending affiliate conventions, etc.

I have a few people that I have business partnerships with online and it has been a great experience for me.  I’m pretty open with them on what projects/websites I’m building, what strategies I’m using to monetize them, etc.  They do the same with me, and all ideas are kept confidential.  These are business relationships and even friendships that I truly value as they have helped me grow as a blogger, affiliate marketer, and more.

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?

The Advantages of Affiliate Marketing

As most of you that have been reading this site for awhile already know, I originally got my start as as blogger, made my first online paycheck through blogging, and to this day still have a strong passion for blogging. I even feel that my readers have contributed a lot to where I am today from their comments here and reading their posts on their blogs.

No matter what reason we all start out blogging, I think it is only natural to eventually look at blogging as something you enjoy and something you would like to do for a living. Who wouldn’t want to? With that said, only a select few bloggers are able to make a full time income blogging. This is especially true when you factor in a lack of benefits and other things that you would normally get from a normal job.

But what about affiliate marketing? There are thousands of people (if not more) making a full time income online, and it really isn’t that difficult. Add in the people making a very good 2nd income doing affiliate marketing part-time and you’ve got something special.

For the purpose of this post, I decided to write about the advantages of affiliate marketing. This post is intended to cover the overall advantages, but you’ll find that many comparisons are drawn up against blogging, which is what I know and being a blogger is what most of my readers are.

The Advantages of Affiliate Marketing

As you probabaly noticed from my May income report, affiliate marketing has already been very good to me and I’ve only been really attacking it for under a year now. I do think it is important to note that I am still drawing some income from private advertising and Google AdSense, though it is fairly minimal and mostly offsets my advertising costs, etc. Prior to focusing on affiliate marketing, my online income came exclusively from Google AdSense, private advertising, and Text Link Ads.

Here are a few advantages I’ve noticed already from shifting my primary focus to affiliate marketing:

  • Easy to Take A Break – If I decide to go on vacation, move, or take some time away from my computer, there is nothing to do. No guest bloggers needed, no scheduling ahead posts, and no dip in income while I’m away. Your sites should continue to perform while you are gone as long as you have good webhosting. Shoemoney once posted something along the lines of “I knew I was in the right business when I went on my honeymoon and returned to find that I made more money while on vacation than I spent on the honeymoon.” That is paraphrased of course, but it really sums up the power of affiliate marketing, and possibly the one statement that has truly inspired me and drives me to work so hard each day.
  • No Maintenance – Once your site is setup and tweaked to perform optimally, you are done! Ideally you will want to, over time, launch more sites and look for better performing affiliates, but these are methods to improve your income, not sustain it.
  • Being Social Not Needed – One aspect of blogging is growing your brand and building a strong following. Build up your feed subscription count, encourage comments, submit your posts to DIgg and Stumbleupon, etc. None of that is needed with affiliate marketing. You technically don’t even need to be social with people (though there are advantages to developing friendships and bouncing ideas off others). Success is determined with dollar signs, not subscriber counts. This also means you won’t have to spend any time supporting products, answering contact form questions, researching/reviewing things.

So, those are the three major advantages that jumped out at me. I’m sure I could easily draft up a post that covers the other side of the coin with advantages to blogging. After all, some of the things listed above as advantages might be disadvantages to others. Some people love to interact with other people. It really depends on your business plan, how you work, and your preferences.

Is there anything you would add to this list?

Blogging Discussion: Do You Blog to Teach or to Learn?

When you are reading through your blogs feeds, do you enjoy when someone asks for their readers input? I’m not talking situations where someone may write out a detailed post and finish it with “what do you think?” People that do that are generally just trying to encourage readers to comment. What I’m talking about is when a blogger writes a post wanting you to help them or get input on something.

Sometimes I feel that people have the wrong idea about blogging. Though it can be, blogging was not intended specifically to teach you something. Blogging was actually intended to be a conversation, which requires two or more parties to respond to each other. If you leave a comment on a blog post, doesn’t it make you feel better if the author responds to your comment (whether in general or specifically)?

I’ve always taken the approach that I have a lot to learn from my readers, so occasionally I will ask for help on things. Loyal readers input is extremely valuable, so I am never afraid to brainstorm, bounce ideas off readers, poll readers, or whatever else. Whether you are a pro blogger or not, none of us know everything and there is always things to learn.

So, with that said, let me ask you this. Do you approaching blogging as a way to teach your readers, or do you attempt to engage in a conversation and learn from your readers?

The Evolution of Slick Affiliate

Yesterday while setting up a new online store I’ve been working on for a little while now, for whatever reason, I started reflecting back on this blog, and my evolution as a blogger.  Just like the domain name here has changed (the first year and a half this site was Kyle’s Cove), so has the focus of this website over the last two years.  

In looking back, in July of 2006 this blog was created as sort of a personal weblog.   At the time, I didn’t have any blogging experience and wasn’t even sure what I wanted to talk about.  Hence the very general name Kyle’s Cove.   Over time, this blog’s original focus ended up being mostly on technology and related content.   I’ve always been a person that was very in tune with the latest gadgets and have been playing online since the early 1990’s, so I had a lot to talk about.   While I wrote about pretty much anything in that niche that was interesting, I loved nothing more than talking about next generation web browers, so I placed a lot of focus there. 

Things were going good, but eventually as I became more passionate about blogging and started making money online, my focus shifted a little and I used this blog to explore my ideas in these areas.   This was a lot of fun, but there were so many “blogging” blogs out there, that many of the ideas and input in had in these areas seemed to get drowned out. 

In the 6 months since that time, I’ve grown a lot as a blogger, webmaster, domainer, and online entreprenuer, and this blog continued to evolve with me.   We’ve been tackling all sorts of subjects, ranging from my experiences as a domainer to keyword sniping, and lately even talking about niche affiliate marketing.   These three areas are where at lot of my focus has been, so it sort of made sense for me to talk about them.

Unfortunately, managing all of the projects I’m working on has really taxed my time and kept me from being as active in the blogosphere as I would like (linking to others, leaving comments on other blogs, answering comments on this blog, etc.).   I’m hoping that will change as I continue to setup my online presence and get everything in place where I want it to be.

I’ve got some exciting stuff planned for this site that I will be writing about, beginning with a post later this week.  I think a lot of this stuff will be affiliate marketing related, so hopefully there is some interest from readers in that area.   Hopefully many of you are not relying on Google AdSense to make money online, but if you are, I mean to change that! 

I will also try to make some “classic” posts from time to time, as I still enjoy and have thoughts about SEO tactics, making money online, blogging, and more.  If there are certain areas you want me to focus on, please let me know. 

In the meantime, if you’d like to do something fun today, do yourself a favor and spend some time digging through your archives and study how you’ve grown as a blogger.  Read some of your early posts.   This is a good way to see progress and stay motivated for the future.   

Tips For Picking a Popular Niche For A New Blog

Whenever you start a new blog, it is extremely important to spend a little time researching before purchasing a domain name, picking a design, and launching the blog.   Before getting started, you’ll first need to find the right niche for your blog.   This is often easier said than done.  Even if you know what you want to talk about, sometimes you are better off looking for a more focused keyword within the same niche.

If you are interested in learning more about how to research your niche, Copyblogger has posted some great tips on niche keyword research and provides some examples of a keyword hunt that was recently done.  This is probably one of the better write ups covering niche keyword strategy.

How much research do you do before launching a new blog?

Are You Afraid to Experiment?

In my offline life, I’ve always been someone who is afraid to experiment or take to many risks.   I love familiarity and it has always held me back all my life.  I need to know that I have a guaranteed paycheck each month and that my kids have medical insurance coverage.  That is just how I’ve always been.

When I started blogging in early 2006, I decided that this was not something that will hold me back when I moved online.   I started blogging because I enjoyed doing so, and I’ve always pushed myself to experiment and try new things to see what works and what doesn’t work.  Any time you find success, in addition to the successes, you’re going to find some failure.   I’ve found my share of both, but even in situations where I’ve failed, I have found that I learn a lot from each failed experiment.   The second time I may get it right, or I’ll use what I learned from that experiment in something else I’m working on.

Recently Dosh Dosh wrote an inspirational post titled Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment, which I recommend all bloggers read.  Its pretty short, so it will only take a minute, but it will hopefully get the creative juices flowing a little bit.  I truly believe that in order to be successful, it is important to continually try new things and see what works/what doesn’t work.

Are you actively experimenting on your blog(s)?   Add forums, try a new style, new type of post, add pictures to your posts, etc.?  It is impossible to know what works until you’ve properly experimented.

The Mindset of Being a Keyword Sniper

Yesterday I wrote a fairly detailed post about the basics of keyword sniping.   In the past I’ve also touched a bit on keyword sniping in a few of my posts, as well as pointed you to an excellent resource of keyword sniping over at CourtneyTuttle.com.

For those unfamiliar with the term keyword sniping, this is the process of using tools such as Micro Niche Finder to locate under represented keywords and creating a website to fill this void.  If done properly and monetized correctly, you can take a little traffic and convert it into a lot of income.

What I wanted to touch on today is the mindset you need to have when attempting to snipe a keyword because it is quite a bit different from the mindset needed as a blogger or as a domainer.

As a blogger you probably have many goals, including developing a reader base, increasing your subscriber count, and growing your brand and authority within your niche. Domainers have a slightly different mindset, as there focus is primarily on finding domains that are brandable and have strong keyword combinations so that they hold resale value (or receive enough natural traffic to monetize directly).

In order to complete a successful keyword snipe, it is important to take a completely different approach to creating your website. The first thing you’ll want to do is throw out everything you have learned as a blogger. The only parallel is that you are after search engine traffic. Gone are the days where you care about feed subscribers or readership. You’ll be writing 10-20 posts when you launch the blog, then probably nothing after that (though I’ve found it best to add one or two posts a month if possible). Not only do you not care about subscribers, you actually don’t want your content to be relevant. The goal as a keyword sniper is to generate search engine traffic to your blog, then have them not find what they are looking for. This simply means that your content needs to be relevant to the search engines, but not to readers. If people come to your site and find what they are looking for, they won’t click anything.  If people come to your site looking for something specific and don’t find it, they will either hit the back button on their browser, or click on an advertisement/affiliate link. You want a large percentage of them to click the advertisement/affiliate link.

If you go into keyword sniping with this mindset and a lot of patience, you should find some success.  As long as your CTR is above 3%, you’re doing things right and will just need to work on increasing traffic.   To do this, you’ll just need to periodically research and adjust site keywords to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.   If your site isn’t at 3% CTR or higher after a year, then you’ll either want to make some changes to your setup or not renew your domain and go after a new keyword.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments below!

The Basics of Keyword Sniping

Keyword sniping is something I’ve been doing for close to a year now, but only recently has it truly turned profitable. Therefore, I figure I’ve finally got enough experience doing this to be comfortable sharing what I’ve learned about it over this year with my readers.

For those unfamiliar with the term “keyword sniping“, this is one of a few terms used by webmasters who create a website or blog specifically to fill a void left by an under-represented search engine keyword. In order for it to be truly effective, you’ll want to find situations where there are 2,000 or more searches a month and only a small amount of competition for that specific keyword you are targeting.

Find a Good Keyword to Target

When attempting to find a new keyword to snipe, you’ll need to use a tool to figure out which keyword you intend to target. You’ll need to try to find a keyword that is really specific, and preferably receives 2,000+ searches a month, while having only a small amount of competition (usually 400,000 or less search results). There are several tools that help you accomplish this, but you are probably going to have to invest a little money up front. When I’m doing this, I use Micro Niche Finder to locate under-represented keywords.

Getting A Good Domain Name

Once you’ve found the keyword you are going to go after, the next step is to find the best domain available for that keyword. Some people get caught up in old habits and spend time trying to find a good dot com domain. Remember that your site will not be after natural traffic, so any top-level domain will work just as well. I personally will buy dot info domains because they are only $3.00 right now at GoDaddy for the first year. If it doesn’t work out after a year, I’m only out the $3.00. If you insist upon having a dot com domain, you’ll want to grab domains with hyphens in them as this helps search engines separate keywords. If your domain is blogtips.com, search engines don’t know if this is supposed to be “blo gtips”, “b logtips”, or “blog tips.” You get the idea. Having a domain like blog-tips.com tells search engines exactly what your keywords are for your website. [Read more…]

New Blogging For Dummies Now Available

I’ve always been a big fan of the “Dummies” books, so I have to say I was excited to see that the second edition of the Blogging For Dummies book was released earlier this month. This book covers blogging from head to toe, by “dumbing down” blogging for anyone just looking to start out, as well as providing a look at blogging from a major corporation’s perspective.

This book covers:

  • Create and maintain a blog that draws readers
  • Protect your privacy and your job
  • Deal with spam and inappropriate comments
  • Find your niche
  • Use your blog to promote your business

If you have $14.95 to spare, I recommend checking out Blogging For Dummies.