How I Became an Online Marketer

Today I want to get personal and share a bit about me and how I became a solo online marketer. I hate using the phrase solo online marketer because there is so much more that I do in the course of my work.

But here’s the background on how I got started in this business.

For the past 20 years, I’ve worked in Marketing Communications full time. During that time, I also dabbled part time with Internet Marketing and building websites.

Ideacow was initially a website where I offered freelance services to clients and also marketed a few ebooks. But for the most part, I mainly worked full time outside my home.

From 2005 till 2009 I worked full time as an eMedia Marketing Manager for a local communications company. Things were good for a while and it was convenient because the company was 5 minute away from my home.

I have a disabled mom who lives nearby that became paralyzed from a brain bleed and my siblings and I care for her at home. Trust me, this takes a lot of work and coordinating.

But at the time, working close to home at this local company gave me the ability to check in on her daily.

And while I did very well working at this communications company and was exceeding my monthly sales goal, I was not being treated as well as my male coworkers.

And for lack of a better term, my sales manager started to pick and choose which commissions I was entitled to.

So in 2009 I said good-bye to them with a voluntary layoff and the rest of my commissions.

I can remember one of my coworkers saying, “I never saw someone so on top of their game just walk away.” But I did it for me and my happiness.

To this day, I am still sometimes reminded by people who say, “Oh they got the best of you.” Well, here’s what I say.

Never be ashamed of how poorly other people treat you, even if you have to walk. Shame on them.

So I then took some time off to relax and de-stress and I decided to start doing freelance website work from home for local clients.

I also started building a few WordPress websites for myself where I could make extra income online promoting Amazon products.

It was around this time that I discovered One Week Marketing and Squidoo and jumped on that bandwagon. Honestly I really didn’t believe that Squidoo would pay in the beginning, but eventually it started paying off.

I was just getting into the swing of things and doing well, when in 2010 along came the Amazon tax law, which forced Amazon to sever ties with affiliates who lived in certain states and I lost my Amazon associates account, as well my ability to make money.

The other thing that happened was that I lost my affiliate accounts with other marketing networks like Pepperjam, because this tax law affected several organizations relationships with affiliates.

So now I was really scratching my head wondering what to do. I had so many lenses and domains that ALL needed to stripped down of their affiliate links that it took me over a month to do this.

2011 till 2012 I was still doing freelance contract work and writing for clients, but I decided I needed something more.

I would occasionally buy PRL articles, rewrite them and use them to create Squidoo lenses because I still did not have an Amazon account.

Then at some point while buying articles, I got the idea of selling PLR and started making plans to build an online store.

My Online PLR store came together around the beginning of 2013 and once I had it in place, I thought it would be an ideal way to make passive income, because everything was on auto-pilot.

Then in May of 2013 I was offered the chance to go work as a full time digital marketing contractor at a big corporation and accepted the job.

The company was an hour away from home and the commute was brutal so they gave me a few work-at-home days, which helped quite a bit. Overall it was a good experience and I was there till June of 2014.

As of September 2014 my online PLR store has about 50 products in it and is still growing. I also got my Amazon associate account back towards the end of 2013, so I am niche blogging again…YAY!

So where am I at with work and online marketing today?

I guess I’m a hybrid. When a good opportunity comes up I will work for someone else in the corporate business world full time and continue to build my skill set and career.

But I also enjoy having my own online business. And while it’s growing slowly because I do split my time up, I know I am never giving this up any time soon because I’m just having too much of a good time doing it. :-)

My Experiment with Flippa – Selling a Website for Profit

Towards the beginning of the summer I wanted to experiment with www.flippa.com and see if I could turn a profit by building and flipping a new website.

For this experiment, I took a domain name that I owned from 2011 called www.comfyabode.com. Then I purchased a few PLR article packs online and repurposed some of the ones I already owned to create the content.

Yup! That’s correct. I used all PLR articles for my content and ended up with about 100 posts on the site.

Of all the content, maybe I customized about 25% of the articles, but that’s only because initially my intent was to keep the site for myself.

The auction for my website ended 9/14/2014 and I have to report unfortunately it did not sell. I’m not discouraged by that because I have much more insight into how to sell a website for next time.

But, I want to share what I learned from this experiment because first, there can be good money in selling a website. Secondly, the entire experience could be a bit intimidating, especially if you never tried to sell a website before.

A little background info on my website

Comfy Abode is a home and garden website that is just a few months old. The articles as I mentioned above are all PLR and the site is designed in Genesis Frameworks – a premium WordPress theme.

While the site does not have an income, I have monetized it in a few ways. There are Google Adsense ads on the site and it was recently approved for the Yahoo Bing ad network.

I also have Amazon and Shareasale product links on the website to further monetize it. Lastly, I added printable coupons to the website, just to give it a little more appeal.

Another nice feature of this website is that I have a developer’s license for Easy Azon 3 and that premium plugin is part of the website.

While I think all of the above are nice features, I started my Flippa auction at $449 which I guess proved to be a bit high for what I offered.

Here’s my homework that lead helped me list and price my website

I initially took a look at what types of sites were on Flippa and how much they were selling for. What I found was that basic websites with a monthly income, even as low as $75 a month were popular and selling.

This surprised me because some of the websites were not really attractive, but the sellers had proof they were making money.

OK, I get it. People want to buy websites that are profitable. And as long as you can prove the site is making money, you can get more interested buyers.

But here’s the interesting part. If you’ve ever heard of www.siteprice.org and typed in your website domain name, it will tell you what it is roughly worth.

Here’s what it told me my home and garden site was worth.

selling a website for profit on flippa

Of course I take that value with a grain of salt. But I did notice that many of the sites that sold on Flippa, did come close to the price that www.siteprice.org calculated.

Based on what I’ve learned so far, I’m thinking, (and hoping) that once I get this website making steady income, it will be more likely to sell close to this calculated price.

So for now on, this will be my tool of choice for estimating website costs.

Google Analytics and proving you have traffic

Early on in my auction, I had an interested party who wanted to see my Google Analytics and asked me to add them to my Google account.

Say what??? I had no idea I could do this.

So I dug around in my Google Analytics and sure enough I found that if you have a person’s email address, you can easily add them into your Google Analytics dashboard as a “read only” guest.

analytics2

 

Simply log into your Google Analytics account, go to Admin > User Management > and type their email address into the “Add Permission For” box as a Read & Analyze user.

Of course from now on, I will make sure I include a screenshot of my Google Analytics with my auction description.

But I love this feature, especially if you are writing for a client, you can easily let them see which pages are more optimized and which can be improved upon. :-)

How original is the website I created with PLR articles

Well… After my website listing went live on Flippa, I discovered there is an online tool called www.siteliner.com that analyzes the originality of your web content, page by page.

It will give you an overall originality rating then show you duplication for every page of your website. I’m not sure how it comes up with the overall rating, because mine seemed low overall, but much higher as I looked at each page individually.

In my gut, I know that I need more customizing of content here. But I have a feeling that if the site starts earning, people may overlook it. Just my opinion.

So how much did this all cost me?

If you are going to list a website for sale on Flippa, the cost is generally $9 for startup websites and $19 for established websites. They also take a 10% success fee if the site sells.

It cost me about $20 to list my website, because I opted for a premium listing. As for other costs, I spend about another $30 on PLR articles plus $12 for my domain name.

I’m not counting the cost of my Easy Azon 3 plugin because I use it for a lot of projects. So, overall I don’t have a huge investment in my website, but I do need to get it to start earning money if I want it to sell next time around.

But wait! There’s a free alternative!

About 2 weeks into my auction, I got an email from someone telling me where I can sell websites for free. It’s called www.freemarket.com and they offer free listings and a 5% commission fee for sold websites. I have not tried this yet, but it sounds interesting. It beats spending another $20, so I could be trying it out soon.

My Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed everything I learned from my Flippa experiment. I feel much more confident in the selling process but more importantly, I have a better understanding of what buyers are looking for.

But selling a website for profit on Flippa is not easy. So, during the next few months or so I will make some modifications to the PLR articles on the Comfy Abode website, monetize it some more and see if my Google Analytics improve.

I now have the option of trying www.freemarket.com  and I might even put in in my PLR Store as a singular, unique product, so who knows???  The possibilities are endless!

 

3 Smart Ways to Create Passive Income Streams for your Online Business

Whether you are marketing digital products, affiliate programs or membership sites there are many smart ways to create passive income streams for your online business.

One of the main ways to create passive income online is by blogging. Blogging opens up communications to engage with others while marketing products and services.

Once you have a blog in place, you can start to branch out into other income streams very easily.

For many online marketers, blogging about their own products assists them in building their main stream of income.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because there are many techniques to create passive income streams for your online business. Here are three smart ways to expand your passive income.

  • If you use AWeber for your email promotions, be sure to use the Twitter and Facebook options to broadcast your message out to those followers as well. This is the screenshot you will see in your AWeber account to give you this option.

 Passive Income Streams for your Online Business

 

  • Many online marketers are familiar with monetizing their website pages using Google Adsense ads, but there is an alternative. The Yahoo-Bing ad network at www.media.net offers a similar service with very clean layout options.  Here’s a screenshot of a website I’ve used Yahoo ads on. Check out the bar ads to the right that work well with the layout!

 Passive Income Streams for your Online Business

 

  • Maximize your selling options by joining a large affiliate marketing network with thousands of merchants, like Shareasale and incorporate text links to merchant offers into your online content. You’ll be surprised to find how many merchant products you can find that compliment your business!

 

 

As a small business owner, or solo sales manager it’s important to find new ways to create passive income streams. Many times we think that we have to do something complex or come up with a big promotion, when it’s really a matter of making a small shift in the things we’re already doing.

From your blog content to your promotions and mailing list, the possibilities to create more passive income is endless!

Want to learn how to grow your email subscriber list even more? Subscribe now and get 40 hot list building tips.

 

Can PLR Content be used to Create Flagship Content on your Website?

flagship contentRecently, I’ve been evaluating my websites and making a conscious effort to create more flagship content.

So what exactly is flagship content and why is it vital to have on your website?

I like to look at flagship content as the main attraction on a website. It’s like going to a concert and there’s a backup band, but you’re really there to see the main performance.
© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Flagship content is evergreen, which means there is always going to be a need for it. It offers people solutions to the questions they’re looking for and keeps them coming back to read more.

Flagship content is popular and sought after. It can come in the form of a featured blog post, PDF report, Infographic or ebook.

It not only grabs reader’s attention, but gets noticed by other authority websites, as well as the search engines.

Flagship content on your website gives readers a sense of your site’s personality and the type of information they can find there on a regular basis.

I think the key to having flagship content is that it could have been written years ago or written yesterday, but good flagship content continues to remain relevant and interesting.

As an Internet writer and Private Label Rights, (PLR) content provider I’ve seen both sides of the fence where the quality of your content or lack of content can make a huge difference in your website performance.

If you are unfamiliar with PLR content, the quick definition is that PLR is pre-written content you can customize for your website or even publish as-is.

Although it is not recommended to use PLR content exactly as-is, I will admit there have been some times when I purchased higher priced PLR articles and published them with very little revision, simply for the sake of building up a lean website.

But surprisingly, one of the things I discovered is that PLR content can grow your audience rather quickly. I saw this firsthand with one of my niche health and beauty websites that I have owned for a few years, but wasn’t actively marketing.

I initially built the site with PLR content and noticed one day that the traffic had grown quite a bit without my paying much attention to it.

This is a good thing because it tells me that many of the articles on the site are relevant enough to keep a steady flow of traffic coming.

But in the competitive Internet world, you have to know which content is pulling in your readers and what will keep them coming back for the long haul.

This is where having “Flagship Content” on your website comes into play.

And while having an initial audience helps, it’s important to understand that creating flagship content from a base readership takes a bit of effort and doesn’t happen overnight.

So if you’ve built your website audience on private label, (PLR) content, how do you take that content and start creating popular flagship content?

First, take a look at your Google Analytics to see which content on your site is getting the most views.

High traffic areas of your site are great places to start converting average articles into high quality flagship articles.

Once you’ve identified which content you want to turn into a flagship article, make a list of ideas you would like to include in your article to make it more relevant.

If the article is mainly factual, use your personalized point of view to give it a slant of opinion.

You can also add personal photos to the article with a sidebar story of what is actually going on in the photo.

Many times, an article may have the keywords to draw in readers, but the topic is not completely fleshed out or in-depth.

The way to identify this problem is to go into your analytics and look for keywords in the organic search. Then see if the page also has a high bounce rate.

If keywords are bringing in page views, but visitors are leaving quickly, rewrite the content to build a flagship article around those keywords.

But don’t stop there. If there is an interesting or different point of view you can give to your content, go for it and flesh out the page as much as you can.

Here are a few more ideas to create flagship articles on your website:

  • Use more text links in your sentences to link your article to other relevant articles that are in the same category.
  • Create an “umbrella article” that includes the topic of several other articles on your website.
  • Have a mission statement for your website and write several articles around that statement.
  • Review older blog posts and spent 30 minutes a day on ways to make them more interesting and current.

Whether you have lean content or PLR content on your website, don’t get discouraged. With a bit of effort, there are always new ways to turn your content into flagship content that visitors will stick around to read.

The Article Marketing Challenge Group

I came across Bonnie Gean’s online marketing blog the other night which led me to her Article Marketing Challenge Facebook Group.

Typically I’m a bit apprehensive about joining “challenge groups”, as I worry about procrastinating and not meeting my goals. But after enjoying Bonnie’s blog so much, I was intrigued and signed up.

I don’t really know anyone in this group, but hope that will change over time, as well as help improve my writing.

Also, seeing that today is also Labor Day, the official end of summer I really need to give myself a jumpstart and get motivated as we move into September.

So here I am on day one of the challenge and honestly, I’ve spend most of today at a cookout, because I got a bit of writing done last night. It is really muggy out and my creative juices are not flowing as I had hoped.

I’ve started working on a new product for my PLR store and it’s coming along well, but I’m not quite sure how extensive I will make it. I’m in one of those moods where I feel like completing things, so we shall see.

In the meantime, I’ve started reading some of the posts that people have added to the Facebook Article Marketing Challenge group. I get a feeling that blogging regularly is a challenge to a lot of online marketers.

I don’t know about you, but many times blogging takes a back seat to other things in my business life.

For me, I know that putting projects first, has always been the priority, but I certainly will try to keep my blog posts going, especially during this challenge.

So although I’m keeping this post short and sweet, I am off and running with lots to do!

 

How to Make More Affiliate Sales

Are you a struggling Amazon Associate or affiliate marketer trying to make more affiliate sales? Are you new to affiliate marketing or simply just not getting enough sales results? It’s important to understand the strategy of promoting affiliate products.

Whether you are promoting a digital product or trying to make more Amazon affiliate sales, selling affiliate products online takes a lot more than simply adding a banner add to your blog post.

dreamstimefree_198174© Anatoliy Babiychuk | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Don’t get me wrong. I think banner ads are great add-ons for blog sidebars and page footers, but they should not be your main method for driving affiliate sales within your content. If you are looking for better ways to convert your online readers into buyers, then you need to go the extra mile to earn your affiliate marketing revenue. So let me share with you some strategies to give your affiliate marketing a boost to make more sales.

Be personal and give an honest online product review

When trying to make more affiliate sales it’s definitely easier to share first hand knowledge of a product with someone to convince them to buy it, rather than to simply write a standard description of its features.

For example, let’s say you want to promote a beauty product as an Amazon affiliate. One thing that many affiliate marketers overlook is to promote the things that they already use and like. Whether its a bicycle or a beauty product, it’s so much easier to promote what you already know.

make more affiliate sales

                     © Twmedia | Dreamstime Stock Photos

If you want to write an honest affiliate product review, choose a product that you would buy for yourself, would like to own or already have good experience in using. Obviously, it’s not practical to buy hundreds of dollars of products and test them all out. So try to start with what you know. For instance, if you have been researching a product that you are considering buying, be sure to include that research in your review.

In addition to being honest, reviews should be personal and told from a first person point of view. Keep the tone casual as if you were telling a friend about  it. Here are some examples:

  • When I researched all of the reviews of this product, I was blown away to learn that most buyers repeatedly said…
  • The instructions that come with this product are explained very well, but the one thing I wish they would have included was…
  • After taking this study course, I started implementing the strategies I learned and within two weeks I started seeing…

I just think the casual tone and keeping it real go a long way in grabbing your readers attention and making them feel like you’re talking to them and not at them.

Create Related Content that Compliments your Affiliate Product

Another great way to add value to your reviews is to have additional content on your site that compliments the product you are promoting. If you’re reviewing a product on your blog, you can write additional blog posts that are closely related to your main affiliate product and link to those pages as well.

For instance, if you are writing about a particular kitchen faucet, you could create more content on how to clean your faucet or how to install your faucet.

If you are using WordPress and want to add article links at the bottom of a blog post, you can use a free WordPress plugin called Related Posts by Zemanta to help you automate this and boost your page rankings. Zemanta is a cool plugin because you can link in other articles within your own site or link to articles on external sites.

Here’s a sample screenshot of the plugin in action at the bottom of a Feng Shui blog post. As you can see, not only will Related Posts by Zemanta link in your complimenting content, but it will add a nice thumbnail to the related article too!

make more affiliate sales

Use more photos and videos to promote your product on social media and make more affiliate sales

More photos, videos and graphics on your website will bring you better reader engagement. Why? People like to look at visuals when they go online to research or buy a product.

Now more than ever, social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, (just to name a few), have practically reinvented the way people share information online. It’s all about visual engagement and if you have something to look at on your site that’s interesting, people will be more inclined to click on it to find out more.

If you only have one stock photo of your affiliate product and not much more, consider buying a few stock photos.

I like to use Istock and as a customer, they also occasionally email me free images I can use as well. But if you’re on a tight budget, you can also add free images to your affiliate product content by looking for related images.

I’ve had a lot of luck finding nice topic related photos at Dreamstime in their free section. For example, you can find generic photos of people at the gym to promote a specific health product. There are also a lot of food photos to promote cooking and recipe sites.

Using related pictures that compliment your affiliate product, not only draws your reader in, but also creates a visual in their mind as they read. Just be sure to use the photo credit attributes to link back to the appropriate photographer when adding stock photos to your article.

Another thing you can do if you don’t have the actual product photograph or are limited to one, is to make a graphical chart of its “Pros and Cons” or a simple Infographic.

You can use a program like Microsoft Paint or PowerPoint. Or, if it’s a software or digital product you’re promoting, take a screenshot of it by using the “Prt Scr” button on your computer keyboard and save it as a jpg to upload to your website.

As you can see there are a few strategies you can use to make more affiliate sales. If you’ve written any product reviews lately, but have not made any sales, go back and see how you can improve them. Can you add more visuals or include more personal opinions? Is the tone of your writing casual and easy to relate to?

If not, take a look at how you can revise your affiliate product review.  Don’t be afraid to get creative with it and see how your sales conversions increase.

 

6 Things you Need to do Before you Buy Another “Bright Shiny Object” Online

I have a confession to make. Many years ago before I ever got into the business of blogging, running an online content store and owning several niche blogs, I was seriously attracted to “Bright Shiny Objects”, in the form of Internet Marketing products.

You name it and I’m sure I could tell you about it. From ebooks that promised outrageous success online within 30 days to paid monthly membership site subscriptions that promised to teach secrets strategies you could not find anywhere else, I bought into it.

As you could imagine this ate into a great deal of my valuable time and money which I could have much better spent on my own business. Of course not every bright shiny object that you or I purchase online will be worthless.

In all fairness I have to say that many of these online courses and ebooks did provide me with some pearls of wisdom and great tips that helped my education of Internet marketing evolve.

The real problem was that in the beginning, instead of making money weekly I was spending money weekly. Don’t get me wrong, I was still learning, but every new product I saw made me want to buy it and learn more.

Do you find yourself spending a lot of time buying and reviewing Internet product offers that randomly show up in your email in-box?

I think many Internet marketers are innate learners with a hunger for knowledge. You think you can improve yourself, increase your income and stretch your knowledge on an ongoing basis. And you absolutely can, but without constantly spending money on bright shiny objects.

Because there just comes a point where you have to take what you’ve learned and start applying it to your business, otherwise what’s the point? It’s somewhat of a wakeup call when you stop and think how much you’ve spend in a month on your business vs. how much profit you’ve made.

So this is why I strongly want to share these 6 things you need to do before you buy another “Bright Shiny Object”, aka Internet product:

#1. Carefully read the sales page of the bright, shiny object at least twice. Don’t skim the sales copy or the bullets, but actually read the whole page. I’ve seen sales landing pages with a few thousand words on them, half dozen sub-headers and tons of cool graphics that can instantly turn anyone into an impulse buyer. But that is what these ads are designed to do. This is exactly what makes it so bright and shiny and that is why you need to carefully read it to see if this is what you really need

#2. Find an honest review of the bright shiny object. This could be tricky, because if the product has an affiliate program, many marketers may be promoting it as “highly recommended” just to get an affiliate commission and that’s not cool. A better way is to Google the product name with the word “reviews” in the search box to see if you can find a fair and honest assessment of the product.

#3. Visit www.imreportcard.com and sign up for a free account. Once you’re logged in, see if the creator of the bright, shiny product is listed and has a good track record of delivering stellar products. Along with the top sellers, IM Report Card also lists the top 25Internet marketing products and services to help you make smarter buying decisions.

#4. Verify that the bright, shiny object has a money back guarantee. Typically a product’s sales page with tell you clearly if there is a money back guarantee. I know from experience that there are many software products that do not offer refunds, so it helps to confirm how and if refunds are handled. Also, if all sales are final, can you get support form the seller.

#5. Contact the creator of the Internet product directly. Even after reading the sales copy twice, you may have questions about what the product can really do. Whether it’s a study guide or online software program, it doesn’t matter what the sales page says if the product doesn’t help you personally. That’s why it’s always a good idea to ask the product owner what the product does, to confirm if it’s right for you.

#6. Request a review copy of the Internet product. If you are an online business that regularly publishes digital product reviews, you may be able to get a review copy of the product if your intention is to write about it on your blog. Be sure to let the product creator know that you are doing an honest, unbiased review and also provide traffic stats to your site. If you have strong website traffic and the product is genuinely good, the creator may be more than happy to give you a review copy of it.

So the next time you think you need to spend money to make more money, stop and consider if you really need to do so.

 

Promoting your Business with Social Media Tools

Using social media tools to develop an effective online marketing strategy for your business is a low-cost way to become more successful online. Only recently have social media to0ls become a crucial component to the advertising and marketing world.

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© Tiberius Dinu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Unlike the traditional marketing tools of yesterday, where a business simply presented their messages on static websites, social media engages potential clients through two-way communication.

As any business owner knows, it takes time to answer questions directly from potential and existing customers; and posting to social media sites manually can be an all day chore.

But social media tools offer the unique opportunity to gain insight on all potential and existing customers by automating the task of going social and helping you better engage your audience in your message.

If you are new to the social media world, it helps to understand the very basic principles of online promotions and advertising before ever developing a successful campaign using Twitter, Facebook, and blogging sites.

Becoming engaged with followers takes time as you develop your online messaging and reputation.

Using any type of social media tool is much different than traditional advertising, such as print ads. Before television commercials, radio announcements, and newspapers advertising, messaging was only a one way conversation.

social-media

However, social media marketing is what really opens up possibilities of conversation, word of mouth and information sharing.

The people that are likely to follow you on Facebook and Twitter or become a fan of your blogging site are there because you are offering a lot of value.

Instead of simply promoting your business, you are providing valuable content and rewarding each one of your potential customers for their loyalty in following you across your social platforms.

You do this in a variety of ways, such as offering specials and discount coupons that your online visitors find useful.  Uploading useful content is a crucial component to a successful social media marketing campaign.

This includes writing articles, blogs, white papers, and updating the content to all of your social media sites. In addition, you are likely posting quality links that help all of your online visitors locate the value added things they are looking for.

This is accomplished with effective search engine optimization strategies for Google, Bing, and other search engines, as well as using social media tools to reach more visitors.

Overall, while social media is a virtually free, using social media tools for automation and tracking typically have some cost associated with them.  Here are a list of social media tools that can help you boost your overall traffic and engagement.