Friday, August 17, 2012

Behind the Fine Print



Before we get too involved with finding all the different ways there is to make money online, we have to learn to do it the right… and legal way. You can’t just promise people the world and not be able to deliver it. Many people have the mistaken impression that the internet is a totally unregulated medium where anyone can do what they want, and therefore a certain distrust is born, preventing some from feeling the freedom to use it as they would like to.

Internet legalities are real!

The reality is that there ARE laws governing the use of the internet, particularly in the realm of ecommerce.The FTC and other government agencies are very watchful of what goes on there, and they will come down on those who don’t abide by the laws!
As a small business operator, you might wonder how a person stays on top of such information, so that you know what can and can’t be done. The simple answer is trade magazines, such as mThink, a marketing magazine geared toward affiliate marketing.
An article in today’s issue caught my attention in regard to what is happening in the area of legal issues with web sites, and it should be required reading for anyone thinking about owning an online business. It isn’t just fun and games in the online world, Running a business means paying attention to ALL aspects of running a business, the same as in the real world.
Too many in this business think that just because they don’t have a phycial property, where someone can trip and fall, and subsequently sue them, that they don’t have to worry about liability. The truth is that there are as many legal issues to deal with here as anywhere else. The fact that the minor infringements may be smaller than a physical business is overshadowed by the fact that you aren’t just dealing with local customers. You may likely be selling to the entire world, and therefore, there is more likely a chance of someone noticing one of those small indiscretions and call your bluff on it!

Examples of internet legal issues for web site owners might be…

  • copyright infringement, where you used someone’s article without their permission. Or maybe you used someone’s music in one of your ads without their permission. Or maybe you used someone’s photo or video without their permission. It’s one thing to read, listen to, or watch something for your own entertainment, but just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean you have a right to use it for your own gain. Typically, if you are using all or any one of these mediums to enhance sales of your own products, then you may owe the rightful owners of such products a portion of the sales for their effort in helping you to make that money!
  • plagiarism, which goes hand-in-hand with the above paragraph, is also something you want to avoid. This means taking someone else’s work and claiming it as your own. In this business in particular there are all kinds of written products, with all kinds of legal permissions involved, such as PLR (private label rights) to MRSR (master resell rights). And even within those, there can be specific permissions given. In a later article we will discuss what all those permission types are and how they are used. But know also, that the search engines have software that looks for duplicate content. I even have a copy of one such product myself, which even tells me in percentages how close my writing is to someone else’s! If the search engines see duplicate content, then they will place less importance on it because it is not new and fresh, and therefore will not rank your site as high. So besides the legal issues, there are marketing issues why you should not copy someone else’s content!
  • exaggerating facts. You can’t just “exaggerate” claims to people just because they may be half way around the world, and aren’t likely to come after you! Your business has to be conducted fully “above board” so that people know what they can “really” expect. In other words, you can’t write a headline that says that people are going to make a certain amount of money in a certain length of time. You have no control over what people do, so you have no way of knowing whether they will or won’t. As you can see by the aformentioned article in mThink.com, even saying they can make “up to” a certain amount can trigger an audit of your activities by the authorities.
  • failure to use disclaimers. Making money from people without their knowledge is also something that is against the law. No matter how you make your money, it must be disclosed somewhere on your site in plain view. It may be obvious to most people that if there is a big yellow “buy now” button on the page, that you are selling something. Less obvious are the word links that you put on your site, such as the ones you find on my sites, some of which I put there, while others may be provided by Skimlinks. There are several companies out there that provide software to create these “contextual links”, or you can simply create your own links. Companies like Adsense also provide contextual advertising, meaning the ads shown are “in context” with the topic of the page. Either way, sometimes money is made from a reader simply clicking on those links, whether they buy anything or not. That action is not made clear to the reader unless you make it clear in a disclaimer somewhere on your site. If they don’t like what you have to say, maybe they would prefer that you didn’t make money off their efforts. That is their right to refuse to do business with you, so if there is way of that happening that is not readily apparent, it is considered deceptive, and you have to tell them. That’s the law!
  • fabricated testimonials. If you put testimonials on your site, it is permissible to use simply initials, in case the “testifier” would prefer to remain anonymous, but you had better retain the proof of those testimonials in case the feds come knocking at your door! It is illegal to fabricate testimonials or to use people’s remarks out of context and without their permission! Always ask permission if you can use their remarks! And in reality, the more credible a testimonial looks, the better effect it has. The mention of your name or business in their remarks is always a bonus, and of course, having their full name in the credits also helps. Beyond that, the use of video testimonials is on the rise, so having them on your site “in person” endorsing your product is about as good as it gets!

When NOT to use testimonials!

There can be many reasons, but the reason that I don’t show them anymore is simple… some of the people who gave them are no longer being trained by me. They gave their testimonial when they first started, but then I discovered that they werent following through with what I recommended, and their sites never came up to the quality that they should have been.
Keep in mind, I can’t do your work for you! I can advise you on what you should do, but if you don’t do it, that’s not my fault! In turn, I will not give references to students or their sites if those sites aren’t up to the quality of what they should be. If my readers go to those sites and see crappy work, then it reflects badly on me, even though I didn’t build them!
On top of that, providing testimonials is like providing a link to those sites, which I would be glad to do if they were something that I could be proud to recommend. But when they aren’t, or are totally off topic of my own site, then those inbound links are both worthless to the search engines, as well as “un-earned” by the site owner.

Summary and Expectations

There are many more things that you need to be aware of, but those mentioned above seem to be the most noticeable, and will get you in trouble the quickest. To stay aware of the rest, I suggest you get a free subscription to mThink, and be sure to read the articles like this latest one on how to stay legal in your business. This magazine is totally free, and available in both print and emailed newsletter editions. The emailed notifications are usually sent about every week to three weeks, depending on when the posts are written. They also have other magazines geared toward this trade and in other specialites, and you can choose which ones you get when you sign up.
In future posts I will get more in depth into the different types of permissions available for written products, many of which could be used for posts on your site, as enticements to opt-in for the free reports, to be given as bonuses with other products, or even to be sold outright. It’s all a part of marketing “know-how” and in running ANY kind of web site online, and no matter what you sell online, you need to know about these things in order to be in this business.
We’ll also get back to the various ways to make money online with your web site or blog, so stick around, and as always, let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Thanks for reading.
(Update 11/11/12: The article mentioned above has since been moved or removed from the mThink.com site, so we changed the link to go to the main site only.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Internet Marketing Mindset, and Using Skimlinks...with Examples!




I am currently working with a few students right now who are having problems with getting into the mindset required to market on the internet. So before we get into other subjects, I want to show by example exactly what it takes to think like a marketer, and I’m going to use Skimlinks as a good example of how to implement the strategies to make money.

What do I sell on the web?

Usually, one of the first questions people have in their mind is what to sell on the web. And the answer is “anything and everything”. The next question is usually “where do I get it”. And the answer to that is “anywhere and everywhere!”
Many people think of places like Amazon, or Walmart, but the truth is, those are already retailers. They will not sell to you at a price point low enough for you to make a profit. There are hundreds of thousands of places to get products to sell at price that you can afford to resell them. Some places will sell physical products to you directly if you show that you have a business license and are serious about how you run your business, but that usually involves buying in larger quantities and getting into a warehousing operation. As I have said before… been there, done that… never again! That kind of an operation is too restrictive to travel to suit my tastes. But that doesn’t mean YOU shouldn’t do it.
If going more than 25 miles from home is a scary adventure for you, then chances are good that managing a warehouse would work well for you. We all have different ideas on what “having a life” means.
Many online suppliers will ask for a business license before they will sell to you, so it always pays to be prepared, but one of the easiest ways to sell things online is to be an affiliate. That simply means that you will drive traffic to their online store, where they will process the order and then pay you a commission for referring the customer to them! It doesn't cost the customer any more than they would pay otherwise. It's just that the commission paid to the affiliate is already included in the vendors advertising cost. It's no different than using a billboard or a newspaper ad. If the customer didn't see the ad, they wouldn't be at the store!

But instead of the vendor paying a fixed cost for results that are hard to measure, he is only paying for results, and therefore can pay a little more for the referral that leads to a sale. He can measure his return on advertising dollars much more accurately, and the person doing the advertising for him gets a better percentage of his profits. It's a win/win situation for both! I should actually include a third win, because the customer normally pays less at online stores than at brick and mortar stores, and often gets free shipping. And even if they pay shipping costs, it's always less cost for them than using their own time and money by getting in their car and driving somewhere to get the product!  
The question now is “how do they know that it was me that sent the customer?” They simply use tracking cookies, which usually have your affiliate ID with that vendor imbedded in them. There are special computer programs designed for that type of marketing, so that a store can tell what affiliate sent the customer to them. You don’t need to have that software. Only the vendor needs to have it. The cookie that is placed may remain good for as little as ten days to 30 days, to 60 or 90 days, or even for a lifetime, depending on the vendor’s rules. That way, even if your reader doesn’t buy today (which many don’t) you will still get the commission if they come back to that vendor any time within the life of the tracking cookie!
It is a statistically proven fact that people do not generally buy the first time they visit a site…especially something that is not a sales like, like a blog. Statistics say that it takes seven times (on the average) of contact with that seller, before they feel comfortable enough to buy from/through him, even if they are just using a link to a well-known vendor like Amazon.

If you want to make a sale within 7 days then go to eBay. You can control the amount of the sale and even what is sold. With affiliate links, particularly on blogs, you may never know exactly what link was clicked on without having special software. Nor can you control how much is made from that link. It might pay a small commission for just clicking on it, or it may lead to a sale of something very expensive. The reader may not even know what he wants until he enters the vendors site and sees something he likes.
Still, there is money to be made with affiliate links, and people are doing it every day. If you don’t believe me, go to http://rvsueandcrew.net and click on the “Money” menu link at the top of the page. That will take you to a page where she has laid out her income and expenses for her traveling as well as how much she makes from her Amazon store link on her site! She isn’t even a professional marketer and is making up to $800 a month in "non-holiday" months, in commissions from Amazon! At their typical 6% commission rate, that means she is making more than $10,000 worth of retail sales every month! And that’s from one site! What would be possible if she duplicated her efforts on more than one site? What would be possible if she actually studied professional marketing techniques?
But also, what if you live in one of those “sales tax nexus” states in which Amazon refuses to allow Associates, because they don’t want to deal with the sales tax issues? That’s where having other vendors available can be the saving grace.
In a later post, we’ll discuss some of the different ways you can sell for some of these other vendors, but for now, we’re going to discuss the simplest and easiest way to make money online, and that is through Skimlinks.

Why should I use Skimlinks?

The simple answer to that is ease of use. The normal process of applying to be an affiliate to any other place goes like this:
(1) you pick out a product
(2) you search out who carries that product
(3) you see if they have an affilliate program
then (a) they might or might not have one, (b) they might manage it themselves, or (c) they might have an aggregator manage it, then
(4) you either apply to the store itself, or
(5) you apply to the aggregator and then to the store
(6)  “IF” (and that’s a BIG “IF”) they approve you, then they will direct you to the affiliate resources pages to get your links and banners to use on your site, and
(7) then you have to copy and paste all that code into the html on your site everywhere that you want to use it.
(8) for the next product, you will have to go through that entire process again!
(9) AND… for every vendor you use, you have a different dashboard to monitor to see what’s happening with your sales!

(10) AND... if the vendor does away with the ad that is served from his hosting company's server, and the link becomes dead... you have to go in an find another ad to display!
Think about that! How much time is that going to take you to source all the products you are going to need, make applications to each aggregator, and then STILL have to make separate applications to the stores that they manage links for? And if they turn you down, all that time is wasted, and you have to try another vendor!
Also, if you are approved, you still have to go back to each vendor’s affiliate page, get the code that you need, and then implement it on every linked word or location on your site that you want to apply it! Let’s say you have a site (a blog) already built and have 150 posts on it already, with an average of five links per page. How long is it going to take you to go back through all those 150 pages and 750 links to monetize the site properly? The answer…. MONTHS!
The solution: Skimlinks… because they do it all for you in less than 30 minutes!
Skimlinks has two programs that are automatically connected. One is the original Skimlinks, and the other is Skimwords.

How does Skimlinks work?

First, you have only one vendor to deal with, and therefore only one place you have to go to see all of your sales reports and earnings. They already have over 18,000+ different vendors and more than forty aggregators (ex.: Commission Junction, Linkshare, Share a Sale, etc., that already may have hundreds of individual stores that they manage links for) that Skimlinks has made agreements with, so you don’t have to go through the process of applying again to each one! Once Skimlinks approves you, all those other 18,000+ vendors HAVE to! Think of the time that saves!
Have you been turned down by places like Amazon because of sales tax nexus laws in your state? No problem! Skimlinks has so many other vendors, including eBayWalmartKmart, and thousands more, that you simply direct your sales toward those other vendors! Still, Amazon has decided not to honor commissions on “sales” made through Skimlinks that are generated in states where there is nexus laws in effect, but they will still pay on clicks on the links where applicable. Clicks a re not considered sales, and therefore no taxes are due. So even if an Amazon ad shows up, you will still make money from the click on it, whether the customer buys or not.
Their bonus program, Skimwords, is automatically active with your account, There is nothing “in addition” to apply for, and nothing to set up. The one line of code, OR the WordPress plug-in does it all for you, on your entire site… even on old posts! And despite what you may have heard, it DOES work with Blogger, and is perfectly legal. You just install the script in a “text” side bar gadget, and it puts the links on the entire site, clear back to posts that may be years old!

What does it cost to use Skimlinks?

Absolutely NOTHING! And you lose nothing! As an example of how they work, let’s say that Amazon normally pays you 6% as what they like to call an “advertising fee” for displaying their products on your site. Because of the volume of business that Skimlinks does, they arrange for an 8% commission for themselves to let Amazon into their system. They keep 25% of those commissions (only 2% of the total purchase) for themselves, and you still get the original 6% that you would have gotten anyway!

How do I make better commissions?

Once you have an account with Skimlinks (VERY easy to get, by the way), you can search for a particular product and see a list of all the stores within their collection that carry that product. It will also show you each vendor’s commission rates. Many of them also pay on a per click basis, so that your reader doesn’t even have to buy to make you money! If you see that one store offers 5% and three cents per click, and another vendor offers 15% and five cents per click for the same product, YOU get to choose the link you want to use. All you have to do is install your own link on the keywords within your site, and Skimlinks won’t change them. If you don’t make enough money it will be your own fault for not managing your site propery!

How do I implement Skimlinks/Skimwords?

First of all, Skimlinks refers to actual links or ads placed on the site from which you make money through purchases. The Skimwords part of the program is what automatically activates certain keywords into links, and from those, you may get paid for clicks as well as purchases.
After you get your account set up, you will have an entire affiliate section to refer to with all the help you need, including videos. They will also give you a snippet of code to use on your web site, so that it activates whatever page it appears on. If you use WordPress, they already have a plug-in for Skimlinks, so all you have to do is enter your affiliate ID number assigned to that site in the setup form, and it does the rest for you. If you have multiple sites, you will have a separate ID number for each site.
Any product words or vendor keywords (Usually nouns) that it sees on your activated pages or posts will automatically be turned into links to whichever store (in their collection of over 18,000+ vendors) that handles that product. And it’s “retro-active”, meaning if you put it into a sidebar, or widget on your site that shows up on all pages…. it will go back and monetize all those pages that may have been written months or years ago!
What if you want to select your own products to recommend, rather than let it go to their selection?  All you have to do is create the link first, and then Skimwords will send the link to YOUR recommendation rather than theirs. It doesn’t get any easier!
What if you already have affiliate agreements with other vendors? Skimlinks will know which ones you already have agreements with, and will send them straight through to that vendor without interference. You will still get your commission from that vendor. But if you don’t have an agreement set up, Skimlinks will process the click or the sale, and will pay you through their own company, Skimbits Ltd.
So even if you don’t know the first thing about html, there is no excuse for not using it! Pay someone else to set it up for you if you have to! It will be worth the fee!

Is there anything that I “don’t” get with Skimlinks?

The only thing you won’t have access to with Skimlinks are the “creatives” (the various banner ads and direct links) that are available with a direct connection to one of those vendors. But you may not need them. If you still feel a need to use a banner, you can still apply to the vendor or aggregator, and have access to them. Skimlinks will automatically detect if you have a relationship with the vendor outside of their scope, and if so, they will simply send your link on through, and it will be handled by the vendor. If Skimlinks detects that you have no relationship, then they will make one for you and run the link through their system. Either way… you get paid!
Also, they have a new program called a “Showcase”, but at the time of this writing, it only works with Amazon. You can set up your links so that when moused over, a full product picture, or even a scrolling catalog will show up, to give the customer a look at the product and more information, without having to go to the site. If they click on the pop-up ad and buy from it, you get the commission (if you aren’t in one of the nexus states). Unfortunately, if you are in a nexus state, it isn’t worthwhile to use it, as you would only get paid for clicks if they were applicable for that product.
What if I want to use a vendor that has no agreement with Skimlinks? In fact, I just ran into that situation this morning. I saw a vendor that I wanted a link for, and they were not in Skimlinks’ arsenal. So I looked up the vendor on the web and they happen to use PepperjamNetwork as their aggregator. I then double-checked Skimlinks and that aggregator was not in their arsenal either. So I had to make an application to Pepperjam to get an account. As soon I am approved by them (the aggregator), then I may have to also apply to the vendor. This is the way normal affiliate marketing works, and why we should ALL be thankful to Skimlinks by taking much of that work away!
If I had simply created a link to the vendor site I would have been referring traffic to someone that would have never paid me for it! Not that I don’t do that sometimes, anyway, but it’s like going off and leaving money on the table!
For some product creatives, you might simply use one of the vendor’s graphics that you can copy from the web and paste into your site, but you should always ask first, and if they allow it, use a little caption with it that says something like “logo use courtesy of (the vendor’s name)”.  Some logos and images have very tight rules associated with their use, right down to the color rendition, and you could be sued if you use them without proper permission.
Can I also sell my own products through my own payment buttons?
This is a good question, and is very important… you may also lose the ability to sell your own products on your site through your own payment buttons. Skimlinks doesn’t care if you have a “donation” payment button on your site, but they really want to see ALL affiliate links on a site. That’s probably due to some legal issue with their contracts with their vendors, and I can understand that trying to find common ground with that many vendors is a daunting task in itself!
If you have products that you are selling through your own payment buttons, then you can put those on a separate site and just use links to “cross-reference” the sites to each other. Actually, that’s good for SEO, too, as it lets you be more specific with your keywords on each site as well as giving another inbound link to your site to add to its importance in the search engine’s eyes.
Also, if you are selling your own products, having people click away to go buy something from someone else is counter-productive. You should keep direct sales away from affiliate sites!

How do I create my own links with Skimlinks?

First, always make sure it is a vendor that is under contract with Skiminks, otherwise you may not get a commission at all! Then, all you have to do is go to any vendor’s web page and copy the URL of the page from the address bar. In your site editor, you highlight the word (or words) you want to make into a link, and click on the “chain link icon” on your editor header, and paste the link into the form box! Be sure to click the check box that says to open the link in a new window, so it doesn't take them totally away from your site. That’s all there is to it! The link will automatically go through Skimlinks directly to whatever page you sent them to, and Skimlinks will take care of the rest.
If you are using a general term, with no specific product in mind, you might go the catalog page of the vendor, so that when your reader arrives there he can see all of the products of that type and make his own decision. If you are recommending a specific product, then go to the exact page that shows only that product, and copy the URL from that page to make your link. Skimlinks will send them to wherever you want them to go, but if you make no recommendation at all, they will still make links where they see product keywords, and you will still make money! If you don’t want to use a particular vendor for any reason, you can keep their ads from showing up!
You also have your choice of link density. You can set it light for only a few select words to turn into links, medium for picking up a few more words, or you can set it to the max for picking out “most” of the keywords it finds.

Do people read older posts?

You bet they do! Any new visitor who arrives on your site for the first time is VERY likely to go back and read from the beginning to catch up, or they may check out specific topics or specific posts or categories within your blog or site. If they searched specific keywords, the search engine will direct them to the appropriate post or page of your site, even if it was written years ago! That’s why it is important to monetize not only your new content, but all of your previous content as well!

What if I don’t want banner ads on my site?

Many people don’t want their sites cluttered up with gaudy banner ads, and the truth is that people are becoming somewhat immune to banners, and many won’t click on them because they know it is a blatant attempt to sell them something. Some banners are as bad as carnival barkers, with flashing logos and some even use video with the banner. Used in the right context, some of that may be OK, but can be annoying to many people. That’s what’s so great about Skimlinks/Skimwords… they are very “unobtrusive” in that they simply link words to products. People can read right past them and ignore them or they can click on them to see where they go.
You can also use one of your own photos, maybe of you demonstrating a product, or of the product itself, and you can make the photo a link to the product. Since you own the photo, you won't have any issues with copyright infringement. All you have to do is click on the photo to highlight it, and then go to your editing bar and click on that chain ink icon to open the link window, and then paste your link into it. There's nothing hard about it!
Even though the majority of people come to the internet for information, a lot of the purchases that are made are “spur of the moment” decisions. Many people don’t even know there is such a selection of products or that certain products exist. If you lead them into it by talking about the product honestly,providing both pros and cons without being “pushy”, and then offer a place for them to buy it, many will click on the link and say “Gee, I didn’t know anyone made that! I’m going to get one!”. Even if they don’t buy it today (maybe they simply have to wait until payday) the cookie will remember that you sent them and you will still earn a commission if they purchase later!

What happens if the product or vendor that I’m after doesn’t have an affiliation with Skimlinks?

If you don’t see your desired product or the vendor listed with Skimlinks, then look them up on the web and see if you can find any links on their site that say “affiliates”, “partners”, “resellers” or some other indication that might offer that service. For those that do, you may see that their program is handled by a third party, usually an aggregator, and if so, you may have to make an application to that aggregator and then also apply to the vendor through that program. Some vendors handle their own affiliate program, and if so, you can apply directly to them. You can use any other affiliate links in conjunction with Skimlinks.
There are many sites on the web that will let you buy from them at wholesale prices, but they don’t show any indication of it on their site. If that’s the case, it doesn’t hurt to send them an email (or through their contact form) and ask them! That’s all there is to it! But they may still ask for a business ID, so again… be prepared!

But, how do I “think” like a marketer?

I just went back through some of my previous posts this morning and started looking for words that I saw. The Skimwords won’t show as links in your editing mode, only the ones YOU create yourself will show, but it doesn’t matter. The Skimlinks will show when you preview your site or it goes live. You can overwrite any of their links with your own if you see the need to.
In my post about seeing a (possible but not likely) cougar in the yard, I mentioned the street light. Amazon has security lights, so I linked “street light” to a catalog page showng their choices.  I also mentioned a 6-volt lantern, a game camera, and even threw in a little quip at the end about “lions and snakes and bears! Oh My!” with a reference to the tin man in the Wizard of Oz (think collectibles). So I made “tin man” a link to Wizard of Oz collectibles. There was a total of at least four new opportunities to link to vendors sites to offer up products for the reader to buy, just in that one post about “maybe” seeing a cougar! And I can guarantee you that even set at “max”, Skimwords may not detect all of those referrences on their own! It is up to YOU as a marketer to THINK, and to monetize everything you can. The more opportunities you present to people, the more money you are going to make!
A marketer has to look at everything he does with the thought of “how can I make money from that?” And what can be easier than simply converting text words to unobtrusive links to give people the opportunity to act upon them, without the seller being “pushy” about it? Regardless of how you feel about sales, remember… there isn’t anything that is within your field of vision (other than what was created by nature) that isn’t there because a sale was made first! You would be “naked in nature” without someone making a sale at some time in the past! Sales are a natural part of society and sooner or later, EVERYONE makes a sale, even if it’s only selling themselves to an employer (perish the thought)!
Many of my blog readers are fellow travelers. If you write about travel, then think about what you can connect people to for travel products, such as air packages, camping, hotels or rental cars. If you talk about attractions or entertainment, then check out the possibility of offering tickets to your readers, or hotels that are in the area, or even a nice restaurant that they can go to afterwards. If you talk about improvements to your home or your RV, then offer them those products. If you talk about food or beverages, then offer them coupons, recipes, beer-making kits, or wine club memberships. What better time to sell than when offering products that you have already used and liked? You already have your readers’ attention, and they probably trust you if they have been reading your blog, and subscribed to it, so why wouldn’t they buy from you?
How can I maximize my commissions?
Be wise about it. The reason most people don’t make any money is because they depend on things like Adsense to monetize their sites and then they never study how to choose keywords that will attract the higher paying clicks. The result is they get paid pennies for clicks and never reach the $100 minimum payout that Adsense imposes! You have to get past worrying about making pennies and learn how to pick both the methods and the products that will get you the most profits! That means choosing a good mix of higher priced products as well as a few lower priced, and paying attention to the commission rates paid by different vendors for the sale of those products. You can’t just set things up at random and hope to make money, any more than you can just show up for an employer and hope to make money!  You have to WORK at making money. In marketing, that means simply learning to think like a marketer, pay attention to what is happening, and think outside the box to figure out how to make it better!
With Skimlinks, you can go into the “Merchant” section and search for specific products or vendors. You will get a list of the vendors who carry the product, as well as the commission rate they pay, and if they use pay-per-click, it will also tell what they pay for each click on the ad or word. You have complete control over choosing vendors that pay the highest commissions, but if you don’t, Skimlinks will choose whatever matches with the keyword. It’s up to YOU to maximize your profits…not Skimlinks!
Why sell ad space on your site for a piddly, fixed amount, when you should be getting paid on commission for the sales volume that ad produces? Why settle for click rates on generic products when you could be offering to sell the same products at 50% commission or more? THINK!!!
It takes just as much time and effort to market a $5 product as it does a $5,000 product, but if you have to settle for a 10% commission, then which one are you going to put the effort into? DUH!
In thinking like a marketer, remember that your own time is money. As an example, think about selling something on eBay…say, from your own inventory. Sure, you may sell MORE of the lower priced items, but can you sell a hundred of them? Not if you only have one to sell! A hundred low priced items may justify writing a listing once, and then pushing a button to relist over and over. A one-shot sale very seldom justifies the time spent unless it is something worth more than $50.
You have to learn that some things are better off donated than to mess around with selling them online! Think about the time it takes you to research them, the photography time, the uploading time, the sales pitch writing time, and then the processing of the order afterward. If you can’t make what your time is worth, then you are better off to give the product away as a bonus with a more expensive product! Don’t waste time on unproductive efforts!
On the other hand, if you think that spending 4 hours on a site that might make $30 a month on autopilot…indefinitely… is unproductive…. think again! If that site stays out there on its own and can generate $30 a month for the next 15 years or more…. that’s a minimum of $5400 that you will have made for that 4 hours of work that you did ONE time!
THAT is what I mean when I say you need to get your head on straight and think like a marketer! Now… if you could build two sites like that a day, how long would it take you to reach your immediate income goals, and never have to work again? And how much income will you have made for that effort over the next 15 years? Think about it! YOU do the math!
This is a form of what Einstein called the “most powerful force on earth”… the power of compound interest. This is the power to do 4 hours worth of work to generate the same income that would take an average worker 180 hours to earn at $30 an hour! That’s leveraging your income by over 45 times!  But yet 95% of people will never understand that and never do what is necessary to get there!
It is a statistical fact that only about 2% of first-time visitors will buy from you. Like real life, they may want to get to know you better, so they can feel assured that you are who you say you are and that they aren’t going to get ripped off.
Regular readers on blogs feel like they know the site owner after they have followed his writings for awhile. They learn to trust him, and in turn the sales conversions go up! Referrals from blogs to regular readers often result in 7% or higher conversions. If the blog also has a subscription to new post notifications going out, so that the reader has agreed to being sent special offers by email, those offers, many times, result in as much as a 40% increase in sales volume! Now you know why most web sites want you to opt-in for special offers! They want to stay in touch with you, just like any other friend would want to stay in touch with you. And regular contact with those visitors, either through email or blog posts will keep you in their minds and they will learn to trust you, and buy from you!
This is how a marketer MUST think if he expects to be successful. Online sales isn’t about sending out a bunch of spam to anybody and everybody and pestering them like some bad used car saleman, only to get a paltry 1/10th of one percent conversions! It’s about using the right keywords to attract people to your site that already have an interest in what you are offering… first in information… and later in products you recommend to them. That’s how long term sales relationships are built, and why you have to get your heads on straight if you expect to be successful at it.
There’s no sense in pestering people that have no interest in what you are offering. You don’t have time to worry about them and neither should any other salesman!  You need to find out…
(1) what it is that people are searching for in huge numbers and not finding answers for,
(2) find or create a product to fill that need,
(3) and then learn how to put it in front of as many of them as you can at the least cost!
If you can do that, you won’t have to “sell” to them… the majority will automatically buy what you offer them!

Summary and expectations

Now you have everything that you need to “start” making money with a site or blog, so there is no excuse not to go sign up for Skimlinks, get approval (may take 24 hours), and then put that little line of code into a widget or sidebar of your site (or let WordPress do it for you) and start making money within 24 hours of setting it up! Every page or post of your site should become a salesman that sells for you 24/7, whether you do anything further or not!
But we have only scratched the surface as far as all the different methods and how to promote the site or blog. What we have done so far is only generic SEO (search engine optimization). There is still a lot to learn about “off site” promoting, through social channels, and video! What you are going to make in the next month off your sites will be only a drop in the bucket compared to what you will make once we really get serious about implementing all the other strategies!
We will try to present things with a good balance of both monetization as well as promotion, so that you can begin to make money as you go, using mostly free products. Don’t expect overnight miracles. It will start slow, and keep building, but that’s the way it should be. If anyone tells you in this business that you can make a bundle overnight with no work, you need to run like Hell, because the times that it actually happens are few and far between, and often times are built on “flash-in-the-pan” methods or products that have a short life.
My method is to show you how to build your business with products with long life spans that will remain as viable AND valuable five years or more down the road as they are today. That cuts back on “site maintenance” so that you can enjoy more time to do the things you really want to do.
As we progress into more depth within these posts regarding other products and promotional methods, your sales volume will increase as you learn new techniques and make your site more visible to the public. You need to start NOW, so that you will have the income when you need it. If you wait until you “really” need it before you start, it will be a long time coming!
Until then, go start making some money with what I have already shown you!  And if you run into problems, let me know in the comments so that I can help you! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your business be! There’s a lot of growth ahead, so stick with it, be patient, and it will come!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Creating and Editing Posts



Anyone who has ever written anything online, from emails to ebooks, has had it happen to them at one time or another… where all of a sudden they are typing along and everything they have written suddenly disappears! That is one of the most aggravating things that can, and very often does, happen. I’m going to show you some tricks to prevent that.

The most common error!

It took me a long time to realize what was happening, but I soon realized that my left hand was accidentally hitting “shortcut keys”. Shortcuts are the keys you can hit in combination with the “Control” key or the “Function” key. Many people don’t realize it, but if you hit “Control” and “A” at the same time, that is the code for “Select All” and will highlight everything on your screen. If you don’t catch it in time, the very next key you hit will delete everything on your screen!
I never had typing when I was in high school, so everything I have learned has been on my own, and my speed comes only from practice, but I certainly don’t use the correct fingers on the keys, and end up with a lot of typos that I have to go back and correct. Still, at only about 60 WPM, I realized I was hitting the “Control A” and then the next key so fast, that I didn’t realize I had highlighted everything. It was just a flash, and then everything was gone!
But before you get too disgusted with yourself, just remember to use the “Edit/Undo” function from your menu at the top of the screen, and everything will come right back, unless you are in a page or site that causes the menu bars at the top of your screen to disappear. I can’t even count how many emails I wiped out and had to re-do before I realized how to fix it! But I know I’m not alone!

Set your blog to publish at a later time!

One of the tricks that I use for blogging is this… as soon as you get your title in the form, go to your publish settings and tell it to publish the blog at a later time, preferably several hours from the time you are writing it, or even a day or two ahead. Give yourself at least a couple of hours. I usually set it for 8 PM, because by that time, I am pretty much done for the day, and have everything proof-read and edited, ready to go. Readers will not see the post until it publishes. Only I can see it on my own computer, because I am signed in to my admin role. The actual post notifications that go out to readers do so at 9 PM CST, so many won't even read it until the next day. And if I happen to reread the post again after it's online, I can still go in and edit it at any time to make last minute corrections. In fact these very posts on this blog, are being reread and edited to bring them up to date, even after they were originally posted over four years ago!
Don’t try to write and immediately publish, as that never turns out well. If you publish immediately, anyone who happens onto the blog is going to see all your typos and mistakes, as well as a possibly unfinished article…and that is not good. NEVER DO THAT!
I have already written a post about the fact that blogs will not “re-publish” (i.e., send to your list) once you have published them the first time, so it is safe to go back as many times as you need to in order to make corrections. You’ll notice that your “Publish” button no longer says “Publish” after you hit it the first time. It changes to “Update”. That’s because you can only publish once.

The only way to over-ride that is to go to your scheduling window and set the post for a new publication date ahead of where you are now. But that is not something you would normally go out of your way to do. 
Sometimes I read my blogs over a half-dozen times, both online and in edit mode, before I finally feel confident that I have all the typos and mis-spellings fixed, all the links added, and have it worded just the way I want. No one ever publishes anything that has everything 100% right the first time, and yet some of the blogs I see, look like they are “first drafts” that were never finished! Sloppy editing will drive visitors away, and if you don’t care enough about what you do, chances are that your readers will go elsewhere.
For many RV and camping enthusiasts with blogs, they don’t like to publish from where they are currently located, for security reasons. Maybe you have other reasons to delay your posts. But if you wait to write them until a couple of days later, you tend to forget many of the things that you “would” have talked about while you are there! The solution is to set the publish date to a few days ahead. You can still write your stories while they are fresh in your mind, and the post will not appear until after you have left your current location! Not only that, but it gives you time to re-read, and re-think about it, and add things that you might have forgotten about or missed.

Don’t try to make it sound like you are talking with an accent!

People like Mark Twain were masters of slang and the vernacular, but I see many people trying to be too “cute” with their use of mis-spelled words, trying to talk like someone they are not. It may cover up a lot of spelling errors, but a little of that goes a long way, and sometimes trying to talk with an accent while writing just sounds ridiculous!
Trying to talk like an uneducated “hick” makes other people think that’s all you are! Most people won’t even understand what you are trying to do, and will just leave. If they happen to be from an area you are trying to imitate, it might even offend them! And short-cutting words with words that would only show up in texting is NEVER proper protocol for business or public writing! Stick to proper English (or whatever language you speak the most), and no one will be offended. And by proper, I mean all words correctly spelled, capitalized and punctuated, to the best of your ability!

If you can't spell and failed English, then I suggest having a third party who IS knowledgeable to proofread your writing before you publish it! You can start by activating the built-in spell check device that is on every computer! It may not catch everything, but it catches a lot!
If you are targeting audiences other than your native language, it’s always best to get a professional translator who knows both languages VERY well, to write the article for you. We’ve all seen articles written that look like they were written in “broken” English. In today’s world, you never know if it’s a real person or a robot “article spinner” that (supposedly) rewrites articles to avoid plagiarism. (Yes, there are such things!) And although there some translator programs available that do a pretty good job, it’s hard to beat human decision-making.
Sometimes, if it isn’t too bad, we can figure out their intent and get through them. But if written too poorly, many people just give up and go to something else. In sales, the profit for many businesses comes off the last 10% of revenue. If you lose 10% of your readers because they leave before you get your message across, then you are going to go broke! Think about it!
Also, writing in correct characters, grammar and spelling for your language makes it much easier for spell-checkers to check your spelling. If you don’t know how to spell at a grade “A” level to start with, and then throw in a bunch of mis-spelled words, how is a spell-checker to know what you have in mind? It simply is not the best way to do things, for a lot of reasons! Every person who writes should get in the habit of using that little icon at the top of their screen that looks like a check-mark with ABC over it! I’m a straight “A” speller, and even I use it to check my work. Mis-spelled words will show up with a red line under them, so I can verify them. That’s all it takes!

Save your work (update) often!

As soon as you have filled in your title, and formatted your “future time” for the blog to publish, then hit the “Schedule”, or “OK” button! That’s the same function as “publish” except that it delays it according to the “schedule” you selected. You will still be able to see it in preview, but it will not be visible to the public until it actually “turns on”.
Remember, many blog clocks are set in military time. It’s not that hard to figure out. THINK! There are 24 hours in a day that ends at midnight, so 10 PM would be two hours less, at 22:00 hours! Dinner hour, at 6 PM, would be 18:00 hours. The morning hours are exactly as stated, so just keep counting up for the next twelve, so that 1 PM becomes 13:00 hours. It’s not rocket science!
I have had it happen with both WordPress and Blogger, where I have had the majority of an article written, and when I published… half of it it disappeared! I have no idea why it does that, but I have since gotten in the habit of setting the publish time ahead, and hitting the “Schedule” button immediately after starting the title, and then the  “Update” button after every paragraph or picture. That way, if it screws up, I won’t have much to put back in. If you don’t do this, you stand to lose nearly everything you’ve written! The “Update” button is about the same as a “Save” button. It seems that once it updates, the article will stay put, but prior to that… anything can happen!
Remember, you can only “publish” once, so your post notifications and RSS feeds won’t send out to your list of subscribers until the time you tell it to, and it will only go out ONE time! So don’t be afraid to edit!  In fact, I go back often to my older posts on this blog, to update or reword things to keep it up to date. As I have time to do live screen demonstrations with voice-over I will also add those. So if there was anything you didn’t understand before, review the posts once in a while and you may find some new things in them!
Remember that just because most of your list may read the blog when they get the notification, they (and other people) may also come back to your blog at a later date. Once the blog post is online, it will be attracting new readers with its keywords until the day you shut it down. And you will also have many new people going back to read it to catch up, so there are still plenty of chances for new people (as well as returning readers) to see those updated posts. A post just doesn’t go “dormant” after being read the first time! New people will (hopefully) be coming to your blog for several years yet, so it’s not too late to go back and edit it, or update the information to make it better for those new readers!
The other reason it doesn’t hurt to go back, is for search engine optimization. A page (not a post) of a blog that goes dormant, and has no activity, is not as likely to be picked up by the search engines. They will assume that it is no longer important to people, and your page rankings will go down. Instead of being at the top of page one, your listing will slide down the page, eventually to the second page, and so on. By going back and doing something new on the page, either with new comments coming in, or just editing to change a few words on the page, the search engines see changes and activity taking place, and will know that it still has importance!
Remember, the number of visitors (and subsequent sales) drop almost exponentially, the farther down on the page you are in search results! If your business depends on that last 10% of revenue as the difference between profit and loss, think what those lower rankings are going to do to your income!

Why text sometimes disappears!

Sometimes during typing, we get to moving along so fast that our fingers are ahead of our brains. And for people who have never had proper typing instruction (like me) that can be dangerous! Many times, in emails, (which normally you can’t save like you do other documents) I would have an email just about done when the screen would suddenly go blank! So VERY, VERY aggravating!
Eventually, I figured out what was happening. Somehow I managed to hit something that caused all the text to be highlighted, and as soon as I hit the next key, it thought I wanted to replace the highlighted text with something else! And I was typing along so fast that it highlighted and changed before I realized what was happening! Sometimes, it can be a matter of accidentally hitting “shortcut” keys (like control + A, to select all) and it happens so fast we don’t realize we have done it!
Other times, such as in these blogs, I have not seen any rhyme or reason why they do what they do… I think it must be a glitch in the programs! From my own observations it appears that they don’t like it when you try to put too much in the post the first time you publish, as that is most often the times that I have lost information. It doesn’t seem to be consistent, and I know as a troubleshooter, intermittent problems are the hardest to find and correct! However, once published and updated (even though it may not be viewed by the public yet) it seems to stay locked in. So set your scheduler, publish before it is complete, “Update” OFTEN, and don’t show it to the public until it’s where you want it!

How to correct text disappearing!

With most programs, either email, word processing or blogs, you will usually have your menu bar showing at the top of the page, with “File”, “Edit”, “View”, “Favorites”, “Tools”, and “Help” showing…at least on Internet Explorer and most others that is true. If you go to the “Edit” menu, then click on “Undo” in the drop down list, it will usually restore to the point before the last keystroke. On some browsers or programs it may be a curved arrow, or a pair of them (undo, redo) at the top of the screen, but be careful, as some browsers also use that as a “refesh” icon! Each time you hit “Undo” it will back up one more keystroke. That will usually restore whatever disappeared.
In some programs you may not be able to do that. If the “Undo” is grayed out on the menu or non-existent, then you are out of luck!

Thunderbird email manager saves drafts “on the fly”!

After having used the old “reliable” Outlook Express for years, it seems that Microsft thought they had a better idea with the new Windows Live Mail. Like most new programs, they have a long way to go, and are slow getting there. Although some of their ideas were good, they inadvertantly built in many new glitches along the way, which I have already described in a prevous post. It was so aggravating that I finally uninstalled the program from my computer and went to the free “open source” Thunderbird (dot org) email manager.
However, I saw limitations in that program and it started slowing down with the volume of mail I deal with, so I have since gone straight to Gmail online, and do not save emails on my own computer at all.
In Thunderbird I was no longer losing paragraph formatting every time I wanted to copy an email, and all of the other problems were gone, too!  As a bonus, Thunderbird automatically saves drafts every few minutes, so if you have a long email to write, and something crashes, you may not lose everything that you wrote!  Just go to the drafts folder and retrieve it from where it saved the last time! Another thing I have found is that once sent, all of the drafts go to the “Trash” folder, which is logical, as they are not needed once sent. Still, you can go there to see the progression of the different “Save” points.
Losing partially composed emails was especially frustrating for me in the past, as I deal with many students online, and many emails contain specific instructions for doing certain tasks. When I would lose an email in the middle of it, I had to start my thinking process all over again from the beginning, and try to remember what all I had said before! That is not only VERY annoying, but wastes precious time, so I can’t mess around with programs that aren’t reliable! I didn’t have that happen after going to Thunderbird. But as I said, it works great for casual emailers, but slows down when saving too much, so now, I go straight to Gmail, which is the best program with the best security on the entire planet!

So why not just manage emails in the programs where we have our email addresses?

For public email programs (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL etc.) that may work for some, but most of them (except Gmail) do not have the features necessary for using them for business. If you have a business web site address, the LAST thing you want to do is advertise a public email address with a web site in your print advertising! I have already discussed this in the post about emails, and why you shouldn’t do it! It’s the same as publicly saying, “Hey look at me! I’m an amateur who doesn’t know what I’m doing yet!”
And to try to access your control panel on your business server just to check emails is a time-consuming pain! Most public email programs will allow you to to have your server mail forwarded to them, and then will let you set up your business server mail as “additional” emails on those programs. In other words, with Gmail, it will accept whatever email you forward to it, and then you can select from a drop-down box which email address you want to send from (after you set them up). Not all public email programs will do that.
On your “web mail” within your “C” panel, you first have to forward that mail to whatever other email address you want it to go to. All of your business email can then be received there. Of course, to send from your public email address, you have to set it up first, to confirm that you actually are the admin for those accounts, but that’s a simple process in the settings menu.
Also, in my previous post about email programs, I discussed why it’s important for businesses to have a “redundant” system, where it is next to impossible to ever have their emails interrupted. If you depend on payment processors to send you orders by email, the LAST thing you want is to lose any of those emails! NEVER, EVER depend solely on an email program on your computer… especially Windows Live Mail, nor even one as good as Thunderbird. If your computer crashes, you need a backup of everything on a public server that you can access immediately from another computer in order to keep from disrupting your business!
Also, if you have several different email addresses, it is a WHOLE lot easier to have them coming into one central place, rather than have to go into several different programs or servers to read your email. I get about 50 emails a day. Can you imagine how much time I would lose by having to sign into several different servers or programs just to check email? It would be friggin’ ridiculous! I have ONE email manager open nearly all day (it used to be Thunderbird, but now it’s Gmail online) where I get ALL of approximately thirty different email addresses as well as three different public services all coming into one place! That’s the ONLY way to manage business email efficiently!

Summary and Expectations

By now you should be getting quite famliar with how everything works in the internet marketing realm, and be safe and confident enough to manage a site… or sites, as is usually the case with internet marketing. The more sites you manage, the more important it is to make the best use of your time, and avoiding lost work, and how to recover it when it happens, is part of your learning process.
If you have a site set up (which you should have by now), let me know how to view it, and I will be glad to give you a professional review and help you improve it. I can’t help you if you don’t communicate with me! I will go through it from the basic html, to the colors, to the layout, to what might be missing, and if you need help implementing something, I can walk you through it. I will soon have CamStudioPro available, where I can do live screen shots and explain things on video, so please, let me help you!
In the next post series we are going to discuss the many ways of making money with your sites. We will discuss how tracking cookies work, and show you why nearly everything you do online is making money for someone. In order to make money, you have to start thinking like a marketer in nearly everything you do online. After all, everyone else is making money from their online efforts…. why shouldn’t you get your piece of it? Once you see how easy it is, you’ll kick yourself for not having done it sooner!
As always, if you have any questions, please ask, and I will reply ASAP.  Although I try to be thorough in my explanations, no instructor is ever perfect, and no two students learn the same way. Some can learn by reading. Others have to have something visual, and still others would rather listen while they’re out jogging. If you don’t understand something, please let me know so I can help you.