Stevie Tee - Making a Million £1 at a Time

Link Building for Affiliates

Woah, is it March already? That means I haven’t posted here in over 6 months. Hmm, note to self – must do better. So what have I been up to, you ask? No? Well I’m going to tell you anyway. Its been quite a difficult 6 months truth be told. The algo changes google has thrown up over the last 12 months have hit me quite hard. A lot of sites that were making small amounts of money have been lost a lot of their rankings and I have been too busy up until now to do anything about it. But its time I did, otherwise I might as well pack this affiliate marketing business in for good.

I did try to short cut the process last month by purchasing a couple of already established sites. That has proven to be a moderate fail since no sooner did I transfer the money over for one site than it was penalised by google for Unnatural Links, which is frustrating since I had high hopes that it would be making a decent chunk of money come April, but now that its been kicked out the Serps I’m down a lot of cash and have to sort out the mysteries of a bloody google penalty and reinclusion requests to boot. The other site is still ticking along nicely though, so need to spend some time increasing its earnings to pay it off in good time.

However the purpose of this post is really for my own benefit. I read an article recently about link building for affiliates and I think you all should read it too.

Here’s the link

It makes for an interesting read and talks about building quality links through guest posting, creating compelling content and engaging your users through the various social platforms amongst other things. Its all stuff we should already know but sometimes its nice to see it written down as handy reminder. Now that I’ve posted it here I’ll always know where to look for it should I need some inspiration.

Start Promoting Products for Christmas Now

I’m just back from a fortnight in Sunny Tenerife, the sunburn is still itching, the liver is still recovering from all the free Sangria and I have an extra half stone in weight to lose at the gym. I’m contented and the batteries are definitely recharged – just in time to raise my game and start thinking about the Christmas rush. Christmas is definitely the most profitable time of year for me – typically I can generate more than half of my entire 12 months income in the months between October and January thanks largely to two of my most popular sites promoting products that sell very well at Christmas. DVD Bargain Alerts is typical of this, and while I haven’t really updated its blog much recently it has been ticking over quick nicely thanks to its built in price comparison pages. I have 2 or 3 other sites which operate in very similar sectors and I will begin updating these sites in earnest over the course of the next week or so.

Of course I am fortunate that I have sites that are geared up to take advantage of this, and if you’ve been in affiliate marketing for any length of time then you may find that you are too. Have you got any old unloved sites lying around which get a small amount of traffic? If so then you could be onto a winner if you act quickly. Take them out of storage, have a look at the keywords which are generating traffic and revisit the niche to establish what is new to the market and find products that may sell well over the next 3 months. Act now, because the more relevant content you can add to those sites the more likely it will be found by someone looking to spend money. At Christmas time people don’t need to much persuasion to click ‘buy’. In 2010 it is estimated that online shopping accounted for £6.8 Billion in revenue for retailers with £153 million being spent on Christmas Day alone.

So take advantage now and by the time Cyber Monday 2011 arrives you may find you have yourself a nice little earner.

If you don’t have a website yet then things will be a little more tricky for you. To have a fighting chance of ranking a site quickly between now and November (really the latest you should be thinking I you want to see a decent return) then you are going to have to do your research – most likely you will have to build Niche sites which are based on specific products, with exact match domain names (although that in itself wont guarantee instant rankings these days). A lazy way of picking out some hot products is to wait for the Toy Retailers Association to announce their top toys for Christmas, but this won’t come out until the 26th October 2011 so you’ll be leaving it late if you don’t have a site which is already getting some toy related traffic.

Of course organic search traffic isn’t the be-all and end-all for visitors to your site – PPC is definitely still viable at this time of year – it’s a question of getting your timing right, and finding the right keywords to bid on as well as the right product to promote. Bear in mind though that with Google Adwords their quality score can be a bitch. I’m not one to offer much advice here since my own account is suspended indefinitely due to sheer laziness on my own part when setting up sites and landing pages. Generally speaking though make sure your landing page offers genuine information to the user, and if possible try not to load it with links that simply send your visitors to the merchant site. I was having more success when I set up a landing page with linked to other pages in my own site, which in turn sent the visitor off to the merchant. This combined with unique content, good usability and an interesting layout generated a good quality score – and I wish I’d stuck with that model all the time. Still, what’s done is done and I’m still earning a decent income so can’t complain.

For more info on how to set up a niche site read my case study to get yourself started.

The Frustration of Starting a New Blog

Technically speaking Stevietee.co.uk isn’t a new blog, its been around for at least 4 years. The domain was registered in 2007, but wordpress wasn’t installed until February 2010. So the domain itself has plenty of ‘age’ which so many people tell us is important when it comes to rankings. However, I’m wondering if in this case the age of the domain and the lack of activity on the site for those first 3-4 years is somehow hampering the progress of this blog. Normally when I start a brand new site and add as much content as I have been adding here recently I start to see a small amount of long tail traffic more or less straight away. This is the case with orientexpressdaytrips.net, but weirdly for this blog I am getting nothing, with the exception of people searching for the Deathly Hallows Part 2 reference to ‘The quality of your convictions that counts not the number of followers‘, which is perhaps some sort of cosmic joke on the part of the big G….

I have said elsewhere that I don’t want to start manufacturing links to this site using article marketing and Build My Rank and instead I am trying to build its profile by commenting on forums and other blogs (hello to you blogmasters who recognise me) and requesting link exchanges from other highly related sites. I will carry on doing this and in the meantime I will try to keep producing decent content to hopefully attract links naturally. But it does get frustrating when I log into my analytics account to find that no-one is reading what I’m writing. It hasn’t escaped my attention however that there are very few ‘popular’ UK based MMO blogs about at the moment which are actually updating their content on a regular schedule – why is that? Are they not seeing the traffic either? Is the UK MMO market not worth targeting?

Where am I going with this? I’ve no idea. However I think the biggest key should be to keep posting, to keep adding content and eventually google will start to show me some luv. If she doesn’t then I may have to consider the switching domains altogether.

In the spirit of helping others in a similar situation, if you have any decent content you want to raise the profile of (and you think it will be interesting to new UK affiliate marketers then drop me a line – if its good enough I’ll link to it), and similarly if you’d like to give a shout out to any of my content I’d appreciate that too :)

Investing in the Stock Market – WTF Just happened?

Stock MarketOk, so there I was idly minding my own business a couple of weeks ago, looking at bank statements and issuing tuts of disapproval over the amount of interest my affiliate revenue was making, when purely by chance, a conversation with my brother-in-law got me thinking about the stock market. He’s been doing really well, he say’s got into BP last year when they were cheap, he says, made a few grand he says.

Which got me thinking….

Now I’m a cautious kind of person by nature so this isn’t something I entered into lightly, which as it turns out is just as well, but nevertheless I invested £8.88 in the Naked Trader and set up a dummy portfolio last weekend. To be clear since, this was to be my first dip into the stock market I didn’t actually buy the shares, but I was very strict – buying a realistic number of shares at a realistic price, spending about £1000 which would be the amount I would spend if I were to try investing for real. Having read the Naked Trader from Cover to Cover I did my research, set a stop loss (a price at which I would ruthlessly sell the shares if it ever went that low) and target price (the price at which I would take the profits and run).

Monday wasn’t too bad, I was only a few pounds down, and to be honest nothing much happened until Thursday – when the share price went into meltdown and my stop loss well and truly kicked in. The shares where sold at 520 which overall resulted in a paper loss of £55. However, by the end of the day this was looking like a profit after the price reach a low of 478 sometime on Friday morning. It has since recovered, a little, but it is currently still below my stop loss price.

Lessons learned? As it happens the price of the shares I bought was probably too high anyway, I was not able to buy enough of them to generate a significant profit, so I won’t invest in them next time round. And if you are thinking about dabbling in the stock market for the first time, do so with caution (read the Naked Trader for a laymans guide to trading – it really is a good book for newbies) oh, and pay attention to the news that the USA might about to default on its debt, and there’s trouble brewing in the Eurozone, cos as it turns out that’s quite important….

I haven’t seen my brother-in-law for a couple of days. I do hope he’s alright.

Why the Red Letter Days Affiliate Programme Rocks

Red Letter Days Affiliate ProgrammeAs part of the case study I am running at the moment which details how to set up a new niche site from scratch, I have decided to work with Red Letter Days to promote Orient Express Day Trips. I’ve been part of the Red Letter Days Affiliate Program for some time, but this is the first time I have worked with them in any serious capacity. Frankly, I am struggling to understand why its taken me so long to get on board.

As part of the research process, which lead to me selecting the Orient Express Niche, I started to read through the previous emails I had received from them, and beyond the standard format of email detailing apparently random offers they would like affiliates to promote this month, it became apparent that they do take the affiliate marketing channel very seriously. Why? Well this year saw them celebrate their 22nd birthday (they are older than me :) ) and as part of that they ran a 22 day promotion offering prizes to affiliates for achieving relatively simple targets. This happened to early in the process for me to get involved, but never-the-less I appreciate the sentiment.

Digging even further I went to have a look at the blog dedicated to their affiliate channel and was again impressed to find that I haven’t missed out on the chance to win a prize. It seems that every quarter they run an impressive, tiered incentive which aims to reward all affiliates, from the small operations to the larger ones simply by reaching total sales targets starting as low as £1000 (for which this quarter you could win a George Foreman Grill or a 2GB ipod shuffle, to name but 2) all the way up to £15000 (for which you could receive an Xbox 360 or a 64GB ipod touch, amongst other things) – and remember this total isn’t monthly, its quarterly; you simply have to drive £1000 of total sales value over a three month period to qualify for a prize – now that is a proper incentive!

Suitably impressed I then contacted Gemma, from the affiliate team at Red Letter Days to enquire about bespoke banners for orientexpressdaytrips.net and she came back to me relatively quickly with the promise that yes, they can do that and not only that they can offer an exclusive discount code for the site.

The discount code is simplicity itself and allows me to offer any percentage discount I like between 1% and 13%. Bearing in mind that Red Letter Days pay out 13% commission overall, If I had a discount code offering 10%, then this 10% would come off the commission i.e. I would get 3% commission for the sale if the customer uses my discount code. This is a headsmacking example of how a merchant can use an affiliate discount code to mutually benefit both parties. The Affiliate can incentivise the customer to make the purchase and the Merchant isnt going to lose any more money whether the discount code is used or not. Simples.

So thank you red letter days for an eye opening experience, its been a pleasure to deal with you so far and I look forward to (hopefully) winning my first quarterly prize!

Click here for further Reading about how the Red Letter Da Affiliate Programme is Leading the Way.

Passive Income Case Study: Content Strategy

Ok so this is the fifth installment of the Passive Income Case Study, where I am taking you through the steps I go through to set up a new niche site. So far we’ve discussed:

Introduction
Niche Selection Part 1
Niche Selection Part 2
Setting Up a New Website

Today I want to move onto content strategy. Now I know in an earlier installment of this Case Study I may have said that I intended to do all the work on the content for this site myself, and I fully believed that when I wrote it. However, writing content takes a lot of my time, especially when there is research to be done – as there is in this case. I know a damn site more about the Orient Express now than I did before I started this project, but actually sitting down and converting that knowledge into prose that is both informative and engaging will take more time than I actually have. So instead I have decided to head over to odesk and hire myself a writer.

I’ve used Odesk to hire what I call project based virtual assistants many times so I have a portfolio of good writers to call upon, but in this case I won’t be using them Insead I will take you through the process I use when hiring somebody new.

Start by visiting Odesk (affiliated link), and registering an account. It’s been a while since I went through the registration process, but it is quick and painless. At some stage you will be required to associate a credit/debit card with your account, but I don’t think you have to do this straight away. The registering of your card details is important because obviously it allows you to pay the people you are hiring.

When you are ready you can post a job. Because this is website content we are interested in I naturally choose the ‘Writing and Translation’ category and the sub-category ‘Website Content’. A short but succinct title will do, such as ’6 Articles Required for Website about the Orient Express’. This immediately informs the prospective contractor as to the nature of the Job.

What I then tend to do is leave Odesk for a moment and head over to Google docs where I open a new document and start writing up exactly what I want from the Job: See here for the document I am using for this job:. I mark the document as publicly available on the web, but don’t typically include any information about the URL the articles will appear on.

Then back to Odesk and I will post something like this in the actual Job Description:

Looking for a talented writer with VERY STRONG English writing skills to provide xx articles on the subject of whatever.

The articles should be a minimum of xxx words.

Please supply a sample of your writing with your application and please note I may ask for a further sample (no more than paragraph) based around the actual topics I want you to write about. If you can not do this please do not apply.

The Article Topics can be found here:
!Link to Google Docs!

Here is the link to Job posting

This is fairly explicit and hopefully lays out exactly what I am after so if applicants are still interested they know what they can expect from the Job. I always make it a fixed price contract and for content that I will feature on my own sites (as opposed to articles being written for back-linking purposes) I tend to offer $6-$10 per article with minimum of 500 words. The more money you offer the better quality candidate you receive.

Which leads us nicely onto the next section: sorting through the candidates. Now the thing about odesk is this. There are many writers on there with a less than perfect grasp of the English Language, so you need to make sure that your chosen contractor is up to the task – that is why I always add the caveat of requesting a sample paragraph for the niche they will be writing in – this gives me the perfect opportunity to assess their writing style. As mentioned above, the more money you offer the more likely you will find someone with a firm grasp of English grammar so try not to go in too low if you can help it. Depending on how attractive the Job offer is you can receive a flood of applicants. I tend to apply a default filter, looking first for Native English Speakers – this includes Americans, Canadians, Australians etc, but also the Filipinos are a decent option as well, since they learn English from a very young age and will work cheaply. I like the personal touch, so tend to avoid anyone who claims to run a business employing staff members to write the content.

You can hire as many writers as you need for the job, or you can pick one and close the advertisement. There is what odesk calls a work room where you can keep track of the writers who are currently engaged on the project so you can send them messages where appropriate.

Thats the basic process I use to outsource the task of writing, but in addition you should attempt to come up with some sort of structure for the content. I like to build my content around ‘hubs’. A hub is essentially a single page or post in wordpress from which you will link to a number of related posts or pages of content. Structuring your site this way allows you to easily link to the ‘hub’ from the sidebar or the header of your site, effectively creating a global navigation which means that no matter which page you are on you are never more than 2 mouse clicks away from the most important content on the site.

As far as the Orient Express goes, there are a few different services that a visitor may be interested in, these are the Northern Belle, the British Pullman or the Venice-Simplon Orient Express. I can create 3 hubs for these and each one will in turn link out to the specific routes that each service will take. This ‘siloing’ of the important content will hopefully generate potential traffic from the all important long tail – which as any marketer will tell you always converts better than the bolder more general terms.

So that’s it. By the time this post goes live, I should have the first of the hubs up on the site so you can get a flavour of what I am talking about. I contacted red letter days affiliate team and they have graciously provided me with a couple of bespoke banners for the site as well as an exclusive 5% discount code – which goes to show that “ask and you shall receive” is still a motto to live by. You will also notice that it has a logo. Now I did debate whether to do a blog post about the logo, but to be honest I have a graphics designer that does these for me. She’s cheap and she’s worked with me for a few years. If you are drop me a line I will provide you with her contact details – just don’t keep her too busy is all I ask :)

Next time I will talk about the link building strategy I hope to employ, but until then I have other sites to work on, enjoy ;)

21 Ways to Make Money on the Internet

Now, if you have been keeping up to date with this blog until this point you will know that primarily I like to talk about affiliate marketing as a way to make money on the internet. I do this because it is a passion of mine, and has been for a few years now. But in the current climate it seems that more and more people are finding it difficult to make affiliate marketing work for them. So it got me thinking about how many other ways are there to make money on the internet? Quite a few, as it happens – and these are in no particular order:

1. Become a service provider. With thousands of new websites springing up every day there is a massive market for people who can provide content for those sites. New websites almost always require 2 things. Graphics and Content. If you are dab hand with photoshop or you know how to write a 300 word article that makes sense, then you can head over to sites like Odesk and Elance, register as a service provider and start looking for work almost immediately.

2. Write an Ebook, and sell it. Are you an expert at breeding fish? Or do you have some insider tips on how to prepare for an Engineering Exam? Then tell the world in the form on an ebook. This will work best if you have an existing following, so perhaps you have an affiliate site that doesn’t convert very well but you know gets a decent amount of traffic daily. If you can write an ebook imparting all your hard earned knowledge then you should able to leverage that traffic quite easily. Don’t have the traffic? Try offering the ebook to the owner of a website that does and offer to split the profits.

3. Sell stuff on eBay. Yes, I know this is so 2002, but people still make a living on eBay, believe it or not. I started by buying ‘Friends’ DVDs from Play.com and listing them on Ebay with a starting price of £0.01 – they ended up selling for more than double what I paid for them originally. Ok so people are more savvy these days, but there is still money to be made if you know where to look. Look for Job Lots which you can split and sell in smaller bundles for a greater price, or take a trip to Home Bargains see what they have on offer.

4. Dropshipping. This one is an extension of number 3. Dropshipping is a way of selling items without ever having to hold the stock yourself. There are numerous dropshipping forums on the internet offering advice on how to get started, but basically you find a wholesaler that will deliver the stock for you. Advertise the items for sale on your own site, or on ebay or Amazon Marketplace, then when you make a sale simply pass the order onto the supplier, pay for the item yourself (preferably for less than you charged your customer) and let them do the rest of the work.

5. Buy and Sell Websites. Look for websites for sale and buy them, give them a bit of TLC then sell them on to make a profit. The trick here is to know what makes a website valuable. Often you may be able to pick up a cheap website on places like , or Ebay, the true value of which might be the size of the mailing list, or the number of daily unique visitors rather than the amount of money the current owner is making from it. Don’t bother trying to sell your sites on here though, go instead to places like BuyBizSell.com and list the site for sale as an Internet Business. There are fewer tyrekickers on sites like these and you will likely receive more lucrative offers.

6. Domain Trading. Ok so the gold rush experienced in the early days of the internet is well and truly over. You are never going to pick up Sex.com for the registration fee alone, but there are still nuggets to be had on places like Acorn Domains or Domainlore. If you can pick up a cheap domain and add some value to it by building a quality site then you may be able to combine with number 5 and make some decent money flipping domains (see number 6 for where to sell).

7. Freelance Coding. Do you know how to code in php or ASP.net? Then much like in point 1 there are thousands of webmasters crying out for your skills. Sign up on vWorker (formerly Rent-a-coder) or Elance and start bidding on the projects on offer.

8. Website Templates. Still on with the service providing theme, but away from Elance type sites, if you can put together a decent website template then you can upload it at template monster where templates sell for anything from $20 to $200 a time; sure template monster they take their cut, but if you design a popular template then that’s solid residual income everytime someone downloads one.

9. Market yourself on Twitter.. Don’t just sign up to twitter and make the odd tweet about the weather, sign up for a purpose and use it to subsidise your income. The best example I have seen of this has been has been dotuk, a graphic designer, who was selling twitter avatars for £5 a time. He did a lot of them (not mine though), but for me that is a great way to leverage your skills on the interweb.

10. Build an Affiliate Website. I might as well include this one. Affiliate Marketing is the art of referring potential customers to a merchant for a percentage of the value of the purchase that the customer may make once on the merchants sites. There a tonnes of examples of people getting rich off this particular money making method. Sadly I’m not one of them – yet!

11. Become a Cam Girl. Ahem…. (I don’t condone this – oddly it was the wife’s idea!)

12. Start a membership website. Don’t you just love the way I drop these in? Starting a membership site is no mean feat and not something I have attempted myself, but the recurring revenue that is generated if you can get people to sign up to a monthly membership fee for access to secret information is probably one of the most lucrative models out there. Its not easy, but if you have a great idea then that’s half the work done.

13. Sell your signature. If you are prolific on any popular message boards then your signature link might be worth some money to you. Providing it doesn’t violate the boards terms and conditions try offering the space for sale. Obviously the more posts you have on the forum in question the more money you can charge.

14. Stock Photography. If you know your way around a digital camera then the could be cash to be made from uploading the your best photographs to places like istockpoto.com, where millions of potential customers will see them and download in exchange for cold had cash. Nice.

15. Paid Surveys. Definitely running out of ideas now. I hate surveys but you can earn money by filling them in. If this sounds appealing then google it.

16. Create an iphone App. This sounds quite difficult, and compared to other items on this list it is. However its probably easier than you might think. On the downside you will need 2 things to get this to work. 1. A good idea and 2. Money to hire someone to develop the App for you.
When I say you need a good idea, it doesn’t have to be earth shattering. Take Joel Comm’s ifart app as an example. This simple, juvenile App which made rude noises generated over $1 million. If you have a good idea then you’ll need some money to hire an app developer on elance or odesk. Its wise to completely specify how you want the app to work and you may have to hire a graphic designer and a sound effects guy separately. Provide the graphics and sounds to the developer along with the spec and keep your fingers crossed.

17. Sell your World Of Warcraft Character. Have you had a mis-spent youth building up your warcraft character to level 85 only to find you lost interest and now its just sat around doing nothing. You might be surprised to learn that buying and selling Warcraft characters is becoming big business. Get a quote for you character here

18. Write a Kindle Book. This one is interesting. The growth in the Kindle has been staggering over the past few years and Amazon make it easy to publish a book on the platform. Its not likely to make you rich, but if you can complement your publishing exploits with your own website then you may build a following sufficient enough to supplement your income, or even allow you to give up the day job.

19. Second Life. If one life isn’t enough for you then there always second life. This isn’t something I can properly wrap my head around, but you can make a living in this virtual world. Second Life has its own currency called Linden Dollars. A Linden Dollar can be exchanged for a actual Dollars in the real world which means if you can start building your Linden Dollars (by trading virtual real estate for example) you can then exchange those virtual dollars for real money on the way out. Its more complicated than that but here are some guides which explain it better than I can.

20. Create a WordPress Plugin. If you are familiar with wordpress then you will know how flexible it is thanks to the extensive plugin library. While most of these plugins are free, you can still create a premium plugin to solve any specific problems you may run into. If you aren’t a coder then head over to odesk or elance again and find someone who is. Then find a way to market the plugin on your own website, or upload to places like http://wpplugins.com/

21. And finally number 21. I don’t actually have a number 21, but 10 stevietee points to anyone that chips in with their own ideas in the comments below. They have to be worth something, right?

Please note that none of the above are guaranteed ways of making money. Most of them will require dedication, a lot of effort on your part and no small amount of luck.

Headsmacking Tips – 002 – Navigation is the Key to Maintaining Relevance

If you have been building websites for any length of time then you have probably have a basic grasp of the 2 fundamentals of search engine optimisation. Popularity and Relevancy.

Popularity is related to the nature of off-site SEO and deals with garnering links to your website, signalling to the search engines that you are popular and they should take the time to get to know you better. Gathering links is a difficult science and not always one that you have control over, but (sorry to disappoint) I won’t be covering that here – maybe in a future post. This post is about the aspects of SEO you do have control over. Onsite SEO.

If you are struggling to get traffic to your site then the first thing you should do, before you try to build links, is look at your site through the eyes of a search engine spider. This means preparing your browser by disabling cookies and javascript. You can do this relatively easily on all the major browsers. I recommend this simply because a search engine spider isnt always well equipped to deal with pages that are accessible via Javascript Links, or to open pages that require the setting of a cookie to access. If you have any pages like this then the chances are you have a robot trap that needs sorting out.

In addition to this you should get yourself a copy of firefox. There are many reasons to use firefox not least of which is the firebug web developer addon, but for SEO auditing you should install the user-agent switcher which will hilight any differences between the the site you see and the site google sees when you switch your user-agent to google-bot (you can also switch between different versions of Internet explorer, or the iphone browser; useful for identifying compatibility issues if you a designing a new layout).

Following these these basic tips should hilight any coding issues which would prevent the bots from navigating it correctly. You can have the most relevant page on the internet for you given topic, but if the search engines can’t access it then you might as well be selling condoms in a monastery.

Having said that – how is your relevancy? To stand a better chance of ranking for a given keyword or phrase then your page has to be relevant. Too often people will forego relevance for links, which are definitely important, but if you have a page of relevant content with properly written title tags and judicious use of header tags as well as alt tags on your images then the search engines are at least going to be know what your page is about, which will give you a fighting chance when it comes to ranking for the long tail search engine queries.

Seomoz demonstrate this much better than I can here. You can see simple page layout with the most optimised use of the title tag, header tags, images and of course keyword density.

Finally but probably most important of all the onsite factors is the structure of your website itself. How easy is it to navigate and how many clicks away from the home page is your important content. Every website should have well designed global navigation – now the bigger the website the hard this becomes, but ultimately the ‘money’ pages should be accessible from every page on your site via a maximum of 3 clicks.

How do you do this? Well take a look at Amazon. They make excellent use of categories on their website, and each category can be accessed by each and every other page on the site. These category pages act as hubs in their own right and clever structure and linking from these hubs means that the bulk of the content that is important to the customer is never more than a few clicks away.

This is designing for the user as well the spider and it works well. There is little point in writing a killer blog post which people are going to want to read if, once its disappeared off the front page they can’t find it. Proper categorisation is key to allowing the spiders to know that your content is still important and that you website visitors can still find it.

Passive Income Case Study – Setting Up Your Site

Ok so this is the fourth installment of the Passive Income Case Study, in which I am showing you everything you need to know about how I go about setting up a niche site; from brainstorming for a subject idea to hopefully getting it ranked in the search engines, which in turn will bring in lots of traffic and consequently residual income.

If you haven’t read them already then you might want to check out these posts before getting to grips with this one:

Introduction
Niche Selection Part 1
Niche Selection Part 2

Before we start with this I have to inform you that some of the links to external sites in this post are affiliated (not all of them), so if you click through and ultimately buy anything then I will receive a commission. However rest assured, I have not posted any links to anything I do not have 100% confidence in.

So now we know that the niche I have selected is ‘Orient Express Day Trips’. I have registered the domain www.orientexpressdaytrips.net via Godaddy so whats next?

Well you need somewhere to host your site. The webhost that I use for my UK sites is CS New Media. I have tried various hosts over the years and can honestly say that Carl Sheperdson and his team at CS New Media are second to none when it comes to customer support. I have a reseller account with them which means that I can host up to 20 domains for around £11 a month (including VAT) However it seems they don’t offer that option any more and the minimum number of sites you can host on a reseller account is 25 for £14.95 / Month (Shows how long I’ve been with them!). The difference between these guys and the company I first went with, is like the difference between a trip to the beach and a heart attack. Choosing the right web host is essential so try not to be tempted by free offers and huge discounts. Where possible look for recommendations.

Once you have decided on your web host the next big decision is whether you want to use a CMS (content management system) or just build a few static HTML pages. Around the world the hands down, most popular CMS is wordpress, which recently announced that it was being used to power over 50 million sites around the world, and almost 20,000 people have stated that they make a living out of wordpress, so it must have something going for it! Personally I have used wordpress on all of my sites since late 2007. Typically I will install it manually, but if you are new (and you are hosted with CS New Media) then they provide some one click applications that will do it for you (and if you have problems then I’m sure the team will be more than happy to help out)

Configuring WordPress

The best thing about wordpress is that it completely configurable; the bad thing is that out of the box it needs a few tweaks before it is ready to go. The first thing you need to do is set your permalinks. In the admin menu you can access these from the settings menu on the sidebar:

Wordpress Permalinks.jpg

I would normally opt for a custom structure of the format /%category%/%postname%/ which will give you the same url structure you see on this site. Once you make these changes wordpress will attempt to update a file called .htaccess. Sometimes it may not be able to do this and you will be prompted to amend the file yourself. Click here for more details on how to do this.

The next thing you need to do it set your tag line. Too often I forget this step and end up getting a site indexed with the tag line “Just another wordpress site” – which is a bit naff. Change your tag line as follows:

Change tagline

WordPress Themes

Ok so you’ve got wordpress installed and the basics configured, but it looks a bit plain doesn’t it. Well here is what makes wordpress so great – WordPress Themes. There are thousands of themes out there. Literally. I couldn’t possibly recommend which theme you should go for, since it is bound to be a purely personal choice. There are free themes and there are paid for themes. I personally use both. The Orient Express site will be built using the Catalyst theme, which is more of a framework than a theme – and its paid for (I’ll go into more detail about this theme in a future post), but there is absolutely no need for you to pay for your first wordpress theme. For instance you could type ‘WordPress theme Steam Train’ into google to see if anything comes up (actually I just did and apart from a red train theme there’s not much choice). The best place to start is the official wordpress themes directory here. Once you find a theme you like you just download it or install it directly from within the wordpress admin interface itself. (Click here for Detailed Tutorials on how to do this)

WordPress Plugins

Now we come to the section of wordpress that makes it so flexible. There are literally thousands of different plugins available, written by members of the extended wordpress community to provide additional functionality which isn’t provided out of the box. Its difficult to come up with a definitive list of plugins that every site simply must have, since the needs of every site are naturally different. However, when I set up a new site I always go with variations of the following:

WordPress SEO by Yoast – There’s some debate over the best wordpress SEO plugins out there and to be honest there is little to choose between this, the All in One SEO Pack, and the Platinum SEO Pack, all do a very similar job which essentially allows you to optimise your post titles, meta-description and keywords. What I like about the Yoast plugin is the detailed analysis option which gives you a extended breakdown of the quality of your post with suggested solutions for any problems.

Sitemap Generator – There are 2 different types of sitemap, one for the bots which generates an XML sitemap (see below) and this one which will generate a page on your site with a route to all the posts and category pages on your site. It provides an easy route to your content from both the user and bot perspective. An added bonus is that it can replace your 404 page, so if a user arrives at a page which no longer exist this sitemap page will appear allowing the user to navigate elsewhere within the site.

Google XML Sitemaps – If you choose the WordPress SEO plugin then this comes with a built in XML sitemap generator and options to ping Google, Yahoo and Bing every time you make a post. But if you need a seperate plugin to do this then the Google XML Sitemaps plugin is the defacto plugin in this area. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently.

WordPress Related Post Plugin – Now there are many different related post plugins, with the most popular being YARRP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) and WordPress Related Posts. Either of these will do an excellent job of adding a related posts section to the bottom of your posts. They both operate differently, YARRP does a form of heuristic analysis of your post and compares with the content of other posts to come up with a list of related content – this can be a little bit hit and miss if your content is a touch generic, so you might be better off with the ‘WordPress Related Posts’ plugin which simply matches posts based upon the associated post tags.

Fast Secure Contact Form – Depending upon how much you want to engage with your site visitors then you may want to consider adding a contact form. I haven’t added one to www.orientexpressdaydrips.net, but I have installed one here. This contact form plugin is simple to set up and provides anti-spam functionality via a captcha as well as being linked to askimet for automatic spam detection.

Google Feedburner Feedsmith Plugin – WordPress provides some great RSS functionality, which means your content can be delivered via a data feed and displayed in 3rd party readers, such as Google Reader. If you set up a feedburner account you can use the feedburner plugin to keep track of all your subscribers. This plugin is a great way to see keep track of how much of a following you are building up, although you can also keep track of that by opting to have your users follow you on twitter and facebook instead.

These final plugins also depend upon how much you want to engage with your user base:

Twitter Tools – Offers complete integration between your wordpress site and your twitter account. You can configure it to automatically send out a tweet every time you make a new post – I know I am missing a trick but by not having it installed on this site and I will be rectifying that as soon as I have finished this post! (btw you can follow me on twitter here. It can also be configured to work the other way and load your tweets into you blog – but that’s not something I recommend.

Wickett Twitter Widget – This plugin offers a simple sidebar widget that invites users to sign up to your twitter feed. It also displays your current number of followers.

So there you have my guide to setting up a new affiliate site using wordpress. I tried to be as uncomplicated as possible but if there is something you don’t understand then feel free to comment on this post or drop me an email, I’ll try to respond as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile if anyone else has any recommendations for must-have plugins, or other aspects of setting up a wordpress site that I have overlooked then feel free to mention them in the comments.

Passive Income Case Study – Selecting a Niche Market – Part 2

So in the Passive Income Case Study – Selecting a Niche Market – Part 1, I described a broad outline for brainstorming ideas for a new niche site. Now we move onto the next stage, identifying which of those niche markets are most likely to make us money. There a basically 3 factors you should take into account before making your selection:

  • Traffic – How many visitors can you expect to get from a number one ranking in your chosen niche?
  • Value – How much is that traffic likely to be worth
  • Competition – How crowded is the niche you are about to enter?

Now this is where I fire up my weapon of choice – Market Samurai. This is a tool that’s been around for a couple of years now, but I only recently decided to investigate it and I am kicking myself that I didn’t buy into it sooner. I’m not sure why I didn’t – no scratch that, I am sure – Its just one of those tools that I had seen pushed all over the American MMO blogs, but it had seemed to me to be too good to be true and my bullshit detectors were on overload. However, I think it was just after Christmas when I decided to give it a go and I learned that the free trial was still available – which means you can just download it for yourself and try it for 12 days or something without spending a penny, but if you buy it within the first week of downloading then you qualify for a 30% discount which means, after the exchange rate has been applied, Market Samurai comes in at around £60.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, you can check out a short video of me using Market Samurai to decide on my niche right here:

So yes, that’s what I sound like. A monotonic Northerner. It took me 10 takes to make that video (my first one) so don’t be too hard on me. If you didn’t have time to watch all 11 minutes of me rambling on then let me break it down for you.

If we refer back to the list we made in Part 1 there were a number of interesting topics (interesting for me at least), but the one that stood out the most was ‘Orient Express Trips’ – There’s something timeless and exotic about the Orient Express, if captured my imagination enough to plug the phrase ‘Orient Express Trips’ in Market Samurai. As it happens the results weren’t particularly great, with that phrase generating very little traffic. However another phrase materialised as a related keyword which was ‘Orient Express Day Trips’.

This key phrase promises over 130 unique visitors a day If I can gain a number one ranking which, when combined with Red Letter Days 13% payout and the fact that prices range from £199 to £849 that means a payout of between £25 and £110 per sale. Numbers like that make go all giddy. So I immediately used the ‘Find Domains’ function and discovered that 2 keyword rich domains were available to register: www.orientexpressdaytrips.net and www.orientexpressdaytrips.org. So I registered them both through Godaddy. I have decided that the primary domain for the site will be www.orientexpressdaytrips.net.

Now even though I used Market Samurai to quickly establish the potential of the various niches this basically is a tool which at its heart relies heavily on the Google Keyword Tool, which is a totally free service provided by Google to aid in the Keyword Research process. If you are new to this, and don’t have money to invest then you can start there. Its a great tool which allows you get the search figures and keywords related to your niche and you will find plenty of youtube videos offering tutorials in its use.

As of today the site is up and running with the default wordpress theme installed and very little else, no content to speak of, but I will cover that in a future post. I’ll talk about setting up wordpress in the next post, which plugins I recommend and which wordpress theme I am going to use etc – that one my be a little laborious for the more experienced among you but I will cover it for the newbies out there.

Remember you can subscribe to my RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss a post in this case study, and if you fancy having a go yourself then you can sign up the the Red Letter Days affiliate program here.

As a final note you will have to excuse the number of outgoing affiliate links to Market Samurai in this post. I have a plugin installed which converts every instance of that word to a link – and if you choose to make a purchase via one of those links I will receive some commission.