Stevie Tee - Page 2 of 2 - Making a Million £1 at a Time

It is the quality of ones convictions that counts, not the number of followers

I was watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at the weekend, and oddly I was inspired to write a post by something professor Lupin says as the beleaguered wizards are about to mount a defence of Hogwarts castle against the against the massed horde of Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort himself.

“It is the quality of ones convictions that determines success, not the number of followers” he says in response so someones suggestion that they call for reinforcements.

This struck such a chord with me that I immediately annoyed the people sitting around me by firing up the iPhone and jotting this down as note. (I know, what a nerd!)

Pottered Philosophy.jpg

But why was I so moved by this statement to go out of my way like this, after all I felt so embarrassed I had to finish writing the note properly by pretending I had to go to the toilet. Well the answer is right at this moment I can relate to Professor Lumin, big time. In a way its a metaphor for what JK Rowling herself must have thought when she first came up with the idea of the ‘Boy Who Lived’; she had no idea whether anyone would like the story, but she had the courage of her convictions to go ahead and write it anyway. Fortunately for her she produced what is known in blogging circles as ‘Epic Content’, and the rest as they say is history.

OK, it probably wasn’t as simple as that. She undoubtedly had the belief of her editor and a marketing and PR team to push the early editions of the books until they gained some traction, but without the belief she had in her own work she would never have gained the stellar traction she ultimately achieved.

Now, I am in no way comparing myself to J.K. Rowling, or indeed Harry Potter, but the sentiment behind Lumin’s statement is as true for me as it is for the author of any content, be it fact, fiction, online or in print. As the author of that content you start only with the belief that you have something interesting to write about and that you can leave your audience wanting more.

From where I stand right now this very blog is testament to that. As of today hardly anyone is reading this apart from my wife, my kids, and a handful of lost souls who find there way here from A4U or Acorn Domains (actually, scratch that my kids couldn’t care less). I look at the traffic statistics on a daily basis and am left with a sunken heart. Sure, I can artificially stimulate the traffic as I would do for a niche site, start building links and writing articles for back-links – but I’m resisting that at the moment. The words I write on this blog come from the heart and I want – no, need – them to strike a chord with the readers. Any readers. I want the content on this site to speak for itself and gain the links it needs naturally.

I trust that I can achieve this in time. That organic traffic will steadily increase as people find the site through more long tail keywords and those readers with find the answers to the questions they are looking for and will want to come back for more. I trust that I will be able to engage them sufficiently for them to become blog subscribers or twitter followers. I believe that it will happen. And while I sit here looking at the traffic statistics I know in my heart that the metaphoric movie deal is sure to materialise eventually. So long as I stick at what I am doing, and believe in what I am writing.

So whats the point of this post? Well, still on the movie theme, Kevin Costner Once Said “If you build it they will come” and the common consensus amongst bloggers is that this is a load of bollocks. I say lets put it to the test shall we? If I can point to this post in 6 months time and say “You know what, I’ve got a few hundred readers now”, then I can claim a victory and do a happy dance. If not then maybe I will have to concede the me, Kevin Costner and Professor Lumin have no Idea what we are talking about….

Headsmacking Tip – 001 – Treat My Websites Like an Online Business

Doh!This is the first post in an infrequent feature I thought up last night, just as I was dropping off to sleep. Headsmacking tips, tips that you read that make you smack your forehead and go “Why didn’t I think of that”, or more likely “Yes, you’re right – I knew that, but I’ve never really applied it”.

This first tip is simple. The internet is full of people looking to make money online, with as little work or expense as possible. Those kind of people are destined to fail. If I’ve learned one thing over the years, the projects I have undertaken that have been successful have taken one of 2 things – A shed load of work, or a significant investment.

If you get yourself into the mindset of treating your online presence like an online business then you are one step ahead of the competition, because that means you have the attitude to succeed. I’ve mentioned on here before that I started my first affiliate website in 2006, DVD Bargain Alerts, was born out of frustration. I had been looking for ways to make money online for a couple of years, but as with most people back then I became obsessed with eBay, which worked for a while, but it was draining, what with packaging up the items I was selling (I had a small xBox Parts business), and taking them down to the post office every lunch break.

This was a business in the conventional sense, In that I was buying Xbox’s whole then breaking them down into their component parts and selling them separately. I was lucky to make a little profit while I was doing this, some days I’d make money, other days I’d have a back room full of unsold XBOX Power supplies (I’ve still got stuff in the Attic), but the point is I wasn’t afraid to invest in the XBOX’s upfront knowing that the pay-off would come later when the carcass was sold off individually.

This mentality helped a lot when I started DVD Bargain Alerts, I didn’t spend an awful lot of money, in the beginning but there was certainly a great deal of learning to be done. I spent about 6 months closeted in my office learning everything I could possibly learn about setting up a website from scratch, learning how to code PHP and learning which Content Management Systems were most appropriate for me. At the time it was all about forums, so DBA was set up with a phpBB forum (which is free), but I wasn’t happy with it just being a forum so I learned how to add a portal to the home page and contacted medifusion (who are the team behind www.find-dvd.co.uk) and integrated their API into the site, while at the same time I was active on DVD and Shopping forums trying to promote the site. Looking back it was quite intense and I would regularly burn the midnight oil trying to fit everything in. And this is exactly the kind of mindset a bricks and mortar entrepreneur has – except in addition to that they are often taking many more financial risks.

I’m not suggesting that you go out and remortgage your house to set up your website, don’t get me wrong, but slow, sensible investment, spending money and time that you can quite clearly afford is the best way to make your online endevours grow. For some of my projects I have been as guilty of failing to do this as the next man, but by the same token I have also shelled out a few thousand pounds on ebooks and membership sites as well as the odd coaching session in an effort to further my knowledge and keep me in the game. And right now the internet landscape is changing. Google is trying to make the internet better, by weeding out the thin content affiliate sites that have flourished for the last decade, making it difficult for them to rank for anything, so it pays to build as good a site as possible, if only to future-proof it from further google algo changes.

For example if you want to build a site that reviews laptops, then try and get hold of the laptops you are reviewing and do a video review. This is great content that is unique to you and google will likely love it. What? Expensive? Sure is, especially if you can’t blag a free laptop for review from the manufacturer. But hey, if you have the money you could always buy the laptop, review and then sell it. That way you’d make most, if not all of your money back. And the affiliate comissions you earn from writing that review will do the rest.

For me this is a great example of treating a website like a business. Am I doing it? Not yet. But I intend to start doing something like it very soon, and when I do I might even document it on this blog. If anyone wants to read about it….

Make Money on Ebay – Add Up to Date Ebay Auctions to your Website

Ebay Partner Network.jpgOk that title is a little bit misleading, I don’t really mean the top 10 ebay products – what I actually mean is the 10 products ending soonest – does that make sense? Let me show you what I mean. Here is an example of one of my neglected sites for the Xperia Play Smartphone, if you look at the sidebar you will see a single column of Xperia Play phones available for sale on eBay.

Now, eBay is a little different from traditional affiliate marketing, in that they pay out per click and not per sale. You send the traffic to eBay and they pay you for every click you generate – much like Adsense, but much more flexible. Don’t get too excited though, because ultimately you have to send them traffic that converts – don’t expect to be able to send traffic to ebay and not have them buy anything and ebay will still pay you – they operate something called Quality Click Pricing, which means that your CPC will fluctuate depending upon how much value you generate for them. I have 2 accounts and one of the CPC is a rock solid 7p a click while on the other the CPC is all over the place ranging between 3p and 20p a click depending on how many sales I’m making over the course of a month.

Now before we go any further let me make it clear I am going to assume you know a little bit about wordpress and how to edit the themes and are comfortable with hacking up some php code.

Still Here? Ok lets go…

Applying for the ebay Parter Network (as its known) is a little bit of pain, you can sign up here, and you have to meet the following requirements:

  • You own and operate the website for which you are applying to promote eBay.
  • The website is functioning, relevant for promoting eBay, and has unique or value-added content or functionality that will drive incremental purchases on eBay.
  • You are in compliance with the eBay Partner Network Agreement and Code of Conduct.
  • You have a working phone number and a valid PayPal account or bank account, which can receive direct deposits–you will need this payment information during the application process.

the working telephone number is important because they will phone you up to verify that you are who you say you are, and your site will be reviewed for compliance. I’ve been signed up for about a year and If I recall correctly it took almost 6 weeks for them to approve my second application. The first one was done quicker than that so maybe I was just unlucky the second time around.

However, once you are approved you can start to add affiliated links to your site, whether they be via banner or text link ads, or as you can see on my xperia play site a handy, constantly updating list of items related to your website topic.

So how do I do that? Well I implement a method similar to the top 10 amazon products described here, but this process is somewhat simpler:

Click here to open the code

Rather than attempt to clutter up the blog post with code as I did with the Amazon example its easier if you just click the above link and open the code sample in notepad.

This code is a complete php function which you can open and drop into your wordpress themes functions.php. Its not a wordpress plugin, although I could probably make it into one, but as it stands it can be included in non-wordpess sites too.

There are a couple of things to you will need to change as you would expect these are:

$appid = ”; // Replace with your own AppID (Click here to find out how to get your appid)

$query = ‘+widgets’; replace this with ‘+sports car’ or whatever you are promoting.

$apicall .= “&categoryId=[YOURCATEGORY]&paginationInput.entriesPerPage=6&sortOrder=EndTimeSoonest&trackingid=[YOURTRACKINGID]&trackingpartnercode=9&affiliateuserid=”;

Replace [YOURCATEGORY] with the category id of the product you are selling – You can find this in the Tools >> Link Generator menu option when you are logged in. Also you will need [YOURTRACKINGID] – The 10 digit number that is associated with your campaign to make sure you get credited for the clicks.

So now that that function is defined in your wordpress functions.php you all you have to do it invoke it. since you have read this far than I assume you are comfortable with installing your own themes and now how to edit them if needs be. That being the case open up your wordpress theme sidebar.php and add the following line of code:

<? ebayAdvanced(); ?>

Once that’s in place you need to grab this piece of code, rename it as ebay.php, fill in your campaign and publisher id and drop it into your root directory.

And that’s it you should be good to go and you will make money on ebay without selling a blooming thing.

The hardest part of the whole process is sorting out your appid from your campaign id from your publisher id. But if you sign up and have a look around, get a feel for what you are doing by adding a few manual links it shouldn’t be too tricky.

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

In my previous post I unveiled a new plan to go through the setting up of a brand new site, something I need to do at this stage of my affiliate marketing adventure if I am to push through this plateau at which I now find myself. I have thought long and hard about how I am going to do this, and I know that Mansoor is doing something similar over on his blog, but has clearly stated that he will not be revealing the URL or even the niche in which he is operating, since that would jeopardise the whole project and could cost him a lot of money.

I think this is a reasonable argument, however I take a different standpoint, the site I will be creating will be built from scratch by me, and any money I throw at it will be from services I already subscribe to anyway, so there is little at stake from that perspective. At the end of the day I aim to provide as much value as possible, so not only will I reveal the niche I will show you the URL as well.

But first things, first – how do I select a niche market? The very first stage is brainstorming, something I do when I want to find a niche is open a new text file and sit and think about topics, topics that demand solutions, topics that people get passionate about, topics based around products, or topics that are newsworthy.

Topics that demand solutions. The internet is full of people looking to solutions to their problems, large or small, personal or professional, people search for anything from cure halitosis to how to build a wall, If you can come up with ideas for websites which solve a problem then you are onto a winner, for example:

  • Cure Halitosis
  • Bad Back Remedy
  • Save your marriage
  • How to build a wall
  • Catch Bigger Fish

Now these are just a selection I have thrown together off the top of my head, that’s what brainstorming is about, taking a pen and paper and just writing down ideas as they come to you. Short of Ideas? Try looking inwards, do you suffer from eczema, does someone you know have athletes foot, is your mother concerned about home security. If you have a fit and well adjusted circle of family and friends then take a look at sites like myfavouritemagazines.com. There are hundreds, if not thousands of niches covered every month in the magazines available here and at your local newsagent.

Passion Topics.
Topics that people are passionate about are easier to find, if you don’t have a hobby of your own (which in the long run would be much easier for you to write about) just type the word hobbies or hobby into google to start your search here. I did just that and found the site Discover a Hobby, which is veritable goldmine of subjects that people get obsessive about. And if you have a broad base of hobbyists interested in your topic then you will quickly be able to generate content that pays; whether that be through adsense or affiliate products; or even through selling an eBook.

Example Passion Topics are:

  • Candle Making
  • Coin Collecting
  • Lucid Dreaming
  • Pilates
  • Sculpting

Some intersting topics there, and I know what you are thinking – ‘How can I create a site about those topics, I know nothing about them?‘ Well don’t worry too much about that just yet. The point of this exercise is still to brainstorm,you are just gathering ideas and writing down things that catch your eye. At this stage we don’t know whether anything we have written is viable for making money, we haven’t plugged any of these into popular keyword research tools, but we are building a valuable list that we can use in the keyword research phase of this process later on.

Topics about Products
This is the most popular of niche markets largely because it is straightforward and if you choose a product of sufficiently high value, with low enough competition, and its actually searched for then you are certain to make money of out it (provided you follow through with decent content and high search engine rankings). In my time as an affiliate marketter I have read loads of guides that tell you to start with Amazon. Amazon are one of the most popular online stores on the internet and they know how to push products that sell.

The basic idea is you visit Amazon, make sure you are signed out of your Amazon account, and you will be presented with a selections of Amazon’s bestselling products, unsullied by your previous browsing history. Then you can drill into the different categories and look at the bestsellers lists to come up with some product ideas. This is the first port of call for many marketers who make a good living out of Amazon, however when I try it I rarely find a product that inspires me enough to build an entire site out it – and if I do I usually find someone else has already done it – better than I ever could.

Alternatively you can look to eBay for a source of product ideas: Ebay Pulse, shows you what is popular right now, what people are searching for and which products are the most watched, and correspondingly the most popular.

Other good products sites include firebox.com, redletterdays (yes experiences count as products too).

Example Products:

  • The Remote Control Magic Wand
  • Portable Scanner
  • Driving Experience Days
  • White Water Rafting
  • Orient Express Trips
  • Flat Suede Boots
  • Dress Shirts

Basically, dont limit yourself just to Amazon, go to your favourite store and find out whats already selling. If somethings popular it can make you money.

Topics which are Newsworthy
Now this is a bit of wildcard option. When I talk about topics which are newsworthy I’m talking about things like the Olympics 2012 or a Royal Wedding. Usually we will have a lot of notice of the an upcoming newsworthy event like that and if you are quick you might be able to register a plum domain name on the back of it – just beware that you are likely to be competing with established domainers who make a living out of buying domains like this – but you never know you might get lucky. Typically these kind of sites would make their money through paid advertisements or Google Adsense – and if I’m honest I’ve never been opportunistic enough to build a site like this, but its definitely something to consider.

Ok this post is somehow over 1000 words long now, and I still have a lot to say on the subject of Niche selection. So lets call this end of part 1 and we’ll pick up in the next post where I will show you how I use a tool called Market Samurai to choose my niche.

Passive Income Case Study: Introduction

Looking for effective ways to make money? When I started dabbling in affiliate marketing back in 2006 I spent the first 6 months reading the blogs of the affiliate superstars of the time. I immersed myself in forums and read every last sentence of those american style sales letter pages in an effort to glean as much information about how I could emulate these people who were living the lifestyle of the neauveu riche. I never really expected to reach those heady heights myself (which lets face it, were nothing more than a con anyway), which is just as well because in the ensuing 5 years I haven’t even come close. However, I always knew affiliate marketing was one of the best ways to make money or earn extra income online, regardless.

In the main I have 3 sites which get traffic so three different ways to make money, 2 are my own and 1 of which I operate with a partner. Anything else I have attempted to add to the portfolio over time has either failed to get out of first gear, or flourished for a little while before being slapped down by google. I have been analysing why that has been the case over the past few days and I think it can only boil down to one thing – complacency. The 3 sites that I have are making enough money between them to pay for things like Christmas, the annual family holiday, and last year an extension on the house. However, the extension in particular has really removed any kind of safety net I have built up over the years, and I kind of feel as though I am back to square one. The time is right to re-invigorate myself, shrug off the complacency and really try applying everything I have learned since I started to setting up a new and successful site. And (and I never thought I would actually say this) I intend to document the process here on this blog. Yup, its case study time!

I know, I know, you’ve probably read case studies on any number of sites; most of which are quite vague and probably never get finished off -well here’s the rub. Not only will I be revealing the niche I intend to operate in, I will show you how I chose it and I will, most crucially, tell you the URL of the site, as well as revealing things like content strategies and link building tips along the way, that way everyone gets to benefit, and I will have you lot to keep me motivated along the way.

I have to point out however that I will be making use of a variety of tools and subscription based services and while I will be demonstrating how I use them I will try wherever possible to point you towards a cheaper, or even free alternative. I know what its like when you first start out making money online – in the beginning I didn’t really want to spend a single penny; I would roll up my sleeves and do the hard work myself, from creating the logo’s (which invariable looked pants) and the content, to slavishly commenting on blogs for backlinks. Nowadays I have a graphics designer for logos and content can easily be outsourced on odesk or elance – although I do hope to be writing my own content for this project – I’ve already picked the niche and I’ll be showing you how I did that in the next post.

If you want to follow along feel free to sign up to my rss feed so you wont miss any updates

Finding my Mojo

Lost My Mojo.jpgWell here we are again, after a brief flurry of activity where it looked like i might be getting my act together with some regular content being added to the blog I find that once again I have to apologise and and offer the same old excuses as to why I haven’t updated in a while. There are the the usual reasons, as I’ve mentioned this internet lark is a part time gig for me so fitting it in between a full time job, which keeps getting ever more demanding, and the fact that lately I have been spending more free time with my family than I have in front of the laptop, has been difficult.

But I’m back now, and I mean business.

In the last couple of months I have taken a long hard look at my business model and found that it has come up lacking. My focus has been affiliate marketing and for whatever reason I have always preferred to work in the UK. After there recent paradigm shift (no idea if that’s an appropriate expression but I like the way it sounds) in Google Serps my traffic has taken a hit and my of my smaller projects have been wiped out – this has hit my earnings a lot and, to be honest, taken the wind out of my sales. I lost my mojo, big time. But on reflection I can see why, a lot of the sites offered little in real content and were designed purely to get the user to click an affiliate link or an adsense ad. There was nothing there that engaged the user. Nothing that really made them want to bookmark the sites or tell their friends about them.

So with that in mind I intend to make my own paradigm shift: stop building lots of shitty sites that I cant be bothered to maintain.

I’m just writing this as an aide memoire really; at the moment this site gets very little traffic. But It’s mine and the content I am writing here is from the heart so maybe this site will become the first to get the ‘passion treatment’. If I can make it engaging and write about my experiences as I go them maybe it will help others as well as helping me to maintain my focus.

Let me get one thing straight first though – finding something that I’m passionate about that will also help to build a residual income isn’t easy, so maybe passion is the wrong word. What I really aim to do is create a site (just the one) about a subject matter that interests me, or something that I find fascinating. Something with a bit of scope and which can be easily researched. If I have to write another post about grass trimmers (yes I have a site about strimmers!) I think I will kill myself.

So going forward here’s what I plan to do next.

  1. Find a subject I’m ‘passionate’ about and write from the heart.
  2. Find alternative ways to make money – Create and Ebook or sell advertising space perhaps, create an iPhone app?
  3. Look into getting some US hosting.
  4. Invest in some tools to help with market research.
  5. Completely rethink my linkbuilding strategy.

That last point has just been thrown in there. When I say rethink I really mean ‘Get A Link Building Strategy’ and one that works.
Oh and if anyone can recommend a decent, reliable (inexpensive) US host then feel free to comment below (you can include your affiliate Link :))

I’m going away now for a long hard think and when the decisions have been made I’ll be back.

Probably.

How to Add Top 10 Amazon Products to Your Affiliate Website

When I set up an affiliate site, one of the first things I look to do is add a dynamic bestsellers list to the sidebar. Invariably I use wordpress for my affiliate sites and as far as I know there is no actual wordpress plugin available to do this easily (but then again, I haven’t looked, so theres a possibility that this post is moot…). So depending upon the theme I am using this means I have to edit the theme code directly. Now I know that you can lift a bit of javascript from the Amazon associates site itself and that will nicely iframe a bestselling products widget, but a lot of the time I just want a simple list that blends in with the wordpress theme I’m using and that I can incorporate on as many or as few pages in the site that I like. Now the point of this post is to share with you how I do this, and you have to bear in mind that I come from a coding background so some of it may be little advanced, however if you have edited WordPress themes before then it shouldn’t be too much trouble.

However before we get to that there are one of two things you need to do first.

1. Sign up as an Amazon Associate. – You’ll need this to affiliate your amazon links.

2. Sign up to the Amazon API – Once you have done that you will be able to create your API access keys, which you will need to add to the API calls we plan to make.

Ok so assuming you have covered the basics and have yourself an Amazon affiliate and API account we can progress to the next stage. If you don’t have a website yet then you need to get one, for the purposes of this article we will assume that you have a self-hosted wordpress site. Ideally you will be able to work on a site which has content which is suitable for promoting products on Amazon UK.

Vist http://www.amazon.co.uk – Link will open in a new tab and depending upon your personal settings you should see something like this:

Amazon Home.gif

I’m pretty sure you will be familiar with it. On the left hand side there are the categories. So say for example you are going to set up a site about the Playstation 3. A good site feature that will provide a little bit of value for your visitors (and some constant affiliated Amazon traffic for you) would be Amazon’s top 10 bestselling Playstation 3 games. So from the categories section on the Amazon homepage, hilight the Computers & Office category and Click on PC and Video Games. You should see something like this:

Amazon Video Games

Here we can choose from all of the sub-categories under the Video Games category itself. Since we are interested in Playstation 3 Games you should click the Playstation 3 category which will take you to the following screen:

Amazon PS3

On the right hand side of this screen you will see a best-sellers box like this one:

Amazon PS3 Bestsellers

Click on the link at the top that says: PC & Videogames : Sony Playstation 3. This will take you to the full rundown of the best selling Playstation 3 games on Amazon. Here we need to look at the URL in the address bar of your browser. To access a specific product category in the Amazon API you need the to know the category node. Now that you have drilled right down to the Playstation 3 bestsellers category you should be able to see the node as part of the url in the address bar:

Amazon Node

You can see for the Playstation 3 this is 676457011, but it will be different for you depending upon which category you are querying. You should make a note of this number, you will need it later on.

Now we need to get into the gory bits of the task. Editing the code. To keep things as simple as possible I am going to describe adding the relevant code changes for the default wordpress ‘TwentyTen’ theme. Now I wouldnt recommend you do this on a live implementation of this theme because as soon as you update wordpress (when a new version comes out for example), the code will be overwritten. So we’ll just use this theme for teaching purposes but I would recommend that you implement in any theme other than the one’s supplied with wordpress itself when you are ready to go.

So head to the theme folder and create a new php file called top10.php, the following php code can be copied and pasted directly into top10.php with only a few modifications. Now much of the code that deals with ‘signing’ the amazon query isn’t my own. Amazon introduced signed requests a year or so ago which caused mucho problems for many of us. Unfortunately I don’t recall the original source to credit them at the moment.

 <?php


  $serviceURL = 'http://ecs.amazonaws.co.uk/onca/xml?AWSAccessKeyId=[ACCESSKEY]&AssociateTag=
[ASSOCIATETAG]&BrowseNode=[NODE]&Operation=ItemSearch&ResponseGroup=Medium
&SearchIndex=[SEARCHINDEX]&Service=AWSECommerceService&Sort=salesrank'; 
  $serviceURL = amazonSign($serviceURL,"[SECRETACCESSKEY]");
  
  // Load the call and capture the document returned by eBay API
  $resp = simplexml_load_file($serviceURL);
  echo "<ul>";
  // If the response was loaded, parse it and build links  
  foreach ($resp->Items->Item as $item) {
  
    $url     = $item->DetailPageURL;
    $title    = $item->ItemAttributes->Title;     
    
    echo "<li><a href = \"$url\">$title</a></li>";

  }
  echo "</ul>";

  function amazonEncode($text)
  {
    $encodedText = "";
    $j = strlen($text);
    for($i=0;$i<$j;$i++)
    {
      $c = substr($text,$i,1);
      if (!preg_match("/[A-Za-z0-9\-_.~]/",$c))
      {
        $encodedText .= sprintf("%%%02X",ord($c));
      }
      else
      {
        $encodedText .= $c;
      }
    }
    return $encodedText;
  }

  function amazonSign($url,$secretAccessKey)
  {
    // 0. Append Timestamp parameter
    $url .= "&Timestamp=".gmdate("Y-m-d\TH:i:s\Z");

    // 1a. Sort the UTF-8 query string components by parameter name
    $urlParts = parse_url($url);
    parse_str($urlParts["query"],$queryVars);
    ksort($queryVars);

    // 1b. URL encode the parameter name and values
    $encodedVars = array();
    foreach($queryVars as $key => $value)
    {
      $encodedVars[amazonEncode($key)] = amazonEncode($value);
    }

    // 1c. 1d. Reconstruct encoded query
    $encodedQueryVars = array();
    foreach($encodedVars as $key => $value)
    {
      $encodedQueryVars[] = $key."=".$value;
    }
    $encodedQuery = implode("&",$encodedQueryVars);

    // 2. Create the string to sign
    $stringToSign  = "GET";
    $stringToSign .= "\n".strtolower($urlParts["host"]);
    $stringToSign .= "\n".$urlParts["path"];
    $stringToSign .= "\n".$encodedQuery;

    // 3. Calculate an RFC 2104-compliant HMAC with the string you just created,
    //    your Secret Access Key as the key, and SHA256 as the hash algorithm.
    if (function_exists("hash_hmac"))
    {
      $hmac = hash_hmac("sha256",$stringToSign,$secretAccessKey,TRUE);
    }
    elseif(function_exists("mhash"))
    {
      $hmac = mhash(MHASH_SHA256,$stringToSign,$secretAccessKey);
    }
    else
    {
      die("No hash function available!");
    }

    // 4. Convert the resulting value to base64
    $hmacBase64 = base64_encode($hmac);

    // 5. Use the resulting value as the value of the Signature request parameter
    // (URL encoded as per step 1b)
    $url .= "&Signature=".amazonEncode($hmacBase64);

    return $url;
  }
 
<?php>

The code above can be copied and pasted directly into your own top10.php. But in order for it to work you must change the following 4 items:

ACCESSKEY & SECRETACCESSKEY – You get these from the developer API when you register
ASSOCIATETAG=This is necessary to associate all traffice with your affiliate account
NODE=This is the category BrowseNode we identified earlier.
SEARCHINDEX= This is the category that you are searching – You can find a list of searchindexes here

For our PS3 example, the searchindex is VideoGames.

Having done this we have created the necessary code to display the top 10 bestelling items from your chosen category, now you need to hook it into the theme. Browse to the theme folder again and locate the sidebar.php. Now this is likely going to need tweaking depending upon which theme you are using but in essense you want to add the following code into the sidebar.php:

<ul>
<?php include (TEMPLATEPATH.'/top10.php'); ?>
</ul>

Because of the structure of the twentyten theme you need to stick it in before the dynamic sidebar reference but after this:

<div id="primary" class="widget-area" role="complementary">
<ul class="xoxo">

Which gives you this:

<div id="primary" class="widget-area" role="complementary">
<ul class="xoxo">
<ul>
<?php include (TEMPLATEPATH.'/top10.php'); ?>
</ul>

Note however that each individual sidebar element of the twentyten theme is held inside an list container so the final code would be something like:

<div id="primary" class="widget-area" role="complementary">
<ul class="xoxo">
<li class = "widget-container">
 <h3 class = "widget-title">Top 10 Playstation 3 Games</h3>
 <ul>
<?php include (TEMPLATEPATH.'/top10.php'); ?>
</ul>
</li>

Once you have done all the above you should be able to open up your site and see a basic list of top 10 best selling items from Amazon UK in your chosen category. Its not for everyone, but its a useful starting point and can be fleshed out to add thumbnail images or excerpts from the description if required.

A day in the life of a Not-So-Super-Affiliate

Whether you are just starting out as an affiliate marketer, or you have been doing it for a few months, or even years, the chances are you will be able to relate in some way to the following scenario, although probably not all on the same day :)

Lying awake in bed with the glow from the digital alarm clock casting shadows on the walls and the sound of your partner breathing gently (or snoring heavily) in the bed next to you; your brain is awhirl with half-formed thoughts and concepts threatening to become ideas. Suddenly a synapse flares and a connection is made; an idea lands fully formed in your brain. Eureka, you think and attempt to quietly ease yourself out of bed without waking the better half, fumbling around in the dark, almost making it to the door before she/he stirs and says “whathebloodyhellareyoudoing?”. “Nothing” you reply, knowing it would take far too long to explain the truth. Glancing at the clock its 1 minute past midnight, the day has just begun.

You make it outside the confines of the bedroom and sneak downstairs, the idea still banging against the inside of your skull as you fire up the laptop and immediately visit your favoured domain name checker. Damn, www.superdooper.co.uk is gone, but hey www.superdooper.org.uk is still available, what the hell, lets register that anyway. So you do, and you set up hosting and wait 10 minutes to 24 hours for the domain name to propagate throughout the internet before uploading the affiliate marketers weapon of choice ‘WordPress’. Awesome, you think as you peer contentedly at the leafy pathway that is the header image for the default wordpress theme, twentyten. Need a new theme, hmm, which one do I choose? Actually it’s too late now I am quite tired, I’ll go to bed and look for a theme in the morning…

The morning comes and you remember the superdooper domain name you regged the previous night while you are brushing your teeth, you heart skips a couple of beats as you remember why it was such a damn good idea. Need a wordpress theme though. You’ll look for that after breakfast; which you have to make yourself because your partner’s tired she needs a rest (after you kept her up all night with your bright ideas), the kids are playing up downstairs.

Later, with the kids safely packed off to school and your better half up and pottering about somewhere where she can’t bother you, you retire to your office/kitchen/sofa and switch on the radio and settle down to work on your new project. Well, actually first of all you open your email and wait for 10 minutes while the 150 or so network emails download and are scanned by your anti-virus software – quickly you read the subject headings – hmm, stockingsthanks.co.uk are having tracking problems better pause your activity with them. Oh, hold on you haven’t got around to promoting them yet. Just as well really you think as you take a swig from your first mug of coffee of the day.

Nothing much of any note catches your eye, some sale news, a voucher with the wrong expiry date – not for any merchants you are promoting. So what now? Better check on facebook see if your other half has updated since you said good morning – yes she has: “My Partner Kept me up all night thinking loudly about the internet. B*stard.” You LOL and update with a suitable reposte. No new friend requests.

In the background Affmeter notifies you that yesterday you made some money. Not as much as you would like though. Which irks you somewhat. An hour later you are bored with Facebook and resolve to get on with some work – but wait Jeremy Kyle is on soon. Another mug of coffee and a chocolate biscuit are called for as you kill an hour and feel a little better about yourself after watching the shows participant accuse his wife of having sex with his father.

From the other room your partner shouts through, she is off out for afternoon. Good you think – now I’ll be able to get some work done, but not before you surf the net for some Frankie Vaughn (NSFW) . . .

After taking a shower, you realize its lunchtime – time for a break and something to eat. Some cheese on toast with a few loose women is just the ticket. You can work on the new site later. After lunch the phone rings as you are loading up the dishwasher. It’s your father/mother/great aunt. “Did you read my Email?” “What Email” “I sent you an Email – But I don’t think it worked can you come and fix it”. “What was the Email about?”, “It was asking you if you would come and fix my email”, “I’m Working”, “Working? Is that the loose women I can hear in the background… ?”. “I’ll be right over.”

You go to your father/mother/great aunt’s and fix her email. Which didn’t really need fixing, the email was sent just fine, but you missed it in amongst all those 149 other emails you received that morning. You try to answer the question “What do you do for a living these days?” but fail to put it into words your father/mother/great aunt can understand. “See you later” they say, followed by “Don’t worry, you’ll get a Proper Job soon.” . You Nod and Smile and head home – er back to work.

It’s nearly 3:15, and your partner isn’t home yet; you’ve got to pick the kids up from school. It’s nice out and there’s no point taking the car since you’ll probably have to park further away from the school than your house is. A nice walk and some fresh air to get the little grey cells working again. Something about the leafy trees and the path you are walking along reminds you that you need to look for a new wordpress theme.

Back home and your partner arrives shortly after. She tells you all about her day; she’s been busy and you nod and smile as you listen before she suggests that you do the dinner tonight since you haven’t really done much today. You wait awhile, spending some quality time with the kids (watching Iggle Piggle “In the Night Garden”) then set about preparing a nice Spaghetti Bolognaise.

After that it’s Eggheads, some random antiques show on BBC2 then the soaps kick in for the night. Great, some me time. “I’ll be in my office” you say and retire to the Spare Room. Finally you can look for a wordpress theme. Hmm, “sooperdooper wordpress themes” doesn’t throw up much on Google. Ok forget the theme You’ll add some content – a nice 500 word article should get the ball rolling. Affmeter pops up and you see you have earned less today than you have yesterday. Maybe its broke again you think. So you visit a4u and checkout the affmeter support thread; nope miraculously there are no known problems(!!).

You leave A4U quite quickly, but remember that you haven’t checked your favourite RSS reader to see if the popular / MMO /bloggers can offer some inspiration. Nope, but Kirsty is going on holiday again which is nice.

2 hours later you have your article – OK its only 300 words and it a bit light on detail, but content is as content does your momma always said. At 9:30 your better half shouts you through and you decide to call it a day and watch last night’s Dragons Den on SKY+. There’s a website which gets and investment of £1gazillion pounds from Peter Jones, and some interesting commercial products: A magic wand that makes a nice cooking sauce seems particularly appealing and a germ on an idea begins to form in your mind as bedtime approaches.

“You coming up?” your partner says and you glance at her distractedly, part of you wants to check out the “Magic Cooking Sauce” competition on google, but you are quite tired so you agree to go to bed. An hour later you are restlessly staring at the ceiling, it occurs to you that the ‘Dragons Den’ you just watched was actually recorded last night. If you dont act quickly someone else will register www.magiccookingsauce.co.uk. Damn, quietly you ease yourself out of bed “‘whathebloodyhellareyoudoing?” mutters your partner. “Hard to explain” you reply as you glance at the clock – 1 minute past midnight, the day has just begun…..

A year on….

Well I guess the title of this post doesnt really suggest much, but it is a reference to the fact that its been over a year since my last post, where I hinted that I might ‘entertain and inform’ over the following months. Well so much for that; still no matter since no-ones probably read that first post yet anyway!

Has anything changed in the last year for me? Well not really, still a part time affiliate, but the last 12 months have been more difficult than normal thanks to me having to spend a huge chunk of my total affiliate income getting an extension built on the house. Needless to say the work enviroment has suffered a little and with no real in-roads made into anything new.

I have managed to move this site away from streamline.net where it was hosted (they were my first ever webhost, but got fed up with dealing with their innane tech support a long time ago…), moving to my webhost of choice csnewmedia, but mostly things have stagnated a bit over the last 12 months. One big success I did have in the run up to Christmas came on a whim. I am a big fan of Dragon’s Den and like many others was fascinated by Duncan Bannatynes investment in the Remote Control Wand – so one day in October last year I bought the domain www.dragonsdenwand.co.uk, set up wordpress and added one post, a price comparison widget in the sidebar and created an adwords campaign. Almost immediately the site began making money and kept making money up until the end of December generating over £1000 in commission. I found this very gratifying and does go to show that money can be made very easily if the timing and the product is right.

However, from there things went a little bit pear shaped. A couple of weeks ago I tried so set up another adwords campaign for a brand new site in the mobile phone sector. Almost immediately I received a warning from google saying that the site was low quality and if I wasnt careful I would end up being banned – for life. Eek, I thought. So I paused the campaign and went to sleep thinking about how I would improve the quality of the site. Overnight I received 3 more emails from G relating to adwords campaigns dating back 3 or 4 years – all saying the sites were of low quality (and I have to hold my hand up and confess they weren’t great) and consequently my account was suspended with no chance of a reprieve.

So thanks to that I have to become a truly SEO affiliate, which to be honest is where I have been trying to head anyway – Adwords has always been just a supplemental tool for me. I have irons in the fire as of now though, the builders have gone I almost have my own office (if anyone can recommend a good desk that would be great :) ) and I am experimenting with new things, so hopefully there will be plenty to write about. Stay tuned…

Welcome

Well, the time has finally arrived. After using wordpress on practically all of my sites since 2007 I’ve finally decided to set up my own personal blog. I’m not sure how it will turn out, or how often I’ll be blogging – ironically the day job is picking up at the moment (yes I’m only a part time affiliate – the shame…) and I’ve been tasked with new responsibilities, a small team to manage and  some e-commerce websites to build in ASP.net. This in itself will be something of a challenge since most of my web coding thus far has been done in php. So that’s going to be fun.

Anyhoo, I digress. If you are here then the chances are you want to read (or even learn something) from my ventures in affiliate marketing since I started (way?) back in 2006. Well I wont bore you with the details in this the very first post, instead you can read about my background in the About page.

Hopefully I’ll entertain and inform you enough so you’ll keep coming back, but that’s probably a big ask! So for now lets count down the days until I do my my next post….. wish me luck :)