Back in January I talking about business planning – and at the time I expected to do several follow up plans which would detail business plans for several of my bigger websites. But it never happened. Why not? Frankly – I was stuck! I couldn’t figure out a business plan for my favourite niche – my main travel blog. So I did, nothing.
Well I did think – quite a bit, and thought of and discarded dozens of plans. Now, several months later, I do indeed have a plan. If you just CLICK HERE I will tell you how to make $997,999 in the next 7 days while planning your next vacation. Nah sorry – but I’ll tell you what I’m trying to do – who knows it may even work out!
Travel Blogging Is Tough
My first website (it wasn’t a blog) – was in travel – it never made a cent. I still have the domain, now it makes a few cents with Adsense. My first blog is long gone (I have the content somewhere on the hard drive). It was the classic: this is what I’m doing type trip diary. Then I discovered you could get paid to write posts about specific companies – then I lost all my page rank and also all the well paying posts. Lesson learnt – don’t blog for cash!
Then I discovered Internet Marketing – found out just how highly competitive most keywords were, and how little interest I had in writing about “Disney hotels with kids club” or “luxury Alasakan cruises” and dropped the whole idea of making money from travel.
For a while.
But I do really, really like travelling. And I’m good at it – I’ve done a lot of it. I am the go-to travel agent for friends. Unless of course they want to know about Disney hotels or Alasakan cruises!
Every year or so I’d look at it again. I learned a whole lot about SEO – it was a tough niche – don’t think that Expedia or Tripadvisor show up in the search listings by accident!
I figured out that long-tails in travel could add up to decent traffic. But still I did very little about it – why? Because traffic won’t pay the bills – traffic is a requirement for a successful website – but you need to figure out a way to monetise that traffic. And I hadn’t.
Travel Blogging – Where’s The Traffic From?
Today I answered a thread over at The Keyword Academy forum – someone had around 7000 visitors and month and not a single Adsense click. I asked simply: where was his traffic from? It was social. He’s worked hard to get this traffic (spread over 3 niches and only in a few months) – but basically the instant he stopped tweeting, facebooking, g plus oning, and pinning – the traffic disappears. And although he may eventually make money from the traffic – it won’t be for a long time, and it won’t be from Adsense.
I’ve seen travel bloggers hesitate to travel – because they thought the destination in question didn’t have good Internet connectivity… Anyone see why that is deeply wrong?
Which brings me right back to the most reliable form of traffic I know – Google. Yeah I know their are plenty of people saying diversify, diversify – but at the end of the date whether I publish this post in the next hour or in 3 months time – will make very little difference to this blog’s traffic. Most of it comes from Google, and most of it comes to posts that are years old.
But bloody hell the competition is flipping fear in travel. I’d looked and looked for “green keywords” in travel. Never found any. I was scared off.
I kept buying toys and playing. I particularly enjoyed playing with Ton’s Keyword Researcher tool. I threw a few terms in around Thailand travel. It came back with some nice long tail phrases. I tossed some of those phrases into Fraser’s Keyword Strategy tool – to give me the search volumes (could have done the same thing with Keyword Academy‘s Niche Refinerary but would have taken longer). Right so – Google is telling me that the terms that Google GAVE me have no searchers. And the terms made sense, and were similar to questions I’d seen asked in travel forums. I built a couple of pages. I interlinked them. I added some backlinks.
Up until a week ago I hadn’t posted on the site since October. I hadn’t built a link since before Christmas. I had 1000 uniques in the last month, 85% from Google, and 20% of the visitors were for search terms which had no search traffic according to Google!
And that 20% of terms that had no search volume? Most of them were variations of the terms from Keyword Researcher! (I’ve been fairly on the fence about Keyword Strategy – but I do REALLY like the way it gives you rankings for all the obscure one off search phrases you get).
Travel Blogging: How To Monetise
This has been my stumbling block – forever – with travel blogging. How the heck do you monetize it? The standard ways to monetize blogs seemed to involved either:
promoting the blogger’s brand in order to launch that career of public speaking or writing: see The Art of Non-Conformity or NomadicMatt. Problem: I loath public speaking and I don’t live in the US or Europe so my chances of getting on the conference circuit are zero. If you want to write books these days I see no point in doing anything except self-publishing.
Getting freebies for press trips, promoting certain hotels or travel companies in return for goods and services: see yTravel or GoBackpacking. Problem: I’m not single, and have zero interest in travelling my own country. Travel freebies never include the airfares – so suddenly I’m paying to travel solo somewhere I may or may not have wanted to go to – and this is the killer -in a GROUP. Yuk no thanks. I’m sure there was a point in my life when the thought of free trips and 5-star hotel stays would have been very exciting. But no longer.
Which left me with
Adsense – most of the topics I am interested in don’t give great CPC’s
Affiliate programs via hotel and airline booking sites. Again awful commissions. On the other hand if this post is right – there is money to be made in hotel affiliates with the right traffic.
Selling my own products. I wrote a book. I have 3 or 4 others – 1/2 finished. Then I got confused – should the content go in a book or on my websites? Both?
Selling ads. There are of course ads and paid links. Paid links are awful, terrible, a blight on the landscape of the Internet, and very popular in the travel niche. Ads are just that – ads. The difference? Add the no-follow tag to a link and its an ad. This monetization method still seems to work for many in the niche.
And then suddenly I realised – I was overthinking it.
I need traffic and I need the social stuff – because advertisers use both to determine what a site is worth to them. There are enough monetization options to worry about the fine details later. Those options are not trivial amounts of money either – for example see Kirsty’s earning reports – almost all of her income is from direct advertisors and all her sites are travel sites. And she spends most of her time volunteering in places that don’t have great Internet.
I’ve redone the site. I’ve now got a “travel blog” separate from my distinctly keyword focussed content. I will silo the keyword focussed content even further (also making it more attractive to future advertisers). Thanks to the magic of Catalyst I didn’t even need to get another theme, just changed the skin and did some different layouts.
Oddly the whole BMR debacle has really energized me. As they say in New Caledonia plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose. I think I just narrowed my focus down from about 30 sites to two – but apart from that – its all business as usual LOL!
What about you? Are you changing your business significantly after the recent Google changes?
I originally published this post in November 2011 pointing out that people really didn’t understand how to use link networks. I’ve now updated it = UPDATED: March 2012 after Google de-indexed Build My Rank
OK guys apparently the world changed and some of you didn’t notice. Ironic really, I’ve heard plenty of people whinging about not being able to get good backlinks. Or asking for alternatives to Build My Rank because the BMR blogs didn’t look “real” and weren’t niche specific.
There are two really obvious things that are apparently from Google’s swipe at backlink networks. First obviously backlinks from these networks were effective (otherwise Google would have just ignored them) and, in future you are going to have to play smarter.
Build My Rank was not the only network to get deindexed and devalued, it was probably just the highest profile one amongst the make money crowd. SEO Nitro, SEO Linkvine. The sites that have not got hit are generally keeping a VERY low profile.
This is quite specific – Google isn’t targeting spammy backlinks from forums, automated bookmarking or the other stuff you can buy for $5 at fiverr. People who have spammed the hell out of their own sites are reporting no drop in rankings and no nasty messages in Google tools about “unnatural links being noted on their sites”
This is all about networks which insisted on 150 -odd words of unique content. Google has found them and taken them down manually.
So what do you do now to rank – what are the alternatives to BMR?
Alternative 1: Forget Manufactured Backlinks Make Your Site High Quality
Yeah I know I probably just lost 90% of you. And no I’m not saying you don’t need backlinks – what I’m saying if you write really good content, engage with your readers, and be genuinely helpful. You will then, over time get natural backlinks, when people link to and promote your content. Its a sound approach, which will take a while, but at the end, you will be mainly Google-proof. Not entirely – because you’d be an idiot to trust Google after this week – but a lot more than if you just have a mini-site of thrown together content that you don’t actually know much about.
If you want to learn how to develop a long-term, high quality websites – CLICK to check out the Keyword Academy
Alternative 2: Find a Few High Quality links
I started a new site – 3 weeks later it was a PR3 – nine months later its still PR3 and on page 1 for its desired keyword? What did I do? I gave it one single link from a PR3 site which I controlled which was relevant to the niche and didn’t have too many outbound links.
It not rocket science, it hasn’t changed any time recently. Some links are more useful than others. When you have access to strong links you will find it easier to rank your websites.
Getting just one really, really good backlink can do more for your rankings than a 1000 crappy links. It will also look more natural to Google.
What is a good backlink? A link from an authority site? So WTF is an authority site? A site which ranks well in the same niche as you, a site which has an engaged audience who find it useful, a page which has similar or the same keywords as you want to rank for, a site with PR (this is the least important factor).
How do you get those links? Well as I said above the best way is to have such an awesome site that people in the same field WANT to link to you. But you can hurry up the process a bit. Its not rocket science. Its called guest posting. Try to find a blog who will accept a guest post from you. You’ll have to write really good content. You’ll have to make it possibly even more useful than the stuff you would publish on your own site. And in return they will give you a link. And you know what – you might even get visitors from that link – there’s a thought!
Its pretty tough finding guest posting opportunities. You’ll have to contact a lot of webmasters, and expect a lot of rejections – or ignores. I hate doing it. On the other hand after a while you get to know a few people in the same niche and then its a little easier.
It probably all sounds a bit overwhelming – and I can understand if you are pretty discouraged after the news of BMR. But if you give up now – Google wins – and I HATE letting the bullies win!
Check out the Keyword Academy – really – you’ll be pleased you did – its also free for the first month – so no risk to you. Really check out my new Postrunner V2 Review – a great opportunity for quality backlinks.
Short version, why should you read over 3000 words of my ramblings? Because most people don’t have a business plan to make money online, and I think more of you need one!
A Whole Bloody Business Plan? Why Not Just Some Goals?
This started off as my 2012 goals post – and ended up as an Internet Marketing plan – how the frig did that happen? I read some other people’s goals posts – and don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking posts like this, or this, this one, or indeed the one that made me buy a book. I read them all, and they all seemed reasonable goals and plans.
But I wanted a bigger picture, I wanted a vision, some frigging idea where I was going with this whole business thing, and 2012 in particular. Or, to be allegorical, (’cause I am playing with language at the moment), I needed to know the layout of the forest, before I focussed on individual trees!
And then Google has failed me. I figured that now I was finally ready to write a business plan for my Internet Marketing business, Ms Google would provide me with a handy dandy template, or at least a format to copy!
Nope – I found a couple of sites willing to sell me a a template, for a bargain price, limited-time offer! But not a similar business plan to be found on the Interwebs! Well guess its time to fill the niche! Naturally I should have realised this months ago so that I could be #1 for “internet marketing business plan”, ah well, maybe next year? Maybe its just that Internet Marketers don’t want to admit to their business plans? Well I’m sure the A-Listers dont – but Z-List bloggers signed up for transparency – so here we go!
Anyway what I did start with was a fairly ordinary free business plan – and adapted it, yeah its written by New Zealanders, but none of this is stuff is very country specific.
Does Everyone Need a Business Plan?
Well as I write this I am entering my 5th year in this business. This is my first business plan. Should I have had one early, probably, let’s face it, I’m hardly a star on the earnings front! Should I have done one at the start – nope, you can’t write a business plan until you know your business. I still think it takes at least a year before you have any chance in hell of writing a business plan!
Because unless you can actually write down your business model and strategy – you can’t write a plan. As I look back through my archives, I see so much stuff that I tried and failed at, and some of it my fault some of it just failed business models that are now the relics of history. (Note to self – go through and put some caveats on those old posts in case someone actually reads them!). In the long-ago past I actually used to have to write business plans for company units, every now and then, as part of my job, it was a nightmare, but at least I know how to do it. My lack of business plan to date has nothing to do with being unfamilar with them, it was because I didn’t have the necesary information.
Now I think I do.
I’ve modelled this plan on a “normal” business plan, as linked to in the link above. If you want to apply this to your own business I suggest you download it and read the notes, you could buy a zillion worlds of business books on how to write a plan – but this template is the essence of the format, used world-over and beloved of MBA schools!
Business Model for Internet Marketing – Overview
For the brief history – see here. The purpose of my business? Well to make me money while I sleep of course? Could there be any other?
Hmm my products and services … Well I’ve written one book in the travel niche and have plans for more. This in essence is the difficulty of writing this type of plan when you are in the business of affiliate marketing and ranking sites that make money from Adsense. WTF are your products and services!
Are websites products? I think they might as well be for the purposes of discussion, after all they make me money even though I don’t see them as my product per se, i.e. I don’t build websites to sell on a regular basis, instead they product me on-going income by way of affiliate and other advertising.
Yup lets take websites as products – in which case I have, 53 domains registered. Of those 5 are purely personal so can be ignored. Of the other 48 I have websites in some shape or form on all of them. Some of them are supposed to make me money and do, some are supposed to make money and don’t, others are “support” sites which aren’t supposed to make me money directly.
Current position of the business – well summary can be found here. Where is my business in the business lifecycle, I’d say its at the start of its growth phase. The industry of Internet Marketing I’d say is an emerging industry which is developing at a frighteningly fast rate.
I really do see the whole on-line digital marketing/publishing world evolving at a speed which its hard to comprehend even to those of us who live in the midst of it. The rate of change is currently only accelerating, quite probably at a exponential rate, regardless of what measurement you are using.
Overall the whole landscape of SEO, affiliate marketing and digital products are all changing at light speed. Really I’ve always liked technology for its speed of change, but the whole online environment is amazing quick moving.
Ooh a competitive analysis – who are my competitors and how can I capitalise on their weaknesses? My competitive advantage is simple, I’m small, I answer to no one, no bank to please, no investors. If I want to try something new in response to changing markets I can, and do.
Who is my main competitor? Well this is where I’m starting to think that I’m going to need to do a business plan for each of my main websites (or groups of websites), for example this site has a quite a different competition environment than say my travel sites.
In fact I think I will do that for a least three of my sites over the following week or so. So I’ll keep this post at a high level.
To be honest I don’t see my main competitors as the people who own the sites that out-rank my own in the search results. Rather I see my main competitor as Google and the major brands (Amazon, eBay, TripAdvisor, Expedia, LonelyPlanet) who Google tends to favour in those results.
My advantage is that I can go more niche and more specific than the competitors. Travel is a classic for this – try searching for a specific destination which you know has hotels. Pick somewhere obscure, but that definitely has businesses with an on-line presence. What will you get? Results for the nearby state, province, town – but not the specific destination you entered. That’s Google preferring their brand partners. But its not in the searchers best interest, eventually it will have to change. Eventually in Internet Marketing is within the year.
My other advantage is that I’m unique, people have called me lots of things, but bland is not one of them. On my count I’ve made more friends than enemies for being outspoken and saying it as I see it. You’ll never get h0nesty from a tourism website or from 99% of internet marketing websites. I can do honesty – must be an advantage!
How am I going to increase my capability? I’m not, there’s nothing much wrong with my capability, its my application of the same which needs work! So really I need to either, severely limit or eliminate, the time I spend on Facebook and possibly some forums too. The trouble is of course, that forums and social media do get me visitors and subscribers, I’m just not sure that its worth the effort 1/2 the time.
How am I going to increase my capacity. Well I am going to build up my outsourcers as I grow my income. There seems to be plenty of people who can write competently, I’m happy to employ them, as I can afford it, to build my business.
I see no issues with growing my business, the problem is merely the CEO who has to stop bouncing from one new, bright idea, to another and to actually flipping focus!
The suggested time frames with the original template business plan is “next year” and “next 1-3 years”. I think we need to focus in a bit of a shorter time-frame to take into account the speed of change in this industry.
1-3 Month Goals
Goal 1: Fast Cash via Wizzley
Well specifically I need to find NZ$3500 by April and the same again in May for taxes.
I’ve proven that Wizzley will rank long tail articles on page 1 of Google within 24 hours so I’m using a combination of content I’ve removed from Hubpages plus Tony’s Keyword Researcher to reuse most of that content and try to make some quick cash on Amazon, to compensate for the loss of Hubpage Amazon earnings from January and to pay my taxes. I’m not pretending its a long-term strategy – but I need the cash now, and the pages can provide backlinks long term.
I have 2 ID’s on Wizzley and I need to get both to over 100 articles to maximise my revenue share. I’m hoping that once I have the momentum going, that I can outsource most of my “anonymous” account’s writing.
I’ll need to average about 7 articles/day to get 200 published by the end of January. That’s lots, but not impossible.
Goal 2: Diversify from Google – Branding and List Building
After years of being anti-list building, I’ve changed my mind. I’m building lists for a single strategic reason. To remove some of my dependence on Google (see SWOT analysis below). The two main areas that I see that I can build lists is this blog, and my travel niche. These are two topics that I have genuine knowledge of and write almost all (all for this site) my own content for.
It also means I have to play the “branding game” – hence the Z-List Blogger manifesto!
I don’t even know what is considered “good figures” for a mailing list. I’ve seen plenty of bullshit figures in the A-List circles (let me know if you want me to tell you how to fake the numbers!). From a standing start (i.e. zero) on the 7 November, I now have 118 subscribers here, and 72 over 2 travel blogs. I probably need to give the travel subscribers a reason to subscribe ie a discount on a book or a freebie, and maybe the same here? I’m not sure. But I am (slowly) evolving the way that I split content between my blog and the subscriber list.
I’ll work out some specifics in my specific business plans for my main sites here, suffice to say, I think 1000 is a nice round number!
Goal 3: Diversify from Google – Publish More Books
I need to finish the books I’ve started and get them out there making some money!
3-12 Month Goals
Goal 4: Use the Wizzley Results to Diversify
Using the results from my Wizzley adventure, any winning keyword groups I will use to develop new niches. Early results suggest that Wizzley is rubbish for Adsense click thru rates, so these will probably be product niches.
Goal 5: Promote my Published Books
This one is vague at the moment – lets get the books out there first!
Despite Google’s best efforts at mis-information to the contary, I don’t see a whole lot changing as far as promoting websites in the near future. Its all about content and backlinks, content is a bit more important that it once was, but I still see absolute crap rank at the top of the search results, why, backlinks and site authority.
I know how to build both – but I’ll leave the details to specific posts I think at this stage.
The main risk I see in the next few years, for me and other affiliate marketers is Google, pure and simple. But the market is changing so rapidly, its hard to know whether search will even be the more dominant method that consumers use to find information in the next few years.
Do no evil. Really, because, lets face it, Google abandoned that particularly philosophy a long time ago. Yeah I’d acutally like to be ethical in this business. Particularly in Internet Marketing, because, lets face it, there is not too much competition! Hence the transparency – how many other Internet Marketing blogs actually tells you the number of subscribers?
SWOT and CSFs
SWOT analyses are cool – not heard of them? Read up, there is precious little useful in all the management courses I’ve done over the years, but learning to do a SWOT is handy, not just in business, I do when I’m buying a house too.
Strengths of me/my business:
diversification of income sources: I make money from many niches and from many advertisers.
I have standardised my sites on WordPress and Catalyst – and they are therefore much easier to manage, update and control than previously.
I live in a country that doesn’t have, and is unlikely to have, sales tax. This means the chance of my Amazon affiliate account being banned is low.
I have an eBay account, got in early, not sure what to do with it these days though, as I can no longer use it through HubPages. I do, however, know they are rare.
I’ve been in this game long enough to have some confidence in my own ability to pick keywords and rank pages in the search engines.
Weakness of me/my business;
I’m getting better at selling, but its still against my natural inclinations, I’m particularly uncomfortable about selling to readers and people I know online. I can’t stomach the sort of prices many people seem to be able to put on their products and their time.
short attention span. I’ve always had a tendency to value learning, over doing, so I am suspectible to the “shiny new object” syndrome so common in our industry.
my location. Because I live in a market of only 4 million people there are few local opportunities for selling services to local businesses. Basically pretty much anything will rank here with minimal effort, and the business community doesn’t “get” SEO, because, frankly, they don’t need to.
Opportunities for my business in the current external environment;
the rise of e-readers is driving demand for cheap fiction e-books, and an as yet unknown market, for non-fiction e-books. Self-publishing has never been easier, and the sector is very rapidly evolving. There are opportunities for those of us who can write.
Threats against my business in the current environment
Google is progressively blocking detailed stats from Google Analytics accounts. The only question is when it all become unavailable or unaffordable for most of us.
dependence on Google for much of traffic and the unpredictable changes to the Google’s search engine algorithmns;
dependence of Google for much of my income (Adsense);
dependence on a formerly good revenue site, gone bad (HubPages) for some of my income
Critical Success Factors have got a bit over-run with the newer fad of KPI’s, but I like them – because they are about as basic a question as you can ask your business: “what are the key things that need to go well for this business to be a success”.
CSF1: Chose the right keywords, the terms that people are searching for who have their credit card out and ready to run. I am so over keywords that either have no traffic or no profitable traffic.
CSF2: Produce good books and price them low enough to offer excellent value for money. The pricing of books has absolutely nothing to do with how long it took you to write it!
Market research is the basis of this business. I do it two ways. Initially I take a guess at the relevant keywords, then, once I start ranking a site, I look at what I am actually ranking for, and persue those terms as well. Its not rocket science, I doubt that its changed for years, it works.
One of the delights of Amazon – is that they have plenty of actual data that they are happy to share with you (check for most popular items and then apply your imagination).
Google will tell you what people are searching for – by giving you auto-complete suggestions as your type in a query. I also have the feedback from readers and subscribers for the Internet Marketing and Travel.
My emphasis is on the US, and will continue to be. America may be having a recession, but even in recession you guys buy far more online than any other country.
Initially, one of the huge appeals of this business was that I could be a one-woman band. The human race is full of idiots and most of the worst ones had been people I’d worked with and for over the years. I was really looking forward to working with no one. It didn’t work out like that. Instead I ended up finding out just how important your friends are online. I’m lucky to have had some of the good and great over the years – many of whom no-longer post regularly.
But the Internet abhors a vacuum and I am lucky to know Mark from SEOCobra (exciting developments there in the next few weeks) and Dave from ZenDuck.me, not to mention Tracey from Tracey-Edwards.com and SY from Hospitalera.com.
E-Commerce and Technology
“Explain how you’re using e-commerce and technology in your business”. Yeah I think we can safely say technology is my business!
Tactical Promotion Plan
Interesting question – in general I’m wondering if I should try some of the tricks of Social Media to use things like Twitter and FaceBook to get more followers. The trouble is, that my experience is, that ranking for the right search terms, is not only easier in terms of time spent, it also gives me far more engaged readers!
I do want to investigate videos and podcasts as methods of promotion as well.
Nope no intention of spending anything much on marketing, certainly not going anywhere near PPC! I do pay for editing of my books and cover design – does that count?
Credibility and Risk Reduction
Who do I increase my creditability and reduce my customer’s risk? Basically I think I’ve always maintained my credibility, particularly on this blog, by not having guest posts. I’ve seen so many blogs over the years die a living death by becoming dependent on guest posters.
Selling through Amazon and other “legit” online shops (iTunes, Barnes & Noble etc), is a very easy way to differenate an ebook.
Team & Management Structure
Skills, experience, training, retention
Yeah well I think the boss needs to go some 5-star resorts, somewhere warm and learn about planning and better time management. Anyone up for sponsoring that one?
Seriously. I have one full-time outsourced writer who writes my BMR articles. I’ve had him for over a year now and he’s reliable and consistent. Last year, he had exactly one article rejected. I’m keeping him on. I do however want to expand my outsourcing in 2012 as my cash flow allows.
Well thank goodness I don’t need a lawyer! My accountant I’m training up to understand my business. A consultant – please God no! A guru and advice? Actually I was just going to delete this section – but I one of the biggest risks in this business is the isolation and the voices in your head! Where do I go for advice?
I’m pretty happy with the contacts and advice I have, I don’t see any significant change in 2012.
my trusty spreadsheet manages my cashflow and income/expenditure in several currency and actual versus cash (because affiliate programs take so long to send cash). It works, I’m not changing it.
I’m currently developing a better system to track my actual output – words or articles and projects they relate to.
Financial Budgets and Forecasts
I don’t do detailed budgets or forcasts, I may add this in this year though as I ramp up. It would be useful to have when I decide to increase my outsourcing budget.
My cashflow forecast is that I need:
7/4/12 – $3599
7/5/12 – $3419
for taxes. We have it, we aren’t going to getting into dispute with the tax man, but I am determined to have that money out of my own business’s cash flow! On top of covering my 1/2 of the household’s expenses (which I have done for 2 years now).
Summary: Internet Marketing Business Plan
Wow that was a bit of a mission! But a useful exercise – I think I still need to drill down and focus on individual sites for their business plan’s – I’m a still a bit vague on just how many sites I’m focussing on this year. But its been an energizing exercise for me, I hope it inspires you too – let me know in the comments!
Gonna hit big 50 this year, which is cool because it means we can dance in the next age grade in Dancesport ie instead of competing against 35 year olds, we are the youngest couple again (well I am, partner’s 10 years older!). HOWEVER, we want to compete in Latin again, so I need to look good wearing this:
Let’s face it, I probably won’t be going back to looking like this:
– but it’s got to better than this!:
As of today I’m 108kg, in the 1988 photo I was probably about 70kg (and yes over-weight according to the wisdom of the day – trying to get to 65kg from memory). Now apparently 75kg is OK weight for my height (180cm) – you see why I have a problem with the weight loss industry!
Frankly if I got down to 90kg that would be a) record-breaking low for the last 20 odd years for me, and b) still “obese” by the stupid “one size fits all charts” , and frankly – I’d look pretty hot in my latin dress (skinny girls got nothing to shake!).
So goal is to get fit and trimmer by the time we hit the big 50 – April 2012. Oh and to be able to dance 5 dances @ 1.5 minutes/dance without dying. The 90kg goal would probably take all year.
I have had a consistent goal of US$5000/month for years, I just sometimes wonder why every time I take one step forward, two go backwards!
Luckily though I do keep consistent income records – I know how dire doing a tax return is otherwise! I wrote about my simple spreadsheet approach back in January – and its remarkably flexible – as I add or delete new income streams I add, or hid rows as I need to.
My income hasn’t been so consistent – in January I hit over US$4200, including $2600 in advertising income (the stuff I laughably call passive). That figure was the record for the year, though in November I did at least, finally best the advertising income, coming in at $2700.
What happened? Panda? No, not really, I still haven’t had a single website Pandalized, most of income issues stream from three issues:
Dropping a client who started having onerous requirements, in response to Panda;
Hubpages – reaction to Panda;
Keyword Academy’s slow decline with long-term members.
The client had already squeezed the price so I’d gone from clearing $1500 a month to $1000, for more work. Their new set of requirements would have seen at least a doubling of my time required. It wasn’t worth it, so I fired them in August.
Hubpages: I’ve written previously about the HubPages trainwreck – that was July, by November they’d announced that as of 1 January we wouldn’t be able to use your own Amazon ID on HubPages and my secondary, mainly Amazon account, had been pandalized (finally in October). Could I have got it back – probably? Did I try, no. Now the ONLY program I have the option of direct payment with is Adsense: eBay and Amazon are both via their obscure “HPAds” program. Why is this a bad idea?
they get access to all my sales data;
they pay by Paypal which has a very bad exchange rate, and has its own issues;
I drop at least a tier of my Amazon sales percentage because of the loss of the HubPage’s Amazon sales.
Do I have a plan? Hell yes – but I can’t write about it here – sign up for the newsletter below – if you haven’t already – all will be revealed.
The Keyword Academy: From an affiliate point of view its not been good – my best month was March, but my commissions have been is slow decline since then. Why? Because people who have been members for years have quit, and although I still get new sign-ups they haven’t compensated for the losses. Why? I think two reasons:
Panda has worked very well for Google’s actual intention – which was to scare the crap out of would-be Internet Marketers. There has been massive change, and there have been casualties.
TKA has moved away from the “recipe approach” of do this, do this, wait this long, this will happen, to a much more robust method of actually training people how to build a business online. That’s scary for many people, and although TKA was never a quick fix – its now an even more scary proposition of work and effort, and engagement, which send some people running for the hills.
Income Goals 2012.
Well having just read The 10X Rule I had to cross out my $5000/month income goal- and ended up with a $50,000/month income goal! OK let’s revise that a bit – what I am able to make (on a good month) is $2500/month – so lets aim for $25,000/month!
Gulp! – I guess that’s what’s called massive action!? And that in essence is what I need to do. After watching other people succeed at making more money than I do. I’ve figured it out. My problem isn’t the writing, or the keyword research, hell I seem even to be able to sell the odd item.
My issue is that I’m a dilettante – I’m an amateur, I’m doing the right thing, but not enough, I still keep on chasing after shiny stuff. I’m over it. I feel great when I focus and actually achieve something. So that’s what I’m going to be doing!
2012 is gonna rock!
And its all gonna start here – because I have finally decided that if I’m getting serious about this business, this girl needs a business plan! So keep an eye out – because if any of you are struggling with the same stuff as I am – you probably need one too (and you can steal mine for free!) .
Hmm, looks like although I’ve used Chris Guillebeau’s approach to planning before, I’ve not actually blogged about it! I don’t have a lot of time for most “self improvement” blogs, and I first noted Chris’s site because he has, what I still think is, a stupid idea of visiting every country in the world. Really, I love to travel, but there are number of countries that I’ve never wanted to visit, so why spend money going there? Anyway I like his writing and his goal setting is quite unusual. This is part 1 – looking back, check back in a few days for when I’ve actually figured out my New Year’s goals!
Anyway – this is the easy part of the process: looking back: Pretty much I’m looking at health, travel, business, in that order, because that’s probably what matters.
What Went Well in 2011
Frankly I was kinda worried about reaching that “certain age” that women get to. I had heard so many bad things about menopause. Well I’ve reached it, and what happened? For the first time since I was 20 I’m not popping a daily pill, had the odd weird dream, woke up hot a couple of times. End of story. Really. Sorry guys, but the girls need to know, it doesn’t have to be bad!
We started off the year enjoying the snow in Europe, and coming back via KL for a few days of heat. Later, we had a great three week break in Phuket and Koh Samui, Thailand in August. The low-cost airline war has finally hotted up big time for New Zealand with heavy airfare discounting to South-East Asia.
I became a Z-List Blogger, complete with a Manifesto and decided to lose my insecurities and to start chasing my winners as far as making money is concerned.
What Did Not Go Well in 2011
My partner had on-going knee issues for the most of the year, which meant, for the first, time we had to pull out 1/2 way through a competition we’d entered in September. The net result was predictable: my weight went up – by how much I don’t really want to know. I don’t have any other exercise that I really enjoy – so when we are not dancing the weight goes on!
I have seen more of South America than I have of New Zealand. We decided to go to Northland before Christmas, I’d never been there, and my partner taught there a long, long time ago. It started off OK, but then the rain set in. If it rains in most parts of the world, there are alternatives. With due regard to the NZ tourism industry- you don’t go to Northland for the museuems! We came home early. And about it being the tropical north ? No, its not, if you can’t swim without a wetsuit in December, its not tropical, its a marketing lie!
Hubpages – I think I’ve said enough on that topic!
Partly because of HubPages and partly because I lack focus and am the Queen of Procrastination, my advertising income has basically flat-lined this year. As I fired my last freelance client in August – that means that I am currently sat looking at my lowest bank account balance for years!
Overall its been a frustrating year – financially I’m looking at a hole in April unless I can up my income quickly to pay my taxes. I have some hope with that as several of my Adsense niches are strongly seasonal, I think, as this is the first year I get to see the pattern!
Looking forward? Well that’s my next post! Haven’t figured out the details yet – but I’m reading, or re-reading these books which I’m finding helpful:
The Keyword Academy has this absolutely infantile, ridiculous scheme where you can apply for badges to match your (verified) income – I mean its like pre-primary school right? Except for some odd reason it does seem to matter to me – and today I made it – I made the next badge up – in the last month I earned $2500 in passive online income and I have nice pretty badge to prove it. Half of that was from Adsense and that figure represents a 50% increase over December’s Adsense figures. So how long does it take to make at total of $4000/month of online income? So in answer to the question “Can You Make $1000/month with Adsense” (written almost exactly 2 years ago) – is YES, I DO. And yes at the time, I really didn’t think it would be ME that did!
In fact I blame Mark Butler (from the Keyword Academy – yup you can get a personal consult for free within the Academy – its smart move by them – but unbelievable good value for members) – I had a consultation with him a few weeks ago – and I wrote on my white board – make $2500 by April 2011 (my anniversary date with Keyword Academy and my birthday). Oops looks like I will have to revise that LOL. Even my long-time goal of US$5500/month is starting to look reasonable – that would mean about US$4000/month in passive income. I can now see that happening this year – so long as I stop my obsessive stat’s checking and go back to work! Especially when I consider that my income has jumped while I’ve been on holidays – I thought I might resent working while I was travelling but instead
Why that figure – it would cover all our regular household expenses (so long as the US$ doesn’t completely collapse). That’s called freedom – for both my partner and I. Coincidentally it would also be about what I earned as a highly paid, bored, stressed out, IT professional – that would be sweet revenge!
So How Can You Make $2500 / month in Passive Income?
I don’t flipping know – I don’t know you – but I can tell you what has made a difference to me:
understanding I wanted a business not a job. Freelance writing is a job. Developing websites for other people is a job. Developing your own websites which produce more income even when you are on holiday – that’s a business.
outsourcing. Hiring a writer not only freed up my time – it made me become more organised because I had to tell him what to do – like duh!
having a range of sites in totally unrelated niches – sites I thought would be winners – no traffic. Sites I thought no one would EVER buy THAT online – they buy – go figure. I’m too stupid to figure this out in detail – my fool proof method of knowing if there is traffic for a keyword – get to page 1 and see if there is!
learning to believe my own stats – rather than what people are saying about the death of SEO, Google changes, Supersite, niche sites are dead, etc, etc. The best information on how to grow your business will always be found in understanding your own statistics – maybe I should write a post on that!
I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a paid placement – but I really do credit the forum over at TKA for being part of my success – I really don’t think I would have have hung on this long without the help support and I get there. I rarely ask for it – but just seeing people going thru the same stuff as I am is so incredibly useful and encouraging. Lets face it – few of us have anyone in the “real world” who understand why we play on the Interwebs all day – its nice to have some online friends who do.
Thanks for listening – now I have a lot more work to do…
You may not know – I used to be a Geologist and even know useful stuff about how to make sure your house didn’t fall down a hill in rain storm or earthquake (here’s a hint you probably need a 3D slope stability program to do the calculation!) Having a science degree in real physical science has always been extremely useful – even long after I left the profession – because it taught me about cause and effect – and that just because something happens at the same time doesn’t mean they are related.
Where am I going with this – and does it relate to making passive income online? Well it does relate – we mix up cause and effect all the time: we think life is more dangerous for kids these days then it was in the old days – but most children survive to the age of 5 in developed countries now – something that would have been beyond imagining even 200 years ago, and unfortunately still is in some parts of the world.
We think that working hard on a site should see Google loving the site, sending us heaps of traffic and making us lots of money. We get mad if it doesn’t happen inside a month, most of us quit – and most people quit Internet Marketing just before they start to succeed at it. We chase the dream – but miss the obvious – starting your own business is about risk and reward – but first comes the risk. Building a passive income online is always about building a business: in might be a rental property business or an active share portfolio. Don’t get me wrong you might not be actively managing that business – my tenants don’t call me when the hot water breaks – they call my property manager – that’s his job – I pay him to work work for me – but I own the business – I take the risk – no tenant, I still get to pay the mortgage.
Its a lot like building a passive income business online. There are heaps of different models out there – unfortunately the most common one is parcel up shiny objects and sell those to the beginners – and persuade them that the more they pay the more likely they are too get rich overnight. Make no mistake someone is getting rich – but its not the person buying! At the end of the day – it doesn’t matter really how many make money online products your buy or how many membership sites you enrol in. Unless you are actually building a business i.e. creating some income producing assets e.g. websites – then you are just dreaming.
On that note – yes I have still been doing not very much to make passive income online – I mentioned in a previous post that life had been getting in the way. Well its pretty been going from bad to worse and now back again – I wrote off the car (me v.bus) – not sure whether I was in the wrong or not yet but have the pay out and am not much the worse for wear. Slightly annoying but as the 10-year-old car which we’d stored for 3 years while overseas had been running well until it impacted said bus. We have also bought a new house and weathered a health scare (that’s all it was a scare not a reality) – I am really looking forward to getting back to some level of normality next week!
Oh and the title – well hopefully most of you will know why the term “slope stability” needed to be in the title – the earthquake was the personal kind not the real deal and the passive income really has been just that for far too long now!
Well a little late but so long as I get this out before the end of April! In fact the last time I did one of these was 6 month’s ago! Anyway its the end of the tax year here so I had to do some tax stuff first. First off a huge tip for any of you who aspire to wander around the world logging in occasionally to make a little more passive income online! Sort out your tax status and try to be tax resident in only one country! After several years of doing tax returns in two countries I am significantly over it!
US$5000/month – $3000 of which would be passive (e.g. affiliates) income;
develop a website trading business;
develop my own products.
OK – so what have I actually achieved in the first 3 months of 2010?
Total income of around US$3000/month – of which about 1/3 is passive;;
lost the enthusiasm for the website trading business – frankly it would be just as easy to sell niche sites on The Keyword Academy forums where there seems to be a constant demand;
the whole own product thing hasn’t inspired me yet either – though I am thinking about doing some Frugal Theme skins – possibly just to give away for people who sign up with my affiliate!
So I’m not too unhappy with the way my actual gross revenue is going – though I am now starting to track my expenses as well to make sure they don’t start creeping up.
Tracking my Business Growth and New Zealand Taxes
I am still using the simple spreadsheet I described in my October post – for the end of the tax year I added up the income over the last year , converted to NZ dollars, and came up with a figure which strongly suggested I should start worrying about provisional tax! For the record I have no understanding of people who whinge about paying tax – I am bloody delighted to be paying tax – it means I am making some money!
Mind you my next step was to register for GST to minimize the tax I was paying by being able to claim 12.5% (soon to be 15%), discount on anything I buy in New Zealand. Then I bought a rather nice 21″ monitor!
I don’t know how they do it in your country, but in New Zealand (if your business is small enough) you get to choose whether to pay provisional (estimated) tax on what you have earned or what you have been paid. Given that most affiliate programs pay sometimes months in arrears I chose a payments basis – which means I now have to run my accounting on a cash (payments) basis for my accountant – though I still will use the actual earning figures for my planning and personal gratification!
The irony of course is that people who skip paying taxes are also skipping the ability to legitimately deduct their expenses – even expenses they have anyways like rent and power and Internet!
What I am Planning for the Next Quarter
I am trying to get my passive income up a LOT for the second half of this year. My partner is not very happy with his current contract – I’d like to replace his contract income and give him the option of not working. That would be the equivalent of an extra US$7500 /month that’s a lot for such a short time frame.
More realistic might be to make sure I can cover our total household expenses – I’ve been paying 50% since the beginning of the year – so to pay the lot would be around another US$2500/month – bringing my total monthly income to US$5500 – that’s a bit more realistic I think. So long as the US / NZ dollar exchange rate stays in my favour.
A Note About the Photos
I like taking photos – and I particularly like my new fancy camera, but I don’t really want a separate photo blog like Sire’s Scenic Adelaide or Todd’s Picture a Day blog about Iraq, weather and kids.
So I decided my long-suffering readers needed to see them, after all proper professional type blogs always have very sophisticated and shiny photos which mainly look like they came from the same stock photo source. Mine are at least unique! After all don’t you get tired of all the perfect I think some of my photos should be forced upon my loyal readers – so – I started adding them in – around the time I moved back to New Zealand.
Sometimes the photos are a play on words, sometimes they’re allegorical, sometimes they’re random – you get to figure it out! If I actually have real screen shots to illustrate a point I’ll use those. But most of the time waffling on about passive income online isn’t that much of visual topic – so hence – the completely irrelevant photos!
Having just added all the thumbnails back in after swapping themes – it stuck me that not a lot of passive income blogs feature photos of Wellington and Australia – so you might have been wondering!
What About You ?
Its not just slackness that has meant I haven’t talked much about my income recently – when I was making under $200/month from Adsense and Affiliates I wasn’t too worried about sharing that fact. Now I was a little worried that I sound a little arrogant talking about it – but I know the frustration of many beginners who wonder if they will ever see any believable income figures – which are over sabout $10/day – the level at which many bloggers quit at.
So its the end of another month – another quarter anywhere so how is my journey to passive income online. Well to be honest its been flat-lining since my record of making over $2000 in one month – in July. Bouncing around at the same level give or take in US$ terms, dropping in local currency because of the strength of both my local currencies (yes I run accounts in two countries – I don’t recommend it!).
Oh and finally spring has sprung – downunder in Perth anyways – finally I might add, so much for global warming its been freezing here for far too long. The photos in this post were taken in King’s Park, Perth a couple of weeks ago – yes we have quite a display of wildflowers at the moment.
New Custom Thesis Theme
I’ve been spring cleaning this blog too – a couple of you have noticed that the design has changed a fair bit. None of my doing – Costa who makes cool custom WordPress themes at blogigs.com wrote to me saying that my previous design hurt his head and here is a new one. Well OK I can take a hint – I never claimed to be a designer – we played with his suggestion a bit so I am now down the beach (Indian Ocean) with my laptop. (BTW for any of you whose dream it is to sit under the sun umbrella with your laptop -reality check – sand is not good for laptops, sun umbrella as illustrated won’t stay up in an off-shore breeze, and won’t stop enough UV to prevent you coming out looking like a lobster. Leave the laptop at home when you go to the beach- but yes the beach is less than 10 minutes walk from my house! ) . Anyway if you want to know techie stuff like how to remove dates from any WordPress theme then check out Costa’s site. And BTW don’t tell me you aren’t technical – go learn how to do this stuff – its not hard and blogs like Costa’s will give you the right information. HTML and CSS are the basics of the Internet and yes you do evenutally need to know a bit about them.
Tracking Your Monthly Income Online
Anyway back to the subject to hand monthly income and managing cash. I don’t know about you – I am yet to see a QuickBooks or similar version which says – this is how to manage your online money – so I have kinda made up my own version – I thought it might help some of you. From day one its been important to me to know how much I made each month – that was my basic aim – $5000/month – so I really needed to see where I was at – even when I didn’t like the answer.
For the last year or so I have run a spreadsheet – its imaginatively named “income” – across the top I have the months : Jan, Feb etc – down the page I list my online income sources for the month. Note I ignore when I will actually get paid that income – I just record what I earned that month. This is important – clickbank took over a year to pay me out, Amazon hasn’t yet, some affiliates pay 90 days in arrears. All of that is very relevant to your cash flow – but not to my aim in this case: to track my actual income from the month.
I categorise my income into the following block – and use sub-totals so I know what percentage of my income is passive and what is “active” – currently I am running rows down the spreadsheet which look like this:
Niche Website income
Make Money Online Affiliates
various things I flog from this blog and my HubPages which you guys are kind enough to give me the commission on – one line per an affiliate
The interesting thing when you split your income up like this – you will see the swings and round abouts far more clearly – Adsense tanked for me in September, but I had my best eBay month ever and a pretty good one iwth Amazon. You can step back and see the weakness in your business model. Basically the income in the first two groups are fairly passive income sources. The income shows up at least a month after I do the work – sometimes several months.
I try a lot of stuff in group two some work well but then the product is withdrawn e.g. NicheDevil, some work well but are too cheap and too niche to make me much (Elegant Themes), some are surprise stars (7 Minute Articles), others just trundle on and give me a sale or 2 a month without much effort (Hostgator) on part – everyone needs hosting from time-to-time.
Analysing Your Data To Plan Your Business
This month I went back through my last few months of the new tax year (1 July in Australia) and identified each item for my accountant – I got to wondering about my expenses – I have never tracked them in detail – they have always been lower than my income (i.e. if there was money in my PayPal account I could afford it – if there wasn’t I couldn’t), but I looked more closely this month. My current on-going expenses are;
The KeyWord Academy: $33
Various services for distributing my articles $125
Average cost for domain renewals $40 – this is very up and down because last year I went thru cycles of buying domains and then giving up on new domains for months at a time.
So my fixed expenses to stay in business are around $225 – I don’t know about you – but that’s pretty darn cheap rent where I live! For tax purposes of course I add in the Internet, a percentage of my rent, power bill etc etc – but those are the real costs of doing business – doing business online is not free – but its pretty darn cheap.
The obvious thing that struck me once I wrote these figures down is that I needed to spending more money! I am considering a nice resort for Christmas actually – well yes- but that’s not what I meant. In terms of the business I needed to be investing more money back into it. I don’t know what figures are supposed to be a good rule of thumb – but for me I figured I should be spending at least 50% of my passive income into building more of the same – that only makes sense!
Having said that I immediately decided to up my budget for outsourcing writing on my sites and also decided to budget at least five new domains from freshdrop a month – where a dropped dot com costs me $12.45 after using the emma30 code which will get you the renewal for $7.49). Given that I have decided to try look to start selling five websites a month – it seems reasonable to buy the stock at that rate.
I am almost certainly going to buy new hosting – nothing wrong with HostGator but I want to spread my IP’s around if you know what I mean. BTW if anyone is looking for some very cheap hosting check out QiQ who has an offer until the 9 October for a years hosting for £11 ($17) – only one site and only per a customer – but that’s less than $1.50/month!
This turned into another long ramble – but I hoped it was useful to some of you. As a business owner you need to look hard at your figures to know where to go with your business in the next month. I have found that my start of month routine is less and less about wow I made some money from an affiliate and more and more about he big picture – where is the money coming from – will it continue?, how can I can I make it continue? how can I diversify? did I achieve what I wanted last month? if not why no? if yes why?
For those of you who are still confused as to which you might want to check out problogger.com – or at least Grizz’s take on Darren’s site!
Well oops – I see I haven’t done an online income post for a while – and now its the new tax year in Australia this is as good an excuse as anything to avoid doing my taxes!
Back in May I had some new goals – so lets report against though shall we – well it amuses me – sorry if you find it boring!
What has happening in the interim is that my passive online income has doubled from May to June. My overall income including some freelance work was US$1400 – not too shabby really – considering where I’ve come from. OK I’d struggle to live on that amount in Australia, though I certainly could in some parts of the world, but at least its more than I would have earned on the dole! And I figure its just the beginning because certainly the passive component of that (about 50%) will only keep on going up.
Update on Current Business Goals
Get those 10 sites up and running with backlinks built and starting their run up the SERPS.
Hmm not quite – “excuse” below
Build more backlinks to the hubs which make me money- after all they are hosted for free!
Thanks to the hubchallenge income this is where my time has been going – it started working for me so I focussed on hubpages for the last month or so. Yes I know I need to diversify – but I also need to build a winner while its working for me.
Looking to develop another website which will be more focusing on small real world business owners and micro-preneurs who don’t know where to start with ranking a site in the SERPS. Definitly there is scope here – I just need to focus my plan on this one.
Looking to develop a “real world” business of my own. I am considering starting doing some SEO consulting if/when we move back to New Zealand.
Maybe – we are in Australia now until at least the end of the year – I will probably combine these two somehow.