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?
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:
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!
There is a great debate about how much those of us who build online passive income sites as to how much you reveal of your niches. There is every opinion out there – some people don’t care who finds their sites – others go to great lengths to conceal their niches.
Its at tricky balance in my opinion and part of the answer lies in people’s underlying personalities and some in their business model. Its an issue that anyone doing passive income blogging has to deal with at some point though.
I resisted the idea of having multiple online personas for a long time. Eventually though I realised that I wanted to start a couple of new personas on hubpages for the hubchallenge – having a few more profile pages which I could link to my sites seeemed like a good idea. Then of course if I build backlinks to those hubs from other sites such as article directories then I need the same persona to link there, and so it goes as they say.
Here’s some points that people do confuse themselves with – who are you hiding from Google or your competitors. If you are running Adsense you are not hiding from Google because the sites are linked with your pub-id – you might as well run Analytics as well and use a gmail address.
If you are monetizing with Affiliate sales or otherwise yes you can “hide” from Google – though if determined they will still track you down unless other people own your sites, as a domain registrar they have access to this information even if you have privacy enabled.
What do you do – do you think hiding your niches is important – do you make a cursory effort to do this – or do you think its really important and you go to some effort and expense to do so?
Well what a difference a month makes! Sure its turning cooler here in Australia and we may have seen the end of the Perth swimming season but its all looking rosy from where I’m sitting!
I have been a whole lot more focused in March though the Site Build It fracas was a little distracting. Trust me the amount of traffic would have taken this blog down if it had been on shared hosting – hostgator reseller rocks is all I can say!
I made some new friends during the whole thing and I’d like to give a shout out to Lorecee at Work From Home On-Line Guide who really gave some thoughtful comments from an ex-customer’s point of view.
Some people thought that I did the whole Site Build It Review to make passive income from their affiliate system. I didn’t. I initially did it to build my subscribers and hopefully get noticed my some people looking for information about how to start an online business. I have put an affiliate offer on the post now – a legit piece of software which will hand-hold you through the site building process, is a one time cost, offers a 30-day money back guarantee and allows you to build as many sites as you want.
I build sites using self-hosted wordpress, blogger and MyStarterBlog but some people want prettier with less effort and are prepared to spend the money – that’s fine to.
In between approving Site Build It comments though I did manage to get some sites up and running.
I’m thinking about doing some SEO consulting when/if we return to New Zealand. I bought two new and one pre-owned domain for that niche and got site up on all of them. All are indexed.
I set up 2 blogger blog niche sites. One is waiting for content from cyberquest – who were offering 500 word articles for $1 and got absolutely flooded with requests – so the content is about a month delayed.
Found a great uncompetitive niche and bought 6 info domains (99c each at the moment) to geo-target the term across 3 markets and 2 variations. One site up and indexed and backlinks built.
Found another 2 pre-owned domains which I bought did the keyword research for and ordered content from Cyberhub– so they are sitting waiting to.
Bought yet another 2 pre-owned domains and didn’t have them transferred by the end of the month so I had done the research for those to!
So I’m pleased with the progress for the month – more keyword research than sites developed but it will keep rolling now I think!
This month I have a week off over Easter to snorkle with the whale sharks so I have to work extra hard to make up for it!
I have a dream: to do what I want when I want – and I am very, very lucky to be living it! Passive income isn’t a terribly easy goal – but I am getting there – and I think I just turned a big corner, let me explain. Not income wise, but in the psychological, mumbo-jumbo department!
When I did my last update I had had a pretty bad month. I lost my part-time job in late January – and it had stuffed up my productivity! How so? Even with only 2 days a week work it gave my week structure. Now it was gone and I appeared to be going nowhere. I admitted my frustration in a private forum I am a member of (sorry closed to new members at the moment – I’ll let you know if it re-opens) – and got jumped on pretty hard. I thought my problem was keyword research – but it wasn’t – the problem was I hadn’t down enough work!
That is not to say I wasn’t spending all day at the beach, nope worse than that, I was distracted by forums, commenting for fun, twitter and a whole lot of other unproductive stuff! In fact an on-line friend asked me what sites I wanted to promote in a mutual-help group he was starting – and I didn’t have any I could be bothered with anymore!
I wasn’t being lazy – not logging on lazy – but I was unfocused I hadn’t figured out what I had to do to succeed – even though I did know – and have known for nearly a year – build more sites! For goodness sakes the original name of this blogs was “Journey of 100 sites!” Had I developed 100 sites – nope!
I got mad – first at my colleagues in the forum – and then at myself! Someone called me stubborn – I laughed out loud – its odd how someone who has never met you can pick out some major personality trait like that!
My main issue was: people say you can’t achieve unless you believe that you will achieve – but I don’ t believe in anything I can’t touch: the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas and God being my main examples.
I’m not much into the pop psychology, “law of attraction” crap. I did however, somewhat in desperation, do a bit of a google – and came up with the concept of visualisation. Sorry I don’t know where I got the check list from – I wrote it on a bit of paper – and it was very useful- leave me a comment if you recognise the source! Having decided on what your goal is: in my case passive recurring income from niche sites – you need to go through the following steps:
Is the result possible. Do other people do this?
Is the result possible by me – do I have the skills?
Do I really want this result?
Do I deserve the result?
Does the goal contradict my other beliefs?
Create a plan to achieve the goal
Do the steps in the plan contradict my beliefs?
Do you can do the steps in the plan?
Do you believe you will do the steps in the plan?
Believe that you will achieve the goal.
OK nothing better to do at midnight when I couldn’t sleep so I worked thru the steps.
Yes I know other people who make over $10k /month with this model.
I believe I have the skills – the technical stuff is pretty easy, the writing is fine, I can outsource what I can’t do myself
Oh yes! I felt like trapped in corporate IT. Even if there wasn’t a financial crises I wouldn’t want to go back! Its waaay too good havin control of your life.
Why the fuck not? No one will get hurt in the process and I certainly own my partner over a year of him working and me not producing any income.
This was infact my initial issue with Internet Marketing – but I found out a while ago that its perfectly possible to sell on-line without ripping anyone off.
Plan – its in my head – its not that hard:
find long-tail keyword to target
find a way to monetize
promote site to top of SERPs
rinse and repeate
Well bugger me I think I might believe in my goal now!
Sorry for the ramble – now I have to go and build some more sites!
EDIT – this post moved me to tears writing it – and this video totally expresses what I not have the skill to say in words:
Well this is my New Year’s post – we had a great holiday and no I didn’t run out of things to do or find any stunningly cheap internet – so no work got done. Time to take stock: the back story is here if you care from when I started this blog in April. What have a learnt in the last year.
Biggest challenges of the year:
“getting” the marketers mindset. Understanding that I am in the business of selling things – but reconcilling that with not wanting to rip someone off. BTW I just noticed someone bought a Asus eeePC from one of netbook review hubs – that made me smile – because I love that little notebook!
focus – I keep on getting distracted and I need to balance where I want to get to and new ideas which keep on coming from left field!
Biggest Wins of the Year:
managing to make some affiliate sales and being able to sleep at night. I have decided that I will only promote on this blog what I use myself and find useful and explain why I use it and why. This does seem to convince the occasional person to buy from me – I thank you 🙂
finally being able to rank a site based on the keywords I wanted to rank for – it doesn’t sound like much – but trust me it was the “proof of concept” I really needed – sometimes you just have to do it yourself to understand that it will work for you – dumb but human I think.
So 2009: what is happening going forward. I am torn, and have been for 6 months, between being an internet marketer, a freelance writer, and more recently a blogger. Unfortunately I am instinctively more comfortable in the social role of blogging or the contractor/employee role of writer – but where I need to be is an internet marketer.
I have learnt a few things over the year and now have several sites developed and slowly starting to make me money. There is money to be made, though at the end of the day its not content which is King, but links and search engine rankings. That said I still try to make my sites to have some useful content in them, and so far I have not had any issues with them being taking down as spam so I think I am doing OK there.
Ironically I have made around 60% of my online income by writing for other people. This was an unexpected development as I never thought of myself as a writer but like any skill the more the do you the better I get, and understanding something of how search engine works is definitely an advantage in this area. At the end of the day Freelance writing is hardly passive income – as any writer will tell you. Instead I am using it as a way to buy leverage for my main business that is sites and yes content too.
I got involved with today.com, initially anyway, because I thought that I could get some easy backlinks to other sites and make some money on the referrals. I was right on both counts – but also found that I quite enjoyed the interaction and given that I was being paid for traffic directly I could play with some of the social networking stuff such as Entrecard. Both blogs I started in November are now PR3 Australia News is more a trends blog while Travel Over 30s is turning into a general travel flagship/social blog. Basically the idea with both of them is to use them to not just get backlinks but maybe attract a few would be entrepreneurs over to this site or to my hubpages cotent.
Goals for the first 1/2 2009
Get more organised and focussed on the important stuff so that I can achieve the following:
Develop at least 10 more niche sites developed and promoted and ranking in the top 10 for my keywords
Develop at least 1 e-book out a month – to be also promoted via my own website which involves learning a few technical bits and a hard thing – how to write a sales letter!
Maintain this blog, Passive Income on a regular basis – sorry can’t promise better than that – I try not to post unless I have something to say – or a question to answer – so if you want more posts ask more questions 🙂
Maintain my two today.com blogs – trying to blend social blog with trends to get a lot more search traffic to them – and do some entrecard dropping at least in the short-term.
Uses AMA more frequently to support my money sites and other blogs.
Maintain and diversify my freelance writing income – probably to replace the part-time, real-world job I have, which is looking very shaky at the moment – mineral exploration anyone?
Hell that’s rather a long list! The bottom line is though – I need to start making a decent income – which around here is at least A$1000/week and I am not close yet! But I will be!
Sharon over at Get Paid to Write Online asked how I started blogging: here’s how.
I started blogging on blogger – then I moved everything over to my own site continuing adventures and now I am back writing on blogger -why you may well ask?
Well Continuing Adventures was started when I was trying to figure out how to escape my corporate IT career and planning a camping trip around Australia. I started blogging in August 2006 and from March to September 2007 we were on the road around Australia. I already had my own static site: Midlife Travel but of course found that blogging was so much easier to keep updated. These sites were of course supposed to make me money and keep us travelling – well it didn’t quite work out that way – first off we got tired of camping before we could afford the $200,000 motorhome to make it comfortable. Oh and of course my sites never made me any money either – not even enough to keep us travelling in Asia never mind Australia.
Continuing Adventures was basically a journal with photos – don’t bother looking the photos are MIA since I moved hosts – it was unfocused, random and basically un-monetizable. I did some paid t-links and that was the end of its page rank too.
In the meantime I started to make pocket change from HubPages and started to understand what I could get paid for and the length of time required.
Along the way I have somewhat accidentally become a freelance writer though I am still developing my own niche sites too.
This blog I started along the line’s of Grizz’s Make Money Online original blogger blog – and to develop a more technical blog which I could write about in more detail than friends and family reading Continuing Adventures really wanted to hear about. In a similar way that no one ever wants to know what happened on your 6-month backpacking trip through Africa, no one really wants to know that you have made $20/month with Adsense either!