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Here’s what doesn’t work (as of September 2007)

westofpluto
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Here’s what doesn’t work (as of September 2007)

I have two purposes for writing this post. First, there is an absolute ton of information floating around regarding making a living online, much of it (IMHO) over-hyped and misleading, and I think it would be really helpful to newbies (and to some folks who have been around for awhile with only minimal success) to talk about what strategies do NOT seem to work very well these days. This is of course only my opinion, derived from my own experience over the last year, in trying several different approaches to see what works and what doesn't (at least for me). But if this discussion helps some people to avoid going down some dead ends, then I think it is indeed worthwhile for me to post this.

My second purpose is to hopefully elicit some help from the people who ARE finding some considerable success online. I have only discovered those approaches that really don't seem to work very well. I have not discovered any approaches that actually do work well (by “work well” I mean an approach that can reliably deliver $10K or more per month in profits). Hopefully some of you experts out there will take pity on those of us who are struggling and will share some strategies that actually still work in late 2007.

So let me begin…

I started getting involved in internet marketing about a year ago (Fall 06). I have a strong technology background, so the programming aspects of building a website business were no big deal to me. After joining KA and a few other places and reading as much as I could, I decided that my first step would be to build an empire of Adsense sites. I tried a number of approaches including the following:
- Used my own modified version of RSSG with some PLR articles and some RSS feeds
- Joined ViralInstigator and created a number of sites with 50-150 spammy-looking blogs
- Got a copy of TheBlogSolution and created a number of other sites with equally spammy-looking blogs
- Created a few mostly white-hat looking sites
For these sites, I uses Delicioso to submit the pages to social bookmarking sites, and used RSS Submit to submit the RSS feeds from these blogs to the feed directories. In a few cases, I also submitted the sites to some free web directories.
I did this for almost 9 months, and built up over 200 domains. The result? My daily adsense earnings never got over about $30 and were usually much lower. After about 3 or 4 months at best, Google would delist my sites, so all my earnings came from Yahoo or elsewhere. If I take my average daily adsense earnings and divide by my 200 sites over this period, I come up with a less-than-impressive 5-10 cents per site per day. Sure some sites did better on some days, but what matters for a volume business like this is the average, and my average was nowhere near the figures that some of the gurus were reporting (like $1-$10 per site per day). A little math makes it really clear that this approach just isn't scalable: at 10 cents per site per day, a target income of $400 per day requires 4000 websites! And as the websites get smarter, they are dropping mass produced websites faster and faster, so this approach is likely to get even less effective in the future.

Yes I heard from a couple people that they were getting closer to 50 cents per day per website by building much bigger sites than what I was building. But the one example I remember of someone who reported that income reported about 2 months later that Google had closed his account, presumably for making such large spammy-looking websites.

So the next approach was obviously to build higher quality white-hat websites. I used a number of niche finding tools (as well as my own judgment) to identify about 10 different niches I could build websites for. I read through Niche Marketing on Crack, which seemed to give a pretty compelling story about using Wordpress blogs and affiliate programs. So for some of my niche websites I followed this approach, while on others I custom-built my own website. In all cases, I put Adsense ads in the right places on the page, hooked up with some affiliate programs related to my website content, got a ghostwriter (several in fact) to ghostwrite some original articles, posted some to my websites and others to ezinearticles.com, submitted some press releases, created a Squidoo lens that linked to my sites, created a MySpace page that linked to my sites, joined 3waylinks.net to get more backlinks, used LinkMetro.com to get more links, submitted the sites to website directories, and probably did a few other promotion things I can't remember.

So what was the result of this? It really varied across my niches. As far as Adsense earnings, these sites stay in Google (they are WH after all) and so earn better than the BH ones. On average, my WH sites earn around 25-50 cents per site per day. Some earn virtually nothing because they never get any traffic. Others earn more, but it averages to 25-50 cents per day per site. Of the affiliate products promoted by these sites, only two have actually earned me any money. A ringtone program earns me around $1000 per month, while an EBAY affiliate program earns me around $100 per month. The other programs earn basically nothing. So when you add it all up, my 15 or so WH sites earn me about $2.50 per day per site. And most of this is from a single ringtone affiliate program, so the average is pretty deceiving – maybe I just got lucky finding that one affiliate program that works. But in any case, pretending the average of $2.50 per site per day is valid, to get to $400 per day, I would need to create about 160 of good quality WH sites and keep them updated an fed with new relevant content. This seems like a pretty big undertaking to me, since each WH site took quite a bit of work to set up. Furthermore, to get the content for each site, I can either write 30 articles myself (try that for 160 websites) or hire a ghostwriter. Even at $10 per article, 30 articles costs $300 so articles for 160 websites would cost $48,000. So this approach doesn't seem very appealing either.

I read TimG’s article blitz strategy, and I was hoping to see some inkling of his success by submitting my own articles to ezinearticles. No I didn't submit 30 articles, but I did submit 10 for one website. Maybe it is the case that the results are not proportional, in other words submitting 10 articles is not 1/3 as good as submitting 30 articles, instead it is 1/1000 as good. I don't know. In any case, I was hoping that submitting “some” articles would show “some” results. Thus far the results have been minimal.

So now I’m pretty sure of the following:
1) Masses of BH Adsense sites don't work and
2) You need a lot more WH affiliate websites than I thought to make any kind of real income

So who exactly is making money online and how are they doing it? I’m beginning to suspect that the people who actually do make money are IMers whose one and only market is selling “how to make money online” information or products to other IMers. Doesn't anybody make money by selling actual products (or other people's actual products)? Of course, it is certainly possible to make a killing online if you happen to come up with an idea for the next YouTube or MySpace or Digg.com, and then make it happen with some VC funding, etc. But this is not an easily duplicable online business model, certainly not the model that the “make money online” gurus tell you exists.

Anyway, I've gone on long enough. Hopefully this info will help some newbies to try some other approaches. And as I said, hopefully, some of the experts out there will chime in and make some honest suggestions as to what really does work today, as opposed to 2 years ago during the Golden Age of Adsense and Affiliate Programs.
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markling
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Hi westofpluto,

Sounds like you've been around the block a few times, that's for sure! While I'm definitely not going to dispute that you've done some hard yards and your evidence to date suggests that this isn't actually as feasible as everyone says... Your conclusions seem to be based on maths that doesn't really reflect the realities of internet marketing.

You say that you have one site earning $1000/month and the rest are earning basically nothing, which means that each site is on average earning $2.50 per day. (which means you need to make 160 sites to earn $400/day)

You also say that maybe you just "got lucky" in creating this $1000/month site, and that the reality is more likely to be that most affiliate sites are the "earning nada" variety.

One thing that we teach here in Affilorama is the importance of doing your market research first. What you're trying to do is locate the markets where you're able to do the $1000/month. It's not just a matter of choosing the products, but investigating the demand, researching your audience... there are a whole lot of factors that determine whether a market will be successful, and even when you locate a successful market, you need to figure out how to best approach it. If you strike out on any of these factors then you're more likely to see bad results.

If I were you, I'd be looking at my $1000/month site and seeing how I could produce more sites that do that. I wouldn't be regarding it as an anomaly, but as a success. The rest are failures. Learn what you will.

If you were able to produce 12 such $1000/month sites, you would be only $4/day short of achieving your (reasonably ambitious!) $400/day target. That's a far cry from the 160 sites you quote. If you built three such sites you would have yourself $600/week, which many would consider to be a full-time income.

Do you see what I'm saying? Seems to me like you have a "glass half empty" kind of approach, and you're looking to prove (as your subject line says) what "doesn't work". You've seen what does work with your $1000/month site! Now you just need to duplicate that success!

One last point:

I’m beginning to suspect that the people who actually do make money are IMers whose one and only market is selling “how to make money online” information or products to other IMers.


While the "make money online" market is indeed very huge and competitive, and while there are a lot of IMers out there who do exactly as you say... I've been doing this for the past eight years or so, and Affilorama has been my first real move into building products for IMers. For the most part my income has come from promoting affiliate products or building my own (non internet marketing related) products.

I have no doubt that its possible, but there IS a learning curve. And it's not just a technical learning curve... it's a "being able to smell the money" learning curve that comes from seeing what works and what doesn't. Sounds to me like you need to work on your sense of smell :)

All the best,
Mark
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westofpluto
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Hi Mark

Thanks for the response. I think maybe I wasn't clear on one particular point. It is true that I have one affiliate program that makes about $1000 per month, and yes this started with one website. The problem is that I tried to grow this by making several more websites in this niche, as you suggest. The result? Still about $1000 per month. The traffic from new websites just helped offset the decreasing traffic to the old ones.

As for "researching your market", your videos suggest things like "brainstorming" and "check on overture for bid keywords" etc. These sort of very general and very basic sorts of instructions are the sorts of things everyone who has been around a year already knows, and frankly they are not particularly useful since everyone is already doing this sort of thing. My experience with this sort of "use your gut" approach is that it is basically useless. Sure, maybe it worked several years ago before everyone was doing Adsenses sites and affiliate marketing, but these days it seems you need to be more sophisticated and scientific in choosing niche markets and exploiting them. There are some tools out there (like Niche Inspector for example) that help you find highly searched, low competition keyword phrases. But even then, taking these phrases and using them in a website to generate traffic to the site and actually make money still seems to be as much a matter of luck as anything else.

My sites that did not work looked a whole lot like my sites that did work. So what exactly am I supposed to learn from the virtually non-existent differences?

As for $400/day being ambitious, well, if this business really only has the potential to make some side income of the $100 per day variety, then I'm not interested. As someone with over 20 years developing software in the wireless and aerospace fields, I can go out and get a $100K+/yr "real job" pretty much whenever I want. The problem is that (as we all know) real jobs suck. I have no intention of selling my time to some idiotic corporation and follow their arbitrary rules. But what I do in my own business needs to have the profit potential that is equal or better than what I gave up. So if $400/day is ambitious, then I'm worried.

As for building only 12 such sites, apparently I didn't make it clear that I needed to make a large number of white hat sites (approximately 15) just to get that one affiliate program to pay off. So to get 12 affiliate programs to pay off, I would need to build 12*15=180 websites in total. So I think my maths are correct, and yours are painting a bit of an overly rosy picture.

Don't misunderstand me, I appreciate your feedback on my post, and I think you have a great site for helping newbies learn the basics of afffiliate marketing. But I think that for people to get their income to a level above "a little extra cash", ie much closer to $10K per month rather than $1K per month, the basic newbie approaches just don't seem to be effective. Something more substantial is needed, and I wish I knew what.

Thanks.
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chatyak86
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Westofpluto,

Your math is off. You don't need 15 websites to pay off any affiliate program. I earn my income without selling "learn to make money" courses and frankly there is tons to go around.

The material given here is more than enough to earn yourself a full time income? You take what works and you apply it to more markets. You don't want to re-invent the wheel.

I don't see what the problem is. If you have questions regarding the finer points of IM... use the forum. No book, video, or audio course can cover every single point of IM. You need to take what you have learned and continually ask when you are confused. With an attitude like this though, you won't get anywhere. It seems like you are continually focusing on the negative aspects of this business rather than looking at what you have accomplished and learned (the hard way).
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sean06
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I'm just going to add my 2 cents worth.

I haven't read through your entire post, but I skimmed enough to understand what's going on.

I think you need some sort of business plan. From what I read, you've been trying everything under the sun, just doing anything that you hope will make you cash.

Something I would advise is that if you want to make a big income, treat it like a business. Don't just jump around from opportunity to opportunity. There are limitless opportunities out there, you simply don't have the time to get into them all.

I can understand where you're coming from, this time last year I had a very small income, so I know what it feels like. But I think Mark hit it on the head when he said:

"Seems to me like you have a "glass half empty" kind of approach, and you're looking to prove (as your subject line says) what "doesn't work".

I've spoken to a lot of people who seem to be floundering around the world of IM and this kind of mindset is pretty common. If you can fix this, I think you'll be much better off.

Just focus on the things that make you money and stop worrying about the rest. Being bitter about not having success so far won't get you anywhere.

I see you've been a member since June, yet you only have 2 posts. Why weren't you hassling us here in the forums for advice?

Outline your plan and what you're doing and some of us may be able to take a look at it and show you where you're going wrong. A fresh pair of eyes is often a good thing.

Anyway, that's enough from me. If you need a hand, you know where to get it.
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markling
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westofpluto,

I can just imagine you sitting there shaking your head at these comments so far.

My sites that did not work looked a whole lot like my sites that did work. So what exactly am I supposed to learn from the virtually non-existent differences?


Obviously there ARE some differences. You have to tweak and measure. Tweak and measure. You have to become an expert at watching and interpreting statistics. You need to be a psychologist and think about what your visitors are thinking. You need to a design aesthetic and an eye for usability to understand how that influences you visitors. You need to understand the slight differences between seemingly similar keywords. You learn to measure the worth of affiliate products you're promoting, and understand which ones are going to convert and which will send your prospects running. The internet is not a personal beast. It doesn't have whims. There's always a reason behind why one thing is popular and successful and why another one flops. You might just have to dig for the reasons if you want to pursue it.

As for $400/day being ambitious, well, if this business really only has the potential to make some side income of the $100 per day variety, then I'm not interested. As someone with over 20 years developing software in the wireless and aerospace fields, I can go out and get a $100K+/yr "real job" pretty much whenever I want.


Well, good for you. I might be wrong, but to reach that tremendous earning potential I bet you spent more than one year studying. I'm not saying that you're going to be switching one twenty-year career path for another. As far as I can see you be able to reach your goals in *considerably* less than twenty years in this industry. Hopefully you see my point, though.

Actually you're in an enviable position if you have that kind of income, because it allows you to try things like PPC or traffic brokering (see last months update) which are more capital-intensive, but which tend to deliver faster results than SEO. We've got some good lessons in here on finding profitable keywords for PPC which can provide you with a definite solid basis for saying "these keywords are obviously profitable". (No, we don't just tell you to look at the adwords keyword research tool.) Once you've determined which keywords are profitable, it just comes down to whether you are able to make it work -- which is where you discover whether the market has indeed (as you claim) been bled dry, or whether you just haven't learned how to do it right.

And really, no insult intended, I suspect the latter.

I'm not going to argue your maths, although it does still seem a little perplexing for me. It seems like you're a pretty technical minded person and these sorts of statistics are how you understand success. One thing that I have observed through Affilorama is that the people who succeed are not always the people you'd expect. It's the people who go heads down, bums up and keep plodding away who eventually see the success. While some degree of analysis is important, the people who analyze, analyze, analyze either tend to spend so much time analyzing that its all they can think of, and there's no room for creativity, or else they fail to see immediate results so they give up and look for the next thing to try. I know I said before that it's all about tweaking, but sometimes a little dumb faith, luck and time work wonders too.

But I think that for people to get their income to a level above "a little extra cash", ie much closer to $10K per month rather than $1K per month, the basic newbie approaches just don't seem to be effective.


You could be right. Just make sure you really do have those "newbie" approaches down pat. I don't think we'd be seeing these sorts of posts from you if you had, in fact, mastered the "newbie" approaches.

That said, if your "newbie" skills are top notch, I do recommend looking into PPC. We created a series of PPC videos with Jason Katzenback a couple of months ago, and last month we had that interview with Gauher Chaudrhy which could also be up your alley. Like I said before, having money to throw around really will put you ahead of a lot of people out there who are basically struggling to make ends meet and pumping out adsense sites to put an extra $20 in their pockets. But remember that these approaches will also cost money in the short term as you learn how to do it. You're just swapping time and persistence for money.

Good luck with whatever you try. I hope you find some success somewhere.
Mark
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