frustration

Don’t you just hate it when….

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…You spend days writing content, editing pictures and uploading to your site only to receive an e-mail not 5 mins after finishing to say that the merchant is closing their affiliate programme!?! /Screams!

With Christmas ordering in full swing we decided to add some new content to our Luxury Hamper website.  The site went live just before Christmas last year, selling an excellent range of hampers over the festive period.  We therefore were looking to add some different types of luxury hampers for Christmas 2010 and so decided to look for some fish based hampers, who doesn’t like kippers in winter?!

With fish hampers up to a whopping £2500 these are definitely top quality products which fit with our luxurious aims!  Unfortunately as mentioned we received an e-mail from the affiliate network to advise that the programme would be closing down with effect from the 4th November 2010…boo!

Out of the e-mail came two questions:

1) Is the merchant just moving to another network?

2) Who else supplies what we are looking for?

To tackle number 1 I quickly jumped on to the merchants website in pursuit of a contact e-mail address.  I dispatched an e-mail enquiring whether this was the end of their affiliate channel altogether or whether they were just moving to another network.

Unfortunately the reply that came back was that the whole affiliate programme had been a complete waste of time and money.  For the money being paid the traffic didn’t live up to the merchants needs and thus they would continue to sell direct.  He did kindly offer to pay me a commission direct via a code that my traffic would have to enter manually into the checkout page.  Unfortunately this just doesn’t work for me.  If the code gave the customer a discount then I can see them entering a code at the checkout process, who would enter a code for no benefit?!  I proposed to the merchant to make the code offer the customer a discount but never received a reply, oh well, we’ve got until the 4th November to convert some sales!

For question 2 the network was proactive in their termination and suggested other merchants that they represent who offered similar offerings.  Upon investigating this we’ve found a great Scottish butcher who sells both the fish that we were looking for as well as meat!  We’ve been after a meat hamper supplier for a while but due to the nature of the product we’ve found it difficult to find a merchant who offered them.  So although the whole episode started off badly it may have been a god send as we have now killed two birds with one proverbial stone! Result!

Horse, eating

Are you a one trick pony?

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When I started out in affiliate marketing(AM) I was advised to select a topic that you are interested in.  The reason for this is you will find it easier and write better content if you understand and have a passion for a particular subject.

With my wife and I both being involved in this business we bring 2 separate sets of passion to the table which gives us a broader range of niches that we can write about.  Being the fountain of ideas that we are we still come up with domains and niches that neither of us know a jot about.  Ice Skates.org.uk was an idea we came up relatively quickly after we began on our AM journey and all of the content was written externally for us.  Just because you don’t know a particular subject if you have the means then I wouldn’t hesitate to get a content writer involved to produce your website copy for you.  We engaged a university student to produce some graphics for the website and within a relatively short time period (3 weeks) the site was ready for it’s launch.

Since then we have added all sorts of different niches to our portfolio and currently have 30 sites developed with 10 waiting in the wings!  With such a diversification we benefit from the following:

  • Evening out of seasonal trends
  • Fresh content as you are working on different subjects each day
  • A wide range of product sales from high ticket items to low value items
  • Better relationship with networks as you promote more of their merchants

As an example here are the sort of products that we sold yesterday 11th Oct 2010

  • Piano
  • Oak furniture
  • Something naughty from lovehoney
  • Windscreen Wipers
  • Cake tins
  • Cake storage tins
  • Chef Knives
  • Toys
  • Books
  • CD’s
  • DVD’s
  • Pamper Hampers
  • Photography Equipment

Don’t be afraid to try new niches, you may be surprised how well they can perform!

search

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for!

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Improving your sites Search results

If like me your websites are under pinned by wordpress then the default search offering can leave your visitors frustrated with the results that get returned. This is because the default search function in wordpress is set to return it’s results purely in date order. It performs no weighting on the search term to return the most appropriate results so this can mean your visitors are getting fed up and clearing off instead of wading through pages and pages of results.

To solve this issue I deploy the Relevanssi Search plug-in to all of my sites. This plug-in allows for AND as well as OR search operators allowing a much more dynamic and useful search solution for your visitors. There are a myriad of options that you can set to get your wordpress search working smarter so hop over today and give it a play!

What are people searching for?

Do you have a site that’s getting a lot of visitors but isn’t converting very well?  The issue could be that people are landing on your website and aren’t finding any pages for the search terms that they are specifying.  For this particular dilemma I deploy the Search Meter plug-in which keeps stats on what people are searching for and the number of pages being returned for each search term.

The great thing is that it has a section under your wordpress dashboard to show you the search terms that have returned zero results.  Armed with this information you can tweak existing content or create fresh content to capture these future searches.  If you understand how and what people are searching for you can create better content in the future!

Updated : One Million People – Now Free!

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Following on from my earlier post here OneMillionPeople.com has now become free!

Grab the opportunity to have your face forever emortalized in print (or until all copies of the book end up in charity shops!)

Alex seems to have moved from charging a “per face” to allowing people to sponsor one of the 1250 pages that the finished book will have.  Since swapping to this model the book has started to fill quite rapidly so take the chance to get your mugshot up there!

4hww

Review : 4 Hour Work Week (4HWW)

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Having seen a few of my affiliate chums tweet and blog about Tim Ferriss’s life changing book 4 Hour Work Week (4HWW) I decided I would grab a copy to see what all the fuss was about.

First of all I recommend that if you’re going to grab the book then ensure that you get the updated version.  The picture to the left shows the cover of the updated version which is updated to 2009 and contains more up to date facts, case studies and explanations.

Firstly I’m not a book reader so it takes a special kind of book to have me reading cover to cover.  This book just sucked my mind in and introduced concepts that are useful from personal and business aspects of your life.  The book has a definite American slant but most recommendations can easily be translated to UK based services.

What’s the 4 Hour Work Week About?

4HWW is a lifestyle design book that deals with introducing automation into various aspects of your life to deliver that illusive commodity, time!  However free time with no purpose is just as bad as working your fingers to the bone 60hrs a week!  The book splits down how you should move from your current working practices to become one of the newly rich!

LOL, how the hell can I just give up my 9-5 office job to become a sky diving instructor in Iceland?

Tim explains about how to deal with your fears, how to put your doubts in to perspective and how to set yourself challenges and outline your goals and dreams.  The exercises in the book challenge your comfort zone and teach you some tricks for dealing with your working day.  The book focuses on the fact that the majority of people work all their life to retire and enjoy their life.  Often this means missing some fantastic opportunities or, as in my own mothers case, dying before reaching retirement and never reaping the rewards of your working life.

The book uses a 4 step process called D E A L which stands for:

Definition - This is the foundation of the lifestyle design and explains the flaws in our current life rules and introduces us to the newly riches set of rules and objectives.

Elimination - Explains how to weed out the clutter and influences that have a negative impact on your current life.  This includes the use of the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle) to determine what should stay and what should go!

Automation - This is the one that interests most people, how to make money with the minimum of effort!  Income automation appeals to everyone and the book provides case studies of this working in practice.

Liberation - The final step in the jigsaw is to create the free time that you need to explore your new lifestyle.  You’ve got a plan now for a mini retirement, can you still hold down you current full time job whilst being out of the country for 3 months?!  You sure can, you are now able to be fully functional regardless of location!

So the verdict!

I found the book a great and riveting read that had me nodding along to many of the questions that the book raises.  It enlightens your mind to the possibilities that are there for everyone, not just those who are business owners.  I’ve used the principles in the book to good effect already and seen improvements in my own business and lifestyle.  Don’t take my word for it though, grab yourself a copy and let me know what you think!

Click to Enlarge - OneMillionPeople.com

One Million People – a big con or great concept?!

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Click to Enlarge - OneMillionPeople.com

One Million People is the brain child of One Million Dollar Homepage creator Alex Tew.

What’s the idea behind this?

The project revolves around the concept of capturing the faces one million people who are part of the digital generation!  You pick a square on the 1250 page virtual book, pay your $3 and upload your photo.

Woah, so this guys going to earn $3,000,000 if he fills the book up?!

Yup, great concept eh!  You’ll have noticed if you clicked the first link in this post that I’ve already splashed out my $3 to appear on page 1 on the book and am keen to see how quickly this project goes viral like his previous project.

Can I buy lots of spaces to put a bigger picture on?

Please read the sites FAQ before buying as the rules on what is and isn’t acceptable are all laid out.

What about buying lots of spaces up to re=sell as the book gets full?

Great idea but unfortunately that’s banned too!  You can reserve spaces for loved ones / family members but these must be assigned within 30 days of purchase.  I’ve bought 4 other spaces which I will invite friends and family to take up later!

So once it’s full then what?

Alex is planning for the book to then be sent off into print with an estimated retail price of $100.  If the book ever does get completed and into print I would expect that the price of the book would have to be significantly lower to sell well!  Hell even if I’m on page one I’m not going to pay that sort of price to show the book to everyone who visits my home….or maybe I will!

So brilliant idea or giant scam!?

Having seen how the media and world took to Alex previous venture I decided for $3 it was worth investing in!  In marketing people still talk about the original venture created by Alex and there is every sign that this project can go down the same route!

If you are on One Million People then please feel free to leave a comment below and tell us where you are!


evernote

Work Safely When Driving at 70mph!

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If you’re like me and spend a good portion of your day commuting to and from your main place of work you’ll realise what a waste of creative time this is.  My current daily commute is usually around an hour each way, mainly dull motorway driving.

I often sit at the wheel brainstorming new ideas with myself and considering my next plans on various other personal and work related projects.  I was looking for a way of better utlising this “dead” time and came across a website and associated applications to enable me to jot down my ideas without danger to myself or other road users!

An acquaintance mention the website and apps available from Evernote. Available in 2 flavours, Free and Premium, Evernote allows you to capture and store a myriad of media types including:

  • Text Notes
  • Audio Clips
  • Web Page Clips
  • Screenshots
  • Photos

Evernote will create searchable and taggable notes that you can let Evernote organise or you can take control over how and where your content is stored.

Ever been out shopping and spotted a bargain that you wanted to investigate when you get home?  Snap a picture with your phone camera, upload it to Evernote and look at it when you get back to your computer.  Had a car accident, grab as much information, including photos at the scene and uplaod it to Evernote whilst the facts are fresh in your mind.  Bought an expensive item and are rubbish at filing receipts?  Take a photograph and upload it to Evernote to your “Receipts” notebook, simple!  For more uses check out the examples under Infinitely Useful

By using the Blackberry Evernote App I can now record voice memos of ideas and thoughts as I’m driving to and from the office.  Then when I get 5 minutes at the computer I can listen back, tag accordingly and action as necessary! Starting and stopping a recording is no different to change the radio frequency in your car, hit a button to start recording and button to stop recording!

Comparison of account features:

Free Premium
Access to all versions of Evernote Yes Yes
Synchronization across platforms Yes Yes
Text recognition inside images Yes Yes
Note allowance Unlimited, upload 40MB/mo Unlimited, upload 500MB/mo
File synchronization Limited: images, audio, ink, PDF Any file type
Search within PDFs No Yes
Access to note history No Yes
Offline notebooks (iPhone/iPad/iPod) No Yes
Notebook sharing via Evernote Web Read only Allow read and edit
Max single note size 25MB 50MB
Support Standard Premium support
Security features Standard SSL encryption
Priority image recognition No Yes
Hide promotions No Yes
Cost Free $5/month or $45/year

Here is their promotional video:

So readers, have you used Evernote, how do you rate it? Want to recommend alternatives? Use the comments below to give me your feedback!

Simnel Cake Tin

New theme and the second chapter!

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I’ve re-skinned the blog as I was receiving reports of people getting headaches! (Not Good!)

Anyway to follow on from my first post I thought I’d give you all a bit of background on the first sites that we created.

After some reading around about affiliate marketing and what works we looked for niches that we could exploit and dominate!  Lisa (my wife) is a fully qualified chef and so went off looking for an idea in the catering / cooking sector whilst I went off to pursue an idea in automotive car parts!  The key thing for this exercise was products costing less than £50 with good search volumes.  We used the Google keyword tool (GKT) to each identify a two word product combination and then began investigating domain names.

Simnel Cake TinFirst up was Lisa’s keywords “cake tins”.  At the time the GKT identified that 66,000 searches where conducted each month on the exact term “Cake Tins” in the UK.  As we where aiming our site at a UK audience we wanted a UK domain extension as these have been observed to perform better in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)  With the .co.uk already registered but undeveloped we decided to plum for the .org.uk extension.  We’d researched the competition and thought that with our .org.uk extension we could still out rank.  Our cake tins site was therefore born and we began to get things together.

This time we went for a free wordpress theme although this has now been switched to a theme we created ourselves.  Lisa began writing the content for the site whilst I got the domain and hosting hooked up.  We had an idea how we wanted the site to be structured and so we set about getting some graphics created and started with free version of Easy Content Units to get products onto our sites.  We concentrated on adding good unique and useful content to the site so Google would be a big fan of our site and see that we were a fresh site with a regular update of content.  With a good deal of work and perseverance we should be ranked at position #1 on Google.co.uk for the 2 word phrase cake tins, a great result for our first effort!  Our cake tin website really opened our eyes to the Amazon Associates programme and although it has some irritations like 24 hour cookies and reporting that is only updated once a day, we probably send the most of our traffic to Amazon from all of our sites!

Not to be out done by Lisa I came up with “windscreen wipers“.  Search volumes weren’t as high for me but the item costs could reach £75 for a pair of wipers.  Again the .co.uk was being sat on by another retailer who wasn’t using it other than to push it to their other website.  I decided I could take on the might of the main wiper companies and Halfords and got cracking.  Due to me having a day job I sub contracted my writing out and within a couple of days had my site content done.  I had come across a few windscreen wiper merchants and so once signed up- I looked at their ranges, prices and affiliate friendly tools.  The winner hands down was Autobulbs Direct who also offered the longest cookie length and a great commission percentage!  Autobulbs had a rather nifty web application that allows you to put your car details in and it returns the wipers that fit your particular make and model of car.  I contacted the affiliate network to ask whether I could get access to the php so that I could embed it directly into my site.  Unfortunately as a brand new affiliate making such requests lead to the expected no!  Remember in life if you don’t ask, you won’t get!  Although I got a no I looked at ways to incorporate the functionality into my website and with a bit of javascript coding I had the search tool working in a similar way to the Autobulbs original and I was ready take on the world!  You’ll never forget your first affiliate sale and when I saw my affiliate account credited with £2.38 I was over the moon!  I’ve been working with Autobulbs Direct for over a year now and recently negotiated a unique discount code for visitors that I refer.

I held the #1 spot again in Google after a good deal of hard work but in recent months I have slipped down to position 2.  I shall be making a push on the run up to Christmas to leap back to pole position and reclaim what I feel is rightfully mine!  Winter is a particularly busy time for this website as the bad weather causes a lot more requirement for new windscreen wiper blades!

The Big Bang

Where did it all begin?

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So Jon, where did it all begin?

If only I’d had a pound for the number of times someones asked me that, I’d probably have about £2 by now!  In a previous work role I worked with an exceptionally talented marketing guru called Lee who was fresh out of marketing college and chomping at the bit for success.  Lee’s drive and determination led him to setting up his own company providing marketing services.  Lee also started a successful discount portal called www.discountedorfree.com which opened my eyes to the online world of affiliate marketing(AM)!

Although our professional lives moved in directions we still stayed in contact and following one of our usual e-mail conversations Lee offered me the chance to borrow one of his domain names so that I could give AM a try!  Lee picked a domain that he thought should do well and so I took the first step into AM with Edinburgh Airport Parking

I had read about wordpress being a superb SEO friendly CMS platform so found a web developer to create me a unique wordpress theme.  I had looked at the myriad of free wordpress templates but nothing really ticked the clean look I was after.  The initial template cost a reasonable £40 and for having a unique looking site I hoped it would make the site stand out.  From my time creating The-Pier I already had a content writer whose rates and service I was happy with.  I commissioned some articles on topics that I saw as being relevant to this particular subject and sat back and waited for people to complete their necessary tasks!

With the content and theme completed the next thing was to find some web hosting that I could put the site on.  I was already using tsohost for my existing sites so merely upgraded to their clustered hosting platform.  This would give me more resources than I needed at an incredibly reasonable £9.99 per month!

I uploaded the wordpress installation, created the MySQL database, installed the theme and published the content…we were now cooking with gas!  The site looked a little plain so I splashed out on some suitable stock images from iStockphoto and we were up and live.  I joined some affiliate networks to find which merchants were available and settled on was now ready to earn my online fortune.  The idea of earning hundreds of pounds while I slept or was out with friends sounded like a dream lifestyle!

Despite my hopes and dreams I found the subject of Edinburgh Airport Parking to be less than inspiring!  My apetite had been whet and now it was time to explore niche markets that I had an interest in!  I had worked the site up to the second page of Google but with earnings of a few pounds I knew that this site wasn’t for me and so Lee and I did a deal and the site switched back under his control and today is sitting up on the first page of Google!

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