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|Viable Online Income Streams|
Which are the best income producers online? Which are scams?
In a recent post Rcjordan likened affiliate marketing to a crack cocaine addiction. Which I believe raises some very pertinent questions. Though they might not want to admit it, most webmasters are comitted to turning a profit through their efforts. Some are very good at it (so good at it that they can afford to fly all over the world to attend all sorts of conferences i.e. PubConference, BarConference, and coming soon SakiConference :)). Some are desperately barking up the wrong tree, hoping to one day cash in on the trillion or so dollars floating around in cyber space. IMO it is not just a question of traffic and site design, but of sound business methods. That being said:
What do you consider some of the most viable avenues for generating an income on the internet i.e. affiliate marketing, selling your own products, retail, selling a service etc.?
Which avenues do you consider just wasted time and money?
Different things work for different people, so what aspects of the big picture do you think determine success or failure?
I know that many of you are making a living off of your online efforts and that makes me very happy, but though we talk about SEO and site design (aren't they the same thing :) ?) We very rarely discuss how to turn those hard won visitors into a paycheck.
Rcjordan was right. The idea of making money online is very alluring if not addictive and where there is an addiction there are abusers. Today, if you search the net for any information regarding an online income you are bludgeoned by marketers who want to sell you their system that teaches you how to sell a system that teaches other people how to make money online. It's a vicious cycle and it's easy for people to get lost in it.
This is a highly respected forum and I'm sure the readers would appreciate a candid conversation about what really works.
Amazon Affiliates = Book worms on crack?
Problem being, like link farms on Google, once EVERYONE know what works, it tends to stop working. ;)
Do you want to put all your effort into marketing someone else's stuff (affilate sites), knowing the SE's may look at you funny, the directories will probably snub you, and both may boot you off the SERPS for duplicate content or too many hyphens in your domain name, or whatever, at any moment, and if it's a well-known program, there could be hundreds or thousands of sites competing with yours to sell the EXACT same product (often using the exact same sales copy off the exact same parent company site)? You have to be very confident of your promotion skills.
Or are you willing to put in the time to really develop and manage your own retail business, which takes a more diverse skill set than site development and promotion, carries greater financial risk in most cases, but has the potential higher returns IF it works out well, and tends to produce a more "above board" site development mentality (it's MY business, I don't want to risk getting MY company name domain banned from the SEs)? Do you devlop your own products, or do you retail products from wholesale suppliers? Do you warehouse your inventory, or arrange drop shipping? Etc., etc. You have to be confident of your organizational skills and perserverence.
Either avenue can work, depending on your talents, skills and interests... nobody can say which will work best for YOU, except you. Heck, I've even heard rumors there are wmw members who still make money off selling ADVERTISING on their sites...
>>Today, if you search the net for any information regarding an online income you are bludgeoned by marketers who want to sell you their system that teaches you how to sell a system that teaches other people how to make money online.
In that statement, lies the answer to your question. No one starts selling the secret until the secret no longer works. 900 numbers, buying real estate with no money down, and government auctions are all examples of things that did make alot of money for a few people. Once the well begins to run dry, they start telling everyone willing to cough up a little cash all about their secret.
The fact that there isn't a lot of discussion here about the specific tactics being used to make money on the web is actually a very positive thing. It just means that there are still quite a few good secrets left.
The minute I start reading about them here, I'll know that it's time to run..:)
how to sell a system that teaches other people how to make money online
Can I interest you in a set of five email income generating reports for only $25?
"Or are you willing to put in the time to really develop and manage your own retail business, which takes a more diverse skill set than site development and promotion, carries greater financial risk in most cases, but has the potential higher returns IF it works out well, and tends to produce a more "above board" site development mentality"
Judging by your post it would seem that you would recommend developing a retail site over generating income through affiliate links, am I right?
"Do you want to put all your effort into marketing someone else's stuff (affilate sites), knowing the SE's may look at you funny, the directories will probably snub you, and both may boot you off the SERPS for duplicate content "
I see that this is a danger in affiliate marketing but is it still a danger if you provide quality original content and provide related affiliate links? For instance if you had a website about surfing on the east coast USA with a message forum, tidal information, good surf spot listings, etc. and then affiliated w/ companies that sell surf wax, surf boards, wetsuits and shark repellant, would you still be snubbed by directories and SE's?
"The fact that there isn't a lot of discussion here about the specific tactics being used to make money on the web is actually a very positive thing. It just means that there are still quite a few good secrets left. The minute I start reading about them here, I'll know that it's time to run.."
Unfortunately I just can't buy that... So much energy is spent here trying to ascertain what methods will help you rank well with Google. Though their are some "SECRETS" that I'm sure no one wants to share. Things like Brett's theme pyramid post, and his ABC's of SEO post are all above board practices that I don't see as in danger of fading away if too many people know about them. There must be business methods and marketing avenues that fall in this same light. It is still possible to open up a restaurant in the offline world and turn a profit though if you don't know the proper way of opening and running a restaurant you are doomed to failure.
There is still room for more online restaurants,
You've heard the old saying "It takes money to make money." Well does the relatively new saying "It takes less money to make money online." still float? I think the big infatuation with "I'll teach you how to make money online" products has something to do with the idea of "I might actually be able to start my own business even on my meager salary." syndrome.
Judging by your post it would seem that you would recommend...
Hehe... Judging from my post, you might gather that I've spent too much time over-analyzing the situation to work up the nerve to get off my rear and do either. Alas, I am still an employee...
It takes less money to make money online.
Yes. Where else can you 'lease' a retail storefront for $10-50 a month, and have it visible world wide? IF you do your research, and are qualified or able to do your own site design and promotion, I firmly believe you can launch an online store for less than $1000 (excluding any myriad local business licensing fees that might apply).
The orginal quote was muttered at last year's PubConference "Affiliate Marketing: the crack cocaine of the internet" as something of an inside joke. In the other thread I added the copyright as a spoof of sorts because that line definitely made the buzz circuit at BarConference... people were even calling across the room asking What was that line about affiliate programs being like crack? Anyone into affiliate marketing immediately nodded affirmation when they heard it.
Some of us got hooked in stages, we're running our sites, a merchant emails us, and his little button seems to fit our visitors' interests... Others of us decide we'll just do a little -maybe on our favorite hobby topic- you know, sort of a social thing... and, oh, it'd be nice if it'd earn some pocket change. Others were caught in the dotcom crash and started just to use what they knew to help pay the rent. But make no mistake, the addiction is real and it goes beyond just making money. More than that, you are wildly, insanely free of encumberment. No clients, no telephone, no payroll... just you and the keyboard. You live and die by your know-how, and your know-how has to cover just about every facet of the topics covered here, from SEO, to PPC & PFP, to design & layout.
BUT, once you're making money (and the "how" might change 3 times in a month) you're not overly keen on mapping it out in great detail. That's what you do over at a corner table at the conferences or trade with a buddy who's helped you out on something else.
Don't worry too much greektomi, there are a lot of affiliate marketers around here.
There was a big bust for folks on the web who carried their own product so I certainly understand the desire to promote someone else's product. Much like everything else these days, it really becomes a matter of finding relevant content to promote whether the product belongs to you or someone else. Plus, directories such as Yahoo and ODP do not smile on affiliate sites so it takes some creativity to get around that.
I think that works :)
"But make no mistake, the addiction is real and it goes beyond just making money. More than that, you are wildly, insanely free of encumberment. No clients, no telephone, no payroll... just you and the keyboard. You live and die by your know-how..."
That certainly is a funny analogy... And I can almost taste the beer and smell the cigarette smoke as you all bantered across the bar into the night... You're elaboration has helped me to understand what you meant.
At first I thought you were ridiculing affiliate programs and it's good to know now that you're actually fond of them. I myself have found them alluring for all the reasons you have just mentioned. And I may have joined a couple of affiliate programs recently :) .
"BUT, once you're making money (and the "how" might change 3 times in a month) you're not overly keen on mapping it out in great detail. That's what you do over at a corner table at the conferences or trade with a buddy who's helped you out on something else. "
I think it would be a good idea to restate my intention in beginning this thread. I was not asking for specific tactics and campaigns but a more general "What avenues are you taking to generate an income and is it working?" It would appear that affiliate marketing is working out for you and some other comrades at the barconference that's good news. Mivox has touched on the possible benefits of retail, though like me she hasn't quit her day job :) . Hopefully someone will chime in with their two cents about info product creation and how that has worked out. And we all know that some people at webmasterworld make a living offering a service such as SEO.
If we could offer up some more experiences regarding income streams that people have been successful with we could give each other valuable insight into what streams might be worthwhile looking into and which might not. I think we could do this without relinquishing valuable trade secrets just as we can when we discuss SEO.
We have ways of making you talk,
"Much like everything else these days, it really becomes a matter of finding relevant content to promote whether the product belongs to you or someone else."
Though on the other hand people have been successful promoting affiliate products as well as their own using minisites. But I agree that in order for your venture to thrive it is important to build quality and community through content. Once you have a loyal community you can better assure longevity. IMO pursuing the mini site angle could lead to a chaotic lifestyle where you are constantly jumping from revenue stream to revenue stream as each dies out. Not that you can ever stop jumping in the online business world.
Rue the day when Brett starts decorating with affiliate links :) ,
Greektomi, look through the SERPs in product categories you have an interest in or knowledge of. I've seen certain niches where good sites with the revenue that's affiliate based are doing just fine. In one case, there's a rather homely site that is doing exceptionally well, even better than a similar site that's magnificently designed but is not affiliate based. It is much better promoted, and does not even pay for any traffic. Maybe SEO, though it's not blatantly evident, but no paying for clicks. I've seen several like that in certain niches.
Hunt down and start out with a little something to test your wings.
With a great deal of focus, experimentation and, as Squire rcjordan says, you are willing to "live and die by your know-how, and your know-how has to cover just about every facet of the topics covered here, from SEO, to PPC & PFP, to design & layout", one can actually make a living as an affiliate.
There were several attending the Bar Conference who admitted to such. No one should assume that its easy by any stretch of the imagination. My experience is that operating as an affiliate requires an exceptional level of agility. It's not for the feint of heart. I didn't really get "hooked" until the checks began to look like real money.
I'm one of those people that strongly believes that his business can be extremely successful in selling advertising.
In my opinion, business is very simple when you get down to the nuts and bolts of things. The key to developing a sound business plan begins with having a strong competitive advantage that is hard to duplicate. If you have a valuable competitive advantage, then you should be able to make money from it. If your competitors can easily erase your competitive advantage, then you better think of a new competitive advantage, or else you are selling the same darn think and it becomes a price war.
Having a competitive advantage is key for me. Once you have determined that, develop a sound business plan whereby your revenues will exceed your expenses. It sounds so simple, but execution is key.
In 12 months I'll let you know if I'm eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner or not.
Its often occurred to me that operating as an affiliate is hardly different from being a commissioned sales person (I only do CPA). It requires some marketing know how coupled with all the various web design and SEO skills.
In the bricks and mortar world, the commissioned sales person carries no inventory, has no payroll more often than not, and can sometimes earn while sleeping. The biggest difference is that no sales calls (phone or otherwise) are required of affiliates. I've been considering drop shipping, but that raises a lot of customer service issues, credit card processing, etc., although it could well be more lucrative in the right niches.
Intersesting thread considering the timing. One year ago today, after being completely burnt out, and starting to forget what my family looked like, I sold a small chain of retail stores to strike out on the web. I was fully prepared to take a cut in income to work from home. I do straight retail on-line, stocking most of my own product with a touch of drop shipping mixed in.
A couple things that were key for me?
1) If you don't have great SEO skills (I knew nothing about SEO when I started), align yourself with someone that does......and read WMW.
2) Top notch high end site design can't be overlooked. Even though I'm a guy in the basement, I sure don't look like one.
3) I learned how to close people over the phone. I have a toll free # ring right into the house, and have learned through trial and error how to put people at ease, and close them on big ticket items on the phone. The site is just a means to an end. Just because the medium is different, lets face it, it's just sales right? Actually, once you achieve decent ranking in the serp's it all comes down to basic retail business concepts. Keep margins fat, overhead low, and always be closing.
12 months to the day, and I am now starting to exceed the income that I was earning with my stores. Another huge factor is that I am lucky that I sell a niche product that has a strong enough demand that people will search for it over the web, yet if you don't live in a major center, you may have a hard time finding it in a brick and mortar store.
There's also the concept of multiple revenue streams. A little here and a little there all adds up. It doesn't have to be things that are very competitive, and there can be a seasonal aspect to it to some degree.
The thing with designing and doing SEO for other people's sites is that once they're established the site owners have regular income from them, but yours stops. If they're not in very competitive areas the rankings will stick if the site is done right to begin with, and only occasionally will need any modifications, if at all.
One has under 3,000 pages returned at Google and 115 searches shown at Overture, and the site owner makes a living from it. Never any traffic and not one order ever prior to redesign and optimization, but the income has been steady for a few years, since the day the search engine and Yahoo listings first appeared. It is not an affiliate site and emphasizes custom volume orders within a certain niche, but the numbers certainly wouldn't give an indication. The success is 100% based on those original search engine rankings which have never been lost. That won't happen all the time, and some things that look much better numerically actually don't end up generating revenue - only time can tell on certain things.
Certain things learned by doing SEO work for a while can be a big help. Whenever an inquiry comes in, a few minutes keyword research is done along with looking at the person's site if they have one. Some things wouldn't benefit, which is hard to know how to tell people, and it's also necessary to know what the odds are before even deciding to give a quote. In a few minutes you can tell, with some, that there's tremendous potential for income with the particular product line if there's some search engine rankings and a redesign. Some people don't have or won't spend $ and might be looking for "free consulting" in reality, rather than being serious about proceeding. So it's either a lost opportunity for both, or the idea gained needs to be explored.
They may not be potentially high volume or high income, but if there are quality affiliate programs available for the particular product, someone could do equally well as with a directly sold product if the site is well done. It's certainly not much of an investment to give it a try.
Nothing wrong with affiliating, but I would suggest that you stay away from the big boys. If you advertise for amazon, they are getting more branding from you usually than sales. One of my most successful sites is 100% affiliate profit driven. It is designed like a regular website storefront, but the purchase links go to the affiliate's site. I started just advertising products from 1 company, but after about a year, I am getting contacted by other companies wanting private affiliate contracts and offering 2x the commission with better conversion as well. The money from that site pays rent with some left over for this lowly college boy. But multiple income streams is definitely the way to go if you ask me. I have two sites in mind waiting for a break from CS projects, one is 100% affiliate driven, the other is 100% my own niche product. Both should do very well. I go at new sites as an experiment. I am willing to lose a few hundred here and there on poor advertising choices, if and only if I'm set up to be able to track the results and get a good handle on how well they are working - an evolving learning process. Almost every aspect of online revenue generation still works. You just have to play with it and learn the game the hard way (loss).
I never did the affiliate thing much. Probably should have, but that isn't how I got involved in SEO. I started out as an ecommerce smalltimer. Then I got into cloaking. Then someone hired my services to promote on a cost-per-click basis for a good number of dot-com sites. I started doing some on my own too. I was mass producing several hundred of cloaked spam doorway pages a day and auto-submitting them to all the SEs. I owned several very competitive terms, sometimes I had 6 out of the top 10 and I would divide the traffic up to different clients. I had a bot stuffing DirectHit, and did a hole bunch of other sneaky things. Life was nice.
A good amount of the companies I were promoting are now dead, and frankly I am sick of the roller-coaster, I have a family to feed. What do I do now? Promote what I own. I still do a little consulting, a little spamming (once you taste it, it is hard to get it out of your blood)-- but my future is about ownership.
Then I got into cloaking...I had a bot stuffing DirectHit, and did a hole bunch of other sneaky things. Life was nice..Then BOOM
It's funny just yesterday I saw someone trying to sell cloaking software that would help you spam SE's bending them to your will...
The sneaky stuff just isn't good for you revenue streams longevity. It will make you money for a while but then when you least expect it BOOM! it's over. Again to refer to Brett's ABC's of SEO he shows you how to build large amounts of traffic but it takes a year and allot of work, but a site built from the ground up with this mentality has %100 better chances to succeed IMHO.
SEO always seemed like a scary field to be in, even though I have thought about hiring one before... SE's are such an unpredictable medium to have to deliver results from, especially results for other people.
It is better to have lived and made money online then to have never made money online at all,
>>What do you consider some of the most viable avenues for generating an income on the internet
My Amazon.com experience over three months:
What I gave them:
550 000 skyscraper like ads
850 unique (targeted) users clicking through to about 1000 targeted books.
What they gave me:
Total revenue earned = $0.00
I laugh now when I see sites with amazon affiliate links.
Heh, with those numbers, I would have dropped them after 2 weeks.
550 000 skyscraper like ads
850 unique (targeted) users clicking through to about 1000 targeted books.
What they gave me:
Total revenue earned = $0.00
Now that's what I call free branding... I wonder how many of those 850 visitors just went directly to amazon to buy their next book online.
Branding can help affiliates though. If they see a product's or company's ad enough times and actually wanted the product/service they will buy. It's just a matter of the customer reaching a crucial breaking threshold or perhaps they just got a new credit card ;) .
Studies are showing that branding is seriously impacting surfing behaviour. People are going directly to the sites they know either via bookmarks or memory and the trend is decreasing the percentage of sites found through the SE's (can't remember any of the places I've seen this info, maybe here).
>designed like a regular website storefront, but the purchase links go to the affiliate's site
Exactly ggrot, the legitimate ones that will stay out of trouble are regular web sites, and with some of the good ones you'd never know they were affiliate based without looking at the code or clicking a link. With some they actually do make mention, although with how nicely they're done it does not detract.
There are some out there that are done with some mighty dodgy looking practices, especially with the way they're interlinked, which is good enough reason to be original and not emulate what's found at search engines indiscriminately. Big_Brother may have his eye on them for "research" purposes, and they may just be there on borrowed time.
A related question is whether it's best to go with well focused mini-sites for individual products or product lines, or do bigger sites with multiple related products that fit into a general theme.
(edited by: Marcia at 7:54 am (utc) on Mar. 1, 2002)
One thing I have learned over the years is it is much easier and lucritive to work for yourself rather than your customers. After years of promoting my customers sites I finally realilzed that I could make more money, have fewer headaches, fewer deadlines, and more time on the golf course if I promote my own sites.
Can affiliates work? Yes and they can work very well. Will every affiliate program or affiliate based site work? No. There are probably many more that will fail than will succeed. As many people have mentioned so far, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Try to have different sites, different programs, and different revenue streams coming in. If you get a site built, get is positioned well on the search engines, and make nothing on it than smile, go have lunch, come back and try again. If you keep at it eventually you will find something that will work for you.
I have read this thread 4 times and it warms my heart to know that there are some very good folks out there. People making real money. People putting what they have learned into practice to make themselves income from a variety of sources. People who have taken charge of their lives and who by trial and error control their destiny.
I want to be with these folks and share ideas. I'm a niche person. One site per product / service guy but I read that others seem to do well with malls. I have tried and had no success with building communities that then make me any real money via text ads or banners.
It is also interesting to note that some real affiliate masterminds have kept quiet. In addition I'm so pleased that this thread has not digressed into a pathetic CJ whiners diatribe. There may be room for that in another thread - I don't know.
After 3 years, I have come to the conclusion that the programs that work best for me are the ones where I'm considered more of an agent than an affiliate. Those programs where I've met face to face with a member of management and have direct phone numbers of those in charge. I'm not just a number in a database.
So now it's time for me and a merry band of like-minded websters to begin approaching the brick and mortar retailers with a proposition. We will sell your STUFF for 10 to 15 percent commission. You do the fulfillment and customer service.
I am agreed with Mike_Mackin on this one. The world of business is still based on relationship. For me, the whole "faceless" affiliate ID bit has never been a part of the game plan.
It is easier to walk into Mr. widget manufacturers' office and cut a commission deal. Most brick and mortar folks already have a commissioned sales force, so the pitch is not that "far out".
I have a strong commissioned sales background, so it is a fairly easy proposal; "I sell it, you pay me commissions."
There really is nothing new under the sun.
I've done some affiliate work and have worked off the internet for almost two years now. From ebay to working on several websites, I've done well enough. I don't earn what my MCSE/network admin/blah blah blah work used to pay... but I don't have the headaches and stupid management issues either. I have control.
I do some with Amazon and although they don't do as well as one would hope, I do run about 5 buyers per 100 unique visitors. I guess that's better than I thought. I get it through "recommended" and "featured" books however. There is work involved in integrating the right titles in the right places. I don't think a generic banner or link would work for me.
My other affiliate work again relies on providing unique content and direction. I don't use any generic banners or links.
I agree. Generic banners and links do not work well. Targeted, product specific pages work best for me (Amazon included). I haven't tried the cybermall approach. My preference is to build a site around a topic in which I'm interested and am willing to research. That way I can offer the visitor value apart from an ecommerce agenda. I enjoy writing.
Once the topic (theme) is fleshed out, then its easier to construct content laden marketing pieces that have a good shot at ranking well. Finding good niches and merchants that convert well is the key.
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