More Backlinks (for FREEEEEE!)

As I mentioned in my Experiment: Free Traffic System with Adsense post, I'm starting to see the power of making money using just Google Adsense.  I mean, I'm getting busier and busier these days with my "real job" so I'm having less and less time to create new sites.  With that in mind, it's really nice to be able to make a site in 10 minutes that will make me $30-50/month with almost no effort whatsoever.  As I mentioned in the previous article, it definitely helps to have some backlinks to get that traffic flowing.   Free Traffic System definitely works great for this, especially when you have a good article spinner (like The Best Spinner).  But, sometimes I only have 5 minutes.  That's not enough to write and spin an article.  But, it is enough time to create social bookmarks for your sites.  And, if you use Social Monkee, your bookmarks get uploaded on at least 25 sites (on unique IPs in different class C networks).  This is pretty dang huge!  And, it's FREE!  Head over to the Social Monkee website and see what I'm talking about.  Long story short, you can submit one site each day and it goes to at least 25 different sites.  If you pay for a membership then you get 3 sites per day and they go to at least 100 sites!  Man, that beats the heck out of building backlinks the traditional way.

The Thin Affiliate Site Experiment using Micro Niche Finder

Well, I haven't posted in quite some time and, for that, I apologize.  I forget how busy the summer can get.  Whew.  Anyway, this grand affiliate marketing journey is going well for me.  The eBay Partner Network is definitely my big bread winner, Amazon is next (although, it's about 1/10 of the profits of EPN for me and Comission Junction is pretty much neck and neck with Adsense.'

I had a bit of a scare in June when all when of my sites took a nose dive.  I just wasn't getting search impressions or unique visits anymore.  I'm starting to think it was related to a lag in my twitter activity, but I got worried that my sites had been negatively profiled by Google (which is still possible).  It was a bummer because while many of these sites could technically be considered "thin" sites, they took me hours of work.

So, thus begins my experiment.  I've been reading about Micro Niche Finder and I like what I heart.  Also, many other Internet Marketers have told me how well it works for them.  So, my plan is to crank out 10 (count 'em, 10) thin EPN sites next week utilizing Micro Niche Finder and I'll report the results back to you.  I have a new method where I could conceivably created an EPN site (using the magic of phpBay Pro) from start to finish in less than an hour, so we'll see how that works.  I know I'm coming to this party a little late, but I think there is still money to be made.

If you don't know much about Micro Niche Finder, then check out these 5 videos that show you 5 different ways to make money from Micro Niche Finder.  You'll be chomping at the bit to buy it.

Ok.  Well, I better get to work.  These sites aren't going to write themselves..... yet.

Step Three: You need Twitter (really?!)

So, it's been awhile but I'm back to documenting my process for creating new affiliate marketing sites.  This step might be optional if you are starting a Niche Store, but it's definitely necessary for community forum sites and blog sites.  Heck, I think it's necessary for any site if you want to get visitors right now.  I'll be honest with you here, I never really got twitter.  I mean, sure I had a Facebook account but that's about as far as I went with the whole social networking thing.  Twitter just seemed like Facebook, only with just the status updates and nothing else and that didn't make sense to me.  I figured it was something that teenagers were into.

Well, the truth is that twitter is an invaluable marketing tool for a few reasons.

  1. Google seems to really "love" Twitter.  So, if people are tweeting @you it's probable that Google could index Twitter and see these @you links pointing back to your twitter profile and then back to the site you are promoting.  So, having an active twitter following can really help with your search engine optimization.
  2. Heck, if you have a few thousand twitter followers then you'll get tons of traffic just from Twitter referrals.  This is nice if you've just launched your site and you are impatient.  That is to say, you don't want to wait around for 2 months for your organic traffic to start showing up.  Just build your twitter following and get folks visiting your site from the get-go.

There are three Twitter software tools that I can't live without.

  1. Bird Feeder - Bird Feeder is a miracle.  It makes it incredibly easy to build your Twitter following very rapidly.  Effectively, each day you can un-follow Twitter account who aren't following you back, then make sure you follow everyone who newly started following you and then you can follow new users (based on things like keywords searches, hashtags, who they are following, etc).  So, if your money site is all about doorknobs then you can follow users who use the word "doorknob" and then the word "vintage" or the word "antique" and not the word "sandwich".  Or, if you find another twitter user with 20,000 doorknob-loving followers then you can just follow his followers each day.   I'm only a few months into Affiliate Marketing but I already have a dozen twitter accounts each with 2000-3000+ followers.  I couldn't have done it without Bird Feeder.
  2. Twitter Tools Plugin for WordPress - Twitter Tools is a great free plugin for WordPress.  Basically, you can configure it to auto-tweet every time you post a new page or post in WordPress.  Conversely you could also have it convert your tweets into blog posts, but I don't really see the point in that.  Also, you can use the Twitter Tools sidebar showcase the last # of your tweets.  I dig that because I fee like if I tweet @someone or retweet them then I've also effectively posted a link to their twitter page (and hopefully their site) on my page.  So, it's a good way to help other folks out.
  3. TweetMeme Button for WordPress -  TweetMeme is that little green button in the upper right of this page.  It shows how many times your URL has been tweeted and it also makes it very easy for users to retweet your page, if they like it.

So, those are the Twitter software tools that I can't live without and why I think Twitter is an invaluable marketing tool.  In my next Affiliate Journal post, I'll talk about other WordPress modules that I can't live without.

Picking a niche for your niche store.

So, I've made a handful of niche stores so far.  At first I was using a free WordPress plugin but I got tired of not being able to search by category, minimum price and so on.  So, I finally bit the bullet and bought Phpbay Pro.  It was $79 and that's a chunk of change, but you can use it on unlimited domains and it's free upgrades for life.  Besides, my time is valuable to me.  So, if I can make more niche stores in less time then it's completely worth the $79.

NOTE: If you do buy Phpbay Pro (or you already have it) something that isn't really in the manual is that you can have multiple keywords by using the "|" pipe character.  So, if you put in "doorknob handles hardware" in for a keyword in Phpbay Pro, you are actually looking for that exact phrase.  That might not be what you want.  You are probably wanting this instead "doorknob|handles|hardware".

Anyway, on my previous niche stores, I picked things that I was already into.  But, these things aren't necessarily good subjects for niche stores.  That is to say, I wasn't doing any research, I was just picking out of a hat, effectively.  What you really need is a way to see what people are looking for on eBay.  Now, there is eBay Pulse,which is pretty cool, but it seems like you can only see hot searches one category deep (unless I'm just missing it somehow).  Also, I don't know how far back the data goes on eBay Pulse.

So, after a little bit of digging around, I found TeraPeak.  They have over two years of eBay research data and you can use it for all sorts of purposes.  That is to say, if you are an eBay seller (as well as an affiliate marketer) then you use their data to know when to sell on eBay. I recently searched 90 days worth of auctions to find the best time of day and the best day of the week to sell some of my old HP DL320 servers.  You can find the best time/date for sell-through percentage or highest price, or try and find a balance of the two.  It's great for this!

But, I think for something like $5 you get access to all the search data as well.  So, now you can look for hot categories, hot searches, hot products, etc.  And you can drill down by category.  So, yesterday I used it to search something like 5-6 categories deep to find the searches that people are most often typing in a particular category.  Then I can create pages using Phpbay Pro where I use those popular search keywords to display auctions related to those searches.  The users dig it because now they can find what they are most likely to be searching for with just a single click.

Still not convinced?  Believe me, I get.  It seems like there is so much software to buy out there.  But, in my opinion, TeraPeak and Phpbay Pro are worth it.  Your niche stores are going to be quicker and easier to build and your niches should be more lucrative if you do the research up front.  But, if you want to see it in action, check out the Terapeak eBay Demo Videos.

Find hot products to sell on eBay

Google Adsense Filtering

Don't be alarmed.  You didn't miss Step 3 in my process to turn up new affiliate sites.  This is just a little side-trip on our journey.  You see, one of my sites relies on user-submitted content and I'm trying to monetize the site using Google Adsense (pretty much exclusively, although some direct ads might be nice as well).  Anyway, because of the way I was displaying the content and the fact that much of the user-submitted text is pretty brief, the adsense ads being displayed weren't really on target for what the site's readers would be into.  Hank, over at, mentioned that he thought there were some filtering options at Adsense, so I stumbled over there to make sense out of it.

Turns out... it's pretty neat!  There appear to be two basic kinds of filtering: Competitive Ad Filtering and Category Filtering.

You can get to Competitive Ad Filtering by going to "Adsense Setup"->"Competitive Ad Filter" on the Adsense site.  From here you can filter your ads by the domain they are advertising.  So, if your vintage doorknob niche store has some adsense on there, you can block's ads from showing on your page.  This is interesting enough, but it's not really what I wanted.  So, I headed over to Category Filtering.

Category Filtering can be reached from "Adsense Setup"->"Ad Review Center".  Here you can filter your ads by category, which is neat.  But, what's cooler is that you can see what percentage each category makes up of your earnings.  It looks like it's more of a snapshot than anything, but it's still interesting.  Especially because one of the things I was going to filter, weight loss ads, turns out to do pretty decent.   For me it was like 4% of my recent impressions but 6% of my earnings.  The other biggies seemed to be "Sexually Suggestive", "Politics" and "Video Games".  Huh?  Politics?

I'm not sure I would filter based on earnings percentage, though, just because these numbers seem pretty dynamic.  But, if Dating is at 5% impressions and 0% earnings over the next few days, I might consider it.  The other bummer is that I don't think you can filter per channel, it looks to be per Adsense account, which is a pretty broad brush to paint with.

The last thing I noticed on this page was "Allow and Block Google Certified Ad Networks".  Hmm... I'm certainly not an expert, but I had never heard of this before.  Apparently by allowing this you can accept non-Adsense ads to be delivered via Adsense.  At least, I think that's what I'm reading.  It certainly seems like a good idea to me so I'll enable that today and let you know how it pans out.

So, back to my story.  Last night (when I first discovered all of this), I wasn't sure which category I should filter to get rid of my "Quit Smoking" ads, so I decided to sleep on it.  But, what's interesting is that yesterday I also completely changed the format of the site in question.  Now, on the main page, I'm displaying 9 user-submitted pictures and excerpts of text (instead of just the latest one) and my targetting problems are solved.  Turns out that this is just enough text to get me the types of ads that my readers are more likely to click.  So, while my Adsense Filtering adventure was fun, it appears that I don't need to do any filtering after all.  Once again, it all comes down to content!

Okey dokey, that does it for my rambling thoughts on Google Adsense Filtering.  Let me know if you have any other good tips or tricks or further clarification.

EDIT: So, I was reading the Google Certified Ad Networks section wrong.  The default is "0 Google certified ad networks always blocked"  So, you get all those ads anyway.  You can opt-out, if you want, but I'm not sure why you would want to.  I also don't know what it was so hard for me to read this correctly the first time.

Step Two: Where to host your new site?

So, last week, in my post, "Step One: You need a domain, right?", I talked about how to minimize your spending when getting your hands on some choice domains.  That's all well and good, but now that you've got these domains, you need somewhere to host these sites, right?

My background is 15+ years in Cisco and Linux consulting so I already had quite a few servers on hand that I could have used to host my new affiliate marketing sites.  However, I chose not to host it on my existing servers.  Why?  Good question!

My existing servers are dedicated physical boxes on which I have root access.  They are very locked down and secure and I audit any and all code that I run on these servers.  I use them for hosting client's websites and typically these are websites that my company (through my brilliant development guy) has created for them.  I wouldn't say that I make any money on the actual hosting, but I definitely break even.  But, it's more important to me that I control the development environment and that I provide them reliable hosting of their site.  Let's say that we developed a site for them and they chose to host that with Joe Schmo's hosting.  Well, if they have a negative hosting experience, they are likely to attribute that (unfairly, maybe) to my company.  I don't want that to happen.

So, since these servers are so locked down and reliable, I want to be really careful about what software I run on them.  And, let's face it, if you are turning up a handful of affiliate sites a month, you aren't as focused on security as you are on QUICK.  You need to turn up sites now.  Now, while there are lots of great content management systems for this (Drupal, WordPress, etc).  I wouldn't exactly give them an A+ when it comes to security.

What would happen if your Vintage Doorknob niche store (running on an outdated WordPress, because you are too dang busy) get's hacked and now your paying web clients are also compromised.  You can't have this happening.  You don't want to risk this steady hosting income because you got sloppy.

But, you NEED WordPress, Joomla or Drupal!  Heh.  That's where Host Gator comes in!  For a meager $7.95/month (on their "Baby plan") you can have:

  • Unlimited Disk Space
  • Unlimited Bandwidth
  • Unlimited Domains

I challenge you to find more affordable hosting.  It doesn't exist.  (but, if you find, it lemme know).  What I love about Host Gator is how quickly I can setup new WordPress sites using Fantastico De Luxe.  It's pretty much the software equivalent of those tiny elves that fix shoes.  Only, they are making WordPress sites for you... not shoes.  C'mon.  Keep up here.

Once you sign up with Host Gator it wouldn't be a bad idea to create some sort of backup/restore plan.  Just because of the cost of the service, I wouldn't be surprised if some of their other clients are less than reputable.  So, you have to be prepared if someone from the Russian Business Network seizes the entire shared server or something else terrible happens.

I use Automysqlbackup to backup all my MySQL databases onto an off-site server and I use BackupPC to backup all of my public_html directory from Host Gator.   This way, if the unforeseen happens, I can quickly get my sites up and running again on another server.

Now, I don't want to scare you.  I just want you to be prepared.  You need to minimize your overhead and $7.95/month hosting for ALL of your affiliate sites is a no-brainer!  Hosting them anywhere else just doesn't make sense.  Order your Host Gator hosting today!

Step One: You need a domain, right?

Let me begin by saying that I'm not an expert affiliate marketer, I'm just starting out, but I wanted to share what I'd learned so far with the hopes that a) some experts might chime in and hit me with the clue stick and b) I could help someone else who is just starting out like me.

So, I've written up a little checklist for myself to follow, every time I add a new website.  And I'm going to work through that over the coming weeks.

The first step is "Think of a domain name, dummy".  One thing that I often do if I'm drawing a blank is use the Google Adwords Keywords Tool.  For this example, let's assume that I want to make a niche store for doorknobs.  So, I might type in "doorknobs" or "buy doorknobs" and leave "use synonyms" checked.  Then I sort the results by "Local Search Volume".   For the "doorknobs" keyword, there were something like 300,000 searches in September alone.  You are never going to be able to crack that one.  But, hay, look at "antique door knobs", there are 14,800 searches in September for that keyword.  That seems like something we might be able to work with.  So, then I try to incorporate those keywords into my domain name.

Once you have the domain name you want, you need a domain registrar.  I used to use Dotster for this and I have no problems with them at all.  They've been very easy to work with, but I needed to find the cheapest registrar out there if I was going to be registering dozens of domain names.    That lead me to the World's Largest Registrar -

Go ahead, search to see if your domain is available:

Find a domain name now!

.com .us .biz
.info .net .org
.ws .mobi .me
.in .at

If the domain you wanted was taken, you always have the option to Backorder Domains but that hasn't ever really worked out for me. I'd just look for another good domain name and keep moving forward. You don't have time to wait and you should be trying to spend as little as possible.

Speaking of spending as little as possible.  If you think you are going to get pretty gung-ho on affiliate marketing, then you should consider using Go Daddy Bulk Domain Registration or the Discount Domain Club both of them can save you money if you are doing a handful of domains.  I think the Discount Domain club costs about $81-89/year (depending on your commitment) but the domains are deeply discounted.  I did some quick looking at it looks like it would take something like 23 .com domains to see the break-even point.  So, keep that in mind.

Ok.  So, now you have your domain name.  In Step Two, we'll talk about your hosting options.

Go Daddy $7.49 .com domains

Affiliate Marketing – The journey begins

The journey begins, alright.  Just hopefully not into the "dark side".

Howdy all, I am a 15-year sysadmin with a strong focus in Cisco and Linux.  I recently decided to get my feet wet with affiliate marketing and this blog is going to document my journey.  I imagine being beset by many dangers and hidden evils as I try not to lose my soul.  Maybe documenting this process will help me to hang to my morals as well.