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Posts Tagged ‘affiliate marketing’

After The Layoffs – The Dawn of Our Online Income

Friday, December 11th, 2009

So after the layoffs were completed at all of our toolboxes were the building and we had all gone home, we of course lost touch with over 95% of our fellow employees from that company. I had no idea what was going to happen and my wife and I began spending away our savings as my unemployment benefits were only $1400 a month, and $400 of that went to my ex-wife for child support. I only knew one thing, and that was I was never going back to working for another company again (a pretty scary thing to tell yourself be easy just never know when you need a job). But this was the pressure I put on myself.

I had been reading on the Internet about a new possible way of making money – online income. I had no idea how it all worked, and I did not even know about programs such as Adsense or Chitika etc., were you got paid just to have people visit your website’s and click on advertising once in a while. I only knew about affiliate marketing, and I was determined to spend as much time as possible working on his new dream. I went to all of the typical places online, such as forums, blogs (which I didn’t have a clue what they were), and websites the promised the freedom of an online income. I contacted some of the gurus in the business and was pumped up about the possibilities, and I began working 16 hour days researching, learning basic HTML coding, building my first rudimentary website which was about golfing. I wasn’t making a cent, but I wasn’t frustrated either because I was seeing and hearing about other affiliate marketers who are making a great living doing it. Literally when I started I didn’t know how to do much more than check my e-mail and browse the Internet. This was about the summer of 2003 I believe when this all started.

I was on unemployment benefits and decided to take a course on running your own business, and of course the students in my class had typical business models, and my model was the only one that wasn’t online venture. I knew that I only had one year in which to get things off the ground and prove to myself, and my wife, that this could be a reality for us.

By the end of the first six months I had managed to get enough traffic using PPC and organic search results to make about $25 a day. This took me having over 20 different domains and over 500 pages of content on the Internet. The 16 hour days were still going on eight months into my layoff – this is how determined I was to make a go of it. Thank God I don’t have to do those hours anymore.

I soon learned about all of the different SEO techniques that were out there – some of them white hat, gray hat, and black hat schemes. I learned about different ways of making money online, such as creating your own digital products (which is still a huge moneymaker for people who buckle down and learn that trade), having contextual advertising on your sites, and having affiliate links on your site, an e-mail marketing. I had to make a decision on which method of income I was going to go after, because competition is stiff and you have to make a choice when you’re first getting going. I chose to go with what I thought was the simplest way and that least hassle over the long run – contextual advertising. Don’t get me wrong, I delved into affiliate marketing with much frustration, which you can read about here, but it always led me back to the power of residual income that comes from contextual advertising.

One of the most important factors was the support of my wife because she believed in me and she believed in the possibilities of an online income model, yet I could tell I had ex-coworkers, friends, and family who secretly thought I was just dreaming – still, to this day some of these people think our businesses days are numbered and it’s really too good to be true. You’re regardless of any of the naysayers online or in my own life, I was determined to make this dream a reality.

Working at home on our computers.

Not my laptop........but my Adsense report.

During this time which was extremely exciting because I was seeing small success and slow growth over the months, I was telling anybody who would listen about this opportunity and how they could also work from home using nothing more than an Internet connection and a desktop computer or laptop computer, in which I am using right now to do this post.

Not to stray too much for the topic but I am not actually typing this, I am using Dragon Naturally Speaking software and talking into a headset. This entire post will take about 15 or 20 minutes of me dictating into this WordPress editing box. I encourage all serious writers and bloggers to consider the DNS software because it is deadly accurate now. And this entire post, and the post before which is going to add up to about 4000 words or so, I have only made five different directions – this is how accurate it is now.

Many of these people (friends, family, ex-coworkers, strangers, etc.) I tried to help and convince actually did try to get started and help them build their first blog using WordPress, or Blogspot. In almost every instance they just didn’t have the time, or the passion to really make a go of it. Perhaps they really didn’t like writing and they didn’t like working on computer as much of someone like myself. As the years have progressed, and I am now in the 60 year of this journey, many of these people are surprised at how much my wife and I take home and net income from the Internet alone. About four months of the year my wife and I make three times what our total income was from past two jobs when we were for other people. The other eight months we make double what we made from our total income when we worked “for the man”.

But, no matter how good he gets, or how scary it gets in the future (because we don’t assume it will always be this good), we intend to stick vigilantly to the plan and stick to the course going forward. Even if this means selling our house, our motorhome, stop traveling, stop spending money like water, and stop driving a fairly expensive car – we intend to work at home even if that home is a trailer. The freedom is that important to us, and the stress of self-employment and standing on my own is much less stress than working for company that manipulates you, lies to you, and lays you off whenever they feel like it. I know I still sound bitter, and perhaps I am a little bit bitter regarding the past experiences I have had being a worker bee, but I guess that’s my little mind game an issue that must be tackled over time.

In some ways I look back on the anger I had towards my employer and I feel bad about the distraction, the noise, and the drama I created in the workplace. Some of these coworkers I had actually enjoy their work and did expect their employer to provide them with cradle-to-grave security. They did showed up for work on time, did their job, were polite to all, and went home grateful for everything in their lives. They didn’t need a mouthpiece and a rabble-rouser raising sh*t every time management came across as ingenuous.

It’s easy to feel that way now because I am free of their control, and those old crews are all long gone now, and even most of the management that I despised has been laid off themselves, moved to another side of the country (or world), left the field altogether, quit working, or died. I would hope that if I ever was forced to work for an employer again, I would be more mature about the whole process and understand that I am lucky to have a job at all, and lucky to live in a country where every to quit a job, leave a job, change a job, be self-employed, move anywhere in the country, travel anywhere in the world, have any religious beliefs, etc. etc. etc. etc. – you’ve heard the story before. But you know sometimes I doubt I could ever be a quiet, faithful, and loyal employee.

I suppose I’m writing this at this stage because so much time is past since I was an employee, and since I “wasn’t quite sure” if we could make it living off of an online income. Our life is living proof that you can make a very good living working at home on your computer, and it’s not just some big scam played out on millions of people who dream of such a life. We are only an our mid-40s to late 40s (I’m 46 as I write this) and we are averaging about $12,000 a month in net income with our online business. My family, friends, and neighbors can’t believe this because they have either seen or checks, or see our lifestyle. My wife and I travel about 3 to 4 months of the year and we don’t do any work at all because our websites are up making money as we sleep and as we spend time just having a good time. I only really work hard during November, December, and January. I were crazy long hours late today which total of two about 12 to 14 hours of work. The big difference is is that it doesn’t feel like work to me. I love working on my computer, building new websites, building new niche domains, and writing right here on Zulit.

It’s snowing right now with HUGE snowflakes pouring down, and my wife and I are having another coffee about 15 minutes before noon. We have two full sized golden retrievers who live us in a house that’s way too big for the four of us. We have a brand-new motorhome which we use for traveling, and were getting ready to go to Palm Springs for 2 to 3 months this winter. Every day we wake up and do whatever we feel like doing, and we may be use our alarm clock once or twice a year because we have to pick somebody up at the airport who is visiting. We are quite literally spoiled beyond belief. My wife also quit her job and works with me full time at home. Now when we see a massive snowstorm like I am watching right now (video below), I think of all my fellow coworkers who were no question driving to work in this, commuting across the country (many still do), and moving their over 40 bodies and over 60 bodies around in the cold, up the ladders, in and out of service trucks, and making very little relative money for their efforts. We are so thankful for the life we have lived these last five years, and I honestly feel guilt because of the life I’m living compared to some of my fellow cohorts I used to work with on the job. I suppose this is why I’ve done so much extra work for nothing except the satisfaction of helping a friend (many times strangers) try getting started on the Internet.

Winter doesn’t really annoy us that much anymore because we only go out when we feel like it and frankly, when you don’t have to drive and work in the snow winter is a very beautiful thing. This doesn’t mean I’m going to cancel my trip to Palm Springs this year or anything, but watching the snow fall has a much different effect on me now.

I have not put up too many posts like this one where I discuss the lifestyle of an Internet marketer, and on a very personal level the lifestyle of your humble narrator, his wife, and his two dogs. But, I am speaking very much to myself right now as I try to take in in retrospect the past five years of change. I do still hope that my words will be taken as reality by those strangers who find themselves reading this post on this website, and have the same dream of working at home for themselves, and putting a job they really don’t like.

Why We Have Made It This Far

The reason we have made it this far is because of one mitigating factor. We have been grateful for the smallest signs of success. In my teaching of others, I have discovered an all too common reality that people considering working at home on their computer; a lack of patience, dissatisfaction with early income, lack of passion for the goal, and most important of all a lack of faith that it can be true.

When we made our first three cents online it was on my decrepit and poorly designed golf website. I had misspelled the word apparel when I use the words “golf apparel” and this resulted in someone using the same misspelling looking for some product. They landed on my three week old crappy website and lo and behold they clicked on an ad. This made us three cents and I considered to be free money. This is crazy of course because I have been working 16 hour days, going to the library, researching on the Internet, talking to successful affiliates, you name it – I did it. But for some reason that three cents seemed like free money. I remember my own mother looking over the computer screen when I show them the click that maybe the three cents, and she laughed because deep down inside at that time she didn’t believe this could be a viable and long-lasting source of income. She believed in what I was doing and she believed in me, but she knew that I had always dreamt bigger than most kids on the block, and she’d see me fall flat on my face with another big dreams before – truly she was as concerned for me.

So the reason we have made it this far in the reason we are netting as much income as we are these days and these months and these weeks, is because we were more than satisfied with the small trickles, and the slow slow slow slow slow procession of new pages being cached and indexed in the search engines.

I remember teaching my uncle this year in mid-2009 and explained that his first goal should be to make about $1400-$1500 a month from his websites. The next day when we were using Skype to do more training he said to me, “You know Terry, making $1400 a month doesn’t really float my boat”. I knew right then that he wasn’t going to make it in the world of Internet income. The fact is that it’s just too competitive now, and there are just too many websites, too many pages, too many URLs, and too many webmasters that are fighting every day for these trickles of income. You have to love it, and you have to think of it almost an extreme terms.

I remember saying to people in 2003 when I first started this, that this was like “life and death” to me. Literally I felt like I was fighting for my life. I was so miserable being an employee that this was a fight for existence. Of course this was an insane thing to say to myself or to anybody else for that matter, because that mindset set me up for the possibility of huge stress and anxiety issues, which I did actually have trouble with, to the degree that I had to use medication, and umpteen self-help books to get me through the year or two. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I didn’t have a wife that I have. The fact was that healthy or not, this was the attitude I had. Can you imagine if you were in a jail cell and told he could never leave it as you work on your laptop and earned your way out. Can you imagine how hard it would work building websites, and building blogs with fresh original content (like this article), if you thought your only chance of leaving a jail cell was making more than $4000 a month online. I guarantee you that you would one day succeed. You may not get out of jail for one year, two years, three years, four years, five years – but you would get out.

I hate to say all of this to those newcomers to Internet marketing who have this dream afresh in their minds – this could be you. Yes YOU! I don’t want to discourage you from the same dream that I have and the same dream I am living, but I want to be factual about what it takes to succeed at this game. You have to want this really bad, and you have to understand what you are up against.

You must love what you are doing, just like any other endeavor in life, if you want to succeed and beat the competition at the game. You have to be willing to spend the ridiculous hours it takes to make a web property eek out some traffic and a trickle of cash. At first this is exactly what it would be like with a brand new domain. It used to be that a newcomer could come along and bang up hundred domain names on niche products, and start making some fairly significant income, but those days are long gone. The search engines are much more sophisticated now, and the competition is tenfold. There is only one way to start to succeed in this game now, and I will share some of these beliefs below.

If you want to make it start with one website, one of the main, and work it, work it, work it, work it, work it! Work for the first year just writing good solid content that is helpful to visitors. Of course you can create the odd inbound link to your new domain from a third-party website such as MySpace, Hub Pages, and Squidoo, just to get the search engines to see your work. I wouldn’t go any further than creating three decent inbound links for the first six months – I just write like I am right now (or speak into a microphone as I mentioned above). It’s preferable that you use some kind of dynamic web platform such as WordPress, Joomla, etc., but it’s not completely necessary. In fact, many of my old straight up HTML pages outrank and outperform my dynamic websites that use all of the modern web technology to their advantage. If you just simply write 100% original pure content the search engines will take notice of you, and they will take notice of you in a hurry. If you look at the Internet closely you’ll notice that almost everything you read has been duplicated by hundreds of other sources on different domains.

When you write fresh and unique content I’m not talking about some kind of article that has some brand-new idea that no one is ever thought of before – I’m talking about words and sentences that have not been duplicated online yet. For instance if you were to just highlight about 10 words in this paragraph and copy it to the Google search engine, with quote marks at the beginning and the end like this;

“highlight about 10 words in this paragraph and copy it to the Google search engine with quote marks”

…..this is the result. (unless someone has scraped this article, in which case I will find them and deal with them later)


This is what I mean by original content. So many newcomers think that when the so-called gurus keep yapping on about original content they are talking about mind blowing articles that should set you apart like a Nobel winner. Nope! They are simply talking about what I’ve demonstrated above. Just to prove my point, go to E-zine articles and do a search for a topic you want. Select one of the links from your search (and no, not the Adsense ads) in open up one of the articles. Highlight about 7 to 10 words from the article and use “” symbols of the front of the string and the end of the string just like I did above, and do a search in Google. You will see this article has been posted on many different places. Notice above the screen there is a link from the Google results tell you there is more results to see which they have omitted from this screen. Click that link and you will see there is likely 50, 60, 70, 300, 400 other places on the Internet that those exact words are being used in that string and in that order. That piece of content has been beaten like a dead dog on a hot summers day. You don’t want anything to do with this.

You want to create an article that is 100% unseen anywhere on the Internet. This is why the bloggers do so well with income and traffic. Most of these bloggers only have one or two or three domains that they work on because you can’t create massive amounts of pure content as shown above if you try to handle 100 domain names. So you want to stick to only one domain when you start. Even if it seems slow, I promise you they will beat your competition over time. You’ll start to get links from other webmasters to your articles because they can tell what you speak of is true. You don’t need to beg, buy, borrow, steal, rob, pilfer, or spam inbound links. The search engines will see your content is 100% fresh and new and they will reward you for it. The other webmasters will reward you for as well, and the search engines will further reward you when they see links coming from other webmasters who see the quality of your domain. A purist approach is not a bad thing in this new Internet we have filled with spam, splogs, etc. This is what is known as White Hat SEO. I would not even worry about using some kind of a link machine or linking software. I would just use the WordPress blog like this one.

Of course there are the Black Hat fans out there, many of whom I can relate with, because I have tried every trick in the book myself – I just had to – I couldn’t help myself. I had to see if this stuff really worked, and yes, it did work on a very temporary basis, and then all my work was flushed down the drain with all the other gamers out there. In the long run, the domains that I own but have always brought in money and continue to bring in money are purely White Hat projects.

Anyways, I’m getting off the subject a little bit too much here, and I’m sure I will find other times to write about all of my theories regarding search engines, inbound links, site navigation, software platforms, etc. etc. etc. – but not today. This was just a recap of what we have experienced over the past five years, and now I must go shovel some snow.

All the very best you this Christmas season.

Terry Zulit

The 5 Problems With Affiliate Marketing – The Countdown

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009


Ironically, in our house, the words Affiliate Marketing have now become “dirty words”. Why? – Because there is no secure consistency with affiliate programs. That is a very broad statement – I know, but let me explain further.

Some affiliate programs are worthy, because you’re being paid by a strong and healthy company – but alas, there is a problem with these so-called “secure” and profitable affiliate programs, and that is competition.

There is great deal of powerful competition out there in the pool of good affiliate marketers with powerfully developed web sites, and the way it works in the affiliate marketing game is “the race for the cookie”. This competition for the elusive cookie, is why the top end affiliates make all the cake, while the lower level webmasters make peanuts.

There are other problems with affiliate programs which we will discuss in a countdown format.

Affiliate Problem #5: Merchant Campaign Changes and Shutdowns

affiliateprogramchangesThe ultimate dream for those of us who work online, is to make money in auto-pilot without hardly ever having to go look at our web sites or blogs. This is the dream, but never the true reality. We have to do upkeep, add content, pictures, updates, theme changes, etc. etc.

Generally speaking though, it can be ALMOST an autopilot income stream if you avoid AFFILIATE PROGRAMS! With affiliate programs, you have to always be vigilant in checking to see if you are getting ripped off by some merchant, checking to see if one of their campaigns has expired, checking to see if they have closed down their affiliate program all together.

We had a merchant that owed us over $12,000 in affiliate commissions for one month of work. They reneged on their payment, and after months of negotiating and pestering, we got our money back. This changed the affiliate marketing model we used for the next two years, and now we rarely take part on any affiliate program now.

Often affiliate programs just shutdown and if you are not on the ball, you could be sending traffic to the merchant’s web site for free. Also, you have lost the stream of income, and now have to replace it!

Affiliate Problem #4: Conversion Levels Are Too Low for ROI

lowaffiliateconversonratesSo often the landing page(s) at the merchant’s web site is faulty or weak in conversion percentages. The percentage of visitors that actually pull out a credit card and take action can be very low if the merchant doesn’t know what they are doing.

Another thing is complete lack of control of the merchant’s landing page, or buying page. Many times you will have a campaign running sending traffic to a merchant’s landing page, and you’re making some kind of the profit – then the merchant changes their landing page to a lousy, low conversion page. Often you’ll lose a lot of money in PPC traffic before you find out their landing page is lousy.

Affiliate Problem #3: The Commission Levels Are Too Low for ROI

affiliateprogrampayoutsCommission levels often look good for many affiliate programs, but when see how much traffic you need to get or BUY, it often doesn’t pay to play. Your ROI (return on investment) really lags when you are driving traffic to your site (or blog) using PPC (pay per click). You need to spend allot of money before converting a visitor.

We’ve tried MANY different landing pages, and screens to convince visitors to buy, and even with the best tested landing page, you still have trouble converting enough paid for visitors to make a decent ROI.

Affiliate Problem #2: The Race for the Cookie


As any experienced affiliate marketer knows, the cookie you leave on the shopper’s computer is the trick to making a profit online. At one time our online business made over $800 a day from affiliate commissions, and it was fantastic. The ONLY reason we made so much money from that particular affiliate program was because our site(s) were winning the race to the cookie.

Now, to win the race to the affiliate cookie you better be right at the top of the search results for your most lucrative keywords, and there are two ways to do that – one, be in the top three search result positions in the natural/organic results, or top of the paid for PPC (pay per click) results. It’s either a ton of PPC money, or many years of diligent work for natural results.

If you are in the top results for your most lucrative keywords then you will no question make a bundle, but that is not the case for you is it. If you were doing that well, you wouldn’t be on this page. You would be counting your money.

If you don’t know what a computer/browser cookie is, you need to read this page on Wikipedia first. To save you the long read, I’ll explain it in very simple terms.

An HTTP cookie is nothing more than a tracking tool. It works like this…….when you visit a webmaster’s web site, and click on a link or banner that takes you to a merchant’s web site, there is a cookie placed on the shoppers computer tracking the fact that YOU GOT TO THE MERCHANT’S WEB SITE FROM THAT PARTICULAR WEBMASTER’S SITE.
This way if you decide to buy something on the merchant’s web site, that webmaster will be given the credit for the sale, and get paid the affiliate commission for the sale.

Affiliate Problem #1:  Shady Merchants

shadymerchantsSo after 6 years of making our living completely from Internet traffic, my wife and I have experienced full well the ups and downs of the affiliate marketing game. The race for the cookie is not even the biggest problem with online affiliate marketing – the biggest problem is shady (dishonest) merchants.

We (my wife and I) tracked all of our traffic to web sites, and noticed that the amount of credit we got for our traffic to merchant web sites was stupidly light. The ratio of commissions/conversions to the amount of traffic was way out of balance. Finally, we got fed up and did some serious tracking using some very sophisticated software. We soon realized that these merchants were lying through their teeth, and not crediting us for our conversions. We tested 10 different merchants from 3 different affiliate junction sites (like CJ) and 8 out 10 merchants were not crediting us for all of conversions.

We now don’t believe that these companies can be trusted to pay you the commissions you have actually earned. They only pay out a percentage of commissions and they set that percentage based on how greedy they are. It’s fixed. Period. Don’t believe that, try it for 5 years and tell us your findings.