Every time, at this time of year, I look at our business model(s) to see if I can make some major improvements in our income. I look at the pay per click models, the organic natural traffic models, and I weigh out all of our options for the new year.
I know that for some of the visitors to this blog, it may be confusing in regards to what I believe is the best way to make money online, and which methods we really use to make money online. I know that many visitors see the earnings reports that I have at the top of every page, and the first thing they wonder is;
“How is he making that much money, and he can’t be telling us the whole truth”.
Some will believe that it is all from using a pay per click model, and that there is no way we could be making any substantial money from natural traffic. I want to clear up, once and for all, any kind of confusion in this regard, because without clarity there is no way my readers will feel that they are being told the truth.
As of 2009, 30% of our income comes from natural organic traffic. 70% of our income comes from using the pay per click model. Most of these sites that earn our income are on private hosting accounts (or I should say private domains) so as to avoid what has happened in the past with people simply copying our ideas and our niche models.
When we first started I was an open book in regards to what my niche websites were, because I really didn’t believe people would waste so many hours of their time simply copying somebody else’s niche ideas. I was extremely naïve in this respect, and to be fair to myself I have seen this happen to too many of my mentors. One thing I can assure you, is that there is nothing fancy about our websites, and there are no big secrets on how we get our traffic.
One thing I want to clarify, in a crystal-clear fashion, is the use of black hat techniques. SEO is something that I talk about allot here, and all of my comments are simply my beliefs from my own testing, and of course you can take it for what it’s worth. One thing I firmly believe now; is that black hat search engine optimization is dying quickly, and it is not a very good way to secure your online income going forward. Now I would like to talk about some of the techniques I have tried in the past. Some of these techniques are what you would call “gray hat” techniques, such as the use of particular website builders which I will discuss.
HyperVRE Website Creation Software
HyperVRE has been very successful for us in the last few years, and we are still making money from the domains that are using HyperVRE mini-sites. Unfortunately, these mini-sites get hit by the search engines (Google) every so often, and it is like you have a few weeks (or a month) of downtime. Is that really the kind of business you want to have?
It is like the search engines (Google I mean) see this content as suspicious, and they de-index hundreds of pages every once in a while, just to have those pages return into the Google index, and search results again. Basically, Google can’t make up its mind what to do with these mini-sites. For those HyperVRE users, keep in mind that I use custom templates that nobody else is using on the Internet, and I use random descriptions and definitions (A TON!) to make my pages appear fresh and updated all the time. I create my content from other web pages, and I use macros and scripts that I have had coded for me (custom Perl applications) that parse down, cleanup, and organize the content in a neat fashion for use in the websites that I build with HyperVRE. It takes approximately 4 hours to build one of these mini sites, and yes, they make residual income for years. So why would I stop doing this? Because in the long run, I am not so sure about the health of these pages in Google and Bing.
So what I am saying, is that I don’t recommend going the route of website builders in 2010 and forward. This does not mean you should abandon the HyperVRE websites you have – because if they are making money, then great. Just update those domains every once in a while to keep them alive in the search engines so you can continue to make money with this model as long as it lasts.
This gray-hat model works very well in all search engines (right now) so I can’t completely dismiss it. We will continue to update our domains that are using this model, but; I will not be creating any more new sites using this method, and I am moving on to a more white-hat SEO models.
Extreme Black-Hat SEO Techniques – I.E., Xrumer
Using software applications like Xrumer is obviously the blackest form of SEO you can employ. You are simply spamming forums and blogs on a large scale, and it is very risky for your domains (and your business altogether). As I have mentioned before, and will mention again, this kind of optimization is extremely short-term. Your short-term gains, are always followed by a complete loss of traffic, and if you don’t know how to use a proxy (or proxies more like), you could really mess up your business. I purchased the Xrumer software, and as I have spoken here before, tested it thoroughly.
I have to say that it gave me an uneasy feeling using the Xrumer software application, subjecting other website owners to spam and being “one of those guys. I suppose the reason I did it is because I just had to know how well that worked. It works – like I said – temporarily, but it is not worthy of future consideration. So much for that $540 USD I flushed down the toilet.
Using Synonyms and Content Spinners
Using synonym generators, and content spinners is a complete waste of time as well. I have used some of these applications server-side and on my own machines. The time you spent spinning a small 500 word article, which has diminishing returns, you could have easily created over 5000 words of fresh content – if you were using speech recognition software like I am right now for this post. Once again, trying to cheat the search engines, and their users, takes a lot of hard work for short-term gains. Especially now with the new SE algorithms that are in play. These content spinners and synonym scripts cost money, and using them requires a lot of work to get an article to pass a Copyscape test. I also believe that the Copyscape bar is not good enough. I believe the search engine algorithms of today have a higher bar set for duplicate content. All conjecture, I know, but I believe this to be true from testing pages.
I know how tempting it is to try some of these techniques to improve your website traffic. I look back at the last five years now, and I will be in the next couple of posts, with regret that I didn’t just simply close my eyes and learn how to create a ton of compelling content for my readers. Why did I take the path that I took? Simple – I was desperate for success and wanted to work from home without ever having to have a job again. Plain and simple and for what it’s worth, this post IS entitled, “The Confessions of a Webmaster”.
If I knew then what I know now, I never would have dabbled on the dark side of SEO. Obviously, I was smart enough to make sure 80% of my work went into legitimate business models, and that is why we make a good earning online, but if I had spent that other 20% of my time working on proven techniques, we would be making much more money today.
The whole reason for this post is to present to the absolute beginners what not to do. All you want to do is choose one subject (or market), install a content management system (i.e., WordPress) and start writing fluidly.
When I look at the webmasters who did exactly that, it’s amazing to see how successful they have been. They have surpassed all of their expectations, and many of them have so much traffic (millions of unique visitors a month) that they remove the typical advertising links from there blogs and websites. They began selling their own products and end up making more money than they had ever made before. It is not unusual to have a successful blogger make more than $30,000 a month. When you hear a number that big it makes most people shake their heads in disbelief.
For all of you who have been gaming the system to some degree, try not to beat yourself up about it. Let’s face it – it’s just too tempting an idea to find some simple little bit of software that can create free money. Besides, I have to admit it has been a lot of fun playing with the search engines over the last five years. I guess I would have to say that it taught me a lot about how search engines work, and I guess this would be an education in understanding what to do, and what not to do.
SEO and The Cheating Husband Metaphor
I guess I could use a metaphor for the black-hat/white-hat SEO dilemma. How about the difference between a loyal middle-aged husband and the cheating middle-aged husband? One middle-aged man spends all of his 20s and 30s sowing his wild oats, and having many different sexual experiences, while the other man didn’t because he was married at a very young age. The experience of being single for that many years makes the single man realize that it’s a lonely existence, and finds out for himself that one night stands can leave you feeling empty, cold, and very alone. He makes a good choice in a woman, because he has lots of experience recognizing a good woman from a troublesome woman, and gets married – never to cheat because he knows what he is missing.
Meanwhile, the second middle-aged man, who gets married at 20 years of age never has these experiences of sowing his wild oats, and the rest of his life he wonders what it would have been like, and has fantasies of free-wheeling sexual escapades. He wonders what it would be like to meet that pretty stranger and sleep with her that same night.
The man who has experienced this will tell you that it is not what it is cracked up to be – the point is that sometimes it’s better to learn the hard way (from your mistakes). So webmasters can learn something from walking on the dark side for awhile – they can learn never to be tempted by the so-called easy and sexy fruit.
Black-Hat SEO Takes More Work Than White-Hat Seo (and the Organized Crime Metaphor)
I can say that when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization) I have certainly sowed my wild oats. I have used the software, gamed the system, and now realize how futile it is going to be in the future. The most glaring thing I have noticed with these black-hat techniques, is how much work it takes. Just because you get some fancy piece of software, written by some pretty clever people, doesn’t mean it’s easy. When you get right down to it, and involved in the actual details, it is a tremendous amount of work. If I could use another metaphor – we always hear the same thing said about organized crime.
With all of their smarts (SOME criminals) and all of their cleverness, along with their hard work, they could succeed in a legitimate business instead of being in the business of organized crime. They would be safer, and would feel better about their business in the long run.
I would even go one step further for this example with search engine optimization. It is far easier to do it the right way! Far easier! If you just create a simple blog on one domain, and work it for two solid years, all you have to do is use your imagination and your typing skills. No complicated scripts to figure out and configure, or software to figure out. No question marks in the back of your head whether or not you are going to succeed making money. Once more, all of those years you spent trying to game the system with software, could have been years of learning how to produce a lot of good content. It takes time to learn the process, as far as creating oodles of content for your blog, and it takes practice.
What I Tell Beginners Now
I used to speak to beginners about the amazing world of online income, and how it was the ultimate income. I still believe with every ounce of my being that online income is the ultimate income, but what I don’t believe anymore is that it’s easy or even attainable for the light of heart. To many millions of people want this ultimate income, and this ultimate lifestyle, which my wife and I have become accustomed to. Because of this competition, there may be a day when we can’t do it either. Believe me, I will be working my backside off in an attempt to keep the lifestyle we have.
The reality is that if you are a beginner, and you have dreams of having the ultimate Internet income, get ready to work your ass off. Get ready to make critical decisions early, like whether or not to dabble on the dark side, or whether to do it the right way straight out of the gates. I hope you make the right decision.
What is relative in all of this, when I discuss the ultimate Internet income, is the question marks surrounding what is ultimate. I suppose the ultimate Internet income would be tens of thousands of dollars made every month without ever having to lift a finger again the rest of your life. That is not likely to happen my friend.
What is likely to happen is that with a lot of hard work you can create a wonderful income which is more than what you make as a employee right now, and you can maintain it the rest of your life with some smart work. If you have dreams of making over $30,000 a month for the rest of your life, get ready to work very very hard. I have said it many times before, the ultimate Internet income is a work at home job, and the key word in that phrase is work. But it doesn’t mean you should work hard and stupid. It means you have to work smartly (work smarter not harder).
Pace Yourself On Your Quest to Create The Ultimate Internet Income
One of the things that has struck my wife and I over the last five years is how hard we have worked. I have worked ridiculous hours (up to 16 hours a day) and many of those hours were a waste of time. If I knew then what I know now I would not have spent that many hours, and I would have learned to pace myself sooner. I am still having trouble learning how to pace myself, because I love the work so much, and I love the lifestyle so much.
You can learn to pace yourself very easily, and put yourself on the track towards making a fantastic income. This is what I would do if I was you (I am talking to the beginners right now).
Choose two different subjects (markets) and find two short domain names (no dashes in the address, and one for each of your markets). Create a WordPress blog on both of these domains, and begin your journey. Don’t worry about any fancy software to manipulate the search engines, or any linking schemes. As a matter of fact, completely disregard any linking schemes altogether. Simply research different ideas for articles on your two blogs, and write something substantial every couple of days. If you can’t type fast, then try speech recognition – or you can simply teach yourself to type quickly. Either way – find out a way of creating gobs of content quickly. You’ll figure this out, so don’t worry about it. You can do this!
Once you are up and going and adding content in the form of articles, posts, and pages, you are on your way. Don’t worry about keyword density and all of that crap. Just write compelling information that your eventual users will find useful. Everything else will come to you. Because you are using a WordPress blog, search engines are going to see your content, so don’t be worrying about that. Don’t bother with stat counters at first, because you won’t be seeing a lot of traffic in the early days. Just keep writing and watch what happens.
The reason I tell you you should create two blogs, is because you will be able to create enough content for both sites. As well as that, it is easy to get bored with one blog and it’s subject material, and you will need a change to keep yourself from getting bored.
Don’t worry about frequency (how many posts a day or week you publish). Just write when you have a good idea, that you know your visitors will appreciate, or at least find interesting. Save your breath in other words. Publishing a post just for the sake of publishing a post in an attempt to keep the search engines happy is no longer a valid strategy. If you don’t believe me, you can research this using Google (or your favorite search engine) to see this for yourself. The most successful bloggers and online money makers only post content that they know will have some sort of value for their visitors and readers.
On the 27th of this month I have a rather large post that discusses the different ways that linking is dead. I am sure that many will agree with some of these ideas, and many of you will disagree, but the fact remains that I am adding something of value to the ongoing conversation in regards to search engine optimization. It doesn’t mean that the post will have more people linking to it than other posts, because it’s really just a hit and miss thing if the truth be told.
This is why it is so important to have a passion for what you are writing about. Even if you aren’t making any money off of the blog, but you are passionately involved in the subject matter, it won’t be long before you ARE making money. The Google algorithm has been designed in such a way (in an ingenious way) so that the truly passionate people with the ideas succeed. I know that my old friends in the black-hat world would scoff at such a notion, and they like to think that they can outsmart the search engine algorithms, but you can see examples of successful bloggers for yourself, and it is painfully obvious who is right and who is wrong on this matter.
Example of a Old Niche Site That is Really Really Ugly (but successful)
I am going to give you one example of a particular niche site that has always succeeded (we have hundreds of these) over the long run. It is a nasty, ugly little website with about 20 pages of 500 word articles in the site map. It is called http://www.bridesmaid-dress-only.com and I don’t mind giving up this little niche, because it generally only makes about $30 a month, and these days it’s not so easy to copy something. The funny thing is that I just checked out the site and the home page index file is not even there!!! I have no idea how long it’s been broken, but it still gets traffic every day on the other pages.
This simple little website makes about a dollar a day, and there is nothing fancy about it as you can tell. It was built with a chaotic old website builder that I haven’t used for years. What is good about this little website though, is that all of the content was written by me, and it is not using any content from any other source on the Internet. Because it is just fresh unique content, the search engines have rewarded it with it with traffic and an average of a dollar a day for over four years. I used some link machine software to do a little bit of reciprocal linking in the beginning, but that is not why it is where it’s at. The search engines are able to see fresh unique content for what it is, and whether or not you do any aggressive linking isn’t coming into play as much. If you create a simple little niche website, with 100% original content, you are going to make something. You have a choice – build hundreds of these little niche websites with 100% original content, or build two major blogs with tons of content. I suggest to you that the latter is the most prudent way to build your business.
Well, I have been talking into this little digital voice recorder for 58 minutes and 20 seconds, not that anybody’s counting. I think I have made my point as far as the confessions of this webmaster. From this day forward, things will be different with our business model. No longer will I be wasting one precious moment trying to gain the search engines. My focus will be only on content, and lots of it, going forward. I don’t really care how long it takes for my new blogs and ideas to take off, because at least I know that they will indeed make money one day. Like my first mentor told me a long time ago (James Martell) – “we are in the business of creating content”.
It’s not over! The dream of the ultimate income is still very much alive, and there are many different ways to create an online income. As you can see, all of my income methods are built on search engine optimization. That is the only pony your humble narrator knows how to ride. There are many, many, MANY different ways to make an online income, and I hope that you find the one that works best for you.
As one webmaster to another webmaster, I encourage you to take the same path going forward in 2010 and furthermore. I encourage you to stop wasting money on short-term gains, and wasting time on futile efforts. If you are using the HyperVRE software, I would encourage you to leave those websites alone and maybe just update them once in a while if they are still creating a profit. I believe that it won’t be long before they stop working altogether. Spend your time and money putting up original content on your niche websites and blogs, and you will be much further ahead in the long run.