Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Dealing with Competitors

I have a Squidoo lens, which I set up in late August, and which gets traffic of around 200 hits a day and makes a steady income from affiliate sales.

A few weeks ago, a competitor moved into the niche, using a dot com domain and one of the main keywords in the domain name. Their contact page actually tells you the name of the SEO company that is behind the site, with a link to the SEO firm, which in turn boasts how they've been in business since 2003 and how the woman running it used to work in the City of London (plus Tokyo and Hong Kong) doing investment banking!

They then popped onto my lens and accused me of "copying them" - how this could be is a mystery when my lens was up and running a good two months before theirs. But hey, perhaps they are trying the "intimidate the competitor" tactic.

They are also building backlinks fast - and from relevant sites plus press releases. Methinks they are buying these links, because the copy on these sites all have a luke-warm endorsement with a "I'm not a true fan of this site but go and visit it" tone to the text that is a dead giveaway of a paid link. (Natural links tend to fairly bubble with joy about the site they are endorsing because of course no-one would naturally link to a site if they didn't love the site in question).

At present, of fifteen keywords I am targetting, they are ahead of me on 4 (I am ahead of them on the other 11). The other competitors in this niche are mainstream established magazines which are ranking because of very high domain authority.

So. This is the first test of whether I have really learnt enough SEO - can this amateur stay ahead of my pro competitor? If I can, I then graduate into being a pro myself. I'm going to have to defend my site using white-hat techniques because I simply don't have the coin to buy links.

I'm really grateful to the internal design of Squidoo lenses - the module headers have authority in themselves, and I'm using them to target my many keywords. Google is sometimes giving me a double link with my main URL in the headline link, and a "jump to XXX" link to the module header. (Seth Godin, the founder of Squidoo is a genius).

I now need to get really fierce with the backlink building to the lens. Article marketing and forum posting, here I come. I've also set up a blogger blog in the same niche to see if I can get more than one slot for each keyword.

Will report later on how my little war is going.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Progress Update

Well I haven't built any more hubpages - that's stalled. Instead I'm working on my Squidoo lenses and my authority site.

The authority site now has 146 pages, all lovingly written by me, and it's all indexed, which is good. After initially trying Adsense on it, I've monetised it with affiliate products instead (as they pay rather better). In order to make it a proper authority site, I need to write another 200-300 pages for it. Luckily I'm really getting to know the niche, so I enjoy the whole thing. I'm becoming a proper guru in my subject, I'm coming up with new angles and twists that no-one else has thought of. The search engines want unique and I'm serving it up.

Which could pose a potential problem in the future. I know I wrote about buying and selling websites previously, the idea being that once I had some decent authority sites, I could profit by selling them on.

But here's the thing. I'm not sure I can part with my baby. It's some of the best work I've done, and to sell it for money? I think I'm going to keep it for good, constantly improving and adding content to it, and hopefully it will provide me with income for a long time. Who knows, I might even pass it down in my will!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Some thoughts about volume

It's clear that making money online depends on a certain volume of traffic, and there are two ways to get this volume - either set up thousands of pages that each get a tiny amount of traffic, or set up about a hundred pages that each get a large amount of traffic.

At first glance the second strategy looks a lot harder than the first. It's not easy to get a thousand hits a month to each hubpage for instance. I have just one hub that is performing in that league, and hubpages own stats indicate that only 5531 hubs get over 1000 views a month and only 45,515 hubs get over 100 views a month!

Therefore, everyone goes for the content volume method - make thousands of pages, and you get a decent aggregate traffic even if each hub only gets about 50 hits a month.

However, one thing I've learnt is that there is no such thing as truly passive income online. You can't just set up hubs or websites and leave them. You not only have to continue building backlinks to them, I've found that the hubs that do best are the ones that you regularly revise and add information to. You can do this if you are managing a small number of hubs - but when you get to the thousands, it's just impossible to find the time to revise them all regularly as well as build backlinks.

And if you start to get into buying and selling websites, setting up sites with a view to selling them on, you definitely need large traffic in order to realise the best profit - you can't just stick thousands of pages up and leave them, hoping for dribs and drabs of traffic to come to them.

So it looks like the second option - going for a large amount of traffic to each page - though tougher, might be the most profitable in the long run. This means that you have to write long original killer posts, and carefully build backlinks to each and every page. It can't be outsourced and you need to spend a lot of time on research. And there is no instant payoff as with the content volume method. But there should be a payoff down the line when the traffic starts to come in.

I've started to build some standalone sites, with killer posts, and I am working diligently to get each post into the number 1 position in the SERPs for it's phrase. It's a hideous amount of work though, and it looks like I'll be at it for months before I get my traffic volume. I can see why most people abandon this method fairly quickly.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Hubpages has been penalised by Google

How do I come to this conclusion? Well, I was updating my hubpage on Google Caffeine, which I wrote on 12th August when Google first told the world about their new "next generation" engine nicknamed Caffeine.

Briefly, Caffeine is not really a change to Google's algorithm (though some slight differences appear), it's really a change in structure of the index itself. This is really important, as what is indexed impacts rankings - eg if a lot of pages that have links to your site are suddenly indexed, it should propel you up the rankings, and vice versa.

In my original analysis I was comparing pages in the current index to the Caffeine index for various topics and also for various web 2.0 domains.

What is interesting is that when I retested today, I found differences in the current index too.

Here's the bit that concerns Hubpages.

Using the site: operator, here's what was returned on the 12th of August 2009:

Current Index: 1,800,000 pages
New Caffeine Index: 1,830,000 pages

Now here's what's returned on 12th September:

Current Index: 1,100,000 pages
New Index: 1,140,000 pages

That's a considerable drop. Up until I crunched the numbers, I had been pooh-poohing suggestions that Hubpages has suffered a penalty. I basically believed that if new hubs on hot money topics like credit cards were struggling to get indexed, it was down to saturation of topic, where people have mindlessly pumped out a bazillion hubs on the exact same subject, sometimes with the exact same title, (and are still doing so, if you look at the new hubs tab), and Google decided "we don't need any more".

But a 700,000 drop in what is indexed is not just about new stuff struggling to get ranked, it's about old stuff being dumped. I wouldn't have realised the sheer scale of the drop had I not originally recorded the numbers for my Caffeine analysis. Perhaps some of the pages that have been dumped are profile pages and tag pages - but that's still serious as profiles and tag pages send backlinks to hubs. I will continue to update that hub every month in order to build a data set of what exactly is going on.

As for advice to hubbers - stay clear of the "hot money" topics. They seem superficially attractive, but are a wasted effort. Better to concentrate on something obscure that is going to be indexed. Being indexed is more important than the potential CPCs of a keyword. If you can't get your page indexed, you will make zero.

P.S. Ezine has taken a hit too - see my Caffeine hub for details

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

It's worth trying out many different niches

I keep a spreadsheet to track all my online work (I use Open Office, which is an open source product that is free to download)

The spreadsheet is organised with one sheet per niche, with each page detailing all the properties in that niche, and a master page that pulls in info each month from the sheets to help me see which niche is profitable.

Well the surprise is that the "most profitable" niche changes from month to month!

I hadn't expected that. I had thought that I'd hit on one, maybe two niches that were profitable, which I could then concentrate on.

In practice, things fluctuate like mad. For a start there are all the Google dances and movements in and out of the SERPS - practically every single property has been out of the SERPS at least twice - once when the initial new content honeymoon wore off, and once when some algorithm update or other was taking place. They always came back into the results, occasionally at a slightly higher level than they had been - but the two weeks or so when they were "out" would have been very frustrating had I not had a whole other bunch of stuff going on (the dances seem to take place niche by niche rather than all at once).

Then there's the fact that as the economy and fashion changes, user behaviour changes. With one page I wrote, I sort of panicked when my traffic dropped, only to find that I was in the same place in the SERPs. Checking the Insights for Search graph for the traffic revealed that user popularity for that keyword had dropped. Such is life.

So it's actually worth trying many different niches, and also don't get put off by lowish CPC in the Google Keyword Tool. I'm beginning to understand that traffic matters far more than CPC. CPCs will fluctuate and there is nothing you can about it, but as long as you have traffic, you will get some clicks. Lack of traffic is the killer rather than low CPC.

Finally, there has been much discussion about whether hubpages has suffered a Google penalty of some sort. From looking at my stats, if there is a penalty it exists only in the finance sector - credit cards, debt and the like. My finance hubs are showing a drop in traffic, but the other stuff is much as it was before (i.e. the good hubs show no difference in traffic between July and August and the bad hubs show no difference in traffic between July and August).

I guess, the hub penalty isn't that different to that meted out to Squidoo for weight loss and the like. If you stay clear from the "hot money" topics, you can still get Squidoo lenses ranked, and still get Hubpages ranked.

But these penalties also bring home the importance of having a lot of niches, and lots of platforms where you create content, so your eggs arn't all in a basket that might get kicked over.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Affiliate Marketing

The reason I've been building hubpages really slowly is that I've become sidetracked with creating Squidoo lenses for Affiliate Marketing.

Squidoo is great in my opinion. As long as you stay away from the usual hot topics (weight loss, anything advertised on Clickbank), and concentrate on actual physical products that are sold by mainstream brands who have their affiliates listed on Commission Junction, Affiliate Window or Amazon, you generally find that your lens is indexed and gets traffic within a couple of days as long as you are careful to build at least one backlink to it.

I've actually detailed my experiences with the above affiliate networks in a hubpage - Best Affiliate Networks - so I shan't repeat myself here.

But I'd like to talk a little more about why I like Squidoo so much. I have two Squidoo accounts - one for affiliate marketing, and one for building backlinks to my hubs. I've done a lot more work in my affiliate marketing account, having built 20 lenses so far.

Squidoo is way more flexible than Hubpages when it comes to affiliate marketing. For example it's easy to add an affiliate banner to your lens - just use the "Text with Big Picture" module, and drop the html into the text portion.

They are also pretty flexible about the number of links they allow - you can have 9 links to any single domain within your lens, and for certain whitelisted domains, eg, you can have as many as you like. This means you can set up a landing page on a single keyword offering several different products related to that keyword, with different prices, using a module for each. I tend to use the standard text module, save the picture of the product to my hard drive and load it onto the module, and then put a blurb next to it explaining the product, with the affiliate link embedded in a text link.

Squidoo lenses are also designed to be seo friendly. It's important to select your keywords carefully for each module title, as these titles appear on the lenses as headers and draw traffic in their own right.

It's early days in September, but so far I've made more from my affiliate lenses on Squidoo than from Adsense on Hubpages - and I have 23 lenses in total but 53 hubs. It's always nice to have more than one source of income and I'd urge everyone to try affiliate marketing.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Given up on Adbrite

Part of my experiments with money making was to try to diversify the advertisers I used.

So I put Adbrite on this blog and also on another niche blog, and left it there for three months.

My conclusion: Adbrite is rubbish. The ads served up are so inappropriate, no-one would ever click on them. eg they were putting hideous weight loss picture ads on this blog which is about making money. So I've removed them.

For now this blog will be ad free till I think of what to try next!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Assessing whether a niche is viable

One thing I'm doing that is different this time is putting Amazon modules onto my hubs.

So far I've made one Amazon sale from a hub from the first challenge, and none from any of the hubs in this challenge. I was about to throw my hands up and say that Amazon is a waste of time when I read a post by Ed Dale which says that you should make no decisions about a niche, website or affiliate product till you have got 200 visitors to it. Given that Hubpages shares the page impressions 60/40, this means getting 333 hits to it. And that is hits excluding reads from other hubbers, who don't really buy anything nor click on anything and only serve to inflate the stats.

By that criteria it's way too early to judge what is successful and what is not. I really need to stepup the backlinking to make sure that I do get sufficient traffic to assess whether I'm in the correct niches.

Friday, 7 August 2009

One week into the second hub challenge

Well it's just over a week into the second hubpage challenge. No earnings yet for the new hubs, but we are on day 8 and last time earnings didn't come till day 9.

The hub building is going faster this time. Have made ten hubs so far, most commercial, but I couldn't resist doing a self-indulgent list hub for the tenth one called List of the best SEO blogs, just cause I felt like sharing. Will make no money from that one, but hey!

One thing that is different to the last challenge is that I've spent more time building hubs and not as much time building backlinks. But as I am slightly ahead of schedule, I might stop for a day and do just that.

Will report back in a week's time on how it has all gone.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

New Hubpage Challenge

I am taking part in the second hubpage challenge. This one is more flexible - you start when you want, and you complete 30 hubs in 30 days.

I started yesterday and have built four hubs so far - see my hub on Making money with the Hubpages Challenge, for progress on this challenge.

It will be interesting to see how I progress as I know so much more than when I did the last challenge. Last time it took me 80 days to make 30 hubs, and 78 days to break earnings of $50 from these 30 hubs.

Am looking to both complete the challenge much sooner and to earn much more. We'll see. It's all good fun!

Am also trying to be more organised this time - am keeping a spreadsheet on OpenOffice to track when I've made hubs, when backlinks are added, what position they are in the SERPs, when I update the hubs (to check if keeping content fresh makes a difference). I figure you can only learn what works through trial and error and analysing your own work (and mistakes).

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Four month money making update

It's now just over four months since I started this blog and project to earn money online. It's been an interesting experience with some things failing and others doing not so badly. Let's look at the detail.


Starting with the stuff that didn't work. Kontera was rubbish in my experience. The links looked bad on the hubs, hardly anyone clicked, and the clicks amounted to under $5 a month, which under Kontera rules you forfeit. A waste of time.

Google Knols was also a disappointment - they go give you 100% of the Adsense income, but the ads are placed where no one can see them, so you are unlikely to get any clicks

The Maybes

Have set up two accounts on Squidoo, one for informational lenses with backlinks to my Hubpages and one for affiliate marketing lenses. I've signed up with Commission Junction and have been accepted by one of their merchants, and have built some lenses to market this product (which is a mainstream brand). Early signs are that it is going well - have made a sale just five days after registering, so it clearly works. It's now a question of getting traffic to the lenses.

My opinion of Squidoo is this - it's a really friendly site, and while you won't make much money from the revenue sharing aspect of the site (where they dole out money to the top 10,000 lenses), they are better for affiliate marketing than Hubpages because the modules are more flexible. They are also in the process of removing the spam weight loss products etc from their site, so I feel it can only improve.

Though initially I had difficulty in getting lenses indexed, it turns out that the trick is to write about things that other lensmasters are not covering, and if you have the field to yourself, Google indexes you almost immediately. If there are already a gazillion lenses on the subject, they won't bother as they already have enough material from this particular domain on that topic.

How do you check whether you have competition on Squidoo? Go into Google and type in "keyword" (insert the keyword you are checking)

You will get a list of squidoo lenses with that keyword. Have a look at the lensrank of the sites brought up. Though lensrank is heavily influenced by internal squidoo social networking factors, it is also affected by traffic. Any lens with a rank higher than about 20,000 (i.e. 20,000 to 500,000+) is getting very little traffic indeed. So you can tell the strength of your Squidoo competitors. The best keywords are those that arn't being targetted at all and have very few (or no) lenses.

BTW you can do the same thing to check out your Hubpage competition - and it's definitely worth doing (I checked out "get out of debt" the other day and found a staggering 3390 results for the hubpages domain - all those people pumping out hubs in the belief that they've found a magic keyword, only the competition from other hubbers is so fierce it's likely their hub won't even be listed in the search results).

Anyway, back on topic - I think Squidoo is definitely in the "maybe" category for affiliate marketing. Because my affiliate lenses are less than a month old, it's too soon to give the thumbs up, but it's looking hopeful.

Regarding which affiliate to use - I rather like Commission Junction, they have a lot of mainstream products on there (i.e. proper brands, not spam products), with a commission rate of 10% and a good 30-40 day cookie, so you have a good chance of being credited with a sale if you've set up your lens right. For more on using Commission Junction and Squidoo, I can only refer you to CaptainSquid who is the acknowledged expert on this.

My other maybe project is a blog I've set up on Blogger on a niche subject. It's indexed and getting hits, but I've put Adbrite on it for the moment. Not sure about Adbrite to be honest. It's still in the maybe category, but is edging towards failure. Will decide in another month whether to persist with it or dump it.


Hubpages and Adsense have really worked out.

I now have 29 hubs, which have made me $42.25, plus I've had one sale from Amazon at $1.96. Obviously if I'd made more hubs I'd have made more money. Have been wondering why it takes me so long to make hubs when others are churning them out at the rate of knots. Part of it is that I have got sidetracked with other projects (Squidoo and the niche blog), but part of it is down to the fact that I seem to write giant hubs. All bar six hubs are over 750 words, and several are in the 1500 word range with a few in the 2500-3000 word range.

Is writing long hubs a good thing or a bad thing? The Amazon sale came from a short hub, and it looks like hubs under 450 words are ideal if you are selling products directly. All of the Adsense income has come from the long hubs though.

Also, the long hubs seem to be favoured by Yahoo who send me a nice stream of traffic. The longer hubs also seem to attract a higher hubscore which means they are listed first on the tag pages (and the tag pages tend to rank quite well in the Google search results). Finally the longer pages seem to attract spontaneous backlinks, possibly because they have so much information they are considered "authority" pages. Someone even quoted one of my hubs in their press release, (along with the url for their own website of course) - I guess I was quoted to give the article depth!

It's nice getting natural backlinks. The worst part of this "making money online" schtick is the backlink building. It's a grind. Some of the advocates of short hubs say it is less work as you can knock them out quickly. But then they have the grind of building backlinks continually because no one will naturally link to their quickly cobbled together hub. So are they actually saving themselves time? What I've found is that if you write long unique hubs, you win natural backlinks (and if you happen to stumble on a topic very early, these backlinks mushroom fast) from a variety of sites with quite a bit of authority. Which means that in writing the hub you did all the work you really needed to, because the backlinks happened (and continue to happen) passively. The search engines also seem to find plenty of phrases in the hubs and send you all sorts of unexpected traffic.

The other advantage when you get natural backlinks is that your material stands apart from that of other internet marketers. There has been some speculation on certain blogs about Google maybe slapping down Hubpages because so many internet marketers are flocking there. It's a particular risk if everyone is following the exact same method of backlinking - i.e. the only backlink is from an Ezine article they sent out through one of those spinning wizard thingimajig software tools and they only have do-follow links, and they only have keyword anchored links. I imagine it's pretty easy for Google to figure out a pattern that people are using and to find everyone else copying the pattern, and to then slap them down.

What on earth is the point of spending hours putting the material up if it's going to get deindexed? I think it's safer to spend the time writing longer unique hubs that would not only pass visual inspections from Google engineers but would attract natural backlinks. And when you build backlinks yourself (as you must when you initially put up the pages), mix it up a bit. Don't just go for article marketing, try comments on related blogs, even if they are no-follow. Put the links in forum signatures. Even the occasional "click here" anchored backlink is not bad. It just means that the whole thing looks normal and natural and doesn't attract any flags.

Of course it's all more time consuming and you don't make money as fast because you simply can't get the hubs and all their varied hand-built backlinks up quickly. But time is relative right? If the hub is still attracting traffic and income two years from now, with you having to do very little apart from updating the page occasionally, it's worth going slow at the start and doing things slightly differently. You save time in the long run.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

What to do about hubpages which have had no ad clicks

I was going through my Adsense stats and discovered that only 48% of my hubs had made some money (however small). 52% of the hubs I've made have produced nothing at all.

The question is what to do about the non-performing hubs. Should I just shrug, write them off and move on, or should I try to tweak them to see if they can be made to produce income? My inclination is to tweak, since I've invested time already in making the hubs.

Checking in the forums, the more established hubbers report that they've made some money from all their hubs i.e. over time all perform, especially if tweaked to improve traffic.

One cause of non-performance is that there is simply no traffic to the hubs, so no one can view the ads. So the first thing I did was to ask if the hub was still indexed. Hubpages are a strong domain, and new hubs usually get indexed straight away. However, if they haven't been promoted or somehow attracted attention from searchers, they drop out. I checked whether my hubs were indexed simply by dropping the entire URL for the hub concerned into the search engine.

I found that I had six hubs not indexed, and of these, four had a hubscore of less than 70 and two had a hubscore of over 70 but were in highly competitive niches. As explained in my previous post about hubpages internal linking, it's my opinion that hubs with higher scores are "helped" along by the Hubpages site because they start to get featured on strong internal list pages. Of course the high hubscores depend on traffic, so it's kind of a chicken and egg situation.

Here's what I intend to do:

a) Add content to these hubs in the hope that when the googlebot passes through it will give the hubs a new look due to fresh content.

b) Look again at the tags on the hubs, and perhaps add some to ensure that the hubs feature on strong internal hub tagging pages.

c) Build some backlinks to these hubs.

I will report later as to whether this strategy has worked.

P.S. Have added the hubpages widget to my site in the hopes that it brings more traffic. To do this, simply go to your hub profile and click the "get widget" link on the right hand side, and paste in the javascript into your blog template.

Monday, 29 June 2009

How Hubpages internal linking helps boost some hubs

I was browsing through the "hot" hubs on the Hubpages site when I wondered if the hubs listed on that page got any particular boost from it. It turns out they do. The hot hub pages (and "latest" and "best" hub pages) carry page rank of their own. Here's the pagerank of these pages@

Hot hubs page 1 - PageRank 5
Hot hubs page 2 - Pagerank 4
Hot hubs page 3 - Pagerank 0

Latest hubs page 1 - Pagerank 4
Latest hubs page 2 - Pagerank 3
Latest hubs page 3 - Pagerank 0

Best hubs page 1 - Pagerank 4
Best hubs page 2 - Pagerank 0

It's clear from the above that Hubpages gives you a boost as soon as you publish a new hubpage by listing you on their "latest" list. But this lasts only as long as you are on pages 1 and 2 of the latest list - once you are bumped off onto page 3 by new material, the boost fades.

Being a hot hub also has a lot of benefits if you are on page 1 or 2. Hot hubs seem to be those who are gathering traffic and comments fast. They tend to be mainly hubs published in the last four weeks. The "best" hubs are older and the ones on the first page all have a hubscore of 100.

It's definitely worth trying to gain "hot" or "best" status because you get a link from a very strong page.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Keyword Tool - Detecting Commercial Intention

Have found an absolutely brilliant free Keyword tool from Microsoft called Detecting Commercial Intention

Here's what the tool looks like (click image to enlarge):

All you do is type in an URL or keyword (be sure to click the buttons at the bottom to say whether you are checking a website or keyword) and then press Go. It then calculates whether it thinks it is a commercial keyword or not.

In my example, I was checking "purple carnations", because I was in the process of making a Hubpage about it. The result came back that it was a 0.93 probablity that it was commercial. So I made my hubpage - All About Purple Carnations.

However when I typed in "Nicolas Sarkozy", it came back and said that that phrase had a Non-Commercial Intention probability of 0.96. One of my very first hubs was about Sarkozy, and I can sadly confirm that this keyword tool is correct in judging commercial intention - despite loads of hits to that hub, I have only made a few cents from it. I wish I'd seen this tool earlier!

In general, I would advise people to stay away from making hubs about politics or celebrities - they may be fun to write and get loads of hits, but they don't make any money. Therefore only write such hubs for your own pleasure.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

How the social aspects of Hubpages and Squidoo can help push you up the SERPS

I was checking the backlinks in Google for one of my Hubpages, and found that they counted my Hubpage Profile page as a backlink. It made me pause to think. How was this profile page sufficient to propel my hubpages up the SERPS?

The answer is through the forum. Every time you post in the forum, you leave a link behind to your hubpage profile. The more links, the more powerful your Hubpage profile becomes. The same thing applies to Squidoo - they too have a forum (called Squidu), and again, when you post on there, there is a link in the left to your profile. Squidu also allow signatures, so you can build additional backlinks to individual sites (not confined to Squidoo lenses).

It seems to me that both Hubpages and Squidoo are designed to reward people who interact with the community. Having lots of fans gives you the same benefit - you end up with a lot of other profiles linking to yours, giving you link juice.

On both sites you can also add blurb and links to your profile page to emphasise certain keywords linking to certain pages/blogs/lenses.

It's tempting to ignore the social aspects of Hubpages and Squidoo. But because of the structure of the sites, they genuinely deliver benefits to the pages/lenses that you write if your are socially active within the communities - because your profile starts to gain authority in it's own right and then starts to push any pages listed in your profile up the SERPS.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

More on Diversifying Income

As mentioned before, am anxious to try out more than one method of earning online, just in case something goes wrong with an income channel.

On the platform front, I have had success with Hubpages. I have abandoned Google Knols because their ad placement is so poor it's unlikely anyone would ever click on one (see here for the post about my Knol experiment). I have also opened an account with Squidoo, and have produced my first Squidoo lens - Guide to Hubpages. Squidoo lenses don't seem to get indexed as fast as Hubpages. I had to submit my lens to a social bookmarking site to get the search engines to pay it attention.

It's too soon to say whether Squidoo will work out - will update later on this. From chat in the Squidoo forums, most of the successful lensmasters make money through affiliate earnings. Squidoo lens are very flexible as long as you know basic HTML. You can add whatever links you want in the text capsules, and add banners in the "big picture" capsules. I don't think javascript works in Squidoo lenses, but any affiliate links based on HTML will.

On the advertising front, I've had success with Adsense, have abandoned Kontera because it's useless, and am experimenting with Adbrite on this blog. Am not too sure what I make of Adbrite to be honest. They haven't yet served up decent ads - maybe it depends on the blog generating sufficient traffic. We'll see. I think I need to give it a couple of months before I decide it's not worth it.

In the meanwhile, I have decided that I really need to push on and make more Hubpages, as that so far is the only thing that has brought in money.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Hubpage challenge - results

In the end I didn't manage to make my 30 hubs - only made 17. These 17 hubs produced $11.77 in Adsense income.

Looking closely at the results, all the income came from just 7 hubs. Clearly only some niches have readers inclined to click ads - the others attract readers too savvy to click ads at all. Of the hubs that got clicks, some got low value clicks, but the click rate was high, while others got high-value clicks, but the clickthrough rate was low. Obviously the best thing would be a high clickthrough rate, a high value click and high traffic, but I'm not complaining. As long as I make some money from them, I'm not bothered.

What I really want to do is avoid the niches where you put in a lot of work writing a good useful hub and earn nothing from it, and I now have an idea of where to concentrate my efforts.

The other thing I noticed is that it's worth writing really useful hubs - some hubs I produced got found in the search engines straight away (because hubpages gives a lot of juice to new hubs) and then attracted natural backlinks from other blogs and sites. I was very excited about that, especially as these hubs then went on to get a lot of traffic and produce income. Given that getting backlinks is the hardest part of earning on the net, it was interesting to learn how to get these spontaneously.

All-in-all I'd say it was a very useful experiment. I intend to continue writing hubs till I've got about 100, and will be focusing on those niches I feel are both lurative and which I can write something genuinely useful that isn't present on other sites.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Building backlinks with a commenting strategy

I have been trying to build backlinks to my hubpages with a commenting strategy - I seek out blogs in the same niche as the hubpage I am promoting, and then leave a comment, using a keyword as my "name" and my hub URL as the link. It's time consuming and laborious, and no doubt the professionals will be shaking their head at the time I'm wasting.

Anyway, I was checking on a backlink checker to see how I'd done, and delving deeper into the links that Google had recognised, I discovered to my joy that someone had taken a comment I had written and had written an entire blog post around it - and best of all, when they referred to me and my comment, they used my keyword and URL! So my commenting got me a proper backlink in a relevant blogpost on a good blog, and it came about naturally.

If you are using a commenting strategy it's worth writing interesting and valuable comments that add to the discussion you are joining. After all you don't want to just "use" someone's blog for a backlink, you want to add something of value to their site too. And occasionally you will trigger something in someone's brain and inspire them to write a whole post around what you said.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Diversifying my income

One of the downsides with weekends and bank holiday Mondays is that traffic is down and no-one clicks ads (most people seem to surf from work). Therefore logging into my Adsense to check how things are going is very frustrating.

I have thought perhaps I should diversify my income a little. So far I've tried one money making platform (Hubpages) and two advertising methods (Adsense which works, and Kontera which doesn't). I need to diversify both the platforms I use and the advertising providers.

To that end, I have been reading up on Google Knols. They are like Hubpages, but you keep 100% of the Adsense revenue (because they are owned by Google and Google is already making a profit from Adsense). They can't be used for SEO purposes as their outgoing links are all "no-follow", and they prefer your Knols to be purely informational, so no affiliate links etc. You open your account with your Google account, and you need to publish a good quality knol first before they let you put ads on it.

Anyway, it's worth a go, just to see how it all works out.

I have also thought of creating a finance blog, since I enjoy writing about budgeting and debt and all the rest of it, and perhaps monetising it with some other ad platform, maybe Adbrite, to see how that does.

Update: Well, I joined Google Knol and published a new knol. I then linked the Knol account to my Analytics, and to my Adsense. The procedure is much the same as when you link Hubpages to Analytics and Adsense. However, while they show my Adsense account as "Approved", they require additional approval from Knol, which they say will take up to two weeks.

Then on browsing the site I found that they only put a tiny block of ads right at the bottom of the right side bar, plus at the bottom on the page - where no one would click them. Not certain that this is worth it. So after some thought I deleted my knol (it hadn't yet been indexed) and republished it on Hubpages. Here it is:

Being a buy to let landlord in the recession

Oh well, you live and learn. On Googling further I've yet to find an article where someone has said "I've made some decent money with Knols". So I guess they don't! I guess you only learn these things by trial and error.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Making money with the HubPage Challenge

It's two weeks since I started the Hubpage challenge, and the hub creation is going slowly. Have only made 8 hubs as part of this challenge and will therefore need to make another 22 hubs in the next two weeks. I have been trying to build some backlinks though, through a commenting strategy (where I anchor my link in the comment to a keyword), but it's slow going.

What I've found is that when I get a surge in traffic from Yahoo, the likelihood of a click on the Adsense increases. I don't know why. Perhaps the people who use Yahoo are simply more trusting of ads than Google users. It does mean that I need to think about how I can get more Yahoo traffic.

The other thing to note is that I submitted one hub to Reddit, and while I got only a small amount of traffic from Reddit, it sparked a load of search traffic from Google, Yahoo and even Ask. Clearly submission to these social bookmarking sites right at the beginning does help the hub get indexed in various search engines. It's important not to spam Reddit though, which is why I've only done this for one hub. I might try a different bookmarking site for each of the other hubs (Mixx, etc).

Total money made so far from the Hub Challenge hubs in the last two weeks: $3.52

Here are the hubs I have made so far for this Challenge:

How to repair your credit score
How to settle credit card debt
Guide to peer-to-peer lending
All about Argentinian wine
How to make money online fast
How to find the best mortgage
What to do if you are in negative equity
How to remortgage

Monday, 18 May 2009

Hubpage Challenge update

Well, I have managed to build four hubs so far:

- How to make money online fast
- How to settle credit card debt
- All about Argentinian wines
- What to do if you are in negative equity

What I've learnt so far: The hubs which I built some backlinks commenting on blogs are in the search results. The ones I simply published appeared briefly in the SERPS but then disappeared.

What I will do is try to add material to all the hubs to make them fresh in the hopes that the search engines give them another look. Plus I need to build backlinks, there seems to be no way around that. And I have another 26 hubs to write!

Monday, 11 May 2009

The HubPage Challenge

Hubpages are running a challenge to make 100 Hubs in 30 days starting Monday May 11th 2009 (today), in an experiment to see how much money can be made in that time.

It certainly sounds intriguing. I have been concentrating on promoting my three hubs, but perhaps it might be interesting to see what happens when I try for volume. I'm not sure I can write that many good hubs, but I can certainly try the smaller challenge of 30 hubs in 30 days.

The thing about challenges is that they do give you something to aim for. In this instance, it's simply about making the hubs, but I wonder if I can combine it with another challenge and aim to make a sum of money as well.

Say my challenge is make 30 hubs in 30 days and make $1000 out of it. Hmm. Need to get my creative thinking cap on.

I will of course be updating this blog with my progress.

Update: Well I produced my first hubpage, which of course was about the hubpage challenge: How to make money online fast. I'm hoping the title isn't wishful thinking. I've started another hub too, but it is only half done and unpublished as yet. My verdict on the first day: this is going to be very very hard work, especially if you are producing long hubs full of original material. Oh well. Only another 29 days to go!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Re-writing hubs to produce better ads

I finally re-wrote my Sarkozy hub, because though it was about President Sarkozy, his many wives and much gossip about them all, the ads served up were dating ads such as "get a thai bride" (!), and clearly people interested in Sarko gossip wouldn't be interested at all in the ads (and hence no clicks).

I initially thought the problem was the use of the word "wives" in the title, but changing the title made no difference. Anyway, I then put the hub through a keyword density tool, which advised me that I had used the words 'married', 'divorce' and 'wives' a few times (each occuring about 1.5% of the time), as you would when talking about a man constantly marrying and divorcing. But these were what was triggering the "find a wife" ads. So I went through and used synonyms and reworked the text, and also played up the celebrity aspect of Carla Bruni to get more celeb type ads.

It was a success - the ads are now relevant at last (though the change didn't show up till I had cleared my cookies - Google's personalised ad cookie must have concluded that I wanted to see dating ads after I refreshed that page a few times LOL).

Note to self for the future: I need to use the keyword density tool when I create future hubs to make sure I've actually got the right collection of words dominating.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Should you optimise for more than one search engine?

Have been reading a very interesting SEO theory blog by Michael Martinez, who said that we should distinguish between the number of searches done by each search engine and the number of individual visitors to the search engines.

He wrote an article quoting figures from Quantcast showing that in Dec 2008, there were about 103 million US visitors to Live/Search.msn and 136 million US visitors to Google. Google's share of the total visitors is about 33%, and Live/Search/msn's is about 22%.

Now lots of people are reporting that in the total number of searches, (as opposed to visitors), Google handles some 67%-70%. He thinks this is because people use Google for other things than search (eg to check spellings, perform calculations, find phone numbers), but these are not things that result in click throughs to websites. Also, the SEO community uses Google resources heavily, bombarding the search engine with automatic tools that are trying to find out where in the listing certain pages are. A good number of searches on Google are just down to these tools making queries.

I decided to have a look at Quantcast for myself. For Feb 2008, Quantcast is showing 109.2 million US visitors to live, 141.1 million US visitors to Google and 125 million US visitors to Yahoo.

Which means that Yahoo plus MSN/Live have 234.2 million visitors, overwhelming Google.

Martinez also says you should look at the demographics of your own site before deciding which search engine to target. On another post, by way of illustration he showed the top ten searches on Yahoo for 2008 and Google for 2008. They were different. Yahoo was heavily celeb oriented (the only non-celebrity on their list was Barack Obama). Google showed a more tech based audience - in their top ten was the iphone and Facebook.

This struck a chord with me - my Sarkozy hubpage is getting a lot of hits from Yahoo, but the Get out of debt page is getting hits from Google.

The Quantcast profiles provide fascinating information about what pages visitors to the respective search engines also visit. MSN people seem to like visiting Fox Sports, Newsweek and PC World. Yahoo people seem to be visiting Ebay, paypal, recruitment websites, plus dating sites like and Google visitors are into lyrics, cartoons and reference sites such as

My head is absolutely buzzing with this. Of course it makes sense to optimise your site for the engine that delivers the best demographic. But it's hard to get onto MSN/Live or Yahoo. Google is kinder to the little guy. You start a blog and they will index it and feature it for at least a day, to give you a chance to make an impact (later they may drop you, but at least they gave you your initial chance). The other serach engines don't seem to like the little site and only give you traffic once you are really established.

Getting back to my problem of getting targetted traffic to my hubs - maybe I shouldn't be worrying too much about dating ads on my Sarkozy hub, if Yahoo visitors like both celebs and dating sites. Maybe Adsense served up the right sites after all...

My next step is to try to find out how to optimise for Yahoo and MSN when I'm targeting the type of demographics they deliver.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Titles of Hubpages and Blog posts - some thoughts

Though I put adsense on my Nicholas Sarkozy hubpage, I found I was still getting dating ads. It suddenly dawned on me that it was because I had used the word "wives" in the title. So if I want different ads to show up, I need to think up a new title.

Serves me right for writing that hub in the first place! My original plan was to write hubs on things people would Google in a recession, and my get out of debt hub fitted that strategy. But then I thought it would be "fun" to write something a little topical and gossip like.

And it was fun to write, and I am getting readers. But the people who read hubs like that don't click ads, why would they. There isn't anything for them to buy, their "need" was one for gossip, which I neatly fulfilled by writing the hub. They leave satisfied, I sit here wondering why I am still poor.

Moral of the story: they only things that make you money are the bread-and-butter things - how to get out of debt, how to make a chocolate cake, that sort of thing, where people need to buy a service or good to complete their need, whether it is a cookbook or some flour. News and gossip doesn't make anyone any money, because the people who read it don't necessarily have any need that would be fulfilled by the ads.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Update on Hubpages

It's been a month since I started this experiment. The good news is that I am starting to get search traffic for my hubs. I'm on the first page of the search results for the keyword, Do It Yourself Debt Management. OK, there is not a lot of search volume for that, but still we have to start somewhere and it's nice to be ranked for something.

The bad news is that Kontera isn't really working out. The ads seem to be inappropriate. I have turned it off on my hubs and have put Adsense on. I will report back in a month as to how that has gone.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Update on progress

OK. It's two weeks since I started on my project, and I have set up three hubpages - here are the links for those who wish to look at them :-)

- How to cure a cold
- The Wives of Nicolas Sarkozy
- Do it yourself debt management

The Wives of Nicolas Sarkozy was a minor hit on Reddit (678 hits from them), and all the hubs are starting to get a trickle of hits from the search engines. In particular, the Do it youself debt management hub is getting hits from Google UK, which is the targetted audience.

So far so good on the creating hubs and getting some traffic front.

However Kontera has been disappointing. Some of the ads they place are irrelevant - for instance they placed dating ads on the Wives of Sarkozy hub, when people reading that page would be more interested in celebrities and politics. Naturally, people arn't really clicking on the ads. I don't know whether things will improve or not. Will give it till the 31st of this month before I decide. Everyone seems to think Adsense is a better match to hubpages (especially as they roll over any amount you make each month, instead of forfeiting it like Kontera). However, Adsense operates a "smart-pricing" formula, so you really need to build the traffic up before placing Adsense on the hub - and they like search traffic above all.

So my plan for the rest of this month is to continue to build hubs and promote them to get the desired search engine traffic. I will evaluate the advertising at the end of the month to decide whether to continue with Kontera or not.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Kontera Keywords

Unlike Google adsense, there seems to be very little information on Kontera keywords, apart from the information on the Kontera blog, which does a post about the top clicked keywords each month. So I thought I'd start from there and go through their blog and find what they have been reporting.

The data the blog reports is eccentric: they only start reporting on popular keywords in August 2008, and didn't provide reports for September and November 2008. Further, you will notice that some categories are blank for a given month: I assume this is because that category didn't feature in the "top clicked" for that month.

The value of this list is that these are keywords for which a) Kontera has ads and b) people have have clicked on these ads.

Here's the info I have collated based on category:

Category: Apparel & Beauty

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 dresses
hair color

Jan 09 -

Dec 08 winter hat

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 hairstyles
Halloween costume
short hairstyles

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 Bikini
Hair color
Hair product

Category: Automotive

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 -

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 -

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 Auto repair manual
Fuel consumption
Hybrid car
Sports car

Category: Books & Magazines

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 Sports Illustrated
Vogue magazine
People magazine
W magazine

Jan 09 -

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 -

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: Computing and Internet

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7

Jan 09 Windows XP
windows vista
DVD decrypter

Dec 08 free download
audio stream
MP3 converter

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 free download
file type

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 Free downloads
Windows XP

Category: Consumer electronics

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 iphone
psp game
nintendo wii

Jan 09 iphone
nintendo wii
portable media player

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 cheat code
video game
online game

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 cheat code
Video game
Digital camera

Category: Employment

Date Top clicked keywords

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 -

Dec 09 resume sample
resume example
cover letter
job application

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 -

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: Entertainment

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 red carpet
Golden Globe Award
Rebecca Romijn
The Pussy Cat Dolls

Dec 08 Michael Caine
Jennifer Aniston
Brooke Burke
Chelsea Handler

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 Beyonce
music video

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 Bernie Mac
Dark Knight
Britney Spears
Season Premiere

Category: Finance

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 -

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 Trading
Stock Market

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: Government & Politics

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 -

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 presidential campaign
Barack Obama

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: Health

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 weight loss
diet plan
Mediterranean diet

Jan 09 side effect
medical condition
breast feeding
face lift

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 -

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: Holidays and Special Occasions

Date Top clicked Keyword

Feb 09 Valentine's Day
send roses
Valentine's Day Greeting
Valentine's Day love songs

Jan 09 -

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 party idea
party invitation
Gift Idea

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: News

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 -

Dec 08 Mumbai
Barack Obama
Hilary Clinton

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 -

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: Real Estate

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 affordable housing
apartment finder
apartsments for rent
home loans

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 housing
apartment for rent
rental property
apartment finder

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: Society & Culture

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 zodiac sign
sun sign

Dec 08 -

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 -

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 -

Category: Sports

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 Danica Patrick
Datona 500
League football

Jan 09 quarterback
workout routine
Manchester United
Junkyard Dog

Dec 08 Oscar de la Hoya
college football

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 -

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 Olympic Games

Category: Travel

Date Top clicked keyword

Feb 09 -

Jan 09 -

Dec 08 ski vacation
flight ticket

Nov 08 -

Oct 08 -

Sept 08 -

Aug 08 India
National park
Hiking trail
New York

The next step is designing hubpages to take advantage of the above information.
Please note that I will update this list as and when the Kontera blog provides new information on keywords.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Kontera continued

I've just discovered that Kontera require you to make a minimum of $5 a month with them, or they won't roll over the money (i.e. you lose your month's earnings if you are under that).

Not sure what I think about that to be honest! It's a bit harsh. Another thing - Hubpages only display your ad 60% of the time (the other 40% they display their own ad ID), plus they don't display them to those signed into Hubpages, so internal traffic is useless. And Kontera block the ads when the IP address of the visitor to the page is from certain countries. So you need a lot of page impressions before you get any clicks.

Still, as this is supposed to be a proper experiment to see if Kontera works, I am determined to try for at least a month to see if I can meet their conditions. That means building more hubpages and promoting them like anything. Perhaps these kinds of conditions are the sort of kick up the backside needed to get people to take making money online seriously instead of flitting from project to project never making much from anything.

Making decent hubpages takes a lot of work - don't be fooled by those who say they can be knocked out in an hour or two - it takes much longer, especially if you are researching your topic to make sure you've left nothing out, not to mention time spent thinking of ideas for hubs in the first place. This is most definitely not money for nothing! I should be able to report in a month's time whether it pays off with Kontera. If nor, I shall simply remove Kontera and put Adsense on the hubs.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Experimenting with HubPages

After Googling for what seems like hours, I finally came across a decent article that explained how HubPages work.

Have decided to sign up, and will use HubPages to test out my theory of writing about coping with debt in a recession (something I know quite a bit about). Hubpages shares ad revenue with members (60% to the member and 40% to them), but I haven't yet figured out whether I have to put the ads on there myself or whether they do.

Anyway for the moment I will concentrate on building my "hub".

Update 10th March 2009: OK, have produced my very first hubpage - Do It Yourself Debt Management.

Have also found out how they do the ad revenue - basically you have to sign up with Google Adsense or Kontera, and tell HubPages your ad ID - they then place the ads on your page and split the revenue.

Have decided to try Kontera only for the moment. Kontera produce little text-links in the text of your article. Payment is pay-per-click and they payout by Paypal 30 days after you reach $100 in your account.

Have decided to put Kontera on this blog too, to see how it all works out.

Which industries do best in a recession?

I thought I'd start my quest to earn online by Googling the above phrase. The results were mixed to say the least. There was a lot of consensus that healthcare is recession-proof - but you can't do healthcare online on a self-employed basis, especially if you have no healthcare background. The same goes for advice to work for the utilities, police force, military and so on. None can be pursued online.

One potential area that caught my eye was "debt management". Now there is an area where people would probably want free sound debt advice online. I guess the website could be paid for by advertising.

Another area that caught my eye was "comforts". People wanting to cheer themselves up with small comforts such as a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine. Cosmetics such as lipsticks also do well in recessions as women cheer themselves up with small purchases to make themselves look good. This could lend itself to affiliate marketing.

A third potential area to explore is "discount retailing" - the idea is that people become demons about seeking out discounts in recessions, and those who can provide them do the best. I'm not quite sure how a self-employed person with no money and free blogs is going to be able to get into that business though.

The next step will be working out how to exploit these areas online.

About this blog

The interesting thing about this recession is that this is the first one to take place in the internet age. Millions will become self-employed and try to earn online. But is this feasible? Is it possible to make a living in the virtual world when the real world is in such bad shape?

Well, this blog diary is going to chart my progress in trying to do just that. Even if I don't make it, it will be a record of what happened in 2009 that I can show to my as yet un-born grandchildren when they ask, "Gramdma what did you do in the Great Recession of the 21st Century".