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
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
site:Squidoo.com "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.