making money

Thoughts on Google AdSense

After starting up my own personal blog, I started thinking about ways to make it a bit of a side hustle (oh, and Side Hustle School was inspiring as well). One of the ideas that kept coming up was Google AdSense, a way to display ads on your website.

The whole moral dilemma of whether or not to place ads on my blog is something I’ve grappled with and is ultimately a personal choice. Maybe someday I’ll decide to go back to being ad-free, but for now, I’m intrigued to see how lucrative this might be (for a fairly small website, I’m not anticipating a full paycheck but some rainy day funds would be cool).

The thing about AdSense — as with a lot of things pertaining to Google — is that a) it changes every so often, and b) you don’t necessarily have a lot of control over it.

To get started, you need a website, a Google account, and to visit Google AdSense. Fill out some preliminary information (name, website, etc), and Google will give you a code to copy and paste in your website’s header (don’t worry — they have some tutorials to help). Then, Google will ask you to confirm that the code is ready so they can “review your site.” Although Google tells you the review process can take up to 3 days, I heard back within day 1.

After that, you get taken to this lovely-looking dashboard.

So Google AdSense offers a few different displaying options for the ads. The relatively easy ones to add are Text & Display ads, In-Feed, and In-Article.

In-Feed and In-Article Ads are the ones you’ll see in between a list (feeds) or paragraphs (article). Arguably these are less distracting to your readers, but I have been confused by them before.

My first ad was a Text & Display Ad. This type of ad is probably the easiest with which to get started since all you have to do is copy and paste the code and add it … wherever! I chose to put my first one in my site’s sidebar, but I can play around with it or add more ads later. Sure, you could shove an ad in your footer, but the point is for people to see/click on it, so placement is important. It’s a fine line between putting it somewhere that isn’t completely annoying but remains somewhat attention grabbing.

This is what it looked like on the front end of my site. Yay Birchbox!

Other types of ads are Page Level ads. Anchor ads appear at the very bottom of a mobile screen, while vignette ads will appear while pages are still loading on your website. Quickstart ads are for both desktop and mobile. This cluster of ads will only appear on your website or a page on your website a) once you have added the code in the right spot and b) whenever Google thinks it’s a good time to show them. Meaning, Page Level Ads appear entirely at Google’s discretion.

Some things to keep in mind if you’re considering using AdSense:

  • If you’re a control-freak, this might not be a good option. While you can limit where the ads appear, you don’t necessarily get to control what’s being advertised (you can set up some restrictions, but this is another “Google decides” thing).
  • You may have to deal with code. Getting page-level ads to display on my website was a bit of a hassle because I had no idea where I was supposed to add the code. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who have decided to share their wisdom with the internet, so I figured it out with some research.
  • Once it’s set up, it seems fairly easy. Like anything, I’m sure I could do more, crazier things to optimize my Google AdSense. If you’re just looking to set something up and “coast” for a bit, that’s totally an option as well. (Keep in mind, Google likes to change things up every now and then so you may have to revisit every so often).

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Considering The Affiliate

This month’s theme is showing love to businesses and, much like we’ve formalized love with marriage, the formalization of business love online can be an affiliate agreement.

An affiliate is someone who reps/represents your company a mutually agreed upon way. They aren’t an employee but they’ve typically signed up to let you know they are interested in doing this. You may have terms for them, like they can’t use the product you are trying to sell in a certain way or can’t do certain things with product links. Once signed up, your affiliate can recommend your company and typically they get a financial kickback for doing so (ex: when someone becomes a paid member or upgrades their account.) In other words, they can recommend all they want but until your company gets a conversion, you don’t owe them anything.

By Googling “Warby Parker affiliate” I see what the terms are for me to recommend cool frames and where I can sign up. This brings down Warby Parker’s overall marketing costs while giving me incentive to share my love of them.

How do you know if an affiliate has made a sale for you or not?

Option 1: Give them a custom link.

For example, let’s say your name is Bob and you LOVE our blog and wanted to get people to subscribe. We talk about it and I say I’ll give you $1/person who signs up for email list. I could make a custom email newsletter subscription link like breakingeveninc.com/newsletter%bob that you can share. The people you share that link with are directed to a normal looking page; I’m just tracking it in a special, distinct way. In my website software, I could set up for it to track when someone who got to that link signed up for our email newsletter (filled out and submitted a form successfully). Every month, I sendBob a check for the amount of subscribers he sends.

The link makes things easy because the ‘customer’ doesn’t have to do anything. As the affiliate, you have to remember to use your special link and as the company, I have to set up tracking but the person clicking through is mostly unawares. Note: Bob could do something cool with his website like make bobswebsite.com/becrocks redirect to my fancy affiliate link. That gives Bob’s friends/customers something easy to remember and lets him use the affiliate link we agreed upon together.

Option 2: Give them a coupon code. 

The other way to do this, especially if this relationship involves purchasing, is to offer a code. Let’s say as someone entered their email into my website, I have a ‘coupon code’ portion where the person signing up is supposed to write ‘Bob’ for him to get credit for sending me a subscriber.

The good thing with this is it’s very deliberate coming from the customer… but most people aren’t going to take the extra step unless they get something for doing it. That’s why most coupon codes involve a discount code or free download or something for the customer for taking the trouble. Maybe by entering ‘Bob’ in the signup form, the people get a free ebook from me.

Whether option 1 or 2 is used, both Bob and I understand what is supposed to happen and what Bob will get when that agreed upon thing happens. 

Anchorspace is an affiliate for StandDesk which means when someone buys from our link, they save $50 and we get $50. So we’ve earned $150 just by recommending a product we already use and love and given people too far afield to come into Anchorspace a way to support us through their purchase. You can click on this photo and get taken to our affiliate link to see! http://go.standdesk.co/fHSGR

How do you set up an affiliate program?

You may think this seems complicated. Why set up something just for Bob?

If you think about the power of even having ten people like Bob as sort of un-salaried salespeople for your company, you’ll see that this can be a good idea for you. First of all, you’re only paying when you get what you want and second, by rewarding Bob and people like him, you’re incentivizing him to refer you more often, even if it’s a discount on your own products versus cold hard cash.

So you have two options with affiliate programs.

Option 1: Use an existing (third party) affiliate program. 

Websites like shareasale.com or Commission Junction offer a ‘plug and play’ option where you can set up agreements, have it automatically generate/track links, etc., which is perfect if the idea of DIY totally overwhelms you. If what is preventing you from doing this is the tech, please take that away as a concern. That said, Moz has an excellent point as these websites are creating links that aren’t as direct as you making the links yourself, which can detract from search engine benefits. Also these probably cost money since they are attempting to make your life easier.

Option 2: DIY on your own website. 

Tools like Google Goals and plugins like AffiliateWP Wordpress plugin allow you to set this up on your own website directly. So long as you are clear about how you want it to work, it’s totally doable to set up and even have it create cute reports and stuff. If you ask someone like us, we can get you an estimate at the very least and you can make your decision from there.

(Aside: Whenever people ask me about the difference between using something like Squarespace and Wordpress, I always say your website can ‘do more stuff’ with Wordpress and this is the kind of thing I mean. Here’s what Squarespace forums say about setting up affiliate programs.)

The best thing you can do to understand affiliates better is to try them out yourself as a referrer.

To become your own version of Bob, think of companies you already like. Visit their websites (the best first stop is the navigational menu that is  typically on the bottom of the page) and look for an ‘Affiliates’ link. If you don’t see one there, ask Google if the company has one, or write to the company via their website and ask.

Once you have a few affiliate links/codes, try them out with people you think would genuinely appreciate those goods/services. Are people receptive? Does certain language/certain websites seem to work better for you? Do certain things seem to make people take action? Use these experiences as the referrer when you make your own affiliate program.

Like any tool, when used sparingly and in the context of an overall marketing strategy affiliates can be an effective way for people to love your business and get rewarded for it. (Yes we are considering an affiliate program ourselves; contact us if you are interested.) In the meantime, let us know if you are an affiliate yourself or if your company uses affiliates to drive sales!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Selling Stuff Online: Your Time

The final in our series of ‘selling stuff online,’ is selling your time.

Now this is somewhat covered in the ‘events’ post but there we concentrated on ticket selling and more of the questions you’d need to ask if you were running an event with a group of people. Lots of people (massage therapists, internet marketing consultants, etc.) trade time for money and having a system that integrates with a calendar is their saving grace.

Instantaneous (Live) Support Versus Book Ahead

The first question you need to ask yourself is do you want live support or do you want to book time ahead. Most people don’t have the staffing (or general interest) to be available nearly constantly but I do know some consultants who hold ‘office hours’ where people can drop in unscheduled.

Most of the time though, there is some kind of way you can schedule time, like a calendar interface on the side of a page (as with paperfling.com):

paperflingsidebarscheduling

 

To a slicker landing page one a la blinds.com:

blindsdotcomschedulingscreen

 

Free or Paid

So a free consult could get people in the door but taking payment ensures people are truly booking something of value.

Some scheduling programs will allow you to take payment (or at least hold a credit card). There may be some additional fees (processing fees, monthly fees, etc.) for this, just as a warning but getting paid for your time up front may be worth a bit of cash to you. Sublime Canines won’t let you book a class without payment, which I’m sure makes sure EVERYONE shows up to their scheduled session:

sublimecaninestakespayment

 

Rescheduling

The more meetings you schedule, the more rescheduling you’ll have to do.

Having an email automatically go out to the client after they book (and also on the booking page) can communicate your rescheduling (and possibly refunding if you are taking payment then) possibility.

If not, you’ll want a way to handle rescheduling, whether it is setting aside your own time for admin or hiring out. I have been trying out Fancy Hands this month for rescheduling with clients and it has been AMAZING so far.

In any case, if you are going to think of exchanging your time for money, it is something to think about.

Taking Your Time Into A Marketplace

It’s one thing to have people book time with you through your website but there are a whole generation of websites that let people consult with people who will pay them.

Google Helpouts, probably the best known example, is shutting down in April but there are plenty out there: TaskRabbit, LiveNinja and other sites have let people sell their time/services for money in a general way.

liveninjabrowse

Depending on your service, there may be sites specific to your service (for example Uber with driving) or you can start on a more general website like LiveNinja.

So even if you don’t have any products, you can be selling something online. And that’s pretty powerful.

Other posts in our series:

Selling Stuff Online: Products

Selling Stuff Online: Events

Selling Stuff Online: E-products

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Selling Stuff Online: E-Products

In looking at our series the past few weeks, I bet at one point it occurred to you: “Golly, if you didn’t have to get people together for events or ship physical products, it could be a lot easier to make money.”

And so we have entered the world of e-products. From buying apps to having a member subscription to a favorite website, digital products are something not only everyone is increasingly comfortable with but also satisfied with. A few things to think about if you are selling digital products:

Limited Time Or All The Time

bschoolregistrationclosed

 

One way to get people interested in what you’re selling is to have it for a limited time only. This ‘B School’ is only open for enrollment for a few weeks each year. The rest of the time, the above screen captures leads.

If you want your product available all the time, that’s fine. But sometimes the ‘get it before it’s gone’ philosophy works as well for programs as it does for kitchen gadgets on infomercials.

One Time Payments or Recurring Payments

There’s something to be said of offering a product, taking payment, and that being it. Some products (a digital edition of a book for example) can and should be paid for at once.

Letting someone do recurring payments (typically monthly) can help support an ongoing service (though like Google Apps, you can give a discount when people pay a bulk of it up for the year):

googleappspricing

Freemium Model

Honestly, if you have nothing I can look at for free to give me an idea of what I’m spending my $10/month (or whatever amount) on, I’m not very interested.

In terms of a mainstream website that gives away some stuff but has the rest behind a paywall, Consumer Reports comes to mind. Here’s the screen you get to after you click ‘Sign up’:

consumerreportssignuppage

Different Tiers

If you want to appeal to different kinds of people (or maybe more accurately people at different levels in your sales funnel) is to have offerings at different tiers. You’ll see most every digital product you see has a sort of ‘lite’ version as well as versions for those more ‘heavy’ users:

netflixpricing

 

What online products can you sell digitally?

Some ideas I found online were not limited to: blueprints, special reports, videos, educational programs, recipes, patterns/clip art/design templates, databases, turn key websites, photography, apps, software, and email programs.

Point is, you can get creative, set up some kind of online way to take payment (and automated product delivery), and theoretically you could be making money.

Yeah, I make that sound easy, don’t I? Honestly, the most work you do is creating the thing you want to sell. While you may be the mastermind behind the idea, it may be worth hiring a videographer, ebook designer, etc. to help you make a polished product. OK I’ll just say it, it IS worth it. 🙂

In planning, you’ll want to keep in mind the ideas above and decide how long your offer will last; how people will pay; and how/if it can be divided into a few different price points.

 

If you have less of a ‘product’ and more of ongoing information you want to pay for, a subscription website may be your jam. To get more ideas, check out 9 Most Profitable Subscription Websites (Mequoda).

Just because you didn’t put it in a box or meet the person you’re selling to in real life, doesn’t mean they aren’t a potential customer. Digital products help you reach exactly those people.

Other posts in this series:

Selling Stuff Online: Products
Selling Stuff Online: Events

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Online Ads 101: Affiliates

The last few weeks, we’ve talked about a few different ways to make money online with your website: PPC (pay per click) ads, display ads, and ad networks. The idea, of course, is not to overwhelm but show you how some of your favorite people online make money when you visit their website. This post is the last in our series.

Affiliate ads, or basically selling a product or service for a commission, is not a new idea. Many people do this in real life (think of any sort of party at which you could also buy things: cookware, jewelry, adult toys, etc.)

Online affiliates are even easier as you don’t have to clean your house or have suitcases of product to do them. Sometimes an affiliate will pay when someone clicks on a link to their site from your website, sometimes only when a purchase is made. Fees paid out can be a commission (percentage of total) or a flat fee per customer, depending on the service. There are literally thousands of affiliate programs (and if you have a unique product or service, you can set one up. More info on setting up an affiliate program here: http://lkrsocialmedia.com/2011/09/how-to-create-an-affiliate-program-that-doesnt-suck/)

The most popular online affiliate program is Amazon. When you sign up, they give you a way to make special links to products on Amazon.com. Like the new desk chair you bought? Make an affiliate link. Like the sweet and spicy tea you keep in your office? Make an affiliate link. Then you post these links places: social media, blog, website, email newsletter, etc. If someone follows your link and buys your product, you get 2-3% commission (up to 10% if you sell more).

For fun once, I made an Amazon Affiliate account and shared a couple links on Facebook (to my personal profile) over the course of a few weeks. You know, I never did get that $1 and change from Amazon…

I made $1 as an Amazon Affiliate. Stop being jealous.

I made $1 as an Amazon Affiliate. Stop being jealous.

(I guess I just felt slimy doing this, which is why it ended up being a three day experiment without much thought put into it and yielded such unimpressive results.)

But I do know plenty of bloggers who post, say, links where you can buy books they are reading or write ‘affiliate’ blog posts linking to products. It’s possible, especially if the thing you want to sell isn’t made by you (ex: You want to recommend people buy a Seth Godin book but aren’t a bookstore or Seth Godin.)

Amazon doesn’t have high profit margins so they can’t give you, say, 50% commission. But that’s where working directly with a smaller distributor makes sense. The more directly you work with the company selling the product, the higher your commission.

Let’s take another affiliate example. I am a pretty big Rupaul fan but I also know that Rupaul mentions sponsors, etc. on his/her/not-sure-the-proper-pronoun podcast. So I went to the Shop portion of the Rupaul website:

rupaulaffiliate

I know the writing is tiny on my screenshot but you’ll see the ‘Glamazon’ shirt can be purchased on Rupaul.com but The other items (ex: action figure) can be purchased from other websites. Tell tale sign of an affiliate, you get redirected to another website (note the URL and website design change when I click on the action figure):

Love Rupaul but not sure my love is $199 of love.

Love Rupaul but not sure my love is $199 of love.

Point is, affiliates let you recommend stuff and get paid, without having to process the payment, ship it, or really do any kind of customer service. You are middle manning it. That said, if you have an audience and that audience trusts you to recommend products, your middle manning is worth something.

If you want to see if a product you like has an affiliate program, simply type in “company name affiliate” into Google. Typing “Constant Contact affiliate” into Google got me to the CC affiliate page:

constantcontactaffilate

Affiliate marketing, when done by those who genuinely enjoy a product and want others to experience its benefits (and, let’s face it, make a buck or two in the process), is a useful marketing tool. That said, there can also be a dark side. For example, if I am a financial advisor and I sell you the IRA plan where I make commission on but there is another IRA in the world that I know is actually better for you, that’s conflict of interest territory to me. I couldn’t sleep at night doing that. But as long as you’re straight-forward about what you make money on, I think affiliates can be perfectly ethical and potentially profitable.

Note: This post has no affiliate links in it. Click away, I will happily earn nothing while you do so. 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Online Ads: Display Ads

onlineadsdisplayadsSo last week, we discussed PPC (or Pay Per Click) ads. Many networks have these now but the idea is you pay when people click.

But what if you don’t have an online store where people can make a purchase? What if general awareness is what you are after? What if you want the ads you serve up on your site to display depending on what people have been looking at. (Don’t act like you’ve never been freaked out where, after browsing for shoes, you’re on some complete other website and you see an ad for the very shoes you were looking at!)

Display ads started out as banner ads and they were typically wide (you know, like actual banners are). I remember when I too added my first banner ad on top of my Geocities website (if I could remember the URL of my site, I’d so go to the Wayback Machine and get the screenshot but alas, this one will have to do):

If you are also slightly nostalgic for Geocities websites, please visit this lovely blog: http://code.tutsplus.com/articles/top-10-reasons-why-the-closing-of-geocities-is-long-overdue--net-7393

If you are also slightly nostalgic for Geocities websites, please visit this lovely blog: http://code.tutsplus.com/articles/top-10-reasons-why-the-closing-of-geocities-is-long-overdue–net-7393

Got to love the Yahoo Geocities display ad!

Now, display ads are much more comprehensive. They can be videos, animations, pictures, etc. and they can be everywhere on a website, from pop ups to sidebar items.

For display ads, you pay a certain amount of money per 1,000 impressions. (I’m over generalizing clearly.) Up until relatively recently, like the newspapers of today, you put your display ad on a website and hoped people saw it/remembered it, as you paid whether they clicked on it or not. So these ads were being served up to a wide variety of people.

Google, however, has changed all this again with a concept called ‘remarketing’. The idea is displaying these ads to people who have already been to your website. (You setup a way to collect cookies from people who have visited your site, creating what Google calls a ‘remarketing list’.) It’s definitely sneaky but you can see where it would be more effective to display an ad to someone who has been to your site than someone who has never heard of you.

Just for fun, I went to Mashable.com and took a screenshot (I am a 33 year old woman):

My Mashable experience includes a 'website in 3 minutes' post (I've been doing research on a blog post about these 'automatic' website builders) and one for Old Navy (I've been looking for some staple clothing items to fill in gaps in my closet).

My Mashable experience includes a ‘website in 3 minutes’ post (I’ve been doing research on a blog post about these ‘automatic’ website builders) and one for Old Navy (I’ve been looking for some staple clothing items to fill in gaps in my closet).

I asked Kassie for fun to screenshot what she sees when she goes to Mashable.com:
kassiesmashableexperience

The takeaway, besides the fact that Kassie is way more intellectual than I seem to be, is that display ads can now be different for different website visitors. And that’s pretty cool.

So display ads are just another way to do online ads. Many of the sites that have them (like Mashable) are quite large (they have pretty detailed specs for ads for example but since they don’t have pricing, I’m guessing you have to have pretty deep pockets to play with them).

Next week, we’ll talk about a solution to this problem of not having, say, multiple ad agencies and your own sales people to sell ads on your website: ad networks.

More on display advertising on Wikipedia (of course) and Google has documentation on remarketing. If you want someone to set this up for you, our friend Colin at Root Deeper Marketing is a Google certified specialist and could totally do it for you.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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