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I can't get rich online and neither can you. Topics include why you won't get rich with your blog, ideas you wish you had thought of, and other Internet phenomena.

Don't kid yourself...

You want to get rich with your blog? Maybe you think Adsense will let you retire? Sorry, it's not going to happen.

Archive: Bloggers

Fine, I’ll Write About It

Yesterday when I mentioned that I didn’t want to blog about the worst ‘make money online’ site I have ever seen, I meant it. Of course, that was before a few of you asked me to do it anyway, so I guess I might as well. Before I start ranting though, let me just make it clear that I have nothing against the author. He’s set a noble (and lofty) goal, and he’s backing it up with a plan. I can respect that. I can’t, however, respect his current approach. His site makes me want to tear my eyeballs out while bathing in live fire ants. It’s that bad.

Start from the top

I’ll start from the very top of the page and work my way down. First of all, let’s look at the title: “The Geek Boys”. If you take a look at his ‘About’ page, it seems that he chose that name because:

Well because I believe that the real people making money online and offline are Geeks. So if you want to make money join the geeks.

I don’t know what to think about that. People like John Chow, Paul Bourque, and Jason Pereira all seem like normal enough people. To me, a geek is someone who obsesses over one thing (video games, model trains, etc), shutting out everything else. So, that’s the first thing I hate about his site: People who make money online don’t have to be ‘geeks’.

Moving on

Ok, back to the main page. Moving down a bit, you’ll see his slogan: “A Bad speller with alot of Idea’s.”

…Oh, sorry. That sentence actually knocked me out of my chair. How can anybody run a make money online blog with a slogan like that?! That’s like saying “Hi, I’ve got a vague plan to make a ton of money, and I can’t be bothered with little details like spelling and grammar.” An attitude like that can destroy a writer’s credibility right from the start.

What’s the point?

Anyway, moving on we see his goal: To invest $10,000 in his blog, making it into a $1,000,000 blog in only one year. I think that’s a little (read: very) lofty. For starters, one of the most successfully monetized blogs on the Internet, John Chow dot com, makes less than half of that (assuming he keeps up with the $30,000/month trend). I think it’s nice that he is setting aside a big chunk of change for advertising costs, but I don’t think he’ll be able to reach that million dollar mark with only a $10,000 investment. On the plus side, if he can legally turn $10,000 into $1,000,000 in only one year’s time, he’ll have investment bankers lining up for miles to meet him. It looks like he’s spent a little less than $500 so far, and I’ve seen one of his ads (the anchor text was ‘John Chow sucks’), so he’s had at least a minor amount of success with his advertising.

The layout

This site suffers from two critical flaws.

  1. Wall-of-text disorder. Minimal use of formatting and images makes for a wall of text (something I know I’m going to be guilty of in this post). I find that very unattractive.
  2. White washed. There’s so much white, everywhere. Studies show* that using a non-white background color increases page attractiveness by up to 23%.

*not really

Other than that, the theme is decent, although I think the content area is a little too narrow.

The posts

Who cares? They don’t contain any traces of spelling, grammar, or punctuation. They’re thoroughly unreadable so I won’t even bother. Here’s a tip: Firefox has an automatic spell checker. Use it.

Monetization

It looks like he’s taking the slow route to that first million. He offers six sidebar ads ($20/month), ten text link ads ($5/month), and paid reviews ($20/month, although I’m not sure why you’d want a monthly review from the same site. He also reserve the right to “Deni” any paid reviews). Let’s do some math here: Assuming he sold all of his ads spots every month, and managed to do a whopping ten reviews per month, that puts him at $4,440 for the year (just a little shy of one million). I realize that he may adjust his prices as traffic increases, but that’s how it stands now.

Speaking of traffic, he doesn’t list any statistics. Why would I pay money to advertise on a site without knowing how much traffic it gets?

Jeez, what set you off Geoff?

I know this post is cruel. Normally, I wouldn’t go out of my way to attack another blogger, but this site really got under my skin.

  1. He’s bashing a very successful blogger as part of his marketing campaign.
  2. He’s throwing $10,000 at a site that is, in my opinion, absolutely worthless in its present form. I honestly believe that a savings account would get him a better return on his investment.
  3. The spelling! Agh, this site is an affront to the English language! Yes, I’m a grammar nazi, I know.

Maybe tomorrow he’ll check his Wordpress stats and see this post as an incoming link. Hopefully he won’t get too worked up about my criticism, and make a few changes to his site. Who knows.

Anyway, if he’s serious about spending a whopping $10,000 on advertising, he needs to make some changes. Done correctly, he could make all of that back and more. As it is right now, he’d be better off lighting that wad of cash on fire.

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ReviewU: Jackie’s Biz Blog

Jackie, of Jackie’s Biz Blog, wrote in to request a ReviewU. I’m running out of witty things to say here in the introduction, so let’s just dive into the review.

First impressions

Before I even started reading Jackie’s entries, I noticed one feature that really stands out on this blog: Buttons. Widgets. Graphics. Blinking things, everywhere. Two columns of graphics and widgets (including the worthless Blogrush widget), a ridiculous number of banners in her most recent post (to be fair, they were the focus of her article), and at the bottom of every post, this:
Social networking buttons

I can readily identify eight of those buttons (Squidoo, Stumbleupon, Netscape, digg, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and delicious). The other forty-two, I’ve never heard of. I can understand wanting to submit your articles to the big social bookmarking sites, but this widget always make me cringe. Really, fifty social bookmarking sites is excessive, and I’d be very surprised if the majority of those sites helped build permanent traffic.

I’m not a huge fan of social bookmarking sites, so I personally can’t recommend using a plugin like this. Those folks are very fickle, popping onto your site and then disappearing forever. I’d say around 1% of my Stumbleupon hits actually stick around for more than a day or two. Personally, I believe relying on such methods to build traffic will only result in disappointment.

Anyway

On to the meat of the site. Essentially, this looks like just another make money online blog, but there are two key differences:

  1. She actually DOES make money online, through a variety of methods (aren’t you all jealous?). Apparently she’s been doing it for six years. Let’s see, what was I doing six years ago? I believe I was in my parents’ basement, playing Playstation games and working at an Arby’s. Yeah, that sounds about right.
  2. Much in the same way some of my past reviewees have been milking the “I’m a teenager and I make money online” theme, Jackie appears to be milking the “I’m a stay at home mom and I make money online” idea. That’s good, it separates her from the masses. It’s good to show a little personality while blogging.

Aside from that, it’s just another making money blog (although it has an air of legitimacy, which is rare). Contests, happenings in the blogosphere (I still hate that word), and the like. As for monetization, there’s not much (I’m guessing she doesn’t really need draw a big income from her blog). She has an empty Scratchback widget with spots for sale for $5, the occasional affiliate ad (Amazon, for example), and that “Buy me a *blank*” link at the bottom of every post. She seems to prefer coffee as her beverage of choice. If I ever use that method, I’m going for tea. Not just any tea, mind you, but those gigantic 24 ounce cans of Arizona flavored iced tea. 24 ounces for a dollar. That stuff is great.

What I would change

Not a whole lot, really. The theme is nothing special, but it works. I’d consider changing or removing the social bookmarking plugin, and I’d flat out drop Blogrush (as I said, worthless). I’d also consider reducing the total number of posts displayed on the front page. Right now, displaying ten posts makes the page incredibly long, and increases the loading time. I’d cut it down to five. Other than that, the site is fine. She updates consistently, she knows what she’s talking about, and she’s obviously blogging just because she enjoys it. That earns big points with me, as I can’t stand people who blog solely for cash.

Overall, a good site.

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Starting a Blog

One of my readers wrote to me today, asking for a little advice on blogging. After looking over his site, I gave him a mini ReviewU, telling him that he needs to find direction for his blogging efforts. I get questions like this every once in awhile, so I thought it would be good to make a handy guide for future reference. So here you have it - Geoff’s guide to creating a new blog that he won’t mock and/or ridicule.

The first step

First of all, before you register a domain name, look at Wordpress themes, or create Adsense blocks, you need to pick a niche. A blog that bounces from topic to topic without a set niche is a personal blog. Nobody will care about your personal blog. I’d recommend picking something you’re good at, something that you enjoy doing. Don’t just leap headfirst into the ‘Make Money Online’ niche, as it’s already crowded enough as it is. Also, before picking a niche, ask yourself “What new and unique ideas can I bring to this niche?” If you’re just repeating things John Chow wrote about, nobody will care. I’d recommend writing about your personal experiences with a particular niche. People seem to enjoy that.

Attracting readers

Guest posting is a great way to attract new readers. If you can’t do that, be active in your niche. Comment on other people’s blogs, and leave thoughtful comments. Use Mybloglog. Be active on a forum and leave your blog’s URL in your signature. Hold a contest. Don’t rely on tools like blogrush and Entrecard, as they won’t drive any significant traffic to your site.

Don’t wait for bigger blogs to request guest posts either. Send them a quick email with your article attached, and ask them if they’d be willing to publish it. If it’s coherent and thought-provoking, they’ll probably publish it.

Update consistantly

I know, I say this practically every day, but it’s true. Nothing will keep your blog from growing quite like an unpredictable update schedule. Start out updating twice per week, and then increase your frequency as you attract new readers.

Don’t put a picture of an expensive car in your header

Unless you’re writing a car blog, just don’t. If you don’t understand this one, that’s probably a good thing.

Don’t do it for the money

If you start a blog for the sole purpose of making money, you’ll fail. It’s easy to spot greedy bloggers, so you won’t be fooling anybody. Write because you enjoy writing, and you’ll make money eventually.

Brag

When you do make a boatload of money, or you hit some insane number of RSS readers, brag about it. People love seeing big numbers. Check out Shoemoney’s most viewed photo. It’s an enormous check. Everybody likes seeing those. Don’t be afraid to brag about your accomplishments, but make sure they’re worth bragging about first.

Follow my rules

They’re incredibly generic, but they’re good rules to follow. Stick to them, make a blog about something interesting, and I won’t rip it to shreds in a review.

Speaking of reviews, my list just keeps growing. I’ll probably have one up tomorrow.

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You Can’t Get Rich if You Can’t Deal With Criticism

My guest post over at the Cow’s blog has drawn a fair amount of flak from his readers. True, the post itself was fairly cynical, but that was kind of the point. Starting a brand new blog in the ‘make money online’ niche is difficult to do, and most people don’t go about it in the right way. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the critics from loudly proclaiming that I have no idea what I’m talking about, and that making money online is as easy as breathing. Where I tried to be specific, they see only broad declarations. You know what all of this has taught me? You need to know how to deal with criticism.

Some basic rules

  1. Never lash out. When people disagree with you or call you a fool, your first impulse will be to counter their argument with one of your own, and possibly insult their intelligence in the process. Smother that impulse. This is what as known as a ‘flame war’ online, and flame wars never turn out well. It’s childish, and it will damage your credibility. When people try to bait me with harsh or unfounded criticism, I give them the Teller treatment: Just stay silent. Besides, silence will probably annoy them more than outright arguing.
  2. Respond to libel. So far I’ve had two people call me out on their blogs, saying that I am a hypocrite for ‘making money with his blog while telling others it’s impossible’. In a situation like this, it’s alright to break your silence. I left a note on each of those blogs, explaining that I don’t make any money with this site. My reviews are free, my ad spots are free, and as you can see, I don’t have any money-generating ads anywhere on this site. Once I hit an average of 1,000 readers per day, that may change, but for now, this site is powered 100% by sarcasm and green tea, not money.
  3. Let them say what they want. Don’t forget, the right to free speech does not include the right to be taken seriously. When somebody calls me a fool, I go to their site and take a look at their comment count and/or RSS subscriber count. Most of the time, the loudest complainers have subscribers in the single digits, so I’m not too worried about what they have to say.
  4. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Go ahead and write something that people aren’t expecting. My guest post currently has 51 comments, more than all of the other recent guest posts on Cow’s site. Be bold and write what your truly believe, especially if it’s out of the ordinary. Generate some outrage.

There’s no such thing as bad press

Thanks to the Moo Man, a lot more people now know that this site exists. They know that, when a new blogging product or service comes out and everybody else is praising its virtues, one site will be pointing out all of its flaws. They know that I’m not just rehashing everything John Chow or Shoemoney has to say. They know that I am unique, and you know what? That’s why I’ll be successful while others fail.

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Code of Ethics

I think anybody who’s trying to make money online should have a code of ethics to stick to. I’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about what’s right and wrong in the online world, and I think I’ve come up with a good set of guidelines that I try to follow:

Splogs

For starters, let’s talk about splogs (or autoblogs). Splogs are usually frowned upon by…nearly everybody, but I tend to look at them differently. For starters, they’re a great way to get backlinks to a domain that you’re not actively using at the moment. Also, I don’t really mind when I see pingbacks from splogs show up in my spam queue. The sites are almost always terrible and I know that nobody would actively seek them out, plus they have a linkback to this site. I get slightly more page rank and my rank in the SERPs goes up a bit. Everybody wins.

On the other hand, some bloggers are a little more protective of their content than I am. Because of this, I’d say you should always credit the original post, and always respect take-down notices. Don’t ever stoop to plagiarism.

If you want to trying making an autoblog, here are a few tips:

  • Check your email daily for takedown notices
  • Turn off autopinging to help cover your tracks
  • Use a scraper that always cites the source

Making money off of current events

In my eBook, you may have noticed that I suggest using current events as a springboard for getting wide circulation of your ads. There’s a limit to that. I must admit that it crossed my mind to make an online poll about Heath Ledger’s death (Was it a suicide or an accident? Vote and win.). I considered that idea for about two seconds before I threw it out. Something like that would be a really scummy thing to do. Bottom line, don’t try to profit off of a death or tragedy.

Withholding information

When it comes to numbers, don’t lie to your readers, but don’t be afraid to withhold information. For instance, none of you know how many hits this site gets per day. Maybe that’s because I don’t like to brag, maybe it’s because it jumps up and down like a 5 year old on crack. You’ll never know until I decide to tell you.

You should always try to be honest with your readers, but keeping some information private isn’t a bad thing.

Anyway

Those are a few rules I try to follow. Just because the Internet is fairly anonymous doesn’t mean you should do whatever you please. Stick to your ethics and people will trust you.

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