Success with AdWords

I’ve been building AdSense sites for years now, but have never done much from the other side, in other words participating in the AdWords programme as an advertiser. But I’ve been getting into this over the last few days to promote a product on a client site.

As pretty much of a noob at this side of things, it appears to me to all hinge on the so-called Quality Score, which is basically a measure of the relevance of your landing page to the keyword you’re targeting. The higher your score for the keyword, the less you’re liable to pay for a good ad placement and subsequent click than an equivalent ad with a lower score. This is obviously desirable as your advertising budget then stretches further and you end up achieving a higher return on investment.

Quality Score

The obvious question, then, is how to increase your quality score. Seems it’s doing the same kind of stuff that makes you successful in organic search: choosing good keywords, paying attention to on-page and off-page optimisation, and even targetting your ads very specifically at the keyword you’re bidding for.

For example, say the target keyword is Bible stories for children, you should:

  • use the keyword in the page, if possible in the title, meta description, heading tags, page body, alt tags, etc
  • get some links pointing to the page with the keyword as anchor text, and
  • use the keyword within the AdWords ad itself

I’m sure there are other finer points / black arts to be considered, but these appear to be the most obvious factors for now. Feel free to comment below if you think I’ve overlooked anything.

Niche Websites as Virtual Capital

Niche websites are now relatively easy to create and run without possessing advanced technical skills, thanks to modern web publishing platforms like WordPress. Combine this publishing ability with a little keyword research, basic SEO skills and an appropriate advertising or affiliate program and you have all the essential elements to create a largely passive income stream. Unsurprisingly there is a growing number of individuals cashing in on this opportunity.

As a result there is a growing marketplace for those wishing to trade these niche sites, fueled by those who specialise in creating them specifically with a view to sell them on for a quick profit (a practice known as “flipping”). Conventional wisdom seems to suggest a nominal value of around twelve times average monthly earnings – in other words a year’s income – for these sites. Judging by the number of those involved in this market, it must be profitable enough. But personally I would never sell one of my niche sites for so little.

I look at it this way: how much money would I need to earn and stash away in the bank or some other form of investment in order to generate a certain amount (for argument’s sake let’s use a figure of $100 per month)? At a rate of ten percent per year I’d need $12,000 in capital. Of course in the current climate I’d be unlikely to achieve a ten percent return without taking on a lot of risk – perhaps it’d be more realistic to expect a three or four percent return, in which case I’d need between $30,000 and $40,000 to generate that $100 per month.

On the other hand, using the “twelve times earnings” rule of thumb I mentioned earlier I could only reasonably expect to sell my $100-a-month site for around $1,200 – which I certainly could not invest to achieve a similar return. So the site is worth far more to me earning a steady $100 per month, year after year than the single-year value of its earnings up front.

Of course circumstances may force one to sell an asset for the sake of ready cash, but given the choice, my advice is always to hang onto these “virtual capital” assets for as long as possible.

Managing Risk in your Online Business

Many internet marketers set themselves a goal of earning enough via their online pursuits to either scale back their day jobs or give them up altogether. But as you become more reliant on your online income it becomes increasingly important to understand the risks to your business systems so you can minimise them whilst at the same time putting plans in place to help you recover if an income-disrupting event should occur.

There are a number of potential online and offline points of failure which could compromise your ability to conduct your online business. Since internet marketing is technology heavy, in this article we’ll focus on a few of the technical challenges you may encounter and discuss things you can do now to minimise their impact on your earnings.

Web hosting problems

Problems with your web host can be devastating because often the first you’ll know about it is when you see the dreaded “Account Suspended” page coming up where your site used to be. This can happen for a number of reasons, but typically it’s because you have exceeded your resource allocation in some way. The obvious solution to this is to maintain two (or more) separate hosting accounts, preferably with different service providers. In the event of a dispute with one you can switch your site over to the other until the problems are resolved. Incidentally, this is why it’s a good idea to use a domain registrar that’s independent of your web host.

Assuming you have more than one site, you can also significantly hedge your bets by hosting them separately. Then even if something bad happens to one account you can continue to fly on your remaining engine while the first one gets fixed!

Search engine ban

Almost as bad as having your site suspended is having it de-indexed by the search engines. Or perhaps it’s worse because it’s a lot harder to rectify. You can probably avoid it happening by using strictly white hat SEO techniques to promote your site, and can certainly mitigate its effects by running more than one website. Beyond that you could look at driving traffic using social networking or building a subscriber list, so you are not completely at the mercy of the search engines.

Falling out of favour with a monetisation partner

In a similar vein, you should do all you can to stay strictly within the terms of your contract with whatever monetisation partners you have – the internet is littered with sad tales of those who’ve been kicked out of Google’s AdSense program for failing to comply with their conditions. By now I hope it’s becoming obvious to you that you should also monetise your sites in several different ways rather than rely on a single partner.

Site hacked

In case you haven’t heard, there are plenty of unscrupulous individuals and syndicates roaming the net. Whether out of mischief or malice they often hijack others’ sites for their own ends. Whilst you may not be able to stop a truly sophisticated hacker who targets your site, you can deter most other opportunistic attacks by maintaining strong security around login details and staying up to date with new releases of your website platform. As the saying goes: when being chased by a lion, it’s not necessary to out-run the lion, just the other people running from it!

Computer failure / loss of communications

Don’t forget that your computer and internet connection are also vital links in your business’s technical chain. Do you have a secondary machine in case your regular one gives up the ghost? Do you have backups of your mission-critical data? How will you manage your site if you lose your internet connection? My answer to these questions is the same as all the others: have a backup plan that you can activate at short notice to minimise downtime.

As you can see, most of these risks can be addressed by building redundancy and diversity into your business. There’s nothing new there – financial experts have been doing it for years. But perhaps it’s time we in the online marketing game grow up a bit and learn some of these lessons from others’ experiences rather than our own – it’s much less painful that way.

Site consuming excessive resources

Apologies if you tried to access this site in the last few days only to be told it’s suspended – I was informed by my web host that it was consuming excessive resources. This came as quite a surprise to me as it’s not a particularly high traffic site, nor have I been aware of any problems with it in the past.

Culprit plugins

In any case, I take my host’s word for it that it was causing undue load on the server, so I set about lightening it up a bit. I very much doubt anything in the WordPress core would be causing the problem, so the first thing I did was scan through my list of plugins. That, along with a bit of research on Google, suggested a couple of possible culprits: Yet Another Related Posts Plugin, Global Translator, and Broken Link Checker. Although some have reported problems with YARPP in the past, later versions have been significantly rewritten to address these problems, so I’m inclined to think it’s not the cause here.
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Duplicate content in article marketing

Article marketing is a great way to promote your sites: for every article you submit to an article directory, you typically get to place two or three links back to your own site(s), using anchor text of your choice. This results in link juice and referral traffic from the directory, and also any third party sites who pick up the article and republish it. However, many internet marketers are confused about the issue of duplicate content and what it means in practical terms for their submissions.

Basically, search engines are not too keen on returning listings with multiple copies of the same content, and not surprisingly, since this does not provide web searchers with a good user experience. So they tend to try and identify one copy of an article as the original, or preferred version, and devalue the rest in the listings. That doesn’t necessarily mean the other copies will not be listed at all, but just that they will appear lower down the rankings.

A common question that gets asked by article marketers is: is it OK to submit that same article to more than one directory? Personally I don’t see a problem with it – even if the versions that are identified as duplicates are suppressed in the search engine listings, there’s still a chance of getting referral traffic from the directories themselves, as well as any third-party reprints, and as long as they are not de-indexed completely by the search engines, you should still get the additional SEO benefits too.

Also, don’t forget that a large part of the article marketing strategy relies on your content being picked up and republished by website and ezine owners – so you’re going to have duplicate content “issues” anyway. And even if the worst happens and only one copy ends up in the search engine index, you haven’t lost anything. So there’s really no point in holding back – get your articles published as widely as possible to maximise the benefits that you may get from them!