Harsh Reality 3 – You’ll Never Make A Living With Banner Ads

Buy Billboard Space And Make Money

If your affiliate marketing business is based on plastering your blog or web site with nothing but banner ads, just close up shop now and go back to whatever you were doing before you heard about making money online. The harsh reality is that banner ads died about 2 weeks after Al Gore invented the internet, long before he started trying to re-freeze the polar ice caps.

Even though banner ads have come and gone as a way to drive serious traffic to merchants, advertise your products or earn a living online, it is amazing the amount webmasters that still think people are going to spend any time shopping on a website that looks like a bad tile job from Home Depot. While the major search engines have done a pretty good job weeding out sites like this, if you spend any time on Entrecard or social sites, you’ll come across lots of affiliate sites that aren’t worth more than a 2 second look.

Who really enjoys shopping on a site that offers travel services, discount baby supplies coupons, iPods, digital cameras, plus size clothing and advice on making money online all on the same site via the glorious banner ad? You may use your site to get discounts from your own affiliate programs, but the sad reality is that no one else is doing so. I examine the question about buying from your own website a little deeper in this post.

The contrast between being able to find sites like this on Entrecard and search engines should tell you something right there. If you can’t find your site or blog through a search engine for any relevant keywords that actually get traffic, you probably aren’t getting enough free traffic to keep your affiliate business alive. Yes, that’s pretty much a no brainer, but if you read the first post in this series by clicking on the link above, you’ll see that for some, that reality hasn’t sunk in yet.

But wait a minute, you’re probably saying, “Don’t I see banner ads on your site Mr Affiliate Confession and frankly just about everywhere else. Somebody must be making money with these things!” We’re talking about two different things here. For the average affiliate marketer starting out, the money isn’t going to be made in banner advertising. Well established blogs with thousands of visitors per day can make money by selling banner ads and less well established, but still on the rise blogs such as Affiliate Confession can be a good place to brand yourself and possibly get a few sales. I even advertise on some blogs and have used Entrecard as a means to brand this blog and let people see my name on various blogs they may visit.

The big difference is that I’m not making a living, buy either selling ad space on my blog or buying it from others. Making money in affiliate marketing is made from utilizing many different tools, niches, products, advertising mediums such as PPC and other connections and ventures. The more you diversify, yet still have a focus, the better chance you have of finding a few niches that will bring you some good income.

If you have a blog or two, plastered with banner ads and aren’t making any money, it’s time to start writing some decent content, stop relying on the chance clicks that earn you $6 a month and venture into a different arena with your marketing efforts. 

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Scraping Out A Living On The Web, Literally

Move this pile, and then move it backI find it interesting that there are people on the net who literally scrape out a living day to day. I guess that’s what you’d say about those individuals who seem to think the only way to earn money on the web is to copy other people’s content. I just can’t get my mind around that kind of thinking, at least not in today’s era of more algorithmically (yes, that is a real word) advanced search engines.

I was alerted by a commentator yesterday about my post on the Moped niche where a scraper site ranked at the number one spot for a couple of search terms I suggested people look at. However, as I checked this morning, they are no where to be found. The weird thing about this particular scraper site in question is that it isn’t monetized in any way. No Google ads, banners, affiliate links or anything are on this site, yet it consistently outranks me for several of my keywords for a short time and then it’s off into obscurity again. Most splogs like this are monetized in some way, this one is the exception to the rule.

I also see big name bloggers getting scraped on a much more frequent basis. I’ve written a few guest posts for John Chow and won a couple of contests on his blog and every time I get a link from him, in my WordPress dashboard I see links coming at me from probably 10 scraper blogs before I see the links show up from John. It’s amazing that there are that many people who can’t, or won’t, do something original.

I saw a similar thing in an online forum where someone asked for a review of their financial blog and allthough it wasn’t a scraper site, the person had copied every bit of content from financial news and information sites. Every snippet of content I checked by copying and pasting it into Google was from another web site and this person had 20 or 30 posts already. What did they think they were doing and where did they get the idea they could make money long term with a blog built this way?

One of the cruelest things the Nazi’s did to prisoners during WWII, besides the heinous experiments they did on them, was in giving them meaningless work. Nazi guards would one day have prisoners move a huge pile of bricks across a 100 yard field, only to have them move the pile back the next day and and repeat that action again for several days. Or prisoners would be told dig a deep trench only to be told the next day to bury it and again the next day to dig the trench in the exact same spot. Madness soon set in for the captives.

I’m beginning to wonder how far behind the captives these scrapers are. There’s really no end to the work if you think your going to scrape your way to the top. You’ll never get there.

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Chasing The Google Adsense Carrot

Google Egg BasketGoogle Adsense for many online marketers can almost be considered free money. It is the golden egg of revenue on the net. All you have to do is have a decent site that has content related to high paying keywords and you can make money with Google Adsense. And once you find those high paying Adsense keywords, you can just duplicate your efforts 10 or 20 times over and you too can soon be making millions on the internet.

If it were only that simple…

The problem with Adsense, or nearly any affiliate program, is that it usually isn’t a static way to make money. The dynamic way niches come and go, the way Google adjusts landing page guidelines (this does affect your earnings per click), the way your sites get ranked in the search engines and many other factors, require that you tweak your web sites on a fairly regular basis. Google dangles the Adsense carrot in front of you, but they constantly adjust the distance you must go to get the prize. And the horse you’re riding to fetch the carrot? It must be fed, watered, brushed, walked and see the vet a couple times a year.

In my last installment of Lessons In Perseverance I expressed some of my frustration working with Adsense because of this constantly changing face of Google and doing business as an affiliate marketer. And as you may have read or commented on in my March affiliate earnings report I do fairly well with Adsense, earning an average of $1,200 to $1,300 per month. But what you may not know is that the niches and sites that earned me money with Adsense this month are about 50% different than they were last year at this time. And even the sites that are the same have gone through many changes to be able to maintain those earnings since last year.

Probably one of the hardest things to get used to is watching your Adsense earnings fluctuate, even on a day to day basis. I’ve had days where earnings were $60 to $70 one day and then come in at $25 or so only 24 hours later. You also have to get used to watching one site start to rise in earnings and anticipate living life a little larger, only to watch another site tank because Google happened to make some sort of a tweak or an algorithm adjustment and whatever adjustment they made, your site happened to be in the cross-hairs.

A good example of this is, only a week or so after my best day ever in Adsense earnings I watched a high ranking travel blog go from getting 100 Google search visitors a day to only 5 per day. A site that was earning $15 to $20 per day was now earnings me $2 to $3 per day. What had I done to deserve this treatment. As far as I can tell all I did was update it after not posting for 3 months and the hammer came down. Did I freak out? No, not at all, because I’m so used to seeing this, it was just another day at the home office.

The packaging in the Adsense egg basket is not quite as soft and cushy as I would like. This is about as good a reason as any to diversify your income streams on the Internet.

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I’m Tired Of Trying To Please The Google Dictatorship

I guess being an affiliate marketer and not making the bulk of my income from my blog has its advantages. The main advantage is that I don’t have to try and please Google with Affiliate Confession. Now, in my affiliate ventures I do try to follow the webmaster rules as best I understand them coming from the Mother Ship. But on this blog I have a luxury and I’m going to enjoy it.

One thing the luxury of not having to please Google, because I must make money from this blog, has taught me or rather shown me, is that I’m tiring of having to think about everything I do as if the goons at Google were looking over my shoulder. That’s just wrong. When did Google decide they’re the only game in town and you must abide by their rules of netiquette. Let’s call it what it is, Google is running a dictatorship and if you want to play in their game you must abide by what the dictator says or you get executed.

However, Google isn’t the only game in town. Over the last month Affiliate Confession has received more than 7,000 visits and more than 12,000 page views, but just 8.5% of that traffic has come from Google. The bulk of that traffic or 19.5% has come from direct visitors, people who come directly to Affiliate Confession without being filtered through a search engine, another blog, Entrecard or some other source. At times I have even received huge boosts in traffic from social media type sites such as StumbleUpon and Digg.

Google has positioned themselves as though the masses, and webmasters more specifically, are beholden to the playground of the Internet they have created for us. When the decision makers at Google issued the bizarre decree that webmasters were henceforth going to be punished for selling text links on their sites, that just made my blood boil, but I have yet to speak up about it. I don’t sell and have never sold links on any site I’ve run in the 4 years I’ve been making money online and it still made me furious. Then just yesterday, John from JTPratt’s Blogging Mistakes left a comment where he stated in part:

I worry about google penalties every day, and they are penalizing whole sites for doing paid reviews. Anyone who even mentions Pay Per Post gets penalized now. I had a BizRate widget on one of my sites with all nofollow links and I got a 1 year penalty to PR0 and supplemental index in google. Once I removed that widget when my contract with Bizrate was up – within 3 days I was Pagerank 4 and back in the index.

That comment just got me thinking how dependent we’ve become on one entity in this whole Internet game. And yes, many of us are dependent on Google for much of our livelyhood whether it be through Adsense or them sending lots of traffic our way. If it weren’t for Google in many aspects, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do and have the benefit of working at home.

But back to the text link debate, I think the whole issue stems from the fact that Google doesn’t want webmasters to sell links because that’s their business with Adwords. Let’s face it, Google makes boatloads of cash from lots of people losing money on Adwords and if Google penalizes high traffic sites that sell text links, more people will have to continue to get traffic via Adwords, even if they lose money in the process. You may think that’s a dumb theory, but it is a known fact that people lose thousand of dollars just trying to figure out how to use Adwords and then they need to find a niche to be profitable in.

What has made this blog relatively easy to write has been the fact that I think of writing as more of a conversation than trying to find a keyword, and get it in the title, and make sure it’s in the first paragraph and make sure I don’t link out to something bad, and make sure I kiss up to Google every way I can so they might bless me with some traffic. Okay, I do that with most of my affiliate sites because want that traffic, but even then you never know what’s going to happen. For example, one of my vacation blogs was getting about 80 people a day from Google and hadn’t been updated since mid November, so I posted an entry thinking I would get even more traffic. Unfortunately that was a bad decision. For the last week I’ve received about 8 to 10 people a day from Google to that site. So much for trying to please them, I did nothing but update my blog and lost 90% of my traffic.

What it all boils down to is that I’m just not going to play the game with Google on this blog because I don’t have to. I enjoy writing and explaining what I do on the net to earn money and if Google would like people to know about that, they can send me some and if not, I’ll just rely on my readers and social marketing to get the word out.

Oh, by the way, my Featured Sites links are do follow.

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Jason Calacanis – The Great Master Baiter

Jason Calacanis Master BaiterValley Boy Jason Calacanis recently spoke at the Affiliate Summit conference and as his usual style, tossed grenades and threw in a few useful thoughts for good measure. He is a brilliant guy no doubt, but most of what Jason does is talk about himself or one of his projects. He’s such a great guy, he’s the only one who knows how to do it right, Mahalo is it, life revolves around Jason, he wants everyone on the net to play by his rules, blah, blah, blah. It’s time to grow up Jason and stop focusing on yourself.

Jason Calacanis did create the rather notable web venture WebLogs Inc that he later sold for $25 million and has played around at Netscape and Sequoia Capital and is currently working on the joke of a search engine known as Mahalo. However, Jason is probably best known for dropping bombs through irrational statements at web conferences that bait people into visiting his sites or wasting time writing about him such as I’m doing with this post. He is the ultimate self-indulgent Internet entrepreneur. In effect, you could say that Jason is the Great Master Baiter.

Mr Calacanis’ latest fire spitting rant at Affiliate Summit took issue with almost all of the affiliate marketing community and how we are pathetic for posting checks on our blogs. I’ve posted a couple of checks here at Affiliate Confession strictly to motivate other affiliates and Internet marketers, but they are minuscule compared to the $300,000 checks he really takes issue with. That’s right, Jason Calacanis thinks it’s pathetic, sad and embarrassing that people like Zac Johnson displays a month’s worth of earnings that total over $300K. Well Jason, I’m sure hundreds of thousands of people disagree with you and think you are the embarrassing one throwing out bait the way you do.

Mr Calacanis thinks affiliate marketers should stop spamming the search engines and instead build much more useful sites that are beneficial in the long term to a large amount of people. While I agree with him that there are way too many affiliates not adding any benefit to the net and just creating spam, he couldn’t be any more off base about affiliate marketing in general. Good affiliate sites provide information to the user, a traffic channel to the merchant and yes, an income for the affiliate. Affiliate sites work because people use search engines to look for specific items or information and don’t go directly to the merchant.

I use Google at least 20 times a day because I don’t know the source of the information or the product I’m looking for and sometimes I end up on a site that has an affiliate link on it. In all fairness I have checked out Mahalo about 2 times, but I will never go there again because it’s just another useless search tool I don’t have time for and the 2 times I’ve used it, it gave me irrelevant results for my “log cabins” query. I was looking for a cabin rental Jason, not Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I could find that at the library, but thanks for wasting my time. Sorry, I won’t be back in 2 years or so when some editor decides to add a relevant search result.

Mr Calacanis thinks that the only reason affiliate marketers do what they do, is to make money. Well yes Jason we are out here to make money, but so isn’t every person who goes to work at the factory or office every day. Many affiliate marketers such as myself have been able to take the step away from the office and now work at home. We still have to make money to pay the bills and eat.

Jason instead only thinks in the rarefied air of his elitist Silicon Valley mentality and assumes it is as easy to create sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Twitter (yea, there’s a useful site) as it is to start an affiliate project such as a BANS site. He suggests that it would be easy to add a couple more zeros to those $300,000 checks if we all just created more sites like Mahalo.

I’m not quite sure what would be easier; to create a multi-million dollar project on the net, or for Jason Calacanis to stop being such an attention whore?


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