Welcome to aaron chua make money blog

Hi, welcome to my blog. In this part of my world, I talked about how to achieve financial freedom by learning how to make money online through creating sites and earning from them.

Below are some current and past make money projects that details my learning journey.

My current experiment in making 50 amazon site niches. If you have not been following this challenge, best place to start is this resource page for the amazon challenge, that lists all the articles that I have written so far.

My experiment in making 1000 a month through adsense in 9 months.

If you came here looking for low cost startup ideas, here are 140 startup ideas that you can browse through.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Aaronchua.com will be no more

For the few readers that I have, this is to inform you that aaronchua.com will no longer be updated. This is mainly due to the EMD penalty which, strangely enough, has affected this site. I have no idea how to reverse this and I have no intention of trying since this is not a money making site for me. I will still be blogging at my early retirement blog so I hope to see you guys there.

Thanks for all the time you have spent reading aaronchua.com. I hope you have gain something from it.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Dead end sites Time to get rid of mine

I wake up this morning, look at my numbers and say to myself "what do the f*ck am I doing?".

I had over 100 sites Only of a few are making serious money and I was wondering what am I doing with the rest?

Enough! Time to get rid of what I called dead end sites and move on to sites that had the potential to be a real business.

What are dead end sites?

These are sites that had very limited potential. Example? How about this? Blue torch  holder. How dead end can you get? Limited branding. Limited product extension. Limited audience. So, why make them? Because they bring in money fast. Small amounts but fast money. This creates a tiny sensation in our brain telling us that we are on the right track because money is coming in. Just do more and we will see bigger results. That is why we throw ourselves into these dead end projects so fast and furious. Just look at all the Squidoo madness going on now. People are contented grabbing a couple of hundreds or even thousands more before Christmas comes.

Enough of these dead end sites and projects!

Why am I contented with sites that make only a couple of bucks per month when I should be thinking of doing things that bring in millions of dollars.

Yes, millions of dollars. That is only a tiny fraction of the amount of money flowing through the Internet right now. I have  restricted myself enough. Time to really go forward and work on open end sites.

However, open end sites have a big problem. They might not have immediate result. Why? Because they are so open ended that they can go anywhere. This means that you might not be doing the right things during the initial period even though the site has potential.

What if you picked the wrong model?
What if you picked the wrong audience?
What if you picked the wrong product?

Open ended site need time to figure itself up. To be able to experiment and learn what is working and what is not. The good thing is that they can lead to many possibilities which is why they are open ended. Try doing that with bluetorchholder.com.

My early retirement blog is an example of an open ended website. It can go literally into different models. I can sell an ebook, I can create a social network for people who want to retire early, I can sell a newsletter picking the best investment for the week. What I can do with it is not fixed but I need time to figure out where my niche is and how best to make money from it.  However, once I figure that out, you bet that I will be making more than USD10 per month.

How about you? Have enough with dead end sites?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

How to make money with Amazon 2013 edition

The making money online landscape has changed significantly since Google rolled out Panda and Penguin. Making money with Amazon is no exception. Before the algorithm changes, my Amazon niche sites were pulling in close to USD1000 per month in amazon affiliate fees. They were all wiped out when the changes came. Fortunately, I didn't give up completely and started my Amazon 50 sites challenge. Last month, they are close to making USD250. So slowly but surely, I am starting to earn with Amazon again.

Today, I was reading Griz's old posts and they reminded how good the past few years have been. In terms of making money online, there was no keywords you couldn't target. Loans, cosmetic surgeries, cars, product keywords, credit cards, hotels etc. As long as you work continuously on getting backlinks that contain your anchor keyword, achieving high rankings is matter of when, not if.

I am afraid things are not as simple now. Certain keywords and niches such as landlord building insurance are off limit and I need to recognise this change. However, that is not saying that I can't make money with niche sites. While most IM folks have gone off the niche site bandwagon and started making authority sites, developing their own products or selling kindle ebooks, I still make niche sites and are earning money from them.

In this post, I like to share what I have learn from 10 months of doing the Amazon 50 site challenges. It is going to be long but hopefully, you can gain something from it.

The steps for making money with Amazon have not change. They still boil down to the following:
  • Select a niche
  • Pick keywords with high search volume and low competition
  • Create content
  • Build backlinks to the site
 However, how I go about doing each of the steps has completely changed.

How to select an Amazon niche

Most people combine keywords and niche selection into one process. I don't. I like to examine niches independently from keyword research. In fact, my niche needs to be more forward looking so I look closely at news and forum discussions. That is how I turn up keywords such as glamping.

Most IM folks depend on tools such as adwords, longtail pro, market samurai etc. These tools are backward looking and they are actively mined everyday. To avoid competition, I need to look elsewhere for my gold mines.

So what do I look? News , forum discussions, trend sites, blogs from forward thinkers etc All these represent gold mines that I find gems in. By the time these new niches appear in the keyword research tool, I will be 6-12 months in front of everyone with my content and links.

Using this criteria, my camping site (4seasontent.org) will fail the test. That is why it has not made any money. It is competing in a niche which is saturated with both real brands as well as other IM folks. Just check out this competitor: 4seasontents.org. He or she also doesn't have any traffic as well, thus strengthening my point that it is difficult to compete in niches where there is nothing new to optimise for.

How to chose Amazon keywords that you can rank

After the Google Panda and Penguin updates, learning how to pick the right keywords have become more crucial. In fact, learning what keywords are impossible become more important than search volume. Unlike the past, I now totally avoid certain keywords because I can never ranked for them, no matter how much content I write or how many backlinks I throw at the site.

First rule to remember: avoid product keywords.

Although Amazon is all about products, it is getting next to impossible to rank for any forms of product keywords including category product keywords, brand product keywords and even product model keywords.

Below are some screen shots showing you the Google search results from the amazon sites that I have revealed:

Mini cupcake maker

4 season tent

Gps tracker for kids

In every one of these product keywords, you see real ecommerce stores or brands taking the top slots. That was not the case in the past where niche sites or article directories such as hubpages can rank for them. 

I don't know whether this was part of the algorithm changes but from a user point of view, things have definitely changed. As an affiliate, I need to step away from these keywords because I know I can't rank for them no matter how good my SEO skills are. Google has predefined what kind of sites should appear for these product keywords and if I can't be such sites, I will never get into the first page. 

That is not saying that I can't make money as an affiliate. I just need to find other keywords that I have at least some change of ranking. So what is the secret?

Find keywords that requires subjective human opinions

Or what I called humanised keywords. These are keywords that indicate that searchers want to read from other sources besides the brands and the ecommerce stores. They represent areas where niche review sites and personal blogs have a chance to compete in. 

The most common example is the word 'reviews'. Take any product keywords and add "reviews" behind them. You will see a completely different search results.

Let's see one such result when I take one of the keywords above i.e. gps tracker for kids and add "reviews" behind:
Gps tracker for kids reviews
By adding the word "reviews", I now can see sites such as toptenreviews.com as well as article directories such as Squidoo and Article Dashboard. Heck, even my own site is ranked just behind Amazon. This is how I am able to get traffic for my Amazon niche sites even though product keywords have become off limit.

This strategy can be applied to any humanized keywords. Besides 'reviews', other examples include:
  • ratings
  • recommendations
  • best
  • all the Q+A type of queries that might lead to a purchase
Hence if you want to make money with Amazon in 2013, learn how to pick these keywords and you will see search traffic.

How to write content for your niche sites

What I try to do is to focus on what information searcher might need with before or after the purchase of the product. This is how I try to add value in all my niche sites. For example, in my minicupcake site, I am starting to include recipes that users can use after buying the mini cupcake maker. In my early retirement site, I created an excel sheet that calculates how long it takes to retire early based on dividend investment alone.

The worst kind of content goes round and round without addressing the main points. I used to write articles that read along these line (if it is an article about interior decorating ideas):

"It is easy to come up with interior decorating ideas. All you need to do is to take a close at your surroundings and try to draw inspiration from them. Most people have ideas not because they thought deeply about it but because they observe all the stuff happening around them. If you want to have more ideas, learn to adopt a different perspective and .... blah blah blah"

Nowadays, if I am doing this article, I will borrow a book from library and learn the different interior decorating techniques. I will then find images to illustrate these techniques and create a long list post.

A lot of work? Yes but I can't take short cuts anymore if I want my sites to survive Panda or other future algorithm changes.

How to build backlinks to your niche sites

I believe in quality over quantity when it comes to backlinks. A couple of value passing links wins over hundreds of spam links. To get those, I used a concept called link sponge.

This concept is similar to link wheels or link pyramids. In case you are not sure what these are, this is how they work. Folks would build web 2.0 sites on public blog networks such as those on tumblr, webs.com etc. Each of these sites links to either another web 2.0 site or to the money making site directly. They in turn will be strengthened by having lots of spam links from blog comments, forum profiles, directory sites etc pointing at them.

The idea is to get these web2.0 sites to absorb all the spam links and point that link volume to your money site. Since web 2.0 can take more link abuse due to their domain authority, they effectively act as buffers to your real site. If you attempt to throw volumes of such spam links directly at your site, be prepared to see it disappear from the SERPs.

So, link sponge works in similar fashion, with one important exception. Rather than absorbing spam links, link sponges are real resources that can absorb authority links. For example, there are many established sites that give out free links to sites that have valuable children resources. If you want to absorb these links, you need to build a useful resource that will be linked by these child friendly sites. Then use this site to link to your affiliate site in the kids market. That will be a hell of a link!


Affiliate marketing will still be well and alive in 2013. There will be always be room for a site to recommend products or services to its reader. The trick here is to learn where to look for niches where you can establish a useful site that isn't too competitive and where you can still earn a nice commission.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Is SEO dead? A claim from Yazekie

There is a blog post in the Yakezie networking claiming that SEO is dead. I have left my comment there but I don't know if it got through because their commenting system is so messed up. So, I will be reposting that comment here in case it didn't go through. No point wasting good content! LOL


SEO is a marketing tactic. Just in all marketing tactics, as long as someone knows how to use the tactic well, it will continue to be a useful way to acquire users or customers.

There are lots of spam emails but do you think 'email marketing is dead'? Probably not. Similarly, SEO will never die.

Most folks who claim that SEO is dead saw it as a pure manipulative practice designed to misguide the search engines. That is not what SEO is all about.

As to whether your suggested SEO practices are sufficient, let me just say this: within each marketing field there are differing levels of expertise.

In email marketing, there are people who has 50% open rate and there are folks who scrape by with 5%. Can we live with 5% open rate? Of course we can, but a good email marketer knows all the practices that makes email marketing more effective for him.

Similarly for SEO. Anybody can live with basic SEO or even no SEO. However, for those who understands and applys it a bit better gets to enjoy a higher success rate.

Basically, SEO is about the following:

- keyword research
- content
- links
- feedback metrics

Any one of the four areas have depths that can make one's SEO more effective. Take link building for example. Most SEOs falsely believed that links are everything and they advise getting volumes of spammy links. The real link builders like Eric Ward understands that the true value of links lies in their ability to pass traffic and visibility to the site. As such, his link practices are safe, generates a return for the site owner and avoids depending 100% on Google traffic.

I shall stop here but I hope you understand where I am coming from. SEO cannnot be dead if you know how to use it effectively.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Amazon Challenge #9: Make 200 dollars with Amazon affiliate

Welcome to the blog with ever declining traffic LOL. Yes, the traffic on aaronchua.com has been going down for some time now. In fact, as I look closely at the traffic from April to current, it might seem that the site has been penalised! Really nice Google. The only site where I have real info is being penalised while my amazon niche sites are going up with traffic!

Anyway, let's get to the real meat of the article. My amazon sites pulled in a nice income for Sept 2012. Nothing really to brag about but a nice side income nevertheless.

Below are the screnshots from my amazon and skimlinks accounts:

Amazon income: USD141.96

Skimlinks income: USD93.48

Compared to the last update where I reported less than USD100 in Amazon earnings, this month's results are quite encouraging.

Why the increase in income

Increase in traffic: After restarting the amazon niche, a couple of sites started to pick up traffic. My mini cupcake site for example is starting to see 15 visitors per day and has earned USD10 this month. Not bad for a niche that I thought is dead.

One site taking off: One of the weird niche in my portfolio of sites made some nice sales. Actually the site only made 2 sales but they are for high ticket items, thus earning over USD80 this month.

More site starting to earn: Maybe it is nearer to Christmas but more sites are starting to earn with the same level of traffic.

What I am busy with

Besides working on my amazon sites, I have been working on my home decor online magazine site, my early retirement blog as well as exploring other affiliate programmes.

My home decor site is coming along nicely. It has about 30 over posts now and I just scored a wonderful backlink. I have been reading Eric Ward's linking newsletter and it has opened my eyes on what is real link building. It has nothing to do with anchor text, dofollowed or PR. Real links give you traffic, visibility in the relevant community and even natural backlinks. This is what I have gotten with this one backlink.

What I did was to find a non profit website which is looking for donations. I donated a token amount and my site was featured in their donations page as well as their newsletter.  This gave me some traffic as over 100 people in the niche visited my site due to the link. Among them, 2 nice folks gave me a backlink each that drove even more visitors. For a small donation, I gained 3 natural backlinks and visibility in the relevant niche. Not bad!

My authority site project

My early retirement blog is still very much in its infancy stage. There are now over 40 articles on the site but traffic is dismal. Less than 10 visitors to the site each day. I don't really know what to do next but to add content and see what happens. I guess a lot of authority sites start out this way especially if they don't do much promotion.

How to make money with Amazon in 2013

Next post will be a much longer one about my experiences in making money with Amazon and what to do to avoid being penalised. The article is almost done and I should publish it next week.

Note: I didn't publish my article on the 10 blogging niches because there seems to be very little interest in it. Too bad as these niches are not your typical long tail niches. They are up and coming industries that represent opportunities for anyone to make money from.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Google update targeting exact match domain EMD Are you affected?

Typical Google. Launching another update to get rid of folks like us. This time it is targeting low quality exact match domains. Since I have 50 of those for my Amazon 50 niche site challenge, I am already mentally prepared for the worst to come.

After checking through the stats last night, none of my sites are actually affected even though all their domains are exact keyword domains. Amazing! There is no obvious conclusion but I am guessing that one of the following could explain why my sites were not affected.

Reason #1: I build my sites correctly

If any of you have been following me in my amazon challenge updates, you will know that I build these sites differently from my past sites. Specifically:
  • No more writing keyword stuffed titles that matches the keywords in my domain
  • No more getting spammy backlinks
  • No more focusing on one set of keywords
  • Trying to write something of value to serve the folks coming to the site
  • Using different themes
That is basically how I have been building my sites. Although their traffic is not high, it is steadily increasing. The mini cupcake maker site for example has gone from 1-2 person a day to about 5-10 a day. I believe the true potential will come in another 1-2 years as the sites gain more content and age. 

Reason #2: I was lucky

This is definitely one possibility. Maybe the alogorithm missed my sites because I wasn't targeting the ultra spammy niches like finance, legal, home furniture etc. Or maybe I was targeting keywords that had low monthly search volume. Too low for the alogorithm to care.

One key observation

One of the key observation was that none of my sites were pulling in traffic from the keyword in their domains. Let's take the mini cupake site as an example. I have never gotten one person typing in the keyword mini cupcake maker. Instead the following is the list of keywords that are bringing the site traffic.

The above image makes one wonder if this is a good leading indicator to tell you if your site will be penalised. If your site has lots of different keyword combos like the one above, you are probably doing your optimisation correctly. If you are seeing lots of repeated and targeted keywords, you might be getting too aggressive in your SEO.

Anyway, it is still early days and I will continue to monitor the effects of this exact match domain algorithm update.

Hope none of you has been affected. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

How many keywords can you get on page one with one article

How do you sharpen your SEO skills? There are a couple of things that I do and this is one of them.

In my previous article on how to get traffic to your blog without backlinks, I mentioned that decreasing your reliance on link building improves the remaining aspect of SEO, which is mainly keyword reseach, copy writing, and developing metrics & analytics. In this article, I want to zoom in one aspect, which is copy writing.

Everything else aside, I am not a good writer by any standard. I have poor grammar, lots of spelling mistakes and no voice to call my own. So, the copywriting I am talking about is being able to think and write in the same mental mode as the readers you want to attract.

A good SEO copywriter produces lots of longtail keywords naturally. By placing myself in the same mental mode as my user:
  • I use the same terms they use 
  • I ask the questions they ask
  • I provide the questions they ask
  • I talk about related things that they might be interested in
This is how my content can meet the needs of all those longtail searches without me forcing it. This in turn is how you can increase your longtail traffic.

If you want to hone your copyrighting, set yourself a metric.

For me, every content that I produce, I target to have at least a couple keywords which the content is on the first page of the search engines. I don't care which keywords or which search engines. I focus on getting into the head of my users so that I understand the context, the timing and the reason for their search.

If you practice this long enough, it will come naturally in whatever materials you are writing. I have not completely master it yet but I have improved quite a bit since I first started sharpening this skill. If your niche sites have low traffic after penguin, time to hone your copyrighting skill as well.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

How to get visitors to your blog without backlinks

Since Panda, I have been building niches and blogs without using any methods that Google frowns on. Specifically, I have stopped buying or manipulating links to get top rankings in google for my blog. All the amazon niche sites that I have built are done with content and by targeting the right keywords that nobody is bothering to optimise for.

In this post, I want to encourage you to sharpen your SEO skills by not building links. From my past experience, building links makes you lazy as an SEO. Everyone just buys them from places such as trafficplanet.com or fiverr or blog networks. Your whole SEO strategy becomes a routine of:
Take away the link buying option and most folks making money online will suddenly lost their way on how to get visitors to their blogs or niche sites.

If you want to improve your SEO skills, why not learn to build sites without backlinks. If you need some hints, here is what I have been doing to get visitors from search engines without placing links excessively:

How to get visitors: Method 1

Use google news or any rss monitoring tools to see what kind of news are happening in your niche. For example, in my 4 season tent site, I spotted a new trend called glamping tents. This is a new kind of camping trends that combines outdoor with luxury living. Some people hate it while some don't. The key for us is to see how to generate content that spark more interest and searches. Here is the step by step method
  • Scan for new terms in your niche
  • Identify a few terms and start writing entry level articles that targets beginners wanting to know about these new terms
  • Write a couple interesting content that can potentially be shared such as a list post or a contradictory article or even some funny images etc
  • Link these new interesting content from the first batch of entry level articles or tell your visitors to search for such information
This method is what I called link and bait. You target the less interesting but easy keywords to pull in visitors and lead them to your more interesting ones so that these can potentially be shared. You can't directly just work on the interesting articles because no one gets to see and share them. You need to build some kind of traffic funnel from the entry level articles first.

How to get visitors: Method 2

Use lots of images that are named and tagged properly with keywords.

A couple of my amazon niche sites are developed this way and have received lots of traffic from Google Image. The good news is that some of them are even buying stuff so image search can be monetised. Remember to use a wordpress plugin that helps to take visitors directly from the image to your post so that your content can be read.

How to get visitors: Method 3

Leverage of popular article directories such as Squidoo to pull in traffic for you. Say I want to build more traffic to my 4 season tent site. I will create a Squidoo Lens that targets a long tail such as the best 4 season tent for 2 people. Due to the authority of these article directories, they can rank without backlinks and pull in traffic from search engines. If the articles have a link back to your site, some percentage of the traffic will click the link and visit your page.

You can do this for multiple long tail keywords and traffic will increase over time.

This strategy was used in the past mainly to get more links but how you should be using it now is to treat the article directories as traffic funnels. This will ensure you write better quality content that will drive folks to visit your site.


Seo might only be about content and links but the way you combine these pieces can lead you to different traffic strategies. If you don't start to explore these different permutations, you will always be one step behind others in terms of your marketing prowess. Time to leave the backlink game behind and see what SEO really can offer.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Amazon Challenge #8 When do you gave up on your site?

August is not a great month in terms of Amazon earnings. From the chart below, you can see that only 3 sites made money so far. Fortunately, site #23 earned its first 2 sales and surprising, broken even immediately as one of the items sold was over USD300.  Site #4 and #11 continue to made consistent sales even though their traffic is low.

Click to enlarge

The question I am thinking about today is this: when do you give up on your site? I was prompted when I looked at the chart last night. If I had dropped site #23 earlier, I will never have earned back its set up cost of USD14. In fact, a similar thing fact to site #5 last month when it made its first sale after 7 months of waiting, although the revenue was not enough to cover the cost. 

However, will things always turn out this way? Will they all make sales eventually? That is the question I am asking myself as I looked at site #2 and site #7, which had never made any sales. Site #2 was especially disappointing even that it was the second site that I built for the challenge. 

I would like to hear your opinions about this issue. For me, IM has taught me this: as long as you have something out there, you will make some money eventually. It might not be a lot of money but there will be income coming in. Hence, never give up on your projects. Even though things might look all doom and glommy now, persist and you shall be rewarded.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Choosing Amazon keywords based on unqiue selling proposition for your niche sites

Most of us choose keywords based on search numbers, level of competition and commercially viability. With the onslaught of Panda and Penguin, most of us will need to step on our game. The easiest way is to create interesting content that will be shared. So,should that be one of our keyword selection criteria when we decide on what niches to choose?

I don't believe in passion sites because it seriously limits what markets we go to. Most offline businesses are not really passionate about their business's core subjects anyway. Instead, I proposed that we choose niches based on whether we can create interesting content that can be shared so that we can get both traffic and links.

So, what are the kind of unique selling propositions that we can create for our amazon sites? Many will say real reviews but I don't that is enough anymore. No matter how real your reviews are, you are never going to beat Amazon itself for the sheer number of reviews it has. We need to add other values to our amazon sites. Below are a few examples:

Unique selling proposition #1: curate modern products

People like to share the new and the interesting. For products, that means finding the latest and the interesting products in our niches, rather than just showcasing what they can buy from Amazon.

Example: I have a camping Amazon site (site 25 in our list of amazon sites featured in the Amazon Challenge update #7). It is a boring site: http://4seasontent.org/.

For a while, I couldn't think of anything to write until I bumped into this: fieldcandy.com. Then it stuck me. I can curate all those unique and contemporary tents and post them to the site. They might not result in sales but they have a chance to bring in real traffic and maybe even links.

You can extend this concept to virtually any product based niche sites. Use one portion for reviews and the other to curate interesting new products in the niche.

Unique selling proposition #2: adding tutorials or guides

Another way to differentiate your amazon sites is to add a tutorial or guides section. These are purely informational content to help readers of that niche. You can see how this work in digital-photography-school.com/. There are 3 sections in the site: photography tips, camera reviews and post production tutorials. Only the reviews section is monetized with affiliate links.

Example: I am thinking of doing this for my minicupakemaker.org site, where I will introduce 1 section on making mini cupcake and another on how to decorate them.

  • do you select niches based on whether you can create interesting content?
  • do you have any ideas on how to create interesting content for Amazon sites?

Monday, 13 August 2012

How to rank without backlinks and get traffic to your site

I am not a big fan of building backlinks to get rankings and traffic. Backlinks can often get your site into trouble. Just ask the folks whose sites have been penalised by the Penguin update. Of course, the IM folks are starting to say things such as varying your anchor text to make backlinks effective. To me, that is going to be a short term solution. When penguin 2 or whatever animal comes, don't be surprised if these guys are wipe out just like in the first penguin.

So, do I mean that sites don't need links? No, but you don't need as many links as what others have been saying. Links matter when you decide to go for keywords that are solely being competed by links. That is your own choice and I would say, your own stupidity if you decided to rank for keywords that are based on link wars.

However, not all keywords compete on links. You need to observe the SERPs and see how the competition is like. For example, there are certain types of keywords (such as news driven keywords) where the freshness of the content is more important than links. In such cases, you need more fresh content and no amount of backlinks can help your site.(Try to experiment with a sports event related niche and you will know what I mean).

In SEO, there are basically 3 areas that we can work with:
  • keywords
  • content
  • backlinks
Within each area, there are opportunities to groom our skills.  This is where the meat of this article is

How to rank with good keyword research

Keyword research is a diverse area that offers anyone opportunities if you can specialise. Within keyword research, I divided it into the following:
  • trend keywords
  • keyword divergence
  • long tail keywords
(Note: for new readers, you might want to familiarise yourself with the concept of longtail keywords and trend keywords)

How to be good in trend keyword research: You need to be a person who reads widely, especially the technology blogs. Other good resources include blogs that highlights small businesses as well as articles that focus on trends in specific industries. When your radar is up, you will start to see lots of keywords that are literally wide open with little or no competition. To rank, all you need is content.

How to be good in detecting keyword divergence: This kind of research is for people who like to attack popular niches. Understand this: the more popular a keyword is, the more likely that there will be new ways to search for this term. Why? Because people get tired of seeing the same results for the keyword they are searching for so they will try different terms to see different results. The more popular a term is, the more likely this will happen and the more diverse the terms will be. It is your job to learn when such divergence will happen and grab the chance to optimise for these new terms that essentially describle the same niche.

How to be good in longtail keywords: The discussion forums are your goldmine. Spend some time looking through the forums of your niche and you will start to know what are the specific longtails relevant to your niche. Seriously, the kind of questions that people asked in the forums is exactly the kind of long tails keywords that will appear in Google. Even though they might not appear in any Google keyword tool, rest assured that as long as people ask such questions in forums, they will be searched for in Google.

Mastering any one of the above will equip you with enough unoptimised keywords that don't need a single link to get traffic from Google. If your current keyword research is only from Google keyword tool, time to step up your game.

How to create a new query space with great content

Being able to produce great content is a wonderful skill. There are some folks who are just so good with headlines and content that they draw traffic from diverse sources, not only from the search engines. For SEO purposes, there are certain things that you can do with content which allows you to draw traffic from Google without backlinks.

Create a new query space with your content: What is a new query space? It is about creating interest in a search term that nobody has searched for, thereby generating search volume for this search term. I have seen this occur with my own eyes in the tech industry.

There was a VC blogger known as Andrew Chen who blogged about startups, user acquisition and viral marketing. In one of his essays in 2011, he mentioned a new term called "growth hacker". This refers to a special group of marketers who can achieve rapid growth for a startup by exploiting technical leverages in popular platforms, thereby fuelling its growth using with users of that platform. 

Ever since that essay went live, I have seen this term used frequently in many other startup/technology blogs. In fact, I did a check on Google insights and this is what I found:

Guess who is ranking for this term? Andrew Chen of course. He has single-handedly created a new search space using content alone and his blog is now enjoying high rankings for this term without using backlinks.

If you have skills in crafting such content, you don't need backlinks. All you need is to draft a new memo, give it a sexy term such as 'growth hacker' or 'pillar content' or 'write epic shit', posted to a platform (can be yours or others) where there is an audience and watch your search traffic increase. No backlinks needed!

If you can't create such content, at least be able to spot it and exploit it if you can. Such new query space is also part of the trend keywords research that I mentioned above. If you cannot stimulate new query space with your content, at least learn who to follow those who can. When they come up with a new query space, quickly attack it and make it yours.

I hope this article can convey the message that you can get traffic from Google without focusing just on backlinks. Links are important but they willl never be the MOST important.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Amazon report #7 Making new niche sites after Penguin

For folks who might have missed my previous post on how to make money after penguin and panda, I have show you that some of my Amazon niche sites are still making money. Below is an updated chart that shows you my earnings.

Click on image to enlarge

First, let me take a moment to explain the chart:
  • Niche: Self explanatory
  • KW: keyword search volume for the main keyword
  • Domain: keyword search volume for the domain keyword. Most of the time, this is the same number as KW but in the event that I couldn't buy a Exact Match Domain, I will get a slightly longer domain that still some keyword volume. For example, if I couldn't buy patiochairs.com, I will try to buy patiochairsforsale.com or buypatiochairs.com
  • Price: prices of the products being promoted
  • Profit: the difference between the costs and the revenue for this site. Currently, only 4 sites have managed to make profits. I expect this number to be higher as we progress further. 
  • Green columns: this represents the monthly revenue for each site
  • Red columns: this represents the monthly cost of each site
 Now, let me comment on some interesting observations:
  • Low cost of setup: the cost of setting up one Amazon niche site is so low that sometimes, all I need is one sale to make profit. This is what happens for site 8 & 10. They were not making money when all of a sudden, a single sale for both sites means they are in the black. 
  • Make money with low traffic: All of my sites have low traffic. We are talking about 1-8 per day and yet collectively, they represent a number that can still be montized.
  • Item specific: Whether you make money with Amazon depends a lot on the product you are promoting. Even within the same niche, you might have products that convert well and those that don't. For example, I initially thought all appliance niches can convert well from my earlier experience with one site in this niche. This made me outweigh the niche during my product selection (as you can see from the spreadsheet above). Unfortunately, most of them didn't convert as well as my first site. Lesson learnt!

Why am I restarting the Amazon 50 sites challenge?

After the penguin update, I thought all my Amazon sites were penalised. This turns out to be a false assumption. Some of them lost traffic simply because the fresh content bonus worn off. As the time goes on, some stes started to get long tail traffic. That is how I know they are not dead. They are not getting traffic simply because they are not ranking well. This is why I decided to put more effort into them before the big Christmas season rolls around.

Niche sites that I have built after Penguin

Since July, I have been putting some resources into Site 15 which is a gardening site. You can see this quite clearly in the spreadsheet by looking at where I am spending money on in the red column during July and August. Anyway, here is my plan going forward:
  • A mixture of information and review articles: This is to avoid the Panda penalty. I don't want all my articles to contain affiliate links which is what I used to do. 
  • Better quality articles: I found a great write at Fiverr who has extensive experiences with the gardening niche so I hired him to put some really useless stuff on the site.
  • Less spammy backlinks: I ordered some questionable backlinks from Fiverr when I was building the first batch of Amazon sites. That was a bad mistake as it mght have caused some sites to incur the Penguin Penalty. What I am doing now is to get one solid link from an aged site, either using Fiverr or to do a guest post. The rest of the links will depend on how good my content is. I am seen how somebody use Pinteret to pin some of my articles in my Amazon sites so I know I can get those natural links. 
That is for this update. Lots of keywords research tips coming up in future posts as I started my Amazon engine again. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Can you make money with Amazon after Penguin and Panda

Did everybody just gave up on making money online now that Panda and Penguin has arrived? I hope not because things are actual much easier now. With Penguin, it is now quite possible to rank sites without ever requiring a single backlink. Just keep your site to 50% natural articles and 50% keyword focus and you will start to see traffic. Seriously.

Anyway, the point of this post is to show you guys that despite my amazon sites being penalised, I still manage to squeeze out nearly  USD100 on them despite not touching them for several months. This strengthens my belief that the online model still works out and any investment you made is still going to make you money.

Let me share some of my stats with you:

For the Amazon challenge, I invested a total of USD804. Out of that, 50% goes into buying 40 domain names while the rest of the USD400 goes into buying content and backlinks. Currently, I have earned about USD582, leaving me with about USD220 to go before breaking even for my investments. After that, it is all pure profits.

The best thing is that out of the 40 domains I bought, only about 18 have been built, even though all will be paid for within 2-3 months. I have about 22 domains which I have not done any work which means they have not been penalised which means I can still build them out properly in the future. 

So, even though it might not be big money, it still shows that investing in making money online still works, despite all the setbacks.

Below is a screenshot showing my amazon sites.

Click to enlarge

My plan going forward is to purchase another set of domains that relates to the best sellers according to the table above. This time around, how I build these sites will be slightly different:

  • Content: Mixed up the content. 70% will be news or list type of content that can potentially be shared while 30% will be product reviews
  • Links: No more ordering of fiverr backlink services. Just maybe 2-3 links from my own network of sites. Only 1 will contain anchor text. 
My final advice is this: don't sit around and wait for penguin update to turn around your penalised site. It probably will not happen. Just start a new set of sites and watch out for over optimisation and you will be fine. Hey, if I can make money even with penalised sites, I am sure there is much more opportunity out there. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Buy and sell domains to make money

I know people say you can't make money buying and selling domains in 2012 because all the good ones are taken. That is true to some extend as all the single word generics such as candy.com, or chocolate.com is taken. However, you can still make money, just like how people can still make money off properties even though they are so expensive now compared to 20 years ago.

Anyway, I am not an domain buying expert but I want to start building my domain portfolio. Maybe I will lose a lot of money and maybe I wouldn't. It is hard to say as domain selling can be like a lottery game but I believed if I stick to buying good names, sales will eventually happen.

In buying and selling domains, there are 2 models that are happening in the market today:

Quick flips: In general, there are many small business who are willing to pay a few hundred dollars for a good .com that describes their business. Here are a few examples, DallasAcRepair.com, NycLawFirms.com, CleaningExperts.com. What you can do is to buy them for around USD25-100 on godaddy auctions and then try to sell them by emailing companies that are listed on Google for these keywords. It takes a lot of emails to get one sale but it can be done.

Long term investments
: Another way is to build up a quality portfolio that big companies or well funded starts might desire. Most of the time, these domains are not exact match keywords. In fact, most bigger companies or well funded startups doesn't want exact match keyword names unless they are single words like Apple.com, Amazon.com, Kayak.com etc

Very seldom, you will hear names such as MobileHealthConsulting.com or SocialNetwork.com. Instead, you will see names such as FastPay.com, HealthTap.com, SkyDrive.com, DropBox.com, VoiceWorks.com. Although the latter may seems random, but the common thing is that:

(i) they are short,
(ii) they are memorable,
(iii) they imply certain things or industries although not explicitly,
(iv) they are easy to spell with no overlapping letters between last letter of the first and the first letter of the second word
(v) you can imagine a business build on top of these names. 

It is hard to sell these names. Most probably, I might need to hold them for a long period of time and wait for the company who wants it to approach me. It is almost like a lottery ticket except that you have some control over the quality.

Given these two approaches, I am more incline to the second investment model. Although long term, I think it will bear bigger fruits. This is based on my belief that over the next 10 years, the meaningful domain names will get lessor but there will be more online businesses coming, not to mention existing businesses who want to upgrade their names by truncating them.

Let's go back to history to see the foundation of my belief.

Back in 2002, it is hard to believe that a name like VoiceWorks will be sold at 45k because there was plenty of single word domain names for that price. In fact, many domain sales were based on how much type in traffic the domains can generate. These traffic metrics become an important part of a domain's value.

In 2012, single word domain prices are at least 6 figuress. I think these high prices plus the fact that there more online business in 2012 explains the shift towards 2-3 word names that is meaninful, has some form of relevancy to their businesses and is more affordable compared to the 6-7 digit single word domains.

An article  from Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures lets me know that I am not insane to hold this belief. In that article, he stated that the budget they recommend for a good domain has increased from 10k to 50k. To see VCs recommending such an increase in domain bying budget within a span of a fe years strengthened my belief that domain names might still be a good investment area.

I believe in 2022, even 2 word brand names will be in short supply which is why I am building them up now while they are still affordable.  If you are interested to follow up my progress, I will be blogging about my domain investment journey from my early retirement blog, rather than here.

I hope to see you guys there.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Is Jared Cooper from www.designbyhybrid.com a scamer

Ok folks, don't waste your time reading this post. It is meant for me to do some SEO work to some guy who has been very dishonest in his business dealing with me.

Jared copper (email: sales@designbyhybrid.com) of www.designbyhybrid.com first approach me with the desire to buy one of my domain names.

Frankly speaking, I wasn't expecting the sales as I bought the domain for development. However, I decided to sell it as I figured that my busy schedule might not allow me the time to fully develop this site. As a result of this thinking, the sale price was finalised fairly quickly.

I created the invoice and sent it to him June 16 2012. During this time, I also took the trouble to let me know that if he changes his mind about buying the domain, it is fine by me as long as he drops me a note.

After waiting for 7 days, the payment did not arrived and I wrote him an email saying how disappointed I am with his business courtesy. I also told him that I am going to write about this experience here to let people know how he treats his business contacts.

Immediately after this email,  Jared Cooper contacted me. He explains that he has been traveling and reinstated his interest to buy the domain. He even expressed clearly in a follow up email saying that he would pay on the same day. Note that at this point, he can still back out of the deal.

So I gave Jared Copper another chance. I resent my invoice and waited. Guess what, anotehr seven days passed and still no reply or payment. This is when I decided to write this.

What I am going to do is simply to rank for his name Jared Cooper, his email (sales@designbyhybrid.com), his telephone (310.491.6323) and his company's web address (www.designbyhybrid.com). I hope that if other domain investors or companies searcheed for Jared Cooper or any of his related information, they can read this post and see what kind of business courtesy he has.

The issue I have is not the money. It is a small amount (USD300 for the domain) but it is the way Jared Cooper lies to me and failed to meet the promises he made. I want to make sure that whoever deals with him in the future know the kind of person he is. In fact, now that he has aroused my interest, I am going to dig out as much as I can about him. It should be a fun investigation. 

Aaronchua.com has certain authority so let's see if this post is sufficient to rank for Jared Cooper. If not, I will start to add more content about him and to round up some links from my PR4 network. This should be enough.

For those who have read this post, a simple advice: never pissed off a SEO guy, especially one who has competed in some of the most competitive keywords. You never know what will appear in the search engines. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

How identifying new niche can create a real online business

One of the key strategies in my online business is to identify new niches that have just emerged. With a new niche, the leverage you can have from SEO traffic is much stronger because the cost of achieving the rankings and traffic is much lower. This is why I wanted to do a post for the 10 new niches or industries that I have identified because I think you can really benefit from them if you take action.

Before that list, let me take this post to give you a concrete example of how a startup has cleverly mined an emerging set of keywords to build up a really strong traffic funnels. The startup is called Zapier . You probably have never heard of it so allow me to explain what it does.

Basically, Zapier lays on a friendly user interface to let users integrate services between companies. For example, if you want to synch your gmail contacts with Mailchimp, Zapier allows yous to do that without any coding experience. It is a pretty useful service and its primary target audience is small businesses who want to make their operation more efficiently through the syching of these different services.

Given its product, Zapier has chosen a very new but emerging set of keywords to target. These keywords center around "how to" questions that people asked to when they want to connect one service to another. Examples include:

"mail to evernote"
"evernote gmail integration"
"aim on gmail" (aim is the messenger application from AOL)
"wufoo and aweber integration"
"dropbox gmail integration"
"yahoo messenger wordpress"
"does batchbook accept paypal"

This strategy is very clever because all these services are new and therefore any how to questions related to them are probably very underserved in the SERPs. By focusing on these emerging set of keywords, the startup probably don't need much backlinks to rank for the different how to permutations that peole will asked around the different services that they want to connect with.

In fact, this can be a very fertile ground for a new technical site to address the above questions and target the same keywords. Once this site has rankings and traffic, wait for Zapier to offer an affiliate programme and start earning money. This is why I loved the online business models. They are just so many niches and possibilities that one cannot help but to earn money if one is more observant on what is happening. 

What this example has shown is that there will be new keywords emerging. You need to keep an eye out for them if you want to avoid the backlinks war. As a SEO practioner, you have the choice of what kind of SEO tactics you want to engage in. Only want to compete in hyper competitive keywords? Then go ahead with the linking game.

For me, I prefer to stake my claims in the niche research part of the game. Less manipultive efforts that wouldn't get into trouble with Google. Remember, SEO has 4 parts:
  • Keyword research
  • Content production
  • Backlinks
  • Feedback and monitoring
Each individual area above has mulitple levels of depth.  If you can master a couple of SEO skills that are not related to links, you can still attract search engine traffic. In a future post, I will take more what are the different sub levels of SEO that you can do and how each of them can get you traffic.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Why the blogging niche sucks - a reply to Justin from adsenseflippers.com

I am really honored that Justin from adsenseflippers.com has left a comment on my previous post: "difference between fluff and quality content". I agree with this particular comment:

".but I also think it's important to remember that just because you get more value out of actionable content...not everyone's in the same position as you."

It is very true that different folks are looking for different stuff. So, this post is meant for me to clarify that, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, why I think most of the blogging/online marketing/making money crowd is fluff. 

I am a business guy from day one. When I was a fund manager with the government, I invested in nearly 200 real startups. The problems we are struggling with  always have to do with the business, not the motivation. Real issues such as how to ship products on time, what features to include, how to get the first 10 paying customers, how to work with PR etc were the topics for many of our discussions. It is the same thing now that I am focusing on KooBits, the educational startup I am heavily involved with.

When I got into the blogging a couple of years back, I realised that the online crowd is entirely different. Many would like their blogs to be successful, whether in terms of money or traffic. However, most didn't want to put serious work into their web properties. Instead, I saw many bloggers passing of reading as 'working'. These reading time was pursued in the name of doing research, networking or whatever reason they want to give it. The end result is that nothing gets done. No content was produced and no serious outreach programme was put into action.

Due to such mentality, many sites about blogging/making money/online marketing become a game of appealing to these 'reading' tendencies. Most did it with bullet point content. 5 ways to get more traffic through youtube, 10 blogs you should read, my ultimate secret to something something. It was all meant to feed the crowd who reads more than they do. The end game of course is sell them something that requires them to read even more stuff. Perfect plan!

The sad truth that I found out was that there was more people who wants to read about success than actually putting in the effort to reach them. This is why sites such as socialmediaexaminer.com are so popular. They will do very well but this is not what I want my blog to be.

So, this blog will not be about motivation. If you want such stuff, get off my blog! This blog is meant to provide useful and tactical information to those who really wants to do business and make money online. If you want to read fluff, go to problogger, thinktraffic and other content sites that you can easily find.

To Justin specially

I appreciate your comment. It is objective and I can see where you are coming from. I hope you can see where I am coming from as well. It is my blog and I felt I have an obligation to call out what I THINK is fluff according to my world view. Of course, you can feel free to say that people needs inspiration but I seriously don't buy that.

As to your specific comment about me attacking other bloggers to get traffic, I have to say that I am aware of such tactics and I am not using them here. I don't really care about aaronchua.com. Seriously, this is a personal space. It is not a business blog like your adsenseflippers.com where it serves as a sales funnel to your sites.

That being said, I do think your site has valuable content and that stems from the fact that you are writing from experience. The insights just come naturally. Many of the other blogs don't have real business experience so their main insights come from the blogging niche itself. That is not healthy and I don't recommend my readers to continue on a reading cycle.

In summary, this will be my last rant about this topic. Sorry about this folks because you might not have learn anything to advance your SEO or make money tips. Stay tune for the next post as I am finally ready to tell you the 10 viable niches you can get into. These niches are not your long tail type of niches (i.e. red microwave oven is NOT a niche). These niches are real industries that coming on their own and there are opportunities to established a foothold in the informational aspect of these industries.

Friday, 22 June 2012

DIfference between quality content and marketing fluff: a long reply to tom ewer of leavingworkbehind.com

This was intended to be a reply to Tom of leavingworkbehind.com, who took the trouble to leave a comment in previous post on marketing fluff.  It turned out to be a bit longer than I would have liked as a comment so I decided to flush out my thoughts a bit more and make it into a real post.

This was Tom's comment

"Hey Aaron,

Really disappointed to hear that you feel my blog is going the way of "fluff". I'd love to get some feedback from you on that front - I pour an enormous amount of effort in trying to produce valuable posts every single time, so I'd like to know where you think I'm going wrong.



Given Tom's recently surge in popularity, it was nice for him to even bother to comment on blogs like mine. Made no mistake, Tom is a NICE person. His comment is proof of that. However the realities of blogging in terms of generating traffic sometimes can steer you in the wrong direction.

His simple questions actually left me with a lot to think about. I had years in business development/marketing for both real companies and my own online properties. As a result, my bullshit filter is pretty much on most of the time. I can smell the bullshit from miles away but it takes a bit of effort to dig into the details of why I think they are bullshit. This post is my attempt to do so.

So, back to the question: what is the difference between quality content and fluff?

My answer: deep insights into execution

That is my guiding principle to tell me what is fluff and what isn't.

In the world of business and making money, execution is what separates ideas and dreams from reality. I have learnt long ago to look past the marketing bullshit and to see what really make things tick. It is these insights that will determine success or failure. If a piece content cannot bring out these insights, they have nothing to offer but fluff. Fluff makes you feel good as it tricks you into believing you are learning something. In reality, trying to execute on fluff will leave you with hundreds of burning questions.

An example to illustrate what I meant

If you have never heard of Khan Academy, it is one of the fastest growing platform for online video learning. I investigated deeply into why it grew so fast and where the growth is coming from, especially in the early stage where it has not received so much public recognition.

Fluff: "Great content that is easy to follow". "First of its kind". "Person in the video is really great". "Everybody is sharing these content with their friends" Blah blah blah.

Insight: The videos ranked for almost all the maths related queries in youtube search. In other words, SEO on the youtube platform bought tonnes of traffic to the videos. It is only after the initial exposure that people started to share and talk about the great content.

On the surface, the marketing fluff about Khan Academy is not wrong.
  • Building what the gurus liked to called "pillar content" forms a strong foundation. 
  • Referral traffic from sharing is a good source of growth
However, executing on these alone, as most bloggers do, will leave them cold. Why? The missing link is the initial pool of users. Your kickstart engine if you will. Most companies and blogs failed because they failed in this stage of their ventures. If you want to learn why something is generating lots of traffic online, always look for this kickstart engine. Don't be blinded by all the PR talks and useless commentary.

I loved this particular insight as it is something that anyone can duplicate. Anyone can learn how to do SEO on youtube seach. It doesn't require invisible handshaking which a lot of guru online marketers do that we can't see.

(A side note: this is why a real SEO doesn't focus on Google alone. Any platforms with a large traffic base and a search box can be optimised. If you are not experimenting in getting search traffic from forums, video sharing sites, twitter etc, you are missing out on a lot of traffic).

Other examples

Griz: One of my biggest hero. He taught me many things about SEO by conducting his experiments openly with the SERP results to show for it. I remembered one particular example where he showed the power and the ease of ranking of trend keywords by ranking for the names of American Idol contestants.

Griz created a new blog in front of us targeting one particular contestant and ranked it within days. He also showed the site's  traffic stats and how to make money off it. That one post opened up my eyes in terms of how to target new terms that are featured on TV and eventually lead to my success in creating a adsense site in one of the most competitive industry: cosmetic surgery. ( See this post on how I make 1k in adsense using this method of targeting emerging keywords).

Griz posts were insightful as the kickstart engine was open for anyone to see. Anyone can easily duplicate what he has done and have success. There is no fluff and no gaps in the most crucial part of your business. 

Michael Martinez: Micheal doesn't conduct these live experiments but his years of experience shine through in this SEO posts. I learnt many things from him including a concept called SERP saturation, which explains why it is tougher to ranked for established concepts and keywords. I am not going to explain it here but it is something that once again open my eyes to how search engines work.

Again, such information can be implementated and they have a real impact on your results because they focus on the kickstarted part of your project. 

Back to leavingworkbehind.com

This is the part where I address Tom's question. Let look at a recent post:

"22 Success Stories Reveal The Moment When They Knew They Were Capable Of More"

It is the type of post that most readers will love to read. It is inspirational especially to those who love to live in their heads. However to somebody like me, it is utterly useless. They don't reveal the crucial execution tips in the initial part of their business. As I said above, getting traction is the toughest part of any business. Your first customer, your first 100 readers, your first book deal. All these are the really hard to achieve. A insightful post will tell you exactly the process and the time and the effort you need to get the traction.

Another post: "http://www.leavingworkbehind.com/why-im-getting-naked-for-you-and-no-one-else/"

Seriously dude, you don't need such posts to create your unique selling point. This is again the type of marketing fluff that most online marketers encourage. Your true selling point will come from what you are saying and not telling your readers what you are going to say. Just walk the talk! Don't use this merry go round approach of content to sell your readers to more useless marketing manifestos. These other guys are using fluffy manifestos to establish themselves as the authority and not to provide anything useful.

In fact, most list type of articles fall into this catagory of content. You have nothing to say so you send your readers to a merry go round to other blogs and see if they have anything concrete or useful. Again, most social readers love this because they live in their heads. These folks like to read more than do.

Tom's earlier stuff was much better as it was his personal stories about his money making experiments. Personal storeis are powerful because they reveal insights. Insights about how a beginner can stumble, the kind of mistakes he made and the kind of solutions he thought of. The whole process, including how the initial traction can happen, is laid out in front of your eyes. This is powerful stuff.

Unfortunatley, personal stories don't work that well if you are not successful yet. Causal readers will somehow not share your content or even like your blog unless you have achieved some results. They are ok to missed out on the growin pains of a project which is where a lot of learnings can take place.

This is why most bloggers will go down the marketing fluff path. They can't wait for the day they will be successful. They need the traffic now so they resort to common tactics that I have described above.

My final feedback is this: You need to do things first before writing. Only after real stuff has been done will insights be born. Nobody can produce insightful posts everyday, especially if you don't have years of experiences backing up what you are saying.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Using marketing fluff to get more traffic for your blog

The online marketing blogs are just full of fluff and crap. Sites like thinktraffic.net and socialmediaexaminer.com gets to me because they don't really say anything useful. (I hope leavingworkbehind.com is not going that direction but it seems that way). They make for enjoyable readings but you can't take anything away from their content to use.

What you can learn from them is how they can produce marketing fluff that attracts readers and implement them on your non marketing blogs.

Most of these marketing or make money blogs succeed because they capitalise on one thing: most readers are lazy. Most readers rather spend time reading about stuff than actually doing it. This is why attractive headlines and the promise of more reading materials attracts these readers likes bees to honey. They made you feel good about reading but the reality is that they don't say anything much.

A good example is the type of post that lists other blogs you should read. This is not said by me but by what was written in a thinktraffic post called "One Blog Post Formula Proven to Get Traffic and Subscribers Time and Time Again". This proves that to grow your blog traffic, don't think so much in terms of usefulness. Think in terms of attractive headlines and content that promises more content.

What I have done is to copy these type of headlines and implementing it on my domain section of the early retirement blog. The content is not up yet but these are the article titles I have come up with. Do you feel like clicking on them to read more?
  • 10 reasons why you have lousy domains
  • Lessons from 10 rising domain superstars in 2011
  • The ultimate guide to valuating a domain name
  • How to double your domain sales with these 5 tips
  • 100 early retirement tips from twitter
  • Domaining tips from 10 female domainers
My advice is not to spending time reading the content on these online marketing blogs. Instead, use the time to copy their formula. See how they:
  • Use attractive headlines with so so content to attract readers
  • Popularise a couple of terms such as 'write epic shit' or 'pillar content' to create authority and a following
  • Reinforce authority with these readers using a nice design and what they called 'pillar content"
  • Funnel users to sign up for a course that cost at least USD100 and abve
That formula above is how to make money with your own bullshit product. The better you can do above, the more money you will make. As you can see from aaronchua.com, I suck at the above. 
  • I don't use headlines such as 10 of these, 8 of that blah blah blah
  • I don't use clever terms
  • I don't write often because I got real WORK to do
  • I don't funnel you guys to any mumbo jumbo product
This is why I am not making money with a blog.

That is going to change! I am selling out on my other blogs and I am going to make a ton of money. I advise you to do the same. Most niches are not filled with such marketing fluff sites yet. You definitely can make one and fake your way to celebrity kingdom. If anyone can do it in the marketing niche where there are so many savvy folks, I am sure you can do it in the gardening, fishing, automobile, decorating, food recipes, investments and many many other niches.

Readers, why not exercise your marketing fluff muscles and see if you can write some gorgeous headlines for your niche in the comments below?

Mid year review of my online business

Anybody out there? LOL

I have disappeared from this blogs for a couple of reasons, namely my Turkey Holiday, my grandma passing away and a couple of work distractions. I doubt anybody cares enough about this blog to want to know this but I thought no harm writing these excuses down for not blogging recently.

It is now the mid point of 2012. It is a appropriate time to review the progress of my online business. I hope you guys do the same because it is easy to be caught up in the day to day without taking the time off to reflect and to realign on what you are doing.

Update on old projects

Goal of earning an additional 5k per month: I would think this will be an epic failure on my part. I am nowhere near this goal as all the projects I have listed in my 'how to make money in 2012' post have stopped. The reason for stopping is to adapt to how has happened during these 6 months. More on that below

Amazon niche challenge: This project has been killed after I have given long thoughts about it. The SEO landscape has changed and the rate of change will get faster and faster. I am tired of building these niche sites that have very little change of surviving these algorithm changes such as Panda or Penguin.

I am NOT saying that you cannot make money with niche sites. You can still can if you watch the SERPs closely. For example, all the hosted platforms such as Squidoo are ranking well. You CAN make a quick buck throwing out a hundred or so of keyword targeted content. However, expect things to change. As long as you expect these changes and can roll with them, building niche sites is still a viable money making project.

However, I am tired of such changes. I want something more long lasting and sustainable. More importantly, I want to work on something that keeps my interests. With the Internet opening up more opportunities every single day, I want to work on something that is exciting and adds value to people.

Selling sites: With my amazon sites stopped, there are hardly any sites that I can sell. Most of the sites I have are meant to be kept, unless someone offers a really good price for them.

New projects

So, with these projects killed, what I am working on? Mostly on sites that I have an interest in but truth to be told, I am still finding my way as well. Below are some of the stuff that I am pursing currently:

Online magazine about small living spaces: I am developing an online magazine that attempts to help people get the best out of small spaces. I think this topic is becoming increasing relevant as apartments in big cities are getting smaller and smaller.

Structuring a real content is much tougher than I thought. Like in any physical magazine, I need to segment my site according to the different content types such as editorial, the regular stuff, the featured content, the gallery etc. That means drilling down and really understanding what your readers or potential readers might want. It is no longer enough to just lay everything in a blog site format.

Buying websites: I am still investing in websites to make money. I think this will be a very rich area in the coming years in terms of interest. Besides the actual buying and selling of websites, the content part of it will spark interest as well. In fact, I am writing a book right now about how to invest and run websites. This is from my personal experience of already spending more than 100k in this area. I think I am qualified enough to put a book on this subject.

Domain investing: I am finally starting to put in some real money in this game. Most people will think the domain investment game has dried up years ago but I beg to differ. Just like in real estates, the way to make money has changed but people can still earn amazing earnings buying and selling domains. It is of course no longer possible to buy single word domains are cheap prices but there are other ways to play this game now. I am going to write about domain investing in my early retire diary blog so you can take a look if you are interest.

So, back to you readers. How are your make money plans coming along in 2012?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

How to monetize a blog

Blogs are essentially one of the hardest thing to monetise.  In this article, I will look at some popular ways to make money with a blog and why they are not suitable for aaronchua.com. Hopefully, this analysis will help you to understand how monetisation works and why you might be making more money if you choose the right option.

Just to be clear. A blog means it is personal and it has to be updated regularly. It is not to be confused with a niche site where the owner of the site typically is unknown and there are no real engagement being done.


Blogs typically don't work well with ads unless your blog has a large source of search traffic. Even so, a blog is normally configured to attract long term readers and not to send them off via the ads. As a result, they are not optimised to earn ad revenue via clicks.

I did an experiment using a new ad network called intentclick from Kontera. Below is my earning for May. 

Click to enlarge

I make a miserable USD0.22 for the month of May. You can see why ads is not an option here. Of course, I can earn more by using a better ad programme such as adsense but the point here is there a blog is not designed to push people away through ads so they are never the best monetization option

Affiliate offers

Using affiliate offers yields a much better result. The below is the earnings from clickbank. I made about USD100 in about 7 months, which comes to about USD13 per month. Still not going to be rich.

Click to enlarge

Promoting something to your readers or search traffic coming to your blog or selling something that is not value adding makes me feels dirty. Unlike other marketers, I can't really promote something unless it really gives you a positive ROI. This is why I only recommended keyword researcher as I believe it has helped me save lots of time doing research about long tail keywords

Selling ebooks

I am thinking of writing a book about business. However, I don't like a general business book. What I did was to look through the table of content for some of my favorite business or startup books and see what is the process of building a business. This is what I found:
  • Finding your niche
  • Test your assumptions
  • Build the product
  • Get your first customers
  • Scale and optmise your customer acquisition
The above is essentially the steps in starting your own online business. Among them, I have the most difficulty with Step 1 and 4. So, if I am going to write a book, it will be about these 2 sub topics.

If I am to do this, I would want to create something like an ideas book where I list out 100 niche ideas for the future. You guys remember I always get traffic by targeting emerging niches? Instead of keeping all the goodies for myself, maybe somebody will be to pay to read these new emerging areas.

Beside each idea, there will be suggestions on how to create a value adding niche site around these ideas. A good example of this format is what I did on this post here on how to build quality sites. Look at how I analyze the peer to peer loan market and you will get a glimpse into what this new book will be all about.

The downside of doing a ebook is that you might spend lots of time without getting any significant results.  Of course, I can always do some market validation tests but the risk is definitely higher when it comes to creating and selling your own product.

In conclusion

So, I am throwing this challenge out there to my readers: if you owned aaronchua.com, how would you monetise it?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

My take on Singtel buying HungryGoWhere for 12 million dollars

The biggest news for today is that HungryGoWhere is bought by SingTel for 12 million dollars. For readers who are not familar with these companies, HungryGoWhere is the biggest food review site in Singapore while Singtel is our predominant Telco. From a blogger point of view, does this signfy that Singapore companies are starting to take content seriously and there is a chance that our blogs might be bought for a good sum of money?

I think there is.

In my post on creating financial blogs for Singapore, I already mentioned that the local business environment typically lags US for a few years. In the next few years, we will start to see more aggresive SEO plays and content marketing by Singapore companies. When that happens, the possibility of either engaging these companies as advertisers or potential buyers is very real. However, you need to stake your claim now and the good thing about Singapore is that there is so many wide open areas. 

In the directory business alone, I am seeing portals developed for properties, food, cars etc. How about directories for the rest of the industry? Spa, pets stores, bike shops, cosmetic surgeries etc. All these industries are now ripe for some directory sites to come and organise them so that consumers in Singapore find it easier to get information and reviews on the products or services that they desired.

I hope this news can created awaresness for what is truly possible online.  If you don't leverage it now, you might never get another chance in your lifetime.