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.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

How to create a passion site

With all the turmoil in recent days, people are finally willing to listen. When a person is making good money from creating 'not spam' niche sites, it is pretty hard to tell them to do anything else. With most of those income gone now, I am sure people are searching on how to make money after the penguin update.

This is not going be a full blown post on how to create a passion site. Rather, it is a journey. One that I am starting now and one that you can follow on with a real example. Before all these algorithm changes that Google has introduced, I was already thinking about creating passion sites that can last. After considering deeply on who I am and what I really like to write about, I finally created a couple of authority sites. This case study is one of them.

Let me introduce to you: http://earlyretirementdiary.com/

This is a blog about a topic that is very dear to my heart: early retirement. After all, what is the point of making money online? It is to retire early and enjoy a life of financial freedom. So, if that is your dream, I welcome you to the new passion blog.  However, to make this case study real, please don't link to it as it will skew the results.

Why create a passion site and why not to do it

Creating a passion site has its pros and cons. I am not here to tell you what you should do. It is my personal choice and I am laying out all the stuff I was thinking about before deciding to embark on this journey.

Pros of creating a passion site:
  • Promote your site openly: In niche sites, we need to hide our keywords because that are usually our only defense. If other folks knew about our niches and what kind of money they made, you can bet that they will come after it with a vengeance. This severely restricted our marketing choices as we need to hide their tracks. 
  • Explore other sources of traffic and diversify away from Google: Passion sites are driven by interests. You are genuinely interacting with others within your community to discuss issues, interests, news etc with regards to your common topic. You means you can openly market your site through all the social media channels and other relational marketing.
  • Content creation is much easier: You are writing about something that you either have some expertise or interest in. It is so much easier to write interesting content when you are passionate about it.  
  • Stronger motivation: Maintaining a passion site is not as easy as watching TV but it is a hell lot easier than having to write for something that you don't care about. 
Cons of creating a passion site
  • Niche restriction: With a passion site, you choose what you are really interested about, not by keyword traffic and how much money you can make. 
  • Crowded: Whether you believe it but most of us have similar interests. This is why there are so many blogs that talked about fashion, finance, parenting etc but very little blogs really talked about crime scene, industrial repair etc. So, choosing a niche means you are entering into a crowded field. 
  • No obvious monetisation: some passions are very easy to monetise. Space is an great example. Only with huge traffic can a site such as universetoday.com make any form of significant income if your passion is not commercial by nature.  

How to overcome the cons of a passion site

Weighing the pros and cons, I still decided to go with a passion site. Despite the problem of limited niche selection, crowded  marketplace and no immediate money making route, there are two ways that I THINK can make a passion site viable:

Method 1: learn to spot where the problems are in your passion niche.

Every niche has its own set of problems and issues that are not obvious to people outside the industry. Take early retirement as an example. On the surface, it seems that every possible topic has been covered but upon reading and learning all the different retirement blogs, I realise there are a couple of things that existing blogs are not addressing.

You see, a common early retirement method is to reduce your spending to around 30k per year and start aggressively saving 50-75% of your salary.  Using such an approach, a normal middle class person should be able to save enough money and retire early. This money should be able to yield  5-7% interest and be sufficient to cover the 30k living expenses.

There are two problems:
  • 5-7% is not that easy to achieve consistently if you want a low risk investment
  • what if your wife or family doesn't want to live on 30k per year budget?
These issues represents opportunities for my early retirement blog to make a headway. Of course, there will be other issues that need to be addresses as  I continue to work on the site. However, the main point of this whole rambling is this:

Knowing the problems in a market means you can overcome the cons of a passion site:
  • Niche restriction: The niche is not as limited as you think as there are always new problems (just like there are always new keywords) due to a changing environment bought on by technological, economical, political and social changes.
  • Crowded: By identifying the problems in your passion niche, you are already differentiating yourself as you will be writing about something that is missing in your niche. This becomes your unique selling point and is something that you can market to other folks within the community. 
  • No obvious monetisation: The problems you identified become a monetisation path because people always pay for solutions to their problems. Whether that solution can be solved by content is problem specific but at least you know that is a pain there waiting for some smart guy to remedy and profit from it. 
Method 2: Attack emerging niches

This has become a recurring theme for my blog but a new niche represents lots of untouched areas where good information is needed. I already mentioned a couple of such ideas in my post on how to build quality niche sites. The basic point, however, is that a new niche means unlimited sub niches and a non crowded marketplace. There might still be problems with monetisation but it is not a insurmountable issue as revenue models can be copied from existing niches.

How to know your passion

This is the hardest part but unfortunately it is also the first step. Think about it. If you are passionate about something, you will already be doing it. The fact that most of us are not pursuing anything in our lives means that there isn't anything that we feel strongly about. We are just living from day to day with no passion.

I though about mine for a long long time. After much soul searching, I realise this is what I am passionate about:

Creating online income so that my wife and I can retire early, and I want to enable others to do the same.

The above captures what my passion is. In that statement, there are a couple of niches that fit well into who I am.
  • Making money online: already doing it with aaronchua.com and I love the results so far.
  • Retire early: click that one off as well with my new blog
  • Enable others: still thinking about that one but I might start a new blog that attempts to give readers 1000 blog topics that are emerging and have income potential. Aaronchua.com does this to some extend.
Anyway, you should think hard about what you really want and who you really are. 

I hope you guys reading this really start a passion site. One where you can continue to work on after 5 or even 10 years.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Penguin update affected your site? Time to consider the alternatives

Ever since writing the 2 posts about why my sites are not ranking after April 25 and how to recover sites that disappeared from the SERPs, it is time to rethink how you have been getting your traffic. The drop you have experienced should serve as a fine warning that no real money making ventures should ever rely on one traffic source, especially one that has no real challengers.

By the way, this latest algorithm change has been termed the penguin update by most folks so I will call it as such from now onwards.

You see, ever since the Panda 2.6 update that caused my adsense earnings to drop from 5k to USD600, I have leaned that there are more than 1 search engine. My sites that got affected by Panda never recovered from Google but most have gotten their traffic back. How? By optimising for other search engines.

I know Google is the biggest search engine. However, Bing and Yahoo (despite the smaller share) still command more than 300 million users. That is still a very very large number. While every IM and his dog is going after Google, I learn to optimise for other search engines that are happy to give my sites the traffic that they need for my earnings to increase again.

How to optimise for Bing and Yahoo

Almost everyone I talked draws a blank face when I mentioned that they should learn how to do SEO for Bing, Yahoo and other search engines you never heard of. Everyone seems to forget that we are doing search engine optimisation, not google search optimisation. A good SEO will learn to get traffic from all search based engines and not just from Google.

So, how do you actually optimise for Bing and others? Well, it is the same process:
  • Keyword research
  • Content
  • Promotion
  • Feedback
The main difference lies in which data set you pay attention to. When you are optimising for Google, I bet you only used Google tools such as Google keyword tool, Google trends etc. Now, you need to know what keywords are being searched by users of Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. There are a couple of ways to do it but definitely not using Google's tool to estimate other search engines' keyword volume. That is just plain stupid.

While Bing and others doesn't have an equivalent of a keyword tool, they do offer things such as auto complete, related searches and trending topics (See Yahoo trending tool as an example). Learn to dig out sources of how people search on these other engines and you are on your way.

Feedback is a problem as google analytics and other Java script based analytics programme don't offer a complete view of your traffic sources. These make it hard for you to know which search engines are really sending you traffic and how you can create more content to draw similar traffic. Server logs are the best but you need to know how to retrieve the keywords from there and used it.

I have still lots to say about optimising for Bing and other search engines but the key takeaway here is that you should never reply on one traffic source alone. Learn to optimise for other search engines and you are already miles ahead of other SEOs and Internet marketeers.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

My sites disappeared from the SERPS after the latest Google algorithm called webspam algorithm

There is a name for the latest Google algorithm change. It is called the webspam algorithm change. The name really says it all isn't it? Google is out to clean up the SERPs by removing all the webspam that is either onsite or through manipulating the rankings. However, within this change, there are many factors that might caused your site to disappeared from the SERPs. The following observations are what I can learn from my network of sites.

Why all my keywords lose rankings after the April 25 algorithm change?

The reason is nto clear cut and I see 2 major factors:

Observation 1: Big brands are moving up

It is natural to see brands moving up. If Google wants to remove webspam, the first logical thing is to give greater weight to sites with more trust. That means branded sites will get a leg up on our niche sites. I see this happening across my niches where big brands such as amazon, webmd etc are occupying top spots in the SERPs.

Due to the above, your niche site will be pushed down. If you experience a few ranking drops and see big brands above you, then the good news is that your niche is not penalised by this latest webspam algorithm. It is just that your site doesn't have the necessary trust and authority to outranked those branded sites above you.

Observation 2: Sites with links from private blog networks are losing ranks big time

I mentioned about a Google patent that might be used for this change. Here is the paper. Basically, it is an algorithm that attempts to determine the quality of a linking cluster and draw conclusions on whether the articles are manipulated.

In layman terms, it means that the algorithm is trying to analyse the backlink articles and see if the links placed are relevant with relations to the articles and the entire site. If the backlink articles are deemed to be manipulated, the linking destination (which is your site) will either drop in rankings and be completely deindexed.

From my own network of sites, this pattern is very obvious. Sites which had backlinks from only private blog networks such as BuildMyRank are dropping rankings like flies. Sites which had a more diversified backlink profile dropped less. Sites which had no artificial backlinks are unaffected and some even gain in rankings.

So, the message is loud and clear. If you want backlinks, do it the right way. Create great content and network with other webmasters to get them. Forget about trying to outsmart the webspam algorithm because it will only get better at detecting unnatural backlinks.

For me, I don't do the backlink game anymore. I focus more on identifying undeserved niches in up and coming markets and create content to serve those needs.Very often, you will find that you can indeed get search traffic without backlinks.

Look at all these terms I can traffic for when I wrote the latest google algorithm change yesterday. I couldn't build backlinks fast enough to rank for these terms even if I try.

(Click to enlarge)

So, if your site disappeared from the SERPs, understand whether it is because you being outgunned by the brands or you have been building too many links from private blog networks. 

Time to clean up and move on.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Why is my site not ranking after google algorithm changes on April 2012

"Why is my site not ranking after google algorithm changes on April 2012". I suspect this might be a popular query after Google rolled out their latest algorithm changes. If you think Panda has caused damages, wait until you see the massacre bought by this latest change.

Across the websphere, I see forums filled with  online money making folks declaring the reduction of their traffic by more than 70-90%. The ranking drops experienced by these folks is much worse than what Panda has caused. It is not uncommon to see terms that you are ranking for totally disappeared from the SERPs.

When did the latest Google algorithm changes rolled out

If I am not mistaken, the changes were rolled on 24 April, around 5pm. The effects were rather instant. Once your sites were affected, you can see the effects sinking your sites faster than the titanic.

What kind of sites were affected by this algorithm changes

Nobody can tell you this now. In fact, nobody can tell exactly what is going on in Google's algorithm. There are too many factors to consider and none of the SEOs have any insider information to have a full understanding.

My own humble opinion is that this algorithm is targeting sites that used manipulative links to control their rankings. I saw a Google patent that states that it has the ability to understand the source of your links and whether these documents have been manipulated or are a part of a larger network whose sole purpose is to give links.

How to recover from this latest Google algorithm changes

The immediate reaction is typically to take some actions in hope that your sites can recover their rankings or to get their traffic back. My advice is to sit this out for a couple of weeks. It is common for Google to roll out their algorithm, see how the SERPs  are affected and then rolled back some of the changes if the outcome is not ideal.

More importantly, asked yourself this: is my sites worth saving? I have been changing my thinking these days. When building out lots of niche sites that are neither spam nor high quality, I will always be affected by these changes because I am limited in my ability to draw different traffic sources.

Whether your sites deserves to be recovered is a question you need to ask yourself.  Don't have the mentality that the site outranking your site is spam or have lower quality so your site deserves to be at the top. You need to be honest. Does my site deserve to be at the top?

For me, I can tell the difference between aaronchua.com and my minicupake site. As best as I can try to make the mini cupcake site useful, it will never be as personal or relevant as aaronchua.com for the simple fact that I don't have any personal experience with baking or has any interest to learn.

How to build sites that avoid Google penalties

Start with passion. Create a site that you are passionate about or have a deep interest to find out more then. Then use that passion to find out what the community is missing. Create a site to help them solve the problem.

This is how to build a site that will not suffer under any Google penalties. 

Passion sites don't take shortcuts. They need your tender loving care to blossom into something that will give you good income for many years.

The tough part is to figure out what you are passionate about. Believe it or not, most people have no passions, which explained why they are happy to let life passes by.
Treat this latest algorithm changes as a wake up call.  Time to build something that is useful and long lasting.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Make money by selling wordpress themes

I mentioned last year that I got my first sales being an affiliate of elegant wordpress themes. Ever since that first sale, I have been writing more content using long tail keyword software. I used to use keyword strategy but that tool becomes too complicated to handle. What I need was just some software that gave a list of long tail for particular phases and off I go, which is why I choose to stick with keyword researcher. It doesn't hurt that this is a one time purchase, compared to the monthly membership.

This is how I used the tool. I keyed in * wordpress themes and see what comes out from the suggestion. I then pick the one I liked and round up a bunch of nice looking wordpress themes that people might want to buy.

The great thing about the wordpress theme niche is that it is so large.  The number of longtail keywords in it is mind boggling. Anyway, by mining all the longtails and creating content, my wordpress affiliate earnings shot up. I have never disclosed this earnings in my income report. As I have mentioned in my first online income report, I only want to include certain earning sources as I am not comfortable with full disclosure. Well, I am in good mood tonight so I like to share my wordpress affiliate earnings from a new source: themeforest.

This is my April earnings so far:

Click to enlarge

The point is not to boast but to convey 2 messages:
  • There are so many different ways to make money online that it is not even funny. The common theme is that you need targeted traffic who needs something. If you can build a quality site that gets such traffic, there are so many different ways to earn that a Google adsense ban becomes a non issue. 
  • Work hard. Believe in the work you put in today will put off someday. Trust me. Even if the site itself does not make money, the lessons you learn from each failure will make you stronger for your next project. The worst thing is not to do anything as you will never learn anything. The cost of failure is so small because of the Internet that you really have no excuses not to execute your idea. 
I hope you find this inspirational. Making money online is not a hoax but you need to put in the work and dare to dream big. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The power of trend keywords

My previous post on niche pursuit's Spencer Hawks being banned from adsense was done not to spread rumors but to show readers what I meant by trend keywords and how much search traffic you can generate from them. More importantly, it proves my point that SEO is not only about backlinks. If you know how queries rise and how to capitalise on them, you can still get search traffic without any major backlinking.

A recap here. SEO is about
  • keywords research
  • content
  • links
  • feedback
 I do most of my work in 1,2 and 4. Backlinks have always been boring for me although everybody talks about how important they are. To me, these folks are just link building folks. They are not real SEOs.

This experiment was to show you how new queries are invented all the time. I saw the news that Spencer Hawks was banned from adsense. Immediately, I knew there will be new searches for that so I quickly wrote a post and published it. Guess what, this is the amount of traffic I have received today for doing a 10 minute article. Not only that, there were some that actually read my content and thus gaining me some potential readers in the future.

 Click image to enlarge

The point of this exercise is to not laugh at Niche Pursuits but to show you what can be done if you understand keyword research. This is an example of trend keywords and can be applied to any industry. I do it all the time to my product sites and it works. No backlinks. Just an understanding that new queries are invented everyday. We can tap into this growing traffic if we spend less time finding backlinks and more time understanding where the source of these new keywords can be.

Some of you might say that this is temporary traffic. I agree for this particular instance. However, for new products, some of them tend to stick around as they take off among consumers. Because of the fact that you are first to cover this area, you will gain un advantage. Of course, over time, you might need to protect your advantage with more content or even links but I have found out that for some products, no real competition ever show up.

SEO has to look forward all the time. Using keyword tool such as your major source of keyword research is limiting. It also forces you to play the backlink games since everybody is looking at the same tool. Learn to see where others are not looking and you will come out stronger than ever. 

Niche pursuits just got banned from google adsense

Spencer hawks from niche pursuits just annouced on his blog that his adsense account got banned. There is really no surprise here as far as I am concerned.  It is in fact a bit freaking weird because I just told my wife earlier that he will be banned sooner or later.

For those who might not know who spencer hawks is, he is the guy that teaches folks how to create niche adsense sites. He has over 200 such sites himself and was clearing over 13k per month. He even confessed that most of his new sites are one page wonders.

With such characteristics, he is prime target for a google ban because:

He Make Google Look Stupid.

The number one rule in any SEO work is that you never make Google look stupid. Spencer hawks did.

Worse of all, he teaches people his method, meaning he make google look stupid in front of more people. If I was Google, and I want people to stop making thin sites, I will target him first.

In my mind, this was inevitable and I kept telling my friends and my wife that this will happen.

The sad truth is that Spencer is a great guy but he should have protected himself more. The good thing is that his sites are not deindexed which means he can either use a Google adsense alternative such Media.net or convert his sites to affiliate sites.

However, one thing he must do is to reverse his entire thinking of niche site making. To him, niche sites are nothing more than low competition keywords. I think that era has passed. If you want to make money online with niche sites, you must learn how to create value.

If you don't know how, please take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 of my serious on making good quality niche site:

keyword optimisation vs ranking keywords
how to build quality niche sites after Panda

History always repeat itself. Spencer Hawks is not the first guy that I saw who got his adsense banned because of thin sites. Don't repeat this mistake. Start your websites right and you will get to enjoy a long and fruitful online income.

Updated: please read this follow up article on the power of trend keywords to understand why I did this post. It is not to laugh at the mis fortune of other folks but to show my readers how proper keyword can bring you search traffic without backlinks. 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

How to build quality niche sites after Panda

A lot of people search for this answer as I was looking through my search referral logs. It is something that I want to talk about as well since this thing has been on mind for long periods of time.

Niche sites do not mean crappy sites. They just cater to a smaller group of people, which actually makes it easier to create a good quality site. In this post, I hope to drag everyone who is still doing the 'non spam' content sites into this area so that you guys have a shot at creating something that will last and not be penalised by algorithms or  the whim of third party ad or affiliate networks.

This is what I will covered in this long winded post. If you liked it, please share it so that I can finally see those so called natural links that matt cutts always talked about. If they exist, they must be hiding in somewhere that even Indiana Jones can't find them because I sure don't see them appearing in my backlink logs : )
  • Benefits of quality niche sites: going beyond Google
  • Types of quality niche sites that you can learn from
  • How to find new topics that lack information so that your niche site has a role to play
Before going into the content, do note that what you will be reading is just my experience so far. They are not the holy Bible where everything inside must be the truth. I am not God so I am allowed to be wrong : )

Benefits of quality sites

The obvious benefit is a good site is that, hopefully, it will be less prone to any algorithm changes. This might not always the case. Sites will good content still needs exposure to attract natural links. For those who are not social in nature, that means you need to reply on those long tails to bring you those early exposure and fans. Without the quality, any amount of exposure will not have a compounding effect for the site.

I hate saying the obvious so now, I will touch on other less known benefits of having quality sites, using aaronchua.com as an example.
-Creating your own keyword query space that is stable: Despite all the changes in the algorithms, you will find that  'branded' queries don't change much. aaron chua is a small example of a branded query. Despite all the panda changes, I still ranked number 1 for aaronchua because google knows this is my brand. Beyond names, you can also create your own search queries such as "amazon site challenge". If these topics become popular in your community, your site will suddenly draw in a large number of search traffic because you own this query space.

With a quality site, you are in a position to tell readers about new keywords terms because they will listen to you. Let's say Frank have a gardening blog and he decides one day to try a new gardening technique called "frank's secret tip" or "soil ecology treatment" or whatever. The point is he can use a unique, and newly created term and keep on repeating them in his content and to his audience. Over time, if his technique works, people will know and will start searching about it. This is a powerful way to draw traffic that few IM folks are taking advantage of.  You don't always have to chase generic and known keywords. With a quality site, you can invent your own branded keywords and be king of that hill.

-You cut off their dependency on one traffic source. With a quality site, you can create traffic funnels from the communities that you serve. It is not uncommon for quality sites to have about 30-40% of their traffic from referrals. That is a major traffic diversification benefit that you should think of.  Aaronchua.com for example has only 40% search traffic. The rest are direct navigation and referrals. Even if i lost 100% of search traffic, I still have 60% of traffic that is independent of what Google or other search engine thinks.

- Sell your products: only a quality site can earned the trust of readers to open up the most profitable revenue source, which is selling your products. "non spam' content sites can only let you reply on third party networks. Any change in their policy that is not in your favor and you are toasted. Owning your product is the only way to minimize this risk and you need to have a quality site to do this. Without real engagement or trust, it is impossible to sell your own stuff. On this site, do you know how many people have emailed me to try and give me money so that I can coach them? This happens because I try my best to provide info that is missing from other make money blogs, which happens to be quite a lot of things. If I want to start selling my own stuff, I think there will be buyers from this site but I am too lazy for that : ).

Types of niche sites

Now, we are getting into the real meat of the post.
One reason that people resist or struggle with quality niche sites because the definition of quality is loose. What is quality content? Must it be personal? Must it be written by the owner of the site? Blah blah blah.

To me, quality niche sites can be manifested in different forms. As long as you know what is the value you are bringing to your targeted community, there is no single way to build a niche site. So, below are what I think are different models for quality sites and the kind of value that they bring to their audience.

- News niche site: Any industry needs a news type of site where the latest happenings are reported. There is no need for original reporting as the value it brings is aggregation and awareness. People are lazy to search all the news so they want a single place to browse through what is happening in the markets they care about. General news site will not be able to compete with a niche news site because they serve a much wider audience.

Even within news sites, you can break it down further to a couple of different models:
  • An analytical news site: For any niches, there will always be people who wants a deeper analysis of subjects and topics. For the technology scene, there is business insider which takes in all the news and analyse their impact on the current industry or players.
  • Hand curated news niche  site: The druge report is a classic case of hand curated news. Another example that I liked is http://fragerfactor.blogspot.com/. This is a domain blog where the guy curates the best news that is relevant to the domain industry.  Most tech and gadget sites also fall into this category as they merely take the hottest news from different sites and put them in one place. The difference separating a 'news driven content farm' and a quality site is that the latter takes a lot of editorial effect. The perspective and the message that the editor wants to share to the audience becomes an important part of the value creation. 
  • Algorithm based news niche site: Techmeme.com is the best example in the tech scene. For the domain industry, there is domainville and domaining.com. These sites display the latest news and stories from sources that they trust. Presentation here is important as well as being able to use filters and rules to surface the most widely read news of the day. Again, the focus on creating meaningful filters and presentation separates these sites and a spammer that merely pulls in content.
  • Community drive news niche site: Reddit, Hacker new etc represent this group of sites. All the latest stories and news are submitted by the community and the most voted ones surfaced as the top news.  I actually try to buy a site called the designbump.com which also works in this model. Again, the value, despite having no original content on its own, is in bringing out what the reader should read for the day. The work involved here is being able to attract enough users to make it interesting. At the beginning, you probably need to do all the work yourself and hopefully over time, there will be other members of the community to help you in submitting the stories and curating them. 
- Aggregation sites: Beside news, there are also sites out there that aggregate resources for their readers. Design blogs, for examples, typically aggregates tutorials, free resources and examples from across the web and present that to the readers. You can do this for any niche. A collection of relevant resources is always welcomed by a reader.

- How to sites: Behind any market exists a need for how to do things. These sites are well appreciated by the community as they solve the problems faced by the community. The biggest how to site includes the likes of lifehacker but there is one in every niche. From design to home making to gadgets to marketing, there is always a site that serves the informational needs of people.

Hence for any niche sites you are building, think about all the how to problems that people will face. In my mini cupcake maker example, I could write articles such as how to clean a cupcake maker, how to oil it so that the mini cupcakes don't stick, how to repair it etc. All these how to content might not lead directly to sales but they established trust with the users, which in turn might make them more likely to buy from your site.

- Reviews sites: This the favourite model behind many affiliate niche sites.

- Personal experience sites: A site filled with personal examples and experiences is always welcomed. The make money market is the most obvious example of this as bloggers will share how they make money online. Below are some tips that you can use if you want to use such a  strategy.
  • Create a goal or a challenge. These are always interesting to read and they give you materials to have a regular content series. People like series. Once they are hooked. they will always go back for more. Why do you think I create the amazon 50 niche site challenge? The power of this technique is applying in to niches that are not used to seeing such public goal setting. For example, "tasting 50 different Indian curries" if you are in the food niche, "accumulate 100k of air miles within 2 years" if you are in travel, "create 50 looks with the same jeans" if you are in fashion, "throw away 50 items to reduce clutter" if you are in home making etc. See? It is easy to create such challenges that other people will find relevant, interesting and even inspiring.
  • Share bad experiences: In this strange world of ours, bad news seem always to get more responses from the audience. I don't know why that is so but it is what it is.
  • Interview the experts: Domainsherpa.com has used this tip to great effect. One of the most common complaint about starting quality sites is that you don't have enough expertise or experience with that niche. This tip will allow you to create quality content even when you are not the expert. Just start interviewing people who have done it and you will be perceived as a valuable source. At a good hard look at domainsherpa.com and apply that in your niche. Domain blogging is a very crowded industry but this tip still works. Imagine applying it to boring industrial niches. If you want to try this, always go for the second tier experts first because they are more likely to accept your interview request. 
A final segmentation you can do is to take the model above and sub divide them into different segments such as beginners vs experts, women vs men, kids vs adults, rich vs poor etc. This will leave you with an even great option of creating a quality niche site that is unique.

The models I have listed above is not exhaustive by any means but they can be a start. You can also combine them to create your own unique voice. If you just take the time to think about it, niche sites can have its own appeal as well even if you don't have the resources that other companies have.

How to find new niche ideas or topics

To be really successful, you need to marry the format of the site with a niche that has not seen such a format being applied. Unfortunately, for established niches, most of the format will already have an established site. The easier route is to look for new niches whereby many of the formats have not been established. This is when you niche site can become a quality site for the new market and might even have a chance to grow into an authority site.

Below are some of the ways that I used to look for new niche ideas:

- Technology startups:
Startups at always at the forefront of technology. They aim to disrupt existing markets and pioneer new ones. This is why I enjoy looking at startup launch events such as Ycombinator demo days, the 500startups demo day etc. Of course, my aim is not to create a competing product but to look at the areas that they are pioneering and what kind of information needs that will arise. I will then try to use one of the format I mentioned above to create a quality niche site that meets such needs.

I think this example will make this clearer.
Peer to peer loans startups such as prosper.com, lending club etc: These companies pioneer the peer to peer market. Currently there is at least 2 sites that use the news approach called sociallending.net and p2plendingnews.com, an aggregator site called peer-lend.com/ that collects all the different loan rates from different companies, a how to site called peerlendingnetwork.com and lots of personal finance sites that talked about their goals of making money with peer to peer to loans.

If you apply the above logic to any new niches that are created by startups, the opportunities to create quality niche sites are quite plentiful.

Off my head, I am already thinking of the following niches that I 'stole' off startups:
  • Sharing niche: pioneered by all the peer to peer sharing companies such as zipcars and what ever not, there is this whole talk of how sharing will transform the economy. So, in light of such changes, you can create all sorts of quality niche sites to serve this market. How about a personal site to show how sharing things can save more money? Or a new sites that tracks all the performance of the companies in this sector? How about a review site that rates the service level of each company? There are really quite a number of great opportunities to create quality niche sites here. 
  • Motion control niche: with Kinect being so popular, the notion of motion control is getting more widely known and desired. I expect motion control to be applied in more of our daily products and hence makes for a great new niche to create sites for. 
  • Light field photography: A new form of camera that can possibly provide a radical different phototaking experience, similar to how Polaroid is entirely different from digital camera. Again, this is going to spur a lot of interest, epecially if the big manufacturers start to come into this niche.
- Google News
Learn to use Google news to hunt for the next big thing in your niche. I have done this numerous times and is now one of my favourite ways to look for new and unexplored areas. Let's see a few examples.
  • Wine & Beer: I have a wine site in the amazon challenge that is making me good money. I wanted to see what else is new and typed in beer making into google news. Just glancing through the results, I saw a new approach called one gallon beer making. This came about because it is challenging for a beginner to make the typically 3-6 gallon of beer. It also helps to save space. Hence, one gallon beer making is going be a trend as it has practical benefits. Although there are some sites covering this, you can use one of the models above to create a new value for this growing community.
  • Wireless: I have an amazon site that targets a certain wireless product. I then realised that wireless will become more and more common for new forms of devices and this in turn will create a whole new range of wireless + product keywords. I shall not mention any specific ideas because Google news will give you so much more. Same with the keyword "touch screen"....
- Industry news site
Every niche has a news site. Learn to hunt them out and see what new things are being covered in that industry. I did this for my cosmetic surgery niches and the result was a 5k adsense cheque. This technique is very useful in identifying things that people in the niche will search for but people outside will have no clue on. This means very little competition from other IM folks.

These 3 sources are my favourite ways to learn new niches. There are of course other ways but I never use them so I can't comment on them.  Whatever your source is, you must be able to tune in to what is the latest so that you are not chasing a competitive field that leaves you no choice but to build links.

To summarise, here are the main takeaways from the article:
  • Benefits of quality niche sites: going beyond Google
  • Types of quality niche sites that you can learn from
  • How to find new topics that lack information so that your niche site has a role to play

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

How much money can you make online - Income report 4

March was a nightmare for me. There was some idiot hacker who got into 2 of my hosts and installed some scripts that redirected all traffic to their sides. Google immediately flagged all the sites on these 2 hosts as having security risks. Needless to say, my traffic died and I was in fire fighting mode most of the time.

Here is what caused the hack:

"The loophole was in the timthumb.php file, which is a script commonly used in WordPress's (and other software's) themes and plugins to resize images. The exploit allows an attacker to arbitrarily upload and create files and/or folders on your account, which can then be used for a number of malicious tasks, including but not limited to defacement, browser high-jacking and infection, data harvesting and more.  After a site has been exploited, it may lead to becoming labeled a "Malicious Website" by Google or other security authorities. Any timthumb.php file below version 1.35, but above version 1.09 is considered vulnerable, unless patched"

My father in law also had an car accident last week. My wife and I had to rush back to Malaysia every night to see him. That also reduced the time I had for Internet marketing. Overall, it was a super unproductive month for me. Let's see how my income did shall we?

(By the way, you can check out the rest of my income reports here)

Making better affiliate niche sites

A side note: the amazon challenge is not dead! I am just trying to redo the sites to give them a purpose, rather than just making me money. I am also trying to make them more pretty because I discovered that the more beautiful my sites are, the more I want to care for them and create good content. Also, it creates a collector's mentality as I want to 'collect' as many nice sites as I can. Who wants to have a collection of ugly sites? :p

Such changes create a very nice virtuous cycle but it does take a lot of my time since I possess the most horrible design skills among everyone in the IM niche. : )

So, if you are waiting to see an update, it is coming soon. More of my niches will be revealed! LOL

Adsense Income Report: USD622

The same earnings. Nothing much to add except that I have not touched this site for more than 6 months and it is still splitting out money even though it has been affected by Panda 2.6. Say what you may, there is still nothing better than making niche sites and collecting money.

Skimlink Income Report: USD113

After being banned by Amazon for my carelessness, I have converted the amazon links to skimlinks. This was a long process as I have so many amazon sites to change, including those from the amazon niche sites challenge. In fact, I am still not done yet due to the lack of time.

Anyway, the income has falled quite significantly due to the hack and the conversion to skimlinks. I am hoping to see a much better April.

Private Ads Income Report: USD1,700

A super big jump in my private ads income. Although the money is great, I don't expect this to continue every month. Private ads are not as consistent as adsense or amazon unless you manage to secure a monthly contract. Unfortunately, most of my contracts are yearly so there is no telling whether I will be making the same amount next month.

Total Income: USD2,435

Overall, I am not very happy with the income composition. I liked skimlinks and adsense to be bringing in at least 2K and private ads to be 1k, not the other way around. I hope my efforts in building my amazon sites will lead to a greater increase as we progress further in the year.