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How to Make Money on Craigslist

September 22nd, 2015 by shawn · Comments Off

Here on DIYdollars.com, we’ve mentioned a variety of ways to save money and to make money. To those willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work, there is virtually no limit to HOW they can make some money. It helps to be able to see opportunities, to think outside the box, and many times, to have a truck!

Yes, having a pick-up truck is a valuable asset and an extremely useful tool- especially when it comes to making money using Craigslist. (If you don’t know, Craigslist is a popular classifieds website that has local pages.) I have personally found Craigslist to be a very easy way to make extra money on a regular basis. One of the main reasons for this is the FREE pages for your locale. Here, people give away ALL SORTS of stuff. A lot of it is just junk, but a good amount is still good. Sometimes people give away perfectly good stuff. So, as you can imagine, having a truck would be extremely helpful in this case. After you pick up this free stuff, you can re-sell it. Sometimes all you need to do is clean it up. Sometimes the stuff might need some refurbishing. You can also find good deals on all sorts of things and then turn around and re-sell those, too. Basically, you can make regular extra cash by becoming a Craigslist re-seller.

Here are some tips on making money on Craiglist:

1. It helps to be familiar with the type of product you plan on re-selling. For example, you might think you found a great deal on a used trampoline, and your plan is to turn around and resell for double what you paid. You need to KNOW what used trampolines sell for before you buy.
2. I find it best to price things so that they sell reasonably quickly. It sucks having a garage full of “junk” that is priced too high to move.
3. But, there is always that find that you might want to wait for since it really is valuable.
4. It really, really helps to have a truck.
5. Be honest about the product in your listing; people appreciate that.
6. Take good pictures, and take enough of them.
7. Promptly reply to inquiries. Be aware that there will be MANY people who will waste your time and pull no-shows. That comes with the territory; just know that there are some people who WILL follow through and actually purchase the product. You just have to be patient.

Being a Craigslist reseller can be a sure way to regularly make some extra money. I actually think some people do this full time, either as a “junkman,” or if they have a consignment shop. I KNOW these people have a truck, because if you plan on making serious money this way, having a truck is essential. In any case, Craigslist offers a great opportunity to find stuff for re-selling.

Comments OffTags: Underground Money-Making

DIY Yogurt

June 22nd, 2015 by shawn · Comments Off

One way to save money is to make your own food from scratch. Yes, this always takes time, and planning. But in the end it’s worth it because not only do you save money, but you usually end up eating healthier.

Yogurt is a very healthy food; it’s especially good for your digestive health, and what’s good for your gut usually means it is also good for your overall health, including your immune system and even your cognitive function. Yogurt has live active cultures that provide beneficial bacteria to your digestive tract. It’s also a very versatile food that can be eaten plain, used in parfaits, smoothies, and even Greek salads.

However, ounce for ounce, yogurt can be expensive, especially if you get the thick, Greek-style yogurt.
But if you have a candy/jelly thermometer and milk, you can make yogurt pretty easily. DIY yogurt can be made with any type of milk, even powder milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc. You will need some “starter” culture; just a bit of regular yogurt will work fine.

There are a few recipes out there for making your own healthy yogurt. Please note that some use a special yogurt-making machine, which you do not need, of course. The recipe I now use originally used a slow-cooker, but I have since modified it to save even more money!

Here’s how I make yogurt. I usually do it I the evening after the kids are in bed so I am not distracted, since it requires tending to.

What you need:
Milk- any kind and the amount can vary according to how much you want. I usually make at least ½ gallon at a time, usually more
Candy Thermometer- temperature is very important
Yogurt culture (basically, 2 tablespoons of regular yogurt, no need to go out and buy anything special), room temperature is better
Large pot with lid
Wooden spoon
Sink with enough ice to cool off milk
Ice chest- the pot has to fit in this, surrounded by towels
Towels

1. Put your desired amount of milk in the pot and slowly bring to 175 degrees. You should stir it to make sure the bottom doesn’t scald. This may take a while, but if you rush it by using high heat then you risk scalding the bottom. If it does scald a bit, try not to scrape that scalded milk from the bottom into the rest of the pot.
2. Once it reaches 175 degrees (some recipes allow for up to 180 degrees), then cover the pot and put it into the sink that has the ice. I cover it because then I add water to that sink so that the cold water surrounds the pot to help it cool down. The goal is to cool the milk down to 110 degrees. This entire step can be skipped, but you will have to wait until the milk cools down by itself, which can take a while.
3. Once the milk reaches 110 degrees, gently stir in the 2 tablespoons of your “starter” yogurt.
4. Then cover the pot again. Put the pot into the ice chest and cover as best you can with towels. Close the ice chest. And that is all. In 8-12 hours you will have a big pot of homemade yoghurt. It may be more runny that store-bought. If that bothers you, you can drain it or scoop the whey from the top. * Here is where I modified the recipe, which originally called for using a warmed slow-cooker, now turned off, and then covering with towels. With my modifications, only one pot is dirtied and no extra electricity is used in heating the slow cooker.
5. Now you can refrigerate it and be proud of your homemade yoghurt. Just like store-bought yogurt, it should be eaten within a week or two after making it. Ours never lasts for more than a week, so I have no experience with it going bad. Any fruits or flavorings can be added as well. If you made a large pot, you can separate some and freeze it.
6. Remember to save 2 tablespoons for your next batch!

Note- The milk must reach 175 degrees; that temp. will prevent any bad bacteria from contaminating your batch. It also must reach 110 degrees so that the cultures from your live yoghurt will live and grow.
And there you have it. Your own fresh yogurt for a lot less than any commercial kind. If a gallon of milk costs $3.85 (on sale, of course), then you can potentially have a gallon of yogurt for about that price. It does take time, but getting home-made health food as a result makes it totally worth it!

Comments OffTags: Thrifty Living

Not a Fake How-to-Save-One-Grand-per-Month Article for REAL People

February 17th, 2015 by shawn · Comments Off

Don’t you just hate it when you get tricked into reading a stupid article b/c it claims to have financial advice that’ll save you a $1000 per month??? Of course, if you are here on this site you’re the kind of person who would be interested in that kind of info. So you started browsing that page and realize that this is yet another time-wasting article NOT written with YOU in mind. You are a regular, REAL person.

The people in this article are not like any middle-class Americans I know, and certainly not those in the lower income brackets. For example, the writer explains how NOT going to Starbucks every morning will save you a certain amount of dollars. And then he/she continues on this same path about not getting expensive blowouts as regularly, not eating out as much, quitting the country club, and the usual fluff that does NOT APPLY to you because you already do not do these things. Even the part about checking your bank and credit statements for recurring fees, shopping around for better phone and internet deals, and raising your insurance deductibles to lower your payments is no help to you b/c again, you’re already past this. Heck, you might even clip coupons and are make sure to keep utility usage in check.

A few months ago I was suckered into reading such an article and it was a complete waste of time, but on top of that, did not apply to me and to a big portion of our country. Here on DIYdollars.com we have information that is for the average, real person on a budget already. A lot of it is ACTUAL experience we have, and some of it is stuff that we think is neat and/or helpful to pass along. We purpose not to write empty fluff; instead our goal IS to make and/or save money ourselves through learning, experimenting, and just plain doing. And we have this site to share in what we learn. Some things may not apply to you, but hopefully we can continue to learn, grow, and share.

As you can tell, I had to get this off my chest.

Hopefully 2015 will be a good year for learning and prospering for us all.

Best,
DIYdollars.com

Comments OffTags: Advice & Inspiration

Build a Litecoin Mining Rig (to Literally Make Money Online)

December 2nd, 2013 by shawn · Comments Off

UPDATE: The author of this article, Shawn Plep, sold all his mining equipment and cashed out in early 2014. LiteCoin and other cryptocurrencies became too unprofitable.

Litecoin LogoIf you’ve followed this site for any length of time you realize that I enjoy using the internet to make money. Mostly, I’ve done this by building affiliate sites (by selling products through affiliate networks, or individual products). It’s always made me some money. But never has the opportunity to actually mint money arisen, until the advent of cryptocurrencies.

By now, you probably know what a cryptocurrency is, because Bitcoin (the most famous form of digital money) has been in the news lately. Financial news sources, major news networks, and mainstream business pundits have all commented on BTC in the last month. This is due to the recent wider adoption of Bitcoin by consumers and merchants – and also due to the massive and somewhat surprising rise in the value of Bitcoin. (About $1000 as of this writing.)

Well, the ship has sailed on the opportunity to mine Bitcoin. But you can still cash in on its notoriety and it’s value by mining other digital coin. For the purposes of this article (and ongoing experiment) I will be mining Litecoin (LTC). I’ll update you, dear readers, on my progress – including how much I end up with as profit (in USD). But the first step in this endeavor is to build a Litecoin mining rig. Interested? I hope so.

This first part is where all the risk lies, but with the price of LTC higher than ever it can be profitable in a short time to mine LTC. The first thing we need to do is to build our “mining rig”. Just like gold miner have rigs, cryptocurrency miners have computer rigs that do the work for them. (Our mining rig is being built with Litecoin in mind, but we can use it to mine other currencies as well.) The mining rig doesn’t have to look fancy, nor does it have to have to be like other computers in any way. What we’re going for is maximum mining power and minimum power consumption.

Another important consideration is keeping the rig’s temperature within a safe range (so as to not burn out our components). Oh yeah – and since we’re investing a lot of money in the rig, we want to make our investment back as soon as we can. Since it was Black Friday weekend, I took advantage of some of the sales. It was difficult to find the exact components I wanted, but I ended up (pretty much) with what I planned on buying.

4-GPU Litecoin Mining Rig

4-GPU Litecoin Mining Rig

The most important component for a rig is undoubtedly the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). You probably call them graphics cards or video cards. For a miner, they’re the thing that does all the calculations. Some cards are better than others at making the calculations necessary to mine Litecoins. There are a few comparison charts online (such as this one) that will help you see the rate of kH/s, power consumption, etc. I decided to go with a card slightly higher than middle of the road cards, and I was searching for a deal as well. I had my eye on the 280x. After searching all the usual sites (Amazon, Tiger Direct, Newegg) I eventually found a deal on a Sapphire Radeon TOXIC R9 280X. I got three of them.

TigerDirect

I then ordered a motherboard with four PCI express slots. (I plan on adding another 280x board in the near future, to maximize the processing power of my mining rig.) The processor I got was a really basic Sempron 145, and I added 4GB RAM. (I probably would be fine with just 2GB in fact.) The CPU doesn’t do the mining work; the real work is done by the graphics cards. So if it looks like I skimped on the motherboard and processor…I did. I just need something basic to control the GPUs.

There is no hard drive in my system. For one thing, I don’t want to deal with even more power consumption. Secondly, this system is only doing one specific task and can be run off USB. So I am using a spare 8GB USB stick I have to put the Linux OS and mining program on.

I also ordered some powered risers (to connect the 280x cards to the mobo) and a couple of big cooling fans.

Last but not least, I needed at least one high-quality power supply. Instead of one, I ordered two power supplies. I wanted to make sure to get quality PSUs, and also to have enough power for all the stuff I’m running. (I wanted 1300 watts, and ended up doing it by getting two 650watt supplies.)

Parts List

Sapphire Radeon TOXIC R9 280X (Three of these)

GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3 AM3+ AMD 990FX SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard

AMD Sempron Processor Model 145 2.8GHz Socket AM3, Retail

Crucial 4GB Single DDR3 1333 MT/s (PC3-10600) CL9 Unbuffered UDIMM 240-Pin Desktop Memory Module CT51264BA1339

PCIe 16x to 16x Powered Flexible Riser Extender Cable with Molex (Bitcoin Mining / Gaming) (Three of these)

Corsair Enthusiast Series 650-Watt 80 Plus Bronze Certified Power Supply Compatible with Core i3, i5, i7 and platforms – TX650

Thermaltake Mobile Fan II External USB Cooling Fan – Us

You can put all this into an actual computer case – but you don’t have to. I plan on setting this rig up in my garage on a table, and using a plain old dish-drying rack to hold the GPUs, and set the motherboard underneath. Once I get it set up and mining, my plan is to let the rig run for 24/7. According to my calculations (taking into consideration all my costs, the likely hashrate my rig will have with all three of the 280x GPUs, and the current price of Litecoin) my investment will be paid off in about a month.

Litecoin Miner on Dishrack

Litecoin Miner on Dishrack

Until I get all the parts in near the end of next week, all I can do is wait. Unfortunately I joined the LTC rush kind of late – and a lot of other people had the same idea judging from all the sold-out mining cards online. But I believe there’s still a lot of opportunity not only in Litecoin but also in other cryptocurrencies.

In future posts I’ll explore that some more, and will also share my mining progress. Next post, I’ll detail the actual build and setup of my Litecoin mining rig. By next post, if you order the same items I ordered, you will be able to follow my step-by-step instructions and have a working Litecoin miner with no effort.

Comments OffTags: Business How-To's

Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 3: Tips & Best Practices

March 11th, 2013 by shawn · 2 Comments

In Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 1 we talked about link cloaking and how to make your affiliate site less of an obvious affiliate site. In Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 2 we looked at how to improve your content by changing stock descriptions, adding content, and hosting images yourself (among other things). In this last installment I want to throw out a few more tips that will help you have a better affiliate site than all your competitors.

Tip 1: Interlink

You ever want to spend some time link building that will really pay off? Well, forget about buying the latest tools or paying for the newest thing on the BST sub-forum. Save your money and spend a little of your time. Instead of paying for worthless outside links, pay attention to your own site and link your pages together. Thin affiliate sites don’t improve by just buying links or any other form of laziness.

If you’re honest, you’ll admit that you’ve probably never given this much attention (if any) and you’ll also admit that it seems so…boring. Well, you can either waste time with thousands of suspicious-looking comment backlinks or you can do something that will affect the quality and strength of your site from not only a SEO perspective but from a user-friendliness perspective. Don’t believe it will do you some good? Well, I got the idea from Wikipedia – the kings of interlinking. Bottom line is that it’s immensely important, and it will help your site. Do it.

How to approach it? I suggest that you put all your pages into rough categories and interlink the pages within those categories, to start with. That’s an obvious way to do it. If you want to challenge yourself a bit more you can attack the interlinking by keywords that you want to emphasize. However you do it, you might wish to link the less-popular and weaker pages from the stronger ones in order to prop them up.

If you use WordPress (and who doesn’t these days?) you will find a handful of plugins to do this for you, somewhat automatically. I’ve tried this approach but since I’m a speed freak (and the DB was filling up fast) I have since stuck to good ‘ol manual interlinking the way my great-grandfather used to do it in the Old Country. Manually placing static links makes the computer do less, which makes things go faster. Which brings me to the next thing…

Tip 2: Watch Your Speed

SEO Page SpeedI tell my wife this all the time. “Watch your speed!” Because I want her to slow down. Does your town have any mobile speed traps? My town does; they’re the devil. I hate getting tickets in the mail! I watch my speed like a hawk.

On my sites, too. Except I want the speed to be as fast as possible on my sites. How do I accomplish fast speeds? By making the computer do less – as a general rule.

I cannot give you a comprehensive how-to on speeding up sites, but I can give you a few pointers. I hope you’ll do some of your own research to fill in the blanks.

First of all, get a baseline measurement of your site speed. You want to see where you’re starting so you can impress your friends with how many milliseconds you end up shaving off page load times. (Girls love guys who play guitar almost as much as guys with fast-loading affiliate sites.)

You can use browser-based tools to do this (like PageSpeed by Google) or web-based tools like GTMetrix and Pingdom. Run the tests a few times, record your speeds, and get to work.

Your basic goals should be to reduce page load time and increase speed by making your pages smaller in size, implementing caching, and possibly serving media via a CDN. For sites with lots of images (such as an ecommerce site or an affiliate site with a catalog of products) a content delivery network makes a lot of sense. For a site like this one (which is text-heavy, with few images) not so much.

Remember that WordPress plugins are convenient, but many times they are unnecessary and use resources. A few times, I’ve uninstalled a plugin and replaced its functionality with some PHP code or added a hook directly to the functions file. Other times, I realized I didn’t need the plugin to be active constantly – or active ever (so I uninstalled it). Keep your site lean and mean.

Tip 3: Speak in Tongues

Provide your content in multiple languages, and you’ll be a step beyond most of your competition. The way to decide which languages has everything to do with the regions in which there’s interest in your products. You can find out this information by using the (free) Adwords keyword tool and simply doing a few searches. Find out where else you can possibly get customers – and provide your content in the language they speak there.

You can do this with plugins that auto-translate. It’s usually good enough – you will get customers that understand that you’re in N. America and probably don’t speak their language natively. But they want the item(s) you sell and they “get” what your site means. (For a business with the resources, of course, it is way more professional to actually provide human-translated pages tailored to the target audience. But we’re talking about the average affiliate here.)

Tip 4: Be an Expert

If at all possible, you need to add informational articles, tutorials, infographics, apps, tools, daily tips, a free e-book, YouTube video demonstrations, or some other type of material to your site. You may think this piece of advice would have applied under our last lesson on expanding your content but it really doesn’t apply there; what I am talking about will not only expand your initial meager “thin” content, but it will position you as the expert in your niche.

Do you think people listen to experts? Sure they do. Just ask your mom or sister or the lady at work who purchased the latest diet book or herbal tea or health drink…because Dr. Oz mentioned it on his show. I’m not advocating Dr. Oz’s supposed expertise but I know for sure that he’s positioned as an expert in most people’s minds.

What about not-so-famous experts? There are tons of them, and they sell tons of products (whether the products are theirs, or other people’s). You probably have heard of Jenna Marbles, Hickok45, FPSRussia, or Auto-Tune the News on YouTube. (And there are even bigger channels than theirs.) All of them name or show a product at some point in their videos. All of them have fans and influence. The one that is positioned as a bona-fide expert (of the ones I named) is Hickok45 however – people look up his reviews to see what he thinks, and they buy the things he shows off and recommends. And why not? It’s the same thing we do by reading Amazon reviews or reading Consumer Reports.

If my cousin buys certain brands of fertilizer and soil because of his favorite YouTube garden expert, I guarantee someone is out there equally as interested in whatever you’re selling…and will buy what you tell them. If they see you as an expert, that is. The cool thing is that to be an expert you don’t need to produce tons of videos or be wild and crazy: you just need to provide useful information in an accessible format. So if you make 3 or 5 or 10 videos about your products and either review them, demonstrate them, explain them, or give advice on them – you’ll be in the running.

Tip 5: Block Bad Bots

Back to techie stuff here. I hate scrapers, crawlers, and snoops. So I block almost all bots and I throw in Russia and China for good measure. Yes, I throw in a few .htaccess rules to actually bounce the undesirable IPs away from me. I’m not going to get a sale from outside the US in my case, so I really don’t care about foreign traffic – and when I see tons of visits from places I don’t sell to I block them. I do my best to block all the backlink-monitoring services as well. Do you think I really care about my latest ahrefs or SEOmoz link profile report? (I don’t.) But, since my competitors might care, I would rather give those tools less to report.

Tip 6: Build a List

girl-silhouetteIf you saw a gorgeous girl shopping in the grocery store or supermarket, and you knew you were unlikely to ever see her again, wouldn’t it make sense to just take the chance and introduce yourself? Wouldn’t you want to meet her? Sure – it might be awkward or even a bit embarrassing to just boldly go up to her like that, but what have you got to lose? Well, there have obviously been books written on how to do that as well as numerous seminars and an entire culture of PUAs has been created. Which is funny to me, because I see the same thing in IM.

We have numerous ebooks, seminars, conferences, programs, courses, etc about how to get customers and it reminds me of the PUA community. Guess what? A nice-looking man who has basic social skills should be easily able to make conversation with any woman, and get her number. And a reasonably well-coded website, with good information and a desirable product should be able to get a visitor to provide them their email address.

But, just like the guy who is too scared to just come out of his shell and talk to a girl, the vast majority of affiliates never attempt to build a list. They will not ask the visitor for that email address. I’m not sure why, other than the supposed trouble it takes to set up something like that. (Wait, what’s that? There’s the OptinSkin plugin? It makes it simple?) Maybe it’s took expensive (wait – MailChimp offers a free option that any internet marketer could use until they get the hang of things and build a big list?). OK so price and complexity aren’t really objections.

Maybe affiliate sites don’t want to look spammy or cheap. Well, fine – offer something to the visitors who are willing to sign up. You’ll never get those email addresses if you don’t ask! And if you offer something cool in return, your visitors might actually enjoy being on your list.

Without a list, you’re throwing away all the traffic on one-time sales. That’s not what we’re here to do. If that seems wrong, think of it this way: by simply sending all your visitors to buy something from your merchant, all you are doing is building their business for them. You’re building nothing of your own.

So that wraps it up. We’ve had three lessons on different ways to improve a thin affiliate site. I wrote these posts to educate anyone who wants to know how to do that – because very little has specifically been written on the subject. Heck, even the agency Conductor a kinda-well-known SEO agency did a “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit recently, and they ignored the question. So I went ahead and told you way more than the SEO agency AMA ever would, even if you paid them, and I didn’t even charge you. (How do ya like that?)

→ 2 CommentsTags: Affiliate Marketing

Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 2: Beef Up Your Content

March 9th, 2013 by shawn · Comments Off

In part 1 of Improving a Thin Affiliate Site, we looked at a very specific topic: cloaking your outbound affiliate links. I hope you’ve taken care of any problems or oversights you may have had. Now that all the holes are plugged with your aff links, let’s make your site a bit more beefy. You won’t be so thin when you’re done!

Images

The vast majority of merchants provide images (usually in a datafeed, sometimes in a zip file) for their affiliates. Most affiliates will use them as-is, and stop there. You won’t. You want to be different. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Watermark the images. You may not be allowed to do this by your merchant depending on their terms, but if you can, watermark the top or bottom with YOUR site’s URL. One of my sites was getting a lot of hotlinking of my images. I don’t mind so much; all my images have my site URL on them.
  2. Self-host the images. You probably figured that part out by now. Don’t just hotlink to the merchant’s image. For all your affiliate images, download them first and host them yourself. I have done this and also used a caching plugin to cache the merchant’s images on my server; the effect is the same in regards to search engine indexing. I prefer actually downloading the images, however, so I can re-name them (with keyword-rich filenames) and watermark them as well.
  3. Add more images. The best case scenario is for you to take your own pics and have images no one else has. At least two affiliates I know of do this – and they have profitable, successful sites. Is it a lot of work? Sure it is. The majority of the time they have to buy the product themselves, as well. But their sites are definitely NOT “thin” – and that’s what you want to learn about, right? If you can’t take your own pics, try to source other pics of the same products. Sometimes, you can get additional pics off the merchant’s site. While these aren’t totally unique, if you take the effort to manually download additional pics from the merchant, you can be sure you’ve gone a step further than most of your fellow affiliates.

Text Content

When I talk about content, I am referring to any text that is provided to you for product titles and descriptions. Again, you probably realize that most affiliate use the content sent to them and stop there. So, how can you differentiate yourself and make your site “thicker” but also more unique? Here’s how:

  1. Rewrite the stock descriptions. By all means, keep the content the merchant gives you. But change wording, complete sentences that are left wanting, expand on ideas given, and possibly reformat information. For example, take a list and turn it into a set of bullet points. Add a few ideas of your own. Reword things and re-order things. It does take work, but it will be worth it when you look back at your site and you see that it’s totally different than anything anyone else has.
  2. Add more content to each of your product descriptions. Depending on your niche and type of product, this additional content could consist of additional product specifications, product uses, a sample recipe, a testimonial, a blurb about the item (“As seen worn by Jennifer Lawrence!” or something), even a joke, an interesting story, or a quote (relevant to the product, of course). This is where you can get creative. I did this technique with a t-shirt site I’ve run for years. Since each shirt had a funny graphic or a sometimes-obscure joke, I posted an explanation of what each shirt meant, underneath the standard product description. It definitely helped with traffic, ranking, and sales – and I quickly saw a couple of competing sites begin to do the same thing.
  3. Link to or embed other content. Depending on your niche of course, this may not work. But for most retail products, there are YouTube videos, PDFs (manuals for instance) and product reviews you could include. I like videos because they make my page contain something interesting and useful – and keep visitors on the page for longer if they take the time to play the video. I do not prefer to link out – but on the occasion when I’ve done so, I’ve made sure to open the link in a new tab.

Now, I want to address an issue specifically related to text content. Spun content, in my opinion, has no place on an affiliate website. If your site is aimed towards people, you need to take the time to write for them. My thought is that visitors can plainly see when a site is spun and are much less likely to buy from you.

If you’ve followed along with me so far, your site should not only look better to the search engines but also to humans. (We sometimes seem to neglect them, don’t we?) In part 3, we will look at a few additional improvements you can make to your now hopefully less thin affiliate site.

Comments OffTags: Affiliate Marketing

Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 1: Sanitize Your Outbound Affiliate Links

March 8th, 2013 by shawn · 5 Comments

An ever-present worry of affiliate site owners is to find ways to get out of being what’s called a “thin affiliate” site. A thin affiliate site is one that is thin on a lot of things – other than the product being sold. If an affiliate site looks like all the other affiliate sites selling the same product – it’s a thin affiliate site. It an affiliate site contains the exact same product descriptions and images as the merchant site – it’s a thin affiliate site.

Why should visitors go to a thin affiliate site, over the merchant site? Why should a search engine rank any thin affiliate site higher than another? Why is a thin affiliate site even necessary, if it offers nothing more than the merchant offers?

Hopefully you see why being a thin affiliate is something to be avoided. I’m here to tell you how to fix your affiliate site so that it isn’t quite so “thin”. In this first part, I will be looking at just one aspect of an affiliate site, and how to clean it up. We will begin with your site’s outbound affiliate links. You don’t want the links to your merchant to be either ugly or obvious. So you need to fix that, first of all. Here are a few ways to do so.

Cloak the Affiliate Links

Simply put, this means hide the fact that they are affiliate links, at least so that it’s not immediately obvious. This means that you cannot simply place the affiliate-network-provided link on your sales page or your product page as-is. You need to set things up so that the affiliate link is your visitors destination, but what they click on is a link on your domain. Anyone who does a bit of digging (i.e. a Google manual reviewer, a competitor, or a curious visitor to your site) will be able to figure out what’s up. But the average user won’t, and a search engine spider won’t care. So how do you do this?

Using htaccess and a redirect script is one way to do it. Low-overhead, low-maintenance – nice and clean. You set up a rewrite rule along with a small PHP script, and it takes care of the links. This works best when you don’t have a variety of different link formats (in my opinion). On one of my sites I have a variety of products from one merchant – so I really only need one rewrite rule.

The URL my visitors see are constructed in the following format: http://mysite.com/go/product-name.html

When they click on the URL, a rewrite rule sends the pertinent part of the URL – in this case, “product-name”, to a script called go.php. That script takes “product-name” and places it into the affiliate URL. (The merchant’s URLs all are formatted the same way, they just differ in the product-name portion.)

To the user, the redirect process is transparent and quick. Before they know it, they’re at the merchant’s product page and my affiliate ID has been placed in a cookie. If they buy from the merchant, I get credit with the affiliate network.

There are various plugins for different CMSs that do this same thing. If you use WordPress, you can use the Pretty Link plugin, SoftWarp’s WP Shorties, or a number of other plugins. The SEO Ultimate plugin even contains a Link Mask Generator feature if you want to use that.

No matter how you accomplish affiliate link cloaking, make sure to give the URLs a pathname that isn’t obviously for affiliate purposes (i.e. affiliate, or buy). (In fact, don’t even use “go” – it’s overused!)

Don’t Use Affiliate Links at All

If you’re making your site for human visitors, only they need to see your affiliate links, right? Right. As long as your potential buyers can see and click something that brings them to the merchant link it doesn’t matter what the bots see (or don’t see). In the past, some methods have been to use Javascript links or specifically to use a form and form submit link (with an onlick submit). I’m not sure how this will work now, since search engines can and do read both JS and forms – but it will probably prevent your affiliate links from being indexed.

Discount Your Affiliate Links

The way to tell the search engines you don’t value those links is to put rel=”nofollow” on them. There’s no reason you should have any of your affiliate links “followed”, cloaked or not. So put that on all of them!

These tips should improve your links on your affiliate site, if you haven’t already done these things. Next, we want to make your site less “thin” by beefing it up. We’ll pay attention to your sites content. Specifically, images, original content, and merchant content.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Affiliate Marketing

WordAi Review – The Best Spinner I’ve Ever Used

November 7th, 2012 by shawn · Comments Off

If you’ve read DIY Dollars for any length of time, you’re aware that I’m heavily involved in affiliate marketing. I’ve created multiple PHP apps to aid my online moneymaking efforts, and I’ve also used a lot of SEO tools, marketing tools, and online services. Over the years, if something came out that looked appealing, I usually tried it or bought it.

One of the utilities that has been an ever-present need over the years has been a good spinner. Because of the difficulty in writing (or rewriting) content, spinning content is just a fact of life in the internet marketing and SEO world. Even in this post-Penguin world, spintax is still a fact of life. And the use of spun content isn’t going away anytime soon.

Some apps, such as LFE (Link Farm Evolution) integrated spintax within their functions. Other software, such as BlogSense, integrate their own “auto-spin” feature. Other apps allow you to plug in your login or use the API for external services like The Best Spinner.

While all of these have been useful to me in the past, I’ve never been fully satisfied with the results. Until I found a very different spinner called WordAI.

I first heard of WordAi in a Skype chat group I’m a part of – a Skype chat group comprised mostly of SEOs and marketers. (We all got together as a result of being part of Guerilla’s awesome series of free webinars that he held during spring/summer 2012.) WordAI was recommended to me by a member there – and I soon learned that other SEOs who I’d heard of (and respected) used WordAI as part of their own custom apps. So I tried it. Consider this my “WordAi Review”.

WordAi is a software as a service – in other words, there’s no installable desktop app. I like this for two reasons: 1) I use a Mac, and for me to use TheBestSpinner I have to boot into WinXP using VirtualBox. It’s a bit inconvenient. A web app allows me to work through my browser. 2) I need to integrate spinning functions through API calls, so I can spin content from within some custom apps.

Those are two reasons I use WordAI. But there are two more reasons I’m sold on it. And these two reasons are why I think that WordAi is truly “the best spinner”.

First, WordAi automatically spins the content I send it. In other words, I don’t need to feed it spintax – I can just input an article (or a sentence, or a paragraph) and it will return spun content. (It also outputs good ‘ol spintax-formatted content, and it also can output a zip file containing spun content.)

Second, WordAi returns intelligently-spun content. Of course, no spun content is perfect – and I’ve never seen spun content that was as good as totally original content that a good (human) writer created. But WordAi’s results are pretty impressive – better than anything else I’ve ever come across. Not only is it more than adequate for my auto-blogs (yes, I still have some that are benefitting me) but the content makes sense – enough sense that it can pass a human review. Why? Because WordAi (that “AI” as in “artificial intelligence”) doesn’t just replace synonyms: it actually “reads” content, “understands” it, and then rewrites the content.

Based on my experience, I have to say that WordAi is not only a great spinner but it’s the best spinner I’ve ever come across. After reviewing WordAi and using it in the real world, I heartily recommend it.

If you need good spun content, and if you want to give WordAi a try, there’s no better time than now: there’s a free trial (for 3 days) available through this link. Try it free for 3 days, and let me know how you liked it! (After trying it, if you know of a better spinner, let us know what it is and why.)

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The 3 Things You Need Most to Promote Yourself

October 5th, 2012 by shawn · Comments Off

Everyone who is trying to make it on their own runs into the same problem sooner or later: getting the word out about themselves. If you provide a service, you need the people who need your service to learn who you are and remember your name. If you sell something, you know there are people who need your product…but not enough of them have heard about you. Without advertising and announcing who you are, you can’t get sales.

In today’s world of social media, mass communication, smartphones, and instant news, one might think that solving this problem would be easy. Well, different tools are indeed available these days but the problem is the same as it ever was. You have some technological advantages over people in past decades, but you need to do many of the same things. Here are three of the most important.

Make a Good Website

There’s no excuse for not placing a landing page online. It takes no more than a couple of hours at most, and it serves not only as your online presence but also as your base of operations. How will people contact you? Via your site. How will they find you online? By finding your site on a search engine. How will you capture leads? By your prospects signing up at your site. It’s a necessary basis for building the rest of your promo methodology.

Don’t waste time designing and coding a site right away. Buy decent hosting, install WordPress, and put up a ready-made template. A portfolio or landing page template will work well. (This one is a good example. And this is a great temporary launch theme. Get the idea?) High quality, stylish templates aren’t expensive – usually they cost between $25 and $40.

Get Some Awesome Business Cards

You don’t need to be a designer (or even have a title) to make business cards. Many online card printers provide some very nice designs (Moo.com, I’m thinking of you!) that are ready for you to use just as they are. Put your name, your website, your cell number, and maybe your PO box on the card…and you’re good to go. I got some cards from moo.com last month, and not only were they cheap but the order process was absolutely painless. The best part? Everyone seems to actually like the cards – they were impressed. (And not just my mom.)

Have Something to Give Away

This depends not only on the nature of your business (and your budget) but who your potential customers are. For most businesses, you can’t go wrong with some cheap promotional items like pens. (They can be expensive or very affordable, depending on what kind you want.) I’ve seen more creative giveaways as well – like small crocheted characters given away by an Etsy seller. If you sold pies, I’d tell you to give away samples…you get the idea. Pick something that your customers can take away, use, or experience and you’ll be remembered.

So those are the three things I recommend. Do you have any additional ideas? Please share your thoughts!

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3 Reasons You Should Be a Creator – Instead of Just a Worker!

September 8th, 2012 by shawn · 1 Comment

No matter who says it can’t be done, there are a LOT of small business owners who “DID build that” – all over the world. The DIY, self-made/home-made way of doing things might not be as visible as it was fifty years ago, but it’s alive and well. Lots of people make things and repair things with their own hands.

The questions is: why? If anyone can go to Wal-Mart and buy a plastic lawn chair, why on earth would anyone need to build a wooden Adirondack by hand? Well, there are a few reasons. And in this post I’m especially speaking to two groups of readers: the under/unemployed and the consumers who are their neighbors and friends.

I think being a creator – a person who makes things – is essential. It’s especially vital for people who suddenly have a lot of “free time” or were unwillingly given an unpaid vacation. When you get laid off (or just can’t find a good job) there’s a good chance you’ll do what the average under/unemployed person does with that extra time: nothing.

Don’t be like that. Here’s why you need to start creating stuff:

1. It will make you feel important. If you’ve ever made something with your bare hands – or fixed something in your garage – you know the feeling. It’s the feeling of accomplishment and achievement that only comes by self-directing “doing”. When you make homemade soap, or write a book, or harvest vegetables out of your backyard garden, or restore an old bicycle you found in the garbage…well, you can’t help but feel proud of what you did. Do unemployed people need to feel like that on a regular basis? Obviously. And that feeling doesn’t come from just watching TV all day and looking at the internet.

2. It will contribute to others. Most people would rather have a hand-made item or a quality crafted good than to have something made cheaply (that will break easily) from a dollar store. (That doesn’t go for every commodity item out there, but in many cases that’s the truth.) It’s nice to use quality handmade soap. Locally-produced honey or jam is often better (in taste as well as in ingredients!) than commercial stuff. And I already mentioned the Adirondack chair: the plastic stuff just has no character, and is made to be disposable. When you (as a creator) make an item and either sell it or barter it, the recipient benefits. They get something that has meaning instead of a mass-produced item. They can say they bought a local good from a person they know. That’s cool!

3. It will help support you. Last, you can get something tangible in return. Bartering is a valid and legal way to help support yourself – it’s been the way things have been done for most of history. When you make something and sell it for more money than the raw materials cost you, that’s called profit. Do that a whole lot of times and you might see a big profit. Do it less times, and you might just supplement your income. Either way, creating things can put food on the table and either pay the bills or alleviate some bills. “Creating” is an activity that pays better than TV-watching, no matter how you look at it.

So just because you’re being told to not create (“you didn’t build that!”) doesn’t mean you have to sit around and do nothing. All of us have nothing but opportunities: chances to learn new skills, hone existing skills, and become better individuals. Take advantage of your time and opportunities. Make something this week.

→ 1 CommentTags: Advice & Inspiration