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Think More Intelligently About Making Money Online

June 10th, 2007 by shawn · 10 Comments

A few years ago, back before Hurricane Katrina, back when a lot of people thought Britney Spears was hot, back when Google was just another search engine and not the Beast 666 computer, back in another age and another place… I used to work as an “IT specialist” at a multimedia company. It was not the best-paying job – but it was adequate. It wasn’t a glamorous job (“Hey Shawn I think I got a virus.” “Oh really? You think it could’ve been this smiley-face icon pack you installed? Or maybe this funky search toolbar?”), but it was more fun than a lot of other jobs. Heck, it was better than digging ditches or telemarketing.

But I was the low guy on the totem pole, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time it was probably the best job I could’ve had for reasons other than pay: I learned a lot of valuable lessons.

Courtney Tuttle wrote a post recently in which he mentions sites which are hard to monetize, and reading his post made me think about making money with a blog which made me think about making money in general which made me think about dealing weed which made me think about inventing a drug-dealer robot which would do drug-dealing for me and be impervious to bullets and/or arrest – which for some reason made me think of the lessons I learned at the IT job.

1. Never do a task that you can get a computer to do for you. It’s really elementary, but I know for a fact that most people who set out to make money online never come to this simple realization. They might know about certain tools that can help them automate certain tasks, but they probably think of these tools as optional resources when they are in fact necessities. Let it be anathema for an online business to do things by hand when they can use a program or script. A person should never do a job that a computer can do. (With one exception: if the task is truly a one-time task that will take less time to do that one time than it would take to automate.)

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Okay, so why am I being so dogmatic about this? Because doing things by hand takes time- which you, the money-maker, need so you can make more money. The people who are making money online very often have a dozen or a hundred (or even thousands of websites in some cases) – and if any of these guys are reading this & care to comment to this post I’m sure they’ll back this up. They make money because they have a lot of sites, and they have a lot of sites because their sites can be created quickly via and then run on autopilot – via scripts or other tools.

It only makes sense that if you are doing eBay auctions, you should automate feedback and printing packing slips and requesting payment, or you can never run more than 100 auctions a week – thus limiting the amount of money you can make. If you are into PPC arbitrage how can you effectively run the necessary amount of sites without automating their creation and monitoring? If you do SEO consulting you’ve gotta have automatic methods of monitoring sites, checking rankings, researching keywords, etc. or you only have time for a couple of clients and you won’t make what you can potentially earn.

This ties directly into #3, but I wanted to make a quick point in between…

2. Find your niche. Not just any niche. Not a very popular niche. Not a wide niche. But find a niche that hasn’t been already overdone & saturated with competition, specific enough to allow you to become an authority in that area, and yet popular enough to be profitable. What is that niche? It’s about a million possible things: there is no perfect niche for everyone. That’s something you need to find, like a New-Ager on a vision quest in the woods for the weekend.

3. Have multiple income sources. Call it multiple streams of income or just call it “a bunch of businesses” if you want – but this is how people get rich. They leverage their resources and channel them into more than one thing. It’s called not putting all your eggs in one basket (looking at it from the negative) or (looking at it positively) it can be thought of as putting a bunch of hooks in the water: you become more likely to catch a good amount of fish.

Not only can I throw out cliches until the cows come home (oh man there was another one), but I’ve seen it with my own two vision-corrected eyes. The vast majority of the millionaires I know or have read about have interests in a bunch of stuff. So in the online world the same principle should hold true. (In fact the company I worked for had a few divisions, a few successful sites, and they sold web hosting and resold domains.)

4. Plug leaks. Too many sites have leaks somewhere on their pages that waste potential sales. If you had a bucket with a hole in the bottom, you could transport water. But you’d have to exert more effort and transport more bucketfuls. If you plug the leak, you do less and get more. Same with any sort of website – whether it’s a “made-for-adsense” site or a straight-out business site that sells a product – you need to plug leaks that your sales are flowing out of. This means that customers shouldn’t be able to click on anything that will get them to a competitor – but a lot of businesses link to other sites that link to competing businesses. You know that link exchange directory you’re a member of? Well the free reciprocal link is a leak. (So just pay for the link if you want to be listed.)

If you want a simple way to think about whether you have leaks or not, just make sure that once your customer enters your site they have to either hit “back”, close the window, or click on something that will either keep them on your site or make you a sale. So you’ve given them less options. If they click on an external link it should be to another site you own, and if they click on anything else it should either be a “Buy” button or an ad that you get paid for or it should be another page on your site. Anything else is a leak.

So I hope these few points serve as good lessons and help you hone your thinking when it comes to making money online. We often need work hard to think more intelligently and more creatively. Too many sites say the same thing over and over again – just regurgitated and with different wording. But some of the deeper (and simpler) lessons are unstated, which hinders the vast majority of us who have a desire to make money online.

* By the way, I recommend Courtney’s post because he is basically going to show you how to make money with a website by doing it step-by-step and giving a public update each week. Keep the above lessons in mind while you keep up with what he’s doing and see how he compares.

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    Tags: Advice & Inspiration · Business How-To's · Ecommerce

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    Comment by Enough Wealth
    2007-06-10 04:42:44

    Some good pointers, but the bit about elminating *all* leaks sounds a bit too commerical for me. I like to combine providing a useful site with the possibility of making money from the site. So I include links to other sites that I think my readers would find useful. I think it’s debateable whether this costs me much revenue anyhow – if my site is more interesting and useful to my readers they’ll tend to come back and earn me more. Eliminating all links could make my site less interesting/useful so I might end up with lower readership and lose income that way…

    BTW – I notice that you have ContentLink working on your site. I tried adding it to my blog and every time it’s running my browser (IE7)fails to load the page completely and closes the page with an error message, so I’ve had to remove the Kontera scripts off my template. Any idea what might cause this problem? (I’ve emailed Kontera but doubt I’ll get a response). I’m thinking that as I already have lots of external links feeding into my pageviews the page weight may have just got too large when Kontera textlinks are included, and that some timeout issue has been triggered. Or perhaps its just conflicting with the similar text link scripting provided by AdBrite that I have running? I don’t want to spend too much time fiddling with things to get Kontera textlinks working, as they aren’t likely to make much revenue anyhow. But it would be good if it worked, as I’d like to have a stable, monetized blog template that I could duplicate when creating other “niche” blogs/websites.


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    Comment by Shawn
    2007-06-10 16:01:48

    I can see why you might want to include good links to other sites (I do that here all the time!) but remember I’m talking about an ecommerce site or a MFA site not so much a personal blog or a site that’s sole purpose isn’t to make money. So yeah, if I didn’t post outside links on my site – you’re right – it probably would make my site far less useful…but this is not what I consider a business web site (I have other sites to do that).

    As far as getting Kontera working, this isn’t the place to troubleshoot (so I will continue this via email) but it doesn’t surprise me that IE is being a pain. Trust me – get FireFox and you’ll love it – here’s my referral link…

    Comment by J.D.
    2007-06-12 00:55:51

    I think it’s all about finding the niche. Once you have that, then you can learn about the rest, or have it hired out.

    Finding something that I can be passionate enough about to write on every week, but that isn’t already covered by 10,000 other blogs – that’s hard to do.

    I am totally up for suggestions as well.

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    Comment by shawn
    2007-06-12 13:04:56

    The niche is definitely the hardest part of it, and the most important – you’re right, the rest can be hired out.

    Hey I think you’ve got a great idea with PYSIH.com – it’s a subject I could get passionate about. And there’s no lack of new material to write about, is there??

    As far as suggestions…hmm, I think I’m gonna keep the good ideas to myself… :)

    Comment by J.D.
    2007-06-13 00:15:55

    Shawn, where would you go or do with PYSIH.com?

    I’ve got so little experience with this kind of thing, I’m learning as I go.

    I’m running http://reviewyou.net as well, and I’m not sure where that will go…the numbers aren’t anywhere near PYSIH.com’s and the entries take a much longer time to write.

    Just to give you yet ANOTHER url – http://jeffdavisishere.com is where I’ve been posting my adsense and analytics stats for the two blogs every day.

    Comment by pooj
    2007-06-12 11:01:49

    Great article, I was the SEO who did things the hard way, checking all the rankings, links and monitoring myself until I looked online and there were a bunch of open source programs that did things automatically. And that has seriously has made my life a lot easier.

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    Comment by shawn
    2007-06-12 13:07:22

    Amen bro. Yeah, there’s the hard way then there’s the right way – get a program to do the work for you. Finding the right program/script can be a bit difficult but once you do it and set it up, your work is largely done for you.

    Comment by shawn
    2007-06-13 01:08:13


    To respond to your question, J.D. where would I go with pysih.com? Well I would promote THAT site and not the other ones so much. ReviewMe is a fine site on the side, but to be honest I think people are getting tired of review sites. Have you noticed that?? And your personal site doesn’t have a strong “brand” to it so that’s not a strong site to promote. Until you have impressive stats to report, why report them?? You know what I’m saying? It’s not to be mean or anything – just honest.

    I plan on one day reporting stats here, but until I get over 200 FeedBurner subs I don’t think I should, and until my revenue tops $300 a month why should I start telling people?

    HOWEVER all that said, I think People You’ll See in Hell is a briliant idea. (Don’t that make ya feel good?) Yes, you can go places with that site. Seriously. I would make it into a stronger site and spend some serious time writing for that one. Leave the other ones behind for now.

    I have like a dozen what I call “junk domains” which are sites I either never even started or abandoned. I usually bought the domain cuz I had a cool idea in the shower or when I was cutting the grass but then after buying the domain, the idea just didn’t float my boat anymore. (Can anyone relate??)

    So you know what I do with junk domains? I put some links on them. I use em for testing out stuff like WordPress themes or scripts or whatever. I just have them there for if I get a better idea.

    I’ll be doing a post about this subject soon, actually. Stay tuned to the same Bat-channel okay?

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    Comment by J.D.
    2007-06-13 03:24:54

    You know, I think you clarified what I’ve been telling myself…

    ReviewYou was kind of an attempt to get linkbacks and promote the site somewhat – and I’ve gotten some. More than PYSIH.com anyways. There’s way too much work involved in that site though, because I try to do a damn good job on each review.

    The problem is that I can’t see how I would monetize the site at ALL. I just don’t see it. I threw some Adsense up there (just a small box) for the stats, but I don’t see people advertising for that niche.

    I do have an idea for forums for the site though. :)

    I need to find a good template for PYSIH and stick with it.

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    Comment by shawn
    2007-06-13 19:29:19

    There’s always ways to monetize a site as long as people are visiting…some types are easier to monetize than others, but no site is impossible to monetize.


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