A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

My Headfirst Dive Into Internet Marketing

I expect most of you have read my thesis on how I plan to make $1 million a year on the Internet. Having read that (and perhaps observed my Twitters about how motivated I finally was!) you might expect I’d dive headfirst into creating the site, sales letter, and promotions for Hardworking Millionaire.

You would be wrong. ๐Ÿ™‚

See, here’s the thing. I know that if I try to find 2,000 members for Hardworking Millionaire myself, I will fail. I really learned that lesson from running Simpli. I tried to do way too much work myself. Stringing together a kludgy billing system, working on our new website, doing all the billing support tickets, running my own payroll, and even doing our own taxes… I frankly did a terrible job at most of that. Why? Because it’s not what I’m really good at, and even worse, it’s boring for me.

I know now that even if I go out every day and shill for Hardworking Millionaire, go to every business networking event and seminar, and show up at every party with a purse chock-full of business cards, the site won’t grow as quickly as it would if I have your help. That’s right, you! Plus — and your mouth may drop open when I say this — my personal top priority with Hardworking Millionaire is NOT sales!

Why? Because if I spend all my time networking, shilling, and selling, I won’t spend enough time creating content. That would create a “big hat, no cattle” situation — where the site gets tons of new members, but doesn’t have enough “meat” to deliver on its promises, and collapses under its own weight. (See: Vonage.)

I don’t want that to happen. So, while I will shill for Hardworking Millionaire, I won’t let that shilling get in the way of creating content. Instead, I want my happy members and affiliates to shill their little booties off for my site, in exchange for free memberships and a promise of a monthly recurring commission for each member they refer.

So What Exactly Am I Working On?

I have little experience being an affiliate of anything. When I was a teenager, I bought a domain and set up a site that referred people to a dating website. That brought in recurring checks of $10-$20/month even long after my site was gone. That introduced me to the appeal of affiliate marketing, but it didn’t “stick” with me, because I didn’t really care about dating websites.

Here on erica.biz, I’ve done one promotion which earned me a grand total of $3.47. I could (and will) monetize this site in the future to see what works via unobtrusive ads, but I really haven’t delved into affiliate marketing — following my pattern of focusing on content first and money second.

But I have to have experience with what sells people on visiting a site (especially from relevant searches on Google and Yahoo) and then converting those visitors into paid customers. This is critical to Hardworking Millionaire because I want to be able to deliver that to my affiliates — “Use these words and this type of site to convince people to join Hardworking Millionaire. Show them x, y, and z for the highest likelihood of getting a signup.” This is because most of the people I intend on selling Hardworking Millionaire to will be smart business folks, but like me, will probably have no clue how to actually market a site.

I could do this testing with Hardworking Millionaire itself, but there was another piece of the cookie. I wanted to see how sites treated their affiliates. I needed to see what I could do to match up with Google and Amazon, who are undoubtedly the “big pros” at driving traffic through affiliates. What could I offer my affiliates that would match up to the easy widgets that Google and Amazon offer? How could I tailor that to Hardworking Millionaire? The only solution, I felt, was to become an affiliate myself and use those tools. So I did…

Picking My Affiliate Program

After reading Steven Wagenheim’s excellent Honest Income Program ebook, which is a whopping 150 pages of affiliate programs and websites that work, and allow you to work from home, I had a pretty good idea what I was looking for. Steven recommends starting with the Health & Fitness niche, but I knew better from my long-ago foray into dating websites — start with something you understand. I understand tech, and software. I dug through pages upon pages of registry cleaners and spyware cleaners until I found something totally different — a small piece of software that I know works well because I recently purchased one of their direct competitors.

I did some Google keyword research (again, Steven explains how to do all of this — his ebook is worth the money!) I figured out that the name of the software had Google keywords that were expensive, since tons of competitors (and even some other affiliates of the same software!) were bidding $1.50+ per click. Too expensive for my tastes.

Then I hit a gold mine (well, or so I think it will be.) One, I realized that the software’s website had some excellent “How To” videos describing how to use their software. Two, I discovered that the “how to” keywords were basically devoid of advertisers, especially as I got into the more obscure ones. They had plenty of searches, but no relevant advertising.

Three, I realized that the affiliates promoting this software weren’t doing anything special or unique — they just pointed their affiliate links right to the software’s home page. Opportunity targeted!

I purchased a domain name (“how to” + common keyword + common keyword + “.com”) and put up a sales letter offering “Free videos!” that explained “how to” do the thing that users would purchase this software to do. (I’m being intentionally vague here, I know. I will continue to expose my methods as this campaign goes on, but I won’t say what the software is, since I want you to focus on how to do this yourself instead of copying me.) I used a theme of “big corporations don’t want you to know”, since there are large companies selling expensive variants of this same software.

I am adding a page on the site for each “how to” video I have. I also plan to create several “how to” Squidoo lenses. My goal is to eventually drive paid traffic to 50 visitors per day, and have 1 of them buy the product. If I do that, my commission of 1 sale per day at $33 commission x 30 days in a month = $990/month gross. After factoring in AdWords advertising at $375/month, my net profit will be $615/month.

I’m keeping track of how many hours I have spent on this project. So far, I’ve spent about 8 hours researching keywords, buying the domain name, and setting up pieces of the site. I estimate I have another 5-10 hours left, depending on how many Squidoo lenses I decide to create and if I want to set up searches through Yahoo as well.

The Real Goals Of The Site

In the meantime, I am learning a ton about affiliate marketing. I plan to split-test and see which pages convert better into sales. I want to set up a PHP link tracking system so I can see exactly which link people click on (there are multiple links on the page.) I plan to use different search engine keywords and focus on highly targeted keywords in the “how to” area.

Best of all, I recall a friend of mine doing one of the exact searches I am targeting with this site and being disappointed that he couldn’t find any results. It actually cost him some business to not find any help from Google when he searched for that specific keyword. I’ll be helping anyone who searches for these “how to” keywords do something they obviously need to do anyway… with software that I know is valuable, because I paid for it too.

I don’t have any delusions that I will immediately be rolling in the dough. Look, for 15 hours of total work, I’d be happy if I made 3 sales a month for about $60-$70/month net. After a couple years, that turns out to be a pretty solid time investment. I will, of course, report back on my progress, and keep you posted.

What have you done with Internet marketing? What worked for you? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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I'm Erica Douglass.
After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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