Monday, November 9, 2009

Researching Your Competition

As your online business exploits comtinue and you become more adept at making money online, one of the ativities you may need to undertake in the research of various aspects of your competitors internet marketing strategies. To that end this page is contains a list of free resources which you may find useful.

Reverse IP Domain Check

This is a handy tool for checking what domains are hosted at the same IP address. It may or may not be useful depending on how your competition has set up their operations.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Free Keyword Research Toolkit

One of the keys to making money online with a content website is keyword research. Finding out what people are searching for is the first step in creating any online business which relies on search engine traffic. It doesn't matter whether you make money with adsense, promote affiliate products or sell your own product or service, organic search visitors are what you want.

With that in mind, I've put together a list of free keyword research tools that I use on a regular basis. I use them when I'm researching a new niche or when I'm looking at expanding a website in an existing niche. They give me a fair idea of what people are looking for and what topics I should be writing about.

Wordtracker GTrends Keyword Tool

I've already written about the Wordtracker GTrends free keyword research tool in a previous post so I wont go into too much detail here.

What the tool provides is:

  • A list of long tails for your main keyword,
  • The approximate search volume, and
  • The number of competing pages in Google

You can find the tool at the following url:

Keyword Discovery Free Search Term Suggestion Tool

This is another tool which comes in handy.

The data provided is a list containing:

  • Long tails for you main keyword, and
  • The annual search volume

According to the website, their data is collected from a number of search engines. However, I find this service to be the least accurate when it comes to the raw numbers. However, I find it useful to get an idea of the relative volume of searches.

What I mean by this is that if another tool tells me that how to make money online is searched for twice as often as ways to make money online, I can compare with Keyword Discovery to see if the ratio is in the same ballpark.

The other thing I use this tool for is to get an idea of the types of phrases people type into search engines.

You can find the tool at

Google Adwords Keyword Tool

By rights, this should be the best and most accurate service out there as Google serves the lions share of the world's search queries. And generally it's pretty good. The main thing I've noticed is that not all of the popular variations for a particular search term are listed. Yet if I enter the missing term directly, it happily gives me the volume and long tails as you would expect. I've come across a few anomalies like that.

Although this isn't a real example, it would be like entering internet marketing into the tool then not getting back internet marketing strategy in the results, even though it appears to have good volume. But entering internet marketing strategy directly gives plenty of results.

The Adwords Keyword Tool provides the following information:

  • A list of related keywords,
  • The monthly search volume for each of these,
  • Cost Per Click that advertisers are paying in Adwords,
  • Advertiser competition, and
  • Trend over time

In addition there are a number of filters. You can target specific countries, you can set broad, phrase or exact match on the keywords and you can also choose to display synonyms.

A full discussion of this tool is an entire article in its own right, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Visit the Adwords Keyword Tool here:

Google Insights For Search

Another for the Google stable of tools is Insights for Search. There are heaps of different ways to use this service (probably way more than I've considered).

While it doesn't give you the raw volume of some of the other tools I've discussed here, what I like is that you can slice and dice your keyword research in many different ways. You can look break it down by location, time or category. You can see what's popular more recently verses over the long term. You can look at seasonal search volume.

The best thing to do is jump in and have a play. You can find Insights for Search here:

Google Search-Based Keyword Tool

Yet another one from Google. I find I don't use this service as much as some of the others mentioned. But if you're stuck looking for a niche, you can drill down into categories through multiple levels and get a list of 689 keywords (along with monthly search volume and CPC information) related to 'Wine & Beer Collecting & Brewing' for example.

I haven't explored all of the options yet so once again, just jump in and give it a try.

Visit the Search-Based Keyword Tool at:

WordStream Free Keyword Tool

I've only just found this one. Of the free options, this service seems to give the greatest raw volume. You get to see the top 100 keywords as an anonymous user but you need to provide your email address to see the complete list. I presume this is how they make money - by 'targeted offers' to their list.

Check out WordStream here:

Wonder Wheel and Related Searches

Most internet marketers are already familiar with this so I'll be brief. When you do a search using Google, there is a 'Show option...' link at the top of the search results. There's a heap of things to choose from but a couple that I find handy are Related searches and Wonder wheel.

Related searches is just that - a list of searches which are related to the term you've just used.

Wonder wheel is kind of like a graphical representation of related searches. It shows how the various keywords are related and you can click to further expand various topics.

Word Checker

This one's kind of out of left field. What it lets you do is analyse a word, find the word stem, then using that stem find other similar words by adding prefixes and suffixes to the stem.

So for instance if I enter marketing, it tells me the stem is market. It then gives me a list of similar words - marketer, marketeer and so on. You can then go and plug some of these variations into the tools already discussed above.

Try it out at:

Please leave me a comment with any other free keyword research tools which I have missed.

One find thing. None of these tools are accurate all of the time. Crosscheck the results from one against another. Don't build a huge search engine optimisation around a search term you've discovered using one of these tools, only to find that the traffic's just not there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Free Keyword Research Tools - Wordtracker GTrends

There are only a handful of decent free keyword research tools out there and the Wordtracker GTrends keyword research tool is one of them. Anyone familiar with basic internet marketing techniques will understand the importance of keyword research. In a nutshell the tool provides the following information.
  • A list of long tails for your main keyword,
  • The approximate search volume, and
  • The number of competing pages in Google
To use the tool, go the the following url:

You will be presented with the following screen.

To use the GTrends tool, simply enter your main keyword in the text box labeled Keyword and click on Hit Me. You will notice that there is an Adult Filter drop down list which you can use to filter the results the tool returns. Normally I just leave it at the default of remove offensive, but depending on your niche you may want to play around with this.

If I type in the keyword financial freedom and click 'Hit Me', I will get results similar to those shown below. The free version of this tool which we're using will only show the first 100 results (if there are that many) but that's plenty for when you're just starting out. Once you start making money with your website, then you might like to upgrade to the paid version, but the free one will do us for now.

In the results you can see the search term along with the average daily searches and a little clickable picture of a graph or bar chart. The search terms returned in the results all contain the keyword which you entered. These are all of the long tail variations that people are actually searching for. The average daily searches is just that - it's Wordtacker's estimate of how many people search for that term each day.

At this point, we can do one of two things. We can either drill down on a particular search term to see all of it's long tail variations in the same way we just did for financial freedom, or we can click on the little graph icon. Lets click on the graph to see what that does.

What we see here is the Niche Summary for the keyword financial freedom. It shows us 2 main things:
  1. The competition in Google, and
  2. The actual visitors per day in Google.
The competition in Google is simply the number of search results returned for a search on financial freedom in Google. Theoretically, the less pages, the lower the competition and therefore the easier it will be to rank for the term. However, I believe this logic to be flawed and I'll explain why soon.

The Actual Visitors is the theoretically the number of visitors a number one ranking in Google would get you for this search term. The tools calculates this information based on the Google Trends data and being Google data, it should be more accurate than the Wordtracker data.

You may notice that in parentheses under the competition and visitor figures, the tool recommends certain numbers - less than 30,000 competition and greater than 100 daily visitors. This is based on the methodology used by the creator of the tool to make money online. The theory is that less than 30,000 results should be fairly easy to rank for and more than 100 visitors per day should be enough for you to start earning some money.

While in principal this approach is okay, particularly if you're just starting out, the reality is a little more complex. The difficulty with placing a limit of 30,000 (or any other number) on the competition is that it doesn't take into account the strength of the sites which show up on the first page of the search results. There may only be 10,000 results, but the top 10 sites might be very strong - well established sites with lots of authority for the term you're chasing.

Alternatively, there may be 500,000 competing pages, but the top 10 may only mention the term in passing. It might be wide open to someone coming in with some fresh, well targeted content.

So while these number are a good starting point, make sure you look into who you'll actually be competing with as well.

At the bottom of the Niche Summary you will see some links to allow you to do some further research.
- You can navigate to the actual results in Google, or
- You can search for affiliate programs in the niche - this is how you'll be making your money, or
- You can go to the Google Trends site to look at the search volume and history in more detail.

The other interesting thing you'll find on the Wordtracker GTrends page is a thesaurus. Think of it as lateral keyword research - branching out to other closely related niches.

I'll leave you with one final thing to remember about keyword research. The Wordtracker GTrends tool, as with most other free keyword research tools will only provide estimates. Use your own common sense as well. If the keyword 'financial freedom in the arctic' happened to show 1,000 daily searches, you can be fairly sure that something is not right. These tools aren't perfect.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Making Money Online - Blogging

Using Blogspot to make money online...

In my last post I suggested that having your own website was a good way for a beginner to earn extra cash from home. Today I'm going to narrow this down and say that a blog is a good way to start making money online. Even better, I'm going to suggest that the Blogger platform is a great way to get started.

Why A Blog?
A blog is very easy to get started with. After the initial set up, all you need to do is write. The blog software takes care of all of the organization and presentation of your content for you.

Blogs do well with the search engines as well. I suspect it's because of the frequent updates. I find it easier to get backlinks for my blogs than for other sites. If you don't understand the significance of backlinks yet, that's okay. I'll write more about search engine optimization and backlinks in the future but for now just be aware that in general more backlinks are better.

And don't underestimate the power of a blog. It can turn into one of the real work at home opportunities. But instead of risking everything by giving up your day job, you can just start out in your spare time. And as you'll read soon, it's one of the better ways to earn extra money online without spending a cent. And if you keep at it, you can build up a passive residual income just like all of the internet marketing experts talk about.

Why Blogspot?
I know this point will be contentious with all of the Wordpress fans out there, but Blogger is a great way to get started. It's free. It handles large volumes of traffic. And the kind folks that run it allow you to make money from your blog in a multitude of ways.

I know a self-hosted wordpress blog doesn't cost much to get of the ground, but you may try a few different projects before you strike upon something that works. By using Blogger, you can play around as much as you want knowing that if it doesn't work out, all you've lost is some of your time.

Can you rank well with blogspot? Absolutely! Any number of competitive search terms have one or more blogger blogs near the top of the search engine results, including the ultra-competitive "make money online" keyword. There are a couple of blogspot blogs which float around the first page of results on Google for this term. I'll leave the task of finding out which ones they are as a homework task for you.

The hardest thing to decide when you're creating your blog is what to write about. The biggest mistake many people make is to write about making money online. It's a tough niche to start out in - there's heaps of competition all pushing the same products (normally to other bloggers who already have the same affiliate links on their own websites).

For your first attempt, try to write about something you know about or which you have an interest in. This will make it much easier to pump out the content. The only thing to keep in mind is that you'll most likely be selling a product or service on your website - or selling advertising space to someone else pushing their own product or service. So choose a topic that lends itself to this.

Limitations Of Blogspot
The advocates of self hosting do have a couple of valid arguments against Blogger though. And you need to be aware of these limitations.

You're at the mercy of the owners of Blogspot. All the work you put into your website would come to nothing if they were to pull the rug out from under you and shut down your site or remove the service altogether. While it's not too difficult to keep a backup of all of your content, backlinks are another matter. This is where much of the work is and if you were to change your website url, you'd have to undertake the arduous task of getting all of your links moved across. But don't panic. Having said all of that, I've never heard of anyone losing their blog as long as they've played by the rules.

Another drawback is that you don't own your own domain name so you can't sell it (well not officially anyway). For any one of a number of reasons, blog owners sometimes try to sell their websites. It maybe because they are in the business of buying and selling sites, or the site may have been developed specifically with the goal of making money from an eventual sale. It could just be that they've lost interest or don't have the time to maintain it.

I'll write more about setting up your blog, driving traffic to it and making money blogging in future posts. But before you start thinking about what affiliate programs to join or which pay per click programs to sign up to, for now just start thinking about a topic or topics you think you could write a bit about. This is not a get rich quick scheme, but rather a legitimate home based business so you need to take the time to develop it properly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Making Money With A Website

In my last post About Making Money Online I put forward the idea that one of the better ways to make money online from a work at home business was to have your own website. In this post I'd like to expand on some of the reasons why I believe this is the case. I'll also discuss some of the different types of money making web sites presently in use. I should stress up front that this is not a get rich quick scheme but rather a long term way earn extra income which should grow over time.

Setting up your own website can be quite cheap. In fact if you're willing to do the setup yourself, you can get away with just buying a domain name and some cheap web hosting and you're on your way. There are also free services available. If you're just starting out this can be a great way to get your feet wet. You'll learn alot and all it will cost you is some of your time. Then once you've found a concept which works, you can invest the money to set up a more permanent internet business.

As I mentioned in my last post, owning your own website is an incredibly scalable way to earn extra cash. Once you've set up your website, you can scale up from 100 visitors per day to 1,000 then 10,000 and your revenue will grow at the same rate. While you'll need to put in the work to grow your traffic levels, servicing a site with 10,000 daily visitors is not much more work than maintaining a site with 100. You can make money 24 hours per day, 7 days per week - you don't need to be there. In fact, depending on how you set it up, it can almost run on autopilot giving you an ongoing residual income. And the internet is global. How else could you reach hundreds of millions, if not billions of people worldwide. That's an impressive potential customer base from which to start making money online.

But what sort of website can you use to make money? The only limit is your imagination. One of the more common approaches, particularly for beginners, is to create a content based website. Content based websites may be set up in a number of ways. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

A weblog or blog is a website which is kind of like an online journal or diary. But it can be used to publish information about any topic you like - it doesn't need to be personal. Blogs are normally updated frequently with new articles called posts. In my experience, search engines seem to like blogs, probably because there's always new content being made available. Blogs are cheap and easy to set up. Google offer the Blogger service for free and while it's looked down upon from some, it suits me fine. Wordpress is a popular free weblog software package but you'll typically have to provide your own web hosting to run it.

An internet forum is a website which facilitates community based discussion about particular topics. Typically the content of a forum can be viewed by anyone, but in order to contribute to discussions you need to sign up and become a member. There are a wide variety of forum software packages available.

A Wiki is another form of collaborative content based website. It's a collection of web pages normally available to everyone to read and modify. Although many wikis are not-for-profit, I have seen this model used to make money as well.
While each of the above mentioned sites normally provide free content, a natural extension to this is a paid membership version of any of the above. The content would obviously have to be compelling enough and of a sufficient quality to get people to join up, but there are plenty of examples of subscription based business models out there.

eCommerce websites raise the complexity level a little, but are another viable internet business model. You may already have a bricks and mortar business which you'd like to take online or you may have developed a new product which you'd like to market directly. Using an eCommerce website, you can sell your own goods or services directly on the internet. It's a great way to start making money from home.

Social Websites:

I said before that your imagination is your only limit. In more recent times Web 2.0 sites like Facebook and Myspace have become very popular especially among Gen Y. These websites are more complex to develop and will obviously require greater outlay. But if you have an idea you think might take off, give it a go.

The common thread with all of these types of websites is that you need traffic to make them successful. Almost all monetization methods rely on a steady stream of visitors. Website promotion or traffic generation is a whole series of articles in itself but two of the more common and reliable methods are paid traffic through placing ads on other sites and free search traffic generated by search engines.

There are plenty of advertising networks available if you want to pay to get your traffic. One of the most popular is the Adwords program offered by Google. This is a Pay Per Click (PPC) model. This means that you pay a fee each time a visitor is sent to your site via an ad placed on another site. Adwords has a large inventory of publishers and manages where the ads are displayed. However before you embark on an advertising campaign, be sure your internet business will make enough sales and make a sufficient margin on each sale to at least break even. If you don't know what you're doing, you can spend alot of money very quickly with very little to show for it.

If you're looking for free traffic, this second option is for you. By applying Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques to place your website near the top of the search engine results for your chosen keywords, you'll receive a continuous stream of visitors to your website with no monetary outlay. While SEO is seen by many as being too hard, by following some basic rules should should have some success especially if you choose some less competitive keywords. A proper discussion of Search Engine Optimization is beyond the scope of this article, but I will write more about it in the future.

Once you have your own website and it's receiving visitors, there are numerous ways to make money. For internet entrepreneurs just starting out, placing ads on a content site is a very common business model. There a many ad networks available or you can sell advertising space to advertisers directly. Some of the networks operate on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis. This means the site owner gets paid each time a visitor clicks on an ad. Another common model is CPM. This is where a publisher is essentially paid just for displaying an ad. Rates are normally quoted per 1,000 impressions (page loads). Cost Per Action (CPA) and lead generation are other avenues you could investigate.

Another method is to promote affiliate products on your site. Under this model you will promote someone else's product on your site either actively within the written content of your site or passively by placing banners or other types of ads on your site. You will then be paid each time a customer referred by your website makes a purchase. There a plenty of affiliate networks which act as intermediaries between the publisher (website owner) and the affiliate. They facilitate things like tracking referrals and handling payments to publishers. There are many affiliate programs out there with ClickBank Commission and Junction being two of the more popular ones.

While there are plenty of other online business opportunities out there, these are the simplest to get started with (and this post is already way longer than I originally intended). With little or no outlay you can establish a home based business and be on your way to an internet income in a matter of hours. As you scale up to more complex models you'll need more infrastructure in place (like payment processing or shopping cart capabilities) and this will obviously cost more. But the potential profits are greater as well.

So I'm advocating most beginners get started with what I will call the publisher model. Create a content website, generate some traffic to it (preferably free search traffic) and run ads and/or promote affiliate products. Once you've learned the ropes, you can move on to something more advanced. There are many examples of publishers wgo successfully earn money from website including Darren Rowse from and Steve Pavlina from While they're both ostensibly bloggers (ie. their websites are set up as blogs) the format of their websites is not important. The important thing is that they generate traffic by publishing content then sell advertising and promote affiliate products to generate a full-time income.

As it's one of my preferred I will be writing a lot more about making money with a website in future posts.

Friday, September 19, 2008

About Making Money Online

The truth about making money online...

When I first started out in this caper I was hoping to earn some extra cash from home. I wasn't trying to get rich quick. I was just looking for a little extra pocket money on the side (so to speak). It's not that I really needed the extra dollars. It was more of a game really or maybe a challenge. Could I, from the comfort of my own home, manage to generate a little additional income on the web?

Like many beginners, I started doing things like participating in online paid surveys. There are heaps of these sites out there. Marketing companies are looking for your opinions on all sorts of things. What are your thoughts on breakfast cereal? Are you planning an overseas trip? What sort of non-alcoholic beverages do you drink? How often? On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being most enjoyable and 5 being least enjoyable, how do you rate the flavor of our new deep-fried-custard-in-a-bucket range?

Okay. Maybe I went a little overboard there, but you get the idea. After the initial fun wore off - you can actually have fun filling out these paid online surveys if you're creative enough. Play with the demographics a little. Adjust your age and salary level a bit (or a lot). Make helpful suggestions about how some of the products could be improved. Have they considered chili flavored ice-cream? What about cornflake flavored energy drinks - much more appealing at breakfast time, is what I told them.

Anyway, I digress. They probably discarded my answers as being outside of the statistical norm anyway. As I was saying, after the fun wore off, it became just plain hard work. At just a few dollars per survey, it took a while to earn enough to get paid. I didn't mind too much at first because I was just spending time I would have wasted watching television anyway.

At this point I should probably describe my personal situation a little. I'm married with young children. I work full time in a reasonably well paid job. When I first started looking for online money making opportunities, I wasn't looking for an alternative to my day job - it was more of a hobby really. But as time went on I realized that if I wanted to put in the time and effort it might become a realistic alternative to full-time paid employment. I'm not there yet, but things are progressing.

So I eventually I worked out that getting paid to fill out surveys was not one of the better "easy money making ideas" going around. After dabbling in a bunch of paid-to-surf programs and the like, I discovered blogging. I liked the idea of writing stuff, posting it on a website then selling advertising to companies who wanted to reach my readers or selling affiliate products to my readers.

It was at this point that I made a big mistake. I started a blog was about blogging. While I enjoed myself and met a whole bunch of great people, the cash didn't exactly roll in. The only people reading my blog were other bloggers. And they were all pushing the same products or showing ads for the same advertisers as me. It was a fatally flawed plan right from the start.

But then something interesting happened. As I lost interest and posted less and less frequently, the traffic died down. The regular visitors lost interest and the only hits I got were from search engines - anonymous searchers showing up each looking for something very specific. But here was the revelation. The amount I was earning stayed the same. It was still a pitance, but it proved that the search engine visitors were the ones clicking on ads or buying things. Because of the topics I wrote about, these guys weren't arriving in huge numbers but it was enough to convince me to change my strategy and start again.

The upshot of all of this is that my preferred method of making money on the internet now is to create blogs or other websites about products and services which people are searching for and are willing to pay good money for. Then by optimizing the websites so they appear high up in the search engine results for my chosen keywords, I receive free traffic, a percentage of which click on an ad or buy something, in which case I get paid. My main methods are pay per click programs and pay per lead affiliate programs.

What's the point of all these ramblings? I guess I just wanted to share my experiences and leave you which some key ideas to consider.

When setting up an internet business, or any home based busines for that matter, the key is to make it scaleable. Getting paid to take surveys is fine but the income is linear. If you put in more time, you'll earn more money, but if you stop, so will your income. The same goes for most other legitimate online jobs. However, by setting up a website, it will keep generating income even if you're not there. A steady stream of visitors will show up whether you're there or not - day and night, weekends too.

Another key concept I want to convey is the importance of persistence. Keep at it. Experiment and try out new ideas and approaches - there's more than one way to skin a cat. And there is no single right way. We each possess a unique set of skills so what works for one person may not work for another. The key is to keep your goal in sight as you keep toiling away.

I want to leave you with something I read at the Warrior Forum recently (one of the better internet marketing resources by the way):
"People need to remember that there is no instant gratification and that most businesses that are successful take time energy and commitment to grow and build."
I think that sums up the truth about making money online perfectly.


If you need to contact me, I can be reached at