Friday, June 10, 2011

How to make money on the Internet! The new normal

Dave Taylor
Dave Taylor is a business expert in Internet communications.

He is a co-organizer of Front Range Bloggers, a teacher and a public speaker who last January in Las Vegas told an audience of bloggers, website operators and other techies to enjoy the life they've made for themselves despite the digital speed and pressures of the world where they have chosen to work.

"The Internet will survive without you for a day," he told a hundred "affiliates," who are people paid by the click for hosting advertisers on their blogs or websites.

"Try to have no-work days," he said, "or no-e-mail afternoons."

That's an odd message for the closing keynote speaker at a conference called "Affiliate Summit West," where most attendees had come to learn how to make more money on the Internet, not less. But bloggers and website operators are more than just ad-sales people.

They are writers, software developers and independent contractors of all sorts, trying just as hard to make a buck from their expertise as business consultants in management, engineering, marketing or politics.

In fact, many white-collar consultants -- whole businesses for that matter -- are becoming bloggers and website operators in order to extend the market for their wares to the Net. It's the new normal.

Taylor is an expert in the new normal.

I sought him out to ask how to monetize a website or a blog because my own effort to add advertising to this blog over the past 18 months can best be described as a frustrating exercise in learning what I didn't know.

I have learned, however, that you have to ask the right questions, and one of the ways I learned that lesson was by going to one of Taylor's popular websites: Ask Dave Taylor!

On the site, Taylor offers "free tech support" to all kinds of computer users, answering questions like this one running on the site right now: "How do I install an ad blocker in Google Chrome?"

Click on the link to get Dave's answer, but even if you don't and you still spend much of your time in front of a computer screen during your workday, you must realize how often you could come up with a similar question about your machine and not know where to go for help. Go to Ask Dave!

That's where I went first with my question about how to monetize my blog. It's a question most every blogger wants to know the answer to because most hope to make a living from their work.

But Taylor's answer, made to me in an interview, indicates a more complicated business analysis than a blogger might expect. You have to think about what your blog and website is doing for those who read it, Taylor said. And like everything in small business, doing something new on your computer becomes a learning experience in itself.

Taylor told me he was reluctant at first to put ads on his sites, fearing, as a writer, that he might over-commercialize them. Thinking through the process, however -- he has an MBA so the thinking was very businesslike -- he put some ads up on one of the sites (Ask Dave!), and soon realized he could pay his mortgage with the money he was making by showing the ads.

The first ad network Taylor used was Google's AdSense, an ad-placement service the giant search- engine company provides qualified bloggers. The service automatically selects and places ads on sites whose readers might have an interest in the advertisement. The blogger or website that hosts the ad is paid a portion of what Google is paid when a reader on their site clicks on an ad.

Taylor signed on with AdSense years ago, but because of the amount of traffic he has generated for his Google advertisers since then (all those people asking computer questions), he has been invited to be an AdSense premium publisher, meaning he gets special help and added services from the AdSense team to maximize the impact of his ads. That means both Taylor and Google make more money.

But Taylor runs another website (he has four) where he runs no ads at all. The Business Blog @ Intuitive.com is a business-management blog that discusses topics like: "Understanding the Legal Structure of Business," a guest-written piece currently posted there by Taylor to help Intuitive.com readers understand an issue related to starting a business.

Taylor's success as an Internet businessman and his successful monetization of websites depends on one word in that previous paragraph: HELP.

It is a part of Taylor's overall business and Internet philosophy. A blog that tells it's readers over and over again, "Here's what I'm going to sell you today," he says, "turns off most people, and it ends up not being successful."

"It's not sell, sell, sell," that makes your blog successful, he says, "It's help, help, help."

Ask Dave Taylor! does that directly, while Intuitive.com does it more intuitively, or indirectly, Taylor says.

"The Intuitive.com site is very much designed as an indirect revenue stream for me," he said. Articles there support his reputation as a teacher and business-management consultant, and spawn consulting contracts and speaking engagements for him.

The ads on Ask Dave! produce direct revenue when readers go there, "get the answer to their question," see an ad that interests them, "and leave" the site happy, Taylor says. The good experience will probably bring that reader back when a new computer question arises, ever increasing his traffic on the site and the number of eyeballs delivered to the advertiser.

"Generating traffic is all about pushing really good content, and then recognizing that you're not flying solo on the Internet, but you're actually a part of a larger ecosystem," he says.

That ecosystem not only includes millions of readers looking for help -- from crafts people who sew quilts to entrepreneurs hoping to launch a new startup -- but also thousands of experts willing to offer free advice or paid-for counsel.

You become known in the ecosystem by interacting with as many players as possible, Taylor said.

"It's really important for you to look at other blogs and other sites and make sure that you're known and visible and helping people on other sites," he said. "I don't care how successful you are, there's very likely someone who is more successful than you, who has more traffic than you and more visibility, and considered more of an expert," he adds.

"If you know who these people are, then you participate off their site, you leave comments, you e-mail them and ask if you can write a guest post.... [It's] a primary way to generate new traffic" back to your own site.

Finally, there's a reason Taylor was speaking to an audience of techies at the "Affiliate Summit West" in Las Vegas in January. Monetizing a website invariably puts you in front of a computer screen and requires a certain -- and increasing -- amount of computer savvy.

"You're right," Taylor told me. "If you are someone who is much more comfortable sewing a quilt than using your computer, then you are going to have a really hard time with Google Analytics."

Google Analytics is another service the search-engine company provides bloggers it hosts (including me). The service tracks page views your blog receives, and it can tell you various things about who is reading your blog. These demographics are important to potential advertisers, so the Google AdSense team uses the stats to qualify bloggers for certain advertising programs.

"Google Analytics, like everything else that Google has," Taylor said, "is very much predicated on geeky data collection, not on user-friendly, understandable outputs."

"I mean I look at analytics sometimes, and I'm pretty confused," he added. "And I consider myself pretty savvy in the tech space." That's just "the way it is," he said.

It's the new normal, dictated by a digital age. That's why Dave Taylor was telling the techies in Vegas to look up on occasion, and smell the roses.

5 comments:

  1. Great help to bloggers everywhere. It was such a good article, that I am going to get back on the computer and spend more time investigating more uses (other than email & Skype). Thanks for all the help.

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  2. thanks for the comment, Mar. She is one of my greatest supporters, folks.

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