Affiliate Marketing...

If you read the GoogleCash section, you’ll already be familiar with what an Affiliate is, and what Affiliate Marketing means. In that case, or if you already know from other sources, click here to bypass the introduction.

Affiliate Marketing, for people wanting to make a few bucks a month or develop a business generating tens of thousands of dollars a month (or more), offers an almost endless variety of opportunities.

Some strategies offer you income literally in minutes (see the page called the Googlecash Opportunity, based on an amazing eBook called Googlecash), others in a few hours (Phil Wiley's MiniSite Profits approach) while others recommend the careful development of a substantial and well-traffic'd web site (Rosalind Gardner's Super Affiliate Handbook approach). The opportunities are huge. Yet, despite having been an Internet user since before the World Wide Web existed, I had never even heard of the term, let alone the concept, until I read the Googlecash book.

So, assuming you have little or no understanding of Affiliate Marketing, here’s an overview.

Affiliate Marketing Overview

There are tens or hundreds of thousands of people wanting to sell their products on the Internet. I mean, people who already have websites promoting their products. At the same time, the last statistics I saw showed that there are almost a billion people using the Internet. No-one – not even Microsoft – has what it takes to reach all of their potential buyers directly.

So, in addition to their own marketing efforts many of these merchants look for other people who will find potential buyers for the merchant’s products in return for a commission every time one is sold.

  • THE MERCHANT owns the product.
  • THE MERCHANT develops the website.
  • THE MERCHANT handles the credit cards, or cheques, or purchase orders, or faxed orders, or phoned-in orders.
  • THE MERCHANT handles the manufacture and packaging and shipping if it’s a “physical” product or else they handle the downloads if it’s a digital product (software, or an eBook).
  • THE MERCHANT handles issues with unhappy customers, or complaints, or questions, or returns, … etc.

All you do, as the Affiliate, is send appropriate traffic to THEIR web site. Where “appropriate” means people who are interested in their product, with the means to pay and the willingness to buy if they find what they want.

There is a simple technique for a merchant to recognize whether the “lead” came from you. So, if the traffic you send to the site actually buys something … the merchant knows the lead came from you, and pays you a commission. And, in case you're wondering, you DO get paid, and you don't get cheated, if you do your homework up front when you choose the merchants. It simply isn't in a merchant's best interests to cheat you; if you are sending traffic to their site and not seeing an appropriate level of income from that traffic, you'll simply transfer your business to another merchant and so the original merchant loses out.

How big a commission do they pay? Well, it depends. On downloadable, digital products … often as much as 50%, sometimes even 60%, of products that typically sell for $30 to $150. On physical products that have to be shipped … more commonly 5% to 15% or even 20%. Rarely, 30% or more. Now, 15% of a home-gym selling for $1000 is not to be sniffed at, of course; $150 is a nice piece of change. Whereas 10% of a product selling for $50 may not seem much … unless you’re selling 10 a day. Or 100 a day. Or more. Then it, too, is a nice piece of change.

How do they pay you? Often, it’s your choice. They can transfer the funds into your bank account. Or mail you a cheque, for example.

How do you find these merchants? There are many ways. And this is where we start to get into some of the “meat.”

Variations on the Affiliate Marketing Concept

As I said at the beginning, there are an infinite number of variations on the whole Affiliate Marketing concept. Let’s take a look at the most popular, just to get a feel for some.

The GoogleCash approach. It’s not the best known, not the most popular, not the biggest earner, I mention it here because it’s probably the simplest way to make money from Affiliate marketing – you don’t even need a  website, although the ability to create a 1-page landing page on a website is valuable. The heart of this method is, to place Adwords ads that drive traffic to a merchant's web site directly, or via a simple 1-page "landing Page." I have a whole section devoted to the GoogleCash Opportunity.

The Mini Site approach. When I read Phil Wiley's book, Mini Site Profits, it created an interesting mental shift for me. From the perspective of the Googlecash approach, where you try to drive traffic directly from Adwords Ads to the merchant site, it's easy to think of the Landing pages that you sometimes have to create as a sort-of nuisance. But Wiley's approach is 100% based on creating Mini Sites that are little more than high-powered Landing pages! When you see what he does, in just a couple of hours ... there's nothing clever about it at all. Which is why the approach IS so clever! It's so obvious no-one seems to do it (until they read his book). His ebook, Mini Site Profits, is a bit dated (he says he's updating it) but the concepts aren't, his examples, aren't, and the book is an absolute bargain.

The Content-Rich Theme Site approach. A characteristic of the Googlecash and Mini Site approaches is that all the traffic comes from Pay-per-click ads, primarily Google Adwords and Overture, although there are many other options. The Mini Sites (sometimes a single page) are simply too small to get good rankings in the free Search Engines, especially in markets that are typically competitive. This is good and bad; the good is, you can control the flow of traffic; you are not vulnerable to the fluctuations in the free Search Engine traffic from their constant algorithm reshuffles. The bad is, you do have to pay for it; and you don't get as much traffic in total as you could get if you were able to get good rankings in the free Search Engines.

So, the Content-Rich theme site we described in detail for the Content-Rich Adsense Opportunity becomes highly relevant for Affiliate Marketing, too. (In fact it was used for Affiliate Marketing for many years before Adsense came on the scene.) It calls for a site to be developed on a carefully chosen theme, one that contains a LOT of pages of content that the Search Engines love.

Rosalind Gardner has a book called Super Affiliate Handbook that goes into painstaking detail of every aspect of the Affiliate Marketing game, the way she plays it; to the level of how to choose potential markets, how to test them for volume, and for profit potential; how to look for potential Affiliate deals and assess them with a professional's eye, how to choose a domain name, how to choose a host, what software to use to build a site, how to build it, how to get traffic, how to track results ... she even gives you the spreadsheets she uses for her research and tracking. She recommends an approach of building traffic, then applying to merchants; she aims for very high-volume markets where a Merchant will drop you as an affiliate if you aren't driving thousands of visitors to their site.

Ken Evoy, who founded the Site Build It service I describe at length later on, offers a free book describing his model of Affiliate Marketing; sort of an "Affiliate Marketing for the rest of us" approach. Called the Affiliate Masters Handbook, I suspect it's only free because he believes that by teaching people about the Affiliate Marketing opportunity, they'll be candidates for his Site Build It service; and, that by demonstrating his extensive know-how, they'll have confidence in the Site Build It service. He's right on both counts.

Marketing to your list. Now, this is huge, and many marketers will tell you this is THE money. That everything else is merely a profitable means to an end, where this is the “end.” I cover the whole “Opt-in List” topic as a section on it’s own, List Building and e-mail marketing. The point is that if someone visits your site you have a 1-time chance to sell them something; and even on the best sites, 95% to 98% of visitors leave without buying anything. But if you can persuade some of them to give you their e-mail address, and their permissioin to send e-Mail to them ... you have an opportunity to sell to them over and over again, and this is worth a LOT more than a single sale. You could mail to a list twice a month with a new affiliate opportunity every time, if you chose to. Many companies selling their own products on their web sites use the List and e-mail strategy to sell Affiliate products.

Don't Be Intimidated!

Every variation of Affiliate Marketing except The Googlecash Opportunity includes the need to build a website and get traffic to visit it.

Now, I recognize at this stage that even those tasks can trigger a host of mental obstacles. Build a web site … how’d you go about doing that?! Perhaps you know nothing whatsoever about web site development or html editors or all that stuff. Don’t you have to have a domain? (Perhaps you don't even know what a “domain” is?) Where do you get one? How much does it cost? Don’t you have to have web hosting? How’d you do that? What exactly are you supposed to look for? What does it cost?

So my first advice is, relax. My wife, who had barely touched a computer since her college days in 1974, was able to build a rather useful Affiliate-oriented web site with some tools I’ll describe. A friend who knew nothing more than how to “surf the net” and send e-mails (he didn’t even know how to “cut and paste,” or use a word processor) has built a valuable website; it's more than 70 pages after 12 months. My niece, who at least grew up in the computer age but still had zero Internet Marketing skills beyond surfing the ‘Net, using e-mail and using a word processor, has built a small one, and the experience has led her to commit much more to the Internet and learn a lot more, too. Depending on how you approach it, the whole process may be laborious, you will encounter obstacles, you will find yourself floundering at times ... but it is NOT difficult if you are prepared to learn, and persevere. And in fact, issues of web site building and hosting etc shouldn’t even be on your radar at the moment; first you need to get a look at the whole picture.

Where should you start?

If I was you I would start by reading at least the rest of this page, and two other pages too - the Googlecash Opportunity, and Content-Rich Sites with Adsense. If the Affiliate Marketing opportunity still appeals, then download and read Ken Evoy's free guide, the Affiliate Master's Handbook. He provides a LOT of information. Now, recognize that this book provides know-how for one particular approach to Internet Marketing; it's not the easiest approach, nor the fastest path to income (he likes sites with some substance, to attract the free Search Engines, but there are other models) ... but 90% of what you'll read is entirely valid for all Affiliate Marketing. 

So after all this reading, if you believe the opportunity is worth pursuing - and you SHOULD know enough to make an informed judgement call at that point - I'd recommend you gain a different perspective that will add to your growing knowledge; buy Googlecash by Chris Carpenter, for 3 reasons. First, he takes you in detail through sign-up procedures with different Affiliate Directories, just solid practical do-how. Second, he explains Google Adwords in great detail, including walking you through the sign-up procedures, and while Adwords can be the key to quicker income if you have the right type of affiliate deals, you won't learn of it from Ken Evoy's free book.  And third, Googlecash gives you the opposite extreme perspective of Ken Evoy's approach to Affiliate Marketing - Carpenter prefers to have no website, and Affiliate income within minutes!

Now, you probably already know I'll buy ANYTHING that I think will help me; it only takes one idea to pay for an eBook many times over, and I can only think of a single book I've bought that hasn't given me payback (it will, it will ... I just haven't gotten to it yet). But here's the thing; if you are gaining confidence that Affiliate Marketing is an opportunity that suits you, and you share my philosophy, consider buying one or both of the following. If the Googlecash approach appeals for fast income with little effort, get  Phil Wiley's Mini Site Profits; it's only real flaw is a lack of coverage of Adwords as Pay-per-click advertising, and that doesn't matter because if you read Googlecash you've had it explained far better than almost anyone else could do it.

And Rosalind Gardner's Super Affiliate Handbook provides in-depth coverage of real-life Affiliate Marketing by a woman who made more than $400,000 in a single year from a single site without any product of her own. She also makes a lot of money from a bunch of other sites … but you’ll find two things very refreshing. For one, she doesn’t pretend it’s easy, instant riches. And for two, she goes into a depth of detail, with real-life examples, that is just incredible. She covers a lot more than just the marketing issues. 

She starts with the absolute beginner basics, talking about computers and telephones and printers and routers and such. She points out all the free software you can use, and where to get it. She tells of the tools she uses, when she buys them. Talks about how to research profitable ideas, where to find products and services to sell, how to assess and choose affiliate programs, goes into issues of domain naming and selection and registration, planning a web site, how to get good Search Engine placement, all the different ways to get traffic to your site, how to convert the traffic into sales,  … I hope you’re beginning to get the picture. She even goes into the format of the spreadsheets she uses to keep track of Affiliate deals, and to track Affiliate performance (you get to download these if you want, for you own use). This is the most comprehensive guide you’ll find, in my experience. And, something that isn’t always true of these guru types, she’s an extremely good writer.

Now, there are many, many other strategies.

James Martell offers a step-by-step approach in his eBook (plus accompanying videos), the Affiliate Marketer's Handbook, that is supposed to be top-notch. The Martell “model” is one of the most-copied on the Internet. He puts far more emphasis on the details of the structure of a site, and the links within a site and between sites, than do Evoy or Gardner. He's unconventional in terms of how he builds his sites and links them together, and I'm itching to get my hands on his eBook. His students think he's the greatest. What I particularly like is his realistic claims; he aims to have a site generating $500 to $1000 a month within 6 months. Then another ... and another ... I will get his course sometime soon, his reputation means I can be sure I’ll learn a lot from him. And as I keep saying only takes a single good idea to pay for his course. Contrast his approach with Phil Wiley's, who aims to have income within a few days, even a few hours.

A chap called Dr. Andrew Williams has an interesting approach to designing web sites for Affiliate sales, it’s a model I use in addition to all the others (I have some Content-rich sites, some Mini Sites, and some Googlecash campaigns). You can get his guide to building niche content sites for free if you sign-up for his newsletter, which you should do, it's excellent.

What he does is rather smart, IF you are looking for traffic from the free Search Engines as early as possible. Knowing that it takes time to get highly ranked on the Search Engines for popular search terms even with good Search Engine Optimization, once he has his “theme” set Dr Andy (as he brands himself) conducts keyword research to identify theme-related search terms with very few competing sites. Then, even though they might have relatively few searches for these keywords (as few as 10 a day, for example), he will commission ghost writers to write 100 or so articles, each one keyword-optimized to one of these low-competition keywords; meaning, the keyword will appear enough times to represent perhaps 2 - 4% of the total words in the article.

He then structures his sites so that he’ll have perhaps 5,6 or 7 “Main” pages where he promotes his Affiliate products or services; and he’ll have 100 or so non-selling pages in the form of Article pages, each with a keyword-smart article written specifically for those keywords which are searched for every day but which have little competition. These pages act like a trawler’s net to catch visitors.

(Note that Dr. Andy has his own keyword analysis tool he uses to do a lot of the analytical work for him; it's great for taking the output from Wordtracker, which in my opinion is the fundamental keyword research tool, and "mining" much more information from it that leads him to the identification of useful niches and niches-inside-niches. He also offers a website builder called SEO Website Builder -- fiendishly clever name! -- that is 100% oriented towards putting up Affiliate marketing sites and getting traffic to them. I don't use it, I use XSitePro, but I've read good reports on it.)

When You Know That Most Competing Sites Have Poor Optimization...

In reality, hardly any of the 1000 competing sites will have done even a half-assed job of Search Engine optimization; most web owners know almost nothing about the topic. So when Dr. Andy tailors his pages precisely to match these keywords, and implements some sensible linking strategies, with little competition his carefully-optimized pages get quickly to the top of the Search Engine rankings for the 100 (or so) carefully selected keywords.

Both “quickly” and “top” are important here. This strategy means he pulls in a lot of low-volume traffic to his articles, and he structures his sites so that every article page has a link to one of the main selling pages. Think about this; if he targets 100 keywords that have 10 – 20 searches a day, and gets a top-5 position for each of those keywords, he can attract several hundred visitors a day, starting relatively quickly.

This means, he can get revenue relatively quickly, measured in terms of the usual timing with the free search engines. (Nowhere near as quickly as PayPerClick ads can generate revenue, though, of course.)

But on top of this, the multiple links from his article pages, aimed at a handful of “selling” pages, cause the Search Engines, over time, to see his main pages as being more and more valuable ... so they start making their way higher in the rankings, competing against highly competitive terms with plenty of search traffic.

And in addition to this strategy he employs other techniques, on-page and off-page, to make sure his pages are highly ranked by the Search Engines. Very methodical, straightforward approach, and works like a charm, I’m pleased to say.

Even at a small search volume this can pay off. Let’s assume your site gets 300 visitors a day; assume you have a 1% conversion rate for your Affiliate deals; and $20 per sale commission. That would give you $60 a day Affiliate income; well over the $1000 a month mark, probably averaging $1500. When you take into account the tactic of getting articles written for you, you can probably research and build a site like this, soup to nuts, in under 30 hours. If you get only $1000 a month for 12 months, for 30 hours effort, that's $400 an hour. Not too shabby; and why should it stop after a year? Then there are all the OTHER traffic generation techniques.

If you were getting a 1% conversion on a product earning you $20 commission a sale , you're able to use pay-per-click ads knowing that you're making money if you're paying less than 60 cents per click. Let's assume you can find some keywords at 10 cents per click; you'd be paying $10 per 100 visitors, and receiving (on average) $20 per 100 visitors. Not as good as paying nothing and still being paid $20 per 100 visitors, via the free Search Engines, but the advantage of the pay-per-click approach is tremendous; with Google Adwords you could have traffic within minutes of the site being published, and you are NOT vulnerable to the notoriously fickle Search Enginer algorithms that can see you ranked #1 one day, # 200 the next.

A lot of people are averse to pay-per-click advertising, but look at it this way; if every time you spent $10, someone gave you $20 ... how many times would you be willing to make this exchange?

As mentioned above, Dr. Andy offers a software tool called Keyword Research Analyzer, designed to work with the leading keyword tool Wordtracker, that is aimed 100% at helping you build effective traffic-generating affiliate sites. It won't tell you which adwords cost 5 cents; nor which Adsense keywords will make you several bucks per click. But what it DOES do is it helps you identify niches, and even niches within niches, and target your pages with absolute precision to get traffic from the Search Engines.

My partner is an Excel whiz and reckoned he could do the same thing in a couple of hours. 3 days later I got a working version, and I wish I'd just coughed up the money for Keyword Research Analyzer. With all the lost time, we probably lost 3 grand of potential billing (we're consultants in our real life, remember) to save less than 70 bucks. Whether or not this interests you, I strongly recommend you visit his eZSEO website  and sign up for his newsletter, at least. It contains more useful information on building Affiliate sites than many eBooks you have to buy.

I've dwelt on Dr. Andy's approach because I really wanted to get you thinking about how all the bits and pieces fit together, and to see the scale of the opportunity. But also because his strategy can be applied whether you are using the Mini Site approach (you get both PPC and free traffic), the Ken Evoy Site-Build-It approach, or the Rosalind Gardner approach. I'm not sure about James Martell's approach; I'll add to this page when I've bought his eBook and applied his techniques.

So ... many different approaches. But here’s what 99% of them have in common.

Step 1: Research profitable ideas
This involves choosing the “theme” for your website, confirming that there is indeed money in the topic area (people are prepared to spend on products and services associated with the theme), and confirming that there are merchants with appropriate products offering solid Affiliate programs.

You’ll find some differences in detail here; for example, some people will advise you to follow your passion, and choose a theme you’re interested in. While others start with, find a merchant paying damned good money with a solid Affiliate program, then do your research around that topic. If you're going to do the Mini Site approach, where your site might be a single page or just a few to begin with ... you can take a chance with your product, because your investment of time is so low. Similarly, you can jump on top of opportunities that emerge, knowing they might just be a passing fad. But if you're going to be building a 75 - 125 page Content-Rich theme site ... you're probably going to be much more selective, and less agile, and there are advantages in choosing a theme in which you have some interest. But I need to qualify this; in the Content-Rich with Adsense section of this site I go into some depth on how you can use other people's articles to build a large, content-rich site relatively quickly so you DO still have room for agility here.

There are a LOT of useful tricks you can learn to doing this research; for example Amazon, which offers a lousy affiliate deal in terms of books, is a goldmine of information on knowing what people want to buy, right now – if you know where to look. So is eBay; and there are many, many others. Each of the gurus have their own favourite techniques here.

And you can find very quickly whether or not there is money in a “theme” by looking at the price that people are willing to pay for Pay Per Click adverts promoting products and services associated with the market. I talk about this in the GoogleCash section; but the books by Ken Evoy and Rosalind Gardner, especially Gardner’s book, cover this in step-by-step detail.

One of the essential skills here is keyword research. This is a central skill to the GoogleCash approach, too, and in fact to many different aspects of Internet Marketing, I consider it to be one of the “Essential Skills” and the tool Wordtracker to be one of the “Tools of the Trade.”  You’ll find lots of information on keyword research in the Googlecash opportunity page and some more in the Keyword Research sections of the Fundamental Skills and Tools of the Trade pages, if you're interested.

Step 2: Find products (or services) to sell online
Knowing the “theme” and knowing there’s money in the market is one thing; you still have to choose the product(s) or services you’re going to promote. One of the quickest ways is to visit some “Affiliate Networks,” sites where merchants wanting Affiliates register Affiliate programs. Rosalind Gardner’s book points you to 17 different “Affiliate Networks,” for example, all with different numbers of customers and degrees of sophistication in their reporting and tracking, but in many of these you can go and see which companies are looking for Affiliates, what products they are selling, how much commission they pay, and what the average Affiliate is earning per 1000 visitors, for example.

The most popular of these is Commission Junction. It can be a bit of a pain in some ways ... the opening pages are very confusing, for example you need to realize that to CJ you are a "publisher;" and every now and again their management service goes 'blip." But the service is, in general, superb. You can learn a lot just by wandering around; head to the CJ web site and click on “Our Clients.” Choose a category such as “clothing/apparel” from the drop down list. Click “Search.” You’ll see a list of companies who have registered with Commission Junction to handle their Affiliate program. These are all companies really, really wanting affiliates to promote their products. They are looking for YOU!  The list tells you the commission they offer.

When you register, you can see a lot more; you can search for companies that pay per lead (instead of commission per sale). You can even see approximately how much you can expect to earn for a 1000 visitors for any merchant.

There are other Affiliate directories, but Commission Junction is definitely a good starting point.

Step 3: having chosen the “theme," confirmed there’s money in the market, found products you’re interested in selling and merchants who are looking for Affiliates … it’s time to assess the products and services, assess the affiliate programs, and make a choice.

Rosalind Gardner's book has some useful perspective on this; she has spreadsheets and explains her assumptions as she uses them to project the potential profitability of a site.

If you're about to build a Phil Wiley-style Mini Site, it's obviously nice to choose well but you lose little if you're wrong; perhaps just a few hours. If you're about to build a content-rich theme site with many pages ... you really want to have a solid foundation for your decision.

The strategy I favor is to perform the research, build a Phil Wiley-style Mini Site and drive Adwords traffic to it immediately. Once I know the site has a clear profit potential, meaning it converts visitors at a good enough rate for a sweet profit (eventually ... with some work, perhaps), then I'll consider adding a lot of content pages to make it attractive as a content-rich theme site. Many of those pages will be arrticle pages and carry Adsense, for a source of supplementary income. This strategy will, in time (6 months plus, typically), give me the advantage of free search engine traffic; and in the mean time I can focus on improving the conversion rate of the Affiliate sales pages and look at other ways to drive traffic.

Step 4: Now you’re into the web building side of things; choosing a domain, selecting a Web Host and Hosting program; planning the web site; building the site; making sure it’s Search Engine friendly, making sure your “copy” is compelling and persuasive without being pushy. You’ll find more about all of these in the Tools of the Trade and Fundamental Skills sections.

Don't be intimidated by all this. Doing it badly, now, is better than not doing it. And doing it is the best way to learn it. So DO dive in. A lousy domain name can be replaced by a better one. An ugly site can be made attractive. Lousy copy can be made effective. If you choose a poor web host, you can move to another. Screwing up as quickly as possible is a good tactic; you will not do any long term harm, and your learning curve is accelerated!

Step 5: Next, promoting your business – getting visitors to your site in numbers large enough to generate the income you’re seeking! There are more than a dozen “primary” ways to do this, and an infinite number of subtle ways. Gardner’s book goes into this in some depth (I’m looking here at a section called “9 Ways To Get Traffic To Your Site For Free” and another “11 Ways to market Your Site Offline.”)

After learning all I could from Rosalind Gardner and many other reports, I did a lot of soul-searching before I bought a course called “Traffic Secrets” (no longer available) from John Reese in the Spring of 2005. The soul searching was because this course costs US$997, and that’s a LOT of money by my standards. It's excellent, and when he comes up with the updated version in 2007 and probably buy that, too.

Once your site is up, three things will dominate; getting traffic, converting it, and building a list. Traffic is the lifeblood ... superb on-page conversion is useless with no visitors, and without visitors your list will be as short as a list of kept political promises.

Step 6 is the management of the whole process. Staying on top of the business … checking that the traffic is flowing in … and where from. Checking that people are clicking on your links … and at what rates, and from which pages for which merchants. Checking that your Affiliates are converting the leads that you send them, at a respectable rate. Testing... testing headlines, different layouts, and so-on. And, a subject for another day … building, managing and working your opt-in list!

Now, don't take this as being an indication that the list-building is a side-issue. It isn't. The Internet Marketing experts will tell you that building, managing and working your opt-in list should not be dismissed as "a topic for another day;" that it's the CORE of Internet Marketing, it's why you build the site, why you drive traffic, it's the basis for the MAJORITY of your income ... and they're absolutely right. If you ignore the list building in Affiliate marketing you are probably walking away from the majority of the profit. Some very profitable businesses make no money or even lose money on the direct sales ... their advertising costs are as much as their revenue from initial sales, or even more than their revenue from initial sales. But once they have the name of the visitor, they can mail again and again at no cost whatsoever (other than time) ... and the numbers game kicks in. If all you have is that first visit/sale revenue ... you're missing the big picture.

An Amazing Service that MIGHT Suit You

OK, we have to talk about Site Build It.

When I dived into all this Internet Marketing stuff, I wanted to find a way to make money. But more than that, I wanted it to be something that my family could do; and my friends could do. And few of them have an ounce of “techie” in them. None have any experience whatsoever in anything connected with this world. So my frustration was that, while I could see the opportunity AND act on it because I can dive in and learn html, I can invest in different html editors,  I can afford to try different autoresponders and try different tracking software and different keyword research software and … so on, ……they couldn’t. They don’t have the time, the know how, or (frankly) the money.

I needed some way that complete non-techies could use, to do everything necessary.

And I found something called Site Build It. And what an absolute gem it turned out to be.

When you join Site Build It (SBI), you get access to a host of services that provide virtually everything you need to create an income-generating web site via Affiliate income, or Adsense income, or both; and even by selling your own products, because they provide the option for you to have an online store.

The following list is not comprehensive but it gives you a good idea:

  • First of all, you get a manual that walks you through the whole process from reading the manual to having income. I mean, this thing is comprehensive with a capital “C,” and fully detailed.

  • Then, you are given access to market research tools, including keyword research tools. To put this in perspective, the tool is based on Overture data which is NOT as accurate as my preferred solution, Wordtracker; but it does a good enough job to provide the information you need. And you don’t have to pay the US$250 a year I pay for Wordtracker. (In all good conscience, though, I have to tell you; I would still recommend Wordtracker if you are going to do more than simply create 1 or 2 SBI-type sites.)

  • You can register a domain via SBI; the price is good … it’s part of the service.

  • You get full-service hosting for the website, part of the service. You’d normally pay a minimum US$60 a year for this with an independent web host, possibly more.

  • You build the site, under SBI direction, with a site-builder that requires you to have ZERO experience in web site building. It walks you through the data you have to enter to set-up a home page. Then it guides you setting up all the subsidiary pages. Need a headline? You insert a headline “block” and fill-in the headline. Want text? You insert a text block and either type or cut-and-paste the text from your own text processor. Want a graphic image, like clip-art or a photo? SBI tells you how to get it from your computer into the page. Want a link to another page? Or to an e-mail address? Add a link block. And so on.

To put this in a value context, you’d normally pay upwards of $150 for an html editor. 

It IS a bit tedious. But it works beautifully, generates decent looking sites and the beauty of it is that virtually ANYONE can do it.

And, this is only the beginning of the Site Build It service.

  • SBI gives you search engine optimization guidance for every page, to the level of “you need to include your keyword at least once more and not more than three times more in the first paragraph” … OK, I’m making that example up, but it IS representative. It’s that precise. (Realistically, you don’t need that precision because no-one knows for sure how the Search Engines work, and they all work differently … but at least it’s a useful guideline.)

  • SBI will submit your pages to the various Search Engines, and does it in an intelligent “trickle” way that makes sure it never submits too many at once. Outside of SBI, you’ll pay $150 for an equivalent software package providing the optimization guidance and the intelligent submitting service. 

  • SBI provides you with a degree of statistics and tracking that, again, would cost you probably a couple of hundred dollars to buy independently. It tells you which Search Engine spiders visit your pages; which pages are indexed; and what rank they have in the different Search Engines; how many visitors you are getting (unique and repeat), to which pages, where they came from, and which links they are clicking on.

Now, you pay US $299 a year for Site Build It, which I hope is now placed in context as a tremendous bargain … if that was all there was. But it isn’t all.

  • You have access to autoresponders that enable you to have visitors join an opt-in list to receive regular e-mails or an EZine from you. This is a vital service for anyone wanting to make serious money off the Internet, there’s more money “in the list” than in any website. Normally you’d pay $20 - $30 a month or more for something like this. But SBI goes further … it provides tracking on how many people actually open the newsletters, for example.

  • SBI does some other neat and useful things for you too, such as creating a Google sitemap you can submit for better indexing, a similar submission for Yahoo, and it helps add Blogging to your site (a “hot” topic right now).

  • It offers e-mail management, helps you with pay-Per-Click bidding and management , and … more.

  • It also provides a reciprocal-linking service where other SBI sites link to your site in return for you doing the same for them. This can really help your rankings with the Search Engines, and you can pay for this type of service outside SBI. (You still should get links from outside the SBI community, though.) 

  • And there’s a very active user forum packed with information.

Now, if it seems like I’m an advocate of SBI … you’re right. For someone with no techie skills, it’s as close to perfect as you’re going to come. And for someone WITH techie skills, it packages so many services into a high-value fee that it’s still very attractive. Every person I’ve recommended it to, and I do mean without exception, has been entirely satisfied.

Is there a downside? Not really, just a couple of be-aware ofs. For a non-beginner, the site building mechanism will seem tedious; but the good news is you can still work with MS Frontpage or MacroMedia's DreamWeaver within SBI, so that issues disappears. The other issue ... if you need multiple sites. Make no mistake, many people stay with SBI for years, and add site after site, entirely satisfied with the fees. If you’re making money (and you should be if you follow SBI’s guidelines) then the $299 fee per year per new site is chickenfeed.  But many people also feel they “outgrow” SBI after a year or two, they have learned a huge amount thanks to SBI’s superb services, and they choose to go the independent route for new sites after a while – find an independent web host that permits multiple domains for perhaps $20 a month so they can then add sites just for the price of the domain registration - as little as $6 a year for a dot-com comain, $2 a year for a dot-info domain. Sure they have to make 1-time investments in software that can easily reach $750 … and monthly investments in services that can easily reach $100 … but with 5 or 10 or more sites, they feel it’s justified.

As I say, that’s not a “knock” on SBI, just a be-aware-of.

Almost finally; I don’t want to quit this section without also discussing one of the most useful pieces of software I’ve encountered in a long time; a web site building package designed primarily for Affiliate marketers and Adsense marketers, called XSitePro.

I wrote about XSitePro in the Editing section of the Content-rich Adsense page, and I’m expanding a little on it here.

My wife, who is about as non-tech as you’ll get, started with SBI and we’re both glad she did. It gently led her through the tremendous learning curve from zero knowledge and skills to a rather nice site that is still on SBI and will probably remain there. But she has since built several sites using XSitePro, most 50-page plus, all impressive sites that visitors enjoy, all bringing in Adsense income and most to become Affiliate sites in the very near future when the traffic has built a little.

My daughter, who has not had the SBI background but who grew up with computers and has no fear, dove into XsitePro and built a very nice 30-page site despite absolutely no background whatsoever in web design or editing. It looks great, very professional. She’s a student, and time constraints are her only reason for not adding more; she will. She sees this as a way of paying-off student loans even as she takes them out! We have also taken sites built initially on SBI and rebuilt them in XSitePro; one 50+ page site took about 15 hours, not trivial but not bad, either.

The reason I love it is that it is designed for people who are into Internet Marketing and who want to focus on Internet Marketing, not web site design and development. It’s a very good design and development tool, of course. But it’s much more than just an editor. I can create an attractive site quickly and easily, it provides a basis for organizing a  lot of essential data that often gets spread all over my hard drive – for example, Affiliate account information including url’s to go to check account status, log-on id and password; Web host information including url, log-ons and passwords; domain registration details including url, log-on and password, domain names, due dates for renewal, and so forth. It enables you to have a library of Affiliate information available to all your sites; a library of images available to all; a library of scripts available to all.

Anyone who gets into this game will tell you what a pain in the you-know-what it can be to keep track of all the associated data with an Internet Marketing business, and it’s a dream to have it all at my fingertips during the creation of a web page. It also has one-button inserts of your Adsense code, one-button inserts of some useful scripts (for example, to show today’s date on a web page), it analyses your web pages from the perspective of Search Engine optimization and recommends changes that are helpful, and much, much more. 

It’s also perfect for creating templates for the page generation software, and perfect for creating the 1-page landing pages that are helpful (sometimes even essential) for the Googlecash opportunity; literally, I can have a unique web page design in a few minutes, then just focus on  content. Add 5 minutes if I also have to come up with a unique header graphic using Easy Web Graphics

In the “generated pages for Adsense Income” section of this web site, I mentioned that one of the biggest obstacles I hit when I started generating sites was the difficulty in generating what’s known as the header graphic. Look at the top of this page, you’ll see there’s a block of white with a couple of photos, and some text. That’s a header graphic. While the experts argue over whether a header graphic causes better sales or fewer sales on a selling website called a mini-site, there’s no question that the majority of Affiliate sites look much nicer, more professional, more attractive, with a good quality header graphic.

If you buy a template to use as the basis for your site, you’ll get the header graphic … that you may or may not want to actually use as-is. If you want to change it, you have a problem; you need some way of getting a new header graphic, or editing an existing one. Also, if you use SBI, their sites come with a sort-of-graphic built in that is entirely good enough, though a bit bland; and they offer you a choice of many more templates than in the original “package,” too.

But if you want a custom header graphic, you have two choices; pay for one to be developed for you, not expensive but you will typically be paying $50 and more; or, buy the software to do it youself. Now, as a bonus with one course I bought, I received a copy of a graphic header generator … but it only generated one size, and it was poor quality. It was arguably good enough for the software-generated pages used for Adsense income, but nowhere near professional-looking enough for an Affiliate site, in my opinion.

I own a very expensive, sophisticated drawing program … I can’t tell you how many hours it took me to understand the manual enough to get something useable out of it. The book I bought to help was 1000 pages; to me, this is a gentle warning that you’re getting into stuff you might not want to get into. Heck, even the book of Life shouldn’t need 1000 pages.

The solution? If you DO want the ability to generate custom graphics without the investment in expensive drawing software and the time investment in learning it … take a look at some software called Easy Web Graphics.  It’s awesome. My wife, who has almost no computer background and zero background in graphics, designed her first, attractive header graphic in minutes. My daughter did the same, she’s computer literate but completely ignorant of graphics. It is still a source of aggravation for me that this software runs on my wife’s PC, not mine, because it’s actually fun to play around with (if I had the time, which I don’t of course).

Summary of Resources I mention on this long page

Googlecash, an eBook that is probably the best intro to many elements of Affiliate Marketing I've read; it advocates an approach that (often) does not need a website.

Mini Site Profits, an eBook that describes the simplest and fastest approach to website-based Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Masters Handbook, Ken Evoy's free and comprehensive eBook on Affiliate Marketing web sites.

Wordtracker, the keyword research tool favored by the professionals for basic research.

Keyword Research Analyzer, which helps structure your site for Traffic generation.

SEO Website Builder, Andy Williams' web site builder.

Free Newsletter from Andy Williams, excellent Search Engine Optimization & Affiliate Marketing info.

Super Affiliate Handbook by Rosalind Gardner, comprehensive coverage of site building.

Affiliate Marketer's Handbook by James Martell, comprehensive coverage of site building & linking.

Commission Junction, to find products to sell as an Affiliate.

Site Build It, a comprehensive site design, site building, traffic-getting, monetizing, service.

XSitePro, recommended Affiliate site building and management software.

Easy Web Graphics, superb quality graphics tool that speaks "graphics dummy" language.