susan livingstone

squeezing a living from the internet


I'm Susan. I live in Silicon Valley, and you don't need me to tell you what the economy is like. So here I am, blogging my way to an Internet income.

Always wondered if this Dream of making a living online could really be done? I meet people every day who are doing it!

Stick with me and I'll help you learn how to get traffic or die trying.


All Your PLR Problems Have Been Solved

You know that your sites – even if all you have is one blog – needs new content to keep it fresh and constantly under the eyes of the search engines. But oh, isn’t it wearisome to keep up with all the writing you have to do? Some days you just don’t have anything new or original to say.

And then there’s the article marketing. Articles are hands down the best way to get free advertising for your site, service or product, but again – where do you go to get all the content to keep a steady stream of interesting, traffic-gathering material to write about? Where’s the GOOD stuff that you can quickly and easily package into a sell-able ebook or product to shoot out to your list?

Well, you’ve probably run across the Private Label Rights concept, or PLR, which gives you free articles, or videos, or other useful content that you can use however you want. You may have even signed up for a membership with some of the places that make this material available. But what did you find? That most of it, as you might expect with a price tag of “free,” was useless, poorly written, unreadable crap. But somehow, you’re still convinced that good PLR content must be out there somewhere, and must be a good way to get traffic and make products that can actually generate income!

If you’re in a hurry and want to see how PLR can be
made easy again, just go to: PLR Site Reviews

With all the different PLR sites available now, a lot of people are running into the same kinds of issues. Issues that make getting into PLR look not-so-enticing after all. Issues that are big enough that many consider it not really worth the bother.

Do you find yourself thinking along these lines:

It’s too costly!

With most PLR sites, you don’t get to see what’s really inside until you pay. Sure, a lot of the sites offer money back guarantees but, is it worth the hassle? For those who are just starting out – the budget is tight – right? You have to be super careful of where every single dime goes. Is sinking your hard earned cash into worthless PLR sites time and time again until you find that perfect fit worth it? (Sidenote: If the site you’re interested in does not offer a money back guarantee – keep on moving!)

It’s too time consuming!

Having to research each and every site available becomes a huge time waster (because they’re all “the best,” right?). Time consuming tasks such as these are also considered just another form of being too costly and as they should be. Why? Because time is a precious commodity. Time is money.

Too much junk!

Let’s face it. There are just too many lousy PLR sites available these days. Everyone and their sister is throwing together a PLR site. A lot of which just end up being the same regurgitated crap you find everywhere else. How much time and money is it going to take to find the one that’s actually worth it and perfect for you? Unfortunately for you, the answer to that could be too much.

Which one is the best?

Each PLR site wants to be the best and completely unique from every other one available. Of course this is a good thing for you. The better the service, the more money you’re going to make. But how does one know which one offers the best benefits and bonuses?

I want one niche – not twenty!

How many PLR sites have you seen offer content in ten different niches? How about twenty, fifty, more niches? Depending on what you’re looking for in specific, some of these PLR sites offer entirely too much content from too many different niches. During the first month you might get lucky and receive content for your specific niche but then you might have to wait three or four months in between ’til they cycle through all the different niches they offer and get to the content you need again.

Any of this sound familiar?

Well, guys – I have the perfect solution for you! PLR Queen Liz Tomey has taken this entirely-too-wide, close-to-not-worth-it, almost-too-good-to-be-true profit arena and squeezed it down into literally mouth watering, bite-sized, easy to digest nuggets of pure decadence. The fact that it’s free makes it just beyond scrumptious and now gives you absolutely no reason at all to not jump on the PLR bandwagon and bring home your own little piece of this deliciously sweet pie called pure profit.

PLR Site Reviews

Download My Private Label Site Reviews (Version 3.1 which is updated on a constant basis) right now and start saving time and money pretty much instantly. I call this report a comparison chart on steroids. Seriously, this report is a review of what Liz considers to be the “creme de la creme” of PLR sites. Only the best PLR sites available are listed in this report and more importantly she lists exactly why each of them made the list.

Only PLR sites that Liz personally uses to make her own income is on this list. With this report (which is updated every 4 – 6 weeks), you’ll be able to save time and money by comparing what each site has to offer and pick only the best PLR site for you.

PLR Site Reviews

Here’s to making PLR profitable again!

Oh, just so you know, she also includes links so you can get a discounted membership to some of the sites. Don’t worry, you can get the report for free without having to join/pay/obligate yourself to anything. But if you decide you like the idea of pursuing PLR as a way to structure your online business, or even just recognize the value of having access to the best quality PLR stuff in the world (no more recycled garbage!), these discounts are great.

FREE BONUS – Stop Buying Crap PLR Products
Brand New Report Reveals The Most Profitable PLR Products Online – Yours Free Today

The truth about making money with Private Label Rights (PLR)

Liz Tomey has quietly made thousands in the last year alone by actually doing what you’re SUPPOSED to do with PLR products.

Find out how you can do the same! Sign up now to get free access to her free Private Label Site Reviews report, and training videos…$97 Value

~~ Click Here to Download ~~

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Video Marketing for the Broke and Talentless

clapperboardYou don’t have to surf the web for long before you begin to notice a hot trend on people’s websites – videos. They’re fun, they’re eye-catching, they’re attention grabbing. A short, well-made video is a hypnotically good technique for gathering a crowd of people around your product or service and showing them just what it is you’ll be offering them if they spend their money with you. A savvy marketer is going to want to integrate this technique into their strategy with no further delay.

If you don’t have an easy means of creating a video – the software to do a professional, polished video can run to hundreds of dollars, after all – never fear. is one of the coolest sites I’ve ever come across, and I recommend it with immense enthusiasm! Even if all you have is a handful of pictures (royalty free, of course!), you can be 5 minutes away from having an incredibly slick, wholly unique video that you can download, marketing whatever you want. (To show you how easy it is, click here to see my very first video with Animoto.) It’s even free, up to 30 seconds! For a whole year’s worth of all the videos you can make, it’s only $30. They provide the cool graphics, the music (if you don’t have any of your own that you’d prefer) and will even upload your video to YouTube for you. Run, don’t walk, and sign up now.

Once you have a video ready to go, you’ll want to know where to upload it. Most major search engines have a video search option, which makes it easy for people to find videos on whatever topic they’re interested in. This is good news for marketers. By knowing which are the top video sites, you can make the most of them for getting traffic to your site.

Google certainly needs no introduction. As one of the biggest search engines around, it offers a powerful video search option allowing seekers to find a video on almost any keyword imaginable.

Yahoo! too. Like Google, it has keyword, image and search functions making it a great spot to upload a video and attract buyer attention.

is a video search engine that is arguably the best choice for making the most of your video marketing strategy. It uses a revolutionary technique of searching for videos by using voice recognition as well a visual analysis of each video to ensure that it is being classified properly. Other search methods use metadata to index their video files, but relies on the honesty of the person uploading the files. How many times have you searched for a video, only to see something completely irrelevant and off-topic pop up? The chances of that happening on BlinkX is greatly reduced.

YouTube – everybody’s favorite time-sucker – is a wonderful directory for getting your video indexed and viewed by millions of people all over the world. They offer helpful tips on how to market your video to optimize eyeball count and targeted traffic.

There are many, many more video upload sites that can be useful, but rather than list them here, I’m going to suggest you nip over to and join up. TubeMogul is a free service that lets you upload your video once, and they distribute it to dozens of video directories automatically – including social networking sites – and they even track all the relevant statistics so you know who’s watching your videos, as well as when, where, and how often.

There’s no longer any question about the necessity of adding videos to your marketing arsenal. With free and affordable tools like Animotoand TubeMogul, you can have your singing, dancing presence on the web, bringing in traffic in numbers that may astonish you.

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Do What The Pundits Say You Can’t

imRemember the days of yore – the ones before there was an Internet? No, you’re not dating yourself – it really wasn’t that long ago. But the advent of the ‘net has changed how business is done pretty drastically in that short space of time, and if you want to squeeze a living from that massive online marketplace, you need to know something about how the rules have changed.

Pre-web, you could crack open a newspaper, check the business opportunities section and find ads galore, all promising to teach you how to make money from home. You’d pony up with a $10 check, they’d mail you back a package teaching you how to sell their package. That self-serving formula hasn’t changed much; you’ll still find plenty of those online, but they aren’t charging you $10 for it anymore, that’s for sure.

But there’s another kind of teacher that you can find online that isn’t trying to sell you on selling them. They really want to teach you how to make money, and aren’t trying to fleece you out of what money you have. But they often have one problem: they promote their way of making a success on the Internet as the only true, genuine, workable way to succeed, and proclaim everybody else’s methods to be useless at best, and a scam at worst. They take what works for them as a universal truth, and really, they’re not wrong, exactly. They just suffer from tunnel vision. You’ve probably heard the parable about the blind men and the elephant – each one felt a different part of the beast and made their separate (and incomplete) conclusions about it based only the part they came into contact with. That’s what a lot of these online gurus are doing.

If you’re trying to learn what “really works” when it comes to making money on the Internet, you are no doubt completely confused by what your research has brought up so far. Let’s dispel some of these myths.

Theory One
In these days of blogs and social media, you need to prove your authority for your site to succeed. Build your traffic and your authority first, then monetize later.

Theory One Shot Down
While this method can certainly work, it doesn’t take into account what your personal style of blogging might be. Perhaps you don’t feel yourself to be an authority on a topic you want to turn into a business. If you prefer to write posts that come across like an online diary – if you have your smiling picture up on your “About” page – then the relationships you’re forming with the visitors to your blog is a friendly, cozy, interactive one. Once you have a lot of traffic and want to monetize your blog, you’ll find yourself in the uncomfortable position of trying to solicit money from people who have become your “friends.” You can either establish yourself from day one as an authoritative source of information, or you can be a blogging buddy. You can’t really do both.

Theory Two
You can’t be anonymous. People don’t respond to a gravator…they need to see a face.

Theory Two Shot Down

Have you ever heard of lolcats? The site launched in January, 2007. By June, they were getting half a million hits per day. Nobody knew who ran the site. In July, the two founders were interviewed by Time Magazine, and told their interviewer that they preferred to remain anonymous. It wasn’t until they sold their little hobby site for $2 million dollars that we learned their names: Kari Unebasami and Eric Nakagawa. Anonymity didn’t seem to hurt them any, eh?

Theory Three
If you have a blog, you must post often or you’ll lose traffic.

Theory Three Shot Down
Ask Frank Warren. His blog gets update once on Sundays, and he landed a multi book contract with a major publisher not long after it swept the web. It’s also in the top 100 site online.

Theory Four
The fastest way to build a list is to give away freebies.

Theory Four Shot Down
Well, this can work, but you could also be laboring to build a list of freebie hounds that never, ever end up buying anything from you. It’s a crapshoot.

Theory Five
Your website, blog posts, or mailing list should be about whatever you’re selling.

Theory Five Shot Down
On the surface of it, this makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Problem is, it doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. You have a brand of socks that you think are the bee’s knees, but do you really want to read a newsletter about them? You wanna join a mailing list and hang out in forums and get updated blog posts about your favorite nose hair trimmers? Ask a few gurus what they’d do about trying to sell a product that nobody really wants to read about, and most of them will tell you not to bother trying to sell it. But people do sell these things online, and make a very nice living for themselves doing it. How do you manage that when you can’t stay “topical” or “targeted”? Well, find a way to promote an idea that’s related to what you’re selling. If you’re trying to sell socks, consider talking about the fashion industry in your posts. If you’re selling nose hair trimmers, you could write about hygiene, or personal grooming in general. If you are selling your services, for instance home renovation, roofing, decks, etc., how about creating a site with barbeque recipes and kids crafts, with testimonials from your clients telling about how they loved their new deck and that the kids are crazy about their new playroom. People will love your cool articles and fun stuff, and return to your site to buy what you’re selling them. Just talk about what people want to hear and they’ll remember the connection.

Theory Six
Do what you love, and the money will follow. It won’t even seem like work.

Theory Six Shot Down
Again, another idea that makes sense on first viewing. What better way to spend your life than getting paid for doing something you love? But think about it. What was a leisure pursuit, a way to relax, a way to express yourself, will soon become a full time job, with pressures, deadlines, expectations, and endless compromise as you cater to each new “boss” that pays you to give them what they want. How long do you think it will take before you have no desire to look another doll, or sewing machine, or kit car, or pile of PC parts in the face again? There’s nothing wrong with making your hobby into a business, if that’s what you really want. But considering the downside, it’s also perfectly possible and often desirable to go into something else altogether, keeping your hobbies and business completely unrelated.

Theory Seven
You can’t succeed in a field you know nothing about.

Theory Seven Shot Down
It’s not tough to see how having a lot of knowledge in a particular field can help you achieve great success in it. And sometimes it’s even a prerequisite: you probably wouldn’t take flying lessons from someone who’d never flown a plane.

But do you suppose that every successful marketer, website designer or ghostwriter is an expert in every field they’re asked to apply their expertise to? Of course not. So what did they do? They found out what they needed to know. If you know how to properly research an industry, you can sell anything to anyone in any field and make a success of it.

So don’t take what someone trying to sell you their “Make Millions Online” program says as gospel truth. They may not be trying to mislead you, but they may have a fatally narrow focus and a “can’t do” attitude that won’t reassure you that there really is an infinite number of ways to make money online. If you keep an open mind about the possibilities, you really can make the dream work for you.

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Affiliate Link Cloaking – Quick, Easy, And Free

camoflageYou know already that it’s probably a good idea to cloak your affiliate links. The more savvy surfers become about affiliate marketing and the links that represent your “paycheck”, the greater the likelihood that someone unsavory is going to hijack your affiliate ID and substitute it for their own. If they’re truly bloodyminded, they could choose to bypass it altogether and simply cut you out of your hard earned commission.

So a variety of solutions have appeared over the years to make it harder for the bad guys to win. There are a number of free services that will cloak your link for you, like TinyURL, KlasLink, and others, which serve the dual purpose of hiding your ID and shortening a very long link into a tidy bit of more manageable code. While handy, surfers are becoming more familiar with them, and jump to the instant (and understandable) conclusion that clicking on one of these links is going to take them directly to a sales page. Unless their credit cards are already out of their wallets and poised for service, most people are going to choose to forego the sales pitch, and your persuasive copy will never have a chance to work its magic.

There are also several small software programs that will cloak your link – of variable usefulness and stability. Although you can download them for free, you’re left with the same problem of not being able to customize the code to de-emphasize the fact that the link is a sales tool.

The best solution I’ve found is a bit of php code that will give you everything you want, with a single initial setup and no cost involved. You don’t even have to know anything about php coding. As long as you know how to upload a file, you’re gold. Here’s how to do it:

Begin by logging in to your host account. Create a directory/folder under your main domain name and call it “recommends” (or any variation you prefer: “likes,” “suggests,” etc.). Whatever you call this directory will be viewable by your visitors, so pick something pithy and upbeat.

Let’s say your domain name is In your FTP program or on your cpanel, whichever you’re using to access your site files, right click on marketersdream and select ‘create folder’, then give it the name you’ve decided on. Let’s say you name it “recommends.”

Now you have a path that looks like this:

Let’s say you now want to promote a product called “winzip.” You create a directory under the recommends directory and call it ‘winzip.’ Now you have a path like this:

Nearly done! Now all you need is an index.php file that redirects the user to your affiliate link. Here’s how you do that:

In Notepad, make a file and name it index.php. Here is all that should be in that file:


Whatever the affiliate program you joined gave you as your unique affiliate link, just paste it over the capital letters above, making sure it includes the http:// part. If you wish to take the cloaking one step further, you can cloak your affiliate link with something like TinyURL, then paste THAT code over the capital letters. That way you ensure that your affiliate ID can’t be seen at any step during the redirection process.

So, in our example, you would paste your complete affiliate link for the “winzip” product over the capital letters in the code, save the file as index.php, then upload it into the directory that you just created.

You’re finished. Now, whenever anyone clicks on the link, they will be redirected to your affiliate page at Winzip. In future, with each new product you’re promoting, simply create a new folder under “recommends”, name it after the affiliate product, and upload the index.php file with the new affiliate link. Quick setup, easy solution, no cost. Just like it says on the box!

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Looking For Fresh Blog Content?


So you’ve had your blog up for awhile now. Congratulations! Hopefully you’re well on your way to making an income. Presumably you did your homework when it came to choosing a niche for your blog – and if you didn’t make chasing the fastest buck your first criteria, then you were smart enough to choose a niche you had a genuine interest in. And at first, you had so much to say that you had no problem posting every day. After a while, you began to run out of ideas and couldn’t seem to come up with fresh content. Don’t worry. Every blogger has this problem from time to time.

So how do you keep the blog going – keeping it fresh and full of value? Here are some ideas:

Do a top 10 list. “The top 10 mistakes people do when trying _______ for the first time.” “The top 10 tips for ______.” Lists tend to be easier to write and take less time to formulate. If you can’t come up with 10, perhaps you can make it the top 3 or top 5.

Interview an expert. Approach someone who is very knowledgeable in your niche and you may find they’ll be happy to do an interview, especially if they have a new product just launched and would like the exposure. Put together some thoughtful questions and ask them to write out their answers. The beauty of this blog post is that aside from asking the questions, the interviewee does all the work! And it’s even possible that you could become an affiliate and earn some money promoting their new product.

Answer a recurring question/problem. Go to the forums you frequent in your niche and look for a recurring question that people have. Doing a little research and coming up with answers makes for an excellent blog post. You become the expert, and word will get around that yours is the blog with the answers. More targeted traffic for you – always a good thing.

Blog about other blog posts. Have you read a blog post recently that caused you to stop and think, or offered up a huge glittering gem of priceless information? Blog your opinions, insights, and inspiration you’ve gotten from that person’s post. Be sure to provide a link back (opening in a new window!) so your readers can read the original post.

Use the weather. Look around you at the season and tie it into your niche. Does the hot weather inspire you to share a story on your internet marketing blog about going fishing while your internet marketing business is still making you money? Does the 4 feet of snow outside make you think about reading your favorite books? If so, you can do a niche-related book review with your Amazon or other affiliate links attached.

What’s up in your business world? Blog about what you’re working on now. Using a personal tone, explain what your current project is. Letting a few tidbits escape builds anticipation and helps your readers feel like they’re now on the “inside”.

There’s always a holiday or cultural celebration in the offing. Tie what’s happening in the world at large to your niche. Major holidays are an obvious choice, but consider the less obvious ones too, like Earth Day, Arbor Day, Groundhog Day. In fact, every day of the year is dedicated to celebrating something fun – have a look at the Bizarre American Holidays Calendar website to see what’s on for today. Maybe you can find a fun way to tie your topic into that.

Jump start your blog with these ideas and you’ll soon find your creative juices flowing!

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So You Built It – Did They Come?

bricksLittle Known Methods To Get Visitors To Your Blog

Congratulations! Your fresh new blog is live on the Internet, and all the backbreaking, uphill labor of building your online business is behind you. Now it’s time to sit back, take it easy, and watch the money pile up in your PayPal account. Right?

Oh, so wrong. You’ve merely scaled the foothills – wrestled with WordPress, boggled over business decisions, pondered over products, tackled tech issues, and labored toward launch day. And learned, to your dismay, that nobody cared at all. You’ve discovered that horrible truth that every Internet entrepreneur must face – the real mountain you must climb is learning How To Get Some Traffic.

Well, strap on your crampons. It’s time to get those eyeballs on your blog – all those people who are interested in your topic and need to know about your site. We’re going to talk about a couple of little known strategies to getting the word out and the visitors in.

There are, of course, paid methods and free methods to get visitors to your blog. If your total advertising budget wouldn’t cover the cost of a stamp, well, you’ll have to rely on free methods. (Don’t worry – you’re in good company!) Free methods means getting organic traffic from the search engines or other sources. There are some well-known ways of doing this, like article marketing and SEO. Today I’m going to discuss other ways of getting search engine traffic that are just as effective – but not often thought of – as the more conventional ways.

The first method is using Yahoo! Answers. Yahoo! Answers is a website for people who want to ask questions about anything and everything, and for other people to supply them with answers. You must have at least two Yahoo! accounts to use this method (in fact, the more the better). The first step is to log into Yahoo! Answers using one of your Yahoo! accounts. Enter a keyword phrase related to your niche into Yahoo! Answers in the form of a question. For example, if your blog is all about weight loss, one of your keyword phrases might be Lose Weight Naturally. So just type How Can I Lose Weight Naturally? into Yahoo! Answers.

Then exit from Yahoo! Answers and log in again, this time using your second Yahoo! account. Go back to the question you posted earlier and answer it. Of course, your answer should be informative and as accurate as possible. You can either get the answer from your own blog content or from another related website (remember: if you take the answer from another website, be sure to re-word your answer so that you’re not plagiarizing). Along with your answer there will be a field called Know your source? Here is where you’ll put in your blog URL.

Besides answering your own question, you could do a search within Yahoo! Answers for other similar questions asked by other people and submit your answer there also. What is happening is you are building quality backlinks to your blog with each answer you submit. It goes without saying that the more questions and answers you submit, the more backlinks you get to your blog. And everyone knows that backlinks push your blog ranking up the search engine.

In addition to getting visitors to your blog from search engines, you will also get visitors from those who read your answer on Yahoo! Answer. And they say people don’t like a know-it-all!

The second method is by using forums. Find a forum related to the niche topic you are blogging about. Choose forums that allow you to put links into your signature file. Edit your signature file to include a catchy caption and your blog URL. When you visit the forum, search for threads that are relevant to your blog niche topic. As far as possible, visit threads with only a few replies. People reading through the threads normally don’t bother reading more than the first page of replies. So if your reply is listed on the second or third page, the chances of people reading it is pretty slim.

Once you find such a thread, post your reply. Most forums have a check box to indicate you wish to show your signature file. Always make sure this check box is ticked. Another clever little idea is to start your own thread in the forum. This way, everyone who visits your thread is guaranteed to see your post and signature file.

Add these often overlooked tricks to your cache of traffic building weapons, and over time you will start seeing more visitors to your blog, thanks to your higher ranking on the search engines and the many visitors to Yahoo! Answers and relevant forums.

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Building Your List With Giveaways

giftcardIf you’ve been in the IM business for more than 5 minutes, then you’ve probably heard about how useful giveaways are to building your list. (Of course, if you been in the biz for more than 10 minutes, you’ve probably taken a good 15 years off your life, but that’s a post for another time.)

So, giveaways, huh? What’s the big deal, and does it really work, and what’s in it for you, anyway?

Pay attention, younglings, and learn the sweet, simple process to finding subscribers and creating a following of like-minded people who want to learn (and hopefully, buy) from you.

What makes a good giveaway? One that offers items of real value to the people who are offering up their email addresses to get them. People aren’t stupid (well, not all of them), and they are getting increasingly savvy about what constitutes good value for the investment of their email privacy. Even if they are downloading free products, they don’t want to risk “paying” for them by having to weather a hail of email bullets for a crappy 3-page ebook written in 1999 by a language challenged IM wannabe, or a piece of software that has so many problems setting up that lives have been wasted in the obsessive attempt.

So the first thing you want to consider when preparing for a giveaway is just what sort of gift you’re going to bring to the table. Most giveaways have a mechanism in place that assures the gifts on offer are new and of high quality – no old, oversold PLR products. The better your gift, the better your chances of being accepted, and the better your numbers in terms of downloads and optins. It can be anything from an ebook, to videos, audios, club memberships, training programs and services. If the gift is of your own creation, even better.

If you are targeting a specific niche, keep that in mind as you choose your gift. While most giveaways are targeting the Internet Marketing field, there are a few that specialize in particular niches, and you may have some luck even with a regular IM giveaway if your gift is a really nice one.

After deciding what your gift is going to be, you’ll want to check the upcoming giveaway events. Here’s a link to a site that keeps up with what’s going on in the giveaway world: Pick as many as you feel you can handle and start signing up. Be prepared, as there are a few things you’ll need to have set in place before you begin filling out the application:

1. A squeeze page. If you don’t know how to make a squeeze page, or don’t have the html software needed to create one from scratch, I have a free squeeze page generator here that you can download and use. I made the page you’ll see from this software, so you can see what it looks like. If you fill out the optin form (which still must be generated from an autoresponder site like Aweber, so be sure you have an account with one), you’ll be able to download the software and create a squeeze page of your own.

2. A download page. If you wish, you can take advantage of this opportunity to present other offers to your new subscribers, and/or bonuses as a thank you for subscribing. As a general rule, it’s best to keep the bonuses to at least two and the sales pitches to no more than one, for maximum gratitude and minimum pissage. Again, if you need a template for a download/bonus page, you can go here and sign up for free to access a very nice tool that will create one for you. If you signed up to download the squeeze page generator, you’ll see what this download page looks like, in its simplest form.

3. Remember to upload all your pictures and pages to your server, as you will need the URL to them for both the giveaway application and your autoresponder messages.

4. Speaking of autoresponder messages: be prepared to set up a series of these. At least be sure to have your initial Thank You and Welcome message set up for your new subscribers to see as soon as they fill out the optin form. Once they’ve agreed to receive your emails, you want to be sure they don’t forget you. So have some emails prepared in advance – helpful, info-packed, relationship-building stuff – that can be automatically sent out on a pre-set schedule. You get to decide how often your subscribers hear from you, and how often you want your emails to be sales pitches.

Once you’ve prepared the above items, you can use them over and over for a number of giveaways, cutting down on your prep time.

Timing is key. It’s a good idea to join giveaways as soon as you can, because that gives you the maximum amount of time to promote it to your friends, peers, or the people already on your list. Because how you rank in the listings is not a matter of first come, first served…it’s a points system, and it all depends on how many people you refer who sign up, either as contributors or as participants. You’re given a unique link ID that identifies who and how many you brought with you to the game, and you climb the ranks accordingly, being rewarded with a spot on the first few pages – kind of like in Google. It helps to be early for another reason too – if you’re the first in with a popular freebie, everybody else who shows up with the same gift will not be able to sign up, giving your gift a unique opportunity to entice subscribers. The first few days of a giveaway have the heaviest traffic, so waiting to get in will only give you disappointing results.

Don’t worry if you’re just a beginner and don’t have a list of your own; you’re leveraging the traffic that is being driven to the giveaway site by every JV partner who’s participating. You may not show up on page one or two…or 12. But it’s a start, and you WILL get signups. You build from there.

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Blogging For Bucks – Back To Basics

computerbucksYou know that blogging is a great way to make money. It isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but you really can make an income from your blog, if you take the trouble to go about it the right way, stay focused, and remain persistent. But the best laid plans gang aft agley when you neglect to pay attention to the details. I’ve lost count of how many blogs I’ve visited, only to make a beeline for the exit moments after arriving because of the terrible things it was doing to my head.

Your blog is your Online Presence. Think about what that means, exactly. It’s not just your place of business, your virtual home to which you are inviting everyone in the world. Just like the décor (or lack of it) that you have in your home, your blog will tell your visitors volumes about your character and personality. If the first thing they encounter is clutter, pointless rambling, and nothing good to eat, they will close their purses and wallets and leave, never to return.

Following are some tips to help you make your blog worth a return visit.

Tip #1: Choose a Niche. This follows on what I was saying in my last post. You can’t be all things to all people. Find a group who needs a leader and make your blog THE go-to spot that addresses their needs and wants. Stick to that plan and the money will follow.

Tip #2: Create a Posting Schedule. Alright, before you say it, I know I’ve been remiss! But I’m getting better. Having a regularly scheduled post makes it easier for your readers to follow you. They will even come to look forward to it! Erratic, infrequent posting loses your visitor’s interest and building a loyal following will take much longer – if you ever manage it at all. How often should you post? At least once a week – more often if you can.

Tip #3: Write from Personal Experience. Share your experience with your readers by writing in the first person. Don’t be afraid to let your personality out for a public viewing. You’ll be creating a personal bond with your reader, and they will soon come to feel they know you – and trust, loyalty, and a willingness to buy will follow apace. If you sound like a credible (and likeable) authority on your topic, they will believe that you are.

Tip #4: Interact with Other, Similar Blogs. Get out there and visit other popular blogs that discuss the topic you’re writing about. Leave comments, join the forums. But don’t just toss out remarks for the sake of linkbacks – everybody hates the Mindless Bloghopper – make your comments useful, relevant and helpful. People know the difference between feedback and fishing.

Tip #5: Grammar and Spelling. I don’t care what you’ve been told about not worrying about perfection; the fact remains that if you cannot compose a decent, thoughtful, and grammatically correct sentence in your own native language, then you sound like an idjit. Others who are equally language impaired may not notice – but why alienate those to whom a well articulated point goes a long way toward convincing them to buy from you? It’s ok to write like you speak – end a sentence with “from” if you want – but if you speak like a 4th grade dropout who learned the use of adjectives from longshoremen, you might want to consider hiring a copy polisher. It just makes sense to run your post under the eyes of someone you know will be able to spot the mistakes and smarten it up a bit. It’s an image thing – and in the end, that’s what counts in the anonymous medium of the ‘net.

Tip #6: De-clutter. Your blog should be about the information you’re trying to get out. I’ve visited blogs and websites where, the moment I passed their portals, I was nearly done to death by a barrage of sales artillery. Animated affiliate banners, pop-ups, pop-unders, pop-arounds, pop-between the eyes, screeching mp3′s and videos with no visible off switch, mystery meat navigation, and floating ads that follow me after I’ve beaten a hasty retreat, begging me to reconsider leaving. And then the dreaded back button that loops me right back into the hell I thought I’d just saved myself from. NOBODY LIKES THAT GUY. Don’t be him.

Tip #7: Useful Plugins. At a minimum, you should have the kind of plugins that show off your most popular, recent, and relevant posts. This encourages your visitor to hang around a little longer, exploring the topics of interest to them, which your thoughtfully arranged design makes a breeze for them to find. The longer they stay, the more likely they’ll end up purchasing something.

Tip #8: Marketing Your Blog. Social marketing is the hot trend these days, but bear in mind that it’s a very time consuming method of marketing. Just be prepared to spend a lot of hours here, as you must become known as someone other people will want to interact with and get to know. But when budget is a consideration, there’s no cheaper price than free to market yourself, and places like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, StumbleUpon, etc. are certainly ways to get your name out there. You can get your latest blog post to show up on Twitter automatically using the TweetMyBlog plugin, a very popular method for getting noticed.

Tip #9: Tech Troubles. Your blog can be a great springboard for your business, but things don’t always go as smoothly as you’d like. Sometimes it can be a frustrating arena for grappling with glitches. So be realistic about your limits when it comes to troubleshooting your blog. Weigh the cost in terms of the time it will take to fix it yourself by scouring the web for advice, versus biting the bullet and getting an expert to solve the problem for you. If you’re looking for some WordPress consulting, this link will take you to Tom Johnson, my recommended go-to guy for the stuff I just don’t have the know-how to tackle myself. His response time is faster than a speeding bullet, he knows his stuff, he doesn’t charge an arm and a leg, and he over-the-top delivers.

Keep your eye on the prize, never stop learning, and don’t give up. Hard work and persistence will get you where you want to be, riding a well organized, well written, intelligently monetized blog all the way to the bank!

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Step 1 – Finding A Profitable Niche Market

dartsThere’s an almost infinite number of ways to make money online, and each one of them requires a different set of tools, knowledge and strategies to make them successful. But there is one fundamental thing that must be done before you take another step into the Internet wilderness – you must find a niche market to which to apply your time, effort and advertising dollars.

Believe me, I know how easy it is to get distracted and confused. There is so much information and so many enticing promises crowding the virtual airwaves, most of it uploaded by people whose primary interest is in separating you from your money. They want you to hurry up and get that website up (just purchase their easy template program!), launch that blog (just a “pittance” a month for their consultation services!), sign up for their affiliate wares, buy their “get-it-for-a-steal” product that will automate everything for you, and once it’s all set up, which they assure you will take but a single enjoyable afternoon of your time, the money will start pouring in like a financial tsunami!

Well, dealing with information overload and hype is a topic for another post (or ten). Right now I want to share with you a vital truth that gets lost in all the hoopla – until you have a product to market, a targeted group of people to market it to, and the knowledge of how to get these things – you will spin your wheels furiously and not move forward a single inch.

When you’re first starting out, it’s probably best to steer clear of the tough markets to break into, like IM. There’s money to be made there, no question, but the competition is cutthroat, and you might want to get your feet wet by concentrating on a niche that’s less saturated – specialty items, hobby stuff – doesn’t really matter what it is, you’ll probably find somebody somewhere wants to buy it. For all you know there’s a dedicated group of one-eyed, hermaphroditic underwater pole vaulters with shingles who get together once a month in Kissimmee to swap handmade dolls made from used dog beds. Bet they could use a good source of flea shampoo. Sell it to them! Find a starving niche, feed them, make a good income.

But I would further recommend that you stick to those niches you have an interest in personally. It takes some dedicated forum hopping to get to know your target niche well enough to sell them what they really need and want; you have to get thoroughly inside their heads. If you couldn’t care less about the relative depths of the dimples on golf balls, you’re going to be bored witless trolling the forums that talk about nothing else. Why burn the little candle of your life illuminating some corner wherein you have no interest?

So how do you go about finding a “hot” niche that you can actually get excited about? It takes some research to be sure that, just because you’re passionate about something, there’s enough other people out there dying to spend money on it too. Or even that they have any money to spend.

Start with Clickbank. They have a huge selection of products that you can be promoting, and you know there’s already a demand for them. But you want to find the right products for you. Stay away from the products that have high gravities (“high gravity” means there’s already a ton of affiliates out there selling the stuff). The numbers you should look for vary among the experts, but a good range seems to be minimum 30, maximum 200. This means that it’s probably a niche with a demand but not too much competition.

Once you’ve found one you’d like to pursue, you’ll want to check how many people are actually searching for this niche on a monthly basis. Go to the sales page and make a list of the keywords that are being used for this niche. There are a number of keyword tracking tools available online – I use Wordtracker. They have a great free trial version you can use until you’re ready to go pro. Alternatively, you can use Google’s keyword tool. Then, put the keywords in quotes and plug them into Google’s search engine – you’ll be able to see how many competing sites are already out there.

So here’s a little formula: (monthly searches/competing sites) X monthly searches = KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Indicator). If your KEI is 100 or greater, than that’s a niche you can hope to make some money in.

Finally, you’re ready to dive into those forums dedicated to the niche you’re after and get into the heads of your future customers. Do a search on Google: niche + forum. If you can’t find a forum, drop that niche and move on. If you do, get inside and start looking around. If the forum seems to be comprised of people who have no money to spend – kids, college students, people on unemployment – on to the next!

Keep an eye peeled for hot button words, like “problem”, “solution”, “how do I…?”, “where do I go…?”, “issue with…”, “I wish I had…” and so on. Read the sticky posts, read the posts that have the most replies. Find out what the people talk about the most, what they need, want, and wish they knew where to go to get. Maybe it’s just information – see what kinds of questions they’re asking, go research the answers, and put them in a little ebook you can sell them for $7. Participate in the forum if you can be at all helpful – it’s ok to have a link to your site in your signature, but don’t point it out. Get to be known as a source of help and information first – win their trust. The business will follow.

That’s basically it. Find the niche, check if it’s viable, find out what they’re looking for, and either build a site around an existing product or create your own. Then market the living daylights out of it.

And that’s a post for another time.

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Safe Passwords In A Dangerous World

Well, I seem to be in a “protect yourself” state of mind these days – from avoiding plagiarism to testing your site in multiple web browsers. But hey, there’s no question it’s dangerous online. If you’re anything like me, most of your life is probably embedded in the web. Gift buying, food ordering, bill paying. You might not care if someone discovers you prefer dark chocolate over milk, but imagine how you’d react if they found your bank routing number and helped themselves to a handful of your hard earned savings? Face it – you need a safety net while surfing the ‘net.

So yeah, this post is all about defending those passwords. Lemme give you some tips on just how to do that.

Safe passwords start with a safe PC. Don’t store all of your login and password information in just one place on your computer. You need to make sure your precious info is protected behind a good firewall. If you are using Windows XP or Vista, you can use the Windows Firewall, or you can go check out Symantec (Norton), Kaspersky or McAfee. There are other, less expensive programs available too – do a cost comparison and see what suits your needs. There are even some free services out there, like Zone Alarm or Online Armor. If cost is a real issue, they’re an option. But how important to you is your medical and financial information? Just be sure of what you’re getting.

Spend any time at the library? If you ever use computers in public places, you need to be aware that when you log in to certain sites using a password, that information can be stored on a temporary file on that computer’s hard drive. The next person to sit down at that computer can easily retrieve this information and do you some damage, if they’re so inclined.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but if you receive an email asking you for personal information, don’t respond to it! A reputable company will almost certainly identify you by name if they are asking you for this kind of information. And they will never, ever ask you for your PIN code. If you are suspicious about an email, better you should go to the site itself – not by clicking on any links in the email, but via a fresh browser window – and check it out for yourself.

Change your passwords often.  I know, I know…I don’t do this either. But it’s worth keeping in mind, at least on your most important sites, as it will minimize how much damage can be done should someone unscrupulous guess or hack into your passwords.

You’ve probably encountered sites that require you to answer a security question – which you yourself set up initially – in the event that you’ve forgotten your password. You may be limited as to the nature of the security questions, but do your best to pick one that isn’t going to be easily researchable. Mother’s maiden name, city of birth are two common questions that are probably not the best ones to choose, as they are matters of public record. Stick with ones like the make of your first car, where you went on your first date – things only you know that can’t be readily discovered by others.

Websites that request your password should be encrypted with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), the state-of-the-art for providing security and data integrity in online communications. You can ensure that the page you’re on is so encrypted by looking at the bottom of your browser screen. If you see a padlock symbol, you’re ok.

Finally, one of the most important and least regarded methods for keeping your passwords safe is simply choosing strong passwords. Determined hackers just point and laugh at people who use stuff like their birthday, their name, or basically any English word. If you know Polish, maybe that would help – but I’m betting there are Polish hackers out there somewhere. So make it hard for them. Use at least 8+ characters, and mix it up a little. Include upper and lower case letters, toss in a few numbers and special characters. Basically make it look like a big long comic book swear word.

And must I point out that it’s never a good idea to write your passwords on a sticky note and post it on the side of your monitor?

Happy blogging!

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Cheryl Jones

Susan, I agree with you about short sentences and short paragraphs. White space is great. It makes it easy to read content. Hi, my name is Cheryl and I am one of Mark Terrell's students. He asked me to visit blogs and comment, both to build traffic and also to learn from other blogs. I would appreciate it if you would visit my blog and leave a comment and tell me what you think. Thank you. Cheryl Jones

Cheryl Jones

Susan, I read this article with interest and it brings out a lot of good points. I would have liked a few more paragraphs or another article on the things that do work as you covered the theories that look good on the surface, but are not entirely true. Hi, my name is Cheryl and I am one of Mark Terrell's students. He asked me to visit blogs and comment, both to build traffic and also to learn from other blogs. I would appreciate it if you would visit my blog and leave a comment and tell me what you think. Thank you. Cheryl Jones

Sue McDonald

Hi Susan Just read your blog and I can't agree more. There are some very bad PLR's out there. The reason for my visit is simple. As you see my name is Sue McDonald and I live in Australia. I am at present doing the Newbie course with Mark Terrell who originally did the course with Alex a few years ago. It's interesting learning and like everyone that starts these types of courses we all want to make money and have more time to ourselves. I hope you are making a great living and if you have time over the next few weeks and you could take a look at my blog and leave a comment, I would certainly appreciate. Kindest regards Sue

Mick Fallon

Hi Susan like your list, especially , blogging about other peoples posts its a great but simple idea, I bet not many people use it thanks for the tip Mick