Webmaster Chick

webmaster, marketer, blogger – just a girl with a geeky streak

Balloon powered internet?!

So it looks like Google wants to power all the areas of the world that can’t get good (or any) internet access by sending balloons into space! From what I understand, these balloons will float around at incredible heights (twice that of a commercial planes altitude) which will allow anyone with a special antenna connected to their building to get internet access. It’s still in the pilot phase but I’m pretty interested to see how far this can go. If it works as planned it will be incredibly useful for a lot of 3rd world countries that don’t have isps or any basic level of internet access. It would allow people to bypass the whole system by simpy having a computer and an antenna.

http://www.google.com/loon/

loon_large_verge_medium_landscape


Don’t build websites, build brands!

The methods used to build and rank websites have come a long way over the past decade. The direction Google is going is making it more apparent that slapping some keyword rich content on an exact match domain (EMD), with the same anchor text pointing to the site is not going to cut it anymore. The sites that are lasting the Google blitzkreig are the ones that have a strong brand and authority over the area they cover. So I’ve made it my mission to follow suit. Building low quality sites are on the way out. Focusing on building brands and establishing each site as an authority in its own field is the way forward.


How To Stop Tweaking and Learn to Love Your Blog (as is)

My new passion project, an art blog, is going swimmingly and I’ve really enjoyed the change of pace.  That pace being slow as a turtle as I tweak every detail from fiddling with the WordPress theme so much that it’s unrecognizable from the one I initially downloaded (and still give a linkback to), installing loads of plug-ins and widgets, and generally being an obsessive compulsive freak.  Now *that* shade of beige looks much better.  Waitaminute…did I check it in IE yet?  The dashed box around my sidebar looks totally messed up!  Clearly I can’t be expected to create any, you know, CONTENT when I’ve got a sidebar that doesn’t look exactly the way I want it to across all browser platforms.

I’m giving myself a bit of leeway since this is a passion project and not one I’m doing for solely income generating purposes, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t loads of you out there, reading the latest marketing guru blogs and secret forums, then squirreling away all that information until you’ve perfected your blog or CMS design.  The fact of the matter is – it doesn’t matter what your site looks like if you don’t have traffic.   That bears repeating:

It doesn’t matter what your site looks like if you don’t have any traffic!

I’m guilty of putting off traffic generation too as it’s my absolute least favorite part of this business.  I convince myself that it’s OK to procrastinate because my site isn’t ready yet and gosh, I wouldn’t want a whole bunch of people to visit my site when it doesn’t look perfect yet.  But it’s far too tempting to sit on a great idea for a site while you install all sorts of bells and whistles on your site, then spend ages creating great content for the site and when you’re finally ready to unleash your masterpiece to the world?  Somebody else beat you to the bunch and is dominating page 1 for all of your keywords.  No good.

So, before you install that new Flickr script or search for yet another new theme, ask yourself, “What did I do to generate new traffic today?”

You can always tweak your site later and once you’ve got steady traffic coming in, you’ll have solid data to help inform any decisions you make with your site design.  If you’ve got a decent stats program (even Google analytics will do), you should be able to see pretty quickly if changing the link on your post titles to a different color garners more or less clicks throughout your site.  You just changed the background color?  Take a look at your average visitor length for the next few days & see if there’s a change.  If people are backspacing a lot faster, you may want to rethink your neon green on black color scheme.


Burn Out

I haven’t posted here for quite some time now and though few and far between posts are not unusual for me, this time it’s not because I’m just too busy with “real” work to keep up over here; no, this time it’s because I’m simply feeling burned out.

People talk a lot about doing something you’re passionate about or choosing a niche that you have a personal interest in.  I heard that on day one of my internet marketing adventure and I’ve seen it repeated hundreds of times since.  But somehow, in that process of researching markets and choosing keywords, I always ended up following what I thought would make me the most money.  Niches I’m personally interested in tend to have a boatload of competition, so even chasing the longtail is difficult.  What I didn’t realize is how difficult it would be to motivate myself to keep working on stuff I don’t *really* care about in order to make money.  My surefire keywords?  They take a lot of on-going effort to keep on page 1 of the big G.  And that means I have to keep posting new articles, leaving comments, socially bookmarking my sites and looking for new linkbacks.

In a nutshell, there is no quick and easy way to keep a steady stream of traffic landing on your pages (no matter what any guru tries to tell you).  So if the internet marketing process is going to require an ongoing effort, you’d better either be highly motivated to do really boring work or be really interested in your niche.  Looking back, it’s obvious now that if I had just built one site, on a subject I’m passionate about, and had kept at it every single day for the lasy, oh…7 years?  Well, I would’ve had one killer site instead of a portfolio of mediocre crap that bores me to tears.  I wonder which one would be making the most money today?

So, that’s where I’m at – back to the drawing board.  I want to do a new site based on my passions for creativity – painting, art, photography, making stuff with my hands and getting off this damn computer once in a while!  This time around, I’m not going to be printing out sheets of carefully researched keyword phrases and will instead let my real interests drive me.

I’m pretty excited about it and an added bonus is that excitement?  Is also fueling new interest in fixing up all of my old dinosaurs, giving them a fresh coat of paint.  I think this is what they mean when they say “do what you love and the money will follow.”  Just wish it hadn’t taken me 7 years in this biz to believe them!


Scheduling Work Time

I don’t post here very often, as it is with a lot of my little projects. I set up the WebmasterChick.com domain to use for my email, since I was collecting too many different email addresses on various domains. I thought it would be a good place to keep track of different tools and plug-ins and articles that I don’t want to see lost in the bottom of my bookmarks too.

And it is.  It’s all of those things.  It’s just not finished.

Just like the rest of my many, many half-completed, vastly ignored projects, it had the best of intentions!

Working 9 to 5 

Since it’s so easy for me to get wrapped up in new projects, race around researching ideas and then run out of steam before I ever, you know, actually finish the damn thing, I’ve decided to get a reign on things (things being primarily my own brain and work habits) and start working a regular schedule.  Just like one of those *shudder* 9-to-5ers.

One of the best/worst things about being self-employed and working from home is that I can set my own hours. It’s great for being able to accommodate other people’s schedules, beating traffic and taking advantage of spontaneous outings. It’s not so good for ever feeling like you have time off.

Since I have a TO DO list a mile long, my evenings and weekends are often spent working, planning, researching or thinking about work. Even when I’m watching TV or out with friends, I feel guilty about the work I could be doing. Should be doing.  At the gym I try to listen to marketing podcasts.  In the mornings while I’m eating my cereal, I’m reading industry blogs.  It never stops.  My brain gets no real time OFF.

In an attempt to give my brain (and guilty conscience) a break, I’m going to try to force myself to work a normal schedule. One with real start times and real days off.

Work time, it must be noted, will no longer include the following:

  • checking email
  • reading blogs
  • researching ANYTHING
  • chatting on industry message boards
  • chatting on IM

Work time will be defined only as actively building, writing or otherwise creating content OR getting traffic.  Submitting to directories, seeking out link trades, all the boring stuff that I love to put off because the project isn’t “finished” yet?  Yeah, that’s what WORK actually is!

The Dreaded Time Sucks 

Futzing around with WordPress plug-ins? Does not count. Necessary? Maybe. But it’s a huge time suck and one of the things I love to get caught up doing. Well, I can’t start working on the marketing part of this site because the design isn’t quite right.

Guess what? If no one ever visits your sites, no one will know that your design is good, bad or breaks in IE!

One of my worst time sucks is searching for new niches and then the corresponding keywords for those niches.  There is absolutely no reason I need to have a list of the best 50 keywords to target before I even start a new project.  I could spend 10% of the time, find a handful of decent keywords and get building.  Once the site is established, humming along, hopefully bringing in some cash, THEN I can pore over my Wordtracker results searching for the holy grail keyword phrase that will deliver me thousands of hits a day with only 2,000 competing pages.  But who knows if I’m even going to like the niche?  Or if they’re buyers?  Or or or.

Get your feet wet, do some testing and if the niche is a go, then go back and do more keyword research.  But for Google’s sake, don’t get stuck in that analysis paralysis where you never actually DO anything.

After 6 years online, I’ve finally learned that none of my sites will ever be finished in my mind. Time to let it go and get on with the business of just *doing* it.


How To Make Money Fast Using WordPress

Whether you’re a blogger who’s interested in acting or zebras, if you publish a WordPress blog and want to learn how to make money fast, you should check out this fantastic list of AdSense plug-ins on Mashable.

What’s WordPress?

Like thousands of other bloggers, I use WordPress to publish my blog sites, largely due to the fact that there is a huge community of users who develop all sorts of handy (and OK, sometimes silly!) plug-ins and widgets to customize and add new functions to your site. It’s relatively easy to use, highly customizable and the stability has come leaps and bounds from where it was just a few short years ago. It’s the blogging platform of choice for many and the best part? 100% free. In fact, if you don’t have your own hosting account set up, you can even host your blog for free over at WordPress.com. Pretty sweet, eh?

After you’ve set up your blog (and have wasted many hours tweaking the various settings, swapping out new templates to change the look of your site and installing a whack of plug-ins you’ll never use), you may be wondering how to make this fast money the media keeps talking about. Yes, there are blogs that make a lot of money. No, this isn’t one of them. It does, however, make some of the all time easiest money I’ve ever earned by using AdSense.

What’s AdSense?

Unless this is your first time using Al Gore’s InterWeb, you’ve seen AdSense ads before. They come in a few different sizes, but if you look at the long box to the right, you’ll see a bunch of text links to different sites with an Ads by Google stamp at the top. That’s AdSense.

How does AdSense help you make money fast? Instead of searching for good affiliate programs to sign up for or trying to hawk info products to your blog readers, you simply cut and paste a chunk of code that Google gives you (which you can customize to blend into your site, show more or less ads etc.) and AdSense will do the rest.

You write about the stuff you’re interested in.
AdSense displays ads that are relevant to your topic.
When your readers click on an ad and visit the advertiser’s site, you make money.

Contextual Advertising

Why AdSense works so well is because the ads are, for the most part, contextually relevant. That’s just a fancy internet marketer way of saying you’re showing people ads that are on the same topic of your site or blog post. If you’re writing about how you had to dog sit for the weekend and had no clue how to take good care of Scruffy, you might see ads for things like pet supplies, pet medications, dog breeders and so on. This kind of advertising is usually pretty unobtrusive and can actually enhance your readers’ experience because they’re seeing ads that are directly targeting the topic they’re interested in reading about. In theory.

Sometimes you’ll be writing about a topic that doesn’t have a lot of advertisers or worse, uses certain terms that apply to a totally different, totally off-topic market. These ads look out of place and your readers won’t click, so not only do you not make money, the company who placed the ad isn’t too happy either. Think a travel company that specializes in Paris getaways. Are they really going to attract new business by displaying their ad on ParisHiltonFanClub.com? I don’t think so.

Fortunately there are ways to prevent those ads from showing up on the wrong sites in the advertiser’s control panel and there are also ways for you to block ads from showing up on your own site. You don’t want to be showing ads for your biggest competitor now, do you?

In real world practice, you also get people abusing the system and filling sites with crap content where the majority of the screen is plastered with ad blocks. That doesn’t make anyone happy – your readers or the companies paying to place those ads. The spammers might make a bit of money, but over the long term they will have to keep on hustling. When Google finds sites that break their TOS (Terms of Service), they close the account. You won’t proceed directly to jail, but you won’t be collecting your $200 either.

Wrap It Up, Chatty Cathy

Overall, I think AdSense is an incredible program. It has its flaws, sure. I wouldn’t put it in my How To Make The Most Money Online list, since it takes a while for those clicks to add up, but it’s definitely one of the easiest, fastest ways I’ve ever made money online, especially if you already have traffic.

Interested in using AdSense to make money on your blog?

Already using AdSense, but tired of cutting and pasting the code into your WordPress template and then having to scan through the code to cut and paste it again when you switch templates (like I do), click here to see the list of 17 AdSense Plug-ins.


Don’t Break the Chain

I’m always interested in ways to motivate myself to work harder, form good habits or otherwise establish routines that increase my productivity so I have more free time that’s actually free.  Spending a day at the beach while my growing To Do list keeps popping into my mind is not as relaxing as it should be.  If I want to really recharge my batteries when I take a holiday, I need to be organized enough beforehand so that I can lock up a clean house and know that my business will only need a brief email scan while I’m away to ensure no major catastrophes have occurred in my absence.

Of course, this never happens.

My usual “routine” looks more like flying around the house like a chicken with her head chopped off, staying up until 3 a.m. the night before trying (and failing) to get everything accomplished.  Half the time I end up leaving a few dishes in the sink, let alone getting all laundry washed, folded and put away or the floors mopped.  Needless to say, there are no pre-written articles or blog posts set to auto publish while I’m basking in the sun.  Not yet.

The monumental task of getting my work stuff and life stuff caught up and actually ahead of schedule so that I can take a break would be far less monumental if I were on target on a daily basis.  This is where the fantastic tool from Jerry Seinfeld comes in – “just don’t break the chain“.

The basic idea is that any big goal you want to achieve, any skill you want to develop doesn’t just happen overnight – practice really does make perfect.  What seems impossible becomes much easier when broken down into smaller, more manageable steps, so you just need to commit to doing a little bit each day.

Let’s say your goal is to write a novel.  The idea of sitting down at your desk to pump out 400 pages is pretty overwhelming!  Suddenly Jerry Springer seems quite fascinating and you’re hit with a self-induced case of writer’s block.

Using the other Jerry’s method, you’ll instead commit to writing 5 pages each day.  You print out a big, long wall calender that shows the entire year on one page.  For every day that you write your 5 pages, you get to put a big red X on that day’s square.  When you write for several days in a row, you’ll have a chain of Xs.  The longer the chain gets, the more you’ll want to keep that chain going.  Don’t break the chain!  90 days later, you’d have your novel.

I haven’t printed out a big calendar yet, but I love this idea and my mind is already racing with ways I could use this.  Exercising, writing blog posts, doing something (anything!) to build more traffic, picking up my camera, networking/seeking link exchanges, SEO.

Or doing laundry.


New WordPress Theme

I’m blowing the dust off this site and started with a little housecleaning – upgrading to the new version of WordPress and switching to a new theme at the same time.  Still lots of tinkering for me to do to make this one customized enough to really fit the site, but I’m excited (in the geekiest of ways) to breathe some life into Webmaster Chick.

As for me, I’m still working from home, but as I went through the process of selling my house and a big move out to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve let all of my websites slide far too much.  The nice thing about affiliate marketing and being self-employed is that you DO still have income rolling in while you’re busy taking care of that life stuff, but the decline is noticeable and it will take some time to get back up to where it was.  The good news is – I get to take you along with me!

Since I’m going to be almost starting from scratch (and *will* be starting from scratch on a couple of new projects) I’d like to take some time to document my progress so that other people, especially women looking for their own opportunities to work from home, can learn from it too.

Off we go!


Just Cancel the @#%$* Account!

PC World did a fantastic review piece on their experiences signing up for & then trying to cancel several different web services, from NetZero to NetFlix.  There’s nothing I hate more than the misleading & deceptive offers internet companies inundate surfers with.  They make it hard for honest companies to do business over the web because once you’ve been burned & went through the hassle of trying to get charges off your credit card, you’re unlikely to want to buy *anything* off the net again.

The best advice I can give (& do give my parents) is to only buy from trusted, reputable companies & to set up a credit card just for using on the internet.  A low limit card is what you’re looking for here – no $10,000 Gold cards needy apply!

Which companies are reputable?  Well, you can bet that Amazon isn’t going anywhere soon, but they offer physical products.  When it comes to subscription services, here’s who PC World ranked as the Biggest Hasslers:

    • AOL
    • BlueMountain.com
    • Classmates.com
    • ESPN
    • MSN Internet
    • Napster.com
    • NetZero
    • Real Rhapsody
    • Real SuperPass
    • True.com

Click here to read the rest of the article from PC World >


The Best Present I Got This Year

No, it wasn’t peace, love or understanding, but Sirius Satellite Radio . The holidays mean long drives for me so it couldn’t have come at a better time. Driving from the city out to the rural farming area where my grandmother lives there is a noticeable lack of decent radio options for several hours. I don’t mind catching up with Art Bell on Coast to Coast AM if it’s late at night, but otherwise I’m stuck with my CD collection (mostly scratched from being in the car too long as it is) or hooking up my MP3 player (which is either not charged or full of work-out songs that aren’t as much fun to listen to you when you’re not sweatin’ at the gym).

So I filled out the on-line registration, headed down to my car to set up the antenna & tune the little box that was the Best Present I Got This Year & then back inside to make sure it all worked. Not difficult (especially if you had a 2nd person with a cell phone), but not something I can imagine my mom figuring out on her own.

Fortunately, the install was the most difficult thing about the service. I’m thrilled with all the stations & have been literally LOLing while listening to the Raw Dog 105 comedy station. I’ve found myself sitting in the car for a few extra minutes while I’m home just because I want to keep listening.

Fortunately, they have a solution for that too! I will probably eventually get the boombox thingie that you plug your car box into (I know… highly technical terms here), but for now I can just log in from my computer & listen while I’m working. Beautiful!

If you don’t want to invest in a box (OK, receiver) right away, doing a 1 month subscription to Sirius Internet Radio via their internet only system is a good way to go. With 100+ channels, you’ll probably find something you’re into, but if not, cancel the service & you’re done. No receiver to return or antennas to unstick. Easy!