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  1. The One Thing You Need To Know Before Building Your Website

    May 30, 2011 by Mike
    As a web developer, I've built quite a large number of websites for different clients. In my experience building these websites, I've discovered that there is one major mistake that a lot of people make when starting a website. Frequently I'm asked questions like "Can you make a website for my business?". I certainly can. When I ask them my next question though, not everyone has a good idea. My question back is "What is the purpose of your website?" Now, I'm not asking this to be rude. I'm not even implying that there are thousands of websites out there that do the exact same thing. I'm asking because this is the most important thing to know before starting to build a website. If your webpage's purpose is to spread ideas, then a blog or wiki format will work, and these are design choices that I need to make, and they should be dictated by the purpose. If it's a website for your business, what exactly do you want visitors to your site to do? Is it to increase brand recognition? Is it to generate leads? Is it to actually make sales on the website? Once you know the exact purpose of your website, then you can begin building, because all of the other little questions will answer themselves.



  2. How Websites Generate Revenue

    May 23, 2011 by Mike
    The internet is and has been a gold rush. For the past decade and a half, huge fortunes have been made and lost online. There's the monsters, like Google and Facebook, and then there's the individual millionaires. The supposed stay-at-home moms who make six figure salaries online. This post will teach you about the different ways to make money online. However, a note of caution: This blog is not about how to become a millionaire overnight. I'm not trying to sell you any sort of get-rich-quick scheme, because those are inevitably false. At the time of this writing, I don't even have this blog monetized. This is my personal blog, and as such, I am writing merely to teach what I have learned. Without further ado however, the four ways to make money online are: 1. Collect Donations 2. Sell Advertising 3. Sell Your Own Product 4. Sell Someone Else's Product That's it! Those are the ways in which people make money online. I think you'll find it pretty all-encompassing. (However, if you have an additional method I'd love to hear it. Please reply in the comments.) I'll now go into a high-level overview of each method: 1. COLLECTING DONATIONS There are a number of websites which take in most of their revenue through donations. The most obvious are non-profit organizations or charities. The ASPCA's website, which I have chosen for the puppies and kittens factor (www.aspca.org) is designed almost entirely around collecting donations. Examples of this are: A: The middle of their navigation bar has a Donate link, which is also the only link with an icon, and it's front and center. B: They have a rotating slideshow banner which presents a large orange DONATE button C: The top item in the left navigation is Donate D: The bottom icon in the left navigation is Donate There's a number of other donate links on here, but the point is, non-profits and charities bring in an overwhelming amount of income through donations on their websites. Please note: I do not specifically support the ASPCA or have any affiliation with them. It's not just charities and non-profits that collect revenue through donations, however. Many hobbyists, or people who create content just for fun collect donations to help support their hobbies as well. I'm the webmaster for Mordeth13, over at www.m13online.com. Mordeth collects a number of donations on his website from fans who like his videos and help him support his hobby of shooting videos. Donation collection is a great idea, if you want to build a website where you share something that you create as a hobby and collect donations in exchange for it. 2. SELL ADVERTISING This is probably the biggest thing that's currently happening online right now. Almost all of google's revenue comes from selling advertising online. Advertising revenue is what the social media companies make their money off of too. Plenty of bloggers put up adsense in order to make an income off of their blogs as well. Other sites like forums will typically use a combination of advertising from google, as well as direct forms of advertising, such as sponsorships or so-called "Media Buys". The way to make money is specifically to find products that are relevant to your site's visitors, and then to sell advertising space on your website to companies who have products relevant to your visitors. If your visitors don't find any relevance or desire to click on the advertisements on your site, then you won't make any money. A word of caution about selling advertising, however. I frequently hear people tell me that they're just going to put up a blog and put google adsense on it, and that they'll be raking in the dough. None of these people have ever actually come to me and told me that they ARE indeed raking in the dough. Adsense payouts are relatively small. You have to have a huge amount of traffic to your website to quit your day job if you're using adsense. YouTube partners are probably the best example of this. I work with David Choi of www.davidchoimusic.com, who is a popular YouTube personality. He has millions of video views. You need to expect to be in the tens of thousands or millions of views per month in order to make Adsense pay anything substantial. 3. SELL YOUR OWN PRODUCT Personally, I think that selling your own product or services online is the best way to make money. I believe that if the entire internet is just made up of free content paid for by advertising, then it's just advertising money chasing around advertising money, and pretty soon you'll lead to a collapse, since nobody is actually purchasing anything to create money. So, the alternative to this is selling your own product. Most small businesses who have a website are doing exactly this. There's physical products (like a TV or a Car), there's services (like web development, legal services) and there's informational products (ebooks, music downloads, movies). Most of the websites that I work on and produce are built around selling an actual product. I am the senior web developer for www.stylelife.com, and Stylelife sells a number of physical and informational products. There's a subscription product for the Stylelife Academy, which is aimed at teaching guys how to attract women. There's also sales of conference tickets, books, and other materials as well. I've also worked on websites that are designed around getting leads for a brick-and-mortar business. One example of this is www.rigidgarage.com. Rigid Garage is a company who specializes in garage door installation and repair in the San Jose area. Their website is designed around collecting user information so that they can then follow up and provide visitors to their site with quotes on installation, and sell their product that way. 4. SELL SOMEONE ELSE'S PRODUCT The last option is to sell someone else's product. This is the so-called "Affiliate Marketing". Basically, you sign up as a reseller to someone else's product. You create a website that is relevant to the same kinds of people as would buy the other person's product (Similar to the advertising) and then they give you a special link to their website which contains your affiliate ID, and then they are able to track the amount of people who come from your site and purchase something on their website. This can be as simple as sitting down with a friend who has a business and offering to send them sales, and them paying you per sale. This can also get very complex as there are Affiliate Networks, where the network essentially acts as a middle-man between many different sellers (affiliates) and many different products. There are different types of payment structures, but the two main ones are CPL (Cost Per Lead) and CPA (Cost Per Action). The type of payment structure determines if you get paid when someone actually purchases a product, or if you get paid when someone just submits their information. IN CONCLUSION, I hope that this has helped better your understanding of the different ways to make money online. This is geared fairly specifically at people who are building or own a website, but you can use other avenues online as well, such as Craigslist (Typically selling your own product), EBay (Again, your own product), Google Checkout (For sales or donations), etc. There are many different outlets to make sales online, but I have covered the main methods, and will go into more detail on each method in future posts. Please comment if you have any questions or there's something that I missed.



  3. A New Type Of Yellow Pages

    December 8, 2010 by Mike
    I remember before google, and before we took the internet seriously, if I wanted to find a local company like an Ice Cream store, I would check the Yellow Pages. Once in the Yellow Pages, I'd go through the list of phone numbers and call each one until I came to a company that had what I wanted and interested me. Now that we have google, if I'm looking for a business, then I google for it. If I'm specifically looking for a company that's in my area, I'll do a google maps and target by location. If I google, I get results based on my keywords based on relevance determined by google's proprietary algorithms, and paid links that will appear at the top or on the side. Something I've worked on for several small to medium sized businesses is building their websites so that specifically they generate search engine traffic, traffic to their pages, and then spent a lot of time studying page layouts, optimizing pages, using marketing tools to get people to submit their information. That's what most company websites are about - generating sales leads. But most company sites are terrible still. If I want to buy something I'll typically go to google or amazon for consumer goods. However there's not really a good website out there for business to business purchases. If I wanted to buy Lumber, for example, I'd have to punch it in google and search around for all lumber providers in the area. This isn't something that I can just purchase on ebay. I'd have to then go to the top 5 or so companies websites and email them all asking for a quote (if I can't find one on the website). This is incredibly time consuming. I believe that if there were a website that was similar to the yellow pages, or amazon, or google, but had a specific layout and specific company information and that the website made it easy to compare companies, offered third party opinions about these companies, etc, that I would spend a lot less time on searching as far as Business to Business type transactions go. I would also be more likely to request a quote, or submit my personal information to a company which is verified as reputable by a site I consider reputable. The advantages to sellers would be pretty large as well. If all that I had to do was put up specific information about my company and sit and wait for leads to roll in, this would be great. I wouldn't have to worry as hard about throwing a ton of money at web developers and marketing copywriters, etc. Especially if this website already had a userbase of customers that I would be tapping into by registering with this company. If then I heard my friends and other people I know saying that their business has really taken off after getting on this website, I'd definitely join and wouldn't mind paying money for preferred listings or other features that would allow me to do more business. As a freelance web developer, I've used sites like elance and rentacoder to try to get work. I've also used craigslist. I've also used other websites where I've had to "sell" myself, like online dating sites. If someone built a site for me where I could sell my freelance development, these are the things that I'd look for:
    • Easy to use (sign-up and information gathering process baby-steps me through putting in relevant information
    • Large user-base
    • Search engine indexing for my company page
    • Ability to receive sales leads from people requesting quotes. (Even if someone didn't specifically look at my profile, but they indicated to the site that they were interested in having a website built, and I got an email informing me of this and giving me the opportunity to contact this person and try to sell myself, this would be huge)
    • Ability to take the conversation off-site, especially after first contact is made. E-lance and Rentacoder force you to do all communication through their interface, and I find this incredibly restricting.
    • Ability to perform tasks and distinguish myself from other developers. I'd like to be rewarded for spending time on building my company profile. I'd like to be directed towards how to get the most value out of my information.
    • Actual customers contacting me
    Anyway, that's just some thoughts off the top of my head. If this idea has interested anyone, or you have thoughts, or if someone built you a website that would allow you to sell your product/services, what features would you want?



  4. Tracking Pageviews On Craigslist

    December 1, 2010 by Mike
    I've recently been forced to put my 2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder up for sale. I decided that the easiest place to put it up would be to put it up on Craigslist. Obviously the cost/benefit analysis of posting on craigslist is definitely worth it. I could have my car ad viewed by people for free. But, the question is: how many people would actually click and see my ad? Craigslist Home Page When you put up a Craigslist ad, I don't know of any way to track the number of times that ad has been visited through any sort of Craigslist interface. I'm sure there's probably third-party tools that do similar stuff, and you could probably install counters or whatever, but I decided to roll my own. Craigslist allows you to put in limited HTML. There's even a handy Craigslist HTML allowed tags over at: http://www.craigslist.org/about/help/html_in_craigslist_postings/ Obviously you're not allowed to run any sort of server side code; they strip out javascript, but they do allow a few HTML tags and they allow inline CSS. (Which they don't mention on that howto). So I decided to steal an old trick from email marketing, and create a 1x1pixel image link to a php script on my server. <img style="height: 1px; width: 1px;" src="http://www.myserver.com/script.php" alt="" /> Whenever someone visits this page, they'll trigger script.php to run. You can use $_GET variables if you want to track different posts with one script, you can store it in a database, you can have it email alert you whenever anyone views the page, the sky's the limit. Personally I was just hacking it together quickly, so I had it send email alerts to a throwaway email account. It's definitely not the most elegant solution, but if you want to see what I did, it's here: <?php mail("xxx@yyyy.com","MR2 PAGEVIEW", "MR2 PAGEVIEW"); ?> And the post itself (while it's still up) is here: http://losangeles.craigslist.org/lac/cto/2088021757.html



  5. 3 Ways To Trick Yourself To Do Work

    May 5, 2010 by Mike
    I often find myself sitting in front of my computer staring blankly ahead, zoning out. I'll have a to do list written up and staring me in the face, but I'll still be browsing facebook, digg, twitter, all of these sites, even though I've already read everything on them. So when I'm sitting there in that sort of downtime, there's a few tricks that I use to get productive. 1. The Twenty Minute Trick This is an oldie but goodie. I certainly don't claim to have invented this myself, although it has helped me hundreds of times. Basically, when you have a task in front of you and the amount of time it would take to do it looms overhead like storm clouds and daunts you from attempting it, what I do is tell myself "I'm going to do this for only twenty minutes, and then I'm going to take a break". Even though the task is going to take a lot longer than twenty minutes, I realize that even if I only complete twenty minutes of it, then I'm going to be twenty minutes closer to finishing when I start it up again later. Once I've sat down and started working on it for twenty minutes, I'll generally have enough momentum built up that I can continue on, ignore the break, and actually seriously sit down and accomplish the task. (Full Disclosure: I seriously seriously love Skagen watches. I originally called this the fifteen minute trick, but then I found a skagen watch with twenty minutes between its hands, and decided to change the name of the post.) 2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize This one's pretty easy. As long as you have a sense of purpose ;). It also only works if the crap you're trying to do actually fits into your larger goals in life. (Math homework probably won't work here). You need to picture yourself where you want to be in life; picture the job/possessions/people that you want in your life. If you want a lamborghini and a swimming pool, think about that and focus on it, and then realize that standing in the way between you and your expensive cars and lifestyle is the stuff that you're avoiding doing. So sit down and start doing it. Or, if you're a cat, stop staring at the goldfish and just grab it already. 3. Promise Yourself A Reward This is the one that your parents tried desperately to get you to do your work when you were younger. Or at least my parents did. I remember when I was in sixth grade, Pokemon had just come out on Gameboy, and most of my classmates were getting and starting to play it, so I wanted to get it and try it. I went out and bought Pokemon Red, and on the way home from the store, my mom took my copy of Pokemon Red, and gave me a copy of Moby Dick instead. Then she said "When you finish Moby Dick, you can play the game". A dastardly trick, to be sure, but I was sure happy about it when I got to A.P. English in 12th grade, and flew through the Moby Dick section of class. Anyway, enough about Moby Dick. More on the technique: Whatever it is that you really want to do, or want to get, if you want to go shopping or watch a movie, or eat, tell yourself that you'll reward yourself with that after you finish the task at hand. Using the carrot instead of the stick. And yeah, I caught them all.



  6. How To Avoid Jealousy In A Relationship

    May 4, 2010 by Mike
    I think we must first start by understanding what jealousy is. For the sake of this discussion let's limit jealousy to that found in relationships, and not the types of jealousy that come from other origins, such as materialistic envy. I think that jealousy is, at its root, a crisis of identity. I believe that jealousy is a type of anxiety or worry. Jealousy comes as a result of putting too much of one's self-identity into another person; i.e. becoming reliant on an external source for one's definition of oneself. For example, people who feel they are falling in love, often put huge amounts of their self-worth into the arms of the other person. They rely on that person for compliments, for praises, and for criticism. In short, they cease to judge themselves, and rely on the other person's judgement in order to determine who they are, and what their value is. What then happens, is that when a person has given a significant amount of control over to another person, then all is well when they are together. Because these people are together, they're able to easily judge and see how the other person feels towards them, and then they will mirror those feelings at themself. If your partner is happy with you, then you are happy with yourself. If your partner becomes angry with you, then you start to feel significantly less good about yourself. While most people don't give up 100% control of their emotions and self-worth to their partner, they often invest significantly more than they necessarily think they do. When people are apart and are this heavily invested, then they start to feel worry and anxiety, because they're not sure how to feel about themself. Because they're so reliant upon their partner, in their partner's absence, they worry "is he/she thinking about me?" "how does he/she feel about me right now?" "is he/she thinking good things about me?" "does he/she like me?". In this sort of absence, worry and anxiety start to take over. A person is looking for something, any sort of sign to know how to feel towards him/herself. This is why, a simple "hello" text message in the middle of the day can incredibly change a person's mood. And then we come to jealousy. That ugly green devil. Jealousy is a direct result of the identity crisis caused by putting too much stock into another person's opinion of yourself. When your partner is with another guy/girl, and you're already starting from a state of mind where you are dependent upon the other person to know how to feel towards yourself, then the uncertainty becomes even larger. The fear of your partner deciding that they like someone else better than they like you is the key fear here. This is because, if all of your self-worth is stored in someone else's opinion of you, then if that other person likes someone else more than you, then it means that that someone else, by default, is more valuable than you are. Suddenly your self-image, self-worth, and self-value will plummet. But I think that jealousy is mainly an anxiety towards the possibility of this happening. So, now that we understand jealousy, how do we avoid it? Well, the simple answer is, don't let your self-worth depend on the opinion of others, even if it's the opinions of your close friends, loved ones, and boyfriend/girlfriend. By avoiding this from the beginning, you can avoid this pitfall of jealousy. Unfortunately, if you're already feeling jealousy, it's a dangerous sign that you're already too reliant on another person for your own happiness. So you need to ween yourself off of that dependency.