Michelle Champion of Passive Income Online Blog started earning money online in 2009 as a freelance writer and quickly progressed to setting up and monetizing her own websites using Google Adsense, Clickbank and Amazon.
In this revealing interview Michelle talks about her internet marketing journey, her 3 sources of online income, generating traffic, overcoming technical challenges, outsourcing and her top tips for people starting out!
You can download the MP3 here and a PDF of the transcript here. Click the toggle below to show/hide the transcript!
[spoiler]Rob: Hello everyone it’s Rob Cornish here and welcome to this edition of the Gain Higher Ground podcast. Thanks so much for joining me – I really appreciate it and I think you’re going to find today’s session a great deal of fun and really valuable because we are joined on the line by Michelle Champion of passiveincomeonlineblog.com. Now Michelle is a fellow internet marketer with a really, really inspirational story which is why I’m super excited that she agreed to spend some time with us today. Michelle, how are you doing today?
Michelle: I’m doing pretty good. Thank you.
Rob: Well, listen, thanks very much for sparing the time we really appreciate you coming on the call today. Now I actually first heard about you through Joseph Archibald who was the first person I ever interviewed for Gain Higher Ground actually. But through your blog, I’m quite familiar with that and I really enjoy following you through that, but I think as I said in the intro you’ve got a really inspirational story so for those people who aren’t already familiar with you or your blogs perhaps could you start by giving a little overview of how you actually got started online right through to where you are today?
Michelle: Sure, sure, well my story is in the beginning of 2009 I separated from my husband and we had a one year old that I was caring for, well we were caring for jointly, well we were plasticising a pretty intense form of parenting called attachment parenting which really, I was the primary caregiver and it really emphasises the primary caregiver being there for the child during the first few years of their life and I was faced with this choice of either having to go back to work full time to provide for my son or find another way of being able to stay home with him but still earning an income. Immediately I started looking at different ways I could potentially earn money using some skills I had online. At the time that we separated I moved in with my mother who was about to go through some serious operations and she needed a caregiver as well.
Michelle: So I ended up basically looking into doing some work as a freelance writer to start with and I was working with companies like Text Broker and there’s a lot of places you can work online but for me my schedule was basically I was up at 5 in the morning looking after my son and soon afterwards my mother until about seven or eight at night when he, and sometimes my mother, would go to bed. I was pretty busy doing care giving responsibilities during the day and then I would get on the computer at night for two or three hours, basically as long as I could, and look for writing jobs that I could do and Text Broker was very easy and that’s the company I worked with most just simply because you just kind of log in, there’s a job there and you just take it and then you write and I would write for a couple of hours. And I was meeting my basic financial needs that way but it’s definitely not lucrative work but, you know, they pay you quick but I became very interested in the process because you would get these jobs that somebody wants you to write a 500 word article using the word buzzing bumble bees eight times and I would do it but I would be like “Why? What the hell? Why do I have to put in yellow buzzy bumble bees eight times into this article?”. That was kind of the way that I became involved and interested in learning about internet marketing. So basically I would search for some of the articles that I had written online and I would find them on websites that had Adsense on them and things started to click and I realised when you’re doing these jobs you know that people are somehow making money off of what you’re writing but you’re not quite sure how that’s working and so… So I started off… I was like “well, I can do that”. So I started off setting up some BlogSpot blogs and writing for myself basically and I knew nothing about internet marketing. My background is in the social sciences and I can talk to you a lot about feminism but I didn’t know anything about….
Michelle: … internet marketing or affiliate marketing. I didn’t even know what WordPress was and I had never even heard the word SEO. So I just basically started from scratch and I didn’t have much money to invest in any courses or any tools when I started up. But I found the Warrior forum which is a very popular internet marketing forum
Rob: Of course
Michelle: And started to read the threads there and particularly the ones focussing on Adsense and from there that’s…. I spent probably about the first six months just learning the basics of how to do keyword research. It took me about six months before I set up my first WordPress blog. I was very intimidated by the process of getting hosting and buying a domain and all that at first. But of course when you go through it the first time you are like “oh, that wasn’t so hard” and that’s basically how I entered into it.
Rob: Well, that’s fascinating. It’s a funny one because a lot of people say “well, how can I make money out of the internet right now?” well, actually, probably signing up as a freelancer maybe on a service like Text Broker or even something like oDesk for example would be presumably an option. Obviously that is not for everyone but if you do like writing, for example, then that could be a good route in. And it’s really interesting how you say that you kind of then ended up sort of almost reverse engineering the situation. You weren’t quite sure about what people were actually doing with your work but then you can find that on the web and then figure out “well, ok this is going out onto blogs” and people are monetising it through adverts which is obviously the Google adverts being Adsense.
I know you still do a lot of Adsense now. I presume you’re journey sort of progressed Michelle and you ended up, as you say, having your own blogs and monetizing that by putting Google Adsense on them? Is that the main step?
Michelle: Yeah, well, I think for the first six months I pretty much focussed on Adsense and think that’s pretty important for people when they are first starting out to kind of narrow their focus. Now I actually do have three main sources of revenue. Adsense still is a big part of it. Actually I earn more money through Clickbank now selling digital products than I do from ads. I’m hoping to get the ad income up. I really like earning through ads. It just feels so passive. And then I’m also starting now as of last fall I started to focus a bit on Amazon and targeting physical products through them. So I think that diversity, for me, is very important because you never know when you may have problems with a certain affiliate programme you are using or Google does something that changes rankings on your sites and you may lose a certain kind of site that you are building or stop earning as much from them. I haven’t actually experienced that yet myself but you are always cognisant, your Adsense account can be disabled over night if for some reason…. I don’t worry too much about these things. I haven’t had these experiences myself but you read about them a lot from other people. I feel that I try to follow good practices to make sure that that doesn’t happen but I’m not 100% that I can’t lose a revenue stream over night through no fault of my own really and so I tried to diversify a little bit. It’s always about because you don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket but at the same time you don’t want to get overwhelmed with trying to learn too many things at the same time especially when you are starting out.
Rob: Absolutely and I think we were talking about this recently with Patricia Jones, I don’t an interview on the blog with her, and she was really interesting to talk to because she was diversified in sort of so many ways. I mean, all sorts of amazing niches that she’s in from dolls house furniture to Yorkshire pudding recipes and all those sort of things. When actually her income streams were also diversified to some extent and as well. And one thing I really like about your blog as well Michelle is that you’ve actually… you are actually so transparent and actually do publish your earnings on your blog which is amazing. I know some other bloggers do it but you know it’s not that common.
Out of those three sources Adsense, which is obviously the Google ads, Clickbank, where you’re… presumably this is digital or mostly information products and also Amazon which you said is a newer source of income for you. What would you recommend for someone who is just starting out? Say they just started their blog, which one would you pick out of those three?
Michelle: Well, I think it really varies. I know I would like to give a real simple answer but I think it depends on what your blog is about as to what you are going to focus in on. I like Adsense because one of the…. when I just first started out one of the threads that I read about how to get started with Adsense on one of the forums was… they said something like just pick a topic that you are interested in and start writing on it and put Adsense on it and you will start earning money. And that’s true. My very first blog, I still have it going and it still earns me money every money reliably. I mean it’s not very much, it’s like 30 bucks. I didn’t know anything about keyword research at that point. I just choose the topic of gardening that I was interested in and just started a gardening blog. I started to rank, what I now know, for some very obscure lawn tails and I started making traffic and I started making money immediately. I think in the first month I made seven dollars but that first 10 cent click you get is so exciting. But the probably was so of these other affiliate programmes like Clickbank you can make money really fast with it and much clicker but it is very hard to rank with the key words since you need a target with the Clickbank product because there is so much competition for the same products. So it’s going to take you sometimes months before you make the first sale. But with Adsense you literally can start making 10 or 20 cents a day within a week or two of setting up your blog. It will depend on what kind of person you are, do you have the stamina to wait three to six months before you start making money or do you want to start making money now to help motivate you. For me Adsense was really good in that way. Because I started seeing money almost immediately. It wasn’t much but it kept me motivated to continue on and it kind of proved to me because I was like a lot of people when you start with “I don’t know if this really going to work out or not” or “Maybe some people can do but I can’t do it”, “maybe it’s a scam” so it’s not until you start actually seeing a little bit of money coming in that you, for me at least, that I felt like this is really the direction I want to go in and see and explore more. So once I got those first few dollars from Adsense I was like OK, I really can make money doing this and so it’s just a matter of really learning how to do it and that’s when I started to get into learning things about keyword research and that kind of stuff.
Rob: Well, that’s really interesting. I, looking back on my own experience since I started only in April last year, I think that quick wins are so important. As you say, that first click that generates you even a cent of income is really exciting. You can’t even spend it can you? Because it’s not even enough for them pay out. But you still actually earned something and I think that is a major motivation so I would say that Adsense is a great, great option because you also can put it on, sign up, it’ll take you a day or so to get Google to approve it, fingers crossed they do approve it, or course, and then you can potentially earn money straight after that and think that’s a very quick win. And then after that you can build and look to scale up and so on.
Michelle: I think it’s good to focus on where they can get the basic skills. The only thing I would warn against Adsense is that I think it’s really had to make a lot of money from Adsense very quickly. I think there maybe some exceptions. I’m a big fan of new method that has been developed which is actually a very old method which I have been using for a long term but with Adsense….
So, this blog I still make money but I only make 30 bucks a month from it so if I had just kind of stopped there then it would have been pretty disappointing. I mean, I could have… with my first Clickbank site that I built I think It got a click…. for some reason, for some really odd reason I made a sale on the very first hub that I ever put up promoting a Clickbank product. That hub, the second day it was up it made a sale for like 26 bucks and that was more money than I had made from Adsense in weeks. And so I was just like “oh yeah, so I’m gonna go this way too”. So I was really gung ho about Clickbank and I didn’t have another sale for like two months. That initial motivation was definitely powerful and it got me going but with Adsense the thing is it’s going to take a while to ramp up that revenue and that source and so there’s this thing… you want to earn money but it’s kind of like who much patience do you have? If you are looking to earn a lot of money really fast then Clickbank, maybe article bum marketing methods using Clickbank might get you going but that’s a really hard slog. You’re going to have to put in a lot of hours writing articles and they have limited life to it and you’re going to always have to…. it’s not very passive actually. It’s kind of the trade off. I definitely needed money but I wasn’t desperate in the sense that if I didn’t have…. if I didn’t make a thousand dollars next month I wasn’t going to be able to eat and some people coming into that are in that situation and their gonna need something different than Adsense to meet that need.
Rob: That’s true, to be fair that’s true
Michelle: And being a service provider is actually a really good thing how I entered into it because you learn the business coming in that way and you can learn a lot if you start maybe doing some work for somebody like learning how to backlink their sites or learn how to write articles you are going to learn a lot about internet marketing just doing that kind of service work for somebody else who is already more experienced that you. It’s almost like an internship of sorts. So that’s a definite way to get a learning experience while earning some money immediately if that’s what you really need.
Rob: Yes, that’s great. Now there is something that you mentioned a moment ago that…or towards the start of the call which was that you actually did feel a little bit intimidated the first time you actually had to register a domain name and also get hosting. It’s funny because that is the one thing because before you do it, it seems like a mountain to climb. It’s almost “how do we do this?” it just sounds quite technical and then after you’ve done it it’s one of the simplest things in the world. It’s funny because recently on my blog I posted a post called how to create your first website which was just a training video on how to do that and I just went through it very, very step by step and in the statistics that’s one of the most popular videos that I’ve actually put on the blog so that’s really interesting that I think as your journey progresses you kind of forget sometimes that it’s actually…. before you do anything it’s the hardest thing in the world and then after you’ve done it you just realised that it’s not that difficult so obviously you got over that hurdle but as you go along these challenges continue to come at you so how do you deal with that Michelle? I know recently you’ve been talking, about what’s a bit more of an advanced topic, blog networks and so and that poses some technical challenges. So what kind of mindset do you have to overcome that?
Michelle: Well, I think it maybe depends on there might be some core kind of personality traits. If you’re the type of person who really is fascinated by learning new things… I mean I certainly am and likes to be challenged then that kind of stuff I see something and I’m like “hhmm I want to figure this out”
Rob: Yeah, yeah
Michelle: But I know a lot of people in my life are very intimidated by technology in general and they just kind of get very flustered and then they don’t know what to do and they might give up really easily. I think one of the things that I try to do is I’m often going back and relearning some of the basics and then from there I use that as a launch point to an advanced thing. So, I know how to do Adsense pretty well now but I recently started reading other methods and other courses on that and so I’m always in the process of learning new things. Even when I think I kind of know something I spend probably more times reading forum threads and e-books and those kinds of things. I don’t go out and buy everything shiny new tool that comes out or every new e-book that’s published. I’m careful and I make sure there are good reviews and kind of get a sense of what the thing is about before I actually splurge on the new thing. But I’m always in the learning mode. I’m always learning new things and trying to find out how I can do what I’m doing better. So I just part of me is really fascinated by that kind of stuff and stuff that intimidates me technological and I kind of see it as a challenge and I go after it and I learn how to do it. I think I’ve spent… I’ve made a lot of mistakes on the way. I think my method is in some ways very slow because I definitely mess up and make mistakes. I have a lot of failed websites because it just… what I did didn’t work. The keyword research was off or I just totally underestimated the competition or something like there. There’s a lot of things. You need patience. You need to enjoy learning about this stuff. You need to be ok with failing and see that as a learning opportunity and be able to move on and not get too discouraged. I mean, internet marketing is also a very emotional business I found because you have these, especially when you’re full time income is reliant on it it’s like you have those days that you earn twice as much and then you’ll have two or three days where you’ll earn pennies and you’re ready to quit so it definitely is ups and downs. In the longer terms averages is useful if you’re feeling really depressed about things. If you read other internet marketers, Joseph is an example, you can see how he goes through these emotional ups and downs and I definitely do too. I’m not quite as open about it on my blog as he is sometimes. But it’s very tough emotionally so you need to come into that being aware that that’s the nature of this job. I can imagine I would be very upset if I logged in one day and found that half of my sites had been de-indexed or something like that but it happens to people all the time and so you’re gonna have to pick up yourself and move on so it’s this kind of weird thing internet marketing – the rewards are great – I have this passive income stream that if I stopped working today and really just put minimal work into maintaining these sites I would still have about $2000 a month coming in to me which is great and I can spend my days with my son and not have to worry about kind of meeting out basics in terms of financials but at the same time it could be that when something happens to the sites and then I’m going to have to start …. I probably wouldn’t lose all my income over night because they are so diversified at this point but I could lose a third of my income and then I would have to really build myself back up and be prepared for that potential. I’m trying to get to the point where even if I lost a chunk of my business it would still be ok financial, for me that would provide a certain amount of security.
It’s a strange business
Rob: Yes, it certainly is and it’s just the nature of it I guess is quite volatile and as Joseph has also talked about and others. It’s actually quite seasonal sometimes and perhaps people want to think about that and some of those things but I think going back to your original point it’s really refreshing to hear that Michelle and like I said part of you inspirational story is your attitude because whether it’s setting up your first website or domain or actually moving on to more advanced things like your blog networks and that kind of thing it’s just actually almost sometimes letting go of the I desperately need to earn money and more actually “you know what? I’m going to enjoy learning this and I like learning” and I think if you adopt that mindset, and you can adopt that mindset, that’s a massive boost and it will get you through all of those ups and downs. Like you say it’s inevitable that we all have websites kicking around where we just are waiting for them to expire because they haven’t worked so it’s a really… it’s great. Thanks for sharing that because I think it’s a really great thing that you’ve got there with your attitude.
Now back to on the income side which we moved on to talking about. I know you’ve got some quite ambitious goals for scaling up your income. What are you working on this year Michelle and how are you progressing towards your medium term goals?
Michelle: I decided for me it’s easiest to focus on one programme for a chunk of time so I usually kind of focus on one type of programme that I’m working on for three months. So for the beginning of this year I had been focussing on Adsense and basically what I had done was taken a look at the best performing ads and sites I had from last year, which was really my first full year in the business, and figuring out… I had one site that did really well. Like, spectacularly better than all the rest and looking at it and trying to figure out why. It was that it was much bigger; it wasn’t that it had much better content on it but there were two things. It had a certain theme on it that seemed to convert very well for me… a wordpress theme and it was targeting a very high paying Adsense keyword. When I set it up, it actually has a very low monthly search count, so it only gets like 20 visitors a day and I’m number one for that keyword but all I need is a few clicks to get money from that one. So I decided I’m going to replicate that and I’ve built another seven sites that are targeting higher keywords. It’s going to take a while for those sites to rank. They are actually moving up pretty well. I’m actually on page 2 and 3 for many of those keywords now so I’m looking forward to when those keywords hit page one and ideally top three. It took almost a year to rank that other site at number one for all its targeted keywords. I’m hoping that by fall… I’m actually going to build ten sites targeting high keywords so that those sites will be generating. If they can even do half as well as that one site I would be very happy. That one site is actually down a little bit because of the seasonal stuff but when the advertisers are paying at the top of their budget that’s how a website will bring me…it might seem like small amounts of money to some people but to me it’s a lot. That type can bring me 5 or 6 hundred dollars a month so if I could have like ten more sites performing like that that would be great. Even if they were at half that level that would be great.
Rob: So you’re basically working hard now and hopefully you’ll get the pay off maybe in the summer or maybe Q3 or Q4
Michelle: Yeah. You have to wait at least six months for these sites to rank where you want them to be and sometimes they will take even longer. Patience is really important. Always looking forward.
Rob: Absolutely! Well, that’s great. Best of luck with that. What I would like to concentrate on a little bit. Particularly from the perspective of someone who’s maybe early on in their career or they just built their first blog. You are very focussed on search engine traffic aren’t you Michelle? Have you done any paid traffic at all or is it all from SEO?
Michelle: All my stuff right now is from SEO. I did get a hundred dollar ad words coupon for setting up an account with host gator or something like that that I used. I just experimented with that hundred dollars and I think I pretty much broke even with it.
Rob: That’s good first go
Michelle: Which is probably better than some people but I looked at it in the end and though “ a hundred dollars in and a hundred dollars out”. I think there’s a lot to be said about PBC and I may go down that road but it kind of scares me a little in the sense that I think you can lose a lot of money really quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing with it and I don’t so it’s just not a field that I’ve really gone in and studied yet. It’s on my agenda of things I’d like to learn more about down the road. It’s just right now I really like the idea of ranking organically and getting traffic that way. For me that’s the most passive method of generating income and so rather than trying to run PBC campaigns all the time and seeing how their performing. I focus on traffic a lot because you can build the most beautiful site in the world but if you’re not getting any traffic to it that’s… it’s a waste. It maybe you spoke to you and your friends who might visit it but it really comes down to me so if you’re going to go down the organic ranking thing then you have to learn how to rank your site organically. Some people say you building 10% of your time building sites and 90% bringing traffic and it might even be more than that. Learning how to rank your sites it huge for me and it’s something that I learned pretty late in the game too. It wasn’t until I had been working for several months that I even understood what the term backlink or anchor test meant. I didn’t understand that stuff when I first started out and I’m still learning. So because that’s something that’s so important to me a lot of my blog is focused on generating traffic and different tools and methods you can use to do that.
Rob: So if you use an example of one of the 10 sites you were talking about before what would be the first thing that you would do? Let’s assume that you’ve got your site up, and I would presume it’s a word press blog, it’s all set up and you’ve got some content on it. What are the first steps you take to start generating traffic?
Michelle: Well, the first thing you can do is what I do. I usually write some ezine articles or another reputable; some might debate that, authoritative kind of article marketing source like ezine articles or go articles or one of those similar article directories. I like ezine articles because I immediately will see a boost in my rankings once my articles are published. Google, although they’ve been slapped a little bit lately in terms of their overall rankings, Google tries to determine which pages are more spammish I guess. They still seem very effective to me. It’s a little harder to get stuff through. They have a manual review process, they’re trying to up the quality standards so if you can write a good article and it’s worthwhile putting in time to writing a quality article – one that will actually generate traffic as well to your site. Not just a backlink. So if you write a decent article that people actually find interesting they may click through to your site and you may start getting traffic immediately to your site. It might not be very much, it might only be a few clicks a day, and then it can get syndicated. It might get pick up if it’s especially good. It will be picked up and published on other blogs. So you can start getting some organic traffic in a very good and almost a white hat… I don’t think it’s any attempt to manipulate search rankings which is what you are doing when you are writing an article with that backlink is you’ve already crossed the line but still it’s pretty tame in terms of backlink, to write ezine articles. You’ll start to generate traffic and start having better rankings immediately once you start doing that.
Rob: That’s great. I think you’re right about the quality as we’ve seen in the last Google update it’ll become more update is that quality matters and that’s what Google are all about. Getting articles syndicated starting with ezine is still great but they really do have to be as good as you can make them. You will get paid back if you make that extra effort. Do you think, I know you’ve talked a little bit on your blog about virtual assistants and outsourcing and so on, are you using any services like that at the moment or are you doing this all yourself?
Michelle: Well, right now I have two pretty good writers who are writing for me and both of them are actually from the UK. I started out using… I started out doing all my writing myself but once I had more than a few sites that just wasn’t doable anymore. I started working with some providers in the Philippines. I found that what I would get is I would get them to write articles that I would then have to go back and edit and that still saved me time but at this point I’m earning enough income that I’d rather pay the extra money and not have to spend the time doing any editing so I only outsource to quality writers at this point and I pay… it’s not that much but I pay between 10 and 15 dollars for a 500 word article but I know that the articles that I get back they are good to go and I can just put them on my site. That’s where I’m at. When you’re starting out you are probably doing most of the writing yourself and the you might start hiring writers. You can get people to write for you at really low rates like a dollar for 500 words or something like that but either you are going to put out really bad content and for some sources that might be ok if you’re just gonna take that article and put it on a blog somewhere just for a backlink then, you know, it might be well worth it but you’re actually trying to build some quality backlinks to your site you’re going to want to…I outsource both my ezine articles and my blog content to writers who are professional at a professional level
Rob: This is for the content on your own blog as well as, say the articles, you submit?
Michelle: The content on my blog, it has to be great. For the ezine articles it has to be very good and then there is… I do use lower level quality articles although you would be surprised what you can get. I use MTurks which isn’t actually available to people in the UK from what I understand.
Rob: Amazon Mechanical Turk
Michelle: Exactly, exactly and you can just post a job there for like two bucks and you can get an article written for you by somebody in the US and people will just write something up really fast. It’s often really good and if you don’t like it you can decline it, you don’t have to actually pay for it. You can submit over and over again until you get something that you like. For articles that are going to lower level directories or that I might be using with an automated programme like an article marketing robot that’s submitting to just really low level directories where it’s unlikely that people are going to be reading them too closely that it’s mostly just for the backlink purposes. For those I can use lower level quality but I still tend not to put out anything that is too bad. I just can’t do it. As a writer myself…if the grammar isn’t perfect I might use it for article marketing robot but if it’s…but for ezine articles you want perfect grammar and for my blog I want full SEO perfect grammar type content on those sites.
Rob: Absolutely. That’s really interesting. That might be one of the secrets to your success Michelle. I know a lot of people have been dumping articles that they’ve paid 1, 2, 3 dollars for submitting ezine articles and then not getting much traffic back. Well, maybe that is the thing, going back to the quality issue. You’re obviously paying a lot more than that but you are getting results. So going back to the is example, you said the first step after your got your blog set up then post to say ezine or go articles and how many would you do? Is that something you repeatedly do week after week or is it kind of like you do three and then you move on to a different strategy?
Michelle: Well, I actually have a report on my site that people have been downloading. I actually have a pretty detailed week by week thing and in the report I have my whole schedule as to what I would do. With ezine articles right now what I would do is that I at least backlink every major keyword at least once and I try to backlink the primary key word at least four or five times. Most of my sites have about 10 pages of content on them initially but they might only start out with five and then I’ll be adding a page a week for the first month. So I probably start off with between 5 and 10 articles and then what I do after using articles is publish. This is another thing you can reuse those articles. What I tend to do, either I outsource them to be spun at the sentence level so it’s not gibberish word level spinning but you know. Spinning by a native speaker. Then you can have that one article become a seed article that you can use for creating hubs and squidoo lenses and put them through article directory submissions processes and things like that. Excellent.
Rob: That’s brilliant Michelle. So you are obviously paying quite a lot let’s say for the initial article but you’ve developed a process where you are actually leveraging that massively. Yes, you’re paying ten dollars to get one article on ezine but then you can reuse that article and either gets it rewritten for cheaper or spun as well. That’s very interesting. So then you are generating your blizzard of links or low authority links that any website needs for its link profile.
Michelle: I’m a firm believer that you need links of all qualities as you might want to say and that for me, for instance, I tend to see the most movement in rankings when I use profile links which are something that’s much debated in the community as to their spamish qualities but…
Rob: Just for people on the call who may not know. These are links where you would join a forum or some kind of social site where you can set up your profile and place a link back to your own website.
Michelle: Even with those I tend to be pretty conservative. I only leave one link, I don’t spam it with fifty links. I also don’t build websites on spammy topics so you’re not going to find any Viagra links or anything like that. Different people rationalize what they feel comfortable with but for me this is just a page that the only person that is ever going to see it is the search engine and maybe the moderator so it’s not a huge but you can automate that process and you will see a huge boost. I started off with focussing on really quality links like ezine articles, maybe some hubs and lenses that are well written and you can make money from those also which is a ……
Rob: So all the web 2.0 sites have pages, squidoo
Michelle: And then I’ll probably do a mass article submission as well as maybe some other web 2.0 and maybe creating some profile links back to the site, do some social bookmarking so my sites will have backlinks from a variety of sources. Again, this is another form of diversifying for me I guess. So say a certain article directory like ezine articles takes a hit or say forum profiles are devalued by Google or blog comments or some may argue it has already happened, you’re still going to… since I have such diversity I might notice a small shift downwards but it’s not going to be major in terms of rankings.
Rob: That’s absolutely great, it’s back to the diversity point I guess. Well, that’s really interesting and one thing I’ve actually experimented with a lot and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the success I’ve been getting actually this year is guest posting. Because I was thinking, you know, ok so I need to get… if I’ve written an article where in an ideal world would I like that article to be and I’ve talked about this before but maybe it’s on CNN or something like that but ok, that’s not going to happen but where’s the next best place? I was thinking, well, a high authority blog in your niche, because Google obviously knows about the relevance of the links as well and takes that into account and that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s even as simple as going on to Google and searching for your niche keyword and then in quotes “write for us” and that can generate a whole bunch of guest posting opportunities. So that’s actually generating me an awful lot of traffic this year but I don’t know, is that something you do or are you more, you don’t need to do that?
Michelle: I’ve done that to some extent. A little bit. But more when I was starting out. I think I found that it was a lot of time investment. There’s no doubt that they are very powerful links to get and I know that some people like Paul Wand who has this book on how to make money with Amazon, there’s a whole group of internet marketers who that’s what they do. They do guest blog postings. It’s not something, however….. I think it’s something I have this abstract interest in and would like to do some more of but it’s just… it seems labour intensive. I think one of the reasons I’m not so attracted to it is because I know I rarely follow up on such requests by other people to my blogs and also because many of my blogs are in kind of fields where if they’re targeting physical products it just feels like it would be really difficult to do a guest blog post on it. I don’t know, I guess it’s something that it seems that there’s a lot of time investment in because you have to find the blogs and then you have get the article written whether you do it yourself or outsource it to somebody else and there’s just such a high kind of non-response rate in my experience and I know that I am part of that problem because I often don’t respond when people ask me. I think if you only have a smaller inventory website it’s a very good strategy
Rob: To be fair, I’ve just been doing this for Gain Higher Ground my own personal blog whereas I suppose if you look at say ten blogs that you’re running Adsense or Amazon Clickbank like you’re talking about then maybe yes, I can see that it’s maybe not as leveraged as possible really. It’s got pros and cons I guess
Michelle: The interesting thing is my personal blog, the passive income online blog, I’ve done almost no article marketing or any kind of active efforts to create backlinks to that site and it has more backlinks than any of my sites. It’s all white hat as you would say. But it’s mostly because I go to other people’s blogs and I comment on there and then people link back to my site and reference my stuff. So if you have a quality site you’re gonna get a lot of natural backlinks, there’s no question about that and some of them are going to be really powerful ones whether or not you are doing the guest posting or not. So there is this whole kind of school, just build your quality sites and you can make money that way. At the same time, I actually haven’t tried to write that site for any keywords either. I get good traffic. I don’t get half as much traffic to that site as some of my other sites and my purpose is not really to earn money with that site. I earn a little bit through some occasional sales. It’s not a big money earner for me. There’s different…. you have you find where you feel comfortable with. I think there’s a lot of investment if you’re just going to focus in on one or two sites you can really build a quality site that gets natural backlinks and this is what Google wants you to do right? It’s gonna take a while, you’re looking at a year to two year project there and I actually have a couple of sites that I’m working on that are kind of in that mode. They’re not on internet marketing but they have the potential to become a good quality authority site in their field and just gain natural backlinks that way and that’s great. But if you target a physical product this is what Google is doing themselves with their ad blogs. You’re creating a, hopefully, helpful site that helps somebody, say, choose a product out of many, you know, give them informed information but you’re not going to gain a lot of backlinks from that site once you get it up. You could maybe if you’re writing on certain products but it’s going to be a very slow process. So for me I have… there’s this thing called the Plato Principal, out of every ten sites that I put up maybe two are very successful and another five or six might generate anywhere from ten to twenty eight dollars a month. They’re not making a lot of money and there are a couple that I’m just going to let go. So for me at this point in my learning I’m just trying to build a reasonable amount of sites, between five and ten a month, I still very much feel like I am in the learning process and occasionally I’ll hit pay dirt and get a site that does really, really well and then I go back and look at it and see why that was so successful and I then I try to figure out and that’s part of the learning process. I can’t really do this kind of… first of all I don’t have the patience to wait two years for a site to rank organically through backlinks and on the other hand if you do that there’s no guarantee that that sites actually going to be successful. Could be that nobody likes it
Rob: Absolutely. Or the whole market could change
Michelle: So you just kind of experiment. I have a lot of… I think some may argue that I’m a bit too spread out. They may be the case but at this point I’m just trying a lot of different sites and trying a lot of different methods and see which really works. I don’t know if I’ll find one path because I like diversity but I’m still kind of learning my way and by doing that I feel that I need to have a lot of different experiments going at once and seeing which ones work the best for me
Rob: I think it’s really interesting what you say about your own blog. That you haven’t really done that much work and there’s tons of backlinks. But one thing you do do is blog commenting and I’m a really big fan of that because, and back to the guest posting idea because that’s similar, it’s not just got the SEO link benefits but people actually clink of the links as well but also you can develop relationships with other people in your niche. Actually I suppose is how we got to do this interview today Michelle
Michelle: Exactly, this is true
Rob: That shouldn’t be underestimated. I’ve seen a number of your comments, and just like you’re saying high quality articles that you put out, your blog comments are also very high quality I have to say Michelle. I’m quite impressed there. I need to up my game I think to keep up. Listen, I know we’ve been talking for quite a while now we’ll probably wrap it up. Before we do that you mentioned before about a report that people can get on your website so could you perhaps just remind people where they can find you on the web and how to get that report?
Michelle: Yeah sure. If they just go to my main page of my site. The website is passiveincomeonlineblog.com and just on the front page they will see an opt in box where you can sign up and you can just download the report. You’ll have to give me your name and your email and then you’ll get a link to download the pdf once you’ve confirmed it. It also signs you up for my weekly newsletter updates. If you’re not interested in them you can unsubscribe my feelings won’t be hurt. But I put a lot of stuff out in the weekly updates that I don’t publish on the blog. I don’t feel quite comfortable. I also do weekly earnings reports so if you want to join the newsletter I only use it for the weekly newsletter update. I don’t use it to spam people’s email accounts with affiliate offers or anything like
Rob: That’s really good and I definitely encourage everyone to go and get that report. I think obviously we’ve gone through a little bit of the process but there’s only so much we can talk about in the time we’ve got available today. I think what would be great for people with that report is that it is step by step. We talked very much from the perspective of being full time in internet marketing as you and I are both but for people who are part time and just have an hour or two in the evening I think that step by step process even more important because it really is important to focus the time know what to do. OK, I’ve got my site set up and these are the next steps to take to build things up. I think that will probably be really helpful for people Michelle.
Michelle: I totally agree. Even for me at my stage having a checklist that I follow through is what I need to keep myself on track
Rob: OK, brilliant. It’s been absolutely great. I’ve had a blast and thanks again for your time I really appreciate it.
Michelle: Thank you! It’s been a lot of fun
Rob: Glad you enjoyed it. Take care and best of luck for 2011 and we all look forward to hearing more updates through your blog. So thanks very much Michelle.
Here are the topics that we discussed:
01:05 How Michelle got started making money online
06:49 Michelle’s 3 sources of online income: Adsense, Clickbank & Amazon
09:50 Start earning with Adsense
12:49 The importance of quick wins and having the right mindset
16:49 Overcoming technical challenges
24:12 Goals for 2011
27:44 Traffic: Ezine, Hubpages, Squidoo, Amazon Mechanical Turk, profile links
41:52 Guest posting & blog commenting
49:59 Michelle’s free PDF report & Wrapping up
Don’t forget that you can access Michelle’s free step-by-step “how I backlink” report by signing up here :-)).
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