This is the story of a novice internet marketer who has spent a miserable, frustrating and expensive twelve months learning the lessons of selling on the internet – the hard way! However, he believes that he has turned the corner and is now looking forward to, at least modest, future profits. That person is me, and I would like to share my experiences with you in the hope that your journey will be less painful than mine. I am certainly not suggesting that the lessons I learnt are definitive, nor will they apply to every one else who embarks on a campaign of internet marketing. I am merely recounting what happened to me and the problems I encountered.
My journey started in November 2004 when I attended a conference with a speaker who was, by his own admission, an internet millionaire. He, like me, was a professional speaker but he had diversified into selling his products and services to this world-wide market. Like many of my colleagues, I had previously heard bits and pieces about internet marketing and I was hungry to learn more. It is true to say that I was captivated by his story and, especially, by the rich pickings that he said were out there on the net, for relatively little time and expense. ‘Make money in your sleep’ was a phrase he used. I was inspired – well, who wouldn’t be by the prospect of working at home for a few hours a day whilst watching the money flow in 24/7! I bought his pack of tutorials, ebooks, CDs etc for $500 – my first investment in this Brave New World.
Interestingly, I write this article the day after attending another meeting that had a speaker again telling us how easy it is to make serious money on the internet. Whilst I do not doubt that such people indeed do make a very good living for relatively little effort, believe me, it is not easy! Making money selling products or information on the net is not a quick fix! Like any new business (for that is what it is), it takes time and effort to learn all its intricacies. Unless you have a product that people want to buy; a web site that sells it effectively; and a means of driving lots of people to it, you will end up throwing good money after bad. Hence my first lesson
Lesson No 1. Do not believe all you hear from internet experts who tell you how easy it is to make your fortune. It isn’t!
Let me continue my story. So, off I went on my new venture. I eagerly read the information that I had just bought, along with lots of other advice and guidance from internet marketers. Many recommended additional software that would make selling on the web more effective. I took their advice and bought some of the products they championed, for example a programme for making attractive website banners, and another that promised to produce amazingly effective sales pages for the website that I was to produce. However, the banners I made were far from attractive and when I sought advice from the company I bought the software from, they failed to reply. As for the sales page generator, it did teach me some good lessons but was far too inflexible and restrictive so I soon reverted to writing my own copy.
What I did not realise at the time was that the internet marketers who were recommending these products were affiliates: they received a commission from every sale resulting from their recommendation. I now know that affiliate marketing is big business and can produce significant income flows. In fact, let me put my cards on the table: I am going to recommend two products to you later in this article and I will gain a commission if you take my advice. However, these are products that I truly believe in and have been extremely helpful to me. I believe that they are worth every cent to someone serious about making money. You can, of course, take my word for that, or not. At least I have been up-front about it!
Lesson No 2. Beware of advice from ‘experts’ who may be more interested in making money as an affiliate than in helping you.
Of course, to make money in any business you have to have a product that people want to buy. What was I going to sell? Well, I have always been fascinated by quotes – words of wisdom from those who can add so much meaning in so few words. Indeed, my first book is entitled ‘Leadership Quote Unquote’ and contains a host of quotes from, as my publisher added to the book cover, ‘world figures – the famous, the infamous and the downright dastardly!’
Imagine my excitement when I researched how many people were looking for quotes on the internet. Google estimated that over 5,000 people every day searched for an appropriate quote. I estimated that if I sold my book for $25 and one in a hundred people who clicked on my website bought my book, I would make $369,014 profit a year. Wow! Even if only a modest one in three hundred bought it I would still make $61,684. Wouldn’t you be excited by that income earning potential?
To cut a long story short, whilst lots of people do regularly seek out appropriate quotes, I now know that very few are prepared to pay for them! Why should they, when they can get them for free on other websites? I am now just about breaking even with this particular campaign – a situation I am prepared to accept for the time being as the website does provide me with other spin-off benefits. However, I have subsequently diversified and am now selling a number of other information products, using a different website for each – some more successful than others. Inevitably, not all sales campaigns will be initially successful, hence you have to continually fine-tune several aspects of the marketing process to gradually improve their effectiveness.
Lesson No 3. It might sound obvious – but make sure that you sell something that people want to buy.
Note: The purpose of this article is for me to share my experiences with you. It is not designed to be an internet marketing tutorial. I am not, therefore, going to go into detail about technicalities such as website design, Google AdWords, Google AdSense, market testing, copy writing etc. That said if I have whetted your appetite and you do want to learn more, email me at [email protected] and I will send you a free ebook all about creating successful sales websites, entitled ‘The Three Page Site Builders Manual’ ( I make no money by doing so!). Also, if you are really serious about creating a profitable internet marketing campaign consider checking out the specialist guidance of Perry Marshal, especially his ebook entitled ‘The Definitive Guide to Google Adwords’. This is one of the two products that I really believe in and that I mentioned previously. A link for you to learn more about him is provided at the end of this article.
The next step on my journey, having deciding that selling quotes was to provide the basis of my pension fund (!), was to design a website to sell my ebook. The most well-known website design software, and the one that was recommended to me, was Microsoft FrontPage so that is what I bought. Unfortunately, I found it to be extremely confusing, frustrating – not at all user-friendly. I did make a website but it was far from professional. In fact, a friend of mine who is a successful internet marketer politely commented that he would certainly not buy anything from a site like mine!
He went on to tell me that he had recently discovered a new website design programme called XSitePro that is two thirds the price of Front Page and infinitely easier to use. In fact, he was in the process of redesigning all his many sites using it. Having faith in his advice, I shelled out $197, bought the software and was absolutely blown away by it!
XsitePro is designed specifically for people who sell on the internet. It is so easy to use that I am now churning out professional-looking websites in less than half a day – and they work. In fact, having not sold one of my ebooks for weeks beforehand on my FrontPage site, I launched my new site, using XSitePro, and sold one within half an hour. I could hardly believe it!
Hence, my fourth piece of advice. I make no apologies for being so direct – if you want to produce easy websites that sell, click on the link at the end of this article and check out XSitePro. The link takes you to a web site that I have made to tell the world about, what I believe to be, the best web site design software available today.
Lesson No 4. Don’t waste you time with other website design software, buy XSitePro.
So, once you have designed your website, you will need to ensure that your potential customers can find it. Essentially, you have two choices: work hard at driving it up the search engine rankings or pay for the privilege by using Google Adwords. Perry Marshall’s ebook ‘The Definitive Guide to Google Adwords’ goes into great depth about making the most of AdWords but, essentially, you bid to have an advert promoting your website featured on the right-hand side of a Google search page as a ‘sponsored link’. However, you only pay when people click on your ad.
Most experts will argue that using Pay Per Click (Google Adwords) is the best way to promote websites of limited size like the ones internet marketers use to promote their products. And that is what I did.
Unfortunately, though, I did not pay sufficient attention to setting up my sites. I accepted Google’s recommended daily budget; set my pay-per-click rates too high; advertised in too many countries and advertised in its content network as well as its search network. Perry Marshall’s ebook explains all these settings in fine detail. I only wish I had bought it in the early stages because I ended paying much more than I needed to.
So, I had set up my Google AdWords campaign and was up and running – but was not selling any products. I was, however, getting hundreds of clicks a day, so was ever hopeful. My wife and I then went away on holiday and I put my internet marketing campaign out of my mind, in the confident knowledge that when I returned my In Box would be full of orders.
Imagine my horror when I returned to find no product orders but a $700 Google AdWords bill. It doesn’t take much time to accumulate those costs when you are getting hundreds of clicks a day; you are selling no products; and your daily Google budget is set at $50!
The lesson here is crucial. In the early stages at least, you MUST keep a close, daily eye on your Google AdWords account. As time goes on and you have fine-tuned your account you can leave it for a day, or two, but initially you must not let it get out of control.
Lesson No 5. Keep very close control of your Google AdWords account in its early stages
I mentioned previously that you must fine-tune your ad campaign if you want to maximise its sales potential. The critical factor here is the Click Through Rate (CTR) – how often people click on your ad when it is displayed on a page of Google search results. If your ad features 100 times when people enter, for example, ‘inspirational quote’ as a Google search term and two of them actually click on your ad the CTR would be 2%. Improving the CTR is important to maximising your sales potential.
This is a very detailed process where specific changes, for example trying out different ad formats or even using capital letters in certain areas of your ad, can make a real difference to your CTR. Perry Marshall is an accomplished expert on using Google AdWords and I have, personally, learnt a great deal from his ebook.
Lesson No 6. Work hard at fine-tuning your Google AdWords campaigns to maximise their CTR and, if your website and your product are attractive, your revenue will gradually increase
And so to the last lesson that I have learnt. Going back to where I started, I have realised that making money on the internet is not, as I told my wife, ‘the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’. However, I do believe that there is serious money to be made by people like me who are prepared to work hard at ensuring the three essential elements are in place, namely:
• A product that people are looking for and are prepared to buy
• A website that is effective in selling that product
• A sales campaign that directs people towards your website
Personally, over the last twelve months, I have struggled on all three counts, and have thus paid the price. However, I have learnt my lessons and am confident that I will now begin to reap at least some of the riches that definitely are out there on the World Wide Web.
I have been told that my experiences are not unusual. Surprise, surprise: contrary to what some internet experts tell us, very few people strike gold immediately. It takes time and a lot of hard work and determination. It does not surprise me, therefore, that many people who embark on the journey as I did, fell at the early hurdles. My final lesson, and piece of advice, is therefore to ensure that your internet strategy is sound and then work hard at making it successful.
Lesson No 8. Don’t give up – make it work.
Here are the links for the two products that I am happy to recommend. To see the website I made to promote XSitePro, please go to [http://www.diy-websitedesign.org]. To check out what Perry Marshall can teach you, please see http://perrymarshall.com/cmd.php?pg=305720
Copyright Alan Cutler 2005
This article is written by Alan Cutler. Permission is granted to copy and use it for any purpose as long as it is not amended in any way.