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Monday, April 16, 2007

Caldey Island Trip

We had a lovely day out last Thursday. We jumped on a boat from Tenby's Castle Beach and headed off to Caldey Island. Elis had a blast, and so did I. Took loads of photos - both me, Mrs Dio and Elis. We all caught the sun and came back knackered.

Rather than put a massive gallery on the homepage where no one had the option but to download a lot of images, I've gone and created an individual page of images over in the Digital Gallery section of the site. That way, only those who wanted to opt-in to look at them would, and my bandwidth wouldn't go up too much. Don't know why I didn't think of it before.

So, if you'd like to read more about the day and see some nice photographs, there be the Caldey Island Trip Gallery.

Posted by Dio Bach at 12:14 | 1 comments | links to this post
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Using Build A Niche Site And AdWords To Make Money

Anyone not interested in web marketing and website creation stuff may want to skip this as it's going to ramble a bit and be a bit techy - a real dip into the work I do at the moment. An old BBC colleague of mine asked this of the Commercial Art site I set up and mentioned recently.

"Isn't there another a way of embedding a syndicated feed of an ebay subject-specific search result? If so, what's the benefit of using Build A Niche Site software? Also, is this a way of generating income beyond the Google ad clickthroughs? (Commission on ebay sales?) As you can tell by my questions, this is an area I'm not too familiar with." Gareth

Rather than make a long comment, I've opted for a long post instead that others getting into affiliate and search marketing may also find of interest.

You can build a syndicated feed of your own with the Ebay API and Editor Kit (will need to be signed in to play with it.) It creates a javascript sniplet that will bring up listings as you desire and you can embed it into any page you like that will accept javascript. Going one step further you can plug in an affiliate ID and then get commissions on any sales you make via your affiliate link. I've been using this for a while in a few places - here for example, but the downside is it's a bit too adverty for my taste.

Technically speaking, you could also scrape their new RSS feeds and embed them in your sites, but then you won't be making money off them as they are just straight links with no affiliate ID in them. That would probably be frowned upon though - spammers could use it to generate content, but the average user wouldn't have any incentive to do it.

Build A Niche Store (henceforth called BANS) is a PHP script that basically does the same as Ebay's own thing, but looks a lot better and is easier to theme thanks to its standard templates. Better still, it's easy to include into existing templates of your own (it's essentially 7 PHP includes and a MySQL backend). Once you install it on your server (10 minute job if you take your time) you go to the configuration page, add your Ebay affiliate number in tell it a couple of things and it's done. If you're an AdSense publisher - you can also add your ID so you can earn off the AdSense ads as well.

The basic install gives you just one page - index.php which is all the listings in a category of your choosing. However, this is where it gets clever, you can start adding queries in the URL to build unique pages. So, say you want to build a page that's just about, let's see, Derek Brockway - you simply apend a query to the URL - /index.php?q=Derek+Brockway. That will give you a page of just items with Derek Brockway in the list.

Say you're hot and bothered and don't want to wait for an acution to finish - you can add more parameters to the URL and get only Derek Brockway items with a Buy It Now Option. The URL would look like this: /index.php?q=Derek+Brockway&bin=2. You can do all sorts - max price, min price, newly listed, etc - all essentially from one page.

If you add your own navigation you can quickly set up some very specific themed pages just by linking to the index page and your desired query string. I altered the template and added the A-Z bits and favourites to the navigation. Here's a list of single pages I've made using this theory. If you hover over the links, you'll see they're all pages with a search query.

In this case I've actually made an individual page for each theme, but you could just use index.php and all the queries strings instead to create virtual pages. To do each page I just copied and renamed index.php to each of the gallery-name.php pages.

Why? Well, to aid the SEO side of things so I could have unique content on each page over and above that of the results listing. This can also help bring the AdWords costs down as it makes the pages more relevant, and send the AdSense earnings up once again thanks to the relevancy.

In a nutshell that's the joy of BANS, the fact you can quickly make both a niche rich site and make customised pages really easily. The possibilities are huge. One day I plan on using it to do a few things - rare VHS videos, nostalgia toys, etc - to fit in with existing sites I have on the go. For most, that would be enough, but for me, it's a quick way of honing my AdWords skills - we'll look at that now, I'll show you an example.

Now, I called my pages themed pages, which they are - but they also make really good landing pages. Landing pages are the key to making a profit in sponsored search listings like AdWords. Here we go - we'll look at this page on painting of dogs. Now the theory goes something like this - you find people who are looking to buy paintings of dogs, give them a relevant ad that appears when they search for dog paintings, and they find you, and buy via one of your links.

In this case I've used a load of search keyword queries that will trigger my ad - Dog art, Dog Wallart, Dog Canvases, etc. Take a look at this one and you should see I have an advert among the ones on the right hand side. I set a maximum price I will pay for each visitor and try to tinker with it to maximize return on my costs and profit on top. It's very tricky - I can do it in some areas, but not all.

Some of my keywords may be too broad so as to get to many clicks (pictures dogs may be a perfect example) for no sales and some too narrow as to not get any searches at all. It can get pretty complicated as you have to second guess searches intentions. Picture Dogs could be someone looking for a homework picture or to buy a masterpiece. Hopefully the ad would only appeal to the one, and exclude the other from clicking on it (as it costs me when they do!) This is where I plug the excellent book by Andrew Goodman - Winning Results With Google AdWords - that's worth a read if this is an area you want to try.

This one is a bit of an experiment for me - I'll spend about £20 and see how much, if any profit I can make on sales. Ebay can be lucrative if you can strike the right balance. Currently you get a hefty cut of their fees (25-50%). Depending on the finishing price of the item, that can soon mount up. The real winner though is if you send them a new Ebayer - they pay £7 for each new account on top of the final fee cut.

As to how this experiment is doing? Well, so far not too good. I've spent £5 and only made about 80p. That often happens, so you need to tune things as time progresses. If I got a new sign up tomorrow, then I'd be into profit. There's a lot of swings and roundabouts.

This is a new area of affiliate sales to me so I have a lot to learn. In other areas it's currently doing really well, plenty of profit to invest back into these experiments into new areas. It's well worth playing with - if you can get the balance between keyword lists, sales, costs and effort - it can be very rewarding.

Posted by Dio Bach at 22:59 | 6 comments | links to this post

Cold Island And Warm Island

We'll we're getting a bit more settled right now, although just as we started to get a routine with Elis' new school, it's Easter and we're all over the shop. Been working intermittently on odds and ends and enjoy lots of trips out. No photos I'm afraid, but I'll have to take my camera with me tomorrow as we're planning to take Elis over to Caldey Island for the day.

I've been there a couple of times in the past, not for over 10 years though. There's some nice stuff on the island and great views. I'm looking forward to it. Elis has been cracking me up. A couple of the beaches here at Tenby look out on to Caldey Island. I've been trying to teach Elis the place names around here. So I points out to Caldey and says, "what's that island called?"

He points out and says "That's Coldy Island," then he moves his pointed finger to the other end and goes "And that's Warm Island..."

Will get some snaps no doubt. And if you ever get the chance to sample the monk's handmade Caldey Island chocolate - it's highly recommended.

Posted by Dio Bach at 13:35 | 0 comments | links to this post

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