Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Update Regarding Email - Important

Over the years I have made it a point to give a high level of personal attention to each and every email that arrives in my Inbox. Considering the sheer volume of questions that I recieve, it is a huge task on my end to send a personal response to each and every message... but in almost 9 years, I have kept it as a high priority.

This was key in building the foundation to my business in the beginning, particularly when I was managing a service-based business. I enjoyed getting to know people in the industry, helping people with start-up ventures, sharing resources... and made some incredible friends and contacts along the way.

That said, it has become almost impossible for me to keep up with the messages that arrive on a daily basis at this point. It is very time consuming for me... and costs me a great deal of working hours that I would prefer to spend with paying clients as well as completing my own projects. This has been an ongoing issue for me the last few months, and after some careful consideration I have come up with a few changes to my business model and work schedule that I feel will be beneficial for everyone involved.

Effective September 1, 2005 I will no longer be accepting personal messages via email. I have a revised communication model going into effect that will route all messages to more appropriate (and effective) means of accomplishing the same - or better - results.

Any and all questions may be posted in the appropriate category on my Discussion Forum. Suggestions for new categories may be posted in the Feedback section. If your message is of a personal nature, you may use the Private Messaging function to reach me. Use of the Forum does require registration, but it only takes a minute or two to register as a Member of SSWT.

You will find that there are many benefits to Membership at the SSWT Forum, including: networking, sharing resources, brainstorming, idea generation - in addition to fast and thorough answers to any questions you may have about online business or internet marketing topics.

You may also set up a Profile which includes your photo (optional), a link to your website and a detailed Signature file which will appear below each post that you make. This gives you an opportunity for increased exposure and targeted networking... not to mention the benefits of the inbound links to your website that you are creating with each post ;)

Please take the time to post your messages in the most appropriate category, and to be as specific as possible. Private Messaging is for personal messages only - all business related questions should be posted on the discussion forum. Myself, along with moderators and active members of the SSWT Forum will respond to your questions ASAP.

You will find the Members to be extremely resourceful, very open and welcoming - and offering a wide variety of experience and expertise to add to your discussion.

If you specifically need expert consultation or hands-on assistance with your project, you may join us at Turning Ideas Into Dollars! for only $12.97/month (rates subject to change). My partner Andre and I will work with you personally to develop a business model or to tweak your current business model for increased profit potential.

There is no contract involved, so you may join for as little as one month to see if it is a good match for you, and stay a member for as long as you like. Your rate for membership will never increase from the rate applicable at the time your account is activated.

Many of our members at TIID are quitting their day jobs, reaching their goals, or even launching their first e-business in record time! This is a very serious, fast-paced community... and a group to which I am 100% committed. If you need my help, or would like my input, becoming an active member of TIID is the absolute quickest way to get that ;)

Directing all correspondence to either SSWT or TIID will allow me to respond to messages from any location, giving me greater control and freedom over my schedule and lifestyle. Ultimately these changes will allow me to become even more productive... while continuing to help others to do the same.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Interesting Biz Opp - Your Take?

I would like to open a candid discussion on this particular business model, and get your take on it: . This is an opportunity to start a Professional Payroll Business.

I happen to know the owner and a bit about his professional background, and personally I was impressed. Starting your own service or product based business can take a considerable investment of time or money - or both, in addition to other resources. Franchises are generally too large an investment for the majority of people. And Direct Sales is simply not for everyone...

This particular opportunity struck me as being something completely different - and easily "doable". It would give someone the opportunity to start a professional business from a home office - without having to start at square one and spend years fine tuning the business model.

Take a look at the link above. I'd love to hear your opinions on the page, the opportunity - even the package. I am not in any way affiliated (outside of knowing the owner)... and I dont profit in any way from this post or any sales made through that site.

That said, I am so impressed with it at this point that I intend to sign up for the affiliate program so that I can add this to my website as a solid home biz recommendation - which is part of the reason I'd like to hear your opinions on it.

It doesnt matter if you're interested in it personally... I'd just love to hear your overall thoughts. As general or specific as you like. I just havent seen many legit business opportunities such as this one with such a solid support system & guarantee...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Watching Katrina

I've been keeping my eye on Katrina, the hurricane that came ashore in the gulf coast. We are expecting what is left of her to move through Tennessee late tonight and through the day tomorrow.

School has already been called off for Tuesday, so they must be expecting severe weather - or at least flooding in the rural areas. Our local forecast (coming out of Nashville) is saying:

Expect an overnight and your Tuesday with following conditions:

-Heavy rains with possible flooding
-Tropical storm force winds of 40 mph and higher
-Wind gusts up to 50mph-Severe storms with high winds and isolated tornadoes possible..
-Localized power outages

Hoping everyone in the path of this stays safe... I'll be online as I can over the next couple of days ;)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Wholesale Drop Shipping

I sent this offer out to my subscribers this week, but thought I would post the resource here as well... because this "eBay Certified Drop Shipper" isnt just for ebay ;) You can use them for online web stores as well:

The free trial is a great offer. Check it out and see if you can work with some of these products in your online business ventures!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Great Content!

I ran into some great content sites this week while doing some research on various topics. The first one I'll share with you was an Introduction on Debt Collection Agencies. The pages were short and layed out very well - with a menu of the entire subject at your fingertips, page after page. The "call to action" at the end of each section leads you through the entire topic... and then at the very end they offer you a link to "start a free collections quote request".

This is a GREAT example of quality content, and of leading the visitor through your site page by page and straight to the buying decision. Very nicely done.

Another good content site that I ran across this week was Why Drinking Water Really is the Key to Weight Loss. The article was fun (loved their writing style!), VERY informative with tons of detail...

I know a lot of you are working on creating quality content sites for your affiliate sites & adsense sites. Hopefully these two examples will spark some ideas for you. I also have some tips for creating Website Content on the SSWT site - would love to hear your thoughts on those as well ;)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Prepping Sites for the Holidays

It's hard to believe it's almost the end of August, but here we are - with only 4 months left until Christmas. With that in mind, I've been hard at work on my own sites this last week - updating templates, adding content, looking at new merchants and gaining fresh inbound links.

I have several sites in various niches, so I want to make sure that my reach is wide and that I am able to capitalize on the increase in sales over these next few months.

One of my affiliate sites (similar to the dart site but in a different niche, and over 500 pages of products) is getting a complete make-over. This is the affiliate site that I launched last November. I used a very basic template, and basically put it out there as a "feeler". It's done fairly well in terms of revenue, and is now showing decent PageRank and getting frequent link exchange offers.

To me this means it's time to really dig in ;) I like to give a new site at least a year before I make any decisions on it either way. I havent done much with the site at all since the initial launch, but it is making sales on a daily basis now... so it's high time to put a little time and energy towards it.

I'm starting out with a new template - still simple enough, but a fluid design (full screen, no matter the resolution) and more organized navigation. I've also added a mailing list to this site, and am replacing Adsense ads with ads from the Yahoo! Publisher Network (Yahoo's version of Adsense).

I removed Adsense from this site a couple of months ago. It got great click-through's, but the payout was entirely too low to compete with the affiliate programs I promote on the site. I'm going to give Yahoo's contextual advertising a try to see how it fares... but it's going up via SSI (server side includes) so that it can just as easily come down if need be ;)

What about you? Are you getting your sites ready for the big "shopping season"? This just may keep me busy right up until the big day itself!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Affiliate Site Task List

Now that I have the new affiliate site up, it's time to check over my notes & ideas and put together a task list for the follow-through. This is a critical step that a lot of people skip, but once you get a new website complete you really do have to get the ball rolling - and then keep it rolling.

My current task list for the dart supplies website looks like this:

  • Find new affiliate programs so that I can add:
    practice boards, out charts, flights & shafts
  • Create an autoresponder message for my Dart News mailing list
  • Split the price list into categories
  • Add alt tags throughout the site
  • Install a discussion forum
  • Get inbound links to each of the pages
  • Tweak Adword campaign
  • Submit XML Sitemap to Google
  • Set up a "darter's journal" on
  • Look for content & tips
    (search for articles, good posts on dart forums, reprintable material, etc)
  • Add printable '01 Chart to the site
  • Organize my Dart Links page into categories:
    dart software, dart forums, dart videos, etc

Google still has not indexed this site, but Yahoo did within a few days and MSN followed shortly after. I have been able to drive traffic to the site from Google via Adwords though, so things are off to a good start.

I have a bit to do yet in the Inbound Links department, and of course the blog & sitemap will help as well. I'd better get to work - League starts on Sept 7th and I'd like to have most of this up and ready to go by then ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

My daughter left me a post-it note...

We're coming to the end of the 2nd full week of school. Finally getting into the swing of things and pretty much adjusted to the early bedtime and 5:30am mornings. The kids seem to have a good routine, and things are going well.

This morning I got a bit of a surprise though - and a really good laugh. Zack and Ann Marie got up and got ready for school, ate breakfast and they were off. I checked over their book bags, gave them a hug, started some laundry and ran a quick errand in town.

When I got home and sat down at my desk there was a paper here... with a yellow post-it note attached. In my daughter's cute little 8yo handwriting was a note that read:

"read it please. then tell me what it says."

I had to laugh :) I imagine she expects me to add this to my to-do list for the day and have that completed by the time she gets home. She obviously learned this one from me. LOL

What a great way to start my day :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Worst "Link Exchange" Email

I take my Link Strategy pretty serious, so when I received a "link exchange email" this morning I took a quick peek. Granted most of them are canned spam... but I usually give them a quick scan anyway to see if they might grab my attention.

This one was the worst requests I had ever read... I had to laugh.

Dear People,

I'm looking forward of making links for our websites that have good page rank on the links directories.

I just want an honest link exchange. If you would like to trade links with me just mail me back on this e-mail address.

Give this to your link guys or webmaster if you have no clue what I am talking about.

Best Regards,
Jessica -----

Dear People?? LOL She really does sound exasperated with the whole ordeal, doesnt she? I removed her last name, by the way - she didnt sign it with the ---- ;)

She never mentions her website address, or which of my sites she is emailing about. I figured it out by the address that she used... but there's not even a links page or directory ON that site. Would I reply to something like this? No... Who would??

It really pays to have half a clue WHO you are emailing when you are seeking inbound links - and also to provide enough detail about the proposed exchange to give the recipient some idea as to whether they are interested or not.

In last week's issue I listed some Q&A on Link Building - most of it coming from really good discussions on various forums around the 'net. If you didnt get a chance to read that issue you can find it at the link below:

--> A good link strategy makes a BIG difference!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Check Out NetShops

A couple of days ago I told you about NetShops - the Affiliate Network that I chose to use for my new dart supply site. I actually did quite a bit of research on affiliate programs for dart supplies before going with at NetShops - the pickings are slim in this market for some reason. By the time I found NetShops, I felt like I'd hit the jackpot!

Not only do they have a great set-up for, but they also host programs for a great variety of physical products in other niches. Bakers racks, patio furniture, bar stools - you name it!

They also offer data feeds for each of these merchants... which really got the wheels turning. Their August Newsletter got my attention too - here's a snippet:

DynamicWebSource Datafeeds
We have recently partnered with DynamicWebSource, a service which provides affiliates with code for building a spiderable website based on datafeeds. Unlike Goldencan, DWS technology gives you a fully indexable website, including self-guided navigation for the user. Buy a domain name, plug in the code and you're done. It's that simple.

Once I got my dart site up and running I decided to log back in and check things out a bit. I looked at DynamicWebSource - which is a fee based service - but I also found that NetShops offers you copy & paste code to use the data feeds on your site in three different formats.

I decided to test it out. I chose PHP because it looked easiest, and copied that code. I pasted it into a blank page, and saved it - naming it "test.php". I did have to edit two little things within the code, which were the datafeed I wanted to use and my affiliate ID. That's it. It took all of 3 minutes tops... and that included uploading the file and taking a look at it.

Here's an Example: Bakers Racks

Now, obviously that needs some work. Customization, formatting, etc. But to have a merchants entire product list in HTML... already embedded with your affiliate link... in less than 3 minutes? That's hard to beat! And if you already have a program that you use for datafeeds, even better.

But even the totally do-it-yourself wont-spend-a-dime person can get great use out of this feature. Very nice! I also did a quick look at the merchants within NetShops - every single one that I looked at had a decent market.

If you're looking for products, programs, or opportunities to make more money online... Join NetShops!

Oh - and I almost forgot to mention: they offer excellent stats! I can look at the impressions and clicks across all merchants at a glance... but I can also click through to look at exactly which products were clicked on. This is a valuable option to any serious affiliate marketer.

You can also refer new affiliates to the NetShops network, and earn 2nd Tier commissions on the sales that they make. This month (August '05) they are offering a $50 bonus on your commission check if you make at least 10 sales... Not bad! ;)

There are a lot of good reasons to join NetShops - take a moment and check it out. I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, August 15, 2005

2 Minute Favicon

A favicon is the little icon you sometimes see in the address bar of your browser - or when you bookmark a site and it has a unique icon next to it. You'll also notice when you save a link to a website that uses a favicon on your desktop, it has a custom icon.

It's a great way to encourage repeat visitors, to make your link stand out in someone's bookmarks or on someone's desktop.

Anyway, it's really simple to do. Just go to: and click the browse button to select an image on your hard drive. Obviously you want to use your site logo, or an image that represents your site well.

Everything is self-explanatory from there. You will download the favicon it creates for you, unzip it and upload it to your web server, then add a line of code in the head of your web pages. Bingo! The "two minute favicon" ;)

I added a dartboard favicon to my new site. Check it out: Dart Supplies . Bookmark it, and save a shortcut to your desktop, to see how it looks. You can always remove the links you create, of course - but go ahead and play around with it. It's simple enough to do, and I'm sure you'll see the value in this quick task.

Credit goes to Maria of for sharing this resource at the SSWT Forum.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Latest Project: Dart Supply Site

I launched another new "affiliate site" this week, this time on a topic that I truly enjoy: . The idea for a site on dart supplies is one that Albert and I have been tossing around for the last few months - mainly because we buy our own dart supplies online, and play every week at local tournaments.

The timing was good as League starts up this month, and everyone is getting together to form teams and organize sign-ups. I spoke with the guy that runs our group (MTDA) about the site at a tournament earlier this week, and offered to post all of the events & score sheets - and any other information he had - on the site all season.

That turned out to be a good deal for us both. He needed the info up on the web... and the site will benefit from the word of mouth referral throughout the MTDA. It will be a place they can look up their ranking - and something to bookmark and check back on.

There isnt a place to buy dart supplies here locally. Most people have to wait until a big tournament where there are sponsors and suppliers... or drive to Nashville or Chattanooga to one of the nearest stores that carry a decent selection.

Still, the prices online are generally a lot lower (not to mention saving time & gas money). Albert and I scout eBay just about every week for good deals, in addition to checking out the few good dart sites that we buy from. In fact, we just got a set of power point darts on eBay yesterday for $10 (a great deal, I know!).

Anyway, the site went together pretty quick. I did a bit of research and found an affiliate program that I liked - the products were good, prices were right. I chose to work through NetShops because they house a number of great programs, and also offer dynamic datafeeds.

Outside of the product pages, there isnt a lot of content just yet. But I imagine that will change as the season kicks in and the site grows. There will be weekly updates for League & tournament details... and I'm considering a discussion forum. There's plenty of room for this to expand depending on participation & feedback from our local group.

Other "content" areas I'm working on: event listings worldwide, practice drills, links to Pro events (Phil Taylor, etc), and any articles or other information I can find that would be of interest...

Back on topic - I found a great program, put together a simple template and researched Keywords. From there the site went together fairly easily... although I have to admit that I formatted the product pages manually (instead of using a program to create pages directly from the feed). I added a mailing list, of course (through my account at Aweber)... and that was it.

Next on the list are the basics:

- Start an Adwords campaign (done)
- Create an XML Site Map to submit to Google
- Get quality inbound links pointing to the site

I started working on the Link Strategy (#3) yesterday and found that there are quite a few sites, directories, blogs & forums on the topic... so quality links shouldnt be too difficult to get. Most of the organizations & associations are happy to exchange links, too, so that's a good place to start.

I'm looking forward to working on an affiliate site that I have such a personal interest in. It's one thing to 'promote what sells'... quite another to have something like this that you truly enjoy.

I'll be signing up for the Fall League this Wednesday. I've never played on League so I am really looking forward to it. I've made some great friends playing in the local tournaments... and even won a little cash here and there ;) A few of us are heading up to play in the Music City Classic this weekend, too - should be fun!

Here's the link: . Feedback & suggestions are welcomed!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A drop in affiliate sales

I've noticed a number of merchants - specifically in the Internet Marketing niche - switching their landing pages to "Name Squeeze" pages instead of the original sales copy. These pages require a name and email address in order for the visitor to get more information, sometimes offering a free report or e-course... other times just offering access to the sales page.

I understand that they are doing this in order to build a targeted list that they can follow up with... and also that any sales made during that process will result in commission for the referring affiliate. However, I've noticed a major decline in conversions with the merchants who are using this method.

Personally, I'd like to see merchants notify their affiliates of these changes in advance - or at least when the change is made. I've only noticed the changes to the landing page after seeing the drop in sales and then checking up on the site to see the reason.

It would be nice, too, if they offered affiliates a choice of landing pages in this situation. That way we could make a decision about our promotions - such as whether we want to promote the "free course/report" or the actual product.

I noticed another merchant made this switchover after a recent promotion that I sent out. I mentioned the product, and gave the link for more information. That link didnt give them the information they were looking for though... it took them to a "name squeeze" page instead. Visitors had no way to get the details or see the price of the product without signing up for a free course...

Your thoughts?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Monday Morning Coffee Break

It's so quiet here this morning... I thought I'd make a pot of coffee and organize my desk a bit, as well as my thoughts.

The children started school this morning. It was quite fun. We got up around 5:30 and I was able to get a 20 minute work-out in while they showered and dressed and made their beds. I double checked their book bags and that they had their lunch money... and waited with them for their bus.

I used to drive them to school, but this year we all agreed that they would take the bus. It's very convenient, and a good way for them to make new friends - or a time to catch up on reading if they'd rather. And after a little calculating, we figured out that we would save over $1,000 in gas and 180 hours in time (um - *my* time) over the course of the school year.

We'll see how this works out ;) Hoping for the best...

Anyway, it's a nice day here. The weather is considerably cooler. It rained for awhile this morning, but now it's just overcast - with a high of 82 forecasted for the day. It's nice. Very nice :)

No noise. No heat. No running through the house, or spontaneous trips to the pool in the middle of the afternoon. Just me and my work... and a hot cup of coffee :)

Oh - dont get me wrong. I miss them already! LOL... But there will be plenty of time this evening to give them my undivided attention, hear all about their day, and be "Mom". 100%. With no distractions from my work... because I will have it all done and put away by then ;)

Every season has it's perks. In fact, I love the beginning of Summer as much as I love the end of it... because by the time the school year ends, I will be ready to throw routine out the window and have some care-free sleep-in no-schedule fun for a few months!

Friday, August 05, 2005

School Registration

Geez, what a week! I managed to survive it - getting the kids registered at each school, new shoes, new jeans, school supplies, bus numbers & lunch numbers & room numbers & ... *sigh* I am totally exhausted after chasing all of these things down this week LOL.

Registration was a nightmare. I am SO glad we only have to do that once a year! Zack is going into the 8th grade and Ann Marie the 4th. There was a lot of paperwork, a huge crowd, and all to go through with very bored and impatient kids.

The "parent room" at the Middle School was a real shocker. This was a classroom that was set up for parents to tour - alone, no children allowed. After being rushed from the auditorium to the library to the classrooms - all while keeping tabs on my almost-14yo and filling out papers along the way - I had no clue what I was in for when we were pointed to the "parent room"...

The first thing that caught my eye when I entered the room was an oversized computer monitor displaying a porn site. It caught me completely off guard and as I looked around the room I realized what I was in for. Song lyrics, newspaper clippings, diaries, notes, teen magazines, condoms, prescription drugs, household cleaners, you name it.

It really was an eye-opener to the environment of teens. The things they are surrounded with, from music to peers. Everything that is available to them over the counter - and even... at home.

Zack is a good kid. I'm certainly not ready to have to worry about any of that... but the sad truth is that we really should keep our eyes and ears peeled - and the lines of communication more open than ever. How sad.

But this is it - his last year at middle school. Next year it will be high school and a drivers permit... and, well I guess it all just goes from there. I guess we just do all we can, and hope for the best, right?

School starts on Monday, and I know the kids are looking forward to seeing their friends again and making new ones. As for me, I'm looking forward to having quiet work hours during the week days again! :)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Shopping for a Treadmill

Just out of curiosity, I hopped online today to check out treadmills. I love to go to the gym down the street, which is very close and very convenient... but they dont open until 7am and it's usually pretty crowded (anyone smell an excuse there?? LOL).

So I thought I'd check out what they had online at - which is quickly becoming one of my favorites for the bigger items. Like I said... just curious, but thinking it sure would be nice to have one here at the house ;)

I sorted them by price first and was surpised to find one for $80. However I have absolutely no idea what to look for in a treadmill - features, length, manual vs electric, etc. I just know that I want something that is comfortable, relatively quiet and easy to use.

Luckily, they had a Treadmill Buying Guide right there just a click away... so I checked that out to get a better idea of what I might want. Good info, so I went back to the search. They have really good breadcrumb navigation on the site, so I clicked all the way back to 'Exercise & Fitness'.

They had one of those Gazelles listed there under the Hot "As Seen On TV" Items. I dont know if you've seen this one on TV or not... but I've seen it a lot recently on a car insurance commercial (Geiko, if memory serves). It caught my eye for that reason, but I was looking at treadmills so I kept browsing...

Later I was talking to my Mom and it turns out that she has a Gazelle - and says its a great machine. Sold! And after looking at the pricing between that and the nicer treadmills... it was definitely the better value - all the way around.

Next came the comparison shopping. I have to say, I was really shocked to find this item going on eBay higher than anywhere else.

You can get the basic Gazelle Edge Trainer at for $94.46. Shipping is estimated at $16-17... plus I know from past experience that they charge sales tax on their online orders (almost 10% for me).

My mother had mentioned checking out Tony Little's website, so that was my next stop. It turns out that they sell the Gazelle Edge Trainer (same model) for $99 - with free shipping :) So this was the final choice for me - definitely sold, adding in the 3-pack DVD set to boot!

On eBay they were going for around 100 bucks (if not more) - PLUS anywhere from $30 to $60 for shipping charges! And yes... they had bidders. What a shocker. Wish I could post a big flag to point those bidders to the better deal!

I'd love to hear some feedback. Anyone using the Gazelle - or what do you have at home? What do you like or dislike about it... or what's on your wish list??

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Back to School

Summer was fun. We had our trips to Lake Winnie, Fall Creek Falls, Rock Island, the big Flea Market in Cookeville, Stone Door on Beersheba Mountain... We ate tomatoes straight off the vine, swam in the river, planted flowers in the back yard and played in the off-season dart tournaments on week nights.

We had some good times, no doubt, but it's time to get back into a routine now as the kids start back to school and summer break comes to an end. The week ahead will be busy getting the kids registered, finishing all of the shopping and getting the house in order so that we can fall back into the school schedule.

I'm looking forward to it. Things will quiet down and there will be a lot more "mom time" again. Time to focus and get back to work. The weather will start to cool off. All good things :)

School starting back is also a good time to make some changes. I'm planning to work in 'chores & allowance' for the kids - something more structured than in the past. I also have some personal goals of my own that I want to work towards, and this feels like a good time to set that into motion.

Change is good. And it's always a good opportunity to adjust your routine or create new habits.