Ads Pro – A Slick But Flawed Advertising Plugin

Continuing with my advertising plugin for WordPress series, I’d like to talk to you about another effective advertising plugin called Ads Pro.

This plugin is only available on CodeCanyon and to my knowledge doesn’t have any free version to test, so it’s daunting to put money on the line when you’re not sure if it fits your needs or not.

As such let’s go through the plugin and see how it functions.

ads-pro

Ads Pro Setup

This plugin is pretty easy to set up. To begin with it’s a standard install with no other requirements – it’s self-contained unlike Advanced Ads which required Woocommerce.

The plugin is usable without the purchase code but some features are locked until you add it in, meaning use on a development site might potentially get tricky.

Other than that, the settings are straightforward for things like payments and notifications.

The settings also allow you to customize the look of things without needing to resort to CSS. This can be good for those with no or only rudimentary CSS skill but if you know CSS fairly well you may find the styling options limiting.

The plugin integrates with BBPress and BuddyPress so has appropriate options. It also has a “hooks” area where you can add advert shortcodes at specific points such as after the 4th paragraph of content or after the content.

Ads Pro Review - hooks

Ad Spaces

Before you can create adverts you need to add a Space. These are effectively groups and they cover everything from the cost of the advert to the number of adverts shown, order, devices etc.

Each space allows you to limit the number of adverts, which is great especially if you’re looking to sell advertising space.

This is also where you’ll be adding the style of advert, which I found odd, but you can select from a wide range of display types including:

  • Carousel – slide or fade
  • Top or Bottom Scroll Bars
  • Floating (4 options)
  • Pop-up
  • Corner Peel
  • Layer
  • Background
  • Exit pop-up
  • Link

It’s also here that you’ll define the template or dimensions of the adverts. There are a lot of standard sizes here such as 125×125 and 728×90 and so on.

A somewhat unintuitive feature is available to create custom sized templates. This Standard Ad Creator menu doesn’t appear at first and its wording didn’t tell me what it was. Still, you can create custom template sizes which is good.

Creating an Advert

Once a space has been defined creating adverts is really easy.

Ads Pro Review - create advert

As you can see it is pretty much selecting the billing model (if you need that) and adding a URL and image.

The one thing I fell afoul of was image file size. The plugin doesn’t really state what to use and I noticed that larger image sizes got rejected and that rejection reset all the data I had added.

Displaying Adverts

If you’re not using the inbuilt hooks or the (very basic) widget then you can also display adverts by adding their shortcodes to locations in content or if you’re technically minded by adding a PHP snippet to theme templates.

Ads Pro Review - test advert

Here’s my test advert after the 4th paragraph using an Amazon logo as my advert image.

Advert Analytics

Whilst pretty and effective I found the analytics area for Ads Pro to be messy and overwhelming and this is before I added any adverts!

I think it’s made worse by having sections for the extensions even though those extensions were not installed.

Overall though you do get the data that you need in order to see how the adverts are performing.

I also noticed that additional clicks/views per user account were not recorded which is usually a good thing.

Ads Pro also includes an A/B testing system for the adverts (though again this only becomes visible after you create an advert).

Ads Pro Review - ab test

A/B testing is a great way to check how an advert is performing and is also a great selling point.

However, the A/B tests that Ads Pro provides are very flawed. Instead of what you would expect of one or the other advert being shown to see which advert performs best, Ads Pro basically just compares the data of the two adverts.

Really this is not an A/B test as both adverts are still shown at the same time!

Selling Adverts

Once you have some Spaces set up you can sell adverts to people. This is as easy as adding a shortcode to a page.

Ads Pro Review - buy advert

It’s a simple method to sell adverts that look professional. The only thing that seemed to be missing was how to provide more information and direction to potential customers for example about image sizes. Sure you can this to the Space title but that’s limited.

Geolocation

As well as being able to select certain pages/posts and categories to display ads, Ads Pro supports geolocation at the Space level.

This means that each space can be only shown or hidden for specific countries. You can even narrow it down to specific cities or zip codes.

Support

Support is done via Code Canyon and the author seems responsive enough, often answering within hours or a query.

There Are Extensions

The core plugin for Ads Pro is sufficient for most people’s needs, but it does have several extensions that you can buy to expand its feature set:

Ad Templates for Cornerstone

This extension adds integration for the Cornerstone builder plugin making it easy to insert adverts into those templates.

WordPress Affiliate Program

This extension allows you to leverage affiliates for generating more advertising leads.

WordPress Marketing Agency

Want to sell adverts on other people’s sites? Then this extension is for you as it allows you to become an advertising agency.

Is it Developer Friendly?

Can this plugin be easily extended? Well it depends on what you are trying to do. For minor things it should be fine as I found 16 action hooks and 15 filter hooks in the version I tested.

That being said, the use case I needed to modify the plugin for could not be done due to a lack of hooks in the right places, probably because 12 of the action hooks focus on content alone.

As such if you have a complicated use case then I would say there’s no decent way of extending this plugin.

The Bottom Line

Ads Pro is a great plugin but it has flaws. It looks great but seems to lack in certain areas and is quite unintuitive.

I was also dismayed by the completely wrong implementation of A/B testing! It’s effectively useless.

If you’re looking for an affordable advertising system for your own use then Ads Pro is definitely a contender. If you’re looking to sell adverts then the plugin is viable, and certainly looks the best out of all the plugins I’ve reviewed, but it’s not perfect.

As mentioned the A/B test is laughable and the inability to provide direction on a per Space basis is unfortunate.

Overall the plugin has great potential and if the developers decide to invest more time in the development, it could become a powerhouse in the WordPress advertising plugin market.

Right now, it’s average to good.

Advanced Ads Review: The Ad Platform You Have Been Looking For

Off the back of our recent review of AdRotate Pro I thought you might like to know about some of the other options there are when it comes to adding adverts to your WordPress site.

Today I’m going to review Advanced Ads by Thomas Maier, a fully featured plugin that has some interesting takes on advertising.

Advanced Ads

Advanced Ads

Like most premium WordPress plugins nowadays, there is also a free version of Advanced Ads that you can pick up to try. It is fairly feature filled on its own with only advanced features being reserved for the premium plugin.

The plugin has been around for 3 years with regular updates. It has also been downloaded over 800,000 times and has over 50,000 current installations.

This might not be quite like AdRotate, but unlike that plugin Advanced Ads scores an excellent 4.9 out of 5 on WordPress.org user reviews with a similar number of reviews (about 100 less).

The premium version is itself split into several plugins: the core premium version and additional addon plugins.

What do you get?

  • Advanced Ads Pro (the core premium plugin)
  • Ad Tracking
  • Responsive Ads
  • Geo Targeting
  • PopUp and Layer Ads
  • Selling Ads
  • Slider
  • Sticky Ads

There’s also another addon called Genesis Ads, specifically for Genesis theme users, but this can be gotten for free from the Advanced Ads site.

Some Requirements

Unlike a lot of premium plugins, you are still required to have the free version of the plugin installed and activated. Why I don’t know as surely the premium version could have been self-contained.

As well as that if you are looking to use the Selling Ads addon, you’re required to install and activate Woocommerce – more on this later.

Initial Setup

Barring needing to have the free version installed and active, installing Advanced Ads is pretty simple and can be done via a manual upload like most plugins.

The settings are fairly detailed, especially with the addons active as they add to the settings.

General

These are the core setting and should be reviewed. They cover a wide variety of things from settings to beat ad blockers to disabling ads in different areas.

AdSense

As AdSense is one of the most popular ways to add adverts to a site, it makes sense there are specific settings for it.

Selling

Basic settings related to selling adverts.

Pro

Focusing on advanced features like cache busting, click fraud protection and lazy load.

Tracking

Advanced Ads provides some good stats and this settings area allows you to fine tune what you see and what’s tracked.

Creating Adverts

Adverts in Advanced Ads generally require three things: the advert itself, a group and a placement.

Placement

Advanced Ads placement

Placements set where the advert will be displayed and there are a lot of different options especially with all the addons active:

  • Manual placement (shortcode or PHP code)
  • Header area (code)
  • Footer area (code)
  • Before content
  • After Content
  • In Content
  • Widget
  • Header Bar
  • Footer Bar
  • Left/Right “Sidebars” attached to the content area
  • Left/Right bars attached to the browser windows
  • Background
  • Random Paragraphs
  • Above Headline
  • Exact Middle of content
  • Custom Placement
  • Post Archives
  • Popups

These placements will help you position your advert exactly where you want them to go and once set up can be used with any advert or group.

Groups

Groups are optional but are very handy for keeping adverts organized. They can also be set to randomize adverts or show a specific number of ads, amongst other features.

Adverts

Adding a single advert in Advanced Ads is simple yet can be a little bewildering when you first get started due to the sheer number of options available.

To begin with you can add a title and the type of advert to be shown. The types are quite straightforward with Plain Text and Image being the most commonly used.

Advanced Ads adverts 1

The ad parameters section is where you’ll insert your add code, whether this is plain text or the JavaScript provided by services like AdSense. You can even insert PHP code.

Advanced Ads adverts 2

The layout options allow you to tweak the placement by adding margins and alignment, and also to add specific IDs and Classes should you wish to make further changes via CSS.

The Display Conditions section allows you to target this advert based on numerous different options such as geolocation or what page the visitor is viewing. You can add multiple conditions giving you a very granular level of control which is excellent.

Advanced Ads adverts 4

Finally there are stat related options specifically for the advert.

As I said earlier, there’s a lot going on when you create a new advert but most of it isn’t necessary for day to day advert creations. Minimizing the various sections helps but I feel like there are too many options shoved in front of you and some of these could be hidden better to help feeling like you’re wading through options.

Features

When it comes down to it most advertising plugins will have quite similar features, so expect to see a lot the usual when checking out Advanced Ads.

Some of the more unusual features include the following:

Ad Blocker Beating

Advanced Ads has a built in system that you can tweak to help get past ad blockers. After all you’re not going to make money if no one can see your advert.

AdSense Violation Warnings

When using third party advertiser networks, there’s usually a lot of rules and it’s often easy to fall foul of them.

AdSense is no different so Advanced Ads has an in built system to notify you if your adverts are going to cause issues, potentially saving you from having your account banned!

Visual Composer Compatibility

This isn’t the right place to weigh the pros and cons of page builder plugins, but if you use the popular Visual Composer plugin be assured that Advanced Ads will integrate with it.

AMP Ads

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a Google initiative to serve pared down versions of site to mobile users.

Being pared down means a lot of features on a site are removed. Advanced Ads does its best to make sure you AMP ready pages are also monetized with ads.

Addons

When you buy Advanced Ads you can just buy the core premium plugin and any addons separately, but it’s really good value to just buy the bundle of everything.

In this bundle you get the following add on plugins:

Responsive Ads

This addon allows you to set what size adverts appear at different screen resolutions, and even disabling the advert if needed.

While most themes will reduce the size of an image in order for it to be responsive, this might not be suitable from an advertiser’s point of view. Instead swapping it to a different size can provide a visible and therefore clickable advert.

This plugin also handles AMP adverts.

Geo Targeting

Allows you to show a specific advert or hide them for people coming from specific locations. This can be useful to target specific countries with country appropriate adverts.

PopUp and Layer Ads

One of the weaker Advanced Ad plugins, this addon allows you to add an advert or other content to popups. While this can be useful in that you can pop up any content and advertise on it, most existing popup plugins are more feature rich.

Advanced Ads popup ad

A VERY basic advert showing how you can add basic HTML and advertising code into a popup.

Selling Ads

This plugin allows you to sell advertising space on your site. It does a great job of making it easy to sell adverts because it is connected to Woocommerce.

That is also it’s down side. If all you’re doing is selling a couple of advertising space then having to install and set up Woocommerce as well as the advertising platform is a bit much.

If you already have Woocommerce installed and sell other products you also need to be aware that you’ll need to remove or separate the ads from other items on sale.

The requirement of Woocommerce aside, it really is quite simple to set up a product as the plugin integrates directly with Woocommerce.

Advanced Ads woocommerce

There are a couple of other issues I had with the selling ads plugin.

First is a minor one: there was no simple link option. While most people might not need this, selling links for local businesses is fairly common and the Advanced Ads plain text option is simply not restrictive enough.

Secondly the Selling Ads plugin does nothing to the ads overview section. This means it can be quite difficult to find which adverts were purchased by which customers as you have to click the advert, and then click the link to go to the Order in Woocommerce.

You can go in via Woocommerce and click through to the order but it would have been nice to have been able to look at the advert list and see which adverts were for which customers.

Slider

This allows adverts to be shown in a slide show manner effectively rotating them. This is quite a useful feature as you can show multiple adverts in the same spot plus the movement attracts the eye. That being said it would have been nice if this was just built into the pro plugin itself rather than as a separate plugin.

Sticky Ads

Oddly enough this addon allows you to create adverts that stick in place even as the user scrolls. There are other features as well such as backgrounds and header/footer placements.

Support

Support for Advanced Ads is excellent. I had a couple of questions after I bought the plugin and sent them off on a Friday expecting to hear back Monday or Tuesday. Instead I got a response on the Saturday and even had an email conversation throughout the day.

Obviously that might not be typical but I also checked the WordPress.org support section and all questions have been answered and most of those were answered in less than 24 hours which is excellent!

Statistics

Selling or just using adverts on your site means you need statistics. After all there’s no point showing an advert if it doesn’t perform.

Advanced Ads stats section provides details on impression and clicks and is broken down by date and by advert so you can get a general overview or more specific data.

My only bugbear here is that the chart used is not responsive so smaller screens (even laptops) will need to scroll to see data.

Developer Friendly?

Advanced Ads has a basic codex on their website and has enough hooks, filters and functions to achieve most things.

It’s still not really easy to extend, but I found with some work it’s still possible – for example I managed to create a single link option for the plugin with a few hours of digging into the code.

As such it beats a lot of other advertising plugins simply by allowing you access to it on a code level.

The Bottom Line

Advanced Adverts is a solid advertising plugin with a heck of a lot of features and so many options you can fine tune things to your specific needs.

The bundle price for the premium plugin and addons is a reasonable €69 for a single site (about $82) and this includes support and updates for a year. There are more options that further improve the value such as 10 sites for €199 (about $234).

Usability wise, the plugin could be a little more streamlined and easy to use, with unnecessary or uncommonly used settings hidden away but that’s a minor point.

Most light users would likely get away with just using the free version, but those that require more complex setups or more control (or those simply wishing to support the developer) should pick up the Pro version as it definitely adds those advanced features.

My only real gripe is the required integration with Woocommerce in order to sell adverts. Yes it makes it easier to use an existing and popular ecommerce site, but not everyone will want to add a full blown ecommerce system in order to sell a few adverts. It would be nice to see a simple in built sales system in the future.

The question you most likely have is: does it do what I want it to? The answer would be yes. Advanced Ads built in features will cover pretty much any eventuality and if you’re looking for an advertising platform plugin for your site you should definitely consider this plugin.

Making Money from Others: Building a Marketplace Site

As an online entrepreneur you generally have two choices: sell your own products/services or promote other people goods as an affiliate.

These are both great and profitable options, but what if there was a way to create a scalable business that requires no creation of products or inventory?

Well there is, it’s called a marketplace.

What is a Marketplace?

A marketplace is simply a place where people can buyer from multiple sellers in one location, a town market or malls are perfect real world examples.

Online is no different: a single site that allows sellers to add their products and purchasers to browse said products.

This is defined as a Two Sided Marketplace.

There are lots of already well known marketplaces online:

  • Amazon – allows anyone to sell their stuff, and reach a wider audience.
  • Etsy – a marketplace for craft and handmade goods.
  • Airbnb – connecting private accommodation owners with short term renters
  • Themeforest – providing a home for WordPress theme developers
  • Fiverr – showcases a wide variety of cheap tasks and services

Why 2 Sided Marketplaces Work

Creating a two sided marketplace has a number of benefits for an entrepreneur.

First off is profit. Depending on the business model you choose, you can skim off the surface of both sides by charging people to list and by adding to the transaction charges for customers.

Obviously you may not want to do one or the other instead of both, but the option is there.

Secondly is that once a marketplace like this is set up, it can become very stable. Sellers have a tendency to stick with the marketplace as moving is difficult and costly.

Take Themeforest for example. If a seller leaves they then need to do their own marketing and if they sell the products on Themeforest and their own site, they get a lower percentage of any sales on Themeforest which could cost them thousands.

This tactic by Themeforest might be heavy handed but it helps keep sellers working with just them.

For buyers

The centralized location makes it much easier for customers to work with: there’s no need for them to go from site to site and waste time on search engines when they can just visit your site and find exactly what they need.

For sellers

A place to list their products with (in theory) no marketing needed to bring in traffic, no need to handle payments and refunds and a targeted audience. It’s perfect for one person or small companies to get their products out there with little work or risk.

It Ain’t Easy

Getting started with an online marketplace is possibly one of the hardest routes to take with ecommerce, but the profits can be incredible.

The Chicken and the Egg

Which came first? It doesn’t really matter of course, but the issue is that if you don’t have sellers, you have no buyers. If you have no buyers, you can’t attract sellers!

This conundrum is the most difficult aspect to overcome.

There are ways though, through what’s called “seeding”. Seeding is effectively jumpstarting a marketplace when you are just starting.

Focus on One Side First

The most common way to start a market place is to build up one side first. For example OpenTable which is a company that handles reservations for restaurants started by just offering restaurants a way to handle reservations electronically.

Only after it got enough restaurants on board did it open up the booking system to customers.

It built up one side, the restaurants, and then let the flood gates open by introducing the customer element.

Offer Something Better

By offering tools or systems that are better than your competitors you can entice sellers/customers over which will bring the other half as well.

Airbnb got traction when they included a tool to post to Airbnb and Craigslist at the same time. With Craigslist’s own posting tool being difficult to use, the easy to use Airbnb system enticed renters with both ease of use and the ability to post to two sites simultaneously.

This allowed them to bring renters over to their platform, while reducing the risk to renters (they still get to post on Craigslist). Having renters posting, meant that customers would actually be interested what they have to offer.

Build Around an Existing Product

This is really only going to work if you’re the owner of said product otherwise you might run into legal issues. The basic idea is to have an extensible product that others can create for; software is great for this. They then sell the products on your site’s marketplace.

The ecommerce systems Woocommerce and Easy Digital Downloads are excellent examples of marketplaces built around a single product.

It’s Slow Going

The thing with marketplaces is that it’s a long haul, there’s no quick buck to be made with them. It takes time to build and seed the marketplace so it’s at a stage where it becomes the de facto place to go for that niche (Etsy for handcrafted stuff, Themeforest for WordPress themes, etc.).

While a lot of marketers expect to get a return within 6 – 12 months for a project, a marketplace can barely even be growing by the time a year has passed.

This makes it difficult to know whether what you’re doing is actually working or not. Pivoting too early means you might lose out on the site blossoming into a marketplace. Hanging onto a dud project may mean an increased financial loss.

Your Niche Matters

Let me be blunt: it’s highly unlikely you will build the next Amazon!

Building a varied marketplace like Amazon takes a lot of time, and money to do. Even Amazon started small and focused on specific products. Even Amazon started off by just selling books.

Instead take a hint from other successful online marketplaces and focus on a niche.

Whatever niche you go with you must make sure it’s a two sided niche that has enough potential or existing sellers to draw from.

Marketplace Platforms

The great thing about building an online marketplace right now is that the costs are much lower than they used to be: no longer do you have to spend thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a custom built site.

The get a Minimum Viable Product up and running to test out your idea is as simple as creating a WordPress site, and installing an e-commerce plugin and a marketplace theme such as the awesome Marketify.

As well as WordPress most hosted and self-hosted e-commerce systems have a multi-vendor system that allows you to create a marketplace: Magento, Drupal, X-cart and Shopify all have different options you can use to create a marketplace.

As there are so many options available, there’s something for everyone’s budget.

The Bottom Line

As with any online venture building a marketplace has risks, perhaps more than any other way of making money online.

It will take time and dedication to start seeing a profit, but once built marketplaces are incredibly stable and long term businesses.

E-commerce Coupon Guide: To Coupon or not to Coupon?

Everybody loves to get a deal whether they are buying online or not. In fact people are more willing to open their wallets when they think they are getting a bargain.

This can have a tremendous effect for your e-commerce site, helping you to increase sales, shift stock and create brand awareness.

Coupons are by far the easiest type of discount to use as most e-commerce platforms allow for a discount code to be entered. As well as that they are perhaps the most flexible too.

Coupon Pros and Cons

As with anything there are two sides to the story and while coupons can be very useful, they also can have negative effects.

Pros

  • Easy to implement
  • Quick injection of cash
  • Can help shift stock
  • Removes a barrier to entry for first time buyers
  • Help increase brand awareness when shared

Cons

  • If done wrong, they can be costly
  • Not a sustainable method of promotion
  • Can have a negative effect on branding
  • Customers wait for deals if used too much

Types of Coupons

Coupons generally focus on price, but can also be used in other ways:

Percentage Based Discount

This is probably the most common discount coupon around, and it’s where you offer a percentage (e.g. 10%) off the cart amount. You can also offer a discount on a specific item rather than the cart.

Dollar Amount Discount

Similar to percentage, but this is a flat amount (e.g. $10) off the cart/specific product.

Free Shipping

Put in the code, get free shipping!

Free Gift

By using this code, your customers would have an item added to cart with a 100% discount.

Where Should You Display Your Coupons?

Now you have an idea for the type of coupon to use, how will you let people know?

Popups

Popups appear on your website and are a great “in your face” way of letting people know that you have a coupon available.

Call to Actions

A more static way to display coupons, these can be large images, sidebar images, or highlighted content areas within blog posts and product pages.

Emails

Using emails to notify people about your discounts helps spread the information and get people back to your site.

Coupon Sites

Often people will add items to their cart and then go hunting for a coupon. Adding your coupons to the various coupon sites out there is a great way to share the discount. We have a list of some of the best coupon sites here.

Social Media

Tweet it, Pin it, Share it – social media not only allows you to touch base with your followers, but can help increase the number of people who fins your discount.

Other People’s Sites

Bloggers and niche related websites are also an awesome way to share coupons, especially when tied with an affiliate deal.

Different Ways to Use Coupons

Just offering a flat 10% discount at all times doesn’t really help you or your customers. Instead why not use coupons selectively to help maximize excitement and sales while minimizing the costs to your business.

Daily/Weekly/Monthly

Offering a regular discount code can be used to help even out poor performing periods and help shift under-performing products. Be careful with this though as discounting too often can have negative effects.

Pre-launch

If you haven’t launched yet, or if you’re soon to be launching a new product/product line, then offering up a pre-launch discount can help to create hype and sales, especially if combined with a pre-order system.

Holiday/Seasonal

Valentines, mother’s/father’s day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all popular periods for discounting, and perfect time for offering coupons.

As well as those, you could look to offer coupons for niche related “holidays”, such as National Sci-Fi Day, National Ferret Day and National Leave the Office Early Day (there’s pretty much a national day for everything…!)

First Time Shopper

Offering a discount for first time shopper is an excellent way to sway those that might not be ready to make a purchase yet.

Customer Loyalty

Tracking your customer sales is easy with most e-commerce system, so why not reward a loyal customer by sending them a coupon code just for them after they spend X amount in your store.

Post Purchase

After someone has purchased with you, send them a coupon code for future purchases. This can not only increase customer satisfaction but could help improve the chance of repeat custom.

Exit Intent

If you’ve ever looked into marketing techniques you may have come across Exit Intent. This system detects when a customer moves their mouse outside of the browser window (which usually means they are going to close the window or go to another site.

Offering a discount at that point could sway people to stay and buy.

Email Subscription Lead Magnet

A Lead Magnet, or in plain speak a bribe, is a method of sweetening the deal to get people to sign up to your mailing list. Often these take the form of free e-books, email courses and the like, but as an e-commerce store you can also offer a discount coupon.

Abandoned Carts

One of the main areas where e-commerce sites lose potential money is when a customer adds to cart and then abandons the cart.

There are many reasons for this, but if the customer is logged in and known you can perhaps save the cart by sending them a discount code. It’s a wise idea with this system to also save their cart content so that they can go back to the site with the cart content intact which reduces further barriers to buying.

Volume

If you’re looking to sell as much as possible why not offer a coupon that provides a discount for bulk purchases.

Cash for Credit

This is a type of cash back method, but one that keeps people tied to your store. The idea is that when the coupon is entered, and a purchase made, they receive an amount of store credit that can be used for future purchases.

E.g. if someone spends $100 they may receive $20 in store credit. This effectively turns the coupon into a flat dollar amount coupon that can be spent on anything in store.

Social Sharing

Instead of spending money with a social media company to increase your social presence, another idea is to give your customers a coupon if they share your (pre-written) message/page/etc on social networks.

Exclusive Offers to Social Followers

This method of using a coupon is to reward your social network followers. You can do this as a flat reward to thank them for being there or tie it to social shares.

Retargeting

This method of advertising has been proven to work at keeping your brand in front of people’s noses.

Not only can it work to bring back visitors to your site, but combined with a coupon code just for those visitors it could help entice them to buy too.

Influencer / Partnerships / Affiliates

Giving certain social media influencers, business partners or affiliate coupon codes can help drive new customers to your door.

Referral

Referral marketing is when you ask your existing customer base to refer a friend or family member to your site. You can use coupon codes to help facilitate this, both as an incentive to the new customer and as a reward to the referrer.

A Word of Caution

Using coupons to increase sales and brand awareness is definitely a useful strategy for any e-commerce site. I mentioned the cons earlier but I want to expand on a few things that you really need to be aware of.

Use Expiration Dates

Limiting the time that a coupon is active for not only adds a sense of urgency in the customers mind, but also helps to reduce your own liability.

Imagine a coupon that has no expiration, and suddenly 6 months later it goes viral, just when your own cash flow is perhaps not the best. That could turn into a really bad situation.

Using expiration dates means that you won’t get hit with unexpected surprises down the road.

An alternative to expiration dates is to limit the number of coupon uses, but this is harder to manage and needs to be clearly stated so there’s no customer backlash.

Run the Numbers

Make sure that your business can afford the discount! If your margins are already low, why make them lower? In that case I’d suggest trying an alternative method of generating sales.

Of course, sometimes it’s worth making little or even nothing if it means shifting a slow selling product.

Your use case will always be unique but just make sure you know what sort of financial situation you will be put in if you use coupons.

Generic or Specific

If the numbers look bad for using a coupon that can be applied to any product, try running the numbers with the coupon for just specific products or categories – that way you can generate sales without losing money.

Don’t Get Carried Away

Some business owners think that using coupons is an everyday thing, but it shouldn’t be. Not only can it ruin a brands reputation (especially for higher priced goods), but people can come to expect your discounts and wait for a discount before buying. This can put additional strain on your finances.

Instead, use coupons sparingly and know exactly why you are offering a coupon and what benefits you want to gain from it, before offering it.

Bottom Line

Hopefully this article has provided you with some idea on how to effectively use coupons with your e-commerce site.

Do you use coupons in different ways? Let me know in the comments.

How to Make Money with Pokémon Go

Crazes and fads are an exciting prospect for marketers, and also quite scary.

How soon is too soon to jump on the bandwagon and try to make money off of the back of the latest thing to create a buzz?

Too early and you could be wasting time and money on a flop; too late and you could miss out on gaining traction in the market.

Take Pokémon Go for instance. This app filled with fun and crazy characters has just exploded worldwide.

While it’s been 2 months since its initial release, the game is still going strong and there has been a flood of ways to make money from it.

How then can you make money with Pokémon Go?

Become a Pokémon Trainer

Pokémon fans have wanted to actually be a Pokémon trainer since they were kids, and while the reality has come one step closer with the app, there’s still some way to go.

That being said, not everyone who plays Pokémon Go fully understands how to play it, I know I had some difficulty and battling is still just mashing the phone for me.

If you’re skilled and knowledgeable with Pokémon Go you could hiring your “training” services out for an easy $20 or more per hour.

You can offer your services locally on sites like Craigslist.

Sell Your Pokémon Go Account

Much like selling a World of Warcraft account back in the day, people are willing to spend a large amount of money for a pre-existing Pokémon Go account.

The selling price will depend on several factors including team, player level, and what Pokémon’s are on the account.

If your account has a rare Pokémon type then it could easily fetch several hundreds of dollars.

You can sell accounts on eBay and sites like PokeTree.com.

Bear in mind though that selling an account is technically against Niantic’s (the people behind the app) terms and conditions.

Pikachu

Get Paid to Drop Lures

In the game, dropping a lure will increase the chances of Pokémon appearing at Pokéstops.

The odd thing is, people will pay others to drop a lure, especially businesses close to Pokéstops.

Imagine a café that is next to a Pokéstop and suddenly a bunch of people turn up to hunt Pokémon.

Of course they’re going to want to sit inside in the warmth and have a drink at the same time, so café’s like that are more inclined to pay people to drop lures at specific times of the day and to advertise that fact.

This sort of service might not net you much per lure but you could easily buy the lures via the app and mark them up for a profit.

Why don’t local businesses do this themselves you may be wondering? Well some do, some even hire or pay staff to specifically focus on it. Others however aren’t technical or are just too busy serving customers.

Card Collection, Games and Memorabilia

While the buzz is high, anything related to Pokémon is selling like hotcakes! If you have any memorabilia now is the time to drag it out and put it on eBay!

Become a Driver

While Pokémon Go is designed to get people out walking there is a demand for Pokémon drivers.

Via cars, or even buses, Pokémon drivers take their passengers to a wide variety of different Pokéstops and Gyms around their locality which may not be accessible to people normally because they are so far away.

Drivers can easily charge $25 an hour for this service, for example PikaSpeed charges about $30 – $45 per hour.

If you’re an Uber driver you could even incorporate this into your service, for free or paid.

Design tools and apps

While there’s no direct API for the game, it hasn’t stopped people from data mining the app and creating all sorts of crazy services and tools such as the PokéAPI, Silphroad, PoGoToolkit and Poke Assistant.

You could earn money by creating similar apps and services or by using the existing ones to create new and innovative services.

Walk the Walk

If you don’t drive or prefer the fresh air, why not charge for walking?

Pokémon walkers will take someone’s account and do the walking needed to hatch eggs.

Generally you can charge $1 per kilometer so $2 for a 2 kilometer egg, $5 for a 5 kilometer egg and $10 for a 10 kilometer egg.

pokemon go egg

Hacks

Hacking the app is obviously against the terms and both the hacker and hacked can get their accounts banned. Many people are still willing to take the risk and if you’re technically minded, hacking the app for others can be very profitable, from $25 to $200 per hack.

There are several types of hacks, the most common being to trick your phones GPS into thinking you’re moving when you’re actually sat on your couch.

Another is to get unlimited Pokéballs.

IF you can come up with the same or even more desirable hacks, people will pay for them.

Write a guide

Every marketer out there knows that guides, tips and training sell!

Creating an e-book or short video course outlining how to use the app, the best ways to find rare Pokémon, tips for training and battling and so on can easily make a profit if marketed right.

There are numerous ways to promote something like this: get the e-book on Amazons Kindle e-book marketplace, sell it on Craigslist, advertise your own site selling the book and so on.

Craft Pokémon Items

If you’re into arts and crafts, creating and selling Pokémon related items could easily turn a profit. Etsy is full of Pokémon stuff, from Charmander panties, Bulbasaur planters and actual Pokéballs!

The possibilities are endless with this type of gig.

The Bottom Line

Like any fad, Pokémon Go will eventually run its course, but seemingly not for the near future. Niantic has many plans up its sleeve to try and expand the features, reach and commercialization of this popular app.

While it’s going strong it makes sense for marketers and anyone wanting to make a little bit of cash to jump on the bandwagon.

How to Make Money with No Money

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the often quoted phrase

“You must spend money to make money”

That advice is over 2,000 years old and nowadays it just doesn’t always apply.

The reality of our modern world is that it is possible to make money with no money whatsoever.

How then can you do this?

Time vs. Money

The thing you need to understand here is that if you have no money, you need to replace it with something else: time.

Time is after all, money!

Time is valuable to everybody which is why so many people out there use cash to obtain things that they could actually do themselves, just to free up their time.

This is where you come in; you take their cash and give your time instead.

Ways to sell your time

If you have access to an internet connection then there are a million and one ways to give your time in exchange for cold hard cash, here’s just a few of them:

Fiverr

Fiverr.com is a marketplace where people sell services for (in theory) $5 dollars. It’s changed recently so people can charge much more than that.

Not only is the marketplace proven, but people will buy all sorts of stuff, from proofreading to video testimonials, to logos and coding.

There are a lot of options and a large variety of them will cost you nothing but time.

Upwork

This site is more aimed at people hiring freelancers, but the basics are the same. If you have a skill you can promote, you can swap your time and energy for money.

Unlike Fiverr where you can sell yourself singing happy birthday in your birthday suit, Upwork is more professional so you will need to have a skillset.

Swagbucks

If you prefer to sit on the sofa and earn cash why not check out Swagbucks? This site allows you to earn cash from surveys, web browsing and more. They even give you $5 just for signing up!

We wrote a full review of Swagbucks because it is just that good.

MechanicalTurk

Like a cross between Fiverr and Upwork, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for micro jobs. The system is designed to use crowdsourcing to perform jobs that computers can’t currently do, for example:

  • Inputting specific values from an image
  • Label objects displayed in images
  • Internet research
  • Classifying tweets as useful or not

The rewards are low but the tasks are generally easy.

Do the hustle

Using time to create money doesn’t have to be about working for someone else. Instead you can use that time plus a bunch of free services out there to actively create an income.

Take affiliate marketing for instance. While it’s not the fastest way to do it, you could start with a small free website such as one at Blogger, Hubpages or Squidoo.

Each of these sites offers the ability to get your content out there and potentially earn cash from affiliate marketing.

YouTube is another great opportunity. All you need is a video camera and an idea. If you don’t own a video camera, then use a webcam or smart phone. Borrowing one from a friend or family member is an option too.

Social networks are another great place to make cash just by using your time. Take Instagram for instance. By posting great photos it’s possible to get tapped by a company to do product placement and advertising.

Sometimes you do need to spend money

Once you’ve earned some cash, now would be the point to stop trading time for money and start spending your cash to create more cash. The reason is simple, if you continue to trade time for money you won’t make as much money as you could by spending money to make money.

You could start by teaching yourself to create an online business, that way you invest in your own future.

Or you could invest that cash for more short term goals like creating a website to promote your skills through or even hiring someone to do what you’ve been doing but at less than you charge.

Automation of your tasks is also a great way of spending cash to help speed things up and/or free up your time, to allow you to do other things to make money.

The Bottom Line

The reality is clear: while in the beginning selling your time for money pays off, it’s not a long term solution.

Far from it, instead you should see it as a stepping stone to building up enough money to really start your own business and start spending money to free up your time instead.

If you’re serious about investing a small amount to learn and grow and make more money online, then I’d suggest checking out sites like Wealthy Affiliate which are an affordable way to learn to earn.

From Writing to Copywriting – Some Tips

Content marketing is huge right now, but does it work for you?

Just writing and writing and writing can work, eventually. However, it’s much better to apply tested and proven methods to your writing.

In other words don’t just write instead write copy!

I was at a conference recently and I attended a talk by Joost de Valk of Yoast SEO fame.

His talk was all about tuning your content with some very easy tips, to make the writing stand out.

Of course, his aim was to make you use his Yoast SEO plugin which now offers a feature that point out your errors.

I want to teach you these ideas today, with little bit more of an in depth explanation to each, as well as some extra tips for taking your writing to the next level.

The basics of copywriting

What Joost was proposing isn’t rocket science, neither is it anything new. That being said, they are easy to implement and will improve your writing.

Have a structure

The absolute first thing you need to do is have a structure in place. Having a basic outline, just a list of subheadings for example can help you focus your article.

You could also use a list of ideas or topics you want to talk about, so you can see how they flow together.

Use clear paragraphs

Paragraphs should be short, 2 or 3 sentences is a great paragraph length. Any longer and they become a wall of text.

As well, each paragraph should start with an idea. The following sentences should expand upon that idea.

Have clear headings

As an internet marketer you should know that clear headings are important. When done correctly just reading the clear headings can tell some the story, if in brief.

Examine your sentence structure

Wordy sentences that go on and on, without really coming to an end that just keep going and don’t really get to the point, all the while going from idea to idea and maybe even changing topic to dogs and how cool they are becomes really annoying to any reader.

See what I did there?

Keep your sentences short and to the point. If you don’t your readers will quickly become tired of your writing and redo their Google search. Ideally sentences should be 20 words or less.

Use simple words

I am terrible at this as I love using a wide vocabulary.

If you’re writing prose, using interesting and underused words is great. Using those sort of words for copywriting is a bad idea.

Keep your words simple, and ideally with a short syllable count: 3-4 max.

I’m not saying you should dumb down content, that’s possible the worst thing you can do. Instead just use words that convey the point clearly and simply.

Remove fluffy and filler content and words. Examine the sentence and think, do I really need this word? Can the sentence work without it?

The Passive Voice is terrible

This is the hardest thing to remove from your writing, as not everyone even understands what it is.

Wikipedia says:

The passive voice is a grammatical construction (specifically, a “voice”). The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence (such as Our troops defeated the enemy) appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice (e.g. The enemy was defeated by our troops).

Still confused? Yes, me too. It’s difficult to understand let alone realize you are writing in that “voice”.

The best way to understand it is if there is an action then the person (organization, etc.) must do the action.

  • Passive: the website was created by the web developer
  • Active: the web developer created the website.

While Joost’s plugin can identify the passive voice, it can’t fix it for you, so you need to have a good understanding of it and that will take a little time to learn.

Examples of the Passive Voice

More than the basics

Joost’s talk was really just an advertisement for the new feature with some basic advice to help provide value.

That basic advice however is important and a great stepping stone to improving your writing.

There are some more tips you can use to create writing that is effective copywriting.

#1 Write to the reader, not the audience

Forget that thousands of people can be reading your content. Instead remember that people read your content one at a time. Don’t talk to the audience, talk to that person.

This comes across as much more intimate and personal.

#2 Write a story

I started this article with a story about visiting a conference and seeing a talk by Joost. Perhaps it’s not a great story, but it’s still better than nothing.

Humanity has used story telling since we could string words together, and it is integral in our psyche.

Using a story to get a point across helps to tap into this and makes your content more memorable, because when a story is remembered, so is the moral or point of the story.

#3 Don’t use Weasel words

A weasel word is basically a vague word or turn of phrase. Avoiding Weasel words is essential for sales copy, though in content marketing it can be more of a relaxed.

Here’re some examples, clearly stolen from WikiPedia:

  • “A growing body of evidence…” (Where is the raw data for your review?)
  • “People say…” (Which people? How do they know?)
  • “It has been claimed that…” (By whom, where, when?)
  • “Critics claim…” (Which critics?)
  • “Clearly…” (As if the premise is undeniably true)
  • “It stands to reason that…” (Again, as if the premise is undeniably true—see “Clearly” above)
  • “Questions have been raised…” (Implies a fatal flaw has been discovered)

How well did I score?

You might be wondering how well I’ve done with this article. The answer, not too bad:

My Yoast SEO Readability Score

This is before editing, and as you can see, my Passive Voice score is a bit high (it’s a curse!) but everything else seems good.

Remember that the scores are a guideline, nothing more. If the article or content reads well and more importantly converts, then having 11% of sentences containing the passive voice is just fine.

The Bottom Line

As a content marketer you might be writing pure sales copy or you might be writing a 5,000 word tutorial. Most likely, you will be somewhere in the middle.

These Joost and myself have provided these copy writing tips to help you make whatever you write that much more readable, enjoyable and actionable.

8 Alternatives to the Amazon Associates Program

Most internet marketers get started by marketing products via affiliate networks. One of the first that most newbies come across is Amazon’s Associate program.

This is a huge opportunity for most people, as Amazon is a worldwide powerhouse when it comes to selling, well, pretty much anything and everything.

There are a bunch of reason why people love Amazon’s affiliate network, and sadly a bunch of reasons why some people don’t.

Amazon Associates is awesome because…

It’s a Trusted Brand Worldwide

Amazon operates worldwide and has sites in numerous languages and currencies. Its brand recognition is up there with Google and Coca-Cola, and in general most people are positive about Amazon as a company. This means a heck of a lot of people shop with them, like millions, daily.

It Has a Huge Selection of Products

I’m pretty sure that if you can’t find something on Amazon it isn’t sold anywhere… Well not quite, but Amazon has a vast selection of products, some that it sells direct and others sold by third parties.

The sheer number of products listed is so high, some affiliate training advises you to use it to find niches!

Unless you are trying to promote something obscure, it’s very likely Amazon will sell it.

It’s Easy (and Free) to Sign up to

The ease at which you can sign up to the Amazon affiliate program is astounding. Lots of other networks require you to fill out complex forms or have your site audited prior to acceptance.

Not so with Amazon. You can be signed up and promoting in a matter of minutes.

Another plus, is that unlike some affiliate networks, Amazon doesn’t cancel your account for simply not performing well.

It has Tools and Reports

From banners and widgets that you can add to your site, through to monthly reports on your commissions, Amazon has a lot of built in features that can help you to see how you’re doing and where improvements could be made.

The tools aren’t perfect, but they are quite good and free.

Bonus commissions

Regardless of why the visitor went through your link, whatever they buy while in the cookie time you will get commissions for. This means that even if they decide not to buy that 42” Hi Def TV, but instead opt for buying a toilet, you still get commissions on that sale!

Amazon Associates kinda sucks because…

You live in the wrong area

That’s right, if you live in Arkansas, Missouri, Maine or Rhode Island you’re screwed. Due to various legal wrangling, the Amazon associates program doesn’t allow residents of those states to apply.

If you do just one thing wrong

Being an Amazon associate means you have to agree to their terms and conditions.

If you somehow manage to get on the wrong side of these (easily done as they update them regularly), then you will get your account banned.

That’s right, say good bye to your money and your income in one fell swoop.

Its cookies are bad

Most affiliate networks use 30 day cookies or longer. Amazon’s are 24 hours. This is incredibly short, so if your pre-sell didn’t work, you could lose out on commissions if the person decides to buy a few days later instead of right now.

Its commissions are poor

Amazon’s commission rates aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either.

You start out on a flat 4% commission, and depending on your monthly sales, this could peak at 9%. Certain products like electronics are always at a flat rate (e.g. 4%) regardless of sales volume.

Compare that to most digital based products who offer anywhere from 20% to 100% and you can see that really Amazon’s rates could be better. To be fair they do have higher overheads, but from an affiliate’s point of view, it means you need to sell more, in order to make a decent profit.

Alternatives to Amazon

Her are 8 different sites where you can make affiliate commissions. Some of them are very similar to Amazon itself, and others require a different viewpoint, but are none the less still potentially profitable.

#1 Walmart

While not having the worldwide reach of Amazon, Walmart puts up a pretty good fight. They too sell a wide variety of products from books to boats. Their commissions are a little bit lower than Amazons, but they have a 3 day cookie!

#2 ClickBank

One of the bigger marketplaces for digital goods, Clickbank offers a decent selection of products. Of course, the products on offer won’t suit everyone as they are generally information products or software. Their cookie length is 60 days and commissions range from 10% -100%

#3 ShareASale

This marketplace for affiliates has a large selection of different vendors, from digital products through to physical products, each of whom you can apply with to promote their goods. Cookie lengths and commissions vary from vendor to vendor.

#4 CJ Affiliate (Commission Junction)

Another well-known and varied affiliate marketplace, CJ has vendors from hosting to 4 Wheel drives and everything in between. Once again, commissions vary from vendor to vendor, as do cookie lengths.

One thing to note about CJ, is that they are harsh towards inactive accounts and will close them.

#5 Rakuten.com (Buy.com)

One of the “new” kids on the block, Rakuten has been around a while but you simply may never have heard of it.

It’s pushing into Amazons space and sells a wide variety of products from books to clothes to electronics.

Its base commissions are better than Amazons at 6% though it’s not that great for electronics as this is only 1%.

#6 Infolinks / Skimlinks / Viglinks

These three sites are not your standard affiliate network. Instead of promoting a specific product, these services add links into your content that show pop up adverts.

They are very similar to Google Adsense in that you earn money per advert clicks, but as the adverts are shown as popups from within the content, banner blindness is reduced.

#7 eBay

Perhaps the Amazon of second-hand stuff, eBay has a huge market share, and sells virtually anything.

Sadly, the cookie length for eBay is only 24 hours, and their commission structure is a little weird. Instead of earning a flat rate, you earn a percentage of what eBay makes on the auction. You can earn anywhere from 50% to 200% (for new buyers) on their own fee.

This does make working out commissions hard, but with the number of people using eBay there’s still a decent chance of making a profit with this affiliate program.

#8 Direct Affiliation

Lastly, there is also direct affiliation, which is my term for joining individual affiliate programs from smaller merchants.

While this has the advantage of spreading the risk around (one banned account and cancelled affiliate program won’t immediately ruin your business), ti does require a lot more work.

Not only do you have to find the affiliate programs, but you need to monitor each one, often from different logins.  And then there’s monitoring links on your site!

While this option is certainly valid, if you do go down this route, I’d recommend using a link manager like Pretty Links Pro.

Bottom Line

It doesn’t matter if you can’t use Amazon due to living in the wrong place, being banned or just wanting to keep your options open, there are plenty of alternatives out there.

From large scale operations like Walmart, to smaller individual sellers, you can find affiliate programs for virtually anything, and they normally match or improve on Amazons commissions and cookie times.

As such, don’t let not being able to use Amazon stop you from earning money as an affiliate!

17 Ways to Make Money During Retirement

When I was younger I used to look on retirement as a long holiday, one where I’d potter around the garden and yell “get off my lawn!” at the local kids.

The stark reality is that retirement is a scary proposition in this day and age. Unless you have invested wisely and successfully, or managed to win the lottery, there is the fear of struggling to make ends meet.

This is why it’s important for any retiree to be aware that making money after retirement is not only possible but perhaps necessary.

Luckily, there are still a lot of opportunities to top up your bank account once retired, and here’s the best 17 ways to do so.

#1 Part Time Job

Picking up a part time job is perhaps the most common way a retiree makes some extra cash.

Now, sure you can go and stack shelves at a local store, but there’s plenty other options out there.

One great way to find work is to follow your passions. You’d be surprised how many would be employers want experience and passion in their employees.

Consider asking for work at your local golf course, wine shop or delicatessen. Whatever interests you, there’s likely a business looking for a customer support staff or sales person.

#2 Temp Work

While not the most glamorous of jobs, temp work is definitely a viable option for a retiree. The work is often in fits and starts, requiring someone with plenty of free time which suits most retirees down to the ground.

Sometimes as well, the temp work becomes more permanent, especially if knowledge, customer satisfaction and skill can be shown to your employer.

#3 Become an Entrepreneur

If working at a J.O.B. makes you feel ill, then there’s always the option of becoming your own boss. Nowadays with the rise of the internet, making money as an entrepreneur is even easier.

There are plenty of ways to learn how to make money online, and you can easily create a passive income that fits in with your gardening, golfing and social activities.

#4 Sell Your Stuff

After a lifetime of earning and spending, most retirees end up with a whole lot of junk lying around. A quick and easy way to make some more cash is to sell it.

A yard sale can work, or a local flea market. If you’re comfortable with computers then places like eBay make for an easy way to offload unwanted knick-knacks.

I do recommend making sure you get the items for sale checked out first though, the last thing you want to do is sell a Van Gough for $5 bucks!

#5 Share Your Business Experience and Consult

What no one tells you when you start your own business is that having someone to bounce ideas off and to learn from is invaluable.

We don’t all have a father or other family member that has experience in business, so finding someone who does can make the world of difference.

This is where you come in. Even if you never owned a business, having decades of experience in an industry can be super helpful to other people.

Consulting with businesses then is a great way to make some cash.

#6 Share Your Knowledge and Coach or Teach

Perhaps your skill-set is aimed at teaching, or you have a skill that others would love to learn. Consider then teaching other people what you know.

You could for example teach people about accountancy, pottery, marketing, golf, fine wine, a language, piano, and so many more skills.

What you teach or tutor in is down to what you know, but you would be surprised how many people are willing to pay to learn from you.

#7 Pet or Baby Sit for Neighbors

There will be plenty of busy people in your locality who are money rich but time poor. These people will need help with looking after their kids and pets, and you with your experience can help them with that issue – for a fee of course!

#8 Show Your Crafty Side

If you know how to make things, whether it’s crochet, wood work, fish flies or hemming dresses, then sell your wares and services.

People will pay for hand crafted items, especially locally produced ones as they infer quality. You can sell your products online or at a local market stall or even on the street (make sure to check your local regulations on that though).

#9 Buy and Sell Antiques

If you have a love for antiquities you can make a tidy profit in buying and selling age old objects.

You may already have some that you are willing to part with, or you may want to start hunting for bargains to sell on at a profit.

Flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales, and storage locker sales are your best bet for finding antiques (both old and retro) that can then be sold at auction, on or offline.

#10 Rent Space

Some retirees end up with a big ol’ house and it’s just you or you and your spouse rattling around in it.

Rather than waste that space, consider renting it out.

You have a few options here:

  • Rent the entire property either all the time or for periods when you’re on holiday
  • Rent out a room to a lodger
  • Use sites like Air BNB to rent out rooms for short periods of time

Whichever you choose, there’s no excuse in having all that space just burning money in the form of heating and maintenance when it can earn you money.

#11 Gardening for Profit

If you have a green thumb, then consider gardening not just for the joy of it, but actually to make money.

You can grow flowers for specific times of the year like Mother’s Day or Valentines, and sell them locally.

You can grow produce and sell it at a local farmers market.

Growing heirloom produce is also a great way to make money as the market is booming because people want new and interesting and organic food, and seeds.

#12 Write Something

OK so that’s a bit vague, but you are a wealth of information, and others can benefit from that.

You could write about yourself and your own varied history or turn it into a fiction.

You could use your experience in your chosen profession and write about that, especially if what you did was a dying art or is still a sought after skill.

If you have knowledge of your areas local history you could make money by writing a history guide and selling it online, or at local tourist points.

We all have a story to tell, so why not tell it!

#13 Become a Local Tour Guide

On the back of local history, if you do know your stuff and your area gets tourists, why not start yourself up as a local tour guide. Start-up costs are minimal, and often you don’t need any special licences (though do check your local guidelines on this).

You could charge a fee, ask for a donation at the end or even work with the owners of a local attraction.

#14 Rent Out Your Expertise

If you’re looking for work and want someone to help you find it, then Rent a Grandma (or Rent a Grandpa!) is a great option.

You are vetted so potential customers know you are safe and can do what is asked of you and the jobs themselves pretty standard: tutors, nannies, caregivers, pet sitters, etc.

These sites simply help you connect with people who may need your services, and save you time and money in the long run.

#15 Refactor Your Investments & Savings

Just because you have money squirreled away, or have invested it, doesn’t mean that that money is actually working for you.

Take some time to review all your savings and investments and refactor where needed.

For example, if your savings account offers poor interest rates, check for other offers out there.

Same thing with any investment portfolio you may have: if it’s performing poorly, cash it out and reinvest elsewhere.

Also, if you investments have a management fee, consider shopping around for better offers as lower fees in the end gives you more money.

#16 Utilize Discounts

If there’s one silver lining to growing old (dis)gracefully, then it’s the discounts you can get!

Most services and a whole lot of stores actively discount retirees. The thing is, not all of them tell you about any discounts they may have.

This is why you should not be afraid to ask them if they have any discounts. The worst they can say is no!

#17 Browse the Web

This is for all the silver surfers out there. Did you know you can make money by searching the web, watching videos and filling out surveys? SwagBucks is a website that has been around for some time (we’ve reviewed it previously) and can legitimately help you make some extra money.

All you need to do is earn points via their website doing things you would normally do online anyway, and you can swap those points for gift cards at places like Amazon or Walmart, or even get money deposited into your PayPal account.

Sure you won’t get rich from it, but that extra cash can certainly help out from time to time, and it costs you nothing to get started.

The Bottom Line

Retiring doesn’t have to be the end of making money, there are still lots and lots of opportunities out there to make a little extra cash and perhaps have some fun and make new friends while you’re at it!

Brick by Brick: Making Money with LEGO

There are a lot of enterprising and interesting ways to make money in our modern world, but can you really make money with a child’s toy?

LEGO may have started off as a way to stop blocks from falling over, but it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry with commercial tie in’s and plenty of competitors.

Fueling the growth of LEGO is a combination of adult and child fans, both clamoring to get the latest Star Wars or Harry Potter versions of the plastic toys.

There are actually a few ways that you can turn this to your advantage and make money with LEGO.

Is LEGO Better than Stocks?

The most common way people are making money with LEGO is through speculation.

The idea is that you buy LEGO sets when they first come out, or better yet when they are on sale, and hoard them.

When (and if) the LEGO set becomes discontinued, you can sell the set for a price much higher than the original set cost.

Profits on these sets can be staggering when looked at in relation to standard stocks.

Let’s take the Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon which sold for $499.99 in 2005 and now sells for approx. $2918.13 which means it has a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 28.37%!

In comparison, people like Warren Buffet suggest you will only see an average of 7% return annually from stocks.

brickpicker data
Data from BrickPicker.com

What sells?

The thing about speculation, is that you need to make sure what you’re purchasing to store will actually sell in the future.

As such most LEGO investors focus on popular items such as Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter etc.

This doesn’t mean you can’t find other sets to purchase though. There’s a market for architectural LEGO sets as well as some of the more obscure ones.

The main thing here is to do your research. Using sites like BrickPicker can help you find trends and ideas, as well as monitoring marketplaces like eBay.

Where to sell

The main place to sell pristine condition LEGO sets is eBay. It’s popular, safe and easy to use. Of course they take a slice of the pie, but for the security you get versus selling direct, it’s worth it.

As an alternative you could use BrickLink, which is a marketplace for selling LEGO sets and pieces.

Things to be aware of

There’s actually a whole bunch of things you need to be aware of before starting your LEGO speculation career:

#1 Condition – any LEGO sets you buy, and every LEGO set you store has to be in perfect condition. This means your storage area has to be climate controlled or at the very least damp and rodent free.

#2 Storage – As well as keeping your sets in top condition, you need to make sure that you actually have enough room to store everything. LEGO sets are bulky and the largest (and potentially most profitable sets) can be positively huge. A garage sized space can be enough to get you started.

#3 Depreciation – Like with any investment, there is the chance that the price can drop. All it takes is for you to either pick the wrong set, or for LEGO to reintroduce a set to see your profits disappear.

#4 Shipping – Depending on how you sell the sets, shipping and packaging costs need to be considered. For the most part these can be put on the buyer, but even if they are, you still need to physical pack and ship the sets which take time and space and some up front costs.

Salvaging LEGO Bricks

As an alternative to selling pristine, mint condition LEGO sets, you can always go the “salvager” route.

Here, you look to buy LEGO in bulk from other people – yard sales, Craigslist, eBay etc.

With these pieces in hand you can sort them into color, size, or by set and sell them on.

As with most bulk purchases, sorting and selling smaller sections generally earns more than the whole, allowing you to make a profit.

If you have complete sets in there that can be built (building manuals can be found online) these can be sold for even more, though rarely to the level that pristine sets fetch unless it’s an incredibly rare set.

This method of course take sup much more time, but is offset by the generally lower cost of bulk purchases and then fun that you and your kids can have sorting the LEGO bricks out.

Unsorted LEGO

Unsorted LEGO can be purchased in bulk quite cheaply (source, Craiglist Listing)

Things to be aware of

#1 Time & space – LEGO bricks still take up room, and sorting them into re-sale bags can be time consuming

#2 Local isn’t always good – You may need to leave your local area in order to find decent sets, especially if there is a good sized LEGO enthusiast community near where you live.

#3 Ask for more info – if you’re buying a bulk set of LEGO make sure to ask if the seller knows what’s in it – this can help determine the value to you, especially if there are some popular sets

Designing New LEGO Sets

If speculation and thrift shopping LEGO doesn’t interest you, but you’re a whizz building LEGO yourself, then you should consider designing new LEGO sets.

LEGO themselves make this absurdly easy with their LEGO Ideas website.

The way it works is that you first create a new LEGO set from existing bricks and then submit it to the LEGO ideas site.

People then come and vote and if your idea reaches 10,000 votes it will then be flagged for review.

The review process is done by LEGO employees and there’s no guarantee that your set will be chosen, but if it is they will actually make the set for sale!

How does this earn you money?

Well according to the LEGO ideas site, if your idea is chosen you will receive:

1% of the total net sales of the product (this includes projects featuring original models based on third-party intellectual property such as a game, TV show, or movie).

1% might not seem like much but consider the size and scope of LEGO’s consumer base and price structure of sets (even small simple ones sell for $10 or more), and you can see that this has the potential to be a very good, and passive, money spinner.

Of course, getting your ideas selected in the first place is the hard part, but if you have the skills and enjoy building new creations anyway, it’s worth submitting them.

Engineering Profits with LEGO

Continuing the ideas for LEGO builders, there are also other opportunities you can grab that can showcase your LEGO building skills.

LEGO Professional

The company behind the bricks employs people to build LEGO, called Master Model Builders. These are the guys that make everything you see at LEGOLAND and beyond.

This might sound like a dream job, but the recruitment process is actually quite hard, and made up of several steps just to get on the ladder.

From there it takes time and skill to work your way up to the title of Master.

Sadly, even masters only earn about $37,000 per year which isn’t life changing.

Sean Kenney Lamp A $900 dollar LEGO lamp.
Image courtesy of SeanKenny.com

LEGO Artist

More and more people are using LEGO bricks outside of their general use case to make money.

People are creating art and even furniture with LEGO. Artists like Sean Kenney and Bruce Lowell command high prices for their unique works of art.

Businesses often want custom pieces done, and there are enough geeks and LEGO aficionados out there to create a decent sized market for your potential work.

The Bottom Line

While some people look upon LEGO as simply a child’s toy, others with vision are looking to turn a profit and even create a business from these simple bricks.

LEGO as a business does not look to be slowing down any time soon, and with new LEGO fans growing up with the cartoons and games, the opportunities for making money with LEGO are not abating.

What are you waiting for? Go and find your bricks!

Our Review of Mary Rodger’s Cash From Home System

Cash From Home and its counterparts have been around for a few years now, offering the idea that you can make a decent amount of money for simply adding a link! There seems to be a resurgence in promoting them which is worrying. Let me explain why.

The Background

Cash From Home apparently highlights the success of a lady called Kelly Simmons who has a true rags to rich story.

The essence of it is that she was a struggling single parent who just lost her job – a story that we can relate to quite easily.

Supposedly she met a guy at a part time job who showed her his work from home system. Fast forward and boom! She’s a millionaire, and works less than part time.

This all sounds really appealing, I mean who wouldn’t want to work a couple of hours a day and rake in even just a reasonable amount of money?

The sad part is that Cash From Home is simply leveraging peoples hopes, desires and desperation to actively suck money from them.

How Does It Work?

The idea behind this system is that you post links and get paid per link. That sounds amazing, not only is it easy work but the price per links is about the same as a decent minimum hourly rate – $15 bucks for 4 minutes work.

The reality though is that you will never get paid $15 per link. Think of it this way, if people on Fiverr.com (who get paid $4 per gig) will manually add 35 forum links, or 25 links to educations sites, then how likely will it be for you to get paid $15 for a solitary link?

Not likely at all.

The Warning Signs

The sales page for Cash From Home has so many scam markers that it’s scary!

Just take a closer look at these and you’ll understand why this sort of system is nothing but a scam.

#1 System Name vs. Domain Name

This might seem unimportant, but the fact that the system name (Cash From Home) is different to the actual URL (SecureBusinessSites) is a telling marker.

What it suggests is that the people behind this scam are using cheap expired domains that have an air of legitimacy to push this system.

#2 The TV Logos & Video

cash from home tv

This is a popular psychological trick used by nefarious marketers. The idea is that the logos add a sense of legitimacy to the site even when they really have nothing whatsoever to do with the product.

The cleverly avoid lawsuits (just about) by using wording like “Work from home opportunities have been featured on:”. That statement is likely true, it just doesn’t mean that THIS system has been featured, but sadly not everyone picks up on that and instead subconsciously increases their trust in the site.

They also include a recording of a newsreel from NBC talking about work from home opportunities. This reel has been used in an incredible number of scam sites and is solely there to once again add a veneer of respectability.

#3 Unrealistic Promises

cash from home skills

Telling people that they don’t need any skills or experience is a great way to hook people in. Everyone would love to make money easily, but the truth of the matter is that making money, whether it be on or offline, does require skills and experience. Sure you can get that along the way, but to promise instant earnings with no skill set is misleading at best.

#4 Requesting Your Phone Number

This might seem a very minor thing, but really, why do they need your number? Simply, in order to sell you stuff! Once they have a number they will call you or sell it to someone who will try the same thing.

Typically, we see reports from people who signed up for these kinds of systems that suggest that they will call you and try and sell you a “big ticket” system that costs hundreds to thousands of dollars.

#5 The Calculator

cash from home calculator
Cash From Home conveniently provides you with a calculator that works out how much money you can make from using this system.

This provides you with a dopamine rush when you see the potential earnings, but does not really prove that those earnings can actually be made!

#6 The Dream

cash from home dream

One of the most powerful marketing tools available is to show you a dream and convince you that using this product will help you achieve that dream.

To be fair this sort of technique is used by all marketers, ethical and villainous alike, but at least the ethical ones will only use it when they have a product that can definitely provide the outcome. Link building simply doesn’t have that sort of future.

#7 Over Use of Highlights and Bolding

cash from home highlights

OK, so you may be thinking that this shouldn’t be a marker for a scam site, but it is most definitely one. By using highlighting and bolded text marketers can draw your attention to specific areas of the text, perfect for skip readers.

Scam marketers have a tendency to overdo it though and this is visible on the Cash From Home site.

For me, it’s also one of the easiest ways to spot a site that while maybe not a scam, it will surely warrant closer inspection.

The Duplicate Sites

If those points haven’t given you pause, then consider this: the exact same site (or 99% same) is used in other places.

Two sites called simple-income-strategies.com & access.premiere-online-income.com both use the same copy text and formatting, with some minor differences.

The main changes are the system name and logo, the name of the person with the success story and some images.

Mary’s name change made me laugh as apparently they all have a daughter called Amanda, and went through the exact same issues.

Ah, I hear you cry, but the disclaimer on Cash From Home states that they used fake names and stock photos.

That’s right it does, but let’s be honest here, just because they said they are using them to hide someone’s identity doesn’t mean they are telling you the truth. Plus the other two sites don’t contain that disclaimer.

The reality is that Amanda (or Kelly or whoever) doesn’t really exist. She’s simply a tool created by these marketers in order to invoke trust and convince you to hand over your details and money.

The Bottom Line

Link posting systems don’t work. Even if you make some cash from them, it’s not going to be life changing. In fact the only thing that these people want from you is for you to prove your gullibility by signing up in the first place.

From there they then have you by a hook and will slowly reel you in promising you the world while sucking money from your bank account.

Cash From Home has numerous markers that flag that this is at best an unscrupulous marketing ploy and at worst a scam.

Please, avoid link posting scams and Avoid Cash From Home and its duplicates!

How Does the Aussie Method Compare?

It doesn’t. It’s not a real opportunity. It’s a program designed to get into your wallet.

I’ve Tried That has been reviewing products since 2007. In that time, there’s one program that stands above the rest. It’s free to get started, has no ridiculous hidden charges, and will help you build a sustainable income from home.

Click here to see our top recommendation.

Can You Make Money with Domain Parking?

Most internet marketers hit a certain phase as they are starting out, one which can quickly spiral out of control: domain hoarding.

This is where you end up buying domain after domain, until you end up with more domains than you know what to do with.

If you manage to get a grip on this potential problem, there are things you can do with your surplus of domains. Often people either try to sell the domains, create a basic site and flip them, or simply let the domains expire.

Another option is domain parking.

How does domain parking work?

According to Wikipedia:

“Domain parking refers to the registration of an internet domain name without that domain being associated with any services such as e-mail or a website.”

In essence there should be nothing there, but most if not all domain registrars will add advertisements to a parked domain.

These adverts when clicked earn you a small fee as a reward for allowing your domain to host said advertising.

Your domain is basically turned into an online billboard.

This might not seem like a big of a deal, but with the right setup and investment, it’s possible to turn a reasonable profit from parked domains. Plus they require little to no work once set up – true passive income.

Quantity over quality

If you’re keen to look into domain parking as a revenue source, the first thing you will need to know is that for this method, quantity is just as important, if not more so, than quality.

This is because like with most advertisements on the internet, the more traffic you have the more chance you have of generating the all-important clicks, so the more domains you have parked, the higher the possibility of getting some that have a high traffic flow.

It’s not uncommon for someone involved in domain parking to have hundreds of domains. In fact some services like Sedo’s Domain Parking for Professionals requires you to have a minimum of 500 domains!

Domain selection

The most important thing about choosing a domain is to find those domains that can generate traffic without input from you.

This is because all the domain parking services have rules that prevent you from sending traffic to the sites via SEO, PPC etc.

In fact they can be quite ruthless when it comes to traffic monitoring and if it looks like you’re trying to game the system they will suspend or close your account.

When choosing domains to use for parking, there are 3 broad types: brand new, misspelled, and expired domains.

Brand new domains

This type of domain refers to new domains that are spelled correctly but may offer potential for traffic. In general these should be avoided or at least examined in detail to make sure they are worth the purchase, though at approx. $10 for a domain, it’s sometimes worth the risk.

Misspelled domains

This type of domain is one where you obtain a domain similar to another in the hopes that people will type in the incorrect domain name and end up on your site instead.

The most common way to do this is to look for plurals, e.g. instead of bluewidget.com, register bluewidgets.com.

There are some legal areas that you may struggle with here, especially if you start abusing brand names and copyrights this way, but it does offer the opportunity to catch traffic from popular sites.

Expired domains

A safer alternative is to pick up domains that have expired. These types of domains usually have had some traffic in the past that you can leverage.

It’s worth running any domain through a site that can provide more info on the domain such as Alexa for estimated traffic and Majestic for a more detailed report.

Basically you’re just trying to make sure you’re not buying a site that only had 3 visitors per year, as you won’t make a cent that way.

If you’ve ever examined a domain to buy or one for a PBN, then it’s basically the same criteria.

What sort of domains should you buy?

This is the difficult question, but in general they should be .coms or .orgs and should focus on a popular niche.

This would be the one time where you should even consider broader niches than you are perhaps used to with affiliate marketing, though as with anything online testing will be required.

Looking to current or potential fads and trends is definitely a decent angle to take, though these have a tendency to not be evergreen and run out of steam after a while.

Domain parking requires a lot of forethought and examination of a niche, from the keywords used to the general market, as well as potential traffic as everything focuses purely on the domain name itself as you have no other way to market the domain.

Exact Match Domains

Google has penalised exact match domains (EMD), but from a domain parking point of view it isn’t a problem. Parked domains won’t appear in an internet search anyway, so if the EMD looks like a good domain then pick it up!

Services you can use

In order to get adverts to appear on your site, you will need to use a domain parking service.

Most domain registrars such as GoDaddy and Sedo offer domain parking services.

There are also companies that solely focus on domain parking such as NameDrive and Redirect.

Redirect is actually quite an interesting one as instead of serving adverts, it geo-locates the visitor and redirects them to a targeted advertiser.

GoDaddy's Parked Domain Potential Earnings Chart

Problems with parking services

The main issue with parking services from your point of view is the inability of sending traffic to the domain.

It’s understandable why they would do this; after all it’s easy to send a ton of untargeted traffic at a domain which will increase any CPM (Cost Per Thousand) earnings.

As well as that the actual earnings per click for most services is mere cents.

How then can you increase earnings?

One option is to do your homework and choose the right service that provides the best rates.

Other than that you could always create a faux parked domain. This involves sticking up a basic web page with related adverts on it.

Of course this is more work to create and maintain, especially if you have hundreds of domains, but it does allow you to have a lot more control and to choose advertisers (or affiliate schemes) that have fewer rules in force.

Bottom line

Domain parking isn’t for everyone. There’s a level of investment required that most people balk at (easily $1,000 – $5,000 or more per year).

As well as that, finding domains that can generate traffic without SEO and therefore income is an ongoing project; especially as fads and trends change over time (how much traffic would Olympics2012.com get right now?).

That being said, if you are skillful in your selection as well as use a scatter shot method (it’s odd to use both of those at the same time but there you go), then there is a potential to make your costs back and then some.