Can I Really Make Money with My Web Site?

If you have a web site or blog, even though you may not know it, you are a publisher. And your “publication” has the potential to refer or inform somebody’s potential customer.

The answer is yes.
About ten years ago I began experimenting with what was then a fledgling industry: affiliate marketing. The concept is simple and predates the New World of cyberspace: I’ll pay you to send me a customer.

The basic idea falls into three main categories:
Pay per Click paid when someone clicks the link
Pay per Action paid when someone clicks link and does something
Pay per View (or impression) paid when the ad is viewed or displayed
You’ll sometimes see acronyms like CPA, this describes “cost per action” which is the same thing as “pay per action” but from the merchant or advertiser’s point of view. In other words, to pay you it will cost him. These all relate back to the basic concept of paying you to send someone a customer.

Worthy Links to Revenue
Here is a list of the most reputable affiliate providers and my less-than-scientific observations on each.

  • Share a Sale
    Combined payments and easy access to product datafeeds are a big plus for this up-and-comer. Don’t expect to find the Fortune 500 here, their specialty is smaller retailers that can’t afford the huge up-front costs of the larger services. If you’re looking for niche markets this is great place to start.
  • Link Share
    Ever-improving network of advertisers make this provider a must see. A wide variety of companies in all sizes work with Link Share. Linking interface is a little clumsy and doesn’t allow for much flexibility. Datafeeds are only available if you pay for them. WTF?!?
  • Clix Galore
    These folks are heavy on the Aussie merchants, although U.S. companies are also players. They combine payments too which is nice. Managing links is a little clunky but the reporting interface is good.
  • Commission Junction
    The biggest player in the affiliate marketing game. CJ combines payments and offers one of the most elite advertiser lists out there. Their “Smart Zone” feature is still the best in the biz and works with advertiser’s product datafeeds.
  • Google Ad Sense
    As usual Google is a new arrival on the scene and has taken a novel approach. It’s basically a pay-per-click program but with a twist. The ads displayed on your site are based on the content of your page. Advertisers bid on keywords and Google shares the revenue with you if a visitor clicks the link.
  • Valueclick
    If you have a high-traffic site you should consider visiting these folks. They are biggies in the pay-per-impression and pay-per-click advertising. Their advanced user interface allows you setup defaults and alternate network ads as you see fit.
  • Burst Media
    Burst is another CPM network and they specialize in working with niche publishers. This is a good fit if you have a forum or blog.

This is only a partial list of course, and it’s growing all the time.

How it WorksSpeaking of Pixels
The size of computer monitors vary greatly. Measurements on the web aren’t stated in inches because computer monitors, like most of the world, doesn’t know what an inch is. While I surf along with a 15″ CRT you may be staring at a 30″ plasma flat panel, and then you have the guy who looks at a web page using a cell phone. All three of these screens have different ideas of what an “inch” is. However, they all have pixels.

That’s why you see banner ads described as 468 x 60 as opposed to something you’d find on a ruler. The dimension is always width first, then height. Common sizes of web site ads these days include 468×60, 728×90, 120×60, 120×600, 160×600, 300×250, 125×125 and 250×250.

Whew.
You join an affiliate program and they provide you a blob of script or a special code. You paste this special link on your web site– it may take the form of a graphic or plain text. The important thing is when someone clicks on this link it identifies you to the advertiser or merchant as the source or referrer. Sort of a 21st century version of, “Who sent ya’?” Then, depending on the payment terms, you get credited for sending the visitor.

In the early days affiliate marketing was more or less based on the venerable banner ad. Most any site worth a GIF sprouted advertising across the top of the page in the form of the now familiar rectangle measuring 468 pixels wide and 60 pixels tall. Today affiliate marketing includes rotating banners, product datafeeds, contextual text ads, keyword searches and search engine marketing.

Getting Beyond Basics
Before you can make any money you’ll need to sign up with an affiliate program. These come in many different shapes and sizes, but fall into two main categories: program providers and merchant program.

Providers are companies that offer merchants/advertisers a way to manage their affiliate program without actually having to “manage” it. The provider handles all the record-keeping, serving up the links and paying the affiliates. You’ll find a list of the most popular affiliate program providers below.

Merchant programs are simply affiliate systems that are not managed by a third party. In other words, the advertiser themselves take care of the bookkeeping and link management. Most of the time this method is used by smaller organizations, but not always.

Affiliate network providers offer you one-stop access to many advertisers. They usually have the horsepower to serve up links and banner ads without a glitch. Some of them combine payments, which can speed things up and reduce the chance of small amounts being trapped in limbo. On the other hand, most self-managed programs offer higher commissions. This is simply because they don’t have to pay a third party.

I hope this article was helpful for those of you considering the possibilities.

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Radio Milan CD Now Available

In a former life I was a musical artist.

If anyone remembers Tulsa’s new wave scene back in the early `80s they will remember Radio Milan. If you never inhaled you might also recall The Insects. That was the first name of this musical experiment, the name was changed to Radio Milan in 1982. We disbanded in 1987 after a terrible performance as the opening act for Wang Chung.

Radio Milan T-Shirt DesignRecordings from this golden age of punk are now available to the world through the miracle of the Internet!

Radio Milan: The Jim Anthology

The first tracks are Radio Milan recordings that were released in 1986 as a cassette tape titled Musica la Dolce. Next up is the recording of “Mille Miglia” we offered up for the Explosive Sampler. This CD also features live recordings from a rare television appearance and the Crystal Pistol.

There are a total of 20 tracks on the CD and you can listen to samples of all of them at CD Freedom

Update:

June 29, 2008- Digital downloads are now available of selected Radio Milan and Insects music. The first batch are the six songs from the Musica La Dolcé cassette, originally released in 1986. Watch for more classic hits from the Eighties to be added soon.

www.nimbitmusic.com/radiomilan

We are sinking!

A friend from Muskogee sent me this and I laughed my arse off. Funniest thing I’d seen in a while.

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?videoUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fvp.video.google.com%2Fvideodownload%3Fversion%3D0%26secureurl%3DkgAAAOJqZLz10uNQrIOPKIk1IbSDFLHR6dm28E5Ib0Z9Vt9yddBZBZH2WmWyMijZDAnZuYLZizCs9bJ82g51ekD8dYepU97wSnX1nIPkKjN8I9XRWNjJc8Y-c6WeVCgfX9rYzOgOML-Z_Z9jm8kjN7RpZeg56LO5rUZ-lYHDoovCxPo0BioZ3Pxzb8AYMym4PtCLX9N8qMA5PhwXAbwstUV2RYc%26sigh%3DxsSLXiDAM8s6jeY3dSH9gWpfpVA%26begin%3D0%26len%3D40280%26docid%3D-6801926416414761527&thumbnailUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo.google.com%2FThumbnailServer%3Fcontentid%3Dd75ee960967bc70b%26second%3D5%26itag%3Dw320%26urlcreated%3D1140009327%26sigh%3DYyz3-WBhwm-t6n18a6DqVkduSvs&playerId=-6801926416414761527&playerMode=embedded

The Machines I Have Known

A Work in Progress

I thought it might be fun to catalog all of the motorcycles I have owned. So here goes– beginning in 1974 and my fourteenth birthday….

1970 Speedway Super Spyder

This was a Sachs 125-powered dirt bike with 15″ wheels. They were built by a mini bike company in Florida and the Spyder (the “Y” made it even cooler) was their top of the line Big Bike.

Like most things I got for my birthday, this one was broken. Dad and I put it together from a basket full of two motors. It hauled ass but had a habit of mis-shifting if you revved it too high.

1978 Kawasaki KZ650 SR

KZ650-SR in front of the Oklahoma capitol.

I traded a `74 Fiat 124 Spider for this bike (no “Y” so it had to go). Such a sweet ride. Damn reliable motorcycles and not bad to look at either. If you frequented the Bleu Grotto you most likely saw the SR parked out front.

1981 Kawasaki KZ750
Didn’t have this bike very long. Probably had something to do with Jackie burning her leg on the muffler. My bad.

1989 Kawasaki KDX200

Me and the KDX during a trail ride near Prattville, OK

After a long hiatus it became apparent I never got the “dirt bike thing” out of my system. I bought the KDX and returned to motorcycling circa 1997.

It was a great bike for rejuvenating those long dormant genes. Cheap and plentiful, and just new enough to have a power valve to soften that two-stroke powerband.

The KDX is a versatile trail bike and I’d recommend one to anyone wanting to go play in the dirt. Scratch that… I’d recommend one to anyone. Everybody needs a KDX or two.

1995 Kawasaki KLR650

This dual sport was my first street bike in about 15 years.

It was originally this bizarre turquoise color but I changed out the plastic for the earlier blue color. The anemic muffler was replaced with a Cobra can that sounded nice and weighed several pounds less.

KLRs are fun. The 650cc single is a huffer. I had fun exploring gravel roads and some dirt trails. Getting very “dirty” was not so much fun. It’s just a little too big and heavy and underpowered to go very far off-road.

But the worst part of the ride is getting to the trail. Three chains and two balance shafts later they still vibrate your dentures loose.

1996 Triumph 900 Sprint

The only brand new motorcycle I ever bought. Hell, it’s the only new vehicle of any kind I’ve ever bought. Picked it up brand new from Atlas in 1999 (yes, it was brand new but three years old). This was our return to a real street bike and we took some wonderful trips on it.

Jackie still curses me for selling the Sprint (or Trumpy as she calls it). Comfortable bike, good power, smooth and reliable. But what a doggone top-heavy sumbitch. When these early Triumphs are dropped it’s usually in a parking lot doing about 6 mph.

What it lacked around town it redeemed on the open road. These early Hinckley Triumphs are well-built and the Sprint is a fine sport-tourer. That soft luggage is made in New Zealand by a company called Ventura. That’s great stuff too.

1994 Kawasaki KX250

This was my last “dirt bike” and was modified for trail riding. It had an A-Loop flywheel and fatty pipe to make it less a motocrosser and more a woods bike. Very fun. Still very fast.

I raced a season of cross-country with the OCCRA boys and decided I was too old for bouncing off of trees. Had a lot of fun and, fortunately, never really got hurt. Knock on wood.

Bad puns aside- after I sold this I quit racing off-road and started learning how to ride observed trials.

And now for something completely different.

1989 Aprilia 280 Climber
The Climber (in the background of the photo below) introduced me to observed trials riding and that was a real eye opener.

These bikes worked great for Tommy Ahvala. Didn’t work as well for me. The Rotax had a habit of selecting gears on its own despite the rider’s suggestion. I rode it one season and decided I liked trials enough to get a more modern bike.

1997 Beta Techno
A proper trails machine.

The photo shows the Beta shortly after arriving from Portland, Oregon and the Climber preparing to leave for California. We kept the Forward Air truck line in business that month!

The Techno was a fun motorcycle. It was the uprated version with the 280cc mod and could yank stumps right out of the ground! Of all the Italian machinery I’ve owned the Betas have to be the best built. Very well made.

1989 Honda XL600V Transalp
My next street bike was a cult bike I’d long admired. This Transalp came up on eBay and I knew it was worth a shot when I read the location: Woodward, Oklahoma. Who the hell within 100 miles of Woodward ever even heard of a Transalp?!?

To this day the Transalp is one of the most popular Hondas in Europe. But they didn’t sell squat in the US. They were only sold in `89 and `90, long before the term “dual sport” was even coined. But it’s no surprise they didn’t sell here- much too practical a motorcycle for the American market.

I really enjoyed riding this bike. Around town it’s great. Smooth 600cc V-twin and great, neutral handling. But on the highway or two-up the twin starts to show its relative lack of ponies.

2003 Beta Rev 3

More fine Italian aluminum. An excellent machine and an absolute blast to ride.

The Techno was getting tired and saggy in the rear end (quiet in back, please) and all signs pointed to the monoshock. Instead of shelling out for a replacement I sent it off to teach another newbie rider and bought myself a Rev 3.

Unfortunately my back started giving me trouble and I wasn’t dedicated enough to keep risking serious injury. This was my last trials bike.

1995 BMW R1100GS
I was hanging out at Brookside Motorcycle Company one day and made the mistake of riding a GS. I loved it.

I picked this GS up on eBay with full bags and an Aeroflow windscreen. Thought I got a great deal. Turned out it wasn’t such a great deal after all. A persistent problem kept it from making any go after about 2/3 throttle. Otherwise it ran great!

We had a few good trips on it (Show Me)– enough to convince me I really like the BMW thing. The GS is a versatile machine that easily handles the gravel roads and trails but is comfortable enough to take you to them. Jackie found it comfortable and only wished it would dependably run right! But I could never cure the running problem and it made long-distance touring a real headache. I sold it and…

2003 BMW R1150R August 2007

..that brings us to the latest beemer.

This is a sweet bike. I bought it from a fellow in New Mexico (road trip) with only 16k miles. It originally came from Dallas and has been well cared for (unlike the above BMW).

I wanted another GS but they demand a premium price. Hey, they’re an icon. For the price of a mid to late nineties GS we’re stylin’ on an `03 R. And I like it.

The R is also able to get it’s feet a little dirty. With the right tires some people get downright “off road” with them. But most importantly it’s comfortable two-up and handles great. Highway cruising really is cruising with the motor ticking along less than 4000 RPM at 80 mph.

2005 BMW R1200GS August 2009
R1150R meets its replacement: R1200GS

Okay, I admit it. I’m a GS guy.

The R (see above) is a great bike. But if the road turns into gravel or Jackie and I want to do some serious miles, it’s not the best choice. I’m just a freak for versatility, and the GS is versatile. Tour all day, explore a gravel road, commute in heavy traffic, you name it and it does it all pretty darn well.

When I found this `05 GS available for well below book I had to have a look. It’s a beauty, matches my helmet and is well farkled, so we made the trek across Missouri to buy it.


Alfa Romeo GTV during a trackside yoga session at Hallett
The End
(for now)
Not really. I’ll update this as time goes by.

Baby with the Bath Water

“I have a great spam filter.”
At a recent holiday party I asked a friend about an e-mail I had sent him. He pondered for a moment and shook his head. The above was his response, which perplexed me for a moment.

Did he consider my correspondence spam? Was he being facetious?

I grinned and suggested, “Maybe it’s a little too good?”

This scenario is played out every day across America. Consumer confidence in e-mail is in crisis. Our increasing intolerance for unsolicited commercial e-mail has prompted many to launch a diligent attack on spam. Unfortunately are assault is so vicious it risks taking out e-mail as a viable communication tool in the process. If you rely on electronic mail to distribute information this has most likely made your life unpleasant.

User Unfriendly
The biggest problem is the huge number of Internet users who have no idea what may be blocking legitimate messages. Their Internet Service Provider (ISP) has installed some new software they either know nothing about or can’t figure out. While this is troublesome it can be overcome– simple announcements are a great start. The worst part is the bad reflection it casts on parties who have no control over the situation.

When someone visits your web site or contacts your organization they may request information. Many of these requests are transacted via e-mail. Even if they begin as a contact form or blog message, the end result is often in the form of an e-mail message. But let’s suppose a spam filter prevents your acknowledgement or reply from reaching that visitor. Is his first thought to check his “whitelist” or Bulk folder? Does he rush out and call his ISP? Hell no, he’s pissed at you!

Black List, Gray Area

Another trend that really troubles me is the growing number of ISPs and mail administrators that are using Realtime Black Lists to block mail. The idea is to maintain a list of servers and IP addresses that are known to be exploited by spammers. While this is good in theory, it sucks in practice. The problem is, like the Jackson Five song goes, one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl.

Imagine a ne’er-do-well signs up for a Yahoo account and starts blasting out Nigerian spam. He is sending this from Yahoo so his address is most likely going to end with yahoo.com (or something similar). Next a blocking list server sees all this spam being sent and decides to blacklist the yahoo.com domain. See any problem there? Like maybe the millions of legitimate Yahoo Mail users?

Now don’t get me wrong- not all of these blacklist guys are so stupid. But, believe it or not, some of them are! And then an even bigger idiot decides to subscribe to one of these half-baked schemes and implement it on his mail server. So now we have legitimate folks trying to send invoices to customers or proofs to publishers or listings to members or news to subscribers or… whatever, it doesn’t matter because it’s bounced or discarded as spam before it reaches anyone.

The Final Solution
A proper solution to the problem of spam is in the works. It basically involves basic authentication to restore accountability. A treatise from the Email Sender and Provider Coalition offers a detailed explanation of the problem and the solution. This is something anyone who administers an e-mail server should read.

But that doesn’t mean Mr. Average User shouldn’t do your part! The ESPC also offers a great little tool on their web site which allows you to test your own e-mail address to see if it complies with the proposed standards. It’s a simple tool, just send an e-mail to the sample address provided. Give it a minute then click the View Sample button to review the results. If your mail doesn’t pass tell your ISP or network administrator about it. Let them know you’re concerned and you think it’s important to consider improving your e-mail authentication. Suggest they visit this link for more information: www.espcoalition.org

Always Searching

Most of us take simple computer tasks for granted. For instance, like visiting a web site we might read or hear about. You open your favorite web browser and type the ubiquitous dubya-dubya-dubyas in the address bar and hit the enter key. Right? Assuming we typed in the web site’s address correctly it will eventually appear on our screen. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

I found just how wrong I was last week while working on a project that would be promoted through a new sub-directory. The project name would thus be added to our normal domain name. So our usual http://www.companyname.com would become http://www.companyname.com/project. There was nothing secret about it, so we decided to publish the test site to the live server (also gives the search engines a chance to find it). Pretty common practice, I thought, so there didn’t seem to be any reason to get alarmed. We send it out to our group of testers and they’ll type it into their address bar and have a look at the project test site. What could be easier?

The next day I found just how wrong I was.

Find and Ye Shall Seek
My boss beeps me and says nobody can “find” the test site. Before I had time to realize who I was talking to I asked, “Whaddya’ mean find it?” Turned out he was just as perplexed as our test group.

After a little digging I found out my boss was typing http://www.companyname.com/project in to Google. Since the sub-directory was less than a day old it didn’t return any search results. It did provide a simple link to the URL, but he didn’t bother to read that part or click the link. I calmly suggested he enter the web address into the box on the toolbar and see what happened. He was amazed.

I later found out there is a very large percentage of Internet users who “search” for web addresses. If you don’t believe me check your web stats. Look at the referring search terms report for your own domain name. I bet you’ll find some. This is the modern equivelent of dialing the operator to connect you- even though you know the number. Do they even do that anymore?

The lesson I learned from this was to publish new directories for a few days in advance of any public test. That allows the search engines some time to discover the new address, and return some sort of result. Also avoid promotions that use a “pre-domain” in place of the typical WWW. Like project.companyname.com. The problem you’ll run into here is people insist on adding the WWW on the front and it will 404. It’s probably best to stick with the simple http://www.companyname.com/project instead.

Yield… to Clinton Riggs

Clinton Riggs probably never considered himself a “graphic designer.” Heck, the term probably hadn’t even been invented back in 1939 when he was creating his magnum opus. But I’ll bet you’ve seen his work. They’re triangular and red & white. In some parts of the world they have no verbiage, but around here most of them just say YEILD.

When Riggs first ventured into the world of traffic control systems and graphical designs he envisioned a device he called a “responsibility sign.” That would have probably never made it in this day and age, and fortunately the key element “yield” came along. The first signs said: “YIELD right of way” in black letters on a yellow background. In 1939 he tried to sell the idea to Tulsa’s municipal government to no avail. Ironically, interest from afar was enthusiastic about the idea. But it was still another ten years before the Yield sign really started rolling.

Finally, in 1951 Captain Riggs took it upon himself to put his sign to work. Back then the most dangerous intersection in Tulsa was 1st Street and Columbia Avenue. For some reason no stop sign had ever been installed, even though accidents were common. Riggs had the world’s first Yield sign made to his specification out of his own pocket. He promptly mounted a pair on poles and planted them at 1st and Columbia. Accidents immediately decreased.

A modern example of the Yield sign in the US.Over time the Yield sign slowly became more common. There was some trepidation on the part of those that felt it was an unnecessary new sign. The thinking was– any intersection that merits slowing down needs to have a stop sign installed. Internationally acceptance was more rapid and letters poured in from around the world asking about design and implementation of the new sign. And then in the late Fifties came the Interstate Highway System.

Suddenly roadways all across the nation were being built with merge lanes and exit ramps. Even cities built predominantly on a gridwork pattern, like Tulsa, were dealing with curved intersections where traffic flowed together. Perpendicular intersections were one thing, but no one was going to suggest putting a stop sign on a superhighway cloverleaf. The Yield sign was immediately requisite.

I can remember seeing the distinctive original yellow signs as a child. In fact, I recall traveling to other cities and noticing unusual triangular Yield signs. It never occurred to me why there might be different styles of the same sign. Eventually triangular signs replaced all of the original keystone-shaped versions. Years later the Yield sign was “globalized” with a new coat of paint and now the yellow ones have all but vanished.

Riggs retired in 1970 and is best known in the Department as the commander of the police-training academy, a job he held for many years. The southwest precinct of the TPD is named in his honor. His widow, Vera Riggs, still has that original prototype sign, along with those letters from all over the world. An example also resides in the Smithsonian.

And to this day every officer of the Tulsa Police Department wears a small homage to this self-made graphic designer/traffic control engineer. If you look closely at their shoulder patch you can see a little bit of that very first black and yellow Yield sign.

This article was originally written for the Tulsa channel on About.com in June 2000.