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There's no business like the info business - not even show business, as far as I know. For information, not money, is what makes the world go round in this, the information age - and if you can rope off for yourself a segment of information that you can "own," an area that you can be identified with, the world will come a-knocking with banner ads and click-throughs - and, more importantly, assistance with projects that you, as an expert, can help them with!
This is not a joke - and it is not an impossible dream. Millions of people around the world are serving up information to tens of millions of others and the ones that are able to "brand" themselves as experts are able to make careers out of their expertise, and grow their businesses and income. And, lest you think you need to have advanced academic degrees or the like in order to be considered an "expert" - well, it helps if you want people to listen to your legal or medical advice, I suppose. But you don't need a degree to raise kids - and if you've got a system that works, the world wants to know about it. If you can present your case well, it's likely many people will tune in to hear what you have to say. And once that happens, you've got the makings of a nice side Internet information business you can parley into cash.
Note that expertise is not the only criteria the Web surfing public seeks out. Humor is a big draw, of course. A well-written blog on daily life in Israel is something Jews and others around the world will be most interested in reading. Anyway, not to overstate the obvious - or to sound too hokey - the opportunity to run an Internet information business, with a blog or information Web site at its core, is not limited to any specific segment of the population, and is an opportunity available to any and every one. All you have to do is get involved, work hard, and build your "brand," by sharing what you know with the world.
To what end? Well, the more people turn to you for information, the more opportunity you will have to earn money. Below I list just some of the ways you can use a popular blog to earn money - and how to get your blog to the point where it's popular enough to be earning money!
1. Advertising: Spreading the word is going to be one of your priorities, no question about it. Fortunately, there are many options for savvy ad placement, with the term "ad" defined as an outright promotion of your product or service. Generally, you have to pay for the purpose, unless you get invited by a Web site or print publication to promote your business. That's pretty rare, of course - the best you can get for free in terms of outright advertising is usually just an affiliation mention at the end of an article you've written. If you want to advertise, you'll probably have to spend some money. But forget about putting up banner or even text ads on popular Web sites; trust me on this, you can't afford them.
So where would one advertise on the Net, if one were so inclined? Local community e-mail lists, or other specialty e-mail lists aimed at target audiences, are a good place to start. For a lot less money than what a banner ad would cost, you can get your message in front of thousands of eyes, who are much more likely to actually see your message, because they are interested in the content of the mailing - which you are now a part of. And, of course, you can go the usual route, signing up for affiliate programs, click-throughs, etc.
2. Newsletters: If we are talking about mailings, why not do them yourself? Your ads should be pointing people to your Web site, where you can sign visitors up for your own informational newsletter. Newsletters are one of the best ways to market, because they are so versatile. You can use them to sell other products or services, to take paid ads from others who want to get their message out, and as a vehicle to show off your expertise, thus enhancing your reputation and expertise "branding." Of course, if you want people to sign up for your mailings, you had better be offering them something useful that they are going to want to read - otherwise, you will find yourself in the spam bin so fast you won't know what happened! How do you write newsletters? Address them so mail filters don't think they are spam, and administer them cheaply? Good questions, and the answers are too long for this space; on these matters, Google is your friend.
3. Special Interest Groups: Another thing you should be doing at your blog or Web site is signing people up for your special interest newsgroup - i.e. a newsgroup relating to your topic of interest, where members can exchange ideas and opinions. It keeps up users' interest in your topic, and can drive even more traffic to your site - since the articles and expertise under discussion is exactly what you write about. Users in these groups will send out links to articles on your site, thus virally spreading the word about what you do. Thanks to services like Yahoo Groups, newsgroups are easy and free to use.
Another angle on the SIG is to organize users on other services who have the same interests you do. Setting up a group on social networking sites like LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com) and the like can net you hundreds of like minded people who are candidates for your information, newsgroup, newsletters, etc.
Yet another way to parlay the power of the group is by offering help on your subject in Internet forums that already deal with it. If you've got a good article on photography, home organization, etc., why not post a link to it in discussions on the subject on other sites? Of course, when dealing with other people's Web property, a few basic rules of etiquette - and politics - apply; you can't spam, and your posts have to deal with real, legitimate and useful information. The people running these sites, after all, know exactly what you do now about Web marketing, and got there first. So you would expect that they wouldn't want to put up with too much competition. On the other hand, because they climbed up the way you did, they are likely to be somewhat sympathetic, and even helpful, to another Web entrepreneur. As my buddy Ed Norton of Honeymooner's fame used to say, in a truism learned in the mean sewers of New York City, "be nice to the people you meet on the way up - because you're going to meet the same people on the way down."
4. SEO: Promoting your site through keywords, Google listings and the like definitely has its place; with all this targeted marketing, you don't want to forget about the random visitor seeking information you can supply (the "walk-in" trade). Again, Google is your friend; just search for the term SEO and you will find thousands of helpful hints.
Doing all this stuff takes practice, testing, focus, direction, and all the other stuff your high school adviser told you were the keys to success. And, of course, it takes time - lots of it. But you don't have to do everything all at the same time. Remember, your objective is to make a nice income. The more people that know about what you have to offer, the more likely that someone who is looking for an expert in your field will come across you - and maybe offer you a nice part time, work at home research gig that's right up your alley!
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