Monthly Archives: June 2004

A five minute task that is saving me $750 A MONTH!

As my regular subscribers will know, I often share my own online experiences in this newsletter in the hope that it will help some of you.  As my regular subscribers also know, despite the fact that I have achieved a degree of success with my Internet ventures, I can be pretty lazy when it comes to the more mundane aspects of running an online business.  It is usually these ‘boring’ tasks that end up saving or making me large sums of money (when I eventually get around to dealing with them!).  One day I will learn…

This week, the incredibly boring job that I want to talk about is ad-tracking.  Now please bear with me on this – I know it isn’t the most exciting topic in the world BUT spending (literally) five minutes on this task a month ago is already saving me over $750 a month (that’s $9,000 a year!) and there is every possibility that I could end up saving more than double that amount! 

Like many website owners, I use pay-per-click search engines to promote some of my businesses.  I am sure you are all familiar with this type of advertising but if not, you basically have your website advertised in the search results of a particular search engine and every time a browser clicks on your advert, you pay the search engine a set fee (anything from 5 cents upwards).  The amount you pay is governed by how popular the search keyword that you are listed under is.  For example, search terms such as ‘hosting’ or ‘casinos’ etc are very competitive and could cost you several dollars a click (that is just for someone to visit your site – they don’t have to buy anything!).  As you can see, it can get very expensive.

Anyway, back to my story…

One of the most popular search engines to advertise on in the above way is Google, using their Adwords service.  Adwords are the paid adverts that show up on the right-hand side of the Google search engine listings.  I have been using Google Adwords for years on and off but more recently I have only been using this service to advertise a couple of my main websites.  The reason being that these sites have high sales conversion ratios (the number of people that visit the sites and actually buy something) and therefore I can justify the relatively high advertising cost. 

Both of these sites were receiving good levels of traffic from Google Adwords and both were making proportionate levels of sales.  Of course, the sites also receive traffic from many other sources but I assumed that as Google had always provided me with visitors that bought, that this was still the case.  The bottom line was that if my PPC costs were way lower than my sales costs on each day, then I was basically happy.

A few months ago, Google introduced a new tool which allows you to track the visitors that they were sending you through your advertising with them.  The ad tracking tool is very easy to install and requires you to place a small piece of HTML code on your ‘thank-you’ pages (for example, the confirmation of order page that a customer will only see if they have purchased from you).  Once installed, Google can track their referrals and see how many of them actually make it to the ‘thank-you’ page (ie. and make a purchase).  The results are then displayed within your normal Google Adwords stats.

Last month I had a spare five minutes so I installed the ad tracking tool on one of my sites, expecting to find that I was correct in my assumption that a good percentage of these referrals from Google were buying from me.  I was initially very surprised to see that over the first few days, hardly any of the referrals were making purchases but I put this down to an ‘off-week’ and let the adverts continue to run.

In the end, I tracked this specific ad for a month and the conversion rate from the Adwords referrals was appalling – seriously, I really couldn’t believe it.  The site WAS making sales but hardly any of the buyers were coming from the Google paid adverts.  The fact was that the sales were covering the cost of the Adwords advertising but I was basically wasting money because this advertising was in no way whatsoever as effective as it had been in the past. 

Result?

I stopped that advertising campaign after tracking it for a month and guess what?  The level of sales on the site in question has remained constant but I am now saving over $750 a month by not paying for the Adwords advertising.

I am now tracking a second site in the same way and whilst the results so far show that the conversion rate is higher than the first site, it is still not as high as I would have expected so I may well end up ditching this campaign also and that will save me considerably more money each month!

The moral of this story?  Well, it’s obvious really and I have said it before in this very newsletter but it is absolutely vital that you track your paid advertising to see how effective it really is.  You may well be surprised (as I was) and if it saves you a few hundred dollars a month, I can assure you it is a very nice surprise.

Newsletters – why you should be writing one!

When I asked for questions a few weeks ago, a number of you asked about newsletters.  The questions all varied slightly but can be summarized as follows:

Why do I need a newsletter and how do I go about setting one up?

Let’s start at the beginning – why do you need a newsletter?

Well of course, you don’t need a newsletter BUT they can be very beneficial to your online business.  A regular newsletter will do a couple of things; firstly it will help to build trust and respect with your subscribers (assuming you are writing about something that they are interested in and that you are knowledgeable about your subject matter).  Secondly, it will remind your subscribers of who you are and what your website is about.  If you get it right, this will mean that your subscribers are more likely to turn into customers…

Ok, so now you know why you might want a newsletter, how do you go about starting one?

As with most things online, there are several ways to get started but most of these methods will fall into one of two categories:

1.  A third-party hosted service

2.  Your own service hosted on your web server

The difference between the two is simple.  With a third-party hosted service, you host your newsletter list with a company that is specifically set up for this purpose.  Whenever you want to send a newsletter, you just upload your newsletter to this company and they send it for you from their servers.

With the second option, you would need to install a script on your own hosting server and then your newsletter emails are sent via your own hosting account.

Pro’s and Con’s of each option

With the third-party service you will normally have to pay a monthly fee to use the service and you probably won’t have as much control over exactly when your newsletter is sent.  However, this is usually much easier to set up and maintain than the second option and is an ideal way to start off.

With your own service you probably won’t have to pay a monthly fee (other than for your normal hosting) BUT your hosting company is very likely to have a restriction on how many emails you can send at once.  The reason for this is that sending emails uses server resources and a host is not going to want you ‘taking over’ one of their servers to send tens of thousands of emails.  The maximum number of emails you can send will vary from 30 upwards so you should check with your host before setting up a newsletter in this way.  On the plus side, you will have total control over when the newsletters are sent, since you are the one in charge of the ‘send’ button.

Whichever method you decide to use (and I recommend the first for new publishers), you will normally be able to send either a text or HTML message by selecting the appropriate option in your newsletter control panel (which you would access via your web browser).  You will also be able to generate the necessary ‘form code’ to put on your website so that you have a nice subscription form for new subscribers to complete.

Finally, both services will deal with unsubscriptions and bounced emails automatically which means you can concentrate on writing great content!

If you are new to publishing a newsletter, I strongly recommend a hosted service called AweberAweber is very easy to use and very reasonable price-wise.