Social media signals will not help your SEO efforts. Period.

social-media-seo affiliates

2013 was the year when social media signals were all the rage. It was as if the entire SEO world had gone mad ramping up their efforts to increase Facebook likes, twitter shares and gain a larger presence on google plus.

We were led to believe by so called experts that boosting our social signal efforts would somehow correlate to an increase in rankings, trust and overall better position with google.

What absolute BS that was.

Of course much like many of you I gave it a go. Nothing could be further from the truth. For many weeks and even months I tested this theory by increasing social signals to my content to see what effect they would take on.

In the end I just concluded that social signals play no role in ranking content.

That’s not to say that organic social signals don’t hold value. They certainly do in the sense that they can drive traffic to your site. But don’t for one second assume that buying a bunch of social signals from fiverr is going to somehow miraculously boost your results. It never will.

If you are adamant on artificial social signals you need to understand that besides making your website look popular they hold no other value whatsoever. You are much better off focussing on quality content than you are with social media signals.

Tax deductions for affiliate marketers

tax deductions and expenses for affiliate marketing online

Let me start off by saying I absolutely suck at keeping up with paperwork.

You either love it or you don’t. I absolutely hate it.

I have always attempted to seek ways to reduce my workload by automating everything I do as much as i can. Earlier in my career I decided to import a physical niche product that I started to sell online. It started to make me some money but honestly I could not be bothered to process orders, print envelopes, pack the goods, make my way to the post office and to ship the products. It got so bad that I would rather give customers a refund than put the effort in to ship them (yes I know ridiculous LOL). I used to joke around with my sister about this. Her online businesses are all about customer service and shipping products and I could never be as organised the way she is. Quite often I would say to her ‘Yes dear. That’s great for you. But it’s not who I am. I just want to go to sleep, wake up, check my email and see how much money I made’. And that’s exactly what I did.

Anywho I’ve gone off topic a little but I had a point to make. If you are anything like me then you will need all the help you can to keep yourself organised especially when it comes to your tax records and expense management whether you are into affiliate marketing, internet marketing or whatever you want to call it.

Managing your receipts

FACT: Keeping good records of your receipts will allow you to minimise your tax liability to the government.

The moment you start to scale up your operations and outsource everything you are going to find it difficult to manage your expenses if you don’t plan ahead.

I scoured the internet high and low for the simplest solution I could find. If you are as lazy as i am then you should check out Shoeboxed. Shoeboxed allows you to forward receipts via email, take a snapshot of them with your phone or even mail them in via snail mail. The beauty of shoeboxed is that a team of administrative staff will go through your receipts and properly categorise it for you. This means at tax time you have meticulous records of your expenses which will allow you to minimise your tax and maximise the amount of money you can keep in the end.

Shoeboxed is not only a timesaver it is literally a lifesaver. For around $200 a year you will outsource the most time consuming aspect of your business. You will thank me later on this one!

Minimising your tax and Maximising your deductions as an affiliate marketer

Once you start to make serious money online you will need to start thinking about how you can keep as much of that hard earned affiliate money as possible. Again, this is a step you want to think of right at the start. Leaving this at the end can see you hand over a large proportion of your hard earned money to the government all because you did not spend an hour or so coming up with ways to help yourself. This is especially important if you have a full time job as a second income for most will push you into a higher tax bracket.

So, how can you minimise your tax? Spend appropriately throughout the year of course and keep records of it through shoeboxed.

Examples of Tax deductions of Online affiliate marketers

– Cost of internet
– Cost of mobile phone monthly fee with your carrier (even though you may not be using the telephone aspect you are most certainly using data to receive work emails)
– Hardware purchases (computer equipment, new mobile handset, speakers, hard drives, USB devices, NAS storage devices, you name… as long as you use it in your day to day business then you can claim it)
– Advertising (this could be SEO, Adwords costs, etc)
– Online costs (these could be as simple as subscribing to Akismet Spam or web hosting, cost of buying domains, freelancer costs, software purchases, VPS subscriptions, subscriptions to tools that help you in your SEO efforts, etc, etc).
– Travelling costs (Airfares to exhibitions, conventions, training sessions or perhaps you own a travel website and you review destinations… well you might be able to claim the cost of travel too!)
– Home office costs (stationary, a percentage of utility bills, cleaning costs, etc, etc).

The list is virtually endless. If you can substantiate that your expense was a requirement in doing business then you will most certainly be able to claim it. Naturally the rules differ in each country but most Western world countries apply similar principles.

Accountants for affiliate marketers

I am yet to find one that specialises in this area. It’s such a shame though. You would think that SEO savvy accountants would have recognised this as a niche to providing a service for affiliate marketers like us.

I suppose the point I want to make is that you can probably do your own tax returns but keep in mind that you are not likely to get the best possible outcome. Accountants do this for a living and they know all the rules and methods to maximise your return (or lower your tax liability) so it’s in your best interests to find one that can help you meet those goals.

If you are starting to make serious coin from your online affiliate marketing then you also need to be prepared to pay tax. As much as none of us like it, unfortunately it’s a reality for most. Don’t do anything silly in your tax return that could potentially have your entire financial history under a microscope. Be honest with Mr tax man because it will come back to bite you later on.

Apologies for the draft post. It’s not picture perfect but I hope that it answers some of your questions. Ask away if you are unsure. Even if you take away nothing from this post just remember that a receipt management tool will be your saviour at tax time!

Discovering unsaturated niches – The brainstorming process

unsaturated niches and mind mapping and creative thought process

Finding a niche sounds a lot easier than it is. Finding an unsaturated niche is even more difficult.

I personally found this to be the most challenging task. At first I started to wonder around the Internet looking at what other marketers were doing. Don’t be afraid to do the same. It will give you the best perspective on what others are targeting out there and this also allows you to get a sense of what is ‘saturated’.

Some of my best niche discoveries have come from brainstorming products and services that I have actually used or would consider using.

The creative process behind finding unsaturated niches is like your bread and butter to making money online.

Think outside the box.

For example:

Have you recently purchased something really cool?
Has someone at work been talking about a gadget they have recently purchased?
Are there any services you are using online that excite you?
Look around your house. Is there anything that triggers an idea for a product, service or category you want to investigate?
Have your friends purchased something really strange online recently?
Do you have a hobby? Do you play a sport? Do you love to travel? Do any of these trigger an idea for a niche?

You get the picture….

This is how the creative process comes about. At least this is how you will most certainly uncover unsaturated niches.

I will often sit on my bed with a laptop and use an app like Mind Node to brainstorm. If you have never heard about the Mind mapping process then you are going to love it! It will help you very quickly map out a bunch of ideas for unsaturated niches. As I write this paragraph I just realised that maybe even Mind mapping is an untapped niche! I have too much work on to explore this potential niche but I hope that proves just how easy it is to come up with ideas. Quite often we talk about niches without even realising it.

All too often people rely on websites or services that pound out thousands of keywords. From time to time you will find a golden nugget amongst these service providers however realistically you are probably not going to feel as ‘connected’ to the idea if you don’t come up with it yourself.

Looking at all the different niches I have explored I would say the niches I felt most passionate about have made me the most money. Books like ‘The Secret talk about the law of attraction, trusting your inner voice and following your instincts. As wishy washy as that may sound, it has been the foundation to everything I do.

The other recommendation I would make is that you separate the ‘creative thinking process’ from your keyword research process. Of course your ideas may be saturated or not have enough search volume to make you any money at all but I have found that if you separate these 2 tasks you will be in a much better place. When you try and do both at the same time you will end up getting bogged down with analytics and this really dulls your creative senses.

I realise this post doesn’t exactly hand you unsaturated niches on a silver platter – but I hope that I have shared something more valuable with you.

Explore your creativity by using mind mapping processes and you will be astounded with your discoveries. And of course don’t forget to separate the creative mind map process from the keyword difficulty/search volume/analytics processes.

Think for yourself. Your life, experiences, friends and surroundings are the best source of inspiration for discovering untapped niches. Feel free to add comments if you have any questions.

Vivid possums and Imogen’s farewell

One of my dear friends Imogen has joined the Big Brother team and she is being shipped to the Gold Coast for 6 months so we went out last night to celebrate her accomplishments and send her off with one last merry drink (well for another 6 months anyway).

Sydney is hosting the Vivid Festival at the moment; a celebration of art, culture, imagination, ideas and of course light.

The city came to life with bursts of colour turning buildings into living art. It was truly mesmerising and inspiring.

It makes me really proud to be a Sydney sider that Sydney plays host to something as unique as this.

Looking forward to the next one!

Oh… and here is a little photo of us. Okay so it’s not exactly the best photo but it is our way of paying homage to Vivid. We like to call ourselves the possums of Vivid.

Possums of Vivid

Virtual assistants. Virtually useless. Sometimes.

Finding virtual assistants online

Most of us start off solo in the online marketing world. For the most part it’s a learning curve but once you start to see the commissions roll in you will want to amplify your efforts and scale your business into something bigger.

In the last year or so I have been exploring the need to hire some virtual assistants to at least take on the mundane tasks.

I won’t lie. The quest to find quality virtual assistants is not easy.

Websites like oDesk have thousands of willing assistants however vetting through those that have the appropriate skill on paper as opposed to those that can actually do the job is not an easy task.

I would be lying to you if I said I have found the ‘dream team’. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. I am continually adding and removing people from my team.

Now, I’m going to make a few generalisations about ethnicity and my experiences with Virtual assistants from around the world. Please note I don’t intend on being derogatory or racist intentionally. I am not a racist person and although these are stereotypes they are true to my experiences thus far.

With that in mind – I tend to split my virtual assistant teams into several categories. This is what has worked best for me:

Filipino’s

Their strength tends to be in customer service, data entry, copying and pasting data from one site to another, basic WordPress work and research. I also use the Filipino community for social media monitoring. If your virtual assistant team gets large enough you could always employ one of these guys/girls to look after your entire team. Again the Filipino workers seem to excel in these type of roles also.

Indians

Indian Virtual assistants have been extremely problematic for me. In my experience over the years I find it that they bid on jobs and they are way out of their depth. On multiple occasions I have had work delivered and it was that bad that I end up paying them and re-doing it myself. Hire Indians for programming work. They tend to excel in this field.

Romanians / Russians

These guys hold their strengths in design, PHP and all the cool technical stuff. I am yet to have one bad experience with these guys. They understand what you want the first time round and will only bid if they know they can do the job. They are more expensive than the others but you get what you pay for.

Native English speakers

Obviously use them to write your outsourced content. Again, you get what you pay for. Don’t hire a writer that will write a 300 word article for $5. You are guaranteed to get garbage. Please also be wary of virtual assistants and writers that claim to be native English speakers yet they are far from it.

The key here is quality. If your content is crap then your user experience will be crap. A bad user experience = no sales or commissions and most certainly no return visitors.

Pay that little bit more to get the quality you need.

I tend to use the same writers consistently. This is beneficial as they begin to understand your style and your needs. I am at the point now where I only give my writers a topic and they know exactly what i need. If you are paying for your writers and still finding mistakes in their work you need to move on and look for a new writer. I have not needed a revision even once since I established my writing team.

I realise this is a bit of a rough blog post but it will hopefully prohibit you from making the same mistakes I did when i started out.

In summary, keep it simple. Separate your teams and find their strengths. Remember that you are the boss. This is your business. Take charge. Don’t expect it all to just happen overnight without any input at all. Don’t expect them to care more than you do and last but not least learn to accept that finding people to your own standards is not an easy task.

It’s hard work, but once you have your teams established you can concentrate on the things that matter – research and making more money!

I will leave you with this final thought on what happens when assistants don’t work out as planned.