Monday, May 26, 2014

Making Money Blogging

I've spent the last couple of months blogging and I can now come up with my first personal results regarding the success of this little adventure. I have made 3 blogs, one of which is now more or less defunct but still online to generate a couple of cents a month, another one making 90 per cent of the money and a third one on the way to becoming my first real niche blog (Ginkgo Tabletten - just putting it here so that google will be more likely to crawl it regularly).

The first blog, called how to lose and win, was a blog written in english about weight loss. It was my very first consideration for a blog because nutrition and dieting is a field I am very familiar with. I wrote about 100 articles on that blog.

Only after a while did I realise what my first mistakes were. Not only did I target keywords that were hopelessly out of my range. Even the ones that I had a chance to rank for were still highly competitive compared to the same keywords in my native language, German.

So I realised that I was wasting my time. I could have kept on fighting, trying to rank for a term that has 10000 searches a month and 10 million results, instead of switching to German and competing for the same keyword (just different language) with 1000 searches and maybe 50000 websites going for it.

I dropped this first blog, the english one, pretty much immediately.

I moved on to a new blog, this time a German version of the original english blog I had made, with the exact same design and overall layout, just a different title. It was difficult to start over. Only a fraction of the english posts could more or less be transformed into german posts (I had to rewrite everything). Most of the time, I found myself writing totally new articles.

While it was hard work, I realised pretty soon that I was about to have a lot more success having a german blog. There are many reasons for this. Germans are not "behind the moon", we do have cars, technology, computers. But we are also a little traditional in some ways and not up to date with certain things. For example, most people prefer a savings account with 2% interest rate over the slightest risk of going into the stock market.

And that mentality is carried over into many situations in life. It even goes deep into the German law. For example, we have mandatory health insurance. Usually, this is a good thing, as every employee will automatically be health insured, which is paid for by both the employer's and employee's contributions. But the downside is that if you are not employed (in other words: if nobody is your boss), you have to pay a lot of money to be insured.

This cements the attitude of Germans to always cling to their professions in an employee-employer relationship. It also has to do with the fact that the german education system is different from most of the world. In Germany, you need to learn a profession before you can start anything substantial. Want to work in the office? Must finish a 3 year job training first. Want to become a gardener? 3 years job training. Salesman? 3 years job training. Unless you are a mere factory worker or other "unskilled" jobs, you are going to spend 3 years of your life learning that profession, exams included.

All of this leads to a lifestyle of dependence on big companies. There are, of course, always exceptions, but these are usually people starting real, physical businesses, not online ventures.

Now back to blogging. I noticed that Germany was "behind the schedule" in some way. While the english-speaking market was full of American, English and even Indian people writing tons of articles that were useful and totally optimized to be on the number 1 spot on Google, I had not so much competition in Germany. And always bear in mind that this is how money is being made!

Eventually, I ended up writing another 100 blog posts, all in German. I got increasingly better at this, finding the right keywords to rank for, optimizing in terms of which topics could also generate income, and making the articles look more attractive.

At first, I was sceptical, but now I know that some money can be made. The only problem is that I would have to keep doing this for a long time before I can live like this only blogging and not working as an employee. I'd have to earn 20 times as much as I do now. Although this sounds like a lot, it should be worth mentioning that, right now, my blog is basically earning 5% of what I earn in a 40 hours a week job.

There are, of course, always downsides: I have to pay income tax as if this was a regular job. I have to register my blogging as a business, which will lead to additional costs in the end. There is a lot of bureaucracy involved. And if I decide to make it my only way of living, I have to pay for my own health insurance.

But for some reason this does not discourage me too much. And that is for several reasons:

  • I am earning more than I expected I would earn after only 8 months.
  • People on the internet were a lot more pessimistic towards "making money blogging" and claimed it's impossible.
  • I am earning more money than over 50% of the bloggers do, according to statistics I found on the internet.
  • Due to exponential growth and increasing improvements on my blogs, there is a rapid growth in earnings that is difficult to foresee but usually beats my estimations.
  • I have only applied what I learned so far. There is still a steep learning curve ahead of me.
  • I benefit from english-language experts because I can understand e-books and articles in english, and I can use that knowledge in a market where I am in a superior position compared to english blogs.
  • I have only started and I can keep going like this forever if I have to. Right now, it's only 100 useful articles. I might as well write until I have 1000, including new blogs that open the doors for visitors of different niches.
  • As a spouse of someone who is employed, I would be health-insured nevertheless. This is not the case right now but it might be, and that would save costs and I'd be on the safe side improving my websites over the course of years.

All of this combined leads me to believe that I might succeed. Right now, it's mostly about time and not even so much about money. Of course, I need to stay employed, which sucks because I would rather spend every day writing extensive articles on the internet. I would rather build empires of blogs now and benefit from them later. Because I realised: As an employee, you only work for the present moment. You give your work power to your employer, you're hired and "rent out" your working power. The results are always given to the employer. You don't benefit in the long run. You have to start over every month, repeat your workload every month, work each month for the current month, and keep repeating these steps. With blogging, it's different. Every blog post, every article adds up, goes on top of a pile of pieces of WORK that keep generating income. Some more, some less, but they STAY to work for you. Every hour of work, if invested well, brings returns in the form of money.

Sounds enthusiastic, doesn't it?

The only things that I found to be very important:

  • Always save your work. If your blog host decides to delete your blog, you must move on to elsewhere but KEEP your intellectual property, which is your articles. 
  • Don't mess with the terms of service of those advertising or affiliate companies you work with. Don't try to cheat or to beat the system.

To be very honest, I can imagine that this might work out for me. I definitely have the passion. I'm also, with all due modesty, quite a clever guy. I like analyzing things, and I'm ahead of my competition because there isn't that much of it. I can find my niches. And when I look at what American bloggers write, it amazes me because they are happy to have 500000 other websites competing for the same keyword, and that's not even a problem I have!

So now I've started a new niche blog about ginkgo, as I mentioned before. From what I've read, niche sites are interesting because they don't take much work, can go to the top spot of google easily, and if they succeed, you can transform them into authority blogs to give them more credibility. If they fail miserably, you just discard them. Simple.

So I'll see how that goes. If I duplicate my results another 19 times (or if all my blogs double in size, only 9 more to go), I'll be able to quit my job (unless my contract ends anyway, which is possible) and live like that. I also know that I'm quite familiar with the stock market, so I could expect some sort of income there, too, although I admit I don't like stressing myself out. It's a more intense way of earning money, but it includes stuff I like: analyzing.

All of the things that are happening right now sound a little too good to be true. And I suppose paying taxes will eventually bring me back to reality. On the other hand, if it turns out to become my only sources of income (earning money online), I'd have to pay less taxes anyway because I wouldn't have a normal job then. We will see. It's always been a dream for me and it's not just for the convenience of being a lazy stay at home guy. No... there is something else. The prospect of making more money out of what I do. This is what drives me. Not the idea that I'd stop in the very moment that I earn 1000 euros (or any other arbitrary number) a month. I'd like to see how far this can go.

I do admit that what I am earning right now is not THAT much. But I was able to grasp the potential that blogging offers. At least for the lucky people who are smart enough, love to read and read about it all the time and who don't need to blog in english. Because blogging in english is extremely hard to make money with. And of course, time and patience is needed.

If any of you who is reading this (probably nobody) is from a country where english is not the preferred source of getting information online, you might wanna check out if there are possibilities for you. I mean, my vision is that sooner or later all these countries are going to have their niches covered. Some smart companies will emerge that will fill all the blanks, stuff all the holes and answer every long tail question a google user can come up with. Whether it's about ginkgo, dieting, bodybuilding or other stuff. Right now, there is still a chance to succeed.

That spirit that is in the air right now... it's like the early 80s when many people started to realize you can only make a fortune if you invest in stocks like microsoft, IBM and the like. You know, I always wished to find that kind of opportunity where I can sense it's going to be profitable if I only know the secret trends. I feel I've found it with blogging. I mean, the internet is still relatively young, think ahead 50 years how different it's going to be.

End of the story.

PS: I got 10 times more pageviews with my successful blog in those 8 months than in 8 years of blogging in this private blog.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What To Do When Your Blogspot Blog Got Deleted By Google

"Help! My blogger blog was deleted by google"

This is what happened to me some days ago. I was just signing in to my google account to see how my blogs were doing. I have all my blogs on blogspot, also known as blogger, which all belongs to google.

The first thing that seemed strange was that they asked me when logging in what my phone number was, and they said that some "unusual activity" had occured. It was weird but I verified with my phone that I was not a robot.

Then, suddenly, without any warning, I noticed that one of my blogs was totally missing from the dashboard. At first, I thought that the "unusual activity" must have been that my account had been hijacked by some hacker in another country and that someone must have had his fun removing my blog.

Only a couple of heart attack seconds later, I realised that my blog was under the "deleted blogs". I was still convinced it was a hacker's fault. But then I checked my gmail account (the second thing I do after checking my blogger account) and found an email.

The email informed me that my blog had been deleted by the blogger team (or google) because of a spam suspicion. The automated system had found my blog to be spammy and therefore totally deleted it over night.

I was shocked. I knew that you could be banned from the google search engine if your blog was spammy, or that you could be thrown out of adsense. But I never even imagined they would delete my blog.

At this point in time, my situation was as follows:

  • I had written almost 100 posts that I now no longer could access
  • My blog seemed to have been lost forever
  • I had worked hours and hours over more than half a year to write all these unique posts
  • I felt totally innocent (trying hard to make a good website for my visitors) although I knew that humans make mistakes, and maybe a sloppy little mistake with affiliate links could have cost me months of work.

I spent the next hours trying to do two things: Finding out how to reverse the process of my blog being deleted, and trying to recover my blog posts.

Recovering the blog posts proved to be difficult. I had never exported my blog onto my computer (big mistake) so none of my posts were available offline. I didn't even remember all my 94 posts that I  had written. Also, my blog was deleted, therefore offline, and I could not even access my blog in the dashboard.

The first thing I did was to check my blogger profile again for posts that I had subscribed for (I had subscribed to my own feed, meaning I could see posts that had been put online by myself). Then, I had to open each link to each article, notice that each of my posts is offline, copy the url into the google search engine, right-click the corresponding result (luckily the result still displayed each time), open in cache, save the content of those pages offline (the safest way is to copy everything into a word file), and do this over and over again with every article that matters to you (if you can remember what they were called or you know the exact urls).

Regarding the deletion of my blog: I sent an appeal to google. It's the only thing you can do. You are then supposed to wait for up to 48 hours for something to happen. Only THEN are you allowed to / supposed to consult the google help forums.

So I sent an appeal. It's basically only an electronic message where you confirm with a captcha phrase that you are a real person. No need to justify yourself or write any text.

Luckily, on an early Monday morning, less than 24 hours after it had been deleted, my blog was put back to life and I received an apology by email. My blog had wrongfully been detected as spam, but a human being checked out my website to come to the conclusion that my blog is, in fact, okay and not meant to be spammy.

As far as I can tell, the only negative side effects on my blog's performance were that it cost me a whole day of people visiting (I got over 100 page views instead of possibly a thousand) and my income on adsense and amazon was brought to a halt (consider that it was a Sunday and people like to go shopping on amazon on Sundays).

When my blog was undeleted, it performed well again.

Here is what I advise people to do:

First of all, your situation should be like this:

  • You have a blogspot / blogger account where your blog was
  • Your blog was deleted by the blogger team / google, not by you accidentally
  • The reason for your blog being deleted has been explained to you in an email
  • You feel innocent because you had no bad intentions and didn't violate any terms of service (TOS) on purpose

In this case, my advice to you is: Send the appeal so that someone can look over the problem. Don't go too crazy over the fact that your blog has disappeared. Also don't send the appeal twice, and don't start a topic on google forums yet. You can try to recover your articles so that at least your material as a writer can be saved. Because, if the blog stays deleted, it helps to at least have your written articles somewhere in an MS word file. Then you could publish them again on a different blog (wordpress with paid hosting for example). I know, this would suck because you would have to start over in search engine rankings, but believe me, at least your work would be online again.

Apart from that, remember that you might be lucky and your blog will be restored. Don't think too far ahead if you haven't even received news from google / blogger team.

Why your blog may have gotten deleted

Here is the supposed reason why my blog was deleted, and this could have happened to you:

In my case, I never had bad intentions, but I did use the amazon affiliate program. This meant that I had links on my articles that led to amazon. Google recognizes these links, and if you put a whole bunch of them into one article, google will think you are a spammer.

In most websites that are not blogspot, this will only lead to a search engine penalty (your website will go from first in the search results to 200th position). But in blogspot, this can lead to the deletion of your blog!

HOWEVER: I didn't put a crazy amount of links into one article. But you know what my mistake was? While I only used between one and three amazon links in each article, I did not use a "jump break" in every article. The jump break is the little tool you can use (looks like a torn piece of paper) in your blog post instruments. When you are writing a post, you can see it: It's 9 items away to the right when you look at the "bold" button (the one that looks like this: B)

The purpose of the jump break is to shorten your articles as they appear on the home page of your blog. Then it says "read more" instead of showing the whole article.

As I hadn't used this enough, there were several articles on the "home" section of my blog, some of them were full-length articles including one or two or even three amazon links. And now consider several articles containing amazon links!

In total, I had 5 amazon links on my "home" page displayed, together with 3 standard google adsense ads. Now you can imagine: 8 ad scripts on a single page... that looks a lot like spam!

Be sure that your articles are cut short and no affiliate links are displayed in the shortened version of an article. And don't use 5 affiliate links on a single article that also has adsense ads on it. This might backfire heavily!

So this is what happened when google deleted my blogger blog. When your blogspot blog got deleted by the blogger team, now you know what you have to do. If it still seems like your blog will be deleted for all times, use the cache trick (right clicking on search results for your article urls in google) to try and save your content in a word file. Good luck.

By the way: I think it's really unfair the google deletes those blogs. Even if they were spammy, at least give a warning first. Apart from that: What about the intellectual property of the innocent ones who write articles worth hours of work? At least you should "give back" the contents to the bloggers if they request their content back.

Also, being informed by email that "your blog has been deleted" is a big shocker. My insides were turning when I read it. I strongly believe that customer service in google and facebook have a lot of improvements ahead of them if they want to be customer-friendly.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Incredible Downfall Of A Video Game Series

I am talking about the FIFA Manager series. This is a video game by EA Sports. Back in the old days, in 1996 and 1997, I used to play Fifa Soccer Manager, one of the best manager games ever (read about it in my Video Games: Most Played article).

From there on, things went wrong. I still bought these games on a regular basis. A version I had around the year 2001 crashed very often and I barely played it. I thought back then that it was my computer's fault: That my computer couldn't handle it.

Later, I got the 2004 version. The game, the way I remember it, was pretty good and brought me a lot of fun for several years. There were youth players you could get from youth camps all over the world, you could even give your players direct orders (shoot, pass, etc.), which is unusual for a manager game.

But even in THAT game, I had terrible things to go through. After unsuccessfully playing the 2007 version, I decided to go back to 2004. I played the game and what happened? It crashed at a specific date in the game. Even after reloading an older safe data of the game, it again crashed on a specific date. This meant that several seasons of playing had gone down the drain... you know what I did? I broke the CD into pieces so that I would never feel tempted to play the game again.

I still feel "hurt" for breaking my own copy of the game, because I liked it. But on the other hand, breaking it prevented me from the feeling of disappointment after putting so many hours of my life into a game that just crashed anytime it wanted to.

But there is one thing that still bugged me for years:

Even years after I bought my last version of the game, the heavily bugged 2007 version, I still read reviews on Amazon where only few people complained. But they complained about bugs that had never been fixed, bugs that had even been carried over to newer versions, because each year's version of the game uses the same game code, and essentially, the same game with only a couple of updates (worth the price of a full new game!).

You know what I hated? The fact that the reviews, in total, were favourable of the game. Enough people got fooled. Year after year... but you know what? Something has changed about it. I checked the German Amazon page and compiled a list on how the games did in the past years, from 2007 up to 2014. And now just look for the average rating each game got. You will be surprised:

As you can see, in 2007 and 2008, the game had nearly 4 stars average, which reads to frequent Amazon customers as "there are a few grumblers, but the game is awesome". This is what I hated because I felt that people were deceived each year. But then, things have changed finally.

Now, in 2014, of the 235 reviews, a wopping 188 are 1 star reviews! That's an exact 80,00 % reviews of the very lowest rating! Bottom of the barrell.

Finally, people have caught up with the fraud that is Fifa Manager. For years, many of them have bought the game year after year like idiots, and well, that's how they financed the fraud. I mean, each year, I read people's reviews and they were like "I have been buying this game since the early 2000s and I'm not gonna buy it again". But then, what's the meaning of that when the next year, a hundred people are saying the exact same thing, and the year after? They're all a bunch of stupid idiots!

Keep buying that shit and you end up unhappy every freaking year.

You know when I'm gonna buy that kind of game again? When it has exactly ZERO negative reviews. I don't want to hear about bugs, about bug fixes, about how everything is going to be improved "in the next patch". No. Hell, I'd even go back to playing Fifa Soccer Manager from 1996 and play it with an updated database by fans, if there is any.

EA Sports made millions recycling a game and slapping the current year as a label on the package. Idiots buy shit because it says "2014". They say:"Huhuh... this is so 2014, I'm gonna buy it... huhuhh".

Goodbye, EA Sports. Burn in hell.