The Death of McDonald’s! Not really, but very close.

Free McDonalds Gift CardLast quarter McDonald’s reported a 21% slump. In January the CEO steps down and the new one is slowing down on building new branches.

It happens all the time, and companies slump and come back. This is how business is. This is how the whole life is.

In case of McDonald’s though there’s something different.

When McDonald’s is mentioned you can not help it but visualize a burger, can you?

The problem is, burger itself is the reason, in my personal opinion, that McDonald’s is sinking the way it is doing right now.

Half a century ago people didn’t know any of what young school kids now know about saturated fat and cholesterol. This is when the burger fast food business had the suitable environment to flourish. Busy people, working moms with little time to spend in the kitchen, and cheap fast food they can pick on the way to work … what else could McDonald’s wish for?

Now things are different. The public is aware of the consequences of consuming unhealthy fast food. More and more people are pulling away towards healthier choices, which are also available in fast foods restaurants.

This last fact might in part explain the decision of Burger King to fuse with Tim Hortons. At Tim Hortons there are soups and other healthier alternatives to the once popular burger industry.

In my personal opinion, if the new leadership of McDonald’s wants to make through these tough times and stay around longer they have to focus on the “healthy food” line and advertise it like crazy.

The current emotional “about you” thing might not work long term if it does any good short term at all. The problem is not another burger competitor. The problem is the competition between burger and unhealthy fast foods at one side vs. the healthy alternatives that are growing and expanding to push the burger empire off the top it once dominated.

 

Free Gift Card Marketing | CPA arbitrage

This CPA arbitrage method has been around since I first used the Internet in the 1990s, except it wasn’t as developed as it is right now. This method is used to build lists of audience categorized based on detailed demographics, pushing the prospects through marketing funnels before they end up on a highly targeted mailing list.

I’ll explain it with an example so that it will be easier to understand because we all have seen this example. It’s the “free Walmart gift card” email that we all received in our junk mail folders. This free gift card is offered by many marketers trying to build a list of a special kind of audience. I’ll explain this in a sec, just bare with me a little.

The funnel goes like this:

An offer of a free Walmart gift card that appeals to a wide range of audience. The marketers hire CPA affiliates to get their offer in front of as many people as humanly possible. The value of the card ranges depending on who they want to target. Usually $50-100 gift card is used if they want to target realistic audience who will immediately spot the fraud in a $1000 gift card offer.
When a prospect responds to the ad they are asked an easy question that could be answered by selecting from multiple choices. This question is used as a shopping behavior classifier.

The prospect is then taken to a landing page that congratulates him/her for entering to get a free gift card and the landing page goes over the many “free” offers that could be filled by the participant in order to qualify for a free $50 Walmart gift card.
Usually the offers page has other CPA offers that pay anything between $12 and $30 for a free trail lead. Based on which offer the prospect will respond to they are classified according to their shopping interests and behavior.

So right off the bat the CPA arbitrage marketers are making money from those free trial offers on the landing page.
If they don’t respond to any thing they are taken to another set of offers that doesn’t require any credit card info (usually pays around $1-2 per lead).

Now the marketer has a list of people that he knows their demographics because before any cards could be sent to them they need to enter their shipping details. And here comes the interesting part.

The marketer has to deliver on the free gift card promise, or else. The FTC is waiting for any complaint and they will get the marketer no mater where he/she hides.

The offer page always has a fine print somewhere says that it’s a draw and the participants need to qualify for the draw by responding to some free trial offers. So once the prospect is done making the marketer some money already as a commission on generating leads for the free trial offers, they receive a message that they entered the draw advertised on the main free gift card offer page.

Do you remember the qualifier question at the beginning of this process of list building? This qualifier is an indicator of what the prospect might be interested in buying right now. And based on that they will be receiving emails promoting exactly what they expressed interest in. All of the other qualifiers are used to decide what offers to be sent to this particular prospect.

So the marketer built his/her own list using someone else’s offers to finance the list building process. Genius, isn’t it [grin]?

Smart Phone Apps – Billion Dollar Industry in it’s Enfancy

Smart phone and tablet apps is a crazy market, yet with only a few names competing on bigger shares. Just to give you an idea of how big this is, did you know that the company that made that angry birds game is now worth $2.25 Billion? Can you believe that? I wouldn’t pay a penny to buy something that doesn’t even exist! Yet this thing that doesn’t exist is worth $2.25 Billion for some.

Also did you hear the news of that photo sharing app that facebook paid $1 Billion to acquire it, although the guy who made it couldn’t generate a single penny out of it?

Now that everyone is moving from laptop to tablets those apps are now getting an exponentially growing base of customers. Mobility now means a smart phone or a tablet. Laptops are now something from the past, unless you’re a grad student in some science discepline studying the tertiary structure of some protein molecule using some software that needs a huge storage space and a PC that runs ol’ windows.

This is a huge opportunity we’re talking about here. But is it only for nerds? Do you have to be some 4-eyed egghead mathematician to profit from this insanity?

Absolutely not. As an app business person all what you need to do is to have the idea for the app. Then either hire someone to code it for you and invest around $20 grand to get it super done, or get that software that Amish Shah is offer for under 1 grand and make as many apps as you want until you find that super winner.

If I were you I would go for Amish Shah’s program, especially that it comes with some super training and a marketing network of apps to promote yours once you make them. So .. make them first then … you know what I mean maaaan.

Anyways … here’s a free webinar about this huge opportunity and how to tap into it:

===> Click here to watch the recorded webinar

 

 

Article Marketing: Personal Approach

Article marketing has been one of the best ways to drive targeted traffic and to build back links to a website. In this article I’ll emphasize on the personal approach in article marketing and how this should be the way to generate good income on the Internet.

Actually I’d like to call from this article for a “revolution” in making money online against the teachings of the “black hatters” and the “loop-holers” so that we all make money on the Internet while enriching the web with valuable knowledge and life experiences.

Without any more delays here is the theory around which this method is built:

In the real physical world the best kind of investment is real estate. And the best of which is the one that generates residual income on monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Examples are rented apartment buildings, vacation time share, and hotels. It’s the best in terms of the amount of work from your side in order to get this money. All of the work is done by the acquisition of the property and hiring someone to do the maintenance and collect the rent, and in case of hotels you hire a company to manage it for you and collect the money.

At the end of the day your property is still yours, and could be acquiring more value with appreciation, and you get to make stable residual income as long as you own it. If you need a loan to start another business you can easily get one because you can back it up with your property ownership.

So far so good, but how to do that online?

On the Internet there is a whole virtual world of property called “websites”. Yes, people buy and sell websites, and rent advertising spaces on high traffic sites, and there is a whole industry built on flipping domains and websites.

If you can control a website or a blog with high traffic volume you can rent advertising space for a certain amount of money that’s proportional to the amount of traffic and the kind of audience of your blog.

The beauty of the idea is that it’s easy to own such property because a domain name is in the $10/year area and a hosting could be as low as $1.99/month (All Inclusive Plan for only $1.99/mo). Even if you can’t pay for those now, you still can build a free personal blog on blogger.com and when you have the money buy a domain name for $10 and change your blogger blog settings to be on your new domain.

What do I Mean with Personal?

When I say personal I am not talking about the whole “you” here. Personal can also mean just one side of you. Maybe the one side you don’t want to speak about out loud with your friends and family who don’t understand you, or the most exciting experience you ever had in your life, or even the hobby that you have a strong passion for and have gained experience around it over the years. Anything you like, but just one thing, is what you can blog and write articles about from a personal perspective.

I know that you might be thinking that article marketing can not be personal and successful at the same time. Don’t jump to a conclusion yet. I have a plan for you, just be patient and keep reading.

Why Personal?

If you have been around the Internet marketing field for a while you must have been over exposed to the “keyword research” concept. There will be a little keyword research that anyone can master in a matter of minutes, and does not involve a lot of thinking because you will be doing it in a “personal” way. Here is how:

The best company to rent your advertising space to is Google through Adsense program. The program displays Google ads in blocks that you have already installed the ad code on.To be accepted by this program it’s easier if your blog is personal.

Another reason is that we want to make money while enriching the Internet with your knowledge and experience. It’s YOUR touch that’s needed here for two reasons:

1. The audience gets more easily attached to a personal blog than to a corporate website. This means more loyal visitors to your blog.

2. You can be referred to as an authority in your subject by name. Names are easier to remember than urls or brands. It’s also easier to credit you for any content copied from your website even if the copier don’t do so. Your audience will know and your job of getting their host to take them down will be easier.

Most importantly, a personal blog complies with all the TOSs of advertising companies as far as I know (not a guarantee though).

Where is the Article Marketing Part?

It comes after you blog about yourself, your passion, your hobby, your education, your political or religious views, or anything you want to blog about. There is no keyword research here. All what you are doing is that you are spelling your guts out on the web.

This blog will be your personal website where people who want to know more about you can come and visit, like your friends on facebook and twitter.

The article marketing comes after you have a few posts on your blog, got accepted by Google adsense as a publisher, and you are ready to receive traffic to your blog to read your content first, and to see the ads second.

This blog will be your signature everywhere you go; in your email, on the forum signature, in your social media profiles, on your personal cards … everywhere.

The article marketing will not be marketing at all. It will be a contribution from you to the Internet society with your knowledge, views, experience … anything you like. And your signature here is no exception from the above list.

How to Do the Article Marketing:

Here comes the technical part which involves keyword research, but it has nothing to do with keyword tools. Here is the plan:

1. Go to Google Trends and find out what is the buzz about now. See if you can write about one of the top 10 hot searches or topics. If yes blog about it on your personal blog.

2. Go to ezinearticles.com and rewrite what you had on your blog in a formal way and publish it. Your bio box will include your personal blog and a few words about you as an author.

3. Do that daily if you can. Some days you’ll not find something you can write about. Take what you wrote yesterday, rewrite it and publish it elsewhere, like Squidoo.com, HubPages.com, GoArticles.com and AcrtilesBase.com.

The above plan takes 30-60 minutes at most if you are blogging about something that’s part of your personality. I mean you are not going to need a lot of research to come up with a 300 word article about something you love.

The kind of people who will visit your website is the “general audience” type. This means that a lot of “branding” advertising will show up on your blog. The beauty of “branding” advertisers is that they don’t care about immediate direct response and they do have the budget to burn. All what they care about is getting their name in front of as many eyeballs as they can, which is what they will get from your blog visitors.

To keep track of who visited your site, where they came from, what did they do on your site, how they exited your site, and how long they stayed there you can install the code from statcounter.com.

Let’s all focus on providing the valuable content and money will follow.

Are you with me?

Who Needs Web Hosting?

Quite frankly everybody needs web hosting. Hosting companies know that and they are expanding in their infrastructure of servers, software, trained candidate, and marketing arsenal because they know they’re into something that’s getting more valuable than gold was in 1800s.

Web hosting is not only for businesses and celebrities anymore. The need to have a good, reliable, and secure web hosting is expanding at the same, or even higher rate than web hosting services themselves.

All businesses need web sites to expand their customer base to the cyberspace. A small business needs web hosting just as much as a large incorporation does. A website not only helps with local brand recognition, but also can be responsible for direct sales whether through a shopping cart or simply a phone number.

A simple family album can be hosted on a server instead of your personal computer. Instead of having to send your photos to your family and friends attached to an email you can upload them to your online photo album and share the link. Free services like Google’s Picasa can do the trick, although free is not reliable and involves a lot of work to backup your albums in case the moody giant decides to shut you down.

Professionals in the entertainment industry and sports need web hosting for their news and their fans to show their support and love. This is what fuels the pros to give more, and through the interactive platforms like blogs and forums this is just getting better than ever. This  interactive platform needs to be hosted on a server somewhere.

But celebrities are not the only people who need presence on the Internet. Professionals in all fields need Internet presence to make it easier for their businesses to reach out to more customers. It replaces the old fashion portfolio, CV, and resume.

And since we mentioned CVs and resumes, a link to a website that talks about yourself and your achievements could be more convenient that attaching large files to your online job application.

Even a student needs a web hosting for storing notes, projects, papers, study material … etc. Most institutes provide this hosting for free and some students are now aware of it and are using it.

Everybody needs a web hosting. So, the whole world is the market. You only need to tailor your message to fit with smaller groups of prospects in order to get more sales for your hosting business.

The Three Main Components of Any Internet Business

Internet business can take any form and still need three main components. Without them there is no business. You can still make money with one or two, but to build a business that can become your rewarding career you’ll need all three components. These are only the basics though. Still you need more resources, tools, skills, and mentality in order to succeed as a strategic entrepreneur.

These three components are: a website, traffic to this website, and a list.

1. A Website: Despite what others might tell you, or the fact that it’s possible to make some money on the Internet without a website, you can not build an Internet business without a website. The website is the store front in some cases, like when you are selling your own or other people products. It could be your property that you rent (advertising space) or flip for quick profit as a virtual estate (as opposed to real estate). No matter what, you need the website. Even brick and mortar businesses that operate mainly off-line need websites. On the website you’ll have all the means to sell, presell, upsell, downsell, close, and serve your customers.

You can also use your website to get your customers to help you spread the word about your business to their contacts. A free website or a blog can do the job, but you are leaving hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the table to save a few bucks. A website is an asset that you can sell for big lumps of cash if you need to, but only if you own it in the first place. A free website is not yours, it’s someone esle’s.

2. Traffic to that Website: A website without traffic is as good as none. If no body sees the website no one will take any of the actions that make you money. There are two main ways to get traffic to your website: you can buy the traffic, or generate it. Buying traffic is the first option for serious businesses because it’s predictable.

By predictable I mean that you know that you need a certain number of visitors to make a certain amount of money. So, you can buy just as much traffic as you need to make as much money. The downside is that the traffic comes to your website only when you pay for it. If you need more traffic tomorrow, and you will, you’ll have to pay for it again. Generated traffic, on the other hand, is considered perpetual (or residual) traffic. By generated traffic I mean organic search engine (through search engine optimization) and social traffic, and by perpetual and residual I mean that you work for the traffic today and get traffic for this amount of work for a long time, and every amount of work you add to generate this traffic adds up to the amount of traffic you’ll be getting every single day on the long run.

Of course there are other factors to consider. A good business practice is to get traffic to your website from both ways, and to diversify the traffic sources within each category. For example, don’t rely totally on Adwords while you know that Google is so moody that you could lose Adwrods traffic overnight. The same for generated organic traffic; diversify.

3. A List: Also known as “virtual ATM machine”. Make collecting your website visitors emails your top priority. Give something cool for free and ask for email to send it to. Keep sending them cool stuff for free to train them on opening your emails. The more cool free stuff you send them the more authority you’ll give yourself and the more eager they will be to open your emails. The result is a loyal responsive list. This is the kind of list that can make you money on demand. All what you need to do to make money is to have something to sell, whether yours or as an affiliate, and recommend it to your list in an email. This IS money on demand.

SEO, Social, Banners, and PPC

In the last article I predicted more training courses to emerge about how to drive organic and social traffic to your website, and the decline of the focus on PPC. While this was partially true, banners (aka. media buy) has also been taught in different courses about traffic that came after Ryan’s anti-Google perpetual traffic course. Just to state a fact and clear my position regarding PPC, PPC still works and it will be crazy to drop it from your plans to drive traffic to your sites.

In this article I’ll explain why you need to give some of your time and/or resources to each of the above methods.

PPC is not all about Adwords, there is MSN PPC that reaches searchers on both Bing and Yahoo!. Together they account for 31% of all searches on the Internet. That’s almost one third of all the search traffic and it will be crazy to ignore it.

On both Google and MSN PPC platforms there are some rules that you need to consider in order to get your campaigns to be profitable. First it’s not a good idea to direct link on Google and MSN. With the increasing competition and the elevating bids in all niches, there is little to be made per click. The best strategy is to increase your life value of each visitor to your website, and that’s by building a relationship with them on your OWN site through your newsletter.

Direct linking still works on other PPC sources because they are still cheaper, although fraudulent clicks occur more frequently than on Adwords and Adcenter. That’s only after you spend some money to test and weed out traffic sources that don’t convert.

Media buys, or banners, are still working. As I mentioned in the past particle, the banner that looks like a banner is useless. The eyes are trained on ignoring those rectangles with graphics in them. What works now is those banners that look like pictures inserted in the text, and text-only banners. There also other banners that are graphical and interactive, like those with really funny or weird graphics (multiple ways to see the same picture). It’s also worth mentioning that banners inventory is way bigger than all PPC clicks combined.

There is also PPV (pay per view) that works in some niches when you target certain demographics, but like PPC, the competition is getting higher and it’s getting harder to make profit with direct linking. Again it’s time to build lists with PPV traffic.

The above paid sources of traffic are supposed to be the main focus of serious businesses because it’s the only way to precisely predict how much traffic you’ll get and consequently how much money you can make. This is necessary if you are running a business, not enjoying a hobby.

SEO and social traffic have their own advantage: it’s perpetual. Say you write an article or upload a video on social media now and it starts sending you traffic shortly. As long as the article is there the traffic keeps coming (theoretically). So the time or money you spend on writing articles or posting on social media is a long term investment.

This type of traffic, let’s collectively call it “non-ad” traffic, is the only traffic that works with sites that depend heavily on advertising revenue, like Adsense.

So to clear up FOMT’s position, it’s not wise to rely on only one source of traffic. Paid traffic is important so that you know what to expect and do your calculations more precisely. Organic traffic is also important as a cushion for protection from the ever changing rules of PPC sources. Also, variation of paid traffic sources protect from losing your source of income if one source disappears or changes rules. The same for organic traffic; social and SEO traffic cushion your business from falling apart when a search engine changes the algorithms or social media change their rules.

The Death of PPC?

When a giant like Google slaps those who’d been feeding it since it started making money with Adwords and Content Ads (Adsense) it means one of two things: either they are losing ground to other search engines due to the low quality of user experience with paid ads, or they’ve found a huge source of income that Adwords revenue dwarfs next to it.

I have my reasons to believe that it’s both. The millions of annual spending of individual affiliate marketers are not stable, and are declining anyway (as will be explained in a minute). Compare that with fixed advertising budgets from big brands whose advertising aims mostly at branding and not at  making direct sales.

Due to the shrinking of profit margin expected from direct sales generated through Adwords more and more affiliate marketers are dropping the ball, and others are shifting their advertising budgets to other more reliable and profitable sources. And this very same shrinking is caused by Google itself. Here is how:

To get lower cost per click with Adwords you need a higher quality score, which in turn depends on several factors including the click through rate on your ad. Recently, the average Google searcher started to pay little to no attention to the sponsored links. This only means lower click through rates and consequently higher cost per click due to the low quality score caused and given by Google!

That only means one thing; the battle for the next several months will be in the SEO zone, where every one wants to get as many organic clicks as possible because this is where the average Google users shifted their attention to.

The first half of 2010 witnessed the release of tens of high ticket, as well as low ticket, paid traffic guides and courses. The target of those courses was the ex-Google Adwords users who lost their accounts in the late 2009 slap. Makes sense?

Now as it became obvious that Google is losing the PPC battle due to the natural development of user behavior (which is pretty predictable and I don’t know how in the world a giant like Google, with 50+ PhDs and a huge army of grad students, is not prepared for it) I expect tens of SEO courses and services, both in the high and low ticket zones, to dominate the marketing arena at least until the end of 2010.

The question is: Since PPC traffic is declining and SEO is unreliable (changes with Google’s moody algorithms), what is the reliable alternative?

PPV (pay per view traffic generated by adware) is also declining, not only in available inventory, but also in quality and profitability. So, this is not the answer.

Face Book PPC was really hot early this year, but not anymore. The attention is shifting back away from that ad zone and the competition is eating the profits of average affiliate marketers. They still can make it do better at Face Book by changing the ads display positions so that the user doesn’t get trained on ignoring a certain area on the screen.

Twitter doesn’t have an advertising platform yet. I have no idea when it will come to live, but unless they act now they’re missing a huge opportunity to fill a black-whole-sized gap in the advertising space.

Good ol’ banners died for a while, but advertising agencies figure out a way to partially revive it. The regular user is used to two kinds of banners more than the others: the 468×60 (like the on at the top right hand corner of this website) and the vertical 120×600 and 160×600.

On the other hand, squares 250×250 and rectangles 300×250 are more perceived as a picture than as adverts, especially when they are embedded within the text. This kind of banners still gets some attention and I expect it to keep getting that much attention as long as people are interested in pictures that could save them the time to read the whole thing.

Finally, my view of the way to revive PPC advertising again is only by embedding sponsored ads within the organic search results, or changing the search results page layout so that the ads are not shown where they are used to be ignored. This could give PPC another push for a while, maybe to the end of 2010 if implemented immediately.

Specialization or Diversification?

Carrying on any type of business comes with a certain amount of risk depending on the nature of that business. But no matter how secure your business looks and how stable your market sounds, the risk is there.

For this reason you might have heard a lot of business coaches, or from your instructors in the business school, that you need to diversify your business and never to “put all your eggs in the same basket”.

Sounds wise, no doubt. But it also means a lot of distraction if you are going to do business in 3 or more different markets. In order to succeed in any business you need to focus.

How would you focus and diversify your business at the same time?

This is a controversial dilemma, but I’ll try to put my own experience in this article. If I were to go back in time this is how I would do it:

First I’ll study the market and pick up 3-5 business models in totally different markets. Then I’d put a business plan for myself so that I get to start each business at a certain time in the near future. Based on information interviews with other business owners in each one of these models I would have put a time table for starting each of project once the previous one has gained momentum as planned.

My goal would be to get each project to be able to support my business as a stand alone project (as if the others don’t exist). Then I would pick the one I have more passion for and take to the next level.

This way I would have achieved the diversification to reduce my risk focusing on each project at a time, and specialized when appropriate in the one field that I would like to end my career in.

Iceland Volcano Can Make You Rich

It’s almost one week now since the first eruption of the Iceland volcano. Smoke and ash clouds have been costing airlines tons of money (in the $20 million/day range). Both airlines and passengers (including the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harbor) are canceling their flights to Europe due to the ash clouds.

I truly feel sorry for those trapped in the airports waiting for their governments to make other arrangements to get them back home, and for developing countries that are loosing millions of their originally tiny income from exports to Europe.

But as a marketer this is what I see:

Developing countries like Kenya exports flowers and fresh vegetables to Europe. For Kenya in particular, these exports account for more than 20% of the Kenyan GDP. Due to the current situation the Kenyan loss is estimated as $3 millions/day.

That’s a product that has already been produced, cannot be delivered to the buyers, and at the same time can not be stored or it’ll lose value.

What would you do as a marketer?

Exactly, find another market.

And that’s not a big deal of effort. If you can’t go North .. go South.

These fresh products were being delivered to Europe by air anyway. So, if you are in the import/export business and can see the opportunity you can make a few phone calls to prepare the market in some of the southern countries like Australia, or even other African and Arab countries and arrange for exporting these same products to them. In most Arabic countries there is no agriculture, or at least not enough to feed themselves (that’s why they import their food from Europe and the Americas). It will even be cheaper for them.

And don’t worry about the quality. These products were prepared to be imported by European countries. They had to pass the European standards check, which makes them good for all other nations.

This will solve a big problem for most of the affected parties, except for Europeans, but they have a bigger problem to worry about.