The second podcast episode is now live on iTunes. In this second podcast episode I speak with Joel Comm about how he manages to run so many various income generating projects and how he has a lot of fun doing it as well. We discuss a few of his products such as the Socrates Theme, Kaching Book, Adsense Secrets, iFart iPhone application and his recent seven figure deal for Deal of Day.
I first met Joel earlier this year when I traveled to Colorado as a consultant for the buyer of his website Deal Of Day and I had a lot of fun talking to him and his employees in his Infomedia Inc offices. I hope you enjoy this second podcast where you can learn from someone who manages to make a very solid income online while running various projects that pique his interests from the iFart to content websites.
Items Discussed In This Episode:
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Intro: Welcome to the MakeMoneyOntheInternet.com podcast where you learn tips and strategies from the pros on how to build your own online business. Now, here is your host Chris Guthrie!
Chris: Hello, hello everybody. Chris Guthrie here and welcome to the MakeMoneyontheInternet.com podcast.
Today, we have Joel Comm on the show and he’s done a lot of cool stuff in the past. I’m just going to name a few things – in 1998 he sold ClassicGames.com to Yahoo!, in 2006 he was a New York Times best-seller for the AdSense Code, in 2008 he release iFart a paid iPhone application that was the No. 1 best selling for three week and most recently, and this is where I met him, he sold DealofDay.com at over seven figures where I was a consultant for the company that bought your website.
Now we’ll come back to some of your past successes but, what are you working on these days?
Joel: Yes, so I got a number of things, actually, that we’re working on. At this very moment I’m setting up an Amazon seller account so that we can get our new novelty toy, the KaChing Button, for sale on Amazon. We’re working on the follow-up to our successful WordPress theme, the Socrates theme, which is going to be called the Plato theme. It’s going to be really groundbreaking for those that want to build niche WordPress sites and be able to have all kinds of monetization strategies in them. And, I got a couple of other tricks up my sleeve as well.
Chris: All right. So how was the – have you sold something before through Amazon or, is this the first thing you’ve done, you know, beyond books?
Joel: Right, not beyond books. You know, the only thing I’ve done is – that I’ve sold myself that Amazon, you know, fulfills is our digital books. So, I’ve got a digital publisher account and I’ve got, I don’t know, something like 15 or so titles that are out there so people download them for their Kindle readers.
Joel: But this is the first physical product I actually went and just got a UPC code for these things and thought this will be interesting, let’s see if Amazon can move some product and expose more people to the illustrious KaChing Button.
Chris: Hope to see you again in the future to see how that project has worked out selling through Amazon. So, it sounds like, I know just from your past experience and the things you’re working on now that you’ve done a lot of different things. Do you just come up with a lot of random ideas and just go forth and build them or is it, I mean, what kind of criteria do you have to decide what to work on and what to pass?
Joel: You know, ideas are random. I’m not sure but you know sometimes they are but just because I have an idea doesn’t mean that I move forward with it, you know, most ideas get better to run a little bit. And, what sounds real exciting one moment, after sleeping on it for a night or maybe after doing it and then going away that I do that they are not always great ideas. But, usually there’s going to be an interest of some kind to start with. It can’t just be all about the money. Sure it’s great doing business and making money but I’ve got to be excited about the prospect of what I’m entering into otherwise I know I’m not going to able to maintain a passion about it that’s going to keep it going. So, I’ve got to think it’s cool and interesting to begin with.
Chris: Okay, so I mean, is that kind of – that’s basically kind of inline with why you thought of the iFart app right? I mean, you’re getting in there early in the app market and also was kind of a novelty item that people hadn’t really seen before?
Joel: Yeah. Yeah, that’s fair enough, you know, we all loved the iPhone and when Apple announced they were making the software development kit available we thought well, we got to get in there. In fact, our first app iVote Mobile was among the first five hundred apps released in the app store. So we were there at the very beginning.
Chris: Okay, and so it was pretty much as soon as you heard that the app store was going to be released you thought okay, we need to get in on this because it’s going to be the next type of a gold rush. I mean, did you think it would be as huge as it’s become or…?
Joel: You know, we wouldn’t have developed if we didn’t think that the app store was going to be big but you never know. It’s like if my crystal bowl wasn’t really working that day, it won’t possibly work really well and you know, if you do enough unique projects then you only have to hit one home run in a game in order to be the star of that game. So, you can have some products that fail, you can have others that just perform decently. But, when you hit the home runs they are the ones that carry the rest of the business.
Chris: Yeah, so, have you – is that kind of why you like to do so many different projects? I mean I know I’ve talked to a lot of different other internet entrepreneurs and some people share the advice, you know, just pick one specific niche or one specific topic or area and just do really well at that. And then others say, you know, it’s kind of nice to have a lot of different other things going on so you can have money coming from multiple different sources. I know which camp you fit into but I mean have you considered just trying to pick one specific thing and really going after it or this kind of words is based on maybe you’ve even getting bored of doing the same thing all the time?
Joel: Yeah, I think I would get bored doing the same thing all the time. I need to have some variety. And so, I’m always looking to see what else is available out there.
Chris: Okay. And I know, you have – I met you back in your office in Colorado. When did you take up an office space? Was that soon after the sale of Classicgames.com to Yahoo!? Or, when did you decide, you know, okay let’s go ahead and try and make this more of, I guess, a business? The reason I ask is because, you know, I personally just work from home and a lot of listeners do that as well. But, I’m wondering, you know, when did you decide okay let’s rent an office space because it may be what help us out in terms of the mindset?
Joel: Well, I think, the office space mindset came for another reason and I’ve been working at home for, well, you know, a long time. It was 1995 when I built my first website. And so it was back when we’re in Oklahoma and I think my wife said to me, you know, I love having you around everything but I can’t miss you if you don’t ever leave. And so, you know at that time I think you know you’re right. I need to go get a space and I found a space there in town. And, I was the only person at that time. And it wasn’t until – so I had a space by myself for a couple of years and it wasn’t until 2005 when I came back from a seminar that I realized I needed to hire my first employee to start picking up some of the slack on the things that I didn’t need to be doing. So, I could focus on the things that did need to be doing. And, you know, one employee turned to two, turned to three and when I moved to Colorado we began staffing up some more.
Chris: okay. Yeah that’s good advice. I mean I know we actually had to be moving here and so I’m kind of thinking about potentially paying less in rent, for the house that we’re renting. And I’m looking at maybe getting a small office somewhere just to try and be out of the warm ups and sweat pants and all those other types of fickle things that go along with working from home. So that’s good advice.
So, I know, you’ve done a lot of different things: what would you say is your favorite? I mean everything from writing books, iPhone apps, websites – is there anything that you found to be your favorite? Or, is it kind of …
Joel: You know, I’ve enjoyed most of it. I just love, I love creating sites that a few people use. I think, you know, content is my core. Content is where I started back in 1995 with my first site, worldvillage.com and I enjoy spinning up content sites that are quality, that people will visit again and again, bookmark and you know, I’ve spun up a number of them that I’ve sold. Content’s always been really good to me and one of my next place is to move into some more content again.
Chris: Okay. So, you’re going to be doing those from scratch or are you going to be just buying existing sites and looking for ways to improve those?
Joel: Probably both. Probably both.
Chris: Okay, yeah. That’s kind of a combination of what I do as well. But it’s always tough finding good sites to buy because there’s just so much trash out there.
Joel: Yeah, there is.
Chris: I was also curious – because content is kind of the main thing that’s been driving you. Would you say that’s what you would suggest to people that are looking to get started online, to just build websites with unique content and go from there or is there another type of approach?
Joel: Well, there’s a lot of different approaches. My latest book that came out last year, KaChing talks about a number of ways that you can make money online, assuming that you’re willing to do the work. The first model is the content model where you create original content that is then monetized with advertising such as Google AdSense, Chitika, Kontera. Another model is information products, another is affiliate programs where you’re selling other people’s stuffs or member sites or coaching, there’s a lot of different ways that you can monetize information online but content is the first.
Chris: Okay. So, that’s kind of maybe what you would suggest and then branching out into other areas as you get more experience with success in content website.
Joel: Yeah, I mean, content’s a great place to start because you can set up a blog so easily. I mean, with WordPress and a good theme such as the Socrates theme, shameless self-plug, you know, it’s really easy to put up a site in no time and get busy creating their content.
Chris: And will link to the KaChing book along with the Socrates theme here on the blog post. But, I know too one of your passions and really kind of what starts you out in terms of information products was AdSense and then the AdSense Secrets book. How has that experience been just going from a New York Times best-selling and just teaching a lot of different people how to make money with AdSense?
Joel: Well, it’s been rewarding in that it’s Google’s program. You know, it wasn’t like I came up with this new way to make money online. You know, Google, a reputable company and they are taking in billions of dollars each year in advertising, for Adwords and the AdSense program that they’ve had since 2004 I figured out how to make money with it before the majority of people even knew it existed. And so writing the book on it was fun because all of a sudden people were doing what I was doing and they were monetizing their websites, you know, realized we’re just coming out of the dotcom bust back there and I’m making $500 a day with AdSense and showing other people how to do it because it was based on somebody – Google’s program and my strategies people start making a lot of money with their existing content and you know, now there’s others that will start a blog fresh and within a few months they’re making, you know, some decent parttime income and I hear from people that, you know, after following what I taught for months or years they’ve replaced their fulltime income and they make all their money off their websites.
Chris: Definitely. I remember the first time I heard about AdSense. It actually wasn’t until about 2007 or so and I heard about it because I was – I’m a gamer, just like you. And, someone had a little ad on the bottom of their Nintendo – it was a GameCube website, it’s kind of give you an idea of how long that was, but he told me he was making $2 a day from it, and I know it wasn’t a lot of money but to me at the time I was like wow! $2 a day just from making website about your passion. And, that’s actually why I kind of started trying to do websites and then what ultimately led towards this line of employment, so. It’s exciting.
You know, I wanted to actually talk about just some of the strategies people can employ on their websites today. I mean, in particular, what ad units and where there’re placed have you found to be consistently the best performing? I know that there’s some indication that it can vary by website but I’m not a huge AdSense earner myself, I know I have friends that are. But, just kind of curious what your thoughts are on that?
Joel: Well, by and large, you know, ads that are in line with your content tend to perform the best. You know, usually the medium rectangles or large rectangles in line with your articles, you know, with no border or background tend to give the highest click-through rate. You know, when people come to a site to read an article, they’re looking for information and maybe their eyes will run through the article , maybe their eyes are caught by the ad and maybe that ad is the solution to whatever it is they’re looking for in the first place. And boom they click it. So, those are good and leader boards are also good, the wider 728 wide x 90 pixels high ads work really good on forums and member sites. Put them in between posts and such. And you know, I don’t really recommend messing around with too many of the other sizes. Those two seem to do the trick pretty well. Especially, I really don’t like the skyscrapers because they are really off to the side and they’re not where people are looking. I mean, you got people that use this horrible color schemes that repel people from looking at the ads and they wonder why their click-through rates are low.
Chris: That was the other question I was going to ask. When I first got started doing AdSense I was trying all different types of combinations. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that the niche that I was in just was, kind of, difficult to make money with unless I had a lot of traffic. But I mean, what have you found to be universally one of the better thing. I know there are some differences but in terms of the colors, what do you generally suggest?
Joel: Well, there’s a reason that newspapers have been printed black on white paper for all these years. They are the easiest to read and so I recommend websites that have a white background and black text on them. And, if you’re going to do that then your AdSense blocks, you should use a white border, which makes the border transparent and a white background so it blends with the background of your page, black text or the actual ads themselves and for the clickable links you make them blue. Because we’re all conditioned that blue is hypertext and it’s where you’re supposed to click. So, intuitively that’s what people are looking for.
Chris: Okay. Yeah, it definitely make sense. Have you done, and this is all kind of based on your own testing over the years on various websites that you found that these color schemes and ad units and placements make the most money, basically right?
Joel: Oh yeah, absolutely. That is pretty much standard now. It’s kind of funny because I wrote my first book back in 2005 on the topic and it wasn’t until about 2008 that Google started finally posting what they believe work and of course, it’s the things we’ve been teaching all along. But it took them, you know, over two years to begin giving people tips.
Chris: Oh geez! Yeah, that’s definitely long time for them to actually try and help out the publishers. And I know, they used to have the referral program to AdSense a while back. Did you ever make any decent money referring people to that or?
Joel: Not really. And you know they spiked it a long time ago. That was really a long time ago.
Joel: And, yeah, I didn’t really find – I wish they had it because I’m sure I’d would them, you know, a lot of people over the years from having read my books.
Chris: Yeah, okay. So, I know the ad placements and the colors and all that are some of the main basics. Are there any secrets that you’d like to share from the book? I can really do with solid tips that people might not know that they could implement on their sites right now.
Joel: Well, you know people should be testing. I think a lot of people they put their AdSense on their sites and then they just leave the blogs and you miss out an increasing your revenue so like you can always tweak it to kick it up a little bit. You know, so you might test one blog, you might test two or three blogs on the page. You might try moving it left or right on your site. You know, you might put one at the top of your article and one at the bottom. And you know measure it. Set up channels for each ad block and measure your click-through rate and your CPM and seen where you’re making the most money in, kind of split-test it and then once you see what works better, go with that. And then, take it to the next level. Test something else. Because it seems like you can always squeeze a little higher CPM out of your sites.
Chris: Okay. I’ve used OIO publisher, a WordPress plugin on most of my blogs to do that type of testing. Is there something else that you’ve used before to do the testing like Google Ad Manager or similar type of service?
Joel: You know, back in my day when we walked barefoot through the snow to build a website. Everything was done manually. You know, you just go and look at your stats and you just document, you know, what your click-throughs and your CPMs are and you make your adjustments. There is more sophisticated software now.
Chris: Okay. Is there any one that you specifically recommend or is it just kind of really based on what you’re looking at? I mean if it’s a forum, then there’s probably a plugin for vBulletin that you could use and I actually look for some more – yes I can link to them in the blog post as well but I just try.
Joel: Yeah. You’re more probably more up-to-date on the latest plugins than I am. You know, having had my content sites set up and tweaked and you know, we feel like we’ve squeezed about as much for our clicks and CPMs as we can. Now on my new sites, when I start setting up some new content sites we’ll be entering that process all over again and doing some testing.
Chris: Okay. I know Demand Media, and this is one that you mentioned in the AdSense Secrets ebook, there are obviously a huge player in, if you aren’t familiar with Demand Media they own eHow and this is to people who are listening I know that you are Joel, eHow.com and bunch of other major, huge information based websites and make a lot of money targeting content that’s searched frequently but also has a lot of low competition. How do you suggest people can compete against this huge publisher that it almost seems to be getting additional benefit from Google’s algorithm in terms of the ranking?
Joel: I’m actually surprised that eHow is maintaining the traction that it has especially with Google’s latest updates because it’s so broad. You know, how they do everything, right. And that’s interesting given the latest firmware update. Anyhow, you know, I think finding drilling down into a micro niche right, where your site is all about a very specific topic rather than a broad topic is really your best chance to get a leg up on some of these larger sites. You know, you’re never going to catch an eHow with a niched site, but you can take a segment of that market and by creating valuable content and having some sound SEO practices both on and offsite and linking structures that you can begin to stir some of their traffic your way.
Chris: Definitely make sense. I know that’s kind of the experience I had with building my own site, Netbookreviews.com. I focused on building up just the best site in that one specific niche and although I wasn’t using AdSense as much I was more of an Amazon guy , it’s definitely advice. I was curious to – I know that Google introduced and this is a while ago, that they introduced smart targeting I believe it’s what it’s called? Have you seen people or maybe yourself focusing less on trying to research and target high profit niches, such as like insurance, autos or anything else like that because people are generally going to be smart targeted from all the other websites they are visiting online or…?
Joel: Yeah, I think so, Chris. I think the days of targeting high CPM niches is really – you know, it’s chasing after the wind to do that because so many have competed and so many are being smart targeting that area. Because those are clicks are expensive, you know. The advertisers they don’t want those clicks to show up on sites that are there, that are spun up just to display their ads. And, neither does Google. Google wants those ads showing up on high quality, relevant sites that the people who click are going to be targeted customers. And I think it’s better to create sites that fall in line with your passion, your knowledge, your skill set and be able to work that you’re got a much better chance of going after something that you know something about in creating content in that realm than going after a high dollar niche that you really know nothing about and just outsourcing articles to somebody who is also likely to not know that much about it.
Chris: Yeah, so that’s kind of speaking to the process that you probably heard a lot about. People building hundreds or thousands of small niche sites and going after the long tail. You know, aggressively going after the long tail as opposed to just building up a few more quality websites.
What would your advice be then if you build some of these sites, you’re already making decent money, you want to kind of try and take your business to the next level, is that when you would say it’s time to either hire employees or is it really just kind of a matter of, you know what you can accomplish with your own workload when deciding, you know, when to build the next site?
Joel: In other words, it’s, how far do you want to go and how much of a workload do you want to carry? You know, the part of living the internet lifestyles or let’s say working home in our pajamas as we decide when we get up and sit in front of the computer and play with our kids or walk the dog or take a day off and it’s all up to you. How much do you want to work? And so, if you’re a workhorse and I know some people they love to work around the clock and it’s their hobby and it’s their life, they live and breathe it then great. Work as much as you can until you can’t do anymore. But, if you want to have a life outside of that then hiring somebody to help you might find that not only do you become more effective at what you do but you become more profitable as well.
Chris: Alright, alright. I’m just thinking as I’m asking these questions I’m trying to think of things that not only would help myself in my own business but also to help give some other people here some direction as well. So thanks for that.
One of the questions too I had is when you’re getting the end of, you know, you’ve built a site up and you’re making decent money. I mean, when do you decide, you know, okay it’s time to exit. I now that you sold Deal of Day. What made you think, okay it’s time to sell this?
Joel: You know there’s a lot of money in content and certainly Deal of Day it’s been really good to me for 12 years and I’m just at the point in my life, you know, I just turned 47 and I kind of want to scale back the number of projects I’m involved in and Deal of Day took a certain amount of maintenance and I had kind of taken it as far as I felt that was going to because of other projects I was working on. And, you know, it deserves more. It could be bigger and it needed some love from somebody who is ready to adopt it and take it on as their own. And that’s what we found in our buyer so we’re really excited about that and I’m anticipating some really cool things happening on the site as a result.
Chris: Are there any other big sales you’re working on right now? Or any that you can share or…?
Joel: We currently have listed our iFart application for the iPhone, just the other day came out as the No. 12 most popular application out of a half a million apps that have been released for the iPhone and so somewhere out there’s a good fit for that. We’ve got a mobile marketing platform called TextCastLive that we’re fielding offers on for anybody that wants to get into the mobile space and we got some other website that we might be looking of putting on the market.
Chris: Okay. And actually I’ll be linking to the Comedy Central video that you had. And actually this is something I just am curious. I mean, how did that actually come about? Did people just – did someone, some producer from Comedy Central contact you to…?
Joel: Yeah, they did. But it was based on a little legal matter, a legal stink as I like to say between us and the competing application that was named Pull My Finger. Basically, they weren’t happy with the fact that we bumped them off of the top of the charts and stole their thunder. And, they accused us of using their phrase, hold my finger in our app, which we did. It’s you know, it’s not a trademark term and they threatened us to sue us if we didn’t send them $50,000, I believe the number was. And we just filed with Federal Court in Colorado where the judge would tell them go away. And we sent out a press release, made some hay out of it and Comedy Central heard the story and they thought this would make a funny segment. And, it did.
Chris: I’ve seen it before and it’s fine. And again I’ll link to it. But I was curious you know after that happened how much in additional sales did you see, like, were there a lot of people buying that day, I’m not sure if at the time it was the No. 1 seller when that aired. Did it bring it back up?
Joel: It wasn’t and yeah, we did definitely see a bump back up the charts. Not to the top but we sold several thousand more units as a result of that. It’s amazing how traditional media really does not move people to buy online. Online is what drives people to buy online.
Chris: Alright. Well, thanks again for coming on the show, Joel. And, what would be the best place for people to get in contact with you or follow along and see your projects?
Joel: Well, Joelcomm.com is my blog. And I’m @joelcomm on Twitter. And, Joel Comm fan is my page that people can like on Facebook.
Chris: alright, and I’ll go ahead and link to the rest of the things we talked about as well. Thanks again for coming on and I had a blast talking to you. And, I hope everyone’s learned a lot as well.
Joel: Thanks, Chris. I appreciate you having me.
Allright that was the show. Joel is a really cool guy and he didn’t ask me to do this. But, if you like to buy his AdSense ebook you can actually get it from Chrisloves.com/AdSense. I read the ebook and it’s a great beginners’ course going through AdSense but there’s also a ton of really advanced tips in there as well that I actually didn’t know and I’ve already implemented on some of my sites to try out.
Likewise, you can get his Socrates premium WordPress theme from Chrisloves.com/Socrates. These are affiliate links so if you decide to buy, I will make a commission.
With that said, I just want to thank you again for your support and listening to this podcast. And, remind you that if you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org. And, I hope you stop by my blog as well which is again at upfuel.com.
Thanks again for listening. And, I’ll see you on the next podcast.
Podcast transcription by TranscriptionistForBloggers.com