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.
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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 heís done a lot of cool stuff in the past. Iím just going to name a few things Ė 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 weíll 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 weíre working on. At this very moment Iím setting up an Amazon seller account so that we can get our new novelty toy, the KaChing Button, for sale on Amazon. Weíre working on the follow-up to our successful WordPress theme, the Socrates theme, which is going to be called the Plato theme. Itís 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 Ė have you sold something before through Amazon or, is this the first thing youíve done, you know, beyond books?
Joel: Right, not beyond books. You know, the only thing Iíve done is Ė that Iíve sold myself that Amazon, you know, fulfills is our digital books. So, Iíve got a digital publisher account and Iíve got, I donít 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, letís 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 youíre working on now that youíve 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. Iím not sure but you know sometimes they are but just because I have an idea doesnít 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 thereís going to be an interest of some kind to start with. It canít just be all about the money. Sure itís great doing business and making money but Iíve got to be excited about the prospect of what Iím entering into otherwise I know Iím not going to able to maintain a passion about it thatís going to keep it going. So, Iíve got to think itís cool and interesting to begin with.
Chris: Okay, so I mean, is that kind of Ė thatís basically kind of inline with why you thought of the iFart app right? I mean, youíre getting in there early in the app market and also was kind of a novelty item that people hadnít really seen before?
Joel: Yeah. Yeah, thatís 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 itís going to be the next type of a gold rush. I mean, did you think it would be as huge as itís become orÖ?
Joel: You know, we wouldnít have developed if we didnít think that the app store was going to be big but you never know. Itís like if my crystal bowl wasnít really working that day, it wonít 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 Ė is that kind of why you like to do so many different projects? I mean I know Iíve 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, itís 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 youíve 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, Iím always looking to see what else is available out there.
Chris: Okay. And I know, you have Ė 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 letís 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, Iím wondering, you know, when did you decide okay letís 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 Iíve 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 weíre in Oklahoma and I think my wife said to me, you know, I love having you around everything but I canít miss you if you donít ever leave. And so, you know at that time I think you know youíre 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 wasnít until Ė so I had a space by myself for a couple of years and it wasnít 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 didnít 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 thatís good advice. I mean I know we actually had to be moving here and so Iím kind of thinking about potentially paying less in rent, for the house that weíre renting. And Iím 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 thatís good advice.
So, I know, youíve done a lot of different things: what would you say is your favorite? I mean everything from writing books, iPhone apps, websites Ė is there anything that you found to be your favorite? Or, is it kind of Ö
Joel: You know, Iíve 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, Iíve spun up a number of them that Iíve sold. Contentís always been really good to me and one of my next place is to move into some more content again.
Chris: Okay. So, youíre 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. Thatís kind of a combination of what I do as well. But itís always tough finding good sites to buy because thereís just so much trash out there.
Joel: Yeah, there is.
Chris: I was also curious Ė because content is kind of the main thing thatís been driving you. Would you say thatís 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, thereís 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 youíre 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 youíre selling other peopleís stuffs or member sites or coaching, thereís a lot of different ways that you can monetize information online but content is the first.
Chris: Okay. So, thatís 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, contentís 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, itís 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, itís been rewarding in that itís Googleís program. You know, it wasnít 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 theyíve 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 weíre just coming out of the dotcom bust back there and Iím making $500 a day with AdSense and showing other people how to do it because it was based on somebody – Googleís program and my strategies people start making a lot of money with their existing content and you know, now thereís others that will start a blog fresh and within a few months theyíre making, you know, some decent parttime income and I hear from people that, you know, after following what I taught for months or years theyíve 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 wasnít until about 2007 or so and I heard about it because I was – Iím a gamer, just like you. And, someone had a little ad on the bottom of their Nintendo Ė it was a GameCube website, itís 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 wasnít 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, thatís actually why I kind of started trying to do websites and then what ultimately led towards this line of employment, so. Itís 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 thereíre placed have you found to be consistently the best performing? I know that thereís some indication that it can vary by website but Iím 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, theyíre 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 theyíre 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 donít really recommend messing around with too many of the other sizes. Those two seem to do the trick pretty well. Especially, I really donít like the skyscrapers because they are really off to the side and theyíre 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 wasnít 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, thereís 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 youíre 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 weíre all conditioned that blue is hypertext and itís where youíre supposed to click. So, intuitively thatís 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. Itís kind of funny because I wrote my first book back in 2005 on the topic and it wasnít until about 2008 that Google started finally posting what they believe work and of course, itís the things weíve been teaching all along. But it took them, you know, over two years to begin giving people tips.
Chris: Oh geez! Yeah, thatís 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 didnít really find Ė I wish they had it because Iím sure Iíd 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 youíd 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 youíre 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. Iíve used OIO publisher, a WordPress plugin on most of my blogs to do that type of testing. Is there something else that youíve 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 youíre looking at? I mean if itís a forum, then thereís probably a plugin for vBulletin that you could use and I actually look for some more Ė yes I can link to them in the blog post as well but I just try.
Joel: Yeah. Youíre 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 weíve 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 weíll 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 arenít 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 thatís 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 Googleís algorithm in terms of the ranking?
Joel: Iím actually surprised that eHow is maintaining the traction that it has especially with Googleís latest updates because itís so broad. You know, how they do everything, right. And thatís 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, youíre 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 thatís 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 wasnít using AdSense as much I was more of an Amazon guy , itís definitely advice. I was curious to Ė I know that Google introduced and this is a while ago, that they introduced smart targeting I believe itís what itís 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 orÖ?
Joel: Yeah, I think so, Chris. I think the days of targeting high CPM niches is really Ė you know, itís 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 donít 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 itís better to create sites that fall in line with your passion, your knowledge, your skill set and be able to work that youíre 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 thatís 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, youíre already making decent money, you want to kind of try and take your business to the next level, is that when you would say itís 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, itís, 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 letís 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 itís all up to you. How much do you want to work? And so, if youíre a workhorse and I know some people they love to work around the clock and itís their hobby and itís their life, they live and breathe it then great. Work as much as you can until you canít 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. Iím just thinking as Iím asking these questions Iím 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 youíre getting the end of, you know, youíve built a site up and youíre making decent money. I mean, when do you decide, you know, okay itís time to exit. I now that you sold Deal of Day. What made you think, okay itís time to sell this?
Joel: You know thereís a lot of money in content and certainly Deal of Day itís been really good to me for 12 years and Iím 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 Iím 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 thatís what we found in our buyer so weíre really excited about that and Iím anticipating some really cool things happening on the site as a result.
Chris: Are there any other big sales youíre working on right now? Or any that you can share orÖ?
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 thereís a good fit for that. Weíve got a mobile marketing platform called TextCastLive that weíre 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 Iíll 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 Ė did someone, some producer from Comedy Central contact you toÖ?
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 werenít 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. Itís you know, itís not a trademark term and they threatened us to sue us if we didnít 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: Iíve seen it before and itís fine. And again Iíll 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, Iím not sure if at the time it was the No. 1 seller when that aired. Did it bring it back up?
Joel: It wasnít 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. Itís 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 Iím @joelcomm on Twitter. And, Joel Comm fan is my page that people can like on Facebook.
Chris: alright, and Iíll 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 everyoneís 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 didnít 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 itís a great beginnersí course going through AdSense but thereís also a ton of really advanced tips in there as well that I actually didnít know and Iíve 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 [email protected] And, I hope you stop by my blog as well which is again at upfuel.com.
Thanks again for listening. And, Iíll see you on the next podcast.[/spoiler]
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