Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What is Cloud Computing?

Even if you're relatively new to the internet, you might have heard this term being bounced around.  You might not be sure exactly what it means or what its impact will be.

Let me tell you right now, its impact will be huge in the upcoming years, and, in fact, it's very likely that you're already using it.  In fact, in some ways, it's getting difficult to tell, sometimes, when you are using it and when you're not.

What is "The Cloud"?

Let's talk about it and clarify it, so you know what we're talking about.  The internet, as a whole, is a huge, and vastly complicated space.  It's kind of hard to visualize just how big and expansive it is.  If someone were to sketch a visual representation of it, it would be very difficult.  That's why a lot of tech-y people in recent years have started calling it "The Cloud". 

If you send an email, you don't really have to know how it gets from here to there, right?  You just click "Send", and it goes out into "The Cloud" and it somehow arrives at its destination.  Do you see how well that works as a visualization?

Now, for a long time, people used their computers to do their writing, their games, their spreadsheets, their games, their calculations, their graphics, their games, and all sorts of other things.  They bought office software with word processors to write letters, they bought games and installed and played them.  They bought music players and video makers, and picture editors, and every time they bought a program they installed it on their own computers.  They stored their pictures and their videos and their game saves all on their own computers.

When they went out into "The Cloud", on the internet, they were just looking for information.  They'd read something, or they'd find something they were interested in.  Maybe they'd download something, like a program to install.

What's Cloud Computing?

Gradually, over the last few years, more and more people have begun to actually "Do" things out on the 'net.  So, instead of opening up an email reader program on my computer, they would go to a website on the 'net (in the cloud) and read their email from there.  Instead of just opening up their game on their hard drive, they would go to the game's website, login, and begin playing online.  Instead of opening up a word processor, writing a report, and saving it to my hard drive, they would go to a website that opened up an online word processing program, type the report, save it online, and be done.

The big difference is that instead of using a software that they purchased and installed on their computers, they're accessing programs and applications through websites.  That's why they're also called "Web Apps".  Since it all happens out on the Internet cloud, it's called "Cloud Computing".

Advantages of Cloud Computing

So, what's the big deal?  Why is it such a hot topic right now?  Well, there are a number of real advantages to using programs that aren't stored on your own computer.

  • If you have internet access, you can get to your work.  You can get to it from your job, your home, your supersmart cell phone, your public library, your friend's computer, etc...  Anywhere that you can get to the 'net, you can get to your stuff.
  • Your stuff changes with you.  If you work on something at home, and then you get to work, all the changes you made at home are still saved!  That's because the copy you were working on didn't reside at home or at work, but out on a server computer somewhere in the cloud.  You're just accessing the same thing from home or work.  Maybe you level up your wizard character in your onlinefantasy game late one night.  Then, when you're over at your friend's house the next day, you can take off playing right from where you left off!
  • You can allow others to access your stuff, so you can collaborate.  School project teams can cooperate better, and work teams can get more done.
  • You don't have to buy, download, and install upgrades.  When the company makes a better version, they just set it up in the cloud, and suddenly, everyone's using it!
  • A lot of the web apps you can find are FREE!  They're either supported by advertising, or they have premium features that you have to pay for.

There's Gotta Be a Downside...

There are some problems and disadvantages.  Let's talk about those for a minute.

  • It's nice to have instant access from anywhere that you have a web connection.  But what if you want to work and your internet goes down?  You're stuck!
  • What if the servers that the web app company uses go down?  You're stuck!  Fortunately, most web app companies realize just how much people rely on them, and they set up backups and redundancies to keep their systems running smooth!
  • Some of the free web aps out there are very good, but not as full-featured as their old-school counterparts.  They'll handle most of the tasks you'll need most of the time, but occasionally, you might need one of the more specialized features, and it might not be there.  Still, as cloud computing grows and becomes more popular, the web apps will become more and more robust.
  • Security can be an issue.  If you're keeping your work on a computer out there in "the cloud", who has access to it, and the legal right to view it?  Just how much privacy do you have?

The whole concept of cloud computing, for a long time, was the talk only of the tech-y and the big business people.  It's only recently become commonplace enough for mainstream computer consumers.  Recently, small computers, called "netbooks" have started to appear in computer stores.  These will often have no hard drive storage of their own, no way to install a program, and will only access web apps.  They're becoming more and more popular with students and those that travel for work.

The reason that it's coming so strongly to the forefront is that Google is introducing a full operating system (called "Chrome") designed entirely to utilize web apps. Some are saying it may eventually replace Windows.  Others scoff. 

Whether or not it does, cloud computing is definitely here to stay, and will be growing.  The more you're aware, and the more you're able to use it, the more effective you'll be!

Here are some common and useful web apps to explore:

Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to Monetize a Blog

Let's suppose that you've been blogging for a while.  Maybe it's just a personal blog, or maybe you've been blogging about one of your hobbies.  Maybe you're blogging for your job, or to promote a product-based website.

Maybe you're just starting a blog, and have only posted your first bits of pillar content.  Maybe you've even just put up an introductory entry or two.

Let's talk about how to set it up to Make Money!

Now, I'm not talking about simply clicking into Blogger.com and clicking the "Monetize" tab.  Yes, that will set you up to start showing Google ads, which can potentially make you some money, once you get the traffic.  I'm talking about a deeper process which will set your blog up for success, rather than just getting a few hits and trickles of money from time to time.

Step One: Identify Your Audience

Who are you writing to?  A lot of this will entail deciding what you're writing about.  If your blog flits from idea to idea like a social networking butterfly, you'll find that you don't have a clear audience, and you'll have few consistent readers, and no money.

A large part of identifying your audience is identifying the keywords that they're searching for.  This goes back to the keyword research that has been taught many times before.  Using tools like Trellian's Free Keyword Discover Tool, or Google's AdWords Keyword Tool can help you determine the demand for your keywords.

Also, read other blogs and see what others in your niche are talking about.  These will help you to identify areas that your audience is interested in.

Step Two: Get in Front of Them

This step comes in two parts:  First of all, providing some great content that interests them, rich in those keywords they're looking for, is a great way to get your blog discovered.  Ultimately, the writing is the stuff that's going to bring people to your blog anyway. 

The other part of it is to discover other places on the web where your audience likes to hang out.  Are they in Facebook?  Or, an even better question would be, "Where can I find them on Facebook?", because they're probably already there!  They're probably reading other similar bloggers.  They're probably participating in forums.  Go find them, and join in with them.  Comment on their Facebook profiles, and join the discussion on the blogs and forums.  Mention your own blog.  Join the community and be active in it.

Step Three: Offer Them Something They Want

Now let's talk about making money off of this audience you have.  Now that you've gotten to know them, and they've gotten to know you, you can start recommending products to them. 

Ask yourself:  What are they wanting?  What do they need?  Find affiliates that are selling those items and sign up with them.  That's not as difficult as it might sound.  There are so many sources for affiliate products. Try some of these:

  • Clickbank.com - Good information products, electronically deliverable.  Some of the highest payout percentages in all of affiliatedom
  • Amazon.com - No matter what your niche or who your audience is, chances are, Amazon has a book about it.  They've also got a lot of other relevant products.  Plus, your can set up your affiliate link to click directly to individual products.
  • The Google Affiliate Network - This source can connect you with hundreds of affiliate companies.
  • A Product-based Dropshipping Website - Don't forget that product website that you're setting up, either!  Link to your site, and directly to products that you're blogging about!

Remember that monetizing a blog is much, much more than just putting ad codes into your site.  It's about the core of your blogging.  It's about developing a connection, a relationship to your audience.  Then, they'll trust your recommendations!

Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Long-Term Power of Authority

I've been reading a great e-booklet, called "Authority Rules".  It spells out just how to get a lot of links coming to your website or blog.  And, as we know, links mean traffic, links mean search engine ranking, and links mean spiders.  Links are critical to success.

The idea is to become an authority in a particular area of knowledge.

I can hear people already saying, "I'm no expert!"  and "I just wanna sell stuff!"

My answer is: "You don't have to be an 'expert' to share knowledge, and wanting to sell stuff is a great place to start!"

Let me tell you some stories.

When I was growing up, I had a great friend named Jon.  He and I shared a fascination with World War II, and plastic ship models in particular.  He found that some of the Japanese model companies made some of the most detailed and beautiful models.  Unfortunately (at least in my eyes) they only made models of the Japanese ships.  That didn't seem to bother Jon.  He loved them.  He built them, and he read about them.  He learned their names, and the battles they were in.  I followed along for the ride, but never quite shared his fascination so completely.

Fast forward.  We both went our separate ways, in college, jobs, marriages and lives, but we still keep in touch from time to time.

In the intervening years, he set up a website dedicated to his fascination with the Imperial Japanese Navy.  He showed pictures of the ships.  He started researching logs and historical documents and posting that information at his site.  Soon he was getting more and more traffic.  The site won awards and garnered much recognition among military historians and military history buffs. 

Keep in mind, that Jon's "day job" is NOT "historian".  He works in technology, in programming.  He just enjoys researching his passion, and shares what he learns.

Fast forward a little more.  A shipwreck is discovered, and it's believed that it's one of the Japanese aircraft carriers that was sunk in the battle of Midway.  An expedition is planned, with remote diving bots armed with cameras, to see if the wreckage can be identified.  Who do they call on to be the expert that can look at the video and images sent back up the wire?  Who can identify the ship?  Do they call on those with advanced degrees in naval history?  No, they call my friend, Jon, who runs a website. 

He goes on the expedition, and is able to work with them and identify the downed ship as the Kaga, which was, indeed, one of four Japanese aircraft carriers sunk in the battle of Midway.

Fast forward a bit more.  Jon and his colleague in the running of the website publish a book, "Shattered Sword, the Untold Story of the Battle of Midway".  It's considered by many to be the definitive work on the battle.  It includes many facets of the battle that had never been revealed before, including much from the perspective of the Japanese.

It's no surprise, then, that if you go to google and search for "Imperial Japanese Navy", that his website is #1.  It even outranks the Wikipedia entry.  It would also probably not surprise you to know that this site gets over 50,000 hits a month.

My point in telling you this story is to reshape your perspectives of what it means to be an "Authority", an "expert".  It doesn't necessarily mean you have to have degrees and the accolades of academy.  It does mean, you have to learn, and share what you learn.  In the process, you gain trust.  People will trust you to tell them what they want or need to know.  Once you have that, you are an expert, regardless. 

And they will come to you, and link to you, and tell others to find you, and your business will flourish because they will buy from you.

PS.  If you want to buy Jon's book, Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, get it here.

Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Best of 5 Years of SOHOMan

Happy Birthday to Me!  Happy Birthday to Me....

So, five years ago, today, I started writing here at SOHOMan.  It's kept fairly steady, except for a big gap when I changed jobs in 2008.  But now it's back, going strong.

I thought I'd celebrate by sharing some of the better articles, some of the ones that have been a bit more timeless, more impactful.  Keep in mind that some were written 5 years ago, so they might contain a few dead links or references to old companies.  I feel strongly that the concepts in them are still vital and important today, however.

Some of these deal more directly with web marketing issues, like SEO, getting traffic, and making a great web business.  Other articles are all about motivation and persistence, two big keys in Internet success. 

Dive in and feel free to comment!







Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

Monday, November 02, 2009

New Rules: Endorsements, Testimonials, and Reviews

Web marketers have been reviewing products, getting their products reviewed, and gathering testimonials for many years, but the rules are changing.  The FTC recently announced new rules that apply to web marketers, bloggers, and social network users as well as more mainstream traditional advertising, like celebrity endorsements.

The basic gist of the new rules are that endorsements, reviews, and such are fine, so long as any benefit arrangements between the endorser and the company are disclosed.  For example, if a star quarterback endorses a sports/energy drink, they have to state in the ad that he's getting paid for saying so.  If a blogger reviews a product that the company provided him/her for free, he/she has got to say so.

Where before, to not say up front who's being paid for what was simply bad manners in the internet community, now it can actually result in lawsuits and fines.

Here are a few more articles you can read about it: "FTC Sets Endorsement Rules for Blogs", and "Bloggers Covered by Endorsement Rules, Says FTC".

So, how do you do it so as to not get into trouble?  Well, fortunately, the rules are really just saying what you should have been doing all along.  If someone sends you a product for you to review at your blog, and they expect you to keep it, say so.  If someone pays you for an endorsement, or for a review, post that. 

Unfortunately, it's a little unclear how the rules of affiliate links and other ads should be handled, according to the law. Do those fall under the "traditional advertising" stipulations?  Personally, if it were me, I would recommend noting the affiliate links as being such, even though savvy surfers should be able to recognize a link to amazon.com as an affiliate.

A lot also depends, I think, on how you write your product reviews.  If your reviews are little more than thinly-veiled ads for the products, then few people will take them seriously anyway.  On the other hand, if you write your product reviews from a very balanced perspective and ask yourself, "What would my audience need to know about this product to make a good buying decision?" your reviews will come across as very useful and balanced anyway.  If you write to inform about the product, instead of just to praise it, you'll do better. 

"If you like such-and-such, and you're wanting to do this-other-thing, then this product will help you because it does this.  However, if you're not interested in this-other-thing, then you'll probably pass on buying this item."

Writing the disclosure can be done in several ways.  You could simply put a "disclosure statement" at the bottom of your review post:  "This product was provided to the author for free for purposes of this review."  Or: "The author was paid for this endorsement".

You could include the disclosure information directly in the review:  "My first impression of the product was that their packaging was great!  I opened up the box they sent me and saw that..."

Testimonials could be shown the same way, with a notice at the bottom saying, "Uncompensated opinions", or whatever you do.

Another thing that's unclear is how retroactive these new rules will be.  As a blogger, I've got hundreds of posts over years of blogging on 4-5 different blogs.  Those blog posts are still active on the web.  Do I need to go back and make sure that I've carefully attributed all of those posts?  A lot of these questions, it seems, still need to be sorted out.

And while it's also not clear how the FTC is going to go out and police the millions of blog and social network postings that happen daily across the net, they do have two very strong ally groups in the fight to keep you compliant with the rules:  one is your competition, and the other is any disgruntled clients/customers you might have.  It will help to dot your i's and cross your t's from here on out!

Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.