Chasing my own tail

Apologies for the lack of posts, but when there isn’t much new happening there isn’t much to write about so even with this post I am just going to surmise what I’m doing & thinking but there is nothing new.

Think Visibility was a good break, many thanks to Al for the ticket, good to meet some new & old faces – sorry if I wasn’t overly enthusiastic if I met you on Saturday as Al did keep me out till 6am on the first night :) Some good talks and I certainly took away a few ideas. What was interesting was listening to the types of sites other people run, amazing diversity in every room & bar.

Domain Leasing: Current income is around £1300 per month from this, the only way for me to really ramp this up is to get a larger inventory but I don’t want a pile of crap so I think it’s a slow burner with the odd addition and still something I’d like to build on. Certainly a nice option to offer someone who can’t afford to outright buy a prime generic.

Geo’s: My collection of geo’s has grown a little and this is where I have invested money & time this year, a few more domains and some new sites on them every few months.

Ullapool.co.uk with only a 1500 population was an existing site already ranking at the top, I have contacted B&B’s & hotels offering a paid listing/advertising, it’s a port and popular area for tourism and breaks away. It now has a yearly income of £1100 from listings and £2k from adsense – the site was bought for £4500 a few months ago.

Ayr.co.uk is the main site in the group as it’s the largest of the small towns around the 50k population mark, it was just a blank domain but has now been built out and ranks in the top 5, happy with it’s progress.

What’s pretty apparent to me now is that with it being off-season the B&B’s are closed down and they have next to no interest in spending money on advertising right now, I think a lot of the geo sites will come into their own next year from February onwards especially if they are visible near the top of Google so that’s really the aim, get the group of domains, build them and get them indexed and get ready for early 2010 when businesses will be spending on advertising.

Other stuff: I have bought a few smaller sites this year, some for myself, some in partnership with a friend, still looking through lists of traffic sites looking for neglected gems of which I am sure there are plenty out there. Every now and again I can spend a day doing detective work for it to end up nowhere chasing my own tail but that’s the thrill of the chase, one such expedition I’ll detail to show how time can pass!

Last week I was doing some product keyword research, check the keyword and found a site at no.1 in Google with a single holding page saying they were no longer taking orders, checked the html and no tracking code or analytics so my gut says they may not realise they own a site getting hundreds of visitors per day.

The domain was a .co.uk , no address in the whois, domain name as registrant.
Archive.org shows their old address & phone number in a contact page which is handy, a bit more digging shows there is a physical shop there with the same phone number but today it’s selling something completely different so I had hoped/presumed a change of direction. I contacted the shop owner but she nothing to do with the old shop or domain I am after. She did manage to give me a name of the old trading company which I had not heard of that used to trade from the shop.

Researching this trading name took me to other sites in the same kind of genre which were still live and finding their contact details I asked if they still owned the domain I was chasing and wanted.

Nope, but he used to, he had sold the site & domain in 2008 but did have the buyers name and mobile phone number which he was happy to pass on to me.

I contacted the buyer who had since resigned as director of the company who bought the domain I am after, but gave me the name of the limited company that he had setup. So I paid £4 at companies house for all the details on this limited company and could see no trading has been done or filed but did get the home address of the existing director of the limited company who owns the domain. I can’t see any trace of this guy online (handy weird surname) so have sent him a snail mail to ask if he would sell the domain.

Will any of this come off? who knows, but it can be fun and when these things do work out you can win big, an excellent tip from Edwin is to take a high ranking site and put it in the Adwords Tool under website content to generate a list of popular keywords to start your research from.

Think Visibility Conference Ticket Winner(S) Are…

Last week I announced that my lastest site ConferenceCalendar.com will be sponsoring next weekends Think Visibility conference, and as the primary sponsor we receive 4 free tickets. Thanks everybody that left a comment saying why they would like to attend, it was a totally tough to choose a single winner so we’ll be giving away 3 free tickets:

Matt: As reading his comments I think he’d really benefit from attending

Richard: Comment made me laugh and I’ve met Richard before and I’m sure he’ll make the most of the opportunity

Abdul: Another gentleman I’ve known online for a long time that and who I think needs to talk and listen to people that are already somewhat successful in the industry

I’ll also be providing tickets to two of my business partners (as I’m a speaker I get an extra free ticket):

Scott Jones: If you don’t know who Scott is you’re on the wrong site, totally awesome smartest somewhat technophobe I know in the industry and have the pleasure to work with.

Marc Evans: I run the Coolest Gadgets UK site with Marc, he’s a expert .Net coder (I don’t know if that’s what he’d call himself) and a total brainiac on gadgets and technology.

If for any reason anybody listed cannot make it (you’ll need to sort out your own travel and accommodation), please let me know and I’ll give the ticket to somebody else.

If you weren’t lucky enough to win a ticket I would strongly advise taking advantage of the 30% discount code confcal, even before the discount it’s one of the most best value and friendliest conferences in town.

Finally the first 5 people at Think Visibility that tell me in person they read Self Made Minds and use Conference Calendar I’ll buy a beer on the Saturday evening (and I’m sure Scott will match that :) ).

Win a Ticket to Think Visibility (or at least get a 30% discount)

Think Visibility Conference – Saturday 12 September 2009

I was speaking to my friend Dom AKA @TheHodge a few days ago about the next Think Visibility conference that he’s organising. I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from the first one and for the one next month I am lined up on some mystery panel alongside Chris Garrett, Patrick Altoft and Kieron Donoghue (I’ve no idea what the panel is about but knowing Hodge it will be fun).

Anyway it turned out that Think Visibilty still didn’t have a primary sponsor and as it’s pretty related to my latest site Conference Calendar, I thought it would be a good marketing experiment to offer sponsorship, so that’s what we’ve done (I will report back after the event about the ROI).

I was able to talk Dom into giving our readers an awesome discount code of 30% (details on the Conference Calendar Think Visibility page), so if you haven’t booked your ticket yet now is the time (it was good value before, now it’s a must see).

I’ve also got a few tickets I can give away, the first of which will be to a SMM reader. Simply leave a comment on this post explaining why you would like to attend and we’ll choose a winner that we think has the best reason.

Good luck and if you don’t win at least you’ll be able to benefit from the 30% discount.

Back with a few Friday Links

It’s been a while since we’ve done a Friday round-up and as I’ve seen a few interesting things this week I thought I’d care to share, so here goes:

Analytics360 – This nifty little WordPress plugin lets you view your Google Analytics data in your WP dashboard (found via BlogStorm).

Introducing Rich Snippets – Google are rolling out some changes to how certain SERPS are displayed (namely reviews and people). If you have a review site, you can now provide Google with extra information to display in the snippet. (via Rishil on twitter).

Sometimes Quitting Is The Only Way to Win – Interesting read on why it may be a smart move to quit.

Think Visibility – Tickets are now on sale for this excellent mini conference and I am certain it’ll sell out. If you can get to Leeds on September 12th I’d strongly recommend it.

Bing using DMOZ Description – For those of you living under a rock Bing is Microsoft’s new(ish) search offering. This article demonstrates how the SERP snippets are extracted from DMOZ and more importantly how to ensure they are not.

Call to action experiment – Great post showing the results on how changing the wording on a call to action statement increased actions from 4.7 to 12.81%, nice (via ChrisG).

Even found a game for you to waste a few minutes with, Neon Maze.

Elite Retreat New York

This is just a heads up that tickets for Elite Retreat New York are now available. It’s on 1-2nd October 2009 and if you’re in the position where you can afford the $5,000 admission fee it is well worth attending.

It is aimed at entrepreneurs that are already successful and to help them take their business to the next level. I attended last year and gained heaps from the experience. Due to a packed schedule I won’t be attending this one unfortunately.

As a side note there’s is a good chance of there being one in London next year, so if you’re in the UK and not quite at that level yet make it something to aim for.

More info over on Conference Calendar (Yeah yeah I’m plugging CC).

Cloud Living Review


My friend Glen Allsopp contacted me last week about a product he was working on and asked if I’d review it for him. I get a lot of requests like this and generally turn them down as I simply don’t have the time, however Glen is a friend and we’ve been in touch a few times in the past via blog comments, email and twitter so I’m happy to help out. This is one of the big reasons why it’s beneficial to attend conferences and interact with people online.

The product that he’s been working on is called Cloud living:

Which is basically my way of saying ‘making money online.’ Cloud being the term people
are using more and more these days to reference the internet. I also believe it invokes images of freedom and that kind of thing.

Anyways, the product is:

* A 177 page eBook
* 6 Tutorial Videos
* Free Affiliate Site Template
* 8 Page eBook on How to Tweak the Theme

The eBook is pretty meaty and Glen goes into details on exactly what he has done to achieve 5 figures of revenue per month. He uses two different approaches, blogs and mini affiliate sites and the eBook is split between the two methods (there is a bit of duplication between the 2 parts). It makes an interesting read and is aimed at people just starting their online careers.

One of the features I particularly like is there are check lists of actions to take and the tools to use. Glen managed to create his business in the space of 12 months so he certainly knows what he’s doing and the examples he gives are what has worked for him. Oh and he’s only 20 years old, the young git.

The book is also jam packed full of screen shots and accompanying videos which really help spell out the exact actions that you need to take.

You can buy Cloud Living from eJunkies for $37, to be totally open this is an affiliate link. I lose trust in a lot of blogs (often very popular ones) that purely promote review products for the commissions, this is not the case here I think the book is worthwhile to people starting out and I also want to help Glen out (I ‘may’ have other sites where I do review products purely for commissions).

Congratulations Glen on a good product and I wish you the best of luck with sales.

Buy Now

An Update and Introducing Conference Calendar

Hello strangers, I’ve had a somewhat hectic few months hence the lack of updates. I’ve been emailed and tweeted at on numerous occasions for an update on what I’ve up to so here it is:

Travel
So far this year I’ve spent over a month out of the country or just away from home. I was in Las Vegas for 8 days (way too long), been to New York twice, Amsterdam, Cyprus and I’ve lost count the number of days I’ve spent in London. Majority of these were for conferences and business meetings. Cyprus was a holiday, which helped me get caught up on reading and recharge batteries. I spoke at a4u in Amsterdam and I will publish my slides with a bit of narrative here in the future (the post has been started).

I also have a few more trips planned for this year, next month I’m off to Montana for a week on business and pleasure, I’ll be attending Think Visibilty in Leeds in September and then flying off to San Diego for Think Tank. There’ll also likely be a few more trips to come

Current Projects
My portfolio of sites continues to grow, with a few acquisitions and new sites launched. Coolest Gadgets is still my busiest site and usually most profitable, though I have certainly seen a dip in revenue which I’m putting down to people not spending as much on gadgets at the moment. I’m combatting this by experimenting with different stream, diversifying and building more traffic. I’m also playing with a fair few different affiliate schemes on various sites and platforms.

New Business Partner
I’ve entered into business with a good friend Shannon Poole. Shannon specializes in marketing and is a great compliment to my skill set. We are both somewhat conference junkies which led to our first project which is approaching final stages now:

The aim of the site is to provide all the information you require to find and attend relevant conferences. Top level categories include Internet Marketing, Technology conferences, Business and more are being added on a daily basis.

I’m happy with the way it’s progressing, however this is a long term project and I don’t expect instant results. I’d love to hear any feedback and ideas you have that you think could improve the site.

The Flexibility of WordPress
I’ve been doing a fair amount of work with WordPress. Conference Calendar is not a blog but I’ve still developed it using WordPress. I’d like to share more about this in a future post but to show the sort of things we’ve done without modifying ANY of the core WordPress code:

– A very customised post page showing a conference details.
– There are 3 different views for what would normally be standard archive pages: Details (the normalish archive), Monthly View and Annual Conference View.
– As usual there is a whole load of automation and re-use of information.

Some of this was done using standard plug-ins, other bits a combination of plug-ins and custom code. I could get really techie here but I’ll leave that for a future post (I promised it won’t take as long).

Anyway I’d love to hear some feedback, I’ve missed you guys! I still twitter (maybe too much) at @alcarlton and I got the FaceBook vanity URL facebook.com/al.carlton, did everybody get the ones they wanted?.

Some sold, some bought & some earn.

It’s been a busy month.

Just want to cover a few questions, is Al still alive? Yes, you can follow him on twitter as always, both Al and my self are pretty busy with stuff at present, it’s easy to talk about things you do in the past as we did in the early days of SMM, it’s not always easy or advisable to discuss current projects that are maybe under wraps or things that are not for the general public.

I have sold a few domains over the last 2 months for 4 & 5 figures, notebooks & netbooks (.co.uk) are sold, that isn’t a reflection on the market or niche, in fact if your in the UK you’ll probably find another domain I own in the top 5 (usually 3rd) for ‘netbooks’ and that domain sells a netbook every day or so. I had a good offer for netbooks/notebooks so decided to cash them in, as I say though still selling netbooks every week. Also sold a site so had a few good enquiries in the last month which is refreshing including a pretty good offer for PCs & PCgames.

Since my last post on my 2 purchased established sites I haven’t found anything else of great value or potential. Still looking and still open to being contacted if you are selling. The two sites I bought cost $20,000 USD ($10k each). It’s been just over a month since I bought them. Looking at the stats May 14th to June 14th they earned $2513.35 for Adsense content & search so obviously very happy with that. With Animalinfo.org I have joined DMG as they run affiliate programs for people like WWF where you can earn commission on donations or subscriptions so I am looking to test that in the coming months to see if it can up earnings.

Apart from that the only other thing I can really comment on was that I bought a few small geographic domains, Ayr.co.uk which is a town with around 50k people, just up from Ayr is West Kilbride.co.uk where my gran stays :) a ferry trip away is Arran.co.uk a close by island that I used to live on and Largs.co.uk which is just up from West Kilbride. So basically 4 places all pretty close by each other. Initially I am going to get a few basic posts done and a similar theme on each one. They are not huge places, although Ayr is a decent size, however they do have a tourism angle and after speaking to someone who ran a small town website with a population of around 10,000 very successfully I can see their potential so a nice set to work on. Geo domains seem to be more popular than and easy to check/contact & mine so I doubt I’ll buy anything more than my small set which has sentimental value as well as business/future income appeal.

Bit of an update

I know the blog’s been neglected, not a great deal happening recently on my end. A few good deals worth low to mid 5 figures have fallen through for various reasons over the last few months, it’s clear a lot of companies and individuals have cash flow problems and for some that may get worse.

From what I can see there will not be a great many high value deals done this year in the domaining world and the low/reseller market has dried up a great deal, thankfully that doesn’t really affect me as I have for the most part bought domains for developing and long term investment in.

2 lease deals have fallen through due to the companies actually shelving plans to open new websites they had been developing, again another sign of tightening their belts and reducing risk but you can’t blame businesses wanting to reduce their costs & exposure.

So with all that in mind I will be raising capital and buying up some existing websites, they offer the best return. Getting a 33% yield is no mean feat in any business, while there is risk, there is no better way to spend time & money than researching and buying older sites even if they are already monetised. There are often little changes you can make to turn a website bought on 3 years income pay itself back in 2 years. If you do feel anything over 12-24 months net income is too generous for zero maintenance websites that are established with good stable stats then get in touch because I am buying :)

One site has been bought for the best part of 20k, another for £5750 agreed to be purchased within the next 2 weeks which I am quite excited about. Moving on from there I spoke to my bank this morning and they are happy to give me £50k based on my home equity with no references all sorted and agreed in principal within literally a 10 minute phone call so it’s not all doom and gloom, it can take 2 to 4 weeks to arrange but pleasantly suprised by the efficiency of C&G, borrowing against my home equity is a cheap way to raise funds for me to acquire faster than I can naturally, I already have another website or 2 in my sights with rough numbers done on them which again would likely be looking at paying 3 years income to buy them, as they are not start-ups it means I won’t share the url’s here I am afraid.

That’s the basic strategy for me, there will be deals this year so having funds ready to buy is what I am sorting out. With that in mind I plan to have a larger variety of established sites in the next couple of years, along with the domain leasing and a good potfolio of valuable generics which will spread my risk & potential, it’s not the time to have all your eggs in one basket. For info generally speaking any sites I would purchase would not be for sale, more a case of me contacting website owners out of the blue, which brings it’s own problems and challenges and of course rewards but you can get a better quality of site by going looking for it rather than waiting for them to be listed for sale.

Remember, old leads are worth chasing up this year, people who refused offers for domains and sites in the past may not be so bullish or on the same financial footing today as they were over the last few years so going through any old leads making fresh contact offering hard cash can give you a favourable outcome at a cheaper price.

Think Visibility and Other News

It’s been something of an eventful few weeks on the business front, so I’ll summarise stuff that I currently have going on.

New York Trip
I spent a very long and enjoyable weekend in New York discussing plans for a new business in a totally different niche for me. Domains are registered, artwork and theme are in progress, now waiting on content before official launch. I will do a case study on this in the near future.

Think Visibility
Last weekend I spoke at Think Visibilty, an absolutely amazing mini conference organised by The Hodge. Tickets cost £30 and I think every attendee would agree that was awesome value for money. I won’t do a full review here as many people have beaten me to it, check out posts by:

The next Think Visibility conference is already taking shape and a venue is booked in Leeds on September 12th 2009, so make a note in your diary as you don’t want to miss it (I will announce when tickets are available (hopefully with an affiliate link :) )).

Congrats again Dom you did a sublime job organising your first conference.

Added Another Blog to the Portfolio
I was approached by an old friend to see if I wanted to buy one of his blogs, after a bit of bartering and a price I could not say no to, I am now the proud owner of TechCult.com. Due to an NDA I cannot go into exact details but it gets between 5K and 10K visitors per day and is a great addition to my tech network.

Earnings Disclosure
I’ve been asked by a number of people to post another earnings breakdown report. Generally I don’t mind sharing this sort of info but things that are going on in my life at the moment I’d be foolish to document my earnings. Suffice to say I’m doing okay and re-investing heavily into other sites and ventures. I am also enjoying the continual slide of sterling against the dollar (though I did suffer when in NYC). I am now heading to the bank to pay in a backlog of US$ checks, including Christmas commissions :) .

Have a great week everybody!