online businessThis is a guest post by Megan. You can read the guidelines to guest posting at our write for us page.

Operating an online business can be a great way to bring in money and retain the freedom of working from home. Though your business might not occupy a corporate space and onboard hundreds of employees, it will still accrue expenses that are tax deductible.

An online business owner might rarely see his/her clientele in person, especially in the case of out-of-state customers, but allowances still apply.

It is extremely important that you keep a track of all these deductible expenses because you would not want to pay extra tax when you can claim an exemption for it and thus give away your hard earned money.

Deductible expenses for online business owners

Here are five deductible expenses that online business owners might overlook.

Computer Equipment

While it’s no surprise that you can deduct the cost of a computer for an online business, keep in mind that computer accessories are also part of the deal. Whether you need monitors and desktop systems or a laptop and a spare laptop battery, it all applies.

Remember to include expenses like the purchase of memory sticks, rewritable CDs, and even batteries for a mouse. Keeping track of myriad expenses in your online business can be time consuming but you’ll be glad you did when it’s time to fill out tax forms.

Email Service

While most of your business will likely be conducted through your website or online store, especially if you’re operating a crafting business through a site like Etsy, being able to stay in touch with customers is paramount.

Online businesses that use an Internet service like EarthLink will be able to deduct its cost when it comes to tax time. The IRS defines business expenses as “ordinary and necessary” and email certainly qualifies. The permissible expense might encourage online business owners to use “plus” versions of ordinarily-free email services, like Yahoo! Mail, as well.

Online business Shopping Cart Service

Online business owners can use any number of shopping cart services, including PayPal, Google Checkout, or Americart, for their businesses. These services will come in handy for persons who are operating a business on their own – that is, independently of a site with its own cart service.

Allowable deductions will also apply to the supplies used to mail out products, including padded envelopes and postage.

Internet Ad Service

Promoting your online business will obviously help bring in more clientele, so don’t forget to deduct the cost of a pay-per-click service like Google Adwords. The cost of advertising your online business in a print publication, like your city’s daily newspaper, is also applicable, as are ads that run in conference programs or on billboards.

Software

Though you may only turn to its services when you are offline, you can still deduct the cost of administrative supplies, like bookkeeping software. Using a program like Quicken can help keep expenses in order and make tax time easier by helping you prepare and export necessary information.

Business costs might start out inexpensive – a box of pens, for example – but they can quickly add up. While you probably won’t be furnishing your office with mahogany desks and silk curtains, your online business is not that different from any other company.

Your needs as an online business owner will be a bit different than others but you will still benefit from deducting the expenses that help you keep things running smoothly.

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This is a guest post by Megan. You can read the guidelines to guest posting at our write for us page.

It seems that getting in touch with people is much harder than it used to be. It used to be that a business could place an ad on TV or radio and business would be booming. But today, advertisement exists as a different world entirely. The world of consumers being nudged by ads during their favorite show has shrunk considerably since the advent of Netflix and iPods.

These venues have replaced traditional TV and radio. It makes sense. With Netflix and iPod there aren’t any interruptions, which eliminates commercial airtime. When a commercial comes on during that defining moment in a person’s favorite TV drama, they get angry. The best thing for businesses to do is to find a more passive venue to interact with their customers.

Social media is huge. If a business doesn’t have a personal Facebook page, it might as well hang itself. So many people log onto Facebook and Twitter every day, and those who do tend to go back multiple times per day. What are they doing? They are checking on things that matter to them. They are updating statuses and tweeting about their experiences.

Experiences are key. Today’s people are experience-oriented individuals. It’s why traditional advertising is met with such contempt. Facebook and Twitter create an experience without pushing it upon people.

It’s actually so passive that it’s almost dismissible. For instance, Facebook has recently added a feature where when an individual mentions a business in their status update, they are able to “like” it. This is the newest way for businesses to track people who like their products or services.

Twitter is the same way. When a person chooses to follow a company’s Twitter page, they are signifying that they like that company. How can businesses market to these individuals? By tweeting and updating their statuses. These updates appear in news feeds for all those who are following them, for Facebook and Twitter alike.

Another way for businesses to interact with their customers is to hold special events. People like going to events, especially young people. When businesses tweet and update and announce their special events, more often than not their customers will come. If the event is extra special, like a sale or maybe a grand opening, they are likely to come with friends. These friends could be potential customers if they aren’t already. And if these potentials have a good experience, they are more likely to join the tribe and follow the business.

Another way for a business to reach more people is to update their education. Online universities offer everything from business degrees to criminal justice degree; they nearly have every degree that a traditional school offers. And they are also becoming more popular amongst the younger generation. So if more businesses were to interact with these institutions, they would have a better chance at reaching them.

Because the world has changed so much since the creation of the personal computer, businesses need to change too. That means using un-traditional methods to reach old and new customers. Innovating with social media, sponsored events and education are three ideas that businesses could and should use. Because when they finally catch up with the youth, the youth will already be on to the next thing—whatever that may be.

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Are you optimally monetizing your blogs or, website?

If you are not using an in-text advertising in your blog, then you are not optimally monetizing it.

Why is it that I have boldened the word “Optimally”?

Most of the blogs are monetized because that is the primary objective behind every blog. While monetization is important it is also important that you maintain the user experience and do not destroy it. This leads us to the point that obtrusion in the form of pop-ups and other banners should be kept to the minimum.

While most of the blogs manage to do this they loose out on valuable revenue that they could otherwise be earning.

There is definitely a solution to it – “in-text advertising“. While this ensures that even the text in your articles are monetized, it also ensures that it doesn’t affect the reader experience. Add to it the point of relevance and you have a winner at your disposal.

In-text advertising is one of the best monetization techniques so far as blogs are concerned. In addition to the fact that it does not encroach upon vital website real estate, it also ensures that only relevant advertising is displayed. But one vital part of this experience is the decision on which in-text advertising platform to select.

I have tried both inLinks and Kontera and would any day recommend Kontera. It is easy to get approved at Kontera whereas inLinks has a typical system of approval and not all sites will get approved. Worst, that you cannot even submit your website again.

Kontera is extremely easy to use. If you are on WordPress, you can install Kontera on your blog using the plugin. Just install the plugin and you are good to go. You will need a publisher ID though, which you can get by signing up at Kontera.

Kontera now, launched a new technology called as the Synapse Engine and this is what they had to say about it -

Kontera Synapse makes the most relevant associations for end users, by identifying their topics of interest and predicting intent. For advertisers, Kontera Synapse massively aggregates and engages the most qualified audience from across the web.

The in-text relevance has been extremely good with Kontera and with this new Synapse engine, I am sure it will only get better. You can sign up today at Kontera and start monetizing your websites immediately.

Check out Kontera today itself!!

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Did that title hit you somewhere? If it did, let me tell you that I too felt somewhat the same when I decided on the title.

My objective is not to get into any controversy. Then what is it….?

I used to be a regular reader at John Chow’s blog. I had very high opinion of him and his blog. He was one amongst the best professor’s of blogging whose advices and suggestions were guidelines for blogging. It is not that they are no more important for me. I am still subscribed to his RSS feeds and read them regularly.

But my visits to the blog reduced gradually and even when I surfed over to the blog my stay there was for just about a few seconds. What brought about this change in my behavior?

I was driven away…

That is true! I was driven away from John Chow’s blog every time  I visited it. It was John who drove me away. Rather what drover me away was the design of the blog.

Design of the blog, I said….!

That is right. I found it hard to find valuable content out there. The design appeared to be so messed up that I was unknowingly prompted to click away from the blog.

In order to find some content I had to use a microscope because the content in the blog was confined to edges and corners. Will I want to spend so much time trying to find content, when I knew that I am working on a tight schedule and there were about 10 more things lined up, which were even more important for me?

Of course, not. John had a different design some time back. Though that too was stuffed with ads, that still appeared okay. But this one has changed my behavior.

The Problem with the Design

John has been earning well with his blog. And it will not take Einstein’s brain to figure out that the majority of his earnings will be from advertisements on his blogs. So he will not want to compromise on this aspect as his income will take a severe hit. But this is indeed the problem with his blog design.

The first thing that one will notice as you click over to his blog is a clutter of advertisements just below the navigation menu. Add to it another banner ad in the header of the blog, that too with text size equal to or, greater than the blog name. You have set up a start for disaster. As you scroll down to check posts in the blogs, you will be greeted with a series of advertisements. Content will be on the extreme left column and that is it.

The blog appears so much stuffed with advertisements and banners that you will feel as if it is cluttered. This was what drove me away from the blog.

The Use of Banner ads

Banner ads form an integral part of the monetization strategy of any blog. If your objective is earning money then, you will have to put up a few banner ads on your blog which can help you earn some money. But how many such ads is the question.

There are no norms that are there to decide on the number of ads to be set up. But there are a few things that you should  consider when you plan to put up a few banner ads.

  1. Your blog attracts advertisers only if it has traffic. So it is very important that you respect your readers. Remember that your blog is firstly for your readers and then for your advertisers.
  2. As far as possible put up your ads on your sidebar. Don’t mess up your content section with ads. When the veterans in blogging say, “Content is King”, it would also mean that the “Content area is the castle of the king”. Hence it is very important that present the content in a way that is acceptable for the reader.
  3. Your logo and header graphic is the brand for your blog. Your would not want an advertisement to overshadow your brand image. A banner in the header should not play dominance to your logo or, blog name.
  4. A navigation areas provide for a smooth navigation on your website or, blog. Keep it clear and visible for the reader.

These are some aspects that you can consider when you place ads on your blogs. The sole fact that monetization is important is the reason why I too put up ads on my blog. But when that starts to interfere with the very existence of my blog, I would want to let go off the former.

What is your opinion on placing ads on your blogs?

Photograph courtesy ssmallfry


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Get paidA few days back I came across a poll at Problogger.com. It was a question, if the readers did paid posts on their blogs or, not.

For once I felt that it was the wrong question. But then I realized that it wasn’t. My memories went back to the days when I started blogging.

My blog was not an established one and like any other newbie blog, money was not to be seen in about a 100 miles from my blog. There were very few visitors and all my methods of traffic generation was getting only a trickle of visitors to come to my blog. And, I knew that with this trickle, I am not going to get any advertisements, nor am I going to get any worthy clicks on my Google Ads. But I had to earn some money. I had to pay for the expenses of my broadband connection, my hosting, my domain name etc.

This is when I took to writing paid-posts. Writing paid-posts helped my blog gain significance in the blogosphere. But after about 2 years of blogging, paid-posts are nowhere to be seen on any of my blogs. Is it the end of paid-posts?

What are paid-posts?

Paid-posts are sponsored posts, where advertisers pay you for writing a post on your blog in favor of their product, primarily to promote their products or, to build back links.

Payperpost, Smorty, Loudlaunch etc. are amongst the major websites offering such paid-post jobs.

Paid posts require you to write a favorable review or, at times just a post about a certain topic and embed a few links against some specific keywords that the advertiser provides you with.

Writing paid posts were a form of earning money from a blog, back in the early days of blogging. It was in vogue till about the late 2007 after which there was probably a decline in interest.

The poll conducted at Problogger showed that almost 77% of the readers at Problogger have never written a paid-post. Considering the fact that Problogger is amongst the blogs that have the largest readership base today, this figure is quite a significant one.

Should you write paid-posts?

What is the reason that you would not want to write paid-posts? Paid-posts are a good source of earning some good money. When I started blogging, I used to earn close to $500-$700 per month only by writing paid-posts on 4 of the blogs that I maintained.

When the earning potential is that good, why shouldn’t you write paid posts in your blogs? There are numerous other websites in addition to the ones that I have mentioned above that offer paid posts. With so many options available, you blog is sure to be accepted in at least a few of these.

If you are new at blogging, earning avenues are very few for you. You might be in the process of building traffic to your website. Less traffic means less income from your blogs. In such a scenario, if you are able to make a few quick bucks from writing paid posts, I do not think it is a bad deal at all.

Photograph courtesy Dani Simmonds

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RevenueHow to get the most of Adsense? A couple of days back I was browsing through a blog that I frequently visit and I found a very interesting entry about “Adsense earnings”. The entry was bout the decreasing earnings from Adsense PPC ads placed in blogs. There were quite a few commentators who felt that they had also seen a decrease in Adsense revenue over the past few months. This was indeed an observation that I too had. I feel that recession has had its toll on Adsense as well.

Nevertheless, whatever the impact of recession, the revenue from Adsense is still the sole income on which a lot of blogs and websites thrive. I have never actually focused on Adsense revenue myself, though a couple of my niche websites give me a good amount of revenue from it. There are a few other bloggers that I know of who has consistently been earning $7,000 – $8,000 only from Adsense revenue.

But is it wise to rely solely on Adsense? Absolutely not. In one of my earlier posts I had mentioned about the need to decide on a monetization strategy for your website and blog. This has to be a combination of Adsense, Yahoo Publisher Ads, other paid advertisements etc.

Google  and its Adsense team is very particular when it comes to Adsense. The term that I should use here is rather, “Nosy”. First of all, Adsense only permits 3 ad-blocks in a single page. If you add more than this, then the ad-blocks will show white spaces without any ads. Also Google has a very strong system in place to monitor invalid clicks and arbitrage.

Tips to get the most out of Adsense:-

Having said all that Google Adsense is still one of the easiest way to monetize you blog or, website. The following 3 simple tips can help you get the most out of Adsense.

Choosing the most optimal ad, ad color and ad placement:-
Google provides a heat-map to show you the best ad placement areas on a website. This map has been made after serious analysis and studies. Hence it is always wise to place your ads according to the heat-map. In addition to the placement of the ad, you also have to ensure that you are picking the best ad-size and ad-colors.

Google claims that their rectangular ad-blocks, mainly the 336×280 and 300×250 ad units are the ones that get the most CTR (Click-Through-Rates). Hence try placing you ads in such a way that your website design is able to accommodate one of these sizes.

There is quite a bit of debate on the color-scheme to be chosen for your ads. Some people feel that contrasting color schemes are what work well whereas others prefer blending color-schemes. Whatever the color scheme you choose, just ensure that you place image-ads if your website or, blog has too much of text-content and vice-versa.

Place AdSense advertisements near the site’s existing navigational links. The eye is naturally drawn to this area of your pages, so it’s more likely the ads will be noticed with this placement. Google suggests placing ads along the right-hand side of the page for optimal performance.

Competitive Ad filter:-

Google Adsense has a feature called as “Competitive Ad filter”. Head over to Adsense in case you wish to learn more about it. In a nutshell it is a technique to prevent ads of your competitors from being displayed on your websites. Imagine a situation where you have a blog that is promoting a membership course on fishing and an ad gets displayed on your blog for a competitor who also has a similar course. Since your ad placements are focused on inducing people to click on it, people would click on it and navigate away from your blog. You would never want that to happen, don’t you?

Competitive ad filter, does just that. Use it wisely so that you do away with such ads. This would get you better results from your advertisements.

Adsense optimized website template:-

Google is very finicky when it comes to accepting websites and ads for Adsense. They are very particular about the website design, the content, the quality of clicks etc. Hence it is always advisable to use a website or blog template that is optimized for Google Adsense. ( In case you wish to know how to optimize your current template for Adsense, just Google it and you will find quite a few search results that will teach you how to do it) If you are new to HTML and web designing, then it is always advisable to use a ready-made Adsense optimized template for your blog or, website. Dosh Dosh has a collection of about 16 different Adsense optimized wordpress templates if you have your blog in WordPress.

The choice of your template would depend upon the strategy with which you are building the website. If your sole motive is to earn money with Adsense then you need to ensure that you have the best template for your website or, blog. Whatever the situation, do not forget that content is the key and only good content will sell.

If you are new to HTML and WordPress, yet want to build a profitable niche adsense website, you might want to check out SiteSell and their excellent Site Build It package, which I have used for a couple of my mini-niche-adsense sites.

Finally, a word on the keywords. What good is it if you earn about $0.05 from your Adsense ads? Adsense has different prices for different keywords. So if your site focuses on keywords that are low-paying then you need to get huge amount of clicks if you are to earn a substantial income from it. So it is important that you decide on the appropriate ads for your website. If your blog is content oriented and the content is not amongst the high paying adsense keywords, then you might want to consider using the space for some other monetization options. Whatever the choice, just ensure that it is in line with your monetization strategy.

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Money CoinsHow to setup a membership site and earn money from it? I often wondered at the way a membership site functioned. Though I was very keen on starting one, I never really had the confidence to start one. This was not because I was afraid of failure but because I was not completely aware of the process that went into setting one such membership sites.

Membership sites are one the biggest money spinners. But the success of a membership sites depends upon a lot of factors which if not kept in mind could lead to a disaster. You might be wondering as to where this topic of “Membership sites” came in from, when the topic in discussion is “making money blogging”.

Blogging cannot be a standalone money-maker. If you have a blog and your monetization strategy is “Adsense”, then there are lot many things that you need to focus upon if you are to earn something worth a mention from your blog. What monetization strategy you adopt for you blog would decide the level and depth of your success.

When we are talking about making money online I believe we should be referring to sources that would be a long term income provider to us rather than looking at short term sources. I presume anyone reading this post is reading it just because you have a dream of leading an independent life. So the monetization strategy that we adopt should be such that provides us with a dependable, continuous and good income.

One of the main strategies that satisfy all of the above conditions is affiliate marketing through your blog. But there is an even better one. This strategy helps in building an authority for you in the blogosphere in addition to winning satisfied and dedicated readers. This strategy involves developing a product of your own and promoting that through your blog.

Most of the successful blogs on the internet do this. Check out Caroline Middlebrook’s blog, Carl Ocab’s blog or, Yaro Starak’s blog. But for a newbie, absolutely new on the blogging horizon, developing a product could be a herculean task and you might be wondering as to what is it that I am saying. Don’t start to get de-motivated. As of now all that you need to do is learn even the minutest things in making money from your blog. Product development can easily be outsourced and that should take care of your problem there.

One of the best products to promote through you blog is an e-course by setting up a membership site. This is a long term monetization strategy and can help you in your objective of making money from your blog. But is setting up a membership site easy? Good question!

There are lots of things that you might want to keep in mind when you start a membership site – Domain name, hosting plans, Membership site content management system, Payment processor, content delivery system etc. The minutest of errors in any of these could spell disaster.

Yaro Starak is a blogger whom I admire. His blog mastermind is a course that has helped a lot of people make lots of money from their blogs. He is successfully running a membership site for this course. So who better than the master himself to teach us setting up a membership site?

Check out his Membership Mastermind course here.

Yaro is not a blogger who is only money-oriented, rather he believes in providing pure useful content to his readers. That is why he guides his readers with good and valuable insights.

For people interested in building and launching membership site he has launched the Membership Site Masterplan which is a free downloadable e-book and has extremely valuable content in it. You can download it here.

You can read about the Membership Site Masterplan report and the Membership Site Mastermind course here.

Photograph courtesy Sam Fox used under Creatives Common License

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