Larry BraunerI was surprised to learn from the Google Keyword Tool that a large number of people are searching on Google for free web sites, despite the ease of buying low-cost domain names and web hosting that can avert the shortcomings associated with free web sites.

Disadvantages of Free Web Sites

The three main shortcomings of free websites are:

  1. Lack of Control - You have less control of both the feature set and the security of free web sites than those hosted on paid web hosting services. For example, few free website providers will permit you to use your own domain name or obtain a dedicated IP address. On top of that, free web site hosts can delete your web site capriciously and without notice, leaving you with little recourse.
  2. Service Limitations - Free web sites may overly restrict allotted storage capacity, bandwidth, number of pages, etc.
  3. Host Advertising - In many cases, free web sites contain the host’s ads, making free web sites look cheap and unprofessional.

Valid Uses for Free Web Sites

Despite my reservations about free web sites, there are free web sites and free web pages I consider quite valuable.

At the hub of your web presence and social media, you ought to have web sites or blog sites that you control, as I asserted in Not Ready for Social Media Marketing.

However, extending out from your hub can be many outposts on free web sites that extend your marketing reach. Here are types of free web sites that enable you to extend your web presence far beyond your core web sites:

  • Social Networking Sites - Your member profiles on Twitter and social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are free web pages on free web sites that help you connect with people.
  • Micro-Blogging Sites - Tumblr, Posterous and Amplify are free micro-blogging web sites for adding text, photo and video content that’s search engine friendly and accessible to users who follow you.
  • Social Bookmarking Sites - Many social bookmarking sites, such as StumbleUpon and Business Exchange, let you create profiles that are free web pages on free web sites and that tend to rank well in search engines.
  • Content Sites - Free content sites like Squidoo and Hubpages are communities of free web pages that behave somewhat like free web sites.

WeeblyAnd yes, there are free web sites that you fashion more or less as you like. Hosts for these free web sites include Build Free, Google Sites, Weebly, Webs and Yola, as well as a long list of others.

WebsFree web sites make sense if used in the right context. They should only be used as part of your marketing hub if you can’t afford to pay about US$100 per year to host web sites that you own, and you control.

What are your experience with free web sites?

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Larry Brauner

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began to blog. I had lots of great reasons for blogging, so I just got started and hoped for the best.

As Mike Litman says, “You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going.”

I did do some keyword research before choosing a main topic and a domain name. I chose as my main keywords online social networking and made them the name of my blog.

In hindsight I see that I could have easily taken on keywords that were more competitive. Fortunately I realized before too long that I could venture off topic and rank well in the search engines on keywords other than my primary ones.

Content Attracts Traffic

Online marketing begins with content and traffic. A site needs to communicate with and pre-sell visitors and then ultimately monetize, i.e. sell them, and content is the catalyst.

One article I wrote about the Spider Web Marketing System has attracted more than 4,000 visits and one on Ad Surf Daily more than 5,000. The content in these two blog posts plus the content in the many comments they received drove them to the top of the search engines.

Overall my blog has received about 12,000 visits from approximately 5,000 keyword combinations making me a big believer in the power of content to draw substantial search engine traffic.

Blogs Are Problematic

Blogs are great for ongoing conversation with readers. However, their reverse chronological orientation makes it easy for visitors to access only the newest content. Older content becomes obscured. Bloggers attempt to compensate with extensive cataloging and liberal use of cross-linking — look at my blog’s sidebars — but this problem is never totally mitigated.

Traditional websites on the other hand are great for organizing and presenting large amounts of information. Their hierarchical orientation aided by site maps and cross-linking make it easy for visitors to access the most important and relevant content.

The Best of Both Worlds

The best way to market is to build a conventional website with a blog embedded in the site to communicate with visitors and customers.

This marketing idea works equally well for small businesses and large ones. I will be taking this direction for myself as I continue to develop my own web presence.

Conceptual and Technical Challenges

Starting a blog is easy in many ways. Blogger, for example, allows a novice to get up and going in a jiffy. Simply create an account, choose a theme and start writing. That’s it.

Building a marketing website is much more involved, both conceptually and technically, creating a major obstacle for the typical entrepreneur.

Faced with this obstacle most small business owners either

  • do nothing
  • opt for a simplistic small business website that resembles a big business card
  • rent of buy an expensive template to build a second-rate small business website that doesn’t get any traffic
  • hire an expensive web developer to build their second-rates mall business website for them

If they’re lucky they find somebody good, but the average web developer doesn’t understand marketing. I’m sure that what I’m saying will ring true for some readers.

My Recent Discovery

What we’re discussing isn’t new to me. I’ve been thinking about regular websites vis-à-vis blogs and conceptual and technical issues surrounding them for a number of months.

This past week I happened to listen to a conference call introducing a service that I knew existed but that had never managed to grab my attention. I listened for nearly 90 minutes as Ken Evoy explained how he arrived at his Internet business solution, Site Build It!, how it worked and why. He dealt with the blog vs. build issue as well. I was impressed by what I heard.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Site Build It! costs $299 per year — everything included. No high price template. No expensive consultant.
  2. SBI! makes online business do-able by hiding all the technical issues and structuring the conceptual ones. The process is simplified to such a degree that success (i.e. profits, not the mere presence of a website) can be achieved — with serious effort — even by a motivated beginner. The 80/20 Rule still applies — of course — but why shouldn’t the lives of the 20% be made easier?
  3. Online profits require more than just having an online business card or a collection of Web pages. The SBI! service appears to include the tools and the proven process required to build a long-term, profitable e-business.
  4. SBI! is more than just a “site builder.” There’s no need to worry about separate hosting, a separate keyword research tool, integrating autoresponders, etc.
  5. There’s also no need to know anything upfront about building a website. The tedious, “under-the-hood” stuff is handled automatically.
  6. The SBI! service helps clients to design a profitable business, before they jump into building their sites. For beginners, the learning curve will be shorter and they bypass show-stopping errors.
  7. The Action Guide presents a step-by-step process in both written and video formats. The most successful site owners are the ones who follow the guide and don’t get sidetracked. They don’t have to guess at what to do next, since the guided approach helps them reach their goals. Continuous mentoring via the Action Guide and online help is always available.
  8. A keyword brainstorming and research tool helps verify that a site concept has acceptable profit potential, saving site owners from making a common fatal error. The SBI! service helps to find topics related to the site owner’s niche that will pull in traffic and generate income.
  9. SBI! provides fully customizable, easy-to-use templates (this page shows a range of styles).
  10. The SBI! service includes domain name analysis, optimization, and registration, as well as fast and reliable website hosting.
  11. Unlimited customer support and forums that are supposedly friendly and helpful are major selling points for me personally.
  12. There’s a no-risk, 30-day money back guarantee.

In Conclusion

I can see the Site Build It! service helping both existing small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs reach their online marketing objectives. My only caveat is that sufficient internal motivation is a necessary prerequisite for success.

If you find that building your website is not “your cup of tea”, please get help or exercise the 30-day refund option. Don’t waste your money.

Now it’s your turn. Feel free to share your small business website experiences.

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Larry Brauner

Is ASD Real or Just a Scam or Ponzi Scheme?
Reading Down to End of Comments is a MUST !

My May 6 post, The SpiderWeb Marketing System, garnered many readers, especially from search engines.

While I expressed some concerns over the Spider Web program, I never implied that it was a pyramid or scam. My issues with Spider were the hype, the spam and the choice of GDI as a web hosting platform for their blogs. It was the spam over at Direct Matches, one of my favorite social networking sites, that first grabbed my attention.

A recent unexpected development however has dramatically hurt the growth of the Spider Web just as it was starting to gain steam. The SpiderWeb Marketing System is facing some serious competition from a program that may be little more than the latest money scheme and perhaps the next 12 Daily Pro.

Andy Bowdoin Launches ASD at ASDCashGenerator.com

The get-rich-quick crowd has welcomed the new ASD Ad Surf Daily Cash Generator with open arms. With oil prices moving up and real estate prices moving down who wouldn’t want to make a quick buck?

If you could spend a few hours a week viewing ads and make a load of money without having to recruit a single person, wouldn’t you at least want to check it out? I know I would.

So yours truly put on his business analyst hat, transfered $30 to his Alert Pay account, and gave that money over to ASD so that he could report back to you first hand with the inside story.

Here’s the story. You decide for yourself whether ASD is the real deal, another scam or something in-between.

The ASD Business Proposition

ASD purports to sell website traffic and to rebate a percentage of the sale price to qualified members. The rebate percentage is currently set at 125%, and amount tied in to new sales volume and subject change in the future. To qualify, members log on and surf 24 sites of other members daily for 125 days.

My Evaluation Criteria

My research and analysis of ASD Ad Surf Daily Cash Generator focused on answering some important questions.

ASD claims to be in the business of selling website traffic. Is their advertising a reasonable value at the price asked, or would it sell only to people hoping to make money from the ASD rebate scheme?

ASD shares revenue from new business by paying rebates. Can ASD sustain itself without continually recruiting new members? Can rebates adequately compensate members for the use of their funds, their time and for the associated risks?

Traffic Exchange Visits

Website visits provided by traffic exchange schemes are very much untargeted and incentivized. Moreover, such visitors are typically multi-tasking while plodding their way through the required website rotation.

I want to be generous rather than conservative in my assessment. If you could make a perfect match between the ASD viewing membership and your target websites, each visit to your sites might be worth as much as a nickel. While it’s likely to be less, let’s tentatively assess the value of a page visit as $0.05.

ASD charges $1.00 per page visit. There is a large 20-to-one discrepancy between price and value. If you can find me somebody who’s genuinely prepared to spend a dollar for one traffic exchange site visit, put us in touch. I have a bridge I’d like to show him.

Seriously, nobody in his right mind would pay more than pennies for a traffic exchange visitor.

I have to conclude that members are paying ASD for the privellege of making money from rebates or recruiting — and not for website visits. It appears that ASD is in the money business and not in the advertsing business.

If government authorities reach a similar conclusion, they could rule that ASD handles investments and is threrfore subject to the purview of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC). Such a ruling would not be favorable in the least for ASD nor for ASD’s membership.

Sustainability

In a video Andy Bowdoin explains that, unlike 12 Daily Pro, ASD doesn’t make payments to members at a fixed rate, and that it may not continue to make payments in the future. I appreciate that Andy was up front in raising the possibility that ASD as we know it today may not be sustainable long-term.

Andy’s disclaimer may allow ASD to comply with anti-pyramid statutes today and to bow out in the future if new sales ever decline sharply.

ROI Return on Investment

Whether money paid to ASD legally constitutes an investment or not, I’m not competent to decide.

However, to qualify for rebates members need to surf through a rotation of 24 sites each day. Given the slow speed of ASD’s site and frequent hiccups, it takes about three hours per week to run their Cash Generator.

How much is three hours of your time weekly worth to you? $50? $100? More?

If you’re buying rebates, not advertising, you need to figure the value of your time. The amount of rebates you will earn relative to the value of the time you spend determines whether or not ASD is profitable for you.

Your profit threshold will probably not be the same as mine. It might be higher, or it might be lower.

Just as an example, let’s suppose that you would like to earn $35 per hour, and any benefit you get from your advertising you’ll accept, and consider it gravy.

Math-phobics may skip this part if absolutely necessary.

You consider the possibility of purchasing 500 units for $500. Each day you receive $5 which is one percent of the principal.

$4 of the $5 is recovery of principal, not profit. 125 days times $4 equals your original $500.

$1 of the $5 is your daily profit, so each week your earn $7.

You want to earn $105 or three-hours times $35. You’ll need to invest 15 times as much or $7,500.

Invest $7,500 and do the required surfing. You’ll earn $105 profit per week.

Invest less, you’ll earn less.

If you don’t have much money, you won’t make much. If you do, you probably have better things to do with it and prefer not to devote a month per year of productive time to this type of risky project.

Risk Management

Yes, there’s definitely a considerable risk factor. I’m not going to call Ad Surf Daily Cash Generator a scam, but I’m telling you… It is risky.

You might not recover your $7,500 or earn the 25% bonus of $1,875.

You have to account for risk and plan for it — if you can. You can try Lloyd’s of London if you need help.

Sure everybody’s making money now. Some are making tons of money, but will ASD last indefinitely?

Perhaps not.

Every gambler who makes money at Las Vegas faces the same dilemma: cash out or let it ride.

There were many people who made big money at 12 Daily Pro and many other high yield income programs (HYIP’s) that circled the globe a couple of years ago.

And there were people who lost. Some of them lost a lot.

A Few Quirks

Like most other growing sites ASDCashGenerator.com can be very slow. They’re upgrading their servers, but their upgrades will soon need upgrades. You’ll have to be patient.

It can take days for your payment to show up in their system. Perhaps some things are done manually. Submit a support ticket and be patient.

I created a unique e-mail address just for ASD and received an unsolicited business offer from a woman oversees sent to that address a couple of days after registering. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that my sponsor exposed my address when sending a group e-mail.

I requested to buy 30 units of advertising but received only 28. I guess they took $2 as a processing fee.

A Major Fallacy

I hear people explaining that they already made their money back, and that they’re playing with profit as if the profit isn’t their own money.

You can take your profit and do something for yourself or your family. It definitely is your money just as much as your original principal was. If you throw it away, you’re throwing away your money, not ASD’s or anybody else’s.

It Boils Down to Using Common Sense

You don’t have to be a top business analyst to figure these kinds of things out.

My Private ClassroomIf you get down to the basics and avoid the hype, you can make excellent business decisions. As my mentor Diane Hochman, founder of My Private Classroom, says, “Use your common sense.”

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Larry Brauner

In Creating a Home for Your Blog I discussed blogging platforms and stated my preference for starting a WordPress.org free-standing blog for greatest control and flexibility. Review that post to decide what’s best for you at the present time.

Blogging communities such as Blogger.com or Wordpress.com, and social networking sites such as MySpace and Yuwie will host a blog for you.

However, if you decide on WordPress.org or another free-standing blogging platform, you must set up an account with a web hosting company.

Make sure to select Linux shared web hosting and not Microsoft hosting.

Here is a partial list of web hosting companies to consider for your blog:

Each web hosting company has its own features and pricing structure. All these hosting companies are mainstream. They’re listed in alphabetical order. Choose the one that best fits your plans.

If you choose a WordPress.org blog, and you have never used WordPress before, ask a freind or colleague to help. You can also contact me, and I will provide you with personal help for a very modest fee.

One side note: If you’re looking to buy domain names, 1&1 Internet offers .com domains with private registration for $6.99 per year.

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Larry BraunerI was away yesterday with my family. About once a month we all spend a day in a group home for multiply handicapped girls. Our hope is that they will enjoy, at least for a brief time, a warm family environment.

When I arrived home I found three pleasant surprises.

  • Another reader had registered as a user of my blog bringing the total to 105.
  • My blog had moved up to #8 in Google for the keywords online social networking. I’m back to #51 today, but it felt good to receive validation, however temporary, from Google.
  • An envelope had arrived by Priority Mail with my very own copy of Mike Dillard’s Building on a Budget.

Today I’m feeling jetlagged from the advance to Daylight Savings Time, but I’m happy to report that I’ve already read Mike’s book cover-to-cover. Here is my feedback.

My book review of Building on a Budget is mixed.

The advertising promises to show network marketers how to leverage a one-time cash outlay of about $500 to acquire new skills and resources and generate a continuous stream of leads without further expense.

Building on a Budget outlines an excellent marketing approach and provides great tips that all marketers could learn from — not just network marketers. The Internet and social media marketing concepts presented in the book are explained very clearly and concisely.

The book discusses one pre-requisite and five marketing strategies which are more effective than the strategies that most marketers currently employ. There’s a chapter each for lead capture pages, Craigslist classified ads, video marketing, press releases, blogging and funded proposals. I feel that these are all excellent choices.

Social networking sites are mentioned but only in passing.

Here are my reservations about Building on a Budget.

I have the knowledge and the resources to implement Mike Dillard’s suggestions. I’m already using several of these techniques in my online marketing, but what about a newbie?

Let’s say that our enthusiastic new marketer decides to follow the book’s instructions. He or she sets up web hosting, domain names and an autoresponder, all absolutely essential tools, and purchases Magnetic Sponsoring, MLM Traffic Formula, Black Belt Recruiting, a camcorder, Camtasia Studio, and one or two other items. The $500 figure can very easily top $1,000, and paid third-party assistance might still be needed.

I have spent much more than that to educate and equip myself to market effectively in today’s environment, and I’m a former IT professional with more than ten years network marketing experience.

I don’t regret it at all.

What I object to is an unrealistic $500 price point established by Building on a Budget. And not only is it unrealistic, the book itself is a powerful sales letter — not an academic marketing text. It’s written to sell information and recruit affiliates. Mike points out that he’s a great copywriter. I totally agree. However, I don’t fault him one bit.

I will make good use of Building on a Budget. It’s a compact reference that I will want at my fingertips. You may find it useful too. However, please be careful about your expectations.

Oh, before I forget to mention it. I will schedule conference calls to help. So if you purchased the book, expect to hear from me.

I welcome questions and comments about the book, but please, keep them upbeat.

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