What I Learned From Being A Geek In The Adult Industry

What I Learned From Being A Geek In The Adult Industry

Today’s post is by Brad Gosse, a self-taught marketer from Ontario, Canada. Brad started his web business in 1997, and has learned a lot from an unexpected source: his work as a self-professed geek in the adult industry.

Before Google, Paypal, Clickbank and even before Facebook, at the very start of the web, there was adult entertainment.

Adult entertainment was the main driver of early Internet technology. Streaming video, credit card processing, cheap web hosting even affiliate programs were all pioneered by adult companies. As everyone knows, sex sells!

That’s where I got my start.

In the late 1990s, if you wanted to make money online, the easy road was to sell adult content. I was a webmaster and I knew how to build and manage websites but it was hard to find people willing to pay for such services.

So I built a really small porn site, then another, and before I knew it my girlfriend (now wife Claire) and I had built thousands of adult websites, each generating traffic and revenue.

That’s what we did for over 10 years. Adult entertainment.

Before you picture me with a giant mustache and hairy chest banging porn stars, I will tell you we just did the geek work. Not even behind the scenes. More like after the scenes, using licensed content already shot by studios. I would pay about $200 for the rights to put a full adult VHS/DVD on my website and anywhere from $0.01 to $4 per image.

This content either generated traffic and entice people to pay for more or was offered as members only product. We were a true mom and pop porn company. Super affiliates generating an awesome income out of a country house with a dial up connection in the Canadian boonies.

One of the high points was sitting in the #1 position for “porn” on Google back in 2007. This model worked well until the free line was pushed too far. Which happens in many categories.

Today we still live in the house. But we no longer rely on dial-up (we get high speed internet off a 100′ tower) and we don’t do much in the adult entertainment business anymore.

What I learned in that business was extremely valuable. Buy and/or create content assets whenever possible.

In 10 years I spent over a million dollars licensing adult images, movies, live streams and chat-rooms for my customers.

Lessons Learned

Now that my business is mostly mainstream I am the one selling the licenses. By hiring artists in the Philippines to create licensable images for designers.

As someone who has been slapped by Google I am not a fan of the Adsense model that seems to be so popular on Flippa. There are too many variables beyond my control. I would take a site with real customers and commerce over one where one company provides the traffic and the revenue with a shaky TOS at best.

So recently I decided to test my licensing model, and everything I’d learned from my days in the porn industry, on the Flippa buyer community.

I had just hired a new cartoonist and he was not quite drawing people in the style I wanted. He wasn’t doing a bad job, he just wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted. So I decided to let him continue for a month so I could build a “flippable” business.

Normally I sell my graphics on VectorToons.com one at a time. But in this case I decided to offer a bundle of images for a lower price.

By the end of the month I had 317 vector cartoon characters you could use on your websites as mascots, to illustrate points etc.

I took the content, registered a brand new domain, installed analytics, wrote a sales letter, did some basic affiliate recruiting and emailed my list of graphics buyers to take a look at my new bundle offer all in the course of a few days.

The result? Over 800 customers and $15,000 in gross sales within 2 weeks of launching.

More than a website

I wanted to offer my first Flippa buyer a business. Not just a website with articles and ads. So I created one with value.

When I listed VectorsGold.com on Flippa I focused on writing really good copy with a solid “What You Get” section. This is where I focused on the customer list, the graphics ownership, built in affiliates and back end recurring affiliate income.

The second most important section was where I spelled out “What you can do with this”. I knew that people might not see the potential of my listing so I wanted to frame it for them. I pointed out ways to cash in on the assets through third party stock sites, legal action against misusers, converting to grayscale, silhouettes etc.

I knew that people would need as many of these next steps spelled out as possible to make an educated (high) bid. The more you can show people your business has legs going forward the better.

Once I launched my listing I didn’t just let Flippa find buyers. I emailed my own customers, posted on social media and even reached out to my competitors to tell them my site was for sale. I wanted as much action as I could get.

The result was a $9000+ sale and a new partner to work with in future graphics launches. Not bad at all!

Photo Credit: 401(k)2013

How to use the Wayback Machine, and why the Internet Archive is so important

How to use the Wayback Machine, and why the Internet Archive is so important

In 1996, visionary and research aficionado Brewster Kahle founded The Internet Archive. It’s housed in an unassuming San Francisco building, but stores some incredible data: the Archive currently boasts over 281 billion web pages and digital content, with billions more added every month.

The Archive’s mission is simple and yet ridiculously complex: To chronicle the history of the internet. All of it. Lofty as it is, this goal is critical to far more than just those among us obsessed with research and history. Maintaining a bona fide chronicle of the online world is also crucial to business owners keen on understanding trends, and studying what has and has not worked throughout different stages of the dot com journey. Thanks to the Archive, it’s still possible to learn from the internet’s short yet rich history.

First Things First: Google is Not an Archive 

You might wrongly assume that Google itself acts as an archive, since it’s essentially a dynamic homepage for the entire web. Since Google’s algorithms are not publicly accessible (and they can be frustratingly complicated to guess at), their data is proprietary and not preserved in the public’s interest — the days of Don’t Be Evil are long gone!

Compare that with the the Internet Archive, which is wisely set-up as a non-profit, and s0 maintains the interest of the masses, not of  a corporation. Google wants to sell ads; the Archive just wants to preserve the incredible creativity and storytelling of every web page it can capture.

Yes, this sounds very hippie-ish, but the integrity of an archive is as important as that of a library, so it’s crucial that we don’t rely on a private company for either one.

How and What Data is Collected

Archive engineers are tasked to monitor and crawl the top million web addresses in the world. Data is then captured and stored, and every three months, they start over again with a brand new list. Thanks to the ever-changing, wildly dynamic nature of the web, these top sites change regularly, so staying on top of current trends is critical.

In addition to the massive amount of web data, the Archive also contains over 750,000 books, with many more slated for future addition. Information is also collected from more than 60 TV stations and YouTube videos, which are often selected due to Twitter trending. The web collections manager at the Archive, Alexis Rossi, estimates that 10 billion URLs are saved every three months, which roughly equates to one-tenth of what is released across the entire internet. “It’s a Sisyphean task,” says Rossi. “We know we’ll never get it all. The web by its nature is infinite.”

How Business Owners Can Use the Archive

Taking the time to study the history of high-value homepages can give business owners insight into how navigation and page formatting has changed over the years to suit the needs of users. It’s also an excellent way to monitor the progress of your top competitors; you can track a URL or group of addresses over a selected time period, and take special note of the major changes made. This kind of insight can help you avoid mistakes your competitors have already made, and learn from the consistencies that helped them stay afloat.

The Archive is also a mecca for people engaged in web-related lawsuits. By accessing archived pages otherwise unavailable on the web, lawyers and those involved in suits can validate digital claims, like incomplete Terms and Conditions or deceitful advertising tactics. As a business owner, you can also use the archives to research active patents that may be relevant to your business.

Last but not least, studying past design trends will also reveal plenty of artistic insights; when you see what a page looked in 2000 versus 2013, you’ll quickly realize A) how much we have evolved (we’re certainly a bit shocked at how much Flippa’s design has evolved over the years!) and B) how many dot coms have yet to actually modernize. Pro tip: you want to avoid being in that second category.

The Wayback Machine: The Archive’s Ingenious Interface

Want to fast forward to the most critical and crazy fun part of the Archive? Head to the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine, whose name references a segment from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, is the method by which we can interface with the gigantic Archive. The interface allows you to type in a URL, and essentially time travel as you view that site’s growth and changes (or utter demise) through the years.

This interface helps to navigate the behemoth Archive in a very intuitive manner. People use it to find old digital art pieces, lost articles or blogs, or to just take a fabulous trip down memory lane. As of the start of 2013, the Wayback Machine covered over 240 billion URLs. Yes, its obvious you can get lost in this machine! But what a way to spend some quality researching time. 

Why Is It Important to Archive the Internet?

In additional to all the practical business applications of maintaining a comprehensive history of the web, the urgency to further develop the Archive continues to intensify. Part of this motivation comes from the fact that the data, in many ways, is in danger of disappearing. Government interests, as an example, continue to threaten the presence of much of the Archive, as they often have a strong desire to suppress and sensor data.

The inevitable damage to hardware systems that just do not last forever (yet) means that precious terabytes are lost every day, never to be recovered – unless there’s an Archive that has already secured the information. Finally, there are many who view the huge application onslaught as a potential “web killer”, as more and more digital experiences happen in the confines of an app, and not in an open web environment. It’s all the more critical to capture the nuances of the web while it still exists in such a massively public forum.

Long Live the Archive

Collecting and housing this many billions of web pages takes the same amount of energy it would take to power 45 homes. You can imagine the amount of hardware, organizational skills, and just plain tenacity it takes to pull off the salvation of even 10% of the web; but it’s a tremendous service the Archive is providing to netizens across the globe.

The Archive is like a modern day Library of Alexandria, once housed in ancient Egypt. Within the Archive lies the digital history of a generation that has changed so much in so little time, in many ways thanks to the internet itself. The Archive allows business owners to witness the evolution of their particular industry and niche, and to have a million case studies across the lifecycle of the web at their fingertips. You can’t put a price on that kind of precious historical data — but if you have a few spare dollars, it’s worth making a donation. If you haven’t yet used the Archive to further your understanding of web usage and best practices, it’s time. Give it 5 minutes, and I suspect you’ll be hooked for life.

Photo credit:  ecstaticist

How to guest post: A three step guide to getting your guest blogs accepted

Note: Ashwin’s guest post pitch cracked me up. He has some great tips on landing a guest blogging spot. Interested in doing the same? Read on: we’re always looking for talented contributors to the Flippa blog, and you’ll now know exactly how to submit a post.

This post was written by Ashwin Ramesh, you can follow him on Twitter. Ashwin is the Chief Hustler at Guest Post Labs

Not that I feel particularly proud, but most of my guest blogging opportunities (unless it’s someone I know already) come from what some would deem as “cyber stalking”.

I’m going to be showing you how I landed this guest post on Flippa by reaching out to the right person and show you how you can do the same thing.

STEP #1 – Identify the blog that you want a guest post from

Before you even go about stalking your way to success, it’s important to first identify blogs or websites where you’re going to get maximum bang for your article.

I typically ask myself these questions:

a. What is a website or a company that is most aligned to my target customer base?
b. Who is an authority blog in my industry?
c. Which is the most socially active company or website in my industry?

Answering these questions will give you some easy targets to go after. But, if nothing else works, you can always go the grunt route and use the guest blogging query generator.

STEP #2 – Start looking at sources to stalk from

A. Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search is an exceptional way to find the right connect in the website that you’re looking to get a guest post from.

For instance, while I was looking to get a guest post up on Flippa, I did a Facebook graph search for “people who work at Flippa”.

That gave me a few options:

Facebook Graph Search Guest Blogging

The most relevant among these options seemed like Ophelie who was a marketing lead, and I knew whom I had to reach out to in order to get a shot at contributing my content to the Flippa blog.

 

B. LinkedIn

While Facebook Graph Search is an excellent way to find the right contacts, it may not be successful for you all the time.

When Facebook fails, I typically head over to LinkedIn. The interesting thing about LinkedIn is that, it’s a great tool for you to “identify” the right people, but not so great for you to contact them.

So, taking the example of Flippa again:

LinkedIn Guest Posting

I find a similar “connect” at Flippa (Ophelie, again) who’s relevant to what I’m about to pitch. But, LinkedIn is hit or a miss since I can’t really reach out to them unless they add me back as a contact.

C. Google

I like Google because it aggregates a lot of different sources – many a time, it may just work for you to enter “marketing + company name” to find a list of people that work in the marketing department of a company.

If you’re feeling it, you could even try more elaborate combinations like:

“marketing manager + company name”
“content manager + company name”

STEP #3 – Finding an email for a contact

If you find your right connect via Facebook, you’re in luck, since Facebook allows you to message anyone without them having to be in your friend’s list. But, there is still that oddball chance that your Facebook messages may get flagged as spam and never reach the intended recipient.

Under these circumstances, if you know a contact’s name but need to find their email address, the best tool to use would be Rapportive.

Install the Rapportive addon for Gmail and, once done, add different combinations of the first and last name of your contact in the “to” box in the Gmail compose box and wait until Rapportive gives you a hit.

Rapportive Guest Posting

Some combinations you can use are:

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

Now that you know how to find the right person to pitch – go ahead and bounce your ideas off them; you’re bound to get a nod of approval for at least one of them.

What do you think? Would you use these tips to submit a blog post to your favorite blogs? And who is on your guest blogging hit-list?

The Top Free Resources for Web Entrepreneurs

The Top Free Resources for Web Entrepreneurs

Build a reference library for 21st century entrepreneurs

Once upon a time, dedicated professionals had volumes of business-oriented books and magazines keeping them in-the-know of current trends and industry standards. These days, most of us have moved our knowledge consumption to the online world, consuming favorite websites and digital information sources instead (which makes the recent demise of Google Reader all the more depressing — I’m still in denial over that one). While it’s true that many of us seek out subject-oriented sites to match our specific areas of expertise, there are a few must-reads in the digital world that all busy professionals can benefit from consuming. Here’s a few essentials to kick off your daily reading — be sure to add them to whichever Google Reader replacement you choose!

  • SEO trends and tips: If you run any kind of online business, you already know SEO can make or break your success. It’s too bad that SEO is a mysterious world to many of us, and since trends and algorithms are constantly changing, it can feel like quite the task to stay up to date. Thankfully, there are a few extremely valuable resources in the blogosphere consistently dispelling myths and outlining best steps. One such goldmine is SEOMoz’s blog. Founded in 2004 by a couple of bona fide marketing experts, SEOMoz has been a trusted source of accurate SEO info and services almost since the concept was first derived. They’re highly respected in the SEO community, and their content is well-written and as up-to-date as it gets in the space.
  • WordPress development: Despite its relative age and shortcomings, WordPress still reigns as the #1 favorite content management system. If WordPress is your CMS of choice, or if you’re looking to get educated on why it’s so popular, bookmark WPMU.org stat. WPMU covers every conceivable WordPress topic, from site building and hosting to in-depth discussions on every last widget and template. Joe Foley of WPMU.org also writes a fortnightly column on the Flippa blog: check out his previous posts!

    Another excellent resource for WordPress development is First Site Guide. First Site Guide is the beginners guide to start, run and grow your online presence. Within the site are dozens of guides, video tutorials, and more, showing you how to start your first website and make sure other people see it.

  • Development Forums: Regardless of which CMS you currently use, you’ll want to find a forum where fellow webmasters and developers congregate to ask questions and offer solutions. SitePoint Forums is a fantastic option. All bias aside (Flippa was spun-out from the SitePoint marketplace in 2009), they have a huge userbase, with active daily posts on topics like social media, development trends, design and layout, content, rich media, and all heavily used programming languages (thread categories include PHP, Javascript & JQuery, CMS/WordPress, Mobile, .NET, Ruby on Rails, Perl & Python, Database & MySQL, XML, and yes, there’s more.) SitePoint is a great place to go when you hit a wall with a programing conundrum; first search the existing threads, as you’ll likely find someone discussing what has stumped you. If not, you can always start a new discussion. Just a warning on this one; it’s easy to get lost in the volumes of posts and topics, so be clear what you’re looking for when you land, or you may whittle down too much precious time in the process. Time well spent, surely, but you have been warned.

  • Marketing: I could not possibly love the HubSpot blog any more than I do. Their articles on inbound marketing are top-notch, and, if you’re paying attention to online marketing, will probably show up several times on your Twitter feed. Neil Patel’s QuickSprout is another favourite: he’s a master of split-testing and creating content that really converts.

So there’s five daily links to help you stay on top of your game in the online space, but it’s obvious this could be a much more robust list. Now it’s your turn: what are some of your favorite sites for business professionals looking for an honest edge?

Photo credit: See-Ming Lee

What is dropshipping? Get someone else to do the work

What is dropshipping? Get someone else to do the work

If you run an ecommerce business, or are thinking of diving into the online merchant space, you owe it to yourself to learn the ins and outs of dropshipping. Dropshipping is a product fulfillment method that enables ecommerce sites to avoid stocking the items they sell. Instead, when a customer makes a purchase, the business then buys the item or items from a third party, which ships directly to the consumer. In other words, fulfilment is handled by a third-party supplier.

This means your team will never actually handle the goods your customers receive. Dropshipping is a controversial and complicated process, but it can absolutely be the perfect solution for your business if executed correctly. Intrigued? Check out this comprehensive guide to dropshipping by Shopify, creators one of the biggest and best ecommerce platforms.

Dropshipping is currently very popular in the online sales space, and for good reason. As the guide explores in detail, dropshipping requires less startup capital for your business, far less overhead, ease of scalability, and the opportunity to offer a wide array of products. On the other hand, it’s much more challenging to hit high margins, as you are in essence a middle-man. You’re also relying on a third party to provide accurate and on-time shipping to your customers, which can be tricky business indeed.

Shopify’s guide features all kinds of additional information on dropshipping, including advice on the best products for this ecommerce method, tips on finding and working with suppliers, a checklist for starting a dropship-focused business, and loads more valuable details.

Have you had any experience with dropshipping, positive or negative? Let us know your thoughts!