Webmasterspot - Website creation and management
Exploring Web development and everything that goes together with trying to run a website!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Google Pack Finally available to all international publishers

When I logged into my Adsense account today I was very surprised to finally see Google Pack as an option for referrals. In my previous post regarding the international Google Pack release, I explained that it wasn’t an actual “international release” since there were many countries left out (including my own).

Recently the Adsense team announced that Picasa referrals would be rolled into Google pack referrals. At that stage I still didn’t have access to Google Pack and I was a bit concerned about how it would affect my Picasa referrals. I e-mailed Adsense support and they stated that it shouldn’t have an effect and that Google Pack referrals could become available at a later stage. I could never guess it would be so soon!

It’s nice to finally be able to refer my visitors to the excellent set of utilities included in the Google pack. It’s definitely well worth trying out, and I can’t wait to see how well it converts. Being able to earn up to $2.00 per referral is also a nice bonus. Thanks Adsense for finally having a real international partial release that includes my country!

It seems there are still some countries that do not have access to Google Pack as a referral option, this is apparently still in a phased roll-out. However many countries have been added so be sure to check your account to see if this includes you.

If your country isn't yet supported please post a comment stating which country you are from. Also let me know if you have access to Pack referrals for the first time. I'm trying to compile a list of newly added and unsupported countries.

Newly Added countries

  • South Africa

Countries not supported at this stage
  • Singapore
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Pakistan
  • Norway

Making money from your website – the 101 guide

Let’s face it; although it might not be the primary reason, most websites are created to generate some kind of revenue for the Webmaster. After all it’s only reasonable to expect that someone who put hours of effort into creating a site would want something to show for that effort – even if it’s only enough to pay for hosting to keep the site up and running.

There are basically 5 main methods available to get income from a site:

  • Charge membership fees
  • Ask for donations
  • Sell a product / Provide a service
  • Link Sales
  • Advertising

Charge membership fees:

This is the online equivalent of the subscription service of most magazines. You charge visitors a membership fee to allow them access to your site for a certain period of time.

This method is only suitable to sites with exclusive content that can’t be found on other sites. It’s a reasonably difficult system to set up and maintain. Unless you have something exceptional on offer, it’s not very likely that people will be willing to pay for access to the content.

Ask for donations:

This model relies on the charity of your visitors. You ask them to give a donation to keep the site up and running. Once again your success will rely heavily on what you offer to your visitors. If your site offers something unique or has a very loyal user base this could be a viable method of generating revenue.

Keep in mind that the income could be very sporadic. There is no guarantee that you will get any donations at all, so you should not rely heavily on donations to cover costs. It should rather be used in conjunction with other revenue methods.

Sell a product / Offer a service

Most eCommerce sites fall into this category. You sell a product, either a physical (books, shoes etc.) or a virtual (eBooks, templates, photos etc) product to your visitors. Alternatively you can offer a service (web design, proofreading, graphic design etc.) to visitors.

The quality of your product or service is extremely important. You need to gain the trust of the visitor and really impress them with what is on offer before they are likely to make a purchase. Virtual goods could be a good option since you wouldn’t need to worry about shipping costs. However you run the risk of someone distributing your virtual product without permission, so you need to keep that in mind if you decide to follow that direction.

Link sales

Once your site is very popular or has obtained a high Google Pagerank (PR) rating you will be able to sell links on your site for a considerable amount of money. This is basically a form of advertising where another site buys a link on your site in order to gain more traffic or increase their Pagerank.

You can sell links on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Pricing will depend on the rank of your site and the amount of traffic you are able to send to the sites you link to. You need to be aware that Google frowns upon people selling and buying links to artificially manipulate their Pagerank. The site that buys the link runs the risk of Google negating the PR being passed by links they consider to be purchased.


Displaying some form of advertising is one of the most widely used and most successful methods of generating revenue from a site. There are various advertising models in use today (CPC, CPM, CPA) and deciding on which one to use would depend largely on the specific site.

The easiest way to leverage advertising on your site is to join one of the multitude of advertising networks available. They will provide you with ads to show on your site and charge a commission (mostly between 45% – 30%) on the revenue generated. They handle the advertisers on your behalf so you don’t need to worry about selling ads, accepting payments or managing which ads to show.

You can also sell ads directly to advertisers on your own. This might be more difficult to do, but in most cases you can expect a higher income and more relevant ads.

Deciding on the revenue model to use will depend largely on your site and what you have to offer. It might take some time and experimentation to see what works best for your situation. The methods discussed here can also be combined and used in conjunction with each other. Experimentation is key. Remember that making money online isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It takes time and effort, but once you have a successful model in place you will be able to reap the rewards for years to come.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Blogger

I finally received the option to convert my Blogger blogs to the new version of Blogger. I'm still trying to figure out how everything works and making changes so my blogs look more or less like I want them.

The new interface seems to be running much smoother than the original version and I like the customize option which allows you to use a drag-and-drop interface to drag layout elements to and from your blog.

The only problem I seem to have run across so far is that my site's RSS feed seems to be broken. It doesn't update with any of the new posts I made since my update to the new version. Hopefully I will be able to figure out how to fix it.

Linking to copyrighted material unlawful

Recently someone on Digitalpoint asked whether it would be illegal to start a site that linked to ripped MP3’s, movies and TV shows hosted on third-party file hosting sites. This comes hot on the heels of another member asking whether it would be illegal to imbed YouTube videos containing full-length TV episodes on their site.

From an ethical and common sense standpoint there was no question in my mind – of course it would be illegal (or if it wasn’t then it should be). However, personal opinion doesn’t mean much, so having a bit of free time I decided to investigate the issue.

Now, if memory serves the whole Napster and Grokster court cases revolved around facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material even though these services did not host any of the files. They were still forced to shut down, pay damages or change their system so it prevented sharing of copyrighted material. From that it could be surmised that even though you aren’t hosting any files yourself, if you make it possible for other people to track down these files, you are facilitating infringement. Both of those cases involved some kind of software, so would the same apply to websites?

A Google search on the subject provided quite a few interesting links. In the US there are a number of cases where the court ruled that linking to copyrighted material is illegal. This is classified as “contributory infringement” where the site linking to the material is considered as facilitating the infringement of copyright material hosted on another site.

Sites linking to copyrighted material can be held liable for damages and sued by the copyright holder. In most cases according to the DMCA, if a site receives a takedown request and if they comply chances are that they will not be held liable for damages. This is only valid if the site acted in good faith and wasn’t aware that the material was copyrighted.

However a site that exists solely for the purpose of linking to copyrighted material (such as TV shows, Movies and MP3s) could be held liable regardless, even if they comply with the takedown notices. Sites like these most likely will not qualify for “safe harbor” under the DMCA since they are fully aware that they are linking to copyrighted material. Add any form of advertising (Adsense, banner ads etc.) visible on the site into the mix and things could get even worse since they will be viewed as profiting from the copyrighted materials.

Even though this still seems to be a rather grey area and it is currently unclear were exactly to draw the line – the fact remains that, according to US law precedents, linking to copyrighted material could indeed be illegal regardless if you are hosting the files or not. This would also include embedding videos containing copyrighted material (especially TV shows and movies) from YouTube and other similar services into your sites. Just because YouTube offers you an easy way to embed these files doesn’t mean that you should or that it is even legal.

Keep in mind that YouTube and other similar services most likely have a dedicated team of lawyers that help them with copyright issues. They also have protection under the “safe harbor” clause of the DMCA since they except files from members in ‘good faith’. Once copyright infringement is brought under their attention those files are normally also quickly removed. However if you link/embed a video containing the copyrighted content (movies, TV shows etc.) into your site you could be seen as wilfully distributing the copyrighted content and could be held liable for that infringement. It is common knowledge that TV shows and movies are copyrighted material so you won’t be able to claim ignorance in the matter.

My advice would be to use common sense. If you are linking to something in order to allow other people to download/view/obtain something they would have had to normally pay for, then you are doing something illegal and could be held liable for damages. So unless you have thousands of dollars to spend on legal fees, a cadre of lawyers on retainer and the will to fight court cases, then you should definitely not link to copyrighted material being distributed illegally. Hiding behind the excuse that no files are being hosted on your site, won’t be any defence at all.

It is best to err on the side of caution. If you are in doubt regarding the legality of incorporating something into your site, seek legal advice from a lawyer. Otherwise refrain from using something that could give rise to legal issues.

Killing the Internet?

There has been a huge outcry amongst the online community that the law/verdicts making it illegal to link to copyrighted material is an attempt to kill the nature of the Web and restrict freedom of speech. They argue that it’s a blatant attempt from ‘huge corporations’ to profit from the ‘little guys’. They are quick to point out that this would make linking to any site illegal, since content on websites are also copyrighted material.

However I think they’ve missed the point completely. This law is only there to prevent the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. It does not apply to normal everyday linking, and I doubt that it ever will. It’s an attempt at stopping someone from willingly distributing/facilitating the distribution of copyrighted material online.

This is definitely not a bad thing like they are making it out to be. Together with the ‘huge corporations’, it also protects the little guys – the fledgling digital artists trying to sell their music, software, artworks and books. The big corporations might survive their copyrighted works being pirated, but the little guys most likely won’t.

Copyright is there for a reason – to allow the creator of the work to control how that work is used and to offer them a way to generate income from their efforts. The sooner people learn to respect copyright the better. Who knows, you might even find yourself in a situation where your copyrighted work is being pirated and shared illegally. What would your views be then?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The above information is solely my view and interpretation on the subject and should not be viewed as legal advice. Please consult an intellectual property lawyer with regard to copyright and intellectual property issues.

Further reading:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple iPhone - WOW!

The first thing I have to admit is that I’m not much of an Apple iPod fan. I always thought that the whole iPod craze was way overrated. With the introduction of the Apple iPhone it seems as if I will have to swallow those sentiments.

The iPhone looks stunning. When I checked out their site and saw it for the first time my jaw actually dropped. It is one amazing looking gadget. I would definitely like getting my hands on one of those.

My greatest weakness would be the ability to browse websites wherever I am using GPRS. Sure my current Motorola V360 and Opera Mini can handle it, but heck it doesn’t look nearly as nice and websites are bound to look good on the iPhone’s larger screen. Not to mention that the text entry and navigation would work so much better (Ever tried typing a full length forum reply or e-mail using iTap… not something most sane people would do!)

It remains to be seen if the iPhone will fulfill the great expectations people have for it. One thing is certain, this is definitely one gadget I won’t mind finding in my Christmas stocking!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Beware!!! Adsense as forum posts.

After the recent clarification the Adsense team made concerning images next to ad units, I decided to err on the side of caution and e-mailed Adsense support to do a review of one of my sites to make absolutely sure that it is in compliance.

Two days later I received a response from them and luckily my site was still in compliance with the ToS (phew!). Their response did however contain a very interesting tidbit:

Thanks for your email. I have reviewed the implementation of the ads on your site and it currently does comply with our program policies.

In the future please keep in mind that publishers may not implement Google ads in a manner that disguises the ads in any way, for instance, by formatting neighboring content to look similar to the ads, or by making ads look like games or forum posts. Additionally, publishers may not attempt to associate specific images with the individual ads appearing on their sites. Such an implementation may confuse users who assume that the image is directly related to the advertiser's offerings.

Now that is a very interesting point although it could be very easily overlooked. I know quite a few forums where Adsense ads are inserted after the first or last post and appear exactly like a post created by a member (although the member name is normally Advertiser, Sponsor or something similar).

If I’m reading it right those webmasters need to be very cautious and work out another way to integrate their Adsense ads into their forum. So if you are using a similar method, please contact the Adsense support team to make sure that you aren’t in violation… unless you’d rather take your chances and pray that you don’t get the dreaded "account suspended e-mail".