Friday, April 30, 2010

A Few Survey Sites People From Around the World Can Join

For me, taking surveys has been a good way to make money online, but the conventional wisdom is that only people from a handful of countries can really make money with surveys. It's certainly true that many survey sites only accept members from the one or two countries that make up their base of operations. For that reason, it makes sense to search for survey sites based in your own country. However, there are also a few international survey sites that welcome any and all to join. Just because they let you join doesn't mean they'll actually have surveys for you to take, of course, but there is sometimes another way you can make money with them: by referring other users!

The first site I want to mention is SurveySavvy. They welcome members from all over the world, but what really sets them apart is their excellent referral program. Not only do you earn money every time one of your referrals completes a survey, but you also earn whenever one of your referrals' referrals completes a survey also! All isn't quite sunshine and light, however. For one thing, SurveySavvy doesn't send out a whole lot of surveys to its members regardless of what country they hail from -- unlike some sites, you probably won't have daily opportunities to earn and neither will your referrals. Another thing of particular interest to international survey takers is that SurveySavvy pays exclusively by check. You can request a US dollar denominated check as soon as you earn a $1, but bank fees could eat up all the earnings of international users unless they wait a while before requesting payout. It's a very trustworthy site, however, and definitely one of my favorite survey sites of all time.

The next site I want to mention is Global Test Market. They currently welcome members from 43 countries. GTM has a high minimum payout -- $50 -- and also pays by check. I've heard anecdotally that one's ability to earn on GTM very much depends on what country you are from, but at least they let people from many countries get their feet in the door. As an American, I've generally found it to be a good site and I've been paid several times.

YourDailySurveys is a bit different from the other two sites I've mentioned. It is a "daily surveys" site that works with other survey companies instead of conducting its own market research directly. It's very easy to use: you simply login, go into the surveys section, and try your luck with the surveys that are available to you on the day. Depending on what country you are from, you may be able to complete as many as five surveys each day at $0.50 each. Americans can take up to five surveys per day while Canadians and Britons can take up to three. Residents of Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Italy have two daily surveys available to them. However, YDS lets people from other countries join with the understanding that they can refer other users to the site even if they can't take surveys themselves. There are definitely sites that pay more per daily survey than YDS, but it is unusual for having a low payout ($3 by PayPal for non-upgraded members) and because it pays a generous percentage for surveys your referrals complete (25%). The site has had some extended (and forewarned) downtime recently, but seems to be functioning again now.

There are at least a couple of other ways people from around the world can make money with surveys, of course. Many GPT/offers sites also have daily surveys so some of what I said about YourDailySurveys is true for them too. Perhaps a bigger opportunity is to join a CPA network and get paid for every signup you deliver to various survey sites. This method is only open to you if you have a web site/blog or do CPC marketing, but it will give you the opportunity to work with some of the best survey sites around, including some that don't have referral systems.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Profile Updating Time

Surveys can be an excellent way to make money online, especially if you live in the United States. However, most everyone who takes surveys feels frustrated about not qualifying for more surveys or perhaps not even getting enough invitations, at least from time to time. There is no perfect remedy to this issue -- I strongly suspect that even the most successful survey takers in the world fail to qualify for most surveys they try to take. Nonetheless, I feel that there is one relatively easy way most anyone can maximize their survey earning potential: complete your profiles!

Profiles contain the information that survey sites need to match you up with surveys suited to you. Some sites have bare profiles that just ask for the most basic information, like your location and gender. Others have literally pages and pages of profiles that can take quite a lot of time to complete. To be honest, filling out profiles isn't my favorite thing...they're like taking surveys and not getting paid for them. However, in my experience filling out profiles pays off in the long run. You get more surveys and, even better, more targeted surveys that you are more likely to qualify for. It won't always lead to great things, of course. I'm a member of a couple of survey companies whose profiles I have filled out and kept updated yet they've never sent me a single survey! That's definitely not my usual experience, but it can happen, especially if you join the smaller survey sites.

How often should you update your profiles? I personally try to update them at least once a year and recently finished up this year's "campaign." If something big happens in your life, you should update your profiles pretty quickly -- market researchers want to know all about your first baby or that new car you just bought. Even negative things like being diagnosed with a medical condition are worth an update.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bold Prediction: One Year From Now, Gagabux and Readbud Will No Longer Exist

One advantage of having years of experience trying to make money online under my belt is that I now have a pretty good feel about whether a program has the potential to last or not. This enables me to avoid getting excited by and wrapped up in sites that, in all likelihood, will turn into scams before long. Unfortunately, my inner scam detector tells me there is a strong likelihood that two of the most hyped earning sites of the moment are not going to last very long. I'm willing to go on the record here and state that I don't think Gagabux or Readbud will be paying sites one year from hence. Indeed, I doubt they'll even exist. I'll be happy to acknowledge being wrong if that's how things turn out, but please let me make my case first.

Gagabux is the latest in a long line of "bux" PTCs that pay 1 cent per ad clicked and promise great riches to those who invest in the site by upgrading or renting referrals. These sites are generally speaking ponzi schemes because their advertising costs are too high to attract real advertisers (hence the ads you see are mainly self-sponsored by the site itself)...thus, their main source of income is the money they earn from upgrades and referral sales. It's from this pool of money that they must pay their clickers and investors. Bux sites generally don't last too long -- NeoBux is the remarkable exception to this rule.

Gagabux has even less of a chance to last than the typical bux site, however. They have been offering somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 PTC ads per day, enabling all members to earn around $0.15 a day without referrals. You can cash out at $2.00 so in two weeks anyone can click their way to a payment. Currently, the site IS paying though payments are already starting to take longer to process. While Gaga is earning a lot of goodwill by paying so many people, I think it will soon be forced to at the very least raise the minimum payment or reduce the number of ads available to free users...no PTC can afford to pay $0.15 a day to each and every clicker. In GB's defense, I will say that at least many Gagabux ads are affiliate ads that can earn the site some money -- this is in contrast to a site like bux.to which was notorious for mainly featuring paid ads about itself! The site is basically stuck in a corner, though. Any changes it implements will reduce the trust people have in it and hence make people less eager to invest. This site might be a fun one to "ride" for a while, but I suspect it is already nearing the end of its rope.

Readbud is a more unique kind of site -- indeed, I'm not aware of any site quite like it. They actually promise to pay you for reading articles. That's right: READING articles, not writing them. I can imagine such a site existing that paid a very small amount to article readers, but Readbud pays its readers up to $0.10 per article read! From a publisher's point of view, I know these rates aren't sustainable. Even if Readbud merely paid 1 cent for every article read, this would imply that it earns at least $10 from an article with a thousand views (1 cent * 1000 = 1000 cents or $10). Many AdSense publishers would kill for a $10 CPM rate, but Readbud is promising to pay more than this to its article readers from around the world. It simply beggars credulity. One smart thing that Readbud does is have a minimum payout of $50. That's very high and not easy to reach...presumably, a lot of readers will give up prior to reaching such rarefied heights. That, in turn, saves Readbud some money. However, how is the site going to manage to pay the patient sorts who do reach the $50 mark? I don't think it can, at least not for long.

How serious is my prediction? Pretty serious -- note the lack of referral links in this post. I just don't think there's much point in getting referrals for Readbud and Gagabux.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Solvster Is Hungry for Ideas

Solvster is one of the most unique online earning sites I've ever used. Essentially, the site allows businesses, consumers, and anyone with a good idea to come together and share. There are three main sections to the site: TrendQuest (which is about business trends, product innovation, etc), IdeaQuest (where businesses directly solicit ideas from people), and ShopQuest (which allows users to "invest" in ideas and profit if their chosen idea is selected). It's like three sites in one because the sections are so different. TrendQuest resembles a discussion forum where ideas and opinions are exchanged, IdeaQuest is something like a written proposal to a company concerning a specific business idea or plan, and ShopQuest is like a virtual "idea market" where good ideas are traded like stocks. Though each section is unique, they all are basically concerned with ideas -- that is Solvster's bread and butter.

Solvster is really cool and innovative...I would even go so far as to say it offers us a glimpse of the future. However, can you make money with it today? For now, the site is still under development and opportunities to earn are limited; it's very "green" to say the least. While the site is in beta, only the specific activities mentioned on the beta page will earn you real money. Even as it is, though, the site has a functioning "currency" of sorts called shells. You can earn 1,000 shells for many of your activities, such as commenting in TrendQuest. You can in turn use these shells to invest in ideas in ShopQuest and make money if you invest in the winning idea. If you submit a winning idea in IdeaQuest, you can also receive a cash reward. Eventually, shells will be able to be converted to euros at a rate of 1,000 shells to 0.05 euros so I suppose that will offer an alternative to investing in ShopQuest for those that want sure money.

What I am most intrigued by is what Solvster might become in the future. Even now, there are some quite interesting projects you can complete, but if more companies start using the platform to get customer feedback and solicit ideas Solvster will become a very happening place! Because the site is small, joining now will allow you to get used to the site, perhaps submit a winning idea or two, or possibly even win a contest (there's currently an iPad up for grabs!). It's not the best site for instant money if that's what you're looking for, but it has tremendous potential...I'm glad to be a part of it relatively early on in its evolution.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

UpDown: Learn About Stocks and Make Money, Too

Getting started investing is no easy thing. There's a lot you need to learn if you don't want to get burned so it's common for budding investors to begin their stock trading careers on paper rather than by jumping in with real money. The Web has made "paper trading" a whole lot more fun via stock market simulation games that let users build real portfolios with virtual money. There are several good ones, but UpDown stands apart because it lets new investors earn real money as they play without them having to risk a dime.

So, what do you do on UpDown? You buy and trade stocks listed on American stock exchanges. As a beginner, you'll receive a million virtual dollars to trade with as you wish. Don't worry: if you make some bad moves, you'll be able to reset your portfolio (you can do this once every three months) and get a new cool million to play with. It's certainly much preferable to lose virtual money as opposed to real money. UpDown would still be great even if was just a learning platform, much like Marketwatch's Virtual Stock Exchange and Investopedia's Stock Simulator. However, it's more than just a learning tool: UpDown sponsors monthly and yearly stock contests that reward players for outperforming the S&P 500. That's certainly not an easy feat -- sometimes even professionals have a lot of trouble doing that -- but I think it's fantastic that "paper trading" can actually be profitable!

The top ten UpDown traders who beat the S&P each month get cash prizes ranging from $500 for the best trader to $50 for those ranked 3-10. I've never had a top 10 finish yet -- I'm probably too cautious, even with virtual money -- but I have beaten the S&P a couple of times and gotten $0.10 prizes just for doing that. Your odds of winning one of the big prizes aren't that great (there seem to usually be between 7,000 and 8,000 players each month), but if you're serious about learning how to be a good stock investor your time on the site will be well-spent regardless of whether you win a prize or not. Learning to invest could be worth a lot more than $500 a month, after all!

UpDown is not the only site that offers cash or prizes to virtual traders though I do think it is the best. One of its biggest competitors is Wall Street Survivor which has monthly and weekly prizes. Prizes there can vary, but you'll most likely have to be a top three player to get a cash prize (they have two tiers of prize winners based on trading activity, though, so there are really two sets of monthly prize winners). Lesser winners have to content themselves with such items as Amazon gift cards and newsletter subscriptions -- UpDown's cash only approach is a big advantage for it in my opinion. Wall Street Survivor also seems to require photo ID verification of its winners which seems odd in this day and age of identity theft. At least WSS is free just like UpDown; there are also a bunch of virtual trading sites that require players to put money into the game if they want to make money themselves. I can't endorse or recommend any of these sites. They are really targeted towards a different group of users, namely people who already confident in their stock trading capabilities and want to take on the world. UpDown is definitely a better choice for people just trying to learn about stocks which is the category I belong to.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Forums Offer Opportunities

When trying to make money online, it's easy to start focusing just on sites that will pay you directly such as PTCs. While such sites offer a more or less straightforward way of making money online, there are often hidden opportunities to earn that only the more adventurous Web surfers will discover. You might expect a discussion forum to be more of a place to chat and share ideas than to make money, but forums are best thought of as online communities. Do you know of any real life communities where commerce isn't taking place in some form? Forums are no exception to that general rule.

Earn Money Space is a nice example of a forum bustling with commercial activity. On the surface, you might just notice a group of people talking about various aspects of making money online and chatting amongst themselves. The more you look around, though, the more opportunities you'll see. EMS even has a referral program -- this is nothing to get too excited about because only top referrers receive a cash prize due to their referring activities, but it is a moneymaking opportunity open to every EMS poster. In April 2010, the top referrer will receive a $50 prize and five other referrers will receive lesser cash prizes. Of course, only people who can refer a lot of members will win a prize. There is also a $10 weekly prize drawing open to users with 40 posts or more. For those of us neither lucky nor good at promoting, the Referral Deals, Downline Builder, and Referral Exchange sections may offer more promise. These subforums are all about helping users get referrals, but you can't simply spam your ref link and run away. The Referral Exchange is for, well...exchanges. You come to an agreement with other users to join your site in exchange for you joining theirs. For instance, you might pick up an Incentria referral as long as you agree to join myLot using your Incentria ref's referral link. As long as you both are active on your new sites, both of you will profit. The Downline Builder lets you pick up at least one referral in a particular site as long as you join that site under a previous poster. The Referral Deals section allows promoters to offer deals, often cash, to people in exchange for joining a site. So someone might offer pay you ten cents or more to join a site -- indeed, they might even offer pay you a little something every month as long as you remain active. There are also Buy & Sell and advertising subforums. Perhaps the easiest way to advertise of all is to include a link in your signature so it'll be seen on all your posts. The possibilities to make money here may not quite be endless, but they are many. As with any forum, you should be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of the forums (and each subforum may have its own rules) before you post! After all, you can't make money if you lose your account.

It boggles the mind when one considers that Earn Money Space is just one forum. How many other forums are out there? Millions! Granted, not all will offer the same number of opportunities as EMS, a freewheeling GPT-oriented community -- many will outright discourage user attempts to make money. What ever the skills or interests you may have, though, there are forums relevant to you which will enable you to connect with similar minded folks. At worst, you'll just make some friends; at best, you'll make some friends and some money too. It's well worth spending a little time on...there's a whole world of opportunity out there online that people rarely seem to talk about!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Instant Cash Sweepstakes? Great. PayPal Fees? Not So Great

Instant Cash Sweepstakes is a really interesting take on online surveys. Surveys are one of the best ways for Americans to make money online, but they aren't always easy: usually full-length surveys are designed with a particular demographic in mind so many won't qualify to take them and for those you do qualify for many will be quite long. ICS offers a different experience: it specializes in short surveys (three multiple choice questions usually) with no qualification questions. Takers of these mini-surveys are rewarded with entries into the daily cash draw for $50 and the $100 weekly draw, coins with which they can buy extra entries, and occasional cash prizes.

You might be thinking, "Oh, it's one of those sweepstakes sites. You never win those!" at this point. What really makes ICS a great site is that those occasional small cash prizes actually come in steady and often -- you really don't need to win the daily or weekly prize to make money there. Sometimes I find myself comparing it to NeoBux because it's easy to go there and at least pick up a few cents a day. ICS also has a fantastic referral program: you get matching prizes and tickets from your referrals. In other words, if your referral wins $0.05 and 5,000 tickets, you too will receive $0.05 and 5,000 tickets. Winning the big prize is frankly probably very unlikely (I can't say I've ever won it even though I believe I joined the site fairly early on in its existence), but Instant Cash Sweepstakes can be quite a lucrative site even if you never do win the big one.

What I like least about Instant Cash Sweepstakes is that PayPal fees eat up a sizable portion of your payout. I lost 36 cents off of a recent $2.01 payout. For this reason, some people wait a while and cash out a larger amount so they don't get double or triple fee'd. Oh well -- that's an issue with PayPal, not with ICS. PayPal fees aside, I give Instant Cash Sweepstakes my very strong recommendation! Note: this is a US only site. Unfortunately, this is typical of survey sites...those outside just a few countries have quite a limited selection of sites and a limited selection of surveys from those sites that do let them join.

WebAnswers: Another Way to Earn With AdSense

One of the toughest aspects of making money with AdSense is bringing in traffic to your content. If your ads are never seen, you'll never make a penny. Because bringing in traffic is easier said than done, AdSense revenue sharing sites have an undeniable appeal. What these sites let you do is piggyback on their success and have your AdSense ads displayed on their turf. These sites come in all sorts of forms: there are AdSense revenue sharing forums, blog hosts, social bookmarking sites, etc. WebAnswers is an example of a AdSense revenue sharing answers site -- think of it as a Yahoo Answers type site where you can actually get paid for your work!

In practice, WebAnswers does not quite live up to its promise. It is certainly easy to get started with it: you just need to answer ten questions and link your AdSense account up with WA. In no time at all, you should be getting impressions and clicks. The question of just how many impressions you'll be getting is a troubling one, however. WebAnswers uses a cryptic system of ranking users that it calls a "quality score" -- the higher your quality score, the more AdSense impressions you'll receive throughout the site. In addition, you get the lion's share of the impressions on answers for which your response is awarded the best answer. Having a good quality score is rather critical to earn from the site as many question askers end up never awarding any answer. The problem is you cannot check your quality score...indeed, you have no idea what it is except indirectly by watching how many AdSense impressions you receive from WebAnswers. Supposedly writing high quality answers is the key to increasing your quality score, but I'm very skeptical of that. Keep in mind that quality scores are calculated automatically; since computers aren't well known for recognizing good writing, let alone good grammar, I suspect there is much more to quality scores than WebAnswers chooses to reveal.

Ultimately, if my earnings are going to be determined by algorithm, I think I trust Google's algorithms a lot more than I trust WebAnswers'. The problem with AdSense revenue sharing sites in general is that you're settling for lesser earnings for the sake of easier traffic, probably because your content is not highly ranked in Google. However, those who get really into AdSense revenue sharing sites often start promoting those sites in order to increase their earnings. Suddenly, that traffic you're getting isn't so easy any longer; you should ask yourself if you're really better off promoting a site like WebAnswers or a site of your own. If you promote a site of your own, you'll get 100% of all AdSense impressions and earnings. If you promote WebAnswers, you'll get a slice of the AdSense pie...which WA itself will cut for you according to their own secretive methodology.

I won't say that WebAnswers isn't good for anyone. It does provide a way for people to earn by answering questions so if that's your thing it could be a great fit. I myself made a few bucks in about a week there; that compares favorably well with many other methods of making money online and, since you continue to get impressions on past answers, it would be theoretically possible to build a nice passive income from WA. Personally, though, I prefer to use sites that aren't so secretive and don't make me feel like I'm being cheated.