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Sir InternetIncomeALot – a fairy tale for the 21st Century

Posted by Mark Harrison on November 22, 2006

Once upon a time, in a far off Kingdom, lived a man. He was a good man, and worked hard all day, retired soberly each evening, and deeply cared for his wife and children.

One day, into his village, rode a Wizard. This Wizard told him a story about a place call Internet, where he need not work hard all day, but could plant seeds, and have them grow for ever, reaping the flowers of cash.

The name of these magic seeds was “AdWords”.

The Wizard told him that he could plant the seeds just once, and in time, the harvest would be bountiful and perpetual.

The man gave up his job, moved to Internet, and planted the seeds. And for a while, the harvest was good…

… then the climate changed (and, mysteriously, the Wizard had moved on to another village.)

This is my problem with the idea of “Passive Income” on the Internet – the climate changes. The things that worked on Google a year ago don’t work now.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I make a good deal of money on the Internet, both for myself and a small number of clients. However, the rules change, and Google is the Parliament, the Police, and the Courts when it comes to AdWords – they make the laws, catch those who break them, and impose penalties.

The most famous rule-change was the so-called “Google Slap” earlier in the year. A lot of people had put up basic pages, with little or no real content, just either name-harvesting pages, or links to other affiliate sites, and were bidding on Google AdWords to drive people to their sites… then immediately sending them on to someone else’s site for a premium.

Google really didn’t like this. Google got to be number 1 in the search engine business by building a great product. Their search engines are the ones people keep coming back to because they generally turn up useful results for your search terms. It doesn’t help Google’s reputation to send people to poor quality sites.

So they did something slightly odd – they automatically upped peoples’ “minimum bids”. People who were expecting to pay 5c for a click (ie – to drive a customer to their site) suddenly found that Google had changed their bid, so they would have to pay $10.00 – or two-hundred times as much.

Google can do this – they are the law-maker and the law-enforcer. AdWords is their ball, and if you want to play with it, you have to play by their rules.

I don’t have a problem with this – I think that what Google did led to better results for companies genuinely delivering useful sites. (Indeed, in many cases, it reduced the amount that those sites had to bid to get clicks.)

My problem isn’t with the idea of “Internet Income”. Hell, I’ve been on the Internet since 1989, and launched my first website in 1994.

My problem is with the myth of “Passive Income.”

I have the good fortune to be mentored by one of the Europe’s leading Internet pioneers – someone who’s made not tens of thousands, but tens of millions of pounds over the last 15 years on the Internet. What’s noticeable is that he’s done it, time after time, by working very hard and very cleverly, and then getting in teams of good people to work with.

The Internet is a fast-evolving beast – to stay on top, you have to work.


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