I Know How to Make Money in Affiliate Marketing

I launched a new website a few months ago, and traffic has been increasing each day purely through organic search.  Since I know that I’m getting high-quality traffic that will reach 5,000 unique visitors this month, I thought that it was time to see how I could turn some of those visitors into a little bit of cash.  I threw some ads up on the site and have been making a few dollars a day – but I knew that I could make more!

For the past few years I have been following a few successful affiliate marketers.  Could I, too, also make money online in affiliate marketing?  The answer is yes!   The very first day that I placed affiliate links on my website, people clicked on them!  I made money almost immediately.

I will tell you how I did it.  But first, let’s take care of the basics…

What is Affiliate Marketing?

This won’t get too technical, I promise.

Have you ever heard of someone being offered a commission or a bonus for referring a customer to a business?  A chiropractor that I used to go to would offer his current customers a free adjustment for each friend and family that they referred.  The adjustment cost $35, if I remember correctly.  Basically, his patients (customers) were paid (in the form of a free adjustment) for referring new customers (their friends and family).

Imagine this exact same scenario online.  A web hosting company wants new customers.  They will pay people who refer new customers to them $30 for each new signup. This type of arrangement is actually very common and is used by tons of huge, legitimate companies.

You might be asking yourself how in the world these websites keep track of who referred who?

Remember the chiropractor example?  How would I know that my chiropractor is actually telling me about his new patients that I referred to him?  I would have to really trust him, since he would have to ask the patients who referred him, and he would have to remember to tell me (or want to tell me!).  Who knows how many free adjustments I missed because of a breakdown of communication or dishonesty?

The way it works on the internet is really cool.  There is advanced software and technology that allows you to see first-hand how many people are clicking on your affiliate links or ads, and you can watch your commissions in real time.

Is Affiliate Marketing a Scam?

Absolutely not!  It is used by thousands of legitimate, respectable companies and is a great way to grow a company’s sales.

There are some people who use affiliate marketing in scammy, spammy ways – and I would never encourage you to do that.  I know that my readers are in this for the long-term and want to put in the work to really build a legitimate business.

How Do I Try It?

The most important thing that you need to do is have a website where you have high-quality, original content that people want to read.

Read that again:  Content that is a) high quality, b) original, and c) people have to want to read it.


I can’t stress enough that you have to really pay attention and think about those three points.  Thousands of would-be online marketers each year launch websites that don’t fit those qualifications.

  • You can have top-notch articles on a topic, but if it doesn’t have enough people interested in it, you won’t get people to your website.
  • You can have lots of good quality content, but if you stole it or rewrote someone else’s stuff, the search engines won’t drive traffic to your site.
  • Even if your niche is popular and your content is original, if it is filled with spelling errors, is terribly formatted, or doesn’t go deep enough into the topic, you won’t get people to your site.

You might be catching on to the point that I am trying to make.  For whatever the reason, if you don’t have actual live people who are interested in your website’s content visiting your website, then you will not make money in affiliate marketing.

Do you have all of those things? Good, keep reading!

Once you’ve built your site, and filled it with some (high quality and original) content, you can now think about becoming an affiliate marketer.

The amount of traffic that you will need to make it worthwhile depends on your niche, what types of products that they might be interested in buying (that are related to your site’s content) and whether or not your visitors are making business or personal purchases.

Pro tip:  Many times – but not always – you can make more money per purchase if you are an affiliate in the business-to-business arena.  This is because businesses tend to make high-dollar purchases and your commissions can be higher.

If you think you have enough legitimate traffic on your site to get started, then it’s time to join an affiliate network.  There are other ways to find products that you can be an affiliate for, but the easiest way to get started is to just join a network.  Usually you have to apply.

There are lots of affiliate networks.  I found the one that I joined through a product that I wanted to be an affiliate for.  I asked them how to be an affiliate, and they told me which network they use.  A very popular one is CJ Affiliate.

Once you’ve joined, apply to some good affiliate programs for products that you already love and use.  Or have loved and used.  The network interface should provide you access to code for either images or links that you can paste into your website.

That’s it.  If you’ve already got some good traffic and you know that your visitors are digging what you have on your website, you should see affiliate sales start pretty much right away.   Yay!

Keep up that high-quality content production 🙂

How I Made My First Five Dollars Online

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years doing what some people refer to as “mental masturbation”.  This means that I have wasted an incredible amount of time thinking, dreaming, and imagining the wild success of my online business – but without actually taking consistent, thoughtful action that would get me anywhere near those fantasies.

Yes, I made some serious effort on occasion.  For example, I do have a budding YouTube channel and some faithful fans.  That said, I haven’t been able to monetize those efforts, the traffic to those videos, or to the website associated with them.  Basically, I did the consistent action, but it wasn’t thoughtful.  I let my horse out of the gate without any plan on where to go!  It turns out that dreams don’t equal success if you don’t work the steps between the start and the finish.

Finally, over the past few months, I think I’ve hit on something that might bring me a taste of what I’ve been searching for all this time.  I’ll tell you about how I made my first – and hopefully not my last – five dollars.

Here’s What I Did

A few months back, I was really frustrated about my main website and how I was getting only trickles of traffic from YouTube, and making no sales.  I knew that one of my mistakes was that I had tried to enter a really crowded, super competitive market with lots of free solutions available.   I tried to narrow my niche a bit, and I did see more traction with my idea, but still.. NO SALES.

This had happened to me in the past, but I had never give it so much of my time and effort.  What was I doing wrong!?

It turns out that there was what I still think is a big opportunity right there in front of me.  Over the past year I had also taken on a new hobby and joined some Facebook groups that pertained to this hobby.  I had become really knowledgeable on this subject and found that I was spending lots of time answering people’s questions on those online groups.

During a moment of extreme doubt and frustration about my website, it occurred to me that I should check into how much money was being spent on that new hobby of mine every year.  It turns out that it is a freaking huge industry, and it’s one of the most popular things that people do online.  I had no idea!

The first thing that I did was do some general industry research, just to get an idea of market size.  Then, I tried to find a niche in the market for me.  What kind of value could I add to this market, with the idea that I could eventually get a small piece of that giant pie?

Once I settled on a specific niche in that very general industry – one that I felt I was very familiar with and could really passionately spend a lot of time on – I picked out a name for my domain, and got a fresh, crisp version of WordPress installed on my website.  (It’s super easy with Host Gator, they have the 1-Click install!)

It was then time to start writing.  I used both Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner to pick topics and to name my articles.  This is KEY.  I had tried to leverage content for SEO in the past, but the honest truth is that I wrote about what I wanted to write about.  I thought if I threw enough spaghetti on that proverbial wall, the internet traffic would come to me.  It did, but man was it sloooow!

This time, I used those tools that I mentioned to see what people actually wanted to read.  I found trending search terms with high monthly search volumes that I could address on my site.  This is also KEY.  On my old website, I did have articles and videos about popular topics, but I wasn’t adding anything valuable to the conversation.  In fact, there were many people doing similar videos and probably doing a better job than I was.  This doesn’t mean that I was never going to “make it” with that site, but I was taking the long road.

With this exact strategy, I was able to start getting my first Google search traffic within 3-4 days of my domain being registered.  People started sharing my articles on Facebook with a week or two of the inception of the site.  To me, this was an incredible sight to see.  I was doing something that I really enjoyed, and people were really finding value in it right from the start.

I also knew that I needed to have a clear monetization strategy immediately.  The idea was that I would have three ways that I would earn money from this website, and basically get paid to do something that I love to do, and something that I had been doing for free anyway on those social media groups.

The way that I decided I will make money from that website?

  • Google Adsense (or other advertisement placements, eventually)
  • Affiliate links
  • Sales of information products

After I saw that I was getting organic search traffic almost immediately, I decided that I should go ahead and produce my first information product (an e-book guide) on my topic.  I did so, and posted it for sale.

Still waiting for those miraculous book sales, I wrote a few more articles.  Probably 2-3 a week.  Traffic kept increasing!  Wow.  But still no book sales.

Finally, I decided to go ahead and activate those Google Adsense ads that I had been planning on putting on the site.  I don’t know why I didn’t do it immediately, as I kind of like how tasteful placement of ads look on a website.  To me, since most ads are really well-done, it kind of adds to the aesthetics of a website.

Anyhow, within a couple of hours of activating the ads, I started making money.  Now, we aren’t talking about enough to retire on, yet, but this is how I made my first five dollars on my website.  I had 19 articles posted when I activated the ads.

What’s Next?

Maybe you’ve heard about how it is the hardest to make the first dollar in a business.  If you can make one dollar, the assumption is that you can make two.  If you can make five dollars, you should be able to repeat those steps to make ten.  It’s a long-term domino effect.  I’m walking up the stairs, if you will.  One dollar at a time.

Now that I am making a tiny amount of money, seeing good traffic, and see that people enjoy my content, I can spend some time trying to optimize the sales page for my book.  I have had dozens of people visit the sales page, but have not had anyone take the plunge.  Over the next couple of months, I plan to experiment with the placement of the widget on my sidebar, design of the sales page, and of course the price of the book.

Anyhow, that’s where I am right now.  I’ll let you know how things go.  Thanks for stopping by!

(Note:  I don’t count the sales of my softcover and e-books in the Amazon store as part of my first sales online.  I’ve been earning money through those online sales since 2014, and I am planning to wrote some about that at some point depending on interest.  I also had a small e-commerce site about five years ago, and I sold those products both online and in person.  And of course, who hasn’t sold something on Ebay or done gigs on Fiverr!?  Lol.)

How to Find Niche Website Ideas and Launch Your Site

This post should help point you in the right direction as far as choosing an idea for your niche website.  Your revenue model, or business model, for your niche website can vary, but choosing your website’s focus (or niche!) is a very important first step.

I own a few niche websites, but I’m starting up a new one that I’ve been thinking about for a while.  This post walks you through the thought process and steps that I took to get my website launched from start to “finish”.

(I put “finish” in quotations because truthfully, once you get your site launched, the work has just begun in earnest.)

Have You Heard These Three Items of Advice?

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that you should follow your heart or your passion when you are starting a business, whether it be an online or brick and mortar business. But what if you are passionate about the history of ballpoint pens?  You probably won’t be able to put your kids through college writing about that!

Then, if you’ve been kicking around in the business world a while, you probably have had other people tell you that you need to find a pain and make the pain go away.  If you build a beautiful niche website, but it doesn’t help anyone with anything, or nobody is looking for that information or product, then you have not solved a pain.

Finally, you might have also had someone explain to you that you need to solve the pain for A LOT of people in order to make a decent living.  For example, if you make a website that specializes in selling Buffalo Nickles, you might sell a few nickles at high prices, but you might not retire any sooner than you would have at your corporate job.

So How Do You Choose an Idea for a Niche Site

All of the advice above is great, and it’s all true.  The sweet spot for a niche site is to find:

  • Something that you like
  • Something that a lot of people want to buy/know about

The goal is to find a place where those two bullet points intersect.

Step One

Make a list of all of the things that you know how to do well, know a lot about, or are really interested in knowing about or doing

For the new niche website that I launched, I realized that I have a hobby.   It wasn’t something that I really realized until the past few months.  I’ve been spending 5-10 hours a week doing this thing online (not that, get your mind out of the gutter, please! Haha.)

It turns out that lots of people do this same hobby, too!  In addition, I really enjoy it.  I can also talk and write about it so easily that it probably drives people around me crazy.

Did you make your list?  If so, move on to step two.

Step Two

Visit Google Trends to check out how popular your general topic is.  You can also use Google Trends to search for topics that are popular, but I prefer to use my interests as a starting point.  Have you ever tried to write about or sell an item or product that you hate or have no interest in?  It’s a tough thing to do.  If you are trying to design this great life for yourself, why pick a topic that you don’t love?

On Google Trends, there is a search bar on the top of the page.  Just type in your interest, such as “Comics”.  Usually start with a broad topic, and then you will see related topics come up.  A topic that catches my eye, a subtopic of comics, is fan conventions.  As a person who has attended Dragon Con more than once, I am willing to bet that, if you were interested, you could make a successful website that only deals with comic fan conventions.

Basically, you want to choose a topic that has lots of related, popular subtopics.

Step Three

Decide on your basic revenue model.  It’s not a business if it doesn’t earn you money.

Your niche site can earn you money in many different ways:

  • You can sell your own product (like actual things, or information in the form of an e-book, a course, or consulting)
  • You can sell the products of someone else (like an e-commerce site)
  • You can earn money through affiliate sales (you get paid a commission when someone clicks on a link from your site and buys something).
  • You can earn money through advertising, either using Google Adsense or similar, or by charging money yourself to place ads on your site
  • You can charge money to access premium content on your site
  • Your site can be a membership site
  • Your niche site can generate leads for other businesses, which you can then sell to them to earn money.

There are likely many more ways to earn money on your site, but these are the most common and most simple to set up on your site.

I don’t like to depend on just one way to earn money on my websites.  Typically, I’ll choose at least three revenue streams for each site.  Almost always will I have my own products for sale, affiliate links, and advertising on each of my sites.  This way, if something happens with one of my revenue streams, life will still go on for me until I can figure out how to recover.

Did you pick a few ways that you’ll earn money on your website?  If so, move on to step four.

Step Four

Register your domain name.  It should be something relatively short and catchy, and if you can, you should include a keyword in your domain name.  Just make sure it’s not too long!

I use Host Gator for all of my web hosting – I’ve got a special affiliate link here where you can use the code to get a discount on hosting and your domain:

Up to 60% OFF NEW Hosting + $4.99 on Select Domains with Promo Code Spring2017

Step Five

Get a hosting plan and install WordPress onto your domain.  I like Go Daddy and Host Gator, but whatever you like will work fine.  Most hosting companies offer a “one-click” WordPress installation service for free, so it is very easy to get started.

Don’t worry about buying a premium WordPress theme unless you have some very specific need or function for your site.  I plan on doing some articles here about how to set up the different types of websites that I mentioned.

You can do almost anything with WordPress, and if you can’t figure out how to do it yourself, you can always hire a WordPress developer to help you.  Getting the basics done, however, will save you some money.

Play around with your theme and set things up to a “minimum viable product” level.  Basically, a “good enough to start” level.  Perfectionists struggle to launch their businesses because they are always waiting for everything to be perfect.  Don’t be that person.  Get started, and adjust as needed.

Step six

Decide how you will drive traffic to your website.  My favorite way to start getting traffic is with organic search.  It doesn’t cost anything, and if you can deliver some good value to your website visitors, you will be rewarded by Google.

The way to get organic search traffic is by writing good quality blog posts on your website.  The biggest mistake that people make when starting off is writing about topics that people don’t care about.  How to find out what people care about?  I’m glad you asked.

Get a free Google Adwords account to access the free Google Keyword Planner tool.  Enter in your website information and you’ll get some keyword suggestions.  These keywords will help you understand exactly what people are typing into the search bar and wanting to know more about.  Can you help them?  If so, you will get some good organic traffic.  You can also use Google Trends for choosing topics to write about.

(Pro tip: Don’t choose the highest volume keywords to write about when you are just starting off.  You will have too much competition and won’t rank in search if you do.)

Set up all of your social media accounts that you plan to use, etc, but unless you are already super popular online, a social media following is off in the future somewhere.  I’m not saying that you should start building it, but just don’t be disappointed that people aren’t flooding your website from Twitter right off the bat.  It can happen, but it’s not a guarantee.

Think about some other ways that you can drive traffic.  Networking with other website owners, bloggers, forums, etc are also great ways to build your website’s reputation.

Step Seven

Set everything up for your revenue streams.  Get your Adsense account.  Write your e-book.  Join an affiliate network.  Do those things that you need to do.

Final thoughts

Once you get your site launched, the tough work begins.  It might take six months before you really see some traction on your work.  You have to set a schedule that you can stick to long-term.

But the work pays off!  Don’t let you talk yourself out of getting started today.  Six months will go by anyway, wouldn’t you rather have a nicely built-up website with some traffic, however little, in six months vs. no website and no traffic?  Imagine what you will have after a year, two years, or six!

Let me know what your plans are, I want to hear about them 🙂

Mercedes

 

 

I Saw the Light!

It’s been a few months since I posted.  This won’t happen again.  I’ve had time to do a lot of thinking, and some interesting things have happened in my life.

Back in February of this year, I was contacted about an international job possibility.  It was a cool position in a cool industry, located in an amazing city in a great country where I would love to live.  The job would have required international travel to really neat places I have never been.   And the pay would have been great.

The company decided not to move forward in creating this position for me – not because there was anything wrong with me, but they had some internal limitations and it just didn’t work out.  What did end up happening is that I got extremely distracted with the whole idea of moving and working there, and I basically just lost about six months of progress that I could have been making in my business.

That said, I did learn a lot and here are some takeaways:

  • I am valuable enough for someone to consider creating a brand-new position, flying me off to another country, and hiring me.   This was a huge self-esteem boost, let me tell you!  I’m taking that to the BANK.
  • While it’s good to explore new opportunities, don’t get distracted by shiny objects.  The truth of the matter is:  I don’t want a full-time job.  I think I could’ve been happy with that company for a while, but had it worked out for me there, it would have just taken me down some windy side roads and NOT towards my end goal, which is having a wildly successful online company.
  • Did I mention that I don’t want a full-time job?  If that’s the case, why would I go on a job interview?  It literally makes no sense.
  • Did I say that I want a wildly successful online company?  I meant empire.

The bottom line?  I’m smart, talented, and valuable.  And if I can be all of that for someone else, I can also be that for myself.  While I’m making big statements, I can also say that I don’t want to screw around with this “making money online” thing any longer.

I’m starting a new digital media empire, and it’s going to be grand.  I’m taking it one excruciating day at a time.

If you’ve been at this online marketing thing for a while, you might know someone like me.  I come up with a cool idea, register a domain, make a quick website, post a few times, and then figure out that it’s “too hard” or there is “too much competition” or there are some “obstacles that I hadn’t considered”.

I actually have a line item in my annual budget for domain registrations!

Years ago, I started this nifty website.  Not unlike this one, in actuality.  I blogged for about a year and built up a tiny reputation for myself.  This was back in 2011.  Recently, I realized that someone else came along and is using a very similar name and doing a very similar thing.  They are having success – because they stuck with it.

So that’s what I am going to do in building my media empire.  I’m going to stick with it for the long haul this time.  No matter how long it takes. One. Word. At. A. Time.

What are you going to build?

Talk to you soon,

Mercedes

Featured Image Photo Credit:  Steve Johnson

Mid-Year Update

Just a quick update to let everyone know where I am in my digital asset creation:

Online Learning Website (Started Fall 2016)

  • About 40 YouTube Subscribers
  • About 550 Facebook Fans
  • 100-200 website visitors per month
  • Have more than 60 YouTube videos posted on channel
  • Have created a few ebooks and courses to go along with videos, haven’t sold any
  • Total earned this year from this website: $0
  • Comments:  I haven’t done anything on this site for about 6 months, but everything is still up.

Hobby Website (Started January 2017)

  • 1,000-1,200 visitors per month
  • 100 page ebook for sale on site (posted for sale in June 2017)

Additionally, I have one softcover book for sale on Amazon (self-published) and 14 books for sale in the Kindle Store.  Monthly sales on these books vary from month to month.  I don’t do any marketing or publicity (probably a mistake), so there is no sales funnel or anything like that.

So that’s where I am right now.

I’ll be back soon,

Mercedes

 

 

Stumbling in the Dark

I feel like I’m stumbling in the dark.  Is that common among entrepreneurs?  I don’t know.

Updates:  1 more YouTube subscriber – that makes 10.  I’m in the double-digits now, folks.  Watch out, world.

I started a podcast a few months ago (or rather, I set up a podcast, but never published any episodes).  The problem was that I couldn’t figure out how to use the “same content” on my videos on my podcasts.  The main reason is that I wasn’t planning my videos, and some of them were 5 minutes long while others are 20 minutes long.  I wanted to use the same audio track from my videos on my podcast, and just cut in an intro.

So this strategy didn’t work at all, and I didn’t feel good about it.  I’ve always heard that we can get stuck in “in the box thinking” and I think that this happened to me.  The solution to my problem is very obvious.  What I should do is plan the podcast FIRST.  And then just develop my video around the audio track that I’ve already made.  That way, I can still use the same content.  I don’t know why it took me months to come up with this.

My plan is to try to stand out in a slightly less crowded channel.  I don’t think there are as many podcasters in my industry as there are YouTubers, so I am going to try this strategy out for 6 months and kind of reevaluate where I am at the end of that time.

The schedule will be just one video and one podcast per week, but I’ll be aiming for 10-20 minutes.

I am also going to simplify my product offering.  I don’t think I’m ready to offer a “tier” as was suggested to me.  So I am going to see if things improve (i.e. a first sale is made) if I simplify my sales page a bit.

I might run a Facebook ad for my course, too, just to see how that works out.  I might do that in a few weeks – I probably should, in fact.  If anything, it would be a good way to practice copywriting and also test my sales page for effectiveness.

Starting Point

As promised, I am going to post some information to kind of give you an idea of where my “starting point” is.  In reality, everyone’s starting point is zero.  But since I’ve been working on this business for almost five months now, I think it’s only fair to be transparent and let you know exactly where I am.

Sometimes, it’s tempting to think of success as something that just “happens” to people.  But I’d like to support the idea that it’s actually a long, sweaty, bloody process.  And I’m right smack-dab in the middle of all that mess.

So here goes:

  • I have one product for sale.  I have sold it ZERO times.
  • I have 9 subscribers on my YouTube channel.
  • I have 2 e-mail list subscribers.
  • I have 51 YouTube videos on the site right now.
  • I have a website with 30 or so posts.
  • I get between 100-200 visitors to my website per month.

As you can see, I’m not starting from scratch.  But as you can also see, I have not sold any of my product.  I have made a decent attempt at marketing on YouTube, but have not promoted my channel, my videos, or my website on anywhere but my Facebook fan page.

What industry am I in?

My website, product and videos are in the online learning industry.  The product should be evergreen, as I can’t even imagine a day in the future where someone will not need to learn this skill.  People currently spend billions of dollars worldwide to learn it (i.e. there is a current market that pays for it right now), and I think I am offering a unique twist on the learning that not too many people are currently offering (i.e. I am leveraging a skill that I have in order to make my product unique).

My big question right now

So if I feel like I have a decent product, and there is a definite market of people ALREADY paying for this product, and I think my product is unique, WHY am I not seeing the traffic and sales that I’d like to see?

The answer

  • Obviously, I’m not where my PAYING customers are (as the gurus say).  Are they on YouTube?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I am feeling like most people go to YouTube to learn stuff for free.
  • With my YouTube videos, I feel like I’ve used the dartboard method for picking the topics.  (Basically, it seems like I’ve just thrown a dart at the wall and picked topics at random.  They are all teaching the skill I’m targeting, but I didn’t focus effort on the specific topics)
  • I’m not working as methodically and regularly as I should be.  I have lots of personal obligations that seem to encroach my business as much as possible.  So I need to cut that out.
  • I’m not doing any other marketing activities.  So while I might eventually see traction with this non-confrontational method that I am pursuing, I would see it faster if I were more aggressive.

Whelp.  Now it’s painstakingly clear that I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.  Time to make a plan.  A system to work.  I’ve had enough of GOALS.  Goals are like wishes, sadly.

Next post will be my plan, and maybe some updates.

Till next time,

Mercedes

First Post – Introduction

Hello dear reader.  I am very appreciative of you taking the time to read this post and visit my humble website.

This post will serve as an introduction to what I am trying to accomplish.  My goal is to track my progress in a transparent manner (while still attempting to preserve a tad bit of privacy for myself).  I don’t plan to reveal the domain url where my project is hosted at this point, but maybe I will someday.

For now, I plan to write about the obstacles and challenges that I face in my current business.  I want to talk about the income that I am earning (or not earning, as it now stands), developing information products, making videos, growing my social media following, and of course, my WordPress website.

I’m not a web designer, but I’m not afraid to get down and dirty with things.  So as I go through and overcome new WordPress (or other technology) challenges, I may make tutorials and post them here.  I also have WordPress plugins and such that I love and recommend, so I will definitely share those with my readers.

There are others that have gone down this path.  Some of them I plan to mention in my writing on this site.  I don’t intend that my website be a copy or a substitute for the absolutely incredible wealth of information that is already available to you.  Instead, I am hoping that this blog serves as a creative outlet for you, and perhaps helps you in some way.

I also can’t promise you that there won’t be an occasional rant or emotional vomit about how hard this process is.  It really isn’t for the faint of heart.  This shit’s hard!

In the next post, I’ll post some numbers to show where I am now as far as traffic to my website, current challenges, and some project ideas that I am working on.  And maybe some of that feely stuff too.

If there is ever anything that you would like to know, please, feel free to ask!

Peace out,

Mercedes*

(Mercedes is the middle name I never had.  Someday, it will become my actual middle name.  But as of now, I don’t have one.  My point is that Mercedes is my online pseudonym.  It’s to preserve my privacy, and that of my family.  Thanks for understanding!  I don’t plan on talking openly about this, so only the lucky readers that have been here since the beginning or dug through my posts will know.  Ha!)