Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: June 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Affiliate Marketing, the Basics. Is Affiliate Marketing Right For You?


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Affiliate Marketing - The Basics. Is Affiliate Marketing Right For You?

The past two years have been an interesting journey for me. In August of 2006, I purchased the URL www.hotbachelorette.com with the intention to build a content driven site dedicated to bachelorette party and wedding planning.
My first mission was to hire a web development company to build out an aesthetically appealing, CMS site where I could easily manage the back-end. As I shopped around, $5K was the average price I was quoted. Before dumping that much cash, I thought it would be best to research the reality of monetizing the site.

While shopping around for web development agencies, I asked a lot of questions, I paid very close attention to what the developers were telling me. I looked for holes and inconsistencies in their pitches. I wrote down terms I didn’t know or understand and then went home and researched the meaning. I found that a lot of the smaller web development shops were selling me hog wash. As I started to understand the landscape better, I learned that many small, web dev shops were IT guys or sales guys who decided to open a web development “agency” with little more experience than I had.

Eventually, with A LOT of help of a technology savvy friend and a graphic designer, I developed Hot Bachelorette on my own (well, it is still in progress). After the site had a skeleton and a bit of meat, I delved into researching SEO, PPC, affiliate marketing, and social media. It’s funny because most of what I talk about today is social media marketing but it was the last on my list of priorities when studying digital marketing. I am a social person by nature, and therefore, social media was the easiest channel from which to drive traffic. I believe in doing what you’re naturally best at and you will have the best success.



HB


When trying to determine how I might be able to monetize the site, affiliate marketing became a key concept. At the onset, I knew nothing and didn’t event have a site. My only digital experience was as an eBay seller (where I did well). I started by emailing affiliate managers and ask them questions, really stupid questions, and most were helpful in getting me started. The nice part of an affiliate manager is, they make more money if you make more money, as a result, they’re willing to arm you with a bevy of information. Many affiliate managers started as affiliate publishers so they understand strategies behind driving traffic, SEO, content writing, engagement, audience development better than most anyone else you will meet.

I opened my first account with LinkShare and then with Commission Junction and last year, after BlogWorld and New Media Expo , I got on board with shareasale.com. I also belong to a couple independent affiliate programs, I have an Adsense account and an Amazon Affiliates account.

Last week, I met with the Affiliate Development Manager for shareasale.com, Jason Rubacky, who has been tremendously helpful. He is kind, polite and enthusiastic about the business. For new shareasale.com affiliates who are here in Chicago (shareasale.com is based in Chicago), he will sit down with you and help you audit your site. Jason will take a look at what you’re doing well, what you could be doing better, assist you in finding the right merchants for your site(s) and show you how to best navigate the shareasale.com site.

Jason and I went over several things. SEO tips and tricks, some sites that help you find your backlinks and a great site for analytics. When developing a strategy, it is important to understand that these things take time, and not all things work for all people. Once you get started, you will find methods that work best for you and your particular content.

When looking at my site, Jason noted the same thing my friend @AirDisa had once noted, that my permalinks suck. If you are starting out with a brand new site, make sure that your permalinks are keyword focused and not random numbers and letters like b=299 or a million words long like mine are. If you don’t do this from the get-go, you will have to go back in and manually restructure your permalinks potentially losing all bookmarks and linkbacks you once created. If you're not sure what a permalink is, look below.


Check out some of these links on how to create Permalinks:

We also discussed where to buy URLs.  I personally do not like www.GoDaddy.com and refuse to ever search for URLs on www.GoDaddy.com Though I have no evidence, I suspect that they auto-purchase a URL you've searched on their site if you don't buy it right away. Then when you go back to purchase it, they sell it back to you at a premium. In my opinion, there are better places to purchase domains. I purchase mine straight from my host – Blue Host. Jason also turned me onto Bustaname and Domain-pop.com

Link building. I think we all know the importance of link building and how good linkbacks take time and effort. Jason gave me a few pointers on link building. Make sure your URLs are on all your social media profiles. When filling out your “LinkedIn” profile, do not put your URL in where it says “My Company” or “My Blog.” Instead, click “Other” and enter your URL in there.

Jason also made me aware of the site Dailybooth. One of the many reasons I became so involved with social media sites was to build links back to my own web properties. Dailybooth was a site I was unaware of and Jason said it was a great site from where to drive traffic.

Optimizing images. I’ve known for quite sometime the importance of optimizing images. But, what I didn’t know was the value of having the title, the Alt text and the description of the images EXACTLY THE SAME. I assumed that it was better to have them different, therefore creating additional keywords. Jason explained that it was important that the keywords all be exactly the same. He said that same for your Title post and your H1 (heading) – all the same keywords. I don’t know why this is better, I dont' ask, I just believe him.

More specifically regarding affiliate marketing, we talked about data feeds (see below for a definition of data feed). I didn’t know what a data feed was and Jason showed me some examples of data feeds. My initial thought was “But those sites are so ugly”. And Jason said, “Ugly makes money.” I need to get over my fear of the ugly site. I decided to purchase a few additional domains that are closely related to bachelorette parties and build them as data feed sites and then link them back to Hot Bachelorette.

We talked about duplicate content. Many of the shareasale.com merchants have pre-written content for their products. These are great for someone like me - a solo person, who runs a site that requires a ton of content. Jason asked if I was changing the content up at all and I said, “Yes, I correct spelling errors and grammar.” He then made it very clear to me that Google hates duplicate content. He said, “It’s not just changing one or two words, you need to go back in and re-write the content, make it yours.” Google will look for the number of words and paragraphs – you really need to keep the content original.

Jason also turned me onto a great site for real time analytics called Performancing Metrics. The information this site gives me about my visitors is insane in the membrane. In some cases, I know their names, in all cases, I know their IP address, where they live and how they navigated to my page (keywords, etc.). It also gives you the ability to “name” your visitors – for example, if I see an IP address navigate to my site and stay for a long time, I can “name” him/her something so I can more easily recognize them when they come back.

Jason also has a podcast about affiliate marketing on GeekCast.fm with information ranging for beginners to very high end SEO and marketing topics. You can check out Jason’s podcasts HERE OR you can visit his blog www.jasonrubacky.com 


Geek Cast Screen shot


My parting words for those who want to get involved with affiliate marketing. Though this is not an actual stat, I’ve surmised that about 90% of the money made by affiliate marketers is earned by 10% of the affiliates. The ones who earn money have either been doing it for a long time, they write on a very specific subject matter, they were already an expert in a particular area, they had an existing audience or they made themselves an expert at SEO and SEM. Also, don’t expect to get rich from affiliate marketing, I’m not saying you can’t, I am just saying the likelihood is slim. It has been done but not by many. Think of it as nice pocket change, my goal is to have it supplement my income. I am also a firm believer in the 10,000-hour-rule (Outliers: The Story of Success)


If you are wondering, “Is this right for me?” Ask yourself these questions…
  • Do I have a subject matter that I am highly dedicated to, exposed to, or interested in, to a point where I feel I can write a minimum of two blog posts a week on that subject matter?
  • Am I willing to work on something consistently for a long term without financial reward for an undetermined amount of time?
  • Am I willing to study and learn about subject matters related to digital marketing, SEO, PPC, some coding, social media 24 hours a day?

How do I personally know that affiliate marketing is right for me? I love it. I made slightly over $100 with my affiliate ads in ’09 and so far this year, I’m up about $170. I make like .01 an hour doing this stuff. Why do I keep doing it? I do believe that there will be a pay off in the future for me but I also enjoy learning about it. I’m intrigued by the digital marketing aspect of it, I can help my existing clients and gain new clients with this knowledge base and possibly, eventually, make more money myself from my sites.


Glossary of Terms:

    Affiliate Manager: Manages the affiliate programs and cultivates the relationship with the affiliate publishers and affiliate advertisers. This person may assist the advertisers in developing an affiliate strategy as well as assisting the publishers in developing marketing tactics for their sites.  
    Affiliate Publisher: The person who “publishes” the merchant ads on their sites. 
    Affiliate Advertiser: A small or large company who has a product they are selling online. They are the “merchant”. 
    Permalinks: Short for “permanent link” – a URL that points to a specific news story or web posting. A specific web address for each blog posting (or content that is frequently changed or updated) giving it a permanent address for bookmarking.  
    Data feed: a large file filled with lots of information related to an affiliate merchants products. The feeds are converted into product descriptions and links with images and prices. It is exponentially quicker to create web pages with data feeds but you do run the risk of having unwanted information fed into your site. Data feeds look like online stores. When visitors click on them, they are redirected to the site where the information originally lives and they make the purchase from that site. Once the purchase has been made, you, the affiliate publisher, are given a commission based on the pre-determined commission rate. 
    Linkback: a link on another site that links back to your site. 


Related Post:
Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing (from Blogworld)

Related Readings:
The Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing on the Web: How to Use and Profit from Affiliate Marketing Programs

Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day Altan!


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Anyone who knows me, knows I am inseparable from my father. Growing up, my dad was the dad that all my friends loved. He was the guy who was kind to kids who didn't have dads and treated them as his children too. He never leaves anyone out and never sees the bad in people, only the good.

My bday

Dad and me


But, my father comes with his faults too. I always say, "My father was a great dad but a bad husband". He never treated my mother the way she deserved to be treated, he wasn't a cheater but just sucked at being a husband. He was not affectionate towards my mother, he never considered her an equal, he didn't know how to fight fair; it was either his way or the highway. And, after 15 years of marriage, the highway my mother took.

My family in 1984 visiting Istanbul


My parents divorce started in the summer of 1986, just before I entered high school, and was not finalized until my second semester freshman year of college in 1991. In those five years, my brothers and I dealt with many harsh fights, multiple visits from the local police, lies, manipulation; things that no child should ever have to go through. Essentially, we were dealing with two people whose love had turned into so much hate, they could not see anything other than the hate. For those few, but very important years in our lives, my parents stopped being parents.

My father never believed my mother would leave him and his Turkish ego was bruised. More than that, I think my father had such a difficult time understanding that he was more hurt than he was angry. My mother and her lawyer did everything in their power to make my father out to be a monster. My father swore he would rather "Burn my money one-by-one than watch that bitch get a penny."

It was bad, really, really bad. In fact, it was worse than you can ever imagine and probably worse than anything you've seen on television. When I speak of the divorce, I refer to it as "Our divorce" thus confusing people. No, I've never been married or divorced but I refer to my parents divorce as "our" divorce because I went through it as much, if not more, than they did.

mom and dad


So, why am I telling you this story today? Especially since I NEVER talk about my parents divorce anymore. Especially since it is father's day and you're supposed to celebrate your father today. Well, I read the story of Ted Rubin's divorce and custody battle and it inspired me to write this post. Ted's wife has made it impossible for him to see his children. You can read about it on Ted's Blog as well as Sugar Jones' blog.

As much as my parents HATED each other, as much chaos as they created in our lives, my mother never once stopped us from seeing my dad. In those years, those horrible five years, we still went to dinner with him most nights, we went skiing together, we did many tings together. I don't ever recall an interruption in our time together. I will go onto to add, my father never paid one dime in child support to my mother (I told you he wasn't perfect). He flat out refused to give her any money. And she still never got in the way of our relationship with him. What benefit would it have been to me and my brothers if my mom had withheld visitation rights without a child support check? None.

Mom and kids


Even today, my mother will say, "I could have taken you guys and moved back to Turkey (where they are both from) to my parents, it would have been so easy for me, but then you guys wouldn't have a relationship with your father and I didn't want to do that". She cannot understand women who inhibit a relationship between children and their fathers. Even the worst dad is better than no dad!

Today, we all live downtown Chicago in the Gold Coast neighborhood. I am four blocks from my father's place and six blocks from my mother's place. The two, they still don't like each other and that's just fine. I see my father no less than two times a week, he is one of my closest friends, and my relationship with my father is the single best aspect of my life.

Dad in his office being silly


To all the mother's out there who are hurt, or angry, or whatever you are feeling, whatever "justifiable" reason you think you may have for not allowing your children to see their fathers - You are wrong. You are dead wrong.

Any man who wants to be a part of his children's life is a good father. They don't have to be your opinion of the best father, they just need to want to be there. They need to be a part of their kids lives.

I Love You, Daddy (Little Golden Book)


Related Posts:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What Do you DO?


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I get asked this question a lot and many times I have a difficult time answering this question. Sometimes I am not 100% sure what it is exactly that I do because it varies. I know what I would LIKE to do, and I know what I am good at doing, but sadly, I am not independently wealthy, so I often "DO" what I can.

My background is in Event Marketing but I wanted to make the shift and work more closely with Social Media, or at least create a marriage between the two. Many people do not think this makes much sense but it makes perfect sense to me. I've always been in the business of communicating to people on an emotional level. You go to a concert because YOU LOVE that band...and my client sponsored that act. You go to that art show because YOU LOVE the arts community....and my client sponsored that show. I connect people with brands on an emotional level in an effort to create a deeper, more meaningful relationship. Whether it is events or social media, when done well, both create that same result.

What Am I Doing Now?
Events.
I manage B2B events, customer events, post trade show or conference events, but not as many as I would like. I plan parties for companies who want to entertain their customers while ensuring that their customers know why they're at this party through branding - subtly. Again, like social media, events are a soft sell. I also plan dinners and events for groups coming in for conferences, this is less strategic and more tactical but adds a nice balance to my workload.

Consumer based events. If a brand is trying to break into a new market or create brand awareness, they need to offer your customers value. Hosting a meaningful event for a particular audience is a great way to introduce a new product or re-introduce an old product to a new segment. From time to time, I host events for venues but 99% of my "TweetUps" or happy hours are for fun and I don't make money from them.

There are various reasons I host events where I make $0.00. I do it for many of the same reasons that companies throw events.
  • A way to get myself out there, to stay on people's radar
  • To build credibility
  • To expand my network, meet new people, remind people about what I do
  • To give back to my many friends who help me day to day with stuff I could not do on my own

If you know anyone looking to plan and execute and event marketing program, a customer event or a group dinner, I am your girl. Just send them to my "work" site Lotus Marketing.

FIJI Water Urban Hunt Logo


My Big Project This Summer - FIJI Water Urban Hunt
I am creating a sponsor driven scavenger hunt that is 100% social media focused. Participants must "apply" to join the competition. They check in at sponsored venues on foursquare, post to facebook & Twitter. The FIJI Water Urban Hunt will take place on August 7th and you can join the Facebook fan page for the time being. You can also follow @urbanhunt on Twitter for updates!


Online Marketing & Marketing Communications
I recently started to work on a few projects for some new clients and continue to work with existing clients.

Artun Travel
I manage their online marketing & marketing communications including social media. I write a monthly newsletter which has grown to 2000 subscribers. I manage their
Twitter feed feed and facebook fan page. The fan page has about 300 fans at this point and the Twitter feed just shy of 600 followers. Additionally, I write their travel blog which gets about 1500 hits a month (their main site receives about 1200 per month). I don't think any ONE item gets a tremendous amount of traffic but the combined effort results in about 5000 additional impressions each month than the agency had two years ago. Their business is up by 50% over the past four years.


MacSpecialist

I manage their marketing communications, including writing copy for their newsletters, their press releases and their emails for both locations - Villa Park & Downtown Chicago. I assist them with marketing planning, reaching out to their vendors, general marketing ideas. I assist them with their social media (including Twitter, Facebook & blogging), audience development and engagement. I hope to get MacSpecialists blogging asap!

In January, I managed their customer event with about 400 guests. MacSpecialist has several exciting events in the next five or six months so stayed tuned! They have Adobe webinars they host each month. They also have great training sessions for their customers. I am going to start a "Ladies Only" monthly seminar getting women in small business acclimated to web based marketing tools. You can follow them on Twitter for details @myMacSpecialist.


FashionStreamz, TravelStreamz, TableStreamz
I have worked with this client for several months, on/off. The sites are quite unique. They are aggregated lifestyle feeds. I think it is obvious what each one focuses on. If you navigate to the site, you will find a web based, aggregated feeds for Travel information, Fashion information and Foodie information. Each site is categorized into multiple areas for the convenience of the reader. You can also search the feeds by photos and "suggested feeds". The site are unique in that they allow people to browse Twitter without a huge time commitment.

SUSHISAMBA
As you may already know, or maybe you don't. I worked for SUSHISAMBA for four years as their Event Manager in Chicago. I recently started to work with them again on a project basis. I consult for them regarding Social Media, help them identify opportunities in the space and communicate Chicago based events and promotions through their Facebook & Twitter pages. I also host their TweetUps.

SUSHISAMBA is great to work with because they're really excited to embrace Social Media. The owners are super into it and I worked so closely with them in the past, it just feels like home to be back. I've always been a huge fan of the brand and food so it was a really natural fit. Here is the Twitter feed I assist in managing @sushisambachi

Another personal project that has turned into a full time job is Hot Bachelorette This is site is a work in progress. I feel like I am always developing this site and making it bigger. It is coming to life but still has a way to go. I wrote 90% of the content, @Mknox999 did most of my backend work in Joomla and Selcuk Arsan, my brother, developed the look/feel of the site including the logo. The site will hopefully monetize via affiliate links, paid advertisement from the "local directories", events and the HB store via data feeds. We shall see, I am still concentrating on developing the content.

Hot Bachelorette Screen shot



References:


Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0: 1,001 Unconventional Tips, Tricks and Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job

Event Marketing: How to Successfully Promote Events, Festivals, Conventions, and Expositions (The Wiley Event Management Series)

Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide: Building a Successful Joomla! Powered Website (2nd Edition)

A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing: Quick Reference for Affiliate Managers & Merchants

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Morning at 3AM


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It is Saturday night and I left my house around 10p.m. and headed to the 24 hour Starbucks on North Avenue to finish up some items that I needed to do earlier today. I was supposed to work on a few things for friends and clients. Instead, I decided to redesign my blog.

Blogger just updated their templates and some of their functionality. Additionally, they integrated Amazon Associates with Blogger and now you can simply click and add ad links into your posts.

Like this one...


Of course I got wrapped up working on this for about three hours longer than I wanted to work on it. Now, the intense, inner debate - do I go home (it is 3a) or do I start the projects I came here for? Can't decide.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yet Another Blog Post About Social Media


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I recently realized that I have been letting my blog fall by the wayside. It is not because I am lazy, or spending all my time on Twitter, it is because I am getting busier at work! Additionally, I realized that I have not written a post about "marketing" in quite some time. I recently wrote something up regarding social media for a potential client so I thought I would share it.

Effectively utilizing social media, or any communication for that matter, is about familiarizing your audience. Share with your audience who you are as a company, and/or as individuals, by telling your story. Don’t think of social media as an elevator pitch, think of social media as polite cocktail conversation. It is a way for customers to get to know you and your business as intimately as possible leading up to, or in addition to, face-to-face interaction.

Social media can be a vague term, but in my opinion, it encompasses many platforms: Blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter), Newsletters, visual content (Flickr, YouTube, Slide Share) and Facebook. Although I believe it benefits companies or individuals to use everything that is available to them, using the tools that suit you and your culture best is what will be most beneficial overall. If you’re not going feel comfortable doing it, don’t waste your time. Do what you like because that is what you'll do best.

Thomas rockstar's photo


Blogging - What to talk about?
Blogging is a great way for one to express their ideas with written & visual content. A way to demonstrate their knowledge base & their expertise.

Words like “conversation” and “engagement” are key buzz words that people like to use a lot when referring to blogging, and more generally, social media. Basically, it means that people should listen to and speak with their audience. What is it that your audience is looking for? What information are they currently searching. Do some research and be timely with your blog responses.

Communicate your experience to potential new clients and offer continued support and news to your existing clients. A blog is a good place to touch upon and teach what you know. Give your readers enough information but leave them in a place where they want to know more about your business. Think of your blog as a real-time portfolio of you, your work and your business viewpoints.

Blogging
• Talk about your clients + your work + your successes
• Talk about conferences you attend + new learnings
• Talk about awards and recognitions + promotions of employees + pat yourself on the back a bit
• Talk about the nature of the business + the current climate of the business & where you see it going
• Be truthful, what are your business obstacles and how have you, or do you plan to, overcome them?

Even when you’re dealing with B2B, personalization is still key. Your customers want to build a personal relationship with you, they want to do business with someone they like, someone they know and someone they trust.

Visual Content
This tends to be tougher for most people. Many feel silly creating a flickr page or a YouTube channel, but properly tagged visual content (particularly video) has a tendency to rank 3X higher in web search (or google search) than websites and blogs.

Video production can be extremely time consuming and expensive to produce. If you have someone in-house who is good at creating, editing and producing video, great! Otherwise, hiring a professional is the right option. This can be something we can look into when you’ve decided what your budget and what is going to be best for your business. One of my favorite professional video production companies in Chicago is Big Teeth Productions. Big Teeth produces corporate branding pieces with an entertaining twist. They make potentially dry material captivating.

A flickr account is something that is easy to do and doesn’t take much time, effort or money. Setting up an account takes minutes, a professional account is about $30.00 a year and it is as simple as uploading pictures. Many businesses use flickr to upload pictures from conferences, a new office move, office parties, etc. The key is writing a proper profile, tagging photos correctly and naming them properly when you upload them so they are found in web searches.

Here is a post I wrote as a guest post for B2B Voices about Visual Content, click HERE.

Slide Share is another great business tool. Everyone creates powerpoint presentations for clients or internal purposes, all you have to do is upload the slides you've already created to Slide Share. Why? It helps others (and social media is all about creating a feel-good world) and it gets your name out there and further establishes you as an expert.

What about Twitter and Facebook?
They are fantastic if you’re going to update them. But you need content to distribute to make it worth your while so don't put the cart before the horse. When it comes to business networking, I prefer Twitter to Facebook. I have yet to see a REALLY valuable Facebook fan page that offers a service. Other than Mashable or TechCrunch, companies that are primarily information sources, OR lifestyle brands, I haven't seen a Facebook fan page that has offered any true value to me as a consumer. Updating, staying engaged, relevant, keeping up with the Jones’s and providing fresh content is key on these platform. It's true, you have to keep up with the Jones's, aesthetically and informationally. You need a good looking site and you have to provide information that is more valuable than your competitors.

Re-cap
1. Determining what is the best tools are for you and your business
2. Determining which tools you will realistically use?
3. Determining what you want to communicate and who you are talking to?
4. Determining what “success” means for your program, creating benchmarks for measuring successes
5. Producing the content
6. Communicating the content

Related Post:
  • Survey of My Social Media Audience



  • Oh yeah, and, if you don't already...YOU SHOULD FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER! @leyla_a

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    My Trip To Isla Mujeres...Mexico


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    I arrived in Mexico for a wedding, flew into Cancun direct from Chicago, purchased my fight from of Artun Travel. When I arrived, I took a cab to the ferry and headed to an island called Isla Mujeres. Disembarking from the ferry, it looked like your typical tourist town but I found that Isla Mujeres has a bit more to offer. Before, I go forward, I should make you aware that I do not have the reference point as many others may when it comes to travel. When I travel, I prefer to spend my hard earned money on vacation spots that can teach me something or show me something unique versus a sleepy beach town. If I wanted to lay by a pool, I’d just go to Vegas.

    Wedding on the beach


    Isla Mujeres is really small – about 12 miles around. I only ventured down three streets – the street where my hotel resides, where the internet cafe sits, the street where the bars & shops are and the street adjacent to the beach. Let’s start with my hotel and then I will tell you about the beach, who is here in terms of tourists and a bit about the locals.

    Internet Cafe
    Internet Cafe in Isla Mujeres


    I stayed at darling little place called Frances Arlene, I couldn’t tell you what street it is on because I never looked. It was a 5 minute walk from the ferry and my friends helped me find the hotel. I know it is one block from the main drag where the bars and shops are and a few blocks from the beach. The hotel has 16 rooms, very quaint and affordable. I am paying $50 USD a night for a room with air conditioning + a 6% surcharge for having used my Visa card.

    Frances Arlene looks more like a home than a hotel. You walk into the small lobby and when you check in, they escort you back through an outdoor courtyard and up a flight of stairs to the sleeping rooms. I believe the family who owns the hotel lives in the front building where the check-in is because their dining room looks out into the courtyard and their door is always open. The hotel almost reminds me of a Balinese style home with the courtyard being open the way that it is.

    Francis Arlene


    Frances Arlene looked immaculately clean and well maintained, most certainly a good bang for the buck. Only two complaints – but I wouldn’t be Leyla if I were not complaining. 1) I have an ant situation in my room. When I arrived, my windows were open (which I am sure is common in Mexico) and I have a bunch of ants on my little kitchenette area. It didn't bother me at first but by the end of day two, I realized the bug problem was worse than I thought. I think there were sand fleas in my room too. 2) The wifi in the lobby –sucks! But then again, almost all the wifi on the island has sucked so far.

    Francis Arlene


    The beach is lovely. White sand that is so soft it feels great on your feet. You find yourself digging your feet into the sand and letting the tiny granules fall between your toes. The water is amazing, hot tub warm and super clean – it is so clear that the sky reflects a bright blue.

    Isla Mujeres


    The beach I was on yesterday, I could walk about 50 meters and the water still at my knees. At about 100 meters, the water got deep enough where I could swim and cooled off just a bit. There is nothing like swimming in the ocean. I realize that the universe intended for me to live in a warm climate and on an oceanfront where I could swim daily without the risk of being eaten by a shark. I am deeply afraid of sharks.

    Who you will find in Isla Mujeres?
    When I first walked out onto the beach I was surprised to see all the very thin, good looking women out there. Many of the women on the beach had fantastic bodies – I was surprised because normally Americans are not thin. And then, I realized none of them were American. Isla Mujeres is populated mostly by European, Australian and Canadian travelers. As the weekend approached, the Americans arrived and fattened up the beach. It was painfully obvious who the Americans were, it made me feel shame.

    On Isla Mujeres, there are a lot of backpackers here, drifters, pot heads, hippies, etc. I think they are roaming Mexico and heading down to South America, they look like they’ve been here a while. It reminds me a lot of when I backpacked myself and makes me want to do it again. Many of the backpackers are not young, they look like they’re in their late 20s to mid 30s and they are from all over the world. Very European. Last night at the bars, I noticed that some of the resident backpackers choose not to wear shoes. If you knew me at all, you would know that the shoe-less drinker is a huge pet peeve of mine. Hello? Broken glass is everywhere in a bar. Stupid hippy.

    Fire Dancer
    Fire Dancer


    What to do?
    There is not a tremendous amount of activity here, it is more for relaxation. The island is small, there is a touristy section on one side, where the ferry comes in. there are three or four streets with hotels, shops, restaurants and bars. Lots of little bed & breakfast type hotels. We basically ate and drank at the same places nearly every night. There is a beach party every night that the youth hostel hosts, I did not attend.

    One can rent a scooter or a golf cart, I chose the scooter and ride to the other side of the island. The scooter cost me about $27 USD for a whole day. I checked out the place where you can swim with Dolphins but opted not to spend $200+ USD to swim with a stupid dolphin. I did go snorkeling, the snorkeling was pretty good, I bought fish food and I was swarmed by fish. A bit scary. I saw a barracuda (without knowing it was a barracuda until I was alerted by another snorkeler).

    Leyla on a Scooter


    The locals. I could sum this up by saying “Super friendly” but you probably would have guessed that already. Mexicans are warm and friendly people. More specifically, I think tourism is their only source of income on Isla Mujeres, therefore, the people here are tremendously kind. Everyone who runs the bars restaurants and small hotels on the island is polite and friendly. The one thing that kills me is – why do the Mexicans who work in restaurants in Mexico speak better English than the Mexicans in who work in restaurants in Chicago?

    Beautiful Home on Isla Mujeres, Mexico