Expert Interview with Nick Sutton Of Qmee On Making Money By Surfing The Web

Making moneyUser data is a hot commodity these days. Huge companies like Facebook and Google export their users' histories and preferences to marketing companies for major dollars.

Why not make a few dollars yourself?

Qmee is a free browser plug-in that lets the user collect micropayments just by clicking on links that are registered with Qmee in a way that benefits both users and businesses.

Qmee's Nick Sutton took a moment to tell us about the company.

Can you briefly describe Qmee? What's the premise?

Qmee is a free search-loyalty, cash-reward browser app installed easily into any major browser that rewards you with actual cash micropayments for clicking on results you otherwise would click for no reward.

Essentially anytime you do a search using a browser such as Google or Yahoo, if Qmee has relevant results to your search, the app pulls up these results that will appear on your screen in addition to the results you would normally see. Each click on a Qmee search result that matches what you're looking for will earn you between 4 and 14 cents typically, and the payments are made in actual currency to your PayPal account.

A typical user will collect about $5 per month. That's $60 of free money per year just for doing what you usually do. In addition to the cash you collect through searching, Qmee will reward you with $1 in your piggybank for every referral you send when that person becomes a Qmee user.

The premise behind Qmee was that Internet companies like Google for example are making vast sums of money from consumers' online activity, and we wanted to find a way where we could still help advertisers get their results in front of the right people, but find a way to give some of the value generated back to the consumer at the same time.

Who is your main audience? What are some ways that a business might make use of your services?

Qmee is relevant to anyone who searches online - so pretty much everybody - and that's the beauty of it. Right now, Qmee is available to users in the UK and the US with a valid PayPal account; and we are actively looking at adding other countries to the roster. Canada will likely be next.

From an advertiser perspective, Qmee is a great way to get your services and products in front of consumers at a point where they are actively searching. Qmee is focused on relevance; and by rewarding the user for engaging with the advertiser, this builds stronger engagement. The cost to a business of showing their search result on Qmee is a fraction of that of the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

Who are some of the businesses that work with Qmee? How do they reward customers using the app?

We work primarily through affiliate and Ad networks and we're always looking to add new partners. We've managed to build up quite a recognizable list of brands through which we're able to populate search results for our users including: Peapod, Starbucks, Perry Ellis, Nordstrom, JC Penny, Footlocker, Avon, Saks 5th Avenue, American Express (gift cards), Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Macy's, Kenneth Cole, New Balance, eHarmony, Expedia, Fandango, Fathead, Garmin, Hertz, Hotels.com - and these are just a few among thousands.

One of the ways that Qmee helps businesses find the best customers is by measuring what's being clicked and for how long. How might users go about finding this information on their own, and how can they convert those insights into useful leads?

This is actually sort of the opposite of how Qmee works. Our users are consumers who are presented with Qmee search results during their regular, everyday search activity if we've got something that's relevant to what they are looking for. If we show them something they like, they can click on it and earn their cash reward; and if they don't like what we've showed them, our Qmee results will disappear from the left of their screen after about 30 seconds.

We've always been very open about our privacy policy, and I think something Qmee users really enjoy is that all of our search data is anonymized, so their privacy is very well protected. All we know about any of our users is the email address they used to sign up with - and even that gets anonymized in the system once they've got the app.

However, in general we are able to see for example how many people in a month click on a particular link; and then from there how many of those people spent time on the destination site; and even further, the number of people that ended up making a transaction. This is obviously valuable to companies because they can analyze conversions on their end and determine the value in them contributing to Qmee's user rewards. The beauty behind Qmee for advertisers is that they couldn't get this data on their own; we provide another level of data they can't find anywhere else: the relation between search and transactions.

You also help businesses target their ads for customers most likely to be interested. What are some things a company could look for to measure interest? Where would they go about looking for that data?

Again, we don't work with companies directly, but rather through affiliate and Ad networks, and our user is the consumer. Our search results are based on keyword relevance: in other words, keywords on a company's site and how closely they match what a user has typed into a search engine like Google or Yahoo.

On the advertiser end, I'd say this type of data is most effectively collected through the trial and error of different SEO tactics.

You have a section on your blog for Money Saving Tips. What are some ways Qmee can be used to save money for the user?

The great thing about Qmee is that people don't have to change anything about their daily routine to be able to use it and earn money through the app. You just get the app by signing up with your email one time, and it works in the background in conjunction with whatever browser you normally use.

Qmee is definitely not a way to get rich quick, but it is a really easy way to earn a little extra money for doing what you're already doing. I always tell people it's like walking by a dollar bill on the street; you're going to pick it up, and that's one more dollar you didn't have before.

When we read about personal finance, we always hear about how the little expenses add up; when people analyze where they spend the most frivolously, it's typically on small things like coffee or eating out for lunch. Well, the little amounts can add up the opposite way as well. An extra few dollars here and there add up at the end of a year. The typical Qmee user who is a moderate "searcher" is earning about $5 per month through their regular daily search activity.

You also wrote a post recently about useful apps for the holidays. Are you aware of any apps or websites that are particularly useful for someone looking to save money year-round? What makes them so useful?

It's interesting because the evolution of the Internet has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for people interested in making money; it just depends on how much effort you're willing to put in. Qmee falls on the "no effort required" side of the spectrum. There are sites like Elance, for example, where people can bid on jobs in a variety of different fields. This can require quite a significant amount of effort; however, it does present people an opportunity to generate extra income from home or on the side.

If people are looking to save money, I'd say the most important thing is to not fall victim to a "spend to save trap." There are many apps that claim to save you money, but require you to actually purchase something to get cash back for example, or rewards sites that reward you in points or gift cards that can only be spent in places dictated by them. So sure, there is monetary value there; but it can't be considered saving money if you have to spend to get it.

What would you say to someone who thinks that saving money has to be a hardship by going without all the things they enjoy? How can savings actually help someone to enjoy their life?

I would say again, the little amounts add up so it doesn't have to be this huge, scary task to start saving. Use Qmee, earn a little extra for doing what you're already doing. Empty spare change out of your pockets at the end of each day and collect it in a jar. Give yourself a weekly allowance for extra things; so for example, this week instead of buying a coffee every day, I'm only going to buy it on Friday. Making small adjustments in several different areas can go a long way in saving, and it'll add up faster than you think.

I would also say set things up automatically. Even if it's just $25 a month for example, set it up so that the money you've designated for savings goes automatically from your checking to your savings account. Or to use Qmee as an example again, Qmee pays you your rewards via PayPal, but if you want to use Qmee specifically for saving, you can leave all your rewards there for up to two years and then cash out in one lump sum; and either leave the money in your PayPal account, transfer it to your savings, or decide that you've saved up enough and it's time for a treat! This way, you never see it; and again, it adds up faster than you think.

I think savings can help in two ways. I think first it alleviates stress, because you have the comfort in knowing you have some funds saved up. But also, it allows you to surprise yourself in life. If you have extra money saved at the end of a month or a year, the beauty is that you have it and it's yours to do what you like. So you can roll it over and keep saving, or you can treat yourself - maybe buy something you've had your eye on, or go on a trip. I think savings gives you a sense of financial freedom and choices.

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