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Builder clicks into Google's ad cash

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By Rob Stock - Sunday Star Times - 10/Jan/2010

Les Kenny with electric drill FROM BRICKS and mortar to clicks and mortar, former builder Les Kenny is raking in around $xxxxx a month from his Buildeazy website, which offers free DIY project plans to users.

At 61, Kenny doesn't fit the usual stereotype of the thrusting young internet entrepreneur.

And though he believes his example is one anyone can follow, he admits he never planned for the success he has had: "Every morning I have to pinch myself."

Buildeazy.com started as a hobby for Kenny over eight years ago when he decided he would share his successful DIY projects with the wider world, putting them up online for anyone to access.

"It was just going to be an Auckland thing and all of a sudden it started picking up visitors from the States. I didn't plan it. The search engines just picked it up."

At the time, he said, there were virtually no sites providing free DIY project plans, and Kenny recalls sniping emails from irate Americans selling such plans, claiming he was helping demolish their businesses.

"I just liked doing it for free. It was a passion for me," Kenny said, though he invested hundreds of hours into building the site, as illustrated by the DIY projects which fill his house and garden.

But then, six years ago, Kenny discovered Google's AdSense program, where internet publishers can host Google advertising on their websites containing links to advertisers who pay Google on a cents (and sometimes dollars) per click basis for their links to appear. Publishers such as Kenny get most of that revenue.

The more popular a website, the more clicks and the bigger the cheques that arrive every two weeks from Google.

The trickle of cash became a torrent, said Kenny.

"It was just $3 or $4 a day to begin with, but then it started to pick up and get to be more and more until we were waking up in the morning, looking at the money and saying we just couldn't believe it. It just kept growing and now it is almost $xxxxx a month."

The whole family chips in now. His wife, Jenny, has her own site - Craftyjenny.com - and his two daughters help provide content and graphics support. He doesn't employ them per se, he laughs: "But they help themselves to the money."

The income meant Kenny could ditch his day job. "I was never a businessman. I was just a builder. We were bringing up four kids, working, one step forwards and two backwards, never getting ahead," he recalls.

clip from newspaper He has started travelling the world because he can forget about the site for periods and the money just keeps rolling in. But his mind is rarely off DIY, even when he's abroad. He's just launched a new site called Travellingbuilder.com for DIY projects showing how to make things such as the king's chair he saw at Nottingham Castle in the UK, or the stylised concrete chair he spotted in Barcelona.

A private man, Kenny said he was speaking to the Sunday Star-Times only to give a little back to Google and spread the word about AdSense, and he thinks it could be particularly relevant to older New Zealanders who have so much experience to share.

Google AdSense spokeswoman Mel Chan said that although Kenny was doing well, most private Adsense publishers were not in his league.

"Making money online is never the quick and easy magical formula that the spruikers put out there," she said.

"New Zealand is one of the crown jewels in this region. We are finding a lot of very successful publishers come out of New Zealand and we concentrate on them."

NOTE: A couple of time periods have been changed (corrected) in the above article from the original, and the monthly money amounts have been crossed out.