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|What kind of site does it take...|
...to make enough to live off of?
A lot of webmasters on this forum are making a living off their sites. What I'd like to know is: How do you do it? Does it take a huge, professionally created site? A series of small sites? Can one person working alone with minimal programming skills manage it? I know that every site and topic is different and that there are probably tiny hobby sites out there raking in the cash, but what kinds of site setups are most likely to pull in enough cash to live off of?
The key is really the domain names and not the website, especially during the early stages.
It takes more than a domain name. You need content or a series of small web sites.
|The key is really the domain names and not the website, especially during the early stages. |
This sounds like made for AdSense. :) I say traveling and electronics make the most, but I can't back that up and it's just a guess.
|I know that every site and topic is different and that there are probably tiny hobby sites out there raking in the cash, but what kinds of site setups are most likely to pull in enough cash to live off of? |
Traveling and electronics are not at the top. Anything involving money services is where the money is at. I know plenty of people with little to no tech skills making 6 figures a year with Adsense. The key is to make a site that gets visitors looking for something in particular. Your site should be about that subject. Your title and description should be written in such a way that they think they can get what they are looking for. Your site should provide just enough information to get you ranked for the terms you want and get ads targeted to what your visitors are looking for. The site should also be good enough to not lose your ranking by a hand penalty. If you are in a good money making sector your competitors will make a spam report about your site guaranteed. Your content should not provide any solution that will send them on their way without clicking on an ad. Your goal is to get them to click on the ad. Don't say anything to that affect of course because that is against the rules.
Great job Ogletree, one of the best and also most concise reports on how to be successfull at it ever written.
However, a major issue (which you did not mention) is the domain name value and getting traffic without needing to heavily rely on search engines.
P.S. Not sure what a hand penalty is?
Google has people that look at spam reports and when they see a site that violates some unforgivable sin they will just zap your site from the db. Meaning there is no way to find your site in the index at all. The most common one is if you buy a site and completely change the site to a made for Adsense or affiliate website that has nothing to do with the backlinks. Others are selling links and cloaking. I'm sure there are more but those are the ones I know about.
Also you may see a site that has been doing all that and been up for years. That is possible. Google does not bother too much with sites that are not successful. When you start getting lots of traffic and spam reports is when they notice. With success comes prying eyes.
Also a deleted domain will most often get a ban but that is not by hand it is automatic. Any spammer worth there salt has had sites banned. It just goes with the territory. I you haven't been banned your not trying hard enough.
I'm sure a good domain is good but my experience is from se traffic where domain means nothing. What I said is the most efficient way to make money from adsense. Anything else will bring you a lower CPM. I'm sure there are some obscure examples where that statement falls apart but it stands true most the time.
I have seen lousy domains with good content get tons of traffic, content or info must be in demand, excellent content on 6th century Catholic Saints isn't going to cut it, theres no demand. The best way is have about 5 sites, cultivate the most promising site, scrap the worst performing sites and replace it with a new Idea. Making a site then adding adsense is within the tos, desiging a site around adsense is not.
There are several people making a good living off our one site - so I'll see what I can do to help.
|Does it take a huge, professionally created site? |
Our site is pretty big now - several thousand pages. Many of them unique content that cannot be found elsewhere on the web. So content is really important.
|Can one person working alone with minimal programming skills manage it? |
That's not the way I've done it - (I was a programmer before getting into web sites) - but yes, one person and no programming skills is definitely possible. There are sites in my niche that have been done that way - and are doing very well indeed.
In some ways the tech skills are as much of a distraction as an advantage - many highly successful sites are technically very basic, and even quite poorly designed. It's the information they contain that's important, not how it looks, or works behind the scenes.
|what kinds of site setups are most likely to pull in enough cash to live off of? |
Something in a niche. Try to be a big fish in a small pond, not vice versa. Own a small niche. Loads of things could be profitable - if there are some affiliate programs available, and some adsense ads on related terms, then there's the chance to make money. Picking something you know and love will make life a lot easier. So will choosing something without too much competition.
The most important thing is to research and plan carefully and then STICK AT IT. You'll work like crazy for six months, and probably not make a cent. 99% of people probably give up at that point - which is just as well for those of us that don't. (I think it was more than a year before I got any income at all - though that was a few years ago - there was no AdSense then).
Don't put all your eggs in the AdSense basket though - we still make more with Affiliate programs - though the gap is closing.
My experience is it's the content that matters, not the domain name. Our domain is Ok - but I reckon I could make just as much with a useless one - to me, domain's are worth about $10. It's all about the content, not the domain, not the programming, not the design, the content.
I'll second what 7-driver said. I'm a biggish fish in a smaller pond, but I've got lots of content 3,000+ pages of articles plus another 15,000+ pages of forum content indexed by Google that brings in additional traffic. Sit down and think of the topic areas that interest you the most and then think of the website that could provide that information the best. It's better to narrow down the niche and totally own it and then slowly expand the coverage. Be nice, make friends, and stick around for the long term. I've been working on my site for 6 years, and only really started making my living from it in the last year or so. I absolutely love the topic, so I have no problem keeping interested and disciplined.
There are several ways to go:
1) Some people use the "made for AdSense" site approach. Typically, such sites have just enough content (possibly scraped from other sites) to feed the AdSense ad-matching bot and gain placement on search-engine result pages. This tactic obviously has been working for some people, but it may not be viable for the long run. Another downside is that the site has no intrinsic value, so it's likely to get tossed in the dumpster if the owner's AdSense account is cancelled.
2) Another approach is to build a content site, preferably on a topic that attracts ads and people who spend money online. This is a good long-term strategy, but (unlike a "made for AdSense" site) it may require writing and editorial skills along with technical skills.
3) The third approach is to place AdSense ads on an existing site that can be anything from a content site to an affiliate, e-commerce, or general business site. This is by far the easiest way to start earning income from AdSense, assuming that you already have a site of reasonable size. Whether you'll ever be able to make a living from AdSense alone will depend mostly on your topic and the size of your audience.
I like the "content site" approach myself, partly because my background is in publishing but also because a good editorial site can generate multiple revenue streams (e.g., AdSense and links to affiliate programs that meet readers' needs). Also, "evergreen" editorial content is an asset that can be leveraged in other ways, as About.com's sale to The New York Times Co. for $410 million clearly demonstrates.
The approach ive adopted is find a subject I like then research like mad for a niche within that subject - One with very little compettiton AND has relativly high adsense payments.
I have just found one after around 3 days of intensive work, the sites going to be around 30 - 40 pages long, I guess Ill make $75 - $125 per month off of it (in time).
So its no way a get rich quick scheme but you can set up a further 10 sites.... Then your on a nice income stream follows.
People seem to think that its easy making and running a successful site. It isnt it takes a hell of a lot of work.
So to answer your question, yes you can make a living from it.
|Also, "evergreen" editorial content is an asset... |
This is pretty much europeforvisitors' catchphrase, and with good reason. When writing for the web you don't get paid straight away; you get a little bit in a couple of weeks, and then a bit more the following weeks, and so on. If you write content that doesn't go out of date, then you can keep earning for the same bit of work forever, which will make it much easier to get to the point where you earn enough to live off. This point isn't emphasised often enough (even though europeforvisitors likes to sneak it into a lot of his posts).
All the tactics mentioned here are viable and legitamate ways of making money. They all have pros and cons and I can't say one is better than the other. It just depends on the person. I don't think it is right for europeforvisitors and others to make a moral issue out of it. europeforvisitors way of doing things represents a large number of people on WebmasterWorld and the way I do it represents a large number of people on WebmasterWorld. This forum is for all webmasters. Many of the sites complained about on this board are owned by WebmasterWorld members. I have even had people post my URL's on WebmasterWorld becaues it was an example of what they don't like.
I can't give advice on how to make the most money.
I have been working on monetizing a site of mine for a year. I only recently have started making a small amount of money. It has taken me along time to learn and had I not enjoyed the topic my site was on I would have stopped trying.
Some people disagree but at least pick something you are interested in for your first site. You have a lot to learn about a lot of topics so you'll need some extra desire to keep going sometimes.
|Something in a niche. Try to be a big fish in a small pond, not vice versa. Own a small niche. Loads of things could be profitable - if there are some affiliate programs available, and some adsense ads on related terms, then there's the chance to make money. Picking something you know and love will make life a lot easier. So will choosing something without too much competition. |
If this thread had a "golden nugget" of informatin for a newbie, this would be it.
I started with a site I made out of personal interest. It was online several years before Adsense existed, and since joining adsense hasn't changed. I had no programming skills, but learned just enough to get by in basic html. My site is #3 on google with the main keywords. The income is way out of proportion to what I expected. I started adsense to hopefully pay the hosting costs of the site over a year. I make that in a couple of days now, so there you go. Time and patience has it's rewards.
I have just started a second site, with Adsense in mind. It's basically a cut down version of a couple of key pages of my site that is aimed at a different intellectual level. It's getting good visitor numbers for a new site, and hopefully will do well on adsense.
Now I'm looking to set up a third site in a completely different niche. Thought of the idea in the shower. Clearly a good place for ideas! I did a few searches to see if the niche was filled or not, and there is clearly a gap. Maybe for a reason? Time will tell.
Anyway, my approach this time is not to add adsense to start with. I'm getting the site online, getting the content, promoting it and then putting ads on when the visitors start arriving. The difference being that I knew the niche of my first two sites, and the new niche is very much an unknown.
I personally think there are shades of grey on "Made for Adsense". Scraper Scum is clearly a shade of black, sites that are purely a couple of pages of very limited content and lots of ads are varying shades of grey (dependant on the ratio), and making a site of interesting content on something you personally are interested hoping to monetise it is probably a pretty light shade.
If ever there were something posted here at WebmasterWorld that everyone should read and heed, you've just written it. You tell it like it is. Personally I could care less what sites are doing to be in the search results. If I don't like a result, I skip it and go on to the next one. If I don't like an engine, I have many to choose from. If something really really bothers me (it has to be a porn site result on a completely off-topic family friendly search query) then I report it. If someone's dmoz clone shows up in the results I could care less. If they've done a good job, I'll bookmark it and use it instead of the dmoz site. This whole attitude of every dmoz clone and every repeat article site is "scraper scum" is getting rather tiresome.
Has Brett taken a stand on the definition of scum scraper? I'd be curious to know.
"I personally think there are shades of grey on "Made for Adsense". Scraper Scum is clearly a shade of black, sites that are purely a couple of pages of very limited content and lots of ads are varying shades of grey (dependant on the ratio), and making a site of interesting content on something you personally are interested hoping to monetise it is probably a pretty light shade."
Excellent observation. The problem is, some here would say that every example you've listed is a "scum scraper" and should be reported.
If we could somehow agree to focus on our own sites, and only report the blatantly obvious poor result such as the porn example I mentioned above we'd probably find ourselves engaging in much more productive activity.
One of the sites I have is a small 2 page thingy. I get about +80,000 new visits a day on that site for the last 2 months now)
Not much of interesting data on it (it's something in flash people love to look at and try)
The nice thing is that Adsense okayed it for ads.
Right now (for the last 2 months) it's been the site that is making the big money for me! (read really big money)
The website I'm talking about is the kind you would see when a person makes his 1st website and guess what.. I'm a webdesigner..
Moral of my story.. I do not need a professionally created site.. I do not need a lot of interesting text on it... All I need is visitors..
[edited by: Noel at 1:47 pm (utc) on Feb. 20, 2005]
If the site has quality content, and traffic starts to trickle in, I think it's wise to not immediately add adsense or affiliate programs to the site.
It's easier to get listed in quality directories and get free backlinks when your site is deemed non commercial.
Then when the traffic really begins to flow, and you have plenty of content and some quality backlinks it's time to milk that ad revenue :)
This isn't suitable for everyone, but I feel this is the strategy to adopt longterm. Plus if you throw up adsense on a new, low traffic site, your probably more vulnerable to invalid clicks.
Consider your "exit clicks". Every page you produce has a means for the reader to get elsewhere:-
1. An internal link to elsewhere on your site.
2. The back button on their browser.
3. An advert.
You need to force people through to #3. Ogletree has summed this up well - you need just enough content on your page to attract the traffic, but not quite enough that they get what they're looking for. By a process of manipulation (getting the copy right takes a little practice) you make their preferred exit route an ad. click. Most of the time advertising is about selling something. You need content to attract potential buyers (I personally find widget "reviews" the easiest way to accomplish this).
Standard common or garden SEO rules apply in terms of getting the traffic in the first place.
Concentrate not on the reader, but on the advertiser. You're effectively acting as their sales agent. Give them what they want (a sale) and you'll be rewarded by Smart Pricing (and you can bank on google making this smarter as time goes on).
I wholly agree and subscribe to the big fish in a small pond theory.
Great post! nice break from the "bad $ days" . .
a few comments:
1) "domain names"
Domain names are not even worth $10 - I think they are $7.95 these days :)
*The only domain names that have value are the "single word" ones - my friend bought a huge one for $300k last year, he should see that in monthly revenue this year . . .
2) It's easier to get listed in quality directories and get free backlinks when your site is deemed non commercial.
* GREAT point! I have been thinking about this for a new niche that I have been working on.
3) Concentrate not on the reader, but on the advertiser. You're effectively acting as their sales agent. Give them what they want (a sale) and you'll be rewarded by Smart Pricing (and you can bank on google making this smarter as time goes on).
*WOW what a great statement (I just printed that out for my wall!)
4) I also always agree with ogletree - I'm glad he came back to post here!
|I do not need a professionally created site |
could that be rephrased: "I do need a site that's not professionally created"?
Ogletree, thank you for such a concise, useful post.
Would more experienced members care to share some methodologies of finding niche areas?
For example, large number of adwords / low number of organic search results for a given phrase may indicate
profitable / not very competitive area?
Another question - has anybody found it feasible to advertise adsense site via PPC engines (probably not adwords, but the secondary ones?)
1) On niches:
Find something you can compete in. Forget the super high paying keywords. Here is a tip - find a BIG category that has local / regioanal opportunities. Focus one one of these cities / regions. Easier then going after the whole world of the niche.
2) "Another question - has anybody found it feasible to advertise adsense site via PPC engines (probably not adwords, but the secondary ones?)"
* Yes and Yes. You just need to watch it daily for a week and then every week to watch ROI.
|All the tactics mentioned here are viable and legitamate ways of making money. |
You could use the same argument to defend e-mail spam or even telemarketing. :-)
But let's not get bogged down in yet another discussion of the greater good vs. opportunism or "do unto others..." vs. "look out for number one." Instead, let's get back to the question of "What kind of site does it take to make enough to live off of?" If you plan to live off that site indefinitely, you need to think about related questions such as "What happens if my AdSense income goes away?", "Am I building for the short term or the long term?", and "Will the site allow me to earn income from multiple revenue streams?"
I happen to prefer the "long term" and "multiple revenue streams" approach, but that doesn't have to mean an editorial site like mine. It could mean an e-commerce site, a high-quality "value-added" affiliate site, or a community site, for example. With any of those, the owner would still have a way to earn a living (albeit at a reduced level) if AdSense suddenly tightened its rules, made big adjustments to its "smart pricing" algorithm, gave filters or controls to advertisers, or made other changes that could have a negative impact on a given site's AdSense revenues.
People have mentioned electronics, "financial" sites, and a couple of others as sites with high PPC, but does anyone have any experience with political sites?
I'm curious because I threw up a two page site that was political (it was an off the cuff rant about a local politician), threw an AdSense tower on it (mostly out of habit), and...
Well, I was a little shocked. The PPC was far higher than I expected, and so was the CTR.
The traffic died off after a couple of weeks, but it suddenly made me think about taking a real interest in politics ;)
Anyone else know anything in this area? Am I being mislead by a two-week "blip"? Or is it actually a viable area?
The domain is just sitting there rotting right now.
|You could use the same argument to defend e-mail spam or even telemarketing. :-) |
No you could not. Those are things that are intrusive and there are laws that govern them. All I do is put up a website I do not call anybody or fill up their inbox. I did not force search engines to put a link to my site on theirs. If I make a painting and put it on my front porch and somebody picks it up and hangs it in a museum I did not cause people to look at it. I am not breaking any laws.
The affilaite ads that I run would throw me out of their system if they did not like the traffic I sent. I have to assume that the adwords advertisers like the traffic as well because it is the same type of traffic. I have huge double digit convertion rates and high CPM's because my traffic is so well targeted. Often times I rank for terms that have fewer than 1000 results and no adwords ads. If I and others were not there that searcher would not have found what they were looking for.
I am in this to make money not to waste searchers time.
I agree that a long term approach is a good idea and I have sites that do that as well. But as long as easy money is around I will get me some. As to the original question I don't think they were looking for a way to make a real good high quaility long term site. europeforvisitors your site is very good and it looks like a lot of hard work went into it. I have found it a few times when I was searching and it provided me information.
|As to the original question I don't think they were looking for a way to make a real good high quaility long term site. |
Well, he or she was talking about a site to "live off of," which does imply a certain long-term focus--as opposed to the guy who started the recent thread about how many pages it would take to earn $1,000 a day. :-)
Wow. What a great thread.
But let's face it: Newbies want to know how much money your sites make! LOL. Since that is obviously inappropriate to ask for or disclose in this or any other context, let me refer Curiosity to a recent issue of Forbes magazine (or was it Fortune?). Anyway, it's the one that has the Google founders on the cover, against a brown-ish background. In the feature story, they discuss a 19-year old webmaster who does quite well with his low-maintenance web site. They provide the URL and the AdSense $/month. As best I can tell from my investigation, the website went up 6 years ago, when the webmaster was 13. The issue is off the racks now, so rush out to your dentist's office and search his waiting room for back issues. I wasn't able to find the story online.
Or, feel free to sticky me for the URL and the AdSense $/month, as I remember it from the magazine.
Not to discount the fantastic information that has been posted in this thread. What other people make is not useful to me at all. Thanks to everyone who provided info to those of us just starting out, who are endeavoring to create a content-rich site for the long haul.
So how do you guys go about actually determining if it's a niche market or not? Is something like fantasy sports still niche, or has that become too mainstream? Do you just google your topic and see how many relevant sites come up?
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