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Make Money with the Internet

July 10, 2005 | Three Rules for Generating Revenue

I should start this post with the disclaimer that since I make little money off this or any other website, the advice that follows is nothing more than my own dreamy conjectures. That said, if you intend to generate website revenue, you could probably do a lot worse than considering the following three rules.

1. Your website must “own” a popular niche keyword.
Any website with an ad-driven revenue model is dependent on traffic, and the best way to drive traffic to your site is by optimizing for search engines. Many separate efforts encompass search engine optimization, but perhaps most essential for generating revenue is identifying niche keywords. Niche keywords are phrases that many users search for but which few competing websites serve. For example, you might find that several websites are already optimized for the keyword “dog photos,” but that very few are optimized for “dog pictures.” If research also shows that a large number of internet users actually search for “dog pictures,” the phrase would be a very good keyword. Online software like Wordtracker can tell you both how many searches are done for a particular keyword and how many competitors for that keyword exist.

2. Your website must generate its own content.
Once you have driven a lot of free traffic to your site via search engines, you must then deliver as many ad impressions to that audience as possible. This requires substantial amounts of frequently-updated content, but your site won’t make any money if you must produce that content yourself, or even worse, pay someone else to produce it for you. The majority of site content must therefore come from your users. (Sites that employ this model well include College Humor, IgoUgo, Designologue, and most famously, Hot or Not.) Please note, getting users to submit content is no easy task, but photos are much easier to gather than original copy.

3. Your website must cover topics desirable to advertisers.
Even if search engine optimization has given your site free traffic and self-generating content has produced a lot of ad impressions, you still won’t earn much from your website unless the ads pay well. For example, animal rights ads pay poorly because few advertisers bid on the topic and the ones that do have little money to spend. (On Meat Junkie, an animal rights website, I only average $.03 a click, so even at a somewhat optimistic click-through-rate of 1%, it still would take 3,000 ad impressions to even earn a dollar.) A better choice for generating website revenue would be a topic like travel since travel ads often earn more than $.50 or per click. Wordtracker is also useful for researching which topics pay what.

So what are some possible websites that could fit all three criteria? I have a few ideas I’m not sharing at the moment, but when I try one out I’ll update this entry with a case study. In the meantime, please feel free to add your own thoughts or suggestions in a comment below. Digg Furl Reddit StumbleUpon Technorati

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