Let me first state that there is a difference between “potential” and “actual” when it comes to anything in life. Although I cannot guarantee that these steps will fill your pocket with cash, I can say your potential for success will be vastly improved. How do I know this? Over the past five years, I’ve helped hundreds of clients develop content and seen first hand what works the best. While my blogs may not make money hand over fist, the potential is always there.
What You Need to Make Money from a Website
A friend of a client recently began looking into blogging to make money from home. He has a get-it-done attitude, but isn’t really planning out his first steps. Although I am pretty sure he won’t read this post, I wanted to at least try and break down what is needed to build a successful website.
Making money online is relatively easy. It’s making enough money to sustain a lifestyle that becomes tricky. For example, my sites will bring in just over $5 this month in ad revenue. That’s not exactly enough to keep the lights on in the house.
However, I write content all the time for people and organizations who make 20 to 100 times that amount from their blogs on a daily basis. What’s their secret? Well, that’s just it. It’s not really a secret at all. In reality, it all comes down to planning and effort.
Here are eight easy steps anyone can follow to enhance their own potential to make money from their sites and blogs.
1. Have an idea.
It all starts with an idea. While there have been people who make a bit of money from blogging simply by talking about life points and randomness, it seems the more successful sites are the ones that have a plan of action driving them. Niche websites are easier to market to visitors who are more likely to boost the potential of success.
Having an idea regarding what the site will be about will help determine everything from the domain name to the types of hosting you want to use. For instance, ILoveHorses.net wouldn’t make much sense if you blogged about babies or boats.
The overall topic of your site should influence the name. Take WriterSanctuary.com for example. Just from the name, you can tell the site has content relating to “writing.” Many experts agree how the connection between domain name and content are vastly important.
Personally, I like to use mind mapping apps like Mindomo.com. It will help you determine ideas for the blog as well as give you a logical flow of how to develop the site over time. If you don’t know how to use mind mapping apps, I would suggest doing a bit of research on them in Google. They can be incredibly useful.
2. Domain and Hosting Platform
Once you have an idea, it’s time to start setting up the domain and hosting accounts. You want to pick a good name that follows the idea and a hosting platform that is beneficial.
I use Godaddy as my registrar and Hostgator for hosting. Both have unique benefits that I needed back in 2008 and have served me very well over the years.
Initially, I signed up with Hostgator when I ran my own computer repair company. I chose an unlimited domain hosting platform because I knew I would be building more than one website. However, you don’t need to follow in my footsteps. I spend too much money every year maintaining my sites without a lot of return.
I would suggest starting off as small as possible and expanding as your site grows. This gives you an opportunity to determine if owning your own website is going to be something you’ll want to do over time without costing a lot of money upfront.
Using free website services such as WordPress.com is a great place to start. However, you are limited in what you can do as opposed to maintaining your own WordPress host.
For example, I can install any plugins I want and show any advertisers who suit my fancy. I am not as limited in development as free hosting accounts. The trade-off is that you can explore a free platform to determine if you’re serious enough to invest money into blogging.
3. Using WordPress
Any Content Management System is great when it comes to maintaining a website. A CMS gives you the foundation of building just about anything without relying on coding knowledge. This means you don’t need to understand a single line of HTML or PHP to build an amazing website. WordPress is perhaps the easiest of these systems.
Most hosting platforms come with a way to install WordPress on your domain automatically. It’s a one-click install and your site will be ready to go.
I have used a variety of CMS applications and found WordPress to be far easier to use than others. However, Joomla is perhaps my second favorite. No matter what you choose, a system like this makes development faster for the average Internet user.
4. Choosing a Theme and Layout
In October of 2015, Adobe released a report that states how 38% of visitors stop engaging with a website if the layout or appearance is unattractive. Whether you’re a blogger or setting up an eCommerce site, this is a staggering number. That means you could lose more than a third of your traffic simply because of what your site looks like.
Think about it like this: Instead of a website making $50 per day because of a poor layout, it had potential to make more than $75.
If you have a few moments to spare, I’d suggest you take a look at the report from Adobe. It’s quite enlightening when it comes to design.
Your theme and layout need to accentuate the purpose of the website. For example, a golfing blog would perhaps use more natural tones and greens while a site about boating or water skiing would use more fluid colors and blues. If you think about it, there’s a bit of psychology that goes into picking the color scheme of a website.
5. Choose Excellent Starter Plugins
Once WordPress is set up and you have that perfect theme for your content, it’s time to pick some good starter plugins. These small tools can do everything from protect your site to boosting productivity. Of course you want to pick tools that will benefit your content, but some are universally sound.
Here are my top five choices when building a website to make money:
Jetpack is a plugin that comes with a wide assortment of tools for many different purposes. I use it for Proofread, Publicize, Stats and SEO modules more than anything. It comes pre-installed with many versions of WordPress and is exceptionally useful when paired with a free account at WordPress.com
- Yoast SEO
Search engines are how most of your visitors are going to find you. Yoast SEO not only helps boost visibility in sites like Google and Bing, it also gives you suggestions and alerts to help you create better content. For instance, I often rely on the Readability feature to make content easier to absorb by the average Internet user.
- TinyMCE Advanced
Although WordPress already comes with a decent text editor for creating content, TinyMCE Advanced takes it to a whole new level. It comes with additional features that turns the editor into something more akin to Microsoft Word. You can customize its appearance using drag-and-drop functionality as well.
- Broken Link Checker
Links play an important role for building a website. Whether they are internal or external, they help in search engine optimization as well as offering other places for visitors to go. Broken Link Checker verifies that those links are still live. Keep in mind a broken link can actually hurt your SEO ranking.
- Wordfence Security
No list of WordPress plugins would be complete without security of some kind. Wordfence is perhaps one of the most popular and well-rated security plugins. It’s free, effective and protects your website from a myriad of issues.
In reality, you’ll want to spend a bit of time researching different plugins for what you’re trying to build. Calendars, countdown timers, even recipe builders are all available in WordPress.
6. Consistently Writing Content
Being consistent when it comes to writing content is key to driving success. For example, my blogs would be far more successful if I was regular when it came to creating content. Unfortunately, I often don’t have the time I would like to put into my sites.
The companies I write for produce between one and three posts per day. These range anywhere from 800 to 3000 words each. Now, I know there are some experts that attest to how 2000+ word articles are the best. However, I’ve found that a 1500 word article can be more productive than a 3000 word piece simply because of context and quality.
The point is that you need to produce a regular stream of material if you want people to keep reading. One or two posts a week will not be as effective as one or two posts per day. Without something for people to read, you can’t expect to make money from the site.
If you do have an ultra-busy day like mine, you’ll do well to devise a schedule that can keep you productive. Otherwise, it can be easy to focus on other projects while your blog sits idle. An idle blog has less potential to make money, even if it’s popular.
7. Determine a Revenue Stream
In my experience, there have been three primary methods clients make money from a website:
- Ad revenue
- Affiliate Sales
Some clients will utilize one of these while others have all three running in tandem. However, not everyone has the capacity to maintain all three. Here is a break down of how each one works.
Ad revenue usually comes in the form of displaying advertisements for other organizations. For example, using services like Google Adsense is perhaps one of the most common. In fact, I use Adsense on all of my blogs. It’s quick, easy and can be quite lucrative if you build a popular website. Very few ads will pay you for simply showing it. Most of the money made on these ad sharing networks is accumulated by visitors clicking on them.
I’ve made a few dollars in the past with affiliate sales. This is when someone clicks on a banner from your website and makes a purchase. You can earn a percentage of the sale or a flat fee depending on the affiliated company. This is best used when the affiliate company is relevant to your blog’s niche. For instance, you wouldn’t show banners for a pet supply company on a site that focuses on infant care.
Perhaps one of the most popular and profitable forms of making money from a website is eCommerce. In fact, most of my higher-paying clients either offer services or goods for sale. However, this is a far more involved process as you need to have time to run an online store as well as your day-to-day lifestyle. With ad revenue and affiliates, you can simply set up the banners and ads and forget about them. Selling goods online is more pro-active.
If you’re just starting out, I would suggest at least setting up the ad revenue stream. You won’t make a lot of money until your site gains popularity, but it’s less to worry about. You might be able to add affiliates, but many organizations require a certain level of content on a site before authorizing you to advertise their goods.
8. Market the Blog
Once you start getting the website established, it’s time to start marketing it. This is where a great deal of your time will be spent. There is quite a bit that goes into making sure people see your content. After all, you won’t make money unless you drive traffic.
Setting Up Google Webmaster Tools
The first step to marketing the website is setting up Google Webmaster tools. You should do this in conjunction with using Yoast SEO as the plugin will help you set up a sitemap and connect to the platform. In either case, you’ll need this account to set up Google Analytics if you want to track the progress of your website. It’s definitely worth the effort if you want to be successful.
Researching New Content Ideas
Research and development is important in any aspect of life, this includes blogging. While there is really nothing wrong with simply writing about what ever comes to mind, researching keywords and trends will help get your content in front of more people quickly. Keeping your thumb on the pulse of your blog’s industry is definitely a bonus.
Social Media Engagement
Social media is an important part of building an online presence. More than 56% of adults on the Internet use two or more social media sites. The more engaging you are on sites like Facebook and Twitter, the better. I use tools like Buffer or Jetpack’s Publicize tool to share all of my posts immediately. However, it takes more than just making a post. Interacting with commentors is how you grow and cultivate a loyal audience.
Blog Submission Sites
Blog submission sites have potential to be helpful. However, I’ve found them to be more ineffective when compared to sharing on social media. In fact, displaying too many badges from these submissions sites has potential to affect your site’s performance when it comes to speed. Still, it’s often a free method to distribute your content. Lately, I’ve been posting things in Postwaves. It’s a new platform that doesn’t have a lot of users but has great potential.
Effort Will Determine Success
While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll create a vast fortune while blogging, there is potential for generating revenue even for the smallest of websites. If there is one thing I have learned over the years is that effort will determine your level of success to make money. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t make money immediately. It could take a lot of time before your site replaces a full-time income.