Following are the exact steps that I took to launch a small website that ended up bringing in over $100,000 in profit.
I launched this website about 10 years ago, and it’s still earning. Many of the strategies are as relevant today as they were 10 years ago.
This is a long post but it still touches on things at a high-level. I have included links to many other resources so that you can dig deeper. Please free to comment below if you want me to elaborate on anything.
What you will learn:
- Why you should build something NOW
- How simple the site was that make me $100,000
- How to come up with an idea
- How to hire someone to build a website or app
- How to find and join affiliate programs
- How to get traffic
- How advertising might help
- The impact of quality incoming links
- Why it’s important to keep improving and marketing your website
Why I built the site
The whole money for time thing sucks.
I used to teach a fair amount at colleges and universities in Winnipeg. I loved teaching. It is very rewarding to see the light go on when explaining a complicated concept to a student. Despite the love, it can be very draining (I was working full-time and teaching part-time).
Trading my time for money has always made me feel uneasy. Back in the early 2000’s I had a few small websites earning a little bit of money (I am talking about $10.00 a month) and I had been following the online marketing industry for a few years so I knew it was possible to build a website that would bring in passive income. Despite knowing the possibilities, I always found it easy to dream or easy to start projects but various issues and insecurities would keep me from launching. I needed something to push me.
I found a way to gamify things and compete against myself. One of the courses I was teaching ran Thursdays from 6pm to 10pm for 10 weeks. I decided that I was going to opt out of teaching for one semester and spend my newly found 40 hours launching a website. My hope was to earn more than I would have teaching for the semester.
Lesson: Pick a goal, start small, and just do it!
Why you should build something
My goal was to earn more than $2000. In the end I made well over $100,000.
If you are reading this post, you want to make money online, have online businesses, or are following me because I was pimping this post on social media. For many of you, all of the above will apply.
The title of this post says it all. You should launch a website to make some moola! My goal was to earn more than $2000. In the end I earned well over $100,000 (and continue to earn). You can do this as well – even if you don’t know anything about how to build a website.
Lesson: You don’t need any technical skills to launch a website.
Teaser: In March I will show you EXACTLY how to launch a website.
How I came up with the idea
I was browsing rent-a-coder.com (which has since been purchased by freelancer.com) because I was considering hiring freelancers for a few projects. I spent a few minutes studying ads to get an idea of how I should post mine and how much I should be looking to pay.
I saw some interesting ads. Many of them were looking for someone to clone other sites on the internet. One in particular caught my eye. The poster wanted to clone a website that redirected users looking for a specific product to eBay and show them auctions for the product with misspelled titles. The idea was that these items would not receive a lot of bids because potential bidders would not find these products.
This specific idea caught my attention for two reasons:
- I knew it was something that I could build and launch in less than 40 hours
- I knew that I wouldn’t have to write a lot of content (which is extremely time consuming and something I hate)
I also knew that eBay had an affiliate program and that I’d have the opportunity to drive traffic there and make money. The Idea was born!
Lesson: It’s important that you pick a niche that you can commit to. I continue to struggle with this today (I have all sorts of half complete websites). For some this means picking a topic that you are passionate about. For me it means picking something that I can visualize being profitable. I have learned that picking a topic I am passionate about doesn’t always help motivate me – sure I love golf but I still don’t feel like spending my time working on websites about golf – I feel like golfing.
How you can come up with an idea
The fact that I came up with that idea while looking to hire someone was a total fluke. You probably already have an idea, if not you can use the same strategy to come with a million dollar (or 100k) idea.
You’ll want to browse posted projects and look for something that really interests you or that you feel can be built easily. If you don’t know what is easy or hard to build you can often tell by looking at the price people are paying for the work and the amount of interest. For example: If someone is offering $250.00 to have a website built and there are 70 people bidding for the work then you can probably assume building something similar would not be very expensive/complicated.
Flippa is a market place for buying and selling websites. Flippa can be a great tool because sellers share their revenue and traffic. You’ll want to setup some filters to cut through all the garbage.
Sold websites on Flippa
Select advanced search and look at websites that have already sold for $10,000 or more. Here is a link with some search filters already in place. It will show you websites that receive more than 10,000 unique visitors a month and earn at least $500.00 per month.
Active Listings on Flippa
Select established sites and then add appropriate filters. Here is a link that will show you actively listed websites that earn at least $500 per month and receive at least 1,000 unique visitors per month. You will want to ignore anything with zero bids.
If you already have an idea, you can roll with it. Picking a niche is a huge topic in itself but you MUST a topic and BUILD something. You’ll either learn or earn or both. Either way you’ll be closer to knocking one out of the park.
More reading on picking a niche:
- Smart Passive Income talks about doing things better in already saturated niches.
- Chris Ducker: Keyword research is commonly used when picking a niche.
Lesson: Picking a niche is important but you can’t become paralyzed in analysis. Just launch something!
Want to see my site?
Interested in learning more about the exact site I built? Share this post to get instant access to the site and see the URL. Spoiler alert: it’s nothing fancy but still brought in more than $100,000.00
The site I launched is called AuctionBloopers. It’s a simple tool that allows visitors to find deals on eBay. See the exact site that brought in 100k right here. It’s nothing fancy.
How I built it
In my case, the game was to spend the time I would have spent teaching launching a site. So, I built the website myself. I was familiar with asp.net, html, and css so I was able to whip something together quickly.
I did eventually hire someone to design the site. I literally tracked down designers that had designed other sites I liked and asked them to whip something up quick and cheap for me (I could have also used the freelance sites mentioned above). The designer provided a PSD (image of what the website would look like) and then I used HTMLSliceMate services to have it coded (turned into a web page) for me.
How you can build something?
You don’t need to know how to code. If you are building something that requires a lot of code and customization you can hire it out. It will be quite affordable (you can have a great website build for a few hundred dollars).
All you need to be able to do is effectively communicate what you want. This involves documenting exactly how the website or application will work so that freelancers can estimate the amount of work and bid accordingly. If you are building a blog or website aimed at providing information (like the blog you are visiting right now) you can do this without ever having to touch or see code thanks to the power of word press. This is a great way to start and it’s cuts down the technical learning curve and allows you to jump in and learn as you go so to speak. I’ll walk you exactly how to do that in March and April.
- The Pursuit of Epic has a good post on how to write a good job posting for online market places.
Note: It’s important to remember that you don’t have to build your website yourself. You can hire someone to do it. In fact I am a big fan of DDIY (Don’t do it yourself)
What is an Affiliate?
Affiliate marketing is one of the ways you can make money online.
Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing that rewards website owners (you and I) for sending customers (our visitors) to retailers. For example if you click the link above and use HTMLSliceMate services they will pay me for referring you to their services.
In my case I was driving traffic to eBay. Every-time I send a visitor to eBay (who purchases something) I get a small commission from eBay.
We will leave it for another post but there are many other ways to make money online.
How to Join Affiliate Programs
Finding and joining affiliate programs is pretty straight forward.
Finding an affiliate program for a specific retailer:
If you are targeting a specific retailer they will often have a link in the footer of their page. If not you can search google with: <Retailer> Affiliate Program.
More often than not you’ll be able to choose the best of many affiliate programs. For example maybe you have a website about golf and are writing a post about the best golf balls on the market, a bit of browsing will reveal many retailers that have affiliate programs (GolfSmith, Amazon, SportChek.ca, inthehole.com etc.)
- Sugarrae has an outstanding post on choosing affiliate programs.
How I Started to get Traffic
Things do change fast on the internet. I was “able” to get a link on a website that posted three cool links per day, “someone” also paid to submit my site to 250 directories (don’t do this). Once the search engines began crawling the site I was ranking for a few terms and getting a few visitors per month.
How you can get traffic
This is a huge topic that cannot be covered in this post or any single post but let’s go over a few things. I’ll also provide a few links.
Tip: If you are just getting started pick a tiny niche. You will have a much better chance of ranking. Your success (though it may be small because your niche is small) will provide you with lots of learning, some income, and an abundance of excitement and momentum which you can ride into your next project.
If you follow online marketing you may have heard that “niche site building” is dead. That’s far from the truth. What’s dead is the process of building small low quality sites. Building high quality niche sites is very much a viable business model. For example: If you build the most comprehensive site on a narrow topic such as roasting coffee beans you will receive organic traffic.
What is a tiny niche? Depends who you ask. Think about what you are interested in building and then drill down! Let’s work through an example:
Let’s say I am a coffee aficionado and decide that I am going to build a web site about coffee.
I could create something on coffee in general but that’s too broad, there is too much competition, and I would require way too much content.
- Coffee Beans
- Roasting your own beans
- Roasting coffee beans in a toaster oven
- Comparing the different types of beans
- Best organic beans
- Comparing organic fair trade beans
- Best organic beans
- Decaffeinated Coffee
- Roasting your own beans
- Coffee Makers
- Pour over coffee makers
- High-end pour-over coffee makers
- Coffee Grinders
- Conical Burr Coffee Grinders
- Conical Burr Grinder Parts
- Conical Burr Coffee Grinders
- Pour over coffee makers
- Coffee Brewing
- Coffee Beans
if you want traffic it’s absolutely crucial you build something of high quality
Sorry for digressing, back on topic – if you want traffic it’s absolutely crucial you….
Build something of high quality. This is by far the most important piece of the puzzle, there simply is nothing more important! If you provide junk no one will share it and no one will come back to it. If you write high quality, unique, content that your visitors want to read you are well on your way. If you are building a service or tool make it useful.
Once you have built your site and written your high quality content you are going to want to look at a marketing strategy. Your approach will vary greatly depending on what you are offering. Social media will often be a piece of the puzzle, organic search will be a factor, PPC (pay per click) advertising might be used (especially if you are selling are something), you will want to start an email list at some point, and email outreach might be a good avenue. Following are some great links on these topics:
- Kristy Bolsingers Intro to Social Media on Moz
- A series on Pay Per Click Marketing from KISSMetrics
- SearchEngineWatch talks about some ranking trends for 2015
- The Backlinko ebook (free) on link building
- The Smart Passive Income Guide to Email Marketing for Beginners
- Quick Sprouts Guide to email outreach
Note: If your niche is small you will begin getting a trickle of traffic without doing anything (or much). Don’t feel that you need to master PPC and have a bunch of influential contacts to reach out to off the bat.
Traffic growth is like weight loss. Stick to the plan and the results will come.
OK, you came up with an idea, had it built and launched, Google is now indexing, you have a few social media profiles driving a bit of traffic, and you signed up for a few affiliate programs.
Now you want to concentrate on improving your site, continuing to market it, and creating awesome content. You will continue to see growth and you will start to earn commission (affiliate earnings).
My first 6 months were slow but it was still very exciting. I was earning about $125.00 a month on average.
My site continued to grow. Visitors liked it so they linked to it. Visitors liked it so they came back. Earnings continued to increase.
If your site is valuable AND you continue to improve it you will see similar positive results. It will not happen overnight.
Lesson: Keep at it and things will only get better!
When facebook launched their advertising platform I was in a good position to benefit. I was earning about 20 to 30 cents per visitor to my website. My metrics were simple – I took my monthly earnings and divided by the number of monthly visitors to my site.
As soon as Facebook ads launched I gave it a shot, I knew that I would make money if I could drive traffic to my site for less than 20 center per click. I was able to drive traffic to my site for .03 to .04 cents per click. This wouldn’t last – as more people began advertising the cost would increase. But for a short period of time I was able to spend a few thousand to earn about $20,000.
The beautiful thing about advertising online is that all the metrics are there for you and in real time. I was spending $95.00 a day on advertising (the facebook maximum at the time) but could login and see that I was making $300+ per day. There was no financial risk and I could stop my advertising campaign with a click of the button.
I didn’t factor in that my earnings would forever be changed as a result of a 20 something day advertising campaign. The reason for this was that many visitors would return to or share the site. Incoming links increased. There was immediate measurable ROI but the exposure also resulted long-term growth. In the images below you can see the spike in earnings and the fact that things did not regress back down to $100 range. The $9.00 payout was just a few extra dollars left in my account when eBay launched their own affiliate program and shut down the CJ program.
Lesson: Once you have built something people love you will find opportunities to increase traffic or income.
How the Link in the WSJ affected me
One link was responsible for at least $20,000.00 in revenue
The Wall Street Journal did a small story (online and in print) on my web site. This had another massive impact. It was responsible for about $20,000 over the next few months but also had a huge trickle effect – a ton more incoming links and return visitors. You can read more about that here.
Lesson: The trend continues, build something awesome that people want to link to your website.
The big mistake
Learn from my mistakes. I didn’t improve my web site. I didn’t actively market it. I didn’t add content. I literally just let it sit there. I didn’t even look at my stats or my earnings. There were times when the website was down for multiple weeks due to problems with my crappy webhost and I didn’t know because I was so hands off.
So sure, I made over $100,000 in passive income with about 30 hours of effort but I left a lot on the table.
The site was hacked and I didn’t do anything for a long time (I fixed it for this post) so it was penalized pretty bad. The site continues to sit on the internet and earn me a little bit of money today.
Again, learn from my mistakes. Had I spent even a few hours per month on the site I’d probably be earning thousands (or more) per month today.
You have no reason not to start. You can start blog for less than $10.00 per month. Just do it! I’ll even help you for free. Email me, comment below, or call me anytime with any question.
It really is as easy as starting. If you know how to launch a web site – just do it! If you do not know how to launch a website start thinking about what you want to create and start writing your content today. In the next few weeks I will walk you through exactly how to launch a site and personally help you with any issues you have.
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