I’ve been trying to make money online since the mid to late 1990’s. I’ve devised many different software applications that run on the web (such as at www.deardiary.net or www.hamipiks.com – both of which were conceived long before Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram!). Some people can write a webapp and market it quickly and well and make millions. If that’s you, great. I’ve been trying to come up with the “next big thing” since 1999 and been thwarted by someone with bigger marketing budgets every time. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.
So, I decided to change tack. I have a lot of useful information on various different subjects that I can put online. This is information that I believe other people will find useful – and that’s the key. If you want to make money online, you probably need to change the way you think a little bit. Stop thinking about money, think about the information you have to offer. Think about a skill or interest you have that you’re fairly knowledgable about and start writing about it.
Forget Making Money
I know this works because as soon as I stopped trying to make money online, that’s when I actually started to make money online. And I didn’t even know about it for about six months because foolishly I had disabled the e-mail account that the e-mails telling me how much money I was making were being sent to! OK, I wasn’t (and I’m still not) making enough to retire (which is handy because I actually love my job) – but it is topping up the house deposit savings fund quite nicely.
So, how do you go about it? Well, I’ve already said you need to think of a subject that you’re interested in and have information to impart. Then you need somewhere to put that. WordPress is the most popular blogging platform on the planet and there is an absolute myriad of WordPress hosting services. I’d recommend setting up a WordPress site, which apart from the hosting costs per month (and some are as low as $10/month) is free. WordPress itself is free, many of the extensions (plugins) are free and many great themes (including the one this site uses) are free. If you need something extra there are extra ‘premium’ or paid for themes and plugins that can be added. See the list at the end for some good WordPress hosts, as well as some additional WordPress resources.
Content Is King
There was a saying, coined by Bill Gates back in 1996, that Content Is King – that was 20 years ago and was probably one of the most sensible things I’ve ever seen Bill Gates say. Kind of funny because only a few years prior he’d said that the Internet was only a passing fad and later admitted that the Internet was only 5th or 6th on Microsoft’s priority list. But, although the quote is 20 years old and a LOT has changed since that time (for example, in 1996 you would have been reading this article after waiting ages for it to be sent from my server to your client via a 28,800 bps per second modem whereas now it’s almost instantaneous due to high speed broadband (for most people)) – the quote is still just as, if not more, valid today as it was back then. You will not make money online unless you have a product to sell, or useful information to impart.
So, again, I say, forget making money – concentrate on writing articles that people will be interested to read by imparting knowledge they are looking for. This can be simple things like “How to make Soy Candles” (though that space is pretty well filled!) through to “Stripping down the engine of a 1951 Buick Roadmaster”. Impart information that you have researched yourself – don’t just copy other people’s work. Content IS King – but it has to have some intrinsic value if you want to earn money from it.
Search Engine Optimization
Is nonsense. Don’t pay anyone to ‘optimise’ your website, or its articles. No-one except Google know how they rank websites, and indeed individual pages on your site will rank differently even though they’re on the same site. If you’re writing about information that you have a passion for, have knowledge in and have researched yourself, you don’t need search engine optimization. Period. Produce good quality content and the search engines will favour you. It does help if you can some people to link to you but these links need to be genuine, from genuine sites that are relevant to the information you are presenting. Clickbait link sites are likely to harm your search engine ranking – don’t do it. Put the sentences together in your articles and use the words that you’d like to be found for, naturally and the search engines will find you. You can use headings (like I have) within your articles, so long as they’re relevant.
Updated for 2021: so, I’ve been doing this for a few more years now and I’ve learned a lot in that time. In essence the above is still sort of true, but there’s a bit more to it than I had originally said. It is true that you should write your articles for your audience, not your search engine. However, there is an art to producing good quality content that will enable the search engines to favour you. The search engine, particularly Google, needs to understand your content. And to do that it’s best to follow a formula.
The best way I’ve found to do that in WordPress is to use the RankMath SEO plugin.
Above all, write your content for people, not search engines. It’ll pay off in the long run.
Once you’re happy with your content you can, and should, promote it to like minded people on social media. The great thing about social media (versus ‘spam e-mail’) is that the people who follow you on your social media are there because they want to be.
Getting followers on social media is a whole other topic that I won’t go into right now but again, comes down to you having some information that other people want. In your profile, let people know that you have this information and they will follow you.
Start following other people who have similar interests – it’s good to network together, and it can sometimes give you inspiration for what to write about next. Rumour has it that the search engines very much like up to date, relevant content that is promoted on social media.
Show Me The Money
OK, your site has content. You’ve promoted it on your social media. You’ve created a Facebook group for like minded people to get together. Your site is getting some traffic (if you want more, you need to write more articles!). Now you want to at least pay for the hosting costs.
You could go through your articles, checking on Google for items that you’ve talked about (spare parts for that Buick, soy wax or glass jars for your candles?) and contact companies that sell them and have affiliate programs and then sign up for those programs – converting the text about those items into affiliate links by hand or adding advertising banners to the top of the page.
That’s tedious, time consuming and hard work. But it also means you’re concentrating on the money again. Stop it. Stop thinking about the money – think only about your content. Let someone else think about the money.
I’ll tell you how in a second, but for now, here’s another piece of advice I’ve picked up over the years. Forget banner advertising. Many people have Ad-Blockers, those that don’t are so de-sensitised to advertising banners they’re almost blind to them.
And the rest just hate ad-banners with such a passion that the back button gets hit before they even read your articles. I’ve seen my income drop – quite radically – on pages where I decided it would be a good idea to add banners. It’s not a good idea – unless you have nothing else on the article you can link from.
Edit for 2021: Forgetting about Ad-Banners is horrible advice these days. When I first wrote this article, Ad revenue was way down compared to previous years and ads cluttered up your website with irrelevant stuff. It IS still true that ads make your site look crappy, potentially, but most ad networks now have decent machine learning which helps target the ad location much and which ads to put in front of people. Ad networks such as Ezoic are well worth looking into in 2021 if you have the traffic volume to support it.
Affiliates Are Where It’s At
I’ve made more money online from Affiliate Programs than anything else at all. By a long margin. And in terms of time versus benefit, the affiliate links take the least time, the least stress and give me continuing, ongoing income each month. I’ve tried subscription based web applications – it’s hard work coming up with the app in the first place, then people want you to support it 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Being a Paramedic is considerably less stressful (for me – might not be that way for you!). But the articles I write sit online for years, dribbling money into my PayPal account slowly but surely, month after month and I’ve spent no time at all having to support them once they’re actually written.
If you’ve read through this whole article (well done!) you’re probably thinking “But hang on, in the last section he said affiliate marketing was time consuming and tedious”. And you’d be right. You should always utilise technology to do the tedious where possible and fortunately, today, it is possible to have technology perform the finding and linking of affiliate products for you. Here’s how;
VigLink or Skimlinks
There’s probably others too – I’ve only used these two and have currently settled on VigLink. These two companies provide technology which can read your articles automatically, search for text in them and convert that text into unobtrusive links which are completely relevant to the content. Readers love them because they can easily find a way to get to the items you’re talking about but there’s no garish advertising in their face. You’ve provided the information, the reader is interested in it (otherwise they wouldn’t be here) and you’ve given them an easy way to buy from a supplier. VigLink and Skimlinks do keep a percentage of the revenue that you make but on many occasions the percentage they’ve negotiated with the supplier is a lot higher than you’d get on your own anyway because they have huge volumes and you probably don’t (yet).
More information about the details in this article – including signing up for Skimlinks or VigLink is below. Do note, we use VigLink on this site, some of the links are likely to therefore be affiliated links. I’m sure you don’t mind, hopefully the information was useful.
Everything WordPress – www.wordpress.org
WordPress Assistance – thewpclassroom.com or wordpresshelpr.com or wpbeginner.com
Premium WordPress Themes – wpforest.com or wpmeal.com or themeforest.com
Remember, concentrate on providing original, useful, creative information, not the money.
(Disclaimer, this is my personal experience. It may not be the same for you. Always seek advise from professional financial advisers on financial matters. I’m not rich, nor a financial adviser).