When I started this series, I said my goal was to take my niche income site from making about $75 a month to making at least $2000 a month.
Before I reveal my plans for boosting income on this site, I'd like to take a look at what I have done so far to make money. This will be a great opportunity to show you some things that you can do right away as well as what I did wrong. I'll take you inside three big mistakes I made and how you can avoid them.
SIDE NOTE: We'll talk about how I built the site soon. First it's important to think about how you'll make money with your site.
3 Monetization Models
When it comes to making money with niche sites, the strategies fall into three main areas.
- Advertising - you get paid for putting ads in front of eyeballs
- Affiliate Promotions - you get paid a commissions when someone clicks your link and buys a product (or completes some other desired action)
- Original Products - you make money by selling products that you create
Advertising is the fastest way to get started. The payoff is smaller, but the work involved is also much less. The most common way to get started with ads is using Google AdSense.
Affiliate promotions are a great way to test what your audience will buy. The payoff is greater. It just requires more work to "pre-sell" your visitors so they are more likely to buy once they click your link.
Original products are the key to making the big bucks. Once you have a good idea of what your audience wants most and is willing to buy (through engaging with them, putting out surveys and testing affiliate promotions), you can really boost your income by creating your own product.
My recommendation is that you start with advertising, then eventually ad affiliate income. Once that income is dialed in and converting well, it's time to add original products. At that point it's usually best to ditch the advertising in order to place emphasis on the affiliate promotions and original products.
With my podcasting site, I started with affiliate income. I didn't know much about ads.
We'll talk more about each of these three money models in the coming posts, but for now let's look at what I did, what worked and what I would do differently now.
Affiliate Income Sure Shot
An easy way to make money with a site, blog, podcast or e-mail list is to identify one of your audience's most burning problems and connect them with a solution. To make money you find an affiliate program that pays a commission when your visitors click and buy.
For my podcasting audience, one of their first questions was where to host their show. So it made sense that my first affiliate promotion should recommend a web host. I signed up as an affiliate of the host that I used at the time. It's always a best practice to recommend things that you personally have experience with.
I added the recommendation to my site and started seeing some money come in. On most months I would get one commission for $75. At the time I thought this was pretty cool.
For a brand new site to bring in a steady income that is more than a few dollars is definite promise.
But given that my traffic has gone up to 20,000-30,000 visitors a month since then, we have to wonder why the income is not higher. Let's take a look at what I could have done better.
(Keep in mind that I made this site in 2005. I've learned a lot since then. In addition, I haven't touched the site since first launching it.)
Action Item: Identify a burning problem that your target audience is dealing with. Think about the solutions that you have used to overcome that problem (or find a new one). Choose an affiliate program that you can promote in order to make money from recommending the solution.
Lesson #1: Don't Bury the Money-Maker
The first place that you'll find the hosting recommendation on my site (at least while it still has the original layout) is as an banner in the sidebar.
I did two things well with this. First, I mentioned that it is the hosting that I use. This adds credibility. I also pointed out three reasons why I use it: great price, excellent service and lots of bandwidth.
The problem with this banner is that a visitor would have to scroll down to see it. On top of that, banner placement in a sidebar is easy for visitors to overlook. When it comes to ads and banners, you really have to test to find what converts best on your site.
What I Would Do Now to Fix This
A better placement for a banner would have been withing the content, at the top left, with the text flowing around it to the right side.
Also, banners and ad blocks typically don't work well for promoting affiliate products. It's much better to incorporate the affiliate link into your content. This brings us to mistake number two.
Action Item: If you have banners or ads on yours site. Test placing them within the content on the top left with the content flowing to the right. See the AdSense ad example that I am currently testing in the image below. More on this in a future post.
Lesson #2: Don't Try and Please Everyone. Laser-Target Your Audience.
The second way that I promoted the hosting was on the podcast hosting page. Here I included affiliate links within the content.
The content spent time preparing the visitor to click and buy. I offered useful information about what they needed to look for in a host to meet their needs.
The better job you do preparing your visitor to buy once they click your affiliate link, the more money you will make.
I thought I was doing that in my podcast hosting content. Even though I included lots of helpful content, I also included information that totally killed the sale.
I thought it would be cool to have a site that helped anyone to podcast. Whether they were a casual hobbyist all the way up to a podcaster that wanted to make money or start a business, I wanted to provide a solution.
The problem with this is that it's hard to please everyone. It's also easy to confuse your audience when you offer up too many options.
So even though I pointed out that the serious podcaster should get their own hosting account, I also included a lot of information about how to create a site and host media files for free.
All people read was the free part. And while the free options might work fine for the hobbyist, anyone that really wanted to grow an audience an make money would soon run into problems going that route.
I didn't explain that well enough. So site visitors would proceed with the free option and totally miss my recommendation to buy hosting, even though that would be the best option for them. That meant no one was clicking on my link and buying.
NOTE: Powweb and Globat are no longer our top recommendations. For our most up-to-date recommendation for web hosting for a blog or a podcast, click here.
What I Would Do Now to Fix This
One of the best thing you can do to help more people and make more money is to be really clear about the audience you want to reach.
I knew the best audience to target would be the ones that wanted to podcast for business and make money. These are the people that would be willing to spend money to get there.
What I should have done is focused my content only on the needs of those ideal visitors.
My content would be more focused. My intent would be clearer. My visitors would be better targeted. I would convert more clicks and make more money.
As I add affiliate links and posts to my niche site, I'll edit the content to better focus on my ideal audience.
Lesson #3: Don't Drop the Ball
The truth is that one affiliate offer for this site is not enough. There are many more recommendations I could make that would all pay a commission.
- Media hosting
- Audio gear
- Transcription services
- Editing software
- Graphics services
This is just to name a few.
There are also numerous places I could have included these links in the existing content not to mention other tutorials I could create. I stopped developing this site too soon.
With just a little more time spent on content, a dozen more affiliate opportunities could have been included.
I could have tested a number of products and strategies to see what converted best.
I don't want to make it sound like I would saturate the site with affiliate links. The site still needs to be useful to the visitor and keep their needs in mind.
But when you provide continuous value to your target audience and point them to the solutions they are looking for, they are happy to have you get paid a commission for your help.
A Fast Formula for Affiliate Profits
Here is an easy formula for adding an affiliate offer to your site.
- Identify a problem your target audience has
- Choose a solution or product that you have used and had results with
- Find an affiliate program for this product
- Create a review that speaks to what you like and don't like about the product
- Include a tutorial about how to get great results quickly
- Show the results that you have had with the product
- Invite others to buy the product through your affiliate link
This not only positions you as a leader (someone who is offering helpful advice), it also builds trust and influence with your visitors.
They get used to following your advice and seeing results.
I'll be using this process to create additional content and income opportunities on the podcasting site to boost income.
Action Item: Use the formula above to create a super review on your site. At the end of your review, invite the reader to click and buy.
And Now to You...
We'll cover more money-making ideas as we move forward, but for now that gives you four valuable insights to put into action right away.
We'll also take a look at how I built the site. Then we'll dive into generating traffic.
In the meantime I want to hear...
What mistakes have you made in that past that have cost you money? How did you fix them?
What other ideas do you have for making money with niche sites?
What else would you like to know about how I have made money so far with the podcasting site?
Share your comments and questions below.
Other Niche Site Income posts:
- Niche Site Income | A Real-Time Case Study Pt 1
- Niche Site Income Pt 2: How to Find a Niche Market (My Niche Site Revealed)
- Niche Site Income Pt 3: Keyword Research Made Easy
- Niche Site Income Pt 5: Choosing a URL that Will Get You Ranked
- Niche Site Income Pt 6: How I Tripled My Income