Niche Site Income Pt 4: Three Niche Site Monetization Models

3 Niche Site Money Makers

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.

  1. Advertising - you get paid for putting ads in front of eyeballs
  2. Affiliate Promotions - you get paid a commissions when someone clicks your link and buys a product (or completes some other desired action)
  3. 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

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 ItemAction 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

Shovel in Dirt

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.

webhosting-affiliate-banner

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 ItemAction 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.

adsense-example

Lesson #2: Don't Try and Please Everyone. Laser-Target Your Audience.

laser target

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.

webhost-recommendations

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

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.

  1. Identify a problem your target audience has
  2. Choose a solution or product that you have used and had results with
  3. Find an affiliate program for this product
  4. Create a review that speaks to what you like and don't like about the product
  5. Include a tutorial about how to get great results quickly
  6. Show the results that you have had with the product
  7. 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 ItemAction 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.

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Comments

  1. This was a very interesting post. Thanks for doing it.

    Had a couple questions though.

    1) You mentioned creating your own products is ideal, which I understand completely. But I’m wondering–how do you feel one can determine what kind of a product the audience will buy?

    For example, with podcasting–I’m sure you’ve thought of creating maybe an e-Book or even an audio book. But what would make someone buy a product from your site as opposed to the Podcast Answer Man, or simply watching an instructional YouTube video?

    And to even further complicate things (lol, sorry), I’m curious…what if the niche someone picks requires the audience to get a certain level of training or education or certification? For example, Pat Flynn’s Security Guard site–although being a security guard doesn’t require significant education or training like being a nurse or a cop, it does require some degree of trained skill–even if it’s through a simple one week Security Guard Training course in your local area.

    So what if your niche requires education or training–would it then be harder to sell a product because your site visitors might think, “Well, why would I buy this product from you when I’m going to have to go to school or go to a class or go to a program to official learn it anyway?”

    If so, how do you combat that–is it just about trying to create a product that doesn’t teach them how to do something but simply make the process of learning about how to do it easier? Obviously, if people are searching the Internet on how to do something, they are trying to resolve a problem or at least some confusion about the process. But in creating a product–even an eBook–how would you find a way to make a successful product that people want if the niche requires people to…I guess…further their knowledge and skill of the subject matter outside the confines of their computer room?

    2) With this podcasting site, I see you’ve put your name on it, so you’ve personalized it to some degree. But what happens if someone wants to create a more authoritative and less personal niche site, like Pat Flynn’s Security Guard site where it’s almost an anonymous website? Are people going to be less inclined to click on a recommended affiliate link or buy a $9.99 eBook because there’s no face to go with the website?

    Thanks Jay.
    -Mick

    • Hi Mick,

      Thanks for your questions.

      How do you feel one can determine what kind of a product the audience will buy?

      We teach to identify and attract an audience first. Then they can tell you what they want most.

      We use surveys quite a bit for finding out what our market is interested in. We also talk to people a lot.

      This is another reason why we say to start early with affiliate offers. You can learn a lot by watching what your market is willing to buy.

      What if the niche someone picks requires the audience to get a certain level of training or education or certification?

      This is certainly a barrier to entry. I wouldn’t say it is an automatic deal-breaker. You just have to be aware that it will affect your conversions.

      People don’t like to find out that they need to do more work.

      That said, since Pat makes money with AdSense he doesn’t have to worry as much about selling products. The conversion to clicks won’t be affected as much when people realize they have to do work or go to school.

      If you do want to sell training or products to these kinds of visitors, you can still get them to buy, you just have more of a sales job to do. You have to simplify the process and really show them why it is worth it.

      Starting an internet business is not easy, but we have people buy our training every day.

      What would make someone buy a product from your site as opposed to the Podcast Answer Man, or simply watching an instructional YouTube video?

      Most people are not motivated enough to go out and piece together the entire process from free sources.

      And even when they can get it for free, many people will still pay for the info. They want to know they have the most up to date stuff, the guidance of an expert and a simplified step-by-step system.

      When people pay, they value the info more.

      As for competition, I never worry much about it. We always teach relationship marketing. When you build a personal brand, the market is much less likely to price shop. They just want to do business with you after they have found you, connected with you and received a lot of free value.

      What happens if someone wants to create a more authoritative and less personal niche site?

      That’s just a personal preference. Actually, Pat has used a pen name to create a personal brand on his security site.

      People like to connect with another person. That said, not everyone wants to have a well-know personal brand. So you can either use a pen name or just not use your name at all.

  2. Please your free course.

  3. — What mistakes have you made in that past that have cost you money?

    1. I went through Odesk and hired a company in India to create a WordPress site. They ended up convincing me to create a custom site, but then couldn’t deliver anything close to what I was looking for in the time frame agreed. They charged high rates per hour upfront knowing my budget was 3K. At 30 days, they had the 3K because of the high hourly rate. Only 20% of the site was done but they said they’d continue to work on the site until I was 100% satisfied. The project was to take 60 days. It’s been over a year… I’ve moved on… They tried working on it some more for me, but it was horrible. Got no site from them… and because I hired them by the hour, Odesk said it’s my fault for allowing them to take the 3K without delivering the full product. No refund is possible.

    2. Google Adwords. I spent $500 in advertising and got ZERO customers.

    — How did you fix them?

    1. I created my own WordPress site (http://www.PediatricsBoardReview.com) with the help of the IBM Academy and Coaching program.

    2. My WordPress site ranks #1 on Google for my primary keyword phrase, so there’s no need to pay Google anymore :-). Thanks Jay & Sterling! I also used Facebook ads to some extent. I wasn’t breaking even, but it allowed me to build up the brand quite a bit.

    — What other ideas do you have for making money with niche sites?
    1. I’d LOVE some advice here… I think I’d be more passionate and have more long-term interest if I created a site for first-time parents in search of guidance on common parenting questions. I’d offer up my own advice as both a pediatrician as well as a recent first-time parent. I can think of tons of potential blog posts and affiliate products/programs, but I’m struggling with ideas for original products to truly monetize the site. Any thoughts or ideas would be GREAT!!!! WLM has a way of making an entire blog site into a membership site. The first 50 words of each post are public, all else is for paid members only. Sounds interesting, but I’m not sure I’d be able to convert visitors to members if they’ve never had the opportunity to read an entire post. I’m also not sure how that would work for SEO purposes.

    2. I’m loving WordPress and learning more and more about it everyday. The idea of creating a niche site focused on teaching beginners with virtually no tech skills how to launch a WP website sounds like a lot of fun. I’d offer a few different tutorials as original products (blog site, protected personal/group site, picture album site, e-commerce, etc.). And of course… I’d refer entrepreneurs to the IBMA via the affiliate program.

    3. A site focused on providing tourists with guides on how to spend a 3-day, 5-day or 7-day vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii and do it local style… great food and great sites to see on the CHEAP! I’d sell e-books and/or member access.

    — What else would you like to know about how I have made money so far with the podcasting site?
    1. I’d probably be most curious to see a step-by-step accounting of how you developed and delivered your tutorials.

    • Wow. Awesome. Thanks for sharing all of this, Ashish.

      You are not the only one to spend more money than they needed on a web site. I’ve had my fair share of mistakes that cost me a few thousand.

      I’m thrilled to hear that our Academy helped you recover from that setback.

      I like the niche audience idea of helping new parents As far as a product goes, here are a couple ideas.

      1) Create a product that simplifies a process for parents – sleep scheduling for example

      2) Be a filter for a hot and confusing issue – coaching through creating the right vaccine schedule for example

      Choose a hot button pain issue, then distill the info for them and even coach them through it.

      I’ll talk more about my tutorial creation process in an upcoming post.

      • You read my mind when it comes to the sleep training idea! I read quite a bit about it from different resources recently. I even considered starting a site specifically targeted at that and nothing else b/c it’s a challenging process for any parent to go through, and it’s such an urgent pain. Will definitely keep that at the top of the list.

        I’ll also start brainstorming about possible “hot button” ideas.

        Thanks!

  4. Great post Jay. I am wondering what you would recommend for a site that falls more under the ” irrational passion” heading. The site is for people interested in studying/collecting historical autographs and documents. Not many related affiliate products to offer and I cant really think of an urgent pain my readers may have so I just have quasi-related affiliate links in the sidebar with $0 in sales. Im a rookie so I have a lot to learn. Thanks for any advice

    • Hi Chris,

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

      When it comes to knowing if a niche can make you money, you need to ask three questions.

      1) Are there enough people out there that are interested in or need this topic/solution?

      2) Are enough of them actively looking online for a solution AND willing to pay for it?

      3) Are you targeting the right keywords so that you are wherever your market looks online?

      I talk about 1 and 2 in the last two posts. Do you see anyone else online selling stuff to that audience?

      If you aren’t making money yet, the problem is one of the following.

      1. You are not reaching the right market yet. Target different channels or keywords.

      2. Your market is not actively looking for and willing to buy a solution. In this case pick a different audience.

      3. You are not meeting the needs of your market yet. Talk to them more and try to identify their real pains and wants.

      4. You are not getting enough traffic yet. Keep going. Test more content. Target more keywords. Keep working on new channels to attract visitors.

  5. Great stuff, I appreciate your sharing the ‘process’ with us. Joined the IBMA this month and lovin’ it! Am going to start with one website (revamping the blog using your materials), and know there is a market (did a lot of research), working on an ebook, etc.
    Expecting great things to happen!

  6. Hint hint Jay…

    Make sure to change the date attribution to make sure readers don’t assume the info is out of date and therefore not trustworthy.

    Four years is a long time on the net, especially in podcasting.

    :)

    Dave

  7. Thanks for the informative post. My fiancee and I both have sites for our separate side businesses. They are entertainment related, but we’ve recently opted to begin providing content on them that would be of use to our target markets: Salsa dancing and Magician for private events.

    Our income comes from our off line efforts, but your site and podcasts are are helping me see that we can also generate income online. The value that you provide is not only educational but also inspiring. Again, thank you.

  8. I’m till confused in finding related affiliate products and services to serve my blog readers who are interested in event planning and promotion.

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