Make Money from Your Informational Site!
In the last four Tips In Ten articles, you’ve read how to build and run an informational site. In this article I want to talk to you about how to make money from them.
To refresh your memory, I outlined (in the first issue of the four-issue series) a few reasons why you might want to create informational sites:
- Informational sites give the appearance of being an unbiased resource center.
- Informational sites help to position you.
- Informational sites give you a “laboratory” where you can express your ideas and try out different things.
- Informational sites that have regular content to help you generate an audience.
- Informational sites are very search engine friendly
In and of themselves, I believe these are good reasons to have an informational site. We live in a world where it is easy to put information online and lots of people are… but it’s not always quality or accurate information. As an expert, you should share your expertise. Call it knowledge-based karma. But you can also make money from it – there’s nothing wrong with that – and I’m going to show you how to do that in this issue.
The biggest question I am asked is: “How much money can I make?” and then the second biggest question is “How do I earn that money?” I am going to answer both of those questions in this issue.
How much can I make off of informational sites?
There is no easy answer. It depends on factors like:
- What your niche is (How big is it? How much info do people need? What are advertisers paying to reach this market?)
- What competition you have (Some niches already have several robust information sites and are pretty saturated; other markets have none)
- How you will drive traffic to your site
- What unique “spin” you have
- How frequently you post content
- How aggressively you market your site
- What the economy is doing (Some sites trend with the economy, such as car-buying informational sites, and some sites trend counter to the economy, such as sites about making money).
There are two ways to profit from your site: Through direct income (which usually comes from advertisements) and from indirect income (which comes from referrals to your business from the informational site).
So, how much can you make?
- At the very beginning, you will lose money as you spend time and money setting it up and building it.
- Over time, you may start to see an increase in income as you market your site. It will be gradual at first and then will pick up speed.
- Eventually, you may make a few hundred dollars per site on good months. Obviously this depends on some of the factors listed earlier. The more valuable your content and the more regularly you post, the greater your audience… and thus, the greater likelihood of revenue.
- Ideally, you will aim to earn a few hundred dollars – perhaps even a few thousand dollars – per site per month.
While I earn a profit from my informational sites, my early goal when starting out is to breakeven. That way, even if I’m not making a lot of income from it, I’m at least earning enough to pay for this marketing channel, which can lead to some indirect (positioning) income.
How do I earn money off of informational sites?
This is it in a step by step format:
Direct income. This is usually in the form of money earned from advertisers. Pay-per-click ads (like those offered through the Google AdSense program) are the most common.
First, you’ll need to set up your website or blog. If you use Blogger.com, they have an easy way to monetize your sites right from their interface. For beginners, it’s a fantastic first step. I’m a big fan of WordPress so that’s where I’ve built my informational sites. WordPress is free and has a robust community of developers who keep it functioning with all kinds of great plug-ins. The only thing you need to pay for is hosting (and you should have it hosted rather than using the free WordPress hosting solution – it’s way more professional). Of course, you don’t have to use a blog at all – you could use a more static, conventional website, but I prefer blogs.
Second, you’ll need an account at Google AdSense. If you already have a Google account (with a Gmail address, a Blogger.com address, Google Analytics, etc.) then you can use that one. Go to http://www.google.com/ads/adwords/ and sign up/sign in. (There are other types of ad services but I’ve found that this one is fast to set-up, most people already have a Google account, and it’s really easy to use).
Once you’re there, go to the second tab in – AdSense Set-up – to start the process of choosing your ads. There are lots of choices (AdSense for feeds, AdSense for mobile, Adsense for search, etc.) but you want AdSense for content. Click through and select the type of ads you want. Don’t worry if you make a mistake, you can always correct it or create a new ad. It’s really easy.
At the end of the multi-step ad-creation process, you’ll get a snippet of code that you can copy and paste into the code on your site. (If you’re not familiar with code, that’s okay: Blogger can do it automatically for you, or, if you’re using WordPress, just use a text widget and copy your snippet of code into there. Easy!)
Or, if you’re using WordPress, an even easier solution is to download the Advertising Manager plug-in and add it to your WordPress site and let it manage your ads for you.
If your blog or website is already set up, this will only take about 10 minutes. It’s very fast: Create the ad. Paste. You’re done! Now you can focus on content generation.
There are a couple of things you should know:
- When you create ads with Google AdSense, you can choose the size of ad on your site, and you can place multiple ads around your site… but you will only ever have 3 ads displayed at a time. (Although some of these ads might have more than one advertiser showing in the ad).
- At first, the companies marketing in the ads won’t be relevant to the topic on your informational site. However, as Google crawls your site, it will learn more about your topic and the ads will become more relevant.
- If you’re not sure where to put the ads, there are a few places you might consider: In the middle of the blog post or right after the blog post are two good spots. Although there are other places where you might want put the ads, these two places “embed” the ads into places where your readers are already looking, increasing the likelihood that they will click the ad.
Indirect income: This is when people end up at your business’ site or they pick up the phone and order from you because they see you as a thought leader. Think of this as income derived from positioning. In a way, it’s not really that different than any other marketing channel.
To generate indirect income, you need to follow these steps:
1. Make sure that the content is relevant to your audience and compelling to read. They will return again and again to read what you have to say because it is useful to them.
2. Add your name and a link to your business’ site throughout the site. For example, you may want to put it in the footer of each post that says something like: “This resource has been brought to you by www.heathervilla.com.”
3. If you’re going to create a report, make sure that it has your name on it. For example, I might write “The Efficient Entrepreneur by Heather Villa”. Although I’ll let the informational site build its own brand, I’ll make sure that people know I’m the expert behind it.
4. Watch your analytics on both sites. See who is clicking to your site from your informational site. Pay attention to where they are clicking from on your informational site.
5. Offer people something for making the jump from the informational site to your business site. For example, if I have an informational site on efficiency, I might write a link in my informational site that says: “Visit HeatherVilla.com/EfficientEntrepreneur to download my free report.” As the site generates traffic, my name in the “credits” of the site, as well as something enticing like a free report, will bring people to my business site.
Informational sites are a great opportunity. While at first they will take patience and money-losing effort, you may be able to turn them into profit-making machines that not only help you to earn more money directly (through advertising revenue) and indirectly (through the benefit of positioning).
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