How To Make Money With Your Website (Part 1)

There are various ways of making money with a website, but the easiest way for most people to start is probably by putting Google Adsense on the site. If you can make money with Adsense, you can probably make money with other methods as well, that's why it's such a good place to start. :)

Search Engine Optimization

Now, just putting Adsense on your site isn't the best approach if the right kinds of people aren't visiting it. You have to optimize your pages so that people find them via search engines (or more specifically, Google). See a pattern here? Everything's all about Google. Kind of funny in a way. Why do the visitors have to be from search engines? Because they're actively LOOKING for what you're offering. They are more likely to click on ads if they believe the ads will give them what they want. People who are just randomly browsing are just looking for entertainment and won't click your ads much.

Now, you can go read books about SEO (search engine optimization) and all that, and that's all well and good, but there are actually only a few things you really need to know. The rest of the information is extra... and if you pay too much attention to it, might even confuse you and get in the way. So here's the basics. Get this right and you'll probably make money from your site. Get it wrong, and you probably won't.

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Keyword Research

Note: None of these things are ever 100% accurate, so a lot of it will be a bit hit and miss. But using these methods should give you a reasonably good idea of how much money you can make with a particular topic.

First, you need to know what people actually search for. You do this by using the Adwords Keyword Tool (oh look, another Google thing). How it works is like this... you type in a word or phrase related to your website, push the little button, and it tells you how many times per month people search for that phrase. However, by default it uses the 'broad' setting, so if you typed in "cat", it tells you how many times people search for "cat", "blue cat", "red cat", and any other word in combination with "cat" are all included in the number of searches "cat" got. Did that make any sense? Either way, you need to change "broad" to "exact". That way the number for "cat" will only include people who searched for "cat". Not "blue cat" or anything else. It's easier to work with this way.

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Then, you should tell the tool to display the CPC values. What this tells you is how much advertisers are willing to pay for ONE click on an ad relating to that keyword. This will give you some general idea of whether or not you can make money with the keyword. But, even if a keyword has like $500 click value, if there are only 5 people a month searching for it, odds are you won't make any money from it. You need traffic, AND decent CPC values. Even if you have high traffic and a low CPC value, you can still make decent money because you'll get a lot more clicks.

Analyzing The Competition

Now, once you have a list of keywords you're interested in using for your site, it's time to check out the competition. Yup, there are bazillions of sites already out there, and the chances aren't too bad that someone else already had the same idea as you. But that's okay, even if someone did, that doesn't mean you can't easily beat them if they didn't do a very good job. :)

So, now you need to go to Google.com (you were expecting that, right?). Now there are two different ways of checking out the competition, one is more common than the other, but if you really want a better idea of what's going on, you might as well check both.

Method 1: This is the one most people use. Take your keyword phrase, put quotes around it, stick it in the Google search bar and see how many results you get. Why? Well, if people are specifically targeting that keyword phrase, chances are good they're using it as a phrase in their pages, and especially in the title. This will in theory give you the number of competing pages for your keyword. It doesn't, however, tell you how strong those pages are. Which brings me to...

Method 2: Type your keyword into Google again, but this time WITHOUT quotes. This is the same way a normal searcher is likely to type it in. So the results you get are likely to be what an actual searcher will get as well. So, once you have your results, you need to check the PageRank value of the top 4 or 5 results. This gives you a vague idea of how "strong" that page is. By "strong" I mean how many other "strong" pages are linking to it.

How do you check PageRank? Lots of different ways... install the Google Toolbar which will tell you the PageRank of any page you're on, use the SEOQuake toolbar for Firefox, which can tell you the PR (PageRank) of search results directly on the page, and there are also lots of websites out there that will tell you the PR of any URLs you paste into a box. Doesn't matter which method you use. I use the SEOQuake toolbar because it's the least effort.

The thing with PR though is it isn't a very accurate indication of strength, but generally you'll find that if there's a lot of competition for the keyword, all the top pages will be PR 4's and 5's. Or even higher. There should generally also be a lot of results for the keyword when searched in quotes, but that's not always accurate either. :) That's why I said if you want to be sure, try both.

So how do you know if a keyword will be easy enough to go after? If the top 4 or 5 results all have low PR (say 0-2), it should be really easy. If they are around 2-3, reasonably easy but you'll need more backlinks to your site. If they're 3-4, you might want to consider skipping that keyword, unless the site with the PR of 4 doesn't seem to be actually targeting that keyword. By that I mean, if they're not using the keyword in the title as it is, they're probably not really targeting it, and you can probably outrank that page with a lot less strength than they have.

On the other hand, if the keyword is part of a topic you really really enjoy writing about, and you don't mind if it takes a lot longer before you start making money, you can go after it anyway even if it has stronger competition, IF you're willing to keep at it for possibly several years before you get to the top position in Google. The top position in Google is where all the big money is. Even if you're at #2, you'll get a LOT less traffic than you will at #1.

The number of results when using Method 1 just tells you how many sites there are that use that keyword somewhere on their site, so there really isn't much point in giving you a number and saying "if it's less than this number it will be easy", because you don't know just how many of those pages have serious backlink power and how many don't, and it isn't worth the effort to check if you only really need to check the first 4 using Method 2 anyway. Method 1 is still interesting just for checking how many people are after the keyword, regardless of how good they are at it.

I once decided to go after a keyword that had under 200k results using Method 1, because someone else said that would be easy. Turned out it was really hard, because later on when I learned about Method 2, and checked the PR of the results, they were all 4's.

That's it for part 1, part 2 will be about how to optimize your site or page for a keyword. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section. :)

Further Reading:

Part 2: Optimizing your site for a keyword & How to get backlinks
Part 3: How to optimize Adsense ad placement & Other methods to make money from your website

Also, check out my earnings timeline since I started trying to make money from my sites if you need some inspiration and proof that this really does work: Earnings Timeline.

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Posted in: Money by on July 17, 2010 @ 10:36 pm

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