So you’ve decided to make a living online. As my friend Andy Boyd says, it’s not easy. At least, not for the average person. On the other hand, persistence can be the key. Nevertheless, my own decision has been to work on a long-term site building strategy that puts less emphasis on weblogs.
Why? Because building more blogs doesn’t interest me as much as it did two years ago. Yes, it is possible to have a full-time blogging career, but I also want to explore alternatives. So what’s the alternative? Sites or mini-sites, web services, directories, toolkits, etc.
If you surf around the blogosphere, you’ll see that bloggers fall into a lot of categories. Some are great writers, some are good at link building, others at building dialogue with readers, and others at marketing and promoting their blog. That doesn’t mean that they’re all earning reasonable revenue for their efforts. When that happens, building a blog becomes a chore, not a pleasure. And that will come out in the writing – eventually. Lack of passion in the writing, of course, spells the beginning of the end of a blog.
Fortunately, there are several alternatives to building and maintaining blogs, and some of them can be more lucrative. One is to build and flip limited edition sites. A bit of research at a couple of domain/ site marketplaces (namely Sitepoint Marketplace and Digital Point Marketplace) shows a small group of people building and selling mini-sites around hobby and other niche topics.
I’ve purchased a few of these sites at US$100-200 each. While they show promise with the content, they lack something. So I’ve been changing static templates, adding a few visual elements, mini-directories, etc. In some cases, I’m rewriting a bit of the content or at least rearranging text to be a bit more readable, such as putting items in to bullet-point lists. And of course, I’ll be promoting the sites where possible. When the sites are done, they’ll be more than just a bunch of pages centered around a theme.
For monetization, some of these sites have Amazon or more exclusive affiliate ads. A few have Google AdSense ads as well, if the content talks about specific products. But AdSense is not the focus in most of them. And the real monetization will be when I sell them. I haven’t put a great deal of extra effort into any of the sites, so even if I only make $100-200 over what I paid, I’ll be making a profit. The sites will be affordable to other buyers, so they’re more likely to sell quickly. If they have any Google PageRank, they may sell at a premium.
If you are thinking of trying something similar, here is a suggested process:
- Pick a topic. Hobby or home improvement topics are often worthwhile for affiliate program-based mini-sites. See my tutorial at Tubetorial about choosing topics for blog posts (which also works for mini-sites).
- Register or buy an inexpensive domain name.
- Set up hosting. If you’re going to be doing this a lot, get a hosting reseller account that makes it easy to set up multiple sites at no or little extra cost. This way, if you have a site buyer that’s slow to move the site, you can offer them a bit of affordable hosting and still have room to build new sites.
- Write 10-20 “evergreen” pages of content. By evergreen, I mean articles that’ll hold up a year, two years or longer from now. If you don’t feel like writing, hire someone. Edit their content if it’s not exactly the way you want it. Or you can buy a ready-made mini-site and tweak that.
- Get a free static template from a site like OSWD or Free CSS Templates.
- Add visual content such as images or videos. Often, you can reuse pictures from Flickr (check the copyright) and video from numerous sites such as Google Video or YouTube. There are loads more, and once I set up citizenCast, I’ll write there about audio, video, podcasting, and webcasting options.
- If you want, you might add something such as a mini-directory, if its links do not draw traffic away from your affiliate links.
- When you’re ready, build your HTML pages, which will require a suitable navigation bar.
- Post your pages and start promoting with links, in forums, etc.
- Sell the site. You can sell before the site gains Google PageRank, if you want a quick sale at an affordable price. Or you can hold onto the site, build PR, build some revenue, then sell at a premium.
The idea is to create quality, limited content on a topic: i.e, just once. If you revist a broad topic, try to pick a different sub-niche. For example, if you have site on dog breeding that you build and sell, next time try dog training. Doing this gives your buyers a bit of an advantage: you are not creating competition for them. That doesn’t mean there won’t be other sites on similar topics, but you can at least honestly claim limited edition sites – which makes them more salable.
If you build, say, two sites per week and make $200 profit on each, then you could make an extra $1600/m for a few hours of work per site. Of course, if you did this every day, you could make more, though I believe there’s a saturation point in the market. I may be wrong – test the waters and see. You don’t have to give up blogging, but if you want to supplement your revenue, and you have a sense for what might work in terms of mini-sites/ affiliate sites, flipping limited edition websites might be the way to go.