For people new to building a passive income website, there are usually two different schools of thought.
First, you have those who think it’s simple. These people have read a few articles promising to get rich quick. The envision getting off the ground is as easy as writing a few articles, being sure to stuff a few keywords, and then waiting for Google to pick it up and send traffic over.
On the other hand are those who are simply overwhelmed. Maybe they have never created a website, or think they aren’t enough of an expert to write on a topic. These people are usually crippled with doubt before they even get started, causing them to just think about trying to create a passive income website, but never actually take an action.
The truth about generating income from a site is somewhere in the middle. Creating a successful property is so much more than just posting a some articles and trying to trick search engines into ranking your site highly. At the same time, I am absolutely convinced that anyone — from a 16 year-old kid to a 60 year-old grandmother — can get a site off the ground, even if they have never built a site before (not that it won’t be a little more difficult!)
So if you are a total beginner, we’ve created the following checklist to help you get your start. This list walks through the most important factors to consider when beginning your website. Once you have these five points figured out, you are well on your way to creating your own monthly income stream.
Find Your Niche
A successful website all begins with a successful niche. We’ve written extensively about finding the right topic for your website, but here are the key points.
Your niche should be at the intersection of three things: low competition, high commercial appeal and high domain availability. Of course, that’s much easier said than done. Literally every day there is more competition online for every topic.
That’s why it’s important to brainstorm, coming up with dozens of ideas which you can then cull through in order to find that one gem. For that, we recommend the brainstorming technique that’s used by Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com. Here you write down a list of 10 passions, 10 fears, and 10 problems that you have.
With your list in hand, then you start diving into research for each idea. Do a Google search for that topic. What sort of sites come up? Are they well-established, well-known websites? You’re aiming for a niche with limited competition, allowing you a chance to rise in the rankings.
What about the commercial appeal? If you plan to monetize using Google Adwords, you can search the company’s Keyword Planner tool to see how high the suggested bid is for advertisers. This gives you a better sense of the potential income you might earn.
Finally, you can check for domain name availability using LeanDomainSearch.com. You’re looking for a keyword-rich site name — preferably with the exact phrase that you want to optimize for. One great example is the website CutCableToday.com, which not only involves a key phrase (“cut cable”), but is extremely descriptive of what the site is about.
Hosting your site is something that a first-timer rarely thinks about, but can make things easy or a major headache. When you are searching for a website host, there are three things to look for — reliability, support, and ease of use.
Unfortunately, these things aren’t easy to know about until you already have experience with a hosting company. Our first few sites were hosted by GoDaddy. They offered extremely cheap rates, and their advertising made them top of mind. Our experience, however, was terrible. At the time, even purchasing the hosting was an ordeal as we were constantly upsold on services we didn’t want or need. After purchasing, the interface was difficult to navigate to set things up like email accounts and linking hosting to the web domain. In GoDaddy’s defense, the support was good.
Now we recommend Bluehost for hosting. The price is a little higher than GoDaddy, but still cheap. You can get started for about $100 for the first year (there is also a 30-day money-back guarantee). Meanwhile, we’ve found setting up a new domain much easier, with a clearer interface and one click to install WordPress. Support is also extremely helpful, which is ideal for beginners just getting their feet wet.
If you use their cheapest service, we’ve found the reliability of Bluehost does suffer somewhat. Hosting services will place hundred of sites on the same server using the same IP address (basically a numerical address for your website). We have had two occasions in the past few years where someone has overloaded a server with traffic, slowing down all the websites on that server. Our website was down for a few hours, but the issue was resolved and our site was back up and running shortly.
How are you going to build and run your website? There are tons of platforms out there, but we recommend WordPress.
WordPress has the distinct advantage of having an entire ecosystem built around it. Think of the iPhone. The iPhone itself is a pretty cool gadget, but it’s the apps for the phone that really make it powerful. WordPress is similar.
On its own, WordPress is fairly simple to implement and use. All major hosting companies offer simple installs (which are free), and creating, posting, and scheduling content is straightforward. It’s all the other tools that are built for the platform that make it stand out, however.
Users can download themes to change the look and feel of their website, as well as plugins that allow you to add cool tweaks and features to improve your site.
What we like most about WordPress is that since there are so many users out there, it’s great for beginners. Any question we have ever had has been answered by a quick Google search, which brings up topics and solutions from other WordPress users.
Let’s be frank. There’s one reason that you are interested in building a passive website — money. So how you monetize your site has a major impact on your success. For passive sites, there are three primary ways of earning money.
Affiliate links allow you to link to a product or service on your website. When a visitor to your site visits that link and buys that product, your receive a cut of the money. The products you can be an affiliate for are limitless — from vacation packages to tube socks.
The easiest and simplest way to become an affiliate with Amazon. Their program will automatically serve ads (or you generate specific links for products) based on your site content and your visitor’s browsing history. However, the payouts are generally low — as low as 4% in many cases.
Instead, you can join a site like Commision Junction, which is a bazaar of affiliate offers. No matter what sort of subject you cover, you’ll find a related product or offer here. Commision Junction also gives you one central place to track your sales and earnings.
These days, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is synonymous with Google ads. There are definitely other ad networks out there, but none match the size and popularity of Google.
With a small piece of code, Google’s will provide relevant ads based on the content of your site or what visitors have viewed in their past browsing history. Every time a person clicks on an ad, you receive a portion of the revenue.
Depending on your site and content, this can range from a few cents to tens or hundreds of dollars. Check out the Google Keyword Planner to get a better sense of what some keywords can pay (but keep in mind that it can vary widely).
Create and Sell Your Own Product
If it’s appropriate for your site, there is no better way to monetize a website than to sell your own product. Why is it so profitable? Assuming it is a digital product (such as a subscription, guide or report), there is no cost for creating another copy as there would be with a physical product.
As well, with your own product you aren’t limited in how much you charge or how to market. Finally, you also get to keep all the revenue, instead of just a just a portion as you would with an affiliate sale.
The final check in your list is likely the least obvious — a network of partners. When you start out with a new site, traffic is difficult to come by. Your website isn’t going to rank highly in search engines, and there won’t be any word of mouth for direct traffic.
Instead, you can build a list of partners that can help you build traffic at the start. Search Google for blogs and websites that are in your niche. Contact these sites early in your process of building a site to introduce yourself.
The goal is to create a network of at least a few sites where you can get links back to your site. Not only will this introduce your site to a new audience, but it will also build important backlinks, which search engines use in ranking your site.
One tip: When building your network, don’t just email a site out of the blue and ask for a link to your new site. It won’t happen. Instead, it’s important to start early and build a relationship. Introduce yourself, ask for advice, comment on an article, or provide something of value to the other person. Only after you’ve built a relationship, then should you ask for links back, article swaps, or other link-sharing.
Have more advice for those starting their first website? Let us know in the comments below.