Is it really possible to make profit from a website without actually selling anything? The short answer is YES, you don’t need to sell a product or service in order to make money from your website. How is this possible? By utilizing your expertise and experience about a topic. Continue reading and you will understand how….
What you will read below is ‘common sense’ for the experienced digital marketers but for beginners, making money online is a topic that generates a lot of questions. How can you make money on the Internet without selling anything, how is this possible?
Take a moment and think what is the Internet. Besides being the largest market on the World and the biggest community of connected people, it is also a huge library of information serving users through search engines, websites, blogs, social media networks, email lists and various other digital mediums.
People around the World use the Internet to learn something, find an answer to their question, interact with other people and of course buy products or services either online or find information about local stores.
If you take out the ‘selling part’, you are left with the huge amount of people that use Google and other search engines on a daily basis to find out information. How can you utilize this behaviour and make profit? By providing users with quality information and make money through advertising.
When talking about this model of making money online, 2 things come immediately in mind: the first is Google Adsense and the second one is affiliate marketing, a technique where you don’t actually sell something on your website but you refer people to other websites and when they buy something you get a commission.
Regardless of which method you choose to monetize your content, the recipe of making a website that will actually make you profit is the same.
How do you build a profitable website?
To start with let me throw a few words for further discussion: website, content, traffic and monetization options, profit. Let’s see in more details how these can work together and give you a profitable result.
You cannot expect to make any serious money online without having your own website. By website I mean to have your own hosted domain and a modern website design, like the one you are reading now 🙂
A great website these days needs to have a number of characteristics:
Clean and fresh design – Things have changed since the 90’s. Websites are no longer based on pure html code but there are modern CMS (content management systems) like WordPress that enable you to create good looking websites with added functionality for both the administrators and end users.
Mobile Friendly – Everyone that is into Digital Marketing can understand the importance of mobile friendly websites very well. More people are using the Internet through their mobiles than desktop which means that if your website is not optimised for mobile, you already lost half your potential traffic.
Fast – Faster websites generate more profit. Take a look at the image below taken from copyblogger.
Clear navigational structure – Users should be able to easily find what they want fast and in less clicks.
User friendly – A good SEO friendly website, it also user friendly.
So, you have a nice website hosted on your own domain, what’s next? Perhaps the most difficult part in the whole process in making a profitable website is to have the right type of content.
What do I mean by the right type of content? You need to have content that:
- Search engines will love (not like but love – you will read below why).
- Users will trust – gaining user trust will make you more money in different ways. Even if you are not actually selling anything on your website, the core inbound marketing techniques still apply.
- Can potentially attract advertisers (very important, keep reading for the details).
Let’s take the first part, how do you create content that search engines will love and why this is of great importance?
While there are various sources of traffic, the one that performs better when it comes to affiliate marketing, adsense (or other alternatives), is organic traffic i.e. traffic coming from search engines. So, if you want to create a profitable website you need to have a constant (and large) flow of search traffic coming to your website everyday.
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It’s relevant regardless of when someone reads it (this is called evergreen content)
It’s long enough to get the attention of search engines and readers
It’s fresh with up-to-date information
And of course is useful for the user.
How can content establish user trust and why it matters?
Besides the above characteristics, your content needs to be useful and interesting for the user. This will not only help your SEO and social media efforts but it will also keep users longer on your website which increases the likelihood of clicking your ads.
You need to understand that regardless of the method you choose to monetize your content, one of your objectives is to create a loyal audience that will regularly visit your website to get your content. This means more views, more ad clicks, more email subscribers and more conversions (whatever a conversion is for you).
What type of content attracts more advertisers?
When it comes to content monetization, not all content is the same. Different types of content will generate different earnings. Let’s take for example the case where you use adsense to make money from your content.
Adsense works by crawling your website’s content, understanding what the content is about and then finding Adwords advertisers that have selected to place their ads in websites that have that particular type of content. This is a very simplified version of how adsense works but the general idea is that your content is analysed and is ‘grouped’ according to the keywords that make up your content.
If you are familiar with the Google keywords tool (a tool that is also used by Adwords advertisers), you know that each keyword has a different CPC (cost per click). In other words advertisers will pay a different amount for each click on their ads and this also depends on the keyword cost (there are many other factors that play a role in calculating the cost per click).
Since advertisers pay a different amount for each click, this means that you as a publisher will get paid differently for ad clicks, depending on the content of the page the ad is running.
In case this get confusing, let’s demonstrate this with a real example:
If you are an advertiser and wants to show your ads when people search for weight loss related topics you can expected to pay Google from $0.20 – $2.00 every time someone clicks on your ads.
If you are an advertiser that sells products related to ‘making money’, you will pay from $2 to $4 per click.
Although the above statistics are for setting up adwords campaigns on the Google Search Network (and not display network that includes Adsense), it still shows that the keyword cost is not the same for all topics. A website that has content with a high cost per click will make more money than websites that have content will a low cost per click.
To avoid any criticism from experienced publishers, I am over simplifying things to make it easier for beginners to understand the basic concepts.
In general, keywords that have a clear intent i..e ‘I need to make money now’ generate more earnings per click than general type keywords.
To sum up this section, you don’t only need good content on your website that will gain the respect of users and search engines, but you also need content that can make you money.
Traffic and Monetization
For any monetization method to work (including selling goods or services from your website), you need to have traffic and in the case of adsense or affiliate marketing you need to have a lot of traffic.
How much traffic do you need?
Depends on how much money you want to make from your website or to say it otherwise, your traffic levels will determine the amount of money you can make. Let me demonstrate this with an example for a website using adsense.
Assume that you have an informational website that is running adsense and that you have followed all guidelines required by adsense and especially the part that talks about the number, type and position of your adsense ads.
In a best case scenario you can expect to have a 2% CTR (click through rate), this means that 2% of the people that will view your ads, they will click. Let’s also assume that you get paid on average $0.40 per click. This means that if your ads are shown 1000 times (views per day), you will earn aprx – 1000 x 2% x $0.40 = $8 per day.
Now, if you want to make $100 from your website per day and according to the simplified example above, you need to have at least 13,000 views (instead of 1000).
Profit is of course different from earnings. What I just described above are the potential earnings you can get from your website if you have 13,000 visits per day in a niche that pays aprx $0.40 per click. Your actual profit per day is different simply because you have to account the expenses into the equation (profit = earnings – expenses).
What are the expenses of running a website?
They are some obvious running expenses like hosting, ongoing SEO, social media advertizing and promotion but the real cost comes down to the content.
Good content that can give you good organic rankings and traffic from search engines and at the same time is likeable from users (or the other way around) costs either money (if you outsource the content) or time (if you produce the content yourself).
For sake of continuing the example above and to demonstrate how you can make a profitable website, let’s say that you outsource the content to professional writers who are experts about the topics you are publishing.
The least you can expect to pay for a 1500 word article is $200 (I know that this may sound a lot but we are talking about really good content which depending on the niche may cost much more). So, let’s do some calculations:
In a month you will publish 12 posts i.e. $2400 and make from advertising $3000 ($100 x 30) so you have a profit of $600 (without accounting for the running expenses and the time that you have to spend doing various tasks to keep the website running).
So it’s possible to make a profile without selling anything right?
The reason I have used the above example is to raise 2 important points:
1st – Making a profitable website is hard work, whatever you may read about ‘easy ways to make money’ or other ‘too good to be true’ promises is simply a way for them to make money by selling you a product and not the way for you to use the Internet to make money.
2nd – You really need a lot of traffic to make a profit from your content even in the cases that you produce the content. In order to write a good article or create a nice infographic, you may have to spend a number of hours that are taken away from your overall productive time.
From the example above I deliberately left out one important calculation. How long and how many articles you have to publish in order to get to 13,000 visits per day?
I left it out because if you do the calculations correctly, many beginners will get disappointed. Try to figure out how much it will cost you to publish 150 articles and how long you will have to wait to get to that levels of traffic….Also don’t forget that rankings and traffic is not a matter of how many articles you have published but it depends on many other factors.
On the bright side of things, if you work hard and consistently for a number of months (or years) it is possible to get to the levels of traffic that will cover all your expenses and leave you a good monthly profit.
I am an adsense publisher for almost 10 years now and have made a good amount of money (5 figure) through content publishing. If you followed this blog since the beginning you may have read my case study of how I grew the traffic of one of my websites to 400K organic visits per month in a considerably short period of time and this of course translates to having a profitable website.
Good things come to those who wait
The takeaway from this post is that, yes it is possible to make profit on the Internet without selling anything but it requires hard work, patience, knowledge and a long term plan to follow.
Being a content publisher means caring for your users and once you manage to win your users, everything else will gradually follow.
Start with creating a good website, focus on your content, build your traffic patiently and sooner or later you will reach a point where the earnings will cover your expenses and the investment you have made until to reach that point. It’s not going to happen overnight but once it happens it will constantly generate profit for months or even years to come.