How To Earn First $500 From Your Site


A friend told me that he would like to build a site that earns him income on a monthly basis. It is possible to make money from your site, but it is important to have realistic expectations. Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes hard work and is not going to happen over night. So be prepared to work smart and to put in the effort in order to achieve your goals.

Most sites will fail to earn any income, so it is advisable to keep your day job and start working seriously on your project in your free time. If you do make it, blogging allows a very flexible lifestyle. You can work from anywhere in the world and you don’t even need to work all the time as your site and content archives can work for you around the clock.

Make money infographic

Should you monetize your blog?

Consider what the objectives of your blog are first. Are all sites created with the objective of making money? Not really. Blogging is not just a way of making money. Businesses use sites in addition to their social media marketing, to connect and be in touch with their customers. Professionals use sites to build their network. Some organizations use sites to acquire new customers and yet others use it to understand the changing trends of markets and initiate further research to develop newer products.  If I am running one such business as described above, will I want to drive my readers away from my site to a competitors website? I would certainly, not. When the core objective of my site is to promote my business, why will I want to advertise and promote somebody else’s business?

Ingredients necessary to make it work

These ingredients are needed to be able to bring in the revenue from your site. Make sure you have these sorted first:

  • Monetizable topic. The topic you focus on has to have a buying market. Some topics are tougher than others so make sure your topic has an audience interested in spending money if you want to monetize the site. See if there are products on the market that are relevant to your topic. See: How to pick your topic.
  • Valuable content. You need to create value for your visitors to be able to retain some of the traffic you get, to have visitors spread the word about your work and to start building trust. Have expertise in your topic and offer something that people find useful and valuable. Don’t “sell” as that will affect your ability to build an audience. Publishing sales pitches and marketing product pushes is not what people want. You won’t believe how many content marketers expect to do well in terms of sales of their own products or other affiliate products just by pushing marketing messages to visitors. Just telling people about the product and its facts and asking them to buy will not do much to your bottom line. Best content is the content that relates to your audience, brings them value and includes product links naturally within them.
  • Content that is near your visitor’s wallets. Create content with the purchasing cycle in mind. Content that is valuable and is targeting people that are looking to buy something. Try and solve problems people have at the different cycle stages: Problem Recognition. Information Search. Alternative Evaluation. Purchase Decision. Post-Purchase Behavior. People first become aware of a need they need fulfilled, and then go into an information search and look at the different alternatives they have before making a decision on what to buy. The idea here for bloggers is to create valuable content that helps people in their product search during the different stages of the cycle. The information search stage and the evaluation of alternatives are best stages to focus your attention and efforts on. In information search stage people most probably go to Google and other search engines and do a search to start the product hunt. They are ready to make a decision and make a purchase. You need to rank there for those searches in order to be near their wallets. Do reviews, comparisons and discount offers. Some keywords people might be using in conjunction with product names or needs when searching that you should aim to create content about are:
    • Best
    • Information
    • Review
    • Comparison
    • Testimonial
    • Price comparison
    • Discounts / Promos
  • Targeted audience. You need traffic to your site. Without people visiting your site and without having a loyal and targeted audience, it will be very hard to get any revenue from it. Targeted audience is what can be monetized and what sponsors want to reach. See: How to grow traffic.

8 ways you can make money on your site

There are several different ways you can earn an income from your site. These are the most popular options:

  • Become an affiliate and review products you are using

Find opportunity in markets and products you are familiar with. Are you using a product that makes your life easier? Have you read a book that inspired you? As long as the product is targeted and relevant to your readership, become an affiliate and promote it. There are thousands of companies who will pay you commission for sales that you generate through your content. This is called affiliate marketing and is arguably the best source of revenue.

Finding these affiliate opportunities is simple, just do a Google search for products you like with “affiliate” added on. Or alternatively join one of the larger affiliate networks like Commission Junction, Clickbank or Shareasale. Create valuable content about the product, help people use the product better, show how the product can improve their lives, and get revenue when they click your link and buy the product.

  • Pay-per-click contextual ads like Google Adsense

Google Adsense is one of the easiest ways of making an income through your site. You place a piece of code on your article and Google automatically lists ads relevant to the topic of your post. Google pays per click and depending on the popularity of the topic you write about, a click can earn you anything from few cents to several dollars. Google Adsense will automate the process of selling and displaying ads for you. AdSense automatically crawls the content of your posts and delivers text and image ads that are relevant to your audience and relevant to what your content is about.

You just join Adsense, choose how you want your ad to look like and install a piece of code on your site and you are set to start showing ads. AdSense lets you customize the appearance of ads to match the look and feel of your site. WordPress plugin Google Publisher Plugin, made by Google, will help you insert Google ads into your blog.

Negative side of Adsense is that many people have banner blindness (many visitors dismiss banner ads as they find them intrusive), tend to find ads annoying and ignore them. You also need a large amount of visitors and clicks in order to earn a decent amount.

  • Create your own product

Develop something that is genuinely helpful to people, that solves some kind of a problem that they have. Package the product in a specific format and sell it. E-books, webinars, courses, and membership sites are some of the popular formats. This is quiet similar to reviewing and recommending your favorite products, but the benefit of this is that you keep all the income yourself. It does take more time and effort to create the product though and you also have to consider customer support.

  • Sell your own time

You could sell your own time. You can become a consultant and charge for people to have one-on-one coaching with you. You can become a freelancer and get paid to create content for other sites. The negative of this is that you obviously need to work and produce something of value to get a one-off fee. This makes it not as passive as some of the other income options in this post.

  • Banner ads: Sell advertising space and get sponsors

You can try your luck and sell banner ads directly to advertisers. Find products relevant to your audience and simply contact the company and ask if they would be interested in sponsoring your site. This normally involved banner advertising but you get paid a fixed amount per month instead of needing to get a lot of views and clicks like you do in Google Adsense for example.

Popularity of your site is an important aspect that decides whether you should consider banner advertising. If your site is not that popular, the ads that you place on it will only be for affiliate products that you are promoting. This is because, there will not be too many buyers for your ad-slots and these slots will more or, less remain underutilized. Most of these banners you see in sidebars of blogs are not paid for by the advertisers. Majority of bloggers only have affiliate deals or pay-per-click deals to work with. I understand when people use banners if some company contacts them and wants to pay them a fixed monthly fee to display their banners. If your site is big enough to attract these offers, it seems like a fairly easy and simple way of earning income. If your site is popular and you are getting a lot of page views or advertising offers, then you should certainly consider putting up a couple of banners at least. These might be a good source of income and can supplement your monetization strategy. Many of the biggest sites only rely on banner ads and page views.

  • Paid reviews

There are many opportunities for you to get paid by writing paid reviews. Most bloggers are regularly contacted by companies that will send them products to review. Negative point to this are that you don’t get paid very much and the content you end up creating is of less worth to your visitors compared to the best content. You will also discover that many people will contact you directly asking to buy reviews or text links. Even though many bloggers accept these, I would recommend to ignore these offers as selling links normally ruins your user experience and is not something search engines like and you risk being banned from the search results.

  • Ask for donations

Depending on the topic and the readership of your site, a donate button might be the most effective way of monetizing. PayPal offers these and it just might be the way for you to get rewarded for the help you provide to your readers. Ask for donations.

  • Use Amazon, YouTube and others

You can use your existing content to earn passive income on other platforms. For example if you produce many videos and upload them onto YouTube, you can become a YouTube partner and monetize your videos. Similar to this, you can add your site to the Amazon Kindle store and get paid when people read your content on Kindle.

Keep in mind: Ad-blockers + banner blindness = No clicks?

If you are monetizing your site primarily with banner advertisements for affiliate programs, you are missing out on a ton of opportunities. Do you know anyone who clicks on banner ads? When is the last time you clicked on a banner ad? Traditional banner ads take away from the user experience. They distract users and because of that users tend to ignore ads. Banner blindness is a very known phenomenon which was proven by several eye-tracking studies and has shown that readers do not fixate on ads at all.

The industry tried to counter banner blindness by making ads look like the content, having text ads based on the context of the content, placing the banner ads within the content area and much more. This initially helped but now even making the banner ads look and feel exactly like the content plus integrating them within the content area doesn’t give you more than a tiny percentage of clicks out of all the people that are actually consuming the content.

Another thing that affects the banner ads is the rising popularity of different ad-blocking browser plugins. An increasing number of people use these plugins which automatically block all banner ads. This trend can be clearly seen as these plugins are usually placed towards the top of most downloaded plugins for Chrome, Firefox and other browsers.

For banners to get re-born and become relevant again there needs to happen a big re-think of the whole field and hopefully a full reinvention of how banners work and how they are presented. In the meanwhile the best is to minimize your banner ads and look for alternative options of monetizing your visitors.

On the way to your first $500

The best strategy for monetization is to pick and choose several of the methods above in order to diversify your income. Experiment, test and take your time choosing the methods that fit your topic the best. Don’t force it. You will find that the best methods will come to you naturally over time as you build your content archives and your loyal audience. Create the best site you can and grow your traffic, readership and trust. Then strategically monetize using one or more of the above methods and you will be on the way to your first $500 in revenue. If you keep working hard on this, work consistently over a longer term, and as long as you never give up, in due time you will become a success and your site will start making even bigger amounts.

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