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How to Make Money with a website

Sadik B

Well-known member
I am probably better off writing this on my tech blog, but I see so many people struggling making a decent amount of money with their sites, that I felt an article here would serve more people.

Before I start, let me tell you a little about myself. I personally manage a mid traffic website which makes a decent amount of money. (Overall about 4$ CPM ). I am in partnership on a couple of forums which have heavy traffic and make about twice as much as my solo site. I also have some amount of stake in a few blogs which give a decent return. All my sites are either on VBulletin or Wordpress. I would love to use Xenforo, and I will tell anyone that it's on route to become the best forum system out there. I am prevented by a total scarcity of time on starting a new forum with Xenforo but hopefully soon.

So now that is out of way, let me place my ideas about how you can make money with your website.

First, there are two ways of making money from a site, one, by making a site for the ads and two, making a site for real people. The difference between the two is in scalability. You can make a site in a decently paying niche just for the sake of money and if you are skilled enough and know what you are doing, you can make a decent return but your pageviews will always be limited to the amount of people you can push, eventually after a level, organic visitors won't arrive and a push will become incrementally costlier. Hence your made for ads site will make money, but growing it beyond a certain number of dollars will prove impossible.

The second, and my favorite way for making money is by making a site for real people, which is useful for them and for you and which has the potential to make you a large sum of money which is scalable month on month.

There are a lot of advanced topics I can get into. But I will stick here to the basics. Maybe later, if there is sufficient interest, I can elaborate.. So here goes...

Sadik B

Well-known member
1. Timeline

The first thing to consider, is what kind of timeline are you targeting. This can mean many things and raises secondary questions. Will you be running the site on your own or with partners? How much money can you invest into it? My suggestion, if you are not planning it long term, that is at least, two years before the site starts making decent money, then don't do it. There are two many scams out there promising to make you thousand of dollars overnight and there are too many stupid people out there, thinking this is some sort of short cut to riches. You have to realize that this is like any other business you can do. It requires planning, investment, time, hard work, skill and patience.

2. Niche

If you are comfortable with spending at least a couple thousand dollars in the initial 6-12 months of your site, have realized that there is sufficient amount of technical skill available (either you or your partner), then you can now start considering the niche. If you want to make a website with the additional goal of making money (note, i say additional and not primary), you have to target a niche which is widely searched. I just cannot emphasize this enough. You may love talking about your local club whole day, but how many people are going to be searching about it?

The fine line to tread here is finding a wide, highly searched niche on which you have good knowledge and sufficient interest. Again this is extremely, extremely important. I am aware that electronic gadgets are highly searched, but I have very little knowledge on the subject and I doubt that a year down the lane, i could still talk about the latest television technology. So I don't start a site on electronics.

3. Format

Ok so, you have a niche decided, so now we have to consider the format of the site. The easiest way out is obviously to have a format which encourages user generated content. There are pros and cons to it. Pros being that content can be created in shorter span of time. Con being that, it will probably look and feel like any other site out there, and Top Advertisers are usually wary of uncontrolled user generated content. You have to again tread a very thin line here.

My suggestion is to have a hybrid format with clearly defined and well separated editorial section and community section. The community section can have forums and "guest articles". The editorial section should have more researched, technically well written, informative and useful articles. This will gain you readership. You should have an article competition and be creative about it. Offer T-shirts, mugs, (free tickets to disneyland! ;) ).The forum section, if present, should have or appear to have several (at least 3-4) knowledgeable and active members. Research forum topics on other similar sites, those with higher number of replies on your competitor's site and / or higher number of pageviews on your competitor's site. DUPLICATE these forum topics. I say duplicate and not copy. So as an example, the show us your xenforo topic here is immensely popular. So even if people are not active here at xf.com, they still drop by and post about their site. So this is a great idea here for the taking. If you have a gaming site, start a thread, "Show us your high scores" or "Show us your winning moments" or "Show us your xbox" etc.

4. The Look

Look and format are almost the same point. But while the point above was more about managing and generating content, this one is about how everything looks.

I will just state the bottom line. Keep it simple.

I am appalled by the atrocious designs I see on new sites. (My very first site's design was also atrocious, so I don't blame anyone ;) ). I will make another comment which you have probably heard many times before, Good Designers borrow, Great designers steal!

Ask yourself the question, which are the most successful sites out there. Facebook, Wikipedia, Google, LinkedIn. What do they have in common?

Do you ever need to think about where to look if you want to do something on Google or facebook or wikipedia or even linkedin? No, because the designs are so minimal. What they have in common is a light colored skin and minimalistic design. That's what is also great about xenforo. Don't be fooled, minimal look does not mean reduction in complexity. Each of the above sites are technically the most complex, but the "view" is kept as simple as possible.

Don't clutter your skin, don't throw in huge graphics on first pageload, don't annoy people with unnecessary videos starting by themselves, flash etc. Ideally the user should come to your site and see a clean look, have the most important hyperlinks in navbar position, content well separated and with smooth colors and ads not filling up his screen etc. That brings me to the next topic, ADS!

5. ADS!

If I start a new site, I don't put ads on them till they have at least a few hundred pageviews per day. That is though not necessary and you can put ads from first day itself. The first step is to forget about all the internet millionaires and remember that you are starting a pauper. So do not fancy direct advertiser / ad network dreams. Start with Adsense.

My suggestion is to have two Ad units but you can also have three. I normally do not like link units but they can make you a little money. It's too less though and not the worth the space in my opinion. I recommend 728 x90 Ad unit somewhere above the fold and 300 x 250 on the side. Note that 300 x250 will always fetch you higher eCPM so make room for it.

Do not litter your site with Ads. If you have a large Ad unit at the top, make sure that after your visitor scrolls down he sees a very useful site. Do yourself a favor and learn to use Google Ad Manager (DFP) which is free for small (read most) businesses. This is because in the long run when you have ad networks and direct advertisers the history of data, the ability to rotate, the well thought out placements will all fast track your earnings. Once your site gets in excess of 200K pageviews per month you can start hunting for CPM Ad networks, Direct advertisers etc. If you did things probably that can be in as little as 4-6 months but at max you should get to 200K in about 1 year +.

6. Bring on the people!!!

The final point in this post and the most difficult one of course.

So how do we bring people? Simple two ways,

a> Organic
b> Inorganic

(lolz what were you expecting! ;) )

Remember, I said you have to consider a niche which is widely searched. Now the important part is to get search engines to notice you and send people. There is an awful lot to talk about here and I will only state the basics.

First, your skin should have ensured that it is spider friendly. Forget about the top secret Google Algorithm and think about what you would do if you had to write a program to find out what web pages are about. You would start by looking at html title, pay a fleeting glance on the meta description, look for H1 titles, read the content divs and make a judgement. That's the basics and that's what ultimately google does. So make absolutely sure that your skin does not bury your content, you have good well thought titles, good use of heading tags, proper interlinking of content on your entire site etc. If you wanted to do a case study on On Page SEO, take a look at wikipedia's HTML source. You will be amazed by what you find!

Second is obviously, get other people to link you. If you write good content you will be amazed that people will link you by themselves. The best way to get inlinks is if you own several sites yourself than you can link your new site from your established site. Another easy way is link exchange. The way I did it on my personal site was I collected the email addresses of dozens of good bloggers in my site's niche from their about us/ contact page. Then I created a page on my site called "Useful Links" and I linked them up. Then I emailed each one of the bloggers personally, saying that I am so and so and I have started a new site which will be useful for people in the domain and I would like you to link me on your blogroll and I have already linked you up. You will be surprised to know that about 40% of the guys I mailed to linked me up.

The other is inorganic. Again, this is a huge topic and I will be brief. Remember I said about being ready to spend some money. Learn to use Adwords.

Adwords, itself has a huge learning curve and getting your keywords to have high CTR and low cost can itself be a huge lesson to learn. Start with small amounts per day and experiment with your ads. Don't think about going to Ad networks if you have low budgets. If you do things right you can quickly even out the arbitrage. Meaning you can be spending and earning same amount in Adwords and Adsense. That is an excellent position to be for a new site. You can keep scaling the amounts until you can keep the balance even. Note that if you did the other points above properly, your inorganic visitor is highly likely to become a repeat visitor.

7. Enjoy what you do, learn the technology, don't depend on someone

You may have noticed that the title says, How to make money, but I have almost entirely talked about how to create an established site. If you are smart it would be obvious to you. If you can make an established site, you will make tonnes of money... Hope this was useful... I was free today and had nothing to do... :)


Well-known member
Very interesting. One question: is a brandable domain name for your forum better than a keyword stuffed domain name? Which is better over the long term? A generic keyword name may be hard to remember but will do better in search engines? What is your advice on this?

Sadik B

Well-known member
Very interesting. One question: is a brandable domain name for your forum better than a keyword stuffed domain name? Which is better over the long term? A generic keyword name may be hard to remember but will do better in search engines? What is your advice on this?
Google's Last Panda update has severely reduced the importance of keywords in domain name. Still, having an offbeat keyword in your domain name will rank your site for that particular keyword. However if you are targeting very competitive keywords like say "Tech Forum", having the keyword in your domain isn't going to do you much good.

Either way, the decision should always be considering scalability. If you choose to name a site on a particular keyword, will it be scalable 2-4 years down the line. Surely if you want to remain in business you want to expand. So will that keyword allow expansion or will it restrict you? An ideal case would be choosing a domain name which has relevant keyword which also is generic enough to allow expansion later.


Active member
Interesting. Surprisingly it helps me a bit.

Though in the web community I am in (Legend of Zelda) we each try to be our own. I tried to stray away from looking something else, but I end up being similar to a site called Zelda Europe. Bugs me that I copy from them. Makes me feel unoriginal.

Anthony Parsons

Well-known member
One question: is a brandable domain name for your forum better than a keyword stuffed domain name?
Brand is always the better option, the shorter, sharper and catchier, the better. Domain has little to do with anything overall, that you can't accomplish through a well balanced homepage and/or internal pages.

If your homepage title and homepage fit the algorithm, then the URL is irrelevant, then every subsequent page within, the same applies.

Keyword stuffed domains are a thing of the past that the unimportant, dodgy, old SEO's who think SEO is alive and well, still perpetuate as their to lazy to actually learn the real aspects of Google and algorithm functions.