It’s not easy, and it certainly won’t happen overnight, but you can build a website that rakes in cash every month.
I have a strong love/hate relationship with other people’s success stories.
They’re certainly inspiring, because they show you what’s possible. If they did it, I can do it too!
On the other hand, they’re discouraging if you’re not experiencing similar results.
Hearing huge success stories can be deceiving because they often focus more on where they’re currently at, and less on the long process it took to get there. Everyone wants to hear about the guy making $20k a month.
The guy making $6.30 per month isn’t exciting or inspiring.
But, there’s always a process, and it’s never glamorous.
I’m following a handful of niche website builders on Twitter, and they’re openly sharing their stats. I also listen to the Niche Pursuits podcast, which is all about building and growing money-making websites.
Today, I want to share a story about Mike, who runs a website that’s earning $20,000+ every month — mostly from ad revenue.
That didn’t happen overnight. It took a great deal of consistent hard work. But, if you’re willing to do that you can make a decent amount of money with your own website.
There are quite a few different approaches to this.
Generally, you’ll need to find a topic to create content, build a WordPress website, understand SEO, and create a lot of content.
If you just want to write, stick to Medium, or write for clients.
This involves a lot more than just writing.
Where do you start?
One of the most common questions asked on Twitter and Facebook is “what niche should I pick??”
But, they’re not curious about a niche.
People are really asking this: “What topic requires the least amount of work for the most amount of money?”
You start with what you know and like.
Some niches make more money than others, but that doesn’t matter when you’re getting started. You’ll be researching and writing about the topic you choose for a long time before you make money.
If you chase money, you’ll never make it to payday.
I tried to start a website about aquariums because I found a lot of low-competition keywords, and the pet niche pays well. But I don’t care about aquariums at all, so I gave up before I made $1.
Write down a list of topics that you know something about and are interested in. Then you can start looking at keywords and competition.
This is how you find your list of good content ideas.
Before you start your keyword research, you need to write down at least 25 article ideas. This will help filter out the topics that you’re not interested in.
Mike has a Twitter thread about how he does keyword research, but I’ll summarize it and add my insight.
Step 1 - Find your competitors
To do this, you’ll take your list of article ideas and search them in Google. Find the niche websites (not Wikipedia, Reddit, or big brands) that are ranking in the top 5 for your article ideas.
Look at the websites, and think about how closely you want your website to represent them. When you’re starting, you’ll want to find competitors that are focused on a more specific topic.
Your goal is to find a list of 25 competitor sites.
Step 2 - Find what keywords they’re ranking for
You’ll need an SEO tool for this. You can use Ahrefs, Semrush, or KeySearch to do this. Ahrefs used to have a $7/7-day trial, but they got rid of that, so if you’re on a budget, I’d go with Semrush trial or KeySearch — which I wrote about here.
You’ll put your competitor’s URL into the SEO tool and see all of the keywords they’re ranking for.
When you’re getting started, you’ll target low competition keywords, and look for newer websites that are ranking in the top 5 results.
At this point, search volume doesn’t matter that much, but I’d aim for at least 50+ monthly searches.
You’ll be able to save keywords to a list in your SEO tool, so get 50+ good potential keywords. I can usually find 100+ good keywords within a few hours of this.
Step 3 - Look at the search results
This is super important — you need to look at the actual search results for your keywords. This is time consuming, but it’s necessary.
Go to Google and type in your good potential keywords.
You’ll probably see your competitors there, but what else do you find?
Here are some things to look for:
- Top ranking posts don’t have the exact keyword in Title and/or URL
- Forums are ranking high (Quora, Reddit, etc)
- Mid-to-low DA sites are ranking in the top 3
Now click into the top 5-6 ranking articles. Are they short, <1200 words? Off topic? Poorly written? Missing key content? Can you do better?! If you can do better, add it to your list! When you’re done, prioritize your keyword list based on projected traffic. This way you’re writing highest potential traffic posts FIRST. And since the word/phrase made your list in the first place, you already know there is a good chance you CAN rank for it. That’s it. It’s not magic, just takes time.
I do keyword research in sprints. I’ll build my list over several days and that list will last me ~2 months. I write the content, then as I’m close to running out of keywords, I do it all over again.
I warned you that this isn’t going to be a get-rich-quick scheme. This is already a lot of work and you haven’t created any content yet. You’ve made $0, and spent money on research and a website.
Now it’s time to create the content.
when you find a great keyword, think “are there variations of this keyword that might also be good to write for.” For example, if your in the yard equipment niche: “lawnmower won’t turn on.” What about “leaf blower won’t turn on” or “weed wacker won’t turn on…"
I’m a bit neurotic so I check all my keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Trends. It’s free and gives me a range of possible traffic. Just a nice secondary test. Again the number is usually off, but its just yet another data point to work off of…
Don’t be afraid to occasionally go off the rails and just dig deep into the keyword tool you’re using. I occasionally don’t follow any process and just search a term and then a variation of the term and down the rabbit hole I go, occasionally landing on a golden nugget.
Create the content
Now that you have a list of good content ideas, you can start writing your posts.
Creating good content takes time. I’d expect to spend at least 3–4 hours writing an article that ranks well in Google. One study found that bloggers who spend 6+ hours writing a post get the best results.
In his first year, Mike wrote and published about 1 post a week. Now he’s publishing ~20 per month.
You might have more or less time to work on your site, but it’s more important to be consistent.
Your goal is consistency.
With a brand new website, you’ll need to create at least 50 pieces of quality content before seeing any significant progress. Most people don’t make it that far.
Even if it takes you 18 months, you can’t give up.
What makes quality content?
A simple question to ask yourself is “Would I be happy if I found this answer to my question?”
If you saw your blog post show up in the search results, would you be happy with it? or would you want to look at a different result? Would you send it to your friends and family? If not, you need to do some more work.
How much content do you need?
The short answer is hundreds of posts that are around 1,500 words each.
Mike has been working on his site for around 2 years, and he has ~250 posts published. Another website from NicheSiteLady on Twitter earns $20k/month with ~250 articles.
You really need quality and quantity if you want to make good money. Some websites have thousands of low-quality posts and they don’t earn much at all. If you want to start this, you need to commit to writing 100 posts and working on the website for a year with no expectations. You might earn $20. And that’s why very few people reach these significant levels of success. If you want to earn $1,000 or $20,000 per month, you need to make a long-term commitment and keep putting in the work, even when you don’t see the results.
This will not happen as quickly as you want.