Yes, You Can Make Money from Content Sites

64 replies
It seems a lot of folks in IM are looking for the quick hit, rinse and repeat methods of making money. That's fine, I do some of that too.

But, I also have a content site. Now, what I'm about to tell you isn't to brag, it's to set up what follows.

My content site, I'm guessing, has about 300 pages. The index page has a PageRank of 6, so it gets some respect from Google and other search engines. It has a global Alexa ranking of 126,647, and a US Alexa ranking of 78,656. That puts it in the top 1% of all the sites in the world.

Well yippee for me . . . but is it making money?

Of course it's making money! Here's how:
- Selling ad space
- Affiliate promotions
- Mailing list of over 10,000
- Promotes my member site with over 500 members
- Selling my own products
- Providing services
- Book royalties
On the last item, the site caught the attention of a book publisher, who asked me to write a book for them, so I credit the site for leading to a book deal and the resulting royalties.

Is it easy?

I guess that depends on what you compare it too, but basically, how hard is sitting on your butt typing or making graphics? I can work 12 - 14 hours one day and it doesn't seem hard. I don't usually work that many hours, I'm just sayin...

However, if thinking is hard for you, then a content site may not be for you.

It takes consistent effort, dedication, and knowing what you want to accomplish. You have to believe in your vision because the rewards don't come at all at first, not until you've built some content and momentum. If you don't have the time or patience, a content site may not be for you.

If you want to build something that lasts year in and year out, then maybe building a content site is for you. My "side sites" as I call them, can come and go, but my main content site has been going strong since 1997.

And, so that you don't have to ask, I wrote all the content myself. Doesn't mean you have to, but I did because I enjoy writing. You do have to be on the lookout for content ideas though. I've jotted down ideas on business cards, bar napkins, the margin of newspapers, etc. Be ready for ideas, wherever and whenever they may come.

Here are my tips for building a content site:

- Before you start, write down your goals and map out the site, not every page, but define each content section, and plan how you will handle expansion. This can help you see flawed strategies that might box you in if you don't plan, which can force a redesign. For SEO purpose, keep your topics tightly focused and use a silo structure for segregating topics.

- Plan your navigation structure before building any pages. That will also help you visualize problems before they arise. If you build a static site, I recommend learning how to use SSI so you can include your main navigation unit on every page by linking to just one file. When you update that file, you update the main navigation on every page.

My sidebar content is also pulled in through SSI, with a different SSI file used for each content section. Update the SSI file, and all my sidebar info is updated on every page in that section.

- Insist on producing high quality content only. The difference between average and high quality is often nothing more than one rewrite.

- In the early going, build good will by answering every email personally. The good will you build by making people feel important, or at least respected, can go a long way.

- Remember, it's a business, but keep it personable to connect with your visitors.

- Start right by creating a template. Use on-page best SEO practices for every page you make - no excuses. Use a "noindex" meta tag on pages that don't support your site theme.

- Start a mailing list right away. I didn't start a mailing for years, but then I didn't consider myself a marketer back then either. Use professional list hosting too. I self-hosted my mailing list at first. I had about 1,500 subscribers when my script was hacked and spam was sent through my domain. When the dust settled I had about 700 subscribers left on my list and my site had been shut down temporarily.

- Deliver good information to your mailing list more often than you send promotions. That's kind of expected with content sites, and it keeps people subscribed.

- Create lots of products that relate to your content! If you produce quality content people will assume your products are also of good quality. If you create products people want, you will make sales.

- Teach yourself copywriting if you can't afford a copywriter. It's an investment that will pay off handsomely. You can find good copywriting books in most libraries.

- Create professional graphics or outsource it if you can't do it yourself. While content is king, the visual aspect of your site is what will make the first impression on most people.

- Get over yourself. Seriously, your site isn't about you, it's about what's in it for your site visitors. Putting the focus on them and what they want goes a long way toward success.

- Do your freaking keyword research! I rarely make a page without doing keyword research to see if the idea is worth the effort, and to choose the best name for the page.

- Let Google's Wonder Wheel tell you how to build your content. For example, if you run a craft business and one of your main categories is "Handmade Beads," your index page will link to your handmade beads page, then let Google tell you what other pages to create to link to the handmade beads page.

In this case, Google thinks: handmade charms, craft beads, handmade clay beads, and a few others are all highly relevant. Do you think Google would like your site if you made a page about each of those topics, and linked them to your original Handmade Beads page? I do.

In conclusion...

This is getting a little long, so I'll just say you can made good, consistent money with a content site . . . after it gets going. You can also take the products you make for your content site and build minisites for them so you're selling one product from two websites.

Your content site will naturally gain links because of the content, but you'll still want to promote it. Your minisite will take more work, but this is where to set up your affiliate programs so others can send traffic to it. You keep all the money from your sales from your content site, and split the money from the affiliate site sales with your affiliates. Can you say, "best of both worlds?"

I'll check back later to see if anyone has any questions. Hope you enjoyed my little ramble. There's something it seems I'm forgetting. If it comes to me I'll add it later.
#content #make #money #sites
  • Profile picture of the author Bicycle Cat
    Perfect! Just a guide I needed! Thank you very much for your advice.
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    • Profile picture of the author yodude711
      love this post. thanks!
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  • Profile picture of the author Manda
    Hi Dennis

    Great post and I appreciate your ideas.

    Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

    Before you start, write down your goals and map out the site, not every page, but define each content section, and plan how you will handle expansion. This can help you see flawed strategies that might box you in if you don't plan, which can force a redesign. For SEO purpose, keep your topics tightly focused and use a silo structure for segregating topics.
    Please could you elaborate on how you would plan a site and how a silo structure can be used particularly if the main site is broadly focused with a wide range of different but related subtopics. With a lot of content sites the link between a broad range of subjects is obvious to a human reader but may not be so obvious to the bots.

    Thanks
    Manda
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by Manda View Post

      Hi Dennis

      Great post and I appreciate your ideas.

      Please could you elaborate on how you would plan a site and how a silo structure can be used particularly if the main site is broadly focused with a wide range of different but related subtopics. With a lot of content sites the link between a broad range of subjects is obvious to a human reader but may not be so obvious to the bots.

      Thanks
      Manda
      Hi Manda

      Use an XML Sitemap for the bots. I also use an HTML sitemap for human readers, but the bots can pick up links from there too.

      The silo structure is used to group content. For example, suppose you have a cooking site. You could put all your articles about cooking in the root directory. If you offer recipes, that's related so you could put them in the root directory, or you could put them in a directory or sub-domain of their own. You could even break it into categories and have a separate directory or sub-domain for Casseroles, Desserts, Breads, etc.

      If the sub-topics are closely related, you can go either way and it works. However, if you also have reviews a microwave ovens or cookware, for example, I would silo that kind of content. By "silo" I mean isolating content into topical directories or sub-domains. While cooking and microwave ovens are related, they're not as closely related as cooking and recipes (in my mind anyway, I'm not much of a cook).

      I like to use a separate directory for what I call "side pages" as well. This includes things like your privacy policy, contact page, about page, etc. While those kind of pages are necessary, they really don't add value to the theme of your site.

      Think of it like this . . . if you have 50 pages in a directory and all are cooking articles, that directory will have a stronger theme than one with 35 cooking articles, plus 15 pages that aren't related to cooking. It will still have a cooking theme, but the 15 off-topic pages dilute the theme to a certain degree.

      I'm sure you can see by now the whole idea is to group content together by theme, and isolate content that doesn't support your theme in a separate directory. This "silo-ing" of content does have some gray area to it. In the cooking example, would you be better off to put stove top recipes in one directory and outdoor grilling recipes in another, or would it be better to put them all in one directory?

      I would say that depends on how much content you have for each, and how tightly niched your site is. The gray areas are hard to figure out because the search engines aren't exactly 100 percent predictable. When logic and reason fail, sometimes you just have to go with your instincts.
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  • Profile picture of the author Janedoe
    Good post. I mainly make content sites, too. Too many these days, though, and I still have the research ready for more. One added plus about content sites is you can sell them rather easily if you ever need the money, so you are adding to your net worth as well as your income.
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  • Profile picture of the author ErnieB
    Great Post! I actually created a nice content site myself that was earning me some good consistent income and went on to sell it. I actually detail what it was and what I did in a free report I offer. ( Check My Sig )
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  • Profile picture of the author madison_avenue
    Hi Denis, great post!

    Rather than building static sites would it not be better to use WordPress to build the sites?

    As a CMS, WordPress seems well suited to building sites with lots of pages.
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      Great stuff, Dennis. I'm a big fan of content sites as a long-term business model with genuine realizable worth. This is what Virtual Real Estate truly means, IMO, and you've laid out a solid framework for anyone to follow.



      Originally Posted by madison_avenue View Post

      Rather than building static sites would it not be better to use WordPress to build the sites?

      As a CMS, WordPress seems well suited to building sites with lots of pages.
      WordPress may not be best suited to the silo structure Dennis describes (although, I believe there may now be a plugin that addresses this). With a static site, you'd always have the option to add a WP blog as a supplement.


      Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author TheNightOwl
    This is SUPERB stuff, Dennis!

    I've given this post a big fat ole rating and I encourage others to do so, too.


    Nice one!
    TheNightOwl
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  • Profile picture of the author enwereuzo
    Hi Dennis,Thanks for your great post here. I am a great fan of you and i read every post you make here.Now tell me why you did not include adsense on that income stream.Secondly, I am building a site and my plan is to combine these three things: CONTENT. COMMUNITY AND ECOMMERCE.What do you think and your advice
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      OK, I'm back from a good night's sleep and will try to catch up on the questions without making a mile long post.

      Originally Posted by madison_avenue View Post

      Hi Denis, great post!

      Rather than building static sites would it not be better to use WordPress to build the sites?

      As a CMS, WordPress seems well suited to building sites with lots of pages.
      Wordpress is certainly an option. My content site was started in 1997, long before I'd ever heard of Wordpress. I don't even know if it existed yet back then?

      My hesitation would be that Wordpress is more vulnerable to being hacked because it's open source. My content site was hacked once, and it cost me a small fortune. I do use Wordpress on another site, but I'm just not comfortable enough with it to use it on a primary money site. That's just me and my comfort level, I'm not trying to tell you that you shouldn't use it. It's a matter of personal choice.

      Originally Posted by enwereuzo View Post

      Hi Dennis,Thanks for your great post here. I am a great fan of you and i read every post you make here.Now tell me why you did not include adsense on that income stream.Secondly, I am building a site and my plan is to combine these three things: CONTENT. COMMUNITY AND ECOMMERCE.What do you think and your advice
      I have some Adsense on my content site. I just kind of lumped it in with selling advertising space when I presented that list of income sources for the site.

      As for your idea of combining content, community, and ecommerce -- sounds like a winner to me!
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  • Profile picture of the author sunnygal
    Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

    You can also take the products you make for your content site and build minisites for them so you're selling one product from two websites.

    Your content site will naturally gain links because of the content, but you'll still want to promote it. Your minisite will take more work, but this is where to set up your affiliate programs so others can send traffic to it. You keep all the money from your sales from your content site, and split the money from the affiliate site sales with your affiliates. Can you say, "best of both worlds?"
    Dennis,

    Excellent info.

    Can you elaborate on the above?

    Are the products on the content site exactly the same as the equivalent minisite?

    Do you have a minisite called something like "MyCasseroleRecipes.com" and a page on your content site called "mydomain.com/MyCasseroleRecipes" and both have the same salescopy?
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by sunnygal View Post

      Dennis,

      Excellent info.

      Can you elaborate on the above?

      Are the products on the content site exactly the same as the equivalent minisite?

      Do you have a minisite called something like "MyCasseroleRecipes.com" and a page on your content site called "mydomain.com/MyCasseroleRecipes" and both have the same salescopy?
      Good questions. The products are generally the same, although in one case they are not. In that case the minisite has a more indepth version of the product and a higher price point. It's different enough that the product also has a different name. As a rule though, I keep the products and prices the same so someone stumbling across them both won't be angry for buying the same product twice, or upset because they paid a higher price.

      The sales copy has many of the same elements, but I tend to experiment (read test) with one and not the other. Then I apply successful tests to both.
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  • Profile picture of the author DrGUID
    Great post! There are all kinds of ways of monetising a great content site.

    You forgot one - selling your own photos!
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    Great post. I've been thinking about a content site but have been spinning my wheels getting started.
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  • Profile picture of the author bkilela
    Thanks. This answers my question if I can make money from content sites.

    Your detailed post is surely an eye opener.
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  • Profile picture of the author Lou Diamond
    Hello,
    I have made a content site myself, you can see it in my sig.
    Users of content sites stay on much longer than any static site.
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    Something new soon.

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  • Profile picture of the author Janice Sperry
    Great post for many reasons! Thanks so much for sharing all the details. You have been building this site since 1997...?? Awesome! It just shows how quality content and a seroius approach will pay off for years and years.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by DrGUID View Post

      Great post! There are all kinds of ways of monetising a great content site.

      You forgot one - selling your own photos!
      Hi DrGUID - I didn't actually list the types of products I sell. Photos could certainly be one of the products if a person were so inclined.

      Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

      Great post. I've been thinking about a content site but have been spinning my wheels getting started.
      Hi Suzanne - Well get some traction, girl!

      Seriously, if you do and have questions just send me a PM. You contribute enough value here I'll be glad to answer any questions I can for you.

      Originally Posted by Lou Diamond View Post

      Hello,
      I have made a content site myself, you can see it in my sig.
      Users of content sites stay on much longer than any static site.
      Lou - I think I know what you mean, but a content site can be a static site, mine is (as can be found in my signature). I think you meant users stay longer on a content site than a sales site, but correct me if I'm wrong. Users do tend to stay longer on a content site, which gives you more opportunities to sell them something.

      Originally Posted by JMS View Post

      Great post for many reasons! Thanks so much for sharing all the details. You have been building this site since 1997...?? Awesome! It just shows how quality content and a seroius approach will pay off for years and years.
      The site has went through a metamorphosis a few times, but it's been around that long. When the site was hacked and booted from the search engines I eliminated about half my content. The content I didn't put back was mostly off-theme.
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      • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
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        Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

        Hi Suzanne - Well get some traction, girl!

        Seriously, if you do and have questions just send me a PM. You contribute enough value here I'll be glad to answer any questions I can for you.
        Thanks... this post inspired me enough that I just bought an excellent domain name and I'm going to get started on this. There have been numerous posts lately that gave me an idea for a great niche.

        Actually, I want to do two content sites. I've been reading about becoming a Google News Source and am thinking about building a site that meets those requirements ....

        But I'll start on this one first. Thanks.
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      • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
        Banned
        Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

        Hi Suzanne - Well get some traction, girl!

        Seriously, if you do and have questions just send me a PM. You contribute enough value here I'll be glad to answer any questions I can for you.
        Hey Dennis ... just another thanks for this thread. Been making a plan and it took two days to finally find a domain name, but I got one

        ta da ... drum roll please
        totallyfemale.com (and .net, .org and .info to keep cybersquatters away). No site there yet. Just got the domain name.

        I've been working on a men's online magazine that I bought awhile ago and I'm really tired of writing from a man's point of view (you know, naked women and stuff )

        so I thought I do the opposite and do a woman's magazine.
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  • Profile picture of the author AbigailB
    Thanks for this post, it provided a much needed confidence boost! My craft tutorials blog is still relatively new at only 4-and-a-bit months, and I've so far just made about $40 from ads and pattern sales. Reading round the IM community I was starting to feel I was barking up the wrong tree, but it's good to hear that if I keep working at it I can make a go out of my passion!
    Thanks for the boost and the great advice.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Rogers
    Awesome post, Dennis. Building content sites is a great way to set up income streams that will continue to pay into retirement. And smart design from the get-go will enable you to easily swap out monetization down the road.

    A lot of people tend to think only in terms of text when they think content. Video and audio are also content, and when mixed in with the text can greatly increase the sticky factor of a site.

    John
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  • Profile picture of the author Leslie B
    Dennis, this is a great guide on content sites. Going to copy and paste this in a little text file so I won't lose it.

    Leslie
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  • Profile picture of the author John Rogers
    Originally Posted by Stede Troisi View Post

    Can someone explain the Silo approach? I am a little confused.
    This might help.

    Silo Website Design
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by John Rogers View Post

      Awesome post, Dennis. Building content sites is a great way to set up income streams that will continue to pay into retirement. And smart design from the get-go will enable you to easily swap out monetization down the road.

      A lot of people tend to think only in terms of text when they think content. Video and audio are also content, and when mixed in with the text can greatly increase the sticky factor of a site.

      John
      Hi John, Long term income is one of the best parts of a content site. I would include creating SSI modules as part of smart design. I LOVE being able to change one file, the .ssi file, and have that change reflected throughout all the pages in the corresponding content section. You are so right...it allows you to feature new products, of your own or an affiliate vendor, with the click of a button.

      Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

      Great stuff, Dennis. I'm a big fan of content sites as a long-term business model with genuine realizable worth. This is what Virtual Real Estate truly means, IMO, and you've laid out a solid framework for anyone to follow.

      WordPress may not be best suited to the silo structure Dennis describes (although, I believe there may now be a plugin that addresses this). With a static site, you'd always have the option to add a WP blog as a supplement.


      Frank
      Hi Frank - I also agree with you on your assessment of Virtual Real Estate, primarily because it is a long-term business model as you say. That kind of site has staying power and provides income year after year. Even when my site was hacked and booted from the search engines, I was able to make money from my mailing list and from traffic that came from people's bookmarks and links on other sites. I lost a small fortune without the search engine traffic, but we weren't going hungry either.

      Originally Posted by Stede Troisi View Post

      Can someone explain the Silo approach? I am a little confused.
      Stede, I explained it some in post #5. The link John Rogers provided below goes into more detail. What they call theme bleeding in what I call theme dilution. It's the same thing.

      Silo Website Design
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  • Profile picture of the author Alminc
    Hi Dennis,

    Nice post about building a content site.

    Instead of SSI, I use phpinclude in combination with .htaccess
    so that I can have .html extension for my pages.
    I am glad you mentioned this because according to
    my experience nothing beats hand-coded static template
    when it comes to on-page seo.
    It's a bit more work but you have full control over every
    seo aspect and results are definitely better than with
    any script, including wordpress.

    Almin
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by Alminc View Post

      Hi Dennis,

      Nice post about building a content site.

      Instead of SSI, I use phpinclude in combination with .htaccess
      so that I can have .html extension for my pages.
      I am glad you mentioned this because according to
      my experience nothing beats hand-coded static template
      when it comes to on-page seo.
      It's a bit more work but you have full control over every
      seo aspect and results are definitely better than with
      any script, including wordpress.

      Almin
      Almin, I believe that if you can hand-code templates for php and html, you can do the same for Wordpress. Once you do, someone can look at the source code for a page in their browser and never guess that WP rendered the page.

      Beyond that, I agree that if you have the knowledge, coding your own templates (static or WP) can give you superior results compared to out of the box solutions and one-size-fits-all plugins.

      Static sites can give you an edge on loading speed, which is becoming a more important part of scoring on-page factors. Especially if you insist on using 84 plugins of varying quality, each of which must be accessed when calling every page.

      I ran a short test comparing a minimalist page vs. one with widgets and plugins, and the minimalist one had a lower bounce rate and longer time on page.

      [Disclaimer: I use both static html and WP depending on what I'm working on. I also incorporate standalone php and/or perl scripts where appropriate.]
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by Alminc View Post

      Hi Dennis,

      Nice post about building a content site.

      Instead of SSI, I use phpinclude in combination with .htaccess
      so that I can have .html extension for my pages.
      I am glad you mentioned this because according to
      my experience nothing beats hand-coded static template
      when it comes to on-page seo.
      It's a bit more work but you have full control over every
      seo aspect and results are definitely better than with
      any script, including wordpress.

      Almin
      Hi Almin,

      PHP is another way to go, but I knew nothing about it when I started my site. Just so you know, I can use SSI with .html pages. You just have to include an apache handler for it. If you go to the link in my signature about the HTML tutorials you'll see all the pages have a .html extension, but all the links in the navigation bar, and the links at the bottom of the pages, and all the sidebar content is all called to the page through SSI.

      I agree with you about the SEO aspect of hand-coded static pages.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rod Cortez
    Great post Dennis. I've got several content websites and view them as long term money makers that I may eventually sell some day. Also, I put an opt-in box on every single page of content that I have (even the FAQs page).

    RoD
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  • Profile picture of the author TimG
    Dennis,
    Fantastic little ramble you supplied the members with. The part regarding the Google Wonder Wheel is particularly good because I love the wonder wheel and feel it tells you everything you need to do in order to create a site that Google would expect to supply its search engine users.

    Intrestingly enough, I don't see many others praise it or recognize it enough. Heck, before the wonder wheel I felt that the related searches provided by Google was value in and of itself.

    Sometimes we make this business brutally hard when the simple solutions are right there in front of us being provided by the very search engine we seek to dominate.

    Respectfully,
    Tim
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by Rod Cortez View Post

      Great post Dennis. I've got several content websites and view them as long term money makers that I may eventually sell some day. Also, I put an opt-in box on every single page of content that I have (even the FAQs page).

      RoD
      Hi Rod - you and I do it the same. I've got a sign up form for my newsletter on every page. That's another good lesson, thanks for bringing it up. Folks, if you don't prominently feature your own mailing list, why would your visitors think it's worth signing up for? Most people aren't going around the web looking for mailing lists to join, you have to convince them it's worth doing.

      Originally Posted by TimG View Post

      Dennis,
      Fantastic little ramble you supplied the members with. The part regarding the Google Wonder Wheel is particularly good because I love the wonder wheel and feel it tells you everything you need to do in order to create a site that Google would expect to supply its search engine users.

      Intrestingly enough, I don't see many others praise it or recognize it enough. Heck, before the wonder wheel I felt that the related searches provided by Google was value in and of itself.

      Sometimes we make this business brutally hard when the simple solutions are right there in front of us being provided by the very search engine we seek to dominate.

      Respectfully,
      Tim
      Hi Tim - You're right, even in this thread not too many mentioned the "wonder wheel" point. Google is telling you exactly what they want to see. From what I've seen , the related searches are actually the same keywords featured in the wonder wheel, the wonder wheel just presents it in a different format. I don't know if that true every time, but it seems so.

      Love your point about how we tend to make things harder than they need to be. It's like we outsmart ourselves.

      And with that, it looks like I've caught up with the thread. Thanks for contributing, everyone.
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  • Profile picture of the author OLOORE
    Weldone Dennis.
    Tnx for showing us the way to long term online riches.
    This should help to put many of us in tune for heavy work that will keep paying dividends for a very long time to come.
    I've already saved the page for serious tutorials.
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  • Profile picture of the author cashcow
    Great post!

    I also have a few older content sites which are also static html (from before Wordpress even existed). I'm actually just starting to revive mine because they have been neglected but now I am realizing there are many advantages to these content sites as opposed to the smaller microniche sites.

    Plus, after having had my wordpress blogs hacked, I'm not too keen on wordpress these days.

    I actually love microniche sites but it's getting harder to rank with them and I'm seeing the advantages to putting your efforts into a few larger content sites. Mine are sites on broad topics so there are many different methods of monitization for each site as opposed to a microniche which can be rather limited.

    Google likes the big content sites and after many years of fighting it, I think I am finally realizing that it's best to just give Google what it wants!
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  • Profile picture of the author Shannon Herod
    Hey Dennis,

    Awesome post.

    There's just one thing I would probably change...

    I recommend learning how to use SSI so you can include your main navigation unit on every page by linking to just one file. When you update that file, you update the main navigation on every page.

    My sidebar content is also pulled in through SSI, with a different SSI file used for each content section. Update the SSI file, and all my sidebar info is updated on every page in that section.
    With a content management system as powerful as WordPress there's really no reason for people to be using server-side includes for a content site.

    WordPress does and amazing job of organizing and handling content management.

    Talk soon,

    Shannon Herod
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by Shannon Herod View Post


      There's just one thing I would probably change...

      I recommend learning how to use SSI so you can include your main navigation unit on every page by linking to just one file. When you update that file, you update the main navigation on every page.

      My sidebar content is also pulled in through SSI, with a different SSI file used for each content section. Update the SSI file, and all my sidebar info is updated on every page in that section.
      With a content management system as powerful as WordPress there's really no reason for people to be using server-side includes for a content site.
      Hi Shannon - Things have slowed down a bit so I can write a better reply now.

      Wordpress is good, but there are reasons it's not for everyone. Wordpress is vulnerable to hacking because it's open source. Anything is vulnerable, and I've had static sites hacked before, but open source just makes it that much easier because automated installations all have common points of vulnerability, such as the same database name.

      If you know how to manually install WP instead of using a control panel application like Fantastico to install, that helps. If you know how to lock it down, it's much safer to use. Not doing any of that is asking for trouble though. Just search this forum for Wordpress being hacked and you'll see what I mean.

      Also, if you know what you're doing with SEO, using static pages gives you complete control over all the SEO aspects of your pages and site. I know there are plugins for WP that do a nice job of SEO, I use them on my blog, but it's not quite the same as having complete control -- and with a well designed static site there's a lot less extraneous code, which, in my opinion, helps with SEO.

      In the end, there is no "one way is best" method, I don't think. It's what you are comfortable with and what you become, or want to become, good at. Like I said earlier, I started before Wordpress was even a product (I think), so static sites are very comfortable for me.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rob Howard
    A lot of good takeaways from this.

    - Solid content and well built reputation
    - Focused plan and action
    - Highly leveraged (the email list and book deals)

    All aspects of solid business growth.

    I especially like the high leverage stuff, email list building, selling ad space, book deal. Multiple streams of income from a SINGLE site.

    Awesome Dennis!

    Rob
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by cashcow View Post


      Google likes the big content sites and after many years of fighting it, I think I am finally realizing that it's best to just give Google what it wants!
      You're right, Google LOVES big content sites. That's one of the reasons mine has a PageRank of 6 I would think. One of the nice things about it, too, is that you can focus more on one thing and become known as an expert in your field easier. You don't have to constantly chase after new niches unless you want to.

      Originally Posted by Shannon Herod View Post

      Hey Dennis,

      There's just one thing I would probably change...
      With a content management system as powerful as WordPress there's really no reason for people to be using server-side includes for a content site.
      Shannon, there are reasons, which I'll post about later when I have a little more time. I've got several Skype conversations going on right now so I'm just answering to things I can reply to quickly.

      Originally Posted by ccmusicman View Post

      I especially like the high leverage stuff, email list building, selling ad space, book deal. Multiple streams of income from a SINGLE site.

      Awesome Dennis!

      Rob
      That's one of the best things about it -- I get Google checks, Clickbank checks, and Paypal payments every month, in addition to the sales from my own products and services. It's a beautiful thing! There are other ways to monetize a content site that I haven't even touched on.
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  • Profile picture of the author tpw
    Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

    Remember, it's a business, but keep it personable to connect with your visitors.
    There are two pieces of essential advice in this one sentence that really drives home the point about why your site is doing so well financially...

    1. Remember, it is a business...

    2. Connect with your visitors...

    Many webmasters miss one or both lessons, and that in my opinion counts for the majority of the worst sites online...
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    Publish Coloring Books for Profit (WSOTD 7-30-2015)
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by tpw View Post

      There are two pieces of essential advice in this one sentence that really drives home the point about why your site is doing so well financially...

      1. Remember, it is a business...

      2. Connect with your visitors...

      Many webmasters miss one or both lessons, and that in my opinion counts for the majority of the worst sites online...
      Very astute observation, Bill. Thanks for bringing emphasis to it.
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      • Profile picture of the author onemind
        This is a great post thanks for all the info on starting a content site! I have been doing IM for a little over year now in mainstream and 4 total. It took me a good 3 years to "get it" and I'm still always learning. I have been trying to brainstorm a good content site but I seem to always come up blank. I am far from a dimwit but for some reason I just haven't been able to figure out what to offer. Do you have any advise as to the whole brainstorm process? Or anyone for that matter, hearing others brainstorm processes would be valuable info indeed.

        I mean I know the process of going through a list of stuff you like then taking keywords from that and going into market samurai and doing the research. But where I get stuck is before even finishing the list. All my interests are high competition. for instance here is my top 3

        1- Video games... ( I have gone over every sub niche I could think of here. All mega saturation) This includes development and tutorials, which is what I'm trained in.

        2- Natural living/health... Hyper Saturated! I thought of my own diet and exercise patterns and way of life guidelines, but nothing that has not already been done.

        3- Politics... A bore fest to most and kind of hard to monetize. It's saturated but not in every sub niche. It has it's openings and some easy tricks to advertise but it requires a LOT of writing and low chance of making money for all the hard work.

        Then I have my others that are saturated as well. Karate/Kung Fu (sports=saturated duh), Anime (super saturated), Cosplay (not mee the chicks!), Satire (everybody's got a youtube channel nowadays so I'm not special), the list goes on, all average interests but all bad ideas for content it seems so far.

        I took a break from trying to do this a couple of months ago and made 2 sites that I'm happy with now. But I don't see them as huge money makers in the future. One is a solar energy site and the other is a billiards site. I was going to try micro niches now that they're done but I do eventually want 1 crown jewel content site.


        Any advise is much appreciated!
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        • Profile picture of the author Kevin Riley
          Great post Dennis. I used to build content sites back in the 90s and did one in Japanese in the early 2000s. I miss doing that. I loved the creation process. Going to have to get back to my online roots one day soon and do more.
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          • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
            Originally Posted by Kevin Riley View Post

            Great post Dennis. I used to build content sites back in the 90s and did one in Japanese in the early 2000s. I miss doing that. I loved the creation process. Going to have to get back to my online roots one day soon and do more.
            If you keep coming up with those monster workshops you'll never have time for another content site.
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        • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
          Originally Posted by onemind View Post

          This is a great post thanks for all the info on starting a content site! I have been doing IM for a little over year now in mainstream and 4 total. It took me a good 3 years to "get it" and I'm still always learning. I have been trying to brainstorm a good content site but I seem to always come up blank. I am far from a dimwit but for some reason I just haven't been able to figure out what to offer. Do you have any advise as to the whole brainstorm process? Or anyone for that matter, hearing others brainstorm processes would be valuable info indeed.

          I mean I know the process of going through a list of stuff you like then taking keywords from that and going into market samurai and doing the research. But where I get stuck is before even finishing the list. All my interests are high competition.
          For the record, I think most marketers are still learning. Hard to adapt if you're not.

          For advice on what market to enter . . . since a content site, by definition, means lots of content, you really need to pick something you're very interested in. Anything less than that and it quickly becomes a boring job rather than a daily joy.

          I wouldn't let the competition scare me off of something I really wanted to do. You just have to commit to creating lots of quality content to compete. You also want to try to carve out your USP, or unique selling proposition. Fancy words for saying you need to find a way to differentiate your site from the competition. There are lots of ways to do that.

          Where there is a lot of competition, there is usually a lot of money. You can grab a piece of the pie too. If there is a lot of competition, it may take longer to gain traction, but that doesn't mean you can make inroads fairly quickly.

          In addition to going for the more competitive keywords, also go for the less competitive search terms and link those pages to your pages with the more competitive search terms. You can start getting traffic from the low hanging fruit, while at the same time adding SEO value to your competitive pages.

          Remember too, Google and other search engines tend to like sites with a wide footprint, so you aren't going to see results in the rankings with 20 or 30 pages. By the time you get up to 100 or so, you should see some pages ranking for some of your keywords if you have a tight theme and do proper SEO and link building.

          It takes effort, but you can do it if you want to.
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          • Profile picture of the author onemind
            Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

            For the record, I think most marketers are still learning. Hard to adapt if you're not.

            For advice on what market to enter . . . since a content site, by definition, means lots of content, you really need to pick something you're very interested in. Anything less than that and it quickly becomes a boring job rather than a daily joy.

            I wouldn't let the competition scare me off of something I really wanted to do. You just have to commit to creating lots of quality content to compete. You also want to try to carve out your USP, or unique selling proposition. Fancy words for saying you need to find a way to differentiate your site from the competition. There are lots of ways to do that.

            Where there is a lot of competition, there is usually a lot of money. You can grab a piece of the pie too. If there is a lot of competition, it may take longer to gain traction, but that doesn't mean you can make inroads fairly quickly.

            In addition to going for the more competitive keywords, also go for the less competitive search terms and link those pages to your pages with the more competitive search terms. You can start getting traffic from the low hanging fruit, while at the same time adding SEO value to your competitive pages.

            Remember too, Google and other search engines tend to like sites with a wide footprint, so you aren't going to see results in the rankings with 20 or 30 pages. By the time you get up to 100 or so, you should see some pages ranking for some of your keywords if you have a tight theme and do proper SEO and link building.

            It takes effort, but you can do it if you want to.
            Thanks a lot for the info Dennis! Sorry I took so long to reply I have not been here all week. I'm glad to hear that something I enjoy will still be a good thing to market. Where I marked in read correct me if I'm wrong with my interpretation but you mean in addition to targeting the keywords that have high competition I should also use the less saturated ones in the related niche for my sub pages?

            If that's true it makes a lot of sense and I think I'm on the right path with my first (sort of) "content" site on solar power. I made the site for one keyword and made other pages for the less saturated keywords. So I think I'm happy with what I have done so far as a learning process. Now all I need to do is start applying it more and more.
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          • Profile picture of the author Janice Sperry
            Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

            . . . since a content site, by definition, means lots of content, you really need to pick something you're very interested in. Anything less than that and it quickly becomes a boring job rather than a daily joy.

            I wouldn't let the competition scare me off of something I really wanted to do. You just have to commit to creating lots of quality content to compete. You also want to try to carve out your USP, or unique selling proposition. Fancy words for saying you need to find a way to differentiate your site from the competition. There are lots of ways to do that.
            These are two great peices of advice for content sites (among all the other gems in this thread).
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        • Profile picture of the author mcmahanusa
          Originally Posted by onemind View Post

          This is a great post thanks for all the info on starting a content site! I have been doing IM for a little over year now in mainstream and 4 total. It took me a good 3 years to "get it" and I'm still always learning. I have been trying to brainstorm a good content site but I seem to always come up blank. I am far from a dimwit but for some reason I just haven't been able to figure out what to offer. Do you have any advise as to the whole brainstorm process? Or anyone for that matter, hearing others brainstorm processes would be valuable info indeed.

          I mean I know the process of going through a list of stuff you like then taking keywords from that and going into market samurai and doing the research. But where I get stuck is before even finishing the list. All my interests are high competition. for instance here is my top 3

          1- Video games... ( I have gone over every sub niche I could think of here. All mega saturation) This includes development and tutorials, which is what I'm trained in.

          2- Natural living/health... Hyper Saturated! I thought of my own diet and exercise patterns and way of life guidelines, but nothing that has not already been done.

          3- Politics... A bore fest to most and kind of hard to monetize. It's saturated but not in every sub niche. It has it's openings and some easy tricks to advertise but it requires a LOT of writing and low chance of making money for all the hard work.

          Then I have my others that are saturated as well. Karate/Kung Fu (sports=saturated duh), Anime (super saturated), Cosplay (not mee the chicks!), Satire (everybody's got a youtube channel nowadays so I'm not special), the list goes on, all average interests but all bad ideas for content it seems so far.

          I took a break from trying to do this a couple of months ago and made 2 sites that I'm happy with now. But I don't see them as huge money makers in the future. One is a solar energy site and the other is a billiards site. I was going to try micro niches now that they're done but I do eventually want 1 crown jewel content site.


          Any advise is much appreciated!
          Hey Onemind!

          Maybe video games is saturated, but how about a niche connected to that, like "Keeping Fit While Winning at Video Games". or "How to Improve Your Sex Life While Winning at Video Games".
          Same about the others. Think outside the box, of a niche related to the saturated one, but in and of itself somewhat unique.
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  • Profile picture of the author nizldy
    This is terrific post. Thank you so much for sharing. Discipline is essential. Planing is essential. Also, I'm so glad you mentioned Google's wonder wheel. I love that nifty tool.
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  • Profile picture of the author discrat
    Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

    It seems a lot of folks in IM are looking for the quick hit, rinse and repeat methods of making money. That's fine, I do some of that too.

    But, I also have a content site. Now, what I'm about to tell you isn't to brag, it's to set up what follows.

    My content site, I'm guessing, has about 300 pages. The index page has a PageRank of 6, so it gets some respect from Google and other search engines. It has a global Alexa ranking of 126,647, and a US Alexa ranking of 78,656. That puts it in the top 1% of all the sites in the world.

    Well yippee for me . . . but is it making money?

    Of course it's making money! Here's how:
    - Selling ad space
    - Affiliate promotions
    - Mailing list of over 10,000
    - Promotes my member site with over 500 members
    - Selling my own products
    - Providing services
    - Book royalties
    On the last item, the site caught the attention of a book publisher, who asked me to write a book for them, so I credit the site for leading to a book deal and the resulting royalties.

    Is it easy?

    I guess that depends on what you compare it too, but basically, how hard is sitting on your butt typing or making graphics? I can work 12 - 14 hours one day and it doesn't seem hard. I don't usually work that many hours, I'm just sayin...

    However, if thinking is hard for you, then a content site may not be for you.

    It takes consistent effort, dedication, and knowing what you want to accomplish. You have to believe in your vision because the rewards don't come at all at first, not until you've built some content and momentum. If you don't have the time or patience, a content site may not be for you.

    If you want to build something that lasts year in and year out, then maybe building a content site is for you. My "side sites" as I call them, can come and go, but my main content site has been going strong since 1997.

    And, so that you don't have to ask, I wrote all the content myself. Doesn't mean you have to, but I did because I enjoy writing. You do have to be on the lookout for content ideas though. I've jotted down ideas on business cards, bar napkins, the margin of newspapers, etc. Be ready for ideas, wherever and whenever they may come.

    Here are my tips for building a content site:

    - Before you start, write down your goals and map out the site, not every page, but define each content section, and plan how you will handle expansion. This can help you see flawed strategies that might box you in if you don't plan, which can force a redesign. For SEO purpose, keep your topics tightly focused and use a silo structure for segregating topics.

    - Plan your navigation structure before building any pages. That will also help you visualize problems before they arise. If you build a static site, I recommend learning how to use SSI so you can include your main navigation unit on every page by linking to just one file. When you update that file, you update the main navigation on every page.

    My sidebar content is also pulled in through SSI, with a different SSI file used for each content section. Update the SSI file, and all my sidebar info is updated on every page in that section.

    - Insist on producing high quality content only. The difference between average and high quality is often nothing more than one rewrite.

    - In the early going, build good will by answering every email personally. The good will you build by making people feel important, or at least respected, can go a long way.

    - Remember, it's a business, but keep it personable to connect with your visitors.

    - Start right by creating a template. Use on-page best SEO practices for every page you make - no excuses. Use a "noindex" meta tag on pages that don't support your site theme.

    - Start a mailing list right away. I didn't start a mailing for years, but then I didn't consider myself a marketer back then either. Use professional list hosting too. I self-hosted my mailing list at first. I had about 1,500 subscribers when my script was hacked and spam was sent through my domain. When the dust settled I had about 700 subscribers left on my list and my site had been shut down temporarily.

    - Deliver good information to your mailing list more often than you send promotions. That's kind of expected with content sites, and it keeps people subscribed.

    - Create lots of products that relate to your content! If you produce quality content people will assume your products are also of good quality. If you create products people want, you will make sales.

    - Teach yourself copywriting if you can't afford a copywriter. It's an investment that will pay off handsomely. You can find good copywriting books in most libraries.

    - Create professional graphics or outsource it if you can't do it yourself. While content is king, the visual aspect of your site is what will make the first impression on most people.

    - Get over yourself. Seriously, your site isn't about you, it's about what's in it for your site visitors. Putting the focus on them and what they want goes a long way toward success.

    - Do your freaking keyword research! I rarely make a page without doing keyword research to see if the idea is worth the effort, and to choose the best name for the page.

    - Let Google's Wonder Wheel tell you how to build your content. For example, if you run a craft business and one of your main categories is "Handmade Beads," your index page will link to your handmade beads page, then let Google tell you what other pages to create to link to the handmade beads page.

    In this case, Google thinks: handmade charms, craft beads, handmade clay beads, and a few others are all highly relevant. Do you think Google would like your site if you made a page about each of those topics, and linked them to your original Handmade Beads page? I do.

    In conclusion...

    This is getting a little long, so I'll just say you can made good, consistent money with a content site . . . after it gets going. You can also take the products you make for your content site and build minisites for them so you're selling one product from two websites.

    Your content site will naturally gain links because of the content, but you'll still want to promote it. Your minisite will take more work, but this is where to set up your affiliate programs so others can send traffic to it. You keep all the money from your sales from your content site, and split the money from the affiliate site sales with your affiliates. Can you say, "best of both worlds?"

    I'll check back later to see if anyone has any questions. Hope you enjoyed my little ramble. There's something it seems I'm forgetting. If it comes to me I'll add it later.
    Wow !! Thanks Dennis for the great Post. Some terrific insight you provide here. I guess sometimes I get a little jaded with the cynicism and the politics here at Warrior Forum. But Threads like this keep me coming back !!
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    • Profile picture of the author NerdGary
      Great post... Content IS king!
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by onemind View Post

      ...correct me if I'm wrong with my interpretation but you mean in addition to targeting the keywords that have high competition I should also use the less saturated ones in the related niche for my sub pages?
      You read it correctly, but missed one point. You were right about also targeting the less competitive keywords. That will get traffic to your site faster than targeting only the competitive keywords. Of course, the "less competitive" keywords still need to be keywords people are searching for.

      The part you missed is where I said to link the pages that target the less competitive keywords to the pages that target the competitive keywords. That way you pass a little link juice to them.

      Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

      Hey Dennis ... just another thanks for this thread. Been making a plan and it took two days to finally find a domain name, but I got one

      ta da ... drum roll please
      totallyfemale.com (and .net, .org and .info to keep cybersquatters away). No site there yet. Just got the domain name.

      I've been working on a men's online magazine that I bought awhile ago and I'm really tired of writing from a man's point of view (you know, naked women and stuff )

      so I thought I do the opposite and do a woman's magazine.
      Suzanne - great domain name! I remember when you got the men's magazine site. I went there to make sure the naked women weren't anyone I knew.

      PS - No smoking cigars when you're working on the new site.

      Originally Posted by discrat View Post

      Wow !! Thanks Dennis for the great Post. Some terrific insight you provide here. I guess sometimes I get a little jaded with the cynicism and the politics here at Warrior Forum. But Threads like this keep me coming back !!
      Hey discrat - I know what you mean about the cynicism and negativity. When it gets to you, start a positive thread! That's fighting fire with fire, and someone has to do it.
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  • Profile picture of the author sitefurnace
    Great post. Can you elaborate on your backlinking strategy. Do you find that you gain natural links after a while or do you still have to manually do things. Do you build backlinks to every individual article you make or just some general stuff.

    I often think that if we are trying to please google and give a natural appearance, why would we go and make unnatural backlinks. Surely the natural thing to do is to just let that side of things take care of them selves and just focus on building quality content that might attract natural links
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  • Profile picture of the author Vishal Mahadik
    Content Sites have always been my favorite since I entered into IM full time. But building and promoting these sites takes a little longer time. This is why you need to have a supplementary income source while you build these kinds of sites.

    I agree the long term reliable income is only possible through building quality content sites which can rank in SERPs for various long tail keywords as well as primary keywords of the site.

    You need to have a proper working plan for at least 6 months if you really want to go into building content sites. In these days, you have to commit yourself to build content continuously to optimize your site on-page and off-page.

    The consistency is the key here. So for those who want to start content sites, you must be really clear in your mind about your objectives and your plan to achieve it.
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  • Profile picture of the author sahab
    Great Great Writings !!!
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  • Profile picture of the author paul wolfe
    Hey Dennis

    This is a great post - thanks very much for sharing the info.

    Quick question if I may - you have an Alexa rank of approximately 120,000. Do you know approx. how many unique visits per day that translates to?

    Cheers





    Paul
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  • Profile picture of the author bush
    Outstanding post... Thanks for share some excellent information
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  • Profile picture of the author awmi
    Very informative post. Thanks for takingf the time to write and share your experience.

    Your site - BoogieJack.com HTML and CSS Tutorials - is now one of by bookmarks.
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  • Profile picture of the author cucat
    Thank you so much for your information. I want to ask a little bit more : For your content site, do you build backlinks for it ? Or just work on content ?

    Regards
    Tuan
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    ==> FREELANCE WEB DEVELOPER - I build clean, fast and robust websites | Opensource Yii CMS
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  • Profile picture of the author Stiney
    Yeah this post is great. That's what I really want to do though, Is make a content site.
    I don't like the idea of making hundreds of garbage sites, Its just not something I would enjoy, but making quality content sites about a passion of mine, now that's why I got into IM in the first place.
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  • Profile picture of the author dagaul101
    Great tips, always using the tools recommended by the search engines you are trying to rank for is a great way forward, especially the Wonder Wheel
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  • Profile picture of the author GenerousBoy
    Hey, just visited your site and I like the idea of the pop up that askt he visitor to give email to be with a chance of getting the product at a later date (presumably cheaper). How do you install such a pop up? Presumably a bit of html on the sales page somewhere...? But how and where?

    Nic
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    Nic Penrake is a Senior Copywriter & Online marketing mentor. For free training plus unique method for massively building your list, click the link: http://budurl.com/7DayMQTraining

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  • Profile picture of the author twpablate
    Thanks for this detailed information.

    You can also make money through forum posting, now a days there are lots of demand in market for people who do it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bradley McK
    I really think this is an awsome, much needed post. So many of us are busy chasing supposedly quick money ideas that we might overlook the strategy of a good, content rich, user friendly website. They may require a little patience but I believe they can pay off nicely
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