How Do You Make a Website (and Make Money)? Lets Look At A Real Example
Somehow you stumbled onto this website. You noticed that it is possible to make money with a website. You are excited and now you want to make your own.
That is exactly what happened to me over 2 years ago.. I found a website that was making money and I wanted to make my own. I spent the next few weeks surfing the Internet collecting all the information I could find.
Before I started my website I wanted to understand the entire process from having nothing to having a website make money. I wanted to know how to choose a website topic, I wanted to know to register a domain name, I wanted to know how to get more traffic, I wanted to know how website generate revenue.
The problem was that there was no one place that gave me all the information. It was scattered all over the internet and sometimes one piece of information contracted another. I was lost and confused.
If you are new to this you must be feeling the same way. This page was created to help you understand the process from start to finish. We will go through the complete process of creating a website, promoting it, and making money with it.
We Will Use pragueczechtravel.com as a Real Sample Website
To help you understand the process we will be looking at a real website and how it makes money.
pragueczechtravel.com is a tourist’s guide to the beautiful city of Prague. It is my other website and I made it using the template provided in the Website Starter Kit. pragueczechtravel makes money by advertising, affiliate sales and by selling a product.
Have a quick look at www.pragueczechtravel.com to get a sense of the of website we will be discussing.
We are using pragueczechtravel as a sample because it is a website that everybody can make. Everybody lives somewhere interesting and everybody know a lot about where they live. So of you want, you can start today, your first website can be about the place you live. If you follow along and do the actions steps then you can have your own website. Your topic will be your home town, city or country and you can get the template with The Website Starter Kit.
Making money with a website has nothing to do with how much you know about actually creating the website. Creating websites is easy: you can get a template and with very little knowledge of HTML and CSS have you website up and running in a matter of hours. The trick is not making the website - the trick is making money with it.
This guide will get you started on the right foot. Making money with a website is about a lot more then just making a website. It is about understanding the entire process and seeing the big picture. This guide will give you the big picture.
Lets assume you know nothing. Lets start from the beginning:
Determine What The Website Will Be About - STEP 1
Make Sure People Need Your Website
Pragueczechtravel is about Prague and travel. Every year over 5 million people visit Prague. Before people come to Prague they need to find out a little about the city. What language to they speak, what money do they use, what are some of the must see sights?
Every year over 495,000 people do a Google search for ‘Prague Travel”. The interest exists - people want to visit a websites about Prague.
The most important aspect of your website is that people need to visit it. You can have the best information and flashest website about basket weaving, but if nobody is interested your website will fail.
Make Sure You Know What You Are Talking About
I created a website about Prague because I live in Prague. I know a lot more about the city then people who do not live in the city - that's my advantage over 99.9998333% of the people in the world. I am not a expert about Prague but I know more then the people reading my website.
You do not need to be an expert either, but you do need to know more than your visitors. You know something they do not know so they come to you for help.
Make Sure There Is A Way To Make Money With The Website
It is extremely difficult to make money with a website about what you did last summer. The problem with this kind of website is that you are not solving a problem for people. Nobody has the problem of needing to know what you did last summer.
The only people who care about your summer are friends. Unfortunately you are not going to make a lot of money if all your visitors are friends. You need to create a website that focuses on a specific problem that lots of people have.
People that search for ‘Prague Travel’ are people planning to travel to Prague. When they land on the website I know their needs. They need a place to sleep, they need a map, then need to convert their currency etc. It is so much easier to sell to people once you know what they need.
- Figure out what you know about more then your visitors.
- Ensure that your website will be solving a problem for your visitors.
- Ensure that you can solve some of your visitors problems by offering them products or services for money.
Write The Website Content - STEP 2
If your website is about something you know lots about then writing content will be easy. Of course you will have the common writer’s problems like writers block, ensuring proper grammar and being stuck inside writing while all your friends are outside playing, but overall this is a fun step.
I strongly suggest that you write the content, at least 15 pages, before you move to the next step of creating the website. By writing the content first you will get a really good idea of what your website is about. It forces you to focus on your topic and really think about your visitors and what they need.
It took me about three weeks to write all the content for pragueczechtravel. I gave myself a goal of 2 pages a day. For three weeks all I did was write content. There were days I felt like doing the more exciting things like logo and designing the website, but I fought hard to ignore the urges and focus on the writing.
Some people make the mistake of making the website first and then writing the content. Playing around with website design and layout is exciting and new so it is easy to jump into it. Unfortunately for most people writing content is a lot harder then they expected, so what ends up happening is they spend weeks creating the website but then procrastinate on writing the content. In the worst case they lose interest and quit - they end up with a website with no content. Avoid this by writing most of the content first.
How To Write Content
Open your favorite word processor and on the top of the page write the question the page will answer. For example, write ‘Do they speak English in Prague?’ or ‘Is Prague Safe?’. Then write an answer to the question. Do what ever it takes to make it entertaining and informative. Add pictures, tell a story, and include links to other resources. Most likely your website is not the only one with the answer, so you need to do all you can to make your answer the best answer. Take the time to do it right.
Besides making pages that answer your visitor’s questions, write the obligatory pages that websites must have like an about page and contact page.
At this point you do not need to worry about making it perfect. Just get 15 good pages done so that you have content to put into your website.
- Open your favorite word processor and write 15 webpages of content.
Make The Website - STEP 3
Making of the website - either you are dreading it or you are looking forward to it. If you have never made a website before then you are probably a little scared. You might be thinking that it looks complicated, all that HTML and CSS stuff looks like a combination of Greek and Chinese.
I was the same with my first website. I was scared and excited at the same time. Excited doing something new, scared that I would not be able to figure out how to do it.
Don’t worry. Its not as bad as it seems. After a couple hours of fiddling you will get the hang of it. It is no different then the first time you wrote an email or opened a word processor. It is different not complicated.
Depending on how involved you want to get with the nuts and bolts of the website you have three options:
- Build a website from scratch. Open a blank HTML page and start making a website. Very few people use this option - even among professionals. Its like if you wanted a house: you buy raw land, put on your tool belt and start building a house.
- Use a website template. This is a popular option. You download the basic layout of the website. It contains an overall layout and a few empty pages. All you need to do is to add the content and your personal touches. This is like if you wanted a house: you search around and find a used house you like. The layout is already set, all you do is minor renovations and fill the rooms with your stuff.
- Use a website builder. This option is for you if you want to completely avoid any HTML and CSS. By using a website builder you simply point and click, drag and drop, your way to a complete website. This is like if you wanted a house: you hire a builder to build it for you - all you need to do is decided where the walls will be, what color the walls and whether you want a wood or tile floor.
For pragueczechtravel I used option 2 - use a template. The template is from the The Website Starter Kit.
With the template it took only a few hours to make the website. All I needed to do was change a few CSS values to alter the colors, create a logo and change the text on the navigation bar link buttons. I copied my 15 pages of content from the word processor to the webpage. Easy, fast and the result is good.
- Make the website. Either build it from scratch, use a template, or use a website builder.
Get Hosting and A Domain Name - STEP 4
Choosing a domain name is a simple but serious step. It is your home address, it is the name your baby will have to live with for the rest of its life. Although registering your domain name takes a few minutes, you should not rush this step.
Brand vs Descriptive Domain Name
There are two approaches with a domain name. You can choose a brand name that has no real meaning like google, meebo, boingboing. They are easy to remember and like Coke or GAP you can build a brand around the name.
The other option is to have a descriptive name. The domain name is a few keywords that describe what the website is about. This approach has the advantage of making it easy for your visitors to quickly determine what your website is about.
praguecechtravel.com is an example of a descriptive domain name. The website is about Prague and travel. Ideally I should of called the website praguetravel but unfortunately that name was already taken to I had to add the world ‘czech’.
There is no right and wrong. It all depends on what you want to do with your website. If you want to build a brand name then use the brand name as the domain name, but if you are more concerned about the visitor knowing what your website is about then choose the descriptive domain name.
Hosting is what you will spend the most money on. On average it costs about $10/month. For most people this is the biggest step because you need to make a financial commitment. Normally you need to pay a minimum 6 months in advance so you need to invest $60 dollars into your website.
This is the first act of spending money. Up to this point, writing content and building the website can be done without reaching for your wallet. But with hosting you are making an investment - you are spending money in the hopes of making money in return. This scares people.
Besides spending money there is the marriage aspect. Once you make the commitment to a host, upload you website, setup email boxes, point you domain name to it, it is not a simple matter of leaving if you want to try another host. Divorces are possible but they are a lot of work and headaches. Best is to choose the right host from the beginning.
For pragueczechtravel I registered with the same hosting company I use for this website. www.worldforwebsites.com provides great support, reasonable rates, fast and reliable servers, and they are a big company with lots of services so if I need more features (like a dedicated host) then they will be able to help me in the future. They also provide domain names so I can have a domain name and hosting account in one place - it makes things easier. With this hosting company I will never need to move to another one - which is important for me because I am married to it.
Attract Visitors To Your Website - STEP 5
So you have done all the above. Picked a niche, wrote 15 pages of content, registered a domain name, paid money for a hosting account, and made a website. Your wiping the sweat off your forehead and glad to have it all behind you. But like an 15 year old boy thinking everything will be be easier at 18 - you are mistaken. Hard work...you’ve seen nothing yet.
Maybe this is what you think will happen: You will tell a couple of your friends about your website. They will visit it, think it is awesome, and tell all their friends about it. Of course they will think it is awesome and tell all their friends about it. Like a nuclear reaction your website traffic will explode.
It could happen - it happened to the Facebook guy.
But there is also the German boy who was hit in the hand by a meteor. It could happen - should you walk with your hands in your pocket?
Strong odds are that your friends are not going to think your website is awesome and they are not going to forward it to their friends. You are going to have to work (slave) for you traffic. Like the stupid looking mascot standing at the busy intersection waving a car wash sign, you are going to have to shed your pride and market yourself to the masses.
To market pragueczechtravel.com I joined travel forums. I hunted for people with questions about Prague. I answered their questions and hoped they clicked on the link to my website.
Answering questions on forums has two benefits: the direct traffic from people clicking on your website link and the backlinks. People notice my replies on the forums and Google notices the links to the website.
Besides forums I also frequent travel blogs. Fortunately there are a lot of travel blogs so there is never a shortage of places for me to leave comments (and a backlink). By leaving smart comments, people are interested and visit the website - and Google notices the backlink.
So far this all the marketing I have done. The website is a little over a year old and receives around 50 visitors a day - almost all of it is from Google. The backlinks from forums and blog comments really work - Google notices and rewards.
To really increase my traffic I need to get out more - put on the mascot uniform and start dancing around. For example, I should write guest posts for a few popular blogs. I could make videos of Prague and put them up on Youtube. Create a Facebook and Twitter acount and start socializing - get people excited about Prague. Best would be if I did all these things and maybe one day I will.
- Join a forum in your niche. Become an active and productive member.
- Visit blog in your niche and leave comments.
- Do a guest post.
- Write content with SEO in mind.
Make Money With Your Website - STEP 6
Finally we get to what it is all about - making money. Of course this step is optional. There are people who enjoy creating a website and have people admire their work. Some people have a website to build a community of like minded people.
But not you. You would not be on this website if all you were interested in was to build a community. You want your website to pay the bills. You want to wake up in the morning and see an increased balance in your bank account. You want people wishing they were you - rich, self employed and making money in your sleep.
Obviously pragueczechtravel.com has not made me rich. Would I be spending my time writing this page if it did? But is has made me some money, and in time I expect it will make more. Currently the website is making money in the following ways:
I have tried putting all types of google Adsense on the website. Text links on the side navigation bar, text links at the top of the content and banner ads in the header. Now there is a banner on each page underneath the content. But unfortunately for this website I am still not getting lots of clicks.
With Adsense I have tried many things but non of them are work well. That’s the nature of Adsense - sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. You need to keep playing around until you find a setup that gets lots of clicks. For example, for howthiswebsitemakesmoney the banner ads at the bottom on the content work really well.
The problem with advertising on pragueczechtravel is probably that people are visiting the website because they are looking for information about Prague but most of the advertisements are about ‘cheap hotel and flight deals’.
Some website are great for advertising, so far it seems that pragueczechtravel is not one of them.
Selling your own product is one of the best ways to make money with a website. You have full control of marketing, pricing and if your product is unique then you have a monopoly (big profits).
I had a hard time coming up with a product for pragueczechtravel. What product could a website about Prague travel sell? Then one day I was buying sugar-free gum when I noticed a rack of beautiful Prague postcards. A light bulb - I could sell postcards on the website. But not just the postcards - I can provide a form so people can send me the messages they want written on the postcard. I will write their message, stick a Prague stamp on it and send. My cost will be the postcards and stamp: $1 and I will charge $4 - that's 75% profit. Brilliant idea.
Unlike most of my brilliant ideas this one actually works. I have been selling postcards for just under a year and already sold more then 30 of them and that is with very little traffic. If I can get 10x the traffic to the website then this would be a real money maker.
The postcard idea can be used on any travel website. A lot of people have asked me for advise on how to create their own postcard selling website. Let me know if you want to create a website and sell postcards - I will be glad to help you (as long as you are not doing a Prague travel website).
It sounds like easy money. Somebody has a product. You make a deal with them - they do all the work and you get paid for selling it.
The other guy does all the work: comes up with the product, makes the product, ships the product, invoices the customer, provides support for the customer, he even creates the marketing package. All you need to do is find somebody to buy the product. Your only job is find buyers. Some affiliate programs pay you 50% of the sale for your efforts.
How can it be possible that you can get paid 50% of product sale price if the other guy is doing most of the work? The answer is the same reason that most used car lots barely make money while a few make a lot of money - selling is difficult, especially when a lot of people are selling the same thing. Getting a supply of used cars is easy, the struggle becomes selling them.
For pragueczechtravel.com there are not many affiliate options. In the travel niche most affiliate programs are for accommodations, tours and lights. I chose accommodations. On the website is a little form that visitors can fill out: arrival date, departure date and number of guest. After clicking the big availability button they will be taken to a new page with a gorgeous list of available accommodations. For each offer there are complete descriptions, color pictures, previous customer reviews, maps of how to get there from the airport, price comparisons. It is really fancy - but I made none of it.
To get all that on the website all I had to do was paste a few lines of code from the affiliates website onto my website. It was done in a matter of minutes. Because it is embedded in the website, it appears to the visitors that I somehow manage all that information, that I collect all that information, that I take the pictures and collect the reviews. But I don’t, I have never been to any of those hotels. My only job is to get people to use the little form on my website and click the ‘availability’ button. Every time they do that and order a room I get paid around $25.
Making money with affiliate sales is all about getting a lot of traffic that needs what you are offering. So far pragueczechtravel only gets about 50 visitors a day. Most of these visitors are planning to travel to Prague, most of these will need a place to stay, so being an affiliate for Prague accommodations is a smart thing to do. All I need now is more traffic.
- Open an Adsense account.
- Join an affiliate program. This is a popular one: Amazon.
- Open an Paypal business account.
- Create a product. Here is a idea: PAJ.
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