MMD – Today we are very honored to be featuring a guest contribution from successful niche website creator Jon Haver. Jon’s posts and ideas have recently been featured on a number of niche site blogs including a podcast interview on Niche Pursuits. If you’re wondering right now how to make money with a website or why your’s isn’t doing as well as you hope, then you really need to hear Jon’s story! Here it is:
It wasn’t long ago (1 year ago) where I thought making $3k/month from 1 personal finance website I worked on part time would be too hard to achieve. I had always enjoyed reading personal finance sites and had been making smaller niche websites for a while but my plan was to combine these passions and make a larger website discussing the problems recent graduates were having paying off their student loans.
Building the site has been a lot of fun especially when the limited time I had (full time job) got cut to even less when my first son was born 5 months into the process.
In this post I am going to go through what I have done over the last year(10 months to be precise) to build up my website and hopefully include some tips along the way that other personal finance website owners may find useful.
Plus, at the bottom I include the number 1 reason why I believe people fail to make more money with a personal finance blog.
This Post Includes…
- Picking My Idea (Blue Ocean Strategy Tip)
- Creating the Website (No Magic Sauce Here – Just WordPress Best Practices)
- Creating the Content (Using Writers on ODesk)
- Promoting the Site (The 5 Strategies I Used To Promote My Site)
- Monetizing The Site (How Email and AdSense failed and another strategy worked)
Picking My Idea:
When I was coming up with my idea I had recently finished listening to the book Blue Ocean Strategy again which talks about identifying opportunities where overlapping markets leave opportunities to leverage.
Because I had recently paid off my student loans I was interested in helping others with my story and some helpful resources.
Using the Blue Ocean Strategy thinking I decided I would sit between the PF blogs I enjoyed reading and the Banks/Government/University financial aid websites.
“How to pay off your student loans quickly without giving up living”
Creating the Website:
Having built many websites in the past and having a few VA’s working for me this step was relatively easy.
I picked a great premium theme from StudioPress (Education Theme), had my VA install it and set it up following fairly standard WordPress best practices.
The logo I had created was done on Fiverr and looks better than a lot I have created for a lot more than $5!
More details on setting up the site – here
Creating the Content:
I wrote a lot of content at the start but then also used oDesk to have writers create articles for the site. All the articles were reviewed and edited as needed before they went on the site.
Without outsourcing the content creation there is NO WAY I would have had time to grow my site the way I did.
For all the articles I created the title of the article based on some keyword research (Using Long Tail Pro) just to identify that there are some people searching for it. I did not give myself any restrictive rules about the number of search terms per month I was going after.
My 5-Part Promoting Strategy:
If I had done no promotion I believe my site would have died a very quiet death. For competitive niches like the personal finance/student loan niche without promoting my site it would have been difficult to get any attention.
The number one rule I have for all my promotion strategy is that it must pass the following question…
“Does this add value to a human?”
If the answer is no – I don’t do it!
Part 1 – Blog Commenting + Guest Posting:
When I started my site I had already been a reader of a lot of personal finance sites and knew I wanted to be active in the comments to introduce myself to the great community of sites.
Through blog commenting and natural email outreach I was able to secure some guest posts on top personal finance blogs.
These guest posts resulted in even more opportunities for guest posting, and also helped with my SEO efforts.
More details on how I systematize my guest posting campaign – here
Part 2 – YouTube Videos (With my VA’s Help):
YouTube, as a lot of people know, is the second largest search engine in the world. I used simple videos to drive traffic to my site, backlinks to my site and make my site more engaging.
These videos were quick to produce by having my VA turn an article into a PowerPoint presentation I then used Camtasia and did a voice-over. Once the video was created I uploaded it to DropBox and my VA did the rest…uploading the video to YouTube, MetaCafe, Vimeo and the slideshow to SlideShare. MetaCafe, Vimeo and SlideShare all built links back to the YouTube video to help it gain exposure in Google.
With only about 5 to 10 minutes of work on my end I was able to get some quality content created!
Part 3 – Expired Domains:
This is an advanced SEO technique but let me give you a quick overview of how I used it…
Imagine if a company used to sponsor a scholarship and had a website dedicated for it. Then for whatever reason they no longer offered the scholarship and the domain expired.
My strategy is to then buy that domain and put on it an article talking about what happened to the Scholarship, a list of other related scholarships and some links back to my website. By doing this I get highly relevant authoritative backlinks going back to my site along with some traffic. These links help my site rank higher and provide value to the person visiting the site.
I won’t get into the complex details of finding, evaluating, setting up and benefiting from these expired domains, I go into a lot of detail (8000 words worth) at my site – guide to using expired domains.
Part 4 – Web 2.0 Properties:
Because I only want the best quality articles on my website not all the articles I outsource make the cut. For the ones that don’t make the cut I put them on a WordPress.com site or on one of my expired domain sites.
I have a document I share with my VA to make sure that these Web 2.0 sites are created the way I want and simply send them the handful of articles to build the site and they take care of the rest.
Part 5 – Resource Pages + Outreach:
This is my favorite part of my overall strategy! It revolves around creating an incredibly useful resource and then letting people know about it. Here is how I systematize the very labor intensive process…
- Identify a resource that is needed (example – list of grants for single moms)
- I have my VA create a giant spreadsheet of all the grants that meet my criteria
- I have a writer create a useful article talking about tips to apply and the most popular ones
- Then my VA combines the article and the table into a giant resource post
- Using a script I give to my VA she sends emails to every grant on the page asking to help promote the resource by sharing it on social media and linking to it
The end result is several high quality links and some traffic from social media resulting in ranking well for that given term.
Making Money from The Traffic:
Knowing how to make money with a website is somewhat of an art. It takes a lot of trial and error as you will see here.
Attempt 1 – Email List – Fail!
My monetization strategy went through several iterations! Initially I wanted to get people onto my email list and provide offers to them that way. However, after many attempts I was unable to convert people onto my list until much later in the age of the site. This initial attempt was a failure.
Attempt 2 – AdSense – Moderate Success.
The next strategy was to use Google AdSense. Although I was making some money with AdSense it was not very much for the amount of traffic I was getting.
Attempt 3 – Cost Per Action Affiliate Program – Success!
This showed early signs that it was a more profitable and less invasive monetization strategy. Running with this strategy and incrementally improving the calls to action resulted in a step change in earnings per visitor over AdSense.
Current Strategy – Email + CPA – Success!
I have now finally got some email opt ins occurring due to the great tool at LeadPages . Using this tool and testing my call to actions I have found what I hope is a good balance between making money from the site and treating my readers to a good user experience all while providing value.
After 10 months of work, my site is generating over $3,000 per month!
You read that right – $3,000 per month!
Below is the income and expenses from the site over the first 10 months of its existence!
My Next Site and the All Too Common Mistake:
My next site was a more general and not as targeted site at http://ourinsurancecanada.com/ and as a result has struggled to find traction. The SEO strategy is working well but the monetization is not and referral traffic is very low.
The Number 1 Reason Personal Finance Sites Don’t Make More Money:
We Are Not Focused on a Very Specific Problem
The number one reason (in my opinion, and it may or may not be right!) that a lot of personal finance bloggers (including myself with my recent one) DON’T know how to make money with a website is because they are not focused on a specific problem. When you can focus on a specific problem (paying off student loans) it makes delivering a solution to your audience much easier!
Again this is just my opinion but in the future I will only be building sites when I can clearly define the problem my audience is having and how I am going to solve it.
What can I or other bloggers do to focus on a specific problem…survey your audience see what their needs are and begin focusing on a specific area that you can be the expert at. Then provide value on that given topic and genuinely recommend products/services that can help them while making a commission for each sale.
I would love to hear from other personal finance bloggers what they think of my strategy? How could I have done it better? How can we all improve the probability of success for our new websites?
There is no doubt I am extremely fortunate to have had success with this site and I hope sharing how I did it offers some insights to anyone who reads this site!
MMD, thanks for giving me the opportunity!
Jon Haver is a proud new father, full time engineer and part time online entrepreneur who talks about his goal of making $15k/month by the age of 35 through online income and be in a position to “retire” at his site Authority Website Income.