We originally started this site as a way to advertise our billing service. It was a part time project we thought would be a good marketing tool since people use the internet to find local services these days.
As we started digging into it, we kept reading about creating an e-business with your website using advertising like AdSense and affiliates. So we changed direction. We went from making a site to market our billing service to making an informational site. And it actually generates a small amount of passive income.
Here's how we did it:
1. Finding a Topic
This was a pretty easy for us. From all our experiences in medical billing, we just documented our experiences starting a billing business and all the topics related to it. I provided research when needed and posted our content on the site. We also covered other related topics that we felt would be an interest to visitors and help answer their questions.
My advice if you are considering starting a website or blog, think about subjects you can write a lot about and create a lot of good content. A topic that appeals to you and you know well or want to learn. The step-by-step guide provided by the service we used, Site Build It, walked us through how to find a topic. Think about your background, profession, training, interests, hobbies, etc.
2. Demand & Competition
You don’t want to go to all the trouble to building an website if there’s nobody searching for it (demand) on the web. Likewise its very hard to rank on search engines if there's stiff competition for a topic or keyword. That’s why it’s important to research a topic and it’s related keywords. The way to do this is to research what the demand is for the keyword(s) and what the competition is.
There’s a great service called WordTracker that gives all the search statistics for keywords on the internet for about $27 a month. SiteBuildIt includes WordTracker access as part of our service so we didn't have to pay for it separately.
3. Create Good Content
If you take a look at our site you’ll see there's a lot of substantial content - at least we hope you think it's decent. I’m not saying its the most organized site - there are a lot of things I would do differently if starting over. But we spent a lot of time writing and researching the subject of medical billing.
Honestly, when we first started the site, the writing was more for search engines than for people. However I quickly realized that when visitors are turned off by the writing, or it doesn’t serve them by answering a question or solving a problem, search engines will detect the high bounce rate (that’s the percentage of people who hit the browser back button). The lesson we learned is not to write for search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), but to write for people. I’ve gone back and re-written some of the early pages to improve and add good content written with the visitor in mind. I don't spend a lot of time now worrying about SEO. Just the content.
The content on the site should help the visitor solve a problem or find an answer. I keep having to remind myself of that when creating a new page - how does it help our visitors. Otherwise there’s no reason for them to visit your site. Content doesn’t have to be written. It can be video or pictures.
4. Monetizing It
The next challenge was to figure out how to make money from the website. In addition to advertising, a good way to monetize a site is to offer good solutions to that are helpful to your visitors. For example many people visiting our site are looking for how to fill out medical billing forms or start a billing business. So we have an affiliate that offers good quality how-to books related to these topics. Visitors are also looking for ways to learn medical billing, so we’re affiliated with an online medical billing course.
The products you choose to be affiliated with should only be from reputable companies that you use yourself and really believe in. Don’t expect your visitors to buy something that you wouldn’t use yourself. Remember the trust you build with your visitor is extremely important - you always want to be looking out for your visitors interests.
Many online products or services have affiliate opportunities. For those you are considering, go to their website and look for an “Affiliate” link. It’s usually on the bottom of one of their main pages on sometimes on their “About Us” page.
Another good source is a Clickbank. This is a site for website publishers to find affiliates with information products like ebooks in their niche.
When planning to monetize our site, it's good to have more than one source of income. That way if AdSense has a slow month, the affiliates will provide another source of income.
5. Building the Website
Building the website was actually the easiest part of this process. One of the big reasons we chose Site Build It was because their service let us concentrate on creating the content and finding good keyword opportunities. It was already intimidating and confusing enough to build a website. I just didn't want to get bogged down in programming HTML, getting a host, and learning all the nuts and bolts stuff of creating a website.
There are a couple of routes you can go here when building a site. One is to get a web host, use and HTML editor or something like WordPress. The other way is to use a service like Site Build It. What attracted me to them was the one-stop concept along with the support.
Here’s an overview that explains Site Build It better than I can. Here's a video tour of Site Build It also. What really helped me is the step-by-step written and video guides that showed me how to create an ecommerce website and explained all the concepts - like how to choose the right keywords for a webpage. The forum was a great help also.
They provide a software called BlockBuilder to actually build the web pages with a drag-and-drop interface. But what really made the service valuable was all the tools they provide like Brainstorm It to find keyword ideas, the forums, WordTracker credits, Socialize It - all kinds of tools and plugins. And all this for $30 a month (less if you pay annually). This also includes hosting and domain name registration.
You can also build a WordPress with your own host. SiteSell now offers a service called bizExpress for WordPress sites. This offers access to all of Site Build It's services for those wanting to use WordPress and use their own host.
In fact if I was building a new site now, I would use bizExpress along with a reputable host like HostGator who offers website hosting starting at less than $4 a month. In my opinion HostGator is one of the best and most affordable website hosting services for WordPress.
6. Getting Website Visitors
This was one of the biggest challenges of making money from a website - getting traffic. I attribute the keyword Brainstormer tool to helping our webpages rank well in search results. I also used article marketing to build traffic. While this was a perfectly legitimate way of building traffic up until last year, the last two years search engines have gotten much smarter. When Google updated their search algorithm it seemed to devalue links from article sites. That hurt us for a while, like it did many small sites. But we’ve since seen our traffic recover through efforts to concentrate on the content of the site and not resort to any gimmicks to build traffic.
If you would like to learn more on building an ecommerce website, you can find more on Site Build It here. I can't argue with the results.
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