I wanted to show my formula for creating a successful website. I have used this formula to create numerous properties, some that are still active and generating consistent revenue (my biggest earns approximately $232,000/year). For privacy purposes, I do not wish to disclose these domains but I have provided a screen shot of one the Google Analytics for one of the sites.
I have worked online since 1999 and went full-time after I graduated in college in 2002. I have never had a traditional “day job,” as I started earning consistent monthly revenue while still in college. I have made my money by creating successful websites, mobile applications and paid forums. I’ve also dabbled in affiliate marketing, across the CPA spectrum. I consider myself an experienced media buyer but my skills are more directed at creating, developing and monetizing websites.
Find my step by step guide below:
Step #1 – My first step is coming up with an idea for a website that people will find useful. This may sound generic but it really is that easy. Has anyone heard of the TLC show “Extreme Couponing?” I once created a website designed to teach people how to find, cut and use coupons to get extreme discounts on buying merchandise at grocery stores and other popular retailers. What made my property different is that in addition to a blog where I showcased success stories, videos and free tutorials, I had a paid forum that you could signup for to learn step by step how to save money.
So Step #1 is come up with an idea.
Health, wealth and success are generally the three most profitable niches but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. In the Twitter era of journalism, you can create a blog or website around almost anything and monetize. Bleacher Report is a great example of a property — backed by venture capitalists — that was started in 2007 and now competes with ESPN. They started allowing users to contribute by creating content and are now a giant owned by Turner Sports. Just one of many ideas.
Step #2 – Register your domain. Another simple step but a crucial part to your success. You want something catchy and easy to remember. You don’t have to spend big at a domaining website but I’ve done it both ways. I’ve paid large sums of money for older/established “.com” domains and started websites on secondary extensions like “.net.” With all the new TLDs, your options are limitless. Don’t forget to add Privacy Protection wherever you register to protect yourself from creepers and SPAM.
Sometimes I think people overthink their domain. The most important thing is that it’s brandable and easy to remember. Don’t reach. Once you decide on it, register multiple TLDs. Usually, I at least register .com, .net and .org but make sure to protect yourself. You can register your trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) but that’s not something I typically do until the brand becomes more established.
Step #3 – Find Web Hosting. There is no shortage of web hosts but do your research. Don’t just settle for the biggest/most well-known name. You want a host that is going to invest in your property and provide you the infrastructure that will allow you to grow your business. All of my properties utilize cloud web hosting because I like being able to scale on demand and create and destroy servers as needed. I moved to the Cloud in 2012 and haven’t looked back. It’s cheaper, easier to use and very convenient. Full-disclosure, I obviously want you to signup here at NameHero.com, but my purpose of this post is to help people, not sell people. My point is do your research and know that I recommend utilizing Cloud Web Hosting.
Step #4 – Install WordPress. I love WordPress and I hate WordPress. It’s incredibly powerful, versatile, easy to use and free but it can be a pain in the butt. WordPress out of the box will function just fine but when you start adding Plugins and Themes, you can easily start running into issues that will hurt the performance of your website. I’ve had some nightmares happen, so just be careful of adding Plugins and Themes. Generally, I add as few Plugins as I can get away with and only buy Themes from reputable designers. There are plenty of free themes available but I almost always purchase one and customize it.
Step #5 – Come up with Logo & Design. After you have registered your domain, setup your Cloud Web Hosting and installed WordPress, it’s time to focus on the cosmetics of your website. These are interchangeable and completely based on personal preference but for this guide, we’ll start with design.
I would not pay a Web Designer in 2015. I’ve been online since 2002 and will tell you the best/easiest/most efficient way to get a design online is to purchase a WordPress theme and customize it. There are TONS of places to look but ThemeForest.net is probably my favorite. They have themes for everything imaginable with reviews straight from the people that bought them and are using them. You can go through reviews, ask the designers questions and examine all features before buying.
This is something that could take days, so don’t overthink it. Have an idea of what you’re looking for and make a decision. I focus more on features than look but you’re going to customize the look and feel to make it your own. Spend a couple of hours but I wouldn’t spend longer than that. You can always change it later once you are established.
Logo design is going to be a little more of an investment. For years, I’ve used the services offered at CrowdSpring.com for professional logo design. You can head over there to see how to works but basically you can start a contest to create your logo. You provide a brief of what you want, attach any resources, provide examples and you pay the winning creative. I usually run week long contests and always guarantee my payment. I’ve never had one fail and have had great success. Yes, it’s an investment but projects for Logo Design start at $199. I know a lot of people around here use Fiverr.com for logo design and that’s completely acceptable. I’ve used them as well but for my bigger projects, I always use CrowdSpring.com. You’re going to get a better level of service there but you are going to pay for it.
Step #6 – Get social. You need to register Twitter and Facebook accounts for your property. You may want to register them as soon as you register your domain but until you have your logo, you won’t be able to start developing them. Twitter is easier to to get going than Facebook — and I’m losing faith in fan pages and am leaning more towards groups — but you still have to be social. Don’t forget Google Plus, LinkedIN and YouTube but don’t get overwhelmed either. Start on Twitter and Facebook and branch out. I use ManageFlitter.com to manage all of my social accounts. It’s cheap and allows me to manage multiple social accounts. Time is money and this is great way to efficiently manage social media.
Another thing a lot of people overlook is their personal accounts. I’m sure you probably have Facebook, LinkedIN and probably Twitter already so don’t forget to share links there!
Step #7 – By this step, you’re about ready to go. Your domain is registered, your hosting is online, WordPress is installed, your design and logo are in place and you’re on social media. Now, it’s time to get to generating content. Before you write your first blog, you need to come up with a plan.
What is your goal?
For some sites, I use the main WordPress blog as a “promotional tool” for inbound content marketing. Blog about things to get people commenting and sharing, always pointing the visitor to a service or product you’re selling. A lot of sites are centered around the WordPress blog as the main source of content and media. You may opt to direct users to a paid forum.
Come up with a plan and create a funnel for your traffic. Once you get the visitor there, what do you want them to do? I can’t give specifics here because it varies from project to project. But determine your goal and create a plan.
Step #8 – Content, content, content! If your website is going to be successful it has to have quality content and lots of it. This is time consuming and can be outsourced but if you want it done right, you’re going to have to do it yourself. Or have some close friends or business partners to help you. Post blogs, create infographics, make videos, record podcasts. I can’t tell you what kind of content without seeing your project but you can’t take a product to the market without having lots of it! This is a difficult step.
A lot of my projects/ideas have stopped here. Contenting is not fun, it’s tedious and it requires weeks of work and multiple pots of coffee. Blood, sweat and tears my friends! Find your competitors and aim to produce content better than their content. Content that is interesting, sharable and fun. You can do it!
Step #9 – Plan to monetize. Everyone wants to start with this step. How do I make money online? You can’t start at Step #9. You have to start above and have to put the planning and work into your project before you start making money. Yes, there are other ways to make money online. You can sell courses at Udemy, do gigs at Fiverr, run as an Affiliate, Ebay, etc.
But regardless, you have to work! In this guide, we’re focused on creating a successful websites. All of my properties are monetized in two steps – advertisements and paid memberships.
You can still make money on banner ads in 2015, it just takes work. Since your property is new, I wouldn’t get crazy with this. Google Adsense is a good starting point but you really need to focus on getting traffic to your property before you start bombarding them with intrusive advertisements. Why do you think Facebook took so long to start monetizing? Ads aren’t and never will be cool. I recommend very little banners out of the box, develop a loyal following. Once you are generating some traffic, here are some of my favorite ad companies:
You will find no shortage of display ad companies wanting to purchase space on your website once you get profitable. But again, this isn’t something that should be rushed. Don’t forget about mobile opportunities either. I recommend PadSquad.com to help monetizing your platform through display advertisements on smart phones and tablets.
The next way to monetize is to create a paid membership portion of your website. Start by buying and installing Amember.com. This is premium membership software that is diverse and affordable. They have plugins for WordPress, the main forums and more. This is a whole post in and of itself but I’ll give you the bullet points here:
* Your content must be unique and in demand to sell it. If someone searches hard enough, they can find anything they want for free. You have to give the user a reason to pay for your content. I don’t what know that looks like but get creative and realize this has as much to do with how you market it as what you market.
* Focus on the rebill. Especially if your new, the main thing your trying to get is signups. Offer the first month at a penny, anything to get the re-bill established. Re-billing customers is the best way to make money online. I recommend starting by accepting payments through Paypal.com before moving to a payment processor, then you can use both. But focus on getting people to signup and make money in month two.
Step #10 – Continue to manage, market and support your property. When you’re here, you want to generate as much traffic as possible. SEO, social, advertising, etc. are all in play. Focus on one each week and do whatever it takes to get traffic to your property. Continue to develop quality unique content and monetize from there. The growth step starts with traffic but it has to be content-centric. Give people a reason to visit your property. If the people are there, the money will come.
Everyone wants to make money online, few are willing to work for it. If you implement this strategy, you will make money. It won’t be this month and it may not be this year but eventually, you will break through. This is how to create your own online business and become your own boss. I’ve utilized this strategy on a number of properties and continue to implement it day in and day out.