After I wrote my post about hobbies, people showed an interest in how I create websites to earn myself some passive income (the wealth hobby).
As most of us here are writers, I believe that it is something you can do to earn some extra money. Sure, there are no guarantees or promises and it is hard work and you need to be in it for the long-game. There are no quick wins.
You will need to learn a lot of processes to be successful.
We could do a deep dive around the mindset you need to succeed in this area, but I will try to keep this post as simple as possible and link out to relevant sources at the end where you can read more information if you so desire.
So... what the hell am I talking about?
Put simply, to earn some passive income, you will be creating a website around a niche topic, genre or subject. You will attract readers to your website from search engines like Google, creating articles that people want to read, where they will value your knowledge or opinion, where you are seen as an authority.
The goal is to appear towards the top of the results in Google (known as the SERPS - search engine results pages) or at the first position when people search for phrases that match what your website topic is about. This is called "organic traffic" where people find your website serendipitously through search engines.
Your website will need to contain a mixture of "types" of articles that either you can write, or you can pay someone to write for you.
Informational articles - "How to" type content that provides value to your readers. Eg: "How To Vacuum Rooms 25% Quicker And 100% More Efficiently".
Money pages - Product reviews, top 10 lists of the best products in your niche, eg: Top Handheld Vacuum Cleaners.
In my experience, it is best to have a 50/50 split of these types of articles. If your website is seen by Google as existing just to make money (eg: having only "money pages") they can take action to hide or demote your website from their search results.
How do the pages make money?
In the "Money page" articles, you will add links to other websites such as Amazon, eBay, Walmart or Alibaba where if one of your readers clicks through and buys it (based on your recommendation) you get a percentage of the sale price.
You will need to apply to become an affiliate for these companies and there are lots of rules to abide by. The affiliate companies each have different percentage earnings, ways to link to them and tools you can use to work better with them.
Some affiliate programs only allow you to place your links on websites you own and not spam social media. You may also need to have some sort of declaration on your site, stating that you make money from links to products.
Before you apply, you need to have the website up and running, ideally already getting some visitors. Some affiliate programs such as Amazon, require you to make some sales within a month of applying to them to pass the first test for approval.
So, how do you know which articles to write?
One of the skills you will need to learn to create an affiliate website is called "keyword research".
This is the art of finding terms that are popular enough that people search for them in Google regularly, but not too "competitive" that there are already lots of people creating websites or web pages for these keywords. Finding the sweet spot is not always that straight forward.
The sweet spot is often referred to as a "long tail keyword".
"Credit Cards" = Head keyword
"Best Credit Cards" = Body keyword
"Best Credit Cards For New Mothers" = Long tail keyword
Long tail keywords are more specific and are also easier to appear highly in Google for compared to head or body terms. You are also more likely to be able to get your visitors to buy through your affiliate links by targeting longer tail keywords. However, they are searched for less often per month.
You also need to understand the "search intent" of the keyword to ensure that if people are searching for your keyword that they are looking to buy something or at least make a qualified decision on which product to buy.
For example, writing an article around "pictures of dogs" will not get people to click through to Amazon to buy dog photo books. Google understands better what people are searching for and shows them lots of images instead of affiliate articles.
You might also need to appreciate how Google reacts when you type in your keyword. For example, Google is getting much better at showing "snippets" of information at the top of the results, so you don't need to actually go to a website. Good examples of this are when you search for weather, local information or about celebrities.
If Google is showing this sort of information, it is unlikely people will click past the front page.
The best way to understand this is to search for your keywords in Google (ideally in private or incognito mode to avoid any skewing of data) and see what comes up. Unfortunately, it is another skill you will need to learn and whilst there are tools that can help you with this, it is good to understand yourself.
How do I find long tail keywords?
There are many tools available to help you with this task, including ones created by Google themselves.
However, no one tool has the ability to tell you exactly how many people are searching for a keyword per month, which is one of the metrics you will need to consider when choosing keywords. All of the tools can only provide you with an estimate of how many people will be searching per month.
I have used a method called the Keyword Golden Ratio, which uses free tools to find long tail keywords to write your articles around. I am suggesting this method as it does work and I am still making money from articles I wrote around keywords I found using this method.
Once you have found a keyword that meets the criteria, you write an article "targeting" that keyword, using some on-page SEO skills to help Google understand that it is good quality and relevant. Using the keyword in the page title, headings and several times in the body text is good. Also using synonyms and related keywords in your article in the same way is also useful.
Keyword research and on-page SEO are whole industries of their own and there are many ways to approach it, many tools that can be used or methods to implement.
Building the website
For this part of the process, you would need to learn how to set up and use Wordpress. This is the most commonly used platform for building websites and there are many themes and plugins available that can make your site look good and work well.
You don't need to go over the top with your website or buy expensive Wordpress themes. Just make it look nice, get a logo, use images and style your articles and pages nicely for your readers. Don't just create walls of text which people will click away from within seconds.
Apart from providing your readers with information they need, you also need to keep their attention and look professional too.
Other options and a warning
Of course, this is just one way of building a passive income website. There are probably hundreds of ways of doing it. For example, you could just write on topics that you like and then apply to the Google Adsense program and put ads on your pages. When people click the ads, you get some money! Simple. But you really need a high number of visitors to your site first before this becomes worthwhile.
If you enjoy writing about personal development or productivity, you could create a blog where you write articles on those subjects, but create links to Amazon where people can buy the books and tools you recommend.
Imagine writing an article titled "10 ways The One Thing book improved my sex life" where you take specific teachings from the book and show how you applied them to your life and how it made it better.
In the article, you could link where people can buy The One Thing book on Amazon and you will get some money! In fact, the link to the book above is my Amazon affiliate link! See how easy it might be?
One thing you will need to watch out for are the "gurus" in the "Make Money Online" space. They are everywhere and will happily fleece you of your cash in return for them revealing their "Secrets" to keyword research or making money.
Learning to spot these kinds of people is hard - because they are good at their job - but most of what you will need to learn to build a website like this, is available online for free.
Sure, there might be some gurus who have some tips they can share or wrap up what you need to know in a nice step-by-step package, but experience and earnings can be faked, so think twice before playing $7 for an eBook that promises to earn you ten times are much back.
"Those who can't do, teach."
Further free reading, or getting started:
I have tried to list some good resources from people or companies that I trust here to get you started.
The Digital Strategy Crash Course at BuSo - a great forum and a good way to learn the mindset of affiliate marketing. You might just need to read these threads. These guys will blow your mind.
What is an authority site by Authority Hacker - a good overview article on how to build a website like this and how it all works. Their training is also very good. Expensive, but good and I have read and heard lots of people making money by following their teachings.
The "KGR" Keyword Research Technique by Doug Cunnington - A quick and free method to initially find some good keywords to target. Doug also has some good blog posts and interviews with people using this process to find keywords to make money.
An on-page SEO guide by Ahrefs - how to set up your web-pages properly for Google to find and appreciate them. Ahrefs make one of the best tools to help you optimise your own website but also to find keywords and reverse engineer other websites. However, at $99 per month, it is better to stick to the free tools for now.