Will My New Website Make Money Or Not?
It’s a nerdy party game: brainstorm crazy domain names with friends, register them and create new Web sites. Will that website make money? You can have dozens, or even hundreds of sites, and gosh, if each one earned just $100/mo you could be an online publishing millionaire!
I know, I’ve played just such a game at conferences where we all joke about a site, I realize that it’s actually a good idea, and for $10 go and register the associated domain. Then reality sets in and I never do anything with it. A year later I don’t renew the domain and it goes back into the domain pool, ready for someone else to do something amazing with it. Or do nothing.
But what constitutes a good Web site idea? What concepts are so solid that they’re well worth the time and cost of pursuing, whether it’s a few hours and that $10 domain investment, or it’s a substantial undertaking that’ll require fundraising and a few key hires?
Well, it depends…
Is your new website going to make money?
This is an important question to ask when starting a new website project. You want to know, will my new website make money?
If it’s a passion project, then anything goes, whether your new Web site is going to be a directory of animal adoption sites, a tutorial on how Girl Scouts can maximize their cookie sales or even a journal of your family ancestry research. The site might never make a dime and still be one of the best things you’ve ever done online.
If your goal is to produce revenue from your new site, however, then the criteria are quite different and smart Web publishers do their homework before they start the development process.
Can this website make money and what makes it profitable?
Search engine optimization experts talk about something called the KEI of a keyword, the keyword effectiveness index. Do keyword research and you’ll understand the calculation: it’s the number of searches versus the number of sites that match the search. In other words, the ideal site is one that has tons of searches and almost no competition. (which can be darn hard to find!)
It also explains why super popular topics like weather, mortgage calculator and social security might seem like great themes for a new site, but quick searches show that there are 1,240,000,000, 47,600,000 and 393,000,000 results already covering those topics. How are you going to compete?
Using the logic of the long tail suggests that actually, the more important question is competitiveness: Even if a particular word, phrase or concept isn’t searched frequently, in the aggregate it can nonetheless prove valuable. You see this with narrow, highly specific shopping sites like CribbageBoardStore.com, PatioSunUmbrellas.com, and PoliceBikeStore.com.
It’s probably a good time to point out that there really aren’t any untapped markets in the online world at this point. There are too many people busy creating micro sites or highly targeted sites like those mentioned earlier. But that’s okay, because there’s always space to do something better, to have a more useful, more informative site, to actually select the best of class products instead of everything, and to have customer service and inexpensive shipping too.
How I’ve done it before…
I have quite a few Web sites of my own, and truth be told I haven’t been very disciplined about doing the analysis and ensuring that each is optimal for its category. Some have been fun ideas, like my long ignored 404-error-page.com that was supposed to be a collection of the funniest and best Web site error pages.
Others were aimed at specific keywords and did okay for a while, but since I didn’t maintain the site and add new content with frequency, they eventually faded away and died. One site that I no longer even own the domain for was focused on personal debt management, for example.
While it may seem a fun intellectual exercise to have dozens of sites and need a spreadsheet to even remember what domains you own, the fact is that no site does really well if you don’t pay attention to it on a regular basis. And that’s the real challenge: writing new content weekly on a topic you don’t really care about.
In the end, the best strategy is to have a small number of sites that you pay a lot of attention to, producing content for the sites regularly, updating their design every year or two, and tracking industry and societal news that’s related. And maybe you can have one or two passion projects.
After all, how else are you going to find model train collectors who share your zeal for old Lionel Trains, gardeners who are also wrestling with growing roses in bad soil, or beer can collectors!
Let me know your thoughts below!