Developing and Monetizing a Niche Website

The following is a guest post from reader Dan, who shares his story of starting Maciverse.com and developing it to where it earns $1,500 in passive income each month.

In January of 2008 I closed shop on my first attempt at blogging. Six months earlier I thought that creating a blog about efforts to train for my first marathon would be extremely successful. It didn’t take me long to realize that the only thing more boring than writing about running is reading about someone Else’s runs. When I shut the doors on 26miles385yards.com I wasn’t giving up on blogging, I was giving up my blogging about topics that no one wanted to read.

It was also in January of 2008 that I launched Maciverse.com, a Mac Help blog. I’ll admit that I was late to market with the whole Apple blogging idea but I believed I had a bit of a different take on Apple computers and felt that I could fill a niche.

It was 6 months after Apple released their first iPhone and there was significant talk from media outlets and financial advisers about how they were anticipating a significant “halo” affect from iPhone and iPod sales into Mac computers. The more I heard this idea, the more I realized that there would be a growing audience of individuals looking for help with use of their new computer. Just a few years earlier I purchased my first Apple computer and had quickly fallen in love with the products the company built. There was a learning curve but I was picking up use of the Mac quickly and found myself sharing tips with even the most experienced Apple product owners. So I decided to create Maciverse as a site where I shared my tips to the new Mac user.

Maciverse didn’t explode overnight, but through steady and consistent effort the site has grown from just a handful of visitors each month to over 1 million visitors each year It continues to increase in size by about 20% each month without a single dollar spent on advertising. We now cover more than just hints and tips for your Mac and have grown to a team of 5 authors sharing everything the know, love, and sometimes hate about Apple products.

With the traffic growth has also come residual income. but in reality, for the first year Maciverse didn’t make more than $100. My first check from Google Adsense came in year 2 and at that time I was just happy to be breaking even. But over the last 12 months Maciverse has gone from making just a few dollars a month to continual earnings of over $1500 a month. Increasing the number of visitors to the site has helped with the financial gains, but the biggest reason I wasn’t always making decent income from Maciverse was because I didn’t know how to monetize my audience. Below is what I’ve learned about monetizing a Mac site.

Make Adsense Big

For Maciverse, the most success I’ve seen with Google Adsense came when I finally decided that I wanted to make money on the site and decided to test out the valuable real estate I had and show Big Ads. By increasing the size of ads in the content area of the site to no smaller than 300×250 I quickly saw an increase from $50 a month to $450 in Adsense earnings. I thought at first that when I posted the larger ads that my readers would say something but to this day I have yet to hear one complaint about larger ads.

Sell Your Own Product

One of the most popular articles on Maciverse is one that guides users step by step on how to install Snow Leopard from a USB drive. The article provides readers with everything they need to know on how to create an installation USB drive and then install the new Operating System onto their Mac. And although I had already given them everything to allow them to do this on their own, I decided to offer to do this for people for a price. Shortly after offering this service the orders for USB drives starting coming in.

I continually make around $100 each month by creating USB drives and selling retail versions of the Snow Leopard software to site visitors that don’t want to take the time to make the USB drive themselves. You’d be amazed at how much people will pay to save themselves time and effort.

Amazon Links Pay

After initially giving up on Amazon’s affiliate program I decided to give it another try when my USB article started getting significant traffic. Before I started selling the USB drive myself, I pointed individuals to the drive I use on Amazon.com. The best thing about Amazon is that they don’t have to purchase the product you recommend or link to to earn a commission. Amazon links spread out throughout Maciverse.com brings in close to $200 each month. If you have a site with significant traffic that mentions products or books and you’re not linking to an affiliate program like Amazon then you’re missing out on potential earnings.

Affiliate Programs for Accessories

I learned quickly that individuals looking for help with Mac products are not looking to purchase more Mac products. But what I did realize is that every Apple owner wants to keep their product safe. By joining affiliate programs that sell accessories like iPhone Cases and Covers I quickly added an additional $250 – $750 each month. Take the time to think about who the actual visitors to your site are and then provide them with the things they want to buy. Doing so will help you increase your residual income.

Direct Ads

Maciverse.com sells direct ads on pages and across the site. We’ve found that like affiliate programs, direct advertising is best sold to people that have accessories or services for Apple product owners. Direct ads take a bit more time but websites like buysellads.com make the process easier.

How To Increase Your Earnings

If you’re a blogger, then its important that you continually provide content that will increase traffic to your site. But just as important as high traffic numbers is understanding your visitors. Take a close look at your site and what your visitors would really be looking for.

Once you know what your visitors are looking for, it will be a lot easier to increase your passive blogging income. Sometimes its as easy as just pointing them to what they already want.

Comments

  1. I wonder how many hours he is still putting into this blog each month.

  2. This is invaluable information. Thank you so much for sharing the specifics.

  3. @bb – honestly the amount of time each month varies. I write a few new posts myself but our team of authors is providing most of the content.

    Writing, Reviewing, and Publishing articles probably takes a total of about 10 hours a month.

  4. Do Google and Amazon pay per ad downloads or per clicks? What happens when visitor’s browser blocks all ads. There are two ways of doing this, ads are downloaded but not displayed and ads are not downloaded at all.

  5. Vlad – Google pays per click and per impression. Amazon pays based on purchases made on Amazon.com within 24 hours of visiting through your site.

    So, if someone clicks on an amazon link on my site and purchases anything in the 24 hour period following that click then I get 6 – 12 percent commission on the sale value of their purchased goods.

  6. Thanks for the insight on ads when it comes to blogging!

  7. Thank you for sharing this article! I appreciate the breakdown of how you monetized your blog. 2 questions for you.

    For the 1st year, how many hours a week did you commit to starting this blog? Did you have a full-time job while you did it? I have a site idea in mind that I think could be very successful. I’d live to hit the income you are making, I just like to get an idea of the commitment involved to get a site off the ground.

  8. Wow – extremely interesting. A team of 10 authors…doesn’t that cost something? I your $1500 net after all your expenses?

    It seems to take a LOT of traffic to generate any significant $$$!

  9. Cool article… I’m not a Mac guy, but I’m definitely interested in making money online, so its cool to see how you did it!

  10. $1500 a month for 10 hours is excellent but I would not call it all passive income. Neglecting the important effect of erosion of traffic without regular contributions/upkeep what would you say is the marginal component of the $1500 that might be classified “passive” (e.g. if you stopped putting any work into the site what would you estimate your monthly income to be averaged over say the next 4 to 6 months)?

  11. MB – Over the first year I wrote about 200 articles. It takes me on average about 25 minutes per article so a little over 2 weeks worth of work during the first year. I had, and still have, a full time job. I enjoy the topic so I don’t really feel like its work. I’ve added authors to the team to offer additional insight to the reader base.

    Michael – Yes, the others do get paid for their contributions. I’ve figured out the monetization value of each post written and make a profit off each article contributed within the first 8 months. The amount of traffic needed to generate significant income depends on the market. I have another blog that makes up to $100 a month on just 500 visits.

    Tony – yes erosion of traffic would eventually impact the site, but 90% of the sites traffic comes from Google, and are mostly to articles over a year old. So in some sense, I haven’t seen the true earning value of articles I’ve written over the last 12 months. I don’t think I’d see much of a drop in income for the site over the next 4 – 6 months if I didn’t contribute a single new article. Maybe a $100 a month or so.

  12. I’ve read numerous posts by first time bloggers. I am one myself, and it took over a year for any kind of income at all.

    Most of the other first time bloggers I read about were claiming either hundreds of dollars each month, within a few months, or some other incredible figure.

    What made me completely read this article in its entirety (and quite enjoyably) is the numbers the author put out.

    It seems to me that unless you are extrtemely talented or extremely lucky, then in the beginning, blogging for dollars is going to be a rough go of it.

    Great article, thanks for the tips!!!

  13. Cool beans! Sounds like there is nothing but upside! $1,500 is a good chunk of change. Keep it up!

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