If I had to write a post for myself 5 years ago explaining how to make money online from a content website, this would be the one. So, get strapped in, as this is everything I think you need to know about building an audience and monetizing it, with a simplified view.
TL;DR, this is basically how the whole process works…
- Only create content for keywords with decent search volume – at least 400 monthly searches.
- Pay for a good keyword research tool – such as Ahrefs.
- Find a way to quickly and cost-effectively create long-form articles – Build a team of writers.
- Sign up to a good ad network and spend time optimizing for more ad revenue – Ezoic.
- Allow 12 months to rank for the keywords and the traffic to come – Be patient and keep producing content.
But, that is the lite version. In truth, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but you needn’t make it any harder for yourself.
The Process Of Creating An Income From A Website
Here is the short version, so feel free to click any one of these links to quickly hop over to that section:
- Own a website
- Get an ad provider
- Do some keyword research
- Create the best content for the keywords
- Allow 6-12 months to rank in Google
- Pull traffic from Google
- Show ads to your readers
- Accure ad revenue over a month
- Get paid out from your ad network
- Reinvest some earnings in more content
- Hire a writing team
It sounds too easy to be true… Well, it’s not easy, but it is simple. That is the process I followed and the process I would suggest you follow.
Of course, you will have more questions and will want more specifics on all of these steps. Read below and I will break it down the very best I can for you.
1. Own A Website
It goes without saying, owning your own website is the best way to make money from your content. Does it matter if your site is brand new or 5 years old?
Yes. A brand new site may take a year or so to rank content well in Google whereas a more established site might only take a few months. Both work and we all need to start somewhere so don’t let that put you off.
2. Get An Ad Provider
Once you have traffic, the best way to monetize is to show ads. For this, you will need an ad partner. The internet will tell you to go through a cycle or starting with Adsense, then use Ezoic, then go to Adthrive, to increase your earnings.
It is a lot simpler than that. Quite simply, just use Ezoic from day one, create lots of ad placeholders and use all of their features. From what I have seen you will be earning up there with the best of them.
Take a look at our case study. There is no need to hop around between different ad providers, at all.
3. Do Keyword Research
Please, please, please… Do not miss this step. I missed this step for about 5 years and created thousands of articles targeting keywords that had no search volume. No one will ever read your content if they aren’t looking for it in the first place on Google… Fact
There are tools out there that will tell you the exact keywords people are searching for on Google and an idea of the level of competition for that term. Use those tools.
- Use an established keyword research tool like Ahrefs or Semrush. They both give good estimates on keyword volumes.
- FOCUS ON THE USA – Create content for a US audience, the search volumes are massive and the advertisers will pay more to reach your audience.
- Focus on a keyword search volume of 400 searches a month if you are monetizing with display ads, lower maybe if you are selling a product or service.
- Understand that your content will rank for more than the one keyword that you’re targeting at a time (hopefully lots more).
- Learn the AllinTitle search function in Google to check for competition. e.g. allintitle:”how to stop cats from eating plants”
Example Of Keyword Research In Ahrefs
We have a massive guide already built for this. But here is a quick sample. If you had a gardening website. Let’s use Ahrefs and look up keywords are plants, we come across the keyword, “how to stop cats from eating plants”.
We can see that the keyword has around 900 searches a month on Google from the USA alone. This looks like a good opportunity. Ahrefs also has a keyword difficulty indicator built in which helps you understand how hard it would be to rank for with this particular keyword.
For new sites keep the KD under 15. More established sites (over 2 years old) can go for harder keywords may be up to 40 KD. After that, more experience and optimizations would be needed.
This is a method where we can check Google to find all the articles on the internet that have our focus keyword in the title. If the keyword is in the title it is likely that the content has been optimized for this term. So, it shows us the amount of competition for the keyword.
Go to Google.com or the country variant of Google you wish to check and type allintitle:”keyword” (put your keyword between the speech marks).
Our example looks like this allintitle:”how to stop cats from eating plants”
This is relatively low, however ideally if you find keywords with all in title less than 9. Then worst-case scenario you are likely to still be showing on the first page of Google. Not bad for the worst-case scenario.
I have found a paid tool WriterZen that will do bulk All In Title checks for you. That is worth knowing about for sure.
Look for keywords with a search volume of around 400-2,000 searches a month and low All In Title scores, ideally less than 10. You won’t lose.
4. Create The Best Content For The Keywords
You will have heard that content is king. It sounds terrible, but it is true. Google’s job is to match the best content with the user search intent… Simple…. Do this better than the competition and you will rank well.
- Understand the user search intent from the keyword research.
- Look at the first page of Google and understand what content it is that ranks for this term.
- Evaluate all the content on the first page – This content Google has chosen to rank for a reason. The reason is that it matches the search intent.
- Create your own version that is better (and longer) than the rest.
So what does better mean? This will be long-form content providing the most in-depth knowledge to the reader. Aim for 3,000 words in length minimum, so don’t be lazy.
For example, you can see in the data below how our high-word count contents rank significantly better and is more competitive on Google.
We have built a guide here on how to do your on-page SEO when creating content. Read and understand this the best you can.
Remember the term ‘search success‘. Google wants to be able to satisfy the search term with the most suitable content. You need to figure out how to create that content.
Oh… and if you want to make lots of money, don’t be afraid to create lots of content. You will need hundreds or thousands of articles all ranking well pulling a couple of thousand readers each.
Consider each article as a micro asset. Consider if the article production costs you $60 to create, but over time it can pull in $20 a month for the next 3 years… That could be $360 in ad revenue and a $300 profit.
But some articles can return a lot better than this, my highest performer at the moment returns $733 a month. It cost less than $40 to produce.
Once you stack up hundreds of these micro assets you will be building a house of content one brick at a time.
Remember it is important that you create a lot of content. Consider the thought process of having more hooks in the water to increase your chances of catching more fish. The more content you create, the better the chance of you ranking for more keywords.
Creating one ‘perfect’ post on your website won’t necessarily make it rank well – but aiming to post 100 decent quality posts will all have an accumulative effect building topical relevance in your niche.
You might find out that after one year, with 100 of those articles published – 25% get zero traffic, 50% around 300 – 1,000 clicks a month and the last 25% get between 1,000 – 5,000 clicks a month or more. You will find some big hitting posts really help balance out the returns for the content that gets no traffic. This is why building many articles is important.
5. Allow 6-12 Months To Rank In Google
Blogging is a slow revenue producer. There are no quick results to be had, you create content and you wait. It can take 6-12 months for the content to start pulling in traffic and it might take even longer to peak. Why should your article be fired up to the number one spot on Google the week it is published? Exactly.
Google will test the content against all the competitors and allow the readers to determine the one they like the most. No one outside of Google really understands the algorithm fully. But if I had to have a simplified guess on the process it would look like this.
- You published your content.
- Google indexes it.
- Google assess the quality of the content, your domain and possible keywords it is relevant to rank for.
- Google then might start to show your content far down the rankings for your optimized keyword and similar.
- Google A/B tests your content against the many others available. Moving you up and down a position or two. Whilst collecting signals from the reader to see if they stay on and engage with the content.
- Month by month if the content is good you will work up the rankings.
Note: There are lots of other factors in the mix here and many I don’t know about or understand. But I think the above is all you really need to understand from a content standpoint.
Be fully prepared to wait, wait and then wait some more.
Some articles will rank well, others might take longer and others might never get there at all. Treat them all like experiments.
6. Pull Traffic From Google
Once the content has had long enough to start to be ranked by Google you will start to pull in more traffic. You will find that the articles you have created will most likely rank for the keywords you targeted, but they will also rank for hundreds of similar keywords surrounding the topic. All pulling in a bit of traffic each, these additional keywords compound the traffic.
7. Show Ads To Your Readers
Now, this is the part where we start to turn the traffic into dollars. Pageviews alone won’t get you paid, but showing adverts to your readers will. As we mentioned earlier, make sure you are using a decent ad provider like Ezoic and optimize your ad placeholders so you have as many options for the system to potentially show the reader ads.
If you are pulling good US traffic, based on our case study data, you could be earning $40 per every one thousand visitors.
I would recommend that you revisit the ad placement optimization every month to continually make sure you are getting the most out of your audience. We have a guide here for maximizing Ezoic earnings.
8. Draw In Ad Revenue Over A Month
Over the month you will build the ad revenue income. I would suggest following the ad earnings as closely as possible as there are always ways to make improvements. Look at your desktop vs mobile traffic. Watch your EMPV/RPM closely.
Understand the seasonal changes in the market. You will earn more in Q4 of the year compared to Q1. For this to make more sense take a look at the Ezoic Ad Revenue Index for a good visualization. It is supply and demand on the market that encourages these seasonal fluctuations.
9. Get Paid Out From The Ad Network
This will build up and be paid out at the end of the month on a NET 30-day payout. I would recommend payment via Payoneer to keep fees to a minimum.
10. Reinvest Some Earnings In More Content
Now, this is the most important part of growth… How big do you want to grow? How fast do you want to grow? It is a personal decision. Personally, I have gone through stages of reinvesting 100% of the ad revenue back into content, now, I am currently investing around 30% – 40% of ad revenue profits.
If you don’t reinvest in content, how do you plan for your site to grow? You will find that if you invest at the start of one year, you’ll later be earning significantly more. In my use case, the first $7,000 I invested into content. As little as 18 months later this content has returned me over $55,000. If I had chosen to invest 50% less at the start of this journey, then I would have earned around $27,500 less in that 18-month period.
For maximum growth reinvest 100% of your ad revenue where possible. If you need to take some profits, take some profits, but do consider investing in growth.
11. Hiring A Writing Team
To scale a content website by yourself is a very, very difficult task. That’s since will be doing so many different jobs. I’m not saying you need to outsource all the writing. But I would certainly recommend that you get at least one writer.
Once you learn the advantages of this, you will start hiring more writers. For reference, I currently have around 15 freelance writers working on our case study site.
How to hire a writer? If your niche is not something highly specific then it won’t be too hard at all. I will walk you through it. And don’t forget, in many cases you don’t need A-class writers that are as good as yourself.
If you’re interested in making money, you need writers that are cost-effective in writing content that is just good enough to rank on Google and keep the attention of the readers whilst showing them display adverts.
Here is a quick overview of how to get your first writer:
- Sign up to Upwork
- Create a job listing
- You are looking for a copywriter. So, mention what niche you are working in.
- Describe the job:
- “I am looking for a copywriter to help me create blog posts on X niche. The articles will be 3000 words long.” etc.
- You will need experience:
- Basic SEO – Yoast, Ahrefs, Keyword Tools.
- State the price per post – This can be done for ($30-$60 depending on your niche)
- Then, ask how many articles will they be able to create per month.
You will find that dozens and dozens of copywriters will apply for your job listing whether or not they understand the niche.
The best way of qualifying potential writers during the job application process is to add qualifying questions that make them answer in unique ways, this way you get to see how good their English is and an idea of their knowledge of the topic.
Finding The Right Writers To Join Your Team
I would suggest questions like this:
- If you had $300 to spend on these products from your niche, what would you choose and why?
- What is your opinion on this popular product in your niche?
- I am thinking about buying X, what do I need to know about it?
These 3 questions will make hiring your writers a lot easier. You will have a mix of responses. Some will copy in answers from Google, some will leave blank, and some will show some knowledge. But the good ones, will show good topic knowledge and also good English writing skills. So, hire the good ones.
Then, comes my next stage of hiring. I would hire all of the good ones to do 1 paid article. You can treat this as a real-world test. Then keep the best ones and close the contracts on the others.
Once you have found a writer or two you like, you can set their work via milestones and communicate via the Upwork messenger.
Use our on-page SEO guidelines as a framework for your writers to create content.
Remember the more good B-grade writers you have the faster you can create content. Don’t get caught up in finding the perfect writer… I’m not sure they exist.
If you hire a bunch of writers, the next problem you will have is you won’t be able to edit the content fast enough. Outsourcing an editor is harder, but can be done.
Over time you will find that your best writer can become your editor and help you process all the copy. But you need to be confident in that person as the job needs to be done perfectly.
- Do the keyword research – build keyword lists – maybe 100 at a time.
- Assign keywords to writers on Upwork via milestone. I give a writer a batch of 10 articles at a time.
- The writer creates the copy directly into WordPress to our writing guidelines.
- The editor reads, checks, helps to format and publishes the articles.
- The writer then picks up a new keyword and starts again.
This will release a lot of your time and allow you to create the articles (micro assets) at scale.
Now you really have the full picture of how you can grow a content website from nothing to tens of thousands of dollars a month. In short, use paid keyword research tools, hire writers, publish as much copy as possible, use a decent ad provider, reinvest as many profits as and then the traffic and revenue will come.
This is the process I use myself, hopefully, it will work for you and help shortcut your progress to receiving good traffic and ad revenues. However, this article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention your results and timescales may vary from mine (for better or worse) depending on the niche you operate in and the competition active at the moment or soon to be active in the future. There are no guarantees of course as they are a lot of variables in the mix, but this is the pureist most simplified guide and explanation I can create.
I wish you well… Please do let me know if this helps you. Leave a comment below.