Be useful and patient (and what it really takes to make money from our websites)

To make money from our websites without selling is a long game.

The keys are patience and to be useful to your readers.

Because you will need visitors to make money and it takes time to get indexed and ranked in the search engines. 

And no, I am not saying “build it and they will come”. What I am saying is that patience together with good and useful content is vital if you are to be successful. 

But it is not enough by itself.

Here today I will list two things you should do and one thing you should avoid to improve your chances to get that first page listing in the search engines. 

We re all trying to make money from our websites. But why is it not enough to be useful and patient?

Being useful and patient and then what?

You can have the best website in the world and it makes no difference if no one can find you.

And as we are not selling a product it is of course difficult to justify spending money on advertising.

We need people to find us if we are ever to make money from our websites. And when they do we will hook them with great content that delivers on their expectations. 

We can then make money from our websites with advertising and affiliate marketing.

So how do people find answers to questions and solutions to problems? We use search engines and Google in particular.

What do the search engines want?

When we are trying to get indexed and ranked in the search engines we have one big advantage.

Search engines want to provide the best available content for any given search.

And this is huge as it gives us an opportunity to compete with the bigger companies out there.

Today big companies are very aggressive with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it can of course be hard to compete.

But as we are smaller we have to be more agile. We focus our attention on less competitive keyword phrases and build our reputation in our niche.

We may have to concede keywords like “best credit card”. But if we niche down and focus on students with bad credit history and build a great website we may have a shot at student related searches.

Be agile. Think smaller in your quest to build something great. 

Getting the attention of the search engines

So there you are with 30 great articles posted and still no visitors.

How do we get the attention of the search engines?

Back when I first started with web development and Altavista ruled the world there were many shady tactics that would help you rank. 

Keyword stuffing using white text color on white background and keyword stuffing in image alt tags are just two examples.

Today these types of nonsense behaviors will simply get you banned. Or at least guarantee that you will not get ranked.

Some say there are hundreds of ranking factors whilst others manage to distill the list down to a more manageable number.

For my own purposes I believe the smaller publishers should focus on speed, user experience and creating content that will get backlinks.

Google Core Web Vitals alongside concepts like E-A-T and YMYL clearly indicates what will matter in the future.

And you have to agree it does make sense.

But how do backlinks fit into the picture?

Content that others want to link to

From a search engine’s perspective links to a website have to be a great indicator of that particular website’s importance and relevance.

Let’s say you have a website about gardening. 

You get 2 links to your website: 

  • one link from a comment on an article on a blog about cars 
  • another link from an article in the Gardening section of Better Homes & Gardens

Needless to say the link from Better Homes & Gardens will tell the search engines that your website is relevant to gardening and your website must also be good as it receives a link from an authority website.

The link from the car blog is a lot less relevant and it may count for something but probably not. Some even claim such a link could hurt you.

I like to believe that it will be a neutral outcome. You may get visitors but no boost that would help your ranking. (Otherwise people could hurt you with irrelevant links from shady websites.)

So it is easy to understand why links to a website would be an important and useful ranking factor. And we have to face facts, backlinks are needed if we want to make money from our websites. Period.

So how does a new website get backlinks?

Backlinks and choosing the highroad

Remember that we spoke about being patient? 

There are no quick and easy ways to get good quality and relevant backlinks to your website. 

We need to be patient and work equally hard on earning backlinks as we do on producing great content.

And you cannot sit back and wait for other websites to find you. After all, how would they find you?

Luckily there are two methods that work.

They are not guaranteed. But they work and they tick all the right boxes. 

Help a reporter out (HARO)

HARO is a website where journalists, bloggers and publishers can source expertise from sources offering that specific knowledge and expertise.

They offer a free option and you will receive daily emails with queries from journalists and publishers, 

The queries are divided into subjects or areas and you can choose to receive all queries or only queries relevant to your niche, for example “Travel” or “Business and FInance”. 

The queries are quite specific and you need to follow the instructions carefully to be considered.

And do not answer if you do not meet with the profile they request. If they want a MD or a Certified Public Accountant you should only answer if you meet the qualifications.

HARO can and usually does take time. You need to be persistent and I recommend trying to find something to answer every day. But do stay relevant. 

HARO can be a great way to get backlinks but it also indicates relevance when you get quoted.

Seeking good guest post opportunities

Guest posting is an easy concept to understand. 

Find websites in niches that are relevant to your niche that accept guest posts.

Contact the websites and pitch them an idea for an article that would be posted on their website.

The downside is that you are giving away a good article that could have been posted on your website.

The good news is that you should at least receive a link back to your website from the author box.

Some websites may be more generous with links back to your website. Others may prefer to pay and not link at all.

As we are trying to earn relevant backlinks payment would not help us. Try to get links if possible. And this type of details need to be ironed out before you write and submit your post.

Many websites that accept guest posts have very detailed requirements posted on their website. Read them carefully and make sure the requirements meet your needs.

Will I risk getting banned if I build backlinks?

Noone can say for sure where the search engines (read Google) draw the line.

I tend to take a step back and ask myself what makes sense for a dynamic search engine like Google.

1: Backlinks are important for ranking and we understand why. It makes sense.

2: Established authority websites have had years to buy links, use guest posts, etc. to acquire links.

3: These authority websites now rank in Google and can be found by visitors.

4: New websites need to acquire backlinks to rank in search engines.

5: As new websites do not rank in search engines they will not get backlinks naturally.

6: If new websites were to be penalized for relevant guest posts and HARO no new website would ever be able to rank and compete.

Conclusion: I will not be penalized if I build backlinks responsibly via HARO or relevant guest posts as it would not benefit Google or their ranking algorithm.

But the key word is responsibly (and here’s the big no-no)

It is easy to get impatient. 

We work hard. The goal is clear in our minds. We need visitors to make money from our websites.

And when we get impatient and lose heart we may be tempted to seek shortcuts. 

Our eyes start wandering. All of a sudden we see a Facebook post offering tons of links to our website for virtually no money.

Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Do you remember the link we received to our gardening website from that car blog comment? If you fall for this type of offer you are likely to get a lot more of these.

For me it is a big no-no.

You could of course have a boost from such a package. To be honest I do not know as I have never tried. Why not? It is against the search engines rules. 

And even if you had a boost for how long would it last? Google and the other search engines are not only smart they are wise.

Odd patterns are inevitably caught. All you can think of has already been done over and over.

My recommendations: Stay away from buying or selling links. It is against the search engines code of conduct and it will not yield long term benefits.

Summary

Focus on building relevant backlinks via HARO and guest posts. We build links that are earned and create patterns that we can repeat.

This in itself will be as close to a “build it and they will come” approach as we could ever hope for.

And to do nothing is not an option if you are starting a brand new website.

Meet the author: Serial entrepreneur and travel industry expert with more than 20 years working experience from web development, Wordpress and the travel industry. Mattias is a big fan of Open Source and will show you how to build and manage a website using Wordpress and a bit of optional PHP for the true enthusiast. Mattias identifies with self-starters and entrepreneurs and also shares ideas on how to monetize a website.