About 10 years ago, I decided that I wanted to start up a website with the long term goal of (possibly) making a passive income. I wasn’t sure quite how I was going to do this, but as with most things, I figured it was best to start something off and the project would eventually evolve into something worthwhile. To a certain extent, I was right.
Being already involved in internet marketing as part of my day job, I thought a good route to go down was becoming an affiliate website. So I signed up to Tradedoubler. Tradedoubler, for me, represented the easiest way for me to kick things off.
As I said, this was about 4 years ago and I was in quite an impulsive mood. I logged into Tradedoubler for the first time as an affiliate and there was a list of merchants who had recently signed up to the programme. I can’t remember the others, but one that jumped out at me was the luxury travel agent, Kuoni.
It immediately struck me – I’ve always been interested in travelling and holidays, but then, who isn’t? So I immediately began thinking up ideas for some sort of travel related website. I don’t know how long it took, but as I recall it was pretty instant, I decided on the name Smashing Holidays for my website.
My original intention was to display Kuoni’s deals on my website and get links through to their site, thereby making commission on any sales. As I said, quite impulsive, not that well thought through, but I figured I’d give it a go.
So I set up a pretty small scale website, no more than 10 pages with content relating to the sorts of holidays available on the Kuoni site. So this trundled along for a number of months, with me getting minimal hits to my site, but I figured it was early days, and at this stage it was very much a hobby. Being in the web related business myself, I thought at worst, it would be a good site with which to showcase my web design skills.
Switching from affiliate marketing to Google adsense
I realised relatively early on that the affiliate links weren’t working for me and switched to Google AdSense. This was the smartest thing I ever did. It allowed the site to become a lot less focused around Kuoni and just be a general site on holiday destinations. I guess by this time, I was had built up to 20 – 25 pages and the clicks were slowly starting to build.
By this time (about 9 months on from starting the website up) I was starting to see traffic gradually improve even more – and glory be – at last see some revenue flow in. At first, it was pennies, but it soon grew to the point I was making £2 – £3 per day from the site. Now, this doesn’t sound like a lot of money. It isn’t a lot of money, but when you suddenly start to see passive online income rolling in where there was nothing before, then it really is quite exciting.
My first big blunder
So as you can imagine, I began to think that the possibilities were endless. To me, it was just a matter of creating as much content as possible. Surely the number of holiday destinations were almost limitless. That was when I made my first big blunder. I decided stupidly to create a load (maybe 50) of blank pages, just with the title that I was trying to rank for. I thought Google would index the pages first, and then through time, I would populate the content.
Within a matter of weeks of doing this, my site had dropped like a stone from the Google rankings. They had obviously got wise to my tactic and given me a really hard Google slap. The site was nowhere to be seen in the ranking and my earnings dropped to zero.
I was gutted. From being so optimistic about earning some cash online, my dreams had been shattered and I was back to square one. However, I did manage to turn this around. Eventually.
The Keyword Academy
SO I had got bitten by the make money online bug. Even although my first site was now in the doldrums, I had been given a taste of what it was like to make a bit of passive income. So I started doing a lot of research on the web to see what other folks experiences were. Of course, most of my research led me to American sites, and I eventually came across The Keyword Academy. I stumbled across a review on some site or another and, again on a bit of an impulse, signed up. I say sign up, it was only $1 for the first month, then it would increase to $33 per month a month after signup.
I immediately liked the setup. They had what they referred to as a tried and trusted technique to make $500 a month of online revenue. At this point, $500 a month seemed like an insurmountable amount. Bear in mind at this point, I was making nothing and had only ever made at most $5 a day from my site.
However, something told me that this was a good idea so I started watching the impressive video tutorials which talked you through buying domains, buying hosting (which I already knew about), but also setting up WordPress (which I had previously known nothing about), keyword research, backlinking and loads of other stuff. There were about 10 video tutorials in total as far as I can remember.
So I set up 3 sites around niche keywords. I populated the sites with original content I researched on the web and waited for the traffic to roll in. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The topics I had selected to build my sites around were so dry that I took no interest in them and writing articles was a chore. To give you an example, my first site was about Chlorine Tablets for swimming pools. What a bore!
As luck would have it, not long after I had started my Keyword Academy training, my original Smashing Holidays site sprung to life again. I had emailed Google with a reconsideration request to get my site unbanned and lo and behold it had worked. It was great to see the clicks (and the pennies) rolling in again.
So I decided to shelve my 3 niche sites and concentrate on my holidays site. It was now over a year old, and as an ‘aged domain’, would have more authority and get more visitors (hopefully). So using the forum at The Keyword Academy for guidance, I ploughed ahead with creating content for my site.
Starting to make some money
The site was starting to make some money now, and in January 2010, I had my first month where I broke £60. I was made up! £60 was the magic threshold you had to pass in any one month in order to get paid. I had been paid previously, but only by adding up the month’s totals together. £60 was a big deal for me. I remember thinking back that £60 was a massive amount to make.
At first, I wrote the articles myself, but then I got wind of using freelancers to write articles for me. I believe there are a number of sites out there that offer this service, but I used oDesk. The going rate for 10 400 word articles was $50. At $5 per article, I thought this was a great deal and plunged in. I got my fingers burned a few times with people providing crappy articles, but I found a few really good writers who were happy t write decent content for the money.
Things were starting to happen in February I made over £75 and in March, I broke £100 for the first time. The Keyword Academy also had a great badge system on its forum where you were given different badges as your earnings went up. I was proudly receiving new badges nearly every month now. Something that had seemed insurmountable was slowly becoming a reality.
All time high
Things dipped slightly in the spring months but started to gain momentum again going into autumn culminating in October when I made over £400. This was uncharted territory. I was well and truly chuffed with myself. It seemed that the sky was the limit and I ploughed ahead with oDesk, adding more and more articles to my site. After another November – December dip, I was to have what ended up being my all-time best month. In January 2011, I made £628 – over $1,000 at the time. This was it I thought. This was 10 times the revenue I generated last January. If I continued at this pace, I wouldn’t have to work again.
Things continued along well and I was making a steady average of about £400 a month as the year progressed. All the time, I was aware of Google updates including Panda and I read people’s horror stories about their sites being de-indexed by Google on the Keyword Academy forums. However, I thought my site was immune. The content was reasonably good, and it didn’t look like a spammy WordPress site like so many I had seen before.
Fraser Caine, Universe Today and Keyword Strategy
Around this time, I also started following an online revenue guru who was a member of the Keyword Academy called Fraser Caine. Everyone knew that Fraser was making a lot of money from his site, Universe Today, and Fraser would unselfishly share his knowledge and expertise with Keyword Academy members at the drop of a hat. You can read an interview with Fraser here. And his keyword site is called Keyword Strategy. I tried it, but I’m not one for analysing loads of stats so it wasn’t for me.
One of the main things that Fraser would always recommend was that you created a site based around a subject that was of great interest to you, and that you should love writing the articles. Ok so I loved to travel, but the articles on my site were at best bogus. I was writing travel guides to places I had never visited, and getting other people to write guides for me for places that they had never visited. However, as long as the clicks and money were continuing to roll in then I thought I was on to a good thing.
Then it happened. The dreaded Panda update hit my site in October 2011 and my online revenue was never the same again. My traffic dropped like a stone and it continues to drop. I hardly get any hits at all from Google anymore. I only get visitors from other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo. It would appear that their guidelines are not so stringent.
In a way, I knew it was inevitable and although it was massively disappointing, in my heart of hearts I knew it couldn’t last forever. I didn’t even try to fight it and I didn’t bother requesting reconsideration from Google. My site was basically built on lies and that couldn’t last.
I’ve enjoyed sharing this story with you and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Maybe you have even learned something. Perhaps you have tried to get out of the rat race and make a passive income. It’s still my dream and I’d love my site to become a favourite with lots of people, but who knows what the future will bring.
If you have any comments on this article or would like to share your experiences, then please do so by commenting below. I look forward to reading your stories.
Yours in passive income.