If you have ever spent any time online browsing forums about making money online or purchased any “methods” or joined “boot camps” about this topic, chances are that you have read about the idea of creating an enormous network of “mini sites” monetized with AdSense. In the “mini site” business model, each website contains just a few articles written around a specific set of keywords and usually has no outbound links except for an AdSense block. The idea is that with each of these sites capturing a little traffic and a few AdSense clicks every day, all you need to do is scale up by adding more sites, and eventually you’ll have a full time income.
So, what’s wrong with that? A lot of things, in my opinion, and you’ll find that I do not even discuss how to create mini sites on The Affluent Blogger. When I discuss making money online, I will always present information with the overall mindset that the best way to make money with a website is by making that website better. I’m going to present some of my reasons for this mindset here, and you can form your own opinion.
Content is King
My opinion is that great content trumps all of the search engine optimization techniques that you can name, every time. Have you ever seen a website like Gizmodo use search engine optimization techniques in its articles? According to Alexa, Gizmodo is the 410th most popular site on the Internet, receiving around 4 million page views each day. The search engines have a way of finding great content, with or without SEO. More importantly, readers know the difference between good content and garbage. Publish great content, and your readers will keep coming back. That’s how a website grows. Proponents of the mini site business model tell you to search for keyword phrases that are searched around 2,000 times per month. That’s 66 searches a day, from which your mini site will receive 30 hits if you’re lucky. At that rate, you’ll have the equivalent of Gizmodo’s 4 million page views after creating your 133,000th mini site. Meanwhile, all Gizmodo has to do is publish around 20 great articles a day, and the people come rolling in.
As you browse the Web, perhaps you’ve noticed the little Facebook “Like” buttons on many websites. You might also be familiar with sites such as Digg and Delicious. These are all forms of “social bookmarking.” A person clicks a button to indicate that they like an article or website, and this sends a notification to the other people in their network, who may decide to check the site out as well. This “word of mouth” traffic has a way of feeding on itself and making your traffic grow very quickly. People are great BS detectors, though. You’ll never get any of this traffic unless you publish great content. I firmly believe that social bookmarking is only going to become more important for search engine rankings as time goes by, because people are better at picking relevant content than any algorithm could ever be.
New Revenue Opportunities
There are certain revenue opportunities that only become available to you when you have a website that receives a minimum number of unique visitors per day. If you have a large and loyal base of readers, advertisers will want to pay for the opportunity to use your site to reach that audience. For you, this can mean higher sales commissions, or advertising models that result in you being paid based on the number of people that view an ad — clicks or no clicks. You will never receive premium revenue opportunities from a mini site.
Eggs in One Basket
I don’t advocate relying on just one source of income for support, no matter how reliable it is. Most proponents of the “mini site” business model suggest using AdSense as the sole source of monetization for each mini site. I think that we can all be certain that Google is not going anywhere any time soon, but what if a change in AdSense policy suddenly results in less revenue for publishers? If you diversify the offerings that you present to your readers, giving them a varied selection of advertisements and product offerings, the loss of one revenue stream may still hurt, but it shouldn’t result in you needing to worry about whether you are going to be able to feed your family.
Google’s policy for publishers using AdSense ads is very clear on the fact that publishers must adhere to Google’s quality guidelines. Google wants websites that are “useful” and “information-rich.” Have you ever used these terms to describe any mini site? I find it difficult to imagine a mini site owner honestly saying that their five-page websites provide any useful information to readers at all, and I think that any mini site strongly runs the risk of running afoul of Google’s quality guidelines. The ramifications of this are enormous, and can result in having your AdSense account disabled, or having all of your websites removed from Google’s search engine listings. What amount of short-term income is worth that risk?
Become the Authority in Your Field
For all of these reasons and more, it is my opinion that the best way to create a career for yourself is a website owner is to do so by creating great websites. Concentrate on becoming the authority in your field(s), and traffic will naturally follow. Traffic brings revenue, and building a sustainable income slowly is much better than building income that starts quickly, but can be pulled out from under you at any moment.