Making money from online advertising is something many people try to do. It’s very easy to get started, but as with affiliate marketing, it’s important to know that it won’t make you a fortune overnight.
However, if you build a good website and manage to attract plenty of traffic, you will undoubtedly be able to begin to build up a stream of income from advertising on your site.
There are two principle ways of making money from advertising on your websites:
1. Using ad networks such as Google AdSense, where you are paid each time somebody clicks onto an advert.
2. Directly selling adverts to particular companies within your website’s niche.
There’s nothing to stop you placing AdSense blocks as soon as you launch your site, though you shouldn’t expect to get too many clicks until your traffic levels build. When it comes to selling ads to individual companies, you will need a certain level of traffic and reputation before anyone will be willing to pay you money. Typically, advertisers will want to verify your traffic levels before parting with any cash.
Advertising websites appeal to many entrepreneurs because they view them as a “passive income.” However, maintaining a website does involve some regular work. If you think you can throw a website together and immediately earn hundreds of dollars from advertising, you will be very disappointed! You need to provide a decent stream of good content, or there will be no reason for people to browse your site in the first place.
In this article, we are going to show you, step-by-step, how to build an advertising website using WordPress.
WordPress is our favourite Web Content Management System (CMS) here at Make a Website. Here are a few reasons why it’s ideal for your first advertising site:
Little coding is needed: Making a website once meant tweaking HTML code until everything looked right. WordPress uses themes to determine the basic design of sites. There are quite literally thousands of themes available. Some are included with WordPress (as we will see later), and others are available online for free or at little cost. You can get to the code behind a WordPress site, but it’s unlikely you’ll have to do anything more complicated than pasting in some HTML from the advertising networks.
Adverts are easily integrated: Many WordPress themes come with advertising space already included. If not, it’s easy to paste your advertiser’s code into sidebar widgets. Putting a new ad up only takes a few minutes.
The support community is huge: With over six million WordPress sites out there, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll find a problem that someone else hasn’t faced before. You will find endless WordPress support forums to help you, and thousands of developers and experts if you ever need any specialist help or customisation.
How we will help you
At Make A Website we have created hundreds of websites between us, and many of them include at least a small advertising element.
Our aim is to get you quickly up and running with WordPress and give you some advice to help you find the best advertising partners.
What You’ll Need
Don’t worry if you don’t have these things yet – we’re going to take you through everything step-by-step. Here are the basics:
- A Web hosting account with your own domain
- A Web browser of your choice (we prefer Google Chrome or Firefox)
- A subject for your new website. It’s best if the subject fits cleanly into a particular niche, otherwise the advertising networks will struggle to feed the site with relevant adverts. Also, you are unlikely to sell advertising space on a website without a clear target audience.
- Time and patience for setting up accounts with ad networks
- A PayPal account (many advertising networks and individual advertisers like to pay via PayPal)
- A constant flow of new content for your site
Choosing your advertisers
In the early days of starting your website, your choice of ad networks will be rather limited. The well-known ad networks, such as Google AdSense, take a look at your site before opening your account. If they don’t find enough quality content, they are unlikely to approve your application.
For this reason, you should work on creating a good basic body of content before applying to some of these programs.
Here is a list of advertising networks to get you started:
Google AdSense: Probably the best known of all the advertising networks, Google AdSense feeds ads from companies that have paid to advertise using the AdWords program. Anecdotally speaking, it has become more difficult to get accepted for AdSense recently, so it’s perhaps best to build up your content and traffic before applying for AdSense.
Chitika: Chitika is a slightly less well-known ad network, but essentially works in much the same way as AdSense. The benefit is that is seems easier to get accepted as a partner, making Chitika a good network to sign up to in the early days of your site.
Skimlinks: Skimlinks works a little differently to AdSense and Chitika, by automatically adding links to relevant phrases in your content. Skimlinks’ acceptance process is said to be reasonably laid-back.
Amazon Associates: Amazon Associates is technically an affiliate scheme and not an advertising network, but it is possible to place generic Amazon ads on your site(s) using the program. There’s also nothing to stop you linking to individual products relative to your niche. Indeed, many people use an assortment of advertising and affiliate marketing on their sites. We also have a detailed how-to guide for creating affiliate websites here.
Adversal: Adversal is another decent AdSense alternative. The sign-up procedure is easy and they offer a minimum payout option of $20.
Over time, you will want to try a range of advertising options, and play around with different colours and ad block sizes. These superficial changes can make a real difference to whether people click the ads or ignore them. The only way to find out what works is by trial and error, but it’s best to try each set up for at least a month to see what really works.
Also, once your site gets popular, you may start to successfully sell prime advertising spots to specific companies. At this point, it becomes an individual judgement call whether to sell a good spot to a specific company for a set fee, or take the chance on earning more from clicks from an ad network.
Don’t worry too much about this to begin with. First you need some traffic, and before that you must get your site set up – so let’s do that now.
Getting a domain and hosting
Before you can do anything, you need an address for your website (a domain), and a place to host your website (Web hosting service). We recommend HostGator as your Web host.
We have produced a very detailed step by step guide to registering your domain and setting up your hosting. You should visit the page now via this link. (The link will open in a new window or tab, so you can easily return to this guide at any time – see you shortly!)
The next thing you need to do is install WordPress on your new domain. Luckily, we have another step by step guide telling you exactly how to do that.
Once again, click the link to move forward to the guide. The guide will open in a new window, so you can return to here when you are done.
Getting the basics done
Now that WordPress has been installed onto your Web space, we can get down to business. Before proceeding to the next steps you should be sure of the following:
1. That you can get to your WordPress dashboard (www.yourdomainname.xx/wp-admin) and log on using your username and password.
2. That you can see your site when you type the domain name into your Web browser.
If your basic site isn’t yet live, you may need to wait a little longer for your domain information to propagate. Refer back to Step 7 in the step by step WordPress Guide for more info.
The WordPress dashboard is where you control all the content and functionality within your website. First of all, we are going to change the fundamental appearance of your site by installing a theme.
Installing a theme
Now, we need to choose a suitable theme for your advertising site. For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to demonstrate using the “Twenty Thirteen” theme that comes with a standard WordPress installation. This has a wide right-hand sidebar, which is ideal for placing adverts.
However, eventually you will probably want to choose a better theme for your site. There are thousands of themes out there, and two good places to look are on the WordPress themes database, and on our sister site, WPThemes.
What to look for
Advertising websites need plenty of space to insert adverts. Obviously you can place adverts within the content of posts, but sidebars are useful so that you can have ads that appear in a static location on every page.
For now, let’s switch your WordPress site to the “Twenty Thirteen” theme:
1. Log on to the dashboard for your WordPress site.
2. On the left of the dashboard, hover over “appearance” and click the “Themes” option:
3. You will now see a screen showing all the themes available to you, complete with previews:
4. Note that there is also an “Add New Theme” option. This is what you would select if you found or purchased a theme of your own. Usually, you would download the theme as a ZIP file, and upload it after selecting this option.
5. For now, we are just going to switch to the “Twenty Thirteen” theme, so click the “Activate” button that shows when you hover over it:
5. The theme is automatically installed. If you click the “visit site” link, you will immediately see how much your site has changed. Welcome to the power of WordPress themes.
Adding Some Content
The time has now come to add the first content to your site. Before you do, here are a couple of WordPress concepts you will need to learn:
Pages are individual areas of your site, usually accessed through the top or side menu bars.
Posts are individual blog posts, that usually appear in reverse date order as visitors scroll down the page.
In the screen shot below, the green arrow shows a link to a page, and the red arrow shows a post.
Go back to the Dashboard. You will notice that both “Posts” and “Pages” have an “Add New” option when you hover over them. Try adding one page and one post. For now it doesn’t matter if they contain nonsense. The purpose of this is just to get used to adding WordPress content.
When you create content, you use an interface that looks much like a word processor. You can add bold type and italics, format your text, and even add images. If you’ve used a word processor, you’ll have no trouble using WordPress. The screenshot below shows the basic editor for both posts and pages. Once you’ve created your content, you just need to click the “Publish” button on the editing screen.
In the screenshot below, we have added one new page and one new post. We’ve included an image in the post. We have then used the “visit site” option to demonstrate how our site has changed. We have highlighted the new content with arrows.
After creating a couple of pieces of content, it should become very clear how to start to build up your site.
What you now need to do is add a decent initial volume of content before you apply to your first advertising network. It may seem frustrating that you have to do all the hard work first, but you’re unlikely to have your application approved if you submit a blank site.
So, try to create at least six to eight good pages and blog posts. These should be well-written and relevant to your niche, and include some images.
Preparing to Launch
Before you start to publicise your site, and begin to send off applications for ad networks, there are some things you will want to do. As you will have seen, WordPress installs some demo content that you’ll want to get rid of, and there are a few other things to think about too. Here is a list of suggestions:
1. Delete the “Hello World” post.
2. Delete the “Sample Page” page.
3. If your theme lets you have a custom home page (not showing blog posts), then create a new page according to the guide for your theme, and then go to Settings > Reading, and set it as your home page.
4. Create an “About” page. This is where you should place key information about you or your company.
6. Make sure you provide a way for readers or customers to get in touch with you. You may choose to use a contact form plugin for this, and we recommend that you check out Contact Form 7.
7. From the dashboard, go to Settings > Permalinks, and change the Permalink setting to “Postname.” This makes it easier for the search engines to index your new posts.
Applying to the Ad Networks
We listed a number of different ad networks earlier in this article. It’s up to you which you apply for first, but we’d suggest Chitika as a good starting point.
You will find the Chitika sign up page here. (The link will open in a new window or tab).
After providing your email address, you must click a link in a verification email. After verification, you are required to submit some details on your site.
Once you submit your information, you must wait for your application to be approved. How long this will take depends on the ad network. In our experience, Chitika applications are often approved on the same day.
Assuming you are accepted to your chosen network, you will be sent a username and password to access a control panel for the chosen network. Once there you can select from a range of ad block sizes.
Once you choose an ad, you are provided with a small amount of HTML code that you copy into your WordPress site. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry, we will now show you how.
Posting your first advert
Placing an ad onto your site is really straightforward.
For the purposes of this demo, we will assume you’ve successfully managed to join an ad network, and accessed some code for an ad.
We’re going to take advantage of the sidebar available on our WordPress theme to place a “skyscraper” ad with dimensions of 160×600 pixels. You will find that all ad networks tend to offer ads of this size as they are very popular.
Now, just follow these steps:
1. From your WordPress dashboard, go to APPEARANCE, and then WIDGETS:
2. On the next screen, find the section labelled “secondary widget area”, shown with a green arrow in the screenshot below. The “secondary widget area” in this theme refers to the right hand side bar, but it’s important to note that every theme is different. Once you use a theme of your own, consult the documentation to see which area refers to which part of your site layout.
3. On the same page, locate the “Text” widget from the list of “available widgets.” The text widget allows you to enter free form text or any HTML code. Drag the “Text” widget to the “secondary widget area,” as shown in the screenshot.
4. Go to the Control Panel for your chosen ad network, and copy the relevant code for a 160×600 skyscraper advert. Then paste it into the widget text field as shown above.
5. Finally click on your domain name in the top left of the dashboard, and select “Visit site.” You should then see your new advert in the sidebar, as demonstrated in the screenshot below.
The ad we’ve used in the screenshot above actually is a Chitika ad. You will notice that the subject matter on the ads is non-specific, which highlights our earlier point about making sure that your content all relates to a specific niche. If it doesn’t (like our demo content) the ad network will struggle to know what kind of ads to present to your readers.
Congratulations! You have now (hopefully) placed your first ad, learned the basics of placing more on your site.
Placing an ad directly into some post content is essentially the same. Simply switch to the text view in the editing screen (shown below with the blue arrow) and paste the code from your ad network wherever you want it to appear (shown below with the pink arrow).
So What’s Next?
What direction you go in with your site is largely up to you, but we would suggest the following:
1. Keep the content flowing:
As we said above, you must keep new content flowing to attract readers to your site. If you don’t have site visitors, nobody will click on adverts.
Not everyone can write, so you may wish to consider outsourcing some content writing tasks to qualified freelancers via sites like oDesk and eLance.
2. Drive traffic to the site
Adding plenty of good content is the main key to making your site popular, but promotion is essential too. Make use of social networks, share your posts, and try to persuade others to do the same. You need to build steady momentum.
3. Log your statistics
You should keep track of your (hopefully) rising number of visitors. Take note of how long they remain on the site and where they come from, as this kind of analytical information will help you know how to develop and improve your site. Your Web host will provide basic stats via cPanel, but for really detailed insight you should consider using the free Google Analytics tool.
4. Get some “real” advertisers
Once you feel you have some impressive stats to show off, it’s time to hunt down some individual advertisers. Create an “Advertise here” page and showcase your stats, and consider contacting companies directly with advertising offers.
Timing is really important here, and you shouldn’t try to do things too quickly. A showcase of information such as, “we are at the top of Google for various search terms, and we have an average of 5000 unique monthly visitors typically spending three minutes on the site” is what potential advertisers will want to see.
One good way of knowing that it’s time to start actively selling advertising is if companies start to approach you directly asking about advertising options – this indicates that your site has appeared on their radar.
Good luck with your new project.
IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr.com