I have set into a long quest to turn my sites into revenue engines. These sites need to earn their keep. Here are some of the problems:
Repeated Content is toxic. I have sinned and I have tried to repeal my sinful ways. The problem is that there is no Content Anonymous so I cannot fully reform. I occasionally loan from known sites that have good content. More often than not, I will admit to using their good content to round out my idea.
RSS appears to be a dubious idea. I have our family site taking in RSS from our blogs and aggregating it. That doesn't do me any favours. Some companies, like Daylife, have made it into their bread-and-butter. They're doing some AWESOME stuff with it.
Google is good at washing content and looking for the real traffic route. In other words: in my NY Times-Amazon mash-up, should index and push people through my affiliate links. That doesn't happen. That mash-up of mine is still a well known secret.
My friends won't circulate my own posts. They will recirculate posts from websites I like.
I attended a mixer last week that was partially sponsored by Neverblue Media and Revenue Wire. I had a good chat with some of these guys. It looks like they're are 3 1/2 types of people out there doing affiliate ads:
Numpties. I AM A NUMPTY. I have ads and affiliate links all over the place and I get so little money for my efforts that's it laughable. I was unfortunately pleased to hear how many other people were in my state. They were making a few dollars a month.
Juggernauts. The Plenty of Fish guy grosses millions of dollars from Adsense revenue. It's envious. They have the Quan. People are showing up to read and create content. Adsense is perched on many pages. He has to keep the servers humming and the rest of the affair sorts itself out. For now.
Scammers. There are lots of weasels who can abuse the system and make throngs of cash. Through arbitrage and similar, they milk it. Then they hold up big cheques and show off how much cash they've made. They're lucky because they got one cheque out of the system before they were shut down.
Repeat Scammers. (the half) These guys are lucky because they found the magic scam formula. Maybe they got found out. But like the guys in Boiler Room, they had an exit planned and another means to get revenue from the same approach. They jumped ship and the cheques still cash.
How do you get advertising revenue? Easy: content and traffic.
Unique content is best. Slate, Onion, Apolloguide: these guys have it figured out. They have a lot of good content posted on their site. It beckons the search engines to come calling and thereby drag into users. For those who don't have their own staff, there are places like Constant Content, Helium and Associated Content. They will sell you articles for you to use and re-use. Some people have not mastered it. They go to places like GetAFreelancer and oDesk (they should go here) and solicit cheap content from people who not speak English. They get unique, cheap content-- heck, no one would say it like these online staffers would. It may win with keyword bingo, but it's bound to fail to keep users.
Forums are great sources for content. It's a fantastic way to hook people and get content at the same time. It's stone soup: people bring the content you need to keep people coming. They are also great spam magnets. If the site security is too high it will put off users. Effectively, Plenty Of Fish has the dynamics of a forum site-- with a modestly lower mouth breather quotient.
Recirculated content is poor. If you scam content, search engines will shun your site and attribute the content to the first owner. This is why it appears that RSS does you few favours. As a means to swallow content, it's okay: it should stick to its primary use as a replacement for the Server Push concept from late 1990s for personal use.
Bad approaches work. Spam is out there one reason: it works. For all of the hundreds of people who bemoan the tamiflu ads, some of the people who get spam in their inbox will open it, click on it and make a purchase. I had a job interview with a herbal viagra guys-- they were a piece of work. Unfortunately, a friend of a friend (yeah, one of those) does online perscription spam. His hit ratio is 1:10,000 (1 sale: 10,000 messages). From this, he nets about $2,700 per week. Sucks, huh?