To build online income you need to understand how to diversify where you generate your revenue. There is a time and a place for a blog, a static web site, and a “niche store”. Each has it’s place, and purpose within your portfolio of sites.

This post is part of the How to Build Income Online series.

I’ve seen the discussions a thousand times in forums “should I use a niche store (BANS), or should I use WordPress”. Some say “static pages are best for mini-sites”. Some say – “I use a blog and an affiliate plugin”.

I’ve blogged about creating mini-sites.
I have written about using BANS.
This is how I blog with an eBay plugin.

What I’m going to do in this post is explain once and for all the clear differences between those three things, including when to use them. My opinions may or may not be popular with some of the so-called “gurus” – but my advice is aimed at those of you still trying to build a monthly income over time, and it’s not to position myself to “sell” you something. When I use affiliate links on this blog, it’s because it’s a product that I use myself to build sites and generate income.

First, let me say that the 3 methods today I’ll talk about for building sites all use “affiliate links”. In my right sidebar is a section entitled “Earn Money Online” that contains links to “affiliate programs” you can sign up for. If you aren’t already – you should at bare minimum be signed up for Amazon, eBay Partner Network, LinkShare, ShareASale, Google Affiliate Network, and Google Adsense.

Method #1: Creating (Authority) Mini-Sites

The first method you can use to promote services or products as an “affiliate” is to create a mini web site or what’s commonly called an “authority” site. This type of site is usually under 20 pages (many are under 10), and the pages are either static HTML, or generated using a small script with no database like the 19 pages software I blogged about last week.

Pros and Cons of Mini-Sites

  • Pro: Quick to Setup
  • Pro: Small Amount of content required
  • Pro: No database or plugins required
  • Pro: Low or no maintenance once setup
  • Pro: Easy to target a “niche” topic or product
  • Con: Lower conversion rates
  • Con: One time purchase – no returning visitors
  • Con: Tougher to build “authority” (links) for
  • Con: Constant ongoing linkbuilding for organic traffic
  • Con: Best results with “paid” search traffic

Mini-sites have their place. Quick and dirty sites are attractive, especially to those using targeted search traffic through and adwords campaign and PPC (pay per click) marketers. You can build a profitable authority site manually to get organic (free) search traffic, but it takes a bit longer than other methods. A good time to create an authority mini-site are for short term offers, trends, fads, or for things that have gone “viral” but may soon fade out. Many mini-sites do well for a short period of time, and then slowly die out. Then you can sell the site, or re-work it to be profitable again.

Mini-Site: small investment of time up front for short term profit…

Method #2: Creating a “Niche Store”

The second method is to create a “Niche Store” using a script, software, or service. I’m NOT talking about using a plugin within a blog (yet) – this is strictly for standalone scripts – like Build a Niche Store, and StoreStacker. Niche Stores are becoming very popular. I even posted JTPratt’s Free Niche Site Script earlier this year. A niche store is a web site that contains (links to) lots of products in a particular area or topic with original content in those same areas.

For instance, a niche site about “dog training” would have all kinds of articles about training dogs, and links to videos, books, courses, accessories, and more. There has been a lot of furor in this area this year, since google has been attacking (removing from it’s index) niche sites they feel violate their “quality guidelines” and are “thin affiliate sites” (low on content, high in affiliate links). This is largely due to the popularity of BANS software, and lots of spammers setting up sites with no content and all eBay auctions.

Pros and Cons of Niche Stores

  • Pro: Easy to build pages and mashups with affiliate links
  • Pro: High commissions of many links (eBay)
  • Pro: Very high conversion rates
  • Pro: Auctions, videos, and other items complement your content
  • Pro: You can be a “virtual” store without selling anything at all
  • Pro: Support forum for paid products are major source of free help
  • Pro: Customers may come back for additional content or additional shopping
  • Con: Nearly all niche store scripts cost money
  • Con: Some niche stores (scripts) are difficult to setup for those not technically inclined
  • Con: LOTS of original content required
  • Con: Constant maintenance required (of both software and content)
  • Con: Linkbuilding or paid search traffic required
  • Con: Niche sites can be wiped out in google search EVEN if you have lots of quality original content
  • Con: eBay Partner Network has been kicking out some affiliates that don’t send “quality” traffic

Niche stores are an EXCELLENT way to diversify and build your monthly online income. They are more work than a mini-site, but less than a blog. Your profits can last a long, long time as long as that niche is still popular. I tell most people that it’s best to start building niche stores in areas that you are experienced and passionate about. If you’ve been a lifelong golfer, the least path of resistance would be a golfing site. Following this route makes it quick and painless to create original content since you can write all kinds of pages from your own experiences. You can also setup the categories and products better as well, since you have shopped for items in your niche for many years.

Even though some niche site owners have been adversely caught in the crosshairs of either ePN (eBay Partner Network) or Google cancelling accounts or deindexing, most with quality original content and established sites are still enjoying high profits. I once read a post by a niche store owner that said “the entire goal of every niche store page is to make an affiliate sale”, and that’s just NOT my philosophy at all. If you follow that mentality, you WILL be one of the niche store owners complaining about a canceled account eventually.

Google and eBay don’t mind you making money (that’s why they exist), but their first goal is to provide a service to people. That should be your goal too. If you create a niche store that YOU would shop at and that YOU would come back to read original content at over and over again, and that YOU would bookmark or tell other people about – then you will (over time) create not only an “authority niche site”, but LOYAL visitors who visit repeatedly. The reason niche stores have such high conversion rates compared to traditional authority sites, are because it goes beyond the normal “price comparison” site. You don’t just offer options to buy the products, but real world grass roots info people are looking for when shopping online. The less your niche site looks like “yet another spammy store” and more like an informational resource – the more money it will make.

Niche Stores: long term investment in a knowlegeable area for long term profit…

Method #3: Blogging with Affiliate Plugins

Blogging with affiliate plugins is becoming more and more popular each and every day. Blogging while trying to make money as an affiliate is also one of the most cumbersome and time consuming things that you can do. It requires the most setup and up front work to get up and running, and definitely requires the most mainenance over time. If you do the right things, I think that it can be the most profitable – and it’s also the most flexible solution you can create.

First let’s talk about why a blog is optimal for marketing and promotion. Usually niche stores by definition have no “RSS feeds” because they don’t have regular updates. Even if they did, unlike a blog – they don’t have “ping” mechanism. When you post to or update a blog it sends out a “ping” to crawlers and search engines that says “look I have new content”. It’s an announcement type feature that traditional web sites, and niche store scripts, don’t have. Google (and search engines in general) love blogs, because they (are supposed to) have regularly updated content.

I’ll give you an example. Last week I added an announcement paragraph to the top of the homepage on a blog I own. Three days later I searched for (local and very specific) keywords that should have come up in top few pages of search results. The keywords didn’t come up AT ALL, on any page, even with quotes and my site specified. That paragraph hadn’t even been indexed by the search crawler. I realized at that moment what I had done. I added the announcement into the template of the homepage itself (so it was first on the page). I did this because I wanted it at the top of the page for a week. This was great for my visitors – but it didn’t use the power features that a “blog” provides. Next, I removed it from the template, and then created a “blog post” with the exact same content and published it. WITHIN 5 MINUTES I WAS THE #1 SEARCH RESULT FOR THE EXACT SAME KEYWORDS.

Now do you understand the unrivaled value that a blog can provide for promoting affiliate offers?

By blogging with an affiliate plugin you combine the power of blogging and creating authority within a niche with the flexibility of monetizing all of those posts and pages with affiliate products and links. You COULD blog and just make money with Adsense. Or you COULD blog and login into Commission Junction manually find links and copy and paste into your blog posts one by one. But with the multitude of (both paid and free) affiliate plugins available – you can quickly and easily monetize your blog posts with affiliate products and links with very little effort at all. The only problem is – you have to continue to blog consistently to fully take advantage of all this has to offer.

Pros and Cons of Blogging with Affiliate Plugins

  • Pro: Highly profitable once established
  • Pro: Ability to promote nearly anything as an affiliate
  • Pro: Can setup multiple sections / categories / pages / series within the blog to monetize
  • Pro: Can promote niche stores and mini-sites once established
  • Pro: Possible to do everything for free (except for your own time)
  • Pro: LOTS of blogs and forums worldwide to help
  • Pro: Even with no linkbuilding at all a blog can and will get organic search traffic (over time)
  • Pro: Paid search campaigns can accelerate profits
  • Pro: Social traffic can come from Stumble, Digg, etc.
  • Con: Technical knowledge required (can learn as you go)
  • Con: Large initial setup required (blog software, theme, plugins
  • Con: Constant maintenance required (for blog / plugins / content)
  • Con: Required multiple weekly posts
  • Con: Some (better) affiliate plugins cost money
  • Con: Some research required (HTML, CSS, plugins, blogging, SEO, etc.)
  • Con: New blogs and domains can be “sandboxed” (penalized) in google for growing too quickly at first
  • Con: Having many blogs to maintain can be simply overwhelming

Blogging with an Affiliate Plugin: Large setup and maintenance, constant work, most flexible and profitable option…

Next Steps…

I’ve had this post in mind, and the “How to Build Income Online Series” as an idea for a very long time. My goal in this series is to give you every different way I can think of to make money online, so you can pick which ones are best suited for you. I chose to talk about these 3 areas today, because in the coming months I will be reviewing every single free and paid for way to blog and setup niche sites you can think of. I will show you plugins and scripts that you probabaly have never even seen or heard of. I have found these things spending hundreds of hours online over the last few years – and my goal is to create an informational resource for you that puts it all in one place to save you all the time I have invested.

I also have some exciting things in the works. Because of what I’ve found, and because so many of these products, plugins, and scripts don’t do everything I want them to – I am in the process of creating both a WordPress theme and an affiliate plugin that will be available in the near future. Some very, very exciting things will be coming from JTPratt’s Blogging Mistakes – if you haven’t already subscribed to our RSS feed or subscribed to posts via email – do it today!