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Generating revenue online with articles sites 

Since the advent of contextual advertising, many thousands of new articles sites (aka MFA or Made For AdSense sites) have been launched; their owners all hoping to strike gold. The reality is that very few do. 

The theory is that by creating a site with thousands of articles which are freely available for reproduction from various sources around the web, this will attract search engine traffic and that a portion of that traffic will click on contextual advertising or affiliate links once on the site.

The problem is that the articles published on these sites can usually be found in hundreds of other places - and search engine algorithms are designed to detect this. In the perfect world, the site where the article first appeared should get the ranking kudos, although this is not always the case.

If you're considering creating an article site to cash in on the contextual advertising bonanza, step back for a moment and really think about it - what strategy will you put in place that will separate you from the pack and make your site successful? On the altruistic side of things; will you be contributing something valuable to the web, or just more clutter?

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The following are some tips that will help improve your chances of making a decent living from your articles site and creating a truly useful resource:

1. Research for suitable topics

If you're going to be using other people's content that has been made freely available for reproduction, make sure there's a good supply around first - and that the information is relatively current or ageless. Don't put all your eggs in one basket by only having a few sources. 

You also need to gain some idea of how lucrative the topic is in terms of advertising return - no point in expending the effort if you're only going to average a couple of pennies per click or action on any accompanying advertising. 

An way to gauge click prices for the genre is via Google's Keyword Tool. It won't give you the price as such, but show you competition levels between advertisers. The more competitive the term, the higher that advertisers are likely paying. Learn more about keyword popularity

2. Attention to design

As I mentioned, articles sites have popped up everywhere in recent years, especially since the advent of contextual advertising - and many of them look rather, well, blegh. Their owners are using a shotgun method - quantity over quality.

Make yours stand out from the rest by spending some time or perhaps a few bucks on a nice template. Templates are very cheap these days - you can usually pick one up for under 50 dollars. Or, if you have some design skills, you can pick up some ideas in our web design template gallery.

You might be thinking "well, Taming the Beast.net isn't going to win any design awards", and you're right on that point. The big difference is that over 95% of the content on my site is original - that's where my time goes; developing the content that others use rather than on eye candy; but I'm sure one day I'll get around to sprucing things up a little ;).

3. Use the right article management software

If you're going to be publishing hundreds, perhaps thousands of articles, you may be better off using an application dedicated to the task from the outset, such as Interspire Website Publisher - which I've described in more detail towards the end of this article. 

These applications are designed specifically for news and article sites where the main purpose is to generate revenue from advertising and affiliate programs. They provide the framework for the site and organize content in a professional and easily navigable way; while ensuring that advertising is simple to manage and displayed in such a fashion to be most effective.

When I started out Taming the Beast.net, I really didn't expect it to grow to the size it is now, nor were these content management applications available at the time. As a result, I find it increasingly time consuming to manage all the content on the site these days.

4. Be somewhat passionate about the subject

While you may be able to generate a million bucks working the web whilst in your underpants, believe me - you'll go through quite a few sets of underwear in the process. There is no easy money, it's still hard work and rarely a case of "build it and they will come". 

I would hazard a guess that you'll need to put in at least 20 hours a week to build your article site business to an appreciable level after you've completed the basic groundwork and launched your site. That 20 hours covers sourcing articles, adding them to your site, managing authors and the hardest aspect of all - promotion and marketing.

Given the investment of time you'll need to make, it's important to have an interest in the topics you are covering for two reasons:

a) If you are interested in the genre, there's less chance you'll abandon your site through boredom. Bear in mind that it may be some months before you'll be seeing traffic of any appreciable level and consequently, the same goes for revenue - so you'll need to having staying power.

b) Quality control - if you are somewhat familiar with a subject, you'll be able to screen quality content from crud much more effectively.

5. Stay targeted

When content supply dries up intermittently, the temptation can be to branch into other totally different topics, or to use low quality content. Resist the temptation - if content flow is that slow, use the article site formula on a totally new site focusing on other topics.

6. Try to develop your own articles

Following on from the last point, you'll generally do much better if you also take the time to write up a few of your own articles and offer those for reproduction too. Not only will that put you in better standing with the search engines; you can also drive traffic to your site through those articles being published on other sites. Ensure you have a blurb at the end of your original articles that provides a brief bio, your site promo and also copyright information.

7. Encourage authors to submit content directly

It can be quite time consuming tracking down content, so once you have a list of authors who provide content free for reproduction, encourage them to notify you of new articles. Better still, see if you can get them to submit articles directly to your site, which is possible with some of the better article management software applications around, including Interspire Website Publisher

Bear in mind that prolific, good authors won't take the time to submit content themselves - they are much too busy writing it, so you'll most likely need to monitor for new articles they've published yourself.

8. Optimize for search engines

Ensure that your pages are optimized for search engines. There should be relevant meta tags and title tags, use <h1>, <h2> etc tags for headings, embolden key points and phrases and ensure wherever possible that anything else on the page aside from the article is somehow relevant to the article. 

Another very important aspect is the file name you use for each page, it shouldn't be too long and should describe the nature of the article. Use hyphens to separate multiple words. When you link to articles, use relevant anchor (linking) text.

Pick up more search engine optimization tips

9. Don't overly rely on search engines

Sure, search engines will be of primary concern to you as a source of traffic, but they are not the only source. What happens if you hit a rough patch in terms of your rankings? If you don't have the cash to spend on PPC advertising, simple ideas such as a tell a friend script can help to build your traffic via viral means. 

Also try to get as many *quality* inbound links where you can - not just for search engine ranking purposes, but to drive a little extra traffic from the sites linking to you. A good place to start is a link from contributing author sites. Learn more about link exchange strategies.

Another way to generate a little extra traffic is to cruise related forums looking for questions posed which are answered by one of the articles you have on your site. Give a brief summary of the article in an answer and then point forum readers to your site.

10. Newsletter and RSS feeds

You'll want to encourage people to come back to your site, so the old faithful marketing strategy very much applies here - offer a weekly newsletter. It doesn't have to take up much of your time each week, just a summary snippet from each new article will do for starters. RSS web feeds are also set to take off in popularity, especially with Internet Explorer 7 having excellent RSS support, so this is certainly a feature you'll also want to include. 

Tip: when using RSS feeds, don't publish the full article content in the feed, just a snippet. This will encourage people to actually visit your site where they will be exposed to other content and advertising.

11. Try for exclusivity once traffic is established

Once you build traffic to an appreciable level and the authors you are featuring are seeing some benefit through the exposure, try approaching a couple and ask if you can have a semi-exclusive arrangement; i.e. before they make an article available for general reproduction, that you have exclusive reproduction rights for a period of one month or so. Don't try and prevent them from having the article displayed on their own site though; that will certainly dash any hopes you have of a closer partnership!

This strategy can help you gain better rankings by gaining a foothold in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) before the article made available to all and sundry. This is based on the ranking premise of "first in, best dressed".

I know of several major resources that use this model and it appears to be working quite well for them. It's important to note that just because you have the first reproduction up, it doesn't mean you'll get the better ranking over those who follow - it just gives you a better chance at it.

12. Important - copyright infringement.

This is something to be very careful with. When you find articles that are free, ensure that you follow the author reproduction guidelines *very* carefully. Nothing annoys authors more than their work being misrepresented.

Another thing to watch for is the black market article industry. This is where companies offer "original" content for peanuts. Pay peanuts, you get monkeys - it's that simple. Chances are that these "original" articles have been ripped from elsewhere. Learn more about my experiences with plagiarism and another article on the subject of content theft based on a Wall Street Journal report on the issue.

13. Beyond contextual advertising

There's more to revenue generation that just AdSense - search around for companies/networks in the genre covered by your articles and check out their affiliate programs. While AdSense, YPN and other contextual networks such as Chikita are definitely good earners, we still make most of our revenue through individual arrangements with companies and non-contextual affiliate networks. Learn more about affiliate marketing.

Article/content management software - ArticleLive.

I've made several references to Website Publisher in this article - it's a great news/article content management system developed by the team at Interspire

I'm a big fan of InterSpire products after having used several of their applications over the last couple of years. Currently I run Send Studio for all my email list management needs, an adapation of WebEdit (the predecessor to their excellent SiteStudio software) in connection with another project, plus TrackPoint (advertising/click tracking software). 

I very much enjoy the clean interfaces, ease of use, intuitiveness and extensive documentation that is common to InterSpire software, and Article Live is no different.

InterSpire also offer free installation services with any of their applications. For an article site with a goal of revenue generation, I don't think you can go past the features provided by Website Publisher, which include:

- Static, keyword rich URL generation
- Customizable title tags
- Sitemap feature to assist search engine spider crawling
- Options for breaking up articles into multiple pages
- Allows other authors to submit and manage content
- Google site map support
- Meta keywords and description support
- Automated syndication (customized RSS feeds)
- Ability to use include custom tags and scripts
- Dropdown menu option
- Easily customizable templates.
- Built in contact forms
- User permission system
- Easy integration of contextual advertising/affiliate programs
- Fully stylesheet driven design
- Content expiration option
- Article ratings and comments
- Featured content options
- Blog feature included
- Traffic/content statistics
- Powerful on-site search engine
- Cross browser compatible
- 30 day money back guarantee.

Try out the Interspire Website Publisher demo.

I hope these tips have assisted you to some degree in your planning of an article site. I can practically guarantee you will not make a fortune within the first few months of launch; but with some foresight, determination and a little hard work, there's no reason why you can't make a decent income sooner rather than later. Good luck in your endeavors!

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources

In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

Copyright information.... This article is not available for reproduction without explicit written permission from Michael Bloch and Taming the Beast.net


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