“Why is it So Dang Hard to Make Money Online Today?”

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Girl on LaptopWhen I sift through my overflowing e-mail inbox, the title of this post represents a popular question I often receive. Or it may go a little something like this…

I don’t get it, Lisa. I’ve followed your advice. I add content everyday, did some guest blogging, optimized my site for SEO but I still find it hard to get noticed and make money. Why won’t people visit my site? What was your secret?

If you’ve been following me long enough, you know by now there are no secrets. Of course, hard work was a key component of my early success, but timing was another major one.

Does that mean Internet / affiliate marketing doesn’t work today?

Heck no! It just means you’ll have to work 10 times harder to deal with the saturation of “experts” online.

When I created my first website in the late 90’s, the only people who had websites were the ones who either took the time to learn a bit of HTML (or an editor like HomeSite, FrontPage, etc.), or the people who paid someone to create a website for them. There were no tools like Artisteer to ease the learning curve.

Today things are much different. While blogs and CMS tools are cool, easy and convenient, they’ve leveled the playing field a bit. Anyone can build a website in seconds and become a so-called expert on any topic they choose.

This is great news for people looking to build a quick and easy website, but it also means there is an incredible amount of competition for almost any niche that exists.

The search engines, social media and bookmarking sites are flooded with self-proclaimed experts writing about the same topics, and it seems to be getting harder to find much originality across various topics.

People’s attention spans are shorter than ever, and they are overwhelmed with all the redundant content on the web today. Mediocre content just won’t cut it anymore. You’ve got to bring it and show why you’re worthy of being followed.

It’s easy to get frustrated with algorithm updates and it may be hard to shake the feeling that Google is against you, but I can only imagine how difficult it is for any engine programmer to ensure the “best” sites are ranking well. You can only expect the tweaking and yo-yo rankings to continue.

Now, having said all that, what can you do to make your site stand out? How can you build more direct, loyal traffic so you won’t be as dependent upon Google and their ever-changing algorithm?

10 Questions You Should Answer

1. Can this information be found easily by going to Google?”

Look at the majority of articles on your site and ask yourself that question. And if the answer is yes, what kind of spin have you put on your topic to make your site stand out?

Does the web really need another generic AdSense or SEO article? Instead of regurgitating these same old facts, why not develop a revealing post sharing your mistakes and/or experiences.

Any new milestones? What mistakes did you make? What did you learn? How can you turn this into a helpful, more interesting article.

2. Am I a leader or follower?

In other words, are you often the first to report any news in your niche, or do you just paraphrase what the popular sites are writing about?

You don’t always have to be first, but at least add your own spin or additional information that makes your content personal and engaging.

For example, instead of just reviewing the iPad2 like 20 million other people did, create a video showing how you use one of the apps to conduct business online.

3. Am I doing anything to keep people coming back?

Are you posting regular updates, contests with meaningful prizes, etc.  Do you have an email list and do you keep in touch with your subscribers?

4. What does my audience REALLY want and need?

Are you really in touch with what your audience wants to know regarding your topic or are you only assuming what they want?

Visit other forums and blogs (read the comments too) in your niche to get an idea for what people are talking about. Use Google Trends to see what’s trending. You may envision the best way to deliver and arrange your content, but what is your audience actually saying? Is there a disconnect or gap that needs to be filled?

When I first created 2 Create a Website in 2002, I focused on teaching how to make money with a website because that is what I was trying to do.

However, after using Survey Monkey, I discovered most people who arrived at my site just wanted a personal site for themselves or family.

In other words, I was trying to force feed information people weren’t asking for. So I had to adjust my content to fit what my audience wanted. Instantly, my bounce rate and page view per visitor improved.

Don’t be afraid to poll or survey your audience. Also encourage feedback via e-mail. Ask people how you can help them. If you get several of the same requests, that’s a good indication of what you should write about next.

5. How can I take my content to the next level?

Conduct an experiment and display the results. Interview someone interesting in your niche and ask unique questions. Create a case study on a related product you’ve purchased and don’t be afraid to say what you DON’T like.

6. Is my site lacking personality?

Do you talk AT your readers instead of TO them? Remember, the most important word you can use on your site is “you.” Personalizing your content can have a dramatic impact on your content flow and audience engagement.

7. Does my site appear credible?

People want to know what makes you the authority on your topic. Are you really walking the walk? If you’re telling someone how to make money online, why would they believe your tips or buy your products if you have no proof you are succeeding?

Use real-life examples and case studies to build credibility, create compelling stories and illustrate why people should trust your content. This goes for any niche, not just the “make money online” arena.

8. Am I really an expert on [topic X] or did I just choose this topic because I saw someone else succeeding with it?

If you’re faking it, people will know it. Why not write about something you really enjoy or care about? Almost any site can make money if there’s enough traffic thanks to 3rd party ad sales, AdSense, selling your own product, etc.

Plus, you’ll have so much more fun in the process. Trust me, I’d never be where I am today if I didn’t enjoy what I do. Too many of you have turned this into a job out of desperation for money.

While needing money may be motivating to some of you, for most people it typically leads to frustration and boredom. As I’ve always said, you need to find something other than money to motivate you.

9. Have I developed a brand? Is my site known for anything online?

For example, many people affectionately refer to me as the “The woman who keeps it real when it comes to making money online/affiliate marketing.”

If you’re known as that “anonymous person who paraphrases content and never has anything original to say” that could be a sign you need to work on developing a brand for yourself and your site.

10. Is this even for me?

It’s tempting to choose AdSense and/or affiliate marketing because people you admire are succeeding with it.

But is this method really for you? Many of you are trying to emulate sites and people you admire when you don’t even have an interest in the work that is required to succeed.

If you hate writing then why are you trying to be a content affiliate marketer or professional blogger? If you’re not a salesperson then why are you joining MLM programs to hard sell people?

A big part of being successful is finding a business that aligns with your skills. You don’t have to be an affiliate marketer or AdSense publisher to make money on the Internet.

You could try selling items you create on eBay, become a freelancer, develop a niche YouTube channel. The key is to find something that fits your individual skill set.

I have always enjoyed writing. I wrote my first short story at the age of 10. And as far as video goes, any friend or family member will tell you that I have always loved being in front of a camera. So what I do online is merely an extension of what I’ve always enjoyed in my real life.

Can you say the same?

Time to Get Real With Yourself

I bet if you seriously address the above points, not only will your site improve, but they may cause you to examine your approach and goals.

I know many of you are frustrated with AdSense and the lack of clicks. Some of you don’t understand why you don’t have more traffic.

Perhaps you were bitten by the Google Panda and you feel like you have to start over. You may have even questioned if this “Internet marketing thing” still works.

These days, this business is so much more than just throwing up content on a blog. Don’t underestimate the amount of lackluster, redundant content spread across the web.

People are inundated and overwhelmed with mediocre sites, and it takes a lot more to get and keep their attention.

Think about websites you follow religiously. There’s a reason you are so loyal to them. Maybe the site is funny? Creative? Perhaps it delivers the news first. Does it help you learn a new skill? Adopt some of these strategies to generate that kind of loyalty for your own site.

I think blogs are great, but their convenience has fooled a lot of you into thinking that the work stops after publishing. If you want to succeed in 2011 and beyond, learning how to think outside the box and establish a brand for yourself and site is an absolute must!

I hope this blog post is the kick in the pants you need to get rolling! 😉

Click here to read my guide to creating a successful niche WordPress site.

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  1. says

    Point No. 7 is very important. Credibility carries a core importance. If someone is just providing bogus information, he or she should think once if people are going to buy that.

  2. says

    Thanks for asking the hard questions and having good emotional words that describe how some people do feel trying to work the internet to make money. Very good points.


  3. says

    Lisa Irby
    Beautiful post In which you provide information regarding money making. According to my little experience i think most of the newbie’s wants to earn money online but having limited knowledge they are failed to make money online. I really appreciate your effort for sharing such a valuable content. Through this you helps the newbie’s bloggers.

    Thanks for sharing nice post

  4. says

    Hi, Lisa.
    That really hit home when you talked about how “Experts,” saturate the online world now. There are so many! I learned a lot from your post about how to be a leader and how to set yourself apart from the others by being unique, doing interviews, studies, etc.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


  5. says

    Making money online is difficult like making money in real life is. I agree with your standpoint on this topic. Most people ask me how they can make money online immediately. That’s not realistic thinking. And you do have to love what you do. I think in order to succeed at anything, there must bu a great deal of passion and an abundance of hard work and discipline. Very few webmasters have this and it shows when you visit their website or blog. Google is not against them, because if Google can make or break you, then your business plan needs adjustment. Of course Google and search engines alike are a huge benefit, but when I work I sometimes disregard search engines completely and focus on what my goals are, not what search engines are most interested in. To put it short, anyone with a solid understanding of what needs to be done along with the motivation to complete those tasks can make a great deal of money online.

  6. says

    Dear lisa,
    I liked what you said about If you’re known as that “anonymous person who paraphrases content and never has anything original to say” that could be a sign you need to work on developing a brand for yourself and your site.
    Continue this kind of articles because they are very good and useful, congratulations.

  7. says

    Hi Lisa,
    I have been avidly reading (and watching) your advice on websites and making money online. I have been looking at this topic for over a month now and the information you have put together is some of the best (and easiest to understand) I have yet located.
    Although I come from a background in programming there is still so much to learn about how to get everything working in a way that produces results it does tend to make my head spin at times.
    I have come into the ‘make money online’ process sort of backwards. I have read a great deal about working hard for years to generate great content before the money starts to flow but I was a bit of an Adsense snob. I avoided any advertising on my site for YEARS. I started researching information way back in 1997 and my site had been growing larger and larger for a long time.
    One of the areas I am still coming to grips with is getting placed well in search engine listings. Despite the fact that the site I run is almost certainly the largest on the web with regard to information on Western Australia, placement on search engines is quite disappointing. For example a simple Google search for Western Australia does not show my site in the first 30 pages at least. Despite reading up on getting better placement and following as many tips as possible, something still doesn’t seem to be working.
    Getting traffic isn’t a huge problem as yearly hits are running at 3.69 million and daily visits are showing over 1000.
    It was the steady increase in these figures that convinced me to put Adsense ads on the site and although the money is trickling in, it is hardly what many people seem to suggest can be made.
    I am still missing something but haven’t managed to work out what it is yet. I still have a lot of your pages to read through so I am hoping somewhere I might find something I have overlooked.
    In any case thank you for the information you have made available, it may make my head hurt a bit at times but it is certainly interesting and very well written.

  8. says

    I was struggling to make money once apon a time untill I read this ebook on amazon called ”From Prisons 2 Millions” Really good book. Talks about a man who went to prison and came out, set up a business and become a multi millionaire.

  9. Iris Callahan says

    I choose a topic I live, one that isn’t even easy to make money with, but I love writing. Wonderful and informative post.

  10. says

    Once again Lisa, this is one of the posts that I absolutely love! I can sense that you have answered each of those questions personally in your life, to someone, in one way or the other. Truly encouraging & motivating!

    Keep up the good work!

  11. Lee says

    It is what it is, When it comes to internet marketing, Only some affiliates make it, And most don’t. Truthfully nothing comes without hard work, even if affiliate marketing is labeled the hardest way to make money online, My advice is do what makes you happy. And the biggest tip that i can give, Is don’t do just anything for the sake of making money, Because you will never find what your passionate about doing online.

  12. says

    It’s even harder to make money online nowadays, simply due to Google doing all of these random search engine updates. One minute, your traffic is soaring and can be seen as proof in Google Analytics. The next minute, they dun did something else, and your referral search engine traffic tanks in Google Analytics, along with losing your U.S. Alexa traffic rank. That messes with a publisher’s earnings. We don’t know what to expect nowadays, in terms of earning passive and stable money online…

  13. says

    Hi Lisa, really insightful article :) I think people don’t realize is that all the major search engines are trying to find the best of the best! You really have to be on the ball to play this game! Search engines back in the day were easy to trick, but they’ve evolved… and are only going to get more intelligent. It really is about creating good quality content! I think many have to realize, if they not passionate about what they doing especially on the internet, there will be someone that is!

  14. says

    Thanks Lisa for sharing this article. For sure there is no substitute for hard work. It will also take patience to get to the top of search engines. You have always inspired me and I know I will get there one day.

    I have a 5-10 year goal for my site because I know I wont get rich overnight.


  15. says

    Hello lisa one of your best writings great way to express and i agree with you.But i feel focus and determination are two things which you need the most while working online

  16. Aileen Massey says

    Making money Blogging is really hard. I struggled for around 5 months to get few traffic on my blog which is constantly increasing with the God’s Grace. Within one day you able to design out your website. I have had my little hobby blog for about 6 months now and I am glad that I don’t have to make money on it I write about Tech stuff because I is a big interest of mine and because think that I have something to offer other people in that niche.

  17. says

    To be honest, I have no experience making money online. I have no own blogs but hopefully Through internet I can learn consciously and will be a successful business men like all of you.

  18. says

    Wow, this is definitely an inspiring post. This is my first visit to your site and I have to say I’m impressed by the few articles I’ve read so far.

    I’ve been thinking about getting into a niche I care a lot about, but every time I see the keyword research data I feel overwhelmed.

  19. says


    Thank you for the great advice – I’m focusing on 3 things on my site hopefully that doesn’t hurt my traffic. I usually micro-niche. Any Advice there? Also I’m going to sign up to survey monkey – Thank you for that tip :)


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