Two mistakes made by wannabe website publishers

March 25th, 2007 by Chris

So many people who want to be profitable website publishers often make the same two mistakes when they first start out.

The first major mistake is not trying to think up an original site idea. So many just clone existing sites they know to be popular, Sites that either copy MySpace or provide add-on services to MySpace subscribers for instance. The ability to think originally is what separates successful website publishers from the rest of the pack.

You can see a direct representation of this phenomenon by watching Website For Sale listings at popular webmaster forums. You will notice a distinct similarity between most of the listings because they were all made by people who were not thinking originally and have now decided to try to make some of their money back by selling because they’ve realized you need more than just a copied idea to make a website successful. One of the additional problems exacerbating this issue I think is that most wannabe website publishers come from the same background and have the same interests and unfortunately are too young or too inexperienced in life to have developed interests beyond what is the norm for their demographic.

There are original ideas out there though, you just have to think of them.

The second major mistake new website publishers make is failing to wait before trying to cash in. Admittedly when you’re new you might need the money, but usually the longer you can wait to worry about money & monetization the easier it will be to build traffic. How often do we see people seeking monetization advice on a website with 1000 uniques a month or less? There is no reason to worry about income with so little traffic. At that point in your site’s development you should be focusing on expansion of content and promotion, not monetization. Focusing too much on money too early can hamper your promotional efforts (some places will not like to overtly commercialized sites) as well it occupies your time which would be better spent on increasing traffic.

If you have a unique website you are almost guaranteed to be successful if you give it enough time and don’t hinder your own progress by focusing on the wrong thing. The only times when success wouldn’t be guaranteed for a unique website is if your niche is too small to ever provide the traffic you need even if everyone in your niche visited your website (such as knitting advice for blind eskimos).

If you can make a site and work on it in your spare time for a year or two, focusing more on content and features and promotion rather than monetization, then it will eventually pay off, but you have to start with a unique idea or niche.

To provide examples, I wish to mention three sites, one owned by myself, two owned by forum members.

My site is Universal Wedding Registry. I started this site quite a few years ago but never finished building it, I finally paid to have it finished (redone really) recently and have now just barely started to promote it. How it works is it provides an easy to use interface for people to create a wedding registry compiled of items from any merchant or store, as opposed to single store registries found most everywhere else. Through affiliate datafeeds and other affiliate programs I can sometimes earn a commission on sales through the site in a way that is completely unobtrusive to users (paid links are not treated any differently than unpaid links and the users add & control both types). So I do have a system in place for monetization, but it was intrinsic to the programming of the site to include it and I don’t actively push it on visitors. I’m also not concerned that it doesn’t make me much yet. Finally, it has a built in viral promotion system because every user is going to have to tell every guest at their wedding or reception about it.

Another site is One Billion Bulbs. This site provides a free and easy way to track energy savings by using compact fluorescent bulbs instead of standard incandescent ones. The site taps into some social media mojo by allowing people to form groups, and it appeals to our competitive spirits by ranking these groups, as well as ranking states & countries. The site isn’t monetized yet but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine it ending up being exclusively sponsored by a home store chain like Home Depot, or a light bulb company like Sylvania, perhaps in the form of a printable coupon or manufacturer’s rebate. In the end this site could make the owner a tidy sum with what amounts to unobtrusive advertising that visitors will actually really like (assuming it is a coupon or rebate).

The third site is Plastic Economy. This site provides an easy and free way for users to track credit card debt and helps users make decisions on which cards to pay down first. Since launch this site has generated substantial traffic in a short period of time thanks to some media mentions. Everyone should know how much money they owe, and they should know what their interest rate is, but some people (perhaps the same people with so little financial sense that they end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt) have a hard time dealing with and understanding these numbers and figures unless it is laid out for them in a very easy to understand way. So the site isn’t for everyone, but those it is for seem to like it. This site was also not monetized when first launch and only recently added ads (I’m assuming because traffic has reached high levels now). It isn’t hard to imagine how much ads so nicely targeted can make.

So, what is similar about those three sites? Well, they’re all set-it-and-forget-it type sites where they do not require constant updating or other maintenance, so they’re completely passive income streams. They’re all service-type content sites that rely on clever programming to make life easier rather than textual content to draw in visitors. They also are all fairly unique, and for the most part unmonetized (or at least, not at first).

So if you’re trying to get into website publishing, try to emulate these sites (and no, I don’t mean register,, and by thinking up a unique service idea that could be accomplished by a website. Or, take a standard website model such as an article/forum/blog site and apply it to an underserved unique niche. The point being, the more unique your website, the higher likelihood that you will be successful. Then, once you have your site made, don’t stress out about monetizing it right away, wait until you have significant traffic.

For more tips on when is the right time to monetize, ask in our forums.

6 Responses to “Two mistakes made by wannabe website publishers”

  1. Joel  Says:

    Thanks Chris, the One Billion Bulbs site looks great, I’ll be blogging about it in future (my site is about the environment, but in an entertaining way!)

  2. Jules  Says:

    I imagine your average MySpace-cadet / Proxy-pusher would love to be able to produce sites that don’t rely on violating others’ copyright or a $29 script “with full resell rights!!!”. But they lack programming skills – particularly the advanced skills required to build a serious online service.

    I don’t think the wannabe website publishers can benefit much from this advice, save to say that originality is indeed their best hope.

  3. Tommy  Says:

    Great article chris im loving it… i wish you published this 3 or 4 years ago when the site first started. =) it would of saved me alot of mistakes….

  4. Eric Smith  Says:

    I disagree Jules, I think new publishers can benefit significantly from this advice – especially the point about waiting to try to monetize traffic.

    When publishers try to monetize their sites too soon, they end up neglecting their content and making it much less likely that they’ll succeed in the long run.

    Publishers will be much more successful if they start by thinking what unique value they can provide to their market before thinking of what they can take from it…

  5. Tom  Says:

    I think the advice is great, as is all your advice I have read. I think it takes time to make a site work great and just coping another site does nothing but flood the market with junk.

    Thanks Chris

  6. Dennis Harnisch  Says:

    With several sites so far, I am presently concentrating on content and I agree that it is extremely time consumming!

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