Making a tech site profitable

I have been working on ideas for the new OCMS 3.0 for a while.  Not only will the ideas I want to implement make for a better user experience, but they will also make the site more profitable, which realizes the dream of profitability like a “real” company.

The biggest step a webmaster can take in this direction is to automate as much as possible.

The less you have to do to run the site, the more time you have to write reviews, do testing, and chase after money.

Todays medium-sized sites usually are usually run by one person doing everything: writing code, implementing ads, testing, and writing articles.  Some people can duplicate their time with having a staff, but many tech webmasters are nerds, ad want to be in the nitty gritty rather than having to “manage staff”.  Finding good people is hard, and keeping them filled with things to do is also hard.  Basically until you can afford to pay your staff properly then you’re going to have to chase them down, too.  It’s one of those things you have to leverage: do everything yourself and have no time, or have a bunch of staff and chase after them.

The same thing goes with site design.  The best way to duplicate your time is to have a dedicated programmer.  Many webmasters do the “cheap and easy” route and use off-the-shelf software like WordPress, Umbraco, or many other CMS systems… part of the “automation” equation of running your site.  The problem with off-the-shelf software is that it can look really amateurish without heavy modification, which requires programming skill or a hired hand.

Again, if you have a bunch of money (or a bunch of start-up capital) then you can hire a professional web design firm.  I’m lucky enough to have a strong web programming and graphics background, so I can do a lot of this work myself… but still it comes down to time.

One of the big secrets I’ve found from talking with successful webmasters is that straight banner advertising is not the ticket to financial freedom.  Unless you have the traffic like IGN or GameSpot then you’re probably not going to get more than $50 a month.  If you are actually able to pull over $150 a month then your site has the traffic potential to make much much more… but how?

The trick is one that many webmasters do not want to hear.  It requires a lot of effort, hence the reasons why many webmasters do not run their site full-time.  The good news is that once you put the effort in, then it is automatic and you can reap the benefits effortlessly.

The key I’m talking about is Affiliate Marketing… or “sales” if you want a simple buzzword.  Some webmasters tie into a system like or Pricegrabber, which allows them to put up product ads on their content.  This pulls in quite a bit more money than banner advertising, but still is not nearly enough to make a living from it (again unless you have the traffic of IGN).

These ad firms pay you a certain amount of money, but they also take like 50% of the cut… but they make a lot more if they actually make a sale.  What if you cut out the middle man and have your own affiliate deals?  You may not make “25 cents per click” or whatever, but you can calculate that a certain percentage of clicks will be sales, of which you get a much larger cut.  If you do the math, then it can be very profitable, especially if you put your readers through a “sales pipeline” (which is a topic for another blog post).

So, one of the big “duh” features that I’m implementing into OCMS 3.0 is an automatic affiliate keyword tool, which will allow me to enter affiliate deals and automatically insert them into OCMS articles.  This is how “professional bloggers” make enough money to live from.
Like many others, though… it will take time and/or money to implement the features.  No dream can become realized if you just think about it.  Take action and make it happen!  It will take a lot of effort in the beginning, but once it’s done then you’ll find the money rolling in.

Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.