Active Writing, Passive Profits: A Writer’s Guide to Online Publishing

Editor's note: There is a lot to this world of online publishing (which is essentially what I do here at PT Money). I received this guest post and thought I would share it with you to give you insight into how I make money from my blog. There's obviously more to it, but it will give you the gist of it.

Online publishing is comprised of three things: find your market, create valuable content, and monetize in one – or several – ways. The following post explains each step so you can start creating “pages that profit”.

Finding Your Market: Follow Your Heart, Or Follow the Dollars?

When it comes to publishing, there are two apparently conflicting schools of thought: either you “do what you love” or stick with proven, profitable markets like weight loss, acne, business opportunities or selling timeshares.

I believe, however, you can do what you love and make money doing it. For example, let’s say you love fishing; you could review fishing equipment supplies and earn a commission for referring readers to fishing supply companies (I’ll explain how in just a second). While reviewing fishing products may not be your true passion (like actually fishing!), it’s still related.

So how do know if there is a market for your content? Simple. Google provides a free tool which shows you how many people are searching for a phrase every month. Here’s a screenshot for the term “trout fishing equipment”:

The Google Keyword Tool

So at a glance we see over 14,000 people are typing “trout fishing equipment”, which is more than enough to get started. Plus, keep in mind this is just one word; over 9,900 people type in “trout fishing supplies” and over 201,000 people search for “trout fishing” every month!

Editor's note: These results were based on the “Match Types” being “broad”. To get the most accurate count of people searching for “trout fishing equipment” each month, select “exact” and uncheck “broad” in the “Match Types” box on the left sidebar next to the keyword results. This only appears after you've done a search.

Once you've chosen your market, it's time to start creating valuable content.

Creating Valuable Content – It's Not Just Words!

As a publisher, you need to realize that there are many forms of content at your disposal. The following is a short list of tools that can present your ideas in ways beyond words.

Survey Monkey: create free online service and learn more about your market

Many Eyes: visualize your data in new and exciting ways. Many Eyes can take your data and publish it in dozens of different ways with a single mouse click.

Umapper: create and annotate your own maps. You could create maps of the largest trout in the country .

Shrink the Web: instantly grab a screenshot of any website in one mouse click.

And if you want to increase your writing speed, consider buying dictation software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. This has been a huge time-saver for me, and helps reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Monetizing Your Content

There are a number of ways to monetize your content. You can sell products directly from your website, receive affiliate commissions for recommending products, or charge for advertising.

Choosing the correct monetization model depends on your market and personal preference. Let's look at each one in greater detail:

Selling Your Own Products

If you routinely publish content on your website, consider selling an e-book. Generally, the more specific your e-books topic the more valuable your market will perceive it. Better yet, put a survey on your site asking your readers what they’d most like to learn, then write the eBook around their questions.

Automating the payment process and e-book delivery is simple. First, open up a PayPal account; it's free to sign up and PayPal takes a small percentage of each. Secondly, create an account with E-junkie and upload your e-book. E-junkie will automatically deliver a one-time download link to your customers after they've paid. E-junkie and PayPal are integrated so the entire process happens automatically.

If you want to sell tangible goods, create an account with Shopify. Starting at $29 a month, Shopify lets you accept payments, track orders and set up shipping. You can even connect it to dropshippers, who handle fulfillment of your products.

Accept Advertising on Your Site

There two types of advertising you can accept. The first is on a cost-per-click basis; when someone clicks an ad on your site, you get paid. Google Adsense is the most popular form of cost per click advertising. The main advantage to using Google Adsense is simplicity; Google automatically serves ads highly relevant to your web content. For example, if you website about snowboards, Google will serve up ads for snowboards. Simply copy and paste the code Google provides, and they do the rest.

The second form of advertising is called CPM, also known as cost per impression (or cost-per-mille). This form of advertising is similar to traditional print advertising. Advertisers will pay a flat rate for 1000 impressions (meaning their ads will be displayed on your site 1000 times).

While CPM advertising effectively cuts out the middleman (in this case, Google), you need a high traffic website to attract high-quality advertisers. Another possible disadvantage of CPM advertising is that it’s more time-consuming than using hands-off advertising models like Google Adsense.

Accept Affiliate Commissions

If your website reviews products, you can earn commissions off any sales the manufacturer makes. Amazon is the best example of this (they practically invented affiliate marketing). Here's how it works: once you sign up as an affiliate with Amazon's associate program, you then include the custom link Amazon provides on your website. When someone clicks the link and purchases a product on Amazon, you receive a commission ranging from 4 to 8 1/2% of the total price.

Affiliate marketing works very well on websites which review products. If you're passionate about products in your market, affiliate marketing can be a very powerful and easy way to monetize your content.

Regardless of which monetization method you choose, you will succeed if your content is engaging, relevant and updated frequently. As a writer who's made a full time income online since 2008, I can attest that these methods work.

Any questions or concerns? Let me know in the comments section below.

About the Author: Adam Costa is a freelance travel writer and author of Business In A Backpack, which shows how to travel the world while building profitable businesses.


  1. For new publisher Google Adsense is still the best way to make money online.

  2. 20 and Engaged says:

    This is the route I’m taking with my online company, but doing it in several different verticals. I’m hoping this business will take off too. Thanks for some of the tips I didn’t know about, like the maps and timelines!