My Advice for Millennials Looking to Start a Passive Income Website

Journal

Author: Mike Ciffone

Published: 05.14.2024 / Updated: 05.15.2024

Creating a successful website starts with a great idea.

The key to a sticky website—one that keeps visitors coming back—is to identify a niche you’re passionate about and that has a dedicated audience. Here’s where I would start:

  • What are you passionate about?: Think about topics you are genuinely interested in or knowledgeable about.
    How can you leverage your natural expertise? This could be anything from gardening to tech reviews. I once built a site around a phone game I was playing – it gets about 1.5k hits per month. Chances are there’s plenty of people out there as nerdy as you.
  • Research your audience: Use tools like Google Trends, Keywords Everywhere, or SEMrush’s keyword magic tool. You can also use Google itself (auto-complete, people also ask, related searches) social media, and forums like Reddit to find out what people are talking about in your niche and the problems they’re trying to solve.
  • Analyze competitors: Look at some of the successful websites in the niche you’re considering. What content do they offer? How do they engage their audience? Do your research and find a unique angle, the biggest challenge is differentiation. You have to be able to bring something fresh to the table.

Best Ways to Monetize Your Website

I’ll start by saying this. If your whole motivation to create the site is to profit from it, you’re not going to be successful with it. Overly monetized sites that don’t offer any unique or helpful content have been targeted by updates to Google’s Helpful Content system. Many have had their traffic completely nuked. Rather than explain what happened there, it’s probably more helpful for you to read Google’s guide to creating helpful, reliable, people-first content.

You need to build something real around whatever site you start, popping up a site and raking in cash-off clicks is a thing of the past. What you’ll get out of a site ultimately depends on how much you’re willing to put into it.

  • Affiliate Marketing: The idea here is to promote products or services related to your niche and earn a commission for every sale made through your referral links. One of my favorite examples is bysophialee.com – a blogger that my wife follows. However, many affiliate sites took a big hit in Google’s March Algorithm Update, so I would be cautious here. Don’t over do it.
  • Display Advertising: Use services like Google AdSense to display ads on your website. You’ll earn money based on the number of impressions or clicks the ads receive. To do this you need to have a good amount of traffic already, so it’s not something you’re going to be able to hit right away. Even when you can, I recommend taking it very lightly. Nothing is more annoying than sites with so many ads that you can’t even find the content.
  • Digital Products and Services: Creating and selling eBooks, online courses, or consulting services is extremely popular right now especially amongst millennials. This not only generates income but also establishes you as an authority in your niche. This is probably the most lucrative right now and couples nicely with YouTube and Email.
  • Memberships and Subscriptions: Offer premium content or community access for a monthly fee. This model works well for niches with a loyal following, such as fitness, education, or specialized hobbies. It could be anything, but you need to be a distinguished expert.

My #1 Tip: Start Small

Friends from my past and people I’ve met often reach out to me for advice about an idea they have for a sites. Most commonly it’s “where do I start”, “is this possible”, “how can I build this”. However, more often than not the ideas are like $50,000 web applications.

What you want is something that you can do right now that doesn’t require much money, or none at all, to get started. If your idea is complicated, boil it down to it’s most simplistic form. It’s got to be something that you can spend 1-3 hours per week on and grow slow and steady over time. Especially if you’re currently in your 9-5. But the reality is whatever you do it’s going to take time.

If you’ve never owned a website or started one before, that should be your first step. Start a blog or something. WordPress is free. Heck, I’ll give you 3 months free of hosting if I like your idea, and even help you find a good domain. If you need some inspiration, here’s a solid list of 33 blog ideas.

Here’s my last bit of advice for now:

  • Start small: Begin by dedicating a few hours each week to your website. Focus on creating high-quality content and learning to manage your website. An SEO course is probably a good idea–I’ll ask some of my friends in the industry if anyone has a really good basic one.
  • Avoid paying a lot of money: I wouldn’t pay any more than $20/month. Unnecessary overhead will catch up with you quick. Trust me, I spend way too much money on software. Like I said before there are plenty of free tools out there. For your actual website, I would say WordPress and Ghost are great options. As far as social media goes, HootSuite used to have a free option but I can’t find it anymore. It looks like Buffer is offering a similar free account.
  • Be consistent: This is key, especially when you’re just getting started. Regularly update your website with fresh content. I would also be active on Twitter/X and LinkedIn if your serious. Engage with your niche and make friends with the people who are already established in it. You’re going to need to establish relevance and get links – this is an SEO concept – if you’re unfamiliar Google search “why are links important for SEO”.
  • Reinvest everything: Whatever you’re able to make in the early phases save it up. After about a year or two you’ll start to grow out of your basic WordPress or Ghost theme, and want pay someone to build you a legit website.