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Oh how wonderful it would be if we could just sit back and let our web sites earn money for us, without having to lift a finger! Even the occasional nickel and dime to help pay the hosting costs, or finance a cup of coffee. I have numerous clients who ask me about passive income, so I decided to explore several avenues, and here is my story.


Google AdSense

One avenue for passive income is google's AdSense. If you display googles' advertising on your site, and people click on them, you can earn money for every click. This money that you earn per click is pennies. Unless you have thousands of visitors to your site, actively clicking on your links, you will not be able to quit your day job and read novels all day listening to the change drop into your account. That said, I recommend Google AdSense if you have the appropriate place to put it. It may not finance that new boat, but it does add up (no pun intended) and every little bit of income helps.

It is important to keep in mind that every time someone clicks on a google ad, earning you the penny, nickel, dime, quarter etc. for that click, that person is LEAVING your site, and may be going to your competitor. It is important to make sure that having these ads on your site is not going to:

  1. Detract from your content
  2. Send your clients to your competitors (Unless you don't mind this. I, personally, don't mind. Click away!! )

Affiliate Programs

Many software vendors and services on the internet run affiliate programs. What this means is that if you become an affiliate and link to their web site, and a person clicks from your web site to theirs and then purchases a product, you can earn a percentage of the sale.

If you have found products and services that you highly recommend, I would urge you to see if they have affiliate programs. This may not earn you more than $5 - $25/month depending on the amount of traffic your site sees, but once again, this is money that arrives at your door without any effort on your part.


Amazon Associates

Amazon.com has an associates program. You can set up a veritable shopping cart on your site linking to amazon.com products and every time someone clicks from your site to amazon's and a sale takes place, you earn a percentage of the sale. Your interface can be as simple as a link, or you can download amazon.com's software and actually set up an entire site that looks very much like theirs.

In order to explore this in depth, I decided to set up a site devoted to my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors. I love to read science fiction/fantasy , and am constantly looking for new material to read. I thought this was a wonderful idea! I would set up this site recommending all these great books, other fantasy fans would find the site and buy the books, and I would earn tons of money. That was what I was fantasizing, but that was not reality. Here is what happened, and what I learned:

Consideration #1: Client Loyalty

As I was surfing around, finding the authors' sites etc. I noticed that every one seemed to be an amazon.com associate. What guarantee would I have that anyone would come to my site and buy the books when they could buy the books through the authors' sites, science fiction and fantasy forums, etc.. 

This was not a brilliant new idea that I had come up with. I was jumping on a band wagon that had already been around the block numerous times.

What I've concluded from this is that unless you have a supportive fan base or visitor base who want YOU to earn the associates fee ( like a public radio station "buy your books through our amazon.com link and help support your favorite programs etc." ) people may be turned off by your crass commercialism.

That said, I still went ahead with my science fiction fantasy book site. After all, maybe someone would be so grateful to discover a new author that they would click on the books that I recommend.

Consideration #2: Web traffic

I set up the site: http://science-fiction-fantasy-books.com (notice all the great key words in the title!).

I threw a party (I uploaded the site) and no one came. A week went by and I checked my web stats. I'd had 2 unique visitors to the site, and (at least) one was me. No one is going to buy books off my web site if they don't know it's around. So, what do I do to get traffic to the site?

The first thing would be to find literary sites and get linked from them. The second way would be to find some science fiction fantasy forums and start posting to them - (with my web site address in my signature). The third way would be to write this article and link to the site from it. (http://science-fiction-fantasy-books.com).

First, I needed to overcome a major stumbling block: I needed to be able to admit to the public that I like this type of book. The science fiction fantasy books that I tend to gravitate towards are the real easy reads: the fun story, the unbelievable heroes and the happy ever after (usually found in the young adult section of the book store). And I REALLY like these books. What if people came to my site and shot down my choices? What if they see that I'm not a professional writer and find my commentary lacking? what if, what if..

Doubts aside, I did submit the site to the following literary portals.


I also joined some science fiction/fantasy forums but haven't had the courage to jump in and make a post (the other people posting all seem so articulate!). I am writing this article!! But the targeted traffic will come from the forums and books portals.

You might say, what about search engines? Shouldn't you submit it to major search engines? The answer is maybe. Although submitting to the major search engines is recommended: Google, Yahoo, MSN, AskJeeves, Lycos, AltaVista, and AOL, it is no guarantee that they will crawl your site, and sometimes having links to your site from other sites gets the search engines to notice you faster than if you submit your site. Sometimes submitting to major search engines through automatic submission programs actually is detrimental to your standing with the search engines. That said, I did submit it to google and MSN.

Consideration #3: Content

It is important that your site be about something OTHER than your associates program. Additional content is a must. Otherwise people mine-as-well go to amazon.com to buy the books directly. If your site has another purpose, offers something else to visitors, they may just click on an amazon.com link because it is easy to do so, or because they like what you're about.

My site, science-fiction-fantasy-books.com is ONLY about my associates program. It was an experiment in this genre. That said, the only books purchased from it so far were those I bought myself.

Other Passive Income

The means of passive income that I listed above all involve a third party. What about the passive income that you generate all by yourself? Any product that you can create once and sell as a down-loadable item (meaning you don't have to pack it, box it, ship it, or re-make it for every order) is a great means of passive income.

For example: write a book, or a series of articles and sell it (them) as an e-book.

Create a screensaver, mp3's of music, yoga instruction, meditations..

Find a shopping cart software (mals-e.com is one) where when your customer completes the purchase they're supplied a link to download the product. The purchasing process is automated, so that all you have to do is set it up and then relax. Imagine that!


Passive income is not entirely passive. It takes time to sign up for the different programs. It takes a web designer to embed the code on your web site(s). It takes commitment to keep your site current and interesting. And it's work to get interested traffic to your site. If you are starting from scratch and basing your entire site on passive income, I'd say you have a lot of work ahead of you. If you already have a thriving site and are thinking of adding some avenues for passive income to it, that is another story!

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©Heather Goff .
Heather Goff has been programming and designing web sites since 1997. Visit http://www.goffgrafix.com for useful resources and affordable web site design and hosting. mailto:hgoff@goffgrafix.com

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