How To Start A Website And Make Money – The Real Secret

Written by David Valentine

November 6, 2015

Ever wanted to know how to start a website? Today I came across a video interview of Neil Patel, talking about the value of getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible when it comes to executing an idea. Basically, he was saying to get started with what you have, get feedback, and then improve your product/service as you go.

To illustrate this, he talked about the different approaches he took in starting 2 of his businesses KISSMetrics and Crazy Egg. Take a look:

With KISSmetrics, they spent $1M building out the product only to find out later that their customers didn’t really want what they built.

Having learned that lesson, they spent much less time and money creating the first iteration of Crazy Egg, and then getting feedback from customers along the way to perfect their product.

I couldn’t help but see a connection between what Neil said about his businesses and the approach many people take when starting a website. Today we’re going to explore how you can go from “I’ve got an idea for a website about…” to “I own a website about…”.

How to start your own Website – Who is this for?

Obviously people start websites for all kinds of reasons.

Today we’re focused primarily on those who want to start a successful, money-making website that can supplement or even replace their full-time income. (If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for a website, we wrote a post specifically about how to find profitable website ideas)

I fell into this category when I purchased Long Tail Pro in 2012.

I had a decent job, but I was fascinated by the idea of making additional passive income through starting a website.

At the time, I had 2 major mental obstacles I was having trouble moving past. Since coming on board as an employee of Long Tail Pro, I’ve learned that many others face these same concerns when looking at how to start a website business.

2 Common Obstacles.

Through personal experience, customer surveys, emails, and other communications I’ve learned that there are 2 common fears/obstacles people face when they are starting a website that actually makes money.

1. What if I fail? 

When looking at how to start a website the fear of failure is very real, and can often be paralyzing. If you’re brand new to this, you may lack the confidence that you can really start a website from scratch and make money from it. This concern is understandable. However, the better question to ask is “what do I have to lose?” Usually the answer is “not much.” One of my favorite things about starting a website is that it really doesn’t cost much money to test out an idea.

If the idea of family/friends seeing you fail is a concern for you, try this out:

Even though I’ve got a few websites that have a measure of success, I’ve had waaaay more websites/ideas that have completely flopped than those that actually make money. Therefore, I usually keep my new sites/projects under wraps until I’m further down the road. That way, if I start a website and it totally flops, I don’t constantly have family and friends asking me “how’s that new website going?”

In the end, you simply can’t let the fear of failing stop you from trying.

2. I don’t know enough about ______ yet.

Another common hurdle when looking at how to start a website is simply being obsessed with learning EVERY possible thing.

There is no problem with learning, of course, but when you haven’t started your website yet because you are trying to figure out how your website’s income will affect your tax returns, you’ve got a problem.

Don’t be so worried about step 17 that you never take step 1. You’ll figure out step 17 when you get to step 17.

If you are completely new to this and need help with step 1, check out our Launch Series videos that will guide you through the process.

1. It Doesn’t Need to be “Perfect”

Neil talked about starting Crazy Egg in a relative short amount of time, and by spending far less money than he did with KISSMetrics. Rather than trying to create the perfect end to end solution, they created the first version and then made it better a little bit at a time.

There is a lesson to be learned here if you are looking at how to start up a website and still trying to pick a niche to go into.

Frankly, the process of finding and picking a niche to go into could go on forever, if you allow it to.

The more websites I see becoming successful in generating revenue, the more I’m convinced that you don’t need to find the “perfect niche.”

In fact, the perfect niche probably doesn’t exist.

With just about any niche/topic you can think of, you’ll most likely find somebody with a website who is making money. To me, this says that there are a large pool of niches in which you can make money – if you take the right approach.

Rather than obsessing about the “perfect niche” – just worry about finding a good niche and then roll with it.

You don’t have to know steps A – Z to start step A. 

How do you start a website? Brainstorm ideas and then validate through keyword research that you’ve got enough depth in that topic to create a profitable website. One way I like to visualize this is thinking of my niche as an umbrella. Then, I do keyword research in Long Tail Pro to look for 20+ low competition keywords that fit under my umbrella.

How to start a website - Picking A niche

If I can find that many strong keywords in my niche without too much effort, I feel like I’ve got a topic where I can be successful.

Click here to learn more about this process.

If you do your research and then the website completely flops and never gets any traction… you can always go back to square 1 and try again. That’s why it’s so important to be frugal in the beginning, so any ‘flops’ don’t debilitate your future opportunities.

2. How to start creating a website – Start Frugal

I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons you shouldn’t be fearful is that you can start a website for very little money – which is just the way I like it.

Imagine having $500,000+ on the line to start a new restaurant.

Now those are some high stakes!

With a niche website, you could buy all the things you need for a couple hundred dollars (easily) and start testing out your idea. In that $200 estimate, I’m including hosting, domain name, logo design on Fiverr, a free WordPress theme, and Long Tail Pro for keyword research.

Compared to the cost of other businesses and money-making ventures, $100 – $200 is a drop in the bucket.

My suggestion is that until you’ve proven your niche, you should stay very frugal.

Plan on creating the content yourself until you starting picking up traffic and money from your site.

Don’t go out and buy every SEO tool on the market, pay big bucks for a logo, and start outsourcing content for something that hasn’t earned a dime yet.

Earn the dime first, then you can start investing the money you make back into the site.

3. How to start making a website – Start Fast

Another question Neil answered in the interview was about timing – saying that they had the first version of Crazy Egg ready to go in about a month, and then did updates and got more feedback weekly after that.

Once you’ve picked a niche, it’s important to start fast.


Because the feeling of starting a website and having a big idea is energizing, but that energy doesn’t usually last forever.

Take full advantage of that energy and pour yourself into keyword research and content creation in those first few weeks.

Unfortunately, some people create a couple of blog posts and then sit back to see if it “works.” When they don’t see a big rush of traffic right away, they move onto another shiny object and that website starts collecting E-cobwebs.

If you are planning on generating organic, search engine traffic to your site – it will probably take several months (at least) before you start seeing that roll in.

This is often called the Google “sandbox” for a new website.

When you expect that your effort won’t pay off immediately, it becomes easier to stay motivated and knock out as much content as possible in the first month or two.

By starting fast, you’ll have more content ranking and pulling in traffic once the time comes. This is key when starting a website.

Ready to take action? Click Here to take a 7 day free trial of Long Tail Pro.

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  1. Andrea

    Nice article! I definitely suffer the shiny-object syndrome, but it kicks in when I get stuck 90% of the times in the same part: testing the idea. Everything I read online, all courses, books, etc tell you to test your idea first before putting too much time into it. However, the hard part comes in finding how to test your idea if you are brand new and have no list. I’ve read that facebook ads are a good way to test the idea and also participating in FB groups.

    My question to you is…do you think that doing good keyword research could be used to “test the idea” ? and avoid facebook group stocking or spending money in FB Ads?

    • Jake

      Hi Andrea,

      Really good question… I realize some might disagree with me, but I’m a big fan of spending as little money as possible on new ideas (until they start to make money on their own.) So that said, I believe enough in keyword research that I’ll pick a niche and start a site, and then build out the first batch of content on my own. Then, I may do a little promotion/email outreach to others in that niche to hopefully get links/shares or a little momentum, but from there I’ll keep building content and waiting for my site to rank and pull in traffic.

      Once it starts making money (Adsense, affiliate offers, etc.) I’ll then start reinvesting that money into more content or perhaps something like Facebook ads.

      If for some reason I’m 6 months in and can’t get any traction, I shift my focus to a different site – but at least I’m not out a huge sum of money.

      Honestly, if I had a big chunk of extra money sitting around this answer might be different and I might spend more on ads, etc. before my site had made any money – but personally I’ve never done that.

      • Andrea

        Thank you for your reply! I feel that keywords/demand/competitor analysis should technically give me the same insights as if I had the means to run a test before launching. Of course running a test has other advantages but we have to start somewhere.

        Last question if you don’t mind…Would you do the same for a website that is supposed to make you money from selling a product rather than using affiliates, AdSense, etc?

        • Jake

          It depends – is it a physical product? Or a digital product of some kind?

          If a digital product, then yes, I’d do the same thing – just really focusing my keyword research on things that my ideal audience (IE people who would want to buy my product) might be searching. That way, when I start picking up traffic I have a very logical offer for the traffic I’m already getting.

          I’m actually going down this road right now with a site. Honestly the digital product was a bit of an afterthought in my case, but basically we’ve grown traffic so much that it just makes sense to create our own online course since most of our traffic has the same interest/problem.

          If a physical product, I’d consider selling it on Amazon FBA first to see if you can get sales there. Then, if you start selling it, you could work on your website and all these other things. Spencer has talked a little bit about that on recently if you want to check it out.


  2. Heath

    Hi, I’ve been using the trial version of long tail pro and I do like it, but I have to say, I have searched a couple dozen seed keywords now and am having a difficult time finding very many keywords that rank under 30 for competition. The few I have found, when I take a look at the top ten sites, most of them are authority sites.

    It really feels like finding a good niche for affiliate marketing is very difficult because it is over saturated and the high number of authority sites.

    And for the record, I’m not referring to two or three word keywords with a thousand plus searches. I’m drilling way down and looking at four plus keywords with as little as 100 searches a month. Even these keywords rarely rank under 30 and seem to be dominated by authority sites. It is very discouraging.

    • Team LTP

      Hi Heath,

      When that happens, dig a little deeper in the serps and check out the actual pages ranking. If you can create a better more resourceful article with proper on-page SEO and formatting for a superior user experience, there is no reason not target that keyword. This is especially true if you already have a site in the niche and you can leverage your own site DA.

  3. Blog Fully

    I found this very informative. Definitely needed to read it. Going to adjust some habits! Great interview.


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