One Site or Many?

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I often get asked if I would rather have one large site or many smaller sites. Anyone who is familiar with my business knows that I have many sites, over 100 probably, and many of them are small. However, ideally I’d like to combine the best of both worlds and have many large sites.

If you only have one website your income is going to be very vulnerable to changes in the market, likewise if something happens to that website, such as a server crash or a DoS attack, you will be without income. You can of course back up your website and secure it against hackers, but what happens when Google makes a major algorithm change as they did at the end of 2003? Many websites suffered then, including one of mine, and had that been my only site I would have been in trouble.

So diversity is definitely desirable, and you should always try to diversify your holdings by making more websites, especially websites on different topics. Branching into ecommerce can also help diversify your income.

As for site size, well some sites due to their niche will never be that large, but I don’t think anyways starts out wanting a small site. Personally if a site makes me money I like it, even if it is small. So long as it doesn’t require upkeep a site that makes a mere $10 a month I consider successful.

However, the real reason for having small sites is so that they have time to be established. The most important factor in a website’s success is the length of time it has been online. Invariably sites that have been online for a long time have an advantage over newly minted sites. For instance, some of my sites (which are small now) I consider long term earners. I built them and now I’m just letting them marinate. I plan for these sites to make me oodles of cash 5-10 years from now, but for now I’m content to let them grow.

In a way I’m fortunate, I can afford to have sites that don’t make very much money because I have so many that do make very good money. However the point I want to make in this post is carpe diem. There is no time like the present to make a new website, so go ahead and do it, build 5 new sites. Even if they’re small at first. Its okay for a website to be small, they have a tendency to grow and if you can afford to wait for it you could end up with one or more websites that make enough money for you to quit your day job and enjoy a self-employed lifestyle.

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  • Jota

    Thank you.
    This was the words I really wanted to read.
    I’m a developer on my day job, and I decided 1 month ago to start making my own websites so I could get into the “game” and start dreaming that one day I will be able to stay at home and just take care of my websites.
    And I just release my first website, and now i’m in the process to create the second one, my objective is 1 per month.

  • mhdoc

    I like to think of each page I publish as making a small deposit to my savings account. At first there isn’t much income but over time it begins to add up.

  • http://www.christianguitar.org/ mickmel

    Great article! One question, though. When you let a site “marinate and grow”, what exactly do you do to help it along? It seems that if you create a site and leave it alone, it will tend to die rather than grow. Please explain.

    Thanks!
    Mickey

  • Joe

    Wow, that article really didn’t say anything at all. Just collecting a paycheck Beasley?

    And having multiple sites doesn’t guard against server crashes nor DoS attacks, unless you put each site on its own server! Unbelievable…

  • http://www.virtualsheetmusic.com fabrizio

    My question is: how to manage so many websites? I have three websites and I work already 8 hours a day 7 days a week… any idea?

  • http://www.moonshieldmedia.com moonshield

    ^ Make reference sites not webzines. Reference sites barely need updates while a web magazine requires updates often.

  • http://www.redflystudios.com Web Design Ireland

    I totally agree. I own many small sites (And a couple of large ones). I tend to come up with my idea, develop it, let it marinate. I come back to it in a few months and develop it further according to the market. So far its been working great for me.

    Regarding your comment on diversity, I think that is very important. One of my main income sites has suffered recently, and if it had not have been for my other sites in completely separate markets, I would be in big trouble.

  • Anonymous

    Chris….. always good to hear about your ideas and successes but is there any chance you could give us something more tangible to work with. Specific examples would be interesting….. point us to where we can buy the info if needs be. Thanks

  • http://www.deronsizemore.com deronsizemore

    ^^ His website has ALOT of info. I’d have a look there.

  • http://www.nocertainty.com Kings

    I have the same question as mickmel;

    How do you let websites marinate and grow? In my case it usually slowly dies, or just doesn’t grow at all. Any advice? Tips for slowly growing a website?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.websitepublisher.net aspen

    How do you let websites marinate and grow? In my case it usually slowly dies, or just doesn’t grow at all. Any advice? Tips for slowly growing a website?

    A site only dies if you take it offline.

    Your first step is going to be choosing a site model that doesn’t require frequent updating. You will probably work a couple hours a month on the site, so you don’t completely “set it and forget it”, but mostly you just let it sit.

    Why? Well so that it can accumulate traffic & backlinks. Age is increasingly being used in search engine algorithms and as such older sites with old established links have an advantage over new sites.

    One day you can turn the site into something that updates more often if you like, and it will be poised at that point to take off because it should have managed to garner some nice links by then.

    The point is that just because you don’t have enough time/money/energy to start a large site right now doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make a small site instead. Small sites might not earn as much, but you need to think of it as laying the groundwork for a future large site.

    Even if all you have is an idea and time enough to right just a single article, buy a domain and put it online. This is easier of course if you have your own server and don’t have to buy another hosting account for each small site you launch.

    Then you just have to be willing to put the time in, meaning years not months.

  • http://www.nocertainty.com Kings

    I see, thanks for clearing that up.

    I might actually start launching some new websites fast then. I’ve got plenty of great ideas, just not all the time available to do it yet. But in less than 9 months I will have plenty of time.

  • monty

    What kind of sites are you talking about? Forums? Blogs? What?

    How do you build and maintain that many sites? Your concept is interesting, but, not enough detail.

  • bryan_spearman

    I assume the “game” is basically setting up sites that are plastered with google ads and don’t really do anything but harbor keywords.

    I’m all about making the money but good lord, if all of us are creating a site a month for this kind of income the web is going to be one big “middle man” site and you probably won’t ever get where you want to really go.

  • http://www.nocertainty.com Kings

    Bryan, I think what Chris is advocating is to simply start a website right now, and slowly develop it over time, especially with Google’s latest change of looking at a website’s age.

    If you throw up a new website every month, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a “bad” one. A simple website with 6-10 unique articles is very easily created, and is actually useful to any visitor.

  • http://www.christianguitar.org/ mickmel

    I tend to create a new website every few months, and then slowly keep milking them along (adding new content) until one “pops”. So far, two of them have popped pretty well (> 15,000 daily uniques) and one other is on the verge.

    It’s fun to try to predict which sites will pop next. One of my more recent sites was one that I though could do decent, but never great. As it turns out, it’s one of my largest. Another site I made I was sure would be huge, but a year (and MANY hours of work) later it’s still doing

  • http://www.vitaleffect.com Gamermk

    Well it seems that feedback for this entry is getting mixed reviews. As far as myself, I like it and it was exactly what I needed to read in order to settle me on how to organize my future website endeavors.

  • bryan_spearman

    I just want to add that I’m totally into learning more about what it is that those of you in the “game” are doing. But as this article shows, you guys talk about how much money you make and how you have 5000 website each but nobody will discuss what exactly the “game” is.

    Look, if you’re pumping out websites and making a bunch of money why the hell not throw us newbies a crumb? For me this article is nothing more than a chest beating show.

    If you want to keep your ideas secret fine. But don’t write these teaser articles that make everyone on the outside go, huh?

  • http://www.nocertainty.com Kings

    Bryan, I’m still a bit of a newbie, and learning the “game”, but as far as I see it there are 3 kinds of websites (like Chris has said):

    Reference website: has tons of content on start up, but no or hardly any regular updates

    WebZine: i.e. SitePoint, begins with little content, but builds up a lot with regular updates

    Forums / Community: i.e. webhostingtalk.com, a message board basically.

    I think Chris has a lot of reference websites, and not a lot of WebZines. I don’t exactly know how he gets all his content (I doubt he wrote it himself), but I do know that a lot of people use public domain content.

    They scan in books which are in the public domain, and then publish it fully on the internet. It’s pointless to take content from Wikipedia, because you’ll be hit with a duplicate filter anyway, but if you scan in a book, then there’s a big chance it’ll be unique. Seems like a great idea, although I’ve never tried it myself yet.

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  • Anonymously

    I think Chris has a lot of reference websites, and not a lot of WebZines. I don’t exactly know how he gets all his content (I doubt he wrote it himself), but I do know that a lot of people use public domain content.

    Chris uses forums, public domain, work for hire, link exchanges, revenue sharing and more to generate content.

  • bryan_spearman

    Thanks for the input Kings I appreciate it.

  • http://www.usmg.net mortgages12

    Keep in mind this is a post to a blog, not an informative article and like a large percentage of other blog posts out there it seems that this entry was posted just for the sake of making a post and I chalk it up as yet another big yawn.

  • http://www.websitepublisher.net aspen

    I just want to add that I’m totally into learning more about what it is that those of you in the “game” are doing. But as this article shows, you guys talk about how much money you make and how you have 5000 website each but nobody will discuss what exactly the “game” is.

    Look, if you’re pumping out websites and making a bunch of money why the hell not throw us newbies a crumb? For me this article is nothing more than a chest beating show.

    If you want to keep your ideas secret fine. But don’t write these teaser articles that make everyone on the outside go, huh?

    As much as I’d love to write an indepth guide as every blog post, thats just not going to happen. The purpose of this post was to be a little bit of a guide to planning, and mostly inspiration to get off your butt and grow your business. Other blog posts will be different. I imagine over the course of a year all the blog posts taken together could be considered an indepth guide.

    As far as posting just to post…. heh, that is never going to happen with me. SitePoint doesn’t pay their bloggers much, so money is never the goal behind posting.

  • http://www.bluetone-media.com bluetone

    I found the blog useful on a couple of points – the biggest is that it further confirms my suspicions that a new and major factor in SEO is time. I am not doing well with rankings on new sites – regardless of how optimized they are.

  • Anonymously

    @ aspen (Chris Beasley)

    The purpose of this post was to be a little bit of a guide to planning, and mostly inspiration to get off your butt and grow your business.

    I’m not off my ass yet… ;)

    Do you have a other source of income outside of Jalic or does 90% plus of your income come from its 110+ sites?

  • http://www.websitepublisher.net aspen

    This is my job, so no. My web business is my sole source of income (for me and my wife actually).

  • Anonymously

    @ aspen (Chris Beasley)

    This is my job, so no. My web business is my sole source of income (for me and my wife actually).

    Thanks Chris – I’m impressed that MADE it work.

    Do you think that it is better to pay $10 per domain per year or have a core domain/brand and have a core domain with sub-domains (eg – google.weblogsinc.com, p2p.weblogsinc.com, etc.)?

    Do you use any platforms or custom code to manage hundereds of domains?

    Love you blog & take care!

  • bryan_spearman

    I’m sorry for becoming a bit venomous with my comments but I harbor a slight frustration with people in the industry who don’t share more than, “get off your butt and start builing as many websites as you can”.

    I’m new so that much info isn’t really of use to me. I did however, “get off my butt” and check out your site that sells the camping knife, at which point I figured it out on my own:

    Skim your local encyclopedia, gather up a bunch of weird not readily available info on any topic you find remotely interesting, mix it together with a huge dose of google ads, put it all on a “who cares what it looks like” website and vwala! You too can make money on the web.

    See that wasn’t so hard.

  • http://www.redflystudios.com Web Design Ireland

    I think that is hardly fair. It was not as simple as that. Granted, he did go into a lot of detail. I think the main point being made is to let something mature. Living from the internet is not easy, and it requires a lot of hard work. People share even to slightest bit of info on how to make it easier I am very grateful to.

    Although I learned the points being made in the article already, I know them to be valid.

  • http://www.websitepublisher.net aspen

    Thanks Chris—I’m impressed that MADE it work.

    Do you think that it is better to pay $10 per domain per year or have a core domain/brand and have a core domain with sub-domains (eg—google.weblogsinc.com, p2p.weblogsinc.com, etc.)?

    Do you use any platforms or custom code to manage hundereds of domains?

    Love you blog & take care!

    Definitely a unique domain for every site. Domains are cheap and subdomains can sometimes look spammy.

    All of my datafeed sites, which are a majority of my domains but a minority of my traffic/profit/upkeep, use a custom built management system, but otherwise each site has it’s own.

  • bryan_spearman

    I’m not meaning to beat Chris up here, rather make a point that not every web developer knows “what kind” of website to build. The post starts out by saying that he gets asked all the time if he would rather have one large or many small sites.

    So my question is… what “kind” of sites are we talking about? That’s all. But like I said, I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out by looking over one of chris’s sites.

    Sorry if I offended you Chris, or anyone else reading this.

  • Anonymously

    @ aspen (Chris Beasley)

    All of my datafeed sites, which are a majority of my domains but a minority of my traffic/profit/upkeep, use a custom built management system, but otherwise each site has it’s own.

    :)

    Thanks – I agree about have a number of domain names and thanks for the info on datafeed sites (I was wondering about them since they make up a large amount of your domain names…)

    In terms of looking spammy to Google, it seems like the datafeed sites would look this way, because on whole they are on the same IP/NS and use the same template. Seems like you might get more out of them if the were all under the same site or had different templates. Is there anyway to keep Google from profiling IP/NS?

    YOU ROCK – Have a great day Chris!

  • Anonymously

    @ bryan_spearman

    I’m not meaning to beat Chris up here, rather make a point that not every web developer knows “what kind” of website to build.

    If some told you what it was here… then EVERYONE else would do it too!

    The key is to learn HOW to fish, not WHERE as the market changes…

    This type of business is more of a way of life than a ez-money tree.

    what “kind” of sites are we talking about? That’s all. But like I said, I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out by looking over one of chris’s sites.

    Chris said he had 100+ sites so I went and looked at them, you should too… Instead of asking, since that helped me figure out WHAT his models business were… (e.g. AFFILATE, eCOM, AD, etc.)

  • bryan_spearman

    Thanks for the feedback. (AFFILATE, eCOM, AD, etc.) is all I was wondering. I’ll shut up now.

  • Anonymously

    @ bryan_spearman

    Thanks for the feedback. (AFFILATE, eCOM, AD, etc.) is all I was wondering. I’ll shut up now.

    You’re clearly under estimating how complex Chris’s business is…

  • bryan_spearman

    Do share then. I was attempting to shut up but if you’d like to fill me in then go ahead.

  • Anonymously

    @ bryan_spearman

    Do share then. I was attempting to shut up but if you’d like to fill me in then go ahead.

    The best way to get information is to share it…

    Do you have anything to share? Personally, I have found most of you’re post interesting, but the tone sometimes makes me NOT want to reply…

  • http://www.nocertainty.com Kings

    Bryan, one thing I can highly suggest is to subscribe to dozens of web publisher blogs (just like this one by Chris). It has given me tons of great ideas.

    One blog I can highly recommend is Surf The Mind. It’s given me so much great information and ideas I can’t even put a price tag on it. Definately a must-read.

  • bryan_spearman

    I appologize for my tone. I’m an outsider and I know it so it makes me defensive and impatient. But I don’t mean to offend. I’m all ears if you can help bring me up to speed on the complexity of Chris’s web busineses.

    And unfortunately, the only thing I could share would be my years of experience in design. Hence the reason I’m here trying to pick the brains of those in the “game” so that I can move from being designer that makes other people money to a developer that makes my own money.

    Those doing well though are generally pretty closed lipped about it.

    Again, my appologies.

  • bryan_spearman

    Thanks again Kings! I’m on it.

  • Anonymously

    @ bryan_spearman

    And unfortunately, the only thing I could share would be my years of experience in design. Hence the reason I’m here trying to pick the brains of those in the “game” so that I can move from being designer that makes other people money to a developer that makes my own money.

    Have you taken a look at Chris’s site – http://www.websitepublisher.net?
    http://www.websitepublisher.net/successful_website/

  • Anonymously

    @ bryan_spearman

    And unfortunately, the only thing I could share would be my years of experience in design.

    One thing that you might have noticed from Chris’s sites that are content drive is that they are “anti-user” do so degree, meaning that the user must WORK to get to the content, verse having it handed to them. Can you find anything that covers this approach to design and building sites around ADs verse subscription based sites were they “try” to make it very easy for the user to get content because they are directly paying for it…)

    I’m an outsider and I know it so it makes me defensive and impatient.

    Ummm… So am I – it works nicely for me?

  • Anonymously

    @ aspen (Chris Beasley)

    WoW – I just noticed that you list “Tree Fitty” as your annual income, is that correct and is that gross or net?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.websitepublisher.net aspen

    Neither. I used to list my actual income there, but people obsessed over it, I’d change it and there would be a forum thread discussing the change. So I put down Tree Fitty, which is from South Park. (The Lochness Monster Episode).

    I think its a silly forum profile field anyways.

    One thing that you might have noticed from Chris’s sites that are content drive is that they are “anti-user” do so degree, meaning that the user must WORK to get to the content, verse having it handed to them. Can you find anything that covers this approach to design and building sites around ADs verse subscription based sites were they “try” to make it very easy for the user to get content because they are directly paying for it…)

    Um, not really.

    You seem to have an attitude about design. My sites aren’t going to win any art awards, but they’re not trying to. Design is relatively meaningless when it comes to profit. What matters is quality content and good marketing.

    And a top banner ad or a right side skyscraper is not a barrier between users and content. I don’t know where you get that from.

    Take Google.com as a case study. Simple design, something any designer could throw together in 5 minutes. Take their SERP pages, ads at the top, ads on the right, ads on the bottom. And yet most people consider Google to be a standard of usability and quality, especially when they first came out and their closest competitor was the cluttered “trying-to-hard-to-be-fancy” AltaVista.

  • bryan_spearman

    My sites aren’t going to win any art awards, but they’re not trying to. Design is relatively meaningless when it comes to profit. What matters is quality content and good marketing.

    I can get with that. What I’m curious about, and perhaps this better left for another blog or something, is what types of marketing work for you? Someone said earlier that I needed to learn “how” to fish not “where” to fish. And well, I think my question is not of where to fish but how are you fishing and what techiques work well for you.

  • http://www.websitepublisher.net aspen

    Well in this particular blog post I was recommending passively letting the site grow and mature by collecting incoming links and traffic naturally.

    In general though I focus on organic SEO and link building.

    With ecommerce sites PPC marketing is a sure bet, also with ecommerce & some high paying content sites paid link building (such as shelling out $300 for a yahoo listing) is a good idea.

  • bryan_spearman

    Cool. Thanks. I’m good. And I’m throwing myself out of this discussion permenantly.

  • Anonymous

    You seem to have an attitude about design.

    Your right – and it was a mistake to guess at your goals related to design, since I have no idea what they are…

    I will say that I do feel that your site ARE well designed.

    Design is relatively meaningless when it comes to profit. What matters is quality content and good marketing.

    and then….

    And yet most people consider Google to be a standard of usability and quality, especially when they first came out and their closest competitor was the cluttered “trying-to-hard-to-be-fancy” AltaVista.

    Clearly design is important…

    I can’t find it off the top of my ahead, but I did see a nice write up on designing for AdWords at one point. You get a high CTR if the ADs look like navigation or content, and I’m sure that there are other use patterns that could be played on.

  • Anonymous

    By the way, in case “others” did not know…

    Designing for AdSense is a violation Google’s “Terms of Service” – so no one would claim that they were doing so or Google might bane the site. This is also another good reason to have a number of domains – since Google is less likely to bane a IP/NS…

  • http://www.ilovecode.com ses5909

    This is definitely a great article/post. I’ve been working on a few sites and I intend to keep going with it. I’m trying to develop it well enough that maintenance is minimal (a few hours a week at most is ideal). I’ll be reading more of this blog since this is my new stomping ground.

  • orfeo

    I started reading all the comments and at first I started thinking that “Yeah, he didn’t say much. More details.”. I wasn’t sure because I wanted to take a look at his sites and then comment.

    Finally I realized who Chris is (aspen), and I felt shame. To accuse aspen for “not sharing” enough is a blasphemy. I have learn a lot reading his numerous post in forums and from looking at his sites.

    You should all first do your homework before asking for more info in the game. Read around, look carefully at successful sites and networks. Most of the answers we look for are out there already. Why should someone chew the food and put it your mouth?

  • http://www.net-rating.com stormy

    really a great blog post or article. i like it and today i was discussing the same thing with my brother. thank you for such a good information.

  • mysternyc

    Very motivating.

    I am web developer who is always torn into the idea whether there is a purpose to all the sites I have other than earning 5-10 bucks in adsense and improving my web development skills. After reading this article it gives me an idea that I am not alone in my quest.