By Andrew Neitlich

Let’s do a case study comparing five money-making websites

By Andrew Neitlich

The next series of blogs should be valuable to many of you. What I’d like to do is introduce you to 5 websites that are in development now, and lead you through a series of questions to get you thinking about using the web to make money.

This first blog post is intended to get you thinking, and we will peel the onion back a bit as we progress.

Following are descriptions of 5 web sites I am developing now. I’ll share you the links when they are all ready. Four are very similar. One is different. What I’d like you to do is place bets on which will work, which won’t and — most importantly — why. Next post I’ll let you in on my own thinking.


1. A site that teaches fitness instructors how to teach boxing fitness. For $237.50 people receive certification, video clips, a manual, a marketing manual, and 1-1 coaching with an expert professional boxer. People take an online test to get certified.

2. A site that teaches people how to make money as a practicing astrologer. The price is $187.50 and includes all of the above, except with astrology as the focus and no videos. However, they do receive their birth chart to use as they learn how to interpret an astrological chart. Again, includes a certificate after passing an online test.

3. A site teaching people how to become an executive coach. Same materials as #2 plus a bunch of special bonuses including a report on how to lead strategic retreats for $20,000. The cost is $399. Again, includes 1-1 coaching, manuals, and online test for certification (this time based on case studies and essays).

4. A site teaching healthcare providers how to market their services more effectively. Same things as #2 and #3, plus a free guide about how to run a profitable healthcare practice. Cost is $499.

5. A free site for professionals to network and exchange leads. The site has numerous links to my own books. It will expand from community to community. Here the money is made on sale, and peripherally on my own books plus advertising opportunities.

So, which do you think will succeed and why? Which will bomb, and why?

More details to come, but this is just an intro….

  • www.RedBeardWeb.com

    Because of the profit potential to the client, I believe #3 is going to be the biggest hit. A $400 investment with the potential for a recurring $20,000 payday is pretty attractive.

  • expos1994

    Who are the experts that will be providing these services? I would be very skeptical about signing up for an online course that isn’t through an accredited college.

    Maybe if Evander Holyfield sponsered the boxing site, it could succeed.

    Personally I think they’re all going to be a tough sale, except #5. The target audiences are small.

    There may be some hidden factor (like Evander Holyfield) that you haven’t told us, but I’m skeptical about those ideas.

  • Yeah, I say #5. People will come to a site to get free information, and will click on related links from there.

  • weekbeforenext

    I think #5 may be the most successful. It uses a similar business model as SitePoint and the site itself is not the product but a marketing venue to sell secondary products and services.

    I think #3 may be the least successful because the consumer may be reluctant. I would imagine that those that can make big money as an executive coach do so on the credentials of their experience or name and not so much based on a certification. The probable target audience might also currently be in a professional career, so there may be more risk involved in leaving a job to become an executive coach.

    This sounds like a cool case study. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  • I pick #5 simply because everyone wants free info online :)

  • eveenend

    Though I believe number 5 will have a larger community,
    I believe that 1, 2, 3 and 4 have the greater revenue potential. Though I’m not interested in boxing and much less astrology, I believe that each has a viable niche market – willing to spend money to be ‘certified’ and learn more about their passion.

  • eveenend

    In addition, site visitors of 1, 2, 3, and 4 have come for the primary reason of learning more about their interests/passion – and are willing to spend money on them. Visitors of site 5 come primarily to network, and may or may not be attracted to the secondary content (books, articles). Though you also mention ad revenue, its profits will be small in comparison to the other 4 sites.

  • Ulchie

    Out of those, the most likely to succeed will be #5. The most likely to start making some decent money immediately would probably be the other four though! Remember, one sale and its a few hundred bucks. Over time #5 would become the best money maker in all likelihood.

    First off, the other four sites are niche based sites with a very limited target group. Then add the fact that you are going to be giving 1 on 1 advice (that’s extra work) and trying to sell an expensive package ~$200-400USD, it won’t be easy. Yes they can and probably will make money if you develop them correctly. But overall, #5 will have the largest audience (professionals!) and furthermore it won’t require any action by those visitors to start making SOME money for you(regular ads). As your traffic grows over time it would become a pretty good money maker when some of that traffic begins to buy and purchase affiliate items. But the fact that the info is free, to be searched by search engines, and people to give the link out freely of the great articles or resources.

  • Ulchie

    So, I would have to say… Initially you will see more success from the first four. Over time, if you continue to develop website #5, it may become more successful. It all depends how you do it as well though. Is it going to be run like a magazine site (Forbes.com or Fool.com?) or more like a directory site (which few people use)?

  • Number 5 is actually least likely to succeed, despite looking promising.

    Here’s why. It relies on the users of the service *as* the product. In the others, you and those you hire can create and improve the product. With #5, you have to either seed the community (which is going to be difficult given the goal of lead exchange as opposed to just seeding the conversation) or market like crazy to try and get critical mass.

    Beyond that, the number of forums/networking sites is huge. While this one may have a slightly different approach, it’s still going to have to compete to differentiate itself.

    Services like #5 do tend to make a LOT of money, but do so leaving a lot of bodies on the field. The failure rate is MUCH higher.

    The total market size for the first 4 may be smaller, but you’re going to be able to set more realistic goals and conversion numbers than with 5.

    One more thing is that “professionals” smacks of the same kind of lack of focus that “small business” does as a target market, something I know you’ve railed against in the past.

  • Anonymous

  • pdxi

    Site #5 may not generate any revenue for itself, but will certainly sprinkle revenue around Andrew’s network of sites. I’m surprised to see that nobody else thought about this….

  • Anonymous

    1. Prediction: This site will bomb out.
    Reasons: State-recognised fitness certification is usually done with large organisations as part of a group.
    This site is also aimed at people who are already fitness instructors. These people will already have a network and a method of training they can use to advance into the area of boxing. The only reason they would do this course is if it already has a very high standing in the fitness instruction community and sells itself successfully separately from the web.

    2. Prediction: This site will bomb out.
    Reasons: You don’t need certification to practice astrology and there is a plethora of information readily available from books and online at a fraction of the price.

    3. Prediction: Success depends on the coach.
    Reasons: A high profile coach (particularly if they’re a bit of a well-respected celebrity in the business world) would be in demand for one-on-one coaching. But, as with #1, this relies on successful marketing outside of the the web for people to be interested in the first place.
    For the unknown groups who can’t prove their track record, the site will bomb.

    4. Prediction: Success depends on the standing of the trainer and who’s footing the bill.
    Reasons: This is similar to #1 and #3 in that the standing of the trainer is important. If the trainer has a sufficient standing in the healthcare community, then the healthcare provider will only pay if the bill is charged to their business. No individual would bother paying for this (unless perhaps they’re the managing director).

    5. Prediction: Will succeeed if a successful community is established.
    Reasons: An initial community must be developed first. This will only work if you start with at least a handful of active promoters on and offline (word of mouth power). I’ve been invited on email to join such communities before, but as the invitation had no strong personal recommendations, I just ignored them as I’ve got too many other things to take up my time. I’ve also seen many free community sites that never get off the ground, so there needs to be a drawcard. Good people on the forum/network providng useful information or advice.

    Once the ball starts rolling then I would say this site will be highly successful at selling relevant books and (with time) even courses, simply b/c the kind of people that go there will be interested in gaining information in these areas and will feel a sense of trust in such a successful community. For myself, I have often purchased books in areas that interest me simply by going to a site where people in the know go. Don’t think I’m alone in that.

  • All have very good potential (you wouldn’t have made them if they didn’t, would you.?) Are you planning on doing an affiliate program on any of these?

    I’d say as long as you didn’t pour too much money into any of these, the worst one could do would be break even.

  • mjc

    I’m in a minority but I see 5 as the failure. Too much competition & also, sorry, but exactly what’s my motivation for handing over leads to competitors I met in an internet chatroom?

    Wouldn’t I be better off serving my own customers or using local collegues I know & trust to handle overload rather than risking my prospects getting a bad job from “some guy on the internet” & me getting the bad rep for it because I recommended them…

    The other 4 are the same basic business plan with different target markets & presumably carefully researched price-points.

    1 won’t work too well (unless you have a superstar fronting it) because you’re teaching physical stuff via video unless that 1:1 time is face to face & if so you’re wasting your time launching cold on the net unless your boxer likes living out of a suitcase going from city to city training one person per location. You’d be better off working locally to build the reputation then go nationally teaching several people in one location – Like the personal development gurus. If you have to go to the boxer for 1:1 training better but you’ve pretty much limited your market geographically anyway – I’m not flying from Australia to America to get this “certification”, sorry.

    2 also a mild failure simply because of the disconnect between “astrology” & “technology” (i.e. the suckers who follow astrology aren’t likely to be very web-savvy) but that’s just a feeling.

    3 could work. I’d take a punt on a few shares let’s put it that way…

    4 is promising & I’ll vote for that being the winner on the basis that you shouldn’t underestimate the unbridled greed of doctors.

    So, 1& 2 to (at best) cover costs & make a disappointing amount of money.
    3 & 4 to be decent cash cows.
    5 never takes off and barely covers costs

  • Friday Night

    I think that example 5 will be the one to succeed. I think of my attitude toward spending money, and I know that I’m much more likely to pay for a value-added service from a site that I can use free. Site 5 can always make money on advertising, depending on the traffic. I think the first 4 are like throwing money down a hole.

  • BeeHive

    I think #1-#4 are rubbish and #5 is not a new idea, but at best will break even. Here’s a handy quote: “Build once, sell a million times”

  • Rips

    They could all succeed, they could all fail. Depends on thousands of different factors.

  • bobsorenson

    #4 – Doctors don’t have a clue about marketing and for the first time they now have to communicate effectively with their propective patients.

  • My initial thought as I read the list was, “Why would anyone need a certificate in astrology?”

    Then I re-read and realised it is actually a site to help people “make money” from practicing astrology, the certificate is a bonus.

    Maybe it’s my lack of vision, but I’d say the astrology site is most likely to fail.

    The value for money of number 3 strikes me as the most attractive deal, therefore I think this site is the most likely to succeed

  • erzatz

    There is a sucker born every minute. In this instance, the minority (intelligent people) are giving you feedback and will not help give you an accurate sampling.

    Secondly, with most hosting packages… you can do all five and not spend extra time or money. Its the web… for every bad Idea there is a person willing to give you one try. So, all of them will have varying degrees of success. Think about the sites people set up just for pandering… please give me a dollar so I can afford to go to France… of get a BMW and etc. Many pandering sites have made 6 figures. With the logic represented above… they would not work…. ie survey the most common denominator to the proposed site not web devs.

    So, I agree with PDXI and Cutter only if the sites are designed well, indexed well and linked to communities of similar interest.

  • erzatz

    On second thought… I just checked your main site http://www.fastmarketingresults.com and you need someone with site design skills and coding skills. There are javascript and privacy issues (ravedesigns pphlogger) on your front page. And I know you went to Harvard… but two Headshots on one page!!! I suggest you find a partner with skills that is a little less egomaniacal.

  • Sites 1,2, and 3 have the best opportunity to succeed because these are niche markets that *I would imagine* the owner has researched and uncovered an existing demand for.

    The sites are offering a product that solves the customers problem. They are giving people what they are looking for. They could research keyword statements that show intention of people searching for those problems and SEO/PPC the page for it.

    I’m much too lazy to do the research into myself, but whichever site of those 3 with the most demand (in terms of keyword statements) and the least competition will be the biggest success.

    #4 will likely bomb because I doubt that target market is actively searching for that information online. Sure they would find it valuable, but you would need to create the demand for it first offline or indirectly which is expensive.

    #5 will certainly fail because the concept has been done a million times over. What is the unique selling proposition? What is going to seperate it from the rest of the crowd? Starting a community site without a good niche is a slow and slavelabourous process. Good luck!

    I’d be interested to find out which one does the best, any chance of a mailing list update 6 months from now?

    PS: The strategies I’ve discussed are basic process I teach at The Internet Marketing Center’s Mentoring Program. If keyword research and direct sales is a new concept to you, I would suggest checking us out. =)

  • Wow very extensive feedback on Andrews ideas. We should have a Concept Feedback forum on sitepoint so that others can get some great feedback on ideas too.

  • Rhonda

    Number 4 has the most potential to provide a distinct market with info that not everyone else is already providing with fake credentials (1,2,3) or have no plan to make money (5).

  • ^^^ lol good point if the market is saturated (which the research would conclude)

    reading back over option 4, the “free guide about how to run a profitable healthcare practice” could be the saving grace of that website. If people are searching for info on “how to run a healthcare practice” they can build a mailing list by giving away that guide, then backend the $499 package to those people after creating a relationship over time.

  • After looking at the site examples, I believe that #3 has the most appeal not only for profit but because it happens to be in tune with the times for people interested boosting their careers.
    #1 and #2 are more of the gimmick type of marketing and sales and #4 also falls into that category but at a higher price.
    As for #5, I think that will be the least effective because most people will sign up expecting someone to come knocking on their door with a bundle of money and that’s not going to happen, thus lost interest.


  • It all depends on how good you are at online marketing. For example: how much optimisation of your sites will you be doing? Will you be using Google AdWords or other pay-per-click services? What sort of link building plan do you have?

    I’m sure you will have the right content for each site so I believe it will come down to your marketing skills and how much time you (or your co-workers) spend promoting each site.

  • I’d pick #5 for the community aspect of the site, and there’s no initial fee to start using it.

  • Pingback: Horoscopes Heaven » Blog Archive » Free Will Astrology()

  • cheesedude

    I think #5 will be the most successful. To tell you the truth, sites 1 – 4 sound like get-rich-quick scams.

  • Primrose

    I know people in the health-care field who be pretty interested in #4. There’s so much money thrown around in health-care, that site might do well.

  • Troutnut

    I think 1-4 will bomb. Who wants to pay that much for an online course when they could buy 10-20 books on the subject from Amazon for less money? It’s an absurd price for people to fork over for training information without knowing exactly what they’re getting.

    5 depends on the specific merits of the site.

    I can’t imagine there’s much market for expensive e-courses. Every good example of that kind of thing I’ve seen involved e-books being sold in high volume for 5-20 dollars each, an amount people are more easily willing to part with.

    Then again, there’s a sucker born every minute…

  • omer c.

    i think 1-2-3-4 will bomb.
    on the other hand i think there is a green light for the 5th site. As many people like to search for usefull information accros the www it would beneficial for the visitors to be able to purchase some of the books that is relevant to there field which they already have some insight about the content of books, exchange informations with other community members. And best of all no mather what FREE always sounds cool….

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