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blog: a regularly updated web page, typically run by an individual or organization, containing relevant thoughts and ideas.
 
by: Kevin Swartzendruber, Director of Web Development
Everyone wants to make as much money with as little effort and as much freedom as possible. Although making money through online affiliate marketing is a very flexible and potentially lucrative way to make a living, it doesn’t come without a little work. No one is going to post a blog site, throw up some advertising and be rich overnight. If this is how you want to make money, you are going to have to work at providing valuable content, finding relevant advertising opportunities, driving traffic to your site, and building a loyal following. You may not make a lot of money at first but you will spend long hours building your site or blog, and working to build the traffic you need to be successful. No one gets something for nothing. There are many sites out there that will promise you big money overnight with their “proven techniques”, but you will need to put in some work to see a return.

Don’t get discouraged. Once you’ve begun to find success in these areas, the returns can quickly outpace the effort. If you aren’t afraid of a little hard work, value your freedom, and want an unlimited income potential, affiliate marketing could be just the thing for you.

Where to Begin
If you want to make money advertising products or services on your website, the most important thing you can do is provide useful content. Just because there are a lot of people online doesn’t mean they will come right to your site, and even if they do, how will you keep them coming back?  You must provide something they need or want. The site should be visually appealing and easy to navigate. It should load quickly and flow well. If you can’t make these things happen, find a professional who can. Remember, the moment your visitors become annoyed they will leave your site.
 
Your job is to not only get them coming, but keep them on your site as long as possible, so the need for fresh, relevant content is as important as aesthetics. To do this, you need to find a niche. You’ll need to find something you’re interested in that you believe others would be enthusiastic about. Choose a broad topic, something that you can continue to build on. Remember, building a great site takes time. A website with too narrow a focus will limit its appeal to a wider audience.
Blog, Subscription Site or Web-Software
The next thing to consider is whether you are going to have a simple blog site where you offer your expertise in a free to read blog, or something more like a subscription based site or a web software application. 
 
Blog’s are the easiest way to get a site up and running. All you need is some expertise in the theme you choose for the blog, some writing skills and a bit of discipline. 
 
Another option is to create a subscription based site where you offer comprehensive information in blog, audio, video and presentation formats for a monthly or yearly fee. The information has to be so valuable to your audience that they are willing to pay for it. This requires a high level of knowledge, some hard to find information, or some proven formulas.
If you want to develop something more, such as an interactive application, you will either need web developing/programming skills, or the money to pay someone who does to build your site. Either way, the commitment is much higher to build this type of site, and the cost could be much higher than you initially anticipate. Online startups are hot. If you have a great idea, there is no lack of venture capitalists, angel investors, and corporate partners interested in partnering with you to make it a success. 
 
A good place to start is with contests offered by Microsoft’s Bizspark (http://www.bizspark.com) , Techcrunch (http://disrupt.techcrunch.com/2010-sf/ )and sFund (http://www.kpcb.com/initiatives/sfund/). You can also list your startup idea on sites designed to bring investors and startups together such as www.startuproundup.com .
 
Even without venture capital and partnership opportunities there are good reasons to launch a web-based application. Unlike a blog, which needs new posts to keep traffic high, an online application can generate consistent traffic without constant attention. If your site offers a service others find valuable, they will keep coming back and if you have an application already built you won’t have to do much ongoing work to earn money. 
 
With any site, if you can give users wiki sections (ways for them to add their own content), its potential for consistently high traffic grows even more! The more you provide people with what they want, and the more you help them interact on a social level, the greater the following! We all know about the success of sites such as Facebook, Flickr, WikiPedia, Twitter and WordPress. They grew overnight into mega sites by adding these key ingredients into the mix of their great ideas. Whatever type site you choose, plan your strategy well before you invest time and money. You’ll be glad you did.

If you still think affiliate marketing could be right for you, check back for “Leveraging New Trends in Advertising - Part 2 (Practical Answers on How to Begin Affiliate Marketing)”