The Idea... The Execution... The Letdown...


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The Plan

Okay so a couple years ago I had a few websites I was working on as personal projects. I was in college and trying to make some side money to help out with rent and bills. I had some Google Ads different areas on the sites and they weren't bringing in a lot. And by not a lot, I mean maybe $0.25 per month for each site.

For those of you who aren't aware how Google Ads work, let's go over a very high level view of that.
When you browse/search on the internet your browser will collect some user data. Then when you go visit websites that have ad services such as Google Adsense your collected browser data will help Google place ads in front of you that you might be interested in. If you (the user) like the ad and click on it, the website that has that ad placed on it will get a small payout for that click.

Let's look at real world example:
In this scenario let's say I see ants in my house. So I jump on my computer, pull up google and 'Ants in my house' to try and find a DIY solution or 'Pest control company near me' to try and find a local company to come take care of the issue.
After clicking around a little I land on a couple local pest control companies and a couple local hardware stores that carry pest poison.
While doing this clicking, the browser collects some of this data and saves it off.
Now that I have an idea what I'm going to do about my pest problem, I go about my day.
Okay cool, so now I head over to a completely different site to do some other task I have to do. On this site, there are ad placements and what do you know, one ad is for 'Home Defence Insect Killer' at my local hardware store. I scroll down and oh look at that, another ad for a local pest control company!
If there are no local companies near you for what you searched for, you'll be getting ads for websites that carry these products. If I click on one of these ads, the site owner that had the ad will get a small amount put in their ad account.

Okay now back to my side hustle idea... my thought was because my own sites weren't bringing in a ton of money and I had servers already setup hosting my websites, what if I hosted other people's websites FOR FREE in exchange for putting my Google Ads on their website(s), I asked myself.
It seemed like a great idea. Someone who wanted to get their idea off the ground and on the internet could do that without any hosting costs to them. And that was my target audience, people who didn't have a website yet.
I targeted these people because if someone already had a website up and running it would take a lot to convince them to switch hosts. Because, if it's not broke, don't fix it.

The Execution

So I went on eBay and creating some listing for website hosting for $0.99 (bare minimum eBay will allow) and would advertise lifetime hosting for $0.99. In the listing description I laid it all out on the table. Just stating that hosting would be provided by me in exchange for placing ONE of my Google Ads per page on their site. They could put their own Google Ads on their site as well but I got first pick on placement for my ad(s). With the disclaimer that if they removed my ad it would be a breach of agreement and their site would be disabled and would have to find another place to host their website.

Not even a week after posting my listing I had my first customer.
Now remember, I'm just the website host, not the website developer. One I had them configured and their website platform installed my work was done. Simply set it, and forget it. Well, forget it until their website is done and open to the world. Then I would work with the site owner/manager and place my Google Ad(s) on their site. From that point on all I needed to do was check in every now and then to make sure my ads were still there.
It was that simple.
Within the next month I had over 20 sites hosted and within two months most of those sites were completed and running my ads.

At that time, life was good and I couldn't wait to see the earning start to come in as these sites began to pick up with traffic.

One BIG assumption I had when I came up with this idea is that the websites I was going to host were going to be busy with traffic and that the owners would be very active in trying to promote and get people to their site. Without traffic on the site, this plan won't work.

The Letdown

If you can't see where I'm going with this, I'll fill you in..... Time went on and Google Ad revenue was certainly more than I was getting before with just my own sites, but still under $1.00 per month of revenue.

The hosting plan I was on at the time allowed me to host unlimited websites so it wasn't a huge deal to me because I was paying the host for the servers regardless of these other websites.

About a year later I was hosting about 50 websites and still not the return I was hoping for on the ad revenue. I decided to call it quits because it simply wasn't worth my time it took to setup sites, manage the ads, manage backups, and help users migrate their sites to another host if/when they found their own host they wanted to use.

My Mistakes

Looking back on this plan if I was going to do it again I would look back on the following mistakes and adjust my plan:
  • Hosting any website | Some websites I was hosting ended up on topics that Google Ads didn't allow. This was an overlook on my part. Make sure to review all the guidelines for Google Ads before bringing on new client websites.
  • Not asking what the goal of the website(s) were | All I wanted was sites to put my ads on, and I got that. What I should have been looking for is a person with an idea that was good, and had a plan for their site with milestones/goals set. I should have been going for quality, not quantity.
  • Not asking the purpose of the website(s) | When sites weren't performing I reached out to the owners to see if they wanted help getting their sites more traffic with people interested in their topics. Turns out some site owners never had the intention of having a popular website and their sites were more for their own documentation purposes. These sites weren't even being indexed by search engines.
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