Surprising Income Website Hacks that Actually Worked

Not solar powered

What’s Wrong with This Picture? A picture like this one was the winner in a kids Solar Powered art contest where I lived in Santa Fe in the 1990’s. It’s a good enough picture. I don’t remember what it was now, but the winner received a nice prize for a 9-year-old.

Look closer. This picture is backwards. The Sun doesn’t get power from us. We are powered by the Sun. But many people still think this way about solar power. We can turn that around.

A Tail of Two Websites

They also think this way about websites. People don’t want to make a website for many reasons – lack of skills, time consuming, costs, updates, plugins and other reasons. Then there is advertising for the website. On the other hand, if I paid you $5 and you paid me $10, I would want to do that again. If I paid you $5 and you paid me $10 every month, I am even more interested.

This Website Sucked Time and Money

But that’s not what happens with making a website, is it. Why is that? The answer to that question is longer and more deeply-rooted. And, I hope to answer that. But first, I want to tell you how I discovered this for myself, quite by accident, and how you can do this, too.

In fact, it worked surprisingly well. I made more money by doing (almost) nothing – in retirement – than I did working. It’s nothing special or technical or even particularly clever. Let’s take a look at this together. I have been down this road and I have learned something about myself. Not only did it actually work, but I learned something about myself. I hope it has some value for you. Here is what I learned.

But before we go there, let me briefly tell you how I got here. The year was 2003. My photography studio business was sinking fast as digital was rapidly replacing film. Those first digital images were terrible, but people wanted instant, and they were willing to accept the consequences.

Tap Success
Tap Success

Instead of sinking tens of thousands of dollars on a camera that would be replaced in a year or two, I decided to leave photography. I had studied graphic design in college and I taught myself web design. The first website I made was I learned a lot from that experience. It has gone through many life spans. I studied all the things that make a good website. I followed all the rules. I did Search Engine Optimization. It never made money. It’s a good before example.

This was the website I thought would be successful. I had a great domain name. I learned more about web design every day. I taught myself DreamWeaver, WordPress, and coding tools with HTML, PHP, CSS, JS and more. Not very fancy by todays standards, but this was the beginning. I completely rebuilt the website several times.

Each time, I thought that it would be successful. I studied Search Engine Optimization, MySQL, phpMyAdmin and more. I bought web design courses. I tried WordPress, then Bootstrap, then WordPress again. I bought plugins. I bought fancy themes. Nothing I did raised the numbers. After years of work, I would get 50 visitors per month. Here is a screen shot of the Google Analytics for 2010 to 2014. I didn’t have Analytics installed right away.

TapSuccess Analytics
TapSuccess Analytics

This Website Made Me Time and Money


More recently, in 2015, I made a more successful website. At the time, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and depended upon BART for my transportation. One day, an ad on CraigsList offered me a new car and half the income to drive for Uber and LYFT. I took it. Then I received a $500 signup bonus. Nice. So did the car owner. It wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t need a car. I could signup new Uber drivers who already owned their own cars. I built This website was different because it answered people’s questions and I left it alone. It’s a very good example of an after website.

Why? It took a little while, but something surprising happened. It started making money. First, I got notices that some people signed up. Then I got notices that people started driving. Then I got notices that people started getting bonuses – and so did I! Soon it was $1,000. Then it was $1,000 a month and then it was $1,000 a week. Deposited into my bank account, where it belonged, while I was sleeping. I made money in my sleep.

Some people will say that’s not much money. Other people will say that is a lot of money. What I noticed was that it was one website, I made it once, didn’t touch it, and it paid me every week – for years. Soon I had 1,000’s of visitors every month. Here is a screen shot of the Google Analytics for 2016. (Caution: Uber and other brand names are protected by law. Don’t infringe on their brand names.)

UberInviteCode Analytics
UberInviteCode Analytics

What can we learn from this? It took me more than a decade – ten years – to learn what worked. There are other lessons I learned from this experience. Perhaps they will help you.

Pull, Don’t Push, by Providing Real Value

Retail companies want to sell. They do this by constantly pushing their message. People are tired of the expensive, not relevant, ugly clutter. The Internet – rather, Search Engines – have changed advertising forever. Every day billions of people make trillions of searches for what they want. The web page with best answer to the search question is on the first page of Google. I spent only ten dollars for the domain name and a little of my time. It worked because people were seeking the information I provided.

STOP Using SEO Formulas

Yes, there are a few rules to follow. But, Google and the other search engines are way beyond the mechanics of SEO. Look on Google, find a subject that needs answering and do your research. Be surprisingly helpful, forget keyword phrases, put yourself in the shoes of your visitor and speak to them. Then go the extra mile.

If someone else has written a part of the answer that’s better, say so. Summarize that and give them credit. Do your homework. Be honest. Be genuine. Be real. If you are not an expert, find one who has just published a book and interview them. Make a list of questions your visitors want to know, ask them and mention the expert on your website.

The simple truth is that Google can measure what people were seeking on your page. If they continue their search on another page, you don’t have that answer. No amount of tricks and tools you use will make up for that.

Teach Your Old Website New Tricks