Automated Websites for Income

Automated content on websites is becoming quite popular. As many of my close friends and family can attest, I’m closing in on $800 a month with automated sites. That’s just free passive income that comes to me every month, paid by Google through their AdSense program. I engage in other affiliate programs as well, for some additional compensation (I’ve just started with Amazon), but my testing has shown me that nothing comes close to AdSense for monetizing a website.

So just what is an automated website? It’s a website that runs a scheduled “job” for content updates. You basically build it and let it run itself. You put AdSense ads throughout the site. Users arrive to your site through the power of Google search and when they see an enticing ad, they click it and you get a percentage of what the advertiser paid to run that listing (placed through the Google AdWords program, for advertisers).

To update my content, I typically use a cron job. A cron job is an automatic scheduler for Unix-like operating systems. These Unix boxes are what most websites are hosted on. Here’s an example:

* * * * * /usr/local/bin/php /home/jeff/webapps/mysite/cron.php > /home/jeff/log4cron.log 2>&1

Those first five asteriks specify the time interval that my jobs run. Each asterik represents the following, respectively:

minute hour day month day-of-week

If I want to run a job every day at 11:50am, I would replace the asteriks with the following:
50 11 * * * /usr/local/bin/php /home/jeff/webapps/mysite/cron.php

If I want to run a job every hour, I would do this:

0 * * * * /usr/local/bin/php /home/jeff/webapps/mysite/cron.php

Easy enough, right? I then add the last part of the line on for logging purposes. It’s not necessary but if you run many sites, you’ll want to keep an eye on your logs. So running a cron job every hour, with logging enabled, I would exectute the following command:

0 * * * * /usr/local/bin/php /home/jeff/webapps/mysite/cron.php > /home/jeff/log4cron.log 2>&1

Now that we’ve covered cron, I’ll mention an even easier option. WordPress blogs can utilize a built in cron method and that’s what I do for many of my websites. If you’re new to website building, start with WordPress and branch out from there. Chances are that it’s all you’ll need.

If you’re still not quite sure what I mean by “automated content” or “auto-sites”, as they’re commonly referred to, it’s the process of grabbing content elsewhere on the web and putting it on your website. This creates more links to your site and grows your organic traffic (traffic sent to you by search engines such as Google).

Automated content building raises a lot of eyebrows in the blogging world. In fact, I did a Google search before writing this article and was surprised to see how many bloggers despise it. I found far many more negative reviews than positive. This stands to reason, since successful bloggers spend many hours a week writing content and promoting their sites. To be successful in blogging, that’s a must. It’s as much work as it is fun. Imagine opening a store to sell widgets (college Economics flashback!) and working it hard for 5 years. You’ve built up a steady stream of customers and despite it taking up a lot of your time, it’s become profitable. Suddenly, a shop opens up next door and they too sell widgets, but have a new automated process. It works so smoothly that the owner doesn’t even need to be there to make sales and it’s even more profitable than your shop. They can mass produce widgets and put 20 of them on the showroom floor in the time it takes you to make one. It’s easy to see why the bloggers don’t like automated content. The most often heralded complaint is that of producing quantity over quality. That’s fair, because that’s exactly what automated website building does. However, if the process is far more profitable and less time consuming, isn’t it a logical and intelligent approach to making money online? If you now had the opportunity to buy that new widget store, free up all of your time and make even more money, wouldn’t you? Automated websites require no marketing or social promotion. That is priceless in the online world.

I’ve also read several blogs claiming that autoblogging will not make you money. People throw out figures of a couple bucks a month p/ domain. That’s simply wrong. My best autosite earnings from a single domain topped over $200 last month, and that’s less than six months of that site being online. It is fair to point out, however, that this site is my top producer and I have all amounts in between, including a couple that have yet to gross a single dollar in this same time frame. Being in the right niche means everything online, rather you’re blogging, autositing or building a traditional static website.

In a final word on quantity over quality, I will side with the blogging world on one criticism in particular. I don’t agree with scraping the content of personal blogs. My automated sites scrape ebay and Amazon (two examples) for products. These companies benefit by having me advertise for them and sending more people to their websites, allowing them to sell more product and creating income for the all of us. They even create APIs that I use on my websites to make the process even easier. There are hundreds of ways and scripts to grab content off of websites but stealing the personal works by a particular author is something I would never condone or approve of. To get around the problem of Google detecting duplicate content (a penalty that carries a result of not linking to your website), many scripts will engage in “article spinning” or changing words around enough that Google doesn’t make the association. These are the sites we all arrive at that seemingly have a lot of content but fail to make a lot of sense. These are the sites that I hope Google learns more about and bans, as they make the user experience of surfing the web far less desirable for everyone.

Autosites are still a bit hush-hush in the online world. The reason being, they work and people don’t like to give their secrets away. Why am I? I’m not too concerned as my best performing sites are created solely by a php script that I developed myself (which I’m not listing here). With this, I’ll always have a niche and a way to duplicate earnings by simply creating more websites. The site I listed above is my first experiment with this particular format and if it completely fails or if it’s copied a million times, it will not impact my earnings. If it works though, then I have yet another working method. My goal here is to present a more honest look at automated websites and encourage others to get on board. Quite honestly, the AdSense pie is plenty big enough for everyone and I’d like to see more of my friends and family get involved. My gut feeling is that the autosite fad will work for the next half decade or so and we will likely see too many of these creations, at which point the search engines will dismiss them. That’s all just speculation though. We will see. For now.. Autosites work!

If you’re interested in learning more, put your name in that little subscribe box in the top right of this page. I do plan on releasing a couple must-have scripts that I use for this process. I just need to clean them up a bit first.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

2 Comments

  1. Bookmarked your blog on delicious for future comeback. I’ve been trying to tackle the automated site idea for a while. Looks like you’ve worked it out. Congrats on your success man. Great blog too. Lots of useful stuff that I’m interested in.

  2. Jeff,

    thank you for this awesome info. It’s really lit a fire under me and given me some ideas how to develop content through automation. I love the idea but need help with it. I’ve just subscribed to the blog. You mentioned in this article that you were going to post a couple must-have scripts for this process. Is there any chance you can post or send those to me? Are those scripts related to scraping and loading the data into mysql? That’s the part I need help with. Do you use wget for that or is it all api based?

    Thanks in advance!

    – Dave

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