I made $819 in ads in December. This is incredible to me as I didn't even post for most of the month. The site just sat there attracting link love from other sites and more importantly getting hammered by referrers from the various Search Engines, most notably Google. I didn't post a thing, yet the site just cranked in the dough. It makes me realize that there are massive opportunities out there for just public content repositories. Just sitting out there, getting referrer traffic and making money: Search Engine Honey Traps.
There's two ways to think about making money this way: The hits and the tail.
The first is very mercenary: If there was some way to find out the most expensive Keywords for a certain time frame - it'd probably be pretty easy to guess which ones were pretty in demand, actually - you could then have a blog which is dedicated to writing up summaries about only these most valuable topics and attracting lucrative search engine traffic as a result. I'm talking about real posts, not garbage, but not dedicated to a theme, but to whatever was the most expensive keyword that day or week or month was. There are keywords that cost $30 a click, right? If you attract a few dozen people your site a month, who read your summary then click on the ads? Well that could be some serious dough.
If you think about the business models of Engadget or MobileTracker or any of the new types of professional blogs out there, they're really nothing but honey traps like this. But they're still making the pretense of focusing on a specific topic area like gadgets or phones. Screw that! Whatever the big seller is (say Vioxx or whatever), well, you spend a couple of hours researching that topic, writing up a summary, maybe add a few links and bam! You've got a honey trap. Now you wait a few days for the Search Engines to start referring over traffic, much of which notices the largish ads you've place in the middle of your content and when they click, you get paid.
Now, the content doesn't have to be focused on just the most lucrative subjects, actually. I threw out Mobdex.com the other day (filled with Project Gutenberg eBooks and a couple of Creative Commons books) just for fun, and imagine my surprise when it got indexed by the search engines immediately and now is attracting hits for people searching for all sorts of famous authors. Hmmm. This is the long tail, baby.
I've only added 600 of the more than 10,000 Project Gutenberg books available. Spending some effort to put all of them out there as pageable HTML pages, with ads on top of each would be a huge repository of content which the Search Engines would *love*! I'm not sure why Project Gutenberg itself doesn't do that and add some cash for funding (if they don't, I will). Well, mobdex has generated all of $2 in ads so far, but the core of the idea is pretty solid I think. I wonder if all those newspapers and magazines that block off their libraries to subscribers only realize what they're giving up?
By the way, the Creative Commons license says "non-commercial," but isn't specific about what that means. I'm giving away the CC content for free on the mobdex site, but it does have advertisements attached. Is that against the license or not? I would say no, otherwise every aggregator out there will be having serious problems and sites like My Yahoo will have to restrict CC licensed weblogs from being added to their advertising-supported aggregator.