Call it what you want, passive income, residual income or sustainable income. They all essentially mean the same thing, creating an income that continues to provide a revenue stream once you have completed the initial task without you having to put more time or effort into it.
In its purest form it means you do the work once and it pays you forever; something that is pretty much every blogger’s dream. But the big question is whether that scenario actually exists for anyone in reality, are there really people out there that can do a piece of work and then sit back and reap the rewards forever without ever having to lift a finger again?
I can think of a few, but I have to warn you, they are the exception rather than the rule. Here are a couple of examples:
- The Beatles, the music they wrote years ago both as a group and as individuals continues to bring in royalties. Ironically life is never very simple and for tax and other reasons the rights to some aspects of the royalties were sold off to third parties or were owned by publishers of the music. You can read the details of that particular arrangement here Michael Jackson Owned the Rights to the Beatles Songs.
- JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series of books, is another, because of her copyright of the Harry Potter books, her relationship with her publisher and Time Warner who own the rights to the Harry Potter films. Harry Potter has effectively become a brand which can be marketed in many different forms, meaning beyond the initial books, but all forms lead back to JK Rowling and she takes commission from any income generated from the Harry Potter brand. Who knows how long the Harry Potter juggernaut will rumble on. But the truth is that JK Rowling has probably already made more money from the brand than she can spend in a lifetime, but only she will know if that statement is strictly true.
The point is that, yes, a truly passive income is possible, even if it is achieved by making so much money initially that you can live off the interest, but the reality is that the cases of that are truly exceptional. So for the average Joe, expectations need to be moderated a little and a modicum of common sense needs to be applied to what can be achieved realistically and how.
Targeting Evergreen Topics for Passive Income
Obviously this blog discusses what you need to do to build an on-line business and achieving an income of any sort from Internet marketing is going to take some reasonable effort. That said by taking a certain approach, primarily looking for niches that deal in the ‘Evergreen’ arena, and adopting white hat techniques for Internet activities, then it should be possible for you to build an online income that leans strongly towards being a passive or residual income.
To explain that statement further, ‘Evergreen’ refers to products, services or information that rarely if ever, goes out of date. The reason you need to focus on this particular aspect is that to build a passive income you really shouldn’t need to be constantly updating the information associated with the end item. That was probably fairly obvious, but I have seen on some Internet publications that the writers are discussing building passive income from products that fall in, for example, the high tech. mobile range; tablets, smart phones or similar. But to me that market will never result in a passive income. A potentially lucrative income, yes, as long as you are happy to continually update, review and publish the latest products and/or services with accurate, quality information that provides real value.
That is also the clue to how to create a passive income through the Internet. The content also has to be accurate, high quality and useful, but centred around ‘Evergreen’ topics. Product reviews can be evergreen of course but not if they involve the latest, ever changing, high tech product lines. A more appropriate product might be for example ‘Aga cookers’ or ‘jewellery’, products that are popular in their niche and where people are looking for quality information about the products that they can rely on. I can imagine that a topic like how to invest in jewellery might be a good topic for someone that is an expert in that field, especially in today’s economic climate. Look at how popular gold investments have become.
Clearly ‘Evergreen’ topics will have been well covered as they have already been around for a while and are a pretty stable topic. So you will most likely need to think outside the box to get a new angle on the topic to be unique. You should also try and find ‘Evergreen’ topics that match your current writing or business so that you are not viewed as going off at a tangent and maintain some credibility as an author. Sticking to your area of expertise should make things slightly easier, just take some time to sit back and think about the most stable and least changing aspects that relate to your particular niche. Here are a few ‘Evergreen’ideas:
- Healthy Living
- Financial Advice/Investments
- Classic Product Reviews
- Pets/Animal Care
- Career Advice
- Project Management
There will be many more topics that can be considered ‘Evergreen’ but you can see that it is fairly easy to generate a list of topics that can in themselves generate many sub-topics. That is the way to start and then when you have a list for your niche, you can begin to think about a new angle to the subject that can potentially generate a unique selling point which you can pursue. But never forget to keep the content at a high level of quality, people will be less forgiving of incomplete or inaccurate information that relates to well established topics or niches. Also remember that you have to find ways of monetizing those sites in a way that compliments the information, that is a whole different subject, which is already covered to a large extent on this blog. Just have a look for it and if you need a hand getting started, take a look at this How to Blog Advice for some suitable topics.
Protect Your Content from Search Engine Changes
The second aspect of creating a passive income is with respect to how you protect your content from search engine changes. Most people that spend time publishing on the Internet know that recent changes in algorithms by Google have changed the game with respect to getting a good position on the search engine results pages. What does that mean from a perspective of creating a passive income? In a nutshell, more work and more time spent trying to get back to a decent position in the search results for the chosen keywords.
So is there an answer to this particular problem? Sticking to Google’s core principals may have helped, especially if you have seen a big downturn in traffic as a result of the changes. What that means is that there are techniques which are Google DO’s and Google DON’Ts Following the Google DO’s techniques will be a slow burn towards building traffic and passive income as a result. But when you are trying to create passive income, you need to be in for the long haul and to approach the task with patience. That way you will not only be building great information that is sustainable, but you will also be building a supporting structure that is organic and outside of your own effort, other than the initial work you do to put the content together and publish it in the first place.
Then & Now
How to say the same thing in two different ways and 3 years apart.
So what are Google’s recommendations for white hat techniques that will attract links to a website organically and sustainably:
- Write great unique content (goes without saying really)
- Don’t be afraid of a little controversy (but don’t overdo it)
- Use humour (people like to be entertained)
- Answer questions and solve problems ( remembering we are talking about stable products, services and information)
- Use original research ( do the work no one else was prepared to do)
- Create lists (funny that)
- Tell people how to do things (similar to answering questions and solving problems)
- Give something away (eBook, cheat sheet, instruction manual etc.)
- Employ different media and use it within your text
- Write articles that are long enough to establish content and will stand on their own ( a beginning, middle and end)
There will be those that are now screaming that there is much more you need to do and I wouldn’t argue that there is much more you can do. Participating in forums, engaging on social media sites, building your author authority, the list goes on. But when you are discussing sustainable income where the work is only done once or at least has a minimal need for further updates, then you have to draw a line and accept that only stable ‘Evergreen’ topics will meet that objective over a period of time and that the quality of your content has to be at the highest level to attract the attention of third parties organically. Where what you have written is actually valued enough to be constantly referenced independently of your own efforts.
Finally your SEO approach, needs to be robust against search engine changes and that means using white hat techniques that search engines will not consider to be methods that were employed to manipulate search engine results. In other words you have to find ways of building a loyal and genuine following that respect both the author of the information, in terms of expertise, and the quality of the content.