Building a Web site and making money via online advertising is not just for kids anymore. Gray Googlers -- those passionate entrepreneurs in their 50s, 60s and 70s -- are generating cash even without master-level technical skills. They're tapping into the AdSense system run by the global search giant.
Contextual or content-sensitive online advertising is on the rise. Last year, Google says, it shelled out $3.1 billion to Adsense publishers, up from $1.2 billion in 2004. Contextual means the ads have a relevance to the content of the Web site on which it appears, thereby increasing the chance of visitors clicking on those ads. When visitors click, the Web site's owner gets paid.
There are four steps to get started.
Build a Web site. If you know how to send e-mails, navigate AOL or shop on eBay, then you're likely capable of building your own Web site. Select a topic that you're truly passionate about since you'll be living and breathing it.
Google offers two free tools that have their advertising program built in -- blogger.com and pages.google.com -- but you're by no means limited to using their tools. Sites such as Yahoo Publisher, GoDaddy.com and Apple's iWeb all have programs to allow users to build sites. If you already have a Web site, you're ready to go.
Register for Google ads. The reality is most of us have no interest or expertise in going out and selling ads to appear on our Web sites. But that doesn't mean you can't snag even a sliver of the online advertising bucks.
Register your site with Google's AdSense program (google.com/adsense ), which works with hundreds of thousands of Web sites and hundreds of thousands of online advertisers. Signing up is free, with no cost and no obligation. The system matches the advertiser's target audience with the content of the relevant Web sites.
For example, I might create a Web site about everything there is to know and love about beagle dogs. When I register for Google's AdSense, the ads appearing on my site will relate to that subject -- ranging from dog food and breeders to pet accessories, insurance and maybe even dog Halloween costumes.
You're not going to find ads for computers or cars; all of the ads will be relevant to my overall content. And I will receive money -- from pennies to dollars -- every time someone clicks on those ads.
To host the ads, Google provides site owners with simple code to embed on various pages of their Web sites. The location of those ads is determined and controlled by you. Google's system replaces ads daily, thereby maximizing your chances of capturing new clicks often.
Even though Google's network is the largest of its kind, there are also other ad sites you can explore before deciding who to register with. Among them: Yahoo (publisher.yahoo.com), Edgeio (edgeio.com ), Adbrite (adbrite.com), and Text Link Ads ( text-link-ads.com). You can find others online.
Add new content regularly. Since you only make money if visitors to your site click on the ads, there are two things you can do to build an audience. One of those tasks is to add fresh unique content often.