The Worst Websites Can Make Money

September 25, 2008

I’m the proud owner of one of the worst websites on the Internet. Or at least I was. It’s just a hobby site and I’d barely looked at it, or updated it for over a year. You see, I suck at website design. In fact, when it comes to building websites, I’m practically colour blind. Imagine the sickliest shade of blue, with bright red Adsense ads glaring out at you and you get the picture.

Now, don’t get me wrong - when I say it’s one of the worst websites on the Internet, I mean the design sucks. But it’s not one of those crappy made for adsense sites. The content is pretty good.

Well I noticed the other day that I was making around seven dollars a day in Google Adsense on that site and I was also getting a bit of cash from the odd affiliate link. It doesn’t sound much but you’ve got to realise, this website was only getting 40 to 50 visitors a day. When you stick something on the Internet and forget about it, you can’t expect a traffic orgy.

So, I thought, it wouldn’t take too much effort to get ten times the amount of traffic. And the quickest way to do that is by putting it on a blog. I’d simply move part of the content over and add the rest in posts each day. Once it was up and running, I’d outsource a few hours of marketing and post writing a week and I’d have a nice additional stream of income.

At the weekend, I moved some of the content across to Wordpress. Then I checked my stats today and I was pleased to discover that I had five times the amount of traffic already. Now, before you think about emailing me to ask if I can built you one of the worst possible websites too, there’s something you should know.

My Google Adsense rate has plummeted. In fact, I earned less money than I was getting when I had less traffic. My clickthrough rate has gone down to only 2%. When my website sucked it was way higher - on a good day it was as high as 33%. So I guess the reason it was doing so well is that my website was just too much for some people’s eyes and they’d click anything to escape.

Now, I haven’t added any affiliate links yet, so I’ll give that a try first. But if I have no joy, I think I might reload the old theme, build myself ten more of the worst websites ever, stick them up and forget about them and keep collecting the cash from Google.

What do you think? If you come across one of the worst looking websites you’ve ever seen, do you give the content a chance, or would you click on just about anything you could find to get the hell out of there fast?

Has this inspired you to build some of the ugliest websites ever, if it meant you got a high Adsense clickthrough rate? Or would you be too embarrassed to be associated with them?

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36 Responses to “The Worst Websites Can Make Money”

  1. Joanna Young on September 25th, 2008 12:42 pm

    You do make me laugh Catherine - I’ve never seen this tip before - design an ugly site so people will click on anything to get the hell out of there. But you can see the logic in it :-)

    BTW I notice you haven’t shared the URL so we can go and take a look…?

  2. cathlawson on September 25th, 2008 12:50 pm

    Hi Joanna - I am starting to wonder if ugly sites are the way to go. It’s I’ve changed it now, but if you click on cache in Google search results - it should have the old ugly design there.

  3. Brad Shorr on September 25th, 2008 12:57 pm

    Cath, I wonder if anyone has ever tried to profile visitors who are attracted to these ugly sites. Ugly sites attract a crowd, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many of them. So who are these people? Where are they? Do they wear striped ties with plaid shirts?

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..In Praise of One Liners

  4. cathlawson on September 25th, 2008 1:02 pm

    Hi Brad - that’s a good point. Looking at my stats, some of these people are repeat visitors. I’m wondering if that’s why my traffic went up. They’re probably checking back frequently to see if the ugly site has come back.

    I should put a questionnaire on there. And some affiliate links for striped ties and plaid shirt sets too.

  5. Ellen Wilson on September 25th, 2008 1:49 pm


    I don’t even know what to say about this. Should I laugh? Should I cry? I just find it so irritating that utter crap would make money. Where is the cosmic justice in all of that? But hey, if I were you I would put it back to crap status and put up a few more crap websites and see what happens. Seven bucks a day for Adsense is A LOT!

    I have an idea. You could get a test site and clean it up nice and all, and have a crap site and see which does better.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..The Power of Perspective in Photography

  6. Ari Koinuma on September 25th, 2008 3:31 pm


    That’s an interesting observation.

    I used to work for a publisher and my boss told me something interesting. Magazine covers have to have the most awful, clashing, ugly colors. If you try to go all nice, pretty with all colors complementing each other, it doesn’t stand out on newsstands.

    I guess it really depends on what your goal is for the site. If you simply need a passive money maker that you DON’T add to your portfolio, then yeah, why not? Put the ugliest thing out there, and it will attract people who are into that sort of thing.

    One thing I really hate is those sales “squeeze” pages, those long pages with minimum design and just very fomulaic copies designed to entice you into buying. But I know they work.

    Or you can put your heart and soul into the greatest web site, one that you can be proud of, and just work harder on making money with it. ;-)

    You’ve given me some ideas, though. Now the wheels in my head are spinning…. ;-)


    Ari Koinuma’s last blog post..My Vision for Our Best Version

  7. Avani-Mehta on September 25th, 2008 3:48 pm

    :) This is hilarious. Especially when I think about how much effort we put in to make a ‘clean’ site.

    Avani-Mehta’s last blog post..How To Pick Your First Anger Management Area - Anger Management Series Part IV

  8. Davina on September 25th, 2008 5:20 pm

    Hi Cath. Traffic orgy — Ha ha! I have to admit that I’m pretty quick to click away. Unless there is a catchy headline or title that catches my eye I’m outta there.

    Davina’s last blog post..I’m Over The Moon As NBOTW

  9. chris on September 25th, 2008 6:14 pm

    LOL…my blog, watdawat, has made $1.50 since it started…So I have nothing to say.

    chris’s last blog post..I Don’t Get It

  10. Vered - MomGrind on September 25th, 2008 6:17 pm

    Come on, there must be another reason why people clicked on those ads!

    Now I am really curious to find the real reason.

    Was it something about the ad placement? Did you change it when you moved it to a blog?

    Vered - MomGrind’s last blog post..Saw “Burn After Reading”. Non-Botoxed Actresses. Awesome.

  11. cathlawson on September 25th, 2008 6:51 pm
    Hi Ellen - having two to compare is not a bad idea. I couldn’t believe it either. Mind you - the horrific looking site took me ages to build.

    My first attempt was the best though - I managed to put 6 header tags at the top of the page without them looking too conspicious. And I rocketed to page 1 for some really popular keywords. But I took them down cos I knew someone would complain & the site would be banned.

    Hi Ari - Its probably the years I spent reading all those clashing magazines that contributed to my website design disasters.

    I like the idea of the ugly passive moneymakers best.

    Hi Avani - I know your site looks really cool. I could make it look really awful in about fifteen minutes if you wanted.

    Hi Davina - I don’t think anything on my site would have caught your eye - it was probably more likely to blind you.

    Hi Chris - that isn’t good. You need some brightly coloured adsense and plenty flashing banners on there.

    Hi Vered - I did change it. I don’t have text wrapped around the adsense on the blog and I don’t have nearly enough ads on there yet. I’ll show you the cached page. But it doesn’t show you the header etc - cos I’ve taken it down. So you’ve got to imagine the sickly blue header, with a yellow and green tinkerbell on top. Sidebars the same sickly blue.

    If you look at the main page, you’ll see that theres a lot of adsense units between the text and the sidebar - and all the links in the text are red, so it kind of blends in.

    As you can see, everything worth clicking on is to the left. I made the text on the front of the page fairly boring, but even if anyone was sad enough to read a bit further, you soon come to another Adsense unit. There’s nothing at the bottom of the page, so it’s much easier to scroll up to the adsense and escape, than go right to the top of the page. Here it is:

  12. cathlawson on September 25th, 2008 6:52 pm

    Sorry - forgot to say, the links to the left of the Adsense were also red.

  13. Barbara Swafford on September 25th, 2008 11:33 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    LOL -I clicked on the cached site and it’s not THAT bad. The content is pretty keyword dense, but as for the site, it looks better than some I land on now.

    Maybe you should have just let it be and start a blog on the same subject. Can you recreate the original site and put it back up? If it’s making you a few coins, I’d say let it be.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Signs of A Blogoholic

  14. John Hoff - eVentureBiz on September 25th, 2008 11:50 pm

    I took a look at Google’s cache . . . yeah, ugly! LOL. I think you answered Vered’s question perfectly - it was your ad placement and color.

    Your new site definitely has easier options for people to choose which are not $$ makers.

    The concept of having multiple websites for income is a great one. If you have 50 websites generating $10/month, you’ll make an extra $500 per month for just a little work in the beginning.

    Not bad.

    Now if you sold products or services, like web hosting let’s say, you could create a lot of “hosting info” pages with AdSense and affiliate links but the easiest link to click on is one that takes the visitor to your real website’s hosting page.

    Then you have multiple content relevant websites pointing one way to your hosting page (great for SEO) as well as people who used keywords to arrive on your hosting info page find your site by using of other keywords and phrases typed into the search engine box.

    For example, if they typed “Web Hosting Information” they probably wouldn’t be taken to your main website’s hosting page. However, they may land on your info page and then be taken to your home page, therefore, your home page will be found by people typing in “Web Hosting Information” in Google Search.

    Uh… I making sense? I’m really tired right now.

  15. cathlawson on September 26th, 2008 12:12 am

    Hi Barbara - you didn’t see the yukky colours though. It would be nice if there was a way to have the extra traffic and the high clickthough rate. I’m going to try adding some stuff first and see how I go.

    Hi John, I get what you mean. Lots of smaller sites linking to your main site is meant to work quite well. I think Shoemoney mentioned something like that too.

    Trouble is, how many is lots? And would you get away with banging up blogspots, squidoo lenses etc and linking them to the main site?

    Hi Rita - I have to admit it was pretty well keyword stuffed, so probably not the most exciting thing to read. I guess I’ll see how this goes first. By the time I’ve added some more ads, it’ll probably look just as ugly as the old one.

  16. Patricia on September 26th, 2008 12:35 am

    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?
    I look at content and read every word.
    Still not making any money and my blog must be the worst site - I am so pleased I am getting about 26 hits a week…
    You, Barbara, Rita, Divina, and Vered are my list of commentors…just one hand full that I am tremendously grateful for…
    I think I would just leave well enough alone and start a new blog on the same subject…
    My tea I ordered off one of your ads just arrived…hope it works?
    Your site has been a very interesting read for me as of late. Thank you

    Patricia’s last blog post..Meet A Woman 4000 children call “Mother”

  17. John Hewitt on September 26th, 2008 12:38 am

    When I redesigned my site last May, I improved the looks by a long shot, and my ad revenue plummeted. It was very frustrating.

    John Hewitt’s last blog post..PD30 Day 25: Poets are Liars

  18. Al at 7P on September 26th, 2008 2:39 am

    Hi Cath - I looked at Google’s cache, and my theory is that your original site design looked “authentic” to visitors, meaning that you were a real person with real valuable content, and not some slick marketer wanting to make a quick buck (not that your new design looks that way!).

    I think because the original design was basic in today’s standards, you actually gained people’s trust (tips about Walt Disney World is a great idea for a site, by the way). Just a theory though. Either way, hope you get your old mojo back with that site!

    Al at 7P’s last blog post..Guest Post at Write to Done

  19. Ricardo Bueno on September 26th, 2008 7:01 am

    Cath: Re: “So I guess the reason it was doing so well is that my website was just too much for some people’s eyes and they’d click anything to escape.” LOL!

    I think that I’m one of those people who would click almost anything to escape! :-/ Websites with too much going on just don’t do it for me. I don’t think that I ever click on ads and such (but that’s just me). I’m outta there in a jiffy… I’d click through on a cleaner, trusted website tho.

    But anyway, do what works I say.

    Ricardo Bueno’s last blog post..“If you’re pumping out good shit, people will follow.”

  20. cathlawson on September 26th, 2008 8:27 am
    Hi Patricia - Thank you. There’s nothing wrong with your blog - I like it. It just takes time until you start getting lots of visitors. For my first few months on here, I felt like the only readers I had were spammers - but people will find you eventually.

    Thanks for buying some tea from one of my ads. I’m guessing you were one of the people who clicked on a Google Adsense ad on here. I hope you enjoy it.

    Hi Al - thank you. I had a similar site years ago - but it was easier to get thousands of visitors back then. It as on a free host too.

    Hi Ricardo - I’m kind of the same - I hate it when there’s so much clutter I can’t work out what to click. I’m going to add a bit more to the newer site and see how it goes.

  21. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on September 26th, 2008 8:46 am


    On the cached site you had lots and lots of links so people surfing the site would probably go through clicking multiple links to find information - meaning they’d click the Google links as well. On the new site the information is much more organized so no one needs to click on the obvious ads.

    Maybe that’s the trick to AdSense success - making in-site and AdSense links look more or less the same…

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome’s last blog post..Madonna and the Success of Hypocrisy

  22. Ricardo Bueno on September 26th, 2008 8:57 am

    Let me know when the venture is up and running, would love to have a look :-)

    BTW, thanks for the submission. Much appreciated.

    Ricardo Bueno’s last blog post..“If you’re pumping out good shit, people will follow.”

  23. Melissa Donovan on September 26th, 2008 9:14 am

    Hmm, maybe your original design wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. But who knows? I have seen sites that make loads of money and I don’t understand why. Since my revenue comes mostly from my services, this isn’t an area I’ve explored heavily. In fact, Adsense was performing so poorly on my site, I finally removed it. Maybe it would do better with the new design… then again, from what you’ve said, maybe not.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Writing for Change

  24. Lance on September 26th, 2008 10:42 am

    Funny stuff Cath!

    When I come to one of “those” sites, I’ll usually just close the window, but every once in a great while I’ll actually click on something just to get away.

    Have you inspired me to build a crappy site. Hmmm…I have to admit, I’m tempted. It’s that whole time thing that gets in the way….

    But, now what I really want to do is see your “crappy” site…you piqued my curiosity!

    Lance’s last blog post..Spread Your Wings and Fly

  25. Carla on September 26th, 2008 4:54 pm

    This is interesting because I tend to leave websites that are not visually appealing. By that I mean websites that are too busy, can’t even find what the website is about through excessive ads, too many colors, etc. That’s probably why my website and blog is a bit “plain” at the moment. I’m still working on my blog template so I may color it a little more or add more photos, but I generally leave sites that are not easy on the eyes.

    I tend to focus on content too, but I need to be able to find it!

    Carla’s last blog post..Alternatives to fabric softeners

  26. Cath Lawson on September 27th, 2008 1:14 pm

    Hi Alex - that’s a good point. Maybe it’s worth blending them in so they do look like part of the site. Now I have a lot of white space remaining on the front page of the new blog, so maybe I ought to do something with that.

    Hi Ricardo - no problem, you’ll be one of the first people I tell. You’re welcome for the Digg - I hope you’re going to write more about the conference at the weekend. I love hearing about things like that and I’m hoping to go to SobCon in May.

    Hi Melissa - If you’re selling a service sometimes it’s not a good idea to have ads on there as they distract folk. Adsense is a funny old thing. I get quite a lot of traffic on this blog but Adsense doesn’t work at all.

    I’ve removed a lot of it because I was getting something like 0.01% click through rate. You’d need to have millions of visitors a month, as opposed to thousands to make a half decent amount with click through rates like that.

    Hi Lance - the upfront time is one factor you’ve got to consider. For a crappy site to be successful you’ve got to have quite a few pages. I’ve tried four page ones and they just don’t work out.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Don’t Add This Poison To Your Business Cocktail

  27. Mrs. Micah on September 27th, 2008 11:59 pm

    I would probably revert it back to the way it was, as long as it wasn’t something I wanted to turn into something else. If it’s making money and I’m not interested in it, awesome.

    Of course, sometimes changes on sites actually contribute to the problem. They might affect your search rankings, for example….which means that visitors might like your new site more, but they’re not finding it. Putting back the old site might not help in that case.

    As for the AdSense/service question, I don’t put AdSense on my consulting blog because it’s more about providing valuable information and interacting with customers. I’m concerned with a nice clean look. But I would put it on an affiliate site so that customers who weren’t interested in my product would have a nice click exit which would also make me money. Or on my personal finance blog for similar reasons…

    Mrs. Micah’s last blog post..Keeping Warm Without Turning Up the Thermostat

  28. Nick on September 29th, 2008 1:37 pm

    This is the first time I have heard this tip, but I think it may be partially true. Not so much just that it is ugly, but that the visitor can’t tell the difference between the contact and ads. Not likely to get repeat customers though

  29. cathlawson on September 29th, 2008 5:32 pm

    Hi Carla - I’m so sorry for missing your comment. You must have been writing at the same time as me.

    Not being able to find the content is a nightmare. I’ve been on those sites - you feel as though you’re clicking from one ad to the next and never really getting anywhere.

    Hi MM - it’s a tough one. I’m getting more visitors now. And I’m glad you mentioned the product thing, as I do have a product I want to add. I almost forgot about that, so I guess it makes a difference.

    I can see why you wouldn’t want the ads on your consultancy site. I guess they look unprofessional and detract from what you’re offering.

    Hi Nick - funny enough - the repeat customer rate was high. But I guess it was only a small amount of customers, as the traffic had dwindled to nothing, through not updating. Like you, I’d rather have more customers and plenty of repeat ones.

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  34. Shaan on October 26th, 2008 12:23 pm

    Really funny. . . Now i am also planning to build these types of sites. . . Who knows if they will work for me too? :-D
    Shaan’s last blog post..Happy Birthday To GAURAV ( J2IMU)

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    Hi Shaan - it’s worth giving it a shot - as long as you’re prepared to put the time into building them. Do put a decent amount of pages and info on each one though. I’ve had some crappy four page ones in the past and they didn’t work so well.
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