Jesse Berst: Make money from your personal home page

Ways you can pump up traffic on your own home page -- and make a little money in the process.

With the holidays just around the corner, e-tailers will try every trick in the book to get you to max out your plastic. So how about a little fair turn-about?

Sure, you may have created your home page for fun. Maybe as a way to share a special interest or hobby. Perhaps it's how you communicate family news with friends and relatives. But why not take it a step further? There are actually a number of ways you can make a few bucks off your home page. You probably won't get rich, but it may help defray some of the costs.

Most recent example is Lycos, which yesterday announced a Builder Bucks program that pays cash to members of its Tripod online community who build popular home pages. Click for more. Even if your page doesn't draw the page views you need to qualify for the Lycos program, here are some other popular ways people are turning their Web hobbies into extra cash:

Affiliate programs. Amazon.com pioneered the concept of paying Web sites for sending customers their way back in 1996. It's simple, really. You put an Amazon button on your site; if someone follows the link and actually buys books during that particular visit, Amazon gives you a cut. Other sites take it further, rewarding you for the lifetime value of the referred customer. Sitecash.com offers a comprehensive guide to affiliate programs, including reviews, tips and warnings.

Banner exchanges. The idea is to grow your site with free advertising. If you have enough traffic you can join a banner exchange network -- you run banners on your site for others in the network, they do the same for you. Microsoft's LinkExchange and SmartClicks' SmartAge are among the largest banner exchange networks, but there are scads of them to choose from.

Set up a store. I'm not talking about building an e-commerce site; I'm talking about using one of the just-add-water storefronts to add a shopping option to your home page. Say you're a model airplane enthusiast and that's what your Web site is devoted to. With services available today, you can add a shopping option for free and recommend model airplane kits, books and related merchandise. If anyone buys anything, you get a percentage -- without the transaction or fulfilment hassle. Lately, the multi-level marketing scene has also hit the Web; participants get money from sales plus money for recruiting others.

Special-interest networks. If you want to move beyond your home page audience, there are a few sites looking for experts in particular areas. They ask you to spend 4 to 40 hours a week finding links and writing articles -- and will give you some percentage of the revenue. There are a variety of sites and business models in this space. The largest is About.com; Suite101 is another.

Have you found other ways to make money from your personal home page? Write to the mailroom to tell me about them.

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