There is a large segment of the population who make their living on the Internet. Since everyday people began accessing the web in the mid 1990’s, there has been gold to be mined online. The money-making methods have changed through the years, though, leaving many Internet entrepreneurs wondering who moved the cheese and where they put it. The past few months have brought another sea change that has yet to level out. It appears to be fueled by Google’s latest Panda update.

Early on, e-commerce was booming. It seemed that anything would sell online. EBay introduced the world to online auctions, and many EBay sellers were making some serious money. EBay eventually changed its policies to make it less profitable for sellers.

Soon there were other auction sites, although none as big as EBay. Now the online sellers are moving to local listings on Craigslist and Facebook local yard sale groups. Of course, online auctions still generate income for many.

The real changes in online income opportunity have been in the freelance writing community. The days of easy money writing articles using simple search engine optimization keywords are over. Google AdSense was a cash cow for website owners and bloggers who only had to be sure to use a few highly-searched for words repeatedly to profit from the visitors to their sites. Content farms also took advantage of this advertising income and paid unskilled writers to mass produce articles.

Google has fine-tuned their advertising program using the latest technology, and it is close to impossible to scam the system. Google search engines are set to look for quality and substance now instead of just a few particular keywords. Due to this, the past several years have seen the demise of writing sites that had promised a great return on writing in the form of present income and future residuals. One after another, they either vanished or just changed their payment system to weed out the poor quality material.

Most recently, Yahoo Voices has announced that they are closing down. They are removing all the content, much of which was formerly published on Associated Content. Long a staple for online writers, there will be many people who will no longer receive these checks that they had come to expect for previously produced content that still generated views. All Voices sent out notices last week that their whole program is changing, and they are removing content. A few invited sources will be allowed to continue producing material.

So, what is the future of online income? Nobody really knows the answer to that; it is certainly changing.  As a long-time observer and participant in the online community of workers, one thing is clear:  the days of easy money are over. If you want to write on the Internet, you are going to have to write quality material. You will have to provide a visually pleasing site, too, which means taking time to include attractive and legal images with your work. With the popularity of sites like Pinterest and other social media, only the sites that have appealing images will get the viewers. (Remember when bloggers and writers used to throw up some keywords on a plain page of “goobledy-gook” and make money?)

Regarding advertising, the bloggers and site owners have many other forms of advertising at their disposal for their sites today besides Google AdSense. Of course, it takes effort, and there is a bit of a learning curve. Freelance writers are seeking out advertisers who fit with their particular writing niche.

Online income opportunities are still many and varied, but there is more work involved than there used to be. There are also more risks as far as disseminating your personal information on the web in order to receive payment for your work. But, even with all these changes taking place, there are sharp individuals still managing to work from home by taking advantage of online income opportunities.

Photo Credit:  Morguefile/Kolobsek