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You’ve created a great site with lots of great content and you have chosen your web host. So… big question… what’s next? Unless you are especially altruistic (and if you search the web, you’ll be surprised to see just how many people are), you’ll probably want to make some money out of your efforts. But how do you turn this stream of dots on a screen into a revenue stream? Here are a few pragmatic tips that might help… basic steps that will get you started and (hopefully) start you thinking.
How will people find my site?
Before you can make money from your site, people have to visit it - it’s as simple as that. Your first job then is to get people to visit your site. It doesn’t matter whether you have the best site in the world, if people can’t find it you are never going to get any visitors. Getting your site known means using search engines, and to get you started, that means submitting to a few of the key engines, particularly Google.
Luckily, there are a number of free web sites that help people to submit sites to search engines. The one I use is Addme.com. This has a very simple interface which guides you through submitting to a number of engines including Subjex, Alexa, Scrub The Web, FAST Search AllTheWeb, LookSeek, Jayde, InfoTiger, NerdWorld, Aeiwi, Walhello, LifeTips, ExactSeek, and EntireWeb. Most importantly, Addme.com gets you into Google. You might want to supplement this with a registration to MSN and Yahoo! (outside Google two of the biggest players) although I have never found registration to the latter particularly easy. Take a look around on the Internet - you might see others submission sites that I don’t know about that will help you out with Yahoo!
In fact there are thousands of search engines you need to submit to, but for now, until the ball starts rolling, this will do.
Don’t make the mistake many people do – don’t hit as many registration sites as possible in order to increase your chances of a good placing. It doesn’t work like that – submitting to the same engine many times actually does the opposite. In fact, it could get you completely banned from a search engine. And don’t submit specific pages of your web site as an alternative – it won’t help. The search engines are smart enough to recognize the similarities between www.yoursite.com and www.yoursite.com/page1.html!
How will people even know my site exists?
OK – so search engines are going to direct people to your site, but that’s not the whole story. If you had a regular business, a ‘bricks and mortar’ business, you’d want to let as many people as possible know as quickly as possible that you have started operations, right? Why would an Internet business be any different? As soon as you are up and running, make sure you send out Press Releases.
Fortunately, there are now countless Press Release sites on the Internet, most are free; some provide a much more expansive coverage for only a few dollars. Here are a few good ones:
Have a good look through these sites; many have articles on how to write a successful Press Release. A well written Press Release will significantly increase your chances of getting visitors to your site.
What about directories? Should I use them?
One of the other ways of getting people to your site is registering to directories. There is every possible type of directory on the Internet. They are comprised of lists of items related to a specific topic – travel directories, used car directories, etc. You will almost certainly find a directory to meet your needs. One good one is Craig’s List. This site gets hundreds of thousands of visitors a day and people who list their sites here can get up to 800 visitors a day immediately! Don’t stop there though. If you look around the Internet you can actually find services which, for a small fee, will find directories for you and place your details in them. Generally they are not too expensive.
Should I advertise?
Aside from press releases and directories, you can also pay for advertisements that link to your site. Of course that can be very expensive, but there are a number of cheap alternatives currently available. Particularly popular at the moment are ‘Pixel Ad’ sites. These sites allow you to buy small amounts of adverting that is stuck on a single page. The ‘father’ of these web sites was Alex Tew’s ‘MillionDollarHomepage’ but there are now scores… A search for ‘pixel ad’ in Google reveals the following:
The list goes on and on… and on… and on… and on… and… is likely to continue growing!
How do I make my site make money?
By now you should have a few people visiting your site, which is a good start. Without them you won’t have a chance of generating revenue! But how do you start making money now the visitors are coming?
One of the problems with the Internet is that everyone wants, and (because of the history of the Internet - DOT COM Boom, etc.) to some extent expects to become at least a millionaire overnight. Very few people do this (the ‘MillionDollarHomePage’ mentioned above took 5 months to make Alex Tew his million - I doubt the other sites listed are even close) and you should start small. Think of making a dollar a day as a good start on the way to something better, rather that an outright disaster that makes you think about quitting! In my experience, if your objective is to make a living from a web site, there are ways and means of achieving this, no matter what the subject area of your site or your current circumstances.
What can I sell through my web site?
Obviously, commerce is based around the purchase of goods and services, and ecommerce is no different. You have to establish what the visitors to your site need and therefore what you can sell them. One of the quickest ways of getting some money from your site is Affiliate Programs, and again, luckily, there is one for every possible need.
A number of sites have set up to manage affiliate programs, sites such as Linkshare.com. Take a look through this site and you will see just how many affiliate programs are available to you. If you have a travel web site you can sell hotel rooms, flights and ticket bookings through Affiliate Programs. Of course, whatever the topic of your site you can sell books – Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com both have excellent affiliate programs. Take a look around and see what might fit your site.
One tip though – there’s a temptation to completely fill your site with Affiliate Programs. Although you can make money doing this, the side effect might be that your site looks somewhat unruly. A quality web site would probably have made its own connections and reliance on affiliates might suggest your site is not good enough to have done so. Judicious use of affiliate schemes can though get the ball rolling for you financially and provide an insight into what is popular and unpopular amongst your visitors.
What is Google Adsense?
Another favorite amongst webmasters is Google Adsense. www.google.com/adsense
Google Adsense is often housed in the rectangular boxes full of links that you see hovering above many web site pages (although they now offer sidebars and search links – exactly them same thing; different position). Basically, Google Adsense reads the content of your page and sticks paid links in the boxes for your visitors to click on. Every time a visitor clicks, you get some money. The links are based on the keywords in your text and so, they should be of interest to your visitors. Be careful though – if your web site is about cars and you put a weather report at the top of your page, the Adsense can pick up on this and create a number of links related to the keywords such as ‘rain’ or ‘snow’ or ‘sunshine’ – completely off topic for your visitors and very unlikely to interest them.
The history of pay-per-click advertising has given it a bad name – only web sites receiving hundreds of thousands of hits a day could make any advertising revenue, in the past and then at 0.05 cents per click, not really too much revenue either. Adsense changed all that – it is pay-per-click for the people! Many people run entire businesses based around Adsense and they do very nicely out of it. You have to apply for an Adsense account and you really need a fair few visitors before they will accept you. In addition, if you have too many ‘cuss words’ on your site, or slang referring to parts of the body or sexual acts, likelihood is Google will reject you. When you do get accepted, however, you are on the way! You can use the code on any web site (not just the one you registered) and as your site and influence grows, so will your revenue.
How do I sell advertising?
However, if you are lucky you might be getting enough hits to your site, you might be able to start selling advertising straight away. This of course means you are going to have to put a banner or a button on your site so that it directs to another web site. Traditionally, this again has been the realm of sites attracting hundreds of thousands of hits, although these days sites get away with much less. However, if you have a niche market, only a few hits might be necessary. Let’s say for instance you have a web site about some aspect of further education, it may prove that the visitors you attract might be potential university students. With fees often of many thousands of dollars a year, a university might only need one student from an advertising campaign to make it break even – one more student would mean they were making a profit! As a result, a web site with 20 visitors a day, of which 10 were very strong candidates for university placement, my well prove an attraction for universities and they might well advertise with you.
What is ‘Pay-Per-Acquisition’?
Although niche web sites might be able to attract advertisers with fewer visitors, the fact is that most sites need some traffic before advertisers decide to invest in them – between 500 and 2,000 visitors a day or more are really necessary for serious advertisers. One alternative to this is ‘pay-per-acquisition’ schemes.
Although with many web sites pay-per-acquisition is very technology based with masses of tracking software, etc., in needn’t be like this. Let’s imagine you have you have a community-based web site covering a particular area. It might prove that you could set up a page (an advert essentially) for a local restaurant. The page could provide a form which people could use to book tables at the restaurant. The form sends an email to you and to the restaurant. If the customer turns up, you get 5% of the meal price as commission.
Of course, to work this way, you need to build very trusting relationships, but believe me, if you start sending customers to a restaurant (or anywhere else for that matter) from your web site, they won’t cheat you! In my experience once the ball starts rolling, they will really try to look after you and they will explain exactly where enquiries went for fear of upsetting you. With a bit of imagination and a form that sends to two email addresses, you really can start generating real revenue. You just need to start thinking where such connections my lie.
Why is mail order a good way of making money?
There are a more mail order millionaires per acre than any other kind, and a web site is a PERFECT medium for this type of selling. Let’s say you have a web site about American Football. What might your customers be interested in buying? You could be the middle man for people selling rare programs. You might be able to sell American Football shirts by mail order. What about tickets or memorabilia? Again, if you keep it local (i.e. in your country) and simple, the costs of starting a mail order business through you website could be nominal.
Can I have my own Affiliate Program?
As you will probably see if you enter the Linkshare.com site, the technology used for affiliate programs is pretty intense – probably more than you can handle at the beginning. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you. Again, use your imagination. Now that you have a web site you are part of the Internet community. Although it might not be a face-to-face meeting that you have, you WILL meet other webmasters and web site owners, and most will be in the same boat as you – limited technical skills and money. If there is a match, put your products or services on their web sites and split the profit. They can set up forms to provide the local restaurant with bookings, but you will remain the middle man. Again, there will be an element of trust here, but generally, in my experience, when people see a revenue stream growing, they are pretty keen to nurture it!
Is it possible to sell my content?
One final way of making money from a web site is by selling its content. Especially if it is particularly specialized content, you can pass what you write on to other web sites and possibly even newspapers and magazines. However, you have to be pretty good to make this pay, and unless you have a background in writing and can produce the volume required, this might not be for you.
So where does that leave me?
If God gives you lemons, make lemonade. Likewise with a web site! So long as you do not set off with a view that you will be rich overnight (or even after a few months), you will be able to maintain the motivation to see the site through until it does start making money. Aim to make a (moderate) living from it – that’s all. The rest will be a bonus. Look at what you have and the limitations that impact the site. Work within those limitations. If you don’t have money, you can’t really invest in the technology that will help your site compete with the big boys. Consider low-cost, pragmatic ways of generating revenue. Once you start on this path, you will start seeing possibilities and connections – low-tech solutions in a high-tech world!
My final piece of advice might not seem related to generating revenue, but it is. Enjoy what you are doing, or you won’t make money. I once tried to sell a web site and the prospective purchaser suggested ‘if you put your time into the equation at $15 dollars an hour you are actually losing money”. He was right of course, but it was an issue that I had never even considered. I love pottering around on the Internet, and setting something up to see if it will generate revenue is time well spent for me. When it doesn’t work, I don’t feel I have lost anything because I gained so much pleasure from the process. Unless you can get over a ‘what a waste of time’ attitude, then being a one-man show in charge of a little website really is NOT going to be your thing and it’s highly unlikely you will have the patience to stick with it until it is making money.