Monday, February 1, 2010

Three Effective Revenue Streams for Your Website


Most people who have started a website were motivated by the chance to make money. For some, this may mean a full-time job with the chance of a dream-like payout, for others it may mean just covering the costs on a hobby website, and maybe make a little extra.

Whatever your situation is, there are several ways to monetize your website. There are no rules on which approach is right or wrong; it's more a matter of following some general guidelines and evaluating what works best for your unique set of circumstances. Here are three effective revenue streams that you can use for your website.

1. Sell your own products or services

The first and most obvious revenue stream is to sell your own products or services on your website. This, of course, means that you'll first need a product or service to sell. If you already have that , this can be a great choice because it allows you to get started quickly and build a long-term business. If you don't think you have anything to sell, you're most likely wrong; almost everyone I've met has a unique skill they are good at and enjoy doing that others would be willing to pay them to do. Think about the things that your friends and family come to you for assistance or advice and I'm sure you'll think of a few ideas.

If you want to monetize your website by selling your own products or services, some important details to think about are:

Focus on benefits, not features. No one cares about how an antacid is manufactured or why it works in the way that it does - they only care that it eliminates the heartburn they are suffering from. Educate your visitors on the benefits they will enjoy by investing in your products or services.

Get to the point. Get rid of splash pages, special plugins, music and anything else that acts as a distraction or road block to your visitor purchasing from your website.

Tell your visitors precisely what you want them to do. If you want them to call you, make sure that your phone number is clearly visible near the header and footer of every page, and tell them to call you. If you want them to fill out a form, you should clearly link to it from each page, or even better, add it to every page. Whatever action you want them to take, make it clear and easy for them.

Present a professional image. If your budget allows, hire a professional website design firm and copywriter. The money you may save by designing your own website will be far less than the sales you will lose with an ineffective website.

2. Promote other company's products or services

If you don't want to, or are unable to sell your own products or services, you can always promote other companies through affiliate marketing and earn revenue for each sale or lead you generate for the merchant. Affiliate marketing can take many forms, such as media buys or PPC, but in this context we're referring to placing ads with and affiliate tracking code on your website to drive traffic to the merchant's website. You might have already come across several companies that offer their own affiliate programs, but you're generally better off working with a reputable network because they make sure that you get paid as long as you've followed the terms of service, plus they offer tutorials to help you get started and avoid many of the common pitfalls. Commission Junction is a great choice for both novices and pros because they offer a wide range of advertisers, helpful staff as well as tutorials and other resources. Another excellent choice is Amazon's affiliate program since they sell just about anything you can think of, making it easy to monetize almost any niche.

When it comes to affiliate marketing, these steps will get you headed in the right direction:

Develop original, useful content. The key to success for a content-based website monetized with affiliate marketing is targeted traffic, and the key to earning that traffic is feeding the search engines fresh, relevant content on a regular and frequent basis.

Focus on relevancy over commissions. You will undoubtedly find an advertiser offering a high payout for hot new product, sometimes over $100 per sale, but if it's of no interest to your visitors, your conversions will suffer. If you focus on relevant ads instead, your individual commissions will be smaller, but they will be steady and frequent, so you will be far more profitable in the long run.

Focus on content, not ads. If most of your website is covered with ads, your visitors won't stay around long, and they won't come back again. However, if the ads are subtle, they can actually add value for your visitors. You should avoid anything that forces your visitors to view your ads before they can get to your content.

Test everything. Ad design, size, location and so on. The more variables you test, the more you can improve your conversions and increase your profits. You should be using tools such as Google analytics in addition to analyzing your performance as well as commission reports within your affiliate network.

3. Sell advertising space

Perhaps you want to keep things nice and simple. If you don't want to sell products or services, and the idea of tracking and testing your results is only slightly more appealing than moonlighting as a rodeo clown, then selling ad space may be a better choice for you. One of the most important details in making this choice approach successful is quality targeted traffic, after all, companies are advertising because they want exposure to the right people, and a website without much traffic, or poor quality traffic can't produce that.

Selling ad space can be difficult, but here are some tried and true methods to make it work:

As with affiliate marketing, your focus should be on your content, not the ads. Having fewer ads doesn't mean that you'll make less money - advertisers will be more likely to purchase ad space if they feel they have a better chance of their ad being noticed and clicked on.

You should offer ad space in several of the standard ad sizes because many advertisers already have their creative materials produced and don't want to create a custom sized ad. You'll want to make sure that you make space for several 125×125px ads, and either a 300×250px or 250×250px ad, as these are the most popular. 468X60px and 728x90px are fairly common too.

Make it clear that you sell ad space. That could be as basic as a link that says "Advertise on this site" or a muted ad that says "Your ad could be here."

If you haven't sold any ads yet, you should put some up, even if you do it for free. You could temporarily fill your ad space with affiliate ads, ads for friends or business partners or even ads for some of your favorite charities. The idea is to create an impression of demand; think about how you would feel if you walked into an unfamiliar restaurant around lunch time and it was completely empty - you'd probably think it wasn't a very good restaurant and consider spending your money elsewhere.

Learn what works best for you. Remember, one solution won't necessarily work for everyone, so feel free to experiment with each revenue stream or a combination of them. Every website is different, as is every niche, so you'll probably have to do a bit of testing to see what works the best in your particular situation. This can take a fair amount of time, especially with a new website, so be patient and follow through until you find what produces the best results for you.

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