Monetizing Your Website

By Scottie Claiborne

Many people these days are looking for ways to "make money on the Internet". These are not people looking to take their bricks-and-mortar business online to expand, or sell things they have manufactured, but instead people who are looking to create revenue from having a website.

It's not an impossible goal, but it's not as easy as the spam e-mail you receive would have you believe. It takes real work, just like any other business, and the rewards can be somewhat shaky if you are depending on free traffic from the search engines to build your business. But done correctly, there are some tried and true ways to make your website turn a profit.

Valuable Resource

The very first thing you must do is make your site a resource. You've heard it before most likely-- what does it mean?

It means making your site useful to a specific audience- it could be a local portal site, a specific brand of car enthusiast site, a craft or hobby site, or even a political opinion site. The best thing to do is turn something you love into a resource site- you may be devoted to the conservation of a river in your area or have great ideas for keeping kids occupied during the summer-- build a site around your unique knowledge and ideas.

( See What is Content? Part 1 and What is Content? Part 2 for more ideas on building your resource site. )

Site Promotion

You've built your site and it rocks- the people who visit leave you great feedback and send you e-mails about how helpful it is. You are adding to your content regularly and keeping it updated and interesting- now you need to turn up the volume on the traffic.

Search out similar and complimentary sites to your topic and let them know about your site. Send an e-mail letting them know what the value to their visitors is and ask them to include a link to your site. There may be commercial, hobby, or other resource sites that would be happy to include a link to your useful resource.

Find any forums or other venues that are complimentary to your topic and join them-- often you are allowed a signature link in your posts that will help people find your resource. Consider starting your own forum if none exist.

Send out a press release to local media and online (try www.prweb.com/ PRWeb) detailing the newsworthy aspects of your site. Write articles on your topic for redistribution on other sites (provided they include a link to the original article).

Affiliate Marketing

Now we are ready to make some money! There are many, many affiliate programs available on the web that allow you to join simply by filling out an application. The key is to find products and services your visitors want to buy.

A good place to start is (http://www.linkshare.com/) LinkShare, a sort of affiliate consolidator for many major companies. Browse their affiliate partners and be selective- only choose the ones that will appeal to your audience.

Many companies only offer their affiliate program through their site so don't overlook those programs you glanced at while looking for link partners. Knowledge goods (reports and e-books) are a great product to sell when they relate to your topic. Authors often have an affiliate program available to resellers. Make sure you DO want to recommend the product before offering it for sale.

If there aren't any knowledge goods in your chosen field, why not write your own e-book? Don't repeat general knowledge- have a reason for writing it. A helpful e-book can not only make money, but it can help establish your reputation as an expert.

If you have a newsletter or blog on your site, you can mention the affiliate products you sell for an even bigger boost in sales. Don't lower your credibility by promoting junk! Only promote those things you really believe in.

Selling Advertising

Banner Ads

Banner ads have a bad reputation, but I'm finding that highly targeted banner ads convert like crazy. If you are selling what the reader wants, they will pay attention.

Text Links

This is a slightly controversial tactic, selling text links for link popularity. As long as you are selling links to related sites, it makes sense. When you start accepting paid links from any industry, your page looks silly and in some engines (like Teoma) you confuse their linking communities, which may make your site less relevant. Be careful when accepting paid links!

Google Adsense

Apply for Google Adsense and you can be showing Google ads on your site in no time. Every time a visitor clicks one of the Google links, you earn money.

For many sites, Adsense alone can turn a hobby into a revenue-producing site.

Build a Directory

This is not a short-term quick-money strategy. But a directory can make long term revenue for you!

The problem with most industry directories is that they start out asking for payment, before they are a proven resource. Build your directory first with free listings, possibly requiring a link back in exchange. Once the content and the search engine rankings are there, THEN it's time to charge for listings.

Once you've proven to companies that your directory sends them business (with your free listings) they'll be happy to pay to remain in the directory- it's a no-brainer.

Consider giving new listings a free trial period even after you move to paid listings- your goal is to have the most comprehensive industry directory possible. Once you have that, you've achieved critical mass and it's no longer a question of "should I join" the directory, but "should I pay extra to be featured" in the directory.

Summary

Isn't there a quick way to make money from the internet anymore? Maybe -- maybe if you send enough spam mails about your low cost Viagra affiliate site, you can make enough to allow you to retire in Tahiti, but I doubt it.

Affiliate sites that do nothing but spam the search engines in an effort to gain traffic are having a harder and harder time succeeding as the engines try and deliver the best sites, not duplicates. The time spent trying to stay one step ahead of filters and algorithm changes is better spent building a resource that will grow and continue to produce revenue over time.

This article originally appeared in the High Rankings newsletter.