How To Make Money From Websites? (A True Story)
Back in the early days of the ‘net, people would publish and manage Web sites out of the sheer joy of sharing information and knowledge. Knowing you had readers — and if it was a blog — garnering comments and feedback from visitors was just the proverbial icing on the cake. The imperative was share, share! Information wants to be free! So how long did it take me to make money from websites that I built?
As the Internet and the World Wide Web grew up, information publishers found themselves turning into budding entrepreneurs and asking the fundamental business question: how do I make money from my website, ad how do websites make money… IN GENERAL???
The drive to generate revenue — to “monetize” — your site and site traffic requires making some changes to your site architecture, publishing schedule, and even the topics you cover, and that’s been a stumbling block for many. The greatest obstacle; however, has been persistence — setting realistic expectations of what kind of revenue you can see in 30 days, 90 days, 6 months and even 12 months after starting your efforts to produce online income. This is what I experienced and what you might be able to expect…
Change is constant
I know this business, I’ve been in the trenches and been working on producing good content that produced revenue for over a decade online and it’s had its highs and its lows. There were far less tools (check out some SEO tools here and content curation tools here) available when I started with my information site AskDaveTaylor.com but I’ve still learned quite a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
You’ll find that the tools available to help you will be growing all the time; while the complexity of the space grows with it. Educating yourself around what matters most (your content) is always key.
The basics of making money on websites
Let’s start with the most basic of concepts: traffic = revenue. Not all traffic is created equal (I wrote more about that here), of course, so going onto Mechanical Turk and paying for people to visit your page isn’t going to generate any revenue, whether you have display ads, PPC campaigns or ebooks for sale. How internet ads work and what you can expect from them is covered in detail here.
So, a refinement: targeted traffic = maximum revenue potential.
That should be rather obvious, of course: you can’t sell a widget to people who are interested in buying that widget, right? But plenty of online publishers don’t really understand the relationship between the information that they offer and the likelihood that a visitor will take your desired action and generate some revenue for you.
Your content will impact your revenue
At its most basic, if you have a blog about saving money, people aren’t really going to be in the mood to spend money when they visit. There are variations, like a $4.99 ebook on “how to save $1000 when you buy your next car”, but that’s still a tough sell versus another site that reviews iPhone cases and has ads from companies that sell those same cases.
Over the years my tech site has evolved from being entirely Q&A on tech support issues to being a mix where I now include lots of product reviews, generally for consumer electronics in the $50-$500 range. Since I often include affiliate links to the product on Amazon, for example, it’s a no-brainer for someone to watch my review on my YouTube channel or read a review, then decide to purchase it through my handy link.
[As per Federal Trade Commission rules, I, of course, disclose that the companies sent me the products for review. Know your online commerce and marketing laws too!]
Publish the content you’d want to read
This all still revolves around having good, honest, legit content that’s smartly written and well presented too. That old mantra of content is king still holds true, even for retail sites. Some customers simply look for the cheapest price, but the smart customers gravitate towards sites they can trust and that includes information published about products and services available.
Or, as my children said back when they were in kindergarten: publish the kind of information you’d want to read, create the kind of site you’d like to visit.
Okay, they wouldn’t have said that. But if they were in an entrepreneurial kindergarten they might have! Its just the “golden rule” for online business.
Set expectations that are realistic
So you’re reading this today, and get inspired. Thanks! Now, how long will it take for you to redesign your site to maximize revenue, and how long after that to be popping into the local Tesla dealership to order your new supercar? Well, a while. In fact, my recommendation is for you to actually assume it’ll take six months before you see any meaningful revenue.
In other words, it’s a long game.
Those hucksters selling you ebooks, workshops and coaching programs that can get your site up and generating thousands within a week or two? They’re scammers. Just ignore them.
Long term success comes from a long-term vision and persistence.
I still remember my friend telling me about this new online program called Google AdSense and how you could have Google manage ads on your site and make money. Yeah? I guess I can try it. So, the first month I made “coke money” (coke as in soda. what kind of lifestyle do you think we’re promoting here?!).
But, the next month I kept working on publishing good content and experimented with some ad placement options and earned about $150. That was a big deal: for the first time my business generated more money from our Web presence than the cost of hosting the site.
Patience pays off, I promise
I’ve been diligently working on my site and its content ever since and I’ve had months where my ad revenue broke five figures. And other months where it fell off and barely paid for its hosting costs. There’s no guarantee the good times will last forever (tip: they won’t) and in addition to producing good content — and marketing your online business — you also have to be nimble and react to trends and new directions in the online world and our culture at large.
That’s one reason why Ezoic is such a win for me: it lets me focus on producing the best and most interesting content I can, on marketing and spreading the word so that I can gain maximum visibility and those all-important targeted visitors who will generate revenue for my site. I don’t have to worry about ad stuff that I am an amateur at.
And maybe, all of this requires just a sprinkling of fairy dust and a tiny bit of luck. But you have that too, right? Just take my advice: get started – today! – and be persistent. It’s a long game, but you can definitely emerge a winner.
Tyler is an award-winning digital marketer, SEO veteran, successful start-up founder, and well-known publishing industry speaker. Tyler also serves as the host of Pubtelligence, a publishers-only event hosted at Google offices around the globe. Tyler describes his core competency as learning. He has composed content for some of the world’s top publications and has over a decade of experience building businesses in the digital space. Tyler is currently the Head of Marketing at Ezoic and serves as an SEO and marketing expert for start-up competitions across the U.S.