Monetize Your Site in 2017
You’ve got a website, check. You publish solid content with frequency, check. You even share your posts on social media when they go live, eager to reap those social signals. It’s working too: you’re starting to see growth in your traffic, with your monthly numbers moving solidly into the 5-6 digit range. Now, it’s time to start thinking about how you want to best monetize your site (Hint: there are a lot of people pulling you in a lot of different directions).
To monetize that traffic — and have visitors help you turn that site into a revenue center — you’re going to really need to start educating yourself around several really important principles. And, none are more important than what technologies and strategies you deploy. Still building that traffic? Try this article on creating content that ranks highly.
In this article, I’m going to share some technologies and strategies that can help you best monetize your site on a per-visitor basis. Regardless of what your site’s about, however, remember that good content still wins the day. Also, ensure that you decide how you want to generate revenue because there are lots more options than just banner or display advertisements.
Additional ways to monetize your site (not just ads)
While it’s easy to sign up for ad networks like Google AdSense, drop a few lines of code onto a template and start displaying contextual adverts to visitors, that doesn’t mean that banner ads are always the best way to generate some coin. Smart site owners assess all the possible revenue streams — testing to see how they do — and choose the subset that offers the best balance of revenue versus intrusiveness.
“I have pages with affiliate links, for example, that have generated $250+ annually, year after year, even though I produced the page years ago and have since left it untouched.”
But have you ever thought about selling an ebook or training course? How about turning your site into a premium, subscription-based membership site? Or using affiliate links to turn your recommendations into revenue with someone else doing all the tedious fulfillment work?
On my AskDaveTaylor site, I have pages with affiliate links, for example, that have generated $250+ annually, year after year, even though I produced the page years ago and have since left it untouched. Not huge revenue, but multiply that by 10-20 or even a few hundred pages and you’ve got a really interesting revenue stream that’s far more subtle from a user experience perspective than a page full of ads.
Important: If you do make money through affiliate revenue, make sure to change your affiliate links to rel=sponsored like Google wants before March 1, 2020.
Selling information products can be another lucrative channel if you have insight and valuable information to impart. But you do have to do a lot of work on the backend to create your product, whether it’s a 50-page PDF or set of twenty DVD lectures. It’s the most difficult of the options.
Using Google Analytics to wisely invest your time
As a scientist (really! I have a masters degree in science!) I can impart this wisdom: you can’t tell if something increases or decreases if you aren’t measuring it. Fortunately, Google’s got you covered in this department with Google Analytics.
Analytics not only tells you a ton of information about your visitors — including what kind of computer they use, what time they visit your site, how many pages they visit, which pages are the most popular (and least popular), and even where your visitors live — but it can also help you understand which pages make you the most money too (more on that here).
If you examine nothing else, knowing which pages are the most popular — and which ones make you the most money — can help you understand how the public at large uses and views your site. It’s easy to also conclude that if certain topics are more interesting to visitors then you should keep writing on those topics! Additionally, look at the example above. Writing about subjects that leads visitors to checking out additional pages is a smart strategy for increasing pageviews and site earnings.
Pick revenue friendly topics to write about
Speaking of popular pages, it’s worth noting that there are some subjects that lend themselves to commerce, while others can be quite the opposite. If you have a site about Free College Courses, for example, it’s far less likely a visitor will be eager to purchase a related product or service than if you had a site about Best Financial Aid Services.
This seems very basic, but there are a lot of people who have sites about saving money or about freebies and they’re surprised that their revenue per visitor is abysmal. If you want to make money off ads, write about stuff people would want to buy.
As an example, when I write about accessories like cables or smartphone cases, the ads on those pages tend to do very well: people reading a review of a new USB-C charger are likely to click an adjacent ad and purchase a new one.
Tell users how you want them to use your site
One more topic, and this really applies if you have an information product or a website where you want the user to take a specific action: tell them what to do and make it brain-dead easy for them to do it. Want them to contact you? Put the contact box at the end of each and every article so the “next step” is really easy to understand.
If you have an info product or membership site, this can be even more important. Want me to sign up for your mailing list or pay to play, make that step super easy and, heck, make that the easiest way to move from the current page to the next.
Conversely, if you do have a specific action you want visitors to take, don’t distract them with lots of other options. This means that if you’re asking them to enter their phone number so you can call them for a hard pitch, skip ads on that page. It’s just math: if 10% of your visitors share their phone number and you can close 10% of the people you call and each close is worth $75, earning $0.02 / visitor from banner ads is a pointless distraction.
Let data decide
To reiterate an earlier point, don’t be shy about putting your ads front and center. On my site, I let data choose where my ads should go, not personal preference. I learned that this principle alone is a big help if you want to monetize your site.
Fine tuning the layout of your ad units and other content on your page can be a process of successive refinement, however, that’s why I’m happy to let the Ezoic robot do the work. You can learn more here: Maximize Site Revenue with Ezoic.
Let’s end where we started, though: you can use all the tools in the world to maximize revenue per visitor, but at the end of the day, the sites that garner the most traffic are those that deliver good quality, interesting and informative content. Because of that, my recommendation remains the same that it’s been for years: focus on producing great content, then experiment with different revenue streams to maximize per visitor value.
Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since it was known as the ARPAnet and has decades of experience as an independent online publisher. Dave owns multiple online businesses and websites. You can check out his site AskDaveTaylor.com or find him on social media as @DaveTaylor to learn more about how he sees emerging technology.