Owning a website or blog is great, but how do you make money? One of the most difficult things can be to monetize your web property. Sure, anyone can create a website and engage SEO to drive traffic, but how many can make a profit or let alone a living from the value of that web property?
This elusive, yet objective necessity creeps into even the most astute web properties, which may have been started on a whim, or even the most expansive enterprise level properties who may have drank their own kool-aid without gauging the need, market or appropriate degree of supply, demand and where their site fits into the e-commerce or monetization food chain.
Stepping back, what are some of the ways to monetize your web property?
- Software, Applications, Widgets or Plugins
- E-books, Courses, Tutorials or How To Information Products
- Physical Products
- Affiliate Offers via links to other sites
- Click or Call to Action Hooks
- Lead Generation
Software, Applications, Widgets, Plugins: Software will always have a place online, while it might not be the easiest way (due to the upfront costs), it can be one of the most profitable ways to monetize a site.
With the web expanding and the the number of niche audiences concurrently growing as a result, creating software applications, widgets, plugins, website themes or applications is a sure-fire method to cash in on traffic.
In the event that you are not that creative, or want to skip the development process, there are a number of places you can go to purchase a license to resell specific applications then use keyword rich domains to leverage the problem / solution search queries and direct them to your newly developed web property.
Memberships: There is always someone looking for something and for every market, there is a segment, for every segment there is a niche and for every niche there is a micro-niche to explore, position and monetize if you use the appropriate trajectory to position your property and pitch accordingly.
The adult industry is one example of this thriving model, but it does not have to stand out as the only possible variation where this type of business is applicable. This is one way of owning the conversation or creating a privileged type of “information exchange” whether that information is video, a forum, articles or industry insights, those who prefer to pay more for those privileges are rewarded with the benefit of such exclusive “inside” information.
Other examples where this could become a prevalent model is through discount wholesale to consumer (B2C) websites; where consumers could purchase items below retail cost. The volume of the site (purchasing in bulk) would offset the sliding scale incentives most manufacturers require in order to provide wholesale pricing to one centralized source.
Memberships are not always front-loaded, where the community is required to pay to get access or become a member. Oftentimes the benefit or value is transparent to the users and the site owner has affiliate offers baked into the offers they provide. These types of “structured kick-backs” are excellent monetization models for performance-driven industries, where exposure and conversions facilitate a profit for both the web property and the mfg. / product or service provider.
E-books, Courses, Tutorials or How-To Information Products: This by far is one of the most common methods for monetizing traffic. The marketing medium of SEO, email marketing, social media and PPC all succumb to sites who offer information based how to products, tutorials or useful / targeted information.
Everything from link wheel web 2.0 properties, article marketing, SEO, PPC and / or social media all have hints of people selling solutions to the masses for the “right price”…
While much of the content out there arguably is not worth the pixels they occupy, it all depends on what your needs are, where you are at in the discovery phase and what unique problems or situations you need solutions for that warrant the need to acquire such information.
Like anything, value is subjective, and e-books from guru’s selling quick fixes, loopholes and snake-oil can often be the most abused forms of e-commerce; there is still a wealth of good information available using this medium.
You just have to be able to distinguish known trusted sources that have proven tips, techniques and tactics and are passing them along to others vs. the shallow copycats and parrots who often repackage dated information and pass it off as the next big thing.
Particularly for brick and mortar businesses looking for more ways to shift product through channels which already exist to facilitate their own retail operations.
My suggestion is, unless you have (1) the budget and (2) a year to offset the time it will take to gain traction for your market, keywords and products, then you will need to use other methods aside from SEO to supplement traffic and engagement for your web property.
One way to cut the time it takes to hit the top 10 is through using keyword-rich domains, which have the ability to rank for the “exact match” variations for the keywords in the domain; or build a content rich authority site which will allow you to laterally scale later through using flat site architecture (for products) and subfolders for new categories.
Some of the most trafficked sites online are either sites that sell products direct or are portals like amazon.com and overstock.com which sell virtually every type, model and category of products you would find in commercial retail environments and have either have fulfillment arrangements or stock levels themselves to accommodate sales.
Advertisements: With traffic and an audience, comes the ability to monetize impressions. Traffic comes and goes; the web is not static and is always a work in progress. As such, search engines seek out websites with authority to provide guideposts to consumers.
With different advertising networks available from Google, private interests groups and others, finding the ideal place to send traffic can be a lucrative monetization method, much like the affiliate segment of this post.
Affiliate Offers: Just as search engines send traffic, business owners from lucrative websites also know that authority sites within the market their products or services cater to can send even more aggregate traffic through affiliate marketing programs than all the major search engines combined.
Looking at your top 10 referrer sources using an analytics platform can shed light on which websites would make the most sense to consider advertising on, if they have advertising options available. This way you are diversifying your dependency on any one means of delivering new visitors to your website and essentially hedging yourself with alternative channels for monetization.
When you leverage the power of using another site to siphon traffic to your own or pass that traffic along from monetizing your own website, you have to think of the tangential traffic opportunities that exist.
This means that you don’t have to rank for the same keywords, as long as they do, since it is the same audience which now has a buffer to read and consume their content (and based on the quality of that content can set the stage for your ads).
That traffic has to leave sometimes, and with proper positioning, your website is the next likely destination based on the continuity of their sites focus to yours, your ad copy, image, size and call to action.
By understanding that your website about cosmetics may also facilitate advertising or affiliate opportunities for weight loss products or cosmetic surgery affiliate offers due to the mind-set of the consumer that is consuming that content (regardless of what keywords were used to deliver that traffic).
Women interested in how they look who are concerned about cosmetic trends, may also want to lose weight or have some cosmetic procedure to enhance their appearance. Using this cross market or cross advertising appeal makes perfect sense from a demographic or psychographic perspective.
SEO Tip: There is a plethora of affiliate programs out there, just ask Google using a simple search command such as:
Cosmetic Affiliate *
Cosmetic AND affiliates
Just replace the word “Cosmetic” with the market or niche you are seeking to monetize and let the wildcard search or the AND command fill in the blanks. You will find the most popular offers this way to investigate for continuity.
Click or Call to Action Hooks: If you have a content rich website, you can be your own best affiliate. More specifically, you can use the contextual articles on your website (which should be themed based on keyword research and market analysis) to cover the various nodes of relevance within your website.
For competitive keywords, you may need hundreds of topical posts, for less competitive keywords a few mentions/articles is enough or leveraging the power of internal links and co-occurrence of keywords as they appear in other articles to link to your preferred landing pages.
By implementing value-rich calls to action to your landing pages which are designed to cultivate the proper response, you can funnel those visitors into your CRM or have them call you direct where you can close them based on their needs.
Lead Generation: Aside from simply targeting keywords and of offers that make sense to you (from your own businesses perspective), you can also with a little more work and lateral linking create subdomains or sub folders containing semantically related content which in turn could be sponsored by others seeking to generate leads from such traffic.
For example, if you had a large construction website that focused on remodeling, you could also optimize several other real estate related keywords. Those keywords in turn would attract their own audience (based on the optimized pages, their content and their occurrence within the new site segment).
You could then pass those leads on for a price or use an ad rotator script to rotate advertisements for affiliate offers or sponsors who are effectively providing you with the ability to keep scaling your website through adding additional copy.
What is the benefit? The answer is simple, the more themed content your website contains, the more traffic it can attract from search engines, referrers and social media. What you do with that traffic is up to you, but you could pass it along, sell it or use it for internal links to produce a higher SERP position for even more landing pages (which is in your own best interest).
Even using PPC to buy traffic for a fraction of the conversion is not a bad idea. Since the more content you have on your website (based on the subject) the lower your PPC cost per keyword is due to a higher relevance score.
Combine that with the inherent tendency for search engines to reward content-rich sites voicing an expert opinion, you can get paid to produce quality content for consumption while monetizing various tangential facets simultaneously.
Branding: Branding is also along the same lines, it is not the immediate affect it produces, but what you do with the traffic that arises as a result of the brand equity your website has as a result of the proper cultivation.
I hope you found these ideas useful and insightful, although they only scratch the surface, this should still provide food for thought and offer a few guidelines for ways to monetize your website and overcome adversity when it comes to making dollars and cents.
You may ask, how does SEO fit into monetization? Much like a glass, SEO is a vehicle that can embrace any market, website or niche based on a semantic array of keywords. Just like a glass does not discriminate on what liquids it contains or can dispense, SEO is in much the same way a means to generate more traffic to any of the methods specified above.
How or why you use it depends on which audience you intends to reach, influence or cater to, but the undercurrent remains the same, it is a means to deliver traffic, once that traffic arrives, a different method is required to facilitate conversion. Even though they are independant, both SEO and conversion work through the various tactics outlined in this article.