Thinking Outside the Box about How to Monetize a Website

If you’ve spent hours or days researching “How to monetize your website” and you’ve found a lot of the same stuff, this article is probably worth the read because I tried hard to give unorthodox ideas and support them with stats!

 

I have been designing, coding, marketing or managing those who do these things for websites my entire career (2005). And while I’ve had success with my own websites and blogs, it wasn’t to the degree that I personally aimed for (3x my income needs).

In my experience, no income is truly passive. Rather, if every business is a clock, and it’s members are the gears, then you want to be the biggest gear so even your slowest and smallest movements turn the others exponentially more than you did to get the same result.

I knew that theportlandcompany.com generated several thousand of pageviews a month. And while we generated revenue from our actual services, my attempts to monetize the traffic passively or engage with them has been nominal and the one attempt I made didn’t lead to anything. So a couple days ago I decided to sit down and really look at the numbers so I could begin monetizing.

I started with these questions:

  • How many unique people (Google calls these Users) have been to my site in it’s lifetime?
  • Categorically, how does this traffic appear in a pie chart? For example, what percentage of people are coming to read blog articles vs buy a Plugin vs employ us for SEO?

While the statistics exceeded my expectation (which was great), it was embarrassing to realize how poorly I’ve capitalized on the traffic and how ignorant I was to just how much reach we have.

In the past 5 years we’ve see:

  • 210,000 Unique Pageviews
  • 134,000 Unique Visitors
  • 1.8 Avg. Pages Per Visit
  • 73 visitors a day on average

In just the past 3 months:

  • 7,000 Unique Page Views
  • 11,000 Total Page Views
  • 4,343 Unique Visitors
  • 2.01 Avg. Pages Per Visit
  • 51 visitors a day on average

 

When I see this information, and zero passive dollars in my pocket coming from it, here’s what I thought: if I got just $0.10 per person I would have made $13,400 more than I did in the past 5 years, $2700 more per year, $225 more per month. What if it was $1? or $5?

And thus, I began to develop the strategy I’m going to share below with you. Now, this article isn’t really designed to teach you how to generate traffic in the first place, but I’d be happy to teach you how to do that. Rather, it’s to show you what I did to monetize this traffic to make enough – mostly – passive income to live off of.

 

Where do you begin?

Now, I have an advantage of many people between my length of experience and breadth of skills. So this endeavor wasn’t as intimidating to me as it would be to someone without, but – frankly – I had no professional experience monetizing a website through advertising that was substantially helpful. However, I had a pretty good idea of what was popular technology in the internet advertising and marketing industry, and that helped me quickly identify my guinea pigs to experiment with.

 

Basics

Hopefully you already know this, but if you’re going to monetize you need to be obsessed with statistics. If you’re obsessed with statistics you need Google Tag Manager installed onto your website, and Google Analytics added to Tag Manager.

Don’t know how to install and configure Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics? Hire me to teach you how »

Additionally, you will want to install Facebook Pixel into your website.

Don’t know how to install and configure Facebook Pixel into your website? Don’t even know what it is? Hire me »

Another helpful thing, though one that can be extremely difficult, is to compile cross referenced information to get identifiable details about your visitors. But there are a few pieces of information that are universally and highly prized: first name, last name, email, birth date, sex and location. While you may not be able to ask your visitors for all of this information out right, asking incrementally can get you most of the way there.

You might be thinking “What do you mean by incrementally?” – I mean that you can collect these pieces of information at different points throughout the sales funnel, and across multiple visits. In my experience, when someone see’s the value of what you have to offer them, and they trust you with their privacy (sometimes even if they don’t) they’re happy to give you this information. It’s just a matter of asking at the right time and in the right place. For example, when someone visits your website and they’re prompt to sign up for a newsletter… that’s a wreckless waste of an opportunity because they haven’t had the chance to read your content and decide whether or not they like your content. It tells them you don’t respect them either! But if you invite them to contact you with questions about an article, or sign up to comment, you can get that information easily.

Irrelevant Note: Someday I want to create a Plugin that predicts whether or not someone is male or female based on their first names!

 

 

Thinking Outside the Box

If you’ve been doing a lot of research you’re probably a little annoyed at how narrow the ideas are on how to monetize a website or blog. So after I refreshed my memory reviewing the sections below, I put together this list to remind myself there are nearly infinite ways to monetize and ways that are much more effective then the other sections in this article:

  1. Ask Your Users Questions – I’m always surprised at how often visitors are willing to answer my questions. But, frankly, I like giving feedback too, so I don’t know why I’m that surprised. I strongly recommend installing a Plugin that displays a pop-up overlay (a box that overlays the screen and fades out everything around it) and ask ONE really brief question to your Users. Here is an example:
    1. Why are you here? 40% of the people who came to my site answered this question – seemingly – honestly and accurately. How do I know their answers were honest? While I’m not absolutely certain, I used a couple techniques to help me confirm. 1. I made the first option “I don’t want to answer. Leave me alone.” That way I’m less likely to get falsified answers. 2. I used Mare.io, a survey Plugin that tells me the pages the submissions came from to infer their accuracy. For example, one of the answers was “I came to purchase a Plugin.” and if that submission was on a Plugin Product page, it’s probable that their answer was honest.
    2. If I could give you anything for free right now, what would it be? You’ll get sarcastic answers, but if you predefine the choices this can tell you exactly what to give to people in exchange for their money. My survey gives these options:
      1. I want a Plugin.
      2. I want SEO advice.
      3. I want professional website design.
    3. What is keeping you from paying me today? Obviously a forward question, and it may alienate some of your Users, so choose wisely! But, in my experience, people appreciate straight questions if they understand how it will benefit them. In this case, I tried to communicate what I have to offer them in the responses they can choose from:
      1. I don’t know what I’d pay you for.
      2. I’m just reading an article, not in a mood to spend money.
      3. I am not in the market for WordPress Plugins.
      4. I am not in the market for SEO services.
      5. I am not in the market for Website Development.
      6. I don’t believe I should have to pay for what you offer.
      7. I am not ready to choose you over competitors.
    4. Hire me to help you come up with questions and responses for your website »

 

Selling Advertising Manually

After spending some time refreshing my memory on remarketing and Google AdSense, I am reminded that the income from that type of advertising compared to selling ad space on your website manually can be astronomically different. I don’t deduct this from a lot of personal experience, but contrasting flat rate fee’s business spend on phone book advertising, newspaper advertising, magazine advertising, movie theater ads, etc… the idea of $100 a month for advertising on a website that has verifiable stats to a targeted audience is a drop in the bucket for most customers. And if you can prove a return on investment it’s a no brainer.

If you don’t know who to ask, offer a month or two or free advertising to any businesses you can find. It doesn’t cost you anything (beside a little time to put the ad up) and it’s no-risk for them. If it produces a return on investment then all you have to do is say “Hey, you made $x extra this month because you advertised with me. If you want more business that’ll be $x for next month, no contract required.”

 

How do you find people who would be interested? Here’s a few quick ideas, but if you really want specific ideas: hire me today »

  • Etsy – There are tons of categories of businesses on Etsy. And if they had an offer to advertise on your website for free… assuming you can communicate with them in a way that doesn’t violate Etsy’s policies (which can be tricky, but it’s possible!) you’ve got a hungry audience!
  • Your Neighborhood or City – If you live in a suburb that has real communities like I do, then your neighborhood may have a Facebook Group or other social site where people can communicate with each other, or maybe it has actual community events. Get involved! Reach out to those places and invite people to advertise on your website. Simply offer a square or horizontal add in your sidebar or top of your website’s articles.

 

Identifying Key Advertisers

The next thing I considered was “What companies are most likely to have the biggest customer base of both advertisers and customers. Amazon immediately comes to mind. Being the largest internet retailer in the world. And they offer re-marketing and there are easy-to-install WordPress Plugins.

 

Remarketing / Retargeting Plugins for WordPress

The following is a comparison of “re-marketing” and “re-targeting” Plugins for WordPress.

This section is still being updated!

Plugin Name Key Features Typical Complains Risks
Quick AdSense Hadn’t been updated in two years.

 

 

Curated Advertisements

This is something I have no experience with but would love to have on my sites. Someone ELSE choosing what ads are relevant by actually looking at my site and making an intelligent decision instead of an algorithmic one.

Details to come!

 

Power Tools for Your Website

Once you get through all of the initial research to both educate yourself, or refresh your memory, you suddenly realize how much time will go into managing and up-keeping these things.

While, at the end of the day, there’s not replacement for hard working people at an internet marketing firm there are some tools that will help you manage it until you’re ready to hiring someone like me.

  • SEO Smart Links – I cannot say enough good things about this Plugin. Google relies heavily on links to understand the relationship your content has to itself. The ability to pre-define words that should be automatically linked to content on your website (or external sites) is not only greatly beneficial (I frequently see direct boosts and indexing of my content because of this Plugin) but it greatly reduces the amount of time an SEO person would spend linking your text to your content.
  • Duracell Tommy’s Google Tag Manager Plugin – This makes installing Google Tag Manager as easy as it can be. Hire me to do the rest »
  • Eggplant 301 Redirects – When you change the URL for an article, it automatically loses the SEO value it was awarded by Google unless you redirect it. That sucks. Don’t do that. Instead; install this Plugin so every time you change the URL to a Post, Category, Tag, etc… you can setup a redirect to the new location and keep that SEO ju-ju.

 

In The End

In my opinion, if you’re running a successful online business then you are, inevitably, going to need to hire staff to manage your marketing. Know that this is coming from a guy who epitomizes the phrase “DIY”. If I didn’t value getting my own hands dirty, and enjoy being involved in all of the aspects of the business, I wouldn’t be writing this article. But… being as this is my profession, I would encourage my fellow DIYers to come to terms with the fact that if you’re good at what you do then you won’t always DIY.

If you can get there, but you want to hire in-house, I recommend starting with a Marketing Director with at least 5 years of experience – degree’s don’t count. A good marketing director will know who to hire, where to hire and when to hire. If you hire other positions first then you’re just making yourself your own Marketing Director and – at the end of the day – you’re really just being the over-worked self-employed guy instead of the visionary-CEO.

If you have a good Marketing Director, they’ll know you’ll need a graphic designer who can produce designs that impress for your various marketing materials, they’ll know you need at least one web programmer, an editor, paid advertising strategist, SEO strategist and probably a content coordinator (the marketing director can fill this position sometimes though).

 

But if you don’t want to deal with all that, and want to keep your focus on what you do best or what you want to do in your newly free’d time: hire me or a full service marketing firm like my friends at Iterate Marketing.

 

“Business is math. And if you treat it like that: it will add up.” ~ Spencer Hill




By Spencer Hill
Categorized in: Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Website Development
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    Since 2005 we've been offering digital and content marketing strategy and implementation. Including website development, search engine optimization and marketing, search marketing and more.

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