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:
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:
In just the past 3 months:
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.
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.
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.
Additionally, you will want to install Facebook Pixel into your website.
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!
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:
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 »
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.
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.|
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!
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.
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