Making Your Website Pay For Itself
How I went about generating a reasonable income from my side projects
Released by Pixmo Press.
Making Your Website Pay for Itself — How I went about generating a reasonable income from my side projects
Copyright © 2014 by Toby Osbourn
All Rights Reserved
All rights reserved. This book was self-published by the author Toby Osbourn under Pixmo Press. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without the express permission of the author. This includes reprints, photocopying, recording, or any future means of reproducing text.
If you would like to do any of the above, please seek permission first by contacting me at https://tosbourn.com
Why Making Your Website Pay for Itself?
Over the years I have created several websites, normally the content of them is something I have a passion for. Occasionally they are sites that I may not have a passion for but I see a gap in the market or have some sort of itch to scratch. Whatever the reason for the site coming into existence one of the goals I set up for the site is getting it to pay for itself.
This book is going to share my experiences and experiments in how I have made sites pay for themselves before. I will take you through working out how much you need to make in order for your site to break even and then talk about the ways I have achieved that in the past.
This book is for anyone who owns a website, it doesn’t matter if your website is a small personal blog or a SaaS application, there are always ways to make money from your website.
Before we go much further I want to mention some things.
Following any of the advice in this book does not guarantee that you will get your website paying for itself. The web is a cruel mistress, sometimes you can have the perfect way to make money but just not find the right audience, or you have a great audience but for whatever reason the combination of things you have tried just doesn’t pan out.
It is OK if not every project pays for itself different sites have different goals, so long as your site is achieving some of your goals then it isn’t the end of the world if it isn’t paying for itself.
Also, it isn’t my place to tell you how to handle money, but in most countries any money you earn needs to be taxed appropriately, I don’t mention how best to handle this in the book because it feels like I would be on weird legal ground. Just follow the laws of your country for any income you make.Dedication and Thanks
This book is dedicated to my lovely and loving wife Elaine.
I love ya, always ‘ave!
Thanks so much to Phil McClure for taking the time to read through this book when it was at an embarrassingly early stage and help point out my many typos and odd phrasings!
Thanks also to Paul Synnott. He was the first person to buy the book and offered up some amazing feedback as well as spotting a couple more typos (as opposed to typo’s Paul!)
Paul runs a community based around helping people settle into the ITIL JET Programme in Japan.
You can find out more at http://www.ithinkimlost.com/Feedback
Feedback on this book is always welcomed, this is my first time self-publishing something, it has been a massive learning process!
You can get in touch with me two ways;
Email - email@example.com
Twitter - http://twitter.com/tosbourn/
About the Author
Toby is a developer and author from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
He is very lazy, as such he likes spending as little effort as he can on something to get the most gain.
You can normally find him posting to Twitter with the handle @tosbourn or writing at his site https://tosbourn.com
General Format of this Book
There are six main areas to this book;
How to work out how much your website is costing you.
Working out the types of people you can make money off.
Things I have done to make sure my websites pay for themselves.
Tracking what money you have been making.
Some good general advice for your website.
Some awesome resources that I have used over the years.
Where appropriate I might make a diversion onto a related topic and when I feel it helpful I will share current online examples that I have implemented.
How Much Does Your Website Cost You?
Before we can make our website pay for itself we need to work out how much the website is costing you per month, this lets us do two things.
The first is we have a concrete goal to shoot for when it comes to monthly earnings from the site.
The second is that we can see where we might be able to make savings to bring the cost of the website down per month. This is something that is often overlooked.
What I do and what I advise you do is create a spreadsheet and for each of the following items jot down an estimated price per month;
Hosting Costs - This is how much you pay your hosting company monthly.
Domain Registration Costs - This is often forgotten as it is usually paid up front for a year or more, but some TLDs are mighty expensive!
Other Hosting Costs - Perhaps you have additional email servers, things like that
Backup Costs - If these aren’t rolled into your hosting costs you should take a note of them.
Staff Costs - If you employ anyone to do anything on the site put down how much you pay them per month.
Time you spend on the site - This is a major one, give yourself a modest hourly rate, then work out how often you spend on the site or answering emails about the site or doing anything related to the site on a monthly basis.
In the resources section you will find a link to a template spreadsheet I use.
Ways to Save Money with Your Website.
For things like your hosting related costs I can suggest shopping around or speaking to your provider and seeing if they can offer you a discount for continued use. Personally I use and love Big Wet Fish and have no problems recommending them.
The real saving is likely to be had on the time you spend on the site side of things. Limit yourself to far fewer hours per week allotted to the site, this really helps you focus in on doing the important tasks and not just hitting refresh on Google Analytics! Consider scripting or outsourcing tasks you have to do more than once.Which People can we Make Money Off?
The internet is a massive place. One thing that keeps me going when a side project isn’t doing as well as it should is I stop and imagine if everyone online right now gave me 10p, heck 1p. I probably wouldn’t need to work again!
Whilst the mantra can maybe help get you through a long stint of writing content you aren’t sure anyone is ever going to read it isn’t exactly true.
The sad truth is not everyone who views your website or interacts with you in a particular way is in a position to give you money. There are some people who right off the bat probably aren’t going to be spending money with you actively;
Children - Don’t have access to their own money.
People in countries with poor online payments - One of my biggest headaches on one of the sites I run is getting money from Uganda, we have a massive user base of people wanting to give us money but they have no way to send it.
People with no disposable income - Some folks just can’t afford to buy stuff online, even if your product or site meets their needs 100%Then we have people that generally could spend money online, but for reasons out of your control will never spend money with you;
People with managers - If you are trying to make money selling to businesses, if those businesses need sign off from someone and that someone isn’t the person who hits your site, you are not going to make any active money from them.
Competitors - A portion of your traffic is going to be from people who are looking to your website for inspiration or ideas to make their own, they are not likely to give you their money.
Finally there are some groups of people that have the means to buy within your niche but you are actively stopping them from doing that;
Users with accessibility needs - Without realising it you might be stopping a visually impaired user or someone else with an accessibility requirement from signing up to your site, clicking through to your affiliate program, or pretty much doing anything.
Users who don’t speak the same language as you - If you haven’t made your content easy to translate you might be stopping someone from giving you money because they don’t understand that there is something they can give money to!Spending Money Actively
I used the term spending money actively earlier, I want to dig into that a bit, there are essentially two ways money transfers hands on the internet, actively and passively.
Passive money would be the likes of a website making money for people viewing an ad (without clicking on it), the user hasn’t spent any money or willingly performed an action but the website owner has still made some money. Passive money could also be taking a commission for someone else’s work, PayPal make a load of passive money by providing a service and skimming money off the top. When you pay with PayPal you don’t realise you are effectively sending a portion of your money to them but you are.
Active money is when the user is aware that they are sending you money, this could be from buying an item or hitting a donate button, something like that.Making Money Off Everyone
So even though we can’t make active money off of everyone the good news is that for most folk we can make some type of passive money from them.
Let’s go through the list again;
Even if you could sell to children you shouldn’t, it is immoral and paints you in a very bad light.
What isn’t immoral (in my opinion) is selling to their parents. What this means is that if you are running a website that is going to appeal to children you might want to consider including a for parents section to explain to adults what your site is about and how they can support it.
You might also want to consider wording things you think are going to be read exclusively by children to get them to speak to their parent or teacher. An example might be “Speak to your teacher to unlock more maps for MATH QUEST” (side note: Free business idea, MATH QUEST).
I don’t think you should try and make money passively with children either, simply because you can’t control what happens once they leave your website and the site they end up on may not have the same morals as you.
People with Poor Online Payments
As I have said this is something that has been a real headache for me, in my opinion you have two options.
Make an effort to accept money in ways they can send it, for example in Uganda they cannot send money online with Western Union, they can however go to a Western Union shop and send money to a physical location. It might be worth your while finding out where the closest Western Union shop to you is and if it is worth your while having that as a payment option.
The other option would be to attempt to make money from them passively and be ready to apologise when someone contacts you wanting to give you money but there is just no way for you to make that happen.
People with No Disposable Income
People that don’t have any disposable income are very unlikely to actively buy anything from you unless you have a really good value proposition that would elevate your website from a nice to have to a must have.
An example of this might be students, many of them have very little disposable income and as a result are going to be very unlikely to part with their money on your site. What if you had a product or service that would help them pass their course? They might consider parting ways with their money then.
It is very hard to filter these type of people out, how do you know if a user has no disposable income when they land on your site? You don’t so you just need to make educated guesses about some folk.People with Managers
If someone needs approval from a manager before they buy something you have three options in my opinion;
Price your product or service below the number that they need to get permission for. For example if they are allowed to spend £50 on something before getting permission from higher up, price your product at £50 or under. The easiest way to find this out is to do some research and ask them.
Treat the user like you would the children use case above, actually prompt them to seek approval by using copy like “I think this will really help your business, why don’t you consider letting your manager know today”.
Try and get their email address so that you can send them updates, an email is a very easy thing to forward onto a manager and is a very actionable thing for them to approve.
The problem with competitors is that they are going to be wise to most things, so for example if you promote a particular page or product to try and make money with an affiliate code they are likely going to snip your affiliate code off the link before they follow it.
That means that making money passively from them could well be out. One tactic that I have found useful is to consider making content that your competitors would find useful and would be willing to part money with.
For example I run a website that accepts memberships to view football betting tips and details, we constantly have competitors on the site seeing how we do things.
What I ended up doing was creating a small ebook (5 pages I think) that talked about how we went about making the website. This would only really appeal to people in the same position and was marketed to them in such a way that it might give them a competitive advantage.
I think we sold it for £5 and made maybe 30 organic sales off it, mainly from our competitors.
Users with Accessibility Needs
Web Accessibility is a huge topic and not one that I want to cover in this book, but you need to make sure your website is accessible or else you are throwing money down the toilet.
There was a really interesting tweet doing the rounds fairly recently;
3% of users browse with IE9 and 14% have a disability. Why do we worry more about the former?
Lets assume your checkout page, or your links section, or whatever it is you are using to make money is getting 1,000 visits per day and isn’t accessible, you are potentially turning away 140 people.Users who Don’t Speak the Same Language as You
This group of people is kind of linked to the accessibility group above. Lets imagine your content is all written well and can be seen by Google Translate and the user is Japanese and reading your English content.
All is going well, so well in fact that they want to make a purchase. There are two buttons, ”Buy Now” or “Return Home”. Because you love pretty buttons you decided to make them images instead of following best practice.
Now everything on the page is in Japanese bar these two buttons that are in English.
Would you click on 帰国 or 今すぐ購入 ? Personally I wouldn’t click either, I would take my business elsewhere.The ways I have made Sites Pay for Themselves
So now we have a figure to work with, I can imagine one of two things running through your head right now;
The first is that the number is way higher than you imagined it would be. Don’t be disheartened, there are a lot of people on the internet and a lot of different ways you can get them to part with a little bit of cash. The potential of the internet is almost limitless for making money, your monthly spend is well within its remit.
The second is that the number is way smaller than you imagined it would be. If this is the case you might be tempted to set your goal amount for double or triple what it currently is. Please don’t do that for now. The massive benefit of this number you have calculated is that it means something. I have found arbitrary goals are very hard to stick to in the past.
Whatever you are thinking, for now lets focus on the number you have in front of you and let me discuss things that I have done in the past to help me reach my number.Ads
The most well known way people make money on their website is through ads, I wish this wasn’t the case because nobody likes looking at them but the fact is they are an excellent way to make money.
Ads are normally very easy to incorporate into your website, you sign up with the company you want to use to host your ads and you insert their code wherever you want the ad to appear.
Avoid Generic Ads
I have found that generic ads almost never work unless you are getting 10,000 unique folk hitting your site a day minimum, the reason for this is nobody clicks on generic ads so you are only really making money because people have viewed the ad.
The other issue with generic ads is that it is almost always a race to the bottom in terms of content, which means you are more likely to get the overly sexist ‘racy’ ads or the laughably insane ‘one weird trick to lose weight fast’.
Honestly, just avoid them.
Research Your Niche
Find similar websites to yours, they might be competitors or friends, it doesn’t matter, what matters is working out what ads they are using. Find out if they are using one company to host all their ads and research that company to see if they cater for the type of niche that suits your website perfectly.
The more niche you get the better in terms of targeted ads but there is of course a certain level when the topic becomes too niche for there to be an ad agency covering it. My experience has always been that you should drill down as much as possible but settle at the least generic level that an ad agency can cover.
Dealing with Advertisers is a Pain
Why do I say that you should use an ad agency? Because dealing with advertisers is a pain! Don’t get me wrong you are normally dealing with lovely people but finding people to advertise manually doesn’t scale particularly well, I would tend to avoid it for most sites.
My Experience with Google Adsense
I do not recommend using Google Adsense.
Google Adsense is very good at matching up adverts with content on your site, there is no doubt about it, but no matter how good they get at doing that I will not be recommending them to anyone or using them myself for the simple reason that many years ago they effectively stole money from me and to this day refuse to say why.
Without going on a massive tangent, Google is well known for its automated customer support, which most of the time works probably works perfectly well but not all of the time. One day about 8 years ago they blocked me from accessing my Google Ads account and stopped me from withdrawing my money from it. They did not tell me why and as far as I could see I had broken no rules. For this reason I am going to say avoid!
Examples of Good Ad Networks
I currently use the following Ad Networks;
http://fusionads.net - Really great and relevant ads for tech related websites.
https://buysellads.com - Good general ad network
http://media.net - This is a new network for me that I will be trying out soon.
Setting up Ad Networks
Here is the standard process for getting set up with an Ad Network.
After researching your niche and finding what you think is the best network for your site you will normally have a form to fill in that will be basic personal information and some basic information about the main site you want to advertise.
If you have several sites that you are considering using, always lead with the site that is currently generating the most money for you or at least has the most amount of traffic. It is way easier to get other sites approved once you are in the network and if you list several sites with small amounts of traffic they may not let you in.
Affiliate Programs are were you recommend a product or a service via a unique affiliate link and if someone buys that product or service via your link you get a cut of their money.
I love making money this way for a variety of reasons;
Affiliate Programs are Easy to Set Up
They are incredibly easy to setup, normally you just sign up as an affiliate at your selected service and you are good to start making money.
Affiliate Programs are Everywhere
Lots of companies have affiliate programs. I particularly love Amazon’s one where you can promote pretty much anything on their site. There are very few niches I have ever come across that don’t have at least the major sellers in that niche using some sort of affiliate program.
You have Complete Control over what You Promote
You have complete control over the product you are selling and how you decide to market it, I tend to do a couple of different things;
If I personally love a service or product I might write a review about it and use the affiliate code in any outbound links to them.
If the product is something that a lot of people in my niche might be interested in I will maybe include it as a generic advert somewhere on my site.
Examples of Good Affiliate Programs
This is a hard one for me to give good examples for because generally you want to advertise things well within your niche, which is obviously very specific to you. I could list of all the football betting sites I use but I am sure that won’t help 99% of you good people reading this!
One general affiliate program I can highly recommend is Amazon, we all know it and most of us use it, you can promote almost all of their products for a cut of anything sold.
Setting up an Affiliate Program
The process is very similar to what I wrote for signing up to an ad platform, essentially you fill in a form stating some basic information about yourself and your site and you will get approved or denied.
The major difference is that once approved you generally have a selection of items to promote and ways to promote them. Amazon for example will give you the option of promoting certain items or groups of items or even promote some of the other services they offer.
Once you have picked all of that you will be given a link or a bit of code that you can use to drive traffic to the site and you earn commission on anything sold. Pay attention to the rules of the affiliate program, for example some places do not let you use their code in email shots out to people.Sponsored Slots
Normally your website needs to hit a certain critical mass before this avenue would open up to you, Sponsored Slots are where someone maybe writes a guest post for your blog or gets some prime mention somewhere on your website.
You might be thinking, woah there, isn’t this just like going after single advertisers? and didn’t you say that was a massive pain?
It is kind of similar, the main difference is I don’t think you should go looking for people to pay you to advertise them, if you focus on creating a great website people will inevitably come to you and ask to be featured in someway, when that happens you are in a much better position to ask for some money in order to promote them.
My one major bit of advice here would be make sure anything that is sponsored is pretty clearly labelled as sponsored. I have been bitten before by the community of folks that use one of my sites getting annoyed because I was inserting sponsored posts into their normal feed and making it look like it was my own work.Getting a Sponsored Slot
The ideal process for getting a sponsored slot is that you have an excellent site and people come to you. If you have an excellent site but no one is coming to you then the easiest way to find people that might be interested in paying for such a thing is to search for blogs in your niche that have put up their own sponsored posts before.
I would contact the company who wrote the post with an email that went something like this;
I noticed you had a really great article on **blogname** advertising your services and I wanted to ask if that helped you at all?
I run **my awesome blog url** and I know my readers would love your product, if ever you wanted to set up something similar on my site I would love to chat.
**your awesome name**Free Stuff
This is the first method that doesn’t actually get you more cash in the bank but is certainly a great way of making your website pay for itself.
There are thousands of companies that have a massive stock of product but a small advertising budget. These companies are never going to actively seek out paid sponsorship or anything like that but they may be willing to part with some of their stock in return for reviews.
Examples of free stuff I have got before that you might consider going after would be;
Books you want to read in your niche - if you offer to write a review many publishers would be more than happy to send you one.
Paid websites you want free access to - again for the purposes of reviewing them for your website.
Conferences or events in your niche - writing a report, live tweeting the event or if you are lucky enough to be well known in your niche just your presence can often be enough for folk to want to give you a free pass.
If you want to reconcile a figure (and you should, more on that later!) I would take the retail value of the thing you are getting and add it as a one off payment for that month.How to Get Some Free Stuff.
The easiest way to go about this is to ask, I would send an email to the company that went something like this;
My name is **name** and I run **my awesome site url**, I know my readers would love to read a review of **their specific product or service** and I for one would love to do the review.
I wanted to ask what is the best way for me to go about getting **access to or a copy of the product or service** along with any extra relevant information I could use to do a full writeup.
Hopefully hear from you soon,
**your awesome name**Lead Generation
Lead Generation is when you might not make any money from an interaction but you get someones details for a later date that are potentially interested in hearing more.
Examples of this could be;
Collecting email addresses to let people know that you are working on a new book, exactly like what I did for this book!
Cross promoting your other websites, especially if they are in the same niche.
It Doesn’t have to be for a Product in Your Niche
I always make sure in any ‘About Me’ section on a website I am included on that it says I am a developer and how to contact me. The site could be a million miles away from the topic of development but that doesn’t mean a reader of that site isn’t going to have a development problem they need fixed.
Putting a Price on Lead Generation
To reconcile this against money made in the month we need to attribute a value to each lead generated, this can be very hard to do but here is what I have done in the past.
With my analytics I know that for every 100 people on my site 2 of them will convert to a paying customer.
If a paying customer has a lifetime value of £10 that means that roughly one person hitting my site is worth £0.20 (10 / 100 * 2)
Because I like to be ultra conservative with anything like this I will then half the number and say each visit is actually worth about £0.10.
In my analytics then I would track any interaction would leads someone onto that site as having the value of £0.10.
How to set up lead generation
This really depends on what leads you want to generate but the main take away should be to make the thing prominent on any page you feel is appropriate. If this is the core way a page could potentially make you money you should be doing your best to get as many eyes on it as possible.
As I mentioned above you really need to be tracking leads as early as possible, there is a section later in the book dealing with analytics that you should read if you don’t already have something set up on your site.Selling Items or Content
I have split this section into two, because for some websites your core business model is selling stuff, in which case it is a bit of a no brainer that you should be selling stuff! But I do have some valuable advice if you do, and if you don’t well you should read the second section where I talk about why you maybe should!
If Your Core Business is Selling Stuff
There are always more things to sell and always more ways to keep the conversation going with your audience.
What I mean by this is if you have a website selling items you may think that the only way for you to make more money is to sell more items and that a customer is the final stage one of your users can be at. That isn’t the case at all.
If we think about what it means to be a paid customer is means that the user has had enough faith in your website or product that they are going to part ways with their hard earned money, assuming you deliver the product in a timely fashion and it meets or exceeds the users expectations then we are left with a happy paid customer.
Selling to a happy paid customer is orders of magnitude easier than selling to someone who hasn’t interacted with you before, think about it, the paid customer is;
Aware of your brand
Used to navigated your website
Has a previous positive experience with your site
Is clearly someone who has an interest in your niche (for whatever reason)
Has and can spend money online.
So the question becomes, what can you sell to them? Amazon do an amazing job of recommending related items and things like that, so that is certainly one path.
Another path would be to go down the writing path and maybe create an eBook to sell them, or perhaps you have another website in the same niche that would be of interest to them?
You can always sell yourself to them and ask them to follow you on social sites, this is of very low cost to them but makes them one step closer to being free advertising for your website, a happy customer is very likely going to share/retweet/whatever your content.
If Your Core Business is not Selling Stuff
Most of my websites aren’t aimed at selling stuff directly, personally I go down the membership route (more on that later) or using affiliate programs, however I will often create something to sell if I feel there is a need.
Earlier in the book I talked about making an eBook to sell to competitors of one of my sites. This is quite a common thing I do as I like writing and personally buy a lot of eBooks myself.
If there is a lack of information about your particular niche then I would recommend maybe writing an eBook, it really isn’t that hard, think of it like 5 or 6 really good blog posts tied together.
If your website has generated a group of fans then definitely consider getting some merchandise made that you can sell. Sites like Github and StackOverflow have done this, why not your site? I haven’t looked into doing this for a few years so wouldn’t feel comfortable in recommending one service over another, but there are plenty of places you can go to get merchandise made.
Selling Stuff Online.
First things first, depending on your country you might have various laws or regulations you need to abide by. Abide by them! Believe me I know it is tempting especially when you are starting out to cut corners because you are only making a couple of quid from your site, but it will bite you.
Now we have that out of the way lets talk about the technical details.
If you are using a Content Management System like WordPress or Drupal to run your site then there are several plugins you can quickly install and setup that add basic shopping cart functionality to your site. For most people that will work perfectly and get you up and running.
If your website doesn’t have access to such plugins then your two options are generally install an e-commerce solution along with your site or use a third party service such as Shopify.comGetting People to Add You to Social Media.
Like Lead Generation, this doesn’t actively generate any money, and unlike Lead Generation this has the potential to never make any money no matter how many times someone does it.
There is method to my madness though, so please continue reading!
Asking someone to follow you on twitter is very low risk for the user, it requires minimal effort and they can change their mind anytime they want. Them following you does two very powerful things;
The first and most obvious is that it expands your social reach, this is important for reasons that I discuss later in the section “Get a social presence”
The second is that you have asked the user to do something and they have done it. If someone has done something you have asked them to do once my experience is that they are way more likely to do a second thing you ask them. It maybe sounds silly but you have removed a barrier to them clicking buy now or clicking on something else on your site because they are already forming a habit of doing things that you ask them to do.
Putting a Value on Your Followers
I don’t have anything to back me up on this but I attribute £0.001 as a value to followers, simply for the purposes of reconciling a value at the end of the month.
Of course if you follow me on Twitter then ignore the above, you are priceless ;-)
The Best Way to get People to Add You to Social Media
As I mention this is kind of like Lead Generation so the same rules apply, if you want people to follow you from your site you need have those options prominent.
A good place to add it is at the end of content pages as a possible next action.Memberships / Recurring Payments
This is my preferred way of making money online when at all possible.
Selling items to people (be that directly or through affiliates) is tough going, selling five things today is no guarantee that you will sell five tomorrow, also for things that you only ever need one of selling one today means that you cannot sell the same thing to that person tomorrow.
Selling recurring memberships to people though means that so long as you keep them happy and the solution you offer is still relevant selling one membership could give you several years worth of income.
There are two ways you can do this, which I will describe in turn.
Sell Someone Else’s Recurring Membership
This is the easier of the two to get up and running but will return a smaller reward.
I actually have a really good example of why this is a great way to make money online, about six years ago I had a website that focused on selling memberships to other websites. It was making pretty good money but for a variety of reasons I decided to shut it down. One year after I had killed the site, I was still getting a cheque every month from one of the companies I have referred some folk to. How amazing is that?
Essentially what you would want to be looking for here are affiliate programs that offer recurring revenue potential so that anytime the person renews you make a small amount of money.
This isn’t always possible depending on your niche, and if it isn’t you might want to consider creating your own membership site and having people promote it for a cut of recurring revenue.
Sell Your Own Recurring Membership
Do you have a source of content that people want to consume on a regular basis? If so then you might want to consider charging a recurring fee for access to it.
This technique gets a bad rap from a lot of folks because a lot of people want content to be free but luckily not everyone thinks like this.
What I have found works well is to provide free content regularly and then premium content that only members can see. The free content works as your way of getting people onto the site and giving value to people for free, and then your paid content is for people that see the value and just want more.Tracking What Money You have been Making
OK so I have shared with you different ways I have made money online and hopefully at least a couple of them appeal to you and your website.
It is important now that we track what money we have made so that we can see how close we are to breaking even, and then possible even making a little cash!
What I like to do is have a spreadsheet that has a list of each of the potential advertising revenues along with how much you are currently earning on average each month.
If you have multiple affiliate packages or multiples of anything I would suggest keeping track of them on a different sheet, so that you can compare how much you make each month between the various things.
You can see an example of this in my example spreadsheet that I have a link to in the resources section.General Good Advice
I wanted to share some general good advice I have picked up over the years with regards to making money online, they don’t necessarily relate to a specific form of making money but just good practice for your websites.Keep the Conversation Going
Every interaction should lead to another potential interaction, a simple example is at the end of blog posts you want to encourage your visitor to do something else, commonly these are to share the post, comment on it or follow you on a social network. But what about once they have left a comment? What then?
Why not have the thank you message also recommend another bit of content they might like to read?
Likewise when someone buys something for you, in the thank you message you could be asking them if they would like to read your latest blog post, follow you on twitter or anything at all. Always give your visitors an excuse to do more.ABC, Always Be Closing
This is somewhat related to my advice on keeping the conversation going in that you should treat the end of some content as the potential start of a new lead into something else but it is more goal orientated.
If the goal of your website is to collect email addresses for whatever reason then you want to make sure that whatever page your user lands on or ends up on that they have the ability to do this.
If you are doing SEO right (more on that later) then people are going to be landing in all sorts of weird and wonderful places on your site.
When I say whatever page, I mean whatever page - there is no rule to say you can’t try and make a user take an action you want on your 404 page or even a thank you for unsubscribing page (although I probably wouldn’t ask them if they want to subscribe to your mailing list from there!).Generate Content Regularly
It is cliche but content really is king on the web and if you want a good brand or presence online you need to be generating it regularly.
Note that regularly doesn’t mean frequently, it means regularly. If you think you can commit to one blog post a month, make sure there is always one blog post a month going out. If you think you can commit to 4 Facebook updates a day, make sure there are always 4 Facebook updates a day.
Having regular content helps you build up a head of steam and as you get more and more content it is easier to find ways to make people stay on your site longer, it also gets you into the habit of committing a certain amount of time each month/week/day to your project.
Having said that, never generate content just for the sake of generating content, make sure it is quality, genuinely useful or interesting for your readers.
You might be tempted to outsource your content, that is always an option although I have had some mixed results in doing it. If you can find someone who is excellent and at a reasonable price then I say go for it.SEO is Important
Search Engine Optimisation is a huge topic, too large for me to cover in this book however it is so crucial to get SEO right.
The very basic premise of SEO is to write content in such a way that it appears high up on Google. Technically I should say search engines, but honestly Google has such a large marketshare at this point that it is the only one worth focusing on.
There are a number of factors that dictate how your content is scored and unfortunately some of these factors change fairly regularly. There are things though that have seem to have stayed pretty important for a long time.
Mention the term you want to rank for in your page title, main title and a couple of times in your main content.
Make sure the code in your site is valid and semantic.
Getting links to your content is huge, the best organic way is to write great content that people want to share and link to.
Articles shouldn’t be less than 300 words long.
The URL should contain some of the keywords you are wanting to rank for.
Personally I swear by WordPress for a lot of my websites and there is a fantastic plugin called WordPress SEO, it handles a lot of the donkey work for you and I have had excellent results following the suggestions it has made.Marketing is More Important than Your Code
If you have crafted your website or app from scratch and poured your soul into it you are not going to want to hear this next line.
Marketing is more important than your code.
It is sad but true that the vast majority of people will make a purchasing decision based more on the marketing than the quality of a product.
What this means for your website is that if you only have 3 hours a week to spend on it you might be better spent working on the marketing than you are a new feature.Get a Social Presence
Unless you have a community based website like a message board it is very hard to keep people on your site and coming back to your site. Why would someone just hang about a blog or an app all day? They wouldn’t.
People hang out where their friends and colleagues are, right now that is places like Facebook and Twitter.
Instead of fighting those massive sites and trying to pull those users away from them to spend time on your site you should speak to your users where they spend their time.
The benefits are potentially huge, as a small example when I started writing this book I put up a quick form to capture the email address of anyone that wanted to know when this was published. I put it on my twitter account (which as of writing is under 1300, not huge) and within minutes started getting email addresses of people I could contact to try and sell my book to.
If you don’t have a social presence most of your marketing has to be done either on your own site or by spending money to advertise on other people’s. With a social presence you can market to a number of engaged people who have opted in to hear from your website for free.
The other thing I wanted to say about about a social presence is that if you spend time with people who care about your site you start to see problems they talk about, solving people’s problems is a great way to make money because the value of the solution sells itself.
Set up Analytics Early
Analytics is crucial on any site that you care about, the information even basic analytics tools can give you is invaluable.
My analytics tool of choice as always been Google Analytics, it is free and ran by the company I want my sites to rank well on.
There are two main parts to analytics that you should be doing as a bare minimum.
Installing Google Analytics
Getting Google Analytics on your site is pretty straight forward, first up you need to create an account at http://analytics.google.com.
You will then be prompted to start entering some details about your site, nothing too heavy and most settings can be changed at a later date.
Once set up you will receive a script sample that they ask you place in your website. Place this code near the bottom of your site so that it doesn’t interfere with the loading of your site.
If you prefer to use plugins and things there are many available for most CMS and they just require the unique code you are given as part of the script, it will begin with UA-.
Setting up Goals in Google Analytics
The next vital thing and it is something I wish I had done a lot sooner in a lot of my websites is to set up goals.
Goals are key points in your website that you want to track more information about in Google Analytics for example you might want to track every time someone has signed up for your newsletter.
In the Administration section of Google Analytics you will see a Goals area and have the option to create a new goal, define the type of goal (one of the most common is a URL based goal) give it a name and a value. Each time that URL is hit Google will track that along with the events that led to that URL being hit.
So say you have a page /thank-you-for-signing-up.html you will be able to see what site a user came from before they clicked through to fill in their details and eventually end up at that thank you page.Resources
There are some amazing podcasts, sites, people that I think are worth paying attention to that often talk about the topic of making money online.
Because loads of URLs in an eBook can be annoying I have created one page where you can view them all including the spreadsheet I have made to help calculate monthly money in and out!
You can also see any other link I have mentioned in the book at that page.Thank you
Thank you so much for buying this book and getting this far. I genuinely hope it has helped you to think about some ways you could help make your website pay for itself.
I would love to hear any comments or questions.
@tosbournSome of My Sites!
In the spirit of cross promotion that I have mentioned before I feel I should mention at least some of my main projects right now!
tosbourn.com - My personal blog and also the central point for finding out information on any of my books. I make money off this site by selling items, advertising and lead generation.
thefootytipster.com - A football betting website that I am the admin for. We make money from this site via recurring memberships, and affiliate programs.
howoldistheinter.net - A silly website I made highlighting the current age of the internet in days. I make money off it from advertising.
playingpigeons.com - I contribute content to this regularly. We currently haven’t worked out how we are going to make money on this site.