Even the most well-intentioned Web-based businesses may not be bringing in the revenues its founders had in mind.
Until the business takes off, why not consider having your website do its own moonlighting? In this case, bring in extra income from alternative revenue streams, such as advertising networks, affiliate links, and paid content.
There are even success stories, about how these auxiliary revenue streams have gone on to become the main source of cash for some websites. Take the site Mongabay.com. Originally started as a place for founder Rhett Butler (yes, his real name) to explore and share his interest in rainforests and conservancy, the ads he put on the site brought in so much income that he was able to quit his day job. Revenues went from zero to a few hundred thousand.
Not every business will end up as profitable. But there are a series of ways that your business website can help generate extra funds to at least pay for itself. Here's how:
Letting it add up
Advertising networks are an easy solution if say, you don’t want to invest in an ad-sales staff. Entities like Google’s AdSense program allow users to easily install the means to do this easily by putting some code in your website or, if you have a blog, just hitting the “radio” button.
The ad networks just take over the advertising end, automatically giving the website owner ads relevant for the site. “No matter how specific your interest is we have dozens of advertisements relevant to your content,” says Kim Malone, director of Online Sales and Operations for Google AdSense. “The job of a website owner is to create great content. The job of content is to deliver the maximum number of ads that will pay well and match that content.”
You get paid by click-throughs or impressions, depending upon the advertiser. With clicks, you get paid a percentage, which AdSense doesn’t disclose, but Google instead lets you see how much you’re making on a daily basis.
Traffic determines how much money you’ll make. The more visitors to your site, the more money you make. It’s that straightforward. Caveat: If you have quality or quantity – for example, you have a very desirable audience -- you can charge a premium for that, says Greg Sterling, the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on the Internet’s impact on consumer and advertisers behavior.
All your ads don’t have to come from one place. You could use several of the pay per click/pay per impression advertising services at the same time.
Affiliate programs mean that your business website sells products for other people and that you take a commission. Your visitors click through ads on your site to buy products from another site, most likely the retailer’s. One of the most famous of these is Amazon.com’s Associates Program.
It typically works like this: You put code -- which the retailer has given you -- on your site. To make good revenue this way, your customers have to be buying the products. So, the products need to make sense for your website. Says Yankee Group analyst Gary Chen, “If the product doesn’t really fit in with what you’re doing, it may not make a lot of sense or have a lot of synergies.” So don’t clutter your website with a zillion non-relevant products in the hopes that one will hit.
Note that commissions and terms vary.
In a perfect world, we’d all be like gossip columnist Liz Smith, and have publications calling us, begging to run our content and paying us lucratively for the privilege. For Web-businesses that are not in the publishing business per se, that is a long shot. But it does occasionally happen.
The most important factor in generating payment for your content, says Chen, is that “you have to have content that other people want to see.” The type of content that is most likely to generate income is information that readers can't get anywhere else. For example, if you have specialized knowledge of your industry, you may be able to charge for your various reports.
You can be paid for your content in either of two ways – by readers or by other sites that want to syndicate your content. To syndicate content, you need to enter into a legal agreement and specify payment to the other website. To charge readers directly, you need to cordon off this content on your site and provide log-ins to people who subscribe. You can also put them on a special e-mail distribution list. To get a subscription they’d have to pay you, which could be done manually or automatically via e-commerce.