How Websites Make Money
There are a multitude of ways a website can make money. What way works best for yours? That depends on the nature of your site. Let's take a look at 4 common types of websites and explore how each of them can potentially make money.
We'll take a look at E-commerce, Service, Brick-and-mortar retail and information based websites. Each of these types of websites has their own end goal, what you want visitors to ultimately do.
This is the most obvious way to monetize your website. Sell your products directly from your website. When visitors come to your website, find a product they like for a price they're willing to pay, they'll buy. That's the idea anyways.
So your main goal here is to get people to buy the products listed on your website.
How do we make this happen? That's the main question. We'll look at the 2 main factors that affect how many sales your website can generate below, after we've looked at the other types of websites.
For now, the basics are quite simple. You have products for sale on your website. You want people to buy those products in sufficient quantities to make a good enough profit to make your business worthwhile for you to continue. That means you need enough traffic and you need your website to convert enough of that traffic into sales.
Service Business Websites
A service-based website isn't quite so simple to monetize as any of the other types are. Add to this that the monetizaton is often less direct then, say an e-commerce site. Some services can be monetized directly through the website, but in many cases, it's just not possible.
Take marketing, for example. Every client's marketing needs and budget is different. Everyone has unique needs, so they can't be just jammed into a cookie cutter and spit out some standardized service package, with maybe a few exceptions. Many other service businesses have the same challenges.
So, how can such a business make money off their website? Directly, it's very hard, but what about indirectly? Your service based business can very effectively use its website to generate leads to follow up on. You can then use sales techniques to convert those leads into customers.
With that in mind, a service based business website is then mainly meant to get visitors to contact the company in some way so the sales team can follow up with them.
While this may be a roundabout way to convert your visitors into customers, and thus make money off your website, it is possible. Be prepared to invest personal time and effort of your staff into converting website visitors into customers.
If you're running a service business, you'll likely need to have a sales staff, or be budgeting much of your own time to sales anyways, so having a website just means you're spending less of your sales time finding leads and more of it following up on the leads your website generated for you just by being there. So all this means is the staff you have (or your sales time) are spent more efficiently with people who have already expressed an interest in your services.
Brick-and-Mortar Retail Websites
How about if your businesses is a brick-and-mortar retail shop? How can you monetize your website?
That depends a bit on the nature of your products in store. If you sell physical products that don't spoil or get damaged easily in transport, you can always offer E-commerce and make your products available to the web. There's no rule that says a retail store can't also sell its products online too.
What if my shop offers services, perishables or very fragile items and people must buy in person? No problem, what applies to a service based website can also apply to a brick-and-mortar store's website too. The main thing you need to do here, is make sure your website can be easily found by locals in your area, and makes it as easy as possible for them to get to your shop after visiting your website.
So with brick-and-mortar business websites, the conversion goals can very from business to business, but the main goal is likely to be to get people into your physical store. If your business model supports it, you can have goals like buying online or contacting your store as goals too, but still, you most likely would prefer people to come to your store.
Information Based Websites
Last, but certainly not least, we have the informational website. These are any website that purely exists to spread information and can include blogs, news websites, social media sites, teaching/educational websites and so on.
So with these websites, the main goal would be to keep people on your site visiting multiple pages and coming back regularly.
In this case, you may think you have no product to sell, but that is just not true. Even if you choose to give away all the information on your website, you still have a commodity of value to sell, space on your website and the traffic it produces. Others may be willing to pay to show up on your website, especially if it generates a lot of traffic. In other words, even though your product is the information you share, you also have the ability to sell advertising space to finance the sharing of this information.
Selling ads is by no means the only way to monetize information either. You can also have some information put behind a paywall, and sell subscriptions to gain access to this information. An example of this could be offering online courses, but to gain access to these courses, your visitors must pay a tuition to buy the access to these courses.
Alternatively, you can also find affiliate programs that offer relevant products to the information you share on your website. So if, for example, you run a gardening blog, you could include gardening supplies as affiliate links on your website.
Traffic and Conversions
Now that we've looked at 4 main types of websites and how each can be monetized, let's take a look at some things common to all of them in helping to make money off your website.
Regardless of what type of website you have, the main idea is using different strategies to get people onto your website in the first place (visitors). It's these visitors who may allow your website to make money. Whether or not they do depends on how well your site converts them into money. The number of these visitors is called “traffic” and it's this traffic that enables your website to produce
How do you get this traffic to your website? There are a few ways to go about doing this. You could do SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on your website to make it rank highly for searches where people are looking for products just like you have listed for sale on your website. You could advertise online. This could be as banners on other websites, on social media sites or as paid search engine results. You could run regular content campaigns on social media, a company blog or on other related websites.
Another powerful way to get people to your website, and especially to encourage repeat visits is through email campaigns. This works best by maintaining your own email list of subscribers who have opted in to your list.
Each of these can be done alone or in any combination to get people to your website and keep them coming back. They aren't the only ways by any means, but they are the most common.
In general, the more people you have visiting your website, the better your chances are of your website making money.
While getting lots of traffic to your website is critical, that traffic does you no good if it doesn't convert into the end goal of your website. As I was going through the 4 main types of websites, you may have noticed I mentioned the main goal for each of them, think of this as your Conversion Goal.
The more people who visit your website who convert (ie reach this goal) the better. You need less traffic to be profitable as you can do more with your traffic.
What are the main things that drive conversions? For starters, relevance. If your website is not relevant to the people who are finding it, they won't stay or do anything. You must make sure you know who your target visitors (ie your target market) is and how you can get them onto your website. This needs to be clear and specific and must not be too broad or too specific. If you're too broad, you'll have a hard time connecting with them in an affordable way, if you're too specific, you'll limit the market to too small a group and not have enough people to sustain your website.
Let them know who you are and what you do right away, and this will establish relevance. Either you're exactly what your visitor is looking for and they'll stay, or you're not and they'll appreciate knowing right away, before they waste too much time in the wrong place.
Relevance will only get you so far, however, and you must also be interesting in some way. If your content is too boring, or does not deliver what your visitors are looking for, they'll leave. The best way to keep a visitor's interest is generally to be concise, but still give them the info they need. Break text up with sections, pages, headings, subheadings, graphics and other tools to keep things interesting and your visitors engaged.
It's all about finding that right balance for your audience.
In most cases keeping your paragraphs, words and sentences as short as possible will do the trick. If your audience is very technical, however, you may be able to get away with longer words, sentences and paragraphs, and indeed, in some technical subjects you may not be able to avoid it. Some very technical readers may even expect those long words and avoiding them would actually harm you. Such cases are very rare though, so the general rule is, keep them short and easy to read.
Bad design will also harm your conversions. If your site looks unappealing, is hard to navigate, hard to read or so inconsistent visitors feel like each page is part of a different website, you will suffer. If your pages take longer then about 3 or 4 seconds to load, you will lose many visitors before they even see your website, no matter how awesome it looks.
So make sure your website looks good, all text is easy to read, and all pages are easy to find and load fast and you'll do fine in this area.
Finally, you need to make sure your visitors know what exactly it is you want them to do. Give them a clear call to action to help them out. This should be near the top of your Home page, ideally on screen when the page loads, and repeated on other pages, and if a page is longer then 2 or 3 screens, repeated at least every 3 screens so as people scroll down the page, they can still see calls to action in convenient places so they can take the action without having to search for it again.
As long as you can manage to get these basics in place, you should see your website make you money. If you don't, then it's time to take another look and see where you're missing the mark. A skilled web developer or marketer can often help find the weak points and help you fix them.
If you have any questions or experiences of your own with making money off your website, or are facing any challenges, feel free to leave a comment below. I love reading your comments and learning what you're doing, what's working for you, and what your biggest challenges are.