4 Ways to Monetize Your Small Business WebsiteDon’t let your site just sit there — use it to earn a little revenue.
Unless you’re an online retail business, your website isn’t designed to make money; it’s designed to help potential clients find you and to drive engagement with your customers. But that doesn’t mean it can’t generate some revenue.
Here, experts share a few ways to monetize your small business website.
Before jumping in, it’s important to learn the demographics of your website’s users and what they’re coming to your site for. This data will help you decide how best to create revenue.
“Install Google Analytics or another website analytics tool to see who is referring people to your site and what pages they are visiting,” said Leo Welder, founder of Zilker Holdings, LLC. He’s launched several websites (such as FindaFax.com) that have generated more than $10 million in revenue.
“This will help you understand the size of your audience and what kind of offer they might be most interested in.” Google Analytics is a free Web analytics tool that can tell you everything from the age and location of your users to your most popular pages and how long people spend reading them.
Consider putting an ad network on your site
Running display and/or text ads on your website will bring in a small amount of revenue with an equally small amount of effort. In general, the more traffic your website gets, the more these ads will net you.
“Generally speaking, advertising programs such as Google AdSense won’t pay much more than $1 to $2 RPM [revenue per thousand impressions], which means you’ll only make a buck off of every thousand visitors to your website,” said Sam Williamson, SEO executive at AIMS Media Glasgow. Williamson has experience helping online retailers earn money from their websites.
The downside: Your site may be less attractive to users.
Use affiliate marketing
In affiliate marketing, you recommend or sell a third-party product on your site and earn a commission when a user clicks on the link and buys the product.
You wouldn’t want to promote a direct competitor on your website, of course, but think about products or services that complement yours. “A coffee bean shop could review the best coffeemakers and add affiliate links to monetize this content,” said Robert Brandl, who has helped hundreds of small businesses grow their online stores using his site WebsiteToolTester.com. “Amazon is an attractive option — they run one of the biggest affiliate programs worldwide.”
Williamson also recommended Amazon. “For every item that you sell through Amazon, you receive a small commission, usually about 5 percent. Amazon is great because it has such a diverse selection of products, and you can almost always find something related to your industry. Say for example you run a dog kennel, you might decide to advertise collars, bowls and food on your site, all of which could be bought through an Amazon link.”
Not only are you bringing in revenue, you’re also providing users with valuable content that will enhance their use of your products or services.
Just make sure your site is robust and offers good, useful content. Creating a content-poor site just to generate revenue via affiliate marketing won’t do much to promote your business or get traffic — and it’s a violation of Google’s Webmaster guidelines.
Sell direct ad space by partnering
Another way to sell ad space is to approach a complementary business to see if they want to run an ad on your website.
“Go about it very strategically, being careful to select advertisers that are a natural complement for your brand,” advised Tami Brehse, a digital marketing consultant who helps small businesses stand out online. “For example, a hair care or skin care line would be a perfect advertiser on the website of a local salon. I think the best bet is to manually approach advertisers you’d like to work with and go from there, so you have full control over the ad content.”
A cross-promotion program is a related idea. You promote another company’s products on your website and vice versa. Each of you receives a small commission on sales. This works well if your website users are demographically similar.
If you have a successful email newsletter you can sell direct ad space there, too.
Sponsored content networks
These networks pay you to have links to third-party content appear as relevant content near (usually below) content on your site. Examples of these networks include Taboola and Outbrain, though these “major players” require minimum monthly page views, so your website might not qualify unless it gets a lot of traffic. Smaller-time ad networks for sponsored content have lower thresholds.