Monetize is a common word in internet parlance. But it can often be the hardest part of turning a hobby site into a resource that can make you some money. Whether you’re running your site for a hobby or you’ve deliberately set it up as a money making enterprise, it’s always more enjoyable to make updates that you know are contributing to your income.
There are so many sites that are interesting, get traffic and provide a useful resource for their users. But the people who run these sites do so out of love, passion and in some cases, habit.
So what does “monetize” mean?
- Convert into or express in the form of currency.
- Adapt (a society) to the use of money.
We’re obviously looking at the first of these, unless you’re a dictator in an underdeveloped nation (and if so I think you should be looking elsewhere for advice).
It’s a way to convert the value of the content you provide for your users into an income for yourself. It’s essentially a fair trade of knowledge (content) for money.
But it’s more complicated in many cases, because in most cases it’s not a direct trade. Certainly if you’re selling an information product then the “money for knowledge” equation works.
But in most cases the user is receiving the knowledge for nothing. He is using the website freely and has no intention of paying for the knowledge you impart. And at this point the equation becomes a more tenuous and chance driven one.
You’re selling your knowledge for the opportunity to place tempting things in front of the user. They may take you up on these chances (click an advert, buy an affiliate product) or they may not.
So it pays to create many streams of income and give your users as many chances as possible to “pay” for the use of your content.
A case study
I have a site that earns a small amount each month using adwords. I can usually count on about $150 per month of income from the site’s Adwords. For the amount of work the site requires this is a return that I’m happy with. But for the amount of traffic it gets it could probably make a bit more money if I pick a few more ways to monetize.
I don’t intent to make this a series of posts detailing the success of the methods I attempt to employ here, but I will probably do a follow up post at some stage to communicate any success I’ve had with it.
About the website
The website in question is built with WordPress and provides information about a local “amenity” which is a historical site that runs regular events throughout the ear and also houses around 20-30 businesses, some retail and some service related. The website offers information on the businesses, news about the site and events listings. For simplicity I will refer to it as The Historical Site or THS for the rest of this post.
At present the THS makes all of its money through Adwords. Google’s guidelines are followed so that only 3 ad units are present on any page. The CTR over the last 6 months is 2.8% and CPC is $0.37. So a good CTR but fairly low CPC.
There are a range of monetization methods that could work for THS and are worth considering.
Advertising from local businesses
I’ve toyed with the idea in the past of limiting the information available on each business through the website and charging more for advanced listings, including links and images. However I’m still going to discard this due to it being a low ROI strategy. I know a lot of the business owners and the economic conditions they work in and very few would spend enough money to make it worth the time involved. In truth, it’s almost impossible to get images and descriptions form them when the listings are free so they aren’t likely to pay for it.
In addition to that the website is designed to provide as much good and accurate information as possible, so restricting this information would also lessen the experience for the users.
Other local businesses are a more attractive proposition, with certain local pubs and restaurants possible targets for a banner advert. People come from far and wide to visit THS and it may be an attractive proposition for pubs and restaurants to advertise their menus.
Action: Contact 6 local pubs (that serve food) and restuarants with advertising proposition.
Affiliate Sales – books from Amazon
Being an historical site, many of the visitors will be interested in the local history of the area where mining and the industrial revolution play a massive role in the shaping of the towns and cities we see today. There should be a number of relevant books that some website visitors will be interested in.
Action: Research books on local history. Place affiliate links to the Amazon listings.
Other Affiliate links
It’s possible that the users of the website may in many cases be looking for something connected to THS, but that I can provide then an affiliate link for. The key to this is knowing the visitors and trying to evaluate what they are looking for if they’re not looking for information on THS itself.
Action: Study the Keywords that people are using to find the site and see if any could relate to a product or service. If so, research the
The area is steeped in the history of the Industrial Revolution, but the people who run THS do very little to promote the history or pass the information on to visitors. There is certainly a gap in the market for a downloadable guide to THS and its local area.
However, this may be a step too far for me at the moment. I don’t have the time to write it, and with very little idea about whether it would make any money this is too risky to be a feasible plan.
Action: Put on the back burner.
The owners of THS itself do not sell much custom merchandise. However I think I would be on rocky ground legally to make any and sell it, not to mention not wanting to spend money on any stock items. The safest way to explore this monetization method is to use further affiliate links to offer people printing of images onto mugs, T-shirts, pens etc. E.g. Show a gallery of images and say “get this image on a mug – click here”.
Action: Research online services that allow you to upload images to print custom merchandise. Select a number of images that would be suitable to offer as printable items.
So my actions are to:
- Contact local pubs and restaurants (estimated 1 hour of work)
- Find relevant books on Amazon and insert Affiliate links (estimated 2 hours work)
- Find keywords that could lead me to affiliate products (estimated 1 hour of work to check keywords, more if I then choose to sign up to affiliate programs and insert the links)
- Search for an online printer with affiliate program (estimated 1 hours of work to find printer and 2 hours to implement the links)
So in theory I could spend 1 day working on the site to implement 4 new monetization methods. I’ll write another post when I have some results.
It would be interesting to know what other methods people would recommend.