Making Money Online : A Comprehensive Guide

The following is the last of a series of posts. The introductory post is here.

FACT:The internet, through new media, is where all the money is heading to. All other industries, traditional or not, will be affected by the internet. The good news is that there is enough money to be made by everybody from the financially muscular types to you me, and the man on the street. But how?

Making money anywhere can be done in various ways. The internet is no different. You can integrate your already existent business with ICT to reduce on costs, improve efficiency and perhaps, introduce some revenue streams. This is undoubtedly one of the major ways the internet helps people make money. However that is a story for another day. Let’s talk about making money from your internet venture: your site (or blog).

A Word of Caution
It is true that numerous millionaires have been born and will continue to arise from the internet. Moreover, many more people make enough money to live off the internet. However millions more are trying to make enough money to live off the internet. Yet, millions more are trying to make money online without any success at all (or just enough pocket change to buy some gum and, perhaps, a cup of coffee). Contrary to popular belief, the internet isn’t a path to overnight riches (though it can be). Making money online is just as hard, probably harder, than doing so anywhere else. Like anywhere else, hard work pays.

Should You Monetize Your Site?
Is that even a question? Not every website or blog is suited for making money. Think about it. Does making money fit in with your site’s goal(s)? How will your current users react when you introduce schemes to make money? Why do you have a site in the first place? For example if your site/blog is meant to support of an already existent business, making money off it will be tricky. Similarly, some of its users may not appreciate your efforts to monetize it. Every site is a different case. Think about whether you should monetize your site.

Traffic: the Holy Grail
Quite frankly, if no one visits your site then you will not make any money online. This is the golden rule of online money making. How do you generate traffic to your site? There is only one sure way to do this: provide a useful service or content from your site. In the business of making money online, the user comes first. Period. Build your site and make it as useful or entertaining as possible then, much later, think about using your established user base (and traffic) to make cash. Though not conclusive, the following tips may help:

  • Create valuable content that your users will appreciate.
  • Create original content – don’t just copy or report what others are doing. Make your site the users’ final destination. For example, if your user is looking for information on cakes, give him all the information he could ever want!
  • Provide timeless content that can be useful for years.
  • Remember that your users are human. Do not get carried away by the technical aspects of your sites, such as SEO, nor treat your users as statistics. Build your site because you have something to offer, and offer it the way you want to offer it!

Your Digital Cash Cow
Hopefully, all of you are still with me. Finally the fun part: how to actually monetize your site or blog.

  1. Advertising – having established your site and gained a sizeable following, your site ought to attract people or organizations wishing to advertise. Basically, you put up their advertisements and then they pay you. For example, if you join Google adsense they will give you some code, which you paste it on your site. You then get paid whenever anyone clicks on these adverts. Indeed, many thousands of websites make their money this way. Why shouldn’t you? More oon this here.
  2. Sponsorship – this is whereby company x or organization x pays you to mention or promote their products or services. For example, Bank x may sponsor you to write a series on the importance of banking – and casually ‘mention’ their banking products.
  3. Affiliate Products – helping to sell others’ goods or services. If you can join an affiliate program such as Amazon or click bank, you will get paid whenever you help sell their goods or services. For example, you can market books for Amazon and they’ll pay you a commission on every sale you make.
  4. Merchandising – Some sites gain so much of a following that their users are willing to buy T-shirts, mugs and other branded merchandise. All you need to do is build up a following of users passionate about your site. Once you’ve done this, it gets as easy as pie. Café press helps you design and brand stuff, and then sell them. Your goods will be sold in your own virtual shop at café press. Whenever someone orders a mug or cap, café press will print your logo, girlfriends name or whatever on it and ship it to the buyer – for a cut of your selling price. More on this here.
  5. Subscription – You may also choose to have your users pay to get access to your site or parts of it. Just ask your users to pay to become ‘members’. Even blogs are increasingly going this way!
  6. Donations – Pass around the collection cup and solicit funds to ‘support’ your site. Unless you have users who love you to death this can only work on sites that support ‘noble’ humanitarian efforts. Surprisingly even blogs can substantially earn this way: More on this here.
  7. Finally, you can resort to selling/flipping your site. More on this here.

A Warning
Lately site monetization is increasingly turning disastrous: many people are frustrated with meager incomes: some lose their sites once impeccable reputation; others forget all about the user and become obsessed with money. Do not get trapped in the downwards spiral towards oblivion. Keep in mind that:

  • When people visit your site, they want useful information and/or to be entertained.
  • Additional adverts or sponsorship information should add value to your site. They should never visually, or otherwise, obstruct but blend in and enrich.
  • Never sell or help sell things that you do not believe in. Do not let your users get duped you always lose.
  • Your site’s user is your master and commander. Make sure your site has some stickiness.

Note: Making money online is an extensive undertaking. This post is just a summary introduction. I recommend the following for more information:

John Chow
Pro Blogger
The Lazy Business Owner

Now, to burst some jargon
New media – new communication technologies such as sms, wap, gprs.
ICT – Information communications Technologies.
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation.
Stickiness – ability of a website to retain visitors for longer and making them coming back for more.

Additional Resources

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