So, you designed a nice website, spent hundreds or hours writing content and a lot of money on SEO and keyword research. Search engines are sending you tons of traffic, social networks are buzzing about your content. Now you just need to make some money, which is the easy part, right? Well, it can be much more difficult than you think and for various reasons. Web traffic is very fragmented and it will take a lot of time and testing until you become more familiar with your visitors and their browsing habits. Problem may arise from outside factors too, as some ad networks may be very picky and reject your content for one reason or another. I chose some methods that are most likely to work in 2014 and skipped some that I think that don’t. Please take a moment to read following tips that may apply to many situations.
Reason why I put AdSense separately from other PPC networks is because they are way ahead of their competition, especially in PPC department. As you probably know, AdSense is a pay per click network, which means you will get paid when your visitors click on their ads. It is easy to register and once you’re a member, you don’t need to individually submit each site for approval, as long as it meets requirements in their TOS. They are very strict with their TOS and their robots will ban you if you don’t follow their rules or try to trick the system. Appealing is not an easy task, because is difficult to get to a human being at Google.
Setting up is an easy task and it just requires of you to choose an ad size, colors and copy the code to your pages. You need to play for a while with colors and ad position until you find one that work best with your page design and content. They provide a heat map which may assist you with this.
Even though AdSense has been the main money maker for many websites (including mine), lately many visitors are becoming blind to AdSense ads, even though at Google they are constantly experimenting and improving them. In addition to this, some webmasters report that it is getting more difficult to join in or have been even banned for various reasons. Luckily, there are many AdSense alternatives available, which can replace it or used together. Please read on if you’re interested.
Other pay per click (PPC) programs
Beside AdSense, PPC scene is not very exciting. There were some companies that tried to compete, like YPN (never went out of beta) and Adbrite (never managed to provide reasonable targeting), but are now gone.
Recently I was contacted by a sales manager from Media.net, a PPC company backed up by Yahoo and MSN. I was very excited to try this new network, especially since they have such a good domain name and powerful back, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me. First few days’ income was half of that from AdSense and after a while it dropped even further. In addition to that, from what I read lately, it is also very difficult to get in. You should try and see if it works for you.
Of other options you can try Chitika and Bidvertiser. Chitika never worked for me, but from what I’ve read some have good results, so I guess it all depends on niche. Bidvertiser is relatively good if you can get actual text ads, since they’ve been pushing many third party ads of questionable quality lately.
Pay per view (CPM) programs
In this model, you will be paid for displaying ads on your web pages. Rates are usually calculated based on thousand views (is why is called CPM – cost per mile). For example, if advertiser pays $0.25 CPM, it means you will get paid 25 cents for every thousand ad impressions. Usually networks don’t offer fixed rates but will calculate them dynamically based on many factors, including traffic quality and demographics.
These programs usually work best with high traffic websites that cover wider range of topics. If you’re running a small, specialized niche website, you will probably do better with other methods, especially affiliate marketing or pay per click.
Keep in mind that many of CPM networks track performance of their ads very closely. That said, pasting their ad code somewhere at the bottom of the page won’t work and will get you penalized. Some advertisers use these campaigns to create brands awareness, like TV or magazine ads, and require their ads to be visible and above the fold.
Networks offer all kind of ad formats, including flash, audio, graphical banners and video ads. Some of these, like popups and layer ads can be particularly annoying and are not suitable for all sites. Be careful how and when you use them, or you may lose visitors.
Rates you can get with these ads vary a lot and are very different from network to network. If you’re running some streaming website or entertainment forum, you can get only few cents for thousand impressions. On the other hand, financial or insurance websites can bring few dollars for the same traffic. Best CPM networks I worked with are Casale Media and Valueclick.
Affiliate programs (CPA)
With affiliate programs, you get paid by advertisers when your visitor performs some action. These actions include sales (CPS) or leads (CPL). Leads can be in form of customer registration, survey filling or even software installation. You have to be careful with the last one, because some of these include malware or toolbars that are very difficult to uninstall. I’ve read reports of some publishers being penalized by Google for promoting and distributing spyware. Even though these can be lucrative, you should be fair to your visitors.
Some companies handle their affiliate program directly, without third party involved. For example, if you find some useful software that your visitors may like, check on the publisher website and see if they run an affiliate program. Many domain registrars and web hosts provide this option as well. Actually, with affiliate programs you can make money even if you don’t have a website! You can promote these offers by purchasing ad space on other websites or search engines. Personally, I never had much success with this, but there are reports of many who did, so give it a try.
Affiliate networks I tried and had success with and which are generally considered to be the best include: Peerfly (has celebrity status among publishers), Matomy Market, Neverblue. Other popular ones are: Linkshare, Commission Junction and CPA lead.
Sell ads directly to advertisers
If you’re running an authority website, backed up by loyal community, probably the best solution for you is to sell ads directly to advertisers. You can create a form that will allow potential advertisers to contact you. If you wish you can also provide some details about traffic, estimated pricing and cost, or just leave everything to negotiations.
Another alternative is to use a service like BuySellAds, which allows you to write your offer, paste the code on the website and wait for the advertisers to buy your ad spots. If you’re running a quality website and have set a price right, this won’t take too long. BuySellAds does all administration jobs and payment processing for you. Another similar service, but specialized in text ads is Matomy SEO (formerly Mediwhiz Text link ads). They will sell your text ad space for purpose of SEO optimization, which means you are required to leave links without nofollow attribute.
Another good option is to charge your visitors for content. Of course, this means your content really needs to be “premium”, meaning that people will want to pay for it. This usually works for tutorials or training which is high in demand and low in supply. You can also try to sell content which is not so good, but you will need to use pushy advertising methods as a selling point. As an example, you can check the way they sell those crappy e-books on Clickbank.
Some webmasters opt in for content locking and similar practices. Basically, you require of your visitor to complete some action before they can access content. These include filling surveys, registering on third party websites or installing software. I can’t say if this works or not since I never tried it, but it will most likely annoy your visitors. Unless you’re the only one online with this particular content, you may lose a visitor.
This really depends on how guilty will people feel using your content or services for free and how nicely you ask. If you’re distributing useful software, some people will actually donate money. Don’t expect to become a millionaire from this, but in combination with advertising it can bring in few coins. For example, I was giving away some free PHP script, and I received few books from my Amazon wish list and some money from PayPal donations.
There are many other ways to make money with your website, of which some are mere variations of ones mentioned in this article. Best approach is to test them individually or in combination and see which works best for your audience. No matter what method or combination of methods you choose, never forget that these shouldn’t interfere with your visitor’s experience.