Let’s make this super simple; your goal is to have a website that attracts visitors. It really is as simple as that. Once you do this you can make money from it. That’s pretty straight forward right?
Setting the scene.
Imagine being able to tap away at your computer and create some extra cash in your spare time. Want to think bigger? OK, imagine bringing in enough money to live off by creating some online properties (i.e. websites) that generate revenue day after day. This is what I do and is also what a lot of other people do too, and it is definitely something you can do if you have a little desire and know-how.
You do not need to be a technical wiz to create a website, in fact read this post and see how easy it is to get your own a website up on the internet.
Once you have your website live on the internet you need to structure it so that it attracts visitors. This is a topic for another day (a big topic) but let’s assume you have regular visitors to your website, what can you do with it? You have a few options and depending on your goals, available time, and personal preferences you can choose one or more of these.
However, while you have these options I highly recommend you focus on one plan at the start and stick with it. With so many options and opinions it’s easy to get distracted and do a bit of a lot of things instead of a lot of one thing. Doing a lot of one thing will get you the results you are looking for.
The methods to create money from a website discussed below should be seen as an introduction. A significant amount can be written about each section but this article is intended to enlighten you on the possibilities of using a website to earn money.
Different ways a website can make money
The easiest kind of website to understand is probably a plain E-commerce website that sells physical products. People want to buy something and your website sells it, they complete the online transaction and money is transferred to your bank account. You then package and post the product. Sounds easy right?
E-commerce websites can make (a lot) of money but it’s certainly not as simple as it may sound. Start-up costs are high. There’s product sourcing, buying and storing goods, returns, postage & packaging costs as well as a lot of time spent on customer service. If you’re starting out with earning money online it is probably best not to start with an E-commerce website. Cut your teeth on one of the other models discussed below and then if you are keen to advance into the E-commerce arena you have some online experience (and hopefully cash) behind you.
Promote and sell software/digital products
Similar in a way to a traditional (physical products) E-commerce website is a website that sells software/digital products. This can be a piece of software, such as anti-virus software for example or maybe some stocks trading software, or it can be a digital product such as an ebook or online course. Selling software/digital products is much easier to get started with compared to selling physical products because there are none of the associated costs involved in buying, storing, and delivering the goods.
You do of course need a product to sell. If you have a great bit of software you have developed or have had someone develop for you then great, you can start promoting and selling this on your website. The same is true for a product like an ebook or online course. Creating an ebook or course is likely more achievable for most of us although it still requires a lot of effort, especially if you want to be able to sell it for a good amount of money.
Another related but not exactly the same option is to have a subscription/membership service. While this will involve interaction and on-going work it is all based online in the digital realm and requires no shipping of a physical product.
What if you do not have your own product and do not want to create one. Well this is where the world of affiliate marketing comes in to play.
Affiliate marketing is something that takes all of the hassle out of creating your own product to sell. It is kind of a link on the chain to E-commerce.
Instead of selling your own products you find other peoples products or services and promote these instead, taking a commission on the sale price in return. In reality you don’t actually sell the products or services you are promoting, instead you direct your website visitors (via tracked links) to the website that has the product or service you are promoting. If this (tracked) visitor ends up buying you get paid. If you are starting out with earning money online I recommend affiliate marketing. If you have access to a computer with an internet connection you can start your own affiliate website.
If you want to learn more about this I have a free video series all about affiliate marketing and how you can start today.
Affiliate marketing applies to physical, digital, and service orientated products. As long as the person or company responsible for the product has an affiliate program you can promote it and earn money in the process.
Why would companies let you promote their products?
Since companies who own the product are getting other people to market their products and only pay if there is a sale it is a positive thing for them. They do not need to lay out marketing cash in advance; instead they only pay when there is a genuine sale. Because of this a lot of companies have an affiliate program so you will never be short of finding a product to promote and build a website around.
As I cover in detail in my free videos (make sure you get them here) a fantastic place to start is with Amazon. Amazon has their own affiliate program (called Amazon Associates) and they have an almost limitless product range to choose from. There are other benefits of promoting Amazon products too which are discussed here. Trust me; Amazon is the place to start if you choose to make an affiliate website.
While some businesses choose to handle their own affiliate programs (such as Amazon) others use larger affiliate networks to handle all the tracking and payments. There are many such networks with Affiliate Window and Commission Junction being two examples. ClickBank is possibly the biggest affiliate network for digital products with E-Junkie being another. There are many more and you can search Google for affiliate networks to see these.
[screenshot for Jan 2015 from Affiliate Window for one of my websites]
I use affiliate networks for some of my websites, and they have nice analytics so you can see information such as how many clicks your (affiliate) links have had each day, how many purchases have been made, what products were purchased, and importantly how much commission you are owed. If you really get in to affiliate marketing you can do some pretty cool things such as price comparisons for different products. I use this on one of my websites and I have a tutorial here about how I did this.
The different affiliate networks have different back-end styles, but their job is two-fold. On one side they are there to help us (the affiliates) find companies to promote and give us all the support to do this. They provide special links and images to promote the different companies. They are also responsible for the companies (who actually pay the affiliate networks). They want companies to get people like us to promote them and their products; they want the companies to sell more products because this means the companies will remain with them and continue to pay them. This means the affiliate networks need to do a good job, which is great for us because we want a reliable and trustworthy platform to work from.
How big can affiliate websites get?
The world of affiliate marketing is huge and there are different ways that you can find and promote products. It is possible to make many thousands a month as an affiliate but to get to this level you will need to learn more about marketing and how to influence people. Of course you can do this and if you are in it for the long-term this is what you should definitely do, but when starting out and in the position of learning the ropes it is probably better to hone you skills with smaller projects.
Like I have mentioned earlier I recommend starting out with Amazon’s affiliate program. See why here.
Advertising on your website
There are two primary advertising options, one is to have a permanent advert on your website (AKA private ads) and you get paid an agreed fixed fee, and the second option is to have a paid on performance advert where you get paid on how many times the advert gets clicked or maybe the number of times it is seen by people. I want to focus on this second option because it is the easiest way to get started. Also, unless you have a lot of website visitors it can be difficult to get fixed price advertisers for your website.
[The above advert is a real Google Adsense unit inserted as an example – does it show an advert for a site you have recently visited? If it does this is retargeting at work]
There are a few paid on performance networks, but perhaps the biggest is one offered by Google called Adsense. What Google Adsense does is place an advert on your website that is aimed specifically towards the visitor. What this means is that the adverts Google shows are a combination of retargeted adverts and also adverts related to your websites content.
Google is very clever (and also a bit sneaky), it knows what your website is about and it also knows what things the people who visit your website are interested in. The end result is that your visitors see an advert they are more likely to be interested in, meaning these adverts get clicked more.
For us the website owner all we need to do is place a bit of code that Google gives us into our webpage, and just like magic an advert shows up. Whenever a visitor to your website clicks this advert you get paid. We are not talking hundreds per click, more like pennies (or cents if in the US). However, get a few hundred clicks per day and we are talking about a significant sum of money. Also you will have many web pages and many Google Adsense adverts for people to see and click across your website. Google Adsense is a great place to start when learning how to earn money online.
Sell your services
What we are talking about here is consultancy. Your website is your platform to promote yourself and attract clients. If you do this correctly you can earn a lot of money this way because you can make yourself appear as an expert whose option and skills are valued higher than if you were just a faceless name with a list of qualifications.
To make this work well you need to show people you know what you are talking about, you need to practice what you preach. The aim is to attract visitors to your website who are searching for a solution to a problem they have or a service they want. It is up to you to structure your website and create content that will do these things. If you achieve this you have a great opportunity to get more work as a consultant and charge higher rates.
Sponsorship is similar to a private ad on your website, where the sponsor pays an agreed amount in exchange for a mention or appearance on your website. If your website becomes popular you may attract sponsorship opportunities that can result in a significant amount of money. However this is a monetisation option suited for bigger and more established websites so we won’t cover it in detail here.
Being able to earn money from the internet is amazing. Just being able to even think about doing this puts us in a privileged position. This being said it takes work, time, and effort so do not be fooled into thinking it’s an easy fix, but anyone can do it and it takes virtually zero cash investment to give it a go.
When starting out I highly recommend choosing either affiliate marketing or Google Adsense. If pushed I would choose affiliate marketing, and more specifically Amazon affiliate marketing.
Ultimately you may choose to build a long-term brand around which you can do more advanced affiliate marketing and even sell your own products and services, but if you want to learn the necessary skills and gain valuable experience I recommend starting out as an Amazon affiliate. Read more about why this is a good idea here.
Good luck and remember those that don’t try will always fail and have regrets.