Many people start their website without a solid plan to monetize the site. They think they can just offer free content through their blog and, magically, start selling something one day.
That isn’t a solid strategy. The more free information you offer, the more you’ll attract an audience which doesn’t want to pay for information. I say this as someone who both sells information and also frequently refuses to pay for it from people with a history of giving it away for free.
Managing Audience Expectations
People don’t really become loyal members of your audience until they know what to expect. Once they think they’ve figured you out, they can make the decision to subscribe to your site or to ignore it.
But if you do something they didn’t expect, they need to make that decision all over again—and they may decide to leave.
Now, if you’re trying to sell people something, losing subscribers who don’t want to pay might be ok—but you’ll want to check your math. If you assume than 1% of your 10,000 subscribers will pay and you suddenly lose 5,000 subscribers, you might ruin your business.
Establishing The Need To Pay Early
Ideally, you want your website to make it clear to visitors from the start that you will charge money. Let some other site pander to freeloaders. But how do you establish a paying audience in a world where everyone gives away their content for free?
The key is to only give away some of your content for free. Sell the rest of it. Start your website from day one, if possible, with a small ebook or other product for sale for $0.99. The ebook only needs to be the length of a long blog post, but it should contain special information not found in one of your public blog posts.
The Essential Formula
For every thing you give away free on your website or your newsletter, make sure you sell something else. Track how well each piece of free information converts to selling paid information or products. And remember this:
• If something you give away for free doesn’t create sales, don’t give away anything else like it for free.
This is where many websites fail. They spend time and money on creating free content which doesn’t contribute to their bottom line. They assume they can just keep creating free stuff to get more visitors without ever trying to be effective at generating income.
All Money-Making Websites Are In The Business Of Sales
It doesn’t matter what your website does, in order to be profitable you need to make sales. And any good sales manager tracks the productivity of their salespeople—and fires those who don’t generate results.
Make sure you setup goal tracking analytics on your website so you know what free content pages on your site generate the most sales. Make more pages like that. It is just that simple.
You can still experiment with free content. But if it doesn’t generate sales, spend less and less time (or money) on it.
But What About Advertisements?
Many sites which give away free content hope to make money by hosting advertisements. This sounds like an exception to the rule that all money-making websites are in the business of sales, but it isn’t. Your website is just out-sourcing the actual sales pitch (and profit) to another entrepreneur.
If you host advertisements, you should perform the same test: only post content when it generates a high level of advertising income. This is why I remove Adsense from certain pages once I know there is something to sell on there.
If people come to your website but don’t click on the advertisements, don’t blame AdBlockPro or any external factor. Blame yourself for not producing content which makes people want to click on your ads.
What kind of content produces ad-clicks? Typically content which prepares people for buying, such as product reviews and how-to articles which require special parts.
Why One Penny Is Worth More Than 10,000 Visitors
A great number of websites track the number of visitors to that website. This is a useful statistic—for deciding when to upgrade your hosting. But it’s a meaningless statistic for building an online business.
The only statistics that matter for a business are related to income and profit.
Hosting a meme on your website can generate 100,000 visitors in a day without earning you a single cent. You can become an expert in attracting visitors without learning how to make money online.
But if you host paid content or products on your website, every single time someone buys something, you will learn a little bit more about how to make money online. That’s a skill with value.
How To Design Your Website
Design your website around the products you will sell. Decide on your core product, create it (or pre-sell it), and then build free pages which help sell it.
You can create a bunch of different types of free pages to see which sell better. Promotional pages, casual blogs, FAQs, previews, infographics, videos, podcasts, and more.
What you don’t want to do is create the same type of page (such as blog posts) over and over—unless you have solid statistical proof showing that type of page works to sell your product.
As you get feedback from your customers, you may change your product. This is another chance to re-try failed free content types. But, once again, don’t keep trying something which doesn’t earn you money.
There may be some types of free content, such as guest posts you make to other sites, which are hard to track. In these cases, you will have to guess how effective they are. The best way to do that is to collect good statistics on every type of content you can and then subtract them from your total sales to see how many sales are left over. Then you will know the maximum amount of sales you got from untraceable methods and can make an effective guess about each technique’s success rate. I definitely make money from the guest posting strategy so it will always be at the top of my list.
If something you give away for free doesn’t create sales, don’t give away anything else like it for free.