While we’ve had this product for quite a while, it’s name is new and we’ve got a great group of clients such as Fox Interactive Media, Tribune, Looksmart, Lycos, Six Apart, and more who are now talking about the benefits they’re receiving from running their own advertising exchange that can be tied into the Right Media Exchange.
Category Archives: Publishing
It’s unfortunate that a lot of the conventional wisdom for how to make money from advertising on a website or blog is to slap up Google Adsense and watch the money roll in. While there are many publishers who do make great money from Adsense, they are usually working very hard at it.
Additionally, I’ve had the luxury to work with many publishers making money from advertising through my work at Right Media as well as the 10 years of testing and working with different advertising options and solutions through my own publishing efforts.
The results of this work are that making money from advertising on a website boils down to a couple of key points. They are:
- Putting in effort and time.
- Using multiple advertising options/solutions.
That may simplify things a bit too much, so I’m going to dive in to my 10 recommendations of things to do to increase your ad revenue:
1. Sell Targeted Ads
The holy grail of website advertising is to sell advertising directly to companies that are interested in reaching your audience. These types of ad campaigns usually pay the best, and generally are the most relevant to your users. However, many publishers seem to think that their site is too small, or that it takes too much work to set this up. You can go about doing this by choosing to set it all up yourself, work with an agency that represents you, or use an automated service.
To set it up yourself, you’ll need to create an obvious “Advertise on this site” link throughout your site that goes to a page dedicated to selling your site to advertisers. A few things to include on this page:
- What makes your site unique.
- Unique visitors, page views, and any other relevant statistics.
- User demographics. Use a web analytics solution and a perform a survey on your audience using a tool like SurveyMonkey.
- Rates of your advertising, and mention that you can negotiate special packages.
- Quotes from anyone who had advertised successfully with you.
- List others who have advertised with you, give some advertising away to free to some companies in your industry if you have to in order to get the ball rolling.
Then be willing to put in some work contacting some advertisers in your industry to let them know your inventory is available, and work to guarantee that they get a positive return for their ad spend.
If you don’t have the time to do the work yourself, there are numerous site representation agencies/networks who will try to sell advertising specifically for your site. They usually require that you have significant traffic in order to make it worth their while, and then they often take somewhere between 25-50% for their services. The advantages are though that they are able to include you with other sites and sell to larger advertisers, they collect the money from advertisers, and they handle the gathering of creatives for the campaigns. A few examples of these companies are Rydium, Gorilla Nation, Burst Media, DrivePM, and Tribal Fusion.
Additionally, there is an option in the middle of these two which is working with a more automated service to list your site as a place where targeted ads can be bought. Services like these include Adbrite, AdEngage, Adster, Adify. These services all take some portion of the revenue that they generate for you, and my personal results with them have been quite mixed.
2. Work with Multiple Ad Networks
Allocating all of your ad inventory to one ad network is not a good idea. It means that ad network can pay whatever they want for your inventory, and most traditional ad networks will take the impressions they want and then default the rest. If they default an impression, it means it wasn’t paid for unless you choose to send that impression elsewhere within their interface. The more volume you have, the worse it is to just work with one network.
The solution to this is to work with multiple ad networks, and preferably ones that may have different campaigns, strengths, geographies, or industries they focus on.
The next question is how do you allocate inventory when you work with multiple ad networks? And how does this make you more money? You can randomly allocate inventory, you can weight it somehow based on what they’re paying you on average, you can daisy-chain your inventory meaning you send all your inventory to your top network and let them default it to the next network and that continues on down a chain, or you can auction your inventory to the highest bidder. I’m biased (and also right), but auctioning is really the best solution because it values each impression for what it’s worth and generates more revenue per impression.
3. Try contextual, display, and standard text ads.
Site publishers and bloggers often make an assumption about what type of ads will work best for their site. Many people feel Adsense’s contextual ads are the best for their site, many feel that display CPM ads are the best, and some feel that selling text ads on one of the text ad services is the best thing for them. The reality is that you should test all three, and then probably use all three. If you use a tool to auction inventory, then you can have it decide whether to serve a contextual Adsense-like impression, or to serve a graphical ad from a display ad network. It’s also usually pretty easy to fit some paid text ads in various places throughout your site.
You may be shocked at what works best for you, but I strongly suggest experimenting to find the right mix.
4. Test different ad locations
There are some common guidelines you often hear about ad location. You’ll hear that ads should be above the fold, integrated in content, or placed according to an advertising heat map. While those things are “generally” true, I’ve seen enough examples to know that it isn’t always the case. The layout and content on your site can make it vastly different on where ads should be located.
As a counterexample to common wisdom, I’ve seen 728×90 leaderboard ads at the bottom of a long page that have better click-through rates than the ads being at the top of the page. The reason is probably because users read or scroll down to the bottom and are done with what they’re doing, so they actually notice the ad and act on it. This doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for you, so how do you know?
Create your own heat map of course! There are a couple of new services that allow you to create a heat map which shows where users are most often clicking on your site. They are ClickDensity and CrazyEgg. CrazyEgg also allows you to easily set up tests so you can try placing ads in different locations and seeing heat maps of the results.
Additionally, you can simply run your own tests by moving ads around your pages and seeing what kind of overall effective CPM they are earning you based on location.
As some suggestions though, I would recommend the conventional wisdom to make your ads as integrated with content as possible, and as easily noticed and clicked as possible.
5. Change things often
User burnout on ads is common. Users who visit your site a lot will get used to where you place ads, and will learn to totally ignore those areas. A good way to get a little boost is to shake your site up and move ads to new locations. Make sure you’re watching your ad rates and ad statistics to see what happens with your tests.
If nothing at all you can probably earn some accidental clicks, but it can also just help make users start paying attention to the ads again.
6. Work with different ad pricing models
Similar to the types of advertising you accept, I recommend opening up to different ad pricing models. I talk to many publishers who only want CPM deals, or only want CPC deals. The reality is that CPA deals can often times earn more revenue if they have the right audience. Why limit yourself to losing out on money? Or hey, maybe try selling a flat rate sponsorship deal? It’s old school, but I’ve used it successfully for years on a site for a specific sport.
This helps you earn more money by opening your site up to more advertisers, and more competition from advertisers can drive your overall rates and revenue up. It’s easiest if you use an ad management tool that allows you to accept multiple types of pricing deals and allocate your inventory appropriately.
7. Increase your traffic
I’m not going to get into the details, just do a Google search and you can find plent to read on the subject, but increasing the overall traffic on your website is one of the most obvious and surefire ways to make more money from advertising.
Increasing unique visitors helps, as well as increasing the number of page views each visitor sees. While ad rates usually go down for the more ads they see, there’s usually a positive benefit to increasing the number of page views each user creates. I’m not trying to advocate creating a bad user experience on purpose, more that you should add content and features to your site that make people stick around and create more ad impressions.
There are many tips and tricks out there for generating more visitors and traffic, but it really boils down to creating great content and working at generating good links and getting good search rankings.
8. Use your ad analytics
Too many publishers use ad reporting tools to just see how much money they’re owed and they’re done with it. There can be some gems of information you can find in ad reporting tools to help you increase your revenue. You can study what sizes are working the best, what increasing click or conversion rate does to your revenue, which advertisers are the most successful with you, what affect changing your site layout and content does to your ad rates, and more.
As an example, a user of RMX Direct used it’s reporting tool to find out that Burst Media was taking only their USA impressions and defaulting everything after the first four impressions for each user. RMX Direct then allowed them to set a frequency cap on Burst to only send them the first four impressions from USA visitors. RMX Direct then allocated any other impressions elsewhere and so it earned them more revenue by not having Burst fill the impressions cheaply or not at all.
9. Expand your ad sizes
Do you use 468×60 banners? Have you tried 728x90s instead? Do you use 120×600 skyscrapers? Have you tried 160×600 instead? Are you using all the sizes made available to you by advertisers and networks? If so, you owe it to yourself to test them out. The most common excuse I hear is that their site layout doesn’t work for a particular ad size. While I understand that sentiment, if a 728×90 ad on average pays double a 468×60 ad, then changing your site design for that difference in revenue is worthwhile assuming you have a decent level of traffic.
Some ad networks like Adsense have additional “odd” ad sizes link their Link Units which can fit in strange places. While I’m not advocating you kill the user experience, don’t be afraid to try more ad sizes.
10. Ask for more money
It doesn’t always work, but in many cases if you have a decent site and are a persistent negotiator, you can get advertisers and ad networks to pay you more money than before by paying more if it’s a direct advertiser, or raising your revenue share if it’s an ad network. You may have to make promises, you may have to work hard, you may have to threaten to quit or actually temporarily quit, but if an advertiser really wants your business, they’ll usually do what it takes to keep you as a client.
So is there a secret to increasing ad revenue? Not really, but I hope you’ve learned that it takes some extra effort and work, but the results can be absolutely phenomenal and I recommend leaving no stones unturned. If you have success with any of these methods, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
One of the hottest ways to think about the new “2.0 economy” has been Chris Anderson’s original article, blog, and book about The Long Tail. If you want more background try any of the previous links, but the quick summary is:
The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.
The Long Tail is often used to talk about the success of newer web business models like Itunes, Rhapsody, and Google Adsense, and it’s probably been used in hundreds of business plans for Web 2.0 applications being pitched to venture capitalists.
I agree with the general model of the Long Tail, but in a recent discussion with a coworker and friend about what portion of the web publishing market my team’s product RMX Direct was going after, he brought up the idea of the Meaty Middle.
What is the Meaty Middle? Let’s take a look at the Long Tail graph:
On the left we have the “hits”, or in the music industry example the top of the radio charts and the most well-known artists. On the right in yellow is the long tail where the rest of the smaller artists in the music industry make up a large amount of business when taken together.
But really, is it that simple? Can we really group them in these two groups? Isn’t there a significant difference in the music artist who sells 100 thousand copies of an album and one who sells 100 copies? On that premise, we have the Meaty Middle:
We now see the green Meaty Middle in the graph which takes up quite a bit of area. As I mentioned above, this is a different type of music artist than the ones further down the tail. They are legitimate bands, not household names, but definitely different from the struggling artist few people outside of their friends or local town would recognize.
Let’s get more specific with the web publisher industry since that’s where the idea originated. On the left side of the graph you have your Alexa top 250 publishers. This includes:
- Portals: Yahoo, MSN, AOL
- Top News Sites: CNN.com, New York Times, Washington Post, etc.
- Social Stars: Myspace, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, etc.
- Specialty Content: ESPN.com, Weather.com, Match.com, etc.
In the advertising world these top publishers are all enterprise level advertising clients with their own ad sales teams selling premium campaigns, and they usually still have a serious amount of remnant inventory that they sell to direct marketing advertisers or they work with ad networks to resell. More and more of them are moving to the exchange model for that inventory, but that’s another story.
Then on the other side of the industry it’s always been talked about how Google Adsense dominates because of the Long Tail. You know, how so many blogs and niche publishers use Adsense and when you add them all up together it equals a lot of inventory and a lot of money.
That’s true, but too simple. Adsense, and the other ad networks you’ve heard of like Yahoo Publisher Network, Valueclick, Casale, Tribal Fusion, and Burst really do their damage in the Meaty Middle. Why do I differentiate it? Because the publishers in the Meaty Middle are different and require different things.
When RMX Direct was mentioned in TechCrunch, we received hundreds of signups for publishers who I’d classify as “long tail”. They were primarily bloggers and focused websites with a small amount of traffic. After a hundred of these publishers started using our tool their inventory adds up to less than one Meaty Middle publisher I called on the phone and signed up to use our service.
Why is this critical to know? If we focused exclusively on the long tail publishers, we’d fail. The support and management that some of them require make them a losing financial effort, while that one Meaty Middle publisher I signed up requires little to no support at all. That isn’t always the case, but there is definitely not a correlation between the amount of support a publisher requires to the amount of ad revenue they generate.
This is one of the reasons why many traditional ad networks have a minimum volume requirement. We’re not requiring a minimum volume for the long tail small publishers because we love them and taken as a whole they do provide a good chunk of business.
The key point is that we recognize that the Meaty Middle exists, it’s a huge chunk of the market, and it’s a different type of publisher with different needs. If we resorted to just thinking about the Alexa Top 250 and the Long Tail alone, we’d be building and marketing towards the wrong thing.
As I’ve examined other industries I think it’s clear the Meaty Middle exists in most cases. There’s usually significant differences between the item at the top of the curve, the middle, and the tail. The Long Tail theory isn’t wrong, it’s just too simple of a breakdown for my taste.
Steve Berkowitz, senior vice president of the online services group for Microsoft, said ads would be made for Facebook, but they could also be aimed at any of MSNâ€™s various Internet properties, which have a total of 400 million users worldwide. At the same time, ads running on MSN properties may also appear on Facebook, depending on what audience the advertiser wants to reach.
Phil Leigh, president of Inside Digital Media, a market research firm specializing in digital media, said of the deal. â€œBut Facebook is also a legitimate test bed, a place where Microsoft can test new technology in a commercial context,â€™â€™ he said.
â€œWhat weâ€™ll see is Microsoft attempt to do some fairly leading-edge type of things, involving banner ads, animation and interactivity,â€™â€™ he added. â€œWhatever technology they develop and use effectively in Facebook, theyâ€™ll be able to use it elsewhere.â€™â€™
“…think of us as becoming the eBay of advertising where we will bring together buyers and sellers in an online marketplace.”
As I mentioned before, popular technology application blog TechCrunch did an article on our product RMX Direct on Saturday. Now over 60 hours removed, I figured it was time to share the results and statistics of getting “Crunch’d”.
First, I think I’d guess that these numbers are lower than the normal “Crunching”. The reasoning being that it happened on a weekend in August, perhaps one of the slowest times of the year for web traffic as people are out enjoying the weekend or on vacations to end the summer. Our product is also one that’s only of interest to bloggers and publishers that have web sites. It’s not as consumer-oriented as many of the services TechCrunch profiles. That being said, here goes:
- 1230 total visits directly from Techcrunch
- 300+ beta invite requests and counting
- 27 comments on the TechCrunch post
- Numerous mentions on other blogs
- AVC Blog post from Fred Wilson on the Coming Open Ad Market
- 33 Diggs
- 4 Netscape votes (Hmm)
Overall we’re happy with the results as it’s led to a lot of interest and new publishers willing to try out RMX Direct and provide us feedback. We couldn’t ask for more than that at this point.
And yes, since Right Media is serving 60 billion ad impressions a month, our servers could handle the load!
I think the Monetizing Your Blog session I helped lead at Wordcamp today went pretty well, I hope everyone in the audience enjoyed it. I know I did as I also got some good suggestionsi from people in the audience about additional ways to monetize blogs. Specifically:
Kevin Burton of Tailrank suggested adding code that places obvious ads front and center on your blog to visitors who come from search engines. The theory is that because these aren’t your normal community of readers, you can be more aggressive trying to monetize them. And your normal readers don’t get mad at having obnoxious ads on your blog. This could work well, but it could also impede your ability to convert those search engine visitors into becoming part of your community of readers if they’re getting large ads front and center.
I learned more about Goodstorm and their plugin to allow bloggers to place products easily in a widget on their sidebar, and then get a cut of revenue. Goodstorm was started out of wanting to help small bloggers and social and political organizations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. “Capitalism Done Right” is their slogan, and they look to be holding to those ideals.
David Krug of Problogging.com suggested TicTap.com, a service that lets you put Amazon.com ads for relevant products on your site. David was very active in the discussion, obviously a guy who’s passionate about blog monetization!
After the discussion I talked to Greg Narain of SocialRoots who has plans and products in the works to help bloggers sell/monetize their individual posts in various ways.
Overall there’s a lot of people and companies interested in blog monetization, so I think the future is bright in this area.
I’m co-leading a discussion session at Wordcamp about Monetizing Blogs, so I thought I’d also touch on it here with a post about 10 Ways to Monetize Your Blog.
First, I should preface this discussion by saying you first need to seriously evaluate whether you want to work at monetizing your blog. Steve Pavlina has a very thorough post that goes over what’s necessary to really do this well, and why the majority of people who try end up not generating significant income.
Second, you have to make sure that making money from your blog directly is your goal. For example, for this blog direct income isn’t my goal. I didn’t have ads at all untli recently, and the only reason I added them was to use the ad network management application I’ve been working on called RMX Direct. It’s quite possible that your blogging goals may just to network, write about something you’re interested in, or serve some business purpose that isn’t direct income generation.
With that out of the way, let’s get started:
1. Contextual Advertising
Surprise, surprise. Advertising is easily the most popular blog monetization tactic, mostly due to it being the easiest thing to implement. Advertising comes in many forms, and contextual advertising is the most popular due to Google Adsense and it’s general success with blogs and niche sites.
I’m going to assume everyone reading this is familiar with it, but I think it should be mentioned that too many bloggers assume that Adsense is the best solution for their blog. For some blogs and topics it works great, for others, not very well at all.
My advice is to not limit your blog to one ad network or just one form of advertising. Other contextual options include the Yahoo Publisher Network, Chitika, Clicksor, AdSonar, and others. It’s not easy to manually test all these though if you’re shuffling ad tags around and randomly allocating your impressions to them, using a ad network management tool like RMX Direct can help you manage, evaluate, and control your various ad networks.
2. Display Advertising
As I mentioned above, contextual networks aren’t always the best solution for blogs. In some cases there aren’t enough advertisers in niche topics, and in others the users just isn’t likely to click. In this case, you want to be working with ad networks that provide CPM display advertising. This means you get paid something for every ad viewed, opposed to only getting paid per click.
Just like with contextual networks, it’s important to use multiple display ad networks to get more variety from your ads, to not let any one network control your inventory, and to make sure you’re earning the most amount of money possible.
3. Targeted Advertising
The most desirable form of advertising is having companies that wish to pay good rates to advertise on your blog directly whether it’s text or image ads. Many bloggers feel that this is a pipe dream, but I speak from experience from running a wakeboarding blog for many years that you can make solid income from targeted advertising without having insane amounts of traffic.
There are a number of key things you have to do though in order to get this type of advertising:
- Have a blog with leading content in your niche and a professional design
- Create a “media kit” which is essentially a page on your blog that explains that you take targeted advertising, what your rates are, demographics of your users, your traffic levels, examples of the types of ads people can run, testimonials from any companies that have advertised with you, and a phone number and email address they can use to get more information.
- Have obvious “Advertise On This Blog” links in key places on your blog.
- Give a company or two in your niche free or very low-cost advertising in order to get the ball rolling. When advertisers see their competitors or companies similar to them advertising, they get the idea that it’s available. If all they ever see is Adsense ads, they might not realize it’s an option.
- Be willing to be creative to help your advertisers achieve their goals, and lower your price to get the deals.
- Provide statistics and results to your advertisers. Use an ad server like RMX Direct, phpAdsNew, or something similar which has the ability to create reports per advertiser.
Once you’ve set your blog up properly, start approaching companies in your niche who will want to reach your traffic. You don’t need to go after the biggest companies, there are many small companies who are looking to get better results from the web, and they might not even know about your blog. You don’t need to be an ad sales professional, you just need to present your case well on why they’re missing out if they don’t advertise on your traffic. Make it easy on them to work with you, help them create ads, help them determine what sizes to use, and work with them to make sure they get the results they need. It seems like hard work at first, but after you get a solid base of advertisers going, it’s a great source of income and it starts to streamline.
4. Text Link Advertising
Another somewhat unobtrusive form of advertising is using services like Text Link Ads or Adbrite to sell text ads directly to companies. This is pretty low effort and often doesn’t take up too much space on a site, so it’s easy to implement and try out. It should be noted though that you need significant traffic for it to be a big source of income.
5. Affiliate Links
One of the older web monetization methods is still as good today as it’s always been. If you’ve got a blog in a specific area, there’s a very large chance that there are companies out there that sell products or services your users are interested in. You can earn some nice income recommending or linking to those products.
Amazon.com is probably the most common affiliate merchant used by bloggers, but I’d advise finding other unique merchants who may pay better and be more specific to your topic. Amazon is always there as an option, but you’re more likely to get more help from the merchant if you go with a smaller company.
Another nice thing about affiliate links is that they fit well with quality content. Reviewing products and services for your users is valuable content, and if you can make money off it as well it’s a great combination. A word of warning though that you shouldn’t change your reviews or be biased due to the fact you can make money off a referral.
While traffic also helps for affiliate links, it can sometimes be an easier way to generate income without high traffic levels like advertising requires. As an example I did a review of a web analytics application a couple of years ago, and this blog had very little traffic at that point. I referred two sales through that review though that still earn me $150 a month every month two years later.
6. Selling Your Content (Ebooks, Videos, DVDs)
If you’ve got great content, another option is to package it and sell it. There are numerous bloggers who have created ebooks and even real books based on their blog content and made great income selling them. You can also expand to infoproducts like videos, DVDs, audio CDs, and printed books on demand.
This can take some significant work and it requires great content to actually sell, but it can be a nice income stream that lasts a long time.
Depending on your topic and your level of expertise, you can sell consulting services. If you’re a web analytics expert, you could offer web analytics consulting services on your blog for an hourly fee. This takes very little work to setup beyond creating a page outlining your services, getting a standard contract, and having a way to take payments from companies. Again though, it just takes a little bit of effort to let people know that consulting services are available.
Not quite as common as it once was, it used to be fairly common for bloggers to ask for donations on their blog through Paypal or some other service. This only works if you have a dedicated userbase, and a large enough number of users that their donations add up. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re also putting a lot of advertising and other monetization methods on your blog. You’ll come off as a bit too greedy in that case.
9. Selling Products
Besides infoproducts, you can sell real products like t-shirts, bumper stickers, clothing, or whatever other kind of merchandise makes sense for your topic. Companies like Goodstorm, CafePress, Lulu, and others make it easy by creating the products based on your design and letting you set up a shop. There is no risk to bloggers, which makes it a great opportunity.
10. Selling Your Blog
Perhaps the most extreme of the blog monetization methods, but it can be lucrative! If you aren’t attached to your blog and are willing to part with it, you can usually find a buyer for it. Your blog must be pretty good, and have a level of traffic worth buying, and it really helps if you already have some income streams going for it. Blogs usually sell for 12-24 times monthly revenues, and there are numerous places you can sell them like eBay and the Sitepoint Marketplace.
It definitely takes some work to monetize your site well, and having good traffic really helps out. Work on building a blog with a solid userbase, and you should be on your way to generating income using any of the methods above. Good luck, and please share any blog monetization experiences you have in the comments.
Update: I was pointed to a similar post by Darren Rowse at Problogger.net that is also a recommended read on the subject of making money from your blog. He mentions many of the same things, and has a couple I didn’t mention as well.
I didn\’t see any integration on Slate.com in a quick look, but this opens what could be an interesting way to drive more traffic and users to Reddit if they started allowing top publishers to have their own cobranded Reddit to allow users to socially vote on and interact with their stories. They\’d provide their technology and host the site like they are with Slate, and the publisher drives users to the tool. It could help Reddit get more exposure and new users who may have not heard of the social news site before.
A cool move, we\’ll see if they pursue this further with other top web publishers.
In my many years as a website publisher and working with publishers, I’ve noticed a set of common traits that lead to success whether you’re building a blog, a content web site, an ecommerce site, or a Web 2.0 application.
While you can achieve success with some of these traits, if you can instill all of them you’re definitely headed to make money with your web project.
It’s not really that much about having the best unique idea, VC funding, a great design, or a kick ass team, although those things can help. It’s about possessing these ten common traits:
1. Passion for your topic
You don’t necessarily need to be the world’s foremost expert on the topic of your website, but if you have passion you can do what it takes. In order to spend time working on a web project every day and be in it for the long haul, you have to love or really enjoy the subject matter you’re dealing with. This is why people’s hobby sites often work out well, or you see a company like 37Signals who’s passion is maximizing time and simplifying their work, so naturally they succeed at building web applications that help people in their areas of passion.
2. Relentless networking
A successful web publisher often has a great feel and great connections in their industry. Being involved in conferences, having people sending you important news and advice, being able to get links from industry-specific sites, finding joint marketing partners, sharing resources, and getting feedback from your peers are all reasons it pays off to be a relentless networker when it comes to your website.
3. Focus on goals and prioritize
There are so many directions you can take a website it’s easy to get lost in features and communications that don’t really add money to the bottom line. Focusing on the goals that will really help you achieve success and making sure you’re working hardest on those goals is the key. As a web publisher I often foung myself doing the easy things like responding to emails, reading industry news, or doing minor content updates when really I could have been making more money by tackling some larger projects related to my site that would really drive revenue. It never seemed like a big deal at the time, but when I think back and realize I spent the majority of time working on things that didn’t matter much, I realize how much more successful some of my sites could have been.
4. Time and dedication
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to build a great website without working hard and spending time at it. It definitely IS possible to achieve success without killing yourself, but the majority of the time it can take a lot of long hours, or extra hours at home at night if it’s not your fulltime job to make a website a success. It’s also common for it to take a year or two before a site really starts going for a publisher. If you know you can’t find the time and dedication to really give it the effort, don’t bother starting your site.
5. Master Search Engine Marketing
For as much hype as getting great links is, getting the right blogs to write about you, or buying from the hot advertising sources, plain old natural search engine marketing is a huge key to success for most great web publishers. It would always amaze me to see that I had gotten prominent links, or a mentioning in an offline publication, but still the huge majority of my traffic came from search engines. It’s free, it really isn’t that complicated, and it’s bound to always be important even though search engines will evolve.
6. Attention to detail
The difference from a great site to a bad site isn’t always a big difference. Often it can be a small detail in implementation of a feature, a link that isn’t named well, a broken contact form, or some other small detail that can keep your website from being truly great and successful. If you’re not a detail-person, hire a friend for cheap to edit/test your website and help you realize the details are important.
7. Listening to users
Don’t do everything your users tell you, but they are your customers. You’d be surprised that people use your site in ways you might not expect, and often users can change around a site for the better by providing great feedback or choosing to use it a certain way. Riya launched as a facial recognition photo application, but the team soon noticed that the majority of their users were simply searching photos. This has led to a reorganization of the Riya site and business model. Is it the right move? Tough to say right now, but it’s what their users are doing on the site, why not cater to them?
8. Use of web analytics
Very little can tell you how to improve your website and make more money than a web analytics application. Getting into the habit of viewing your stats and working hard to get insights from them and work to improve them is a common trait of successful publishers. If you’re ever stuck on figuring out how to take your website to the next level of success, analyze your web analytics hard and you’ll notice things to improve that can make a major difference, if not tell you things you need to know to adapt what your site is and how it works.
9. Communication and writing
Whether it’s a blog, content site, or a web application, communicating well is important. Writing on your site should be good, communications with partners and customers must be good, and you must want to communicate with your audience. It’s the best way to earn their loyalty as well as help them use the site successfully.
10. Luck and timing
Sometimes there is a little dumb luck in making your website a success. Starting a site about the right topic at the right time is hard to predict, but it can achieve magic if it works out right. This usually means it helps to be ahead of the curve, but in some cases, it means taking an old idea and making it new and better, and just doing that at the right time can provide some luck and momentum that’s hard to recreate otherwise.