You’ve probably heard it one time or another. Monetize this … Monetize that … Monetize everything. In this cutthroat world of Internet businesses, web applications, new media networks and the like, everyone wants a cut of the pie–whether it’s in the form of advertising, subscriptions, commissions, or even sponsorships.
About four or five years back, I realized that the Internet was big business. And so I dropped everything I had going on: launched several blogs, joined ad networks, and looked for sponsors. After some time, I quit my day job and focused solely on making income from online sources.
But it’s not as simple as that. Most people would think that running a money-making website is easy as pie. Well, in some cases it probably is. If you have a great domain, steady traffic, and good products to sell, you can perhaps make it big on affiliate commissions. However, this might not always be sustainable.
For the rest of us, though, successfully monetizing a site requires time, focus, effort, and a lot of marketing. You would often see your revenues trickle in a few dollars (or cents!) at a time, until you reach that tipping point when your cashflow would be enough for the site to support itself.
And so here comes the case for or against monetization. Most experienced online entrepreneurs would advise people to focus on several things long before we think about monetizing our sites. Some popular words of wisdom I’ve come across include the following:
- Brian Clark of Copyblogger would often advise online publishers to focus on writing good headlines. These are the first things that people see when looking at your content, and headlines could be a deciding factor on whether they will read on or not.
- Chris Garrett, who used to edit Performancing advises to start slow, but steady. True, while Performancing essentially launched with a bang itself, its editors were mostly considered celebrities already. For the rest of us who are lesser known, then growing one’s site steadily would proably be better.
- Problogger Darren Rowse advises to focus on a niche, rather than to spread yourself too thinly. A lot of blog networks have fallen into the trap of launching and running too many blogs about too many topics. Yes, it’s doable, but not always easy, and not always sustainable.
There are a handful of great advice out there, and these range from the very new to the very old. If you notice, my links span one, two or three years back. That’s because online entrepreneurship goes through the same cycles, and the same experiences year in and year out. Now the piece of advice that I would add is this: you shouldn’t be in a hurry to earn.
The best earning blogs, websites and web apps out there probably started out as hobbies, academic research, or something that was intended to scratch an itch, so to speak. Consider Google. Consider YouTube. I know I have a handful of personal blogs that I’ve either sold off or successfully monetized through advertisements. But I try to start clean–without sponsorships, without ads.
I think the best reason for not jumping into the monetization bandwagon too early is the matter of trust and public perception. Think of it this way: when you read a blog that has a clean, fast interface, don’t you prefer it to a blog that’s full of ads popping about here and there? Even if some advertisements are discreet, it still says something about a blog if it were ad and clutter-free. And to me, at least, it’s most especially a turn-off to see a poorly-written and poorly-maintained site that looks too commercial.
This doesn’t mean you should not plan ahead, though. Further down the road, when you’ve achieved your intended readership, traffic level, and authority, you can then start monetizing your site. It could be sponsorships, links, AdSense, or any other means. The important thing is to focus on quality, because that increases the earning potential of your site.