How to make money from your site is always a very popular topic. Everyone has seen and heard stories about people making living online and is tempted by the same idea of working for yourself and having the freedom and flexibility to run your own business the way you want. The general advice for making money from a site is to clutter it with ads, ruin the user experience by putting the ads within the content and making the ads look like the content itself in order to attract or trick people into clicking and you being awarded by getting few cents per click. Another very popular and highly recommended way of making money is to collect email addresses from your readers and spam them with as many affiliate product pitches as possible in hope that they will buy something before they get enough of you and unsubscribe.
I haven’t chosen any of the two options above. I don’t like monetizing with banner ads and I do not think you should spam your subscribers. I prefer monetizing my content by recommending products that I personally use through educating and inspiring readers to reach their own goals. Earning money from ads is a complicated strategy. You’ve got to publish new material consistently, attract lots of links and readers in hope that after some time you have enough page views to attract advertisers and sell ads. It is a never ending process. Every day you’re starting from scratch. You mustn’t quit producing new content as you cannot let your page views drop as that will mean less money from advertisements. It is a very difficult method of monetizing.
Monetizing by selling your own product
The best option for monetizing is to invest your time in creating something that will provide enduring value and bring you continuous revenue. Create the content once, put it in a permanent form and sell it over and over again. Putting your work into a permanent form is very important as it will allow you not to need to keep recreating your value over and over again. The best way of putting your content into a permanent form is to create your own product. Your product will provide value even when you are not physically present and it will allow you to take a break from posting new content once in a while. It will basically let you stop trading your hours for dollars. Your product can come in many formats. A simple ebook works in many cases. There can be instructional guides and videos. You could even run a membership site.
I’ve been giving away 100% of my content for free. Hundreds of articles with some 500+ words on average each, over several years. The primary goal of my site was to spread ideas, build a readership and help bloggers succeed. Most people understand it’s reasonable for a blogger to earn income from the content they are producing. I believe in providing value and giving people a reason to subscribe and to read my articles. In many cases ebook is a perfect choice for a blogger to test the waters of product creation.
People are busy. Time is money. People don’t have the time or the patience to find and organize all the free information on the Internet. Discovering and structuring all the free information into a consistent format that you can learn from is very hard work. This is where an ebook comes into play. Instead of surfing around looking for bits of information on the different blogs, people can save a lot of time by getting it all in one place – in an ebook. A simple ebook, in a consistent format, with tips in a logical order is a very valuable product, that is very convenient and can save a lot of time for anyone new to the topic.
The product that you publish should be related to what you stand for and what you site about. You are after all seen as the expert and the authoritative figure in that field. You have built the audience of people that trust you and follow you. The best way of seeing if there is a demand for a specific topic is to look at what works best on your own site. What type of articles did get the most buzz, the most page views and comments? About what do people contact you with questions the most? This will give you an idea of what people like from your content, and what people see you as someone with authority and knowledge about.
If you try to cater to everyone, you won’t sell anything. You’ll be debating on both sides. Instead, pick an audience and cater to them. Dig in, and really focus on meeting their needs and answering their questions. Instead of trying to sell a guitar to a painter, sell it to a guitarist.
Launching and selling
One of the most important parts of selling anything is having a team of affiliates or promoters on your side. Had we relied purely on our own audiences to launch to, the buzz wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful as it became. Simply put… you need affiliates to promote your products. The problem though, is that it’s hard to get anyone excited about a $10 commission. If I’m a pro blogger and my own stuff pays me thousands per month, why would I want to work hard for a few hundred dollars? I wouldn’t. But a $23 commission… that’s not nearly as bad, which is why, when you price your products, you need to consider affiliates into the equation. Make it worth their while to promote for you.
It’s a good idea to split test pricing before you launch, so that you can tweak the number for maximum conversions. Another test you should run is on your sales page design, ebook cover design, format, and copy. We decided to go with a long form sales letter (short compared to many in the industry), but we waited until now to split test other formats. It’s quite possible that a different design and sales page could’ve converted better. Everything in this business is a learning process, and if you wait to achieve perfection before you act, then you’ll never get anything done. There will always be room for improvement, and I think that’s exciting. Every launch is a stepping stone. If you want to cross the river, then you’ll need a bunch of them. Once you’ve made a decision, once you’ve started to make a run at it, don’t look back. That’s the biggest mistake you can make.
How to set up the store
A fully functioning online store is the cornerstone of any business trying to sell products on a website. To create an Internet shop is usually very expensive as you need to hire designers to work on the site, the functionality and the custom design. Building an online store with WordPress is much more cost efficient. With it as your platform you can create a very successful e-shop for a fraction of normal cost. It is free and open-source. It features a wide range of plugins, most of them free, including several e-store plugins. Using e-commerce plugin with WordPress allows you to add catalog, cart and billing functionality to your webstore, building a fully-functional shop that can drive your brick and mortar product sales, or sales of online services and digital downloads.
With WordPress you can sell anything online without needing a third-party to take a part of your profits. WordPress allows you to create a shopping area where you can upload products for sale, visitors can add those products to their shopping carts, and pay directly via their Paypal account or their credit card. Building your store within WordPress means that both your website and your store have the same design, usability and user-friendliness. Unlike some e-commerce solutions that look and feel totally different than the main website, in WordPress your visitors experience the same design from your main page to the checkout.
Create an e-commerce shop – Step-by-Step
Here is the step-by-step process of creating your online store with WordPress:
- Install WordPress. See my guide here.
- Install WP e-Commerce plugin
There is a wide variety of e-commerce plugins in WordPress, ranging from simple to very advanced, from free to commercial. WP e-Commerce is the most popular WordPress store plugin and has been downloaded by more than 1.9 million business owners. In Plugins of your WordPress Admin area, download and activate WP e-Commerce.
- Customize your store settings
Activating the plugin will add “Store” in your “Settings” WordPress admin navigation tab. This area allows you to customize your store. Everything from your target markets, currency settings, and store presentation, to checkout, shipping and payments is customizable via a simple interface.
- Add products to your store
“Products” section has been added to your WordPress admin navigation as well. This is where you add the products into your store. Again everything is customizable via a familiar WordPress interface: product name, image, description and price. In case your are selling physical products there are options from shipping weight and charges to stock control.
- Add widgets for better shopping experience
In “Appearance” in your WordPress admin click on “Widgets”. You will notice several shopping related widgets have been added to your options: Latest Products, Product Categories etc.
Shopping Cart widget is the one you should activate to help your customers. This widgets allows you to display information such as products in shopping cart, prices and quantities. Just like Amazon.com or any other online store.
Simply drag and drop the Shopping Cart into your sidebar.
When you optimize all the Store settings and add your products, your actual store will be on yourdomain.com/products-page/. That’s it, your store is ready.
Let us assume that you have competitive pricing within your niche and that you have decent conversion rates on the traffic you currently receive. That is great to hear, but the problem is your site is out-ranked by the big retailers and other competitors in your niche. Brands such as Amazon, Zappos.com, Domino’s, JetBlue have the most loyal customers within their respected industries. In terms of marketing strategy, what do all of these brands have in kind? Customer engagement and transparency.
All of these brands focus on providing solutions to their customers above all else. Zappos and JetBlue are leaders in customer service; they engage with and listen to their customers in order to improve their services. While you might not have the advertising budgets as these companies’, you certainly can budget for the development of a web page, your online window to your niche and its customers. Discover what your audience will consider “awesome” and then waste no time in fulfilling that demand. Then the sales will be coming.