Webmasters: How to make money with your website
v1.3 r15Jun2001 fr23Jan2000
by Elf Qrin
Besides of being the owner of a quite successful website about computer security and cyberlifestyle (ElfQrin.com), in the "real world" I'm partner of an advertising and marketing company. The fact of being a webmaster of such site gave me the possibility to make some experience with online advertising.
It took me several months of tests and experiments, but now I feel satisfied enough and I think I'm able to give some advices about it.
At the end of this article you'll find the links to a list of companies which can sponsor your website and some examples within my website. However, I warmly suggest you to read the whole article first (which is not that long, after all) because it contains useful tips about how to advertise on your website.
However, the most important thing when you run a website is passion. If you do that for money, probably your website would be poor (and it will less likely attract visitors). You have to take care of your site and treat it like your beloved child, updating it often, and making it always better. If you think you can place banners here and there and then watch the money pouring in, you are pretty wrong.
Conventional ad banner campaigns
When I decided to put ads on my website, at first I've tried to contact some of those companies which serves banners to your website and pay you a commission. I have to say it hasn't been easy because of the content of my website: for almost all of them, hacking means "piracy and crime", pure and simple.
Anyway, I eventually have found a company that accepted to put their banners (or better said, banners from their advertisers) on my website. Sadly, I soon realized I was making much less money than expected, because nowadays such companies only pay "per click" (although they often claim they make "per impression" campaigns, which is not true, otherwise they couldn't be competitive for their advertisers), which means you are only paid for those banners on which your visitors click.
I never believed in CPC (Cost Per Click) campaigns, it's like giving out free ads: it's just like Coca-Cola would pay TV commercials only for the people who rush out of their home to go to the grocery store to buy a six cans pack after seeing their ad on TV.
It is obvious that people could buy the product later, and even if they don't, their brand is promoted anyway.
Furthermore, the "click-thru" (the ratio between published/clicked banners) is always very low: normally ranges from 0.1% to 0.5% in your very lucky days (which means only 1 to 5 visitors every 1000 will click a banner) mostly because often the banners shown are totally unrelated to the content of your website, so that it's unlikely that your visitors are interested in them. Which means you are "wasting" over 990 visitors every 1000, and after all that you are bothering and boring your visitors with ads they don't like.
If you are wondering how much money you can get for every click, it ranges from 10 to 20 cents according from how many monthly visitors you have.
In a few words, this kind of advertising works only for large websites with millions of monthly visitors which can make an acceptable amount of money because they are working with big figures. Or, even better, this system works for huge websites, like Altavista or Yahoo!, which can state the rules to advertise on them, usually asking to be paid for every impression, rather than for click.
In my opinion, and in my experience, the best way to make money for webmasters of little or average websites is through "affiliate programs" (someone calls them "associate programs", it's the same thing). At the first sight, this system looks even less profitable than CPC campaigns because most of them actually work on a "pay per lead" basis, which means your visitors not only have to click on their banners but also have to buy something or fill an online form to get you credit.
Affiliate programs give you two big advantages, though: first, you can choose what banners you can publish on your website, so that you can make "targeted advertising" and have a higher click-thru ratio; second, they pay higher commissions: some of them give you from 5% to 20% on every sale made by visitors who came from your website. Other companies may pay you only 50 cents, but they gave away free stuff, so that many visitors will probably click on your banners because they don't have to pay anything.
Which Affiliate Programs work better for you
Remember, you should make targeted advertising on your website: so, if your website it's about dogs you should advertise stuff for dogs. You can refine targeted advertising even more, if you can find banners related to the subject of single pages or areas of your website: for example, you can advertise dog food if you have a page about nutrition for dogs.
Choose only companies you think are more related with the content of your website, and especially choose only the banners you would click: if they interests you, they probably will be interesting for your visitors as well.
Don't advertise companies that gives you less than 50 cents or better $1 per lead (for free stuff, or filling forms), or about $5 per lead (other products/services): it's very hard to make a significative amount of money with them, also doing this you'll encourage companies to offer higher commissions.
Don't put dozen of banners on every page, they only will annoy your visitors, and they'll be uneffective. As a general rule just put one to the top of the page, and in case one to the bottom.
Long lists of featured items do not enjoy the same success as a few well-recommended and frequently updated choices.
Make a good looking website (possibly with a "professional look") with an interesting content, and update it often, so that visitors will come back and may be suggest it to other people.
Don't cheat nor bother your visitors: they are your most valuable resource, and more than everything if they like your website, they see you as a friend or a person they can trust, and it wouldn't be good if you betray them. Don't advertise something you think it's not good or will not satisfy your visitors.
Don't cheat with your affiliate partners, as well. Besides of moral considerations, you'll be banned from their programs.
These programs are the ones which seems to work better among the ones I've tried, you can join them all, and give a look to what they offer, and may be use all of them in your website, placing their links on your pages.
Probably the most known online shop on the Internet. It started as an online bookstore, but now besides books it sells movies, CDs, DVDs, electronic devices, tools, and much more stuff. A good idea is to put links to books and other items related to the subject of a certain webpage on your site, so that your visitors can have more material related to that subject buying such items from your page. As for banners, don't put a huge list of items, but choose only a few (three or four) relevant ones.
Signup to Amazon
This service is not actually an affiliate program, rather it gives you the opportunity to sell stuff (T-shirts, sweat-shirts, mugs, mousepads...) with your logo on it. It's a bit like when big companies license their logos (this operation is called "branding"). So you can sell your merchandising directly from your website.
You probably wouldn't make a lot of money from it, unless your website is very popular, but it's a nice addon to your website, and it definitely worths it.
Signup to CafePress
This program works well only if you have a good traffic and your website contains controversial material. Otherwise I won't recommend it.
Signup to Evidence Eliminator
Beware of these programs!
I won't recommend you these programs: LinkShare (unreliable with payments), everyone.net (problems with payments), CyberBounty (very dangerous contract: you can't be paid at all, and it may even happen you owe money to them!), CJ - Commission Junction (the program itself is not bad, but many of its advertisers are not reliable).
Elf Qrin's Lair MegaStore (Amazon's and other products)
Elf Qrin's Lair Merchandising at CafePress