|Advertising to Earn Money: Our Favorites|
|Over the last few years, we've tried a number
of approaches to earn money through
and the one that has worked the best
include advertising on our pages. The
way to get paid through advertising
join up with companies that pay "affiliates"
or that serve ads.
Types of Programs
Affiliate programs generally pay you for sending customers (not just 'visitors') to their site. To be considered a customer, the person you send must link to their site through a special link that has your affiliate code number embedded in it and then sign-up or buy something. Many sites also will place a 'cookie' on a user's machine once the user reaches their site; this cookie will enable you to get credit for return visits to their site provided that the user's PC accepts cookies, the cookie hasn't expired, and the cookie isn't overwritten by another affiliate. Web sites that offer affiliate programs generally pay higher than they would if you showed their ad through an ad server, but the trade off is that you must generate the minimum amount of commissions at their web site before they send you a check.
Ad servers are different. In many cases, they will pool the earnings you get from multiple websites and then pay you one check when the combined total reaches the minimum amount. This way, you can get paid on a nickel here and a dollar there instead of waiting for the totals to accumulate. Ad servers also are more likely (although in general not likely at all) to offer "pay per click" programs that reward you for sending traffic to another site without regard to whether the visitor actually buys anything. DirectResponse offers some of these "pay per click" programs, but qualification for them is much more stringent because they want to make sure that they are not paying for bogus traffic.
Where is the best place to put ads in your web site? As we gleaned from our experience, the best place is to put them at the point your visitor is ready to move on to another web site. The common wisdom is, your visitors are not going to hang around your site forever, so why not, even if they are headed off to a competitor, get paid for their leaving? So your homepage or the page that people land on most frequently is a good page. That way, if their initial impression of your site is "this isn't for me," then let them find something more appealing through one of your paid links to elsewhere.
The second best place to place ads is when someone reaches the logical end of their dealings with your site. For example, users are far more likely to leave after a confirmation page or a search page than they are in the middle of "doing something." So, look through your web site like a user would, and place ads at the point that they are most likely to say "I'm done."
Ad placement on a page works the same way. Place the ads in prominent positions on the "landing" page -- up at the top or on the side. You want visitors to see the ads while they are scanning your page so that if they don't see what they want in your page, they click an ad. For the pages where a user is likely to leave because he's done, place the ads just below the point that he reached that conclusion -- such as just below the confirmation message or the end of the results table.
And, if you don't have a "storefront" yet, take a look at ebaystores.com, where you can open a site with all the eBay bells and whistles for free for the first 30 days and then its less than $10 a month after that.
There are many affiliate programs and ad servers to choose from. Below is the list of the ones we have used successfully (and yes, we're getting paid if you join, but it is at no cost to you). Find the ones that appear that they will be the most profitable to you and sign-up.
Signing up to a lot of places is a bit of a pain (how many more times do I have to type my address???), but you should develop a large list of ads, run them for a month or so, and then cull out the best performing. That may mean that you earned $12 from some company that you ultimately abandon and never get paid (because you never met the minimum), but chalk that up to learning and focus on the ads that are bringing you the real payoffs.
Create and use a new e-mail ID for receiving mail from the program managers. You will want to be aware of special promotions, etc., but you may find that there is a lot of communication that you will want to delete. A separate e-mail ID makes this easier to manage. Just remember to keep checking it.
Lastly, keep a list or spreadsheet of
Driving Traffic to Your Site
And finally, all the web advertising in the world will not do you any good unless others visit your site. Three main options here are: (1) get listed by search engines, (2) buy advertising and/or search engine listings, and (3) exchange links with others through formal or informal banner exchanges.
By far, the most cost effective method is to get listed by search engines. Many, many companies will offer to help you do this, for a fee, because there is a bit of science to the methodology -- perhaps comparable to learning the rules of gambling before playing blackjack: you can win with pure luck, but your chances of winning are better if you know how to play the odds. You can read what Google has published about their search methodology and how to get your site including, but he bottomline is that it is a lengthy and cumbersome process -- but the value of getting a good ranking can pay off enormously.
Buying advertising required a large investment until Google came along selling their "Adwords" program. There, you can create a text ad to appear along side of the results from searches that include specific keywords. This enables you to build traffic quickly. There is one drawback to the Adwords program, however, if you are trying to keep your costs down: although the ads start at $0.05 per click, Google gives priority to the ads with the highest cost-per-click, which for many popular searches can be over a dollar a click. So, if you want to increase the number of visitors who click through your ad to your site, you have to bid a higher cost-per-click amount in order to be near the top of the list, which receives the most clicks.
An alternative or a supplement to running Adwords is to use other cost-per click services such as . The CliqueRouter service allows you to add your site to topic-specific pages and pay a flat per-click amount (as low as $0.055 per click). River2u currently covers about a hundred topics and is expanding its coverage weekly. If River2u doesn't currently cover a topic appropriate to an advertiser, they will consider adding a page.
Collecting Money from Users
If you plan on charging for products or services, you will also need a way of collecting payments. We recommend signing up for PayPal so that you can start accepting credit card payments instantly. Owned by eBay, they have wide acceptance worldwide, accept payment via major credit cards, debit to checking, or a user's cash on deposit. Their charges are competitive, their excellent tools make tracking payments easy, and for those with programming ability, the confirmation process can be integrated into your website.
We hope our experience helps you become profitable, too. Please help us by using the links below to explore these programs (again, it's how we get paid and it is at no cost to you):
Updated September 17, 2003 - go to our home or commerce page