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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

10 Ways to Make Money from your Website

1. First and foremost, does the site target the market directly? Some businesses don't have a clue who their market even is. People who say "well, you know, just anybody" are lucky to be in business at all, quite frankly, but it's amazing how common that is. If you already have a website, compare it to competitors in the same market and see if it's in keeping with what the customer is likely to have seen elsewhere in terms of tone and content. To put it another way, do you have an appropriate brand and is your branding carried out consistently?

2. Is there a call to action? A lot of websites or marketing materials promote products and services but don't close the sale. Any business can change that – even if they don't take money directly on their website – but turning an opportunity into a transaction or a lead. With a bit of imagination, you can give the customer a reason to act right now, today, rather than tomorrow, next week, sometime or (inevitably in some cases) never.

3. Is the site actively promoted to existing offline customers? How much are existing customers aware of what products or services are on offer? It's amazing how often small businesses assume their customers know everything about them. And yet that's rarely true. People are wont to make assumptions about their suppliers. Communication might be done through opt-in email mailing list, RSS newsfeed, or possibly by Facebook or Twitter.

4. Is the site up to date? Google likes to see a website that's fresh and relevant; sites that haven't been updated in three years will suffer in their rankings as a result. If your site was updated this morning, it shows that you're actively working on your business. That, in turn, gives the consumer confidence that your organisation is busy and thriving. You may think you're too busy to update your site, or that nothing has really changed since last month, but other people won't know that – all they know is that it never changes.

5. Does the site have a product that can be sold on eBay? eBay is the world's biggest marketplace and provides a very sophisticated back-end interface for turning your stock into product pages – once you've got all your ducks in a row, it's just a matter of uploading an Excel spreadsheet. And there are other marketplaces available like Amazon or Auto Trader, depending on the market sector.

6. Does the business serve a particular town or region? If so, Google Places is a must – completely free to sign up for and within a few hours you could find your business catapulted to the top of the Google rankings for your chosen keywords. But only for your hometown, of course.

7. Has affiliate marketing been considered? Affiliate Window, Affiliate Future, Webgains, Tradedoubler, Silverbean, Buyat, Paid on Results, Zanox, OMG, Affilinet, Clickbank, Commission Junction... there are probably others that I've never even heard of. They're a great way to get other people promoting your products or services, especially if you've got a high enough margin to offer really good commissions.

8. Does the site have a high volume of traffic? Google Adsense could be a potential revenue stream.

9. Do you have a great homepage? A homepage is like your shop window. And a good shop window will encourage customers to come inside the shop. That's all. You just want to get them over the threshold and you've won half the battle. You should use the homepage to showcase your company's most impressive features – your own unique "wow factor", whatever that might be. Don't go into detail – just get the customer into the shop. After that you can go into greater depth if that's what it takes to make the sale.

10. Have you got a programme of search engine optimisation? This is a can of worms to be opening, which is why I've left it till last. SEO could easily be a full-time job for any business. And yet there are a handful of simple rules that can be carried out in a very short time that really make a noticeable difference to any site's Google ranking.

Jon Ewing