You’ve created a nice website for the online business of your dreams. It has all the bells and whistles that you need, created with the help of a platoon of professionals — web designer, programmer, logo creator, and even copywriters. You’ve launched the website and hired search engine optimization specialists, bought banner advertising, and even used pay-per-click advertising to get visitors and customers to your website.
Alas, despite all your efforts, money is not coming in. You expected that as soon as the website is launched that you will be selling your products or services like crazy, or at least earn you enough money to sustain your online business. Unfortunately, reality does not always align with expectations. Getting visitors is hard enough; finding visitors who will do the actions needed to earn you money is tougher.
Many small business owners have the false expectation that all they need is a website to make money on the Web. Once the website is up, they then discover that making money from it is not easy. It takes time, and a lot of work (with a little luck thrown in) to see any activity, much fewer sales, from a new website. As Michelle Donahue-Arpas, founder of GenuisBabies.com said:
We started very small. We literally started with just a few thousand dollars invested – less than $5,000 — and then only about $300 a month to sustain the business, with more supplies, business phone and fax lines, web hosting and such.
The $300+ a month out, with no money coming in, was not what I hoped for. It was not like I put my website up today and tomorrow I have a sale. Not only did we have no customers, but also we had no visitors. It took three months before we got our very first order. I guess I didn’t know how to get it started.
Like Michelle, you can find yourself in a situation where you are hemorrhaging money as you continue to pump in resources to keep your website afloat, but little or no money is coming in. Even if the website is not earning any money, you still have to pay for web hosting, domain renewal, inventory (if any), interest charges on your credit cards (if you used your cards to finance part or all the expenses), among others.
So what do you do? Here are some steps to help you rectify the situation and make sure that your website starts to earn money:
Analyze the root of the problem
The first step is to make sure that you have the information needed to help you assess your overall performance. Be sure to install analytics software such as Google Analytics. It can give you information on the traffic of your site, where they are coming from; their level of engagement, what pages bring them to your site, among other information.
Getting your analytics data can help you identify whether your problem is:
- Lack of traffic (low unique visitor count)
- Sufficient traffic but wrong types of visitors (low average time on site and high bounce rate)
- Content not compelling to convert visitors (low average time on site and high bounce rate)
- Lack of a strong call to action (low interaction with a call to action elements of your page)
- Wrong or poor marketing (low traffic coming from your marketing sources such as pay per click or banner advertising)
You will be able to craft a more effective strategy to reverse your situation and start making money from your website if you are able to pinpoint what exactly is the problem.
Assess your website
Take an objective view of your website, particularly its business model, relevance, and usefulness to its target audience.
It may be painful to consider that you made a mistake, but it is important to determine whether your business model is valid or not. Validate your business idea by talking about it to other people or use an online service like Helpfull.com. With such a tool, you can get rapid feedback from a diverse population. Many entrepreneurs use it to test drive or sanity check their startup ideas. You may think that you have launched the Next Big Thing, only to find that only you and your family like your business idea. Your whole execution – including your website — may be wrong.
It is also important to view your website from the perspective of a new visitor by asking these questions:
- Is there value to your website?
- Is your website offering something different from similar websites, especially competitors?
- What makes your website attractive, useful, and worth coming to?
- How are you presenting your products?
- Is your website inciting trust among your users?
- Are you even getting the right types of visitors?
- What other potential low-cost marketing strategies that you can do?
- Are there any low-hanging fruits that you can do to boost your revenues?
Read tips, forums, and other resources that can give ideas on how to increase your online revenue. Network with other website owners, and to the extent possible, ask them to give you an honest opinion of your website. You may have heard that Google Adsense is an excellent way to monetize an information website, but experienced publishers may be able to give you tips on what works for Adsense and how to incorporate these elements on your site.
Buckle up and work
It takes time and strategy for websites to get discovered and start earning money. Sometimes, all it takes is good ol’ fashion hard work. Dedicate time each day to market your business, including reaching out to potential influencers. Go out and network. Write one blog post per day (or at least several times a week), and market that content. Build your social media presence one tweet or post at a time. Learn how to get noticed in social media networks.
Most importantly, do not forget to sell. By definition, a business needs to sell to survive and thrive. It is important to think of your website as a tool to sell, but don’t leave it to your website to do all the selling. Think of offline ways to find your potential customers. Build strategic relationships with potential partners. Instead of focusing too much on the technology, focus on your customers instead.
Test, Test, and Test
Test out your website and get hard data to find out what works — and does not work on your site.
Will using a yellow Buy Now button better than a red button? Are having two columns better at inducing your website visitors to stay at your website and generate more pageviews for your banner advertising than a three-column website? What are the best colors, placement, and size of your advertising units to boost your advertising revenue?
If your website is not delivering and you are not accomplishing the goals you have set out to do, think twice and question what you did. Be open and be flexible enough to change and calibrate your strategies.
For more information on how small businesses can succeed, follow me on Twitter @powerhomebiz.