If you aren’t sure there’s money to be made online, consider these statistics:
- Ecommerce now represents 7% of global retail sales.
- Total ecommerce sales will eclipse $1.3 trillion in 2015.
- 63% of American adults will make a purchase online in 2015.
Clearly a lot of money is changing hands online. So how can you begin to participate in this global marketplace?
Myth vs. Reality
One prevailing Internet myth, now soundly debunked, has been that once people discover your website, the money rolls in. As many failed entrepreneurs now know, it's hardly that easy. Literally millions of ecommerce enabled websites are already online. Getting customers’ attention requires a clearly defined strategy. But you can make money in cyberspace, particularly if you run a lean operation. Here are two proven ways to generate income.
If you've spent any time online, you've undoubtedly seen ads plastered all over the Web. Companies large and small pay for banner ads, text ads and sponsored links to their websites from search engines and from other websites. How can you get advertisers to place ads on your website?
Become an Affiliate
Affiliates are what advertisers call the websites that advertise on their behalf. So if you have a blog about fishing, and you place ads for Bass Pro Shops, you are a Bass Pro Shops affiliate.
Affiliate ads work best when you intentionally drive traffic to them. For example, if you have written a detailed review of a fishing rod, placing affiliate links directly to that rod on Bass Pro Shops could be an effective way to create revenue. When using affiliate ads you should think of yourself as a salesperson. You are actively working to recommend a product, service, or company.
Approximately 63% of American adults make at least one online purchase every year.
But how do you become an affiliate? Some companies run their own affiliate programs. In order to join their program, you’ll need to find their affiliate website, and fill out a form requesting to be added to the program. There are also affiliate networks, which are affiliate programs that include many different companies, and are managed by a third party. Some of the largest affiliate networks include: Rakuten Linkshare, CJ by Conversant, and ClickBank. If the company you want to advertise for is part of an affiliate network you’ll need to join the network first, create a detailed profile, and then request access to the company you want to advertise for.
Just in case you’re wondering, Bass Pro Shop is part of the CJ affiliate network, and they pay a commission of 5% for every shopper you refer to their website who makes a purchase.
Place Contextual Ads
If you don’t have a specific company or product category in mind for your ads, contextual ads, also called Pay-Per-Click or PPC ads, are another avenue you could consider to monetize your website. Some of the best PPC networks include:
PPC networks are ideal if you don’t plan to actively push traffic towards the ad. You aren’t acting as a salesperson when you use PPC ads, instead you just create a digital billboard on your website, and the PPC network serves up ads on that billboard.
Another way to make money online it to sell something. Millions of stores now thrive on the Web, providing people with a convenient way to purchase goods and services with a few mouse clicks. For small businesses, the Internet delivers a global market.
What's Your Product?
If you want to sell online, the first thing to figure out is what you will sell. While there are thousands of possibilities, here are a few ideas:
- Are you a writer? Ebook sales are strong, and the cost to get an ebook to market is low.
- Are you an expert? You could create a course to share your expertise.
- Are you crafty, and good with your hands? You could reach a larger market by selling your creations online.
- Do you have wholesale access to a product? The Web can help you find buyers around the world.
Once you’ve settled on a product or service, the next step is to think about how you will get it in front of customers.
Getting in front of customers can be difficult given the amount of online competition. But don’t give up! There are both free and paid ways you can find customers online.
The easiest way to find customers is to use a platform that already has lots of traffic:
- Consider Ebay for selling physical goods.
- Consider Amazon for selling ebooks.
- Consider Udemy for selling online courses.
- Consider Etsy for selling artisan-grade clothing, decorations, and homegoods.
If you want to sell from your own website, then you’ll need to find a way to get visitors to your site.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one way to get free traffic to your site. If you’re able to achieve a high search ranking for popular keywords you’ll never lack for traffic.
- Social media is another free traffic avenue to consider. Create a profile, build a network, and let your followers know about the products and services available at your site.
- Paid advertising is the easiest way to get traffic to your site quickly. Two of the most popular paid advertising platforms are Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.
Learn from the Leader
The poster child dot-com business, Amazon.com has a lot to teach aspiring Internet entrepreneurs. It has grown from a bookseller to a purveyor of thousands of diverse products, now offering streaming video and audio, boasting one of the most sophisticated cloud computing services in the world, and has pioneered ways to improve convenience and customer service. To top it all off, in their 2014 annual report Amazon reported a staggering yearly revenue total of nearly $89 billion.
The Web is still in its adolescence, less than 20 years old, an unexplored territory with great potential and few rules. Despite uncertainty and high risk, opportunities abound for electronic entrepreneurs.