There's no "right" time to start monetizing your website audience. In fact, there's nothing wrong with low-key monetization efforts (such as with Google AdSense) right from the start.
The only way to learn what sells on your website is to try it out. Your overall monetization strategy, when implemented with forethought and good planning, should minimize the trial and error aspect of developing income streams. As your site grows, you can add more monetization programs. Making your website pay its way isn't easy and requires plenty of research and time, at least initially. You also must be prepared to update your site's content regularly and its design periodically to keep it from becoming stale. Here are five ways you can kickstart your audience monetization plan.
1. Sell Branded Merchandise
Some types of websites lend themselves to merchandise sales better than others. If you run a trade publication website, you might offer products with symbols, graphics, or sayings that the people in your trade will appreciate. If there are humorous slogans or ''inside jokes'' that people in your trade regularly use, you can have these put on coffee mugs, mouse mats, t-shirts, and hats. You can also sell these products at trade shows and conventions, or give them away as prizes if you chose to have a social media-based contest.
2. Find a Sponsor
What are the major companies in your industry? If you can show them that you have healthy website traffic made up of people in their target demographics, you may be able to work out a sponsorship arrangement. They could sponsor a special report that website visitors can download, or they may sponsor a guest blog post by one of their employees. Sponsorship can be done on a one-time basis, a short-term basis, or a long-term basis.
3. Participate in Reputable Affiliate Programs
Thoroughly vet any affiliate program you consider joining, and ensure it offers products that your target audience would appreciate. If possible, buy a few of the products yourself to see how useful they are. A reputable affiliate program can develop into a healthy income stream for your site. However, a low quality affiliate program can damage your reputation, so it's important to get all the information you can before signing on as an affiliate.
4. Offer Premium Memberships
Your site should offer high quality content to every visitor if you want to have good website traffic and be ranked highly by the search engines. Some trade websites also offer premium memberships, which allow members access to activities and content that regular visitors can't access, such as participation in webinars, downloadable special reports, e-books, and audio recordings. With premium memberships, it's important to keep costs reasonable and to offer premium features that add genuine value to members' experiences.
5. Add a Custom Job Board
Trade websites are increasingly discovering that hosting a custom job board is a great way to develop another income stream. It doesn't matter whether the economy is good or bad. People will always be on the lookout for opportunities, and many people are curious about hiring in their industry, even if they're not actively searching for a job. Since job boards are frequently updated, they're perfect for drawing repeat visits. Cross-promote your job board on your social media sites, and you'll draw in even more traffic.
Audience monetization is important, and there are numerous ways it can be done. In general, it's smarter to develop multiple income streams rather than depending on one generous sponsor or an ad program as your site's sole source of money. Monetization can be done in such a way that it does not turn off readers as long as you are regularly providing them with good content presented in a high quality site design. Monetization requires hard work, particularly at first, but it can lay a foundation for a loyal web community and steady growth into the future.