Is your website a pretty flyer on the community board, or is it a moneymaker? Does your site look nice, or does it get the job done.
Some sites rake in thousands of dollars each month, while others eke by with double-digit monthly viewership and no income. And while the latter option might be fine for a personal blog maintained for fun, businesses need their sites to make money.
If you need to transition your site from a brochure to a revenue tool, here are a few reasons why your site might be struggling–and ideas to monetize your website the right way.
Why Your Website is a Revenue Tool
Before we go any further, it’s important to understand why your website isn’t a pretty brochure, but an essential online revenue tool.
Picture your storefront. Or, if you don’t have one, imagine a physical storefront. Let’s say a clothing store. What does that storefront offer potential customers walking by on the street?
When someone strolls by a clothing store window, they know what’s in that store. They know what the store offers and can figure out what kind of products they offer as soon as they lay eyes on the window. When they step inside the store, the store delivers on the promise they saw in the window, a clear articulation of services offered.
What do you do if you don’t have a storefront, or if your customers tend not to visit you in person? For most businesses, the answer is a website. Your website is your virtual storefront, your first chance to show customers what you offer and why you can do it better than anyone else.
But remember, it’s not just an advertising tool. That would make it a pretty brochure. Websites now double as your online storefront, which means in order to be successful, they have to earn revenue. If your site merely advertises, it’s only doing half its job.
How Websites Make Money
With that in mind, let’s talk about two main ways that websites make money. We could spend this entire article extolling the many avenues sites have to earn revenue (even write a whole book about it), but for our purposes here, there are two items that matter the most:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
Ultimately, many of your site’s revenue options loop back to these two points. If you don’t have these, it’s not worth turning your attention to other options–your site won’t get off the ground.
Traffic, Traffic, and More Traffic
You might not like traffic during your morning commute, but for your website, it’s the magic word.
To be clear, we are not conflating traffic and conversions. In the end, conversions are what generate money, not traffic in its own right. Pop quiz: is it better to have 100 visitors with a 20% conversion rate or 1000 visitors with a 10% conversion rate?
Basic math says the first option, which gives you 20 paying customers, while the second option only gives you 10. In other words, high traffic alone isn’t enough to generate money–you need that traffic to convert to paying customers.
Even so, traffic is incredibly important–the lifeblood of small businesses, in fact. This is for one simple reason: if you don’t have any traffic to convert, you won’t have any prospects to convert into paying customers. Plus, without traffic, you won’t have any visibility, and that way spells certain doom for small businesses.
Search Engine Optimization
This leads us to search engine optimization, or SEO. If you don’t know what SEO is, it’s simple. Think of it as the difference between your site getting Times Square on New Year’s Eve crowds and the same number of paying customers as a hot dog stand in a North Dakota cornfield. It’s both a visibility tool and a conversion tool.
SEO focuses on improving your site’s search engine visibility through organic (i.e. unpaid) traffic. When users type a search into a search engine, it doesn’t scan the whole web. Instead, it scans its index of sites (sort of like an index at the back of a textbook) and offers results based on relevance.
SEO is the process of demonstrating to search engines that your site is the most relevant for certain search terms, which is how your site is displayed in SERPs.
What Prospects Want When They Look at Your Website
So, you need traffic and SEO and you’re ready to roll, right?
Not so fast. You also need to know what prospects want when they look at your site. This is what differentiates a successful revenue tool from a pretty brochure. The most successful websites are those that answer these three questions quickly and easily.
Can You Solve My Problem?
The first question is the most important. Can you solve my problem?
Your website is not a murder mystery, nor is it a treasure map. Users tend to rush through webpages, so they only have time to read a quarter of the text on pages they visit. How much time they spend on initial page visits varies–some users bounce away immediately while others linger for a minute or more–but the average visit time is between 10 to 20 seconds.
Worse, between 70% and 96% of visitors will never return after abandoning their initial browsing session.
The point is, users are in a hurry and they’re not paying very close attention. If they can’t figure out what you do as soon as they land on your page, they’ll bounce, and they won’t come back.
Have You Done It Before?
Once you’ve caught a visitor’s attention by showing you can solve their problem, you’ve bought yourself more time. Now the visitor will take the time to answer a more detailed question, “Have you solved problems like mine before?”
This is where your marketing chops–and your clear display of past creative work and case studies–comes in.
You have to show visitors you’ve solved this problem before, and more to the point, that you’ve solved it well. It should be easy as 1-2-3 for users to understand what you do and that you’re good at it.
How Do I Reach You?
Once users are satisfied that you can solve their problem and solve it well, they’ll move on to pragmatic concerns that set them on the road to conversion. They want to know how to reach you.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Most sites answer this question through a contact page. Smart websites, however, don’t force users to hop around a contact page. Instead, they offer prospects multiple areas to convert throughout the website, minimizing the time between the decision to contact you and the ability to do it.
Remember, website users are impatient. The more obstacles you place between them and conversion, the less likely they are to get there.
Signs Your Site is a Pretty Brochure
At this point, you might be scratching your head. You have traffic, you invest in SEO, and you think you answer those questions clearly. But your site doesn’t convert.
So what’s the problem?
Unfortunately, your site might not be as successful as you’d like to think it is. There are several reasons for this, most of them related to poor site design and poor optimization practices. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common issues we see in our client sites.
Red Flags of an Ineffective Website Design
We know we said your site shouldn’t just be a nice-looking brochure. But that does not mean it shouldn’t be nice-looking.
In the early days of the Internet, when most people weren’t web-savvy and most businesses relied on websites as a 21st-century flyer, you could get away with haphazard web design. But this isn’t the early 00’s anymore. These days, visitors interpret ineffective web design at best as sloppy and at worst as sketchy.
Of course, what qualifies as an ineffective design is subtler than it used to be. Here are a few of the most common issues we notice.
Remember when we said website visitors are impatient? You’ll see that in action if your website has an inconvenient design.
In simple terms, visitors are used to finding certain things in certain places. The website template is their roadmap through every page on the site. They know they can find your services page in the header, a catalog of your goods in the left pane, and so on.
Inconvenient web design is more like treasure hunting. The most important parts are hidden or outright invisible, located in places your users will never look for them. Keep in mind that a convenient site on a computer can become inconvenient on a smartphone–and given that 48.62% of all web traffic comes from mobile phones, you can’t afford mobile inconvenience.
Not a Unique Design
Listen, we get it. Most website owners aren’t coders or developers. That’s why 35% of the Internet is powered by WordPress. Your users know this too.
They just don’t want to be reminded of it.
If your site design isn’t unique, it’s not memorable. For one thing, that’s a disaster for your digital branding. For another, users will think you don’t care enough to produce original material.
The same thing applies to unoriginal content. If all you ever do is copy content, search engines won’t prioritize your content.
When it comes to web design, leave the rainbow in a Skittles bag.
Even if your brand is big on color, the whole point of color is to guide the visitor’s eye. If you have color in every direction, the visitor won’t be able to pluck out the most important information. Plus, all that color will wear them out and drive them away.
You don’t need to be a minimalist, but in web design, less is more. Especially when it comes to color.
Your choice of Calibri over Arial might not make the difference between a visitor who converts and a visitor who doesn’t, but unreadable fonts certainly will.
Remember, your website is a resource created for the convenience of your client (your site visitors). If they can’t read it, it’s not convenient, and they certainly can’t find the most important information.
As with color, less is more when it comes to font. Your words should be what makes a statement, not the font style you use to say them.
Red Flags of a Poorly Optimized Website
Like traffic, web design alone isn’t enough to make your site profitable, but it certainly contributes to the foundation. As for the house built on top of that foundation, you’re going to need SEO. Unfortunately, in much the same way most site owners are not web designers, most site owners aren’t SEO experts either.
The worst optimization sin you can commit is not optimizing at all.
Remember, without SEO, your website does not exist to search engines, which means it does not exist to web surfers either.
Who’s your target audience? Here’s a hint: your target audience should be so specific you could pick out someone from your target audience on a busy street.
Optimizing your website for a generic audience is one of the worst decisions a website owner can make. Audience targeting, or separating consumers into segments based on demographics and interest, is what identifies your sweet spot–a customer at the perfect meeting place of need, desire, and willingness to pay for a solution.
Optimizing for a generic audience might seem like a way to broaden your potential customers. What you’re really doing is telling your ideal customer that you’re a generalist who’s not equipped to solve their specific problem.
Long Load Time
Remember when we said website visitors are impatient? If your site takes a long time to load, you’re already losing customers to impatience.
While the average page visit is between 10 to 20 seconds, the average loading time of top-ranking websites on Google is under 3 seconds. However, Google recommends that two seconds is the minimum threshold for e-commerce acceptability, and Google itself aims for half a second.
Your site speed is one of the most basic ways you compete with other sites. If you’re slow, you’re not competitive.
Low Update Frequency
Do you update regularly? Or is it more like the Olympics (it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s an event)?
Google’s ranking algorithm includes a Freshness algorithm which is exactly what it says on the tin: fresher content takes priority over older content. Google knows that consumers demand fresh, up-to-date information, and as such, it prioritizes newer content as more relevant and useful.
Think about it–information changes over time. Let’s say someone Googled “Ariana Grande boyfriend”. Content from three years ago isn’t as relevant as content released three days ago. Google applies the same logic across the board.
Goals? What Goals?
Our last item isn’t obvious in your website analytics. But poor goals (or nonexistent goals) are just as telling of a poorly optimized site.
Unfortunately, website owners are often clueless about basic facts of their website, like who it’s meant for, what the purpose is, who the competition is, and so on. The problem is that if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, any progress will seem like a success.
For example, ask yourself: do you want to convert visitors? Increase traffic? Increase your mailing list? Each of these options has a different optimization priority, and if you optimize for the wrong one, you won’t achieve your goals.
In addition, if you don’t know what your goals are with your audience, you won’t know if you’re reaching your audience correctly.
Practical Tips to Monetize Your Website
If you’re eyeing your site and realizing it’s more of a brochure than a revenue tool, take a deep breath. There are plenty of ways to fix even the roughest website. And if your site is doing alright but struggling to stand out from the crowd, we can help with that too.
While content is king, we’re going to primarily focus on big-picture fixes that will help your content and your overall services shine through.
Design Your Layout to Hold the Viewer’s Attention
First things first: build an attractive framework by creating a layout designed to draw viewers in.
On a basic level, your website layout should be clean. Hicks Law states that the more options you give people, the longer it takes them to decide. And while a longer on-page visit can be a good thing for your business, you don’t want to frustrate visitors with too many options.
With that in mind, pare down your layout to the essentials. Make it easy for viewers to find the most important information about you, like your About, Services, Blog, and Contact pages, for example. Your design should be intuitive–the best way to test this is to have someone take it for a spin who’s never laid eyes on it.
Don’t be cryptic or clever. Call your menu “Menu”, your services page “Services”, and so on.
Also, don’t neglect the value of negative space. That does not mean leaving a white space between paragraphs, but rather using negative space to emphasize the most important feature of the page. Look at Google’s homepage for a stellar example.
Constantly Split-Test Formats and Opt-Ins
Your work is not done once you have a layout in place. You need to know that it works. That’s where split testing, a.k.a. A/B testing, comes into play.
Split testing is when marketers test two versions of the same page side-by-side to see which one performs better. This is often done before rolling out a new page to maximize conversions.
For the best results, apply the scientific method–there should only be one change between the control page and the variation page. It should be significant enough for users to notice it. That way, the tester can clearly identify a reason for the change in performance. If you have a list of changes, it’s hard to know what element made the page successful.
Finally, you should always take opportunities to encourage engagement. While you can’t make your pages go viral, you can still connect with your audience and convince them to share your site with others.
The simplest way to think about this is to keep your site content fresh and varied. When posting new content on your blog, for instance, use new mediums and materials like infographics and video.
Second, make sure to share any new updates. Send out an email newsletter, create a new email each time you post something new, and share it on your social media. When users perform a specific action, reach out directly to thank them and encourage them to take additional actions relevant to their first action, like downloading a free e-book.
The ROI Digital Agency You Need to Monetize Your Website
We’re not just an SEO agency. We’re a results-driven ROI agency. We know that SEO gets your business seen, but you need SEO that matches your unique business goals. Our goal is 7x ROI or better, and our job is simple: to make it that much easier to do your job.
Ready to monetize your website for success? Then let’s talk about your options. Click here to start the conversation.