by Shane Matsumoto - Copyright 2008, 2014 All Rights Reserved
There are basically two ways to make money from, or “monetize” a website receiving steady traffic. The first is to sell products and the second way to earn revenue on your site is from advertising.
If you have a product to sell already then you just need to be able to accept payment for your goods. There are two common ways to do this. The first way is to get approved for a merchant service account and add an internet payment gateway service (such as authorize.net) to your basic ability to receive credit cards (or even e-checks). This is probably the more expensive way to get set up with accepting credit cards online, but if the volume you sell is high enough, your potential savings on every transaction will add up to save you the most money and offer you the most flexibility. If you aren’t a savvy website shopping cart/e-commerce web designer, then you may find it much more difficult to incorporate your own merchant account with your online store than with this second option below.
The second common way to set up a shopping cart system is to use Paypal. It is much less expensive to open an account but they often have slightly higher per-transaction fees and slightly higher transaction percentage fees. Paypal has very good tutorials, code generators, and support for setting up e-commerce via Paypal, however, Paypal is notorious for its control issues and penalizing merchants heavily if there are any challenges or chargebacks initiated against a merchant – even if it isn’t their fault. I even got my merchant account penalized as a buyer when I bought a recorder that was supposedly in working condition from someone on eBay years ago and paid with Paypal. The buyer shipped a DOA piece of junk (when I had it looked at by a repair facility to see how much it would cost to fix it, the place said there were parts missing out of it, including the main belt) and waited weeks to send it so I wasn't make a claim on Paypal until the 31st day. Paypal denied the claim because it was supposed to have been made within 30 days so I initiated a chargeback with my credit card company. Paypal retaliated by suspending my merchant account until I paid them the chargeback amount in full plus an additional fee of some sort. So I was faced with paying $300 for a piece of junk to save my merchant account or loose my standing with Paypal which was also the account tied to my eBay username with several hundred feedback and perfect rating.
I have since started trying Square.com and they paid me $10 to open my account. They charge a flat 2.75% fee with no transaction fees regardless of card type used. The tools are great and setting up a shop and usable checkout system was easy but it doesn't have all the options and flexibility I used to enjoy when Paypal was working. For example, I like to have a tip jar on some art and band music sites where the customer could donate any amount they wished or have re-occurring monthly or annual membership fees. Unfortunately, there seems to be some groundwork for Square to do such soon, but at the time I am writing this article I could not figure out how to set up a customer-defined donation button. I suspect that will change very soon, though, and it would be worth checking out on their site to verify it's implimentation if that is your determining factor.
If you don’t have a product to sell, there are ways to create your own products for sale on demand. Companies such as Zazzle.com allow you to design and customize your own T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, buttons, mousepads, hats, calendars, Greeting Cards, Note Cards, Postcards, and even ties and posters and allow you to create a storefront that you can link between your site. You can even earn a commission on products someone else is selling if you join their associates program and folks use your affiliate link or storefront to buy those products which then crosses over into the second way I mentioned folks are typically able to monetize a site - advertising.
The second way mentioned is through ads. The three most common ways companies pay for advertising are per click-thru (you get 1-5 cents each time someone clicks on the ad), per view (you get a fraction of a penny for each time the ad is displayed to a website visitor on your site), and per sale/action (you get paid if the visitor buys something through the ad or signs up through the link or something directly benefiting the advertiser – this amount is always the greatest and has the widest range of payouts).
Most major e-commerce sites out there have affiliate programs. However, many of them require their affiliates to meet a high minimum commission amount before getting paid. If the amount is too high, the scam is that they are essentially getting free advertising from the vast majority of their affiliates because the chances are that the average affiliate won’t be able to meet a high minimum for a very long time. I would generally only consider using companies that have a $50 minimum payout or less.
Here is a short list of affiliate programs that have reasonable minimums and reputable merchant affiliate programs. I would personally recommend the first three and the rest are there for you to explore:
Casale Media – No significant restrictions and the minimum payout is only $25, this tops the list as a recommended affiliate program for starters.
Fastclick – Fastclick requires you have a domain name site only and has minimum traffic criteria of 2500 page hits per month, but pays fast via Paypal or check with a minimum payout of $50.
Interclick – High percentage commissions and a $50 minimum payout.
AllClicks – A search page that pays 3c per visitor you direct over to them that loads the page up. $50 minimum payout.
Bulk Clicks – Using the buttons or text they provide, they will pay .04 for each visitor that clicks on a text link and .05 for each button clickthrough.
ClickThruTraffic – Uses text links to bring up a page of search results. Visitors the click on that page can generate a .06-.20 commission for you depending on the term used.
PayPopUp – Minimum payout of $50 and is a pay per view commission paradigm.
Popup Traffic – Initiates a popup per visitor and they pay $5 for every 1000 visitors to your site that initiate a popup. Minimum is $25.
Search Feed – This is a really good idea. You can integrate a search into your site using Search Feed by copying and pasting from their code generators and it leaves your headers and footers so people don’t leave your site and the results are presented very intelligently so visitors are interested rather than put off by the appearance of an advertising tool. $50 minimum payout.
Search Traffic – Similar to Search Feed in concept, you can place a search box on your site and you get paid 6 cents for every search carried out from your site if the user clicks on at least one of the search terms on the search page results. $25 minimum payout.