We all love our web sites! We pour our blood, sweat, tears, bank accounts and prayers into them!
With G-d’s help, traffic gradually increases, our mailing list grows and our brand is established.
And then, at a certain point, we begin to wonder: Hey! When am I going to make some money out of this? Like real, serious money?
Lately I’ve been discussing this issue with a lot of people who run Jewish-themed blogs and websites. All struggle with this issue, even the ones that are getting fabulous traffic.
Meanwhile, every day I hear of new websites established to target the Jewish market.
It’s time for the Jewish web to face some facts about making money online, AKA “monetization.”
Let’s start by looking at this fascinating infographic made by Heather from MyBloggingJourney.com, which really illustrates how the money can flow as your site grows in traffic/reputation and you develop as an entrepreneur:
Jewish Banner Ads
Let’s start with banner ads as a common monetization method that many Jewish sites aspire to.
If you have a ton of traffic and someone to sell ads for you, then banners are a great source of revenue. The real work is getting to the critical mass of traffic that is necessary to attract advertisers and deliver results to them.
However, many Jewish sites make the mistake of thinking that banner ads are the be-all-and-end-all of monetization. And yet you will note that the infographic above puts banner ads low down on the heirachy of monetization options – she doesn’t consider them very lucrative.
This might come as a shock to some, but the reality is that ever since the first dot.com bubble burst in 2000, it has been acknowledged that banner ads are NOT where the serious money is online. There are only so many ads you can stuff onto your site and there is only so much you can charge for them. This seriously limits the earning power of your site.
Don’t get me wrong! Banner ads are a good source of revenue, but you are not going to make a mint from them. Depending on how much investment it takes to build your site up to the huge traffic needed to attract advertisers, you might not make enough to make that whole rollercoaster worthwhile!
So if not banner ads, where is the money on the Jewish Web???
Let’s explore some of the other options that Heather mentions in her graph:
Making Money with Adsense
Most people start with contextual ads, usually Google Adsense. There are some Jewish equivalents - Jlinks and YidSense, but I’m not sure what kind of results they deliver. Neither of them are open about it. Have any readers used them?
Adsense, on the other hand, is known to be an easy way to earn money, if you have traffic and you use it right. I use this WordPress Plugin to automatically insert ads in prime spots, like under the title or right after the final line of the article – check this example post on MavenMall. Putting ads in the sidebar looks pretty but does not get you many clicks.
There are other contextual ad networks but I’m not a fan. They serve irrelevant ads! There are plenty of relevant Jewish ads that will come up when you use Adsense. And if you want to avoid inappropriate banner ads, just choose the “text ads only” option. This will prevent embarrassingly immodest ads from showing up in the middle of your parsha blog!
If you have a lot of traffic and your Adsense is properly placed, then Adsense can yield good results on a Jewish-themed site. I know of a nice heimishe lady who makes $300+ a month from Adsense on her site and the income is growing steadily (but don’t kid yourself about how much time and work she has put into her site!).
Jewish Affiliate Programs
You can make money by promoting other people’s products and earning a commission when you refer a sale (AKA affiliate marketing). I have made a list of Jewish affiliate programs which you can join, which might be a good fit for your Jewish-themed blog and website.
There are also many mainstream affiliate programs that are perfectly kosher and may be successfully promoted on a Jewish site. For example, a site for Jewish women can be an affiliate of Diapers.com and Jewish blog about health can be an affiliate for a vitamin company (that happens to have a hechsher).
Plenty of people make big money with affiliate marketing, but it requires effort and investment. Just throwing up a few links and banners will not yield big results. On MavenMall, we have a whole store filled with affiliate links but we still make more money by choosing affiliate products that we love, writing a post or review and making them them the subject of a marketing campaign.
More Jewish ecommerce sites should be encouraged to set up affiliate programs. It is such a low-risk way to promote your products and there really are many Jewish bloggers and site owners out their who would be happy to join. It’s WIN-WIN!
In the middle of the graph, you see “digital products” but physical products are also obviously great ways to make money online. In other words, SELLING SOMETHING IS A GREAT WAY TO MAKE MONEY!
So many of us are “infopreneurs,” giving away great content for free day-after-day, and that is great for building traffic. But if there is no “buy now” button anywhere on your site, it’s going to be hard to make serious money.
If you can’t think of a way to integrate a buy now button into your site model, it might be possible to set up product-focused sister sites (as she calls it, “multiple sites”) which are selling something relevant to your audience. Then you can leverage the success of your first site to promote the heck out of your commercial site.
For example, the popular marketing blog Copyblogger has done this supremely well. First they built up huge traffic of loyal readers thanks to lots of fabulous content, and they meanwhile made a bundle of money selling blogging products.
But they didn’t stop there. Copyblogger then leveraged their brand to start creating and promoting products that are of interest to their fans on sister sites. For example, the new theme that I just installed on this blog was developed by Copyblogger Inc. and sold on a sister-site called StudioPress. They also developed the Scribe SEO plugin (which I stopped using since I fell in love with Yoast’s Free SEO plugin). Copyblogger’s founder Brian Clark has basically developed products which he knows that his many blog-readers will very likely want to buy (especially from him) – WordPress plugins and themes.
Obviously you need a lot of traffic for this kind of business model to work. On the other hand, you could reduce your risk if your sister site uses a drop-shipping or white-label business model to avoid having to develop your own products or to deal with customer service issues (but that’s a whole other topic).
Paid software, premium videos and content, and apps are common examples of digital products that content sites sell to make money. Then there is a whole world of possibilities for physical products. If your visitors love you, a good number of them will be happy to buy.
Don’t be shy: SELL SOMETHING!
I am suprised that Heather’s infographic puts consultancy/services so high up. In my opinion this is the easiest way to make some real money through a website. Many consultants and service providers start blogs for the sole reason of promoting their professional services. These kinds of blogs don’t need a ton of traffic to do their job well. My niche translation site gets me a good amount of project offers even though it doesn’t have a huge amount of traffic and isn’t going to win any beauty contests.
Any good blog could benefit from a “hire me” button (even this one). I get job offers through this blog even without a hire-me button, but I would probably get more if I had one. Anyone who has run a successful blog for a few years has amassed a ton of knowledge and experience which is in very high demand in today’s market.
So here is one point where I disagree with Heather: Everyone should consider offering some sort of consulting or other services on their site!
Other Monetization Ideas
There are many. There are so many, it’s impossible to count. Most of them require a lot of traffic if you want to earn more than a few pennies.
Karin Kloosterman, of the successful blog Green Prophet, recently recommended Teliad and Linkworth as a way to earn a modest amount of steady income from a site, even if you don’t have tons of traffic. If you have a quality site, any kind of “sponsored post” program can earn you some money.
The bottom line is that you need to get creative about how you will make money from your Jewish website or blog. If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments.
So… who here is going to be the first Jewish site owner to change the rules about monetization in our market and really make some serious cash online?
Maybe it will be me!