Using a banner network or agency has some attractions. You sign up, paste code into your page and in return they'll source and supply you with advertising. In return you'll earn cash for clicks, unique impressions or views. Much less work is required on your part, but unless you have high traffic and generate a lot of hits, the returns are likely to be small – a fraction of a penny a time.
Most agencies won't actually start paying out until you've accrued a minimum income level either. If the ease of joining a network appeals, try Google's directory of banner agencies at tinyurl.com/lbw75.
Where banner ads are brash and intrusive, Google's AdSense service is tastefully targeted at your site's audience. The predominantly text-based results can be customised so the colour, size and layout fit with your site. When you join up at adsense.google.com, you'll earn money on a cash per click basis.
A copy-and-paste chunk of code is provided to you when you sign up. People browsing your pages will see adverts that fit your site's content and keywords. It's not magic; it's Google's patented search algorithms. The AdSense tools also break down your site's performance for you.
Tabulated data helps you to track which ads work best. The cash per click model means that every time a visitor clicks on a link, you get a share of the fee the advertiser paid.
Google doesn't publicise the percentage of the pie that you'll get, but some keywords offer a bigger slice than others. Some bloggers and other AdSense entrepreneurs report earnings in excess of a £1,000 a month.
A word of caution though – don't go clicking on the ads on your own page. And don't think that asking your mates to click on them will help you either. Google considers this "click fraud", and employs sophisticated tracking mechanisms to protect its revenue. Just produce consistent content aimed at a small audience.
Above all things, the most saleable aspect of your site will always be its content. Forget getting rich quick; just produce content that people want to read, download or use and you're 90 per cent there. You may even have what it takes to go premium (distribute pay-to-view content).
The subscription fee model for premium content was started by the sex industry – but the baton has since been passed to the mainstream. Dating sites enjoy some of the highest subscription rates online – with match.com able to ask customers for £65.25 for a six-month subscription. You'll find subscription charges on sites providing specific research information.
There's also a thriving trade in pay-to-download eBooks too. Computer specialists O'Reilly and Sitepoint offer PDF versions of their top titles – but there's a parallel publishing industry that's never seen a printing press. Titles dealing with embarrassing illnesses, speed seduction and other 'secret' or private matters are ideal for online distribution.
Is the premium route appropriate for you? Your content will need to be in great demand and hard to find.
From a technical point of view, PayPal can be used as a credit card gateway and a tool like Easy PDF Publisher can be used to output written content in the Portable Document Format.
You'll need to password lock files to protect your revenue – but expect to lose a percentage to pirates anyway. Alternatively, eBook publishers like ClickBank will oversee the process for a cut of profit.
If you want to make your entire site a premium enterprise you'll need a system that only accepts paying members. Most off-the-shelf dating site scripts and classified advertising scripts have user management tools as part of the package.
Alternatively, you can use a content management system that incorporates membership features such as PHP-Nuke.
First published in .net magazine, Issue 183
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