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When Do I Start Making Money From My Web Site?

The million dollar question! Of course, the dream is that I put up a web site and within 6 months I’m living in a condo in Southern Spain, rolling high on the profits. I’ve been in web development since 1997, and I haven’t even had a two week vacation in Southern Spain. Either I’ve been cheated or there is something wrong with that model!

The problem with the dream perception is a lack of understanding of web models in 1) how long it takes to build a web site, 2) how long it takes to make a profit from a web site, and 3) how much work it takes to keep both the web site and the profits rolling. I worked for one non-profit with a very viable web site model, but totally unrealistic expectations. One particular board member started asking me, “How are sales?” from the first few weeks after the site “went live.” I always wanted to tell him, “You are asking the wrong question.” One of the questions he should have been asking is, “Now that the web site is up and running, what do we need to do to make a profit?”

One of the results of not understanding the web model timeline was that there were not enough resources allocated to make the site profitable. And, the lack of a plan with specific steps to get there made it very frustrating. The only goal was to make a profit; there were no acknowledged intermediate goals to show steps toward success.

7 Basic Web Models

  1. Very small, static, informational site to market a brick and mortar business.
  2. Very small, static, informational site with some programming (feedback form, newsletter signup, calendar, etc) to market a brick and mortar business.
  3. Small site to market a business without a brick and mortar business.
  4. Website with shopping functions to expand a brick and mortar business.
  5. Website with shopping functions without a brick and mortar business.
  6. Website to generate advertising revenue.
  7. Web services web site (online stock broker, online conference registration, online sales management, …)

An Example: a small, static, informational site to market a brick and mortar business
The benefit for this site is that your business is already known. People have walked into your facility and made purchases. Your website is another way for them to interact with you. You can start web traffic as soon as your site is up, just by making sure your existing customers know about your web site. This is a case where the timeline from beginning to profitability can be relatively short (months).

For many businesses, this is a great place to start. A small site allows you to gather your ideas and try them out without the time and expense of a large site. A larger site can be part of your long term planning.

Planning Steps

  • look at your competitors sites to see what they are doing
  • ask your staff and customers what would be helpful for them on your web site
  • decide what pages you want and what photos and content they should have
  • gather photos and write text
  • learn about the technologies available for you to use for development
  • learn about how the technologies you choose will affect your search engine optimization
  • decide what you would like your web site to look like, a rough sketch on paper will do (notice this is last!)
  • Don’t be surprised if this takes several months!!!

Building

  • find out what human web resources you have available (the people who can build your site or classes for you to do the development)
  • learn the up and down sides to your possibilities and make a choice – remember, you will have to live with this one for a while!
  • start the development process
  • TEST EVERYTHING
  • This could take from an afternoon (if all your photos and text are ready) to several months, depending on schedules and how many changes you want.

Marketing

  • while your web site is in development, write your title and alt tags
  • make a schedule for weekly (preferable) or monthly updates to your web site – forever
  • get at least one new link back to your site from another site each week – forever
  • get good feedback on what your viewers think about your web site – forever
  • People have to find your site before it becomes an asset to your business. Even if you do Planning and Building perfectly, if no one finds your web site, there are no profits from it. This one is a forever process.

Success Points! (have a little toast at the end of each one of these)

  • Plan with list of pages and rough draft of “look and feel” is finished.
  • All materials are gathered
  • First iteration of the site is up and running online
  • Staff and selected user tests have resulted in good feedback (is. changes that need to be done)
  • Feedback changes are finished.
  • 1000 visits in a month
  • 5000 visits in a month
  • 1st sale that can be directly attributed to the web site.
  • etc!

If you don’t recognize the small successes, both you and your staff will become very discouraged, waiting to make it big. Each success point represents a successful outcome.

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