There’s an unfortunate perception amongst people who want to make a living online that you need to have massive traffic to succeed. Instead of focusing on how to make the most of the visitors you have, you might be chasing an unreachable goal of building a hugely popular site.
I’m not saying you can’t build a hugely popular site, or that having tons of visitors won’t make it much easier to make money from your site. But there’s a paradox you need to be aware of.
If you focus too much on getting massive traffic, you might make it less likely you’ll ever make significant money from your site, and ironically less likely that you’ll ever get the traffic you’re looking for.
Let me use this site as an example. In less than six months, I’ve been able to build a business around this blog that I almost can’t keep up with. New clients are contacting me about projects every week, and I’m not doing anything to advertise my services, aside from mentioning them in blog posts now and then. Nearly all of my clients first hear about me through this blog.
How much traffic has it taken me to build this business that brings in thousands in revenue every month? Just around 8,000 unique monthly visitors (see the left side of the site’s top navigation menu for a current count). That might sound like a lot of traffic to many of you who are just starting out. On the other hand, it’s not really that much in the scheme of things, when you find out sites like CopyBlogger and ProBlogger have well over 100,000 and 200,000 monthly unique visitors, respectively.
Granted, those are much bigger businesses, but I know many of you would be happy earning just enough to support yourself from your website or blog. You can do that with far less traffic than the big boys.
And what about that paradox I mentioned earlier? Here’s how it works. You start out aiming to build a huge site with tens or hundreds of thousands of monthly readers. Your goal is to build the site up, and then start earning money from your site, figuring it will be easy if you have enough readers.
The problem is that if you can’t earn decent money from your site when you have moderate visitors, it’s likely you’ll also have a hard time when the site is big. In fact, if you don’t focus on how to provide enough value to a smaller audience such that you could earn significant revenue from it, you’re unlikely to ever build that huge audience you were aiming for.
That’s because the practice of completely satisfying a small audience is what leads to building a huge site. You have to start small and build something that 100 or 1,000 people absolutely rave about before you can even think of reaching the masses. Skip that step and you’ll end up in on that unattainable path I spoke of before.
But lucky for you, you can earn more money from your site with far less traffic than you might have thought before. And when you do, you open the doors to becoming a breakout success. Start small, provide ridiculous value to a tiny audience, and don’t lessen that intensity as things grow.
What does it take to make significant money from your site when it’s still small? Here are five steps to get you there. I’ve used these steps successfully, and so has nearly every other successful blogger I know.
Step 1: Focus, Differentiate and Clarify
Photo by ihtatho
Here’s another paradox to pay attention to. You have to narrowly focus your site’s topic and target audience in order to grow. If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Decide who your audience is and what you provide them with very specifically, and you’ll find your audience growing much faster than if you had started with a broad audience.
Next, you need to differentiate yourself by developing a compelling unique selling proposition. Don’t compete directly with other sites. Instead, put your site in a category of one.
Once you’ve focused on a topic and audience and differentiated yourself, make sure to also be very clear about why your site exists and why someone should read it. Save the nuances for the detail pages. Start by being very basic and clear in your header, tagline, about pages, etc.
Step 2: Kill ‘Em with Kindness
Now that you’ve put a stake in the ground that tells your target audience what your site will do for them, it’s time to do it. Every aspect of your site, every post, every page, every widget, should provide unmistakable value related to your topic.
The goal here is to become an indispensable resource for your audience. You want to establish yourself as an authority and show your visitors how much you care about helping them with every word you publish.
Step 3: Ask Your Audience What You Can Sell Them
Notice I haven’t talked at all about selling anything to your audience? That’s a key aspect of this plan. Instead of employing the old economy technique of creating something for sale and then looking for an audience, you’re going to first build an audience, and then create something for sale.
This is a much lower-risk way to go, and it almost guarantees you’ll have buyers for your product or service.
Now that your audience is in place and coming to you for advice on your chosen topic, it’s time to ask them how you can help even further. Survey your audience, let them know you’re planning to create a product or service and ask which one they might be interested in. Simple and highly effective.
Step 4: Create a Value-packed Product or Service
With your audience feedback in hand, it’s time to create your product or service. Notice that we’re not relying on advertising to earn a buck here. That’s a low-value revenue model. Instead, we want to create something that will generate much more revenue per visitor.
Don’t skimp on value or beat around the bush, topic-wise. Get right to the core of why your visitors come to your site in the first place. Make sure your product is just as worthwhile as reading your site is.
Affiliate marketing is another option here, if you don’t want to create a product yourself. Affiliate marketing (selling someone else’s product for a commission) is also a great way to find out what your audience is really interested in. And even if you create your own product or service, affiliate marketing can be a good way to supplement your income from your site.
Step 5: Enlist Your Online Friends to Help Sell the Product
If you created a product, to make the most of your efforts, you should get some of your online friends who have sites on related topics to help you do some of the selling. Just set up your own affiliate program and offer generous commissions. Your affiliates will send you buyers you wouldn’t have attracted otherwise, and you’ll keep part of the revenue.
Then, when it comes time to sell other products in the future, those visitors that came to your site from affiliates might just become repeat buyers.
Offering an affiliate program is a win-win situation, it’s easy to set up and can more than double your revenues. Don’t overlook this critical step when trying to make more from your site with less traffic.
Putting it into Practice
Have you already been following these steps? You might have been, even without knowing it. If you haven’t been following these steps, take a look at your site and consider if this might be a better way to go. It’s not too late to make changes, no matter where you are in the process.
If this article helped you, I’d really appreciate it if you share it with others or link to it from your own site.
How else can you make more money from your site with less traffic? Please share in the comments!
Opening photo by amalthya