5 Steps to Make More Money From Your Website with Less Traffic

  • September 15, 2010 by Corbett Barr
  • 49 Comments

make more money from your website

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

Focus, Differentiate and ClarifyPhoto 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

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


Think Traffic is now The Sparkline. Click here to check it out.

Or View The Archives

Nick Stewart September 15, 2010 at 6:06 am

Great post. I gave it a thumbs up on stumble upon.

This post reminds me a lot of the stuff I read in the book “Raving Fans”.

You’re definitely right about the old way of doing business where you build a product and then search (sometimes in vain) for someone to buy your stuff. Clearly this is the wrong way to go. Instead it’s far better to find a market of buyers who are hungry for something and then build it.


Nick, The Traffic Guy

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 8:08 am

Hey Nick, thanks for the validation. I haven’t read that book you mentioned, but it sounds right up my alley. Cheers.

Srinivas Rao September 15, 2010 at 7:28 am

Corbett,

There’s some great points in this post. I think that we get caught in up trying to compete and attempt to be everything to everyone which we both know doesn’t work. As somebody who did a recent mini product launch, I wanted to add a few things:

1) Make a Marketing Plan for Your Site: When I decided to do a quarterly marketing plan for my blog and broke it down in to traffic, monetization, and content, I came up with all these ideas I hadn’t thought o before. One simple one was to post an ad on craigslist, and that resulted in getting hired as a social media consultant for a client on a monthly retainer of $500.00. If I hadn’t done the marketing plan I would have never thought of craigslist.

2) Focus on $100/Make a Product that is Focused: I have to give complete credit to Dave Navarro for this. When I listened to your interview with him and went back to mine, I realized I hadn’t been thinking about the income snowball. $100 seems alot more achievable then $500 or $1000. As a result you believe that it’s possible for you and you accomplish it. Another thing I realized is that if you pay attention to what people ask you, you’ll find out what you might be able to sell. I got asked so much about interviews that I decided to make my first mini product “how to grow your blog with interviews.” 10 people who buy a product made just for them even if it is tiny revenue is better than nobody buying a huge ebook that you put hundreds of hours into.

3) Make an Inventory of Everything You’ve been Paid for In the Past or Have Great Skills at: If people have setup wordpress blogs or optimized their own site, doing one first web site for somebody for the cost of $100.00 is a perfect way to get that first bit of revenue.

While it might take time, I think ultimately you nail with creating crazy amounts of value. That’s why I read this site. I use your content and ideas as a framework for analyzing traffic and growing my site. So, thanks for that :)

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

Awesome tips, Srinivas. I really like #2. Just getting a small product built and launched is a huge hurdle that most people never cross. By breaking it down into something small and more achievable, you make it much more likely you’ll continue on to bigger and more profitable things. Thanks so much for sharing!

Jodi Kaplan September 16, 2010 at 7:22 am

I like #2. Paraphrasing Chris Brogan: first beer money, then steak money, then caviar money.

Ryan Biddulph September 15, 2010 at 7:58 am

Hi Corbett,

I like the contrarian viewpoint. Instead of selling to an audience, build and audience and ask them what to sell.

I practice some of these techniques but haven’t developed a product yet.

Thanks for sharing your insight.

Ryan Biddulph

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 8:11 am

Cheers, Ryan. Good luck getting to the next step.

Onibalusi Bamidele September 15, 2010 at 8:17 am

Really great post Corbett,

You summed everything up!

This post contains lots of great strategies that those not making money online yet can implement and those making money online can use to make even more money.

Concerning asking your audience what you can sell them, I sent a mail to my list day before yesterday and in less than 24hrs my inbox has been flooded with replies (How I have been cheating myself ;) )

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Awesome! Congrats on sending the survey out. I’m sure you’ll learn a ton from the responses.

Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli September 15, 2010 at 9:13 am

This is a very encouraging view for me. I have a very small audience and keep waiting for some magic number. No need to wait.
Thanks!

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Always glad to be encouraging. Cheers!

Marios September 15, 2010 at 10:00 am

Hey Corbett, Agree with you most people want to get huge traffic but don’t understand that huge traffic not necessarily guarantee a lot of sales. But the main point is Number 3, Ask your audience what you can sell them. Because it will guarantee you a customers who will purchase your product.
Great Post

Marios

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Thanks, Marios. Glad you agree.

Caroline Mukisa September 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

Corbett, Thanks so much for this post! My blog is 3 months old and I’ve become obsessed with traffic; delaying completing a free ebook or taking my first product idea off the drawing board, so I can spend even more time growing my traffic. I’m at around 1500 unique visitors a month so your example of making a living from 8000 feels so much more achievable than thinking I’m going to need 30,000 visitors a month! This is the most important blog post for newbies that I’ve read so far!

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Hey Caroline, don’t forget that releasing ebooks and products can actually help you build an audience as well. Also, the exact number of visitors you’ll need to support yourself really depends on your situation. My business here is significant, but that’s partly because I’m running consulting projects, which are higher value per client, but also require much more time commitment from me.

Greg September 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Corbett, Thank-you for another informative and thought-provoking post. To provide value by servicing the needs of your readers: it sounds so “old-school” in the age of the Internet, but the focus seems to be on establishing and nurturing human relationships rather than just “selling” to the masses. In that context, taking care of the needs of a “small” readership makes sense.

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 4:49 pm

You’re right, technology doesn’t change the fundamentals of business. It’s a lesson people should have learned during the dot-com crash ten years ago.

mychickenfeed September 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Corbett, thank you for the super motivation in this arena. I have a real curiosity for the revenue/monetization of a blog. Forgive me, but I’m at the 101 stage of my blog. I have been blogging for about 6 weeks now, and I’m getting about 30 visitors a day. I’d be very interested in a post explaining what the sources of revenue are that you referring too outside of advertising and affiliate programs? I’m having some difficulty understanding what these could be. I’m in a sense looking for the “goal”, outside of enjoying the content I am creating. Your site is great, and I loved your “lady gaga” post sometime back, and have been a regular visitor to your site.
Mychickenfeed

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Great questions. My revenue breaks down into three categories: affiliate marketing, product sales and consulting. I’m working on a free ebook that will share all the detail you might be looking for about my business (along with hard numbers).

For now, you might check out this post on revenue models at my other blog Free Pursuits.

Ramblings of a Woman September 15, 2010 at 6:16 pm

This is a great article that just confitms what I have been reading all across bloggy land the past 3 days. What am I waiting for? Why not now? WHy not me? WHy not today! I am up to about 6000+ clicks a month on my free WP.com blog, and I am in the beginning stages of designing my new site on WP.com. But I can start today, even if it is just affiliate stuff.
Thanks for the kick!
Bernice

Corbett Barr September 15, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Cheers, glad to provide some motivation. Good luck.

Carolee September 16, 2010 at 5:35 am

Great post- love the idea of asking your audience what they want to know….

Corbett Barr September 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Cheers, Carolee. Thanks for commenting.

Samuel September 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Awesome tipz bro! hahha #2 is killing me!!! lol thanks for sharing man! keep the good work up.

Corbett Barr September 17, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Thanks, Samuel.

Daniel Richard September 17, 2010 at 5:52 am

There’s actually no need to have huge (eg: 1,000s p/day) traffic to make money online. Do the maths: for every 5 people that comes to your site a day (given it’s a niche), 1 buy (eg: $100 order), deducting the costs / margin (15-30% of $100), and you have somewhere around $15 to $30 in profits already.

Include in good after sales service (eg: email to say thanks, speaking to your buyers in person) and you’ll have an audience that helps push the brand to greater heights almost instantly.

That’s my 2 cents addon.

Corbett Barr September 17, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Thanks for the 2 cents, Daniel. Not sure I follow the math exactly, but I get the sentiment. Cheers.

Scott Dinsmore September 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Sell, Design, Build instead of the old style of Design, Build, Sell. I love it! I look forward to applying these techniques to my site, Reading For Your Success. I am currently at about 1200 subscribers. At what size do you think a survey is helpful to get real data?

Great useful thoughts.

Scott

Mark Wardell September 21, 2010 at 5:02 am

Thanks for the post, worthwhile read. I have a client who as multiple dealers all with small audience ecommerce sights and I am always looking for advice and guidance for them so will pass this on.

Jamie Northrup September 22, 2010 at 7:22 am

Great post Corbett, I’ve always believed Targeted visitors are the most important, most of my money is made with them.

I’ve included this in the top 5 posts for web workers this week on my blog ;)

Thanks,
Jamie

Corbett Barr September 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

Awesome Jamie, thanks so much. Cheers!

Mr.G September 22, 2010 at 10:19 am

Excellent post. You just won a new subscriber, sir!

I just realized that one of my blogs has 3 more times unique readers than yours and it’s hardly making 100 dollars a month. Shame! And you know why? Because I was doing exactly what you said at the beginning: trying to get monster amounts off traffic!

One day someone told me :”it’s not about how many people, it’s just about what you have for your audience, even if they are 300″

You just confirmed my change was in the right direction.

Thanks.

Corbett Barr September 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Congrats on getting going on the right track. It’ll take patience to turn things around, I’m sure, but will be worth it in the end. Cheers!

Mark Kelly September 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Congrats on your impressive results thus far. It really shows you are delivering quality because yours is probably one of the most competitive niches out there. Not all viewers/customers are created equally so it is important to have goals for who you are trying to appeal to.

Corbett Barr September 22, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Hey Mark, thanks for the comment and kudos. Good point as well about deciding who to appeal to. Cheers.

Sherryl Perry September 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Some wonderful tips here Corbett.I have not made any money with my website yet. I haven’t had time to create a product either. I recently did add my service page to my blog and I’m hoping that will help. I’ve also been channeling a lot of energy into preparing materials to teach classes related to my blog in hopes of building a reputation, driving traffic and marketing my coaching and consulting.

Do you find that building an authority site takes longer to start making money with than other types of blogs that start out promoting existing products? I hope to do that too but I started on this road and it does look promising.

Ryan @ Planting Dollars December 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm

When I first started out blogging I tried only ads and found that you’d need an absolute TON of traffic to make any decent money. Since then the model chanced to niche sites utilizing high quality related products which has seen much better results. I think a lot of bloggers start out with just ads then struggle for a while much like I did since it’s hard to think of a creative product.

Sandra Pandi March 4, 2011 at 2:57 am

Dear Corbett,

Great article! Thanks so much for sharing this. Many of us need to be reminded about the purpose of having a website and you have done a great job in helping us to keep this in mind.

Sandra

Daniel October 1, 2011 at 1:02 am

Great article, Corbett.

I think if you are just relying on Adsense alone, you would need a ton of traffic to come through to make a decent amount of money.

My only question is, apart from an E-book, web design etc what products could someone actually sell from their site?
I am currently on Blogger(with a custom domain name) and as far as I know, you do not have any options apart from Adsense and Amazon Affiliates(Unless you have massive traffic coming to your site, whereas Google will cut you some slack and allow you to sell space on your site to advertisers.

Emmanuel Uduezue September 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Thanks for mentioning these strategies, you are almost challenging my mentality of making money online with my blog. But all the same thank you for adding to my knowledge. I have already bookmarked this post.

Can you please clarify the statement you made that you got clients by just mentioning and linking to them via your blog. How were you able to achieve this using the above strategy? I would appreciate your assistance to a fellow blogger.

charles Leahy July 8, 2013 at 6:30 am

What would you recommend? My site (which is not the one attached), is based in Dubai for expats living in the UAE. It receives 800 daily visitors, of which around 600 of them are located in the UAE, Dubai. With Adsence I earn $4 per day and when I tried a range of affiliate programs that are aimed at everyone and anyone that uses the internet, they got clicks but no sign-ups. So I am getting 19,000 visitors per month and making a total of $60 :-( Any tips? Thanks!

BTW, great blog!

Chris C. Ducker September 15, 2010 at 10:04 am

Hi Corbett

I agree 100% with you and Srinivas.

Just getting going with something, ANYTHING, is the major thing. After you’ve tasted a little bit of the money you can make, you will, naturally, want to go on to bigger and better things!

Awesome post – as always.

Chris

mychickenfeed September 16, 2010 at 2:58 am

thanks corbett. I’ll have a look at the link now. I of course want to apply basic business principles to maximising the opportunity. I will be looking out for the ebook! I also want to create a platform to build off, which includes the site design and adding on services as I feel my readers are ready for them. I’m still a little uneasy with turning the blog into a revenue generative tool, but will keep experimenting as I discover – I will be back!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Sites That Link to This Post