You will not make a fortune overnight, especially selling advertising space

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on September 22, 2009 in: Business - Plain & Simple

As much as I hate to say it to my clients or colleagues, it is true. Unless you are a famous guru with success at producing sites that generate thousands of visitors (which will get advertisers knocking down your door), you need to create real estate value first.

Recently on a project I was involved in, the owner of the website was not happy with the results and made some very rash decisions.

A bit of background:

  • The website targeted an audience that she was not familiar with.
  • She had never created any type of website other than one selling products.
  • Her goal with this website was to sell advertising space.
  • The topic of the website, while a strong topic that could do wonders, was difficult to peg down an advertiser profile for, especially given the target market.
  • She outsourced 100% of the work (while this is fine, she did nothing for the site except provide feedback. No content building, nothing!)
  • She was upset after 6 months that she had not generated any revenue.

Now, here are my thoughts: If she was someone who already had a large clientele from her other businesses, I can understand setting some higher expectations because she could drive traffic to her advertising site. However, she was effectively starting from scratch on this project.

Her only revenue from this site would have been advertising space, and while she set the prices low enough, she did not have statistics (at least not impressive ones) to entice any advertisers.

When it came to content, she wanted about 40 pieces written as quickly as possible. In the timeframe given, the quality and length of the content was not as strong as it needed to be.

No marketing was done on the site at all, despite advice and guidance, with the exception of a couple hours a week of feeding posts into various social media streams.

Why am I saying all this? If you are creating a site that is content only, you need to create reasonable expectations and be in for the long haul. It is an urban legend that within 6 months you will be earning enough money to call it a success.

Here are some tips that I would have given her, had I been able to:

  1. Think of your website advertising space as real estate. When you bought the domain, you bought a plot of land in the middle of nowhere: There was no water or power. It will take time to get neighbors, utilities, and services out to you. Only after you have those things will your real estate be worth something!
  2. Social Media is great, but it should not be your entire marketing plan.
  3. You can’t effectively use social media across 5 or 6 platforms in 2 hours a week and expect a large result from that.
  4. 6 months is not enough time to show you whether it will be a dud or not. The best SEO experts will tell you it can take at least 6-12 months to see “real” results.
  5. Don’t create a site that you plan on not participating in at all, or that you can’t or don’t want to do on your own. If you want to outsource most work, fine; but if you don’t know anything about the topic of the site, and the only contribution you can make is money and design critique, this is not the project for you. Like other businesses, this is a hands-on business model… in spite of the get-rich-quick myths that fly around the web.
  6. Start with Google AdSense or something similar and make sure your site can handle AdSense. While it may not be a million bucks, it will give you some type of revenue and give you a chance to learn statistics (click-throughs and impressions) to show your potential advertisers. And, it will help you determine your real estate value when the time is right.

I like to blog about different things, so sometimes I start series. For example, I have an “Ooops” series where I talk about business “ooops” that I see (which is much neglected; sorry). The BUL series is Business Urban Legends, a series revealing things that people (clients, colleagues, innocent bystanders etc.) have said or say to me in daily communication.

Some disclaimers:

  • I will change the name of anyone I am discussing (or just not use names at all).
  • I will not blog about clients with whom I am working and bound by confidentiality.
  • Almost all blog posts that I write go through my editor prior to being posted. Some of these will not, as some of my best written blogs are written on the fly and without editing. So excuse any typos etc.
  • There are exceptions to every rule (or, in this case, “legend”), so when I speak, I am not saying something is impossible or can’t be done. I am speaking about the majority of the time or about my own experiences.

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