Eager readers will know I've just added a bookstore to my site. Does that fit with what I'm doing in terms of business communications? Think about it - yes, it does. I'm offering people an easy way to get inspired and do more with their business as part of my portfolio. And yes, if enough people buy books from me the nice people at Amazon will send me a cheque.
Monetizing your website, whether you choose the way I've done it or accept paid advertisers, is a sensible move if the company you are monetizing with is a good fit and adds value to the products, services or information you are offering. I read a cycling blog, Lovely Bicycle,
the owner of which has recently monetized her Blogspot blog. Her blog, which is far more regularly updated than mine, has superb photos and an engaging narrative style, was taking up so much of her time it was a case of either ditch the blog and concentrate on paid work or make the blog pay. She put the word out that advertising was available and was bombarded with suitable advertisers from the elegant cycling world (the lycra-free world... my world... where people cycle in normal clothing). Her blog has been a real success story in the 18 months since it started. Her advertisers pay her monthly for graphic links on her blog.
Asking for paid advertising isn't something I feel comfortable with on a couple of levels. In all honesty my blog hasn't reached the same level of readership (yet) so expecting people to pay to go on my blog would make me feel like I wasn't giving them the best deal possible. Aside from which, this is my company's site with its own domain name. I will happily promote and link to people I work with - clients, associates - but essentially this little patch of digitalia is my online home and I don't feel comfortable with houseguests.
On the other hand, a colleague put me on to Amazon affiliation. It costs me nothing to have my bookstore, and any money I've earned from it is from people who have used it to buy from me. Amazon doesn't give me a monthly retainer to have a store that might sell ten items one month and a thousand another. It's up to me to promote it or Amazon users to find it for themselves. Nor do I have to pay to use it; I can tap into one of the biggest sites on the net for nothing. Best of all, I can choose products that are a good fit for the services I offer. How good is that!?
Essentially, I can target what I want to sell. Amazon has a huge range of merchandise these days; it's long past simply being a bookseller. I've started small and chosen to offer a range of books and software, as you'll see if you visit the store. I plan on extending the range a little but ultimately want to keep a balance of selling what I personally love to read in fiction and non-fiction (my hand is hovering over including cookbooks!) and what I believe are the best business and motivational books on the market at the moment, aimed at existing clients and potential clients, or people who simply are interested in my point of view on business communications.
Setting up the store was a painless business. It's something anyone can add to their website with a little bit of time and patience. I'm now planning my social media-heavy marketing strategy for the store. I'll be telling people about specials and new releases on a regular basis via Twitter and Facebook; through Twitter it will also get to my LinkedIn contacts. Again, this costs me nothing.
The potential for people monetizing their websites is enormous; if you're going to do it, do it now. The market will be saturated in a few years and only the strong will prosper from it. Most importantly, make sure that your monetization is a fit for your business and not just something you'll think will add to your bank balance. Your business is your credibility. If your business is selling cupcakes and you suddenly start advertising hardware on your website, your audience will scratch their heads. It's not a credible fit. So start looking now for your perfect match.