If you’re planning to monetize your website in one way or another, there’s four basic approaches. What you do to market your website will be very different depending on your approach. We’ll look at each of these in turn.
First, you might simply be using your website to convey a certain image to your clients. What you’re actually making money from, then, is the service you provide. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals may use this kind of site. You’ll want to include contact information, some professional history about yourself, some details concerning the services you provide, and so forth.
You could, possibly, build a website like this yourself – but you probably shouldn’t. Imagine this scenario: you’re going to a meeting with a high-powered client, hoping to convince her to use your services. You need to wear a suit to the meeting. Would you sew that suit yourself? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t – and I’ve made money (briefly) as a seamstress!
If you’re using your website to convey your professional image, you need to work with someone who is a website designer first and foremost, as opposed to a programmer. They also need to understand the kinds of marketing messages that particular design decisions may send to your site’s visitors. For example, you wouldn’t normally plan to use the same color scheme on a lawyer’s website as you would on a bakery’s website.
Taking site interactivity a step further, you might hope to use your website to generate new leads and customers for your business. Make that your goal, and your life instantly gets more complicated. It also may get more expensive.
If you only want to show a professional image to your clients with your website, you don’t need to concern yourself as much with how they find your site. Presumably you’ll give them a business card or other piece of literature, and they’ll use that to look you up online for more information. If you’re trying to attract leads with your site, on the other hand, your site needs to be able to do some of that work for you. It needs to rank in the search engines, and you need to get word of the site out to people who might become customers.
Basically, there are four ways to do this. The first is on-site search engine optimization. To make that work for you, you’ll need to spend either time or money, or some of both. You can spend time learning how to do your own SEO, or money hiring your own SEO. Or you may hire an SEO to do some of the work and make recommendations for some things that you may do yourself (such as a blog).
On-site SEO is somewhat limited in its possible effects on your ranking, however. Google gives strong weight to links when considering where a website should rank on its search engine results pages (SERPs). So for your second way to get the word out about your site, you need to look at what I think of as off-site SEO: link generation, viral marketing, linkbait, and anything that will attract inbound links to your website. Many of the same SEOs who handle work on your site will also handle link building.
A third way to get visitors to your website to generate new business prospects is by participating in social media. I don’t just mean Facebook and Twitter, by the way. Participate on forums specific to your field; make comments on blogs that cover your area of expertise; do videos on YouTube; and so forth.
The fourth way to get the word out about your website is advertising. You can start with Google AdWords, if you want; it doesn’t cost as much as many other forms of advertising, and you don’t need to be a technogeek to use it. It can take a while to learn how to get the most out of it, though, and you shouldn’t neglect to at least consider other forms of advertising.
You may need not only an SEO to carry this program through, but someone who is skilled with the use of words for online marketing – a copy writer who specializes in the Internet. Many SEOs do both; these days, the lines blur considerably. Be sure to ask lots of questions as to what the professional you’re thinking of hiring to help accomplish your goals can and can’t do for you.
What if you’re using your website to sell products? In all likelihood, you’ll still want to promote it online, but now you’re going to need a programmer. While you can find a lot of software packages that will handle all the details, you need to be much more concerned with issues such as privacy and security from hackers. Those are always important when money and sensitive personal details (such as credit card information) are involved. If you’re also working with an SEO and a website designer, these three people will need to be able to work together.
Finally, do you plan to make money from your site itself, as opposed to using it to promote your business? If the site IS your business, then in one form or another, you’re an online publisher. You’re in an incredibly crowded field, but that’s no reason to think you can’t make money from it. The usual approach is to acquire or create an ongoing supply of content, and then sign up with an advertising network such as Google AdSense, Commission Junction, Amazon Associates, or one of many others. Make sure you read the terms of your agreement with the network, and follow it scrupulously. Good luck!