As I’ve said many times, the fundamental element to an online business is customers. If you don’t have customers, or if you don’t know who your customers are, then what you have is a website. You don’t yet have an online business.
But the reality is that making money from websites is easy – just throw Adsense on there, right? – and making money from a business is much more difficult. At least a lot of people think it is, so they never look for other ways to generate income besides Adsense and the occasional Amazon link.
Making money from an online business requires you to sell a product of some sort to your readers. And while I won’t debate that this is more difficult than simply putting Adsense on your site, it’s not as hard as many people think it is. To show you how to do it, I present the Complete Guide To Selling A Product Online.
Before You Start
There are two things that you need to have before you start selling a product: targeted traffic to your website, and a great product to sell, whether it’s an ebook, video series, member site or something else. Both of these things deserve a full post of their own, so I’m just going to touch on the basics here.
Driving traffic to your website is the most crucial part of running an online business. Without traffic, you have no prospects, and with no prospects there are no sales. The best traffic to get to your website is search traffic, i.e., when people search in Google for topics related to your niche, you want them to find your site in Google’s listings and come visit you. You can’t beat free, targeted traffic.
Other methods of getting traffic to your website include advertising (such as Google Adwords, Microsoft Adcenter, or Facebook), social media, traffic exchanges, guest posting on other blogs, blog carnivals, and more. Regardless of how you go about getting traffic, your goal is to get interested, targeted eyeballs on your website.
Second, you need a product. The best product to sell is the one that you made, because you can control the content and quality of the product, and you get to keep 100% of the proceeds. However, developing a product is not easy, and it will definitely take a significant amount of time to create a great product.
So while you develop your own product, feel free to sell someone else’s. The easiest way to find a good product to sell is to head over to Clickbank and search in their marketplace. You can sign up for free, and every author there would love to have you sell their ebook.
Quick Word of Caution: Not every product on Clickbank is going to be great quality. If you find a product that you like, I recommend buying a copy for yourself first. Read through it, see if it’s good enough to sell to your readers, and if not, find another product to sell.
If you don’t want to deal with Clickbank or if you can’t find anything good to sell there, your other option is to find someone in your niche that has developed a good quality product and work out an affiliate relationship with them. The #1 affiliate on our gluten free site did just that. He contacted us one day about selling our ebook, and now he sells about as many of them as we do.
Getting Visitors To Buy – The Selling Mindset
Before you can actually sell anything, you need to put yourself into the selling mindset. Your goal is no longer just to get people to people to click an Adsense ad; your goal now is to get them to purchase something. This requires a different strategy on your part.
First and foremost, you need to project an image of professionalism and expertise on your website. If people don’t trust you, or if they don’t think you know what you’re talking about, they’re never going to give you any of their money.
Go look at your website. How does it look? Is the design well done? Can you navigate around easily? Do you have lots of content for new visitors to read? Do you link to high quality sites, or have you done some questionable link exchanges in the past? (It’s ok. We’ve all been there. Just take the bad links down.)
What about your content? Is it well-written and readable? Is it high quality? Does it really and truly provide value to your readers?
Your website is the first thing that people are going to see about you, and they are going to judge you very quickly based on what they see. Make sure what they see is positive so that they want to read more and find out more about your topic.
Think about it this way: Let’s say you have a new boyfriend that you’re going to take home to meet your parents for the first time. He is a wonderful, charismatic, funny, caring person, and you’re sure that your parents are going to love him from the moment he walks in the door. Would you want him to show up for dinner with a scruffy haircut, unshaven, unshowered, and in dirty clothes? Of course not. Why not? Because his outer appearance would most likely keep your parents from getting to know him as a person. At the very least, it would significantly color their opinion of him, and they might never make the effort to get to know him well.
You need to think about your website in the same way. If your website doesn’t project an aura of authenticity and professionalism, people are going to write you off very quickly, and you are going to have a much harder time selling anything.
So before you do anything else, go check out your website and make sure it’s up to snuff. Getting a second opinion on this can also be very helpful. If you have a friend or relative that A) knows something about your niche, or B) knows something about making money from a website, ask them to take a look at your site and give you their honest opinion on it.
I know that there are probably some of you that started skipping paragraphs as soon as you saw the words “quality website” because you’re tired of hearing me talk about quality and you want to get down to the good stuff. But trust me: the quality of your website (and your content) is the foundation of your online business. If you have a terrible, spammy website, it will cost you money.
Is your website ready? Is it good enough to make people want to know more about you? Are you sure? Ok, then let’s proceed.
At this point, you have traffic, a great product to sell, and your website makes people want to trust you. Now we’re ready to start selling.
Selling Your Product From Your Website
There are two methods for selling your product: directly from your website, and through email marketing. We’ll discuss a strategy for email marketing in a later post. Right now, we’re going to look at how to sell a product directly from your website.
If you were running PPC ads for your product, then you get to choose the specific landing page for your visitors. Obviously you would want the landing page to be your sales page. However, when you get organic search traffic, people are going to be landing on dozens, if not hundreds, of different pages all over your website.
If your website is new and you don’t have much traffic yet, this idea might seem crazy to you, but it’s true. Our gluten free site has over 150 different pages that got at least 100 hits in the last month alone! And our site gets a good bit of traffic (especially for our niche), but it doesn’t even begin to compete with some of the really high traffic sites out there.
Since search traffic is free and not all that hard to come by, I’m going to show you how to optimize your website for the situation of having lots of traffic coming to lots of different pages on your site.
First off, you need a sales page. Your sales page is simply the page where you talk about your product and give people the option to buy it. Making a great sales page is as much an art as it is a science, and you’re probably not going to make a very good one your first time. That’s not a problem though, because you can always make changes, try new ideas, and test to see what works the best.
Let’s say your sales page is at www.yourawesomewebsite.com/sales-page. Your goal now is to get as much of your traffic as possible to click through to your sales page. Sales, whether online or offline, is as much about sheer numbers as it is about skill at selling. Even if your conversion rate is terribly low, if you have really large numbers of people visiting your sales page, then you’re going to make some sales.
There are two methods you can use to drive traffic to your sales page: 1) text links, and 2) ad images. Both can work very well, but every site and every niche is different. Test different variations and combinations on your site to see what works best for you.
Text links are just like any other internal links you have to pages/posts on your website, except that now you are going to link every page on your site to your sales page. You want to work it into the article naturally. Don’t make it obvious that the link is an advertisement; instead, make it sound natural and make it fit into the flow of your article.
If you visit this link to our gluten free blog, you can see the text link to our ebook in the second paragraph. We’ve found the links get more clicks when they’re closer to the beginning of the article.
Again, if the text link method works for you, then you want to link every page on your site to your sales page. You want every single visitor to your site to get the chance to check out your sales page.
Ad images are the other method of getting clicks to your sales page. Get some ads made for you (don’t do them yourself unless you are really great at graphic design) and put them on your website in spots that you know get clicks. If you’re currently running Adsense, then you know which positions get clicks, so rotate your ads in with the Adsense ads, and see how many clicks you can get.
If you decide to run some image ads, make sure not to over do it. Freeing yourself from the Adsense restrictions occasionally makes people go temporarily crazy, and they plaster their ad images all over their site. Remember, your site still needs to look professional. I wouldn’t put more than two ads above the fold, and don’t be afraid to try some spots lower down on your pages. An image at the bottom of your post, centered beneath your content, can produce some nice click numbers.
Once you’ve tested some different implementations of the two methods, figure out which one works best for you and go with that. We found that text links generate more clicks for us than images, so we use that method more than ads (although we do occasionally test out different options.)
So there’s the first part of my complete guide to selling your product. I hope you’ve found it helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away in the comments. The next post in the series will focus on how to use email marketing to sell your product.