Economics of a small website
Do you have a small website and are you thinking of earning some money? Maybe just to pay back the costs of the hosting? Here are some considerations based on my experiences of the last years. My website on Sardinia, it's prehistory and history, can be considered a small website, although it attracts visitors from all over the world. A year ago I had an average of 50 visitors per day, today that number has grown to 100 visitors a day, not bad for a site that offers a lot of texts and images on a specific subject that may be of limited interest to a broader public. Typically my visitors are Italian and Dutch, and further from a variety of European countries, the United States and Australia.
My visitors look for information. On the one hand they are looking for things to do and places to visit in Sardinia, on the other hand they are searching for information on Sardinia, archaeology, history, architecture or anything they want to know something more about, purely for the knowledge. Apart from site descriptions, photo galleries, itineraries and texts on the history, culture and natural environment I have built pages with Google maps, started an inventory of all the nuraghi on Sardinia and created a section on accommodations and travel info. This last section inspired by the visitors that plan a vacation on the island. The division in types of visitors interest explains their behavior in regards to advertisements: the former are looking for ways to spend their money best, the latter are not interested in spending money or clicking on ads.
Once defined the type of visitors it is easier to improve the information offered. What type of advertisement and which method would suite a small website best to earn back the money paid to the provider for hosting the website? You have to consider that the visible part of the page that is shown to the visitor is that part that can give most earnings. You will be suprised your visitors actually click on ads because it offers them something they are interested in, something they are looking for. It does not mean they will spend their money. Probably most of the times they will not spend money just then and there.
The types of ads depend on the provider of those ads. You can place ads that earn you money per click, and you can place ads that earn you a provision on sold items. In my case, a site on Sardinia, it would have to be something related to Sardinia. This can be books, holiday rentals, car rentals, travel related offers like ferries or flights, accommodations. Anything that is related to a vacation in Sardinia. The choice is very limited, although I must admit it seems like this choice is increasing over the last years. I tried all different types for my site to see how this would work out. I have online stores like Bol and Amazon that provide me books on Sardinia (not a large choice). I have ads that offer holidays, accommodations, travels, flights, using banners that pay a percentage on every sale. I have a widget to book a ferry. I have an affiliate agreement for hotel bookings.
Putting ads on your site means giving visibility to the advertiser, generating traffic to this site. And you guessed maybe already that if you get payed per sale you might end up earning nothing because the visitors click but don't buy. On the other hand if you get payed per click you will earn something, not a lot, but it shows on your balance. During the last year I noticed that only the ads that pay per click earned me some money. Not enough to cover the costs of hosting this website but that is also due to the fact that I hesitate to cover my site with ads. They have to integrate in a non-invasive way and it took time to find the best approach. The ads that should give me a provision on sales did not render very much. A number of clicks but no sales. In the meantime these ads were seen, the advertiser had free visibility because he did not have to pay me anything for his ad on my site. Nonetheless there are advertisers that only look at their earnings and don't consider ads on small websites as a sensible investment. Ofcourse if millions of small websites show ads and you don't even have to pay them I cannot agree that it does not add value to your advertisement campaign. Google sensed this potential very well and not only, Google pays per click and therefore is the best method for small websites to earn some money. To give you some idea, Google ads pay ten times more than other types of ads.
Can you get rich from putting ads on your site? My answer is: if it is a small website? No. You would have to have millions of pageviews and about three million visitors per month to earn enough money to make a living out of your website.
In conclusion, if you have a small website with a steady number of visitors and the same characteristics as my website, your best choice would be Google ads. Ofcourse that could change once your website attracts more visitors. I will let you know.