Archive for the ‘Monetizing Your Site’ Category

Advertising and Other Thoughts on User Experience

You are a small business hoping for an additional income stream, so you turn to placing ads on your site. Did you just loose a client? Are you loosing authority?

Have you seen a good website go bad? Or have you lost respect for a site, which makes you wonder about the business behind it? These and other thoughts popped into my head this week while I was negotiating an ad for one of my sites and while looking at other sites. I think that there is nothing wrong with modeling your site after a successful web page, so why not look at what they have done to discover how it can be used in your own pages. I study. Typically, I do not look at the advertising placed on a site, because I am there for the content, yet those bits of marketing may have something useful for me. Like most people surfing the web, I have mixed reactions to someone trying to sell me more stuff, but this week I encountered a couple of badly handled sites that left them looking a bit less trustworthy in my eyes.
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Considering Advertising, Making a Policy

Monetizing a site beyond what your small business offers can be a way to generate more income.

To discuss how to monetize your site beyond the offering of your small business will be handled by another post. However, since I touched upon my Advertising page in the post about a privacy policy, I thought that I would go over this page too.

There are many ways to advertise on your site, and it may be wise to consider what your policy will be. By listing a link to another site, you are effectively advertising it. When you mention a product that you use or sell, you have advertised it. You may think that you will never put up ads on your site, but many shops conduct advertising. Take a look at a grocery store. You will find ads in a holder on the shopping cart, in banners and displays in the aisles, and on monitors at the check out. Your site also offers such opportunities. Advertising is worth considering, but as mentioned, writing about a product, providing a link, or showing a picture of a product is a form of endorsement/advertising. To keep the trust of your visitors, they should understand what motivates you to provide this information.

What is your advertising goal, and what do you find acceptable? There are different forms to an Advertising page. Some websites focus on establishing their authority by giving their PageRank value, along with other metrics. Some explain to you what they will sell you, and how much it will cost. If you look at my Advertising Policy, you will see a page that discusses what I will and will not do. My concern is that a site user will understand what I am trying to accomplish, while giving potential advertisers a cue to what they can expect. Look at the links in my blogroll to discover how differently sites can handle this page. I would suggest going over mine. I cover the basic means that a person can advertise on my site, and how I deal with it.

You should think about an Advertising Policy before or shortly after setting up your site, because you will be contacted. When you are starting, the most common type of advertiser will be a person looking to build links to their site. I currently have one SEO (search engine optimization expert) wanting me to list a particular site. This case is interesting, because she is identifying herself as a concerned citizen, who believes that my adding of this link will be of benefit to my readers. She has forgotten that she contacted me previously. I like the SEO who is honest about what he is attempting to accomplish, because they are typically willing to link back to you. I also have been contacted by companies. In one case, I discussed a particular product, and a firm called me to say that they also made that product, would I include them as a link? Would I review their product? A few times they contacted me without informing me that they worked for the firm that they were suggesting. My point is that anyone contacting you out of the blue claiming to be a reader of your site, and they think that including information about a specific brand, should be suspect. (Maybe they really have nothing to do with that firm, but it is better to be safe).

Advertisers will sneak their marketing onto your blog through the comments. Spam is common to blogs, but there are advertisers who look for posts that are related to their product. The worst case is a pure ad which provides no furthering to your post. The best is a firm which gives more content to your site through the answer, helping your clients. The questionable are firms that make a general comment, but they are not really marketing or adding to the site. If you obtain the comment “nice post”, “good site” or similar, they were looking for the link back to their site that your comment section allows. Sometimes the comment is general; however, it is not a prepackaged phrase. If I find their site acceptable, and it does not seem that they were simply looking for the link, I go ahead and approve the comment.

With those facts in mind, create your own advertising policy for your site. You may copy mine. It would be nice if you give me a link as a form of credit though. Do not copy another sites policy, unless they are giving you permission to do so. Should you include a lawyer to draft a policy? With the privacy policy there may have been a need, but with the advertising policy, I do not think that it needs to be taken that far. You need to understand what is an ad, and what you feel should be your stand on that type of ad. I should include here that you should consider payment options. When you barter for a service, like exchanging an ad space for a product, you have transacted a deal that the law does oversee. This may be were an accountant’s advice is better than a lawyer’s. If you are receiving gifts for advertising, then you will be expected to pay taxes on the income (the amount of the gifts) when specific values are reached. The Federal Trade Commission is currently looking into link advertising and how sites indicate that these are ads, so stricter rules may apply. All the more reason to develop your advertising policy early, even when you do not think that you are advertising.

Why have a Privacy Policy on Your Site

Building trust with the user begins by explaining what you are doing with data you collect.

I did not think about a Privacy Policy page till I began to make money with advertising on my site. By specifying what data I collected, how that data was used, and what my intentions were for that data, I built trust with the search engines, who saw this as a step towards honesty with my clients. I realized that even if I was not selling advertising on my site that a Privacy policy was a key step in building a relationship with the visitors on the site. They may never read that policy, but they will see that it is there, and they can find out what I am doing with the facts that I am collecting.

Wether you realize it or not, you are collecting data on people by setting up a website. The analytics software which tells you how many people came to your site, their IP address, which region the came from, which pages were visited, and all of the other metrics that indicate your site’s performance come from data collected from your visitors. What this software has not collected is a specific name, phone number, and address. This data can be collected by the website’s computers leaving a cookie on the visitor’s computer. Whenever you visit a site, and you find a message saying that it sees that you are new here, the site’s server recognizes that you do not have a cookie from that site on your computer.

If you operate a blog, you are collecting a name and an email when a visitor comments. You could also be collecting that same information when they fill out a form or send you an email. For some sites, this is an opportunity to send messages to those visitors. Better sites ask permission first. However, you may not be looking at or storing those names and emails. If you are collecting them, your visitors should know and agree to how you will be using them. For example, business associations sell the data they collect to marketers. I belong to one association which is very aggressive about finding people to sell my data to, and I hate that fact, but I have to be a member for my profession.

Collecting data is necessary, and your visitors will probably understand that fact, but they should understand what you are doing with collected data. Offering them the chance to look over your intentions helps them to understand you and your site, which leads to the all important trust factor.

Should your privacy policy be written by a lawyer? If you are a small business that collects a great deal of information on a client (which could be done through a website or shared with the client through a website), you will want a lawyer involved in the creation of this document. In that case it is complex, and you need to be careful not to violate anyone’s rights. For the vast majority of small businesses, you will need a simple document going over what you collect, how you collect it, and why it is collected. Refer to the Privacy Policy page on this site to give you an outline. You will notice that my statement is a bit light-hearted. Casual statements are fine as long as they touch upon the proper points. You may want to write something more formal. Take a look at other websites that you visit to see what they may include and how they approach this page. Do not copy a privacy statement, unless you have permission to do so. You do have permission to copy mine (it would be nice to place a link back to this site to say this is where you obtained it from). You will notice that I include some information about advertising on this page, yet I have an Advertising Policy too. By including certain types of advertising on your site, you have begun to collect data on the visitor (or maybe the advertiser has). I wanted that fact to be known on that page, because it is relevant.

How does a Privacy Page help with advertising? You are not required at the time of this writing to have policy statements on your site. I think any small business should be concerned about its clientele before having concerns for any other entity. That is why I added an advertising policy to my sites after I learned the value of a privacy policy for advertising. I wanted to be open with my visitors to earn their trust. As blogs are growing, and more ordinary people are earning income from them, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating this sphere. We will have to wait to see what regulations that they will put into place, but it is wise to be ahead of the game when it comes to regulations. The other entity that comes into play would be the advertisers. They want to advertise on quality sites. In fact, they will pay more for that privilege. The simplest means to advertise on your site would be through the Google Adsense program (this is a topic for another post). I will not claim to fully understand how Google determines if you are running a quality site, but by showing them that you take privacy seriously is a first step.

Iwas trying to rack my brain to come up with a reason why you could ignore this page on your site, or what may be a bad reason for having a privacy statement on the site. I could not come up with one for a legitimate small business. It is a wise decision.

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