How do Websites Make Money?

Most sites exist on a spectrum between the above and require increasing resources to build and run as they move to the right.

In digital marketing in order to effectively sell advertising real estate on your web page, you need to have a good idea of how many and what type of people visit your site. This allows advertisers to speak directly to audiences they want to know about their product. A leading service that measures audiences is known as Comscore who among other services directly measures the amount of people visiting web sites. For example the sites with the highest amount of unique visitors within the U.S. for the month of January 2017, are as follows;

Fig 1.- Concrete business opportunities to communicate with audiences.

If you’re asking yourself what ‘sites’ means, great question! Let’s say you start a website devoted to love of all things knitting. Let’s call it ‘StraightOuttaYarn.com’, congratulations not only are you pursuing your passions but you’ve got a dope URL. I wish I’d thought of it.

You love knitting so much that you feel compelled to share that love with anyone who’s willing to listen, bravo. I’d have picked something more exciting, but who am I to judge? So you go on your way creating content for the site and you build a following of fans who read your every tip or tutorial on knitting, great job! You decide that you’ve got a loyal audience who supports your love of knitting and you want to support doing that and only that with your time. How do you do that while keeping in mind the cost of supporting a website and your monthly bills? You have two options these days:

Donations

Requesting donations from your audience is somewhat common on the web, in fact Wikipedia relies entirely on donations to fund the operations of the site. You hope the sum total of donations support your livelihood while you continue creating content for the site. Don’t worry, I have a feeling knitting is going to come back in a big way, any day now.

Advertising

The most common way to procure a living from creating content for a specific audience is through advertising. You can go out to all yarn suppliers, Michaels craft stores, Hobby Lobby etc. and let them know about your great site and audience. However, maybe you’re simply interested in creating content and not getting bogged down in being directed to an advertising agency and having to work through that third party.

So what are your options then? You can sign up with an advertising network like Google, who takes care of the entire process for you. All you need to do is to copy paste some snippets of HTML code into code-containers onto StraightOuttaYarn.com. They package your audience data along with that of other sites dedicated to knitting and crafts. Then they go out to advertising agencies to pitch that collection of sites to become a part of an advertiser like Michael’s craft store advertising campaign. Through this process, StraightOuttaYarn.com becomes part of ‘Google Sites.’

Wait, so Google sites are visited by 245 million unique people the month? As far as the term ‘unique’ goes in web technology, yes, 245 million different individuals. There is deeper nuance here, but for our purposes we’ll keep it brief. As noted above, nearly every page we visit has multiple ads on the same page, that makes for a ton of money to be made. You’re damn right, $74.5 billion dollars worth of ads including search based advertising a year if your name is Google. So how do companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or Amazon sell advertisements across all those websites? Well, they take the software solution of course.

(This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book Welcome to Tomorrow, offering beginner friendly insights and practical advice on living in our digital world. If you enjoyed this piece, please share with those who may find the information useful!)