Whether you started a blog for your own enjoyment or you intentionally built a website to generate revenue, there will come a time when you are looking for ways to monetize your website to its fullest potential. There are plenty of different ways to monetize a website but they will all yield different returns. As a site owner, it’s your goal to get as much money out of every visitor as possible.
Your website is a business in some form or another. You are investing your time into providing a product or service and you should be able to get something out of it (if that is your goal).
Now, don’t mistake this as some malevolent scheme to brainwash your visitors into opening their wallets and handing you their hard earned cash. In fact, you won’t have very much luck if you get greedy.
Before we get started, there are some basic rules to follow.
Rule #1: Focus on “Win-Win” Monetization
True commerce is mutually beneficial and it is your job to facilitate win-win interactions.
If you think about your own day-to-day purchases, you’ll realize that most of them serve your own needs. You may also realize that your purchasing decisions are often influenced by other people. For example, someone at the grocery store may recommend a certain salad dressing after you express your passion for leafy greens. Websites can be used to mimic this same process.
Always make sure you are focused on adding value.
This rule alone could probably sum up the rest of them, but there are a few other things to be aware of.
Rule #2: Don’t be Disruptive
Have you ever been to a news website where they force you to register in order to read the second half of an article? Maybe you’ve been to a site that has so many advertisements you don’t know where the content is?
I haven’t done the research on how well these strategies convert but if they leave your visitors with a sour taste in their mouths, you’re doing something wrong. As a diligent marketer, you need to be subtler.
Why do you think native advertising (such as Facebook Ads) has been growing so rapidly over the past few years? It’s a form of promotion that fits naturally into a user’s online experience.
Rule #3: Build Trust and Stay True to Your Brand
Being genuine builds trust and trust sells. Furthermore, trust is an investment that yields dividends for years to come.
Whenever you try to influence purchasing behavior, trust is required. You need to give your visitors a reason to listen to you. If your audience trusts you, you can continue to influence their purchasing decisions until that trust is broken.
Never promote anything that doesn’t align with your brand. You will be compromising long-term profitability for a short-term gain. Trust takes a long time to build and can be destroyed in seconds.
Rule #4: Do Your Due Diligence
Always make sure you’ve done your research on anything you promote.
If you are promoting a product, make sure you’ve tried it. If you are promoting a CPA offer, make sure you’ve done the research on the company.
When you promote another product/service/offer, you become the face of that company. The last thing you want to do is become the face of something negative.
Rule #5: Test, Test, and Then Test
Don’t make assumptions about which monetization method will work the best for you. Test everything.
Your golden metric is “revenue per visitor.” This tells you how much every visitor is worth and will help you compare the effectiveness of every monetization method you try.
Ways to Monetize a Website
Now it’s time to get to the good stuff. Let’s start monetizing.
Obviously, if you run an e-commerce website, your monetization method is built into your business model. The following monetization methods are intended for content creators, bloggers, marketers, etc.
The Easy Route: Banner Ads
Adding banner ads to your site is one of the easiest ways to start monetizing your web traffic. The process is as simple as adding a few snippets of code. You get paid whenever a visitor clicks on one of the ads.
I mentioned that banner ads are one of the easiest ways to monetize a website. They are also one of the least profitable methods in many cases. This isn’t to say you can’t make good money with banner advertising. I’ve had a few blogs that made money solely off of banner ads. That said, banner ads are more of a starting point.
As your website begins to grow, you may want to explore other ways to make money.
Selling Ad Space
Programs like AdSense are great because they require almost no manual work.
You also have the option to sell advertising space directly to niche-relevant companies at a fixed monthly rate. In certain cases, this can be more profitable.
For example, let’s say you run a pet food blog and you had AdSense running for a few months. You know the CTR of an ad space is roughly 0.5% and will generate about 500 clicks every month. You are getting $0.50/click from AdSense, meaning the ad space generates $250 every month.
Let’s assume a premium dog food company has a website that converts 10% of visitors with an average sale of $50 (meaning every visitor is worth $5 to them). Your 500 clicks are worth $2500 to this company, therefore they may be willing to pay $500-$1000 for the same spot.
If you want to sell ad space, you have a few options:
- Contact businesses directly and make a strong pitch
- Submit your site to advertising networks (like BuySellAds)
- Advertise your ad spaces as being for sale
Affiliate marketing can be one of the most natural methods of monetization when done properly.
Think about all of the purchasing behavior you’ve already influenced. The majority of us have recommended products, services, or restaurants to our friends. What if we could get paid for those recommendations? With affiliate marketing, we can.
Affiliate marketing, also known as referral marketing, is a method of marketing where you get paid a commission for referring buyers to another site. For example, let’s say you are writing an article about the best teeth whitening products and you link to a product on Amazon. You would get paid a commission every time one of your visitors clicked that link and purchased the product.
Commission rates will vary by industry and affiliate program so you will want to do some research before choosing a good affiliate offer. Here are a few things you will want to consider:
What is the commission rate?
Will you get paid 10% of every sale or 20% of every sale?
What is the referral window?
What is the price of the product or service?
If you refer people to a $5 product and you make a 10% commission, you aren’t making very much money on each sale. Contrarily, if you refer people to a $100 product with a 20% commission, you make $20 on every sale. The effort on your behalf will probably be about the same either way, so focus on higher paying offers.
Does the First or Last Affiliate Get the Commission?
Some affiliate programs will give the commission to the first person who refers a customer while others will give it to the last referrer.
How reliable is the company?
Only work with reliable companies or affiliate networks – you have a lot of options.
Is the landing page and/or product well optimized?
Once you start referring people, you want to make sure the company you refer people to is doing a good job of converting the traffic. Make sure they have a good product and good website.
Do your research and find a few options. This may seem like the easy part but it will have a big impact on the success of your promotion.
There are websites called “Affiliate Networks” that aggregate offers from lots of companies. You can browse the offers, get details about the program, and even get information about campaign performance.
Here are a few popular affiliate networks:
- Amazon Affiliates
- Commission Junction
Many companies will have an affiliate program hosted on their own websites. You can usually find these programs by going to the footer of the company website or searching “[COMPANY NAME] affiliate” on Google.
CPA (cost per action) offers are similar to affiliate marketing but you are paid when a user takes a specific action.
Here are a few examples:
- A user submits their email
- A user signs up for a free trial of a subscription service
- A user gets a free credit score check
- A user installs an app
The benefit to these offers is that you don’t need to get your visitors to open their wallets. The payout is usually much lower, but the conversion rate can be higher in many cases.
You have to be careful with CPA offers because a LOT of them are spam offers. You’ve probably seen offers like “Enter to Win a Free iPad” or “Enter to Win Free Burger King for a Year.”
If you are going to promote CPA offers, be extra cautious and do your research. I’ve had the most luck by finding CPA networks that focus on a specific niche (i.e. coupons).
Popular CPA Networks Include:
Make sure to look at the offers before signing up for a network because there is a lot of junk out there. You can use sites like OfferVault to browse offers from different networks.
You should also do a Google search for CPA programs within your niche.
Create Your Own Physical Product
Creating your own physical products can be difficult and physical products are not a good match for every site. If you run a website for financial tips, you should steer clear of physical products. Contrarily, if you run a fitness site, you may be able to create a supplement or a piece of workout gear.
You should only create your own physical product if you are confident that it is a good match for your audience. The process of creating, sourcing, storing, and shipping a physical product is time consuming and expensive.
In my opinion, physical products are easiest to manage when they are in the nutrition, beauty, or apparel industries.
Creating physical products is much easier in the digital age. There are many companies that will white label products and allow you to add your own branding. Similarly, you could buy products in bulk from a website like AliExpress and add your own branding.
You can build a hands-off process but it will take time.
Create Your Own Digital Products
Digital products can be nice alternatives to physical products and they are much easier to create. You can choose to create the digital products yourself or outsource them to freelancers on sites like UpWork and Freelancer.
Digital products work best when your visitors are thirsty for knowledge. A digital product should serve as a premium extension to the free content you already provide. For example, if you run a blog about real estate investing, you may provide tips in your blog posts and offer a premium course for an additional fee. If you run a blog about health tips, you may offer a 7-week meal plan for an additional fee.
The best part of digital products is that once you break even on your initial investment, you have a 100% gross profit margin and the entire fulfillment process is automated. Just like with physical products, you can use e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce and Shopify to manage sales and you don’t even need to worry about shipping.
Create a Membership Site
A membership site is a website (or part of a website) where visitors get access to exclusive content in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. There are plenty of prebuilt software options for setting up a membership site quickly. I recommend using WordPress and finding a plugin that meets your needs.
Remember when I mentioned that digital products are best when your visitors are thirsty for knowledge? A membership site is a great fit when your visitors have a thirst for knowledge that can’t be satiated with a single product.
For example, if someone is interested in how to build birdhouses, a single digital product should do the trick. If someone is interested in living a healthy lifestyle, they may want new information every month. A membership site may include weekly workout plans, meal plans, progress trackers, and more.
It takes more time to build and manage a membership site, but the returns are well worth it. Whereas a digital product delivers a one-off payment, membership sites help you build recurring revenue.
If you are considering building a membership site, make sure what you are offering provides value and is priced accordingly.
Become an Influencer
Becoming an influencer doesn’t happen overnight, but it is a great way to become a powerful force in the online world.
Influencers exist in all realms of the Internet. There are influencers on social media sites, forums, publications, etc. An influencer is exactly what it sounds like: someone who influences.
Companies have been starting to put a lot more of their marketing budgets into influencer marketing. Why? Because it works. Influencer recommendations are one of the most trusted forms of marketing communication. Think about it. You could see 100 ads for a product and not buy it but if your celebrity idol is endorsing it, your wallet is already out.
One of the benefits of being an influencer is that you can use a more flexible pricing model. Most of the monetization methods we’ve discussed so far are pay-for-performance, meaning you get paid per action (sale, lead, click, etc.). As an influencer, you can get paid a flat fee for simply promoting. This promotion may come in the form of shout outs, social media posts, blog posts, etc. Many influencers get paid $100’s or $1000’s of dollars for a single social media post.
So, how do you become an influencer?
I don’t want to stray too far from the main point of this post, but there is one reason why I included this monetization method on the list.
Becoming an influencer is about making a conscious effort to build your personal brand. There is a fine line between an influencer and a company.
For example, Marketing Land is a company. They have no real face and if they recommend a product, I will assume it is a promotion. On the other side of the spectrum, Neil Patel is an influencer. If he makes a recommendation it seems genuine because he’s built trust with his audience. In reality, both are companies but they are perceived differently. They both have writers, they both have staff, and they are both trying to generate revenue. That said, Neil Patel has more clout (in most cases) because he built his brand as an influencer.
The point here is that you can choose how you want to position your brand. If you choose to become an influencer, take your audience’s trust seriously.
Guest Posts and Links
When your website reaches a certain level of authority, other site owners will be interested in piggybacking off of your success. Think about it – most of the time you’d have to pay me to write, but I would consider paying to get my content featured on the homepage of Entrepreneur or Inc magazine.
As your site grows, you can begin to sell links for SEO purposes or sell guest posts. Quality control is crucial; you need to maintain your site’s integrity. Remember, the goal is to create “win-win” monetization.
For example, I wouldn’t let some random guy write a promotional post on Marketing Logiq about some new software I’ve never used, but I may allow a reputable individual to share their knowledge about digital marketing.
In certain cases, it may make sense to sell honest reviews as well. For example, if you run a blog about life hacks, you may be willing to review a time saving app.
Don’t actively seek out paid guest posts. My advice? Let people reach out to you but have a payment structure in mind so you are prepared.
Sell Your Services
In certain cases, your website can serve as a funnel for other services you offer. This is why I a lot of companies have started to embrace content marketing.
You can either sell an existing service or create a new service to meet the needs of your audience.
For example, if you run a photography blog, you may sell photography packages or photo editing services.
If you run a social media marketing blog, you may decide to start offering social media management as a service.
More Website Monetization Methods
There are plenty of creative ways to monetize a website. Leave a comment below with your creative ideas or any other ideas I didn’t mention. Which ones have you had the best/worst experiences with?