Top 17 Ways To Monetize Your Website & Win At Life
So you’ve decided to build a website. Let me be the first to congratulate you on establishing a presence on the World Wide Web, a.k.a. The Information Superhighway, a.k.a. The Infobahn. Your content is now etched into the soul of the digital cosmos. An electronic statement, a shot in the dark, a 21st century missive written in fire across the pixelated sky.
However, though the knowledge that your creation can be viewed the world over may be intrinsically rewarding, wouldn’t you like some tangible rewards as well? Your website is a potential cash cow, so don’t let those virtual crops wither on the vine. Once you’ve garnered some attention, it may be time to monetize.
Start converting those pageviews into dollars, and before long, you just might acquire enough money to fill a swimming pool with cash a la Scrooge McDuck. Failing that, you might at least establish a modest income stream to supplement your bank account. Perhaps even something in between.
We puzzled panthers of late-stage capitalism, gasping for life like salmon in a leaky bathtub, struggling as if our ability to avoid homelessness, despair and ruin depended on it – we have little choice but to scrounge for money wherever we can. The landlord won’t accept your inherent human potential as payment come the 1st of the month.
Here are but a few ways you can carpe that diem and squeeze some dough out of that website of yours.
Table of Contents
- #1: Sign Up with Google AdSense
- #2: Sell Ad Space On Your Site
- #3: Affiliate Marketing
- #4: Build an eCommerce Website
- #5: Monetize Your Digital Images
- #6: Take Donations
- #7: Build an Email List
- #8: Build a Social Media Following
- #9: Accept Sponsored Articles/Posts
- #10: Flip Your Website
- #11: Charge People For Access to Password-Protected Pages
- #12: Generate and Sell Leads
- #13: Offer Consulting
- #14: Set Up A Job Board
- #15: Teach Courses Online
- #16: Start a Podcast
- #17: Create A Business Directory
#1: Sign Up with Google AdSense
One of the most popular ways to earn revenue from your website is to utilize Google AdSense. If you apply for AdSense and are accepted, Google will place contextual ads (ads in keeping with the nature of your site content) from its extensive advertising network on your site, which generate revenue with every click. A portion of this revenue will go right into your sweaty little palms.
Did I mention that AdSense is free to use? Well, I did now.
If you’ve got a website that garners a decent amount of pageviews, you may be tempted to think “Time to fleece these suckers! I’ll just beg all my followers to click on my ads every day to help me out.” You may then be tempted to quit your lousy day job in a fit of righteousness and book the next flight to Cancun, secure in the knowledge that easy wealth is about to engulf you.
Well, don’t do any of that, because it’s considered click fraud, and Google will catch you and revoke your AdSense approval. Google is building robots that may eventually decimate what’s left of the job market – you don’t think they can catch people who violate their Terms Of Service?
Likewise, sites involving pornography, firearms, or drugs won’t get approved by AdSense, thus closing off an avenue for website monetization to our most grassroots forms of entrepreneurship.
Want to learn more? I think you do!
- AdSense Explained – A detailed summarization of the program
- Inside AdSense – A blog chock full of AdSense tips, straight from the horse’s mouth
#2: Sell Ad Space On Your Site
Want to earn revenue from ads on your site while cutting out the middle man? You can always just sell ad space on your site or blog directly to advertisers.
There are a number of different compensation methods used by advertisers:
- CPM – CPM stands for Cost Per Mille (mille meaning “thousand” in Latin) .Advertisers paying by CPM are paying a certain rate for every thousand pageviews of your site.
- CPC – “Cost Per Click” advertising is what it sounds like: Advertisers pay for every click registered on the ad in question. CPC has grown to become the predominant means of advertiser compensation. And no, I don’t know why we don’t use the Latin word for “click” here.
- CPE – “Cost Per Engagement” ad compensation aims to monetize not just pageviews (or “impressions”), but whether the viewer engaged with it in some way. Maybe the user hovered over the ad, causing a video to play (note: most humans find this incredibly annoying). Maybe the ad is presented as a poll, with poll responses counted as engagements. However it works, the point is that the viewer noticed the ad in some measurable fashion.
- CPV – “Cost Per View” compensation primarily concerns video advertising, and measures the number of plays a particular ad video gets.
This list does not cover every conceivable means of online ad compensation, but the point is that different kinds of websites may benefit from different kinds of ad programs.
For instance, CPC ads may appeal to small online companies with a particular niche (like-minded people seeking like-minded products/services), while mobile-focused sites would be well-advised to go for CPE ads, as mobile ads should be geared towards user engagement for maximum turnover.
Of course, none of these advertising methods will do you much good if your website gets minimal traffic. It’s best to give people a reason to come to your site before placing ads. But if you’ve got a site that attracts significant traffic – and you don’t find advertising to be inherently corrosive to the human spirit – then have at it! It may prove to be quite lucrative.
Here’s more on the subject:
- 5 Things You Must Do Before Jumping Into Paid Internet Advertising
- BuySellAds.com – The most popular ad market
#3: Affiliate Marketing
Do you run a site or blog in which you showcase the latest and greatest in gadgets, clothes, novels, video games, or any other product under the sun? Why not monetize your fanboying/fangirling through affiliate marketing?
As a concept, affiliate marketing is fairly simple. If you’re really into a product and would be proud to have your name attached to it, sign up with the affiliate program of the company in question. They’ll send you a link that lets them track everybody who clicks your link to their product. Then, if the user buys the product, you get a commission.
Commission rates can vary from 30% to 70% of the sale of the product in question. Not too shabby, eh? Advertisers don’t mind these rates because they’re only paying for confirmed sales. Other forms of advertising can certainly be effective, but the rewards aren’t as tangible and identifiable as with affiliate marketing.
Given the degree to which our society has commodified every possible tool and experience, one can hardly get through the day without complimenting one product or another, deliberately or not. You may well be doing pro bono promotional labor for some very rich dudes in suits who don’t need the charity. The least they can do is pay you to transmit their messages through the cultural ether.
Hot tip: If you’re going to try your hand at affiliate marketing, stick to promoting things you believe in and that jibe with your personal brand. People can generally smell disingenuousness, so don’t turn off your existing followers by sticking your neck out for something that isn’t you.
Here’s more info for you aspiring affiliates:
- The Ultimate Guide To Affiliate Marketing
- Amazon Associates – The most popular affiliate program out there
- CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction) – Large affiliate marketing company
#4: Build an eCommerce Website
Do you have products to sell? Do you have the ability to produce products to sell? Consider building an eCommerce website.
If you’re ready to give eCommerce a go, there are a number of ways you can go about it. Services such as Shopify and Ecwid allow you to build an online store which you can then embed as a widget into your existing website. Consider going this route if you seek to append a store to your existing website.
On the other hand, if you’re starting an eCommerce website from scratch, you may want to use a website builder that incorporates an online store as a feature.
Website builders like Squarespace, Wix and Weebly provide in-house eCommerce widgets, ensuring that your online store is seamlessly integrated with the rest of your site. Other website builders utilize third-party eCommerce solutions like Ecwid and PayPal. Some builders provide a thorough set of options regarding shipping and taxes, while others leave all that stuff up to you to figure out. Naturally, those solutions are less than optimal.
If you’re on a tight budget, some website builders, such as DudaOne, Jimdo and Jigsy, commendably let you sell a few products (usually five to ten) without a paid subscription. eCommerce with no overhead is a concept that speaks to my egalitarian heart. Consider going that route if you’re just looking to make a little cash on the side.
Might eCommerce be your thing? Check out these links:
- 3 Steps To Launch Your First eCommerce Website
- Shopify – Popular, well-regarded eCommerce platform
- Best eCommerce Software to Easily Build Your Online Store
#5: Monetize Your Digital Images
Perhaps you’re intrigued by the potential of eCommerce, but you haven’t the foggiest idea of what you would sell. You look around your cramped apartment and see little of value. There probably isn’t a sizable market for the mostly empty Chinese take-out boxes you’ve got scattered around.
(Okay, so maybe you’re not gross. In which case: My sincerest apologies, your majesty.)
The thing is, you may not have any physical goods to sell. But how many of you amateur shutterbugs have digital cameras just lying around, containing hundreds or thousands of neglected photos? Wouldn’t you like these photos to benefit you, rather than sitting there, forlorn and forgotten, burning a hole in your micro SD card?
Perhaps your images are captured somewhere in “the cloud.” Should social media behemoths be the only ones to benefit from your creative output?
Thankfully, there are ways to monetize your images via your website. You’re only limited by the depth of your aesthetic vision.
As it happens, I recently reviewed a website builder called Pixpa, which is integrated with Fotomoto, an eCommerce service for photographers. Using the Fotomoto shopping cart, the customer can purchase your images in digital and/or physical form. In the case of the latter, Fotomoto will make the prints for you. You’ll need to establish a Fotomoto account, but such accounts start at the free level.
This is far from the only way to build an image-based eCommerce website, but I wanted to use this example to demonstrate just how easy it can be to turn your photos (or any sort of visual artwork, really) into filthy lucre.
The plethora of digital documentation we leave behind as we careen madly through our performative 21st century lives is perhaps our most underutilized resource. If Facebook, Snapchat and the NSA get to exploit our image trail for their own ends, shouldn’t the rest of us do so as well?
Here’s a few services that provide photography eCommerce:
#6: Take Donations
Obviously, this method of earning revenue is highly dependent on being a compelling/sympathetic figure with something rewarding to offer the public. If you think you fit the bill, you might try accepting donations.
One thing most website builders include nowadays is a PayPal Donate button. You may have nothing to sell the public at the moment, but perhaps you can galvanize your followers into action through the inspirational example of your digital vision. Adding a Donate button to your website is a simple and easy way to solicit support for building the foundation upon which your dreams will be made tangible. Of course, the amount you collect will only be as significant as your ideas merit. Unless you possess cult-like powers of persuasion, that is. In which case, um…maybe I shouldn’t have told you about this.
PayPal buttons aren’t the only way to fundraise online, though. Read more on the subject:
- Fundly.com – A tool for creating fundraising websites
- How To Accept Donations Online – WikiHow article
#7: Build an Email List
This may seem obvious, but it bears stating: To get people excited about your content and invested in what you’re doing, it helps to cultivate a personal relationship with them. A good way to keep your most loyal followers engaged is with an email list. This won’t make you money overnight, but it will certainly set you on the path to greater profitability.
Learn how to build a solid email list:
A note of caution: Many sites build their email lists though the use of pop-up boxes that appear after a site visitor has spent a certain amount of time on the site. Now, nobody loves pop-up boxes, but many have found this to be an effective way of collecting email addresses and building a potential client list.
If you choose to go with this method, you’ll want to follow the news closely, because Google has recently announced their intention to penalize sites that make use of mobile pop-up boxes and interstitial ads (basically full-screen pop-ups). While you’ll still be able to build an email list, Google may soon be restricting one of the more effective means of doing so.
A second note of caution: An email list is ideal for building relationships with middle-aged/older professionals. There’s nothing wrong with this, as these are the people who have the lion’s share of the money in our society. However, younger people (and those of us who think of ourselves as young despite evidence to the contrary) tend not to be big fans of email marketing. Personally, I probably spend about one minute per week checking the “Promotions” tab in my Gmail inbox – I just can’t be bothered.
If attracting the attention of younger folks is your priority, you may want to focus on my next tip:
#8: Build a Social Media Following
For better or worse, social media dominates a larger portion of our lives with every passing day. To command the attention of those email-ignoring no-goodniks of the younger generation, you need to establish an engaging social media presence to monetize your content.
Social media fluency isn’t rocket science. Just look around at the sort of content in your field that goes viral, and try to command attention in a similar fashion.
Post frequently enough that your followers are regularly reminded of your existence. Provide answers to the questions you notice lots of people asking about. Don’t be afraid to deploy humor, irony, and perhaps even the occasional bit of snark. Identify trending hashtags and get in on the action. Be relatable. If you’re not relatable, do your best approximation of relatability, like I’m doing right now.
If just a fraction of your social media followers visit your website and become engaged in what you’re doing, your efforts will not have been in vain. If you can spread your message in a non-clunky way and can deal with occasional hate tweets from angry racists with frog avatars, this brave new world can be yours.
Also, gifs. Kids love gifs even more than they love Molly.
Check out these tips on achieving virality with your brand:
#9: Accept Sponsored Articles/Posts
This tactic may not appeal to many of you. “Sponsored Content” has long carried with it a certain stigma. However, it’s my job to highlight ways to monetize your web space, and by gosh, this is one of them.
Once you’ve managed to build a sizable audience for your site or blog, companies in your field may just come a-knocking. Just as with affiliate marketing, if you’re an avowed fan of one product or another, you can monetize your fandom by posting an advertorial. So long as you’re not extolling the virtues of something that doesn’t fit with your established persona, you shouldn’t lose too many authenticity points.
I should hope this goes without saying, but: Sponsored content must always be labeled as such. Never try to pull the wool over your followers’ eyes. It won’t work, and they’ll hate you for it. Be transparent. Do otherwise, and you’ll have FTC fines to worry about. Though, honestly, that’s nothing compared to losing the trust of your audience. Tread lightly, friend.
Another caveat: Google doesn’t like sponsored links, so use a “nofollow” tag on said links to ensure that Google won’t penalize you.
If Sponsored Content doesn’t fill you with righteous rage, read more here:
#10: Flip Your Website
It’s not widely known that there’s a market for flipping websites. Everyone just assumes that if something is flippable, there must already be a reality show or two about it.
And yet it’s true. There are markets for buying and selling websites, so if you’ve got a website that attracts a decent number of visitors, you can always try selling it for a profit. Admittedly, this isn’t the ideal way to monetize your website, as you could make a lot more money by building it in the long term.
Sometimes, however, you can’t wait for the long term. People get hurt and have hospital bills to pay. People lose their jobs. People need quick cash from time to time. So it’s nice to know that you can cash in your website if you’re in a pinch.
Just as with housing, you can also buy websites with the intent to sell them for a profit. This can be quite the opportunity if you know what to look for. You might find a site or blog that attracts a lot of eyeballs, but has not been monetized. In this case, you could scoop up the site, monetize it using the helpful tips you’ve picked up from yours truly, and, having increased its value, sell it for a nice chunk of change.
And if you put together a team of dysfunctional fun-loving knuckleheads to assist you with the site flipping, you might even get a reality show out of it.
Dare to dream.
Here’s some flippin’ links to help you out:
- How To Flip Websites In 2016 – Flipping Websites Made Easy
- Flippa – Popular website marketplace
#11: Charge People For Access to Password-Protected Pages
People have been trained for the past 20+ years to expect their web content for free. It’s always a challenge to get people to pay for non-erotic premium web content. However, it’s certainly not impossible.
Certain website builders, such as Weebly and Webs, allow you to set up password-protected pages. In the case of the latter, you can even set up members-only “gated” forums. If you have compelling content you think people would be willing to pay to see, build a membership site and charge people for the password for entry.
Given the right subject, people just may be willing to shell out just to have a private place to discuss things in the absence of trolls.
You’d be surprised what people are willing to pay for.
To learn more:
- The Ultimate Guide To Subscription Revenue
- 12 Successful Subscription Sites And What They’re Doing Right
#12: Generate and Sell Leads
Don’t let the laughing LAPD officer fool you: There’s money to be made in generating leads.
This is most easily accomplished if your website caters to a particular niche or industry.
Let’s say you run a website keeping track of team statistics for a bowling league. You could have the members of your site opt-in to receiving information from companies that manufacture bowling equipment. Maybe you run a financial advice forum. Have your members opt-in to receiving information from financial service companies. This last one has the benefit of not being geography-dependent.
You certainly don’t want to ambush your readers with spammy sales offers. Be selective. If done right, you’ll be connecting people with the service they’re looking for anyways. Boom, everybody wins. Including, as it happens, you.
Read more about lead generation:
- The Beginner’s Guide To Lead Generation: 7 Essential Resources
- 20 Smart Ways to Generate More Leads for Your Business
#13: Offer Consulting
In this hyper-specialized age, everybody’s an expert at something.
Why not take advantage of your untapped expertise and offer consulting services on your website? This can be done either by setting up an expert profile with a third-party consulting service and linking to it on your website, or though a direct offer straight from you.
You can offer your consultant services via email, Google Hangouts, Skype – anything that puts you in touch with those poor information-starved souls out there yearning to drink from the fountain of knowledge that is your brain.
Learn more about online consulting:
#14: Set Up A Job Board
With job security being soooo 20th century, there are always going to be desperate bands of employment-seekers out there. Why not provide the wounded proletariat with some hope and make some moolah in the process?
This is another case where it helps if you specialize in a particular field of modern industry. Create a job board specific to an industry, and then charge companies for posting job listings. If you’ve built up a following amongst people in said industry, you’ll have all the elements necessary for more win-win-win scenarios.
You’ll be winning so much, you’re going to get tired of winning.
Note: This is one revenue generation idea you might want to pursue soon, before Google puts the finishing touches on the job-killing robots.
Be the jobs candidate:
#15: Teach Courses Online
Another way to parlay your knowledge into profit is to offer online courses on your website.
There’s a good deal of demand out there for online courses in the sort of tech and design skills that the next generation will require in order to afford to live anywhere fashionable.
Along with consulting, teaching courses online is a means by which you can monetize your brain and your life experiences. It may not be a way to get rich quick, as course preparation involves a lot of labor, but it’s certainly a way to capitalize on the goodwill you’ve built up with your loyal followers.
Check these links for more info, Professor:
- How To Run Your Own Online Training Courses – eHow
- Teachable – Online course creation service
- Udemy – Online course marketplace
#16: Start a Podcast
Perhaps your target audience is interested in your knowledge and expertise, but doesn’t have the time to enroll in online courses or consult with you via video messaging. They might prefer to hear what you have to say while they’re driving to work, or out jogging, or what have you.
Why not start a podcast and host it on your website? If you can record audio, you can create a podcast. It’s an ideal accompaniment to a blog, and it can open up new advertising/marketing possibilities.
Some of us have a face for Skype, and others have a face for podcasting. Showcase your expertise strategically.
Check out these links, would-be podcasters:
#17: Create A Business Directory
If you’re searching for yet more ways to connect your visitors with businesses and services they may be interested in, try creating a business directory on your website.
With a large enough following, you can get businesses to pay for the privilege of placing their contact info in your directory.
If you have a WordPress site or blog, there’s a number of plugins and themes dedicated to directory creation to be found. It’s an ideal way to promote businesses to those looking for their services.
Heck, you can even color your directory yellow as an homage to the old yellow pages. Though, to be honest, I always preferred reading the white pages. So many entertaining names out there.
Read more here:
These 17 monetization methods are by no means the sole pathways to website profitability. I just wanted you to get a sense of the broad range of possibilities at play.
That’s not to say you’ll have an easy time of it, but you have nothing to lose by giving site monetization a shot! Every penny you manage to wring from your website is a penny you’ll have earned by means other than toiling away in a miasma of burdened ennui at the office.
Think of it as an act of defiance in the face of a socio-economic system whose arc bends towards exploitation. Or think of it another way if you prefer. Just try it.
Warning: You may run the risk of having fun.