Skeptical if starting up a website is the right choice? The truth is, there are tons of ways websites can actually make money so no matter what type of website you’d like to get started with, there are probably options to monetize it.
Not all of these methods are equal – some are beginner and budget-friendly while others require more experience, skill, and investment.
I would really only recommend the first 4 listed here to get started with for complete beginners (unless you already have a business then I’d definitely suggest the LAST option!!)
This is probably the most commonly used monetization method for websites. They’re easy and brainless for the site owner to install, and they produce very passive income. Compared to most other strategies, there’s very little upkeep associated with them once you have traffic flowing to your site.
How it works: the website owner signs up for an ad network for access to ads. They place the ad code on their site, and then most likely get paid on a cost-per-click, or cost-per-impression basis (which is determined by the particular advertiser). The pay is typically extremely low, but you can earn a lot more if you are able to get into a premium ad-network once your blog has enough monthly pageviews.
One of the most widely known ad-network out there is Google Adsense, but there are plenty of others. Just make sure you do research before joining one because they aren’t all the same.
Some of the more premium ad-networks are very choosy about who they select, and you’ll need a minimum amount of monthly page views to be accepted (could potentially be 100,000+ depending on the network) The plus side is you can typically earn more from them, but you need to have a ton of traffic before that happens.
With display ads, you don’t have strict control over what ads are displaying on your site. It’s typically generated by the content of your website, and by the cookies on the user’s end.
Affiliate links are another well-known way websites can make money. Tons of companies have affiliate programs these days because it’s a way of advertising for them that’s strictly performance-based. The affiliate only gets paid if their links generate revenue for the company.
How it works: The website owner applies to be an affiliate for whichever companies they prefer. Once approved, they’ll have a unique link to place on their blogs. When items are purchased through the link, a commission is earned. The link will be placed within the text, or it could also be placed within an image, almost like a display ad.
The commission varies anywhere from 1 – 75%. This depends on a variety of factors, including whether the product is digital based or not, e.g. an ebook or online service. Digital products have much higher commission rates than physical products.
The key difference between affiliate ads and CPC/CPM ads is how users are paid. With the affiliate model, the website owner gets paid a commission only if the product/services are actually purchased. With cost-per-click or cost-per-impression ads, it doesn’t matter if the clicks resulted in sales or not – the website owner gets a set amount per ad click, or per 1,000 impressions.
In general, affiliate links can bring in a lot more revenue for a website than display ads just because you can earn a substantial amount per sale, whereas the cost-per-click or impression for ads is typically very, very low (we’re talking pennies).
But each website is different and it really just depends on your niche and the purpose of your site. Whether display ads or affiliate links work better for you will depend on many different factors.
In either case, combining ads and affiliate links can help maximize your monthly revenue.
Amazon Associates is Amazon’s own affiliate program and can be used to promote the millions of products sold across its site. While it’s not exactly different than joining any other affiliate program, it tends to get classed in its own group. In part, this is because it’s so gigantic and many people focus solely on Amazon for monetization (which I wouldn’t personally recommend).
How it works: If you’re accepted into the Amazon Associates program, you’ll have access to their platform to create your own unique links to any products or pages you want within Amazon. You’ll earn between 1 – 10% commission depending on the product category.
It’s pretty popular to create exclusive “Amazon review sites”. These are sites where people may review a particular category from Amazon, like for example Keurig coffee makers, and make an entire site around that.
The thing to be careful with here is that you want to make sure you’re providing value to your readers, not just rehashing the customer reviews on Amazon for each product. Pick stuff you have experience with, and review it. Purchase new products to review. Provide helpful, in-depth articles to your readers that help them and don’t focus exclusively on the products alone.
Websites like the Wire-Cutter have evolved the Amazon review site into an ultimate authority on reviews within many niches, and produce extremely high-quality reviews all across the board. However, they have teams of people and strict testing guidelines. Each product is thoroughly tested before it’s reviewed.
While many people make money this way, you do not HAVE to create an “Amazon review site” to make money with Amazon’s affiliate program.
You can simply link to products you recommend on Amazon, when it makes sense within your content, without trying to completely focus on reviewing every product on Amazon.
CPA or cost-per-action marketing is when you get paid for a user taking a certain action. This is often getting the user to fill out a form and sign up for some type of company, like an online survey site, or join in on a research study. It could also be requesting a credit report or information on car insurance. Just something that would get the user to provide some personal information (like name, email, and sometimes an address or phone number).
In this case, you are getting paid for sending the user to another company as a potential lead and getting paid when they complete a form or offer, not when an actual sale is made.
These types of offers have a set amount per lead that is determined by the company. Sometimes it’s 50 cents, or it could be $50! It depends on how valuable the lead is to them.
Sponsored posts are when a blogger gets paid to produce content to promote a company or a particular product. The company could have a piece they want to be published on your site, or they may suggest you write a particular article.
How it works: You can either reach out to companies and pitch the idea of having a sponsored post on your website, or as time goes on and your site builds up traffic and authority you may find companies reaching out to you. You do not have to accept every (or any) offer for this as it’s entirely up to you.
The amount you get paid for this will be determined privately between you and the company.
Selling your own info product
An info product could be something like an ebook, audio recording, video, or a PDF. These do take time to create, but once they’re complete you can sell for a profit without worrying about investing a ton of additional time into it (unlike private coaching, online courses, or membership sites).
How it works: This is something you can create inexpensively and sell to provide a stream of [relatively] passive income to your website. Typically this is something you should add as your website grows and you gain more authority in the niche. Trying to create and sell an info product as your sole source of income when first starting out would be very difficult for most people to achieve success with.
Info products are created with the intent to help people within your niche. It could be a simple ebook like, “Secrets to Cooking Tasty Diabetic Dishes” or “Vacationing Disney on a Budget”.
It could also be a video or series of videos like, “10 Steps to Learning Basic Piano” or “Watch me Build a Website that earns $5,000/month”.
What product you create depends on your niche and your audience, but it should be something that speaks to them.
Memberships or Online Courses
Another branch of the info product sector, only these are on an entirely different level than basic ebooks or videos. Creating a membership site or online course requires a ton of invested time, effort, and money. This option is something probably most website creates would not want to pursue.
Renting ad space
This is different than display ads in that you are working privately with companies who are paying you a certain monthly amount to place an ad for their company on your website.
How it works: You can either seek out companies to ask if they would like to place an ad on your site for a set monthly amount (say, $100 per month) or, oftentimes companies will contact the website owner to inquire about ad placement rates. As the website owner, you determine the rates. Obviously you need to have a decent amount of website traffic for this to work, and the ads need to be targeted to your audience. The company can pull their ad if they aren’t getting the return they hoped for.
In the above example, there’s an ad for a local childcare that’s placed in the top section of a local family-based website. It’s quite possible the childcare owner is paying the website a monthly fee to have their ad displayed on top.
Selling Websites (aka flipping)
Another option for making money with websites is to simply create them and then sell them for profit down the line. There’s actually a huge market for this because many people are looking for profit-ready websites and don’t want to do all the initial work of setting it up.
How it works: Decide a niche, buy a domain, create a nice looking website with keyword-rich, valuable content. Work on it for a few weeks, months, or years – then sell for a profit. How much profit you get obviously depends on how well-established your website is.
The more money your site is making, the more money you can make selling it. Figures for how much websites sell for vary widely (anywhere from 4x – 36x monthly revenue!) but it really depends on the type of website it is and the profit potential the investor sees.
Taking an entirely different route is starting up an e-commerce business, where you’re essentially making an online store-front. Instead of just earning through ads or affiliate sales, you’re actually setting up a payment gateway and selling products directly through your website.
How it works: You can set up an e-commerce website to sell your own products or just find distributors to work with. This is much trickier to establish but you can definitely make it work if you pick the right niche and products to work with.
Taking this route, you’re going to have to deal with a lot more of the back end details of a business like customer service, payments, shipping, etc.
Getting your local business listed in Google
A website is a MUST for any business owner in today’s world. This is true regardless of if it’s just an on the side dog-walking gig or a brick and mortar storefront. Not only is having a website necessary, but you should also make an effort to have it listed in Google under the correct search terms so people can find you.
As an example, this Google search for cat sitting near Ottawa, Canada brought me to Ottawa Pet Sitting, a locally owned small pet sitting business.
This is a way to increase your exposure without investing a ton in advertising.
If you’re the owner of an off-line business and don’t have a website, or don’t have it listed in Google, you should definitely consider doing so if you want to increase your exposure and profit.
The Bottom Line
This is definitely not an all-inclusive list of every single way a website could possibly make money, but these methods are some of the most popular.
Many of these are better suited for more established sites or business owners. If you’re brand new to building a website and blogging, you might want to start with display ads, affiliate programs, or CPA networks (or a combination of them).