It seems like there are many ways to make money with a website. But almost all of them have some sort of catch. So we are going to review 10 techniques for website monetization and explain how to make your website profitable without getting punished by Google or losing your readership in the chase of the quick buck.
When to start monetization
You really shouldn’t start monetization right after your website’s launch. You will just scare users off. Not a lot of people are ready to look at annoying ads on an unknown website that comes with no recommendations. That’s why the first couple of months of your website’s life will be in the red.
Later, once you have some amount of constant users, you can start a careful monetization. Just don’t over do it: a couple of well-picked banners and an affiliate link are OK, but putting dozens of banners or a pop-up will kill your user base almost instantly.
As for the best moment to start monetization, everyone is going to have their own answer. I recommend starting when the website reaches the mark of 1000 unique user per day.
Types of monetization
Ad banner is an image that advertizes some sort of a product or a service. Usually it is clickable and sends user to the target page — usually a landing or a store page for the product.
Placing banners on a website is the most popular type of monetization. It is easy and doesn’t require any investments — only a relatively popular website and some elementary HTML/CSS skills.
The most popular advertisement network is Google Adsense. Google automatically determines the subject of your website and calculates which ads will be the best for your visitors. But it’s not perfect, so you might see an ad for authentic North Korean uniforms next to your cat picture gallery. Luckily, you are still in charge and can easily ban the subjects you are not comfortable with from your website.
All you need to do is insert a snippet of code in your website. The rest is Google’s job.
Adsense is not the only one popular network. There are other advertisement companies with similar offers. Sometimes they offer better prices, but usually require higher level HTML to implement.
Affiliate marketing is, roughly speaking, mediation.
- You place a review of a new awesome hosting company on your website.
- Your visitors read the review and click the button «Buy a new awesome hosting».
- They go to the website of the new awesome hosting company and pay for the hosting, while you get a fee from each purchase.
The main advantage of the affiliate marketing is that you shouldn’t really advertise or embellish the product. For example, my favorite website with tech reviews places such links even after the reviews for the absolute disasters — and people still click them.
On the other side, the more attractive you make the product, the larger the chance people will buy it.
You can find offers for affiliate marketing at ShareASale.
Sponsored posts and articles
There are two ways this can work:
- A sponsored post. A sponsor offers you money, you write an article for them (usually, a favorable review or a featurette), the article is posted on your website with a link to the sponsor.
A post from the sponsor. In this case, the company simply gives you an article you should publish on your website.
Payment may be calculated per click on the link or per publication.
The main problem of sponsored posts is high requirements for them. If your visitors realize that your promotions were paid for, they will stop trusting you.
That’s why you should pick sponsored content carefully. Or even say from the get go that the content has been sponsored — which is getting traction among the more professional bloggers. Alas, some sponsors specifically forbid you to do this.
Before you start posting sponsored content, make sure that you have a disclaimer on your website that states, that some content may be sponsored. Otherwise, you and your sponsors will have issues with FTC and similar organizations from other countries due to «misleading your customers».
You can find offers on PayPerPost
Ads in e-mails
You must have some sort of e-mail on your website, even if it is simply a notification for your dedicated readers that are subscribed to your blog.
Well, subscribers are also a resource that can be monetized. Like this:
- Imagine, you’ve got a blog for catoholics.
- A seller of canned pet food writes you and offers to promote his product.
- In the next notification, you put a recommendation of the food and a link to the seller.
- Some readers click the link and buy the food, while you get either a flat payment or a fee.
If there are no such offers — you can take up the initiative and join the affiliate marketing program.
Of course, there’s always a risk that some readers will not appreciate this and unsubscribe. You have to understand and be ready for it.
The most profitable way. But at the same time — the most difficult one. You have to convince your users that your content is worth the money — which is not an easy task. And then you have to fight the pirates that distribute your content for free.
But if your content is really interesting, unique and desired — you will find your buyers. And if you update it regularly — maybe even subscribers.
In order to get the payments for the content, you will have to hook your website to the payment systems. You can do this manually, but if you are using WordPress, I highly recommend Tinypass.
TIP. Do not monetize all content. Leave some in the free access, so that the users could see if the rest is worth paying for.
The main problem of the premium is that not a lot of people are willing to pay for it. Especially if it used to be free before. So get ready to lose 50-70% of active users.
Sell an E-Book
In the age of the internet, everyone can write and publish their own books. You can keep up with the trend and write a book that you will later sell on your website.
It’s more interesting than simply premium content — most of all due to the form factor. Not a lot of people will pay $20 for the privilege of using the website catadvice.com for a year. But an eBook «How to train your kitty» priced at the same $20, will find its buyers. Even if it will have the same data that would have been published on the website in a year.
Why? Because in the first case the user buys a service — a right to use the website. But there are many websites on the Internet and most of them are free. So when the user sees a price tag on your website, they shake their head and furiously click the Back button.
In the second case, you are not selling a service, you are selling a product — a book. Even if its an eBook. And there are much more people ready to pay for books than there are people willing to pay for websites. Which in turn means that the users won’t be offended, they would be curious.
As always, remember to give people an appetizer. For example, the first two pages of every chapter in the book.
Premium e-mails is an interesting solution. Unlike the premium content, they do not limit the active (but greedy) users of your website. You are just offering a new service, specially for the users who are willing to pay for it.
There can be two kinds of e-mails:
- Periodic. For example, your exclusive review of the stock market and a prognosis for the next wee. Periodic e-mail chains can be continued indefinitely, but the old e-mails get absolutely useless and thus you have to actively produce new ones.
Static. For example, an online course on how to write good novels. Static e-mail chains have a beginning and an end, which means that your profit from a single user will be limited. On the other hand, such courses do not get devalued with time and can be profitable even years after the course is over.
Just like with content, I recommend you to have a single free e-mail, so that the users could assess your skills.
Webinars and online lessons
Webinars are the seminars that you can attend by turning on your PC and connecting to the Skype conference.
You shouldn’t do your webinars paid. Just like with the paid content, it won’t be understood by the majority of the users. But you can and absolutely should use paid webinars as a bait, and then start selling the online lessons.
On the other hand, webinars and lessons require investments. It’s not like content that you can write and forget the next day. Webinars require:
- A deep knowledge of the subject.
- A thought-through program.
- A good charisma.
- A presentable appearance.
- Public relationship skills.
- Teaching skills.
If you’ve got what what it takes — you are start your first webinar tomorrow. If you don’t — you’ve got to get up to speed first.
Merch are the products with the logo of the company/website or a channel.
For example, a t-shirt. Or a USB drive. Or a cap. There are many, many options. But if you want to monetize with merch, you will need to make and support an online store.
If you want to make one on a budget, you should take a look at our review of E-shop WordPress plugins.
It’s a working, but not particularly effective method. In most cases, it’s barely enough to pay for the website itself.
The exceptions are the websites of the projects. For example, a website for the Wii U emulator casually brings its developers $50000, which is barely enough to pay the bills for the two programmers involved in the project.
The best system to process the donations is Patreon. Its interface is convinient and easy to use, while the donations themselves can be either one-time or regular and automatic.
But if you want to process the donations right on the website, I recommend PayPal. Click on the link and you’ll find how to integrate a convenient Donate button into your website,
Usually, people are willing to pay for a website the same amount of money it makes in a year — give or take 20%. Which means that if you already have a website that makes $500 a month — you can expect at least $5000.
Website without monetization do not sell that well, but there have been cases of succesfull sales.
Of course, there are other monetization techniques. If the subject of your website allows, you can easily make a job board and get money from each application. Or you could make a flea market and get a fee from each sale. But I have never used those monetization techniques in person, so I cannot recommend them.
Besides, if you are only starting to make money with your website — you should start small. You’ll experiment later, when you are confident in your monetization skills.
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