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You’ve done the hard work of building a website and cultivating an audience. You deserve to get a return on your time and investment — don’t you think?

16 Ways to Start Monetizing Your Website

So you’re considering monetizing your website but aren’t sure how to do it — or even if you should.

We understand your hesitation — whether that’s because the thought of starting your own business is a little daunting or you don’t want to “devalue” your existing site by using it to make money. But, sooner or later, most successful sites monetize.

If you’ve no clue where to start with monetizing your site, stick with us for the full tutorial since we’ll take you through each step of developing a monetization strategy. If you’re already familiar with the art of website monetization and are just after extra ideas, use the jump links below to skip to a section that catches your eye.

  1. Using AdSense
  2. Selling ads on your site
  3. Getting involved with affiliate marketing
  4. Asking for donations
  5. Selling sponsored content
  6. Setting up a dropshipping store
  7. Creating a certification program
  8. Selling your products/services
  9. Writing e-books
  10. Creating apps or software
  11. Producing WordPress plugins/themes
  12. Offering online courses
  13. Providing online coaching/consulting
  14. Offering premium content
  15. Monetizing your email list
  16. Selling merchandise

Why Monetize Your Site?

The more important question — in our humble opinion — is why shouldn’t you be monetizing your site?

Do you have a website that gets traffic? That has valuable content? That users trust? Then it can — and probably should — be making you money.

You’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears (figuratively, we hope) into building up your site. You provide value to visitors. You may have even played a part in promoting your industry and some of the names within it. You deserve to get a return on your time and investment — don’t you think?

But we know what you’re wondering: Is monetizing your site worth it? Will you actually get a decent ROI?

The short answer is we can’t tell you.

Some sites make pennies a month. Other famous websites are pulling in six figures. How much you will earn depends on numerous factors: how many visitors you get, the type of content you offer, and the ways in which you choose to monetize your site.

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How to Monetize Your Website

1. Use AdSense

Google AdSense is one of the quickest and easiest ways to monetize your site. It places tailored ads on your site, and when a user clicks on one of your ads, you get a cut of what the advertiser pays Google (68% at the time of writing.)

For most sites, AdSense isn’t particularly profitable. As a broad generalization, the more traffic you have, the more money you should make. However, once set up, AdSense is a source of entirely passive income.

Unless you’re concerned your audience will be deterred by the sudden addition of ads to your site, adopting it is pretty much a no-brainer. Just follow our guide to setting up Google AdSense to get started.

2. Sell Ads On Your Site

This monetization method takes more work to set up and manage than Google AdSense, but the extra effort = bigger rewards.

So what do we mean? How does selling display ads on your own site work?

Instead of making money via advertising through an ad network like AdSense, you sell directly to the advertiser. This means you choose what to charge, what ads appear on your site, and you’re in a position to negotiate. You also keep 100% of what you earn.

But what does selling ads yourself involve?

For a start, you’re going to need a decent amount of traffic to grab the interest of even the smallest advertisers. You’ll also probably want to put together a media pack that outlines your prices and what your advertisers (or “partners,” for want of a better term) will get in exchange.

Typically, pricing structures are calculated using CPM (cost per one thousand impressions), with $1 per 1,000 impressions being pretty standard. So, if your site gets 10,000 visits a month, you’d charge $10 for an ad. If it gets 100,000 visitors, you’d charge $100.

Of course, we’re generalizing here. You can charge as much or as little as you like. Just bear in mind that if advertisers think your prices are too high, you might have to negotiate. Alternatively, you might not get interest from them — full stop.  

In some cases, you’ll have to find the advertisers, not the other way around — especially if the traffic you get is on the smaller side. That means reaching out to suitable brands, asking whether they’re interested in ad space, and giving them a reason (or reasons) why they should work with you. Again it might also entail negotiating on price.

However, if you can strike a deal that works for you and your partners, you should see a far better return on investment than with a service like AdSense.

3. Get Involved with Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing involves subtly using your site to promote others’ products by inserting an affiliate link to the other company’s products into your content or by adding affiliate banner ads to your pages. Those links and banners contain a unique tracking code. When a visitor clicks on that link and makes a purchase, you get a cut of the revenue.

How much that cut will be depends on what you’re promoting and the network or company you’re promoting it through.

Until recently, Amazon offered a pretty awesome affiliate scheme (also known as Amazon Associates.) Affiliates (or associates) enjoyed generous commissions, the benefit of sending users to a trusted platform, and an almost endless selection of products to promote.

In April 2020, however, Amazon cut its commission rates a lot. Commissions on home improvement products, for example, dropped from 8% to 3%.

Does this mean partnering with Amazon is a waste of time? Not necessarily.

But it does mean it’s worth investigating other affiliate networks — or directly approaching companies you’d like to work with. For example, DreamHost’s affiliate program makes it easy to earn a commission for recommending our hosting services.

How do you choose which products to promote?

  • Pick products that are relevant to your site and target audience.
  • Choose the ones that offer a decent percent kick-back when someone buys via your site.
  • Promote products you’re genuinely interested in (this is essentially sales, after all, and it helps a lot if you believe in the affiliate product you’re selling).
  • Stick to legitimate products. Some affiliate marketing networks sell questionable products. Generally, the percent you get back on those products is very high, which can make promoting them especially tempting. But going down that road will likely cheapen your brand.

4. Ask for Donations

This may sound a bit sketchy, but it’s actually a legitimate — and often very profitable — way of monetizing your website. If you’re a regular consumer of independent media, you’ve probably come across this. Even Wikipedia does it.

The Wikimedia Foundation website.

Essentially if you’re offering something of value at no cost to users — aka Wikipedia — asking for one-off or monthly donations from regular consumers of your content can help support the work you do.

If you’ve got a loyal base of readers who value your content, you might be surprised at how much you can make simply by asking for their support.

5. Sell Sponsored Content

Or, to use a “nicer” term, offer native advertising. Native advertising has been around long before the internet. You’ll have come across it in magazines and newspapers — even if you didn’t realize you were viewing an advertisement (which is pretty much the point.) And in recent years, you’ve definitely seen a sponsored post or video online.

If you’re not familiar with it, native advertising is essentially an advert dressed up to blend in as a standard piece of content.

It will state, somewhere, that it’s an advert. But that heads-up is often tricky to spot. That said, when done well, it shouldn’t matter that your sponsored content is paid for.

What do we mean by this?

We mean that good native advertising should offer as much value to readers as any other piece of content. It should not be there just to sell but to inform or entertain.

Here’s a great example of Mercedes using native advertising to promote a new car, as highlighted by Outbrain.

Mercedes native advertising on The Washington Post.

Of course, unless you own a site with a Washington Post-esque level of clout, it’s unlikely you’ll get the chance to feature adverts along the lines of the above (or earn the money that comes with it.)

However, simple product reviews or informational pieces that subtly promote a product or service can be just as effective. That is as long as they feel authentic and are aligned with your site and audience.

6. Set Up a Dropshipping Store

Dropshipping is a simple, popular, and (if you know what you’re doing) very effective way of making money online.

Simply put, it’s a process that allows you to set up an online store and sell products — without you having to stock the items yourself.

As a dropshipping store, you’ll be selling the products, but the items will be purchased from a third-party site. That third party will then be responsible for delivering the products to the customer.

Dropshipping means you can test ideas without having to invest upfront in stock. Let’s say the market isn’t there for your chosen products, or you discover that the niche is too competitive. In that case, you can simply move onto another product.

With websites being easier than ever to create, you can see why many entrepreneurs choose this path when starting an online business.

Bonus tip: if you’re looking to launch a dropshipping business, an excellent place to connect with other businesses is Oberlo. Developed by Shopify, Oberlo is a marketplace that helps you find the right products to sell.

7. Create a Certification Program

Do you have heaps of knowledge in your sector? Are you relatively well known or connected in your niche?

If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then you may want to consider monetizing your site with a certification program.

Certification programs are often used to build brand awareness. They’re usually free, but many entrepreneurs charge. A certification program takes the knowledge you have and monetizes that through online courses, e-books, and more (which we’ll go over in more detail later.)

How much revenue you can make via this stream is down to how much you charge for your certification program and how many people you can get to enroll. As you might imagine, getting the word out can be challenging. Having the right contacts in place before you start makes this a whole lot easier.

When there’s decent word of mouth circling your product, you can watch your revenue increase with minimal effort from yourself. That said, if you want to keep using this tactic, it’s a (very!) good idea to keep your course up to date and keep adding new courses for loyal and repeat customers.

8. Sell Your Own Products or Services

This is arguably the hardest way to monetize your website — but potentially the most profitable. It’s more problematic to get started with than the options listed above simply because you have to have something to sell, whether that is a physical good or a digital product.

What you could sell depends largely on your niche and skillset. But also how much time you want to put into the process of selling your products.

Let’s run through some of your options when it comes to selling products online.

9. Create and Sell E-books

Once completed, e-books can provide a means of passive income (not counting any time you spend promoting said e-book.)

However, niche really comes into play here.

It’s likely going to be harder for a lifestyle site to write and promote an e-book than, for example, a marketing or business site. This is simply due to the nature of the content and the type of person who consumes it.

So when can an e-book work?

For years some of the most popular (and profitable) e-books have been about making money. More specifically, how to become really, really rich. Work from a tropical beach bar rich. Yacht rich, even.

But that market’s really saturated. And to be perfectly honest, often a bit scammy. Very few people are ever going to become yacht rich, obviously. That said, if you’ve got good ideas and want to go down the “get rich by doing this” e-book route, then no judgment here — go for it!

If you’d rather do something a little different, make sure to bear the following in mind:

  • Choose a topic that hasn’t been done to death and that people are willing to pay to learn about.
  • Create extremely high-quality content that won’t leave buyers disappointed.

On that last one — remember that an e-book isn’t a blog post. Since you’re asking people to pay for this content, it has to offer something they can’t (or would struggle) to get for free. It has to be written to a professional standard.

Not a great writer? Then pay a freelance blogger (or hire a very good editor to help clean up your work).

Bonus tip: Once you’ve completed your e-book, turn it into an audiobook.

10. Create Apps or Software

Apps and software are big business — the average smartphone user uses 30 apps a month. Then there are the countless apps people use on their laptops and desktop computers.

If you’re a natural problem solver, this may be a great way to monetize your site (and increase its visibility.) Plus, it’s solving problems that’s the key to successfully monetizing apps and software.

You need to:

  1. Identify a problem people have.
  2. Build something that helps them solve that problem.

People are willing to pay good money for things that make their day-to-day lives a little bit easier.

If you’ve identified a problem people have in your niche, but the app or software already exists, you shouldn’t give up. There’s always room for another player in the niche if you bring something new to the table. Solid research on potential competitors can identify what apps and software are missing. If you can identify these gaps, you can fill them and outsell your competitors.

Solving problems (or helping people avoid them in the first place) is big business. It’s also an excellent way to make more money from your site.

11. Produce WordPress Plugins or Themes

With 409 million users, WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. That’s in part because WordPress is usable straight out of the box. But that doesn’t prevent there from being a huge market for themes and plugins.

Just as with selling apps and software, the trick here is to identify problems and issues. You then aim to address them through the creation of a WordPress theme or plugin.

Note that this is somewhat easier when it comes to plugins, but it’s also possible to solve issues with very niche-specific themes.

Unlike some of the other monetization methods we’ve covered on this list, you will need to have some coding knowledge to make this work or the drive to learn to code. But if you do, it’s a great way to generate extra income.

12. Offer Online Courses

People don’t just go to college to party and play beer pong. They go to college to learn. And they pay good money for it.

What we’re getting at here is that education has a very high monetary value. And that if you have something worth teaching, you can potentially make bank.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about creating an online course.

  • What’s your biggest area of expertise?
  • How much value can be assigned to it? For this, you may want to look at the cost of similar courses.
  • Go one step further and purchase one of those courses. Find out what they cover, how much detail they go into, and so on. Can you compete? If so, use this information to create an even better course.
  • What formats will you use? Try and incorporate a mix of text, video, imagery, and downloadable resources.
  • Will you help students assess their knowledge and progress using tests?
  • What other extras will you offer? I.e., one-on-one tuition? Email support? A forum where students can interact with each other and yourself?
  • How will you drum up interest? Social media, blogging, partnerships with micro-influencers?

Remember that the more in-depth your course and the more resources you offer, the more you should be able to charge and the more sign-ups you’re likely to get.

13. Provide Online Coaching or Consulting

This one shares a few similarities with selling an online course (as well as potentially forming part of one). However, it doesn’t require you to plan out and create a course and its materials, so it’s much easier to get started.

On the other hand, it’s impossible for this to be a passive source of income. Needless to say, to coach or consult, you need to be interacting directly with your clients.

Asides from those two things, most of the previous points apply.

  • Coach on a subject you know inside out.
  • Look at what similar coaches charge to determine your pricing.
  • Decide your method (or methods) of coaching you will use.
  • And what (if any) extra resources you’ll offer clients. Recordings of sessions, for example.

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14. Offer Premium Content

If your site is packed with top quality content, you may be able to monetize your site simply by hiding some, or all of it, behind a paywall.

However, we can’t stress enough how important the quality of your content is. With near endless free content available online, you really have to be offering something special on your membership site to persuade your readers to pay for it.

Think:

  • Uniqueness.
  • Usefulness.
  • Timeliness.

If you’re providing insights and information that are hard to find elsewhere, paywalling your content can be a super profitable way of monetizing your site without making significant changes to your day-to-day output.

Bear in mind, however, that there is one pretty big drawback to this form of monetization: reduced readership.

Only use this monetization technique if the payoff is likely to be worth the drop in readership.

15. Monetize Your Email List

This is another way in which you can offer premium content to your email newsletter subscribers. You can do this instead of, or as well as, the above.

Again, remember that if you’re going to succeed with this means of monetization, you need to:

  • Have a loyal readership, some of which are likely to be willing to pay for exclusive access to your content.
  • Be offering SERIOUSLY good content.

Asking people to pay for substandard content will only do you harm in the long run.

16. Sell Merchandise

Does your site have a loyal following that is as invested in you and/or your brand as they are the content itself? If so, you could start making money selling merchandise.

This is really common amongst popular YouTubers, but it can work for blogs and other types of websites too.

Producing swag doesn’t even have to be difficult. Countless companies will print logos or slogans onto pretty much anything you can think of.

This method of monetization doesn’t look after itself, though. You’ll have to package and post your orders, which can take some time (depending on your products’ popularity.) This will also eat into your profit margins, so bear that in mind when determining your pricing.

Of course, you can always pay somebody to handle the logistics for you. Just search for “pick and pack services” or “fulfillment services.”

What’s Your Monetization Strategy?

Hopefully, you’re taking away some good ideas from this piece and can quickly start to reap some financial rewards from your hard work. Just remember that you can’t realistically adopt every form of monetization.

For one, you’ll probably overwhelm your users. Imagine being a website visitor who is presented with multiple forms of ads, sponsored content, requests for donations, sales pitches for products, and more when they land on your site — that’d be pretty off-putting, huh?

In addition, some forms of monetization just won’t work in combo with another. When users pay for premium content, for example, they expect it to be ad-free.

So, make sure to carefully pick and choose from this list to build a monetization strategy that works for you — whether it’s using Google AdSense, selling ads yourself, selling merchandise, getting into affiliate marketing, asking for donations, or much, much more.

The most important thing is to work to your personal strengths and the strengths of your site — as well as considering the expectations of your visitors.

For those of you who are here because you’re yet to create a website and are wondering if you can make money from one and whether it’s worth it, or if you have a website but are struggling because you’re reliant on a substandard hosting company, consider moving to DreamHost. Our plans start at just $2.59 a month and include everything you need to thrive online: free SSL certificates and SSD storage, unlimited traffic, and much more!

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If you have questions or just could use some help figuring some thing out, get in touch. Our team of web experts has been in the business for over 20 years and knows how to help you figure out the right next steps.