So, you’ve just created your website after a lot of hard work and a gazillion lines of code? Or you’ve first stepped into the open-source arena and have slightly altered existing code? Either way: awesome, congratulations! You are now the owner of a tool that could make you millions – but how?
Luckily there are many ways to monetize a website, varying both in difficulty and return on investment (ROI). We’ve all heard success stories of people earning big money from their site(s), either in an active of passive way. This is also possible for you – as long as you put in a lot of time and effort, together with knowledge and good luck.
To help you on your way, here is a list of 10 ways to monetize your website.
1. Sell products/services
Create a webshop and sell products or services. With the existence of big open-source CMS‘s it is easier than ever to create your own storefront. In these tools, you manage your product- inventory, information, and orders – and fulfill shipment and logistics. E-commerce, or the business of selling goods online, can be applied as a primary feature of your website or as an extra.
Since there is a lot of manual action involved in keeping a webshop up-to-date, you could also go for dropshipping. This is a form of e-commerce where you act as the middle-man between a manufacturer and a potential buyer. Instead of doing it all yourself, the handling is done by the manufacturer, and you push hot leads their way.
If you are looking for handy and user-friendly tools to create your online shop, you should check out WordPress’ WooCommerce or the amazing Shopify. WooCommerce is free to use, and Shopify has plans starting from $29/mo. Both come with pre-defined themes and settings, which allow for a fast development and quick time-to-market.
2. Add affiliate-marketing
If creating storefronts isn’t your thing you can always use affiliate-links to connect visitors to cool online stores and products. You, the publisher, create content (e.g. reviews, price comparisons and/or recommendations) that contain special links to external products or services. A click on these links open up the product-detail-page of the corresponding shop, and a (usually percentage-based) commission is paid when a purchase is made.
Affiliate-marketing is a battle-tested way to earn money online, and although it’s an older form of marketing, its methods and best-practices are always evolving.
An example of innovation in affiliate networks is Tradetracker’s very new “Real-attribution“, where you are paid by the specific touchpoints you’ve had in a customers buyer-journey. This differs from the older “last cookie counts” model, where only the last touchpoint/publisher is paid. Interesting stuff.
3. Add sponsored posts
Blogs are a good way to express yourself, your standpoints, your business, and your vision. They can cover an infinite amount of subjects, both mainstream and niches, and are available all over the world.
Creating a blog with interesting content can lead to a huge amount of visitors, especially when you markup for SEO and add social-sharing possibilities. When it is popular in a certain niche, companies might find it interesting to contact you to promote their brand in a sponsored post. This can be a fun way to earn some money, but keep in mind that you have a specific readership, and moving away from your core subject can cause people to leave. Also, you’re obliged to mention that the post is sponsored.
When you want to start a blog it’s better to focus on a specific niche. This is broadly covered, but perhaps most accurate by Renée Mauborgne en W. Chan Kim in their book “Blue Ocean Strategy“.
Perhaps the biggest online blogging-tools are WordPress and Medium. Both make it really easy to set up a blog online, without having to think about hosting or technicalities. You can also choose to use a self-hosted tool (e.g. WordPress or Ghost), where you’re in charge of the logistics (server, uptime, etc.), but also of your code and content. Nice!
4. Display advertising
When you have a popular website with many visitors, it can be lucrative to create advertising-spaces. These ads can earn you money in two ways: by the number of views and amount of clicks. Even though anyone can add advertisements to their website, making good money from it is usually reserved for popular sites. This is due to the low amount of revenue you earn when interaction happens; in most cases just a few cents.
If you don’t like to work with ad networks, you can always choose to sell ad-space directly to relevant companies. With this, it’s quite normal to need to show your visitor-numbers to interested parties and sell one or more advertisement-spaces.
Keep in mind that no-one likes a website that is bloated with too many intrusive ads. Always put the advertisements secondary to your content.
5. Create digital courses
Online courses are booming, and have been for some time. In an age of information, where knowledge is power, that’s not strange. Being knowledgeable in a certain field can be interesting to others, and creating online courses is a good way to teach this information.
You can choose to manually set up the course on your website, or use sites such as Udemy and Coursera to host this for you. The contents of these courses can differ in form and function, where some offer mostly PDFs and static documents, while others offer vibrant interactive and gamified experiences.
Although setting up a course could take some time and effort, its ROI can be enormous due to its scalable nature: it can be sold to an infinite amount of people. This means that you can easily earn back all the time you’ve put in creating a good quality course.
6. Create a membership site with premium content
You don’t have to make all content publicly accessible. It’s always an interesting idea to put your most precious content behind a membership-section, especially if you’ve put in hundreds of hours to create it.
Content such as personalized videos, special interactive courses, an authored forum-section or a one-on-one chat-feature all are examples of content that can be marked as premium. Here, visitors need to be a registered (and paying) member in order to interact with and view it, usually based on a subscription model.
Youtube Premium is a good example of a special premium-section, where subscribers receive interesting extras. All ads are removed, premium videos can be viewed and you get access to Youtube Music.
7. Add email marketing
It may seem that email marketing is an old and obsolete dinosaur, but it’s still very relevant in the world of online monetization. A lot of people still receive many emails every day and continue to do so if the content in it is matching their expectations. This is why so many big sites still have a newsletter-form available on a somewhat prominent section of their site.
Having a huge list of email-subscribers nets you with more eyeballs for your content, thus offering more ways to promote your (monetizable) content.
8. Lead generation
Lead generation connects potential customers to relevant companies. The main difference between affiliate-marketing is that it is mostly built around services and tools, instead of products. Here, a website or app offers some way to send the leads to the partner, e.g. by form-submission or click-through.
9. Add a donate button
When you have amassed a loyal fanbase it can be quite effective to add a donate button to earn some money. When you create interesting content that people like or create open-source code that people use, there is a chance that they are willing to thank you with money.
10. Flip your website
When all else fails, or when you’ve overgrown your success, you can always sell your website. Big platforms such as Flippa and We Sell Your Site act as a broker between sellers and buyers. When your website is interesting and has a large following, an interesting codebase or specific link-profile, it can be quite interesting for others to buy it.
Most online brokers need you to show information on revenue and traffic, so be prepared to dig through your analytics.