Whether it’s a small side hustle or your entire monthly income, monetizing websites has never been more popular – or more profitable.
“But aren’t ecommerce sites the only ones that generate profit?”, we hear you ask. Well, no – actually, far from it!
There are multiple ways you can make money through a website. Sure, online stores play their part, but these days, anyone can grab a slice of sweet profit pie… and we can show you how.
Some methods of monetization are simple, some a little more complex, but all can work wonders – if done right. Below, we’ll take you through the eight most common ways to monetize a website, as well as providing a rating for how easy each is to set up.
Ease of setup: 3/5
Selling products. It’s probably the first thing that came to mind, right?
Today, there are over 650,000 ecommerce websites that generate $1,000+ annual profit – a number which is only growing year-on-year. And the best part is, anyone can set one up!
How to Create Your Own Ecommerce Website
DIY ecommerce website builders, such as Shopify and BigCommerce, have made it easier than ever for non-techie folk to create their own online store.
They are online tools that come with pre-designed templates. All you have to do is pick a template, add your own content and products, and embed any features you need.
Features are things like subscription forms or website analytics. Most basic features can be found already built into Shopify and BigCommerce, but both provide app stores where you can install any extras needed.
BigCommerce Review – Explore selling online with BigCommerce
For the more technical of you out there, WordPress.org is the route most budding entrepreneurs take. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that is self-hosted and lets you build your site from the ground up.
There are pre-designed templates you can use, but WordPress is a lot more fluid, offering limitless customization. Unfortunately, you’ll need to have a sound knowledge of code – or a fairly hefty budget to hire a web developer – in order to use it effectively.
Sell products without creating a full-blown ecommerce site
Although creating a dedicated ecommerce site is the best way to make money if you have a lot of products to sell, it’s not very cost-effective if you only have a few items.
If you just want to sell the odd product, try Square Online’s Checkout Links instead.
These links allow you to add buttons to your (non-ecommerce) website that let visitors buy directly through your site. Not only is it easy – you simply copy and paste the buttons onto your site – it’s also free.
Set up a free Square Online account to get started, and enjoy creating these checkout links for free, without paying any subscription costs. The only fee is a 2.5% transaction fee when people buy using the links – this is still much more affordable than building a whole online store!
Success Story: Harry’s Razors
Harry’s Razors was born from one simple concept – shaving equipment shouldn’t be this darn expensive! Founded by two normal guys – neither of whom are called Harry – the company set up its own ecommerce website using Shopify.
Thanks to the platform’s built-in tools and easy-to-use interface, the founders quickly got to grips with it, and started building their solution to shaving.
10 months later, Harry’s Razors had bought a production factory in Germany, were marketing to 100,000 email subscribers, and had raised over $122.5 million. Not too shabby. Earlier this year, the pair sold the business to Wilkinson Sword for an estimated $1.4 billion.
This is just one example, but goes to show that any idea, however simple or small, can be transformed into an ecommerce empire.
Ease of setup: 4/5
Another common way people make money online is by selling their services. It could be anything – from creating tailored diet plans, to a window cleaning business.
This works in much the same way as online stores. The big difference is, you don’t need an ecommerce-specific website builder.
How to Sell Your Service Online
Website builders like Wix and Squarespace are even easier to use than ecommerce platforms. Wix in particular is arguably the easiest way to create your own website.
Much like ecommerce platforms, it lets you pick from over 500 pre-designed Wix templates. What makes Wix easier is its drag-and-drop editor, where you can literally move anything on your website to anywhere on the page!
Wix Template Review – An in-depth analysis of Wix’s layouts
The trick to selling a service is finding your USP (unique selling point). What makes your service different from others out there? And why should people buy into what you’re providing?
Success Story: Isis King
Isis King was the first transgender model to appear on America’s Next Top Model. As her career went from strength to strength, she built her very own website using Wix, which showcased a portfolio of her work.
It has also allowed agencies and brands to get in contact with her for potential collaborations. This has since gone on to form the bedrock of her modelling career, as she continues to redefine what fashion means in the modern day.
Ease of setup: 4/5
You may find them pointless or annoying, but the truth is, displaying adverts on websites is one of the simplest ways to make money.
The most common way to sell ad space is by using a pay-per-click model. This is where you receive commission from the advertisers every time someone clicks through to their advert from your web page.
The average CPC (cost per click) for sites selling ad space is $0.25. To put that into some context, you’ll have to be generating around a thousand clicks a day to earn $100,000 a year in profit.
There are two ways you can jump aboard the ad bandwagon. The first (and most popular) is by using Google Adsense. This involves Google embedding the code on your website in order to advertise, and reading what your page is about to ensure all ads are relevant to your content.
The second is to sell ad space directly to companies. Naturally, this requires a bit more legwork on your part, but it does put you in a stronger position when selecting the type of ads that are displayed on your site, and when negotiating a higher payout per click.
Website ads are simple to set up, but not a big money-spinner – unless your website gets a lot of monthly traffic.
Ease of setup: 3/5
Thanks to the rise of bloggers and ‘influencers’, affiliate marketing is more popular than ever. You may well have used an affiliate link without even realising it. But what does it actually mean, and how can it make you money?
Affiliate marketing is an arrangement between your website and a company whereby you direct potential customers towards their site.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
There are two different ways of generating profit from affiliate marketing: CPC (cost per click), or CPA (cost per acquisition).
Similar to ads, CPC is where you receive money every time someone clicks a link on your site that sends them to the affiliate (partner company).
With CPA, you don’t receive money unless that user actually ‘converts’ – i.e. buys a product or signs up to a service from the affiliate. As you’d expect, CPA fees are far higher than CPC, as you’re literally making the affiliate money – unlike CPC, where they may just browse.
Rather than simply providing ads to users as a sideshow, affiliate marketing can link neatly with your content. Today’s users are much more tolerant to this kind of marketing, and you’ll generally find it a much more lucrative option.
For example, you could have an affiliate relationship with Harry’s Razors. If that were the case, it’s likely you’ll produce content about its shaving products which contains unique links to Harry’s Razors site.
These unique links are important. It’s how your affiliate can track that a customer purchase originally came from your website. These are known as affiliate links, and they’re actually pretty easy to create.
If you’re going to be linking to one platform a lot (e.g. Amazon), you can set up an account and create affiliate links directly with them. Otherwise, you can set up an account with a site like Skimlinks, which generates an affiliate link for any URL you enter – although it will take a small commission.
Naturally, the more traffic your website gets, the more traffic you can potentially redirect to an affiliate. In this respect, it’s a lot like selling ad space – you need to get a lot of site visitors in order for it to be a worthwhile revenue stream.
Ease of setup: 4/5
While selling ad space and affiliate marketing rely on your website getting a lot of traffic, donations can be a more effective way of making money if you build a really engaged community.
If your visitors (literally) buy into your content, it makes sense that some will be willing to show their appreciation for your work via a donation.
Beyond charities, donations are standard among podcast websites, many of whom rely on generous funding from listeners to maintain their show.
Wikipedia is perhaps the biggest example of a nonprofit site that accepts donations. It’s an open-source information pool that’s free to use, and the founders want to keep it that way. In order to show appreciation for the resource, though, you can now leave a donation.
How to Set Up Donations on Your Website
Most major payment gateways will let you embed donation buttons on your site. Usually, people opt for PayPal due to its universal popularity, and how easy it is to use.
After setting up your PayPal account, you can create and customize your very own donation button.
You can change the button text, add set donation amounts, or let your visitors choose how much they want to pay. You’ll then be provided with the HTML code needed to embed the button on your website.
After people click the button, they’ll be sent to PayPal’s website, where they can fill in their details and complete the donation. Easy to set up, but as mentioned you will need to have a loyal following and be producing great content for it to be worthwhile.
Ease of setup: 4/5
‘Sponsored posts’ is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot on Instagram. It’s synonymous with Influencers, who use their massive follower base to promote products in return for cash. It’s not just Instagrammers who can get in on the action, though.
As your website grows in popularity, you may find companies reach out to you in the hope you’ll promote their brand.
Be careful, though – in order to keep your reputation intact, you’ll only want relevant sponsored posts that fall in line with your visitors’ interests.
There’s also very strict guidelines stating that you need to declare to your visitors that the content you’re producing is sponsored. If it’s something you’re considering, brushing up on the FTC guidelines is a good place to start.
For example, if you run a site that reviews and compares watches, it wouldn’t make sense to host content from a company that sells furniture. What you may look to feature is a watch repair brand, or possibly jewellery that complements the watches you review.
This way, you’re not only providing your visitors with relevant and engaging content, but you’re also making money simply by featuring another brand. Talk about win-win!
Another way of monetizing sponsored posts is to flip this process on its head. If you’re seen as an expert in your field, other sites may want you to create content for theirs, based on your wealth of knowledge.
It’s not directly linked to your site per se, but you can attribute the money you’re making to the content you’re putting out.
Lead generation is the process of putting potential customers in touch with companies who may be of benefit to them. It’s a bit of a complicated one, so to help, here’s an example:
If you run a website that’s geared around athletics, you could work with sports brands to put them in touch with athletes looking to enhance their performance.
It’s different from affiliate marketing, in that you’re not trying to get people to buy a specific product – it’s more about showing them a service they may be interested in.
You could team up with nutritionists, personal trainers, or sports scientists, and help direct people – or ‘leads’ – towards their business service.
How to Start Generating Leads
Lead generation is a little more tricky than the other methods on this list. Not only do you need to find companies that are interested in having a commercial relationship with you, but you will also need to ‘optimize’ your site in order for it to be successful.
By this, we mean you’ll need a clean, easy to navigate website with clear CTAs (calls to action). A CTA is a button that entices people to click on it.
In order for CTAs to be successful, it must be obvious to your visitors what happens when they click it. In most cases, this will see them redirected to a form that will ask them to fill out personal information and contact details.
After they fill this in, they’ll be contacted – or ‘qualified’ – by the company to see how interested they are in their service.
You will also be scrutinized on the quality of leads you produce – after all, directing plenty of traffic to companies ultimately doesn’t matter if no one’s prepared to sign up.
Ease of setup: 3/5
It’s not just printed magazines and newspapers that people pay subscriptions for these days! Anything from online tutoring, to accessing software, to premium digital content can be monetized through a subscription model.
The subscription ecommerce market alone has grown over 100% in the past five years. It’s a great way of guaranteeing recurring revenue.
Subscriptions work best when you have a product or service that people can’t physically buy, but do need to access regularly. A website builder is a perfect example, where you pay a monthly fee to first create, then host your website online.
If your website is popular enough, you can also place premium content behind a paywall that your visitors pay to access. This can be a risky strategy, though – especially if all your content was originally free.
If marketed right, however, it can be a neat little money-spinner, and make your visitors feel like they are part of an exclusive community.
How to Set Up a Subscription Model
Most platforms allow you to create a ‘members only’ area on your website. This can be protected by a username and password that people must enter, which they’ll receive when they subscribe.
In this area, you can store all your premium content. Articles, research, videos, podcasts, and more can all be accessed. You can even give away free merchandise to subscribers, in order to boost your brand’s appeal.
In years gone by, people thought ecommerce websites were the only way to make money online. But these days, as the internet continues to grow, so too does the money pool behind it.
There are now far more ways to dive in and grab your share of the cash – and it’s not even limited to large websites, either (although that obviously does help).
To recap, here’s a quick overview of the eights methods we’ve discussed.
|Method of Making Money||Ease of Setup||Description|
|Selling Products||3||Creating an online store and promoting either your own products, or a third party’s.|
|Selling a Service||4||Selling a skill or trade and advertising it online, e.g. window cleaning, personal training, or dog walking.|
|Selling Ad Space||4||Letting other businesses advertise on your website. You can use Google Adsense to prevent having to reach out to companies yourself.|
|Affiliate Marketing||3||Taking commissions from businesses by either referring potential customers, or actually securing sales for them.|
|Accepting Donations||4||Allowing your visitors to support what you do and show their appreciation by helping to fund your website.|
|Sponsored Posts||4||Either hosting other people’s content on your site in exchange for money, or featuring on other sites yourself.|
|Generating Leads||2||Get your site’s visitors to sign up to another brand by presenting them with what the brand offers and recommending its services.|
|Subscriptions||3||Allowing visitors access to online tools, software, premium services, or content behind a paywall for a monthly or annual fee.|
Which Method Should You Use?
All of these methods have a proven track record in their own right. Which one you should use depends on a few things:
- The purpose of your website
- The way you want to display your content
- How much monthly traffic your website gets
- The number of returning visitors you have
For sites that have huge returning visitor counts, things like sponsored posts, accepting donations, and subscriptions are all logical avenues to explore.
Sites that get a lot of new visitors, though, will want to look at selling ad space, affiliate marketing, or generating leads.
If you own a new, up-and-coming website, promoting your own products and services tends to be the way to go. You can even reach out to more established sites by doing sponsored posts for them, which in turn helps build your following.
Of course, all of these options are available to anyone. But if you want to make the big bucks, you’re going to have to grow your website’s popularity first.
Best of luck, and happy money making!