I’m going to assume if you are trying to learn to monetize a website that your website already has at least a few people showing up to it.
If not, I’m going to recommend you check out Authority Hacker where they can teach you how to actually, show up for keywords.
Now let’s get started. You have a blog. You have people coming. You want to monetize that blog and those people so you can quit your job and sip margaritas on a beach somewhere?
Don’t worry, I also once knew nothing about monetizing a website, despite the fact I worked at an SEO agency for years out of college. But that wasn’t about monetization, that was about ranking sites that had already figured out how to monetize.
It took me years of doing stuff on the side before I finally figured out how to take my own personal site and not only get some traffic but actually make money off that traffic.
Fast forward to today, just a few years later and I make my full-time income from the monetization techniques we will discuss below. And if you are wondering if you should trust me, just think about how you ended up here.
Alright, let’s talk about the steps to monetizing a website.
Step 1: Build a traffic base
What most aspiring online entrepreneurs don’t realize is that you can’t launch a new site and start monetizing it right from the get-go. You first have to build a base of consistent traffic. If people don’t visit your site, they certainly can’t spend any money on it. And unfortunately, I would bet half the people reading this are focused on making money before they have even figured out how to get people to their site.
Guess what, there are dozens of ways to monetize your website. They are all easy once you get traffic.
Of course, how to build traffic is a whole other blog post. But here are a few of the main strategies you can use:
- Start a blog
- Optimize your content for search engines
- Promote content on social media
- Get listed in online directories
- Guest post on other sites
- Engage in online forums
- Promote your content with paid advertising
Here’s a more extensive resource about how to build a traffic base.
Step 2: Analyze your traffic demographics
Once you’ve built up a base of traffic, you can start considering your monetization options. Of course, it is possible to build an initial traffic base with a specific monetization strategy in mind. Or you can evaluate your traffic after the fact to determine what strategies would be most lucrative.
You can use Google Analytics to get an idea of the demographics of your existing site traffic. Google Analytics offers some standard information about your site visitors, such as which country they’re in and what pages they visit. If you enable Demographics and Interest Reports, you can get even deeper insights like age, gender, and interest categories:
Use this information to inform what kind of monetization strategies would work best, and further optimize your content marketing.
There is a good chance you already know this stuff, but you will want to make sure that everything you are using to make money actually matches your traffic. If the people coming to your site are pregnant moms looking for pregnancy advice, they probably don’t care about the best email marketing software.
If they are entrepreneurs, they probably don’t care about pregnancy tips.
So lock in the audience that is coming to your site and you will find it much easier to sell whatever you decide to sell down the road.
Step 3: Choose your monetization strategies
There are all sorts of ways to monetize your website. And there’s no reason why you should pick just one strategy. Most monetized websites use a combination of strategies to make money that complement each other quite well.
Here’s an overview of the main monetization strategies you can pursue:
Google AdSense is a platform that helps you earn money by placing Google display ads on your website. It probably has the lowest barrier-to-entry of any monetization method.
Here’s how it works: AdSense provides you with special ad code that you place on your website to display ads. Then you earn money each time one of your site visitors clicks on the ad.
Ever seen ads like these when you visited a website? They’re AdSense ads:
How much you can potentially earn with AdSense really depends on your traffic volume, your site niche, Google’s algorithms, and how much advertisers are bidding. Your earnings per click can potentially range from a few cents to several dollars. Google themselves say the best way to discover how much you can earn is by signing up and start showing ads. Since there’s no cost to start, there’s no risk in trying AdSense out to see if it’s worth it.
AdSense uses targeting features (topic, keywords, behavior) to ensure the most relevant ads display on your site.
In order to qualify for Google AdSense, your site must:
- Have at least 50 daily visitors
- Be made for people
- Not contain forbidden content.
Before choosing AdSense as a monetization strategy, you should do some of your own research into your earning potential. Some niches and/or locations are more valuable than others.
Personally, this isn’t my favorite monetization method. Adsense typically requires a pretty significant amount of traffic to actually start making good money. I mean let’s be real. How often have you clicked one of those ads on a website?
The only time I would use Adsense is if I had a lot of random traffic to my site. What I mean by this is if my website catered to a general audience (i.e. teenagers). I would struggle to hone in on exactly what products to sell them. So instead we can let Adsense take what it knows about the visitor and serve up ads that actually make sense to them specifically.
Remember how Google knows all this information about everybody on planet earth? This is what they use it for.
Why not dive into ecommerce to monetize your site? It’s actually easier than it sounds. While you can create your own products to sell on your site, you can still join ecommerce without them.
What you can do is sell niche products directly from a manufacturer. This is called dropshipping. You create a niche site around a topic (e.g. baking recipes and tips), build a traffic base, then open your own ecommerce store to sell products (e.g. baking materials). You then fulfill orders by shipping products directly from manufacturer to customers. Your role is just customer service intermediary.
You can sign up for a Shopify account and have your store running in just a few hours. Then you can connect your Shopify store to your main site by watching a simple YouTube video.
The video below talks a little bit more about it.
You can connect your Shopify store directly to the manufacturer using an app called Orberlo. Then when someone orders a product on your site, it sends the order directly to the manufacturer in China and ships it to them.
You avoid having any inventory, shipping headaches, etc. and basically your profit is whatever the difference is between your price and the manufacturer price.
Selling digital products is an even simpler way to get into ecommerce. It’s possible to sell your knowledge and expertise by creating ebooks, video courses, helpful tools, and more. For example, I sell a course called Affiliate Secrets. It is a course on everything I’ve learned about monetizing through affiliate marketing over the last 3 years.
Because it is a digital product, nearly everything is profit. I spent a month creating the course, and now I get all the money from each sale, with little to no expenses.
Most people assume that they don’t have enough expertise to make money selling digital courses with their blog, but chances are you probably do. If you have a website, and people are coming to it, you must have something you are writing about that is getting people there.
That is your expertise! Now you just need to find a way to share it in a valuable way that is worth money.
The best training I’ve ever received on this is found in the book Expert Secrets, by Russell Brunson.
Selling Ad Space
While Google AdSense is the most popular way to sell ad space on your site, it’s far from the only option. There are other advertising networks that can serve as an intermediary between you and businesses that want to advertise, such as:
Better than working with AdSense or an advertising network is building a relationship directly with other businesses who want to advertise on your site. Then there’s no middle man taking a fee for their services.
When you sell ad space outside of AdSense, you won’t get paid per click. Instead, you charge for the placement of ads, or by impression. The key metric most advertisers use is CPM, or cost per 1,000 impressions. The more traffic you have to your site, the more you can charge for ad placement. So it’s hard to say how much you can earn by selling ad space, but $2-3 CPM is a good average to shoot for.
Affiliate Marketing is one of the most popular ways to monetize a website. I should probably mention of all the monetization methods out there, it is by far my favorite for a number of reasons.
1. Affiliate marketing is the only passive way to make good money on your site
2. Affiliate marketing requires no customer support
3. Affiliate marketing has almost no up-front cost
4. Affiliate marketing allows you to focus on what you love and still make money
It involves partnering up with other brands and businesses to promote their products to your website audience. This is done using affiliate links. You post affiliate links on your site, and when your site visitors click through and make a purchase, you get a commission.
Some companies have recurring affiliate commissions. This means that they offer a monthly product or service and when you get someone to sign up, they give you a percentage of that money every single month. Can you see how that is my favorite way to monetize my site?
How much you can earn from affiliate marketing really depends on your traffic volume and what kind of products you promote.
Physical products tend to have a very low commission rate (4-5%). Digital products can have a commission rate of 50% or more. If you work through an affiliate marketing network, you can browse potential products to promote based on their commission rate and other factors:
In fact, there are affiliate links all over this post where I refer you to valuable resources that I use in my business. It’s natural, and it allows me to make money off my site while still doing what I love – teaching.
Most companies have an affiliate program. You just need to go to their site to find it. For most of them it’s as simple as applying, getting approved, and then being given a special link to use when referring customers.
For example, the bottom of my website has a link for affiliates to sign up and promote my digital courses. I give affiliates 50% of all the profits I make from their referrals. They are able to monetize their audience by referring people to a high-quality course and I am able to get eyeballs on my course.
If affiliate marketing sounds like a good way to monetize your site I have hundreds of resources for you.
- Get started with affiliate marketing post
- Free training where we look inside my affiliate business
- Free affiliate marketing course
A membership website is a method of offering exclusive content and an online community to individuals in exchange for a recurring payment. The best platform for hosting membership sites, in my opinion, is Kajabi. They have been around for a while and have some killer feature to help you maximize your profits.
Here are a few examples of companies monetizing their websites with membership sites:
How much you can earn depends on the value of membership you offer. The key is to build a strong base of premium content and an active community of forum members who generate their own value by offering advice and tips to other members.
The more value your membership site offers, the more opportunities there are for income and monetization. You could also develop a tired membership strategy offering different price points for access to more features.
The important thing to note about this method of monetization is that you are in it for the long haul. People are not going to be willing to keep paying monthly fees unless they keep getting added value. So if you want your site to make money with membership sites, you will need to plan on producing new content for that site each month.
Step 4: Optimize and grow your strategy
In my experience, the biggest challenge aspiring entrepreneurs need to overcome is their expectations. Monetizing a website will not replace your day-job earnings overnight. You need to first grow your traffic base, pick a monetization strategy, attract even more traffic to improve your earning potential, and optimize your efforts. Then when you’re ready, expand to incorporate more monetization strategies to grow your earnings even more.
Grow your website the right way, and you can build an online income far beyond what your 9-5 job could provide. Just take the time to start from the bottom and work your way up.
I often get asked what a good rule of thumb is in terms of profits per visitor. This is nearly impossible to tell because everyone is in a different niche and their sites are using different monetization strategies.
I’m also often asked about how to get started with all this. That’s a great question.
I would do these steps:
- Research how other sites like mine are making money
- Choose one monetization method for my website to start
- Buy training on that monetization method
- Go all in on making it work. It is working for competitors, it should work for me.
Making money with websites can be daunting at first, but the rewards are worth it. Most people attend college for 4 years just to guarantee themselves a job to work at for the next 40 years.
Monetizing a website on the other hand, even if it takes 5 years to perfect, can give you the financial freedom that no job could ever provide.
Please ask questions in the comments. I always answer them.