This is always the knee-jerk response people have when it comes to how to make money online with a website. Advertising is one model to pull in revenue and cover your costs but it’s certainly not the only way.
Websites are unique in that many active and passive ways exist to earn an income online by building a system that can reach thousands and thousands of people without you needing to be present at each interaction.
But unlike physical stores where people can conceive how a place like a yoga studio or a bar can make money – the actual ways a website makes money are not always so clear.
There are 6 ways to make money online with your website:
Pro Tip: Focus on your website, unique selling proposition and value first
We all want to get our moneys worth out of any product or service we buy right? So you need to have this mindset when on the other side of providing a product or service.
So while these 6 ways are how you make money online with your website, it does not change the underlying fundamentals.
To provide value.
A type of value that helps to result in a real world change for someone. It does not need to be a dramatic change, but it does needs to be a change and you need to be part of the solution.
If you do nothing else right, provide enough value and opportunities will make themselves known.
I know it’s intoxicating the idea of making a living online, or even making a solid part-time income – but work and experience comes first. There is no fast money and unless you’re independently wealthy, you need to work.
There are a few other ways to make money online if you want to pull in some extra cash within the month, but they always involve selling your time on someone else’s platform and not your own.
Erica over at Erica.Biz has a good outline, though it’s a bit dated and some of the platforms and opportunities have expired, it might still give you some good ideas.
My take is to pursue freelance writing if you’re serious about wanting to making a little extra cash on the side.
Let’s cover the 6 ways to make money online with your website in a bit more detail.
Donations are what they sound like – people sending you money. But why would anyone do such a thing?
It goes back to value. If you provide enough value as to where you helped make a meaningful life change for someone, people will donate. Remember, you have no idea who specifically is visiting your website. It could be a high paid executive for all you know searching for gift ideas for his wife and you help him discover the perfect gift with your website on fashion.
You can setup donation buttons with PayPal.com. You need to provide a way for people to give you money and Pay Pal is the ideal platform for accepting donations. You could also provide an address to send checks to if you like. But people tend to be most comfortable with using Pay Pal as a way to send money.
Also ask for donations too. People won’t give if you don’t you ask. So ask.
Use language that is simple and to the point like:
“If you want to support my work please consider donating to help cover costs of running this website”.
Next, focus again on value and don’t demand donations or beg. You have to give, give, give, before you get.
You can also use a wish list instead of asking for donations. Wish list? On many websites like Amazon you have the option to add products you want to a wish list. You can use this instead of asking for a monetary donation.
Donations are ideal for blogs on topics that are difficult to monetize. Usually public interest website. They also work well for programmers and developers giving away free software.
Otherwise, if you have every intention of building a business with your website by selling products, providing a service and/or running advertisements DON’T ask for donations.
This is the model that was originated by newspapers and magazines and has now become a solid and consistent way countless websites earn revenue.
Unlike selling a product with a one time fee, people subscribe and pay weekly, monthly, or yearly fees for special access, unique content, a service and/or special features from your website.
A subscription model does not have to be forever as well, you could set up a high priced product and spread out the content over weeks or months and charge a monthly subscription for the duration of the the time. Like 47$ for 6 months.
You don’t even need to make it a monthly subscription either. You could have private access on your website and charge $40 every 3 months or every 6 months. Like a forum with a private area.
Lastly, you could make a blog into a subscription based revenue model by giving away free content on your site but setting up a private special “insiders only” blog.
To be successful with this model however you would need to have an already establish a level of expertise in an industry before you can charge people to listen to what you have to say. It might also be good to include bonuses like advanced copies of any products you have yet to release.
There are many solutions from a technical standpoint on how to build a subscription based product. You could do something as simple as Pay Pal for the recurring revenue and Aweber for the delivery.
You could also use WP-Wishlist plug-in for your WordPress backed website.
There are 3 types of advertising that can help you make money online:
This means text based advertising. It’s not contextual so much in that the ads are text (they are, but there can also be images) but more specifically it’s that the advertisements are based off the text content of the web page itself. So a web page about music will lend itself to ads relevant to music like ring-tones.
You have limited control over what ads appear when you use a contextual ad program because the program automatically scans your content and determines what keywords and what ads make the most sense based on your content. This is good because people ignore irrelevant ads.
The Google AdSense program is by far the most popular, most well known, and most successful. Contextual works by way of clicks and cost per click. The cost per click is determined by the demand for a keyword. So “website hosting” is a high value keyword because lot’s of companies want to advertise for this keyword. This increases the cost per click for this keyword as these companies “bid” to advertise for “website hosting”.
On the other side is Google and the AdSense publisher who gets paid every time one of their visitors clicks an ad. If you click an ad on Google.com, Google gets 100% of the cost per click. If you click an AdSense ad on a publishers website they get 68% of the revenue and the rest goes to Google.
So obviously, a higher value keyword pays a publisher more. As a result, some websites do better with contextual advertising than others.If you want to discover what the CPC for any keyword is you simply need to create and Adwords account, use the keyword tool, and select CPC.
Another factor that influences your success with a contextual program like AdSense is the color and placement of the ads.
This you have control over.
Here is a link to all the different ad sizes. Unless you have a strange design, the most successful units are big square ads either at the top of your sidebar OR in your content itself. Long skyscraper ads for the sides, a leaderboard ad under the navigation bar but above the content and a square unit or leaderboard at the bottom underneath the content.
For colors, old school publishers will say to blend your ad colors into your content. I find using colors that compliment to work best. Complimentary colors is a color theory term. If your site is red, orange is a compliment. It’s important to not trick people into clicking your ads. You want people to click on your ads because the ad is relevant, not because they though it was additional content on your site.
The next question that comes up when I teach people about contextual advertising is then “why don’t I just have my friends click on my ads 10 times a day”?
This is click fraud. You’re not the first person to think of this. It violates the terms you agreed to as a publisher, and companies can track consistent unusual click activity. Stay away from click fraud and focus on your unique selling point and helping people instead.
Selling ads works not so much by you selling ads, but rather by companies and individuals contacting you directly to make advertising inquiry. When this starts occurring it’s a good idea to set up an advertising page outlining the positions and the costs to advertise on your website (if you choose to advertise of course!).
Don’t setup this page until you start getting emails asking you to advertise.
Selling ads can be a bit of a hassle, but software today exists in such a manner that it can allow you to easily manage the buying and selling of ads on your website yourself.
All you need to do is determine what kind of ads you are willing to run and what the sizes are.
With smaller ads you can have more of them and charge less for each one, larger ads you can charge more (so long as it’s only one or two large ads).
To actually sell ads find an “advertising manager” that suits your needs by using search engines to discover your options as well as reviews.
Let’s use Google’s Advertising Manager (GAM) in this example:
With this platform all you do is set up the ad size in GAM. Then you get code. Copy and paste that code into your website where you want the ad to display.
When someone wants to advertise on your website, they can go through the GAM platform to purchase the space and submit their ad code in order for their ad to be displayed. All you need to do is set the price, set the duration or page views the ad will run for and of course approve the ad.
The most common way to promote things as an affiliate is through a special link, but organizations, business, and product creators do create advertisements called “creatives” for their products to help affiliates drive sales.
Affiliate advertisements are ads, but they work a little different in the sense that you will get a commission based on purchase. You’re not getting paid based on clicks or page views as you do with traditional online advertising.
Affiliate marketing describes for the revenue model of promoting and selling other peoples or companies products in exchange for a commission on the sale.
Affiliate marketing has numerous benefits for the affiliate:
Affiliate marketing has numerous benefits for the company/person:
The pitfalls to avoid:
Affiliate marketing is very, very misunderstood by the public at large. This model may appear an easy path to wealth or at the very least some sort of online income – but it’s actually quite difficult to make sales.
Because of the pitfalls mentioned. Having success with affiliate marketing is trust based and physcological based. You need to connect with your audience and show them you understand their problem and you understand how a certain product or service can help them.
In reality though, people do not know how to sell with a website. They don’t build trust and expertise. They just promote something and tell people to buy without demonstrating where their credibility comes from.
Also, new webmasters tend to over do it with advertising and affiliate marketing. Providing a low quality experience and not providing value. This puts people off and makes your visitors not trust or take you seriously.
Focus on your websites content and unique selling point, if there is an appropriate product to mention, mention it. But don’t sell people on it. For example, you could have a website about studying for a certain test. On this website you could give study advice and link to relevant practice exams people could buy.
You can focus as I do on keywords and phrases related to your website. So for my dating advice website for women I mention books and guides from dating coaches I trust. But only after providing my own content and my own advice.
Also, promote products that are not super expensive. People are more comfortable with purchasing a $30 guide than a $400 course. You will make more sales and make more money as with higher priced products people need to be exposed to the product multiple times before considering purchasing.
Review posts work somewhat well, but people are inherently skeptical of online reviews as the affiliate model gives people incentive to be bias. To overcome this you could give two links, one is an affiliate, one is a non affiliate link and tell people this, giving them the choice to support you or not.
To further build trust, make your review thoughtful, long, and detailed. Make it over 2,000 words with examples. Demonstrate that you actually reviewed the product and have used it (if you have no experience with it, how can you recommend it to others?).
To make money online with affiliate marketing, think of different angles to approach how you sell. Don’t just create “review of xyz fitness book,” think more deeply and maybe make a post on how fitness book xyz help me wake up early with lot’s of energy.
Tutorials and guides
Better than reviews, demonstrate knowledge. Demonstrate how something works and how you’re benefiting from it. Mention a product or course if it makes sense. Also show people how to do it for free and without the product.
Mention a relevant product at the end of your page or blog post in a short and sweet manner. So the majority of the page content should not be product related, it should be content specific. At the end, if there is a relevant product or course to mention, mention it.
“So that’s it. If you want to dive deeper into affiliate marketing by learning how to sell products and help people without being sketchy my close friend Mark has a great course on building passive income. It helped me get started online, maybe it can help you too?”
When writing an email and wanting to include affiliate links you must for spam reasons make the email long and of high quality. To get the best conversions from my experience is to mention a link 3 times. Once in the beginning, once in the middle, and once at the end.
As previously mentioned, put up affiliate ads in your sidebar of related products and services. If you’re selling ad space then it makes sense to have a few different ads. But if it’s affiliate ads, keep it to a minimum as too many options will cause people to click nothing. Remember you always need to direct people. Depending on the size, 1-4 affiliate ads are appropriate.
Again, people are a bit skeptical of “products I love” pages or “resource pages”. So to build trust, set out to make a high quality resource page with links to products, services, and content you recommend. Not everything you link to needs to be an affiliate link. Set out to make it a win-win for everyone involved.
In the footer (as we’ve mentioned before – the footer is perfect for some very important links) is where you will typically find a link allowing you to sign up for a product or service as an affiliate. The language will be something like:
Simply fill out the application and sign up. You can also use a search engine and type in “product name affiliate”.
Make sure to keep track of all you passwords and log-in information for all your different products.
Also use a URL shortener to clean up your ugly affiliate links as to make something more attractive. You can also use plug-ins for WordPress to achieve this. The most popular one being “Pretty Link“.
I personally use SEO Redirection though. Then, I use a subfolder to track all my links and clicks on those links (think website.com/go/product). It also avoids any conflict with other URL’s on my websites as well.
Make your own products or courses (and run your own affiliate program if you like).
Products can be anything from a PDF e-book, to a combination of videos, audio and written content. The real question is what is the best medium to deliver what you create. The two main options are to either send the product directly in email or to have a private page on your website with a download link.
The price points for what you create will vary as well based on their perceived value. A best practice is to have one product have three price points. This tends to generate more sales than having a single price point, and it generates the most sales of your middle price point (which from a physiological perspective looks like the best deal).
Before creating a product however, you must go through the process of market research. Understand your market, use the words they use to describe their problems, look for ways to differentiate yourself from others with already existing products. DON’T copy anyone, simply understand the problems your target audience faces better than they understand it themselves.
This of course takes months of research, surveys, and talking to people – but it’s what will help your product be successful in the end because people will be telling you what they need.
Pay attention to naming and design as well. These must match your brand and must also instill trust by having a level of professionalism.
Take your time and do it right the first time. Every interaction people have with you online must be of high quality. Always.
One of the best ways to pull in revenue with your website, particularly if you’re just starting out with a brand new website and have no products to sell (besides affiliate recommendations) is to sell your time in the form of a service to the public at large.
The ideal service must be a hard skill, not a soft skill.
Soft skills are things like “life coaching” that have no clear tangible results for the customer. Hence, life coaching is a tough sell unless you’re an established authority ( you would have a better chance with “dating advice” as it can be something measurable).
Go with a hard skill related to what your website is about. This may be less practical for some website topics than others, but get creative. You may be surprised what people will pay for if you can connect the dots between their needs and wants, and your skill set.
Also, don’t call your coaching or consulting offer “coaching” or “consulting”. Come up with a more descriptive name as no one wants to be coached and no one wants to hire a consultant.
Another popular trend is to host full fledged e-courses via your website instead of working one on one with people. This is very similar to running a membership/subscription based website model except you market the course as a class, you develop base course materials like videos and study guides, and you host live webinar sessions with your students.
You could host an e-course four times a year, two times a year. Whatever fits your needs. How long the course runs for is up to you, but a minimum of 3 weeks seems standard.