When you are running your own site and finally start to see some serious traffic, you’ll probably want to earn some money from it.
In this article we’ll look at 10 of the most popular ways to make money from your site. In each section I’ll list the big players in that specific field, but there are many more opportunities available–Google is your friend.
You’ll find that you can mix and match many of these methods. Just be careful that you don’t overcrowd your site with ads. And of course you’ll need to test to find out what works best for your site.
Let’s get started.
1. Cost-per-Click Ads
Displaying banners based on a cost-per-click basis is the easiest way to make money with a site.
Usually it’s just a matter of creating the ad banners and placing them in visible places and within the guidelines. You then get paid for each click on the ads. CPC ads come in many forms, from the traditional 468×60 banners to in-text advertising.
Google’s AdSense program made this model very popular, and it still offers the highest payouts by far. Google’s guidelines are strict though. It’s tempting to put ads right next to navigation items and gain on accidental clicks, but this can get your account banned.
You are given a percentage of the revenue made on each click, so more popular terms bring in more revenue. Earnings from CPC ads vary from a few cents to several dollars per click.
Popular CPC companies
Media.net (Yahoo! and Bing ads)
2. Cost-per-Mille Ads
The counterpart of CPC advertising is cost per mille. Here you are paid for each and every ad displayed, even when no one clicks.
Because advertisers don’t want to pay for ads that are hardly seen, CPM advertising has even stricter requirements than CPC when it comes to placement and site quality.
Most of the time you will also find that you have to meet minimum traffic requirements. Most companies working with publishers require 100,000 impressions a month or even more.
Once you’re accepted into an ad program, you will be getting ads from all of the major advertisers, which has the side effect of enhancing the professionalism of your site.
It’s hard to determine what you potential earnings will be. Expect to earn anywhere from $1 to $4 CPM for general topic sites, and up to $10 CPM for niche-focused sites. (Hint: Sites that are web-related always do well).
Popular CPM companies
3. Affiliate programs
Affiliate programs (or referral programs) are considered to be the most lucrative form of advertising for publishers. If you can match an affiliate deal with your audience, you can easily earn more than any of the other methods.
The concept behind affiliate programs is simple: You get paid for each lead or sale you refer. Some companies offer a fixed fee, while others work with a revenue share.
Affiliate programs are usually offered though huge affiliate networks, which combine offers of thousands of different advertisers. Some companies, though, have their own in-house affiliate program.
How easy it is to get approved depends on the advertisers. Some companies or networks don’t have any requirements, while others want to talk with you in person and want to see a highly professional site. It mostly depends on the commission you get for each sale–higher commissions come with more requirements.
Earnings for affiliate programs are calculated as EPC, which can either be earnings per click or earnings per 100 clicks (you’ll definitely want to find out which a particular company uses when exploring your options). Targeted and well-promoted offers can bring you up to $1 for each visitor you send.
Popular affiliate networks
CJ Affiliate (Formerly known as Commission Junction)
OneNetworkDirect (Digital River)
While it’s technically an affiliate program, the Amazon Associates program deserves special attention.
It is quite easy to get into Amazon’s program, but setting it up properly requires some time and dedication. Amazon offers many ways of promoting their products, from simple links to fullblown stores that integration via their API, like this).
The commissions Amazon pays are fairly low–they range from 4% to 10%–but the great thing is that they pay you on anything a customer orders after using your affiliate link. This means that you can send a visitor to Amazon for a simple war movie (like I do) and end up earning a commission for a purchased TV as well.
Amazon is also available in multiple countries, but you’ll need to sign up for each country independently.
Amazon Associates (US)
Amazon Associates (UK)
5. Fixed price
If you don’t want to worry too much about how your ads are performing you might want to consider selling them at a fixed price.
With this method you don’t sell clicks or impressions. Instead, you’re basically just renting out ad space on your site for a weekly or monthly fee. The price is determined based on the quality of your site and its traffic, but it doesn’t fluctuate as much as the other methods.
You can sell fixed price advertising directly or use an advertising network to do it. The downside of the latter is that you will be paying a hefty fee on each ad sale.
Revenue with fixed price advertising is generally lower than with the CPM model, since there is less competition. Another downside: If your traffic explodes while a deal is in place, you won’t get paid for the additional impressions.
Fixed price ads are good way of earning a steady recurring income without too much hassle though.
Popular fixed price advertising companies
iSocket (formerly BuyAds)
6. Pop-ups and pop-unders
Yes, these still work! While most people find popups annoying, they’re still a lucrative way for advertisers to make money. And that means you can use them to make money as a publisher, too.
Pop-ups and pop-unders are perfect for sites with high visitor numbers but low engagement. If your visitors aren’t clicking any of your ads while on your site, you might as well earn on them when they enter or leave.
Revenue from this type of ads is quite low–earnings are often just pennies per thousands impressions. Still, if you got hundreds of thousands visitor per month if could add up to some nice numbers.
Popular pop-up advertising companies
7. Sponsored content
Also called advertorials, sponsored content is a great way of adding valuable content to your site while earning some money in the process.
With sponsored content, advertisers write posts on the topic your site covers to show their expertise and build their brand.
It’s also a great way of doing a sponsored giveaway together with an advertiser (so you can feel a bit like Oprah).
Sponsored content is often confused with paid links, where an advertiser is pays solely for link placement. Paid links can get you in trouble with Google, and there’s a fine line between sponsored content and paid links. A good rule of thumb here is that your audience should value the content and learn something from it. It’s the content that matters, not so much the actual link to the paying advertiser.
Selling sponsored content can best be done by yourself, since most networks are easily abused for link building. Depending on your traffic you can charge anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollars per post.
8. Related posts
Selling related posts is a relatively new way of earning money. Instead of linking to related posts within your own site, you can link to paid posts, usually on a CPC basis. In most cases you use a plugin which combines your own related posts with paid ones.
Related posts are usually placed underneath each article, and when a reader gets that far they are usually very much engaged and interested in what you have to offer. Because of this high engagement level, selling related posts can turn into a nice income.
To qualify for related post advertising, you’ll need to have a high quality site and high levels of traffic.
You may still be better off using that space for a higher paying affiliate ad, since the reader’s engagement at this point is worth serious money. Testing is key.
Popular related post advertising companies
9. Email advertising
When you run a popular newsletter you can sell space in your emails as well as on your website.
You can charge a one-time fee or promote affiliate deals. If you go the affiliate route, make sure the program allows for email advertising, especially when working with networks.
When you have a few thousands targeted subscribers, it is possible to earn a few hundred dollars on each mailing. Professional newsletter tools allow for excellent split-testing so you can easily try out what works best.
Ads in newsletters are mostly sold directly to advertisers, while for affiliate deals you can use the companies listed above.
10. Selling your site
The ultimate form of monetizing of your site is selling it. If you managed to successfully implement one or more of the strategies above, your site might be worth quite a lot of money.
While selling your site puts money in the bank, there are other benefits as well. You can stop worrying about your traffic and ad performance. It also frees up your time which you can use for other projects.
The main problem with selling your site is deciding when to do it. Sell too soon and you might be leaving money on the table, sell too late and you will receive less money than you like. Especially with websites revenue can be very volatile, so it will always be a gamble. General rule is to sell when your website’s income stabilizes for a few months.
You can sell your site directly to a buyer or use a marketplace or agency for it. The latter will charge you a commission but will mostly do all the work for you.
Sale prices vary widely, from a few thousand dollars to well into the six figures and beyond.
Popular places to sell your site
Try everything, but track your results
The best way to earn money from your site depends on your content and design as well as traffic.
I can’t stress enough that you should always test what works best. I personally turned one specific low earning page into a high earner by displaying a very relevant affiliate product instead of regular ads.
Try different ads and ad placements on your site–just be sure to track the results.
Do you have a preferred monetization strategy? Have you worked with any companies that helped you monetize your site?
Let me know in the comments below!