This article was updated on the 9th of November, 2016 to modernize the list of suggestions and improve formatting.
Two years ago, Jacco Blankenspoor wrote a wonderful article detailing the 10 best ways to earn money from your website, but as the web evolves at an accelerated rate (and as a result, the way we engage with the web evolves), it’s ever the more important that our monetization methods evolve with it. If we want to monetize our websites effectively, it’s essential that we stay up-to-date with the current web and social trends.
Let’s discuss 10 of the best ways to monetize your site in 2016.
1. Cost-Per-Click Ads
Cost-Per-Click advertising (CPC for short) is still very relevant in 2016. CPC works by displaying ads on your website, and when a visitor clicks on one of those ads, your website generates revenue.
Google AdSense (yes, it still exists!) is still a viable choice, but Infolinks might be a better alternative (you can use AdSense and Infolinks side-by-side to see what works best for you).
First of all, Infolinks works by finding relevant keywords in your content and displaying ads when you hover over those keywords, which is far less intrusive than Adsense. Other than inline ads, Infolinks offers several other options, and a useful self-serve ad buying platform for those who’d like to boost their own traffic.
Infolinks ads are also loaded after the content so that the ads don’t affect your website loading speeds. Despite still being the third largest ad marketplace, Infolinks actively try to help their publishers increase revenue, whereas AdSense tends to save these efforts for their more premium users.
2. Cost-Per-Mille Ads
Cost-Per-Mille (CPM) basically means “cost-per-thousand-impressions” — it’s all about how much traffic your blog has.
BuySellAds offers you 75% of the revenue share and pays out on-demand, and with no minimum traffic requirements, it becomes an ideal option for those starting out. Even better, you can substitute unsold space for AdSense ads, ensuring that you’re always making money. Personally, the only downside that I’ve noticed is that there’s a lot of competition among design blogs.
Exponential (formerly Tribal Fusion) is at the other end of this spectrum, requiring a whopping 500,000 monthly views. That being said, the payout rates are very lucrative. Its highly targeted ads make it an excellent choice for niche websites, so it’s certainly something to aim towards while building up your audience with Adsense or BSA.
FYI: Google AdSense also offers CPM advertising.
3. Fixed-Price Ads
Fixed-price advertising is when you set a flat fee for your ads, a setup that tends to attract smaller advertisers with a very specific budget. I’d also recommend BuySellAds for this due their extensive range of tools that can help the smaller website (those with less than 100,000 impressions) sell their inventory directly to advertisers. Fixed pricing = clear expectations.
Sponsored content is a terrific way of monetizing your website without using up your screen real estate, for those that like to keep the focus on the content without distracting the user with web ads. Sponsored content is supposed to be cohesive with the webpage, as if the content would still be there even if it wasn’t sponsored to be. When you observe eye-tracking studies it’s clear that traditional ads tend to be ignored — that’s if they aren’t blocked by ad-blockers that is.
Sponsored ads (sometimes called “advertorials”) can deliver relevant, useful, high-quality content, and when relevant content equals higher engagement, higher engagement equals more value, and more value equals more revenue. If you’re looking for a modern monetization method, make sure you consider sponsored content.
Remember to stay in the ethical clear and disclose sponsorship, at the top of the content before the user invests time in reading the piece.
Cooperatize and Taboola are two big names in this field.
5. Subscriptions and Paywalls
Subscription-based content isn’t anything new, but as traditional web ads start to fall out of favor, paywalled content can generate high income when done right and with integrity. It also gives you full control over what actually appears on your site. By paywalled content I mean online courses, ebooks, downloadable goodies and so on.
Looking for inspiration? Check out Skillshare and Envato Tuts+, which offer both free and premium high-quality content side-by-side.
6. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is the underdog in this list. While networks like CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction) still exist, affiliate marketing for the modern web works best when you connect directly with affiliates you feel are relevant to your website. Have a blog about iOS apps or books? Try the iTunes Affiliate Program. Sell design resources? Try promoting other makers on Creative Market. I’m a digital nomad that lives in a different country every month (and sometimes blogs about it), so the apartments that I live in and recommend via the Airbnb Referral Program can sometimes earn me a lot of Airbnb credits!
Connect with affiliates that mean something to you. By working directly with affiliates you’ll find that the revenue share is a lot more competitive as well!
7. Related Posts
While this type of advertising does have a bit of a bad reputation for being spammy, there are a number of ad networks serving relevant, useful content — Disqus is making bold leaps with their “Sponsored Story” and “Sponsored Links” advertising that are built into the comment widget you might already be using. Even though Disqus take 50% of the revenue, you don’t really have much to lose if your website already has Disqus installed.
8. Email Advertising
Email advertising falls into two categories: sponsored content and traditional display ads, both of which are effective. You can find advertisers using many of the same techniques as you would with web advertising (BuySellAds, having an “Advertise Here” webpage, etc); the difference is that email advertising doesn’t take up any screen real estate on your website and in fact engagement rates tend to be higher (users often know what areas of a website to avoid if they don’t want to see ads).
9. Podcast Advertising
Podcasting is a unique skill I must admit, but the results are, well, they’re good. Midroll claims that 61% of listeners made a purchase after listening to an advert, so it’s no wonder that their customers are pretty world class (Dunkin’ Donuts, HBO, Squarespace, etc). If you’re not much of writer but you’re not exactly shy either, podcasting could be for you.
10. Selling Your Website
Selling your website may seem a little nonsensical. If your traffic is sky high, why sell it? If it’s too low, is it even worth it? Actually, it’s more common than you might think for high-traffic websites to have difficulty with monetization. Check out these ten reasons you might want to sell your site.
Often enough, while a website might accumulate a tonne of visitors, somebody else might be able to monetize it better, and that’s why we have marketplaces (like Flippa, for example) where you can sell websites for a profit.
Bottom line: we’re not done with traditional advertising yet, but you may find some of the modern approaches more interesting at the very least. It’s important to try everything until you find a method that suits you — networks like BuySellAds offer anything from sponsored tweets to display ads and still allow you to integrate AdSense into empty ad placements, so there’s a lot of room for experimentation there. Just remember to give each type of advertising time to blossom before writing it off.
Here’s a shout-out to those who have been successful with monetizing their website: do you have any success stories you’d like to share in the comments? Tell us how you monetize!