Whether you’re starting a website to make money or you want to make money with the website you already have, there are a number of options, strategies, and styles for making income from your blog or website. In this article, I break down the possibilities and list some of the more popular services available to help you in each area.
How Much Money Do You Want to Make?
This isn’t a trick question. Do you simply want to earn enough money to pay for your website expenses? Do you want to make enough to cover a daily latte or buy a nice dinner out once a week? Do you expect to offset your salary and work less for someone else? Do you expect to make this your new career. Or do you want to hit it big, quit your day job, and sit on the beach sipping rum punch while your website churns out money for you?
The answer to this question matters for a couple reasons:
- I am not selling any get rich quick schemes here. (The rum punch scenario will take some work.)
- Knowing your goals will help you decide how many of the following options you want to implement.
- Knowing your goals will also help you understand how much effort you want to put into implementing them.
Choose to Be Successful
All of the following are valid, legal, and well-supported ways of getting income from your blog or website. However, your success with each of them will depend on your site’s topic, style, traffic, audience, and the effectiveness of your implementation.
If you choose to add one or more of these revenue streams, choose to do it right. For example, if you decide to run ads, place them where they are effective. Don’t hide them in the bottom corner off the beaten path. If you choose to ask for donations, don’t beat around the bush or hide the “donate” button. Directly ask your audience for donations and tell them why you need them. Hope is not a strategy.
Direct Methods of Making Money from Your Website or Blog
This section covers the direct methods of adding a revenue stream to your website. When done successfully, direct methods produce immediate measurable income streams.
1. Directly Selling a Product or Service
Directly selling a product of service online is a common method of making money. It is the obvious choice for people that already have a product or service to sell and it is a great way for people with a bricks and mortar store to expand their revenue opportunities. People without existing products or services can create products in the form of merchandising, eBooks, or consulting.
Directly selling products or services gives you more control over the product, pricing, and its delivery. However, you need to set up a fulfillment system that includes the inventory control, shipping and handling of physical products or the scheduling and delivery of services. The logistics of product delivery can be done in house or outsourced, but it must be managed and can add to the amount of work required. Your profit is the difference between your selling price and the cost of goods, fulfillment, and overhead.
2. Affiliate Sales
If you don’t have a product, service, or store and aren’t interested in carrying an inventory, or figuring out how to get products to customers, you can still make money selling other people’s products. Affiliate sales or affiliate marketing is also known as Pay Per Action (PPA). The goal is to induce your audience to perform some prescribed action, like clicking through a specific link then buying a product or signing up for newsletter or service. When the action is completed, the Affiliate earns a fee in the form of a percentage of the sale or flat rate. These are known as commissions or bounties.
The key to success with affiliate sales is in selling and marketing. Consider yourself a freelance sales person or marketer. Recommend the products or services, persuade your audience to sign up or buy, explain the value proposition and make it easy for them to successfully perform the action that nets you a commission. Passive use of affiliate links is rarely successful and often discouraging. A good strategy is to become an affiliate for products you really believe in or that are tailor made for your audience. Fortunately, you can become an affiliate for nearly any product or brand out there.
The pros and cons of affiliate marketing are the same, you don’t have to worry about the logistics of the sale and delivery but that means you have no control over the sale and delivery. You also have little control over the size of the commission. Program terms can change on a regular basis and programs can end with little or no warning. It can be frustrating to build a nice PPA campaign and then lose the product for which you developed it.
Here are some common PPA programs that will give you access to a huge variety of products and brands:
- Amazon Associates
- Commission Junction
If you are not interested in sales (and let’s face it many of us are n0t), there are always opportunities to earn money from advertising. In this case you, the website owner, provides information or creativity on the topic of your choice. You build an audience that is interested in that topic or your take on it. Companies pay for the opportunity to communicate with that audience.
Advertising comes in many forms. It can be text, banner, video, or audio. It can appear in designated areas of the website, incorporated in the content, pop up or under the website in a new window, or appear before content is made available like trailers, interstitials, or full page ads.
Payment can be based on pay-per-click, pay-per-impression, and flat fee or some combination of them. Pay-per-click is like pay for performance. You only get paid if your audience member is interested enough to click the ad and leave your site. Pay-per-impression is sometimes called CPM or cost per mille which is the amount you are paid per 1000 views of the ad. Flat Fee advertising is an agreed upon rate to show and ad for an agreed upon time regardless of the clicks or impressions. Flat fee advertising allows the advertiser and the publisher to lock in a rate giving them a known revenue or expense but can be risky if the popularity of the site increases or decreases during the advertising period.
Some people dislike advertising because they think it looks cluttered or makes them look like a sell out. Depending on the implementation, both of those impressions can be true. If you sell too much advertising it can scare away your audience, limit the effectiveness, and reduce the future revenue stream. If you don’t sell enough or you hide the advertising, you may not make enough money to keep the site running. There is a balance with advertising that depends on your topic, your audience, and your style. When you find that balance you will see why advertising has been so widely used to provide free content to the public.
The tip jar is alive and well on the internet. There are some sites that are run solely on donations. Others use donations as a supplemental income stream. They seem to work best when you ask directly for them and specify what the donations are for. Some people put a donation request at the end of each post. Others have a specific goal and use a progress bar to measure the success of the drive.
Some people use donations because they find advertising distasteful or because they want to show that they are impartial when they review products. It can be an effective strategy depending on your goals. Just understand that you will get more donations when you ask for them.
Grants are like donations. You ask an individual, organization, or foundation to give you funding so you can accomplish your goals. Grants are available for many topics including artistic, civic, social, and health causes. I didn’t bundle grants under donations because you must apply for grants and there are usually strings attached. Also, the group funding you usually wants to see results for their grant funding. Grants are not for everyone, but they should definitely be considered if your website is dedicated to a specific cause. In addition to funding, the providers of grants are also willing and eager to help you publicize your work and website.
With donations, you make your work available to all and expect that some people will be generous enough to cover the expenses. With subscriptions, you only allow access to your content to people that pay the toll. On the one hand, paid content goes against the early “information should be free” creed of the internet. On the other hand, capitalism rocks!
For subscription services to be successful, the content must be top notch and provided on a regular basis. If you don’t provide the expected value for the subscription price, refunds and word of mouth will destroy your business model quickly. However if you do have something valuable to offer, the exclusivity of a subscription service can increase that value by limiting the number of people with the information or increasing the perception of value. People love to be in the cool kids club.
PayPal offers subscription payment services. If you choose to offer subscription services you will need to impose security on your content.
Indirect Methods of Making Money from Your Website or Blog
This section deals with indirect methods of making money from your blog or website. Indirect techniques do not result in an immediate or direct income stream but they do increase the value of yourself, your organization, your product, or your service.
1. Provide Useful Information
People go to the internet for information. Make sure that they get that information from you. If you are selling a product, service, association, or idea, you must have a website to let people know about it. Even if you do not take advantage of any online revenue streams, the information you provide on your website can contribute to the value of your offline products or the amount of those products people buy.
Here are some common pieces of information your website should contain:
- Contact Information – How do people reach you?
- Map – How do people find you?
- Product or Service Information – What do you offer? How does it work? Why should they get it from you?
- Specifications – What are the details, functions, features, dimensions, etc of the product of service?
- Testimonials – Do people like your product or service?
- Community Forum- Who else uses your product or service? Do they like it? How do they use it? What questions do they have? What are the answers to those questions. Cultivating an online community of your clients and customers can increase the value of your products.
- White Papers – What are the best practices around using your product? What are the consequences of not using it? How does your product compare to competitors? Are there alternate ways to use the product?
- History – People like to know the story behind the person or organization with which they are dealing.
2. Image Building
Whether your website represents a person, organization, product, or idea, the implementation of that website and the quality of information conveyed there directly affect the image or brand of the website owner. If you are researching and writing on a specific topic, you are probably or soon will be an expert on that topic. When people recognize that expertise your image improves. As the image or brand improves the perceived value of the person, organization, product, or idea improves. A product can sell at a higher price point, a consultant can get more gigs or charge more per hour, an association can bring in more members, and an idea can be adopted by a larger number of people.
3. Increased Opportunities for Offline Revenue
In addition to higher perceived value a good website can increase the opportunities for offline revenue opportunities. Following are some options that open up after you create value for an audience on your website:
- Speaking Engagements
- Book Deals
- Magazine or Journal writing
- Events for your audience or customers
- Job Opportunities
- Business Opportunities
After reading the above article, many will be excited to start a website or monetize the one they already have. Others, will not see anything that gets them excited. Either response is okay. You have to do what is right for you and your website. Starting a website is dirt cheap these days. If you are creating or updating content because you love it, please continue to do so. However, if you believe you should be compensated for your work or wish you could be paid to do what you love, you may want to try out some of these techniques.
This page is updated with specific services and opportunities as they become available or proven. If you recommend any that I have left off, please leave a comment.