Building a website that makes money is a dream of many but a reality to few and I am one of the lucky few. I tried one money making method after another until I found the right ones to suit my websites. The problem was, there are just too many opportunities to make money from a website and the worst part was making that choice.
Whether you have an established website you want to monetize or you plan to build a new website to create an additional stream of income, here are 55 ways to make money from a website:
1. Ask for donations
The easiest way to monetize a website, but also usually the least effective. I see some great websites with awesome content relying on donations and I do not believe it to be a solid way to make money from a website. If you want to earn money you should probably come out of the closet and just go for it.
2. Become an Amazon Affiliate
Promote Amazon.com products on your website in exchange for a small (4% to 8%) commission. Probably the second easiest way to make money online, but only effective if you can sell lots of cheap items or at least a few very expensive items. But don’t be fooled as all little things can add up to big earnings and all you have to do is remember to put your affiliate link into your relevant content.
Recommended for YouWebcast: Growth at a Scale Up: How to Grow When You're No Longer a Startup
See how I make money with a WordPress website using the Amazon affiliate system.
3. Become a digital goods affiliate
Sell ebooks, automated online training, and other digital products with high (50% or more) commissions. The products you advertise usually must match your niche perfectly in order for you to make any sales.
I could give you a big list of different affiliate networks etc but I found an awesome list of 53 different ad networks where you can earn money for your website written by Spenser Haws. This includes places like Clickbank, Commission Junction, Adsense and more.
4. Create your own digital good
Ebooks can be short if they get straight to the point and you can create a 5 hour video course in a single afternoon by just talking into your webcam. (Assuming you’re already an expert in your niche.) Creating your own course ensures it matches your niche perfectly, increasing the likelihood visitors will buy it.
5. Google Ads or other automated advertising
Very easy, but only profitable if people who visit your site are likely to buy high-margin products and services through advertising links.
6. Non-automated advertising
Does the same company keep buying advertisements on your site? Ask them if they want to advertise in bulk for a discount—you get assured income and they get a better rate.
7. Joint Venture #1
Work with your top advertisers to create a product, service, or pitch for just your audience. The advertiser gets an increased conversion rate on your website and you get a commission from every sale. Just make sure you partner up with the real deal.
8. Get a List and USE it
Create a weekly email newsletter to turn occasional visitors into regular readers.
The more content of yours people read, the more opportunities you have to sell to them. Even if you create an autoresponder series to send out to your readers, just keep it interesting and give give give.
9. Create a forum #1
Encourage people to join a forum for your niche. Active forum members will return to your forum everyday, creating additional opportunities for you to sell to them. People that join a particular niche forum are very engaged in the topic.
10. Create a forum #2
Create a paid subscription forum for people to help each other. (Often called a Mastermind in marketing.) An ideal way to monetize a niche which helps people become more effective.
11. Sell your audience
People will pay you to write about their products and services on your popular website. This is a personalized version of advertising, but it usually requires a large audience or an audience likely to buy high-end products and services.
12. Use your audience in a triangulation deal
For example, a book publisher (triangle side #1) will pay you (side #2) to write a book because your website has a large audience, and your audience (side #3) will buy your book from the publisher. Triangulation deals can benefit all sides, making everyone happier or richer.
13. Rent your success
If you have a website other people envy, offer high-priced premium coaching to help other people build their websites. People want to learn from pros, so monetize your experience. If you have walked the walk and not just talked the talk then people want to know how you did it!
14. Create an event online
Usually called webinars, you can get your audience to pay to join a live online training session or inspirational speech, and all it costs you is an hour in front of a webcam and some bandwidth.
15. Create an event offline
If your webinars are always successful, you can probably host a conference. For the price of renting a few rooms in a hotel and hiring a few speakers from your niche, you can easily collect $500, $1,000, or more per person from dozens or hundreds of attendees.
But don’t stress yourself out by taking on money making methods that are just not right for you. If you are simply not good at public speaking then find something else you are good at.
16. Speak in someone else’s webinar or offline event for a fee
Use your authority as the owner of a successful website in your niche to command high rates. Plus, people who like your speech will like you and start to visit your site more often.
17. Sell artifacts
If you use collectible material to create your website, don’t just archive them or throw them away. Sell them to your audience. For example, many webcomics sell the hand-drawn panels they used to create each comic. Hardware review sites can sell the devices they tested, sometimes at a premium over the retail price.
18. Sell your statistics
Smart companies are desperate for data about their customers, so if your website serves their potential customers, you have data they can use to better target the traffic they want. Be careful—they could use that data to steal your best organic search traffic—but, then, you can also charge a large fee for simple access to your Google Analytics data.
19. Sell merchandise
Successful websites are their own brand, and people sometimes identify themselves with brands they like by wearing t-shirts and other merchandise with that brand’s signature logo or appearance.
20. “A penny saved is a penny earned.” (Ben Franklin)
Use the advantages of earning an income from your website to save money. A key advantage is that you can live anywhere with an Internet connection—so why are you living in some high-rent district instead of in an affordable beach house with servants in Bali or Thailand?
21. Joint venture #2
Once you have a profitable website, find more customers by creating joint ventures with other people in your niche who aren’t direct competitors. Do more than offer to guest post; develop a free in-depth video or webinar for their audience—anyone who enjoys the video or webinar will then become part of your audience so you can sell them your products.
22. Divide and profit
When part of your website is more profitable than another part of your website, split it into two websites and sell the less profitable part. (Or, if part of your website no longer interests you, sell that part.) Rule of thumb: websites should sell for 12 to 24 months worth of profit, so a website earning a meager $200 a month can sell for about $5,000.
23. Make repeatable improvements
Does your website require custom code? Could there be other people who can use that code? Have your developer put the custom code in a WordPress plugin (he should do this anyway for your convenience) and then you can sell it on the WordPress Store.
24. Supplant your advertisers
Look at the advertisements typically displayed on your site. Can your sell any of those things yourself? (Through affiliate advertising and drop shipping, you can sell practically anything.) Then why not remove the Google Ad code from certain pages on your site and display your own advertisements for your own products—and keep the extra profits for yourself? You can even try this out on just a few pages of your site using split testing code.
25. Use your self-advertising experience to create your own Google AdWords campaigns
If you have positive cash flow from your advertisements, even just for a brief period, you can earn thousands of dollars a day through maximum ad exposure. If you are not comfortable with Google Adwords, why not try buysellads.com. Many big niche sites list what adversing space is available on their sites and you can buy a slice through that site.
26. Kickstart your profits
A successful website with an established audience is one of the best research platforms ever available. Find out what your audience dreams about and create a Kickstarter to build it—after factoring in a healthy profit for yourself if the Kickstarter succeeds. (And if it fails, you don’t really lose anything but the time you invested.)
27. Re-brand and resell public domain content and open source software
There are over a million books and software programs which you can legally sell without asking for permission (and still keep all the profits for yourself). The combinations are endless—for example, a public domain study guide for learning Spanish as a foreign language plus a free open source flashcard program can create a $500 product: “The Complete Spanish Study System with over 1,000 digital flashcards in an adaptive learning system which teaches you conversational Spanish within just 90 days.”
28. Telephone consulting
Similar to coaching, but for a single specific problem. All you need to do is put a PayPal Buy It Now button on your site and offer to answer any questions asked during a 30 minutes phone call.
29. Placement advertising
Have you noticed how TV shows frequently use particular products? (As this goes to print, practically every TV show in the U.S. uses Windows 8 computers and tablets in their tech scenes. Last year it was Microsoft SkyDrive, and the year before that it was iPads and MacBooks.) Find someone in your niche and ofter to mention them frequently (but indirectly) on your website for a fee.
Similar to placement advertising but more explicit. Find a company willing to pay for your seal of approval. For example, if you run a leading review site in the medical practice software niche, offer to let a software company pay you to advertise their products as “tested and approved by [your site].”
31. Alternative advertising
Making money from a website doesn’t mean your website needs to make money directly. If you use your website to attract social media followers, consider sending an occasional paid advertisement to your followers for some extra profit.
32. Sell links
Yes, I know Google doesn’t approve of paid linking, but a small number of paid links will look natural enough and help pad your profitable bottom line. The other thing is that Google has links in Adsense ads so not sure why we should feel bad? Everyone needs to earn money and sometimes selling a link can help pay the bills.
This is a great way to make money from your website but you must weigh up the value of your links before doing so. For example, if you sell a link on a page for $100 for one year, make sure you have tested for the possibility of more money already. I have pages that make $30 to $100 a day from a single link placement of my own, so do you think I would sell a link on a page like that? No way!
If you are yet to make sales like that and have not had the chance to test, placing text links into your site for money is a great way to actually prove that your site can make money.
33. Sub-domain co-branding
A special version of co-branding (or a joint venture) where you create a sub-domain on your site dedicated to a specific product; the sub-domain is typically run by the advertiser or your joint venture partner. For example, if your site is example.com, you could create windows8.example.com for a Microsoft advertising campaign. Seeing a product name next to your site domain proves to readers that you really do recommend it, creating a huge value for your advertisers.
34. YouTube partnerships
If you have a successful website, you can probably use your traffic to create a successful YouTube channel, which you can monetize instantly through the YouTube partner program. I have been doing this for years now and you can see one of my Youtube channels at http://www.youtube.com/user/Computerbasics. This channel makes a $1 or more per video per month so I only need 1000 videos to make $1000. Of course if you get a popular video then these averages change dramatically.
Not only that, I use Youtube for one of my main ways to get website traffic, which is awesome traffic by the way, so I am killing two birds with one stone.
35. Resell your content #1
It’s true, Google doesn’t like duplicated content, so you can’t really sell your content to other websites. But what about offline (or private Web access) magazines and journals related to your niche? I have sold and goven away some of my content to educational institutions, community courses and more.
36. Resell your content #2
Also consider spinning—good sites don’t publish spun (rewritten) content, but you can always spin your content and sell it to your less savory (and less intelligent) competition. Don’t tell anyone I said that!
37. Resell your content #3
Turn successful articles on your site into ebooks, either self-distributed or for Kindle and iBooks. (I find the most successful Kindle ebooks are $2 to $5 extended versions of successful pillar/brick articles.)
An effective content reselling strategy can pay 100% of the cost of hiring writers to write more content for your site, leaving 100% of the profits from that content for you to keep. See a tutorial about how to create an ebook to sell on your website or turn into a Kindle book.
To tell you the truth, it is not always necessary to sell a book to make money. You can also use a viral marketing strategies and give away a free ebook that will return good earnings.
38. Advertise on your error pages
Although you really should fix any broken links and errors quickly, you should also make sure your 404 error page features an ad. People who visit broken links were looking for something—but it was missing, so they’re still looking. That gives advertisers a perfect chance to help your visitors by selling them a solution, so advertisements on your error page will often have higher bids than other ads on your site and higher click rates, creating more profit for you.
39. Pay to pull n make money from a website
This does not sound good and it isn’t. Be careful using this strategy—it can backfire. If you have a legitimate grievance against a product or service and you also have a large audience compared to the number of buyers for that product or service, you can start a negative campaign telling everyone about your bad experience with that company. If your campaign reduces their sales, they may be willing to pay to have you pull your negative content. Again, be careful doing this—you could be sued or lose the trust of your readers. I do not recommend this at all but I have seen it happen.
40. Supplant your audience’s current services
If a large part of your audience all subscribe to an easily-duplicated service, consider creating a clone of that service and selling it to your audience directly. For example, backup services, reporting services, hosting services, content creation services, virtual assistant services, and many others.
41. Sell savings
While everyone sells using affiliate links at retail price, you can sell at a discount and earn money straight from the customer. Here’s how: start a savings club for your niche and charge $50, $100, or more a year. On the club’s Member Benefits page, provide coupons to the same products everyone else in your niche sells. How do you get the coupons? Ask for them. If a company will give a 50% affiliate commission for a product, they’ll also probably give a 50% off coupon for it (with no affiliate commission). After all, they earn the same amount of money either way. Then you can advertise that you help your readers get 50% off prices—making your site much more appealing than anyone else within your niche. Plus, you can make your membership a recurring PayPal or credit card transaction so you collect membership fees every year instead of getting a single one-time affiliate commission.
42. Franchise your website
Another variation on how to resell your content. If there are other niches very closely related to your niche, but different enough that your website can’t serve them, you can sell modified copies of your website which serve those niches. For example, a niche website for a particular medical specialist can usually be quickly adapted to work for a different medical specialty. The same is true for lawyer specialties and other professions too. And then there are websites for specific locations which will work well in other locations, such as realtor websites, used book stores, and bed and breakfasts. All of these can be franchised.
43. Sell subscriptions
Some websites which offer very timely information (such as daily investing tips) can sell premium information via newsletter or a special password-protected website section. In general, you have to help people save or make a lot of money on a regular basis in order to charge for an online subscription.
44. Rent out your platform
Charge a small fee to post guest posts on your blog. Not only does this give you a little extra income, but people who pay to post on your platform will want to get the maximum value out of it, so they’re much more likely to send you high-quality guest posts. You have worked hard to build up your traffic so why give it away for free?
45. Sell an emergency consultation
I know we covered coaching and consultations earlier in the list, but this is a special case of a high-profit opportunity. Some people who visit your website are desperate for an immediate answer and are willing to pay for it. For a few dollars a month, you can setup a toll number (a 900 number in the U.S.) which forwards to your cell phone. If you’re an expert in your niche and can answer almost any question, you can charge $5 or $10 a minute to answer emergency questions.
Another good example would be when your website rankings are dropping fast, it would be great to call on an expert.
46. Sell traffic
Some sites which sell ads based on traffic (not clicks) will pay you to include an invisible iframe on your site which loads their site. This is a dangerous blackhat technique which could get you in trouble with Google and which will also increase your page load times, but if you have lots of transitory traffic which isn’t otherwise earning you income, you may want to try it.
47. Do charity public relations
Don’t just use the techniques above with for-profit corporations and entrepreneurs, but also look for charities who are willing to pay to be featured on your site. The charity “industry” spends billions on advertising every year, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t spend some of that on your site.
48. Facilitate exchanges
What does eBay and CraigsList and ABEbooks do? They help their visitors exchange stuff, and they (mostly) do it for a fee. You have an advantage over those sites because you have traffic dedicated to your niche. Do people in your niche all use the same basic products? Can those products be shared or resold? Then you too can help your visitors exchange stuff for a fee. (And there are even open source auction platforms to help you do it.)
49. Sell your customers
We don’t often like to talk about it in polite company, but it’s quite common to sell subscriber data. That doesn’t just include anonymized Google Analytics data as recommended earlier, but also per-IP address data, email addresses, and other data which can identify specific visitors to your site. This is another one I do not recommend as it loses trust, but it is still a viable way to earn money. Some people even make it their business to collect subscriber data just to sell.
50. Sell re-branded services
You don’t have to do the work to make the money. For example, imagine someone who sells laptop repairs online. He receives the laptops by mail, takes them to a local computer repair shop which does the work, bills the customer for the repair cost plus his fee, and mails the repaired laptop back. It takes him one to three hours a week and some weeks (when businesses is booming) he makes over $1,000.
51. Perform digital arbitrage
Some things are unavailable online (or cost more) to people from different countries. For example, some British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) content is unavailable to residents of the United States. In another case, some online retailers won’t ship Internationally. If you can solve these problems, you can charge a fee for your assistance. For example, a simple VPN trick can let a British resident serve BBC content to Americans and a minimum-wage assistant can help you reship packages Internationally.
52. Threaten withdrawal
If your website provides a valuable service, you can threaten to withdrawal it unless you meet certain income goals. Several podcasts I listen to use this model—they say that if donations don’t increase, they’ll have to go to a reduced publishing schedule or stop altogether. But be careful—if you threaten to withdraw a non-unique service, someone might create a clone and steal all of your customers.
53. Sell local
You don’t need a fancy website to promote a typical offline business, all you need to do is answer the questions your customers probably have (“what’s on the restaurant menu?” or “do they sell any…”). Then just add a little local search engine optimization so customers can find you quickly.
54. Sell your experience
If you have experience building a successful website (even if it’s only earning you $10 to $100 a month), you’re light-years ahead of most other digital content professionals, so you can always sell your experience by helping other people build their websites. You can write content, add SEO, manage contractors, and provide a million other useful services. This is also a great way to learn from more experienced experts and get paid at the same time.
55. Sell your site
Everyday, as you wonder whether you should get out of bed early to work on your website, remind yourself that you’re building an asset. Sure, your website will help you earn a monthly income—but it’s also an asset you can probably sell for ten or twenty times what you currently earn each month. That means a little bit of extra effort today to earn a single extra dollar this month actually adds ten or twenty dollars to the sale value of your website.
If you plan well you could also make money from your website even after it is sold.