Unless you're building a website for completely altruistic reasons, chances are you want to get paid at least something to compensate for the time and effort you've put into your site! If you're still struggling to make a profit, consider any of the following website monetization models:
Banner advertisements (as well as related contextual paid links) are widely seen as the lowest form of website monetization. Unless you're able to guarantee hundreds of thousands of views to your site each month, most merchants aren't going to be willing to shell out the big bucks to advertise on your site.
The exception to this rule is the Google Adsense program, which allows you to place banner advertisements on your site, no matter how many daily pageviews your site receives. Adsense is the publishing arm of Google's Adwords program, meaning that interested site owners can place banner advertisements featuring messages from Adwords advertisers on their sites and earn a percentage of the Adwords cost-per-click (CPC) as payment.
In general, Google Adsense clicks don't earn much – typically ranging from a few cents to a few dollars – although niches where the Adwords CPC is high (for example, insurance sales, medical keywords and financial terms) can earn advertisers more money.
According to Wikipedia:
“Affiliate marketing is a marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate's own marketing efforts. Examples include rewards sites, where users are rewarded with cash or gifts, for the completion of an offer, and the referral of others to the site.”
Making money with affiliate promotions is akin to receiving a commission for selling a retail item. Instead of making, manufacturing or delivering your own products, you simply refer a customer to another merchant. If the sale is made, you receive a percentage of the sale price (or a flat fee, depending on the program) in exchange for sending the customer over.
Affiliate promotions are an easy monetization strategy to implement on your website because they're relatively low involvement. You will need to put a little effort into finding the right products for your audience and setting up your affiliate link (the merchant-specific link that generates a cookie telling the merchant who to award the affiliate commission to), but otherwise, you won't have to deal with any of the hassles of selling your own product.
To find affiliate products to promote, you can either contact the merchant of a product you'd like to promote directly (many websites have a specific “Affiliates” page with more information) or work with a database of affiliate providers. The most popular of these databases include Commission Junction, Clickbank and Shareasale.
Info Product Sales
Another way to earn money from your website is to sell information. This is an especially attractive model if you have intermediate- or expert-level knowledge of a subject that other people are willing to pay for.
But don't think that the only demand in this area exists in highly technical or internet technology related niches. There are plenty of people out there who are willing to pay for materials on topics as obscure as “gluten-free living” or “bellydancing professionally”. Think about it – if you're strapped for time, spending a few dollars on a paid information product can seem quite reasonable compared to spending hours online for bits of information.
Paid info products come in many different shapes and sizes, from ebooks to videos to podcasts and more. The key to succeeding with these products comes in determining exactly what type of information your potential customers are looking for, what formats they want to receive this information in and what they're willing to pay for it.
If you already have a website, getting this information can be as simple as posting a survey for your readers to fill out in exchange for some small bonus. If not, you can always conduct a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign that redirects to this same survey in order to find the information you need.
Of course, you don't have to pack your website full of advertisements in order to turn a profit. Depending on the industry you're in, it may make just as much sense to use your website as a lead generation tool that will help you close sales in person.
If you run an offline business that survives on new leads – for example, an insurance agency, a web design practice, a bank, etc. – your website can be used as a tool to help drum up new business.
To use your website in order to collect leads, you'll need a contact form that gathers all of the information needed to follow up with a prospect. For some businesses, this might simply be a name and email address, while other companies will want to gather home addresses, phone numbers and other information. You may also want to include a special bonus (like a special discount or free ebook) in order to encourage people to fill out your contact form.
Once your form is in place on your website, the key to using your site as a lead generation tool is to get your website in front of your potential clients' eyeballs. To do this, you can use search engine optimization in order to get your site ranked in the search engine results pages for relevant keywords or you can use PPC ads to have your site listed as a sponsored search partner.
Paid Membership Sites
Paid membership sites are another interesting way to profit off of your website. Expanding from our description of info products earlier, paid membership sites allow people to set up a subscription to your site in order to receive access to premium content that isn't available to the general public. Subscription types – as well as the benefits that subscribers receive – can vary widely, although most offer access to a members' forum and are billed monthly.
For an interesting example of a paid membership site, consider Keith Snow's “Harvest Eating” program. Although the online recipes niche is incredibly crowded, Keith found a way to profit by storing his premium cooking demonstration videos and recipes behind a membership. With membership options starting at just $7.99/month, Snow is able to generate income from his site while giving his readers access to the information they're looking for.
Setting up a paid membership site doesn't have to be complicated (there are plenty of free and paid WordPress plugins that handle this task admirably), but be warned – running a successful paid membership site means investing regular time in meeting your subscribers' expectations. If you aren't able to deliver the value you promise, you'll have a difficult time retaining paid subscribers.
Finally, keep in mind that there's nothing limiting you to selecting only one of these models. By responding to your visitors' needs and experimenting with different monetization models, you should hit on the right combination that will keep your readers happy and provide the financial compensation necessary to keep your business alive.