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Own Your Niche: How to Monetize a Website in 2021 (12 Ways)

Back in the day, if you wanted to earn a little extra on the side online, you were limited to an eCommerce store.

And they used to be expensive to set up and manage as a side hustle. 

Thankfully, nowadays there are several ways to make money online, and most of them revolve around normal websites.

This article is for you if you: 

  • Have a website that has plenty of monthly traffic 
  • Run a blog and have a dedicated following 
  • Have a social media presence and want to build your brand 

We’ll explain why you should think about monetizing your website and share our favorite strategies to get you on the right track. 

If you’re ready to start making money from your website, read on.  

Why you should monetize your website

The reasoning is simple: if you already have a website, monetizing it allows you to earn extra income with low effort.

Most of the time, you only need to invest a bit of time and effort in the beginning. 

For example, once the display ads are in the right places on your website, or you’ve agreed to the terms of new sponsored content, your site and the traffic it gets will do most of the work. 

Mind you, why would you go through the hard work of setting up a website, marketing it all across the internet, and then not reap some of the benefits in cash? 

You should monetize a website because: 

  • It’s a way to make money on the side. As the saying goes, you shouldn’t keep all your eggs in one basket – that goes for your finances, too. 
  • It strengthens your brand and business. Being able to say that you’ve worked with the big shots in your industry is all the social proof you need. 
  • It helps you understand your audience better. Believe it or not, monetizing your website traffic is a sure way to get anyone interested in all things website analytics and statistics. 

But you might think that’s easier said than done. 

How to monetize a website is really the question you’re asking yourself, right?

Luckily for you, we’ve done the heavy lifting and uncovered the top monetization strategies to help you get started. 

How to monetize a website – the practical checklist

There are plenty of ways to monetize a website and the best one for you mainly depends on your niche, personal interests, and the resources available. 

Ideally, you should aim to monetize a website without sacrificing the user experience. 

With that in mind, don’t go selling ad space left, right, and center to advertisers that would look way out of place on your site. 

Instead, learn how to monetize a website in a way that will be sustainable and actually boost your brand image among your readers. 

Here are our favorite ways to get started. 

1. Try out affiliate marketing

Just One Cookbook affiliate marketing example
Affiliate links in action at Just One Cookbook

Affiliate marketing is a foolproof way to monetize your website or blog. 

Why? 

Because when done right, affiliate marketing helps readers to make informed decisions and compare various products or services. 

Affiliate marketing is a simple way to make money on your website: usually, you get a commission every time your readers and visitors make a purchase through your website. 

You place affiliate links strategically inside your website’s content and get people to click on them. 

Basically, you’re putting in a good word about products and services that suit your website’s overall content. 

In order to make an affiliate marketing campaign a success, you need to remember to be mindful of your audience and the products you want to promote.

Essentially, that means sticking to campaigns that are related to your niche, organically suit your site’s content, and seem natural to your readers. 

For a gardening blog, for example, you’d be creating content around plants, not listicles for the best sneakers for marathon running.  

You also need to place your affiliate links strategically on pages that actually get traffic: otherwise, you’ll have no luck with converting your website traffic into orders. 

Ideal for: Hobby websites, blogs 

2. Make Google AdSense your best buddy

Stats on a computer screen in a white room

Using pay-per-click advertising to monetize your website might seem counterintuitive at first. 

But this is a website monetization strategy all website owners should know about.

If your website’s not ranking high on search engines, running pay-per-click ad campaigns with Google AdSense can help to get more traffic for your website and increase your bottom line. 

Since paid advertising sits at the top of the search results page, you’ll have an easier time getting your site noticed – especially if you have a bit of money to spend upfront. 

Google’s paid adverts operate on a cost-per-click model, meaning that you pay for each click your advert gets. 

That’s why it’s important that you get yourself familiar with the bidding system of Google AdSense and target keywords that are more likely to convert your traffic into real, paying customers. 

The more traffic your website receives, the better your SEO will look, and before you know it, you’ll be ranking organically for all the important keywords. 

Ideal for: Business websites

3. Start selling ad space

A person walking on a sidewalk past a wall of ads

Do you get plenty of traffic to your website? 

You should sell ad space directly to those interested and make money without lifting a finger. 

Being in charge of your own ad space has its benefits over using an ad network – you have full control over the types of advertisers you work with, and can usually negotiate better deals, too. 

Picking and choosing who gets to advertise on your website is especially important if you’re nurturing an audience that you share a close relationship. 

So, remember to be mindful about user experience: nobody wants to read a website that’s full of ads. 

You’ll quickly lose the trust of your audience if your website gets populated by unrelated and flashy ads overnight. 

Approach companies and brands that suit your website’s overall mission and values: if you run a lifestyle blog, advertising for furniture companies is a natural fit – sports car ads not so much. 

While selling ad space is one of the most popular ways to earn money from your website, pay attention to the ad formats, too. 

Ads based on big image or video files can have a negative impact on your website’s overall speed. That in turn can wreak havoc on your SEO, so set strict guidelines for the best ad formats for your website. 

Ideal for: All websites (as long as ads don’t ruin the web design)

4. Sell a digital product or service 

An eBook visible on an electronic book reader on a wooden table with flowers on it

This is an easy one: if you’re wondering about how to monetize a website, you could set up an online store and start selling digital content. 

Are you an expert in something? 

You could launch an eBook covering the ins and outs of your business niche, or create a video series for a sports routine. 

You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to pay for an online yoga course or a personalized food plan by a certified nutritionist. 

If you’re a food blogger you could create a digital cookbook, or create a video series for different cooking techniques. 

You could also be available for people to book you as a digital speaker at virtual events or, if you’re into video games, help other players level up their characters against a fee. 

Chances are that you can monetize your knowledge or a hobby, so get creative and think outside of the box – there’s most likely a way to create digital content based on your niche.

Ideal for: Consultancy and hobby websites

5. Become part of ad networks 

Billboards lit with ads in a city at night

Ad networks like AdCash and Adservice are some of the safest and easiest ways to monetize your website.

All you need to do is sign up as a publisher and dedicate space on your site for display ads.  

As a publisher, you can choose the ad campaigns that you want to feature on your website and simply grab the assets and tracking links from the platform. 

Depending on the network, you get paid based on the total number of sales the traffic you’re sending to the advertiser generates. 

That’s why it’s important that you know the people who visit your website and the readers of your blog, and select ad content that they are most interested in. 

Usually, you have an account manager who can help you to find the right kind of sponsored content and display ads to display on your site. 

Since the network takes a cut of your commission, you can most often get started for free – no need to worry about a fixed per month payment here. 

As long as you’re vigilantly analyzing the performance of your chosen campaigns, you can easily adjust, optimize, and promote the best-performing campaigns in the most prominent channels. 

For example, you might notice that banner ads promoting hair accessories gather lots of clicks and conversions on landing pages X and Y, but have hardly any traction in your newsletter. 

In this case, it might make the most sense to change to another campaign in your newsletter, but keep the landing page ads running as usual. 

Ideal for: All websites 

6. Create a membership website

If you’re not fond of display ads compromising your website’s user experience, creating a membership website might be the perfect way to monetize your site. 

Especially if you have a niche target audience who’s willing to pay money to view your content, a membership site is one of the best ways to make money online. 

Get started by offering a few free samples of your content (think a digital product like an eBook, a study, or a course, for example) and by collecting plenty of testimonials from reoccurring website visitors. 

You’ll build trust and credibility in the eyes of your audience. 

If you’re not sure how to create a password-protected section for your site, consider using a platform like Patreon to interact with your community members. 

Ideal for: Influencers, thought leaders, bloggers 

7. Be open to sponsored posts 

Do you have a blog? Or maybe you frequently publish articles and other content on your site? 

Sponsored content could be a great way to monetize a website with a blog or other content platform, because:

  • Partnering up with industry experts and other thought leaders strengthens your own expert status in your field 
  • Your site and brand gets better exposure 
  • Your content gets introduced to new readers 

Sponsored posts are especially popular on social media, and if you have the traffic and the correct niche audience, you can expect them to bring in quite a bit of money.  

Just make sure you’re transparent about sponsored content, though. There have been plenty of social media influencers who have lost their popularity due to undisclosed sponsorship deals.

Do your background research and think whether you’d actually use the products or services that you’re thinking of promoting through sponsorships. 

A good way to weave sponsorships into your content is by focusing on creating quality content around the sponsored posts. 

Are you teaming up with a beverage company? Think about sharing your favorite holiday meals that go perfectly with the drinks you’re meant to promote. 

Or if you’re accepting sponsorship from a clothing company, think about how the company’s values fit your website. If you’re a big advocate for all things organic, a company vouching to use only local organic materials won’t look out of place on your website or blog.

Ideal for: Content-driven websites, blogs 

8. Keep premium content behind a paywall

Backlinko Blog premium content example

When it comes to website monetization strategies, paywalls have become commonplace in recent years. 

News outlets often offer premium news content for readers with a subscription, and there’s no reason why you can’t do the same. 

If you’re already thinking about creating digital content (think eBooks, webinars, and courses), offering some samples for free could be a lucrative strategy to monetize a website. 

Let’s say your site focuses on all things pedigree cats. 

In addition to your blog covering the ins and outs of keeping a cat and your funny Instagram accounts for your own cats, you could offer premium content like live streams and downloadable how-to guides to people for a fixed one-time fee, or a subscription. 

Or if you run a cake and baking site, you could think about having the basic cake recipes available for all the world to see, but keep more elaborate decorating techniques and seasonal dessert recipes behind a paywall.  

Pay attention to your pricing and consider what added value your premium content gives the readers. 

If you’re able to, use a competitor’s pricing as a benchmark for yours, and conduct surveys with your existing readership.

This way you’ll be able to find out the limit people are willing to pay to access your content.

Ideal for: Blogs, business websites 

9. Build an email list 

Zoella newsletter popup example

Did you know that you can earn money with a strong email list? 

If you’re good with words or have a great idea for a niche newsletter, this could be the best way to monetize your blog.

Building an email list is a great way of getting a hold of readers and people who are still on the fence when it comes to buying your products or services. 

And most marketers swear by the profitability of email marketing, too – you can expect to make over $40 at best for every dollar you spend.  

If your company serves different audiences or locales, there’s nothing stopping you from creating multiple email lists with a different focus and messaging. 

A few ways to make money with your email list could be: 

  • Placing banner ads within your emails 
  • Including sponsored posts or sections in your newsletter
  • Placing affiliate links strategically in your content 
  • Offering your email list other brands in your field 

A word of warning: make sure you have collected your readers’ opt-in for third-party emails and communication if you decide to rent out or run outsider newsletter campaigns on your email lists.

Without permission, you’ll likely upset a lot of people and you can get yourself in legal trouble.  

Start subtly, with one or two ads per month, and see how your audience responds. 

Ideal for: Blogs, hobby websites

10. Collect and accept donations from site visitors

A person handing out cash indoors

It’s not just charities and nonprofits that actively seek donations from people. 

Creative individuals and freelancers have been looking for sponsorship and support in the form of individual donations and grants since ancient times. 

Whether you’re creating content for the sheer joy of it or raising awareness for a particular cause, pay attention to a simple donation button, and painless payment flow. 

Heatmapping tools can be helpful in determining the perfect position for your donation buttons, but don’t be shy about running A/B tests to get to the bottom of visitor behavior. 

Consider also organizing regular digital events like live streams to encourage donations and regular engagement with your audience. 

This website monetization strategy can be easily combined with exclusive or VIP content that’s only available for monthly donors or patrons. 

If you’re building a personal brand, you could host members-only events for regular patrons or create members-only forums or chat rooms, where only patrons can have a direct line of communication to you. 

Online stores and business websites, on the other hand, can remember their supporters with holiday and birthday gifts or exclusive discounts or products. 

Ideal for: Charity websites, influencers, blogs 

11. Try out website flipping 

Zyro website editor GIF

Have you got an eye for web design? 

If you consider yourself good at building websites, why not sell some of your creations to the highest bidder? 

Nowadays you don’t even need to know how to code if you’re using a website builder – meaning that a process that used to take hours can now be done in moments. 

You could start by creating websites for a few friends and family members, and use them as your portfolio pieces. 

After that, you can set up profiles on freelance websites like Fiverr and Upwork and start hunting for other clients. 

Using a website builder like Zyro makes the job fast and simple, meaning that you won’t have to dilute your profits by paying external contractors for coding and design tasks. 

While website flipping is a more short-term monetization strategy, if you enjoy the process of building a website in the first place, you’re basically monetizing a hobby.

And we can’t think of a better side hustle than that. 

Ideal for: Designers, portfolio websites 

12.  Add a paid job board or directory to your site 

Still not sure how to monetize a website? 

If you can’t place display ads on your website due to legal or visual reasons, consider starting a job board. 

This approach is ideal for business and community sites with a lot of traffic or segmented readership. 

All you need to do is create a landing page and start collecting job ads that are relevant to your site – and setting a price tag on each ad, of course.

Make sure you do your research prior to approaching HR representatives in your industry – you don’t want to be asking for a sum that’s way above the industry average. 

The price you can ask for job ads could be influenced by many factors, including: 

  • Your traffic. Even if you’re not getting tons and tons of traffic to your site, quality wins over quantity. If you’re able to reach the right people, your website could be a gold mine to a hiring manager. 
  • Your expertise in the field. Make sure you create a job board around a field you’re an expert in – otherwise you’ll have a hard time convincing people to pay to have their job ads posted on your site. 
  • How long the ad can be live for. Are you planning on only showing your ads for a fixed period of time, or until the position has been filed? 

Ideal for: Business websites, community websites 

Become an expert in making money with your website

There are almost as many ways to monetize a website as there are websites on the internet. 

But it doesn’t have to be all hard work and no fun: in fact, you can earn money without doing much at all, if you’ve done your groundwork well. 

So, whether you decide to test out affiliate links in your blog or launch your own eBook series, do your research, understand your audience, and soon enough you’ll be reaping the rewards.

Written by

Author avatar

Matleena

Matleena is a seasoned eCommerce writer, with a particular interest in emerging digital marketing trends, dropshipping, and growth hacking. She’s addicted to coming up with new eCommerce business ideas and making them a reality; she deserves her nickname of ‘print on demand business mogul.' In her free time, she enjoys cups of good coffee, tends to her balcony garden, and studies Japanese.

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