5 Best Ways to Monetize Your Website Right Now

What’s the best way to monetize a website? It’s the million dollar question and it’s not an easy one to answer. A monetization model which works excellently for one website might not work at all for another website. That said, some monetization models are better than others. What’s more, some monetization models don’t work at all.

And yes, there is a monetization model which really is better than all the rest.

How Do We Know What is the Best Way to Monetize Websites?

People who want to know the best way to monetize their website in 2017 have the benefit of nearly three decades of hindsight. In other words, the internet has been around long enough that, regardless of what your website does, there is a monetization model out there which will work for you.  

What’s more, it’s extremely likely to be one of these five monetization models. So, if you want your website to start making money right now, here are the top five best ways to monetize websites.

5. Start Selling Something

I know, I know. If you wanted to sell stuff online, you would have started an eCommerce business. You can’t just tack merchandise onto any old website in an effort to monetize it. It sounds so obvious, so crude, and so simplistic that it couldn’t possibly work.
Except that it does work. If people are coming to your website day after day, it’s because they like what you do. So why wouldn’t they want to buy something from you that you’ve put a little more time and effort into? They’ve seen the great things you can do for free; now it’s time to show them what you can do for a bit of money.
eBooks are a great way of doing this. If you’ve built a following through writing, you may as well find out if that same following are willing to pay for writing which you’ve been able to spend more time on.
Don’t stop there, though. If people really love what you do, they’ll buy merchandise. DFTBA.com is a website set up by the Vlogbrothers — Hank and John Green — as a way of helping themselves and others to monetize the things they do online. T-shirts, mugs, hats, posters, and anything in between: if you build it, they will come. If they buy it, you can keep doing what you love.

4. Just Ask People for Money… No, Seriously

Once again, the bluntness of this monetization model makes it sound almost ridiculous. Yet, it’s what Wikipedia has done for over 16 years.
Wikipedia users are able to read and edit every aspect of the website (bar a few protected articles here and there) without paying a penny. The site makes all its money through voluntary donations from people who receive no extra benefits or website features for donating.
So does it actually work? Absolutely.
Each Wikipedia fundraiser raises more than the last. Of course, they have to. The site is continuing to grow, and the bigger the site gets the more expensive it is to run. As a result of all this growth, Wikipedia is the fifth biggest website in the world — bigger than Yahoo, bigger than Amazon, bigger than Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Netflix.
Wikipedia’s success isn’t a one-off, either. Websites such as Patreon allows internet creators to make money through a voluntary donation model. As a result, people can continue to do what they do — give away their content for free — while they are funded by the generosity of donations.
Even international newspapers like The Guardian have adopted a donation model, believing it to be the best way to monetize its website. Though, other newspapers have adopted a different tact…

3. Free Trials, Freemium Content, and Soft Paywalls

If the first two monetization models are built around trust and love for your supporters, paywalls are built around more solid business principles. This doesn’t make them necessarily better, but there’s no denying how well paywalls of different types have worked for some of the biggest content providers on the internet.
There are soft paywalls and hard paywalls. Soft paywalls work by allowing users to view some content for free and then charging for other content. There are different ways of doing this. Websites like the Telegraph and Harvard Business Review have an article limit. Once you go beyond that limit, you’re forced to either wait until next month or pay to subscribe.
However, the Telegraph also advertises its premium content alongside its free news coverage. This premium content needs to be paid for right away. YouTube has been using this model as well, by advertising premium YouTube Red content alongside regular YouTube content.
Then there are free trials. Netflix and many other streaming services offer a month’s free trial. These lead generation offers tend to be so successful that, once signed up, a third of users end up paying anyway.

2. Hard Paywalls — A Gamble Based on Great Content

Netflix and other subscription streaming services offer a trial because they know that the content they offer behind their hard paywall is worth paying for. This strategy is risky because it relies on your content being unique and exclusive. Everyone likes to think that this is the case with the content they provide. But, if you’re going to make money behind a hard paywall, you need to be honest with yourself. Is your content really unique and exclusive, or can I get a carbon copy elsewhere for free?

Netflix has built up a unique relationship with studios which means that its content (critically acclaimed series like House of Cards or critically acclaimed films like Beasts of No Nation) are exclusive to Netflix. The same is true with the Wall Street Journal’s content. No-one else can offer insight like theirs into the US economy because of the publication’s deep and long-lasting connections with Wall Street itself.

1. Affiliate Marketing Networks Are The Best Way to Monetize Websites

It’s a bold claim, but it’s a correct one. Advertising has been monetizing the internet since the beginning and, while other monetization models have attempted to replace it, none have. Instead, advertising has improved — and improved dramatically. Affiliate marketing networks are the result of all this progress. So, how do they work?
The internet of yesteryear was a strange place. Filled with spammy pop-ups on respectable websites and respectable brands advertising on dodgy websites, the world wide web was a free for all, as advertisers and publishers failed to connect with each other.
Affiliate marketing networks are the best way to monetize websites because they help to bridge this gap. By getting quality advertisers and publishers to sign up to one network, affiliate marketing services help to place relevant, high-quality adverts on relevant, high-quality publications. Advertisers sign up because it’s a great way to ensure that their message is being heard by audiences who are more likely to engage with their content.
And for websites? It’s a fantastic way to monetize because of its simplicity. Affiliate networks give you a code, you place that code in your site, and then you can start earning money straight away. For their ease, the scale of their success, and the longevity of their success, affiliate marketing networks really are the number one way to monetize your website.

About the Author

Financial professional and online entrepreneur, I'm best known as The Financial Blogger. I want to make money because I like enjoying life the way it should be; with a lot of great food and wine! I also love to spend time with my lovely wife and 3 kids!