I thought I'd write a how to article about monetizing a website because it is one of the most frequently asked questions I get about blogging. I grab coffee with fellow entrepreneurs interested in figuring out how to monetize their website a few times a week and go over the same things time and time again.
Before starting, I want to let you know that monetizing a website will take a big investment in your time, and it is NOT something that happens overnight. It's taken me a number of years to figure out how to actually make money, but now I feel like the investment is paying off.
No matter what stage of blogging you are in, it is important to have a vision and strategy to monetize the site. Blogging is a huge time commitment, and you need to monetize it to compensate yourself.
In this article I will explain 7 core monetization strategies; starting with affiliate marketing. I will talk about affiliate marketing most in depth, but please realize that all are important.
1. Affiliate Marketing
Let's begin by looking at the definition of affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate's own marketing efforts. The industry has four core players: the merchant (also known as ‘retailer' or ‘brand'), the network (that contains offers for the affiliate to choose from and also takes care of the payments), the publisher (also known as ‘the affiliate'), and the customer. The market has grown in complexity, resulting in the emergence of a secondary tier of players, including affiliate management agencies, super-affiliates and specialized third party vendors. (Wikepedia.com)
What this means is that affiliate marketing is promoting a company's product or service online. You are rewarded with a commission each time a sale occurs. No matter what industry or type of blog you have, you'll be able to enable affiliate marketing.
How to take action and start generating affiliate income
1. The first step you can take in getting started with affiliate marketing is to set up a legal entity through a company like Corpnet or Legalzoom.com. You can also find the filing papers from the secretary of states website. Once this is completed, fill out the IRS form to get a Tax ID number. The tax ID number will get you in the door with all the affiliate marketing brokers and companies such as Amazon.
2. Once you have your legal entity and tax id, it's time to get started promoting products in your blog posts and as advertisements on your website. If you don't have a blog set up, I'd highly recommend using the WordPress platform, which is FREE and very powerful. In my opinion, it is the best platform available. Next, you'll need to purchase hosting through a company like Bluehost. It is about $6.99 / month and includes a free domain (the URL or website address) this is why so many websites like Inlinehostblogger recommend it. Here is a video showing how to get started with hosting and setting up WordPress with Bluehost's 1 click integration.
Once hosting and wordpress are set up, you'll want to find a professional looking theme. There are many free themes available, but to easily make the site look professional right out of the box I'd recommend getting a theme from a company like Elegant Themes or Theme Forest. This will eliminate a lot of stress and ultimately save you a ton of time. My theme for both DIYPETE.com and ThinkEntrepreneurship.com are from Theme Forest.
Becoming an Amazon Affiliate
Now that we have the basics covered, it's time to get started with a FREE Amazon Affiliate Account. It should only take a few minutes to get signed up. Once approved, you'll be able to market and sell any product on Amazon. The commission is generally around 4-7% depending on the amount of items you sell each month. The commission also varies with the category of the product.
I have a niche blog named www.diyPETE.com where I teach and help people create their own furniture and art. Many of my visitors are just getting started in woodworking or metal work and so they need a few tools. So, in each post I simply type the tools I use for the project and then link text to my Amazon Affiliate link for the product. My top selling Amazon products for that site are the Dewalt Miter Saw and the Kreg Jig Pocket Hole Tool. The Kreg Jig tool retails for $99 on Amazon and so I make roughly $6 to $7 per jig that someone buys through the link. While this may not seem like much, they do add up over time and if you have decent traffic you could easily make an extra hundred dollars per month with a small audience on up to thousands if you have a large audience. Another point to mention is that a cookie or tracking code is given to whomever clicks on your link. So, if they by anything whatsoever on Amazon after clicking on your link you will get a commission. The cookie stays with them for 30 days.
How to get Amazon links:
Once your Amazon affiliate account is set up you can log in and get links for any product on their site. Pretend you write a blog post about coffee and really like the Keurig coffee machines. Simply link to the product using the Amazon code and if someone clicks on the link and ends up purchasing you will make a commission.
You've probably picked this up already, but in case you didn't, you'll notice I've been implementing affiliate links throughout this whole article. I am providing all sorts of free information and my goal is to help you monetize your blog. Hopefully by providing this free help, I am building trust with you and if you want to help out with my blog you may decide to click on one of my links prior to getting setup with hosting or other services. Because this article has taken me about 8 hours to create, I need to have a monetization strategy in place. Otherwise I would not be able to support spending the time I do to create high quality articles.
This should be your mentality as well. One item you will need to add on your site is an affiliate disclaimer like mine. This is for legality purposes and informs your visitors that you do generate revenue on the site via affiliate marketing. See my affiliate disclaimer here.
In addition to simple text links, Amazon also has banners that you can use to advertise. You'll be able to pick a banner or image to advertise the product from Amazon. Copy and paste the code they use and then paste the code in the text/html (instead of visual) area while writing the post on WordPress. A photo of an affiliate banner on my DIY website is below.
Tell Your Friends — MAKE IT SIMPLE! USE PRETTY LINKS
Do you have friends or family who tend to order products from Amazon? If so, tell them to use your affiliate link each time they purchase so you get a commission. Many times, the affiliate link you are given is very long and hard to remember. However, you can get a free plugin like Pretty Link Lite for WordPress that allows you to customize the address. For instance, my Amazon links look something like this: www.amazon.com/thinkentrepreneurship/8038dsalfjlkq8w09341mafd/a;lf;lkj/blablabla803j;3… With Pretty Link, I can tell my friends to simply go to www.thinkentrepreneurship.com/amazon. If you have a product you constantly recommend simply make a pretty link for it. If a friend asks what hosting company to use while out grabbing drinks I'll say head over to www.thinkentrepreneurship.com/bluehost. Boom! You'll make a big commission that easy! (Screenshot of Pretty Link is below)
Finding other Companies to be an Affiliate for
There are a number of companies that either have their own affiliate program or that use a broker to manage their affiliate system. To find out, simply go to a businesses website that you are interested in promoting. We'll use Bluehost.com as the first example.
Bluehost is a company that provides hosting for websites. If you wanted to promote their services, simply go to Bluehost.com. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you'll find a hyperlink that says something like “Affiliates” or “Become an Affiliate.” You'll click on the link, sign up for the program, and be given your own tracking link and banners. During sign up, you'll be asked to fill out a W-9 form with your business name and tax ID#. They'll approve your account and you will be able to promote their product. For everyone that goes through your link and purchases, you will get a commission. BlueHost pays between $60-$90 per signup. Not bad!
Companies in every niche have affiliate programs. If you are interested in outdoor activities like skiing or hiking you could become an affiliate for a site like Backcountry.com
How to use affiliate links offline
Earlier I talked about how any type of business can use affiliate links. For example, I met with a business consultant who helps others with tech related setups in large offices. She sets employees up with GoToMyPC so each employee can access their office desktop computer from home or while traveling. I told her to become an affiliate for GoToMyPC and to have the company go through her link for each purchase. Now, in addition to making money from her install services she is also making between $15 -$30 for every employee she sets up with GoToMyPC.
You might be a web designer who gets customers set up with hosting on a daily basis. Why not make a commission by signing up your customers through your link? Just about every hosting business has an affiliate program and the commissions can range from $50-$200 on average per signup. Some companies even pay residual income. So instead of paying one lump fee at the beginning, you'll get a percentage of the renewal rate on a monthly or yearly basis.
You can email the links when friends ask you for a recommendation, post text links on your site, or use banners on the pages.
Affiliate Link Brokers
Many businesses use brokers to manage their affiliate programs. Two very well known programs are CommissionJunction.com and ShareaSale.com. You can go to their website to sign up for an account and then browse the companies they represent. I use both brokers and ShareaSale.com is one of my favorites. Grasshopper.com's program is managed by ShareaSale.com. I can log into the ShareaSale site to see statistics and the number of sales I've made. Below is a screenshot of my sales so far this month just for Grasshopper.com. I am an affiliate for many different company's, and Grasshopper is just one. You can see how a few sales a month for different companies can add up quickly. In the last 30 days this one account alone has done $525 in revenue.
How do I get Paid?
Companies generally payout by doing a Direct Deposit, sending a check in the mail, or using PayPal. You will most likely be able to choose the method you'd prefer. I usually do the direct deposit method to keep is simple. Companies like Audible.com and Aweber.com typically send a check.
When do i get paid?
Expect to get paid 2 or 3 months after the actual sale on average. This is because companies have what is called a holding period to ensure the customer stays with them beyond a trial period or 2 payment periods. Amazon is similar. While getting started it seems as if you aren't ever getting paid, but after the first couple months you will see checks coming in each month for past periods.
2. Selling Advertisements
Selling advertisements is another method of generating revenue for your site. Selling advertisements will require you to get on the phone and do some selling, but can be a great way to make money. You will need to have your statistics available to help show your client why they would want to advertise on your website. A good friend of mine (Antonio Centeno) – of RealMenReal Style.com has been very successful selling advertisements. He's found other companies that relate to his niche, then pitches them with his traffic statistics and reasons they'd benefit from advertising on his site. He is able to send a large number of customers to the businesses and so the ads end up being a WIN-WIN for both sides. Antonio and I did a podcast episode all about monetizing websites. Click below to play or download on iTunes.
3. Adsense and Youtube Videos
Adsense and Youtube will pay you based on the impressions and clicks you receive. If you have thousands of views each month for your videos you can make some great side money. The people with viral videos are able to make a few grand each month off Youtube alone. Many bloggers do use adsense on their blogs because it creates targeted ads for the visitor. Ana-White is a great example of a very successful blogger who uses adsense.
4. Membership Websites
Creating a membership site around your community is an excellent way to bring in a consistent income. You will be surprised how few member you actually need before the numbers start to become appealing. For instance, if you create a membership site that charges $47 per month and have just 42 paying customers you'd make $2000 per month. My friend Antonio Centeno does exactly this through his various courses and membership programs. Here is an example of a sales page he created to help sell one of his courses. Sites like this are built using the Optimize Press Plugin. You may also look into course programs like UDEMY.
Antonio is helping me create a membership site for www.diyPETE.com. This is a site where I show people how to build furniture and work with tools out in the garage. Yes, there are hundreds of other bloggers out there with free plans and so on, but what about having access to the blogger/teacher and being held accountable? That is tough to find unless you are part of an exclusive community. Thus, in addition to all sorts of plans, exclusive video tutorials, and so on — I will be there to answer member questions, provide advice, and to ensure they have the skills needed to accomplish a project. There will also be a forum for members to connect and post photos etc. I am excited to launch this new membership area and to have another source of income for that niche site.
Finding sponsors to your site is yet another way to monetize. You will want to ensure the sponsor fits your audience well and is something you truly believe in. I've found that many PR and Link Building companies are constantly looking to sponsor email lists and posts because they want a link back to their site. In fact, I've written posts and included a link for as much as $160 for a single post. You will also get a number of people requesting to guest post on your site. At first I accepted guest posts from everyone, but quickly learned that many of the posts are simply being written to build links and they sounded real spammy/fake. Now, I accept very few guest posts and they must be an actual entrepreneur who shows me their work and writes high quality and helpful content.
My DIY website is starting to gain traction with tool sponsors who want me to use their products and talk about them in my posts and videos. This is great because I get free tools — and companies want to pay for me to use the tools in the videos I create. I am very picky on what I use and promote. However, companies like JackClamp and Quikrete are already providing free supplies, giveaways, and sponsorship opportunities.
A good friend of mine named John Lee Dumas has been extremely successful in monetizing his site with a Podcast. John charges businesses for 15-45 second advertisements in the beginning and end of his podcasts and makes over $600 per episode (minimum). It's taken him a a year to get to this stage, but he is probably the most successful podcaster on iTunes in terms of revenue.
6. Create a Product
It is important to create a product for your site to monetize in addition to affiliate marketing. A product can be as simple as taking your top ten blog posts and combining them in a downloadable PDF. This would be a great idea for a free product you could use to help build your email list. You could then up-sell your subscribers other products like eBooks, Membership subscriptions, DVD's, tools, and software. I think creating a product is one of the best monetization strategies and something that will help grow your online business immensely.
7. Offer Services
If you have not yet created a product, offering your services is a great way to quickly monetize a site. Add a “Hire Me” button or link in your menu bar and put together consulting packages or pricing for you to complete the service. If you provide consulting, you could provide a 30 minute Skype session each week for $99 and have a Paypal button so customers can pre-pay. You can literally market any service you'd like.
Example: My buddies Josh and Ryan over at theMinimalists.com offer services on their site and do very well.
It's time to take action and start monetizing your website!
Quick Recap to get started
1. Form a Legal Entity and get a Tax ID Number
2. Sign up to become an affiliate for products you like and believe in
3. Create High quality content with affiliate links
Monetization Strategies to implement:
1. Affiliate Marketing
2. Selling Advertisements + Youtube/Adsense Monetization
3. Adsense and Youtube Ads
4. Membership Website – Subscription Model
5. Get Sponsored (Posts, Videos, etc)
6. Create a Product
7. Offer Services (Consulting, add Hire Me Link)
Keep up all the hard work building your business and great things will happen. Cheers from Montana!