Making money from a website or blog is possible for anyone who’s ready to put in some time and effort but the real question is: Is it possible to monetize a website if you don’t want to (or aren’t ready to) sell products?
The good news? It is!
You can monetize your website without selling any products. There are other ways you can make money from a website, and in this article, we’re sharing those options with you.
But before we get into it, we want to stress that like starting any kind of online business, monetizing a website doesn’t usually happen overnight. It takes time, consistency, patience, and dedication. Initially, you might not see any kind of return, but if you stick with it and continue to put in energy and effort, there’s a good chance that it will happen eventually.
Ready to get into it? Let’s dive in!
What is Website Monetization?
First of all, what actually is website monetization?
It’s simple: It’s the process of turning a website that doesn’t earn revenue into a website that does! Not all websites make money, but all websites can.
Not all websites make money, but all websites can.
Most websites that make money do so by selling physical products or digital products—but those aren’t the only option. And, they’re not always the right option for everyone.
Many new entrepreneurs think selling products is the only way they can start an online business and start making money online, but it’s worth knowing about the other options that exist because they might be a better fit for you or your audience.
Let’s get into those other options.
8 Ways to Monetize a Website Without Selling Products
Option #1: Start Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is by far the most popular ways to generate revenue from your website or blog.
Here’s how affiliate marketing works:
- Find a product or service you know, like, trust, and feel comfortable recommending
- Search for that brand’s affiliate program, or contact them directly if you can’t find one
- Through the brand’s affiliate management software, obtain an affiliate link for the product or service you want to recommend on your website
- Recommend the product or service on your website and include a call-to-action that uses the affiliate link
- And then whenever your website visitors click through your affiliate link and purchase the product, you’ll earn a commission of the sale
The commission you earn through affiliate products and services can range anywhere from 5% to 70% of the product or service’s cost—it really varies and depends on the brand and what they’re willing to offer.
In addition, most brands also have a “cookie” window of around 30 days or 60 days, so if a website visitor makes another purchase, or didn’t make a purchase the first time they clicked through your link but then they returned and make a purchase within the cookie window, you’ll still receive the affiliate commission.
Check out different affiliate programs and see what their rates and cookie windows are in our roundup of 100+ best affiliate programs here. If you’re completely new to affiliate marketing and want to learn more about it, check out our How to Start an Affiliate Program article here. We also have an article on how to create an affiliate ecommerce store if you want to take affiliate marketing one step further.
Option #2: Flip Your Website
One of the most interesting and overlooked ways to monetize a website is to actually sell the website itself!
Believe it or not, there are entire markets of people looking to purchase websites and blogs so if you’re sitting on a website and aren’t sure what to do with it next, consider putting it on the market.
Of course, the higher the quality of your site, the more likely it will sell, and the more it will likely sell for.
Website buyers often look for the following:
- Professional web design
- Compelling content
- Consistent traffic
- Whether there’s advertising or some sort of income stream
So if you have a knack for launching websites and getting traffic to them, then website flipping might be a good option for you.
To get started, we recommend getting an understanding of what it’s like to sell a website so you know what you’re in for and how to optimize websites for buyers. It’s not as simple as just having a website to sell—it usually needs to have consistent traffic, reliable income streams, and operational aspects like Google Analytics set up in order for it to be sellable.
If this seems like a website monetization method you’re interested in pursuing, check out our post on How to Sell a Business to get your exit strategy in place before you even start, and then check out our roundup of the 6 Best Marketplaces to Buy, Sell & Find an Online Business for Sale to get your website listed on the market.
Option #3: Sell Sponsored Posts
If you’re driving a steady flow of traffic to your website and/or have an engaged community of followers, you can start to actually sell some “real estate” on your website in the form of sponsored blog posts.
There are plenty of companies that will go out of their way to pay websites and blogs for featured sponsored content and this monetization method can be very lucrative depending on your site’s traffic and engagement.
However, remember to only accept sponsored posts that coincide well with your niche, and keep the content high-quality. The last thing you want is to alienate your audience with sponsored content that’s entirely off-topic from what you usually post, as that can cause your readers to disengage—costing you more in the long-term.
So, which sites can start monetizing with sponsored posts?
Pretty much any sites that have traffic and engagement.
Even if you have a “small” website in terms of traffic, you still have a chance at gaining sponsorships if you can prove to advertisers that your audience is engaged and responsive to the content you put out there. Companies want to get their brands and products in front of leads that are likely to convert, so if you can prove that you have warm or even hot leads coming into your site, you’re primed for sponsorships.
To prove your site’s advertiser friendly-ness, make sure you:
- Document your analytics consistently and accurately (pay particular attention to pageviews and click-through-rates)
- Have a proven track record of converting your audience
- Have stats to back up past success
- Show that you’re willing to go the extra mile for your sponsors by linking them in organic ways in non-sponsored content, by sharing their content on your socials, and by featuring them in any supporting content your site offers like email welcome campaigns or email newsletters
And if you don’t have sponsors knocking on your door, don’t be afraid to knock on theirs! If you know of a brand or product that’s a good fit for your website and audience, create a compelling pitch and tell that company why. There’s no harm in asking, the worst they can say is no.
Option #4: Sell Ad Space
This is a tried-and-true website monetization method, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to selling ad space on your website.
Traditionally, site owners would monetize their website with ads by signing up to mass ad purveyors like Google Ads—which isn’t a bad option, it just might not be the right fit for every website.
Well, ads in this form can look like… Well… Ads. They’re often not well-aligned with the sites they appear on because they’re not designed specifically for each site. This can make them stand out in an in-organic way and make them not click-worthy to the site’s audience.
So our recommendation is to work one-to-one with brands and companies to sell ad space on your website that fits with your website.
You can definitely use a more traditional ad purveyor if you want—the main advantage of doing so is that it’s much less work on your behalf—but if you want a more bespoke experience for your audience, try the one-to-one method.
So how do you do it?
Simply sell designated ad spots on your site to relevant companies. Come up with a fixed price for different spaces, like an ad spot above-the-fold, one or two along the sidebar, and one on the footer of your site.
Ad space above-the-fold usually get the most eyes on it so it costs the most, sidebar ads get slightly fewer views so they cost a little bit less, and generally footer ads get the least amount of eyes on them so they cost (you guessed it!) the least.
Overall, your rates should hinge on the number of site visitors you get (the more traffic you drive to your website, the more you can charge for ad space) and your click-through rates.
Typically, the price quoted is a dollar amount per one thousand impressions (also known as CPM).
For example, let’s say you’re charging $5 per CPM: In that case, if your website reaches 100,000 visitors per month, your starting ad price would be around $500. If you get high click-through rates (meaning your site visitors are very engaged), you can likely charge more for your CPM.
If monetizing your site with ads is interesting to you, we caution you to not stuff your site with as many ads as you possibly can. Instead, keep it reasonable. You want to have the quality of your website visitor’s experience at the forefront of your mind and give your advertisers room to have their ads seen, so don’t go too overboard.
Option #5: Create a Paid Email Newsletter
Another option to turn your website into an income-generating source is to direct your website traffic to a paid email newsletter.
Paid email newsletter platforms like Substack have made this an easy option for website owners, and with premium email newsletters (like Trends by the Hustle) on the rise, it’s proving to be a viable source of revenue.
To make the most out of your paid email newsletter, center it around a topic or niche that’s relevant to your audience and ensure that it’s something you can consistently send out valuable content about on a recurring basis.
Option #6: Create a Paid Member’s Forum
Paid forums work on a couple of levels: Not only do they present a way to monetize a website, but they also offer the ability to establish a community of loyal followers.
So, take a moment to consider what your community of website visitors might want out of a paid membership forum hosted by you. Is there a common thread of interest many of you share? Is there a particular topic of discussion that doesn’t have a hub anywhere else online? Is there a specific pain point everyone can bond over? Is there a desire for an engaged community where people can ask and answer one another’s questions?
The great thing about paid forums is that they can be tailored to fit any kind of niche—and if your website already has consistent traffic and/or an engaged social following, you likely already have a handle on what your niche is, plus your niche’s specific needs and wants.
So take what you know about your audience and find a way to make a monetized forum out of it! Not only will it turn into an income stream for your website, but it’ll also likely build a club of your brand’s truest fans with who you communicate more closely.
If you’re interested in creating a private forum, we recommend checking out Tribe (Tribe Review), however, note that Tribe does not currently have a built-in feature to charge members a monthly subscription fee at the moment, but it’s possible to create it through Zapier. They are planning to make this feature built-in to Tribe soon. Otherwise, check out Slack and LaunchPass, or Discord and LaunchPass.
Option #7: Offer Paywalled Content
If you already have a generous amount of traffic and an established readership, building a content paywall is a plausible next step to take in order to monetize your content.
An example of websites that have paywalled content includes news outlets like The Wall Street Journal, industry report sites like Statista, and online publishing platforms like Medium.
This method relies on the classic model of value exchange. So, the success of your paywall depends solely on your expertise and ability to provide your audience with content they see value in and believe is worth paying for. This means that it might not be the right monetization option for all websites, but it can be for some.
As much as you might want to put all your content behind a paywall, consider keeping your core content free. Remember, you attracted your current and existing audience through that content, so it might be worth using it as a lead magnet to entice new audience members into paying for your premium articles.
To learn more about how to add a paywall onto a WordPress site, check out this article.
Option #8: Add a Tip Jar
Our final option to monetize a website without selling any products is to simply ask for “tips” from your audience.
One of the most well-known websites to monetize their content this way is, of course, Wikipedia!
Monetizing your website through a tip jar feature is a great option because it gives your audience an option to contribute without making it a hard choice. If you put exclusive content in a paid forum or behind a paywall, certain audience members who may enjoy your content will miss out because they won’t be able or interested in upgrading to your premium upsell. This can lead to losing audience members, alienating them, or stunting your site’s growth.
But when you add a tip jar feature, it enables you to receive compensation from some, while providing value to many.
When you add a tip jar feature, it enables you to receive compensation from some, while providing value to many.
Add a tip jar plugin like Buy Me a Coffee to your site, or use a full-on membership platform like Patreon if you want a slightly more robust version of a “tip jar.”
Are You Ready to Start Monetizing Your Website?
Running a website or a blog isn’t just limited to sharing your thoughts, ideas, expertise, and experiences online—it can be more than that. When monetized thoughtfully, it can also be a source of revenue.
And as you’ve seen throughout this post, it’s possible to monetize a website without having to sell products at all:
- Start affiliate marketing
- Flip your website
- Sell sponsored posts
- Sell ad space
- Create a paid email newsletter
- Create a paid member’s forum
- Offer paywalled content
- Add a tip jar
So, if you’re interested in monetizing your website without selling any products, the methods above should have given you ideas of how you can make this a reality. By all means, trial and error a few options to see which are the best for you and your audience, or add a combination of options to your site to make the most of these monetization strategies!