7 Ways to Monetize a Blog into a Full Blown Business

7 ways to monetize a blog

One question that comes up often for beginners, is how exactly are websites monetized? This is actually something worth revisiting if you are an intermediate or advanced marketer as well. It's very easy to get ‘tunnel vision' and only focus on one or two ways of making money from your website, and I often have to remind myself that there are other avenues to explore.

In truth, there are many different methods of monetization, but some are more popular than others. This comes down to how easy they are to implement, to actually succeed with, and a few other factors.

This article is going to look at the most common website monetization methods, their pros, cons, and everything else you need to consider.

As a note, you should bear in mind that you're never restricted to only monetizing your site with one method, and you're always free to change that method as time goes by. However, you should really focus on mastering one or two methods first, as you'll have more success that way.​

What You'll Learn Today

  • The most common ways to make money from a website
  • Which methods best suit which business models
  • Which methods suit which traffic types
  • checkYour own products vs other people's
  • checkExamples of different monetization types

First Off – Who Are Your Audience Members And How Are You Helping Them?

The key to any successful business, offline or online, is to help solve people's problems.

Problem + Solution = Winning Formula.

Apart from having advertising on your website, which is usually controlled by a third party such as Google Adsense, every monetization method relies on you knowing what your audience needs help with.

If you can help solve their problems with a monetizable solution, then you're on the right path. As we go through the seven methods below, keep this in mind.​

Seven Ways To Make Money From Your Website

I'm sure we could think of more than seven methods of monetizing a website if we really wanted to, but let's stick with the top ones. Click the link below to jump to that specific method.

​1. Affiliate Programs

The place where most people start out, and one of the easiest ways to make money from a website. Don't let that fool you into thinking affiliate marketing is all roses and easy money though.

7 ways to monetize a blog

Remember our question above, who is your ​audience and how are you helping them? Affiliate programs are a good way to help your audience.

For example, let's say you run a popular fishing blog, and your audience members want to know the best type of fishing rod to use in a certain body of water (I know very little about fishing here, so bear with me).​ You will naturally be able to tell them which rod is best, and in the process, you can use an affiliate link to refer them to a place where they can buy it. This could be somewhere like Amazon, or it could be a private affiliate program with a fishing rod vendor, or somewhere like that.

If your audience members click through your link and buy the rod (or in some cases buy anything), then you get a commission.

That example is the essence of affiliate marketing, in its most basic form. There is a lot of variation and a lot more advanced techniques that can be employed, but it all boils down in helping introduce your audience to the best products or services that would benefit them, while earning a commission.

​Even though affiliate programs are where beginners start, there are some advanced marketers out there who make an absolute fortune off affiliate marketing. As your audience grows, you can scale up your efforts and make a tidy income off affiliate products alone.

Check out Pat Flynn's income reports as an example, he made almost $50,000 in August 2016 just from ONE of the affiliate products he promotes.

It's definitely not small money once you get to the top. You're obviously not going to start out raking in the cash right away, but I want you to see that affiliate programs can earn you the big bucks too. If you work hard of course.

Choosing affiliate programs

A lot of people go about this the wrong way. I've seen many beginners choose their affiliate network first, or even monetization method first. While I am an advocate of starting out with an Amazon site, the most important thing is not to say “I want to join Amazon, and Clickbank, and Adsense..what else can I join?”.

No, the correct thing for you to say is “What products help my niche the most, and do they have affiliate programs?”.

When you do it this way, you're much more likely to find something that works for you.​

Typically though, here are the most popular affiliate networks:

  • ​Amazon (it has its own pros and cons, beyond the scope of this article)
  • Clickbank (more for digital products such as eBooks)
  • Shareasale (a mixture of both)
  • JVZoo

Of course, you can also just find specific programs in your niche, or even better, find specific products in your niche that offer their own affiliate programs. Pat Flynn's $50k came from affiliating with Bluehost, a hosting company, which ties in perfectly to his niche.

There's no point starting out a site just because you want to promote Bluehost, and there's little point in promoting it in another niche. You have to find what works in your niche and help your audience see why it works.

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Let's talk a little bit about the pros and cons of affiliate products. Note that different pros and cons apply to different business models and even different marketers, see keep these as general, rather than hard and fast rules.

Pros of Affiliate Programs

  • No need to create your own products
  • No need to take customer money
  • No need to worry much about selling
  • Can learn from expert marketers
  • Very low barrier to entry
  • They exist in every niche

…and the Cons

  • No control over the products
  • You're sending your audience to someone else
  • Competing with other affiliate marketers
  • Have to make sure the product or vendor is trustworthy

Out of all of the pros and cons, I think the biggest takeaway for me is that you don't have to worry about handling customer details. You're not taking their money and shipping products to them, you're not worrying about customer support or giving refunds.

You're just sending them to the vendor, letting them do all of that, and taking your commission. This is huge for beginners and veterans alike.

2. Adsense And Other Advertisers

This is certainly the most passive of the methods outlined today, and it is also one of the most frustrating. Everybody knows there are people out there making huge sums of money with Adsense or other ad networks, but most people never seem to make much more than a few dollars.

The most I ever made in one month from ad networks was $100. Compare that to thousands of dollars per month from affiliate products and tens of thousands per month from my own services, and you can see why I find adsense somewhat disappointing.​

Don't let me put you off it too much though, because there are those out there who swear by it. Chris Lee from RankXL and Jon Dykstra from Fat Stacks blog both make a killing with ad networks. I guess the key is that you need to get a ton of traffic, and you need to commit to making it work.

If I wasn't getting more out of the time I spent promoting other things, I might take the time to master ad networks too, because like I said, once you set it up and optimize it, it's the closest thing you can get to passive income.​ It also lets you focus on content rather than selling.

This kind of monetization method is best used in niches where you are providing a lot of information to your audience, such as “how to” guides, or answers to questions. In other words, you're helping them by providing them information, rather than recommending them products or services.

In this case, it's going to be hard for you to make money from affiliate products, except maybe via eBooks, so having advertising on your site is the next best thing.

It's also a lot easier to get mass amounts of traffic to your site when you're just providing information.

Another business type suited to ad networks is the viral website. You know those Bored Panda-type websites with cat videos and things you click through from Facebook? Love em or hate em, they get a lot of traffic, and that leads to ad impressions, which can make bank.​

Many beginners are attracted to Adsense because it doesn't involve selling or choosing products, you just figure out where to place the ads, and then you let your ad network display the actual content on the ads. 

However, I don't really recommend it for beginners, because it takes a large amount of traffic and scale in order to see some serious cash this way, and most beginners, through no real fault of their own, are impatient to see success sooner.

Some of the top ad networks are:

  • ​Google Adsense
  • Media.net
  • Monumetric (Formally The Blogger Network)

Let's take a quick look at the other pros and cons for Ad networks.

Pros of Ad Networks

  • No need to create your own products
  • No need to “sell” anything
  • Can focus just on providing content
  • You just need to get traffic
  • Passive income

…and the Cons

  • Pay is very low initially
  • You need to get large amounts of traffic
  • Doesn't work in all niches
  • No control over what ads are shown

If you're operating in a niche that doesn't have a lot of product/service solutions, and has a ton of traffic ready to come your way (I'm talking tens of thousands of visitors), then you should consider ad networks. Otherwise, it might be more worth your time to master one of the other methods in this article.

3. eCommerce / DropShipping​

Ecommerce refers to a website that is more built like a “store” and less like a blog. The largest retail websites in the world, Amazon and Alixpress, are both eCommerce websites. You don't need to run a huge mega-money website though. There are many smaller niche-based eCommerce websites that only deal with a few different products.​

The main point to know with an eCommerce website is that you, the website owner, will be taking payments directly on your site, you'll be dealing with customers yourself, and you'll also be making sure they get their products shipped.

ways to monetize a blog

Dropshipping​

If you are doing dropshipping, it's still classed as eCommerce. Under the dropshipping model, you still take payments and shipping details on your website, the only difference is that you don't physically store inventory yourself. Instead, you pass the customer details on to a manufacturer/vendor (dropshipper), and they will mail the goods out to your customer. You'll pay the dropshipper less than the customer pays you, which is where your profit comes from.

There are definitely some advantages that eCommerce has over an affiliate website, and yet there are just as many disadvantages.

​For me, I can see that eCommerce can offer a much higher profit margin, more control over my products, and the ability to follow-up and get repeat customers. You can also make things like paid-traffic work much more efficiently with eCommerce.

At the same time, I know I'd need to be much more hands-on, have better customer service, and also have to worry about things like inventory, shipping, and other logistical issues. Even maintaining your website takes more work.

While dropshipping lowers the entry barrier since you don't have to handle inventory or invest in stock, you do still have more difficulty than affiliate sites.​

Pros of eCommerce Websites

  • Higher profit margin (usually)
  • More control over your products
  • Opportunity to build customer relationships
  • Repeat buyers
  • Not competing with dozens of other affiliates

…and the Cons

  • Logistically more challenging
  • Can be harder to get organic traffic
  • Need to invest in your own stock (unless dropshipping)
  • Need to take your own payments and worry about customer service.

eCommerce is a business model best suited to physical product niches, or perhaps niches that would offer a smaller affiliate commission. They're also well suited to “passion” niches where there are lots of accessories and products, but not a need to solve problems answer questions through content. 

In other words, if you wanted to have a site in a “fan” niche or a dog lovers niche, it might be hard for you to produce enough content for an affiliate site. On the other hand, a small store highlighting collectibles or accessories that have raving fans could do very well.

4. Services

Offering services has almost the same pros and cons as an eCommerce store. You have your own clients to deal with, you have control over your products, and your business is more “serious” than an affiliate site.

That said, with services, you also don't have to worry about inventory or stock. Most services have all of their expenses associated with delivering said services, which means if you don't get any orders, you don't have any costs.

Again though, services aren't always rosey. It's very easy to run into a feast and famine cycle. You start out with no customers (famine), so you work hard, self-promote, hustle for work, and then end up with a whole bunch of customers (feast). You can even see our own struggles in past income reports.

At this point, you are so busy working with all of those customers, that you stop promoting and getting new customers, and ultimately this leads to another famine period.

You CAN beat this by having more passive promotion methods, such as organic Google traffic or other autopilot traffic, but then there are also issues with scaling. You have to either hire more help as orders come in, which means there's a delay while you're training people and orders get backlogged, or you hire ahead of the curve, which means you have to hope you're able to increase orders to meet your growing expenses.

It can be a nightmare.

Now, where services really do work is if you're only looking for a few thousand dollars a month, or where you're selling something recurring, like client SEO. When you have recurring income from clients, you can often deliver the work for them in bulk, and often upfront, and then live off the recurring income while you scale your team or get new clients.​

So what's important to note with services is that you have to be prepared to do a lot of hustling if you want to live off it, and you have to be ready to hire help.

Aside from all of this, services can be very profitable.​

Examples of services are Business-to-Business (B2B) services like marketing, paid traffic management, SEO, or Business-to-Customer services like retail, coaching, or even plumbing.

An interesting side note here is if you're website is in a niche that would be perfect for services, but you don't want to offer a service of your own, you could always connect with a service provider and send them leads instead. This is essentially affiliate marketing and was very similar to the structure we had worked out with Tung Tran's Authority Azon Amazon Theme before we ultimately purchased it from him. But in any case, if you were to whitelabel your services and deal with customers yourself, there'd be room for more profit.

Pros of Offering Services

  • Higher profit margin (usually)
  • More control over your offering
  • Opportunity to build customer relationships
  • Repeat buyers
  • No inventory/stock issues.

…and the Cons

  • Feast and famine is real
  • Can be very time intensive
  • Scaling is tricky but essential for larger profit
  • Can be very competitive

Selling services can work in almost any niche, but requires a lot of business skill that other models don't need. The learning curve is steep, but the payoff is there if you can make it work.

5. Building A List

Technically, building a list should be done in tandem with all of the above methods. Affiliate marketing, services, eCommerce, even Adsense sites should be building a list.

list building

The reason I've put list building as a separate method altogether though is because there's a lot to be said for building a list in any niche. It's an asset you can take with you and monetize even if your website got deindexed or traffic dried up.

These are people who have enjoyed something on your site enough to give you their email address and permission to mail them again, which means you can monetize that list in its own right. Seth Godin, one of the most prominent marketers today calls this ‘permission marketing'.

Now, I'm not saying you should go and spam the list or sell it to the highest bidder, but you DO have some other options.

​As Jon Dykstra pointed out in this article, you can make money from a list without even selling anything. He highlighted five different ways of doing it, and I'd like to mention a couple:

  1. Putting native ads in your emails
  2. Running solo ads in your emails

In both of these models, you're directly monetizing the list, rather than using it to boost another monetization method. A lot of people forget about this option.

Of course, what most people will do when building a list is send repeat traffic back to their other offers. Got an affiliate promotion? Email your subscribers. Got services you sell? Email your subscribers. Got eCommerce products? Email your sub…yeah you get it.

So it's really up to you whether you consider an email list as a traffic method, or a monetization method in its own right. What this short segment is about is making you aware how essential it is, and how much of an asset an email list can be.

There's no pro and con table for this section either, because what are the cons of building an email list, except for the costs of using an email service provider? None. Exactly.​

6. Your Own Products

Having your own products is also something which could go into the categories above, but that I felt needed its own section too. Affiliate sites can transition (and often do) nicely into selling their own products instead, the same can be said for eCommerce sites. A lot of people start out dropshipping, and move into offering their own products as they look to scale.

how to create a product

You can also productize services as well. Brian Casel and Dan Norris are probably the most well-known advocates for this model and it's basically the same approach we apply here at HPD.

If we take a deeper dive and talk more about the creation or at least ideation process – ask yourself when should you offer something of your own, and how do you go about it?

Let's look at an affiliate site. A good time to offer your own products could be when you have a significant audience, an established authority, and essentially, people who enjoy what you do. This is a good sign that they'd be ready to buy something from you.

In other words, you don't just have a blog that people read once in order to help them make a buying decision. You have people who subscribe, read all your new posts, and likely follow your recommendations often.

Here's the kicker though. Just because you have an authority site, doesn't mean you should definitely create your own products. If what you create isn't an improvement on what's already out there, or doesn't offer anything new, is it worth the bother?

Some affiliate programs pay such good commissions that it might be in your interest to just keep recommending them instead. It's a lot less work.​

At the same time, you never know for sure if your products are going to sell well. I've launched a few things in the last year, since my authority was established, and some of them sold like hot cakes, others bombed. That's just the way it goes sometimes.​

You also need to make sure what you are doing is quality. This is your reputation we're talking about!

That being said, it's not always easy to know that what you are doing is top quality. If you're an expert and you really know your stuff, then you have a good chance of producing something good, as long as you know how to communicate that knowledge.

This should lead nicely into our next section on Joint Ventures.​

Pros of Offering Your Own Products

  • Full control
  • Opportunity for additional income later
  • You're taken more seriously
  • Can choose what method you want
  • Scaleable

…and the Cons

  • A lot more work before AND after the launch
  • No guarantee it will pay off or convert well
  • Whole new skillset to learn
  • Needs to be a quality product

7. Joint Venture​

A joint venture, more commonly known as a JV, is where you and one or several other marketers combine forces to release a product together. 

A lot of the time, an affiliate with a particularly large audience and authority in their niche will also qualify for a JV promotion with a product vendor too.

For example, let's say I release a new product on something that I'm not that established in, like Shopify for example, and I then partner up with somebody who has a huge audience in the shopify space. His audience + my product = Joint Venture.

This is different from simply recruiting them as an affiliate, because with a JV the profit share is much more equal, and both parties might have a say in the product's design, and sales pages, and so on.

Another example is where you both bring something to the product. You might have one skill or area of expertise, somebody else has another, and by combining them, you can create a new kickass offering.

A few examples of JV's would be the partnership between Chris Guthrie and Dave Guidon in creating the Amazon research software Amasuite. (Read our review here)

And even B-School by Marie Forleo started as a JV with herself and Laura Roeder. Laura is the founder of MeetEdgar now.

Like with everything, there are pros and cons to JV's.

Pros of Joint Ventures

  • Leverage two people's audience
  • Balance one another's skills
  • Easier to look authoritative/legit
  • Two heads are better than one (usually)
  • Double up your efforts

…and the Cons

  • Need to have the same thinking
  • Less control and profit than going solo
  • Need to get along well with the other person
  • Often JV partners have multiple projects

JV's are a great way to get started if you don't already have a big audience, or if you lack some skill or expertise. They're also a good way to scale up your business.

However, in many cases it can be a bigger payoff in the long run to go it alone. It really depends on your own preferences.

Closing Thoughts

As I mentioned in the intro to this article, websites and businesses are usually flexible enough that you can adopt more than one monetization method, and you can change as necessary. We didn't discuss them in this article, but CPA offers can be a nice additive if you are already monetizing with affiliate products.

As such, don't think that you need to spend hours deciding on the best method before you start. In a lot of cases, it's better to just get started with your site and test different monetization strategies as you go. Of course, choosing between eCommerce or another method before you start might be better, as eCommerce websites typically have a different structure.

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The main thing to be aware of is that there's no right or wrong, no better or worse method. Each has their own pros and cons, and each can work equally well on the right site.

My suggestion is to start out with the simpler methods (affiliation, adsense, JV's) and work up from there. Also, don't be afraid to do testing.

My final words to you would be this: No matter what niche you are in, you should have plenty of different weapons at your disposal for making money from your site, so just focus on learning your audience and what they need, and remember the winning formula. Problem + Solution = Success.

3 thoughts on “7 Ways to Monetize a Blog into a Full Blown Business”

  1. Hey Domnic, would you happen to know … I am from Malta, EU, and I am wondering whether I can even do “Amazon Affilate Program”, given that it is an USA based company ?

  2. Great writeup! Don’t know how people can still swear by Adsense these days when everyone and their mother is using adblockers. I always tell people using exclusively Adsense to get something else going on top of that, preferably building a list. It might not be as passive (tho I’ve seen completely beast automated funnels) but it’s much more profitable and safe in the long run.

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