Want to know how to monetize a website? I'm going to break down 7 proven methods for you to consider (or better yet, to mix and match). Let's get to it...
Disclaimer: None of these website monetization strategies will work to any significant degree unless you have sound fundamentals of business in place. Assuming you already have an idea and you've found a profitable niche, I'd recommend filling out the 1-Page Digital Startup Plan to get super clear on your game plan for marketing and scaling your business online.
Strategy #1: Sell Coaching & Consulting
Once you start to build an audience, the easiest way to monetize that audience in a meaningful way is through coaching, mentoring, or consulting (or whatever you want to call it).
Why? Because there's basically no infrastructure requirement.
Do you have a phone? Do you have a way to take payments? Then you have all the infrastructure you need to offer your coaching and consulting services.
You can also scale easily beyond the 1-1 model, helping many people at a time through group coaching. This requires just a tad bit more infrastructure to help you host all the calls at once (a very affordable platform like Zoom, for example) but it's relatively easy to setup.
What's the potential here? You can easily generate six figures in revenue through coaching and consulting alone – assuming that you have the necessary skills and experience – making it an online business power play.
Pros & Cons of Monetizing Your Website With Coaching & Consulting
- Monetize very quickly
- Low cost to get started
- Very little infrastructure needed
- Requires a lot of time and effort to serve clients
- Doesn't scale indefinitely
Strategy #2: Sell Information Products
Another proven method for monetizing your website is information products.
An information product is something that teaches someone how to do something. It can be packaged up in various ways:
- Webinars & Master Classes
- Membership Communities
- Online Courses
- Virtual Summits
- Workbooks & Templates
- Audio Lessons
- Live Event Recordings
The best thing about information products is that they scale indefinitely.
For example, you can create an online course that serves 100 people or 100,000 people. There's no limit. And once the work is done, it's done (kind of – you still need to update it to keep it relevant as the months and years go by).
Another big benefit to information products is that they don't take a lot of money or tech knowledge to create. It's mostly going to cost your time.
How much time? That's up to you. There are many different strategies for creating, selling, and iterating on information products to make the process faster and easier, and to validate the idea in the first place.
Pros & Cons of Monetizing Your Website With Information Products
- Ability to get paid to create the product with pre-selling
- Scales indefinitely
- Relatively easy to create and sell
- Must be updated every couple years to stay relevant
- Can be more difficult to effectively communicate the value
- Often requires overcoming customers' limiting beliefs
Strategy #3: Create a Membership Community
An alternative – or a "next step" – to creating information products is to create a membership community.
A membership community is typically a collection of information products tied to a forum or community board where members can interact with each other.
The member interaction is usually valued at least equal to whatever training is available in the community and often valued much more.
You also have more opportunity to customize the experience to each individual member than you do with some other types of digital products.
The best feature of a membership community is the ability to generate recurring revenue. Once you land a member, they'll pay month after month instead of paying you once and being done. However, this is only true if you continue to provide value month after month.
While membership communities can be an amazing tool for monetizing your website and business, they do require a lot of ongoing work. You have to keep members happy, engage daily in most cases, create fresh trainings, and so on.
You also need to make sure that the topic/problem/challenge/opportunity your membership community is focused on is one that people will be pursuing or needing long-term.
Whether you should monetize with information products or a membership community really comes down to your audience and how they are best served with regard to the problem you're solving for them or the opportunity you're leading to.
Pros & Cons of Monetizing Your Website With a Membership Community
- Recurring revenue
- Allows you to focus on selling one thing
- Offers a more robust experience than information products
- Can be difficult to gain traction in the early stages
- Requires a lot of ongoing time and attention
Strategy #4: Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is the strategy of selling other people's products for a commission.
I break down affiliate marketing in detail in How to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing, so I won't go into too much detail here.
Affiliate marketing can be a great primary strategy for monetizing your website and it's also a solid supplemental strategy. Personally, I only use it as a supplemental strategy and so do most of my clients.
Pros & Cons of Monetizing Your Website With Affiliate Marketing
- Less overall effort to getting sales
- No need to service customers
- Very little infrastructure needed
- Requires the same amount of energy to build a brand an audience but you only get rewarded with a cut of the revenue
- Puts your audience into other people's value ladders instead of your own
- You ultimately put your reputation in the hands of other brands
Strategy #5: Create a Software Subscription (SaaS)
Think you need a lot of technical knowledge and skill to create a software product? Think again.
Software is one of the best ways to monetize a website or audience and it doesn't require much technical knowledge or skill as long as you recruit the right people.
Of course, if you have the tech knowledge and skill you have a head start, but it's certainly not required.
The reason software (and specifically the "software as a service" (SaaS) model) is such an effective monetization strategy is because you have the opportunity to create something useful that can become a linchpin in people's lives and that they'll pay for on an ongoing basis for a very long time.
Certain types of software can be so valuable or robust or integrated into a person or company's life that it makes it almost impossible for people to switch away.
Where other recurring revenue models – like a membership site for example – might have a 3 month, 6 month, or 9 month average retention, software subscriptions can have average retention spanning years and years.
Having a very long retention period (low "churn") and high LTV (lifetime value) make scaling much easier. You can afford to spend more to acquire a customer and cashflow is very consistent and predictable.
Pros & Cons of Monetizing Your Website With a Software Subscription
- Recurring revenue
- It's a more tangible product which can make it easier to generate sales
- Can become a necessity for customers, dramatically reducing churn
- Can be difficult and expensive to create
- Requires a lot of ongoing work
- Can be difficult to maintain, service, and upgrade
- Can be difficult and expensive to scale
Strategy #6: Sell Physical Products (E-Commerce)
Physical products have been a core monetization strategy for all businesses since the dawn of time.
Selling physical products online is known as "E-Commerce" and it's as effective as ever for monetizing a website or audience.
Nearly every type of business can monetize with a physical product in some form or fashion, from a product you invent and manufacture all the way down to the basics like t-shirts and "merch."
E-commerce can be both a primary and supplemental monetization strategy, making it very versatile.
Some people also find it easier to gain traction with physical products in certain ways. For example, you can leverage existing e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay where millions of buyers congregate.
Pros & Cons of Monetizing Your Website With Physical Products
- Tangible products can be easier to sell for various reasons
- Potential to re-sell over and over to the same customer
- Can be easier to recruit affiliates and distributers
- Traditionally lower margins and more expensive to scale
- Inventory is notoriously expensive and difficult to manage
- Order management and fulfillment can be time-consuming and frustrating
Strategy #7: Live & Digital Events
It's important to remember that you can monetize a website with offline events. The audience may exist online initially, but giving them a reason and a place to gather offline can be very lucrative.
Popular monetization strategies for offline events are things like:
Taking a combination strategy is often very effective as well. For example, you can launch a signature digital course that's bundled with a ticket to an offline event, like a retreat or conference.
A very popular strategy as of late is to host digital events, like "virtual summits." These are basically online conferences where you invite guest speakers to deliver talks and interviews.
You can make the conference free to attend for the week (viewers opt-in which is great for building your email list) and then you can sell an all-access pass to anyone who wants to watch after the fact.
If you recruit your speakers as affiliates, you can really generate a ton of revenue in very short order. Some people are making $1MIL+ off a single online summit (though they typically were a big name before organizing the summit and thus had the clout to attract big name speakers and guests).
Pros & Cons of Monetizing Your Website With Live & Digital Events
- Creates memorable and engaging experiences for customers
- Generates a large influx of revenue at once
- Excellent for brand building
- Requires a lot of planning and logistics
- Can be stressful to pull off smoothly and successfully
- Lots of upfront costs and risk
How NOT to Monetize Your Website: 5 Strategies I Hate!
Instead of writing out a huge synopsis of the five strategies I hate, I'm going to give you access to a podcast episode I recorded on this topic.
If you want to know the wort ways to try and monetize your website, have a listen...
[smart_track_player url="https://aphid.fireside.fm/d/1437767933/3cd6f435-6dfb-4f47-aece-9c37b001d373/c59fe196-4da0-4e3e-a47a-d3660ef579d0.mp3" title="#032: 5 Website Monetization Strategies I Hate" ]
Covered on that episode:
- Multi-brand, multi-product bundles
- Google Adsense
- Paid Ads / Sponsorships (on sites with their own products)
Again, if you want the full explanation for each of these just click on the player and listen to the episode. A lot of great context and insights there!
How to Monetize a Website: Tools & Systems
Having a monetization strategy and executing on a monetization strategy are two very different things.
Here are the pillar tools and systems you'll need if you want to execute on the 7 monetization strategies I've outlined in this article.
Everything except affiliate marketing requires you to process payments and potentially create recurring subscriptions. The two primary payment processors I recommend for online business are Stripe and Paypal.
Additional Reading: Stripe vs Square
Payment processors like Stripe and Paypal are great for processing payments but not so great at creating high-converting checkout experiences for your customers.
This is especially true if you want to use more advanced strategies like upselling, downselling, cross-selling, etc. or if you need integrated inventory management, advanced shipping options, and so on.
Here are my recommended checkout/cart systems for online businesses:
Thrivecart – Hands down the best checkout & subscription management platform for online businesses selling information products, events, and one-off physical products.
Woocommerce – A perfect cart and checkout option for smaller scale but full-scope e-commerce sites (people adding multiple physical products to a cart) running on WordPress (but not great for information products, subscriptions, etc.)
Shopify – My primary recommendation for larger scale e-commerce stores.
If you're selling digital products then you need a way to deliver those products and protect them from unauthorized distribution.
The two primary on-site options I recommend are:
MemberMouse – A very stable and robust membership platform that will scale indefinitely.
Memberpress – Very similar to MemberMouse but some find it a little easier for the initial setup. It's not quite as robust, though.
If you want fewer tech hassles and less setup, you can use a third party option. My primary recommendations for that, assuming that you're going to mostly be delivering online courses is:
Thinkific – This is the best 3rd party system for online course delivery in terms of stability, price, and overall value.
If you're going to be creating a membership *community*, I'd take a strong look at Podia.
Keep in mind that even within a single strategy you can have multiple products. It's still a good idea though, especially in the early stages, to have one primary *product* (this is especially true with digital products).
So go back and review the 7 ways to monetize that I outlined in this article, weigh the pros and cons, and figure out which strategy will be the best primary strategy for your business.
You should start by asking yourself which strategy will best serve your clients and create the kind of impact you want to have in their life rather than choosing a strategy based on your personal preference).
Once you have your primary monetization strategy selected you can choose your supplemental monetization strategy (affiliate marketing is a popular default for this but it doesn't have to be and isn't always the best option).
Once you know what your two monetization strategies are, you can then choose the tools and systems you'll need to execute on them.
If you have any questions about how to monetize your website, drop them in the comments below and I'm happy to address them there.