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How to Make Money from a Website

July 4, 2019

6:10 am

Want to start making your own money and be your own boss? Creating a website for yourself, your own brand or company is one of the best and potentially most lucrative way of doing so.

But how exactly can you make real money from something as seemingly intangible as a website?

There are loads of different ways to monetize a website. However, we’ll tell you the ones that actually work and the pros and cons of each.

Ready to make your website, but not sure where to start? See our website builder comparison table to learn which services we’ve rated best for creating a website.

How Do Websites Make Money?

In general, there are four main ways that websites make money:

  1. Selling Products– also called eCommerce, this is the best way to make money through a website, using it as a platform for your business to sell products or services.
  2. Displaying Adverts – the classic way to make money online, but be warned that the ‘golden days’ are over. Unless your site pulls in hundreds of thousands of visitors per month, the gains from hosting ads are very small these days.
  3. Hosting Sponsored Content – if your site is growing in prominence, you can make money by hosting articles or posts. A brand or business might pay you, for example, to host an article recommending a product or service of theirs.
  4. Having a Subscription or Premium Membership – increasingly, even smaller websites and blogs are experimenting with Premium Membership. Loyal readers may pay to support a site that they enjoy.
  5. Using affiliate marketing – affiliate marketing is the fancy term for getting a kickback after sending users to other sites to buy products and services.
  6. Creating and selling websites – also known as ‘flipping’ you can make a surprising amount of money by buying a domain, developing a site and selling it on.
  7. Promoting your business – while the website isn’t the cash cow, having a good site can help grow your brand or business quickly and easily.

A successful website can, of course, make money from more than one of these avenues. However, not all of these methods of monetization are going to be the best choice for every business.

You’ll need to find one, or multiple, methods of monetization that will suit your business’ aims and identity. It’s important to ensure these aren’t contradictory – for example, selling products on a site covered with adverts that lead to other sites isn’t a good plan.

You can find out more about identifying and constructing a site based around core aims, identities and audience understanding in our What Makes a Good Website guide

Selling Products Online

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Payout: Medium/Large

If you want to start selling products online, you’ll need to build a website with a dedicated ecommerce functionality. This means stock-keeping, a shopping cart mechanism, account tracking and more.

This all sounds complicated, but it’s surprisingly straightforward if you pick the right website design software to get you started.

Website builders, such as Wix, can help you build a site with all of this functionality built-in and ready to go. Of course, this functionality doesn’t come free, but it does come surprisingly cheap.

The Wix VIP plan costs just $25 per month and will give you access to a full online store.

It’s worth taking a look at the small print when picking an ecommerce website builder – they might take a percentage fee of all the sales you make, for example. Others might lack some features that could increase your chances of making a sale, such as abandoned cart recovery.

Find out more – How to Start an Online Store

Let’s take a look at the best ecommerce website builders on the market.

Scroll horizontally to view the whole table if you’re using a mobile.

Shopify

Wix

BigCommerce

Squarespace

Volusion

Weebly

Shopify logo smallWix logo smallbigcommerce logo smallSquarespace logo smallVolusion logo smallWeebly logo small
Test score4.5 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars3.5 stars
VerdictThe best ecommerce platform with unmatched features, great websites and a scalable platform.Wix has improved its ecommerce offering massively, with loads of new features and strong design.It’s not the best-looking ecommerce system, but its detail and sales features are almost unmatched.Its sites aren’t as scalable as Shopify or BigCommerce, but they look incredible.A good alternative to BigCommerce with better web design. Can be confusing to use, though.Has some advantages over Wix when it comes to sales features, but Weebly’s overall platform isn’t as compelling
Cheapest Ecommerce Plan (per month)$29$20$29.95$26$26$25
Try it TodayVisit ShopifyVisit WixVisit BigCommerceVisit Squarespace*Visit VolusionVisit Weebly

* Save 10% on Squarespace with code ‘TECH10’

 Putting Adverts on Your Website

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Payout: Small/Medium

At first glance, putting adverts on your website might sound like a lengthy undertaking. However, the Google AdSense service will make displaying adverts on your site completely painless.

Most website builders will offer apps or plugins for AdSense. Once you’ve signed up to an AdSense account, these apps will apply the little advert boxes you commonly see across the internet.

You’re free to put these wherever you want on your site, as well as change the general layout. When someone views the ad, or clicks on it, you’ll get money – it really couldn’t be easier.

How Much Money Can You Make from Online Adverts?

Just to contain your expectations, AdSense isn’t particularly lucrative unless you’re using it at a large scale – at least hundreds of thousands of unique viewers per month. It’s even trickier to monetize via adverts these days, as so many people use ad blockers.

Also, adverts will slow down your website’s loading speed, meaning that you might lose out on users coming to your site, and, even if they get there, the adverts might put them off. It’s worth thinking long and hard about whether this is the right revenue stream for you.

Find out what makes a good website 

How to Create a Subscription Website

  • Difficulty: Medium/Hard
  • Payout: Medium

Most website builders will let you wall off certain sections of your site that only registered members can access.

Creating a members-only section of your site is a great way to make your content feel more exclusive and valuable. This means that people are more likely to become paying members, as they can perceive the extra value they’ll get when they donate or subscribe to your site.

However, there’s a real risk and reward to going after this revenue stream. You need to be mindful of the number of return visitors your site gets, and it’s better to build up a free following first, before monetizing that audience through paying memberships. It’s also absolutely crucial that if you start free and offer paying options later you do not put the core content behind a paywall. People don’t like having something for free, then having to pay for it.

Of course, you don’t necessarily need a website to produce this kind of revenue stream. There are services designed to create paying memberships, such as Patreon.

How Does Patreon Work?

How to make money from a website using Patreon

Patreon is a service that lets an audience give money to their favorite content creators, or access premium content on an otherwise free website.

Think of it this way – your favorite podcast gives away one free episode every week to all listeners; but, it also gives another episode to its dedicated Patreon donors, as well as some behind-the-scenes video footage and a monthly Reddit AMA.

Donations are paid on a monthly basis, which gives creators a dependable, month-to-month income stream, helping them run their businesses efficiently.

Unlike a lot of the above monetization methods, having a workable income stream from Patreon doesn’t require an enormous audience. Instead, it relies more on engagement.

For example, Zach Weinersmith, who writes his own comics, has 3,401 Patreon donors, but earns nearly $7,000 per month from their donations.

Learn more about Patreon here

Make Money with Affiliate Marketing

  • Difficulty: Medium/Hard (depending on scheme)
  • Payout: Small/Medium/Large (depending on size of your site)

Affiliate marketing, as we mentioned above, is just a fancy term for sending users onto other sites to buy stuff, while you get a kickback from the purchase.

It used to be considered a somewhat shady practice, with sites recommending products that were of dubious quality just to get more money, although the practice has been cleaned up slightly and consumers have grown wise to dodgy reviews and recommendations. To be clear, at Tech.co, we sometimes use affiliate marketing to help generate revenue ourselves. However, we’ll never recommend a product that we don’t truly believe in, and you won’t have to pay a cent more to get the product when buying through one of our links.

If your site is attracting a lot of traffic, affiliate marketing can be a great way to monetize your site. However, if your site isn’t bringing in big visitor numbers, we’d steer clear of affiliate marketing — it works best at scale.

So how much money can you make? Let’s take a look at the Amazon affiliate scheme as an example.

Product Category

Standard fee rates

Amazon Fashion10%
Furniture, Home, Home Improvement, Lawn & Garden, Pets Products, Pantry8%
Amazon Fire Tablet Devices, Dash Buttons, Amazon Kindle Devices4%
Televisions, Digital Video Games2%
Physical Video Games & Video Game Consoles1%

 

Create and Sell a Website (Flipping)

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Payout: Small/Medium

Creating an entire website only with the intention of selling it might seem strange, after all, why would you invest all that time into creating a site just to hand it over. However, if you think about it like real estate development, it makes complete sense.

If you want to get started in the world of flipping, you’ll need to create a website. You’ll need to start with creating a domain. Try and find a domain that has the potential to attract a lot of traffic, something simple that people will remember and look for a strong top-level domain: .com, .org, .co for example. A memorable keyword and a good top-level domain can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that isn’t owned already.

Then you’ll need to start building your site. You could do this through a website builder, although it’s likely that people looking to buy a site would look to buy one based on a more universal platform — WordPress would be a good fit, as one-third of the internet uses its CMS.

Once you’ve bought your domain and built your site, you can sell it on a domain auction site. GoDaddy or Sedo are two good domain auction sites.

Then, you can reinvest that domain sale money into another site, or simply pocket it.

Use a Website to Promote Your Business

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Payout: Medium

Ok, we’ll level with you, this isn’t exactly making money from a website. But it is making money, because of a website.

Nowadays, if your business doesn’t have a website, you’ll be losing out on money. People are looking online first to find businesses, brands, shops, products, artists and more. And, if whatever you’re doing doesn’t have a website, you’ll be losing out.

example of a wix site

A restaurant website designed using Wix

Websites are the new shop windows and first impressions are crucial when it comes to websites. If it loads too slowly, or is too tricky to use, your visitors and potential customers aren’t going to stick around to find out about the great services you have to offer.

Using a website builder can really take the pain out of creating a great website, with simple, aesthetically-pleasing templates, dedicated help and support and easy-to-use tools to change and edit your site.

How to Monetize a Website

  • Do – Consider using a website builder. They’re cheaper than you think, and you’ll be able to add online stores, adverts or sponsored content as your site grows.
  • Don’t – Worry that it’s too hard to start your own online store. As well as website builders such as Wix, there are other excellent template online store platforms: Shopify, for example.
  • Do – Remember that quality is more important than quantity. If you want to create a successful, long term business, you need to ensure that your users are happy.
  • Don’t – Pack your site full of low quality adverts. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t use tools such as AdSense, but be aware that they should be used sparingly. Don’t forget, you’re only ever one ad-block extension away from losing a customer.
  • Do – Consider starting a Patreon account, especially if you run a labor-intensive, content-driven business. It might seem a strange idea at first, but it’s becoming increasingly commonplace.
  • Don’t – Give up. Sure, you’ll make more money if you get more visitors, but having a highly engaged audience who know about the quality of the work you produce, can be just as beneficial.

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.co with a range of experience in the world of tech publishing. Tom covers everything from cybersecurity, to social media and website builders when he's not reviewing the latest phones, gadgets, or occasionally even technology books.