The 4 Fundamentals of Generating Income from Your Website without Losing Your Audience

Adsense, affiliate marketing, and more…

George Free
Mar 16 · 7 min read
Photo by Myriam Jessier from Unsplash

Managing a website not only takes a lot of time, but comes with overheads such as hosting and domain name fees. Understandably, many creators look to monetise their website in order to see some kind of return on their time. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that you can generate revenue from your site. We’re going to discuss four of the most popular options: Google Adsense, Amazon Affiliates, paid product placements, and selling to your audience.

Monetising Your Website With Google Adsense

Without a shadow of a doubt, Google Adsense is the most popular way for creators to earn an income from their website. Initially released in June 2003, the programme has since delivered tens of billions of adverts, and returned billions of dollars to creators in return for essentially renting space on their site. Adsense is the same service used to provide Youtube creators with an income.

Google Adsense is a close relation of Google Ads. Customers purchase advertisements through Google Ads, which are then delivered through the Adsense programme.

To display adverts on your website you need to register with Google. If your content is PG then you’re almost certain to be approved. In reality, the only two qualities that Google consider when reviewing applications is, a, whether the website is complete (Google doesn’t like incomplete websites), and b, the website contains content that is suitable for all audiences.

Once your website is approved, there are several ad options. As a webmaster you can choose between image-based adverts and text-based adverts, as well as various advert sizes — ranging from large banners, to small boxes. You can also instruct Google to automatically place adverts on your website. I’ve used this approach on a Wordpress site that I manage, and on the whole it’s worked really well.

Although you’re free to choose the style and number of adverts served on your website, it really comes down to balancing user-experience with potential income. If too many large adverts are served then users will be unlikely to return to your site, but if too few are shown then you won’t realise the full potential of your website.

So, how much money can you make from Google’s Adsense programme? The general rule is the more engaging an advert, the greater amount of money you’re going to receive per user. Aside from the size and quantity of adverts your site displays, there are a few other characteristics that affect the amount of money you can earn from a website using Adsense. After the number of visitors your site brings in, arguably the most important factor is the type of content your website displays.

The reason that advertisers like using Google Ads so much is that their advertisements can be placed alongside content read by the advertiser’s target market. Furthermore, some topics are more popular with advertisers than others, and as a result the cost per advert is higher — Google operates a highest bidder policy. Because of this, the content of your website is important in determining how much money you’re going to receive. Personal finance related adverts are some of the most lucrative, and can bring in as much as 5 times more revenue than adverts for a non-fiction book, for example.

Adsense incomes vary wildly. Some sites report earnings as low as $25 a year, whilst others bring in more than $2,500,000 a month. If you want to earn an income using Adsense alone then you need a lot of visitors to your site.

Although Google Adsense is the most popular advert serving programme, alternatives do exist. Propeller Ads and InfoLinks are two examples, and although I have no experience with either, others claim to have had successful interactions with them.

Including Amazon Affiliate on Your Website

The Amazon Affiliate programme allows creators to earn a commission on a sale. The concept is simple: you talk about a product and include a custom link to that item on Amazon. When a user completes a purchase using that link you receive some percentage of the price paid. The percentage you receive is determined by the type of product you’re linking to, but it’s usually around 1.5%.

Registering with Amazon Affiliates is simple; all you need is an Amazon account to get started. Once you have your account set up you just need to navigate to the product you want to link to on the Amazon site, and use the SiteStripe bar found at the top of the Amazon website to generate an affiliate link.

The Amazon SiteStripe bar — used to generate affiliate links to products

Although the premise is good, Amazon Affiliates is usually not considered to be as financially rewarding as Google Adsense. However, there’s nothing to stop you using both Google Adsense and Amazon Affiliate on your site. As Amazon Affiliate links are so discrete, they’re unlikely to have a negative impact on user retention.

Paid Product Promotion/Placement

Paid product promotion is nothing new. Before the internet was even imagined it was used by magazines to generate additional income. In fact, publications such as Tatler still rely on this approach today. Although usually the reserve of larger sites, it’s not unknown for smaller niche sites to be approached. Unlike Google Adsense and Amazon Affiliates, you’re fighting just as much for the advertiser's attention as the individuals being advertised to — at least initially.

In return for discussing a product, and potentially sharing information about it on social media companies are willing to sponsor you. The exact terms vary from company to company, however, you should avoid offers that dictate the conclusion of your review. After all, if you lie about the quality of a product and a subset of your users opt to buy that product - later discovering your deceived them - you’ve essentially lost that portion of your readership.

The amount of money that you can earn from partnership programmes is determined on a case-by-case basis, and concerns the type of product you’re advertising, how you’re pushing it, and your readership figures.

To get deals you can try reaching out to companies, however, this approach typically has a low success rate. Instead, try talking about a product from a company you have an interest in partnering with and then bring your content to their attention via social media channels and e-mail— you might need to repeat these steps several times. By presenting their products well (high production quality — not lying) the company will naturally be impressed, and research your website. If you’re lucky this will eventually result in a paid partnership being established.

As with all advertising, the amount of money you can expect to earn through paid partnerships is dependent on your readership size, and the topics you post about — and therefore the products you’ll be discussing. Some sites get five-figure sums per placement, whereas others are happy to receive a free product. Paid promotions are a very lucrative area. Many creators even receive more income through promotions than Adsense.

When it comes to advertising products through product placement, ensure that you’re following all of the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. For example, in England it’s illegal to advertise products without making it clear that the content constitutes an advertisement.

Utilise Your Audience: Sell Them Something Using Your Reputation

As you develop a relationship with your readers, you can begin to monopolise on the trust that they place in you. If you’re looking for income longevity, then this method shouldn’t be overlooked. Admittedly it takes perseverance and effort to build up a strong enough relationship with your audience to sell them something directly, but it’s worth the wait.

You might recognise the main thread of this approach, as many creators now aim for this path. Essentially, over several years you need to create free content that your audience finds engaging — you’re looking to build a relationship with your reader, where they trust you like a friend. Naturally, it’s not easy building relationships like this at scale online, however interacting with your readers through your site and social media can greatly improve your prospects.

Producing a regular e-mail newsletter is another method of interacting with your audience, and can be particularly useful as an advertising mechanism when you finally have something to sell.

Once you’ve grown and maintained an audience — this will take years — you can begin looking at releasing a product or service. When doing this ensure that you’re not going to alienate your loyal fanbase. You want to sell something which is genuinely valuable, as this will only strengthen your relationship. You’re also in the fortunate position of being able to utilise website analytics to really dial on goods that your readers will enjoy.

There are a few approaches that you can take. Some creators sell physical goods, whilst others focus on services. Courses are particularly popular at the moment. As you know what your audience is interested in you can curate a course that nurtures their existing skillset or area of interest.

The Youtuber Ali Abdaal is a great example of how fruitful online courses can be for their creator. Over several years Abdaal’s built up an audience that trust him. In late 2020 he released his Youtube Academy course, aimed at assisting people interested in starting a Youtube channel. Through the trust his followers hold in him, he was able to sell access at $1000 per person. With 360 participants (including several 100% scholarships) the programme brought in a total of $294,000. But that’s not where it ends. Realising that there was value in an exclusive forum where those enrolled in the course could chat about their progress he released Full Circle. This brought in an additional $71,000. The course is live, and the production value is high.

There are plenty of services and products you can sell, to name a small selection: members only access areas, forums, loot boxes, merchandise, custom hardware, a book, and an exclusive chatroom.

There are plenty of ways to earn an income from your website. However, if you’re looking to retain your audience, and therefore maintain an income, you must be sympathetic to your readers. There’s no point in ruining all of your work for a one-time payment.

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