How To Monetize A Website from a Hobby to Business (With Examples)

If you want to earn money online, knowing how to monetize a website is HUGE. This post will give you actionable ideas how to do it.

Candice Elliott by Candice Elliott | Last Updated: February 22, 2021

As website owners, we put a lot of hard work and time into our sites, whether they’re a passion project or strictly a way to earn money. If your site is new, you might be wondering how to monetize a website, and if your site has been around for a bit, you might be wondering if you’re doing everything you can to monetizing it.

Even if you’ve had it a while, there are probably a few routes to monetizing a website that you haven’t considered and maybe not even heard of. And website monetization is not only a great way to make money online, but it’s a great source of passive income too.

You don’t need a lot of money to set up and maintain a WordPress site.

On average, it costs around $200 to build a website, with an ongoing cost of around $50 per month to maintain it.

And your chosen monetization strategy doesn’t have to require a lot of work or time. That many strategies are set it and forget it might be overstating it, but it’s not that far off.

Typically, the work required is either entirely front-loaded or takes occasional maintenance. And using the right tools, like Lasso, if you’re monetizing a website with affiliate marketing, can help make your job even easier.

How to Monetize a Website: First Thing’s First

A few things to help you with this endeavor include choosing a profitable niche, using the right affiliate marketing tools, and the business model you use to earn affiliate income. I’ll unpack each of these ideas in greater detail below.

Choose a Profitable Subject

One of the best ways to have a happy career is to make money from your hobby, right? You get paid to do something you love.

Creating a website is a great way to monetize your hobby or your area of interest.

And honestly, if you know what you’re doing, you can make money with a website based on almost any topic under the sun.

Think of the most boring thing you can imagine, and then Google it, followed by the word “blog.”

I chose “bird watching.”

No offense bird watching enthusiasts. I’m sure you enjoy your hobby very much and walking around in the woods is relaxing but ZZZZZZ.

It doesn’t matter what I think, though, because that phrase returns 95,300,000 results. There is even a “best of!”…

google search bird blogs

You can monetize a bird watching blog, but how much money will it make? Enough to make blogging your full-time career. Probably not.

If your goal is to make your website a career, it’s better to choose a topic that makes money.

And ideally, you will be able to find a topic that can make you money and that you enjoy, even if it’s not something you’re wildly passionate about.

These are among the most profitable blog subjects:

Now Choose a Niche

Choosing a profitable subject is only half of the story. Let’s say you’re passionate about personal development.

You want to share your personal development skills with the world and make some money while you’re at it. Seems like a solid plan, yeah? Personal development is a money maker.

Well, let’s see who you’ll be up against:

Even those not interested in personal development blogs will probably recognize some of those names.

If not, they’ve probably heard of two of their owners, Tim Ferriss of 4-Hour Work Week and Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Nonconformity.

As a new blogger, you have no chance to rank against established, well-known blogs like those.

But you want to create a site around personal development. Are we telling you that you shouldn’t? Absolutely not!

But you do have to choose a small niche within that topic. A smaller niche means you won’t be directly competing with the big guys.

What niches could you choose?

Well, what are you? Are you a single parent, a small business owner, a recovering alcoholic? Let’s compare the number of Google hits we get on the broad topic and the more niche sub-topics:

These are much smaller niches where you could make a real impact. New bloggers often mistake thinking they’ll catch more fish by casting a wide net but what you need is a small pond.

It will be much faster and easier to make some traction in those smaller niches. And by traction, we mean money!

Use the Best SEO Tools

When it comes to the amount of traffic your site gets, creating high-quality content will only get you so far. Great content is a big part of monetizing a website, but unless search engines are finding your content, your website traffic won’t grow.

SEO (search engine optimization) is the way to drive traffic to your site, and the below tools can help.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is an SEO keyword tool. It’s the second biggest website crawler next to Google. Ahref’s Site Audit tool shows what parts of your website could be improved to help you rank higher.

The competitor analysis shows your competition’s backlinks, which you can use as jumping-off points for your content. You can also use Ahrefs to find the most linked content within your topic niche.

ahrefs dashboard how to monetize a website

If you’re not entirely sure what your niche should be yet, it might be worth investing in Ahrefs so you can research keywords before deciding. It might save you from choosing a niche that you won’t be able to monetize.

SEMRush

SEMRush is an SEO marketing tool. You can assess your site’s rankings and changes to them and see new ranking opportunities — the Domain Vs. Domain analysis lets you compare your site to those of your competition.

There are analytics reports that show you your website’s search data and traffic.

The On-Page SEO Checker lets you monitor your rankings and gives recommendations for improving your site’s performance.

Clearscope

Clearscope is a keyword research and content optimization tool. The main feature is the “Optimize” function.

It provides a list of keywords that should be included in your content and gives you a letter grade based on how many appear.

clearscope dashboard

I use Clearscope for every article I write and it’s my favorite SEO tool.

Monetizing a Website

If you want to earn money from your website, here’s how you can do it.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is the gateway drug of money-making strategies because it’s pretty easy to do. Most affiliate programs don’t require a certain amount of website traffic to sign up.

Join an affiliate program or affiliate network, choose products and services relevant to your content, and useful to your audience.

Promote those things with reviews, listicles, or other kinds of content and include affiliate links to them.

When readers use your link to make a purchase, you get an affiliate commission. That’s it! Affiliate programs include Amazon Associates, Commission Junction, Clickbank, and dozens more.

We created Lasso to help affiliate marketers manage their affiliate links and to increase conversion rates.

One way to do it is through Lasso’s custom link display feature like this one:

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For the complete list of Lasso’s capabilities and functionality, read this.

Generate Leads

Lead generation is similar to affiliate marketing, but you don’t have to entice the reader to make a purchase to earn a commission.

Companies pay you to send traffic to their site, and the reader you send doesn’t have to complete any kind of action, including:

Pay Per Click Advertising via Google Adsense

Google Adsense is the best-known PPC (Pay Per Click) program. The PPC provider will create ads based on your website’s content that target your audience.

Each time a reader clicks on an ad, you earn a small commission.

Sell Ad Space

If you have a heavily trafficked site, over 200,000 page views per month, you can directly sell ad space.

There are several types of ads including pop-up ads, banner ads, and display ads located in your site’s sidebar.

Typically, direct ads are sold on a CPM (Cost Per Mile, more commonly known as Cost Per Thousand Impressions).

But they can also be sold as CPA (Cost Per Action), which means you’re paid when a reader takes a desired action (like adding their information to an email list for a newsletter or giving a like on a social media platform).

Publish Sponsored Posts

Lots of companies will pitch a sponsored post, also called native advertising, to bloggers whose content is relevant to the company’s products or services.

Usually, the sponsored post is in the form of a review.

Be sure to disclose any sponsored posts, only accept them for relevant things to your readers, and to be honest in your review.

If you try out the product or service and don’t like it, it’s better to turn down the offer than to try to sell something inferior to your audience.

Readers trust your opinion, and if you let them down, you’ll lose their trust.

Sell Digital Products or Services

Selling your own products is not the easiest method on our list of how to monetize a website, but doing so can be a great form of passive income because all of the work is front-loaded.

You write an ebook, create online courses, an app, or a game, for example, and sell it on your site.

Once you’ve created the digital product, a landing page to promote it, and set up an e-commerce site to sell it, the work is done. Every sale you make is passive income.

If you don’t want to create an online store, you can sell your products on another platform like Amazon or Teachable.

Offer Premium Content

To sell Premium Content and make money, you could create an Only Fans account. It would help if you had a substantial following, so this method of monetizing a website isn’t ideal for those new to blogging.

One of my favorite sites, Messy Nessy Chic, offers premium content for “keyholders.” These are the things keyholders get access to for $4.99 per month:

As you can see, the site offers a lot for $4.99 a month. People are used to seeing everything online for free, so if you want to entice them to pay for content, you have to make it tempting.

Consulting Services

If you have expertise in a particular field or on a particular topic, you can offer your services as a consultant.

This path of monetization isn’t as passive; you’ll not only be selling your expertise but your time as well.

Hold a Paid Webinar

Holding a webinar is similar to selling your consulting services but allows you to address a group rather than speaking one-on-one.

So, if you don’t have a lot of free time and have a few interested readers, a webinar is more efficient than working with people individually.

You could potentially generate passive income if your webinar is somewhat evergreen by making it available for a price on your website.  

Build Your Email List

Capturing emails doesn’t generate income unless you sell your email list which is a shitty thing to do. But a big email list can help you make money with your website.

If you write an ebook, create a course, write sponsored content, are launching premium content, etc., your list allows for email marketing to your target audience.

Ask for Donations

Some people may have a problem asking readers for a donation and some readers may be offended by seeing a donate button. I think those people are in the minority.

Most people know that maintaining a website and creating good content isn’t easy; it’s time-consuming (and no one’s time is free).

You can join Patreon, add your PayPal or Venmo address to your site, and let people know they can help support what you do by joining your Patreon or donating.

Add a “Hire Me” Page

If you have the time, you can offer your freelance writing services on your site. Your site is your portfolio and you don’t have to go through a freelancing site like Upwork or Guru that takes a cut of your earnings.

Choosing the Best Monetization Method

If there is a one-size-fits-all answer to how to monetize a website, it would be affiliate marketing.

It doesn’t take a ton of time and using the right tools (e.g., Lasso) can help make the job easier and faster.

It’s easy to join most affiliate networks, it’s usually free to do so, and it’s a good way to start making a little money even if your site is pretty new and not yet generating traffic.

But most of the other methods of monetizing a website are not a fit for everyone.

And while it’s a good idea to try a few different ways, you don’t want to spend time and effort setting up something that isn’t suitable for you.

These are some things to consider when choosing monetization methods:

If you get less than 200,000 page views per month, you probably can’t sell ad space directly, but you might be able to make money using Google Adsense.

Have a loyal audience? They might be willing to pay for premium content or donate to your site.

If you’re still working a full-time job in addition to running your site, you may not have time to write an ebook or create a course.

Do you have a lot of experience in your subject? You might do well by offering consulting services or hosting webinars.

Don’t get discouraged if your site isn’t making money in the beginning. Like any business, growing a website that makes money takes time. But it can be done and plenty of people do it. The Lasso co-founders have done it with multiple websites across a variety of subjects.

We couldn’t find a single WordPress plugin that handled all of the tasks; we needed a good affiliate managing widget. So, we built Lasso.

Want to learn more about monetizing a website? Read this.

Candice Elliott
Candice Elliott has written hundreds of articles about all things money, wellness, and flawlessly finding gifts to match any occasion. She’s also penned three books as a ghostwriter. If you’re lucky, you might catch her sipping on something delicious in New Orleans, the city she calls home.

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