When you’re a self-publisher, every penny of added income helps — especially when you’re just starting out and can’t immediately rely on a strong personal brand or passionate base of fans. If you can, though, even better: there are more and more ways to monetize your online presence so that your fans will be able to help you offset some of your costs without even trying. Third party ads, affiliate programs, and reward tools are all great ways to make your personal website work for you!
Remember, the internet user is a fickle beast, and too much advertising might lead them to believe that you’re some kind of sell-out. Be careful about the number of ads you allow on your page, or you might not get any page views at all!
Let’s look at some of the ways you can subtly and easily add revenue to your site:
Advertisers will often pay for the opportunity to present their products to your website audience, and there are many programs you can use to make that happen. Google, of course, has their own version called AdSense, which places a sidebar full of ads on your website that looks like this:
When users click on the ads, you make money. Simple, right? This type of advertising is called Pay per Click, sometimes called Cost per click.
In order to use AdSense, all you need is a Google account and you must be able to edit the source code of the website where you’d like the ads to go. If you don’t know what this means, it’s just the computer code that makes your website work, like HTML — when you sign up for Adsense, they’ll show you where to put it once you get into your website builder (We can also show you the process at a later date in another how-to article!).
You also have to promise not to use explicit adult content like pornography, and you aren’t allowed encourage others to click the ads — like we said before, don’t be a sell-out! Just let the ads quietly sit on your blog.
If you don’t like Google or if your content doesn’t mesh well with their program policies, there are other tools you can use. Other Pay per Click sites include Reachli, Chitika, BidVertiser, and Clicksor. There are also Cost per Mile advertisers that pay you for the amount of traffic you get on your site — Tribal Fusion, Vibrant Media, and Value Click all work on this model.
But what if the idea of having distinct ads worries you? You can try in-text ads, which are especially great if you blog a lot. Skimlinks searches through your content to find words that match up with their already existing affiliates and turns those words into links. You’ve probably seen these types of links before. They look like this:
If you’re an avid Youtube content creator, you can also sign up to monetize your account so that you get a profit whenever people view your videos. This is done by enabling ads before your videos. Note that Youtube strictly polices their monetized accounts and you can’t use any material that’s already copyrighted.
Affiliates and Sponsors
Certain websites will sponsor your content for the opportunity to market themselves, while others will give you a small percentage of money if you link to their services directly.
The Amazon Affiliate program is particularly great for self-publishers because you’d probably be linking to your book on Amazon anyway! If you use the affiliate link and the user buys something — maybe your book, but it could be anything — from that link, then you get a little bit back.
Certain other websites have a reputation for sponsoring content, and you can make them a pitch to sponsor your own content just the way you would ask any sponsor to help. I’ve seen Squarespace, Bonobos, Legalzoom, and Netflix work a lot to sponsors podcasts in particular. If your site is a WordPress site, you can also ask them to sponsor you as well. Jeffrey Shoemaker has a great article about how to land a website sponsor that’s worth checking out here.
If all else fails, you can open up a Paypal “tip jar” for those of your audience who’d like to donate money to you directly. According to Paypal, the money is technically supposed to be used for fundraising, and users that are not verified nonprofits must demonstrate how their donations will be used once they raise more than $10,000. However, this doesn’t stop many sites from using it as a way to get a little more income.
All of these forms of advertising and monetization depend on the size of your audience to make it happen. If you have a website that only gets 10 new visits a day, you’re not going to make much of anything. This isn’t meant to be an alternative to a day job for authors just starting out. However, every little bit does help, and the more readers you get, the more you’ll make, which is a great incentive to get yourself out there and keep writing work that others will enjoy!