WordPress is my favourite blogging platform. I’ve tried at least a dozen blogging platforms over the last 20 years, and none make it as easy as WordPress does (feel free to debate this in the discussion below!)
I’m often asked how to monetize a WordPress blog, and I feel I am in a good position to answer this question.
I’ve sold hundreds of millions of banner ad impressions to brands.
I’ve used programmatic banner ad platforms like Google Adsense extensively.
I’ve negotiated hundreds of sponsored sections, articles, and links.
I’ve joined and sold thousands of products through affiliate programs.
Not only that, but I’ve also been on the other side of negotiations too.
I’ve purchased many million banner impressions over the years, both programmatically and direct. I’ve also purchased hundreds of links, sponsored articles, and sponsored sections within websites.
We’ll start with my top ten tips on how to monetize a WordPress blog, based on many years of experience. Then further down the page, we’ll look at how to monetize a WordPress blog without resorting to simply banner ads. Because let’s be honest, banner ads are lame!
- Ten Tips on How to Monetize a WordPress blog
- How to monetize a WordPress blog without banner ads
Ten Tips on How to Monetize a WordPress blog
Tip 1: Use Banner Ads, But Sell Them Directly First
Fun fact: This website was once called “FckDisplay”. I called it that because I am often frustrated by how heavily WordPress bloggers rely on banner ads (aka ‘display ads’) to generate their income.
They typically slap on Google Adsense, then slave away until they get 50,000 monthly impressions to make themselves a few hundred dollars per month if they are lucky.
Relying on low paying ads placed programmatically on your website will pay you peanuts, demotivate you, and ultimately lead to you abandoning a blog that could have been monetized more effectively in another manner.
So how do you monetize a WordPress blog more effectively?
You sell the same banner space, directly to advertisers.
Yes, you will get rejected often.
Yes, you’ll have to fine tune your sales pitch.
Yes, you’ll have to know what you can charge.
That’s why we teach this topic in-depth in our Monetization Method course.
The reason why we preach this so heavily is that you’ll easily double your blog’s income, if not triple it.
Selling banner ads directly removes the middle man, and lets you sell better advertising packages to the brands you work with.
Tip 2: Use Programmatic Banner Ads, But Only in Unsold Inventory
What I mean by this is focusing on selling as much banner space as you can directly to brands.
If 20% of your available inventory is unsold, then slot in low paying ad networks such as Adsense, Mediavine, or Ezoic into those spaces.
Google Adsense is where most people start. It has the least requirements, is nice and easy to implement, and is largely self-service.
Once you meet the minimum traffic requirements for other ad networks such as Mediavine, then you can switch away from Adsense to a ‘premium network’. They’ll typically pay 20% to 100% more than Adsense, but still not as much as you could get selling the ads direct.
Tip 3: Don’t Be Afraid to Test Different Layouts and The Number of Ads
There are a few fundamental tips to get every last dollar out of banner ads. These apply whether you use an ad network like Google Adsense, or are selling ads directly to advertisers.
Display multiple ads per page: This doesn’t mean shoving ads down your user’s throat, and it certainly doesn’t mean popups, popunders, or any of that nasty stuff.
What it means is that most pages require a bit of scrolling, and there is no harm in having 3 or 4 ads on a page which is of decent length and quality.
It’s not unusual to have a header ad (next to your logo), a sidebar ad or two, and another above the footer.
Experiment: Try different placements and ad formats to test what works best for you. Some ad formats will give you a better click-through rate (CTR) than others, and therefore maximise your earnings. Likewise, some positions on your website will earn more than others.
Users come first: Ad revenue is important, but not pissing off your website visitors is (arguably) more important. You want your visitors to love your website and come back day after day, or month after month, for as long as you can keep them. This means your #1 goal is quality content, and #2 goal is milking this content for every last dollar you can.
Knowing how to monetize a WordPress blog effectively using banner ads simply boils down to nailing the tips above. But there are other (more profitable ways) that you can use to monetize a WordPress blog
Tip 4: Find What You Can ‘Build Once, Sell Twice”
There are many digital products you can ‘Build Once, Sell Twice’.
An eBook is written once, and can be sold 1,000 times.
A WordPress Theme can be coded once, and sold 1,000 times.
An online course (like our Monetization Method), can be made once, and sold 10,000 times.
A CV Template can be designed once, and sold 1,000 times.
Some of these take just 1 hours to make, like the CV template. An online course can take months to make. It’s taken me over a decade to learn all the information I teach in the Monetization Method, and nearly a year to get it all written down for others to consume easily.
What’s common with all the digital products mentioned above is that the incremental cost of making an extra 1,000 sales is $0 (ignoring web hosting and payment processor fees). This is what I mean by finding a product you can make just once, then sell many times.
You’ll find they are digital products 99% of the time.
Find What You Can ‘Build Once, Sell Twice’.
How to monetize a WordPress blog without banner ads
There are a number of ways to monetize a website without simply slapping banner ads everywhere:
- Sponsored posts
- Sponsored links
- Sponsored sections
- Newsletter ads
- Solus emails
- Digital downloads (such as ebooks)
- Social posts
- Directory listings
- Online courses
- Affiliate links
Let’s take a quick look at these individually since they are all quite simple to implement into any WordPress website. Since I’m hoping to keep this article bite-sized (under 2,000 words), you’ll find in-depth discussion on each of these monetization strategies in my Monetization Method course.
Method 1: Sponsored posts
This is about as simple as you can get on any WordPress installation. Simply find an advertiser, click Posts > New Post and publish the content the advertiser provides. There are obviously a few details you need to negotiate, such as what you can charge for a sponsored post, and what rules you’ll be providing the advertiser, but it’s nothing a bit thinking and research can’t solve.
When I buy sponsored posts I typically pay $50 – $150 if it is for one of my websites, and I am buying from another blog.
If I am buying on behalf of a brand I am consulting with, then sometimes I pay thousands, as it’s typically more for brand awareness and credibility, rather than backlinks for SEO.
Method 2: Sponsored links
Sponsored links are also super simple in WordPress. In fact, they are easier than Sponsored Posts, simply because you don’t even need to think about content. When a buyer approaches you to buy a sponsored link on your website, your first question will be “would you like this in new content, or an edit of a previous post”. Based on their answer, you can make a plan for placing the sponsored link on your website.
I normally pay about $50 to $100 for a sponsored link, and when buying I always ensure they are dofollow links. When selling sponsored links on my WordPress sites, I always make sure they are nofollow links.
Sounds like double standards right? It is, but I always err on the side of caution when selling links myself.
Method 3: Sponsored sections
My favourite way to monetize a WordPress site! I sold my first sponsored sections back in 2011 to a global car brand for (if I remember correctly) $20,000 to $40,000 per year.
For one sale, which renewed for about 3 years, that deal made a lot of cash for a somewhat niche sporting website.
Typically a sponsorship deal for a section of your website will include a number of sponsored posts (such as one per month), social media posts, and inclusion in the blogs newsletters every now and then. Sometimes there can be product giveaways too.
I personally like to go down the ‘naming rights’ route when doing sponsored sections, and tack the sponsors brand name onto an existing section. This, coupled with header/footer messages within the section saying “Content made possible by our friends at…” is a nice subtle way to add sponsorship branding to one of your websites sections.
Method 4: Newsletter ads
No matter what platform your blog lives on, it’s always a good idea to be collecting email addresses. With WordPress, this can be as simple as installing a plugin such as Thriveleads, or even using basic funcionaility within the Elementor editor.
Once you have a growing database begin to schedule a regular newsletter. It can be weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, the main thing is consistency.
Once you get a good size audience (over 5,000 subscribers) you can start to incorporate ad space within the emails to other advertising deals you do. This could be standard banner ads, sponsored content, promoted giveaways, or sponsored sections – it’s fully up to you.
Method 5: Solus emails
Solus emails are a new term for many people still learning how to monetize a WordPress blog. Essentially a solus email is a single-minded email with no other content other than the advertisers message.
It’s a good idea to use them sparingly, as it is blatent advertising to your valued newsletter database with little content, so expect to get some unsubscribes.
Many bloggers will refuse to do solus emails, and some only do them if the price is right (expensive).
Method 6: Digital downloads (such as ebooks)
When I first researched how to monetize a WordPress blog, I delved deep into digital downloads.
This was back in 2009, and I rely heavily on digital downloads to this day.
Think of it this way: any file you have on your laptop, or that you are willing to create, can be uploaded to a WordPress website and be available for download. Of course, you’ll request payment before letting the user download the file.
I’ve got a giant list of literally hundreds of types of digital files people are making a living off within the Monetization Method course, but here is a taster of some common file types, and some you might not have thought of:
|Common Downloads||Less Common Downloads|
|Stock photos||Letterhead templates|
|Photoshop actions||Email templates|
|Lightroom presets||Social media image templates|
|Music / audio files||Business card templates|
|WordPress themes||Stock footage|
|WordPress templates||After Effects templates|
|Contract templates||Flyer designs|
|Checklists||Apple Motion templates|
You’ll see that some require creative skills, other require technical skills, and some just require a bit of time and dedication.
Of these, I’ve had most success with eBooks, checklists, and forms. I’m not creative, and not very technical, so these are easy to make!
Method 7: Memberships
One of my favourite methods of monetizing a WordPress blog is by creating a membership platform.
There are many out-of-the-box plugins that will turn your WordPress site into a fully functioning membership website. I personally use both Wishlist Member and Digital Access Pass on two of my WordPress membership sites.
(I personally prefer Wishlist Member, but admit that I am using an old version of Digital Access Pass and the new version looks much better!)
Membership websites can be hugely profitable, and once it’s made your goal becomes finding members. Here are five different ways a membership website can make you $1,000,000 per year.
- 5,000 people pay you $17 a month for 12 months
- 2,000 people pay you $42 a month for 12 months
- 1,000 people pay you $83 a month for 12 months
- 500 people pay you $167 a month for 12 months
- 250 people pay you $333 a month for 12 months
When you break it down like that, it starts to look achievable, right?!
What else do you need to monetize your WordPress site with a membership?
- A payment processor. My Wishlist Member website uses Stripe, and my Digital Access Pass website uses Paypal.
- A checkout provider (optional). My Wishlist Member website uses Thrivecart to manage the checkout, and Thrivecart in turn uses my Stripe account to take payments. A checkout provided like Thrivecart isn’t required however. My Digital Access Pass website just links directly to the Paypal payment page.
Method 8: Social posts
Yes, this article is titled “How to Monetize a WordPress Blog”, and social posts aren’t exactly a WordPress blog, but hear me out…
Most WordPress blogs have some form of social following. If yours doesn’t, add it to you to-do list this week. It’s good to build a following on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin, or whatever social platforms are best suited to your audience.
Once your audience grows, you can begin to offer social posts as part of advertising packages that you offer to brands. It’ll help you close more deals and you’ll be perceived as offering a more complete package.
For WordPress users, a plugin such a Simple Social Icons is all you need to put the icons of the main social networks on your website.
If you are serious about growing your social media following you can also consider the following tips:
- Sign off your blog posts with your standard call to action (“Let us know your thoughts in the comments below”) but append a social media call to action to the end of it as well. An example would be “Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or join the community discussion on Facebook in Instagram”.
- When people sign up to your newsletter you have two options to get them to also follow you on social media. Firstly, once people sign up you can redirect them to a confirmation page that mentions your social media profiles. Secondly, if you use a service like ActiveCampaign you can immediately send them a Welcome email which shares your social media links and asks the new user to follow you on your profiles.
Next steps to get started:
- Decide what social media platforms best suit your niche: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Tiktok, etc
- Sign up for profiles for each of them, and customize your profiles with your branding and content. Add 5 or so posts to ensure you aren’t sending your visitors to an empty page.
- Add social media links to your WordPress blog. This can be done through most themes, or a plugin of your choosing.
- Invited people to follow you on social media once they sign up to your mailing list.
Method 9: Directory listings
Online directories are as old as the internet is itself, but they are still popular and can be hugely profitable.
But first let me be clear: when we talk about a directory, we don’t mean one of the low quality websites which has tens of thousands of text links to anyone who wants to pay $4.95 for a link.
That’s outdated, looks horrible, and will eventually implode on you when Google finds out you’re selling thousands of links.
What you want to create is a high quality curated directory which is relevant to your niche.
Here are some examples:
- If you have a fitness blog in New Zealand, you could host a directory of all gyms in New Zealand. Each listing will have photos and pricing information, along with reviews and a contact form. You could easily charge $200 or more per year for a listing, and there are at least 500 gyms in New Zealand you could approach.
- If you are in the surfing niche, you could have a directory disguised as a “Gear Guide” and list all the top brands and their latest range of products. I’ve actually done similar gear guides in the sports niche before with good success.
Next steps to get started:
- Brainstorm what directories or listings could feature on your website
- Decide whether you need to install a WordPress Directory Plugin or can build a directory yourself using a mix of Pages and Posts.
- Find databases of brands and companies that could be listed in your directory, and consider using Freelancer.com to hire a person to scrape the database for names and email addresses. I recently did exactly this and got 8,000 potential listings for a directory for just $70.
- Contact these brands and see if they would like to be listed for a monthly or annual fee, or even pay extra to be a featured listing.
Method 10: Online courses
Online courses are one of the most profitable ways to monetize a WordPress blog.
As mentioned about in the Membership Website section, you can use one of the many off-the-shelf plugins available to sell online courses on your blog. Both the aforemented Digital Access Pass and Wishlist Member plugins work well for courses.
One of my most popular courses sells for USD$297 and it is a course in the interior design niche – one of my other passions. It is a one-off payment for lifetime access to all the content I have created (hundreds of thousands of words, spread over multiple ‘units’). The course also comes with worksheets, checklists, guides, and resources for the students.
Think about what you are passionate about, and what skills you have which you could teach the world.
I’m personally passionate about helping bloggers better monetize their websites. Since I have been involved in digital marketing and monetization for over 10 years I have a lot of experience which I have packaged up and sell in my popular Monetization Method course.
Next steps to get started:
- Decide on what knowledge or special skills you have to offer
- Ask yourself if you truly care about this topic enough to teach it to others
- Decide on the structure of your online course. What are the modules, units, and resources you will provide your students?
- Purchase the required WordPress plugins to manage your course. If you don’t want to do your own research, just pick Wishlist Member.
- Sign up for a payment processor to manage your revenue. Stripe is nice and easy for beginners.
- Connect all the dots by uploading your content to WordPress, putting it in a restricted area with Wishlist Member, and taking payments via Stripe.
Method 11:Affiliate links
One of the easiest ways to monetize a WordPress blog is affiliate links.
Despite currently owning many affiliate websites, and making good money from some of them, I always advise students of the Monetization Method course to set their sights higher than using just affiliate links.
What is an affiliate link? An affiliate link is a link to another website, typically an eCommerce website, which will pay you commission for any products the user purchases after visiting the website. The most widely used is Amazons affiliate program with hundreds of thousands of affiliates all over the world.
The good news is there are dozens of tricks to use affiliate marketing the right way. This article is already getting too long, but you’ll find those tips within the free trial of the Monetization Method course…
- Learn how to find HIGH VALUE affiliates that pay over $50 per sale
- Learn how to best structure your articles to send qualified traffic to the affiliate that is ready to purchase
- Learn how to maximize clicks to the affiliate by providing them with just enough (not too much) information
- Learn which WordPress plugins can make affiliate marketing more effortless and stress-free.
Next steps to get started:
Here are the basic steps to monetize a WordPress blog with Amazon affilaites:
- Sign up as an Amazon Affiliate
- Research the types of articles commonly used to send traffic from your website to Amazon (buyers guides, product reviews, top lists etc).
- Write & publish the aforementioned articles on your WordPress blog
Sounds easy, right? It is, which is why you only get a small commission and need to rely on large traffic volumes to make decent money being an affiliate.
We’ve discovered 10 tips on how to monetize a WordPress site, and explored 11 different methods of monetizing a WordPress site.
Armed with this information, you should have a pretty good idea of what you need to do next. If you don’t please ask in the comments below, or sign up to our Monetization Method course where we outline everything in precise detail for you to follow.