How often do you review your website’s monetization methods? Is it a common practice of yours or something you rarely do?
Regardless if you’ve been in a niche for years, I highly recommend periodically reviewing your monetization methods so you can compare what you’re doing vs what the top competitors or market leaders are doing.
While it’s hard to find out exactly what monetization models they’re using, there are some indicators that are obvious if you know what to look for.
Like whether they’re using Display Ads, Affiliate Marketing, etc.
When looking to monetize a website, you must start by answering what kind of business you’re starting. And then from that decision you’ll find the appropriate monetization methods to generate revenue.
In this post, we’ll dive into what the best monetization models for affiliate marketers are.
But first, a few basics.
What is website monetization?
Website monetization is a fancy way of saying “revenue generation”
When you look around online you’ll see see an infinite number of websites that all use different monetization models (i.e ways of generating revenue)
Some of the most popular monetization models being:
- eCommerce (Physical & Digital products, software, services, etc)
- Affiliate marketing (Promoting products & services for commissions)
- Display Ads (Adsense, Mediavine, etc)
- Advertising (Ad placements, sponsored posts, etc)
- Lead generation (selling leads)
So if you’re an affiliate marketer, which monetization model should you choose?
Fortunately, you have the most freedom with this decision.
You can mix and match many different monetization models for your business.
Because your core business as an affiliate marketer is promoting other people’s products or services. The door is wide open to use many different monetization models.
You can use affiliate marketing to earn a commission on your reviews.
You can use display ads to earn revenue from high traffic pages.
You can generate leads and sell them to service providers.
You can sell advertising placements.
Tip: The only thing I probably wouldn’t do right off the bat is create your own line of products and try to sell them. Your audience sees you as an authority on a topic and purchases products based on your recommendations. Creating your own products will definitely interfere with that process and compete with your other revenue sources.
It is doable but you should make sure you have enough traffic to justify this move, and also make sure you properly separate your “Authority” site from the “Product” site.
The best advice for affiliates is this:
Keep it simple.
For educational purposes, let’s look at an example of what an eCommerce site should not be doing:
eCommerce sites should not be promoting other people’s products or services. Doing that will only create more friction and interfere with the buying process of their core offerings.
The only scenario I see that working is if the affiliate marketing / cross promotion happens AFTER the sale, like bundling offers & add-on bonuses for signing up.
Otherwise, an eCommerce site would just be cannibalizing their product or service by promoting other offers.
eCommerce sites also have no use for display ads or lead generation (selling leads).
Their sites don’t get enough traffic to make meaningful revenue from display ads, which by the way, will only distract the user from purchasing. And eCommerce sites want every single lead for themselves.
Why would they sell leads? It wouldn’t make any sense.
That’s why it’s crucial to know your core business.
Any monetization model outside of your core business will likely just cannibalize your traffic.
So with that out of the way, let’s dive deeper into the best monetization models for affiliates.
The Best Monetization Models for Affiliates
So you might be thinking, “Well I’ll just monetize my site with affiliate marketing”.
That’s a great start.
But if the only way you’re generating revenue is through Affiliate Marketing, then you’re leaving money on the table.
You’d be much better off combining multiple monetization models to generate multiple streams of income.
Let’s look at a few examples:
- The Authority site (i.e The Points Guy, Sleepopolis)
- Authority sites enjoy the widest variety of monetization models to choose from. The most common monetization models you’ll see are a combination of affiliate marketing, display ads, and advertising.
- The Informational site (i.e WebMD, wikiHow)
- Informational sites typically produce top of the funnel content which has low buying intent but is high in search volume. Display ads, advertising, and sponsored posts would be the most appropriate for this type of site.
- The Lead gen site (i.e Expertise, AngiesList)
- Lead generation sites are monetized primarily by selling leads to service providers. They also monetize with sponsored listings (pay to be featured at the top, etc.)
I like the authority site example because it has huge potential for mixing and matching monetization models. One flow I like is monetizing your top of the funnel & linkbuilding content with display ads and your bottom of the funnel content with affiliate marketing.
So it would look like this:
The thought process is simple.
Since you likely won’t make any affiliate sales with top of the funnel content, you can still make money from display ads which pay you out based on volume of traffic.
Then you interlink to your money posts which by definition have lower traffic volume and are very expensive on PPC. Interlinking to your money posts will help you siphon off traffic from the top of the funnel content and earn more revenue.
By the way, this can also be done through YouTube. YouTube might be a better option if you prefer video.
Another idea is you could do lead generation & capture emails along the way, then sell the leads to service providers.
So in addition to promoting products and services, you can also monetize your email list by partnering up with service providers.
Get creative here!
Once you understand your buyer’s journey, the sky’s the limit.
When you know your buyer’s journey, you’ll know where you can add value at each stage of the journey.
One model I love for understanding the buyer’s journey is AIDA.
Intro to AIDA
AIDA is a powerful consumer behavior model. It’s simple and effective and is one of the marketing models I use with clients.
HubSpot did a great job explaining what AIDA is here and in this infographic:
Photo source: HubSpot
Where do you think affiliates typically operate in the AIDA model?
I would say in the first 3 levels.
Attention: Top of the funnel content providing general information on a topic i.e “Why playing golf is great for networking and making lasting connections.”
Interest: Tell a story to hook them in and create wanting. i.e “How to look like an experienced golfer even if you’ve never held a club in your life” and then introduce the products, but be subtle. We’re not selling yet. That’s for the Desire stage, so don’t expect many conversions here.
Desire: Here’s where you sell the product. Coffee’s for closers baby. i.e “Which golf clubs are best for beginners and why?” Go into detail and talk about features & benefits (sales tip: the more expensive the item the more you need to go into benefits and build value so they can justify the purchase).
Then link them to your offers so they can buy.
Once they land on your partners websites (offer pages) they’ll be in the Action phase of AIDA.
At that point, it’s the job of your partners to facilitate the order.
Generally speaking, top of the funnel content (attention) is higher in traffic volume and lower in buyer intent. And as you move further down the funnel, the traffic volume decreases and the buyer intent increases.
This knowledge sets you up for matching the right monetization model for the right stage of the buyer’s journey to maximize revenue and user experience.
For more tactics on matching intent with content check out our in-depth guide here.
More examples of affiliate monetization models
Becoming an expert
If you become an authority, you could always go the “guru” route. Gurus have an interesting business model with additional monetization models.
Their monetization process might look something like this:
1. Content / Blog – Display ads, etc.
2. Affiliate Marketing monetization from promoting niche/related products
3. Selling courses
4. Additional affiliate monetization in the courses – to do X, you need tool Z etc…
5. Influencer marketing – Sponsored posts, etc.
Even though course sales are typically the priority, the affiliate revenue can be a very nice second source of revenue. Especially if the affiliate revenue is recurring.
For the guru promoting and reviewing products, there’s other benefits besides the extra income.
The more they review products and give recommendations, the more authority they gain. The more authority they gain, the more likely you’ll buy one of their courses.
It’s a loop that works quite well for the gurus.
Going the full publishing route
You could always go the full publisher route. A publisher is a website owner that provides content. Not to be confused with an Affiliate marketer, who is a website owner that promotes products and services.
Publishers, like affiliate marketers, use various monetization models. However, affiliate marketers are not always publishers.
Being a publisher means you’re constantly posting all types of content.
Your content is essentially your product.
Publishers live somewhere in between being an authority site and an informational site with the main difference being that publishers post significantly more content than authority sites while also monetizing more aggressively than pure informational sites.
Smart publishers often operate in broad verticals so they never run out of content to publish.
For example, a health publisher has virtually unlimited topics to talk about in the health vertical. They can publish content on diet, running, bodybuilding, crossfit, etc.
The flow for a publisher in its most basic form would look like this:
You start out by building an audience. You do this by publishing great content and promoting it to your potential audience.
Then as you continue building your audience and your audience grows, they begin to trust you more. As you continue expanding your audience, your trust with new and existing readers will also continue to grow and strengthen.
Then as trust continues to grow, you’ll be generating more revenue from your audience.
Trust = Sales
As you generate more revenue, you’ll be able to afford to invest more into your business and create better experiences for your audience.
This flow is nuanced in the sense that these things usually happen simultaneously.
For example, you’ll be building your audience to acquire new readers while building trust with new and existing readers while some of them will already be buying from your recommendations and reviews.
Win. Win. Win.
As your site grows, the monetization models you chose will really start to flourish.
Now you’ll be able to command 5 figure advertising fees because you’ll have the audience to back it up. You’ll be going from a few sales a week to many orders every day.
Then after a few years you can sell your business.
Wirecutter is a great example of what’s possible. They’re an example of a publisher with amazing execution that got acquired for a nice sum of $30 million dollars.
Putting it all together
Choosing the right monetization model for your business is one of the most important decisions you can possibly make.
You can choose the best niche, have the best execution, the best everything, but if you rely on only one monetization model or choose the wrong monetization model, you’ll be out of business very soon.
These are costly mistakes that can be avoided with the right information.
Most affiliates would be better served if they “work backwards”. Meaning, they start at the conversion, or monetization model, and then figure out exactly how they’re going to execute.
Combine your plan with relentless execution and you’ll become unstoppable.