There are a variety of approaches you can take to monetizing your website, and none is necessarily better than any other. The method you choose should be based both on the subject matter of your site and corresponding opportunities, and equally important, how much time you want to spend managing it. We'll lay out a number of possibilities along with the pros and cons of each and the commitment level necessary to make them work.
Paid advertising comes in many forms, from banner ads and text links to contextual ads like those offered by Google's Adsense program. Of all methods, Adsense is the easiest way to monetize a site. Once you've added the code, you're done. Google displays ads based on your content. Visitors click on the ads, the company doing the advertising pays Google, you get a percentage, and it's simply deposited in your bank account. No time is spent dealing with customers, talking to advertisers, or collecting payments. It couldn't be easier. If you're looking for a hands off approach, Adsense is a great way to go.
If you've got a popular site in a niche related to or about specific products, the companies that sell them may be interested in paying you to place a banner/image or text ad on your site. Payment for these ads either comes in the form of a certain amount per thousand visitors, or a prearranged monthly fee. In either case, the more visitors you have the more money you'll be paid. While paid placement advertising take a little more work than Adsense, as you'll have to correspond with advertisers and manage the ads, it still requires very little work.
Affiliate marketing requires more commitment than paid advertising, but can also be more profitable. With affiliate marketing you place links on your site to other sites that sell products or services. When one of your visitors makes a purchase or becomes a "lead" on the advertiser's site, you get paid. You'll find more information on our affiliate marketing page along with links to companies where you can link up with advertisers. Keep in mind that while you'll often make more on each lead or sale, it's more likely that a visitor to your site will click an ad than click a link, visit another site, and buy something. So with Adsense the typical model is to make smaller amounts of money from more visitors, and with the affiliate model you'll make larger amounts from a smaller number of visitors.
The level and quality of conversion optimization on both your site and the advertisers site will in large part determine whether Adsense, other paid advertising, or affiliate marketing is more profitable. Fortunately, you there's no reason you can't do both. You can display Adsense on your pages and include affiliate links to relevant products or services your visitors will find useful.
E-commerce is the most challenging monetization method by far, and requires the most commitment. Not only do you have to convince a visitor to buy from you, but you also have to deal with inventory, customer service, and payment processing. However, because you get all the profit from each sale instead of a only a cut in the case of affiliate marketing or an advertising payment in the case of paid advertising, you'll get far more per customer with e-commerce. If you're a good marketer, the potential to make a ton of money with a single e-commerce site is unmatched. On our e-commerce page we'll go into much more depth regarding the pros and cons of e-commerce, drop shipping vs. stocking your own products, and more.
With both paid advertising and affiliate marketing, commitments and up front costs are small to nearly nonexistent. There are no expenses associated with these monetization methods aside from the low costs of running your website. E-commerce will require more money, more time, and some level of commitment to customers. Therefore, it's important to consider how much time you have and how much you want to spend before deciding which method to implement.