How do Websites Make Money without Ads?

There are very many websites that monetize their content with Google Adsense ads. These ads however do not pay much per click and sometimes the products they link to are not suitable for your site’s readers. Some websites take other approaches. These methods might not be as easy as slapping on Adsense ads, but are much more profitable in the long run.

Personally I like the idea of building up a relationship with your readers. Getting your readers to subscribe to your email list, delivering a lot of value and then promoting products. With this approach you are much more likely to convert your readers into buyers.

I will start out with the simpler ways of monetizing traffic and then I will also go into the lesser known ones. Lesser known these methods may be but they are definitely not less profitable.


Everyone is aware of online stores where you sell stuff. The only thing I would like to add to that is the idea of drop shipping. Drop shipping is when you don’t carry your store’s stock. If someone orders something from your store, you send the order to a drop shipper and they send the product to your client. That saves you the cost and effort of carrying stock.


The way affiliate income works is that you refer people to a seller. When someone who you referred to them buys something, you get a percentage commission on the sale.

Affiliate networks are digital marketplaces where sellers and people with traffic come together. Examples are Clickbank, Amazon and CJ Affiliate.

Affiliate commissions work well with targeted traffic. It is possible to make x 10 more with affiliate commission than with PPC advertising, on the same web page. An example of targeted traffic would be if someone searched for “great tennis rackets”. Through the search engine they find your page where you review different tennis rackets. On your page you link to Amazon where they can buy the tennis rackets that you review.


Clickbank specializes in digital goods like subscriptions, eBooks, video courses, software and so on. With digital products you can see very high commission rates, as high as 75%.

Clickbank product example


Amazon pays between 4-8.5% commission (depending on how much you sell in a given month) on most products and 4% on electronics (lower commission rates are normal on electronics). Mostly Amazon converts regional traffic. Some products like the Kindle and their eBooks converts global traffic.

Their commission percentage is relatively low, the thing is Amazon is a machine when it comes to converting traffic. On my best month with Amazon I made $5869.53 . Amazon earnings tend to spike over Christmas as people spend more.

I would recommend Amazon’s affiliate program for beginners.

I am not recommending the product above it’s just an example of what an Amazon affiliate ad looks like, you could use an iframe like that or just a text link.

CJ Affiliate formerly known as Commission Junction

CJ Afffiliate is a very old and very large affiliate network. CJ Affiliate is popular with website owners because it pays reliably and has many advertisers. The drawback with CJ Affiliate is that you need to handle each advertiser separately, where with the other 2 networks it doesn’t matter who the advertiser is.

CPA (Cost per Action or cost per acquisition)

This is where you refer someone to another site and if they take a specific action you get paid. In some cases this action may not involve money changing hands.

An example would be if when someone opens a free account on a dating site. If you referred this person you could expect to make $1 – $2. So you are making less than with an affiliate sale, but because it’s free or cheap it’s easier to convince people to try the service.

Another example might be a free 30 day trial on an online video service.

Create your own Product

Many websites sell their own digital products like eBooks, videos, audio books or software. eBooks and audio books are easier to create while videos and software are more difficult. Digital products are popular because after the initial cost of creating them, you can keep selling them without any additional per unit cost.

When creating a product for your niche audience it helps to really know what they are looking for and what they are willing to pay for.

You can test the market with different affiliate products. Then create something new that better satisfies your readers’ needs.

Many websites cultivate a following of loyal readers through social media and an email list.

Sponsored Posts

A sponsored posts is when someone pays you to put a specific page on your website to promote their website or product.

In order to make good money with sponsored posts your site needs to be targeted to a niche and be popular. The more regular readers you have the more you can make with a sponsored post.

The post can either be written by you or by them, but I recommend that you write all sponsored posts, to keep the content uniquely you.

Buying and selling links is sponsored posts’ ugly stepsister. Here you are clearly trying to trick the search engine into ranking certain pages. The search engines of course don’t want you to do this. The problem is that it’s hard to identify bought links. So if you don’t sell many you are unlikely to get caught. The search engines look for suspicious patterns in the links to find and penalize link farms. Google punishes the sellers of links, but not the buyers. If they did, a competitor could just buy dodgy links and point them to you to your site. I recommend learning everything about selling links before you consider trying it.

Solo Ads

Many websites focus on actively building their email lists, because a good email list is worth a lot. A solo ad is when someone pays you to send an email to your email list. Generally you make around $40 per 100 clicks with solo ads. So say you have a list of 10,000 subscribers (a fairly good size list) you send out a solo ad and say 20 % of people click on it. That’s 2,000 clicks, divide that by 100 and multiply by $40. That’s $800. I wouldn’t send out more than 1 solo ad every 15 days.

Conversely if you have a new website in a niche and are looking to build a list, approaching the older websites with active email lists and buying solo ads may be a good tactic.

Speaking Engagements and Consulting

Having a successful website with a lot of content in a specific niche may establish you as an authority in that niche. Being an authority may lead to speaking and consulting jobs coming your way.

Of course speaking, doing panels and interviews will introduce your website to new readers.

Here is a link to a YouTube video about monetization methods: How do websites make money?

Tutoring and Mentoring

What some websites do is to have their own product, as I mentioned before. But then they may also have an enhanced version of their product that includes spending personal time with the buyer. An example in the “make money online niche” would be if someone followed your method and then you spent time going over their work and answering any questions they might have.

This will generally be a big ticket item around $1,000. There will always be a small percentage of buyers willing to spend a lot more and you don’t have to sell many big ticket items to make a large profit.

Asking for Donations

Many bloggers will tell you to stick to affiliate commissions and stay away from donations. Generally what bloggers try to do is to give their followers something like an eBook and then ask for a donation. This may or may not work. On the other hand people donate more than a billion dollars every year to various causes. So asking for a donation may be worth trying.

In my opinion the 2 most important things you need to have to succeed with donations is a worthy cause and a very good understanding of your donors.

Selling your Website

A website is a business like any other and hundreds of websites are bought and sold every day for thousands of dollars.

Most websites are sold by auction on Flippa a digital market place. I haven’t sold anything on there, but I have bought a website on Flippa and I am happy with the service they provided. The only real exception to using Flippa is if your website is worth more than $150,000 in which case you should consider using a broker.

When selling a website you generally pay capital gains tax which is taxed at a lower rate than normal income tax in most countries.

Websites generally sell for 12-24 months income. However if it has a lot of age (5 years) and is in a well defined niche, in which people spend money, the price can go a lot higher.

So naturally the next question is: “What method is the best way to make money?” There is no easy answer to this question. You can only really figure out the combination that works best for your site by doing a lot of testing.