Recent events have emphasized the importance of having multiple sources of revenue, but it’s always been a strategy used by the most profitable online businesses. Some revenue models have become so diverse, they can be customized for most online businesses in any niche.
Chances are, you’re already making money with your website using one of these strategies. Adding other revenue streams is your backup plan and contributes to long-term revenue growth. As you monitor the performance of each stream, you can shift your focus to those that are most profitable.
The trick isn’t to change your business model or niche, it’s to expand it until you’re taking advantage of every digital opportunity. Each addition can be related to your niche in some way, the more directly the better.
For example, a hockey-related website or blog could offer:
- Video hockey lessons
- An ebook of game-day recipes
- Custom attire and other merchandise for hockey enthusiasts, like a t-shirt that says “This is my lucky hockey shirt,” or a bumper sticker that says “I brake for street hockey games.”
- Products from non-competing sponsors and affiliates (such as those selling official, licensed merchandise, game tickets or a Canada-wide pizza chain offering game day deals).
- An ad-supported newsletter for hockey families.
That’s a lot of untapped income potential!
6 Revenue Streams for Virtually ANY Website
Following are six legitimate revenue streams that we’ve found to be the most versatile and profitable for online businesses.
1. Direct Advertising
From banner (display) ads to sponsored content, selling advertising directly to businesses can be a significant source of revenue. The trick is in finding advertisers that compliment your niche without promoting the competition.
Once your traffic has reached a level high enough to catch the eye of advertisers, you will have the opportunity to make private deals for ad placement on your blog (direct advertising). The more you grow, the more you can charge. Most private advertising is paid by the month or annually. If your traffic volume isn’t high enough yet, you can use affiliate advertising (see below) in the meantime.
When your traffic volume is high enough, you can also join ad networks like Media.net and Google Adsense, ad management companies like MediaVine.com, or diverse ad solutions like Sovrn.com. However, you may have less control over what ads appear on your site.
If you have a blog or other information platform, you can get in on the wildly popular content marketing trend. Sponsors (brands) or their agency representatives will approach you eventually, looking for guest posts, reviews and a variety of other content.
Sponsored content has been around in print for decades, but is more commonly referred to as native advertising. It can range from an ad dressed up to look like normal content in a newspaper to the mere mention of the brands of makeup a model is wearing in a magazine article. It has been effective enough to stand the test of time and morphed into the digital age. Natural, sponsored content is now one of the most cost-effective and successful forms of online marketing.
Add an advertising page to your website with a summary of options available. Have a media kit ready to send to those who inquire, and/or offer it as a download on your site.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is one of the most common ways to monetize websites. It has consistently generated the most income for us and our clients over the past 20+ years, long before blogging was even a thing. Canadians enjoy a nice bonus with affiliate marketing because most of them pay in US currency.
Affiliate programs (or partner programs) began in the 80’s and are now responsible for billions of dollars in online revenue. Generally, you will join an affiliate program and they’ll pay you a certain percentage of sales you bring them through a custom link on your website. These links may be banner ads or text.
Affiliate marketing is often referred to as passive online income, but technically that isn’t the case. However, you don’t have to worry about anything except generating a sale or lead. The follow-through is up to the merchant, from payment processing to customer support.
Products or services can be promoted from various angles, such as reviews, gift guides or recommendations within an article. As you gain more experience, you may find some affiliate programs are worth a more concentrated effort, inspiring you to create landing pages, webinars, tutorials etc. You can also take it outside of your blog and into email or social media.
Check out our BIG guide to starting affiliate marketing in Canada for more details.
3. Digital Products
Digital information products or downloads are often what takes a website or blog to a whole new level of revenue. You could share your expertise with an ebook or teach through an online course. Read How to Create and Develop Your Own Digital Learning Products for detailed information about this method of monetizing your blog.
Downloadable products include apps, software, website themes, WordPress plugins, photos, printables, etc. The beauty of digital downloads is they take time to create, but after that they require little direct effort to make money again and again. Even marketing these products can be largely automated. When you have your product ready to go, check out the Top 8 Ecommerce Platforms for Digital Product Downloads.
Once you have your digital products, you can use one to sell the other and considerably boost your sales. For example, many marketers use a “sales funnel” that takes the buyer through an automated sales cycle, from a lead magnet or first sale, on through several offers (often leading up to more expensive products, such as a course). You can even feed affiliate products into your sales funnel. They’re well-worth researching when you’re ready.
4. Online Consulting/Coaching
One of the benefits of having a blog or a similar content platform, is you can demonstrate your expertise on a topic or show off your online business, marketing or design/developer skills. That can lead to opportunities to contract out your services, provide individual consulting/coaching, or even book speaking gigs if that interests you.
Providing information or services within a niche often inspires retail product ideas. Expanding into ecommerce can be as easy as adding a plug-in to your blog. It can be challenging to find wholesale suppliers in Canada, but you can ease your way into it with Drop Shipping (no inventory or shipping required) or learn how to find Canadian wholesalers.
6. Email Marketing
The list you build in association with your online business can become a source of additional revenue. Several of the website monetization methods mentioned above can be applied to your email list, including affiliate marketing, sponsor advertising and solo ads, and email courses. Familiarize yourself with CASL and the anti-spam laws of any country your subscribers might be from.
Some ideas and strategies will work better for you than others. Execute each monetization method in a way that utilizes your personal abilities, interests and passion to attract and serve your specific target market. Implement, test and grow your website revenue streams until they all work together to maximize your bottom line.
Which one will YOU start with? Please share in the comments below or join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.
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