How to Monetize a Website: 8 Monetization Strategies for Digital Publishers

How to Monetize a Website: 8 Monetization Strategies for Digital Publishers
As a publisher, deciding how to monetize a website may feel overwhelming. Here's an overview of eight proven monetization methods and the right publisher fit for each one.

8 Ways to Monetize Your Website

Each of the below monetization models is dependent on what kind of website you're running. Some models may not be the best fit for your website. It's important that you determine which model will work best for you. You can do this using both quantitative and qualitative methods, whether it's looking at your website analytics to understand your readership, or throwing out a survey and seeing what your website visitors have to say. 

Video Ad Units

In my totally unbiased opinion, the best way to monetize your website is with video, the medium that brings in high engagement rates and revenues when done right.

In 2018, video advertising accounted for 25% of all digital advertising spend, and for good reason. Video advertising has a much better ROI for advertisers when compared to display, which is exactly why they will pay higher CPMs for quality video ad inventory. 

The process is similar to display ad units where you offer a specific space of inventory. Premiums are put on things like location, video player size, and whether the advertisement plays before, during or after the actual video.

Video ad units are an ideal monetization model for publishers who use advertising as a main method of website monetization. If you have high engagement and time-on-site because of your content, incorporating video will be especially lucrative for your website. Now more than ever, any content website can create quality in-stream ad inventory, and monetize it easily right from the start.  

If you're currently incorporating video into your website or want to introduce it in order to create new ad inventory, then monetizing your video using a video discovery platform can be an excellent source of website revenue. If you're interested in giving video discovery a try, you can discuss it with a Primis representative.

Display Ad Units

Monetizing your website using display ad units requires offering ad space in specific locations on your website. The typical spaces most publishers offer are at the top, on the side, or on the bottom of the web page. Depending on the layout of your website, you can also choose to offer various ad sizes, with some of the most common sizes being 300x250 and 728x90.

Download the complete guide to video monetization

This method is used by most publishers who offer content to their users, and it is still the digital advertising method that attracts the most investment. The advantages are that there is a seemingly endless supply of options, that publishers can fit multiple units on most pages, and that they come in a variety of different sizes. 

Programmatic Advertising

Back in the day, if you wanted to offer your advertising space as inventory for advertisers, you'd have to do so relatively manually. You would receive the code needed for your website, or even the creative itself, over e-mail and install it manually on your website.

Today, the entire buying and selling process is automated through a process called programmatic advertising, which helps you find the best price for your inventory. While going through programmatic advertising in depth is beyond the scope of this article, what you need to know is that the process has become much simpler.

Monetizing display or video ad units requires you to register with what's called a Supply Side Platform, or SSP. These platforms then help you find the right type of advertisements based on any number of criteria and give you the best price for your inventory.

Programmatic advertising is ideal for websites that have a large amount of traffic every month. The advantage for publishers is that, with programmatic handling everything, it’s a relatively low maintenance source of revenue as opposed to direct sales of display ads. You will see the most benefit if you are diligent in optimizing for the best results, and cutting off partners who consistently aren’t delivering. 

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing allows publishers to recommend products and services. Through a unique affiliate link that’s published on your website, you'll be able to receive a commission if your website visitors end up visiting the partner site and purchasing.

An example of this would be Amazon's affiliate program, where through your affiliate link you'll be able to send people to products and services on Amazon and you'll receive a commission if they decide to make a purchase there.

With countless brands participating in affiliate programs and networks, affiliate marketing is an ideal monetization model for many publishers. For example, if you have a passionate audience tailored around a topic or hobby, there are bound to be niche brands who would love to work with you. The advantage for publishers with affiliate marketing is that, like display and video units, it’s also relatively low maintenance compared to other models. 

When it comes to monetizing through affiliate marketing, it's important that you don't just pick the affiliate program that offers the highest commission. You want to ensure the products and services you promote are consistent with your brand and resonate and appeal to your audience.

Subscription Models

Subscription models consist of offering your visitors a paid monthly or yearly subscription which can include membership sites, access to exclusive, high-quality content. There are many newspapers that employ this model, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Huffington Post, and many others. 

The most difficult thing when it comes to subscription models for a website is continuously offering enough value that justifies the subscription prices.

Subscription models are ideal for publishers of websites that can justify charging regular fees for unique content. For example, if your industry is rapidly changing, such as news or technology, it may be worth exploring. The advantage to subscription models is a predictable source of revenue every month, the opportunity for higher growth and profits, and complete autonomy over the entire revenue model.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content lets brands create educational or inspirational content for your  website. This mainly comes in the form of articles or blog posts. In order to entice brands who are willing to pay for sponsored content, your site traffic, readership engagement and your demographic need to be crystal clear. A media kit specifically showing these metrics can provide brands with the needed information to make an informed decision.

Sponsored content is ideal for publishers who know their audience and understand what brands they are attracted to. If you are a high-end luxury website in a certain industry, you can contact other, adjacent brands to create sponsored content for you. It requires publishers to work closely with the brands. The advantage of sponsored content is that it is seen as more trustworthy than traditional ads. 


Depending on the type of website you are running, e-commerce can be an excellent opportunity for monetization. An example of a content site using e-commerce would be BuzzFeed's food site Tasty selling their own cookware.

E-commerce is usually seen as the "next step" after affiliate marketing, as it allows you to receive higher profits by selling your own products. E-commerce has its drawbacks, however, with inventory management being the main concern.

There are 3rd party companies and suppliers out there that private label different kinds of products and handle inventory and shipping, so it can be worth looking into.

E-commerce is ideal for publishers where there are complementary products that one can offer. In Tasty’s example, the branded cookware meshes well with the various cooking videos and how-to articles they provide. 

Building an Email List

One of the most valuable things you can do as a publisher is to build your email list. Unlike most of the models on this list, building an email list is proprietary. The best part of monetizing through an email list is the amount of experimentation you can do in testing out different website monetization models, giving you the freedom to monetize the list as you see fit and finding the best one for you and your audience.

One example of monetizing your email list is creating a weekly newsletter full of interesting, relevant content created by your team or curated from across the internet, then adding an opportunity for advertisements in the form of banner ads or sponsored content at the bottom from a relevant brand.

Building an email list is worthwhile for every publisher and should be an essential part to your marketing mix. However, monetizing that list may be more appropriate for some publishers than others. Companies that utilize newsletters and share content regularly can use sponsored content on their newsletter and can also incorporate it into a multi-tiered subscription model.

The (Real) Key to Website Monetization

Monetizing using the above models requires a delicate balance between maximizing the ROI of your website and not alienating your readers. It's important to keep a pulse on how your readership/audience/visitors are responding to the website monetization models you're testing and act based on that information.

Undoubtedly, you should monetize your website as effectively as possible, but never sacrifice user experience.

Download the complete guide to video monetization