3 ways to make money with WordPress

Advertising, affiliate marketing, direct sales

What determines your ability to make money with WordPress? Two key factors: audience and engagement.

Making money in any business is a function of providing value. The more we help other people solve their problems, the more other people are willing to pay us for our assistance.

If you want to make money from your WordPress site, you must provide value.

What kind of value can you provide on your blog?

  • For your audience: Provide engaging, interesting and useful content. The better your content, the more likely someone will subscribe to your blog, recommend you and share your content.
  • For an advertiser: You can provide audiences. You might have a topic or a niche you specialize in; if a company wants to advertise to that market, you can provide them with access to your audience.
  • For a marketer: You can provide engagement. If your content is engaging enough — meaning someone clicks, shares, or comments — you can parlay engagement to other people’s products and services.

If your content is so spectacular that your audiences are gigantic and very engaged, you may want to sell directly to your readers. Why? Partnering with other companies often involves giving up a significant share of revenue.

Audience & engagement

Let’s put these two measures — audience size and engagement — on a spectrum:

Four box illustration on ways to make money with your blog

If you have neither audience size nor engagement, defer your moneymaking efforts. Instead, focus on growing your audience, growing your engagement, and creating value for your readers and potential partners.

If you have audience reach, but not necessarily engagement, look at advertising. Think about opening up your blog to advertisers to place ads next to your content.

Advertisers will pay you for audiences to visit them.

 

If you have engagement but not necessarily reach, look at affiliate marketing. Unlike advertising, which typically pays for impressions or clicks, affiliate marketers pay bloggers for concrete actions taken, such as purchases or form fills. You can write about products and encourage your audience — which might not be huge but is highly engaged and trusting — to do business with your affiliate partner.

If you have both reach and audience, you can continue to work with partners and advertisers. When it comes to potential, you may want to sell directly to your audiences, direct to consumer.

Informational products such as ebooks, webinars and other paid content can generate much more revenue than selling other people’s stuff.

How do you get started making money with WordPress?

Make money with advertising

To begin advertising, find an advertising network to broker your site’s inventory with advertisers. The most popular and well-known advertising exchange for publishers is Google’s AdSense advertising program. AdSense is free to join; after Google approves your WordPress site, you place code on your blog and ads begin to show. You have some level of control over the types and categories of advertising shown on your site.

Other ad networks such as OpenX, BuySellAds, and Chitika are equally good options to investigate. Look into each ad network for who advertises in those networks. If your WordPress blog is entirely about exotic coffee tasting and an ad network has no coffee-related advertisers, it’s probably not a good fit.

Make money with affiliate marketing

To begin affiliate marketing, follow a similar process to ad networks. Start by identifying which affiliate marketing network you want to join. CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) is likely the best-known multiple-vendor affiliate network, followed by ShareASale, Rakuten LinkShare, and ClickBank. And almost everyone has heard of Amazon Associates for reselling items found on Amazon.

Reputable affiliate networks are free to join; many will give you a control panel to select affiliate partners’ products, negotiate payments. and provide tracking links. Once you select products you want to offer on your WordPress site, you download the codes and start blogging.

Make money with direct sales

If you’ve got great traffic and great engagement, it’s time to think about going direct. What can you create and sell to your audiences? Digital goods are the easiest products to create. If you have writing skills, you can write and sell ebooks and whitepapers. If you have graphics skills, you can sell art, animations or kits — many a photographer has sold prints of photos online. If you have music or video skills, you can sell audio or video products.

Selling direct to consumers requires an inventory management system and a payment gateway. In recent years, these platforms have become incredibly affordable. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is the best-known ebook sales platform, and so should be part of your marketing mix.

To sell more than just books, look into vendors such as Gumroad, Selz, and WooCommerce for digital delivery of your products from your blog.

If your blog audience is incredibly loyal and supportive, consider asking them to sponsor you. Services such as Patreon, Recurrency, and even PayPal allow you to sell subscription sponsorships directly to your audiences.

Setting expectations

No matter which route you pursue, it’s unlikely you will be so commercially successful at first that you’ll earn more than beer money. You should expect beer money at first, then perhaps fun money or pay-a-small-bill-monthly money. Over time, as you grow your audience, focus your content and build engagement, you should see revenues increase to car payment money and ideally, mortgage money. That said, you should not expect quit-your-day-job money immediately, or even within a couple years.

Give yourself plenty of time to learn how your chosen approach works with your audience.

 

If you choose to advertise on your website, it might take a few months to learn which advertisers or networks pay best and have the most suitable advertisers.

If you choose affiliate marketing, you should expect many product and partner variations until you find the right blend of product and payout to match your audience.

If you choose direct to consumer, you should expect extensive ramp time as you learn how to market your products above and beyond the content you’re already creating.

Start now

As the adage goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is today. The best time to make money with WordPress is after you’ve built at least some audience, some engagement, and had some content be successful.

Start building audience and engagement today, then choose a revenue model that fits best!


Also published on Medium.

Christopher S. Penn
VP of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications, Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.