Non-shady ways to mooooonetize your blog

By on Aug 17th

First, this post needs a soundtrack. The video below is about Flash-based games (not my scene, and in fact I hate Flash), but there's a lot of relevancy to digital publishing and I catch myself singing "Let's moooonetize it" more frequently than I care to admit. So, press play and let this smooth operator serenade you as you read this post:

Ok. So, as a publisher, of course I'm always looking for ways to monetize my sites. Yes, there's the low-hanging fruit like Google AdSense, but in the four years I've been working on the Empire, I've branched out into a ton of different monetization tools and services. My theory is even if each monetization method only pulls in a $1 a day per site, it slowly adds up.

For me, the biggest challenge with monetizing has been finding legit, non-scammy tools. There's a lot of shady, gross stuff that goes down in the world of online advertising, and it's hard to trust information you find on the web. I like to feel good about the businesses I partner with, so I figure it'd be worth sharing some of the tools I use that don't feel shady to me:

A disclaimer: I may be more shady than you! Your mileage may vary with any of these tools.

Display advertising and sponsored posts:

I prefer doing ads from my own ad platform, which is why I love OIO. But third-party ad networks can be a decent solution, too. I hate banner ads, but they've made my smaller sites profitable.

  • OIOpublisherOIO Publisher (OIO is a WordPress plugin that allows you to set up your own ad platform, and it's how the Empire makes the vast majority of its money. I manage all our advertorials, vendor listings, sponsor banners, and text ads through OIO. Development on the plugin is agonizingly slow, but I love OIO until the ends of the Earth.)
  • Glam Media Network (These are semi-ugly CPM-based banners, but since they pay by view instead of by click, they make my lower-traffic sites actually profitable. Also, my account manager there is sweet and awesome.)
  • AdSense (Even with the Empire's 3 million monthly pageviews, AdSense isn't a huge money-maker for me… and if you're a lower traffic site? Bleh. AdSense pays based on number of clicks, which means lower traffic sites don't make shit.)

Affiliate programs:

These programs allow you to get a small sales commission when people purchase products after clicking your links.

  • Commission Junction (All my shoe posts feature affiliate links, and they're actually a pretty solid revenue stream, if you can believe that.)
  • Share A Sale (Similar to CJ, but appeals to smaller businesses so there are some folks who can't find on CJ who are on SAS.)
  • Amazon (Not a big money-maker for me, but I know Megan has makes a solid profit every month from all her links in heavily-trafficked posts like this)

Content-based monetization:

  • Outbrain (Despite the few issues with off-brand related links, they're solid. Monetizing content instead of products is great strategy. Outbrain's blog is great too, if you're into dorking out about content monetization.)
  • Skimlinks (Great way to make sure that products linked in comments get monetized via affiliate links. It took me a few tries to get my settings right so that shit didn't feel shady — I do NOT recommend their SkimWords product, which links phrases like "wedding dress" to weight loss programs [ICK!!] — but I've talked to these folks on the phone, and they're earnest and awesome and I like them.)

This is one those issues where I'd LOOOOVE to not be the expert — any other web publishers out there have experience with creative, NON-shady monetization tools for your websites?