Monetizing WordPress: Going Beyond Ads

Lots of people make money with WordPress.  In fact, a large number of people make their primary income using WordPress as a framework.  Some use WordPress to offer information as a service, while others use the WordPress framework itself to offer a software service (SaaS).  Those folks deserve their own dedicated article, but for today we are focusing on the weekend WordPress warrior.  The people that have day jobs and other primary incomes, supplementing it with their WordPress ventures.

This article is all about how they do it.

Besides ads, there are other ways to monetize your WordPress site.  The following are different strategies, plugins or themes that will help you squeeze a few (or a lot!) dollars from your site.  Keep in mind, the best websites are not overly monetized.  Choose a few strategies that fit with your mission and vision.  Make sure they also fit with the “feel” of  your website and target the right kind of visitors.

1. Affiliate Sales


This is perhaps the close runner up to advertisements.  Maybe it’s even #1.  Ads rely on volume and quality of visitors while affiliate income can grow with smaller numbers.  You still need the right kind of visitors though.  For example, if your site focuses on WordPress themes, people who visit probably aren’t looking to buy premium plugins (and therefore sales generated from your website will be infrequent).

The best affiliate accounts have tiered plans that pay you a small percentage when other people become affiliates.  But these plans are becoming less common.  Another good plan to look for has recurring payments.  Elegant Themes is an example of a program that pays affiliates every time someone you sent them renews their membership.

2. Premium Content

pay wall

If you are a content producer like a blogger, offering extra special content for a select group of visitors can generate some income.  In order to do this, you should have a pay wall installed.  This works best when you already have a large group of dedicated visitors.  It also requires a clear line between what constitutes free content and premium content.  This isn’t absolutely required but helps define your model.  An example could be providing simple tutorials for free, while reserving the complex or detailed tutorials for premium users.

3. Develop a product

wp product

If you’ve got a WordPress related website going, you can create a WordPress related product to sell.  This can be tricky if you’re not ready for success.  We’ve thought about developing a theme here at Pingable but decided not to because we couldn’t provide the level of support customers might need.  Developing a free and premium version of a product is another strategy that pulls in users.  This too requires a level of continues availability that you have to be prepared for.

A product can be something tangible or more virtual.  A good “starter product” might be an ebook or comprehensive guide to something.  This doesn’t require the follow up support of a theme or plugin, but may still generate income if the product is good enough.

BONUS TIP: I am a fan of the bait and switch model.  This isn’t as bad as it sounds.  I believe you should offer a quality product/service/content first, then monetize.  Ever seen a blog with five posts and twenty advertisements?  Looks pathetic, right?  The highest quality sites (read: have fewer ads but charge more for them.  They started with a simple design and really high quality content.  The ads came later.

4. Donations


You wouldn’t think so, but donations can go a long way.  I recently stumbled upon this website, that ONLY uses donations to support their work.  It makes sense that people who use your website frequently and find it valuable will throw you a few dollars as a thank you.  If you are truly providing something useful, and have lots of visitors, the money can really add up.  This plugin will do the trick.

How have you monetized your WordPress site?  I’d like to hear about it.


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