How to Monetize a WordPress Blog in 2021

If you want to monetize a WordPress blog or new site – you won’t be short of options. Starting, running, and growing a popular website has been a key lever in countless successful careers and businesses. 

How is your site doing now? Maybe it’s growing, and starting to attract thousands of visitors a month. You’ve put the right efforts into creating and marketing your content, and can attract high quality traffic through organic search. 

What’s the next step? With the right monetization strategy, your site traffic can become a goldmine. All the tools and plugins are out there to help you to monetize WordPress too – so the technical challenges are generally manageable. 

There’s still a lot to learn though, and a lot to think about to come up with the optimal strategy. 

To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of the most effective strategies for monetizing WordPress sites. We’ll show you practical examples of WordPress monetization models and lots of other tips you need to succeed.

Consider this a jumping off point – then tailor your strategy to your own unique business situation!


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The Potential Revenue from Monetizing a WordPress Blog

Speculating about how much revenue you can generate from a WordPress blog is fun, but tricky. 

It depends on a wide range of factors including your niche, traffic quantity and quality – and how aggressive you want to be. 

The good thing about monetizing a WordPress blog though is that it’s a tried and tested path. Bloggers have been making great money through WordPress for years – there’s no shortage of examples to learn from and observe. 

Indeed, many big names in the blogging industry often publish their annual blogging income reports to share some insight on this topic. Looking at these reports, we see a wide range of figures. 

Some bloggers and small content sites make $500 – $2000 monthly and consider this a huge success. More experienced, established brands rake in $200,000 annually and consider that mediocre performance. 

At the end of the day – creating a loyal audience, then nurturing and growing it is the key to success. When you have a large, engaged audience of fans, your monetization options are practically unlimited. If you don’t, you’ll struggle to make anything. More on that later. Let’s cover the main WordPress monetization options. 

How to Monetize a WordPress Blog

Here are the seven best ways to monetize WordPress. Take a skim through them, and think about which would be best for your site or blog.

1. Display Ads on Your WordPress Site

One of the easiest (arguably the most popular) ways of making money on WordPress is by displaying ads. You can insert advertisements into your website in multiple ways. They can be displayed as static content, pop-ups, or even native ads within your web pages.

To start making money from putting up ads on your site, you’ll need to partner with established advertising networks. 

For anyone new to ad placements, Google AdSense is the best platform to start with. It’s the fastest and most customizable ad network out there. Also, beyond displaying relevant ads to your audience, AdSense is well-optimized for mobile.

Getting started with Google AdSense is as easy as signing up with an existing or new Gmail account.

The Google AdSense team first reviews your application. There are several factors, but if your website is relatively established and doesn’t infringe on any copyright laws, you should get accepted.

Now that you have a Google AdSense account, you can choose to either paste Google AdSense HTML code into WordPress manually or simply use the auto-ads feature. The latter option saves you the stress and time of adding individual ads to your web pages and deciding where to place them.

To make things even easier, you can install a plugin like Easy Google AdSense. This plugin simplifies WordPress monetization by optimizing ad placement using machine learning. All you need to do is paste your AdSense Publisher ID and you can now control your ads within your WordPress dashboard.

When AdSense starts displaying ads, you’ll be paid based on a cost per click (CPC) model. Advertisers bid in Google’s auctions to display the ads on the network – so the CPCs vary both over time and depending on the niche. When all’s said and done, you’ll receive a sizable slice (68%) of the profits. 

Google AdSense Alternatives

Though this rate is competitive, there are other Google AdSense alternatives such as Media.net offering better payout.

Ezoic and Mediavine are known to pay out much better compared to AdSense, but they have more stringent requirements for acceptance.

Another Google platform – Ad Manager – allows publishers to serve inventory from AdSense and other networks to maximise revenue. This is a good option for very successful sites, for smaller publishers though AdSense is the more reasonable option.  

You can also sell ad space directly to businesses using a WordPress advertising plugin. However, selling self-hosted ads is significantly more complicated than working with ad networks. It generally involves more administrative work of interacting directly with advertisers. Fortunately, tools such as AdSanity help you host your own ads and control the pricing while managing AdSense as well. 

2. Affiliate Marketing and Sponsorships

As well as running ads that are supported by your content, there are great ways to directly monetize your articles. 

Affiliate marketing

One popular way to make money on your blog is by recommending a product or service to your audience and earning a commission from each sale. A good example is Tom Dupuis of Online Media Masters who makes about $150,000 annually recommending Cloudways hosting to his site visitors.

For the best results, you must promote excellent products your readers find useful. You can find products to promote on Amazon, eBay, and other similar affiliate programs. You can also do deep research about the best affiliate programs in your niche.

Affiliate just goes up and up (source)

Affiliate marketing is big business nowadays. Even major publishers like BuzzFeed and The New York Times have been moving to make affiliate commissions a major part of their revenue mix over the last few years. 

All you really need is traffic, then some good copywriting skills. 

Once you have some decent traffic, take some time to really understand your audience and what kinds of offers they would be interested in. Then try to find affiliate programs that you could promote that they would genuinely benefit from – and that pays out a decent commission. 

Affiliate opportunity example

For example, let’s say you run a popular website about WordPress, WooCommerce, or start-ups. Your audience are business people highly motivated to find tools and strategies to help them improve UX, revenue, and growth. 

You stumble upon MobiLoud’s affiliate program and check out our products News, Commerce and Canvas that turn websites into native mobile apps. You see that we pay out 30% monthly recurring commissions – up to $150 per month per client you refer. 

The products would fit with your content and brand, could genuinely help your audience, and the payouts are great. Now you need to find effective ways of promoting MobiLoud in your articles and site pages. Refer 10 clients to use you’ll earn $1500 per month, refer 100 you’ll net up to $15,000 per month. And that’s on top of all your other revenue streams. Not bad, right? If you had the right audience, that would be more than possible. 

You don’t need to restrict yourself to one or even a handful of affiliate offers. You can promote as many as you’d like. This is a really good direction to move in once your site is well established and generating traffic. 

Another lucrative model for established sites and blogs to consider is sponsored posts. Also known as native advertising or advertorials, brands pay significant sums for bloggers to publish content dedicated to promoting their products.

  • Paid reviews: Much like sponsored posts, you can make money reviewing products on your website. In the absence of offers from advertisers, you can contact companies to make paid reviews for them.
  • Influencer blogging: When you start getting recognized as a blogger, it’s possible to leverage this recognition and position yourself as an influencer in your niche. Opportunities to monetize will come flooding in at this point. Famous people like Tucker Max started as small scale bloggers but grew to become big brands.

If you really put the work in to build a great site and following, you won’t even need to do much outreach to try to get sponsorship deals. Brands will come to you after a certain point and pitch you on sponsorships. 

Example of sponsored post on BuzzFeed (source)

It all comes down to building that loyal base audience. When you have that, you can do anything. 

Affiliate marketing and sponsorships also don’t need to be restricted to your blog. When your blog gets popular, you can use the audience to grow other channels like YouTube, podcasts, newsletters, and more. These new channels will provide you with even more opportunities – truly a great long term strategy to monetize WordPress. 

3. Create a Subscription-Based Website

In the media industry, it has become more and more difficult to make money from advertising over the last few years – as ad dollars are hoovered up by Google and Facebook. 

In response, the industry has undergone a transformative pivot to paid.  

Many big publishers now rely on revenue from paid subscriptions, and the public are becoming more comfortable with the idea that they must pay for high quality content. Smaller content creators and sites are also starting to launch paid subscription offers and getting a healthy revenue boost in return. 

This is a common site these days! (source)

If you really produce valuable, unique content that helps readers in their lives and work, this might be a great way for you to monetize WordPress!

How to monetize WordPress through subscriptions

To make subscriptions work, you need true fans. People who subscribe to your newsletter, follow you on Twitter, comment on your articles, and generally are really into your content. 

After growing your brand over a certain period, you’ll discover that the majority of your huge fans are often willing to pay to gain access to even more value. 

1000 true fans?

Think about Kevin Kelly’s famous essay 1000 true fans. In it he argues that if you can get 1000 true fans, and make $100 per year off each of them – then you can earn a good living as a content creator or a small media company. 

Getting there is the hard part. Create excellent, unique content over a long time period and nurture relationships with your audience in a nutshell, but that’s beyond the scope of this guide. Once you’ve got them – WordPress provides you with all the tools to build a subscription business. 

You need to put together a valuable package for subscribers – then use a paywall solution like MemberPress, Restrict Content Pro, or aMember to create gated or member-only content. 

What kind of content?

Your restricted (premium) content could come in the form of in-depth blog posts, limited-edition products, file downloads, audio, and video content. You could package it together with premium interviews, podcast episodes, a community, or even online courses. The more valuable you can make the package for subscribers the better. 

Generally, recurring payments are often more beneficial to you as a site owner. It’s a good way to generate steady revenue. However, offering subscription plans often means you have to keep working hard to continually develop top-notch content. People will generally cancel subscriptions they don’t use or value – so it’s up to you to keep giving them a lot of value. 

IdeaPod.com is an ideal example of how WordPress membership sites work.

The platform uses MemberPress to offer a wide range of masterclasses in the self-help industry. 

This can be a great way to monetize WordPress. Imagine if a few thousand people paid you $10 per month to access your content – it would add up to a significant amount for a smaller blogger or publisher. 

For more tips on building a subscription or membership program, check out our interviews with Mary Walter-Brown and Emily Goligoski

4. Monetize WordPress with eCommerce sales

Besides blogging, eCommerce is arguably the second most prominent application of WordPress websites. For almost any type of online store, WooCommerce can turn your WordPress blog into a highly functional online store.

What kind of products would you sell? Whatever you think would appeal to your audience! There are two main types though. 

Monetize WordPress through digital products

A more low-maintenance approach to eCommerce, most of the work in selling digital products comes at the initial creation stage. 

Some popular options include ebooks, online courses, and paid webinars. Digital products, particularly in health, fitness, self-development and business – have been huge on the internet for a long while. The quality and competition has improved markedly in recent years though. 

Monetizing a WordPress blog through selling ebooks for example is relatively simple and straightforward.

Patt Flynn from Smart Passive Income has monetizing through digital products down to an art

If you’re an experienced blogger or author, you can easily compile your favorite related posts into a comprehensive book. To sell it on your site, all you need is a downloads plugin like Easy Digital Downloads. The plugin is intuitive and offers virtually all the features you need to manage your digital products.

A compilation of blog posts is fine, but it’s even better to create an amazing ebook from scratch. If you’ve built your 1000 true fans, they’ll be hungry to buy your book. Just make it good!

Offering online courses and paid webinars on your site will require Learning Management System (LMS) plugins and webinar software respectively. LearnDash is a great option for creating and selling online courses. For webinars, GoToWebinar and Livestorm are the two most popular and feature-rich options.

Monetize WordPress by selling physical products

You don’t have to restrict yourself to digital products. Physical eCommerce has absolutely boomed over the last few years – and lot’s of publishers and bloggers have been getting in on the action too

What kind of products could you sell? Well, if you’re a fitness blogger, it’ll be very natural to sell supplements or gym gear. If you blog about fashion, think about some cool items your readers would like to buy. Think of what your readers would really be excited to buy from you, then figure out a way to get it to them – simple (but not always easy). 

Where you source these is up to you. You can buy inventory at wholesale, dropship, or even get your own unique items manufactured. 

The great thing about monetizing WordPress this way is WooCommerce. This awesome plugin makes it simple to sell different product types either in a wholesale or retail online store.

5. Sell professional services

Another fast and stress-free way to monetize a WordPress site is to sell services on it. 

With little or no additional investment, you can transform your site into a “hire me” page. Over time, WordPress has proven to be an ideal platform for self promotion..

Some service types commonly offered on WordPress sites include:

  • Freelance: Freelancers (creatives especially) have always found it handy to promote their services through WordPress sites. Writers, photographers, designers, and developers can easily put up a portfolio website showcasing their past experience and major professional strengths.
  • Consulting: Consulting is another interesting path to monetizing WordPress. If you’re an experienced consultant, clients are willing to leverage your experience and advice for a fee decided by you. For easy access, you may want to add a form to one of your pages. WPForms can help with that.
  • Coaching or mentoring: Quite similar to the previous service, coaching involves training other less-experienced professionals in your area of expertise. Apart from adding a form to your site, you should consider using an appointment or booking plugin to schedule sessions as well.

The bottom line is that if you have a engaged and loyal audience, and especially if you are the “face” of your site or blog, there’s a good chance that some of your readers are interested in doing business with you. 

You never know who lands on your site – so if you offer professional services, definitely build a landing page to promote them. Consulting and coaching can be a nice little side income!

6. Offer Platform as a Service

While all the options we’ve discussed earlier can be highly profitable, WordPress has enough power to build something even bigger. If you want to build an enterprise-scale professional solution, then offering Platform as a Service (PaaS) could be your best bet. This WordPress monetization strategy could become a good passive income source but may require a lot of maintenance at times.

A PaaS website is simply a multi-vendor platform that facilitates buyer-seller or client-expert transactions. A PaaS site can be an online marketplace, auctions website, or even a job board. If you already have a WooCommerce site, you can easily turn it into a multi-vendor marketplace. Simply install and activate the WC Vendors plugin. WooCommerce offers an equally efficient alternative – Product Vendors.

With these plugins, you can set a fixed commission rate and also tweak several other settings. For example, WC Vendors lets you decide whether or not vendors can edit published products or export their orders to a CSV file.

7. Accept Donations

Sometimes, there’s no simpler approach to making money on WordPress than to simply ask for it. 

Of course, this only makes sense when you’ve offered your site visitors significant value over an extended period. A lot of bloggers do well with this and it offers those who don’t want to sign up for a subscription an alternative.  

Integrating a payment gateway or donate button into WordPress is easy. You can choose from a myriad of options such as Stripe, PayPal, etc. If you opt for PayPal, you can use a plugin like PayPal Donations to facilitate the entire process.

Ready to monetize WordPress? Putting it all together

We’ve looked at seven different ways to monetize WordPress. They are all viable and there are thousands of people making great money with them right now. You just need to decide which is right for you. 

Don’t think small – think about what your site could be like 1,3 or 5 years into the future. The aim is to build an established, authoritative brand that brings in thousands of visitors each month and becomes a destination for eager fans. 

When you get to this stage the WordPress monetization options are very wide. You could mix several, or even all seven, together to create diverse and sustainable revenue streams. 

Imagine if you had ad revenue, subscription payments, affiliate commissions, eCommerce sales, and donations all rolling in every month – along with a storm of interest in your professional services. That’s the dream of monetizing a WordPress blog, and it is possible. 

Audience building is the key

But there’s no shortcut. For any of them to work you need that loyal, engaged audience. You build that by producing great content over time, serving it in an appealing format, and promoting it well. That’s it. 

If you’re doing well already with your site and making a little money – your priority should be reinvesting it into your business by expanding into new channels. 

YouTube, podcasts, newsletters, and social accounts are all excellent ideas – and can really boost your growth. 

Mobile Apps

Another great idea, when you’re developing a core fan base, is to turn your WordPress site into mobile apps. 

MobiLoud is the best option for this – either through News or Canvas depending on your needs. We have turned more than 1000 WordPress sites into native mobile apps, and helped the site owners to take engagement, loyalty and revenue through the roof. 

You can also communicate with your audience using push notifications, making that relationship (and monetization potential) ever greater.

MobiLoud apps are also 100% compatible with all WordPress plugins, so you can leverage the exact same monetization strategies through the apps too! Whether it’s through in-app ads, subscriptions, or as a key part of the subscription package – content apps consistently drive revenue and business growth. 

The best thing is that with MobiLoud we take care of all the work – from configuration of the apps to submitting them to Apple and Google – and handle all the maintenance and updates to them forever. There’s not much for you to do except enjoy the benefits and get top class apps for 10% of the standard cost. 

Want to hear more? Book a demo call with one of our app experts where we can go over the whole process. 

Good luck in your journey to monetize WordPress. We hope this guide was helpful, and that you fulfil your goals!