13 Ways to Earn Incremental Revenue on Your Blog

Professional surfer Carlos Burle rides a giant wave at the legendary big wave surf break "Jaws" during one the largest swells of the winter March 13, 2011 in Maui, HI.

Professional surfer Carlos Burle rides a giant wave at the legendary big wave surf break “Jaws” during one the largest swells of the winter on March 13, 2011 in Maui, HI.

Most niche websites and blogs have a one or two primary revenue sources.

It could be AdSense or a solid performing ad network such as Monumetric, Mediavine or Adthrive.

Or, a site may earn exclusively from affiliate commissions or selling products.

In some cases a site has two big revenue sources… perhaps affiliate commissions and AdSense.

While bread and butter revenue is great, in my experience it’s well worth testing additional revenue opportunities.  These I call incremental revenue opportunities.

Although incremental revenue sources may only earn a fraction of bread and butter sources, multiple incremental revenue sources can add up to a meaningful amount of money.

The best part is, in my experience, there are incremental revenue sources that don’t cannibalize your main sources much, if at all.

I’ve tested many ad networks, ad types and revenue opportunities.  I still test new stuff weekly.  Just last week I implemented a new ad from a native ad network.

At the end of the day, some are worth keeping and some aren’t.

Based on my experience, below is a list of potentially good incremental revenue opportunities for your website.

Note, that I don’t include AdSense regular ad units since those are an obvious display ad option.  The point here is to give you some ideas for additional incremental revenue.

My income reports wouldn’t be as high as they are if it weren’t for incremental revenue.

1. Email Newsletter Ads

This is only viable if you don’t generate sales of your products and/or affiliate commissions from your email newsletter.

Some niches simply don’t offer all that lucrative of an email newsletter option.  I’m in two such niches.  I’ve tried everything and I have tens of thousands of subscribers (scrubbed twice a year).

That leaves me with sending readers back to the website (which makes it worthwhile).  But I also generate some incremental revenue with in-email display ads.  The ad network I use is Powerinbox.

I don’t use the ads in every email.  I don’t expect mountains of revenue.  However, I use them throughout the month and it does add up.  In a good month it can cover one-half of my server costs.

2. Secondary Ad Networks

I have a unique situation where I earn an equal amount from two main ad networks – Monumetric and AdSense.  Monumetric is a very good ad network for me and of course AdSense can be very good.

However, usually a second ad network such as Media.net or similar serve as excellent secondary ad networks which can result in solid incremental revenue.

While I currently have a situatio where my two main ad networks earn equally well, that wasn’t the case for many years.  For years Monumetric and Media.net were secondary revenue sources with AdSense being the big earner.  It’s definitely worth trying additional ad networks to see how they perform.

3. Video Ads

If you use display ads and you don’t mind a fairly intrusive ad on your site, video ads can be a really great source of incremental revenue.  You typically can’t pepper multiple video ads on each URL, so there is a limit.  However, one ad can earn very well.

There are a good number of solid video ad opportunities.  I use one that works great for me.  However, I only disclose that option in my course (plus they require 1 million monthly page views).

Speaking of page views, some video ad platforms require a minimum amount of traffic – keep that in mind.

4. Widget Ads

The only widget ads I use is via poll, quiz and survey software which permits either inputting my ad code or earn a revenue share with the widget provider.

I do this with Opinionstage, which is my main poll, quiz and survey software.  I do a revenue share with them, which works well.

There are other widgets options that may have options for either using your ad code and/or splitting ad revenue with the widget software.

5. AdSense Matched Units

I must say I’m impressed with how well AdSense Matched Content ad units perform.  I like displaying related posts, which this ad unit does, but a couple or three of the suggested links are ads.  This is definitely worth trying.

6. AdSense In-Article Ads

I’m also impressed with how well AdSense in-article ads can perform in content or at the bottom of content.  They’re decent looking ad units that can have a good click through rate.

While both Matched Content units and in-article ads aren’t my main AdSense revenue units, together they contribute some decent incremental ad revenue.

7. Exit Intent Ads

I use Spoutable’s exit intent ads on two sites.  I like it because it’s a way to monetize visitors leaving the site.

I don’t earn much from it, but it’s still a sliver of revenue that adds up.

8. In-Image Ads

I used to use these and am tempted again, but don’t solely because I already have quite a few ads on my sites.

In-image ads can add up nicely.  I don’t recommend putting them on every image, but putting them on one or two images per URL can generate some nice extra revenue.

I’ve used both GumGum ads and Media.net’s in-image ads.

9. Native Ads

There are a good number of native ad platforms including Outbrain and Taboola.  I’m testing a newer company currently, but it’s too early to tell how well it’ll perform.

While I never did all that well with Taboola, it’s worth trying a few native ad platforms.  They can earn well in some niches.

10. Sell Sponsored Posts

This is my least favorite incremental revenue option.  I don’t do it.  My problem with it is twofold.

First, it’s not scalable.  A true sponsored post is getting paid a lump sum to write an article featuring the advertiser.  You and the advertiser agree on a price and you or your writer publish the article.

It’s not scalable because there’s haggling over price and then you have to write the article, for which you get paid one time.  Sure, if I were offered $1,000 for a sponsored post, I’d do it, but I’ve never been offered that amount.

My second issue with this is most people who ask to publish a sponsored post really want a dofollow link.  In my view, that’s selling links, which is not a risk I’m willing to take with Google.

A true sponsored post includes a link or links to the advertiser, but it’s nofollow per Google’s TOS because it’s a paid link.

11. Skimlinks

If you have links throughout your site to various merchants, put Skimlinks’ code on the site to turn those links into affiliate links.  While it may not amount to a fortune, it can contribute something to your bottom line.  It’s also easier than applying to every merchant and then using creating umpteen affiliate links every week.

I’m a big Skimlinks fan and use it on most of my sites.  It saves me from having to create affiliate links for many different merchants that I link to.

12. CPA Offers

CPA stands for “cost per action”.  An example is earning $.60 for sending someone to submit their email as entry for some gift card giveaway.

Another example is sending referrals to fill out a health insurance inquiry form or credit card application.  You get paid when referrals fill out the forms.

The nice thing about CPA offers is your referrals don’t necessarily need to buy anything.  Many offers pay you for generating the advertiser leads (i.e. supplying contact information).

I’ve never had much success with CPA offers, but they can perform very well in some niches if niches or content are aligned with the offer.

I’ve tested many with no success, but I suggest you give it a shot.  You never know.  The only CPA network that I’m part of is Peerfly.  I wish these types of offers did better for me, but you win some and you lose some.

Some publishers do great with these lead-gen style offers so give it a shot.

13. Social Media Sponsored Posts

I can’t believe what some Instagram accounts can command for sponsored IG posts.  Sure, celebs obviously rake it in because it’s akin to an endorsement deal.  However, non-celeb IG accounts with an engaged audience can command hundreds or thousands of dollars per post.

While I don’t care for selling sponsored blog posts, I would have no problem selling an Instagram post because they take very little time to create.  $1,000 per IG post would be fantastic.  I’d sell them all day long.  I’d sell them for $100 unless the advertiser’s creative demands were very time-consuming.

Incremental Revenue Tips

a. Have realistic expectations

I say this because in the past I’ve been way too optimistic with every new revenue opportunity I deploy.

Over time I’ve come to appreciate that a little bit here and a little bit there can add up nicely.  With this mindset, I’m not as disappointed as I used to be with new ad networks.

b. Avoid cannibalization

You want to use incremental revenue options in a way that won’t reduce your bread and butter revenue.

Only use these additional revenue options if it seems to you that it won’t cannibalize your better-earning ads.

That said, you can’t entirely avoid cannibalization either.  The goal is that your overall ad revenue grows.

For example, on the surface, it might seem that ads in an email newsletter won’t cannibalize ads on your website, but it does.  All people who click an ad in the newsletter are people who will likely not end up on my site, which could be a bigger loss.

However, overall I suspect email ads are a net gain for me.

c. Start slow and move the winners up the food chain

Monumetric wasn’t always a huge earner for me.  When I started with them, I put them below the fold just to see how they would perform.  It turned out they did very well for the placements I gave them.

That inspired me to test their ads in better spots; sure enough, they earn so well I now put Monumetric ads in several top-earning locations on my sites.

d. Test Test Test

The best way to grow your incremental revenue and overall revenue is to test all kinds of ads and ad placements.

e. Keep user experience in mind

At some point, a website can have too many ads.  I’m probably close with a few niche sites.  I’m sure some readers believe I’m way past what’s reasonable.

There are limits.  We all have our own ideas about this.  I can’t tell you how many ads will be too many.  One example for me is Forbes.com.  I simply cannot abide the interstitial that blocks access.  I find it so annoying I will not visit that site.

An example from my niche sites pertains to in-image ads. While I’m tempted to put in-image ads on my sites, I hold off because I believe that would be too much.  While the incremental revenue would be nice, I don’t think it’s worth it.

It’s not that I have an issue with in-image ads; I don’t.  I think they’re good.  It’s just that I have a great mix of ads now and adding those would be too much.

f. Don’t forget to check your site on mobile

Most of us bloggers work on a laptop or desktop.  No doubt you check your site’s front end all the time on your desktop or laptop computer.

However, I strongly suggest that any time you make a layout change, design change or add new ads, to check out your sites on your phone.  I’ve noticed wonky mistakes more times than I can count.  I’ve also forgot to check changes on mobile only to have some pretty bad things happen for several weeks.



What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • Gal Barlas says:

    Hi Jon, some great stuff over here. Would definitely check out Monumetric!

    Maybe you could help out with something – I’ve been looking for sometime to incorporate ads in my lightbox galleries. The ones that pop out as a full screen slideshow.
    Do you know a way to get a banner over there?

    I’m thinking it could be a nice opportunity to ramp up the RPM.

    Thanks in advance, love your site!

    • Jon says:

      Hey Gal,
      you and me both. I asked AdSense and they told me that’s not permitted despite the fact I’ve seen other sites do it. For that reason alone I don’t do it, but I’ve also not found a lightbox tool that incorporates ads.

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