You’ve put in the hard work to scale your site to thousands of page views per month.
Now it’s time to answer one crucial question: ”what’s the best strategy to monetize my website?”
The majority of answers found on Google offer outdated information which doesn’t accurately reflect the current revenue potential of affiliate marketing and display ads.
They also fail to take into account the latest core algorithm updates and how these changes impact monetization strategies.
Here’s a timely overview of both monetization paths to help you make an informed decision.
What is affiliate revenue?
Affiliate revenue is generated through the commissions you earn by selling other people’s products on your website or blog.
When you add affiliate links to your site, these are used to track the number of sales you generate and how much commission is paid.
What is advertising (ad) revenue?
Ad revenue is income generated through advertisements on your website content.
Google AdSense is the most popular source of ad revenue, but other ad networks like Ezoic, Mediavine, and AdThrive pay more per 1,000 pageviews.
Ad revenue vs. affiliate revenue: which method pays more?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to which strategy drives more revenue.
Affiliate revenue varies wildly depending on what niche you’re in and what conversion rate your blog posts achieve.
As for advertising revenue, it all comes down to how many pageviews you get, where your traffic comes from, and which ad networks you decide to work with.
Let’s start with a brief look at how much each of the big four ad networks pays.
How much do ad networks pay?
Rick Kesler and his team at Income School ran a survey inside their private community to determine which ad network paid the most per 1,000 pageviews.
These were the initial results after polling all sites that used either AdSense, Ezoic, Mediavine, or AdThrive:
Image source: Income School
At first glance, it appears that Mediavine and AdThrive are in a class of their own with payout rates.
However, you need to understand that ad management sites like Mediavine and AdThrive have higher barriers to entry — you’ll need a minimum of 50,000 to 100,000 pageviews to qualify.
Both Mediavine and AdThrive also require the majority of your site traffic to originate from the US.
After running the survey again, including only websites that met Mediavine’s eligibility criteria, the results were notably different.
Only AdSense showed a statistically significant difference in payout per 1,000 pageviews:
Image source: Income School
While ad network revenue per thousand impressions (RPM) is easy to compare, affiliate revenue is far less standardized.
Affiliate revenue can range from a measly five dollars to six figures per month depending on your traffic levels, conversion rates, and how much commission you’re paid per sale.
Site owners who effectively monetize their websites with affiliate partnerships often make two to three times more in commissions than by monetizing with ads.
However, recent algorithm updates around product-based content have impacted the revenue potential of affiliate sites.
More on that later.
Two key points from above:
- Ads from Ezoic, Mediavine, and AdThrive pay an average of $24.12 per 1,000 pageviews on sites with 50,000 organic visits (mostly coming from the US).
- Affiliate marketing earnings depend on multiple factors like your traffic levels, your conversion rate, and which offers you feature.
Is monetizing with ads easier than affiliate marketing?
The ease of use for each monetization model is nearly as important as the total revenue.
Many website owners want a passive investment that’s simple to monetize and doesn’t require much management — they don’t want a second job.
Ezoic removed its minimum traffic threshold of 10,000 pageviews in 2021.
This move makes it easy for even small websites to monetize early.
Ad revenue is generally more passive than affiliate revenue since it applies to pageviews across your website rather than a handful of articles targeting commercial keywords. (Tip: commercial keywords are queries with a higher buyer intent such as product reviews including the words best, top, review, or roundup).
Google core algorithm updates from 2020 to 2022 have cracked down on content ratios, making it harder to focus on commercial topics.
Having too much product-based content on your site and not enough informational articles can negatively impact your total traffic.
What percentage of your content should you monetize?
The December 2020 “EAT Update” and March 2022 “Product Reviews Update” shifted the balance for monetizing content sites.
Countless websites were affected, with many losing up to 90% of their traffic in the 2020 update alone:
Image source: Matt Diggity YouTube channel
Jim Harmer, co-founder of Project 24 and Backfire, polled 242 independent bloggers shortly after Google’s December 2020 core update went live.
The results showed that 49.78% of respondents lost traffic to their website following the core update.
Another study by veteran SEO, Matt Diggity, looked at 1,517 affiliate websites that initially lost traffic in the December 2020 update but later recovered.
His goal was to identify which factors contributed to their post-update traffic recovery.
After partnering with Surfer SEO to comb through site data, Matt found that the ratio of informational to commercial content was the biggest factor impacting recovery.
Simply put, the sites devastated by the December 2020 update had too much commercial content.
The sites that bounced back had at least two-thirds informational content:
Image Source: Diggity Marketing
It’s worth noting that the acceptable ratio for informational to commercial content will vary depending on your niche.
After all, websites in the electronics niche are bound to have more commercial content than blogs about the law since the topics covered are inherently skewed towards products rather than answering questions.
Here’s a full breakdown of the content ratios by niche:
Image Source: Diggity Marketing
Regardless of your niche, it’s clear that affiliate revenue is only a fit for around one-third of your site’s content.
On the other hand, ads generate revenue from all the content on your site.
This means that the sites monetized through ads and informational content weren’t hit as hard by the two core updates mentioned above.
No matter which monetization model you choose, avoid being too aggressive with your commercial content ratio.
Ads vs. affiliate revenue: pros and cons
To help you visualize the key pros and cons between advertising revenue and affiliate marketing, here’s a handy reference:
|Monetizes all the posts and pages on your website.||Requires tens of thousands of monthly pageviews to generate a decent income.|
|Pays a fixed rate per 1,000 pageviews — eliminating conversion rate as a revenue factor.||Increasing traffic is the only way to increase your revenue since the payout per 1,000 pageviews is static.|
|Multiple ad networks to choose from — with varying levels of RPM and hands-on assistance.||Most high-paying ad networks have strict requirements on where your traffic comes from and which niches can be monetized.|
|Can pay hundreds of dollars per conversion for high-ticket affiliate offers.||May generate little to no revenue if there’s a poor offer-to-audience fit on your website.|
|Certain programs offer recurring lifetime commissions (such as SaaS affiliates).||Relies on high conversion rates to generate revenue from your organic traffic.|
|Generates more revenue than display ads with a fraction of the traffic (if properly executed).||Getting into the best affiliate programs can be difficult if you don’t have authority in the industry and/or plenty of site traffic.|
How to earn more with ads and affiliate revenue
The three factors behind ad revenue
Increasing your ad earnings isn’t difficult because it’s determined by just three factors:
- How much traffic you get
- Where your traffic originates
- Which ad network you choose
Improving any of these elements will directly impact your monthly revenue.
Getting additional traffic is the most obvious path so let’s focus on the other two factors.
1. Make more money from advertising
Targeting the right demographics makes a huge difference to how much ad revenue your site generates.
That is because ad networks take geography and purchasing power into account when putting a value on the organic traffic that your site receives.
Writing in American English is generally the best practice since US traffic is valued highest, followed by traffic from the UK and Canada.
You should also write for a demographic with higher purchasing power such as Gen Xers.
To be clear, targeting baby boomers or Gen Xers doesn’t mean you have to write about retirement and life insurance.
Just write content that is of interest to your target audience.
For example, starting a blog about lawn care is an effective way to indirectly target homeowners. This is because renters aren’t likely to put in the same time and effort into landscaping their landlord’s property.
Similarly, an article on minimizing capital gains tax could attract retirees who intend to liquidate their investment portfolio.
Last, but not least, aim for one of the high-paying ad networks we covered above. UsingEzoic, Mediavine, or AdThrive instead of settling for AdSense will instantly boost your earnings — even with the same amount of traffic.
2. Make more money with affiliate marketing
Much like ad revenue, you could ‘brute force’ your way toward a high affiliate income by increasing the amount of traffic to your site.
A more efficient method is to find affiliate programs that pay well AND are relevant to your audience.
Search for high-ticket offers that pay $100 or more per affiliate sale so you grow your revenue without needing hundreds of thousands of monthly pageviews.
If you settle for $5 payouts, you’ll constantly be under pressure to scale traffic simply to make ends meet.
Now that Google limits the ratio of commercial content you can publish, gaining higher affiliate payouts from each article makes sense.
Since you can no longer publish hundreds of review posts (without negatively impacting organic traffic), high payouts provide a ‘monetization remedy.’
If you’re struggling to get decent conversion rates on high-ticket offers, you could opt for affiliate programs with recurring commissions.
While these programs may not pay six figures per conversion, their recurrent nature helps you compound your monthly revenue over time.
Whatever you do, don’t place all your chips on Amazon Affiliates. The payout rates are relatively low and inconsistent.
In addition to selecting superior affiliate programs, you should optimize your commercial content to satisfy both the search engines and your readers.
Make it clear that you have first-hand experience with the products you review, add images or videos to your content, and be explicit about which option provides the best value in that product category.
Since the latest algorithm updates began favoring sites with 67% to 75% informational content, ad revenue has become the only viable method of site-wide monetization.
It’s reasonably passive compared to affiliate revenue — and isn’t dependent on high conversion rates.
However, there’s nothing wrong with using both ads and affiliate programs to monetize your site.
Diversifying your monetization methods will not only increase the security of your website’s cashflow but also increase your total monthly revenue.