Website Monetization – A Complete Guide for Publishers  

Global consumption of online content doubled in 2020, creating an incredible opportunity for digital publishers to grow their businesses. But in order to do this, those publishers need to develop a strong website monetization strategy.  

Website monetization is the process of generating revenue through your website, turning your content into actual earnings. And while there are more ways than ever to achieve this in 2021, deciding how they go about it can be a daunting task for many publishers.  

This article is designed to help publishers understand the various website monetization methods available to them in 2021 – and develop a strategy that will help them make more money from their content.  


Let’s start by looking at the current state of website monetization.

Five Ways Website Monetization is Changing in 2021  

Website monetization is heavily dependent on traffic, and that makes 2021 the more promising time in history for publishers. There are now over 4.5 billion active internet users, with 332 million new users coming online in the last 12 months. And the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital across the globe.  

Consider these five trends:

1. E-commerce growth

2020 saw a huge surge in global eCommerce sales: U.S. eCommerce revenue grew a staggering 44% in 2020, with nearly 7,000 packages shipped by Amazon every minute.   

A recent survey found that 62% of US publishers said they expected ecommerce to rank among their three biggest revenue sources in Q1 2021—and 36% said it would be their No. 1 source of revenues. 

2. Mobile is the largest source of traffic 

54.18% of all internet traffic is through mobile today; the number of unique mobile users is now 5.2 billion, and global spending on apps has reached $143 billion worldwide.  

This makes mobile-optimization essential for publishers, with an emphasis on better User Experience (UX) in order to improve SEO and grow traffic. 

3. Video is the fastest growing medium 

Video content consumption grew 120% during the pandemic, with more than a quarter of people watching 10+ hours of video content per week.   

From a monetization perspective, this is great for publishers: videos keep viewers’ attention longer and produce 41% higher Click-Through Rates (CTRs) than text-based content. And 75% of all video traffic is video.  

5. Visitors want privacy…  

Nearly 80% of consumers are now concerned about their data privacy, and 64% said their awareness of data has increased over the last 12 months.   

This may explain why Google has decided to phase-out third-party cookies – the means digital advertisers have historically used to track consumers’ behavior across different websites. 

6. …But publishers can still earn consumers’ data 

Despite concerns about cookies, 64% of consumers are willing to share their personal data with publishers in exchange for more relevant, personalized and/or convenient service.   

That means in order to earn access to consumers’ data, publishers will need to offer more engaging, compelling content.  

What Publishers Need to Start Monetizing Their Websites  

Digital publishing is an extremely competitive world, and most websites simply do not produce a consistent income for their owners. In order to successfully monetize their website, publishers need three things:

Generate traffic 

Website monetization is dependent on traffic: without it, publishers simply cannot make money. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to increase your website’s traffic:  

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO is the process of improving how your website ranks on search engines. 75% of people never go beyond the very first result page on Google, and that means ensuring your website appears on the first page for all relevant searches is essential.   

SEO can be split into two categories: technical SEO, which involves making sure your website meets the technical requirements of modern search engines; and content SEO, which involves creating web pages and blogs which search engines read and deem worthy of ranking.  

Search engines like Google updated their algorithms regularly, meaning SEO is an ongoing priority for publishers; adapting to changes and ensuring your website is consistently outranking competitors requires continually work and often the assistance of experts in the field.  

Did you know?

Project Agora’s Content Discovery Solution is designed to enhance your website’s User Experience (UX), ultimately increasing your SEO score and overall revenue generation. It can be easily adapted into your existing setup with zero technical difficulties, and is a powerful tool for publishers looking to monetize their website.  

CNN.GR significantly grows RPM and Pageviews working with Project Agora – one of the leading publishers in Greece – used the solution to offer their readers more accurately personalized content recommendations and boost their revenue and recirculation. The results were a 9.5% decrease in Bounce Rates; a 10.3% increase in Pageviews Per Session; and a 32% increase in Revenue Per Thousand Pageviews (RPM).   

You can read about how we did it here.  

Social Media

Building a following on Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can give your traffic a huge boost. There are over 4 billion people on social media globally, with the average user spending more than 2 hours per day on these platforms.   

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has argued that interactive content like quizzes, polls and surveys are ideal for sharing across social media. Posting compelling content like this – especially when it links to your website – can generate a very healthy stream of traffic for publishers, as well as growing public awareness of their brand.  

PR and Advertising

Public Relations (PR) campaigns can help publishers build their profile and ultimately increase their website traffic. A good example could be putting your brand name behind a social cause, as 70% of consumers say they want brands to support causes they believe in.  

Similarly, advertising on platforms can also help publishers expand their audience and generate more traffic.  


When another website sends visitors directly to your website, that is known as a referral. It is a highly important source of traffic for publishers; they can take advantage of various hugely popular content aggregators like Reddit and Quora.   

Referrals must be built up overtime, but once they are achieved, they can provide a reliable stream of traffic; they are also very likely to help increase your SEO rankings, too.  

A clear understanding of your audience 

While traffic is the most important thing publishers need, it is also valuable to have a strong understanding of their audience.  There are two reasons for this: first, it will help them produce content their audience finds engaging. But perhaps more importantly, having a clearly defined audience will make monetization far easier.  

Most monetization methods will take into account the interests and demographic information. And while there is almost no audience which can’t ultimately be monetized, you should be aware how this will impact your monetization options down the road.  

Developing marketing personas will help you define and understand your target audience. There are plenty of free tools online that will help you do this – try Buffer’s guide here

An informed monetization strategy 

Once you have a clear understanding of your audience and plenty of traffic, you are ready to start developing a website monetization strategy. Below, we’ve broken down the most popular and important monetization methods available to you:  

Seven Ways to Monetize Publisher Websites  

Our monetization guide won’t teach you how to earn revenue with few clicks, but it can show you how to get tangible ROI from all the work you set into your website.

Paywalls & Paid Membership  

Paywalls & Paid Membership  
Image from Medium

Perhaps the most obvious way to monetize your website traffic is simply asking your audience to pay for the content you provide.

This is generally done via a paid membership service. In recent years, it has been the most popular way for news websites to monetize their content. 53% of adults now pay for news, and just 2% of publishers give away more than 16 articles per month for free.  

There are three common forms of paywall:  

Hard paywalls

Visitors get 1-2 free pieces of content before having to pay for access. While avoiding giving away too much free content, it also creates risks: 90% of visitors will leave when faced with a hard paywall.  

A ‘metered’ paywall

Visitors get 5-10 free pieces of content, before hitting a paywall. This allows visitors to get a better sense of what they are buying before paying for full access.   

Freemium/Paid membership

Most content is free, but a selection of ‘premium’ content is available only to members.   

Why monetize with paywalls?
  • You can set your own prices and exert more control over the microeconomics of your website.  
  • Earnings are dependent entirely on audience engagement.  

Affiliate marketing   

amazon affiliate example

Your website doesn’t need to sell anything to generate revenue – it can simply help other people sell, instead.

This is known as affiliate marketing, and it’s incredibly simple: your website links to another website, generally some form of eCommerce. Then, when a visitor from your site uses that link and buys a product from the connected website, you receive a small slice of the sale.   

Affiliate commissions fluctuate, and can dip considerably during a downturn – as occurred in 2020. But 31% of publishers still plan on using affiliate marketing as one of their main sources of monetization in x2021. 

The most popular affiliate program by far is Amazon’s, as it is both the largest and most varied marketplace in Western eCommerce. However, there are a number of strong alternative affiliate networks, such as ShareaSaleAvantlink and Commission Junction.   

Why monetize with affiliate marketing?

  • The affiliate marketing market is enormous; in 2017 alone, brands invested $13 billion in affiliates.  
  • You can choose what you affiliate with, giving you control over the image and reputation of your website.  
Did you know?

Native Advertising can be extremely helpful for affiliates. Affiliate marketing hinges on a publisher’s ability to generate trust and authority with their audience; native advertising allows them to promote affiliates without damaging this trust or harming the User Experience (UX) of their website.  

Native advertisements could be used to drive traffic to an affiliate site; to promote specific landing pages or products; or to expand your email list. And with Project Agora’s Native Advertising solutions, you can make those native ads even more impactful.  

Sponsored content  

native advertising

If you have a popular website, brands may be willing to pay you to produce content that promotes their products or services.

This is known as native advertising. It is considered highly effective because it seamlessly blends commercial content with organic content, producing 18% higher purchase intent than other forms of marketing. But in order to make these sponsored posts effective, however, you will require a media partner.  

This doesn’t have to be painful, however. Project Agora’s Taboola recommendation technology is a great example: it leverages AI and Deep Learning algorithms to determine the best moments to deploy content – producing exceptional results.  

Why monetize with sponsored posts?

  • It’s a highly effective form of advertising, producing 53% more attention than other ad formats.  
  • Younger generations prefer native adverts. So you can leverage this fact and charge more for brands with younger audiences.  

Display Advertising  

display ads
Display ads are such a key part of website monetization

With enough traffic, your website can produce revenue by selling advertising space to relevant brands.

There are a number of ways you can go about this. And because display ads are such a key part of website monetization, we’ve included a detailed guide below – to help you understand the various types of advertising and make the right decision for your website.  

The reach of display advertising is incredible: the Google Display Network alone reaches 90% of internet users. There are also local partners like Project agora, that help premium publishers in EMEA and Latin America reach a hugely valuable audience – managing over 11.5 billion ad impressions every month.   

That reach is key to generating a strong stream of revenue from your website. But in order to really maximize that revenue, you need to produce great results for advertisers – and that means optimizing your advertising formats.    

Why monetize with display advertising?

  • Huge reach and the potential to build a very large revenue stream.   
  • Digital advertising generates a huge amount of data, meaning you can clearly demonstrate the ROI you offer brands.  

Data monetization  

Websites generate valuable insights on their visitors.

By selling those on to marketers, you can generate a powerful income stream. The global market for data monetization is projected to be worth $370,969 million by 2023. And as attitudes to privacy make data harder to access for advertisers, the value of publishers’ data will only grow.  

Why monetize using data?

  • Once the system for data monetization is set up, it is a higher margin revenue stream that requires little work on publishers’ part.  
  • As third-party data becomes harder to access, the value of data is likely to increase greatly.  

Sell a digital product  

With a strong brand and website traffic, publishers can sell directly to their audience.

That product could be eBooks, webinars, online courses or any other form of value relevant to your audience. And while there is an upfront cost to developing the product, once it is finished it will continue to produce revenue with little effort on your part.  

Why monetize using digital products?

  • Selling directly to your website visitors is far simpler than using a third-party marketplace.  
  • Digital products will build further trust and loyalty with your audience.  

Accept donations  

Some publishers ask their audience to donate money directly to them.

Evidence suggests people are surprisingly generous when allowed to choose what they pay for products and services. And the inherent trust generated can help boost publishers’ brand.  

Why monetize using donations?

  • It is a revenue stream which requires almost no effort on publishers’ part.  
  • It encourages your audience to feel connected to your brand  

A Guide to Display Advertising  


Mobile vs. Desktop Advertising    

Mobile and desktop devices are fundamentally different, with different pixel sizes and code required. And that means display ads must be designed for a specific device.

While both can be highly effective, mobile is the faster growing of the two. In fact, more is now spent on mobile advertising than TV advertising, and more than half of all web traffic is mobile.  

Because the User Experience is different between devices, effective advertising will adapt to the device it is intended for – maximizing relevance. 

Project Agora offers several ad formats that are fully optimized for mobile. These include Magic Story, which leverages Social Media Stories to create compelling ads; and VertiGo, which adapts your advertising to the vertical scroll of mobile apps.   

Static vs. Animated Advertising  

Display Ads can either be static (i.e. still) or animated using a series of static images which create the illusion of movement.

Together, these are known as ‘banner ads’; they are some of the most well-known ad formats on the web. And because they come in so many different sizes, Google has produced a useful guide to the design specifications for each type – including options for both desktop and mobile.  

Video Ads  

Display ads can make use of video assets to produce more engaging content.

These video ads can either be embedded in content or displayed on the side. And 74% of marketers find that video produces greater ROI than static advertisements. However, video files are much larger than image files, meaning video ads can take longer to load – which can impact both their effectiveness and your website’s SEO.  

Project Agora’s One Video format help brands reach their audience at scale in Project Agora’s premium publishers across screens and pay only for guaranteed, uninterrupted consumer attention. 

Lightbox Ads  

Lightbox ads respond when users interact with them, often expanding to show a full video ad.

This makes the ads less intrusive; experiments have found they produce 2.4x better returns than TV advertising. And because advertisers only pay for the ad when a user interacts with it, they are likely to become more popular in years to come.  

Responsive Display Ads   

Responsive ads adapt to their context, changing size or shape depending on the ad space.

The key benefit here is that advertisers can upload a bundle of assets, and the ad network automatically determines what will fit best in a given bit of ad space. When combined with AI-driven targeting options – like those that Project Agora provides – this can produce exceptional results.   

Remarketing Ads  

When a consumer interacts with an advertiser’s website, the advertiser can pursue them through remarketed ads.

This involves presenting ads for a given product or brand which the consumer has recently shown interest in; some sources claim this boosts engagement by as much as 400%.  

Particularly noteworthy is the capacity to achieve cross-device tracking and retargeting. Experts suggest consumers today prefer to browse on their mobile but purchase on desktop, meaning successful remarketing across devices can be particularly effective at converting prospects.  

Display AD-Experiences:   

Project Agora provides a number of market-leading Ad-Experiences that improve viewability, engagement and purchase intent:  

Magic Story

Magic Story - Ad FormatsMagic Story allows advertisers to use the hugely popular Social Media Story format within publishers’ content. This helps advertisers reuse their most emotionally engaging and entertaining assets in a context where consumer trust is higher. Magic Story includes shoppable elements, like Call to Action (CTA) buttons, in order to shorten the path to purchase and drive more revenue.  


Storyboard- Ad FormatsStoryBoard is an interactive brand storytelling format, enabling brands to showcase cross screen videos and images, as well as including multiple CTAs in their display ads. By enabling users to interact with the images using a swiping gesture, StoryBoard also increases User Experience (UX) and increases engagement.  


VertiGo is a mobile-first advertising format that helps adapt advertising to the mobile behavior of vertical scrolling. Enabling advertisers to create fully immersive video experiences, VertiGo unlocks a more natural and engaging form of mobile advertising.  

Social Cards  

Social Cards - Ad FormatsSocial Cards allow advertisers to amplify their social media content within the context of publishers’ websites. It has proven to be 8x more effective compared to standard display advertising, and makes life much easier for advertisers.  

Three Key Challenges for Website Monetization   


Decreasing Revenue  

Google ad revenue dropped for the first time in 2020, and other monetization methods like affiliate marketing took a major hit too. This was largely down to economic uncertainty and marketing budgets being cut.   

There are other reasons for publishers to be concerned though. 42.7% of internet users now use ad-blockers. And given that advertising is a major source of monetization for most publishers, this presents a serious threat.   

While pivoting to some of the other monetization methods we’ve discussed may help publishers manage these challenges, there is also the option to partner with a company like Project Agora, which allows publishers to overrun ad-blocking technology.  

Third-Party Data Changes  

Recent changes in policy at companies like Google will make third-party data extremely difficult to access from 2020 onwards. Publishers are the most directly harmed by this change, as it will affect ad addressability, ultimately changing how programmatic advertising currently functions. Studies suggest average revenues could drop by 52% as a result.  

However, many publishers will be able to counteract these changes with a more intelligent first-party data strategy, including authenticating their website visitors and collecting more behavioral and contextual data.   

In other cases, paywalls and affiliate marketing may help publishers to pivot their website monetization strategy. Another option will be partnering with media technology companies that will help guide them to drive value from each visitor without relying on third-party data. 

Navigating a Complex Digital Ecosystem   

The digital ecosystem can be extremely volatile for publishers. Last year, for example, Australian news publishers being temporarily banned from Facebook, a move which – had it not been reversed -would have left many publishers’ monetization in tatters.   

Similarly, updates to search engines can cause publishers’ website traffic to slow overnight. And the ecosystem for advertising inventory is becoming even more complex.   

Navigating these changes will require agility; in a recent survey, 36% of publishers said that their top barriers to success are “internal factors such as resistance to change and an inability to innovate.”  

Three Ways Publishers Can Keeping Growing  


Improve User Experience  

User Experience has always been important for website owners: poor design reflects badly on the website’s brand, and 88% of consumers are less likely to return to a site after a negative experience.   

Increasingly though, User Experience is key for SEO and advertising revenue. Google recently announced that it would be changing its algorithm to factor in ‘Core Vitals’, which assess the page performance and overall User Experience (UX) of a website.   

There are a number of ways you can be optimizing your website’s UX without harming its monetization:  

Optimize for Mobile and Web

Ad experiences and user behavior change depending on the devise a website visitor is using. You should look at optimizing your website’s design and ad experience for each version.   

Optimize ad display

How your website presents ads can impact both users’ experience of the website and the impact of the ads themselves. You should look to improve the ad experience of your websites by experimenting with the placement, size, type and number of ads your website uses.   

This can be done through simple A/B testing, where you run two versions side by side to see which performs better.  

Improve your Core Vitals

Google’s Core Vitals measure the load speed, responsiveness and visual stability of your website. Each of these can be impacted by your advertising, so you should undertake technical work to find ways to serve display ads whilst still scoring well on Core Vitals.   

You could also find a partner, like Project Agora, that can help you adapt your ad experiences to these new UX requirements.   

Discover Alternatives to Adsense  

Google’s AdSense has been a dominating force in digital advertising, boasting as much as 70% of the market for ad space sales. However, a number of rivals are beginning to gain steam – meaning website owners should remain aware of their options.   

The most prominent of these is Project Agora: we provide the leading Ad-Tech Publisher Solution across the CEE, MEA and LATAM regions, providing publishers with a Holistic revenue maximization solution which includes: 

360 Publisher Tech Stack: 

  • Project Agora Header Bidding (Meta Header-Bidding Solution) 
  • Ad-Blocking Monetization 
  • AMP Monetization 
  • Yield Optimization  
  • Revenue Analytics 
  • Unique Local & International Demand  
  • Unique Native, Video and Commerce Ad-Experiences and Curated Targeting Options 

For other regions, key players include, who specialize in contextual advertising; PropellerAds, who provide access to 1 billion users; and RevContent, a native advertising specialist.  

Develop the Right Partnerships  

Now more than ever, publishers need high-quality partners to ensure their websites remain successful and profitable. This includes everything from setting up the right website analytics and web consoles to managing their advertising space and ensuring it is sold at the best possible price.   

Perhaps most pressingly, publishers need partners to help them develop their own data ecosystems and properly monetize them; this will help them increase revenue and build a more sustainable digital model moving forward.   

Website Monetization Is About Collaboration  

While publishers face great challenges today, there are also more monetization opportunities than ever in 2021. Getting it right is not just about generating traffic or building your SEO – it’s about choosing the right partners.   

Projects Agora’s 360 Publisher Tech Stack provides a holistic monetization solution for publishers, including unique local and international demand and a variety of market-leading Ad-Experiences and targeting options.  

We can help you increase the number of users and pageviews you get and improve the User Experience (UX) of your website with 100% nonintrusive ad formats. And we make it simple, providing easy integration and onboarding to ensure you can start monetizing your website as soon as possible.  

If you’d like to learn more about what we can do for your website, get in touch today.