I am no expert in monetization, but after having my Google Adsense account disabled, I have had to do a fair bit of research into generating at least some profit from my website. Although this is technically a travel blog, and monetization techniques have nothing to do with traveling, it may help some other bloggers in generating better revenue for their blog.
This is the first question you have to ask yourself before monetizing your blog or website. Do you have enough traffic that monetization is worth the hassle? If you're only getting peanuts for traffic then slapping ads on your site won't do anything. In April 2015, I had 2054 page-views. This is a little above average for me. In this month, using my AdClickMedia / Spoutable combination, I generated a total of $3.40. If you use this as a benchmark, you'll see that to get good revenue, you have to get around 10,000 views a month.
But, keep in mind, the revenue generation does vary between advertising companies. In February I used Google Adsense, and in that month alone I made $8.56. AdClickMedia pays you about 5 cents for every click their ad gets, while Google Adsense pays you anywhere from 2 to 80 cents. It depends on the company, who they're advertising for and how much money is going towards their advertising campaign. In theory, you could make $300 a click, if you get the right ad to the right person.
One of the most common ways to monetize your blog is through the placement of ads. There's a lot of companies out there that offer this service, such as Google Adsense, Yahoo! Ads, AdClickMedia, Spoutable, RevenueHits, InfoLinks, SkimLinks, Outbrain, Taboola, etc. As I said above, each has a different way of deciding how much you get paid, and each pay you out on different intervals. Google Adsense pays you out in $100 intervals, AdClickMedia and Spoutable pay you out in $20 intervals and RevenueHits pays you out in $10 intervals.
These ads work on a Cost Per Click, or CPC, basis. If somebody clicks an ad and goes to the advertisers' site, you get a little bit of money. This is pretty straightforward.
While square or rectangular ads are most common, some companies also offer "overlay" ads, which are ads that cover the website to get the users attention. Some have pop-ups ads (opens a pop-up window) and some have pop-unders ads (opens a tab in the background). These generally pay more than normal CPC ads, but they also have a possibility of driving your traffic away. In the end, you want to keep your traffic, so the more user-friendly the ads are, the better.
InfoLinks offers a slightly different service, as it scans your website for possible keywords and underlines them, having a little box with an ad pop-up when the user hovers their mouse over them. I found that didn't work well for my website as I don't mention many brand names or sell-able keywords, but I have heard of a few sites that have made good money off InfoLinks.
SkimLinks also has a similar method of revenue generation. Instead of adding ads to a site, it scans your site for any outgoing links (say, links that go to products or services). It will then changes where the links go to and pays you for the link redirection. I don't have many outgoing links, so again, this didn't fit my website.
Another method of advertising is CPM, or Cost Per Impression. CPM works similar to CPC, except it doesn't require the user to click on the ad for you to get revenue; the website simply has to display it. CPM pays less than CPC, but it works best for website with more content or lot of white space (like mine). Often CPM pays per thousand visitors. Let's say you get $1 for every thousand visitors, I would have made $2.05 last month through CPM instead of my $3.40 through CPC.
The last method of advertising is CPA, or Cost Per Affiliation/Acquisition. This method can either bring in a lot of money, or very little money. Revenue through CPA is made after the user clicks an ad and goes to the website of your affiliate. I have an affiliate account with CJ Affiliate (formally Commission Junction). You can choose a list of different affiliate companies, and ask to advertise on their behalf. You add a piece of code to your website that generates a link and an image to their product. The user can click on the ad, and a cookie is stored on their computer for a set period of time. If they buy a product with your account's cookie on their computer, you get a percentage of their profit. For example, if you have an ad with Contiki Travel and the person sees it, clicks into it and purchases a tour, you get a fraction of the money they spend, which is often between 5% to 30%. This is the miracle "$300 per click" I mentioned earlier. However, thousands of impressions may go by without these ads being clicked and something being bought. CPA can be awesome, when and if it works.
Unfortunately, that's true. Some ad companies generate very junky, spammy ads. I found RevenueHits were very junky looking, but they also claim it takes about 3 days for their ads to more reflect the content of the site. AdClickMedia sometimes offers good ads, but I noticed there are a few junky looking ones, and if you have multiple ads on your site, they are all often the same thing. So instead of 1 out of 5 junky ads, they are either all junky or all not junky. Google Ads are always very attractive, as Google sets high standards for their ads. Taboola and Outbrain are known for their misleading ads, but they have taken it upon themselves to improve the ads and offer a better service for their publishers.
But, let's say advertising with these methods aren't working out for you. You want ads, but you don't want randomly generated ads: you want control. If you have enough traffic, you might want to consider BuySellAds or Passionfruit Ads. Both work differently, but have a similar concept: you choose the ads that will go on your site. BuySellAds sells your space to customers that you might be interested in advertising. Instead of being paid per click or impression, you're paid a flat rate per month for simply displaying the ad. Usually this rate is fairly high, but that's because BuySellAds only provides their services to website with high traffic. This way their client isn't paying $100 a month to a website that only gets 2,000 views.
My experience with Passionfruit Ads has been from the advertiser point of view, not the publisher. I have a small ad on Heart My Backpack's website. It cost me about $25, and I was really impressed by it. Passionfruit shows how many impressions your ad got, and how many times it was clicked. Silvia, the author of the blog, also promoted my other posts on Twitter and Facebook and generated a fair bit of traffic for me. Passionfruit allows you to charge whatever you'd like to have ads on your site. A quick glance at websites that offer prices vary anywhere from $0 to $20,000 per ad (I only saw one that high; most are around $20 - $60). Passionfruit is not really an advertisement providing website, but more of an advertisement management website.
That's like asking if you can make money without working; of course you can! They just take a little more creativity and work.
If you're reading this, you probably have a blog. And if you blog, it means you love to write. So, why not write a book and sell it on your site? There are plenty of companies out there that will help you publish a book, and many will even do it for free. Even if it's something simple like "200 Pictures Taken While Traveling the World", or "100 Tips For Backpacking Across the United States", if people are already following your blog and love what you're writing, they'll buy your book. You can even have it made per order, so you won't have a stack of 10,000 books sitting in your living room. Or, if you want, you can even go green and sell an e-Book.
Another idea is that you could get a travel sponsorship. Let's say you happen to have a large following, and you're planning a hiking, climbing and scuba diving bonanza through the Caribbean. You can approach an outdoor equipment company and ask if they might be interested in sponsoring you or giving you a discount on their products (after all, saving money is the next best thing to making money). This may seem a bit risky, but look at it this way: if they won't sponsor you, you haven't lost any money either.
If you're more into philanthropy, you can have guest bloggers. Normally guest bloggers want to get paid for their work, but if you tell a blogger who is just starting off that they can write on your blog twice a month for $100, they'll jump at the opportunity. This has the potential of bringing them some traffic, and they can get their voice out to a bigger audience.
Another idea is starting up a crowd funding campaign to volunteer somewhere overseas, through either Indigogo or GoFundMe. A lot of people have used these websites as ways to generate revenue, but they actually have to put the money towards what they say they will. Maybe you want to help Nepal after their devastating earthquake, or you want to go built a school in Kenya. People love making the world a better place, and if you have a blog sharing your experience volunteering, they will be more likely to support you and see the difference you're making. This isn't money you necessarily get to spend however you'd like, but it can put money in your pocket and can help your blog grow.
A lot of people blog for fun but very few blog for a living. Monetization is a tricky thing, as sometimes it's worth it and sometimes it just isn't. There are a lot of things to consider before monetizing: where are you going to put the ads, how many are you going to put, are you going to sell adspace or have it generated through an advertising company? What kind of ads do you want? Do you prefer a CPC, CPM or CPA? What about getting sponsorships or selling products? What about crowd funding?
Most importantly, if you're starting a blog to make money, you're starting a blog for the wrong reason. Blogging is supposed to be a passion, and you're supposed to enjoy doing it. Readers can tell if you put an effort into your articles or if you just write them to show off your ads. Remember to blog for fun first, and then blog for money. Making money off a hobby is great, but make sure you don't lose sight of the most important thing: having fun.
Did I miss any ways to monetize a website? Do you have any other advice for bloggers? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.