Make Your WordPress Site Profitable: Passive Income


Google “What’s the best way to make money with my website” and you’ll get more than 92.4 million results.

That’s partly because there’s no simple, one-size-fits-all answer.

Before you even start on online business, you should have a clear idea of where the money will come from. Naturally, you’ll be able to make changes once you’re underway, but it’s a good idea to identify several good sources of revenue during the planning process.

A good income stream for your business might be terrible for mine, and vice versa. That’s one of the reasons the SBI! Action Guide teaches you to look at monetization early on.

There are really only three types of income for an online business:

  1. Passive
  2. Selling services
  3. Selling products

Today we’ll dig into the Passive income sources.

What is Passive Income?

Passive income is income that keeps coming to you after you’ve done the work one time. Passive income requires an up-front investment, of either money or time (or sometimes a little of each).

Buying a duplex and renting it out nets you some monthly income after you invest in the property and find tenants. Royalties from traditional book sales are, technically, passive income, after you’ve invested time to write the book, find a publisher, etc.

For your online business, there are two passive incomes available:

  • Advertising
  • Affiliate links


When you have a website, you’re a publisher. When a company agrees to pay you to get its messages in front of your readers, that’s advertising.

It can take different forms. The one we usually think of first is a banner ad. That’s the visual, graphic block that sits in the sidebar, or over the header of the site. Or maybe it pops up in front of the reader. It can include text, graphics, video, audio, or any combination.

Here’s an example:


Then there’s sponsored content. A company pays you to publish an article, for example, that looks like the kind of content you normally publish. Again, it can be text, video, or audio.

Or a company might pay you to include a sponsored link to a page on their website.

If you plan to accept advertising on your site, it’s important there be no confusion in your viewers’ minds about the fact that it is paid-for communication. In the US, it’s a legal requirement, and it’s also important for creating trust.

Ad Network

The simplest way to place advertising on your site is by joining an ad network, like Google AdSense. You tell them the size of the ad block you want to display, and you can specify the types of ads you want or don’t want to show your visitors. Then you place it where you want it to show up on each page of your site.

Pros: It’s easy. Once you fill out the application form and are accepted into the program, you just place a bit of code on your site where you want the ads displayed. They track everything, and pay you per impression or per click.

Cons: You need a ton of traffic to earn significant money.

Solicit Advertising from Specific Businesses

This can work very well when your niche ties in with a defined group of businesses. For example, a tourism business could solicit advertising from local restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues. It’s unlikely, though, that a plumber would want to advertise on a site that’s viewed by people thinking of visiting the area.

However, the plumber, electrician, general contractor, kitchen design center, and furniture store might all be interested in advertising on a real estate agent’s website.

If your web business teaches couch potatoes how to train for a marathon, running shoes and apparel would be a good fit. Or if your audience is frazzled moms, any product that can save time in her busy day would be a possibility.

Pros: You can make sure the advertising is tightly targeted to your web visitors’ interests.

Cons: It takes time and effort to come up with a list of businesses to approach, to contact them, and to reach an agreement. You’ll need to figure out how to charge and how to track results so you’re properly paid.

Businesses Come to You

If you’re just starting your web-based business, you might think this is impossible, but once you’ve developed an audience and a reputation, expect advertisers to approach you.

When this happens, you should be just as selective as you would be if you were approaching them.

Pros: It’s less effort on your part than approaching the businesses yourself.

Cons: You’ll still need to figure out how to charge and track results.

Sales Commissions, aka Affiliate Links

Sometimes called affiliate marketing, you receive a commission for successful referrals.

There are two ways to approach affiliate marketing. The first involves signing up as an affiliate, then creating a small site — often only one page — to drive traffic to. When people click from that page to the provider of the product or service and purchase, you receive a commission.

Practitioners of this strategy often don’t use or even know much about the product they’re promoting.

Pros: You do the work once, and receive ongoing commissions.

Cons: It takes time, and often money in the form of PPC or other advertising, to drive the traffic, and there’s a bit of a sleazy reputation associated with it.

The second way is totally non-sleazy. It might take a little more effort to ramp up, but will serve you better in the long run.

You still enter into an affiliate arrangement, and you still get a commission when you drive sales to the product or service provider. Just like selling advertising, you select businesses that complement what you’re already doing.

Then you create content around their product or service, and include the link. There’s no need to create a standalone landing page. Instead, your article provides readers with high-quality information, and also refers sales traffic.

Once you’ve created the content, you’ll send traffic to it the same way you do with any other content on your site — email, social media, or PPC advertising are common methods.

Many companies run their own affiliate programs, while others join affiliate networks. For example, on my WordPress tutorial site I’m affiliated with two WordPress theme designers. StudioPress uses a network (Shareasale), and Elegant Themes manages its own affiliates.

Once you identify a company you want to affiliate with, visit its website. Often you’ll see a link in the footer or sidebar for affiliates, and you’ll be able to view information about how to join their affiliate program and the commissions they pay.

Just as you choose the companies carefully, be selective in the networks you join as well. Read the fine print. CJ Affiliate, for example, charges a fee if your sales don’t meet minimum levels.

Often you’ll be asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire before you’re accepted as an affiliate. The provider of the service or product you’ll be selling wants to be sure that your site is a good fit for what they’re offering. Be prepared to tell them about the amount and type of traffic to your site, and how you plan to send traffic to them. Then wait to hear whether you’ve been accepted into their program.

Most companies provide both text and banner links. A text link becomes a part of your content. A banner looks like an ad, which you can place anywhere on your site. Some items that look like ads are really affiliate banners.

Here’s an example of an affiliate banner that looks like a regular advertisement.


The advantage to using the text links is that readers perceive them as more trustworthy. The advantage to the banners is they provide more visual interest. Either way, it’s important that readers clearly understand when you stand to earn money from a link or a banner. It’s US law, and it’s just good etiquette.

Pros: By using affiliate text links, you monetize your content. You do the work once, and get paid for as long as it drives sales.

Cons: There’s a relatively small up-front time investment.

Bottom Line

Take the time to research what will likely work best for your business. Spending a little extra time and effort early on can maximize your profits down the road.

Want more help? SBI! For WP is for you. Join the tens of thousands of successful solopreneurs who have been using SBI!’s proven tools and techniques to build and grow their businesses. SBI! for WP will help you discover the best niche and keywords to target, and learn how best to turn that WordPress blog into a thriving business.

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  1. Make Your WordPress Site Profitable: Passive Income
  2. Make Your WordPress Site Profitable: Selling Services
  3. Make Your WordPress Site Profitable: Selling Products

Susanna Perkins
Susanna Perkins is a writer who loves WordPress and travel. After several years in the beautiful Republic of Panama, she's back in the US (for now). She teaches non-technical people how to use WordPress, and writes about WordPress, expats and portable careers. Recently she's been working with a small team to create something insanely useful for WordPress users.