From working with numerous publications and bloggers powered by WordPress, we understand one of the biggest challenges is converting their traffic into revenue without sacrificing the user experience.

It’s certainly a delicate balance to strike. Littering your site with bait-and-switch paywalls and popups may generate some immediate cash flow, but at a significant cost to the health and trust of the community and readership you’ve worked so hard to build.

We’ve compiled five tactical methods for you to monetize your high-traffic WordPress blog without risking your brand’s reputation.

#1 – Exclusive content for members only

The freemium model is an established practice across various industries, and it works especially well in media. Smashing Magazine, for example, is a free online publication that also offers ebooks for purchase or as part of their paid subscription program.

Post Status, a major publication for WordPress news, offers a premium ‘club’ which includes exclusive deals and perks, a Slack channel to share monetization strategies and best practices, and a directory for networking.

There are a number of ways to set up membership-only content on WordPress. The most popular plugins with this functionality are WishList, Membership Pro 2, and Restrict Content Pro.

#2 – Rent out your site’s background

An often unutilized but highly valuable piece of real estate is the background of your site. It might currently be a default-looking gray, but advertisers are willing to pay a pretty penny to display a relevant message or image. That’s because background takeovers typically get a much higher click-through rate than other ads.

WP Background Takeover Advertisements enables you to manage multiple background images and style options. Some great examples of sites using the technology are Men’s Health and IMDB.

background takeover IMDB - Ways to Monetize your wordpress blog

#3 – Branded products

There’s a number of potential opportunities to monetize apparel and gear that are relevant to your audience. For example, our friends over at Expert Photography had a tremendous amount of success with a TeeSpring campaign selling hilarious shirts that resonated with their audience.

Branded products - ways to monetize your wordpress blog

Whether you use TeeSpring, CafePress, or Zazzle for custom gear, you have a suite of WordPress integrations at your fingertips to get started. You also won’t need much capital to get started, so it’s a low-risk experiment to run.

#4 – Trusted recommendations

If your brand is a trusted curator of products and services, you can monetize affiliate traffic you generate. For example, you can write extensive professional guides that include recommended equipment to purchase, and Amazon’s Associate program will give you a cut of all sales you generate (even if the visitor goes on to buy unrelated products in the same shopping session).

Or, you can follow Indexwp’s strategy and charge for writing and publishing independent reviews of new products and services. Adam of Blogging Wizard wrote a great paid review of CMS Commander. He was completely transparent that he was paid to write the article.

IndexWP's sponsored posts strategy

#5 – Sponsored posts by advertisers

An emerging trend is for publishers to enable advertisers to submit high-quality articles to their publication. You have to be careful with this one, because salesy content can turn off an audience quickly. A safe bet is to simply tag the post as paid or sponsored so readers have fair expectations. You can do this easily with some nifty CSS or an inexpensive plugin.

Publications like Mashable use this revenue model consistently while Buzzfeed almost relies on native advertising entirely. You can find interested advertisers on SponsoredReviews, PayPerPost, SocialSpark, or learn how to negotiate with an advertiser directly. It’s common for publications to have a page advertisers can go to in order to read about such opportunities. Check out examples from Kevin Muldoon and ShoutMeLoud.

Key takeaway: You have a number of options to monetize your popular WordPress blog or publication without sacrificing the user experience of your site. The key is to expand your definition of your business and think about how you can deliver value to your readers beyond free content.

Having a captive audience opens up opportunities to add exponential value if you can figure out which levers to pull.

What did we miss? Let us know some examples of monetization you’ve seen or what has been working for you in the comments.

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