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Website revenue models are surprisingly easy to understand, yet a lot of website owners simply don’t have an answer to the simple question, What is your website revenue model?

What is your Website Revenue Model?

So you want to build a website, great. I’m going to let you in on a little secret and tell you that there are millions, possibly billions of websites on the planet and you know what separates the great websites from the ones you’ve never heard of?

A website revenue model.

Website Revenue Model examples for some businesses are online sales
Without a website revenue model for your website, it’s a hobby, not a business.

That’s it. Without understanding how your website is going to make money, all you’ve done is spent money to hire a website designer, set up some hosting, and spent a lot of your time on search engine optimization / social media marketing but … you’re not making any money.

A perfect example of a business without a proper website revenue model is Twitter. Now, you may say that Twitter is famous, and you’d be right but do they actually make money? It’s okay to run a business without making money, but we call that a charity.

The Three Website Revenue Models

As far as I can tell, there are basically four ways to make money from a website, and here they are:

Sell a product or service that people are willing to buy.

This is perhaps the most straightforward version of a website for people to understand. Amazon does a great job of selling something directly to you, the consumer. Another easy way to think about this model is a company like Bluehost that sells web hosting.

Sell content on your website which people are willing to pay for.

The Website Revenue Model for Netflix is content control
Netflix website revenue model is based on controlling your access to content.

The second website revenue model is to sell access to something. Apple’s popular iTunes is a fantastic example of a content model, so is NetFlix. Both websites allow you easy access to digital content through subscription services.

Sell advertising on your website.

If you’re going to run free access to content, you can sell advertising on your website either directly or through Google AdWords to earn a revenue for your website business. Popular websites such as Facebook and YouTube do exactly that, they put ads into your content to ensure you can continue using the service for free.

The fourth website revenue model

The final method for making money from your website revenue model is fairly indirect but is possibly the most common method for most small business websites. Here at for example, I don’t sell ads or have special content but I do solicit work from visitors and just like real estate or lawyers, I use my website to generate leads which turn into sales.

So before you hire a web design team and get started on your website, ask yourself the most important question before you build a website … what is your website revenue model?