There are a number of ways individuals can monetize their websites. The approach you take depends on the design and purpose of your site, as well as the subject matter. The right approach can bring in enough money to cover hosting and other costs and even bring in a nice profit with enough traffic, but the wrong approach can drive visitors from your site and turn off potential customers.
Banner ads come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Both affiliate networks and PPC networks offer banner ads for use on your site. Usually, you simply include a snippet of code provided by the network site. With most networks, you only get paid for visitors who click through to the advertisement landing page - that is, those who click on the ad - but some offer pay per impression services, which pay you according to the number of people who see the ad. Those only pay after a lot of traffic has accrued, so sites with low traffic probably want to try another route.
Generally speaking, it is best to avoid pop up ads and video ads that automatically play when the page loads. Also avoid placing too many banners on one page. These are the kinds of things that turn off potential customers.
Affiliate networks sometimes offer commission on sales originating on your site. With these arrangements, a cookie from your site is installed on the visitor's computer and tracked by the affiliate website. When the visitor makes a purchase, your account is credited. The downside once again is the volume of traffic needed to make this venture successful. The rate of commission is also a factor, but rates as low as 5% are common online.
If you have a blog, or run a content management system with text entries, you can place sponsored posts among your regular blog posts. These ads pay between $5.00 and $10.00 each, generally. You write the content and include a keyword or phrase with a link back to the advertiser's website. Google frowns on sponsored posts though, and you may find your site excluded from the results if you post too many of them. At the very least, your blog will find it hard to get better PageRank. Popular bloggers can make hundreds, even thousands, of dollars from each sponsored post, but these bloggers get hundreds of thousands of hits or more each day.
If you have products to offer, many website hosting plans come with free shopping cart software. You can create a catalog or storefront and sell your products from your site. Avoid clip art and be sure the images you display have good lighting and composition. Be honest in your description and do not promise more than you can deliver.
There are a number of ways to monetize your site, though the amount of traffic you draw will usually drive the price of advertising. It is best not to rely too much on any one revenue stream and work to establish several.
I am a professional .NET and PHP software developer. I has been designing and developing websites professionally since 1994. Currently working as SEO consultant at UK SEO Company.