Dating sites are notoriously difficult to monetize. The way I see it, there are two major reasons for this. The first is that they have a history of various exploitive techniques and scams. People distrust them and, because their subject is inherently on the adult end of the spectrum, they have a restricted audience. The second reason then stems from the first; due to the risk and the restrictions on such sites, most traditional means of monetization simply don’t work. Many ad networks and affiliate programs don’t allow “adult” content, and dating often falls under that umbrella, even if you’re not explicitly an adult site.
There are plenty of sites that can be classified in the dating niche without actually being part of the adult dating industry. They have nothing to do with the likes of AdultFriendFinder, and have more in common with the dating advice sections of Cosmo. Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter. Anyone building a site should be able to monetize that site, so long as they way they do it is legal. I don’t particularly care whether you’re running a porn site or Dating Advice for PreTeens; if you can build a relevance audience, you deserve to get paid for your efforts.
What I’ve done, then, is compiled fifteen methods you can use to monetize a site that is categorized in the dating niche. Some are more restricted than others, and some can be a little risky or might put you into a business model you don’t want to do, so make sure to investigate each before you decide to invest in it.
1. Run Dating Site Affiliate Links
If you’re running a site based around dating, the obvious path for monetization is to run affiliate links for various dating sites out there.
You can do some of the tamer dating sites, like Match.com, OKCupid, or PlentyOfFish, without gaining the adult flags that can restrict your site. If, on the other hand, your site is already firmly in adult dating territory, you have free reign to sign up with whatever affiliate networks you want. There are quite literally hundreds of dating sites, so simply pick the ones that seem to fit with your site the best and investigate their referral programs.
2. Run AdSense Advertisements
Believe it or not, AdSense is perfectly usable for dating sites, so long as you meet their restrictions. However, you have to be firmly on the side of non-adult dating here. A blog about dating advice can qualify. A site with dating and relationship tips for young adults is great. A site with adult dating tips and sex performance tips probably won’t. Any site that sells adult products is right out. You can view the full restrictions here.
One important thing to note is that you are not able to use AdSense if your site links to another site that sells adult services or is a mature site in some way. This means many of the other options here won’t work alongside AdSense. Running an affiliate link to AdultFriendFinder would jeopardize your AdSense enrollment and likely get your site blacklisted, so be careful.
3. Self-Serve Ads from BuySellAds
BuySellAds is a network that assists advertisers and publishers with connecting to one another.
Unlike traditional ad networks, they don’t handle serving or tracking the ads themselves; that’s on you to do. They simply allow you to publish information about your site, and allow advertisers to find you and contact you to advertise on your site. This has the advantage of allowing you to work out your own deals, but does have the disadvantage of needing to track all of the data yourself. For an additional fee you can certainly enroll in their managed system, though.
4. Compile Content and Sell an eBook
If you have built a respectable site, you have likely done it through content. Anyone can spend money on traffic, but they won’t be able to make a profit or even make it sustainable if they don’t have the content to keep those users around. Content makes the world go round.
Identify your best, most popular content, and copy it into a document. Now pare it down; each paragraph drilled down into its primary point, each detail and heading into a line. Convert it into an outline. Now take that outline and expand it again, going above and beyond what it was before. Cover more points. Talk about more examples. Turn lists of 5 into lists of 10. Make the content better, more accurate, more up to date, and deeper.
Now turn that document into an eBook and publish it. You can use a self-serve eBook selling app for your site, or you can just sell it on Amazon. Either way, with users coming to look for that content, you can sell them the expanded version with ease. Repeat this until you have a sizable library.
5. Sell Sponsored Posts
Once again, content makes the world go round, and businesses these days know it. You can keep yourself open to selling sponsored content on your site. Allow brands to contact you and pitch themselves. Charge them for publishing their content on your site, or for reviewing their products, or for recommending them regardless of quality if you have a bit lower a morality rating. It’s up to you how far and how deep you want to go with sponsored content. Just make sure you follow SEO best practices, lest you earn a penalty for sponsored content.
6. Open a Storefront and Sell Relevant Products
Over the course of creating content for your site, you have probably mentioned products. Often times, you can sell those products. What you want to do is set up something called dropshipping. You set up a storefront and sell products to people, but you don’t need to create them yourself.
Instead, when you receive an order, simply turn around and make that order with the actual creator. They handle fulfillment, and you pull in a bit of profit. Not every company offers dropshipping, though, so make sure you make a contract before you start trying to sell. The key is to find the right suppliers.
7. Sell Mailing List Advertising
Like selling advertising on your site itself, you can create ads and sell sponsored content in other places as well. RSS feeds are one such tertiary form of advertising, but that’s still on the web. Selling sponsored content or recommendations – or even ads – in your mailing list is another good idea.
Of course, in order for this to work, you need to have established a loyal mailing list. A good mailing list in an incredibly valuable thing. You can use it to pitch affiliate offers, your own content, or sponsored content with equal ease. Plus, with a highly targeted and engaged audience, you can charge premium rates for your ad space. It beats the hell out of buying a list, from the advertiser perspective.
8. Create a Premium Content Area
This one is another spinoff on the idea of having excellent content. You don’t necessarily need to turn that content into discrete eBooks to sell later. Rather, you can keep that content on your site and keep publishing more of it. However, rather than offering all of your content for free, gate some of it behind a premium membership portal.
Now, if you’re going to go a membership route, you need to remember to publish plenty of free content as well in order to keep attracting people. You need to make sure your premium content has great value as well, to give users an incentive to subscribe. You also need a reasonable price, because most people won’t be willing to pay a premium, particularly for content sight unseen.
9. Sell Advice Coaching
By running a dating site, you’re establishing yourself as an authority in the dating niche. People will probably be sending you emails asking for advice already, even if you’ve never professed to offer it. You can take advantage of these people by developing a course or a consulting session structure that you can sell.
When people buy it, you can send them a video series, or you can simply have a simple one on one hour-long conversation with them, to determine their faults and give them advice. Just make sure not to take on more than you can handle.
10. Create a Classifieds Board
One traditional option for many sites is to run a specialized job board for their industry. Dating isn’t traditionally known as a niche where jobs are involved, though, so you’re a bit limited. You can create a classified section, though, and sell discrete tweet-sized advertising slots. You will, however, need to make rules for your classifieds and keep them moderated. Otherwise, you might end up looking like the Craigslist Casual Encounters section or some of the seedier parts of Backpage. You don’t want this, not just because it attracts sleazy elements of society, but because it can often be illegal and you may run into trouble with the law for promoting illegal activities.
11. Run Monetized Surveys
Surveys from the moneymaking perspective aren’t generally high paying, but in volume as a publisher, you can sometimes make a pretty decent amount of money. The site I see mentioned for this niche most often is Survata.
This site allows you to set up ad-like surveys that your users fill out. Individually, they don’t earn you much money, but then neither do AdSense ads. They tend to be short surveys, targeted to relevant topics according to your site niche. Now, I don’t know specifically how they work, so I can’t guarantee that they’re going to make you a bunch of cash, but it’s an option for you to investigate.
12. Create a Paid Community
Much like creating a membership area, you can create a paid community based around your site. There are two ways you can go about this. You can make it an extension of your premium content subscription – access to an exclusive community – or you can make it a draw of its own. One of the most prominent paid communities on the web is SomethingAwful, a forum that costs $10 to join. There are also exclusive marketing communities like Jon Loomer’s Power Hitters Club, which is much more significantly priced but more exclusive and more valuable. Pick the model that works best for your audience and gets you the most subscribers.
13. Run Events and Gain Sponsors
If your site is sufficiently large, you might be able to swing your influence in such a way as to create a convention or event. You can attract producers, site owners, industry veterans, and interested press all to the convention. You can then acquire sponsors to help smooth out the costs of running events, and even more, to profit on top of them.
Events can be great opportunities. You can sell booth space. You can sell advertising in the convention center. You can sell tickets at the door. You can get sponsors for the event, and make partnerships that can be lucrative outside of the event. However, they’re also a ton of work to run and you won’t be able to start with all of those resources, so they may start at a loss. It’s up to you if this is even remotely feasible.
14. Sell Your Expertise
Similar to selling your consulting, you can sell your personal expertise. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as a dating coach, though. You can sell your expertise as a site builder, as a marketer, as a dating site expert, or even simply as a content writer. Essentially, use your site as a portfolio piece.
15. Sell Your Website and Make a New One
At the end of the day, there’s always one final option for making money from your site, and that’s simply selling your site. You did something right in order to grow it to a desirable level, so why not sell it and let someone else worry about growing, maintaining, and monetizing it? You can always build another using the experience you earned, and keep the pattern, growing and selling sites for profit. It’s up to you.