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How To Make Money Online

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Originally Posted On:

How To Make Money Online: 15 Ways From The 30 Biggest Sites

It’s not just websites owners who are looking for better ways how to make money online, I would say a large percentage of the general population are also. 

I always think that if you want to learn how to be great at something, focus on studying those who are already great, that’s why today we have released an updated list of the top earning websites and given you a detailed insight into how they make money from those websites.

Back in March 2009, we compiled the first ever list of the top 30 earning websites in the world, with taking the top spot. However, in 2024, our new Top Earning Websites In The World list, reveals has overtaken as the company that makes the most money online – can you believe it?

While this may just be a list of some of the top-earning websites in the world, it’s still fascinating to compare their revenues on a per-second basis. For example, earning $1000 in a day may seem like a dream come true, but it’s only 1.157 cents per second. Imagine what it must be like to be Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, or Sergey Brin, who are some of the richest billionaires in the world and own some of the most valuable internet businesses as well. 

After checking out the list, I share how they make money from their websites. Enjoy.

What 30 Websites Make The Most Money Online

What is the most popular way to make money online?

We are about to share with you all the different ways these big websites are making money from their websites. These include:

  1. Advertising
  2. Subscription model
  3. E-commerce
  4. Digital products
  5. Commission-based model
  6. Software licencing
  7. Data monetization
  8. Classifieds (buy, sell or announce something)
  9. Online education
  10. Manufacturing hardware
  11. Affiliate marketing
  12. In-app purchases
  13. Business services
  14. Consultancy services
  15. Payment processing

Before going forward, I want to ask you which method you think is the most popular and why. 

Answer: Advertising

It’s interesting that something no one really likes is the most popular method for making money online, and then it occurred to me why. It’s because of the return on investment. Selling advertising is relatively easy; there is nothing to ship to customers, very little customer support, and relatively high customer satisfaction, assuming you have targeted traffic to sell like Google and Amazon. If you look at the most valuable tech companies, you will see that Google is worth more than Amazon despite making much less. Why? Because Google’s business model is much more profitable and requires only 10% of the employees. 

How the biggest websites in the world make money online

Take a look below at a more detailed explanation of each method for making money online: 

1. Advertising

Google, Facebook, and TikTok generate revenue through advertisements.

No one uses these websites because they want to see adverts, yet they earn hundreds of billions a year from something you don’t want to see. 

Over the years, advertising has become more targeted at giving someone something they want. Search engines and social media have built software that allows them to highly target what they show their audience. A key lesson for any website owner is that to make the most money from your advertising, you must show advertising as targeted as possible. 

One surprise mention is Amazon, which is now earning nearly $50 billion a year from selling advertising. That makes sense; their search results often reflect this. 

Despite almost everyone disliking advertising, it remains the most popular way companies make money online, and the revenue earned from it continues to grow every year.

2. Subscription model

Netflix, Spotify, and Salesforce offer a subscription-based service model.

Subscription refers to a monthly (most of the time) charge for some sort of goods or services. It’s a great business model because it means that you have a good idea of the income you will generate each month. Unlike sales, which may go down, subscribers often stay a long time. 

When we switched from a one-off price for our software to a monthly subscription, income went through the roof, meaning we could invest more into advertising and software creation. 

Interestingly, Amazon’s subscription service, Prime, makes more money than the largest subscription service company, and it’s not even their prime income source. 

How to add subscriptions to your own website: Offering a subscription service is a great way to make money for smaller websites because their audience is often loyal and engaged. Offer readers a premium service, which could include exclusive content, ad-free browsing and additional features for a monthly fee. Additionally, it’s worth having a tiered subscription that includes different levels of access and benefits at varying price points.

3. E-commerce

Amazon, Alibaba, and Shopify earn income through e-commerce transactions.

E-commerce refers to buying and selling goods over the internet. You create your own or outsource production and then sell it to website visitors using an online store. That’s the name of the game.

If you want to launch your own online store, the two best tools for creating an online store are Shopify and WooCommerce. If you already have an online store, read this article on e-commerce SEO.

4. Digital products

Amazon and Google provide a platform for buying and selling digital products such as games, music, and software.

Amazon Prime, Amazon Music, and Google Play offer a wide range of digital content, including e-books, music, movies, TV shows, and apps for purchase. Both companies take a percentage of each sale as a commission, allowing them to generate revenue from digital downloads. 

Other notable examples include ThemeForest, Creative Market, and MyFonts. These marketplaces offer a wide range of templates, designs and fonts for sale.  

Selling products online is often said to be “where it’s at”. Why, you may ask? Well, because when you display advertising or promote something as an affiliate, you are getting only a cut of the money made by selling your own products, you get it all. 

Digital products that sell well online: 

  • Web templates and themes
  • Online courses
  • Software applications
  • Stock photos and digital artwork
  • Video tutorials
  • Fonts and graphic elements
  • Music downloads
  • Games

Ourselves, we have had a lot of success selling our own software and ebooks. 

5. Commission-based model

Etsy, eBay and Airbnb charge a commission for each transaction that occurs on their platforms.

These websites sell nothing and receive a commission from the sale. One of the ‘easiest’ business models because they don’t need to create or deliver anything; they just need to attract customers to their website.

Amazon also earns the majority of their income from third-party seller services and fulfilment fees.

6. Software licencing

Google generates revenue from selling their technology to small companies.

Another way big companies make money is from selling the licence to reuse their software and advertising technology. A great example is Google selling their tech to AOL, and many other smaller search engines so that these smaller companies are able to save time and money by not building software their selves.

When we first launched our software company, we sold single licences, multi-site licenses (3 website usage) and agency licences, which allowed customers to use our software on as many of their clients as they wished. 

7. Data monetization

Facebook and Google earn revenue through data monetization.

Amazon, Google and Facebook make money throught data monetization in two different ways. Firstly to increase sales and conversions for advertisers. The second way they make money is by selling data to businesses for marketing and research purposes. This data then allows them to gain insights into how we behave without revealing individual user identities. 

8. Classifieds (buy, sell or announce something)

eBay, Upwork, and Craigslist make money by selling classified advertisements. 

Classifieds are advertisements grouped together based on a specific category, such as job postings, real estate listings, items for sale, as well as personal ads. Individuals and businesses use classifieds to buy, sell, or announce something to a targeted audience. Examples would be Upwork or job marketplaces, where companies list available jobs. 

Some bloggers make money by selling classifieds to their very targeted audience. For example, bloggers who teach how to write may have a job board for website owners looking for writers. 

Another example would be Sitepoint, which was a very famous website back in the day for website owners. They had an area on their site to list services from website design to coding. Eventually, this turned into 99designs and Flippa, which went on to bring in hundreds of millionaires in revenue. So, if there was a lesson to learn about how to make money online, it’s to start and then evolve. That seems to be the way the most successful websites approach running their businesses at least. 

9. Online education

Udemy, LinkedIn and Coursera earn revenue through online courses and education programs.

Selling online education and training can be a great way to make money online and is in fact one of the most popular by smaller website owners. Now that I think about it, I would say it’s the most popular way to make money for bloggers making over $10,000 a month. 

To get started you have to create a membership website where users pay a recurring fee for access to exclusive educational content, resources, and community forums. Another option is to utilize platforms like Udemy, where you can create and sell courses to a wide audience. To be successful, it’s important to offer high-quality, valuable content, actively engage with your audience, and continuously market your offerings to attract new customers. Finding a niche, understanding your target audience, and leveraging effective marketing strategies are also crucial for success in this industry.

If you are looking for a great free training course on creating your own membership website, then check out Samcarts free training videos. 

The most popular formats for online training are: membership websites, eBooks and guides, webinars and online training.

10. Manufacturing hardware

Both Google and Amazon generate income from the sale of their own hardware products.

Google earns money from the sale of hardware products such as Pixel phones and Google Nest devices. These products contribute to Google’s revenue stream through direct sales to consumers. Similarly, Amazon generates revenue from the sales of its hardware products like the Kindle e-readers, Echo smart speakers, and other devices. These hardware sales are a part of Amazon’s overall e-commerce operations and contribute to its diverse income streams.

The great thing about these income streams is that other companies sell their products for them, such as in store and online. 

11. Affiliate marketing

Google generates revenue selling holiday bookings as an affiliate. 

Google partners with various travel websites and agencies to display flights, hotels, and other travel options in their search results. When users click on these options and make a booking, Google often receives a commission from the partner website or agency, something that is referred to as affiliate marketing. 

We have already talked a lot about monetizing a blog using affiliate marketing on this website. While selling advertising may work for the biggest websites, for small, more niche sites, I would say affiliate marketing is the best option. 

The most popular affiliate network marketplaces are: Amazon Associates, ClickBank, CJ Affiliate, eBay Partner Network, Impact, PartnerStack and ShareASale.

Bonus tip: Most products have an affiliate program, Google their name, plus the word affiliate to find it.


12. In-app purchases

Google Play, as well as mobile game developers such as Candy Crush and Clash of Clans earn revenue through in-app purchases.

When users make in-app purchases in apps and games on the Google Play Store, Google takes a cut of the transaction, typically around 30%. 

This may seem like a lot of money, however if you think about it app stores provide the platform for developers to distribute their apps and games and, so in return, them taking a percentage of the sales seems only fair. This model allows developers to monetize their apps and games while Google takes a share of the revenue for providing the platform and distribution services.

13. Business services

Amazon and Google offer hosting and other business services.

You may wonder why Amazon and Google would enter the business-to-business market. Well, there are many good reasons. 

These tech giants have the expertise, infrastructure, and resources to provide reliable and secure hosting services, making them attractive options for businesses of all sizes. Furthermore, they already have millions of business customers in the form of advertisers, so scaling up such a business is relatively easy. 

Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that businesses have money. They invest money to make money, so the business-to-business market is one of the best markets to be in. 

If you look closely at the list, a few of the biggest earning websites are solely business-to-business, such as Shopify and Stripe. You could also argue Linkedin to some extent. 

14. Consultancy services

Salesforce offer consultancy services for businesses and individuals.

Salesforce makes money primarily by selling subscription-based access to its cloud-based software services. However, the company also earns money from consulting, training, and support services to help its customers implement and use its software effectively. Although this only amounts about 10% of their revenue, try telling their shareholders that the extra $1billion in revenue isn’t important to them. 

If you want to learn about selling services, read this article. 

15. Payment processing

Shopify, Stripe and PayPal earn income through payment processing services.

Stripe and PayPal make their money through by charging a fee for each transaction processed through their platforms. This fee is typically a small percentage of the transaction amount plus a fixed fee. Additionally, they may generate income through other services such as currency conversion, subscription fees for premium features, and interest on funds held in user accounts. 

How the biggest 3 websites make a trillion a year online

The list above shows that the three websites that make the most money make more than the next 100 or so websites combined. How could this be? It’s because of branding. No one says I need to use a search engine or look for an online store; they simply say I need to Google it, Facebook it, and buy it on Amazon.

They are their industries—a lesson for all of us and not something out of our reach. In many niche industries, there is an authority, someone who is known as the only real choice. Why? Because of their size and their ability to create something better than anyone else.

Strive to be the best if you want to make the most money online.

What is the best way to make money online

I wouldn’t say there was one single best way to make money. What the most successful companies in the world have in common is that they diversify their income streams. Take a look at Amazon. Everyone thinks they just sell stuff online. If you look closely, though, you will see that they make money in many other ways, such as the $50 billion from advertising and the $35 billion from prime subscriptions, of which they have 200 million subscribers. Oh, and did I mention that Amazon’s cloud hosting makes more money than Prime subscriptions and advertising combined? 


Amazon is number one because it is the most successful at diversifying its income stream. Remember that when trying to monetize your own online business. 

Traffic or monetization, which is more important for making money online

I guess the answer to this question, is sort of both. If your website isn’t monetized, then more traffic won’t help you make more money. And without traffic you won’t be able to make money either. If your website is well monetized, focusing efforts on increasing website traffic will probably be a better time well spent for most website owners. 

One way to get targeted traffic is through affiliate marketing. 

When I say affiliate marketing, I am referring to the traffic source, not the source of income, although they are really one and the same. How affiliate marketing works is that affiliates (website owners typically) link to products and receive a commission if they make a sale. Amazon get a lot of website traffic this way. Without their affiliate programs, they would earn less money every month. 

If you are selling something online, check out SamCart, their shopping cart software has a great affiliate tool built in. 

It’s also worth noting that companies such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy invest heavily in SEO to increase traffic and make more money. These teams focus on improving search engine rankings through various techniques such as content creation, keyword research and technical website improvements. So, to be successful at making money online, focus not just on the ‘making money’ part but also on the ‘getting traffic’ part.

Is everyone able to make money online?

No, not everyone, although most people are able to make money online if they want to. There are a lot of limitations, such as the time it takes to learn skills and having the time in the first place. Those who are in the best position to start making more money are those who already have a website and a bit of traffic to their website. That’s why I always recommend everyone create a website now, even if they are not ready to start taking their online business seriously because by starting now, you have a platform to start making money online when the time is right. 

If I could give you some last bit of advice, whether you want to make money or be successful in life, study those who are already successful. 

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