Which websites successfully make money just from ads?


I'm wondering how many websites are actually successful at making money purely off ads. Clearly the search engines do, but apart from them can you point out specific sites which have successful business models that rely only on ad revenue generated from attracting visitors?

I'd be interested in any reliable data one way or the other.

EDIT: Based on the responses, let me clarify: I'm looking for real data about real sites that make real money, if they exist. Please no claims without backing it up, and no stories about making several $k a year. Let's put the floor at $1 million in revenue.

Here's one example: Answers.com - $20.75 million in 2009

Anyone got anymore?

Business Model Advertising Website Revenue

asked Nov 16 '11 at 08:29
147 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

5 Answers


I think success is going to be hard to define as a lot of websites are hobby sites (blogs, journals) or advertising a company that provides an offline service.

But sites that are designed to offer up professionally written, high quality content like Smashing Magazine and the Envato network sites (psd tuts etc., Freelance switch) are driven by ads and promoting affilate products like books, or other services that they receive a commission off of. No one would expect to make a ton of money strictly from something like Google Adsense - you usually need to directly engage with specific advertisers or get referral kickbacks on purchases from linking to other sites to start making good money from a content site.

Assume $2-$8 per 1,000 (CPM) visitors per ad if you are directly selling advertising on your site, but it will probably take awhile to get good direct advertisers. But get 5 - 10 of those, could make a couple hundred per day off of a decent site.

answered Nov 16 '11 at 11:39
Ryan Doom
5,472 points
  • Thanks Ryan- interesting thoughts on AdSense vs direct ads, though a couple hundred bucks per day isn't anyone's idea of a business model. But where did you get the $2-$8 per 1,000 (CPM)?- that's the kind of data I'm looking for... – Yarin 12 years ago


I run a free niche dating site that is profitable off ads only.

Generally for a site to make real money off ads it needs to get quite considerable traffic, and naturally your acquisition cost per user has to be less than the average revenue per user acquired.

AOL properties (Techcrunch, TMZ, Huffington Post, etc) are all good examples of profitable sites that are ad supported.

answered Nov 17 '11 at 03:22
Sherif Buzz
462 points
  • @sherrif- care to share some numbers about your site? How much traffic, how much profit... I would love to hear more. – Yarin 12 years ago


Something like wikianswers.com. There are a lot of websites like that. A fair amount of them are based on content created by users.

answered Nov 16 '11 at 11:31
323 points
  • Just because they exist doesn't mean they're making money. Looking for some actual data. – Yarin 12 years ago


It depends what you mean by 'Money'. Can you make a $5,000 a year from ads alone on a website? Yes, you can. Can you make a decent living from a single website? Well, that's a tougher nut to crack.

Active sites that serve niche communities, so long as they have an active user base, can earn you that $5,000 a year if you're prepared to get involved in the advertising yourself - that means forget about just linking to Adsense or other pre built ad providers - and contact potential advertisers directly. Niche communities, especially when there is also a geographic limitation, can be attractive to local advertisers.

Example: a UK site / forum about learning a musical instrument could attract advertising from UK music instrument shops and web sites.

I run a similar (niche) Irish site myself, and have not had difficulty finding local advertisers who are willing to pay $1,000 a year. In most cases, if your site is popular, they will chase you for the opportunity to advertise.

But there are many sites out there that do not fully utilise their advertising potential. Community driven sites that run adsense and nothing else because it's easy, when they could make 10-20 times as much by taking direct control of the ads (but that involves work, so they don't bother).

answered Nov 17 '11 at 03:39
Carlton D
38 points
  • @Carlton- thanks for sharing your experience- but my question is about successful business models- as in can you generate enough revenue to sustain a business. – Yarin 12 years ago


Traffic (Sell them cheap and easy) -> Convert them to community (and use them for more crowdsourcing) -> Add additional layers to it ...

If you have community and traffic, you can make real good money.

Use following points:

1: Social Connect

2: MObile connect

(This will give lead over all the other people)

Google doesn't sell ads, Google is a market place for knowledge and services and thus they make money ... be the market place to earn more.

Aji Issac,
CEO, TechShu - ROI focused End to End Digital Marketing Partner

answered Nov 16 '11 at 16:18
Aji Issac Mathew
1 point
  • Looking for data, not declarations – Yarin 12 years ago

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