How To Monetize Your Website By Using APIs

What Is An API?

An application programming interface (“API”) is a set of programming instructions used to connect to third-party providers, such as software applications or web tools. An API is a software-to-software interface, with no user interface. The website connecting to the API provider is responsible for how the content is displayed (abiding by the provider’s terms of use, of course). APIs are not new. Giants such as Google, Twitter, and Amazon have been providing some of their internal functionality to the outside world so that other websites can leverage their content. For companies providing APIs, it can be a great way to create brand awareness and have an army of publishers/affiliates driving traffic to their site. For publishers, they’re are a great way to offer more content without worrying about the headaches of inventory, hours of coding, etc. The essential building blocks are already in place!

How To Find The Right API For Your Site

Not all companies will offer a revenue share for driving traffic or sales to their site, however, many will. For example, Amazon’s Product Advertising API will offer a revenue share for referrals sent to them whenever qualified products are purchased. Depending on the niche of your site, you’ll want to research some of the companies out there that offer publisher or affiliate programs and see if they offer a public API. If it’s not immediately obvious, look at the footer of the site for terms such as publisher, affiliate, or developers. Many sites may not advertise the fact that they offer this type of access, so you might want to contact them directly. Another great resource for researching APIs is ProgrammableWeb. ProgrammableWeb is the world’s largest API repository, and has a simple to use search interface along with news, reviews, and announcements.

Best Practices For Publishers

There are some best practices that one should abide by in order to provide the best user experience possible. Your site must offer something unique that will differentiate it from other sites. Google tends to penalize ‘thin affiliates,’ as they tend not to offer any unique, high quality content. Take the following precautions in order to avoid penalties that could be incurred by Google (and other search engines):

Add ‘nofollow’ To Affiliate Links

Adding a value of nofollow to the rel attribute of links instructs search engines to not influence the link target’s ranking in the search results. The reason for this is because if search engines consider a followed link to be a paid link or a link from a ‘content farm’, it could negatively affect your rankings in the search results. An example of how to set a link to have the nofollow value would be:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Affiliate link</a>

Note: nofollow can also be applied on the page level so that all links within the page are treated as nofollow. This would be done on the meta tag. The example below instructs search engines to index the page in their search results, but do not pass page rank on those links:


Avoid Duplicate Content Penalties

If the content on your page is mostly content from the API provider, set the page to have a ‘noindex’ value in your meta tag so that search engines do not index that page. The reason for this is that if search engines determine that you’re generating duplicate content, your site could be penalized. The example below instructs search engines to NOT follow the links, as well as to NOT index the page:


Read The Terms Of Use Carefully

This may seem obvious, however when money is involved it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure you’re abiding by the guidelines of the provider.

Is there a limit to the number of API calls you can make in a day?

Many times there are limits to the number of calls that can be made daily. You should look into this if your site receives a lot of traffic. Is there a fee for surpassing the limit? Will they simply deny you access and display an error once you’ve maxed out the allotted number of calls?

Must you provide attribution?

Businesses love to create brand awareness, and many times require publishers to provide attribution (such as their logo with a link to their site). If this is a requirement, make sure it’s implemented correctly.

Can you send out direct links to the product?

Can you send out the link to a specific product that points directly to the provider’s site, or must that link route to your site first? Consider the scenario where revenue share is based on a pay-per-click (PPC) model. If you were to send out an email to thousands of people and they click on the link in your email (resulting in a revenue share), will this be a violation of the provider’s terms of use? Most likely so, so be careful in how you advertise the products on your site.

What level of support do they have?

Due to the nature of the API, your published content is dependent upon their services being reliable. What happens when they go down? Who can you reach out to and what are their support hours? Reconsider working with any provider that can’t assure a high rate of stability.

Provide High Quality Content

Why would somebody use your site as opposed to going directly to the site of your API provider? Your site must offer a service, information, or products that are unique and helpful. Google’s Panda algorithm was designed to deduce which sites are abiding by these rules, and sites that are deemed as spam are fair game for their manual or algorithmic penalties.

Invest in your brand! Why is your site unique? What makes it more useful than your competitors? These should all be reflected on your site, preferably on the home page. Adding quality content to your site on a regular basis is very important. “Content marketing” has become a popular buzzword (or “buzzphrase”) that has motivated site owners to pump out a lot of content. If the content is outdated, duplicated, or low quality, it might as well not exist. Invest your time and/or money in a good content marketer and you will will avoid many of the pitfalls site owners encounter. Creating a blog that is rich with quality content would be a great way of differentiating your site from competitors!