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Blogging is often recommended as one of the best ways to make money online or one of the best side hustle opportunities. But despite the popularity of blogging as a way to make money, there’s still a lot of confusion and uncertainty around the ways that bloggers actually earn income.
Simply having a blog isn’t going to make you any money.
In order to have success, you’ll need to know how you intend to make money and establish a plan that puts you on the right path.
This article covers the most common ways that bloggers make money. Some of the options may appeal to you, and others may not. While it’s definitely possible to pivot and change your approach after starting your blog, it’s a good idea to develop your plan early on because the way that you hope to make money with your blog can and should impact some of the decisions that you make along the way.
Blogging has been my primary source of income since 2008. I’ve built blogs in a few different industries and over the years I’ve used all five of these different monetization methods. I’ve definitely formed my own opinions about blog monetization, and this article shares the pros and cons of each method to help you decide which might be right for you.
When it comes to making money with a blog, the first thing that many new bloggers think about is advertising. After you start a blog, if you have enough traffic, you can make money from advertisers who want to reach your audience.
This includes Google’s AdSense program as well as other advertising networks. There are countless ad networks and ad managers out there, but many of the best options for bloggers will require you to reach a certain level of traffic before you can apply to join.
- Monumetric (requires at least 10,000 pageviews per month)
- Mediavine (requires at least 50,000 sessions per month)
- AdThrive (requires at least 100,000 pageviews per month)
These networks will typically outperform AdSense by a large margin.
Of all the ways to make money as a blogger, advertising is probably the most straightforward. You don’t need to sell anything or recommend any products. You’re only responsibility is to keep the traffic flowing to your site. If you have traffic, you can make some money with ads.
Monetizing a blog with ads also doesn’t require much of your time. The ad networks like Monumetric, Mediavine, and AdThrive will set everything up for you. You won’t need to dedicate time to it on a regular basis, so you can focus on creating content and promoting your blog.
Pros of Monetizing Your Blog with Ads
- It’s simple.
- It’s relatively passive (if you have traffic).
- You don’t need to sell anything.
- Most visitors today are accustomed to ads.
- It can be done with just about any type of blog.
Cons of Monetizing Your Blog with Ads
- It forces you to chase after traffic. If your traffic drops, your income will most likely drop too.
- Ads can damage the user experience of your site (including slower load speeds).
- In general, it’s not the most lucrative way to monetize a blog.
- You’ll be sending visitors away from your blog.
- A lot of visitors are using ad blockers.
- You have little control over the ads that are shown on your site.
- Ads Impact the look of your site.
→ Related reading: How to Make Money Blogging for Beginners
2. Affiliate Programs
One of the most popular ways to monetize a blog is through affiliate programs.
In case you are not familiar with affiliate programs, companies pay you to promote their products and services. You’ll earn a commission per sale or per lead. You’ll use a special link that tracks your referrals.
As an example, you could join Amazon.com’s affiliate program (they call it Amazon Associates) and promote products sold on Amazon. You would log in to your Amazon dashboard and get your affiliate link for whichever product that you want to promote. When a visitor from your blog clicks through the affiliate link, you will be tracked as the referrer and if that visitor makes a purchase, you will earn a commission.
Pros of Monetizing Your Blog with Affiliate Programs
- There are possibilities for just about any type of blog in any niche.
- It can be a relatively passive way to make money (if you have existing traffic).
- You’re not responsible for customer service or anything else aside from making the referral.
- You can promote products and services that you use and genuinely recommend.
- The income potential is high.
- It’s possible for new blogs to start making some money, even if it’s not a huge amount.
- You don’t need to create the products yourself.
Cons of Monetizing Your Blog with Affiliate Programs
- You’ll need to send visitors away from your blog in order to make money.
- You’ll be helping someone else to build their customer list/email list.
- Tracking isn’t always 100% accurate and you’re probably not getting paid for some sales that should be credited to you.
- You have no control over factors after the visitor leaves your site (like the sales page, customer service, etc.).
Affiliate programs present a great opportunity for bloggers, and almost every blog should be using affiliate programs to some extent. Even if you sell your own products, there will be other products you could promote as an affiliate without creating competition for yourself.
You should focus on products that you truly believe in and not recommend products just to make a buck.
What Should You Promote as an Affiliate?
One of the easiest ways to find products to promote as an affiliate is to join affiliate networks and browse through their available offers. Some of the leading affiliate networks include:
Many different companies (usually referred to as “advertisers”) have affiliate programs managed through these networks. You’ll sign up as a publisher and get access to the affiliate programs of many different companies.
In most cases, once inside the network, you’ll need to apply individually to each program that you want to join. The network will provide you with an affiliate link for each program/product that you want to promote, and you’ll use that link on your blog.
From a blogger’s perspective, networks can be great because you can manage several different affiliate programs from one place.
Amazon.com isn’t an affiliate network, but you can buy just about anything imaginable on Amazon, so their affiliate program is also a great place to find products to promote.
Some companies will choose to manage their own affiliate program rather than using a network (this is sometimes called a “direct” or “private” program). Most of these companies have a page on their website with information about the affiliate program and a link where you can sign up or apply.
As a blogger, you will most likely use a combination of networks and direct/private programs.
Promoting Products/Services as an Affiliate
Here are some ways that you can start promoting these products and services on your blog:
- Link to an affiliate product whenever it naturally comes up within your posts.
- Write reviews of specific products and services.
- Write top lists (best products of a certain type).
- Write tutorials and how-to articles that show how to use a product or service.
- Think of article topics related to the products that you want to promote so you can naturally work those promotions into your content.
- Product vs. product comparison articles.
- List of alternatives to a popular (expensive) product.
- Create pages of recommended products and services.
3. Sponsored Content
The term “sponsored content” can mean different things to different people. As your blog grows, many people will reach out to you and express an interest in publishing “sponsored content” on your blog, but the vast majority of these people are only interested in getting dofollow links to their site.
Google has been penalizing website owners and marketers for a long time for buying or selling links. As a result, most people will ask for “sponsored content” because it sounds better than asking if they can buy a link from your blog.
Google’s terms state that any paid or sponsored links should have a “nofollow” or “sponsored” tag. If you publish sponsored content without adding nofollow or sponsored tags to the links, you’re running the risk of being penalized by Google, which can severely damage your search engine rankings.
I strongly encourage you to never publish sponsored content without adding nofollow or sponsored tags to the links. It’s not worth the risk.
When you publish sponsored content, clearly state that the article is sponsored at the beginning of the article (example, “This post is sponsored by XYZ Company. All opinions are my own.”). All links that lead to the sponsor’s website should have nofollow or sponsored tags.
Companies that are interested in legit sponsored content:
- Will not be turned off by the fact that the links will be nofollowed.
- Are interested in reaching your audience and increasing exposure for their company.
- Are usually willing to pay significantly more than those who are simply looking to buy links.
- May be interested in long-term collaboration or brand partnerships that involve more than a single sponsored post.
Pros of Monetizing a Blog with Sponsored Content:
- You may get to work with brands and promote products that will genuinely be of
interest to your readers.
- Good income potential, especially if you have a big audience.
- It may not require much time on your part.
- Sponsored content can serve as a nice supplement to other monetization methods.
Cons of Monetizing a Blog with Sponsored Content:
- Your income from sponsored content will be unpredictable with significant swings from month to month.
- If you publish too much sponsored content, it can turn off some of your readers.
- Very small blogs may not be able to find sponsors
- There are more opportunities in some niches than others
How Much Traffic Do You Need to Land Sponsorships?
On the subject of making money with sponsored content, the first question that most bloggers have is “How much traffic do I need?”
There is no set guideline, but you don’t need millions of visitors in order to make very good money by publishing sponsored content.
In general, 10,000 pageviews per month is a good starting point for publishing sponsored content. Some sponsors won’t care about your traffic statistics. They’re generally more interested in seeing that you have a quality blog and a good reputation.
Of course, having higher traffic numbers will open up more opportunities and allow you to charge more. If you have a following on social networks, that can also help.
What Types of Sponsored Content Can You Publish?
- Informative articles that mention the sponsor
- YouTube videos
- Content posted to social networks
One of the easiest ways to get started with sponsored content is to use a network (or a few networks) that exists for the purpose of matching brands with influencers and bloggers. You can create a profile at these networks and potential sponsors may find you and contact you.
Here are a few of the popular networks:
4. Selling Digital Products
Selling digital products is the blog monetization method that I have the most experience with. While it offers the highest income potential, it’s also more involved than some other ways of making money with a blog. Creating and selling digital products can be a great way to take your blog to the next level.
Examples of digital products that you could create and sell:
- Online Courses
- Photos and graphics
- Music and audio files
- Software and apps
- Website templates and themes
Pros of Selling Digital Products
- Offers high income potential (possibly the highest of any monetization method).
- Gives you more control than other options like ads, affiliate programs, and sponsored content.
- Evergreen products can be sold for years to come.
- Digital products can be a fairly passive source of income.
- Products can help to brand you as an expert (especially info products).
- Build your own email list of buyers and grow your income over time.
Cons of Selling Digital Products
- Requires a lot of work to create the product.
- You won’t make any money if your product doesn’t sell.
Why Simple Digital Products Are a Great Fit for Bloggers
In this article, I’m lumping all types of digital products together, but really, there are some significant differences from one type of product to another.
One of the biggest factors is the amount of time that will be needed to create the product. There is a big difference between a detailed online course and a simple digital download, even though they are both considered digital products. A course may take several months or even a year to create, whereas some other types of simple downloads (printables for example) can be created in just a few hours or less.
In my opinion, simple digital products are an ideal way to monetize a new blog, and here are a few of the reasons why:
- They don’t take a lot of time to create.
- The shopping cart can be easy to set up (using SendOwl or other similar options).
- Lower-priced items are often easier to sell.
- You could set up a tripwire (a special offer after a visitor subscribes to your email list).
- You might be able to start making money relatively quickly.
- You might be able to sell your products on other sites as well (marketplaces like Etsy).
- You’ll grow an email list of buyers which will be helpful for promoting other products in the future.
5. Offering Services
In my opinion, offering a service is a very underappreciated way to monetize a blog. Offering a service can be a great way to start making money quickly. You don’t need a ton of traffic in order to start making money, all you need is one client.
Offering a service is also probably the most realistic option for scaling from a part-time to a full-time income.
Types of Services That You Can Offer
While this is definitely not a comprehensive list, hopefully it gives you some ideas.
- Freelance writing
- Editing and proofreading
- Web and graphic design
- Development and coding
- Social media marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Podcast or video production/editing
- Travel planning
- Any other service relevant to your blog’s topic
For more ideas and details, see this list of 25 in-demand freelance serves that you can offer.
Pros of Monetizing a Blog with Services
- Start making money quickly.
- You don’t need a lot of traffic to have success.
- Make money for your time (as opposed to other methods that might result in you getting paid).
- Great income potential.
- Can be scaled to a full-time income.
- Can be scaled back in the future (if you choose).
Cons of Monetizing a Blog with Services
- Providing a service can take away time that you could be using to grow your blog.
- You’re trading time for money.
- You’ll need to offer a service that clients are willing to pay for.
- Some clients can be difficult to work with.
If you want to offer a service from your blog, you may be wondering how you can use your blog to land clients. Let’s take a look at some things you should do.
First, you should create a page for your services and include a link in your main navigation menu. On this page, you’ll want to list the specific services that you offer and provide a description plus any additional information that will help potential clients to know that you can help them.
Second, make it very easy for people to contact you. You can either include your contact info right on the services page or link to a Contact page that allows visitors to reach you.
Third, gather testimonials from your clients and publish them (with permission from the clients) on your site. If you don’t have past clients that can provide testimonials, you may want to look at getting some clients strictly for the purpose of picking up some testimonials. That may involve offering your services for free or at a discount if the client is willing to help you by providing a testimonial (assuming they are happy with the work that you do).
Fourth (this is optional), you can create a static homepage and promote your services from the homepage. Rather than simply showcasing your most recent blog posts on the front page, use that valuable screen space to promote the services that you offer.
Fifth, write blog posts around the topics related to your services. People who are interested in those topics may be potential clients for your services. Mention your services within your blog posts.
Offering a service is a great option because you don’t need a ton of traffic to make money and you can start making money quickly.
I believe it is a good idea to focus on recurring services so you won’t need as many clients. What I am talking about here is a service where you do on-going work for the client, as opposed to a one-time project where you work for the client and then you’re done. If you have on-going work with the same clients, you won’t be constantly looking for work. My favorite option is freelance writing because many of your clients will be blogs and websites that need new content each week or each month.
Your time is limited, so it’s difficult to earn a really high income with a service unless you’re able to charge a lot (or hire others to do the work). If your blog gets really popular, you’ll probably be able to make more money with other methods like selling products or affiliate marketing. As a result, you may want to scale back on services as your blog grows and focus on other things, but that’s totally possible (and that’s what I did when I went into blogging full-time).
All of these methods are legitimate options for monetizing a blog, but some of them may fit better into the plans you have for your blog than others will. Regardless of what method you choose, it’s safest to diversify your income and not put all of your eggs in one basket.
In general, affiliate marketing is one method that I would recommend for almost every blog. In terms of income potential, selling your own digital products and affiliate marketing will usually give you the highest ceiling.
There is no right or wrong approach, so think about your goals and what you want to accomplish with your blog, and choose the path that is best for you.
This post was originally published at Vital Dollar.