You may have heard the stories of bloggers who are able to work remotely from anywhere in the world while earning six figures or more putting in part-time hours. All it takes is a computer, a passion for writing about a particular topic, and a few basic writing skills, the story goes.
But how possible is it really to make money blogging, especially in today’s noisy, overcrowded online space? The statistics are somewhat bleak. According to a 2014 survey by ProBlogger, only 37% of bloggers make more than $100 per month with their blogs. A whopping 28% make less than $10 per month, and of those, 10% reported making no income at all.
But what the statistics don’t say is what these bloggers are actually doing to generate revenue and drive traffic to their sites. How much you’re able to make depends on several factors, including your willingness to put in a lot of work in the beginning, how often you blog, the quality of your content, your ability to generate traffic to your site, and how you go about monetizing that traffic.
One of the most important factors in earning a living from your blog is understanding that your blog itself isn’t your business. Readers will be drawn to your site by your topic and quality content, but that’s not where your income comes from. Rather, your blog is a platform for any number of other revenue streams that work off monetizing all that incoming traffic.
If you’d like to make money from your blog, here’s what you need to know.
Laying the Groundwork for Monetization
Before you can even consider monetization, you first need to put your effort into creating a ton of quality content, as well as generating ongoing, consistent traffic. You can’t make an income from your blog without a regular readership.
One way to build a consistent readership is to first fill your blog with a large amount of quality content. Some blogging experts even recommend you not launch your blog until you have at least 10 posts. There are four reasons for this:
- It Establishes Credibility With Search Engines. The more content you have, the more trustworthy your site looks to search engines such as Google. That’s because scammers typically erect single-page websites and then abandon them. But if you’re blogging consistently, you’ll look like a credible website. That will help you rank higher in search engines, meaning more traffic will be directed to your site, thereby increasing your ability to monetize.
- It Helps With SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The more content you have, the more likely you’ll be to show up in searches when readers are looking for the specific topics you blog about. That will help bring more traffic to your blog.
- It Establishes Credibility With Readers. Readers, like search engines, are more likely to trust your website if you have a lot of content. When they repeatedly come across the content they’re searching for on your blog, they’re more likely to keep returning to your blog, as well as to trust its content when it pops the next time they search.
- It Makes Your Blog Sticky. When you have a lot of posts, especially if you place relevant links within posts that lead to other posts on your site, your blog will be “sticky.” In other words, readers will hang around for a while as they move from reading one post to another. The stickier your blog is, the higher your overall page views will be. That helps greatly with monetization strategies such as advertising; advertisers are interested in how many eyes are on your site when it comes to paying you for ads or offering brand sponsorships.
Most blogging experts claim you need at least 10,000 page views per month before you can start earning significant income from your blog. For tips on how to direct traffic to your website, see our piece on blog traffic generation.
Once you’ve hit 10,000 page views per month, you can start implementing monetization strategies. Keep in mind that some methods can work well with only a modest amount of traffic, while others need massive traffic – potentially hundreds of thousands or even millions of page views per month – to effectively earn you an income.
How to Make Money With Your Blog
Only after you’ve mastered traffic generation and built up a significant amount of content on your site should you move onto monetizing. However, even if you’re not yet ready to monetize, it can be helpful to have a strategy in place from the beginning as it will direct how you build your site and the kind of content you create.
For example, since I blog at my author site, my monetization strategy is selling books. Because I want to be seen by my readers as an author, I don’t have ads on my site, nor do I have any interest in ever monetizing in that way. If you similarly use your blog to promote a business, and your blog is one piece of your business’s marketing strategy, you probably also don’t want to concern yourself with ads. In essence, your blog is already an ad – for your business.
On the other hand, if your blog is about sharing cooking or personal finance tips, and you want to make money from the blog itself, pursuing advertising opportunities and sponsorships will be a much better fit.
Regardless, you may have to work at traffic generation for six months to a year before you have enough traffic to warrant monetization. So keep in mind, first and foremost, that making money from a blog can take time.
Once you’ve established enough traffic to your site and a consistent readership, here are 12 different ways you can monetize your blog.
1. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is one of the most common methods bloggers use to generate income. That’s because it’s one of the easiest to implement. It involves signing up with an ad-generating service such as Google AdSense and posting a widget in several locations on your site that will generate reader-specific ads based on cookies.
Cookies are essentially packets of data used to track and identify users. If you’ve ever wondered why, when you visit a website, an Amazon ad pops up for the exact thing you were just looking at on Amazon, cookies are the reason.
When your blog readers click on ads on your site, you get paid for the click, regardless of whether they purchase something. Your total income from PPC ads depends on how many unique clicks each ad generates.
Although it may be easy to implement, it’s tough to make a living from this kind of monetization. Ad networks often pay pennies or less for each click, depending on the ad and your niche. And when you consider that only a tiny fraction of blog visitors will click on an ad, it could take millions of visitors to make this strategy worthwhile. That said, using PPC advertising in addition to the other monetization strategies listed here can help boost your income.
2. Direct Advertising
Rather than signing up with an ad network, you can also sell advertising space on your site directly to advertisers. It’s not unlike how a magazine or newspaper sells ads. As your traffic grows and your brand garners greater visibility, you’ll find advertisers who are willing to pay you in exchange for exposure to your audience.
If you don’t want to deal with approaching advertisers directly, but you still want top dollar for your ad space, you can work with a publishing network such as Mediavine. In fact, once you’ve hit 25,000 unique page views per month, you should ditch Google AdSense and run all your ads through Mediavine or a similar service. Although the service will take a commission – usually between 20% and 40% of your ad revenue – your site will run better-quality ads, with higher-paying advertisers and better click-through, translating into more profit for your blog.
Sponsorships can help bring in a good chunk of cash for your website because they give advertisers even more direct exposure to your audience than ads, which many readers often ignore. If you’ve ever watched a television program and heard the words, “This episode has been brought to you by,” then you’ve seen sponsorship in action.
In the blogging world, a sponsor might ask you to develop a recipe using their brand of cheese or discuss backpacking tips using their custom-designed backpack.
Done right, most sponsors won’t attempt to control your opinion of their product. But if you decide to write sponsored posts, you should always make sure to keep your readers’ trust by being as transparent as possible. Usually, sponsored posts begin with a disclaimer such as: “This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.” You’ll have a hard time finding sponsors if you lose your readers due to a lack of trust or credibility, so make sure to always put your readers first.
How to Find Sponsors
When it comes to finding sponsors, you may only have to wait for them to come to you. The bigger your blog becomes, the more advertisers will reach out to you. You can further help sponsors find you by including some content on your site that already mentions brands you want to work with and by publishing a blog post or page that specifically mentions your interest in working with sponsors.
You can also proactively seek out sponsorships by directly contacting brands you think might benefit from the exposure on your blog. Or you can work with a service that finds you sponsorships, such as Paved.
Sometimes, sponsors may offer you money to put an already-written post on your site. Be careful of these offers; Google doesn’t like these types of posts, and they may cause you to lose some readers’ trust. It’s far better for you to write your own post that somehow uses or features the item and to offer your honest opinion. It’s also best to limit sponsored content or only write about products you already use and believe in; it will help you hang onto your readers’ trust, which you’ve worked so hard to gain.
4. Affiliate Sales
Another way to make money with your blog is through affiliate sales. If you recommend a product – such as a book, course, or cooking appliance – to your readers and they click your affiliate link and make a purchase, you’ll get a commission from the sale.
Affiliate marketing can be done in a variety of ways. You can write a post specifically recommending the product. You can write a post that mentions the product and then link the text to that product. Or you can place graphic ads after your post. For example, if you write a recipe post, you can place some ads at the bottom that link to the required ingredients on a site where you can purchase them, such as Amazon.
Regardless of the method, you’ll use a specific link or ad created just for you and embedded with your affiliate code. That ensures you’ll receive credit for whatever purchases your readers might make. How this is done can vary from one merchant to another, but just about every online store, course, or service has affiliate marketing programs. So if there’s a product you recommend or a service you love, it’s worth checking to see if that retailer has an affiliate program.
You can also work with an affiliate network, such as CJ Affiliate, ShareASale, or ClickBank. Affiliate networks make it easier for bloggers who want to promote products from multiple retailers or find relevant offers all in one place.
Just as with any form of advertising, it’s important to keep reader trust when promoting any product or service. As a general rule of thumb, only promote products you yourself use, believe in, and love and that you genuinely believe your readers will benefit from and enjoy.
5. Product Sales
According to Statista, 1.79 billion people around the world purchased products online in 2018, and that number is expected to continue to grow, reaching as many as 2.14 billion online shoppers by 2021. You can tap into that market share by using your blog to drive potential customers to your site, utilizing it as a platform to sell any number of products related to your niche that could be of value to your readers.
For example, if you’re an artist, you can sell prints of your artwork, greeting cards, or print-on-demand T-shirts, mugs, or canvas bags with your art on them. If you blog on parenting topics, you can sell digital downloads for printables such as birthday party invitations or household organization binders.
You can sell products directly through your website, which gives you more control over the sales process and customization of sales pages, and you won’t have to pay a commission to an external sales platform such as Amazon. Or you can sell through established marketplaces such as Etsy, which has the added benefit of bringing you additional sales and traffic from its already-established audience.
If you really make it big, your blog could lead to product deals with major retailers. For example, the husband-and-wife team behind the DIY blog Young House Love created a line of home goods that are sold at Target. And the cookie artist and recipe developer behind Sweet Sugarbelle sells branded baking and decorating supplies through Michael’s.
6. Write & Sell E-Books
One type of product that’s very popular with online readers is e-books. With nearly $14 billion in sales in 2019, e-books are the fastest-growing digital product. And thanks to the prevalence of digital readers and publishing platforms such as Amazon Kindle and Kindle Publishing, it’s easier than ever to create your own e-book. All you need is some great content and the desire to write and publish a book.
As a blogger, you should already have the passion and skills to write, although writing a book isn’t the same as writing a blog post. It takes a lot more time and effort, and the format is different. But as long as you have an idea that’s relevant to your niche and of value to your readers, writing and selling e-books could be a useful monetization strategy for you.
After you write it, you can market your book to your blog readers by giving them discounts, giving away free copies of your book, or even promising supplemental materials – such as budget worksheets for a financial guidebook – for readers who purchase your book.
In addition to increasing your income, an e-book can also increase your visibility and credibility as an authority in your niche.
7. Create & Sell Online Courses
If you have the desire to share your knowledge with others in a more interactive and hands-on way than through writing, consider creating an online course. With this strategy, you don’t necessarily need a massive audience. For example, for one of my blogs, I created an online course that generated several thousand dollars in revenue with its first launch, even though I had a modest email list of only 500 subscribers.
In order to best capitalize on whatever traffic you have, find out exactly what your visitors want and create a course tailored specifically to that desire. Then, use the credibility you’ve established through your consistent blogging efforts to bring your expertise to your readers in a new and potentially interactive way. You can decide how interactive by including course “extras” such as answering questions through email, setting up online chat forums, or creating a Facebook group where fellow course participants can chat with each other as well as with you.
To set up an online course, check out platforms such as Teachable, where you fully control your own content, or Udemy, where you have less control over the platform but potentially more exposure to an existing audience.
8. Audio Downloads
The audio products industry – which includes podcasts, music tracks, audiobooks, recorded lectures, and sound effects – is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
If you have audio content to share – whether it’s your own music, individual audio lessons, interviews, audiobooks, or something else – you can use your blog to create an audience for them. You can then place your content on a platform such as Amazon Music or iTunes, where you can sell and distribute your work as well as grow an even larger audience.
9. Sell Photography, Graphics, or Digital Art
There’s high demand these days for visual art, whether for home decor or for other blogs and websites. In fact, some bloggers, such as Kayla Butler of Ivory Mix, make their living selling stock photography to other bloggers. Bloggers need visuals, and Ivory Mix answers that need by providing stock images her clients can customize for use on their own websites. Butler then utilizes her blog to explain how to use her images, as well as how to maximize social media presence and other digital marketing strategies.
To use this strategy, you can sell images directly through your website, as Butler does, or through a platform such as Etsy.
10. Sell Memberships & Subscriptions
Another option that can bring in significant and consistent income is memberships and subscriptions. Readers pay an ongoing amount, such as $9.99 per month, to access premium content, a community area, some kind of service, a specific tool, or personalized coaching.
For example, Shannon Mattern of WP-BFF has several subscription services, including one for access to consistently updated video courses and another for a WordPress backup and security service. She uses her blog to offer valuable website-building tips and then monetizes by offering subscription upgrades to premium content.
11. Sell Services
You can capitalize on the expertise and credibility blogging brings you by offering a relevant service to your readers, such as coaching, consulting, or design. For example, if you blog about website design, you can offer your design services to other bloggers who need help setting up their websites. That’s one service Mattern offers at WP-BFF in addition to her membership subscriptions.
12. Become a Freelance Blogger
Although it may take some time to generate significant revenue from your own blog, you can make money from blogging right away by blogging for other, well-established websites. You don’t have to give up your own blog. In fact, you’ll want to keep up your own writing as a way to build your writing portfolio, as potential clients will want to see samples of your work before hiring you.
Many long-time professional freelance writers continue to write on their own blogs as a way to keep building credibility, expertise, and their own audience, even while making six figures or more writing for others. Top freelance bloggers such as Elna Cain use this strategy; their blogs are a way to sell their writing services. Other freelance writers like Holly Johnson have created courses to teach others how to make a living from freelance writing.
Many freelancers earn enough money to make freelance writing their full-time job. A 2015 survey from Contently found that 62.5% of freelancers write full-time with no other job on the side. Further, 19% of freelancers earned more than $50,000 in 2014, and 5% earned six figures.
So if one of the reasons why you’re pursuing a blogging career is to quit your day job, you may get there even faster by freelancing for other websites and brands.
To get started, consider posting your portfolio on a site such as Contently, searching through job boards such as ProBlogger’s, or Googling your niche with the added term “write for us” – for example: “parenting” + “write for us.” Websites and brands seeking writers often post submission requests.
The right monetization strategy for your blog likely won’t be one thing but a combination of strategies. Most blogs that earn enough revenue to allow their owners to blog full-time do so through generating multiple streams of income. For example, you might write e-books, teach courses, and offer coaching or speaking services.
It may take some time – as well as some trial and error – to figure out which strategy is ultimately right for you and your blog. Although it’s absolutely possible to make money from blogging, doing so takes a lot of time and a lot of work, especially in the beginning.
But if you’re willing to put in that time and work, blogging has the potential to earn you a decent side income or even enough to allow you to quit your day job and blog full-time. It can also open a lot of doors, creating opportunities to meet like-minded people, work with your favorite brands, and create products, e-books, or courses. A blog can take you far as long as you’re willing to work at it.
Do you have a blog you’re seeking to monetize? What strategies do you think might work well for you and your brand?