How to Make Money Blogging

The Beginner’s Guide with Tips from 33 Experts


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by and FirstSiteGuide team (Last updated: 17th Nov 2017)

In order to maximize the monetary return from your content, you must first maximize the pleasure in reading it

In this guide, you will learn how to prepare your blog for monetization. And master tried-and-true strategies to make money for new and established blogs.

If one of the driving factors for starting a blog was to make money online, then this guide is for you. For those who work full-time jobs, earning money from your blog is an excellent way to generate side income. For those who plan on making a living by blogging, it’s possible to achieve and make it a regular source of revenue.

Before you start making money, you will have to master the following steps:

Once you complete all these steps, you are ready to start with monetization.

Monetization Tips—Roundup with 33 Experts

Best monetization items according to 33 experts
(each advised 1—3 items)

Monetization items statistics
You can check detailed answers here



Monetization misconceptions

The majority of bloggers want to make money from their sites, yet more than 98% of the blogs in the world today don’t make money

First, let’s clear up a few misconceptions you may have heard about making money from a blog.

Passive income

Blogger Income

Bloggers’ income

  • 2% bloggers spend less than 2 hours a day blogging and make more than $150K (like Tim Feriss)
  • Less than 5% of bloggers earn more than $10,000 per month
  • 12% are able to sustain their lifestyle or support their family with their blogs
  • 81% never make $100 from blogging
  • Most bloggers who report their income seem to earn way more than the average of the industry

It isn’t entirely false, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Bloggers who are well known for their passive income generation did not start their blog one day and earn piles of money in their sleep the next. Like any other income source, passive income requires a good bit of hard work in the beginning. But if you do it right (and we’ll teach you how), you can start earning money, even while away from the computer.

Misleading income reports

Revenue reports are monthly blog posts written by bloggers who make money online,
showing exactly how much they made throughout the month and how they did it. You can see some great examples of income reports below from Pat Flynn and Darren Rose to get an idea of how bloggers are generating revenue.

How Bloggers Make Money—Income Reports of 50 Blogs

Income Report
Course Sales,
Training and
Coaching
Affiliate Earnings
Ads
Product and Services Sales
Sponsored Posts and Listings
Misc. Sources
Software and Apps
Book/eBook Sales
Niche Sites
Podcast Sponsorships
Pat Flynn
Michelle
Lindsay and Bjork
So Over This
Harsh Agrawal
Trevor and Jennifer
Abby Lawson
Reese Family
Kristin Larsen
Alex &Lauren
Matthew Woodward
Sarah Titus
Johnny
Regina–but
Pauline Cabrera
Bobby
Lisa Jacobs
Tom Ewer
The Treasure Gnome
Rosemarie
Suzi
Dave Child
Lauren Bowling
Nicky
Alexa
Jennifer
Kristen
Anil Agarwal
Allan
Lotus
Carly
Jessica Gavin
Rose
Randa
Eden Fried
Paula
Matthew
Ali
Matthew Allen
Caroline
Jeremy and Angie
Carmen
Kaitlin
Andrzej
Sam
Yandra
Kayla Buell
Stephanie
Madisyn
Afreshstartonabudget

Be on the lookout for misleading income reports — those that show how much a blogger makes, but not how much they spend. Many bloggers invest a lot of money on their blog every month to earn revenue, but some conveniently leave that fact out in their income reports, making it look like they are gaining tons of free money.

When you craft your monetization plan, you’ll need to keep some expenses in mind.
These include your web hosting, email marketing software, search and social media tools, mastermind memberships and online advertising.

Total Expenses vs. Total Income

Total Expenses vs Total Income

Start to monetize from day one

For every $1 invested in their business, top bloggers earn $4.93 back.
That means that if a food processing company (around 10% gross margin) wants to make as much gross profit as John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire, they need to sell roughly 3.7 million dollars/month of products (over $44 million/year)

Pro bloggers suggest that you don’t rush into making money mode at the beginning.
Although you can only utilize certain monetization strategies with a young audience, you shouldn’t give your readers expression that you all about the advertisement. However, you shouldn’t spring into monetization mode as soon as you hit a certain number of visitors. Finding middle ground is important.

For example, Tim Ferriss explains in his book Tools of Titans that he didn’t start accepting advertisement to his podcast until he hit 100,000+ downloads. Same could be applied to blogging. Now every blog is different; you might expect 10,000 visitors a month or a day, it depends on your niche. Thus you have to plan for it and know your goals.

You don’t have to go into monetization mode from the minute you launch your blog but have your monetization strategy in place from the day one.

Now, that we’ve debunked a few misconceptions let’s look at how to prepare your blog for monetization.

Tools for building your initial email list

  • SumoMe plugin
  • OptinMonster
  • List Builder
  • LeadPages
  • Scroll Box

Preparing to monetize

Before you start monetizing, there’s one fundamental thing you need to do to ensure your current and future success – start building an email list.

We’ve mentioned this before, but it is important to repeat it since your subscriber list will be one of your biggest assets and will help you to make money.

If you start to capture email addresses at the beginning, you will have the chance to retain your first visitors as lifelong readers. No one has to know if initially there’s only one subscriber on your mailing list.

When you start utilizing monetization methods such as email list sponsorships, affiliate marketing or selling your products, you’ll already have a loyal audience that used to receiving and consuming your emails.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s start with some specific monetization strategies.

90% of advertisers stated that affiliate programs were either “important” or “very important” to their overall marketing strategy

Different streams to make money

  • Affiliate marketing (promoting products and services of others)
  • Selling products (personal digital and physical products)
  • Selling services (consultant or design services)
  • Selling advertising (AdSense, direct ads, other)
  • Other (sponsorships, donations, memberships, events, speaking)

If you have a relatively new blog or one that doesn’t receive a lot of traffic, then the following are monetization strategies you can put into place to start the revenue-generation process.

Affiliate marketing

Where does the money come from?

Where money come from

While it may sound like a relatively new form of marketing, it is as old as online selling itself. You receive a commission every time a person buys an online product based on your recommendation.

“Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s or company’s products.”

The mechanics of this process are simple. It starts by finding an interesting product that you like, making an effort to promote it to other people and, in the end, earning a piece of the profit (commission) for each successful sale.

A legitimate approach is to be an affiliate for anything you have paid for and used on your blog. So, if you use a StudioPress WordPress theme, MailChimp email marketing software, Bluehost hosting or any other product with an affiliate program, be sure to create a page on your blog with resources aimed at other bloggers in the niche. As your blog grows in popularity, other bloggers will want to follow in your footsteps and may sign up for the same services you use for their blog, thus generating some revenue for you.

Developed affiliate

Developed affiliate programs account for generating 15% to 30% of all advertiser’s online sales

Recommended reading: Affiliate Marketing: What is It and How Does It Work?

How to find affiliate deals

There are three main verticals that you can use to search for affiliate opportunities:

Pros and Cons of Affiliate of Marketing
  • Direct affiliate programs
  • Affiliate networks
  • Shopping sites affiliate

Direct affiliate programs

  • It’s quick and easy to set-up.
  • Reach a larger audience.
  • Small investment.
  • Low accountability.
  • Ongoing passive income.

Many companies offer direct affiliate programs. In some cases, it’s easier to deal directly with the business who sells products or services that you are planning to promote. Plus, you could always negotiate better commission once you start selling more of their products.

To find affiliate programs, go to Google and perform a simple searching. Use the following query “[niche/product] affiliate program.”

For example, if you are running a fitness blog. You would do the following search:
“fitness affiliate program,” and here are the results:

  • You’re not in charge.
  • High commission.
  • Lots of competition.
  • Pay on sale.
  • Reputation problems.
  • Choosing the right products.

Affiliate Programs

If you have a hard time to find what affiliate products you can promote, check your competitors and popular blogs within your niche. The successful bloggers know which products are reliable and convert the best.

Affiliate networks

Affiliate networks are marketplace sites that connect publishers (bloggers) with merchants who want to get their products promoted. In some cases, it makes it easier for bloggers who want to promote multiple products to find relevant offers in one place. Each network has its pros and cons, but overall they make life easier for publishers. Here are few favorite choices:

Clickbank
Click bank

clickbank.com

As a top 100 online retailer with 200 million customers, ClickBank sells digital products worldwide created by entrepreneurs. From advice for getting in shape to healthy cooking recipes and dating advice, ClickBank delivers digital lifestyle products to customers in 190 countries. Rated A+ on BBB.org. Sign up for a free account here.

  • Niches: All
  • Product types: Digital and physical
  • Commissions: Varies by merchant
Shareasale
Share a sale

sharesale.com

ShareASale has been in business for 17 years, exclusively as an Affiliate Marketing Network. Their technology receives the accolade for speed, efficiency, and accuracy –
and reputation as a fair and honest business. They provide customers with an advanced Affiliate Marketing platform. Rated A+ on BBB.org. Sign up for a free account here.

  • Niches: All
  • Product types: Digital and physical
  • Commissions: Varies by merchant
CJ
CJ Affiliate

cj.com

CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction) is the leading global affiliate marketing network, specializing in pay-for-performance programs that drive results for businesses around the world. The CJ Network helps to reach and connect with millions of online consumers every day by facilitating productive partnerships between advertisers and publishers. Drive more sales and expand your reach – experience the Network Effect with CJ. Rated A+ on BBB.org. Sign up for a free account here.

  • Niches: All
  • Product types: Digital and physical
  • Commissions: Varies by merchant
Rakuten marketing
Rakuten Marketing

rakutenmarketing.com

Global affiliate network that empowers marketer to engage shoppers across the entire consumer journey. They connect advertisers with publishers to reach new audiences and influence repeat purchases. Voted as the #1 Affiliate Marketing Network, and in 2016 facilitated more than 100 million orders worldwide. Rated A+ on BBB.org. Sign up for a free account here.

  • Niches: All
  • Product types: Digital and physical
  • Commissions: Varies by merchant
PeerFly
PeerFly

peerfly.com

PeerFly was launched in January 2009 by Chad French. PeerFly is unique because although they’ve made tremendous strides and a great impression in the industry, they’re still a very small company. Their team is made up of only 15 people, so their clients don’t have to go through several layers of staff to get the service they need. Rated A+ on BBB.org. Sign up for a free account here.

  • Niches: All
  • Product types: Digital and physical
  • Commissions: Varies by merchant

Recommended reading: The Best Affiliate Programs For Bloggers in 2017

Shopping site affiliate

These are marketplaces where people sell physical products. Many bloggers write content about specific technologies or processes where they mention different goods, and it’s logical to include affiliate links. For example, if you have a blog about gardening, then you should apply to affiliate programs for gardening books and tools. Here are few favorite shopping affiliate programs:

Amazon Associates
Amazon Associates

affiliate-program.amazon.com

The #1 Internet Retailer and is among the best global affiliate programs around. The benefits are that people like to shop on Amazon and it’s good at converting people.
Participation in the program is easy. Sign up for a free account here.

  • Niches: All
  • Product types: Physical goods
  • Commissions: 1%-10% of product price
eBay Partner Network
eBay

partnernetwork.ebay.com

eBay has 800 million listings, so you can offer your audience links to the things they love in fashion, electronics, collectibles, home goods and more. You’ll find amazing brands and sellers on eBay offering a wide array of products. Sign up for a free account here.

  • Niches: All
  • Product types: Physical goods
  • Commissions: 50%-70% of auction fee
Target Affiliate
Target Affiliates

affiliate.target.com

Join the Target Affiliate Program and partner with one of the most recognized brands in the U.S., and one of the fastest growing retail sites on the Internet. People can select from over 1 million of products at low prices, plus exciting new promotions every week. Sign up for a free account here.

  • Niches: All
  • Product types: Physical goods
  • Commissions: 1%-8% of product price

The best practices for promoting affiliate products

Most common affiliate networks used among affiliate marketers worldwide in 2016
Marketers worldwide

Write reviews about the product or service and include an affiliate link to your review post. Don’t just repeat information found on the product or service sales page, but write about your experience with it. People can distinguish a thorough, honest review from one that’s done purely to generate revenue.

Create a resource page on your blog of the top products and services you recommend, including an affiliate link for each, plus a link to your in-depth review, if applicable.

Get banners for the top products and services you know which will appeal to your audience and put them in your blog’s header, sidebar and at the end of posts. Affiliate product banners are also great placeholders for future advertising spots you may want to sell when you start getting a substantial amount of traffic.

Email your list whenever you write a review or a particular affiliate program has a great special going on that your subscribers would be interested in.

Be prepared to do special promotions on your blog and email list around Black Friday and Cyber Monday — it’s the hottest time to share affiliate product sales and earn some significant income.

Important reminder: Whenever you promote an affiliate product, be sure to include a disclaimer in your review, at your resource page or in your emails that you are an affiliate of the product. It’s a good way to build trust with your audience, and it’s a requirement in some countries like the United States.

Selling products

Overall growth 93%
E-publishing/E-book global sales
Anual growth

Many bloggers start out making money from affiliate promotions, however many of them diversify and begin selling their digital or physical products. For example, Darren Rose shares that his number one source of income comes from selling eBooks and courses. These products take time and work to create but can be a lucrative channel of revenue.

Digital products

Virtual goods can take many forms like eBooks, courses, software, reports, etc.

Here are some stats of digital products sold online:

Overall growth 5%
Self paced e-learning global sales
Self paced e-learning global sales
Overall growth 69%
SaaS global sales
SaaS global sales
  • eBooks are the fastest growing digital product online with $16 billion in 2016.
    Combined annual growth is projected to be around 16% between 2016 and 2020.
  • Online courses market including corporate and universities are massive and expected to grow 5% from 2015-2020.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market is estimated around $78 billion in 2015
    and is projected to grow to a $132 billion dollar industry in 2020 (69%).

There are two approaches you can take to sell your digital products online:

  • Sell directly on your website
  • Sell through established marketplaces

Both of these methods are legit but have different pros and cons. Let’s look at each technique in details.

Sell directly on your website

In some cases preferred method since you have more control of the sale process and can customize your sales pages. Also, you don’t have to pay a big cut of the profit to the platform helping to sell your product. However, you are on your own when it comes to organizing how everything will look and work on your website. That includes picking the digital goods services such as SendOwl, FetchApp, Pulley, E-junkie, and Gumroad.

Sell through established marketplaces

In some cases, this could be the way to go. The benefits include, by placing your product on existing platform, you tap into visitors and fans of this marketplace. Thus, you don’t have to spend as much time and energy to promoting your products. The downside of this approach is, you would pay a certain percentage of your profit to the marketplace.

Here are some platforms you can check:

  • Envato is the most popular place to sell website templates, HTML code, marketing themes, PSDs, and plugins. Click here to join.
  • Amazon is the most popular place to sell eBooks, but you can also sell apps and gaming files for download. Click here to join.
  • Udemy is the most popular place to share your knowledge and sell online courses.
    Click here to join.

There are more marketplaces you can find online. It all depends on what kind of digital products you are planning to sell. Thus do your research and find what fits your needs.

Case study: How One Couple is Making $600,000 Per Year Selling Digital Products

Read this guide: The definitive guide to selling digital products

Physical products

Books: Many bloggers publish books as a form of monetization, like Jeff Goins has done with his new book,
The Art of Work

Aside from digital products you can look into selling real goods through your blog. It’s common when the blogger sells digital products, but sometimes bloggers also create merchandise such as t-shirts, posters, etc. to sell.

To start selling you will have some expenses and you need to invest some time. But,
selling a product online is easier than ever these days. Any blogger could have an online store up in no-time with platforms like Etsy and Zazzle.

Here is an example of how Gary Vaynerchuk created an online store with his swag:

T-Shirts: Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend created a t-shirt line based on inspirational sayings voted on by his readers

Online store

We are not talking about setting up the full blown online store, for these purposes you would have to look for a different solution like Shopify or Bigcommerce.

Accessories: The husband and wife bloggers behind the popular DIY blog Young House Love created a line of home goods which are sold at Target

Recommended reading: Step-By-Step Guide to Creating and Selling a Physical Product and How to Sell Digital and Physical Products Online

Selling services

An attractive approach that many bloggers use to make money is through offering various services to their readers. These might be anything from coaching or consulting, to writing or design, training or other freelance services.

Here are two examples of how bloggers sell their services of their blog websites:

No matter how you decide to go after selling services through your blog, you cannot expect people to come rushing in to check out what you have to offer. You need to take the best marketing approach that will help you spread the word about your services and reach out to potential customers. Only then will you be able actually to sell your services online and generate revenue and ROI.

Selling advertisement

Another way to make money off a blog is to sell ads. Some people even create blogs with this goal in mind as it’s an entirely viable option and one of the legit ways to earn money.

Some of the essential things for making your blog advertisable include the amount of traffic, the blog’s design, and stability. Without this stuff, you cannot expect that a serious advertiser will be interested in your blog.

You will need around 10k unique visitors per month to get on the radar of advertisers.
The design should be professional, and your blog should have allocated ad spaces. You also need to have constant traffic so that people will not feel like their money is going to waste.

There are different types of ads you can run on your blog, and some approach works better from one case to another. Below are the most popular ads options you can use:

Google AdSense

Google AdSense

Google AdSense is still the most effective way to monetize a blog. But it can give you decent money once your blog start getting massive traffic.
Let’s say you are getting 1,000 visits a day, you can easily expect 200$ to 300$ a month by leveraging your blog traffic. Place your GA ads wisely to get more clicks. After all, it’s all about more clicks = more money!

Adsense is one of the most popular options when it comes to ads. It’s a Google product that lets website owners make money by placing targeted ads on their sites. You as a website publisher get paid per click (PPC) when visitors click on (or view, in some cases) the ads. You don’t have to invest any money or work into it, as the advertiser will put ads on your blog and pay you every time someone clicks on the ad located on your blog.

Learn how it works in more details.

You will have to create an Adsense campaign that revolves around your blog. But, you must be careful with which ads you choose to put on your blog because having irrelevant ads will bring you no results.

It’s in your interest to do this right and avoid putting ads that are completely unrelated to your blog or your content. If you are running a fashion blog, it would be a good idea to advertise fashion lines, retailers, and fashion brands.

The most frequently asked question and the hardest one to give a definitive answer is –
“How much money can I make from Adsense?”. It’s believed that earnings from 1,000
ads impressions are $1 across the global network. In reality, prices paid on Adsense are dynamic and set by auction.

Many websites generate real revenue through Adsense, but you need to try it to find out what you could earn on your site. Here are some success stories.

It’s also important to spend time on optimizing ads you are running to increase earnings potential.

Banner ads

Depending on your niche, you can start selling ad space directly to advertisers once you get a certain traffic volume. You have few choices, to sell ads directly or use platforms like BuySellAds.

Direct ads

With this method, you are not relying on third parties to create an advertisement. Instead, you are reaching out to advertisers on your own and making a direct deal with them.

Here is an example from GaryVee how to sell ads on your blog.

That way you will be able to earn more from your ads, but you will need to put some work to find these deals. To get great deals your blog needs to have good reachability and good traffic. Overwise, advertisers, won’t consider placing ads on your website.

BuySellAds or similar platforms

With this service, you can sell and manage ads through their platform. You just put a snippet of code on your blog where you want particular ad sizes and types to be displayed. It’s also a great platform to use in researching your traffic volume versus how much you can charge for ads.

For example:

  • An automotive site with 110,000 monthly impressions sells 125 x 125 banner for $245
    per month.
  • A site about mythology with 60,000 monthly impressions charged $1,50 per 1,000
    impressions per month for their 300×250 top sidebar ad space.

Selling ads strategy has the potential to generate continually increasing amounts of revenue based on your ability to drive more traffic to your blog. Be sure to create an advertising page on your blog and update your metrics (traffic, social audience, email list subscribers, etc.) regularly so you can increase your ad pricing on a monthly basis.

If you want the best chance of success in monetizing your blog,
remember to:
  • Define your end goal before monetizing – e.g. do you want to quit work,do you want some passive income, do you want to create your own product
  • Choose at least 2-3 strategies that complement each other, your goals, personal approach and your niche. one strategy is usually not enough to effectively monetize a blog
  • Use a mix of entry level, mid priced and premium products or services to get the most of your monetization. Try to link your products or services so the entry level products lead to your premium services

Recommended reading: How to Sell Ads on Your Blog

Other ways to make money

Sponsored reviews

In addition to selling ad space, you can also offer sponsored reviews. This is where someone pays you to write about their product or service on your blog. If you choose only the products your audience will most likely be interested in, you can earn money while creating great content—a win-win situation. If you pick any product just because someone is paying you, however, you could lose your hard-earned audience as they will not be interested in the content.

To write a great sponsored review, insist that you want to use the product or service for a trial period to get some insight into it. That way, you can write an honest, compelling review.

Memberships

Another popular category that can bring a significant stream of income is membership offers. Many bloggers are experimenting with it since it a great channel of recurring revenue. That means readers pay a regular amount usually on a monthly basis for access to either premium content, a community area, some service, tools, or coaching.

Pencil Kings
Pencil Kings

Donations

It’s not very common to see the donation button on blogs, but some people use this option to support their blogging efforts. In some cases, it’s done just to make enough money to cover the expenses, and sometimes bloggers could make enough money to make a living from it. Here is an example of donating widget on the blog:

BrainPickings
BrainPickings

Selling your blog

This may be the last thing on your mind at this point, but if you have a blog that isn’t directly tied to your name, products or services, and mostly depends on ad revenue, you may want to consider selling your blog later down the road. The more traffic, quality content and advertising dollars you earn with your blog, the more you can sell it for, if you choose so.

Recommended reading: How to Sell a Blog for High Five Figures

Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to creating a successful blog—from setup to monetization. There are many other monetization strategies you can try with your blog. These are just the most popular ones that tend to generate a lot of income for a lot of bloggers!