People start blogs for many reasons. Some begin so they can share introspective thoughts and opinions. Others start a blog so they can talk about a favorite hobby or passion. Many get into the field so they can educate people about something they’re interested in, build an audience, or even just to add some humor into the world.
Whatever the reason for starting a blog, it’s always nice to be able to make a little extra income from the hard work that goes into blogging. Blogging takes a lot of time and effort, and usually costs something, even if it’s a hobby blog.
For some people, it’s a serious side hustle or full-time job. Blogging is more than just a hobby, it’s a substantial part of their income. For others, it could be their entire income and imperative to their way of life.
During the course of my blogging career, I’ve worked with a lot of bloggers who are frustrated and discouraged because they have a great blog, but they can’t successfully monetize their audience yet. They’ve tried everything they can think of, but they’re still unable to earn enough to make it worth it.
When I began blogging, I didn’t know if I’d be able to earn a living doing so. I was working a full-time job in a different career while working on my blog on the side. Over the years I learned so much about what works or doesn’t in blogging, and I’ve been able to turn my dream of blogging into my primary source of income. As a result, I’ve been able to travel, live where I want, and maintain a business while doing a lot of other things I enjoy.
Are you ready to learn how you can begin monetizing your blog?
I’m super psyched to share with you some of the best and most consistently effective ways to monetize your blog and make money. Don’t worry, this is no smoke and mirrors. No hacks or tricks, just real-life practical advice on how you can start earning money from your blog.
Let’s get started.
First things first: laying the groundwork for monetizing your blog
Before you can successfully monetize your blog, there are some big things you need to do first. If you want to make money blogging, your blog has to have a firm foundation. The cogs of your blogging machine need to be running smoothly, or it will be difficult to make it profitable.
If you’re a brand new blogger, you can use this section to help you start your blog effectively. If you’ve been blogging for a long time, you can use this section to troubleshoot your blog to see if there are any problems you need to suss out.
Follow these steps to get your blog ready to monetize.
1. Research and choose a niche for your blog
Choosing a niche is one of those things that can be difficult for bloggers. They may have thirty different interests they want to put into a single blog. Resist this urge.
I’m not saying you should start a blog with a niche that’s super narrow, but I am suggesting you try to pick a relatively focused niche.
Why is a niche important? For one thing, you’re going to attract a very confused audience if one day you’re writing about cryptocurrency and the next you’re writing about pottery. The people who want to read about cryptocurrency may be interested in pottery, but in a Venn diagram situation, the crossover is probably going to be minimal. Or at the very least, it won’t match their search intent at that time.
The other important reason for choosing a niche is how you signal to search engines what your blog is about. Search engines like Google give preference to blogs with a clearly defined niche as opposed to blogs with a general non-specific focus.
So how should you go about choosing a niche?
- Take time to brainstorm ideas. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil, or open your notes on your smartphone, and start writing down some bullet point ideas of things you might want to blog about. As you list ideas, think about which ones would be a good option for starting a blog.
- For inspiration, think about magazines and books you enjoy. Consider the podcasts, blogs, or Youtube channels you like following.
- You can also list hobbies, jobs, and life experiences that could be used to start a blog.
- Choose something you can blog about for a long time. The number one consideration in choosing a niche is whether or not you’re personally interested in the topic. Remember, you’re going to be sitting with this topic for a long time. If you hope to turn your blog into a business, you could be writing about the same thing for years. With that in mind, pick something you genuinely like and enjoy writing about.
- Pick a niche that isn’t too narrow or broad. Your blogging niche should be specific enough that people know what to expect, but broad enough that you can generate enough material to keep writing about.
- Write about something you know about. People read blogs because they want to learn from the expertise of someone else. The more authentic and real your writing is, the more people will want to read your blog. In addition, it will be far less work for you to write about something you’re familiar with than something you know nothing about.
- Choose a lucrative niche. When deciding on a niche, it’s pivotal to choose something with profit potential. Some niches are harder than others to monetize, so do some research into whether or not your niche will be a moneymaker.
- Be willing to change or adjust your niche. When I first started blogging, I focused on the broader topic of side hustles. That was my niche. In time, I decided to narrow my field from side hustles to blogging. You may find that after you’ve written about a topic for a while, you want to narrow your focus or change the direction entirely, depending on your interests and the way your audience responds to your blog. Being adaptable is key to figuring out the right niche for your blog.
2. Create a blogging strategy
You won’t get anywhere fast if you don’t have some kind of strategic plan in place. What do I mean by blogging strategy? I mean intentionally writing up a plan of action that helps you reach your blogging goals.
Many bloggers want to make money blogging but aren’t willing to (or aren’t able to) put in the work needed to make it flourish. I would equate a blogging strategy to a long-distance run rather than a short sprint. Think tortoise over the hare.
You’re not going to make those great strides by sporadically working on your blog, or trying to fit all your work into a couple weekends. To successfully monetize your blog, you need an action plan that keeps you consistently working on your blog.
Here are some ideas to help you plan your blogging strategy:
- Establish clear goals. What do you want to accomplish with your blog? What is your definition of success? In terms of blog monetization, how much money do you want to earn as a blogger?
- Identify your target market. Who is going to be interested in your blog, and how do you connect with them? How can you market your blog to them and what kind of content would they be interested in?
- Make yourself a content calendar. On a content calendar, you can plan what blog posts you want to write and when you want to post them. Give yourself realistic deadlines, but try to stick to your original plan so you can continue growing your blog. On your content calendar, you can also include your schedule for when and how you will promote your content.
3. SEO is crucial to making money blogging
Search engine optimization (or SEO) is a huge component to making money as a blogger. SEO means creating your content in a way that lands you high in a search engine search.
Since I blog about blogging, I naturally want my guides on topics like how to start a blog or a comparison of the best web hosting plans to rank well on a search engine results page (SERP).
You would want the same for your blog posts because it provides that sweet organic traffic that keeps blogs in the business.
To use the best SEO strategies for your blog, try these tips:
- Start with keyword research. Before you write one word for a blog post, use keyword research. Keyword research means taking the time to find keywords (things people search for online) that have low competition, high volume, and a high click-thru rate. That means looking for keywords people are searching for, but don’t already have a ton of great content made about it.
- To find out which words in your niche people are searching for, try using Ahrefs or SEMrush. These are premium plans, but they are great at finding your best keyword options. For a free tool, Google keyword planner is also a good option.
- Use medium or long-tail keyword phrases. Gone are the days when you can easily rank for one-word keywords. It’s highly difficult to rank for the word “blog” but I can rank well for the less competitive keyword phrase how to name a blog.
- Understand user intent. This means understanding the why behind someone’s search. Why do they want to know something or why are they searching? One way to understand this is by using a Google search and noticing the “People also ask” section. This can give you a better idea of what people are looking for when they type something into a search engine. The closer you can get to the user’s intent, the more likely it is that they will click on your post and stay there.
- Use an SEO-friendly headline. Once you’ve done your keyword research, now it’s time to use that keyword in your headline. Headlines should invite people to click on your link by providing them with the information they want. However, you should avoid using clickbait headlines that draw people in but don’t deliver on the promise. Your visitors won’t be happy with the results, and neither will you. Your bounce rate will be high and it will negatively affect your rank listing on Google.
- Use SEO-friendly heading tags. When you write content, break up your points by including headers for sections (just as you see me using here). That shows Google what your content is about, and makes it easier for readers to scan for relevant information.
- Your URL can be optimized too. When I post something on my blog, I carefully select a few words to use as my URL address. If I’m trying to target a specific keyword phrase, I would use this as my URL. For example, the URL for my article about How to Write a Blog Post is: https://www.ryrob.com/how-write-blog-post/.
4. Focus on community
Driving traffic to your blog is essential to making money as a blogger. You can do that, in part, by building a community. Your blog’s community can be developed on social media, through an email list, through podcasts, in real life, or all of the above.
A blog community invites people to be a part of what you’re doing. They can be an active participant, which will make them a more engaged, more enthusiastic audience. To build your blogging community, try these proven practices.
Use social media to build your blogging community
Social media is on the mind of every marketer. From tiny mom-and-pop shops to major corporations, everyone wants a piece of the pie. It’s no wonder, because there’s an enormous amount of people spending an enormous amount of time on social media. What’s more, it isn’t just an American phenomenon, and it doesn’t apply to only one generation. Though younger people spend more time on social media, it’s also popular with baby boomers and older people.
To successfully build a community on social media and drive traffic, you have to be smart and dedicated. Social media platforms won’t make you a star in a day, and if you’re not terribly relevant to their users, you can easily become buried in the algorithm.
I’m not going to promise to make you a social media celebrity, but I will share some tips for growing a community. Even a small group of loyal followers can help your blogging business grow and make money. Here are some of the things you can start doing now to build your community on social media.
- Choose the best social media platform for you. Rather than spreading yourself thin and trying to use all social media platforms, try using one or two that suit your niche. Although I use other social media platforms, Twitter is the best fit for my blog. It reaches the right audience and it’s something I personally use and am familiar with.
- Provide quality content. It really doesn’t matter when you post, how much you interact with other accounts, or how often you post if your content is unappealing. People won’t stick around if your social media isn’t providing what they’re looking for, whether it’s helpful information, beauty, entertainment, a sense of community, or something else they want.
- Understand the social media platform you’re using. To really do well on social media, you need to keep up with what’s trending on your social media app. Spend enough time on the platform to know what’s popular and what people are interested in. That includes best hashtags, trending news, holidays or events, jokes, music or sounds, viral posts, and so on.
- Try out new features. Social media platforms are always trying to compete with one another to have the best or most entertaining features. Instagram added Stories after the rise of Snapchat, and they added Reels after the insane popularity of TikTok. Most social media platforms reward users who try out new features by giving them more impressions and a better chance of engaging with a wider audience.
- Find your target audience. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone on social media, target the audience that will want to connect with your content and blog. Pay attention to what’s trending or popular in your niche and try to attract people that will want to read your blog and follow your social media accounts. Having a small group of loyal followers is better than reaching a large audience that really doesn’t care.
Communicate with your audience
Keep your audience engaged and create a sense of community by actively engaging with your audience. Whether that’s on social media or directly on your blog, your visitors will feel more involved if you personally involve them.
When someone comments on my blog, I try to take the time to respond to them. At times that may be a quick response like a thank you, at other times it elicits a greater response. I try to add value in the comment section, and really answer the questions my audience raises. Great questions may even inspire an entire blog post.
Here’s an example from my How to Start a Blog comment section. A reader asked a few questions, and I took the time to respond with a real answer that would point them in the right direction.
Build that email list
Email may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to building an online community. Many communications these days are made through social media, messengers, texting, and Snapchat. However, email is still a very real way to reach people.
More people use mail than any single social media platform. Over 4 billion people reportedly used email in 2020, more than Facebook’s 2.74 billion users and YouTube’s 2.291 billion users. This number is only projected to increase in the coming years.
An email subscriber list is a great way to stay relevant to a group of people that chose to sign up for your emails. Unlike social media, 100% of email subscribers will see your content. You can have as low as 10% or less of your followers seeing your posts with social media.
My email subscriber list accounts for a lot of engaged traffic to my website. On average, whenever I publish a new blog post and send an email out to my 145,000+ email subscribers, I can rely on an immediate surge of around 2,000 readers hitting that article (from my email list) within the first couple of days it’s live.
With that in mind, how do you grow your email subscriber list and make the most of it? I’ll share some of the tips I’ve used to grow my email subscriber list and remain useful to my readers.
- Keep your emails out of the spam folder. Although I said that you’ll reach your whole email list, this isn’t the case if you end up in their spam box. Some ways to avoid this are:
- Use a reputable email company (I use ConvertKit)
- Use real active email accounts
- Do NOT purchase email addresses
- Keep file sizes small
- Try not to use attachments, especially if they’re .exe or .swf files
- Avoid using words that email providers might flag as spam, such as “fast cash” or “100% free.”
- Include your business address or P.O. Box address at the end of each email
- Include a way for people to unsubscribe to your email list
- Attract your email subscribers in a variety of ways. You can grow your email list in different ways, attracting people on different platforms. Your primary place will be your blog, but you can also use social media to promote your email subscriber list. Some ways to grow your email list are:
- Create a lead magnet. You can offer something for free in exchange for someone’s email address. Examples include access to a course, a free eBook, digital prints, printables, plans, quizzes, templates, webinars, or podcasts. If you sell products, you can also offer a one-time discount when people sign up for your emails.
- Reach out on social media. Your social media accounts are also a good place to encourage people to sign up for your emails. You can entice them to join by providing unique content in your emails — something they can only get once they’ve subscribed. You can also use your lead magnets on your social media accounts.
- Use popups when appropriate. People are often unaware of your email subscriber list, so using a popup can make it front and center when they visit your blog. The downside is, it can appear spammy to visitors if they always have to x out a popup. You can alleviate some of the frustration by limiting the popup to new visitors, and only having it appear on certain pages of your blog.
- Use a great email service provider. An email service provider makes emailing your subscriber list so much simpler. They’ll keep track of who subscribes and unsubscribes to your email, help you stay out of the SPAM folder, provide templates, and help you set up drip campaigns.
- Write intriguing subject lines. You want to avoid sounding like clickbait or using spammy words in your subject lines, but you also want to use subject lines that will make people want to read your emails. To get the most out of a subject line, keep it short and sweet, appeal to a pain point, and include personalization.
- Provide good content. This is a theme I will keep repeating throughout this article. In order to maintain your subscriber list, you have to provide something your readers want to read. Nothing beats writing great content your audience craves. If you don’t, people will be quick to hit the unsubscribe button.
8 proven ways to monetize your blog
Now that we’ve covered the basics in the section above, it’s now time to think about how you’re going to monetize your blog. There is no single right way to start a blog and make money, but there are some that might work better for you.
Read through these ways to make money blogging and choose which ones might work best. It’s OK to choose more than one. In fact, I would encourage you to have more than one revenue stream in case one becomes less dependable than another.
1. Sponsored content
Content a business pays you to post is an excellent way to make money as a blogger. For one thing, it shows that a company believes in you enough to pay you in advance. That means your blog is doing well enough that they think you will help them make money.
A sponsored post falls somewhere on the spectrum between advertisements and affiliate marketing. Sponsored content is an advertisement, but should be written in a way that adds value for your readers while promoting a product or service. In that way, it’s very similar to affiliate marketing.
Sometimes sponsored content is written by the sponsor, and sometimes you will be asked to write it. In either case, the purpose of sponsored content is to promote something to your audience.
Let your readers know your posts are sponsored
With any kind of sponsored content, it’s not only ethical to disclose to your audience that it’s sponsored, it’s also the law. The Federal Trade Commission explains,
The FTC’s Endorsement Guides provide that if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless it is already clear from the context of the communication.
Bloggers may not want to tell readers they’re using affiliate or sponsored posts, as it could affect the way that someone reads their content. Readers may believe you’re only promoting something so you can make money, not because the product is awesome. That’s a real concern, but you can counteract this by doing a few things:
- Write content that isn’t monetized. In order to build trust with your audience, write some content that isn’t specifically promoting anything. This allows readers to see that you’re sharing free content without any agenda. This is a great space to share your expertise and help them view you as a true authority in your niche. You can even give away freebies as I did with this free course about building a profitable blog.
- Share products or services that you use. Another good way to build trust is to actually use the things you’re promoting. A sponsored post for something you can’t vouch for isn’t a very good way to instill trust in your readers.
- Show your readers stuff really works. I promote products and services on my website because they work for me. I’m an affiliate of ConvertKit, but I use it and promote it because the product is really that good. I can say the same about Bluehost, MonsterInsights, and SEMRush — all products I pay for and use on my site.
How to get sponsors
Getting a sponsor for your blog can be challenging for a brand new blogger. To get your foot in the door, here are some tips you can try.
- Tell people you’re ready for sponsored content. On your blog, you can include a section that allows sponsors to contact you. They’ll know you’re willing to take sponsored posts and it gives them an easy way to reach out.
- Have a blog sponsors will like. Sponsors like to see blogs with a lot of traffic and a loyal following. The better your blog is doing the more likely it is that sponsors will contact you.
- Reach out to sponsors. If there’s a brand you want to work with, reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to be your sponsor. This can be a great win-win for both of you if you have a high-traffic site and they have a product or service you believe in.
2. Affiliate programs
When someone joins an affiliate program, they enter into an agreement with a business where the business pays the creator a commission each time someone makes a purchase based on their recommendation. Some affiliate programs are more generous than others, but many of them pay a percentage of the sale. Some pay a fixed price for each purchase made.
Affiliate marketing is my preferred type of monetization. It has been my most lucrative source of blogging income, and it’s easy to provide good solid content while also promoting a product I believe in.
Each affiliate program has its own set of rules and policies, method of payment, and ways of tracking sales. Many affiliate programs use links to track sales, but others will provide you with a unique code people can use at checkout.
As with sponsored content, you are required by law to let readers know you’re providing affiliate content. How you disclose this information is relevant to the affiliate program you’re using. For instance, Amazon Associates, one of the most popular affiliate programs, is selective in the way that you disclose your affiliate status. If you write anything that encourages your readers to buy something, you would be in violation of their policy. Saying something like “sales made through my links helps keep my site running” could be grounds for removal from the program.
Aside from Amazon associates, some of the most popular affiliate programs are:
Although these are all good options for bloggers, you may also have success connecting with smaller companies with products or services you love. Even if they don’t have an affiliate program listed on their website, they may be willing to partner with you. It would be similar to a sponsored post, except that they wouldn’t have to pay you unless you made a sale. It’s a lower risk for the business and can be a better fit for new bloggers.
3. Online courses
If you’re an expert in your field, you can create a course to sell to your audience. I created a premium blogging course called Built to Blog.
My course offers 54 lessons, 8 hours of instructional videos, and a LOT of written content that isn’t available anywhere else.
The course you create for your blog may look very different. Depending on your niche, you may be able to teach your audience anything you’re an expert in. Some common niches for courses are:
- Graphic design
- Creative writing
- Computer programming
- Freelance writing
- Social media marketing
- Painting, drawing, or other art
- Small business startup
4. Selling services or freelance work
Another way to make money blogging is to sell services or make money freelancing. This could mean selling local services to people where you live, but it makes the most sense to use online services or freelance work. A good fit for bloggers is definitely consulting or coaching, but there are other options as well.
Some other types of online services you can offer are:
- Freelance Writing
- Social media management
- Accounting or bookkeeping
- SEO specialist
- Legal consulting
- Data entry
- Virtual assistant
- Video or photography editing
- Website design
- Editing or proofreading
- Graphic design
- Logo designer
- Voice-over acting
- Creative design
- Sales and marketing
- Branding and public relations
- Game developer
- Architecture design
5. Writing and selling eBooks
Bloggers who have set themselves up as experts in their fields can often make money by selling eBooks in their niche. People who regularly visit your blog may be interested in purchasing additional content. You also have the option of selling your eBook on third-party platforms like Amazon for additional profits.
I wrote an eBook that not only teaches bloggers the importance of blogging habits but also how to stick with them once they start them.
The nice thing about eBooks is they’re mainly passive income once they’re written. Even if you sell them for a small sum of money, a large number of sales can be a nice profit.
For many people, advertisements are the first and easiest way to monetize a blog. The upside of ads is that they’re easy to use, completely passive, and depending on the advertiser, you may not even have to sell something to make a profit.
The downside is, ads can often become intrusive or distracting to visitors and can lead to a higher bounce rate. When I originally launched my blog I used ads, but in the long term, I felt that their smaller profits weren’t worth the hassle to my audience. Compared to my other income streams, ads were not as profitable.
Still, it’s undeniable that ads can help keep a blog in business and you can create whatever kind of content you want and still generate money.
Some of the top advertising networks I recommend are:
- Google AdSense
Some bloggers make money blogging by offering exclusive content for paying customers. This is usually called a gated section of your blog, which requires people to pay either a one-time charge or an ongoing sum of money in order to see more of your great content.
Subscriptions and memberships are becoming more and more popular as business models. Think of streaming services like Netflix, book of the month subscriptions, or even razors that come to you on a monthly basis.
The major upside to membership sites is that you are keeping all of your revenue. You’re not sharing the profits with another business or constantly trying to sell products or services that are not your own. It also gives you the opportunity to do what you’re already doing — creating content in your chosen niche.
The downside is, in order to make your membership portion appealing to your subscribers, you have to provide content that’s a step above the content that you offer for free. In addition to maintaining your subscriber content, you also need to keep up with enough free content to show that your membership portion is worth the money.
How much to charge for membership is highly dependent on the quality of your content, how much content you have to offer, and what the market can handle. Some niches may be more lucrative than others, so it would be helpful to spend some time learning your individual market.
The positive thing is, even if you charge a smaller sum of money — say $5 to $10 a month, it can add up quickly when you have a large number of members. A site with 500 members would add $2,500 a month to your revenue at $5 a member.
Adding diversity of content to your blog can help provide more revenue streams. For instance, in addition to written content, you can also include a podcast. Podcasts are extremely popular, and unlike blog posts, can be listened to while people are washing the dishes or commuting to work.
I host my podcast, The Side Hustle Project that has strategies, helpful tips, and insights from real people who are successful in their field. I provide relevant content to my visitors like a recent conversation I had with data analyst Ben Collins and his $75,000 online course business.
You can do the same in your niche if podcasting is something you’re interested in starting.
Benefits for having a podcast include:
- Reaching new audiences
- Monetizing your podcasts with ads or sponsored content
- Inexpensive to get started
- Helps you establish yourself as an authority on your subject and a chance to invite talented and knowledgeable guests
Get ready to start making money from your blog
You made it! This was a long post, but I wanted to provide you with useful information you can start using right away. How things go next is within your power.
I want to give you some homework so you can begin using these tips on your blog. For some of you, the goal is to start a blog. If this sounds like you, then head over to my guide about starting a blog (which we talked about toward the beginning of this article) for some of the most helpful and thorough information on the Internet.
Those of you who have already been blogging for a while, go to the top of this post and think through the foundational steps. Have you missed any essential steps? Do you need to redefine your niche? Do you need to begin using a blogging strategy? Are you promoting your content well and driving a lot of traffic?
If you feel that you have a strong foundation — great content and lots of traffic — focus on which types of monetization would work best for you. Start contacting businesses you love to ask if they will become a sponsor. Search for the best affiliates you can include on your blog. Think about making an online course, writing an eBook, or providing membership content.
No matter where you are on your blogging business journey, there is always more you can do to improve your blog and increase your profits. Don’t wait until next year to start implementing these changes. The sooner you start, the sooner you can reap the benefits.