There isn’t a blogger in the world that starts a blog as a charity. If they do, it’s a passion project, and that mindset doesn’t fit with what we teach. The vast majority of bloggers want to learn how to make money blogging as quickly as possible. They give plenty of thought on how to start a blog, building a content strategy, and promoting content through a strong content marketing strategy.
One of the questions they’re most like to research, is, therefore: How do I make money blogging? There’s plenty of conventional wisdom out there on monetizing a blog – some of it good, some not.
First, let’s take a look at some of the conventional wisdom.
Conventional Wisdom on How to Make Money Blogging
The first thing you’ll read on blogs that cover how to make money blogging for beginners is you should add Google AdSense ads as quickly as possible to your site. You’ll make a little money from either CPM or CPC. Cost Per Mille or Cost Per Thousand (CPM) are ads which pay you a flat rate for every 1,000 impressions. You earn money from Cost Per Click (CPC) ads each time someone clicks on an ad unit.
Adding Google AdSense ads early in your blog’s life could allow you to make a few bucks as you grow. In theory, this is fine. In practice, however AdSense can do more harm than good.
While AdSense’s technology has advanced dramatically over the years, their ads can still be out of context for your site. This is especially true if you’re just starting out. If there isn’t enough data about your readers for Google to profile them accurately, the ads that display on your site might not make any sense at all.
Having non-contextual ads on your site is worse than not having any ads at all! It comes off as spammy and makes your site look unprofessional. Beyond the aesthetics, too many AdSense ads can increase page load times. Page load time is one of the most important factors as your site grows. Bogging down load times can be a huge drag on your SEO.
We’re not going to sit here and say you shouldn’t ever use ads at all to make money blogging. That would obviously be an absurd position to take. There’s a time and place to use them, however, and that time is not as your site is just starting to grow.
So if AdSense isn’t a good place to start, you’re asking, what is?
Blogging Online for Money
So, let’s ignore conventional wisdom on blog monetization for a little while and consider an alternative game-plan (and yes, we’ll talk more about the role ads play a little later on. Don’t worry.)
Everyone starts their site with zero visitors. This is an unescapable. As your site starts to build domain authority, your organic traffic base grows. As your organic traffic base grows, and you flesh out a content strategy, you earn even more authority. More authoritative sites develop an increasingly loyal fan base.
Loyal fans come back to interact with your content daily, and your traffic grows. As all these things start to come together, real money can be made from your blogging efforts.It’s a step-by-step process that takes some consistent and conscientious work, but can pay off in a big way.
The old argument goes that you need thousands of website visitors to monetize your blog. I’d argue that you actually only need one.
Yes, one visitor. No one said advertising has to be the only way you can make money blogging. In fact, it should be one of the last methods you consider.
Let’s take a look at an alternative process.
How to Make Money From a New Blog
When starting a new blog there are five methods of monetization that should be at the front of your mind:
- Consulting Services
- Downloadable Content
- Affiliate Marketing
- Online Courses
First, let’s consider consulting services.
Remember all the research you did on creating reader personas and establishing your audience’s potential to spend?
Here’s where it can pay off.
With this research, you identified your blog’s unique value proposition (UVP). The UVP is the knowledge you have communicated through cornerstone content, and also through the occasional blog post (written by you or by your guest authors).
The core of this UVP is the primary subject your captive audience is looking to learn. Therefore, creating a one-on-one consulting service for clients who want individual attention to scale their efforts – in our case the Blog to Scale Training Academy – is a great way to make money blogging from your very first visitor onward.
Depending on the niche of your blog, these consultations could be in-person where you are located. Or, they could be online using a free video conferencing service like Google Hangouts or Zoom.us. Both have fantastic functionality for one-on-one or small group meetings.
Landing that first consulting client is a great way to cover some of the early operational costs for your blog, without bogging it down with advertising before there’s an audience there to make adding ads worth the real estate they take up!
Another avenue to consider is creation of long-form, downloadable content that can be made available for purchase on your blog. After a few months of driving some traffic, some ideas for this content should start to take shape. You’ll have a good feel for how readers are reacting to your content and what they want most. Most importantly, you’ll understand what their primary pain point is, and how an ebook, whitepaper or data-driven long-form piece can ease that pain, and solve their problems.
Self-publishing these ebooks means you don’t have to answer to an editor which may hack apart your work, changing it from how it was originally intended. I mean, sure, you want to maintain quality control and make sure you’re promoting accurate information. This goes without saying. Doing so without an editor looking over your shoulder certainly makes this content creation process easier.
Accordingly, once your traffic base is solid enough, it’s also possible to create lead magnets around similar content assets. Giving away a free piece of content which provides a reader with a quick, actionable win in return for an email address is a great way to build your list, and even further engage your readers through email marketing.
Affiliate programs are probably the most well-recognized method of monetizing a blog. To make money from affiliate marketing, you sign up with companies that offer affiliate commissions for each product purchased due to a link click on your website. The structure of these programs is vastly different. Some payout a percentage of all link clicks from your site to targeted products on a seller’s site. Others only pay out when the clicks from your site to the seller’s site result in a sale.
This is a great visual representation of the affiliate marketing life cycle from that first link click, all the way to monetization, and payout:
Let’s take each of the steps outlined above and cover them in a little more detail.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing
There are six steps in the affiliate marketing cycle that we’ll cover. From Step One to Step Six loop is closed between blogs that are publishing affiliate links, to the affiliate network, to the seller’s site, and the customer who purchases a product on the seller’s site when directed there from the links you share on your blog.
Your Blog Shows an Affiliate Link
To kick things off, you write an article about a specific topic. Within that article you highlight text that refers to a product the seller offers, and add a link to that text provided to you by your affiliate network. This link includes tracking information.
That tracking information allows you and your affiliate network to see when a customer clicks on your blog link and then purchases from the seller site to which you’re linking. A sale is recorded when this happens, and you receive a cut of that sale as an affiliate. This is the most traditional structure, but not the only monetization structure.
Your Reader Clicks on the Affiliate Link
When your reader clicks the link in your blog post, they are taken to the product page on the seller’s website.
A Tracking Code is Embedded on the Reader’s Computer
At this point, a cookie or another tracking device is embedded on the reader’s computer by the affiliate network. This cookie tracks how the reader interacts with the seller’s website over a set period of time, and what actions they take on the seller’s product page where you direct them.
Your Reader Takes a Desired Action on the Partner’s Website
If the reader performs an action – buying a product, clicking on another link, or something else – on the seller’s website, you receive an affiliate commission for those actions from the affiliate network.
Affiliate Network Records the Transaction & Confirms the Sale
The affiliate network records the transaction your affiliate payment is based on, in their records. They then confirm the sale with the seller to ensure it is valid.
Money in the Bank!
Cha-ching! At this point the transaction has been verified as legitimate by the affiliate network and the seller, and you get credited with a “sale”. Money is credited to your account. Your portion of the transaction is completed and the loop starts again.
Affiliate marketing can be very lucrative, but it takes some time to get it running like a machine. With some carefully crafted language and consistency affiliate marketing can be a great way to make money blogging.
Sure. Add some ads to your blog.
Advertising is so often the first thought when it comes to making money from blogging. When in reality, it should be one of the last things you consider.
This is true for a few reasons:
- Advertising networks can be notoriously fickle and difficult to work with. Finding a network that provides ad units which are contextual to your niche, and not obtrusive to the reader’s experience with your blog can be very, very difficult. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it’s just difficult.
- Adding advertising to your site at the wrong time in its lifecycle can send the wrong message. Sites that run too much advertising too early can look spammy at best, and clueless at worst. The moral of the story: Don’t even consider putting ads on your site until you have the traffic base to support them. In general this is at least 5,000 unique visitors a month, and I would even say 10,000 unique visitors a month given previous experience.
- Poorly constructed ad units can deeply damage your blog’s page speed which can hurt your positioning in search engines like Google and Bing.
Now, enough of that.
Ads can be a dependable way to make money blogging once the conditions above align. There are different ad networks worth considering at different points in your blog’s growth.
Advertising Network Options
As you’re building your blog, solidifying your content strategy, and content marketing strategy and starting to see some consistent traffic roll in, there are a few ad networks worth considering:
Each of these networks is small publisher friendly and can help you monetize your work a little as you continue to grow. They’re relatively easy to setup, and have tracking systems in place which are intuitive and user-friendly.
As time goes on, you’ll move from these platforms to secured exchanges. Maybe even to establishing direct deals with private advertisers. These are MUCH more lucrative due to the protected and selective nature of the application process and technology involved. But that’s another topic for another day.
In short, run with some ads, but just make absolutely sure they are a natural fit for your traffic level, goals and the experience you provide your most loyal readers.
Building courses around your expertise in your blog’s niche is a fantastic way to make money blogging. It’s also very time-consuming. But, as with anything good in life it takes time to get a solid return.
Once your cornerstone topics are published, you’ve secured guest posts, and backlinks are driving to those pieces with consistency with authority driving even more traffic, it’s time to take a look at building online courses.
Building these courses around your cornerstone topics with some additions is a great strategy.
The best thing about online courses is they can always be updated and polished to be more impactful. You earn money from these courses when your readers visit platforms where they are hosted. And then purchase and take the course from the course platform. The course platform keeps a percentage of that fee, and pays a percentage to you as a course provider.
It’s a pretty sweet setup once you get it up and running with some sustained momentum.
There are several popular platforms, but these are some of our favorites:
Each of these platforms offer some unique features. The one thing they share in common is ease-of-use and being able to get everything done on a single platform. Whether the platform helps you with active promotion of your courses is a big differentiating factor. This often depends on the level of the service you purchase from the platform, but not always.
Making money blogging is a slow and deliberate process, but one that can pay off handsomely with some smart and calculated work. You’ll get there one day, don’t worry! Just focus on your process of building authority to drive traffic, and weave these elements in a little at a time.
In conclusion, there’s no one “right way” to make money blogging. It’s a work in progress that’s unique to every blog in the blogosphere. To learn more about how to take on this process with confidence, sign up for a free consultation through the Blog to Scale Training Academy and scale your blog with speed!