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How to Make Money Blogging

If you’ve ever wondered how to make money blogging, you’ve come to the right place. As an 11-year veteran blogger, this is what I’ve learned. First, here’s my story in a nutshell…

How I went from hobby blogger to pro blogger

I blogged as a hobby. In 2010 I focused on generating income.
Since then, my husband traded a 9-to-5 job he hated for a part-time job he loves, together we homeschool our kiddos and my full-time online income makes up the bulk of our income.
It takes time, creativity and hustle—a lot of all three—but it’s absolutely doable.

The 5 Basic Steps

Here are the five basic steps if you want to make money blogging. I’ll discuss them in more detail as we go, with an emphasis on #5.
  1. Establish your home base
  2. Produce valuable content
  3. Build relationships
  4. Grow your platform (and branch out)
  5. Choose and implement streams of income
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed as you read through, you’re normal! Don’t worry, I’ll give you some tips for starting at the end. Also, please note this post contains affiliate links.
Alright, let’s break it down.

1. Establish your home base

If you want to make money blogging, obviously you’ll need a blog. If you don’t already have one, no worries, simply follow the steps I outlined in How to Start a Blog. This is the easy part (even if you’re not technically-inclined).

2. Produce valuable content

Once you have a blog, write. Draw from your expertise and experience and write informative posts and articles about your chosen topic. Make your content excellent. In order to make money, you must have visitors, but in order to have visitors, you must have content worthwhile to visit.
Writing and producing content is the time consuming part. It’ll be a while before you start seeing an income. There is no way around this. There are no shortcuts. We all have to put in our time.

3. Build relationships

While you create your content, start building genuine and sincere relationships via social media, commenting on other blogs, forums and the like. Reach out to people in your niche. Find people who could use the information you provide. Get to know them, interact, be friendly and helpful by offering no-strings-attached tidbits of your expertise. Building authentic relationships is important for a few reasons:
  • You will establish a reputation of being trustworthy and generous.
  • Your site will be found. People won’t naturally find your site if you don’t put yourself out there.
  • It’s very possible these relationships will turn into much more than just acquaintances to chat with online. These people will likely support you in the future and more than that, they may become fantastic, life-long friends.

4. Grow your platform (and branch out)

Keep growing in the knowledge of your craft so the content you produce gets increasingly great. Use your blog to get exposure, build authority, gain trust and be helpful. (Have I said that before? It’s just so important.)
A lot of people don’t realize that for many bloggers, much of the money they make does not come from their blog directly. A blog is a platform. It’s online property, a digital home. After proving their trustworthiness, bloggers use their blogs as springboards to launch other projects that bring in income, such as ebooks, books, speaking, products, etc.
Only think about making money once you have earned trust. Many, many people want to skip ahead to the money part, but if you try to dive into monetizing before you’ve really built your platform, you run the risk of damaging the good reputation you so desperately need.

5. Choose and implement streams of income

This is the part you’ve been waiting for—the actual ways people make money blogging.
Alright.
There are numerous ways bloggers make money. Each blogger has a different combination of income streams. There is no “right” way. And that’s the beauty of it. There are endless possibilities. You’re job is to find a combination that works for you.
Income streams ebb and flow, so successful bloggers are constantly exploring new ways to make money. The key to making good money as a blogger is to have multiple streams of income. Even small trickles of money coming from various sources over time can add up.
The best way to start monetizing is to let it happen organically out of what you are already doing. Hopefully you are blogging about something you enjoy. As you grow, monetize in ways that would most suit you and your audience.
Following is a list of income streams bloggers adopt, broken down into five main categories:
How to make money blogging: advertising
Unlike many of the other categories, advertising is all about generating income directly from your blog, website or other digital asset(s).

Display Ads

Display ads are graphics or images similar to billboards or ads in a magazine. Typically they are positioned on your site in the sidebar, header, footer or within your content. Sometimes they are referred to as banner ads.
Ads on your site are meant to complement your blog’s content, making them attractive and relevant to visitors. Advertisers hope that your visitors will then click on those images to explore and purchase the products or services they offer.
Display ads are often provided through ad networks. Ad networks are companies that connect advertisers with publishers (bloggers). Ad networks act as a middle man between advertisers and publishers, negotiating partnership details between the two. The ad network takes a cut from the partnership profit. Ad networks are attractive to many bloggers because they take the hassle out of display advertising.
Some ad networks, like Google Adsense, are relatively easy to get into and are easy to set up. Other ad networks, though, are selective in who they accept. Examples of ad networks are Google Adsense, BlogadsBlogHerBeacon Ads, Federated Media, Sovrn, (formerly Lijit), Media.net, Rivit and Sway. There are many more, so once you get involved in your niche’s community of bloggers, you’ll soon hear of others.

Can you really make money with Google AdSense?

This is a very popular question, and a good one. Google Adsense is probably the most popular ad network and a good place for beginning bloggers to start if they want to pursue display ads because it’s so easy to set up.
However, if you want to make really good money with Google AdSense, you either have to be in a unique niche in which advertisers will pay a lot of money for clicks on their ads (hard to find), or you have to have a lot of traffic (hard to get, especially for beginners).
For these reasons, I don’t recommend AdSense (or display advertising in general) as the main pursuit for new bloggers.
Tips:
  • To apply for Google AdSense or ad networks, contact the ad network via their website (linked above).
  • If you want to get an idea of pricing and traffic for popular blogs, sites like Beacon Ads and Federated Media are places you can do that.
  • If you’re using CPC/PPC ads (cost per click/pay per click), check out Google’s recommendations for best ad placement on your site. It’s important that your content doesn’t get drowned out by ads. Google has indicated sites with too many ads above the fold may be penalized in search. If you’re not sure what above the fold is on your site, use this tool.
  • As always, experiment. Experiment with ad placement to get the right combination on your site.

Private Ads

Private ads are similar to display ads in that they also come in the form of buttons or graphics and usually appear in the sidebars of blogs. They are unique in that there is no middle man (ad network) to negotiate the partnership. Partnerships are arranged directly between a blogger and an individual, small business or company.
Initial contact can be made by the blogger or by the advertiser. Be clear on what’s expected by both parties. Not sure what to charge? Look around to see what others in your niche charge. You can often find this information on a blog’s advertising page or media kit.
Don’t just throw up an advertising page and expect advertisers to come calling. Go to them. Not sure how to do that? Find other blogs like yours that are your size or slightly larger. See who is advertising on their site. Contact those companies and ask if they’d like to advertise on your site too. Create a pitch and make it a win-win. Check out iHeartOrganizing‘s advertising page as an example.

Tip for private ads on your blog: If you have ads in your sidebar, keep them full. Instead of displaying a blank box with “Advertise here” fill it with an affiliate graphic (see Affiliate Marketing below for more). Crystal Paine puts it well when she says, “[Blank ad spots] scream, ‘My advertising space isn’t valuable enough for people to want to buy so I instead have this big blank box!'”

Giveaways & Reviews

If you’ve read blogs for any length of time, you’ve surely seen a review or giveaway and maybe participated yourself. A company supplies a product to a blogger to be reviewed and/or given away to readers.
A word about giveaways…
I list giveaways here because some bloggers charge to run giveaways in addition to the expected free product to keep for themselves. There are varying opinions about whether or not one should be compensated for giveaways.
As I see it, it largely depends on whether the product is for marketing purposes or for advertising purposes. Companies use marketing to spread the word about their product or service.
With advertising, a company makes a deal with another party to help them spread the word. Companies expect to pay for advertising. For example, a company may market their product by handing out free t-shirts. Because you like the t-shirt, you take it and wear it. You obviously wouldn’t charge the company when you wore their t-shirt.
But I think a giveaway on a blog would often fall in the category of advertising. Yes, the company you’re working with may give you a product to use (indeed, they should!). However, they are also asking you to provide a service to them. After all, you are spending your valuable time fielding their emails, writing a post (or posts), following up with giveaway entrants, etc.
If there is nothing else you’re getting from the partnership except for the free product, this service should be compensated in my opinion.


Tips for reviews & giveaways:
  • Products you receive for free need to be reported as income on your taxes so keep excellent records and make sure the products you are accepting for review are really ones you want to pay taxes on later.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate. This is your blog. No need to just take what you’re offered on the first round. Make it a win-win for both.
  • If you don’t want to do a review for a company, ask the company if they’d like to buy ad space instead. Mention that they’ll still get a spot in front of your readers.

Newsletter/Podcast Sponsorships

If you have an email newsletter or podcast, you can accept advertising just as you would on your blog. You can reach out to potential advertisers, tell them how they would benefit from advertising with you and pitch your idea.

Sponsored Posts

Writing a sponsored post means you work with a company and write a post about their product or service. Be upfront and disclose your relationship to your readers.

Keep sponsored posts to a minimum so you don’t turn off readers. If you read blogs, you’ve probably seen sponsored posts. They can be spotted by the disclosure stating something like, “This post was sponsored by [company] but all opinions are mine.”

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