A few months ago, my friend Katelyn from What’s Up, Fagans? mentioned on Facebook how she was grateful for the income she was able to bring in from blogging. A few people quickly asked her to tell them what she did to make money blogging. While I’m sure people are generally interested a lot, a lot of people seem to think it’s a get rich quick scheme.
Well, let me dispel the rumor right now – blogging is not a get rich quick scheme.
Developing a blog, a following, and promoting your posts takes time. The money does come, if you go about it the right way, but if you start blogging and think you’ll start making a lot of money quickly…that probably isn’t going to happen. Of course, there’s a few people that will somehow have their posts go viral right away, thus causing them to bring in money right away, but this is the exception, not the rule. Blogging takes time, effort, and probably some tears. It’s definitely not for the weak of heart! While it’s possible to make a lot of money, even if your first year of blogging, it takes a lot of hard work.
However, if I haven’t ran you off with my discouraging dose of reality, let me tell you – you can make money blogging.
We started our blog, Clarks Condensed, in January of 2013. Within a few months, some money started coming in. It wasn’t until September of 2013 that we actually started making more than just a little bit of extra money. And since September, our income has increased each month. We currently make enough to comfortably support our family (combined with money from our tech support business), and we hope that trend continues. I’m not making millions, but I do believe I know what it takes to make money blogging. I jumped in head first, and since blogging, I have never looked back. I’m constantly learning more, trying to help others, and teaching myself along the way.
There’s unfortunately no formula that works for everyone, but if you read these tips, and apply them to your individual circumstances, hopefully you’ll be able to come up with a marketing plan that will help bring in money.
But, before I get into making money blogging, remember this – don’t blog because you want to make money. If your only purpose in blogging is to make money, you will most likely fail. You have to have a passion for sharing your life, experiences, and tips with others. Blogging is not for everyone. With that said, I feel very strongly about bloggers being compensated for the work they do, without having to justify that to anyone else. If you love blogging, but you want to make money doing it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you are authentic and you enjoy doing it. When you do that, you’ll find followers come much faster, and with it, so does the money.
How to Make Money Blogging
Before I get into the nitty gritty, I should note to make money blogging, you have to have a blog! Be sure to check out our blogging resources page for more information. Now, on to the good stuff!
1. Write Killer Content
Let’s get one thing straight – if you write bad material, you probably won’t get very far. Not everyone can be a blogger — just like not everyone can be an engineer, or a teacher, or a rocket scientist. You need to be a good writer who can not only draw readers in but keep them coming back.
I think the best advice I can give is write in your own voice and be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else, or mimic how another blogger writes. I believe some bloggers don’t give their readers enough credit — they can tell when you aren’t being authentic! I honestly don’t read a lot of blogs, beyond ones written by my family and friends, but the blogs that I keep going back to are the ones that really wow me with what they write. You know they are passionate about what they are doing and you can tell there’s a real person behind the screen.
So if you write great content, you’ll have a lot easier time making money. It still takes promotion (very few people just start writing a blog, and with no promotion, become a sensation over night), but it makes it a lot easier to bring in loyal readers.
2. Know your Niche
I thought about saying pick a niche, but honestly, sometimes that takes a little bit of trial and error. You might start out writing about dessert recipes, and then realize that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life making desserts (I truly admire those that can.) Write about something you could go on and on forever about. For Clarks Condensed, I started it with the desire to help people find positive information on the Internet on how to be a better spouse, parent, and friend. I love writing about pregnancy, good food, and saving money. I started The Blog Help for two reasons — one, to provide a place for people to get help blogging, and two, so I could write about blogging. It’s truly one of my passions.
Once you’ve decided what niche you want to be in, you have to understand it. You have to know it’s audience, stay up to date on current trends, and know successful marketing techniques for it.
Not all niches draw in tons of traffic — however, if you know who wants the content and what they are looking for, you can be successful. There are so many niches out there, and if you know how to write toward that audience, then go for it. I used to write for the website SmartPhoneHC.com, which was a part of a larger website called Healthcarescene.com. Basically, this website is all about healthcare IT, specifically EMRs and EHRs. Most people probably have NO idea what those two things are. However, the man behind this blog/website is successful with what he does. It may not be the most exciting topic, but there is a market for it — a profitable one at that.
Once you’ve decided one your niche, take sometime to read some of the top blogs that are in that niche. Look at what they’ve done with their sites and try and see how they’ve managed to become successful. While you shouldn’t copy exactly what someone is doing (so, don’t go write the exact same posts verbatim on your site), I think one of the best ways to learn is from others. I personally have found great success by not only studying others sharing techniques, how they set up their posts, etc., but from getting to know other bloggers. The sooner you believe that other bloggers aren’t your competition, but your support group, the better. I learn so much every day from bloggers I’ve become friends with! Don’t be a link dropper (so, going to a post and saying, Hey check out my blog,) but genuinely try and become friends.
3. Be Smart and have a Plan
I think with blogging, you do have to just kind of jump in and get started, but eventually, you do need a plan. You can’t do everything — I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes I see bloggers making. There are just too many social networks, Google algorithms, and weird trends to keep up with everything. So, make a plan!
Making this plan might come from a little bit of trial-and-error (you’ll find that a lot of blogging comes down to that.) Figure out what social networks work best for your niche, how to best get your content out there, and where your time actually makes a difference. For me, there was a time when I really wanted to manage my own ads — it ended up being a huge time suck, and other parts of my blog suffered, so I handed that off to someone else. And with that, if you can — delegate the tasks you don’t like (hint, hint — that’s why The Blog Help is here.) That can be hard, if you don’t have money to pay other people to do certain things, but when you can, I think it is worth it.
Set a schedule, and stick to it. I found myself getting incredibly overwhelmed when I tried to be a super mom and wife, as well as a super blogger. So, I decided to put the most important things first (my husband and son), but also set specific times where I was dedicated to working. And guess what — it’s made a world of difference. I’m so much more productive, and we are all so much happier!
4. Talk with Other Bloggers
I’ve found that a lot of bloggers don’t like to share their tips for success with others — and I hate it! It’s like they don’t want to share their secrets in fear of others stealing their ideas and all their traffic. The Internet is a big place, and I think there’s room for everyone and the fastest way to grow is learn from others. While it may be discouraging sometimes, when you discover someone is making more money or getting more pageviews than you, if you learn to not compare yourself to others, and just work on growing your own brand, brainstorming with other bloggers is one of the best things you can do.
I started blogging because of the Online Blog Con, and the wonderful support group of bloggers that came with attending that conference. Seriously — this group is full of some of the most talented bloggers I’ve ever known, and they are all so willing to share their tips for success. And guess what — none of those bloggers who share their ideas and tips have suddenly had their success go down the drain. To be honest, the opposite has happened. The Online Blog Con just finished it’s third year (I was able to help plan it this year, actually), and it was better than ever before. If you can sign up next year, definitely do!)
And I’ll be upfront — I am always more than willing to share how much money I make, my traffic, and my ideas with others. So, if you want to talk that type of thing, feel free to send me an email (katie @ thebloghelp (dot) com.)
Okay, okay, so now you’re probably wondering where the money comes from.
Even if you do all the things above, money doesn’t just fall out of the air. You’ve got to do a few things to get the money rolling in. Not all money bloggers will make money in the same way, and while one method may make one blogger a millionaire, it may leave another blogger making pennies. It takes a little bit of trial and error to figure out what works best for you. I once heard that you should try and monetize from at least three different sources, and I think that’s good advice. Here are the most common methods.
There’s various forms of advertising you can do on your site. These include:
- Banner ads from ad networks (such as Google Adsense, Burst Media, Riot Ads, etc.) These are typically the easiest to set up and can be rather profitable
- Textual Ads (You can do these with Google AdSense and Media.net. I’ll talk a little more in another post about how I use Media.net to make about $200 extra a month by putting them in just two posts.)
- Text Links (I don’t love these — they are kind of spammy and you cannot always control what links show up. You’ll also have a lot of companies reaching out to you, asking for a text link…proceed with caution. Doing these the wrong way can cause your site to be dinged seriously by Google.)
- Direct Ad Sales (this is when you work with a specific brand or company and come up with a set price for a certain period of time, CPM (price per million), or CPC (cost per click.)
Advertisements are a balancing act. I strongly believe that bloggers should be compensated for their work and that is 100% okay to have ads on your site. However, be sure to keep in mind the user experience. While I think sidebar, in text, and header ads are great, auto-playing video ads, huge pop ups, or ads that you can’t exit out of, may make you lose readers. Just experiment with your ads though and see what works best.
I personally have hired someone to manage my ads, simply because it took too much of my time. However, if you aren’t to that point yet, a great way to increase your ad revenue is setting up backfill.
There are tons of advertisement companies out there and a lot of them aren’t that great. I get offers from different companies every day, and I would never work with probably 90% of them. In general, if a company offers a very large CPM, I would be suspicious. Never sign a contract without seeing what the ads look like, how often you get paid, and if you get paid if you break that contract.
Here are a few ad companies that I recommend:
- Riot Ads
- Gourmet Ads
- Media.net (especially for your popular posts)
- PadSquad (if you sign up, be sure to say Katie Clark sent you! This company will create a mobile site for you and optimize it with ads. Our income increased a lot when we started with them!)
- The Blogger Network: If you are over 80,000 pageviews and don’t want to worry about managing your ads, then definitely check out this company. They manage my ads and do a great job with it. AdThrive is another company that you could look into, but they do require more pageviews. Either way, it’s a relief not to have to stress about ads!
2) Affiliate Links
I love using affiliate links in my posts and earn a nice, passive income. However, I know that I”m definitely not using them as much as I could be. I mainly use Amazon Associates, but there are plenty of other companies out there like Commission Junction, Share-a-sale, Escalate, SkimLinks, or Avantlink. Basically, whenever someone clicks on a link from your site for a product or service that you are an affiliate for, you get some kind of commission. Some companies will have a cookie, that will allow you to make money off of anything that person buys in the near future.
Pretty much every company I can think of has some kind of affiliate program. While this is definitely not my forte, there are plenty of guides out there to get you started with affiliate marketing. I recently started using affiliate links a lot more, and I’ve had a significant increase in my income.
One thing I recommend doing when you are starting out using affiliate links, is looking at your outbound links. If you have Jetpack installed, this is really easy to do. However, if you don’t have Jetpack, you can set Google Analytics up to track this for you. Either way, you need to see what links people are clicking on from your site. I recently audited this on my site, and I discovered about 10-15 links that were clicked quite often, that could have had an affiliate link attached to it. These ranged from an audio book subscription site, to Amazon Student, to survey sites, to products on Amazon. You can quickly find out if a company, product, or service has an affiliate program by Googling it. Believe me, doing this occasionally is worth the effort.
3) Sponsored Posts
A good bulk of our income comes from sponsored posts. We get many offers to do sponsored posts each month, but we definitely don’t accept them all. We work hard to make our blog authentic, and to gain our readers trust, and because of that, we don’t promote topics or products we don’t believe in. However, the sponsored posts we do accept help support our family and make our blog keep going. There’s a lot of sponsored post companies out there (not all of which are worth signing up for) but you can read more about that in this post about the best sponsored post companies.
There are a lot of bloggers who hate on those who choose to do sponsored posts, and I think that is messed up. For me, sponsored content gives me an opportunity to think outside the box and come up with a creative, engaging post on a topic I may not have thought of before. Some of my most popular posts have been sponsored, and I’ve never got one complaint. I’m not perfect, but I think if you do your best to be honest and upfront, your readers will appreciate it. There’s definitely a balance (doing only sponsored posts and having no organic posts is a big no-no), but sponsored posts can be a great way to really increase your income.
Whenever I look at successful bloggers, there’s one thing I notice most of them have in common — they sell some kind of product. While some of them sell physical products, many of them have some kind of digital product as well. The most common product for a blogger to sell is an eBook, simply because you can create it and market it yourself. eBooks are a great way to get your name out there.
Other products I see being sold are printables (everything from sweet quotes, to customized printables for birthdays, to holidays, and more) and meal plans. Whatever your niche is, think about what you feel you have a lot of knowledge in and figure out a way to market it.