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How to Make Money Online: The Ultimate Guide to Blog Monetization By on June 12, 2013

Are you ready to make money online through blogging? If so, then you are in luck. In this guide, we’re going to look at the many ways that you can turn your for fun blog into a for profit blog.

Research Your Competitors

The first thing you should do when planning your blog monetization strategy is research similar blogs in your niche to find out how they are making money. You can start by finding the top blogs in your niche using sites like Alltop that have blogs on everything from accounting to zoology. As you browse around the blogs, you should get a feel for whether they are using affiliate links, banner ads, Google AdSense, product sales, or services to earn income.

income-report-example

If you can find blogs that have income reports (as shown in the above example), it takes the guesswork out of figuring out what the blogs are doing for monetization. You can also get a good feel for what is working, what is not, and how much other bloggers are actually investing in their blogs. Here are some samples of thorough income reports from well-known bloggers and internet marketers. The amount in parenthesis is the gross income amount listed on the report.

The above income reports are for internet marketing sites, niche sites, freelance sites, and food sites. While perusing income reports, be sure to pay extra attention to the amount of traffic each blogger is getting (particularly the traffic sources), the types of sites they are earning revenue from, and the expenses section when disclosed. This can help you see what it takes (hosting, advertising, marketing, etc.) for some bloggers to earn what they do.

Grow Your Audience

One thing you will absolutely need if you want to make money online through blogging is traffic. Hence, you will want to grow your audience across all networks as large as possible. You don’t want just any audience though – you want an audience that will be interested in your blog content and the monetization methods you plan to use.

So how do you grow a relevant audience and increase the traffic to your blog? Here are some good strategies.

  • Start with awesome content. It doesn’t have to be a lot – even one post a week will do for most niches unless you’re trying to become the next Mashable.
  • Always respond to comments. It will make your community stronger and turn visitors into subscribers.
  • Comment on other blogs in your niche. You will generally see lots of return traffic from both the blog owners and other comment authors. Look for CommentLuv powered blogs so that you can include a link back to your latest post with your comment for an additional traffic boost.
  • Create social profiles on the top networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn) and find followers, fans, and connections that will be interested in your content. Connect with them and engage with them.
  • Participate in groups and communities on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn that match your niche. Most will allow you to occasionally share your own content with the rest of the members, especially if you are an active and valuable member.
  • Guest post on blogs in your niche whose audiences would also like your blog.
  • Invite guest bloggers to blog on your site. Just don’t let guest bloggers overrun it as your audience generally subscribes to listen to you.
  • Jump on any opportunity to answer questions for an interview or contribute content to a crowdsourced post. Most will link back to your blog.

These are just the start. You can also refer to posts like 23 Steps to 100,000 Visitors, 202 Bite Sized Traffic Tips, and 183 Traffic Generation Tips from the Pros for more traffic tips!

Build Your Mailing List

Just about anyone who is (or claims to be) a make money online expert will tell you that the money is in the list, and that is for good reason. Whether you are creating your own product or just publishing regular product reviews, your email list is a dedicated source of traffic that Google algorithms cannot take away from you. You don’t have to fight the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm to get your message across to your fans. You just send an email, and everyone subscribed will get your message in their inbox.

No matter how large or how small your audience is or how much traffic you currently receive, you should be building your email list now if you want to make money online. While having a free giveaway like a report or ebook can help you build your list faster, you can still work on building your mailing list without one. The key is opt-in placement. Depending on how aggressive you want to be with building your mailing list, you can add your mailing list opt-in in one or more of the following places.

Assuming that you are publishing great content on your blog, you will continue to build your list slowly but surely. By adding a free giveaway (report, ebook, etc.), you will grow it even faster.

Most affiliate marketers go with Aweber as their mailing service provider of choice. Their rules and blacklisting policies are not as strict as some other networks and their prices are reasonable. As an added bonus, you probably won’t find a theme or plugin for list building that doesn’t work with Aweber.

Place Ads on Your Blog

Most bloggers start out with placing ads from networks like Google AdSense, Chitika, Kontera, Clicksor, and similar on their sites. What happens is you place ads from these networks on your site, and you get paid whenever someone clicks on the ads. The downside is that if you don’t have a good bit of traffic, you won’t get a lot of clicks. And unless you have done research about what keywords get the highest CPC, you will only get pennies per click making it difficult to earn real money.

That said, some bloggers are really good at niche site marketing, and with the right keyword research, link building, and traffic generation strategies, you can earn a good bit. There is a series over at Smart Passive Income called the Niche Site Duel 2.0 that focuses on the strategies for successful niche site building.

One thing to consider when using these kinds of ad networks is how much it really means to you to get those pennies per click. Is it worth it to have someone leave your site to make a cent vs. having them stay on and potentially buy something from your affiliate links, purchase a product you’ve created, or inquire about services that you offer.

Promote Products Through Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is not a dirty word, no matter what others might lead you to believe. There is nothing wrong with recommending products you use to others and earning a commission if someone chooses to buy those products based on your recommendation. You can be an affiliate for just about anything that is sold online. Chances are, no matter what your niche, you can find at least one product to be an affiliate for.

Not sure where to start? Try looking at the things you have paid for to use for your website, and then see if those things have an affiliate program. These things include the following plus some popular affiliate options for each.

Basically, anything you’ve paid for in relation to your blog, you can search for on Google by adding affiliate program to the name of the product in search. Once you’ve looked up these things, then you can expand your horizons by finding more relevant products and services to promote. You can also peruse the following affiliate networks to find the perfect items for your blog audience.

There are several ways you can promote affiliate products – using banner ads on your site, quickly linking to them in posts when you mention them, and writing reviews. I find that writing reviews are the best way to go if you want to see some significant affiliate earnings.

The key is to write a review that is compelling – the kind of review that people will want to link to. Just reiterating what is on a product’s sales page or taking the “swipe copy” provided by the product creator isn’t going to cut it. You need to use the products and write about your experience with them. If you have results you can share from using the product, that is even better.

Another approach to affiliate product reviews is to compare one product against another one. If both products have an affiliate program, then you have a win-win situation. It won’t matter what product your readers choose – you will receive some commission. First, try entering the name of a product in Google search with vs. after it. You’ll likely get a few good ideas just from that.

You can then use Google AdWords Keyword Tool to research keywords like Product A vs Product B to see if it is searched enough to be worth writing about.

Once you have some good review posts, you can use them to interact with others asking about those specific products. As an example, one of my best review posts was on Thesis vs. Genesis theme frameworks for WordPress. I set up a Google Alert for Thesis vs. StudioPress, Thesis vs. Genesis, Thesis or Genesis, and other combinations of keywords. Each time I got a match, I went to see if there was a way to plug in my review as a helpful guide for people. This worked especially well as a bunch of people in forums were always asking about the difference between the two. By doing this, you get a link to your post (strengthening it in search engines) and referral traffic that will usually lead to a sale.

Offer Advertising Options

Advertising works best with blogs that have a good bit of traffic. The standard advertising option most blogs offer are banner advertisements. Some typical sizes include 125×125, 250×250, 300×600, etc. in the sidebar and 728×90 in the header area.

There are a few ways to go about getting advertisers for your site. You can start with an advertising page on your blog. This page should tell potential advertisers:

  • Who your audience is.
  • How much traffic you get.
  • Authority stats such as social following, Klout, subscribers, etc.
  • What kind of ads you offer.
  • How much you want for your ads.
  • How they can purchase ads.

Next, you can set your blog up on networks that connect publishers to advertisers like BuySellAds (see image below). This is a good place to research how much other blogs in your niche are charging for advertisements. You can compare your monthly impressions to theirs to find the prices that advertisers will expect in relation to the traffic you receive.

buysellads_spots

You can also try reaching out to advertisers directly. For example, you might see that ABC Company is advertising on a blog similar to yours. You could reach out to their marketing director to see if they would also be interested in advertising on your site since you share a similar audience.

Aside from banner ads, you can also offer sponsored posts or sponsored reviews. This is where you write about or review something in exchange for payment. One of the nice things about writing affiliate marketing reviews is that you will have lots of good examples for potential advertisers of how you can write sponsored review posts.

There are two things to keep in mind about sponsored posts and reviews: Google expects you to make the links in your post nofollow (otherwise it is a paid link) and the FTC expects you to properly mark the post as sponsored so your audience knows you were paid to write it.

One kind of advertising request you should be wary of is a link placement. Sometimes they will want a spot on your sidebar, other times they will want a spot in your. Remember that Google hates link buying – and selling. Either can get your website penalized. That said, it probably happens much more often than is discussed. The only Google-friendly link advertising you can offer is nofollow links, but rarely does anyone who is asking for a link placement want that. If you are going to take the risk, make sure it is worth it – don’t shell out $5 links that might get you penalized later.

Another kind of advertising request to be wary of is an email blast to your subscribers. While this sounds like quick income, you really need to scrutinize what the email will be offering. Will it be worth losing subscribers over? I’m not a fan of these personally, and the last time I asked someone how much it would pay, they said it was $30. Definitely not worth spreading something I thought was sketchy to the list I am trying to build trust with.

Create Your Own Products

If you have built a good reputation for yourself in your niche, one great way to make money is to create your own products. Info products include ebook, Kindle book, video course, membership site, paid newsletter, etc. As an example, you can check out ProBlogger’s collection of eBooks as shown below (which you can be an affiliate for as mentioned earlier).

make-money-blogging-create-a-product

You’ll want to start with doing some research into products already offered by experts in your industry. Your goal is to find an area that hasn’t been covered yet and dominate it. If you’re in a heavily saturated market like online marketing, you may need to spend a lot of time thinking about common pain points people have and root out the one that has no solution.

Another way to come up with a product idea is to test run it as a blog post on your website. For example, if you want to write an ebook about social media tips, maybe run a post on your blog with 50 social media tips. If it takes off, then you’ll know your audience would be willing to pay to get even more tips!

Your income from this approach will be greatly dependent on your reputation, your traffic volume, and your mailing list subscribers. If you have these things and create a valuable, unique information product, you will be set.

Get Paid to Write Blog Posts

If you are good at writing, then another great way to make money through blogging is by getting paid to write for others. My first freelance writing client found me based on the content I wrote for my blog as well as for sites I guest posted on regularly. They simply asked if I would write the same content for them, and they would pay me for it.

You don’t have to be a freelance writer to get paid to blog for others though. There are lots of sites out there that will pay for posts whenever you submit them, especially if you are into online marketing, design, or programming. Here are some resources to help you find those opportunities.

Assuming that you have good writing skills, you should never accept less than $50 per post. Don’t fall prey to content mills or projects that will have you churning out $5 articles. Aim high and you will earn decent income with this approach while building up your own authority in the industry since the articles will always have your name on them and likely will have an author bio as well.

You can also enter blogging contests, such as the Grand Viral Marketing Contest from Viral Content Buzz. The blogger who writes the post with the most shares will win $1,000. You can create a Google Alert for blogging contests to keep an eye out on more opportunities to write great content, promote it, and make money. I’ve personally made over $5,000 in contests where the lowest cash payout was $500 for a post.

Offer Customized Services

Not sure what services you can offer? Think about the things people are asking for your help with on a regular basis. For example…

  • If a lot of people are asking you to write blog posts for their business, offer a freelance writing service.
  • If a lot of people are asking you to help them install WordPress or customize a theme, offer a WordPress consulting service.
  • If a lot of people are asking you to help them get posts published on other blogs, offer a guest posting service.
  • If a lot of people are asking you to critique their blog, offer a blog audit service.

There are likely TONS of different services you can offer. The key to this approach is to be open to things you might not have thought about before. Maybe tour other blogs in your niche and see if they have service / hire me pages. Then look at those pages to see what they have to offer and think about whether you could offer something similar or even more valuable.

Accept Guest Posts

Getting paid for guest post publishing? It’s not so far fetched. Let’s be honest, it isn’t just for the joy of getting free content. You have to review all of the submissions sent in to your site, communicate back and forth with contributors, edit the content that comes in, schedule it in your calendar, and promote it once it goes live. Occasionally you even have to track down your contributors to get them to answer comments. All in all, that’s a lot of work.

So don’t feel bad about making a little off of paid guest posts. If you’re not sure how to start, be sure to visit PostJoint’s page for bloggers. There, you can find out how you can get paid for publishing fresh new content on your blog!

There you have it – the most common methods of monetizing your blog. What other strategies have you tried and succeeded with, and what tips would you suggest? Please share in the comments!

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and social media enthusiast. Her blog, Kikolani, covers blog marketing and blogging tips for professional and business bloggers. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter.

35 Comments

  1. Great post with a lot of resources for everyone to take advantage of. We have been following Smart Passive Incomes monthly income reports for a while now and do provide a lot of good information on how they achieved their results.

    Thanks again for sharing this!

    • Saleem Yaqub says:

      Glad you find the post useful Stephen and thanks for stopping by! Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income is definitely a great and transparent resource.

    • Kristi Hines says:

      I love Pat’s income reports – they include everything, which shows how diverse the top earner’s monetization profiles really are. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, great post Kristi as always. It’s great to have such impressive and reliable resources.

    Who ever said you can’t earn an income online? There are no excuses now, all business owners need is the passion and persistence to make it happen :-)

    LIz

  3. This is an excellent post. Went through the whole thing and every section is excellent. I have bookmarked it and will go back to the different sections to look into some of the links you posted. Thanks a lot Kristi.

  4. That’s a lot of valuable information. All that is left is to put theory into practice. No excuses. Pat Flynn’s blog was one of the reasons I started blogging. Not because of the money, of course, but the way he made blogging sound like something so simple to do. :-) His monthly reports are proof that this can be done. It’s hard, but possible. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Victoria says:

    Wonderful post and the full list of different ways to earn from blogging – I have seen most of them somewhere, but together in such full guide – its wonderful both for newbies and for those who want to try something new.

  6. Lisa says:

    Kristi, this one is packed full of info! I will be back to check it out more. I love the posts that show the income reports, they always inspire me. I had not thought about getting paid for guest posts, I will be checking that list out too.

  7. Walter says:

    Another great post from my favorite writer in the internet!

    Good job Kristi!

    I have used most of the methods mentioned but I’m yet to try out some more. Thanks for sharing the sites that have income reports. I’m checking them out immediately. So far, product creation, affiliate marketing and list building have done it for me.

    Cheers :)

  8. Enjoy every bit of your post Kristi and by the way I never taught that these is how big you could do to monetization with your blog.

  9. Gerald Weber says:

    Thanks for mentioning our Viral Content Buzz contest here Kristi!

    I just wanted to clarify the VCB submission with the most social share that come from the VCB platform itself will be the winner. In this way people can’t game the results by for example buying Tweets or Facebook shares from Fiverr or something similar.

    The second place will be the most click-throughs from the VCB dashboard. Again the title will need to have Viral appeal in order to get the most clicks-throughs.

    Thanks again! :-)

  10. Anurag Jain says:

    Awesome article …… but i have a question that how much traffic do we need to apply for BuySellAd !

    • Kristi Hines says:

      It’s best to look at some blogs in your niche to see what kind of numbers they are hitting and the prices they put on their advertising. Some niches can probably get away with lower traffic amounts, especially if they are otherwise authoritative and well-known sites.

  11. Great post, Kristi. We love it and will share it with our community.

    One question we have pondered is why more bloggers don’t take advantage of making their content license friendly … ie allow others to republish your great content … to build reach, and monetize among those to whom it has value.

    Wouldn’t repubishing great content be a service to readers, and have a value?

    http://info.icopyright.com/in-our-opinion/how-to-monetize-your-blog-make-it-license-friendly-part-2

    Would love to know if you think this is one more way to make money online?

    • Kristi Hines says:

      I think a lot of it has to do with the fear of duplicate content on Google, regardless of whether it is warranted. Also, a lot of bloggers want to rank well in search, and the last thing they would want to happen is for a post they’ve written to rank well and send traffic to a site other than their own.

      That said, I always think having your content syndicated to larger sites can be helpful in driving a new audience base back to your site with the proper attribution. Kind of like guest posting but without having to create two pieces of content.

  12. Jenn Mattern says:

    Great tips Kristi! There were a few resources here I’ve never used and a couple that I forgot about. I’ll be sure to give them a look while I’m overhauling my monetization strategy for the new site / rebrand. Awesome post as always. :)

  13. Wade says:

    What they don’t tell you is that it takes time to set up trust and integrity on your blog before you really start pulling down the dough! Great post Kristi…you should post on my blog sometime!

  14. Thanks for this comprehensive guide, Kristi, and thanks for mentioning my big list of blogs that pay $50+ as well! I’ll be releasing an updated list for 2013 – shall I email you a copy when it’s ready?

  15. Hi Kristi – not sure where my comment has disappeared (probably drown into this sea of well thought comments above me) but I think I had something interesting to say at the time, LOL

    Anyway, just hopped by to see how the discussion was going on (this is a very, very important topic) and thought to drop a line here, maybe you could dig my earlier comment from the hole it’s fallen into?

    Cheers,
    ~Steve

  16. This is excellent, really great job, AGAIN Kristi and I had high expectations.

  17. Sharad says:

    Great post!
    I like that it has practical
    examples and specific links with indicative earning potential.

  18. […] this step-by-step guide from Kristi Hines, you are  going to learn several ways that you can turn your “for fun blogging” into a “for […]

  19. Paul says:

    Great article Kristi, it shows what is possible if you get to the top of your game!

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