How to Make Money Online: The Ultimate Guide to Blog Monetization By Kristi Hines 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.
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.
- My April 2013 Income Report from SmartPassiveIncome.com by Pat Flynn ($58,412.33)
- Monthly Income, Growth & Traffic Report – April 2013 from MatthewWoodward.co.uk by Matthew Woodward ($6,060.41)
- Niche Site Project Income Report for April 2013 from NichePursuits.com by Spencer Haws ($440.28)
- My Monthly Income Report – April 2013 from LeavingWorkBehind.com by Tom Ewer ($7,977.67)
- Affiliate Marketing Income Report: April 2013 from TylerCruz.com by Tyler Cruz ($98,526.50)
- April Traffic and Income Report from PinchofYum.com by Lindsay ($3,291.46)
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.
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.
- In the header of your blog with plugins like ViperBar.
- At the top of your sidebar, end of your blog posts, and footer of your blog with plugins like OptinSkin.
- In a popup using plugins like Pippity, Popup Domination, and WP Subscribers.
- On a squeeze page (dedicated page for your mailing list opt-ins) using plugins and themes like WP Optin, Premise, OptimizePress, and FlexSqueeze.
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.
- Web hosting services such as GoDaddy, HostGator, and Bluehost.
- WordPress themes such as StudioPress, DIYthemes (Thesis), and ElegantThemes.
- Mailing list services like Aweber, MailChimp, and GetResponse.
- Ebooks written by ProBlogger.
- Courses like FBinfluence, LinkedInfluence, and Video Traffic Academy.
- You can get commission for recommending just about anything from Amazon.
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.
- ClickBank (also see CBEngine to research products)
- Commission Junction
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.
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).
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.
- The Ultimate List of 100+ Blogs That Pay for Content
- 100+ Sites That Pay Writers
- 45 Blogs That Will Pay You $50 or More
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.