If you’ve ever wondered how to make money blogging, you’ve come to the right place. As a 13-year veteran blogger making six figures a year, I’ll explain how bloggers make money.
By choice, I work part time and I don’t have a team (well, unless you count my teenage daughter who does a few data entry-type tasks on the weekends). In other words, you don’t have to be a big blogger who built an impressive company to make money blogging.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission.
Necessary steps to make money blogging
Whether you are a beginner or have been blogging a while, here are the basic steps for making money with a blog:
- Start a blog
- Create useful content
- Build relationships with others on social media and around the web
- Establish a strong platform
- Choose your income streams
Now let’s cover each of those steps in more depth.
1. Start a blog
Clearly, if you want to make money blogging, you must have a blog. If you don’t already have one, no worries. Here are easy instructions explaining how to get your blog up and running.
Can I start a blog for free and make money?
This is a common question and the answer is yes. However, I would caution you against it. The reason is, when you use a free service, you don’t have full control over your blog—the free service you are using does. This can be risky, especially if you will rely on your blog for income. A self-hosted WordPress blog is my recommendation and can be started for as little as $5-$10 a month.
Related: How to Start a Blog (includes step-by-step instructions for setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog)
2. Create useful content
Once you have a blog, write useful content. Draw from your expertise & experience. Write informative posts and articles about your chosen topic. Make your content excellent.
What should I blog about?
If you’re stumped, here are ideas for posts readers will respond to:
- Solve a problem
- Relieve a fear
- Teach something new
- Explain how to reach a goal
In order to make money, you must have blog visitors. But in order to have blog visitors, you must have content worthy of a visit.
Related: How to Decide What to Write About
3. Build relationships with others on social media and around the web
At the same time you are creating valuable content, start building genuine and sincere relationships with others on social media and around the web.
Which social media sites should I use?
With so many social media sites, it’s hard to know where to start.
As I explain in this post, my advice is to think about where your target audience hangs out on social media and start there.
Is your blog for moms of preschoolers? Facebook and Pinterest might be best. Is your blog for business executives? LinkedIn and Twitter are probably safe bets.
Other than being active on social media, here are more ideas: participate in Facebook Groups, comment on other blogs or join forums. Find or start a mastermind group. Reach out to people in your niche by tweeting them.
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. Word about you spreads best through people who know, like & trust you.
Related: How to Determine the Best Social Media Sites for You (Plus More Tips)
4. Establish a strong platform
Keep growing in the knowledge of your craft so the content you produce gets increasingly deep and valuable. Use your blog to get exposure, build authority, gain trust and be helpful.
In addition, use this time to think about the type of reputation you want to build. How do you want others to see you? How do you want them to experience your site? What do you want to be known for? This is all part of your branding.
Related: 13 Branding Tips Plus My Top Piece of Advice
5. Choose your income streams
Once you’ve started your blog, created some excellent content, built some relationships and given thought to your branding and reputation, start thinking about ways to generate blogging income.
There are many ways you can do this. In the rest of the post, I will outline 5 main types of income along with many specific ideas for each.
5 Ways to Make Money Blogging Cheat Sheet
This post is thorough so I’ve put together a cheat sheet for quick reference.
It’s free to Useletter subscribers (the Useletter® is my weekly email packed with extra, up-to-date tips about social media, blogging, making money online, etc.)
Want the cheat sheet? Sign up for the Useletter® below, confirm your subscription in the email I send, and the cheat sheet will arrive in your inbox momentarily:
Things you should know about making money blogging
- Much of the money bloggers make doesn’t come from blogging directly. A blog is a platform or online home base. After proving their trustworthiness, bloggers use their blogs as springboards to launch other products & services that bring in income. Examples are ebooks, books, speaking gigs, products, ecourses, etc.
- If you want to make money blogging, it takes time, creativity and hustle—a lot of all three—but it’s absolutely doable.
- 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. Find a combination that works for you or make up your own.
- 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. Hopefully you are blogging about something you enjoy. As you grow, monetize (make money) in ways that would most suit you and your audience. For example, blogging about knitting? Sell knitting patterns. Blogging about fly fishing? Sell your services as a fly fishing guide. Blogging about being a preschool teacher? Sell preschool curriculum.
Related: 12 Things to Do Before Making Money Online (the practical nuts, bolts & legalities of making money online)
Streams of income used by bloggers
Following is a list of income streams bloggers adopt, broken down into five main categories:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Digital Products
- Physical Products
Unlike many of the other categories, advertising is all about generating income directly from your blog, website or other digital asset(s).
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, Blogads, BlogHer, Beacon 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. No doubt you have seen Google AdSense ads as you have surfed the web.
Adsense ads come in various shapes and forms. Sometimes they are images and sometimes they are text. They show up in sidebars, headers, footers, within posts and anywhere else website owners choose to display them.
Adsense is 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.
- To apply for Google AdSense or other ad networks, contact the ad network via their website (choose one from 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.
Further reading: Jason from ProBlogSchool explains ad networks in great detail in his post Ads 102: How to Make Money Using Ad Networks.