Most people start blogging as a passion, talking about a subject they love simply because they love it. There’s a good chance you did the same, or are about to!
But eventually it becomes difficult to juggle the real world of work with the time it takes to write blog articles, promote them on social media, engage with your followers, and think of new ideas.
That’s why it’s important to combine doing what you love with making money. Some bloggers just want a few extra dollars to keep them going, whereas others go the full way and make blogging their full-time job!
There are plenty of bloggers making very good money, giving them more time to spend with their families, to go travelling, and to live the life they want to live. Many never planned on making blogging their full-time job, but once they began to monetize their blog, they realised it was possible to give up the 9-5 grind and focus solely on blogging.
Whichever camp you sit in, there are plenty of ways to turn your hobby into real cash. We’ll explore just a handful of them, so if you’re making money in other ways then be sure to let us know in the comments. And good luck on the adventure! 😀
The simplest way of making money from your blog is via advertising. Most big blogs will make money this way, by placing a few adverts in their sidebars, or interspersed throughout the blog articles themselves.
Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you need to reach out to brands and offer them space on your site or wait for companies to contact you offering to pay big bucks to place an advert in your sidebar – there are a whole host of advertising networks who will do all of the hard work for you.
The easiest network to use is Google AdSense. It’s easy to sign up, and there is no minimum traffic requirement, so you can join straight away even if your blog has only just launched.
There are some programme and content policies, such as not permitting adult content, threatening content, or content which is any way illegal, but the vast majority of sites will be accepted if everything’s above board!
You can choose from a variety of different ad sizes, such as thin, wide adverts called Leaderboard adverts, which are perfect for headers, or taller less wide ads called MPU or Half Page adverts, which are perfect for sidebars.
Recently, Google has also launched responsive adverts, which you can place anywhere on your website, and Google will automatically choose an appropriate advert size depending on the ad placement, the screen size, and the user’s device.
An even newer initiative are automatic ads, where Google will analyse your site and automatically position ads where it thinks they will perform best – you just add one line of code to your site and let Google do the rest.
Once everything’s set up, you will receive a small payment every time someone clicks on one of your adverts. Advertisers bid to be placed on your website, and the amount you receive totally depends on the type of content you’re publishing, the type of advert, whether they’re on a desktop or mobile, and even the time of year. Advertisers spend more around Christmas time, and spend dips at the beginning of each new quarter (January, April, July and October).
You won’t become an overnight millionaire with Google AdSense, and the amounts you earn per click can often be quite low. However, if you’ve got a high traffic site and place adverts throughout your content where they’re most likely to see them, then you can begin to earn money while you grow your traffic, and eventually switch to a more managed network once your traffic is high enough.
Note, Google’s pretty clever, and knows from your IP address and cookies when you’re clicking on your own ads. It’s against their policy, so not only will you not get paid for these clicks, but Google will likely penalize you and may even close your account if it notices you doing this on a regular basis. So, as tempting as it may be, avoid clicking on your own adverts at all cost!
This network is very much like AdSense, but run by Yahoo instead of Google. As with Adsense, they offer a whole bunch of different ad sizes, and pay CPC (Cost Per Click), so you only get paid when someone clicks on one of your adverts.
We’ve read that Media.net can often earn you more than Google AdSense, but then we’ve seen plenty of evidence of it working the other way around – so perhaps experiment with both! Neither are exclusive, so you can quite easily A/B test both ad networks at the same time, or try one for a few months, then switch to the other and compare.
Managed advertising networks
While AdSense is great when you’re just getting started, eventually it’s a good idea to switch to a specialised and managed advertising network.
These networks will work with hundreds or thousands of websites (as opposed to the millions of sites using AdSense), and approach brands directly, selling their network of sites as a package to these advertisers. This allows them to compete with massive publishing houses like Condé Nast, as they’re presenting themselves as a family of websites with millions of pageviews.
They will use services such as Google Ad Exchange – which is a souped up, more powerful version of AdSense only available for massive publishers – and other major exclusive ad platforms, to which you would be unlikely to gain access alone.
Another benefit is that most of these networks offer CPM ads, rather than the CPC ads offered by AdSense. What this means is that you get paid per ad impression, rather than ad click, so you get paid even if someone doesn’t click on one of your ads. CPC rather logically stands for Cost Per Click, while CPM is Cost Per Thousand impressions (the M technically stands for mille, the Latin word for thousand).
They’ll also give you support in setting up your ads, and many will help you optimise the placement of them to ensure you’re getting the most value out of your adverts (i.e. earning the most money you can!).
Mediavine are mainly focussed on US-based food and lifestyle publishers, however will also accept applicants from other niches.
Their site states that they focus on blogs in the following categories: food, parenting, DIY, health, fitness, fashion, travel, crafts, education, finance, lifestyle, or entertainment, but don’t let that put you off if your website is about something totally different – if they think you’re writing about something interesting, they’ll definitely still consider you.
You do need at least 25,000 sessions a month to be accepted. It’s also an exclusive network, so you won’t be able to show ads from any other networks if you’re with Mediavine.
We’ve worked with Mediavine for 2 years on another one of our sites and had fantastic results. Considering the majority of our traffic comes from outside the US and isn’t in one of their main categories, we’ve still had great increases in our ad revenue, so it’s definitely worth applying even if you’re not in their usual niche or don’t get much US traffic.
Sheknows is a primarily female-focussed network, so are looking for high quality sites that appeal to women. To get in, you’ll need 20,000 or more pageviews per month, 80%+ US traffic, and a 70%+ female audience.
In addition, your site must allow comments – so if you don’t already have comments enabled, think about whether you want to spend time moderating these and interacting with your community.
Usually the benefits outweigh the negatives, as having comments on your blog means you can interact directly with your readers, they may provide you with some useful insights, and it’ll also give them a reason to come back, so they can see who’s responded to their own comments.
As with Mediavine, Sheknows want exclusivity – i.e. you won’t be able to have ads from any other networks appearing on your site if you choose to work with Sheknows. However, this won’t likely disadvantage you, as they do have very high RPMs (the amount of money you get paid per 1000 pageviews) so you’ll likely get more than you would if you were working with multiple non-exclusive networks.
Another US-based network, Sovrn have one of the fastest paying times in the industry – they will pay you 30 days after the end of the month in which you earnt money. So for adverts displayed on your site in March, you will be paid at the end of April.
This is how AdSense works, but many other networks like Sheknows and Mediavine take around 2 months after the end of the month to pay you, so Sovrn is a breath of fresh air if you want to get your money as quickly as possible!
A non-exclusive network, you can work with Sovrn while also working with other networks. You can do this using a thing called a Waterfall, where you place your highest paying ad network first in your list, and when they run out of ads to display, you fall back on your next highest paying ad network.
Waterfalling is a little bit complicated if you’re just starting out on your money-making journey, so don’t worry about it for now, and I’ll be covering it in a separate blog article in the future.
Another very popular US ad network, who again will work with you to make sure your ads are performing as effectively as they can. We’ve heard great things about this network, and they market themselves as the “#1 ranked ad management company in the world”.
You have to get a minimum of 100,000 monthly pageviews to be considered, and as with Sheknows the majority of your traffic needs to come from the US. They’re pretty difficult to get into, but this exclusivity means that they treat all of their publishers well and work hard to ensure they’re earning the best they can be.
BuySellAds is a different type of advertising network, as they don’t handle all of the advertising sales for you. Instead, they provide you with a platform that allows you to sell advertising directly, whether that’s to companies you’re approaching, or to your blog’s readers themselves.
You’ll also get a profile on the BuySellAds website, allowing advertisers to find you and buy your ads directly via the BuySellAds platform.
If you’re more comfortable with a hands-on approach and want to sell ad space yourself or have more control over the types of advertisements on your website, then BuySellAds may well be a good choice for you.
There are plenty of other ad networks out there, and the most suitable one will depend on your blog’s niche, where most of your traffic comes from, and how much traffic you get. I recommend you start off with AdSense until you get to around 20,000 sessions/users a month, then start exploring the managed ad networks.
Affiliate marketing is the practice of advertising other companies’ products, and being paid a commission or referral fee for every new customer you send their way.
Tens of thousands of products and companies have affiliate or referral schemes, so if your website is in the right niche and brings in a lot of traffic, then affiliate marketing can be a great way to bring in some extra dollars.
Let’s take the travel blogging niche as an example. Hotel and comparison websites often have affiliate schemes, so if you’re gushing about your latest adventure in Bali, you could place affiliate links to hotels in Bali via Booking.com, or flights from the US to Bali via British Airways, and receive a payment if one of your visitors ends up buying a flight or a hotel to Bali (or anywhere else for that matter!) through either of those sites.
If you run a music blog, Ticketmaster and its ticket resale sites Seatwave and GetMeIn all have schemes, so you can place links to tickets for up and coming gigs and receive a commission on any purchases your users make.
Amazon also has its own affiliate scheme called Amazon Associates. This is one of the most widely used schemes, as there are tens of thousands of products that you can recommend to your users, and get a small cut of the sales for each one.
Whether you’re writing about sporting goods, clothes, furniture, the latest new gadget or childrens’ toys, Amazon’s scheme is a great way to turn your content into cash.
Plus the more sales you push Amazon’s way, the higher percentage they’ll pay you. You typically earn 4% of the cost of any goods your readers buy, but this can increase to up to 10% once you’re pushing lots of traffic Amazon’s way!
Although you can search and sign up for affiliate programmes individually, there are also dedicated affiliate sites which power the affiliate schemes for tens or hundreds of different companies.
Awin and TradeDoubler both do exactly that, and by signing up to either of those sites you will have access to hundreds of different schemes, and can instantly begin searching for ones appropriate to your blog.
Be warned, most schemes have minimum payouts, often around $100, so you’ll need to make a fair few sales before you actually get paid. These vary from scheme to scheme, so check the details of your affiliate scheme carefully.
As the affiliate programmes also want to be 100% certain that someone has actually purchased a product, and that it’s a legitimate purchase (i.e. it’s not you purchasing it and instantly asking for a refund), many schemes take a few months to pay out. But don’t worry, as long as you’re using a reputable company, and hit the minimum payout limit, you will eventually get paid!
Sponsored posts are posts for which companies pay you to talk about their products. Although this sounds a little dubious, especially if you want your blog to reflect you as a person and not be influenced by which companies are willing to pay you, it can be pretty lucrative.
If you want to keep your editorial integrity, just ensure you’re working with brands that you already know and trust, and don’t take money to talk about products you wouldn’t otherwise support.
If you’re a food blogger, a sponsored post could be one which references a particular blender or ingredient, and you naturally work references to these products into an otherwise normal-looking recipe or review. The company that makes the blender or ingredient will have approached you or agreed to work with you because they know that your readers are likely to be interested in their kind of product, and they want to build up brand awareness or directly increase sales.
The hardest part is finding sponsored post opportunities. Some ad networks like Mediavine and Sheknows already do some of the hard work for you here, and will try and match you with suitable opportunities that they come across. If you’re not lucky enough to work with a network like this, or they haven’t found you any good opportunities, then it’s time to do it yourself!
On a basic level, this could be reaching out to companies directly, telling them about your blog, and asking them if they’d like to partner with you on a sponsored post. It’s a daunting prospect, but it means you can reach out to the companies you’d love to work with, and the ones that are most suited to your blog.
After finding companies you want to work with, or after having been approached by an interested (and interesting!) company, the next hard parts of getting sponsored posts is deciding how much to charge.
How much is a post on your blog worth? To you, it’s worth everything, but brands are obviously looking to get the best deal possible, and will want to ensure that they’re getting good visibility on their post in exchange for cold hard cash.
Social Bluebook is one of the best ways to get an idea how much a post on your site or social media profiles is worth. You sign up for an account, enter your website address, and link your account to your Google Analytics profile, and Social Bluebook will analyse your traffic to estimate how much a blog post is worth.
It considers traffic to your site over the last 90 days and the number of sessions per user to work out how popular your site is and how engaged your users are. Using this info, it’ll give you a ‘Reach Grade’, and will suggest a Low, High and Average price to use as the basis for offering sponsored posts.
You’ll need to analyse the results a bit, and keep in mind the way that visitors use your website.
In the example above, the site has a suggested price of $645 per post, which is a pretty damn good price. However, most of that site’s traffic is to one or two very popular posts which perform very well for very specific terms on Google, and most of its visitors only read those posts then leave.
If this site were to sell a sponsored post for $645, the likelihood is that post wouldn’t get anywhere near the traffic that the advertiser would expect, based on the site’s 90 day page views. As most of the traffic goes to the one or two very popular posts, and users don’t tend to explore the rest of the site that much, their sponsored advert may only get a few hundred pageviews.
Thus, don’t forget to consider how users use your site, how many pages they visit, and where they come from. If most of your visitors arrive on the homepage, then great, there’s a good chance they’ll all see the sponsored post and may click through to it. If the vast majority of your traffic goes to just one or two of your most successful posts, and don’t explore the rest of your site, then this will make it less lucrative for sponsored posts, and you’ll want to reduce your price accordingly.
How do you make money on your blog? Are you using ways we’ve not covered here? Let us know in the comments and share your success with other bloggers and website owners just like you.