Figuring out how to monetize a blog when you’re first starting out can be daunting.
You made $1.56 in your first month and you’re wondering how in the world people actually make money blogging.
It seems legit. You see people making hundreds of thousands of dollars each year blogging and you’ve inevitably wondered, “Why can’t that be me?” But, with so many articles out there on how to monetize website traffic, where do you even begin?
Well for starters, the first thing you should be aware of is that not all blog monetization methods are created equally. Some are much easier to implement than others, and not all have the same income potential.
That’s why when you’re first starting out, the best things you can do are to 1) research (which you’re already doing!) and 2) create a strategy for how to monetize a blog the right way.
Going into it with a plan will save you months or even years of wasted effort running in a million different directions.
If we’d realized that from the beginning, we would’ve been making $17,000+ per month much sooner.
But since we’ve figured it out now, we’re going to show you exactly how to monetize a blog so you don’t make the same mistakes.
As long as you’re able to produce awesome content that people consistently want to read, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to replace your full-time job income with your blog’s earnings (if that’s your goal).
Unfortunately, most bloggers don’t end up making any significant money with their blog, and there are a lot of reasons for that:
- They give up too soon.
- Their content sucks and no one wants to read it (harsh, but true).
- They’re more focused on making money than they are on creating valuable content for their readers.
- They don’t know how to market their blog.
But if you’re reading this, I’m assuming that you’re not like most bloggers. You clicked this article because you’re serious about learning the business side of blogging and you want to learn the best methods for monetizing your blog.
Regardless of what monetization methods you choose, there’s one thing all of them have in common.
Monetizing Your Blog Requires Traffic
Before you start daydreaming about sipping Pina Coladas in the Greek Islands and soaking up the sun as all your “passive” income flows in from your blog, you need to step back and make sure you’ve got a solid foundation first.
We’re talking about traffic.
None of what we cover in this article is going to work unless you have some traffic coming to your website.
And anybody who tells you otherwise is either a) lying to you, or b) clueless/naive.
So how much traffic should you shoot for before you begin monetizing your blog?
There’s no right answer for this, but you should aim for at least 5,000 unique monthly visitors to your blog before you even think about money.
And really, this is the bare minimum. We didn’t start making any notable income until we were getting over 10,000 monthly visitors.
If you have less traffic than that, your focus needs to be 100% on creating content and increasing your traffic.
To remedy this, it helps to suggest that one of best ways for newer bloggers to increase their traffic, is through Pinterest.
It may sound silly, especially if you’re a guy reading this, but Pinterest works. It was a game changer for our business.
We talk more about it in this post on how we grew our first Pinterest account from 0-750k monthly reach in just 3 months. Save it for later and follow the 7 steps.
You don’t need a ton of traffic to start making money with your blog. Getting started is the toughest part, but the cool thing is that once you get some traffic coming in, it tends to build on itself and continue to grow without as much effort, especially if you’re using Pinterest.
5 Ways to Successfully Monetize a Blog
Now that you’ve got some visitors coming in, it’s time to start monetizing your blog.
There are dozens of ways to do this, but we’re going to cover the 5 that we think will give you the best chance of success.
It also goes without saying that the hardest ones are typically the most financially rewarding. That’s just how it goes. It’s always smart to diversify your income streams and see what works best for you.
1. Monetizing Your Blog with Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a form of advertising that can be incredibly lucrative.
Basically, companies pay you to refer readers to their products and services. If one of your readers ends up buying from the company after clicking on your referral link, you get a commission on that sale.
This is great because you don’t have to deal with any product delivery or customer support issues, and you can refer thousands and thousands of customers.
The one downside to affiliate marketing is that conversions are much harder pull off than just getting someone to simply click on an ad. That’s why having amazing content that converts is so important. Content is the backbone of any successful affiliate marketer.
There are many affiliate networks you can join to get started with affiliate marketing. Our favorites and the ones we’ve seen the most success with are FlexOffers (we made over $1,100 in our first month with very little traffic), ShareASale, and CJ.
For a full review of those networks, check out our detailed guide on the best affiliate marketing networks.
2. How to Earn Money from Website Traffic Using Ads
You definitely won’t get rich overnight with Google Adsense, but it should be a staple in any blogger’s income repertoire.
Instead of you picking who you want to advertise (like with affiliate marketing), Google picks what ads are displayed on your website based off what information they have on each person that comes to your site. And instead of getting paid each time a sale is made, you get paid every time someone clicks on an ad.
You can place small ads throughout your website and within your blog posts that help you generate a little bit of income each month. Google gives you everything you need to get set up and it doesn’t take any real coding knowledge to insert it into a blog post (phew).
Just make sure you don’t overwhelm your readers with ads! Remember, user experience is paramount.
Here’s a good article on maximizing your AdSense earnings.
As soon as your blog hits 25k monthly sessions, we recommend switching to Mediavine. They’re a full-service ad management company that does all the backend work for you, and they pay way better than AdSense.
We use Mediavine on all of our websites and we absolutely love them.
3. Sponsored Posts
Sponsored posts are a great strategy for monetizing your blog.
Depending on your blog’s social media influence and your regular monthly traffic, you may be able to work with brands in your niche by way of sponsored posts. Believe it or not, companies are willing to pay big money to bloggers to get the word out there about their products/services.
For brands, working with bloggers is a very effective form of advertising. You have a direct relationship with their target market, and that’s something very valuable.
A sponsored post can be written by either you or the company (just be sure to charge more if you’re the one producing the content!). Most bloggers can pull in anywhere from $50-$500 per article, depending on their traffic and engagement, among other metrics.
Noticing a theme here? It all comes back to traffic.
Here’s a list of sites that connect influencers (that’s you) with brands for sponsored posts and other promotional gigs:
We recommend joining a handful of these networks so you can start exploring sponsored post opportunities. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out directly to the companies themselves! If you can get in touch with the right person, the direct approach is often more effective.
4. Make Money Blogging as a Freelance Writer
If you enjoy writing and you’re pretty good at it, you could easily make money as a freelance writer.
A lot of bloggers do this when they’re first starting out as a way to make extra money while building up their own blog. Some even turn it into a full-time gig.
And by that, we mean some freelance writers make six figures writing content for other websites.
Your blog serves as your online portfolio, so ideally you should have a few great posts on your own website before you start applying for freelance writing gigs. That way you can direct potential clients to your work and they can get a feel for you and your writing style.
Similarly to writing sponsored content, you’re likely to be more successful with this one by reaching out directly to the websites you want to work with, rather than limiting yourself to low-paying freelance websites.
For more on this one, check out Holly Johnson’s free online workshop on how to build a six-figure freelance writing career.
5. Monetize Your Blog with Coaching or Consulting
After building up the website and social media presence of our personal financial blog DollarSprout, it occurred to us that we had learned a heck of a lot along the way about how to create a following out of thin air.
We knew that this knowledge and experience could be valuable to other business owners focused on building an online presence. So, in addition to the regular writing and financial consulting we did for DollarSprout, we started reaching out to companies and other blogs for social media marketing gigs.
We mainly focused on helping bloggers/business owners with Pinterest, since we had developed a process for amassing insane monthly reach and traffic in a short amount of time:
It was surprisingly easy to sell ourselves for providing these services. We just let our past results with DollarSprout speak for themselves when pitching to prospects, and people were eager and willing to work with us.
The main takeaway here: Don’t be afraid to break out of your niche!
We were finance guys getting paid by mom bloggers (among other people) to grow their Pinterest accounts.
Just think about that for a minute.
If you’ve got something of value to offer people, then do it — and get paid for it!
Again, though, keep the big picture in mind, and be careful not to stray too far from your strategy.
Tying It All Together
When we first started out, we thought the only purpose of having a blog was to establish credibility with readers so they would buy our products and services.
Most non-bloggers (and even many new bloggers) vastly underestimate how much money there really is to be made in blogging. Since the blogging industry didn’t even exist a few decades ago, most people are just unfamiliar with how to monetize a blog correctly.
Starting a blog is just like starting any other type of business. The sooner you can approach your blog with a business mindset, the better.Starting a zero-revenue blog is easy. Starting a blog that makes you money and provides value to other people is a different story.
If you’re at the point where you are ready to get serious about monetizing your blog, our recommendation would be to start with affiliate marketing. In our experience, this one of the most lucrative “passive” income generators out there, and you can get started without looking spammy.
There are dozens of other ways of monetizing your blog, but these 5 should serve as a decent foundation for you to build on. And you don’t have to do all of them! Find what works best for you and do more of whatever that is.