The promise of making money online seems to be everywhere yet nebulous to people that want into the business. Then you start a blog with a course from a guy (or gal) that cost you $400-$2,000 to find out that it isn’t as easy as you had envisioned. Around LIFE.
What is Blog Monetization?
Blog + Monetization = a blog + money.
You write a blog post. You choose whether you rent the nooks and crannies of the page (essentially online real estate) to others, whether you’ll recommend products that will solve the problem of the reader, or sell them on something you create digitally or physically.
In general, blog monetization is a domain that provides information to users and generates revenue.
It really is that simple. The how is the big question to answer. However, it is important to understand that the different ways that a blog makes money could mean a completely different business model depending on your choices.
The neat thing that I’ve discovered since just starting is that you can certainly start out making money one way and shift. You are not tied to any one method, so don’t let that scare you off.
You are free to change your mind down the road with experience under your belt. Many successful bloggers do just that as they gain knowledge in their field, the online space and the confidence that comes from putting yourself out there in a public way!
Why is Blog Monetization Important?
I’ll dive into the different ways and how the model shifts based on how you imagine yourself making money with a blog, but how you choose to make money with your blog seems to change the business model of your blog. Where you put your time and energy is different.
Blog monetization is important because it will dictate your business model and help you focus on the activities that matter most to generating value and resulting revenue.
This is honestly THE missing piece of the puzzle for me that I only recently realized.
I have joined 2 blog courses, 2 YouTube courses, and 1 content creator course. As someone new to the space, no one spelled this out for me. All of the creators of those courses had a successful blog or channel, but they are all built on this foundation to sell you on their method.
The realization for me is that ALL OF THESE METHODS WORK!
It makes this business truly fun – you get to pick your own adventure!
Now that said, you should give a thought to what you can see yourself doing. You don’t have to have it all figured out at the start, but if you know what type of content you want to create, you’ll be able to find the right resources to get started with.
All of the courses and blogs online are based on a framework of success that they’ve found, so there is no sense doing things that don’t work with what you can see yourself doing (like writing this article at 4:30 AM).
As you go through the list of monetizing strategies, keep that at the back of your mind. It’s ok to start with 1 model and move to another.
Blog Monetization Options
When I started blogging, the course I signed up for had me chasing ads. There is nothing wrong with that. I just had no clue that the online publishing world is a lot bigger than this.
These are the pop up videos and images that may or may not interfere with looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe of your favorite recipe blogger.
These ads are served up by a company that auctions off the spots for ads on your site, and you can usually decide where you do or do not want ads. They have algorithms to optimize where best to serve a specific ad to a specific person.
High tech real estate transactions! (Blogs are online assets when they generate revenue.)
All of that fancy math is done by ad networks that you, as a blogger, would sign up for.
The more lucrative a blog is with the right person for the company looking to place an ad, the more that company is willing to pay to put an ad on your site.
They add up all of the money that was made on your site, divide it by 1,000 users, and bam. You have what is called RPM (Revenue per Mille). So if you hear that a blogger has a $20 RPM, they make $20 for every 1,000 people that visit their blog.
The first layer for a blog to get ads served on your site is Google Adsense. Then you can sign up with more profitable advertising publisher networks like Ezoic, MediaVine, AdThrive, and many I probably don’t know about.
The non-Google options call themselves premium, and they go after top dollar ads for you. You have to have a Google Adsense account, but they get better rates to serve up on your informative, valuable blog content.
When I started on Google Adsense, I was making .02 CENTS a day. It was neat to see it work, but Google as a foundation with my VERY low traffic really was pennies! Add in that to pay out, Google Adsense requires that you have $100 built up before they make a deposit to your account, and I have yet to see the $2! 💵
The barrier to entry is quite low. so it is a great starting point to see a bit of money come in as a beginner blogger. You simply need to have content on a site, some traffic coming, and then you can sign up to display ads.
A significant disadvantage to blog monetization through ads is that it WILL slow down your site speed (an important factor to Google serving you up in search), and it can detract from other monetization opportunities.
Direct Display Ad Buys
This type of ad is where you negotiate the space on your site to a specific product or service. Each spot on your page has different values, but you negotiate that real estates directly with a company in exchange for money.
It obviously requires more touch points for you from a technical and relationship management perspective, but it can be another avenue for a passive income option (after set up at least).
Affiliate, affiliate ads, affiliate marketing. Whatever you want to call it, but when you want to recommend a product, you can drive revenue by suggesting products that would be relevant to the reader.
You set up an affiliate account with a product or service, and when a reader clicks on your ‘special’ link, you get a commission for sending them a customer. That special link is called an affiliate link, and it contains information that lets the company know that it was your link that sent the customer.
That’s how you get paid.
Amazon’s Affiliate Program is probably the first you’ll hear about. After all, they have a giant footprint, but in the past few years the amount they give (a % of the transaction) has changed. Each category has a specific value, and while I haven’t been blogging long, it has moved twice since I have. Many professional bloggers had this income source drastically cut (like 5% to 1% commission overnight without warning).
The Amazon story isn’t meant to scare you away from affiliate marketing. I’m laying a breadcrumb for diversification.
You can diversify simply by signing up for many affiliate programs, but ALWAYS keep the best interest of your target audience of your content in mind. You can serve well through providing value WHILE making money.
This is the 2nd step to income in the first course I took. Set up ads, get set up on Amazon, keep putting out content.
To get started as an affiliate marketer, you have to sign up for an affiliate marketing program. You’ll want to check the terms because they do vary. Typically, programs will check your site to make sure you are putting out quality content that is relevant to the program you are signing up for.
Sometimes there isn’t a program already, so you’ll have to do some outreach to the company to offer their product up as an affiliate product.
In addition, there can be terms that involve a certain volume. When I signed up for the Amazon Affiliate Program about a year ago, you had to have a certain number of transactions through my affiliate link within 6 months. If you didn’t reach the threshold, they kicked you out. I signed up too early, and that was stressful.
A disadvantage of using affiliate marketing is that you do leave some money on the table by not pushing a product of your own. However, a big problem in the online space is shiny object syndrome. You have to focus & be consistent to be successful, and if you’re in the business of providing valuable content, pushing your own physical products or digital products can be a distraction.
Do you see more monetization strategy bread crumbs being laid in your path…
Many bloggers also have sponsored content on their site, and this is simply when you negotiate a certain type of article that features a specific company, product, or service.
Maybe it’s a tool product review when you build your porch. Maybe it’s a specific baking ingredient from for a cake.
You’ve likely seen a post that says ‘This post was sponsored, but all opinions are my own.’
That’s because a disadvantage to sponsored content as a blog post is that you could look like a ‘sell out’ to a blog reader. That’s relative because if you truly love that product, you are serving the reader still.
Keep your integrity in tact, and this is another avenue for revenue.
This is similar to the sponsored content except instead of a specific product, you are making content related to the brand.
So the baking ingredient mentioned above becomes a brand. So instead of chocolate chips in a recipe, your content could be the Nestle company where you use the chocolate chips from Nestle Tollhouse along with Nestle Nescafe coffee for a bit of espresso flavoring.
I might be stretching here, but the focus on the a product is reduced to focus on the broader company’s offerings instead.
The more you blog about a certain niche, the more of an expert you become. You literally will know your niche inside and out in a new way by sharing content. You research like crazy, and become more & more knowledgeable as your blog traffic grows.
Then your site is a popular blog, and you become a subject matter expert with loyal readers. This might be hard to see as a new blogger, but lots of time, consistency, and a bit of online sweat equity makes this a real avenue.
It is even recommended that you work one on one with consumers in order to understand what digital products would best support your target audience for further monetization strategies.
Knowing your customer is key, and one on one work for a season is a good way to get that insight into their pain points.
The disadvantage to one on one work is that you have to be flexible enough to work with customers directly. When you have a blog, it’s an international opportunity, but it does become problematic if you’re in Australia and attract a US client. Or if you’re working the blog around a day job and a family, prioritizing your customers becomes harder (& needs to be a high priority, as well).
This is another layer of being a subject matter expert for your industry. Conference speaking. I hear this one is a bit of a grind, but conference speakers can be paid in just free attendance up to a nice revenue opportunity if you find yourself as a keynote speaker at a prestigious-for-your-industry conference.
The disadvantage of conference speaking as part of your blog monetization strategy is that you are likely traveling (post pandemic), and it can be tough to build your name in this space. Oh. And you probably need to like or at least have coping mechanisms for public speaking to make this work!
Ask for donations
Have you heard of Patreon? BuyMeACoffee.com? Membership through YouTube?
You can literally just have $5 sent to you just for providing your content. I randomly put a link on my website and in my email signature of a niche hobby site, and within the first month I got a random $20 from BuyMeaCoffee.
Of course, there are different levels and opportunities here, as well. You can have membership levels through these platforms where you provide exclusive content to those that support you. The premium content you provide can be split into multiple tiers, as well.
The disadvantage for direct payments is that you literally can not take a break from commitments you make. You literally have a direct line of communication with loyal readers, and you need to meet the clear expectations you set to keep them engaged and a part of the membership that is your revenue.
It can be a lot to maintain, but some people do this with ease. I know a travel YouTuber that sends those in her membership community post cards at each destination, they have a direct line of communication via private chat, exclusive vlog style content, and early access to the channel’s new content. Add in an active social channel presence, and she’s busy.
She does it with ease. I just watch like a fly on the wall and marvel at what she does.
Physical or digital products will likely have a higher margin for profit over being an Amazon affiliate for some other product or an affiliate for other online courses.
To dive into a produce you REALLY need to understand your customer’s pain points that they know they have and are willing to actually let go of money for a quality product for that pain point.
There is a lot of *ifs* and variables in that statement. Sometimes the thing you think someone needs isn’t the the thing your reader actually thinks they need. I know that sounds silly, but no one is shelling out money for something they don’t see as what would solve it.
If you are having to educate someone to buy your widget, that’s really what your content is. Products need to serve where the customer is at in their journey.
There are ‘coaches’ that will sell you on selling products early in your blogging journey, but this feels more advanced. If you are new blogging at all, learning copywriting & having the right product with enough of a blog audience in line to buy it is a big undertaking!
Products come in the form of something to be shipped through the mail (like a paperback book), but a lot of bloggers are eager to share digital knowledge in the form of courses or ebooks.
How are Bloggers Paid?
Bloggers get paid depending on the type of monetization options you choose to pursue. The important thing to know is that you will likely make money from a 2 or more sources, and the number of sources can grow as your blog grows.
You can also decide to keep the number of ways your paid to optimize pay.
If you are going to focus on consulting or your own products, it might be worth it to turn off ads.
You can leave ads on specific blog posts that weren’t set up with a call to action to your products or services to still generate blog ad revenue.
A year into my blog journey, I was getting paid monthly from an ad network plus I had an affiliate relationship set up with 3 companies. Each have minimum pay out thresholds that I didn’t meet the minimums for, so I couldn’t call that monthly.
With more time and content on 2 content channels instead of 1, I get monthly income from my Google Adsense (courtesy of YouTube), an ad network (courtesy of the blog), and 4 affiliate programs (courtesy of both the blog & YouTube). I’m still working on a decent income. But I keep showing up, and the revenue keeps growing!
Tips for Blog Monetization
No matter which blog monetization options look the best to you, there are some key items you will want to keep in mind that successful bloggers pay attention to.
Do not neglect email!
As a new blogger, I fell into this trap. I didn’t care about email until almost a year in, and then I just threw up a sign up simply to offer up behind the scenes info. It worked, but it didn’t work well.
Similar to how your domain is your personal online real estate, having a list of email subscribers is a form of ownership of a relationship with readers.
No, you don’t own people, but if social channels like Facebook is how you communicate, they can change algorithms overnight. Then you lose that access you had just the day before!
If you have a group of people that are on your list & you communicate with regularly, the know-like-trust factor you’ll hear when you dive into learning about marketing is already primed. That group of people has been benefitting and enjoying the value you provide.
When you want to encourage a specific affiliate program (just follow the rules of the affiliate program!) or you want to launch a product, you have a group of people to share it with!
No waiting for the search engines to send you traffic to a new thing you did. You have email subscribers. The key here is to be building your email list early and engaging with blog readers along the way. Out of the blue emails will not convert well AT ALL!
Granted, email service providers will cost you some money, so unless you’re making money, you may not be ready. More on content….
Quality Content is Key
No matter what your blog monetization strategy looks like, providing quality content is key. There are many people that outsource (have others) write content for their blog. There are entire agencies for this, so it is an option.
However, you can not throw up garbage on your site. Plagiarism. Just don’t.
AI-generated content is simply aggregated information from the web, and Google is getting wise to what this looks like. Besides, I was writing about a motorcycle helmet one time, and I played with a popular AI service. It was crazy how it switched from talking about a motorcycle helmet to a bicycle helmet, and offered tips for things to include on your helmet such as fuel injection.
Search engines like to see that other people like your content. One indicator to the all-powerful algorithms is that other sites link to your site. Those are called backlinks.
There are some courses to teach you how to do this, but backlinks also come naturally by just putting good content out there.
Infographics can also help because who doesn’t want to share a great looking graphic to add visual interest to an article on another site.
You can also use other social media options to help here. Posting on Instagram daily with a once a week call to check out your latest blog post.
A YouTube video that is relevant to a post on your site can be a good spot to link a video to a post & vice versa.
Quality social clicks to your site help increase the signals that your content is good and therefore, your organic traffic. Organic traffic is the natural traffic that comes from answering a question that someone searches for.
All of the monetization strategies reviewed count on getting volume to your blog to scale.
The more content you produce, the more chances for eyeballs on your content occurs. That’s a chance for an affiliate click, ads to display or a possible lead to a course purchase.
Anything you can do to increase the chances is what can help scale your income. More content is an answer. Improving your affiliate link opportunities of a popular post can help. Introducing a new product can help to as can extra clicks from other social channels.
You have a lot of options, but know that you don’t have to be everywhere all of the time. Your blog is a traffic platform, and then you can get to know your customer and show up for them through email, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, whatever channel is natural to you.
Once you are an established blogger, you can look to be more places for scale, and there are plenty of companies that will help repurpose across platforms.
When Should You Start to Monetize Your Blog?
At first, your focus really should be on content. There are coaches that will encourage you to get have a product ready to go. I feel like that would be for someone that knows an industry WELL already.
If you’re one of those, by all means, get on with it. Start selling.
For someone looking to ads for a revenue source, Ezoic will accept quality sites with at least 1,000 page views a month. I think I’d wait until 5,000 page views a month personally if Ezoic is right for you. There is a learning curve associated with that ad network, and the more time you need to learn the platform is time you’re not spending on the # 1 visibility option for your site – new content.
I know many bloggers who won’t mess with monetizing with ads until they can have a conversation with MediaVine, but this requires 50,000 sessions. That could take a bit.
Of course, while you wait, you can start with affiliate marketing as long as you meet the requirements for the program and have enough volume to meet any transaction requirements after you’re sign up.
Nothing is stopping you from setting up 1 on 1 consults on the site right away, so as the traffic comes in you’re ready.
So the long story short, is whenever you’re ready! Traffic = visibility. Visibility = Revenue potential. If you have enough traffic on your site because your content (or your social strategy) is just that good, jump on the monetization bandwagon!