Blogging is easy, but making any money off it is a lot more difficult. That’s because there are more than 440 million blogs on the Internet, according to MediaKix. Sticking out is no easy task.
I’ve been a professional blogger since 2011. That means it’s my primary source of income and what pays my rent, bills, and puts food on my table. I’ve learned a lot over the past 6 years after starting from nothing and growing to a livable wage.
If you’ve ever wanted to start a blog to make money, know that it’s entirely possible, but you’re going to have to work.
There are over 1000 blog posts on this page, and I’ve written another ~2500 either as guest posts or ghostwriting for someone else over the past decade. Still, I’m constantly focused on creating more useful content, and it’s more than a full-time job keeping everything going.
I’ve attended trade shows in every industry, and I constantly scan online for new opportunities to monetize my blog. This is a list of the monetization efforts that do (and don’t) work for me, and you can do the same, with a little effort.
1. Google AdSense
Google AdSense is the first place to monetize your blog. By copying and pasting a code into your site’s HTML, Google will track your traffic and serve relevant ads to visitors.
The pay structure is minimal, and you can expect to earn approximately $1 for every 1000 hits your website gets. Google offers three different payment methods: CPC (Cost-per-click), CPM (Cost-per-thousand-impressions), and CPE (Cost-per-engagement). You don’t choose which type of ads are served – the advertiser does through Google AdWords, which is where you pay for ads that are served on other sites.
Despite the low payout, AdSense is a very easy system to set up and requires very little upkeep on your end. Simply keep adding content, and Google will do the rest.
Know that your AdSense traffic won’t necessarily match your web analytics (it’s often much lower), and you can’t run Google ads on adult content, such as porn, tobacco, alcohol, and drug-related content. This is true even if you’re simply reporting news about these subjects.
If you’re running a website related to cannabis, Mantis is a great alternative. You can also find alternatives for porn, tobacco, etc., that are modeled after AdSense. Still, Google AdSense is the best place to get started making money online.
2. Amazon Associates
Amazon is the most popular retailer (online or otherwise) in the United States, generating over $136 billion in revenue in 2016 alone, according to Statista. You can leverage this popularity (along with Amazon’s massive product selection) to monetize your website through affiliate links.
Amazon Associates provides you with a variety of link-building tools to create your own ads on each page of your blog. Where AdSense serves ads based on the visitor, Amazon Associates ads are chosen by you based on the blog content.
You can also earn bounties for special sales, promotions, and other offers from Amazon.
What’s great about Amazon Associates is you earn a commission for anything the user puts in their shopping cart and purchases from your referral, not just the specific product advertised. Also, as your sales volume increases, so do your commissions, which are typically around 4-8%.
These links can also be placed on any content you write on any page, whether you own the website or not. AdSense only runs ads on your web properties, limiting the exposure, especially if you do a lot of guest posting.
Amazon Affiliates is my go-to affiliate marketing partnership because of its wide selection of products. Whenever a product isn’t available on Amazon, I use one of the below ad affiliate networks for bloggers.
3. Rakuten Linkshare
For anything that’s not available on Amazon, you can likely find links directly to the manufacturer’s website through Rakuten Linkshare. Like Amazon and other affiliate programs, you only get commissions for sales made directly from the click. Unlike Amazon, you’re often referring to the manufacturer’s website, so there’s less of a product selection.
Still, you can find a variety of participants, like AT&T, PetSmart, The Honest Company, Gaiam, CarRentals.com, and Omaha Steaks. Commissions vary in the 1-10% range, with some advertisers providing a flat fee.
You’ll need to join each partner program separately, and they each set their own terms and conditions. Rakuten is merely a marketplace for these offers.
There are a ton of others like it, including CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction), ClickBank, etc., but they all work the same. Each has a few major partners and a ton of small ones, but between Amazon and Linkshare, you have plenty enough options for just about any product you’d want to advertise on your site.
But there is one more affiliate program I’ll mention.
4. Ebay Partner Network
Ebay’s Partner Network lets you create links to earn affiliate commissions for traffic you redirect to the site. It’s a great marketplace that sells literally anything, so it’s one of the best affiliate programs if you don’t blog about current merchandise.
In fact, you could start a blog entirely about eBay, like strange listings or more. I sell a lot on eBay, so it’s a way for me to save money on eBay/Paypal fees by earning a commission on referring my own customers to my eBay store.
Unlike the other services that make you search through their affiliate interface to find items (you’ll find not every Amazon listing shows up under the Associates search), the eBay Partner Network lets you just paste a link to whatever listing or search you want to create an affiliate link to that page.
It’s a great way to boost traffic to your eBay listings or earn income – letting you double dip on the earnings.
5. Guest Posting
Of course, you probably noticed that the revenue in the above screenshots don’t add up to much. I only get 20-30k hits per month on my blog, and you’re unlikely to start with even that much. That means I only make about $100 every other month from advertising revenue.
A lot of my income comes from guest posts on other blogs and websites around the web. These outlets pay anywhere from $15-$1500 for original content, and my average is just above $200 per guest post.
I enjoy writing guest posts because it introduces me to a new audience and gives the topic I’m writing about more credibility. Unless you’ve worked with me, you’re unlikely to care much about what some random blog on the Internet says. I may have the 300,000 most popular website online, but nobody cares much about anything beyond the top 1000, so I’m basically obscure.
By guest posting on outlets like Forbes, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Cracked, and High Times, I not only earn income, but I grow my overall audience to slowly dig my way out of the underground. It also builds residual traffic to this website.
It’s a win-win for everybody, but that’s not where the bulk of my career income has come from. It should also be noted that of the places mentioned above, only Cracked and High Times actually paid. The others simply used free work.
The bulk of my income comes from ghostwriting. Ghostwriting is essentially my day job while I wait for my blog to gain enough traffic for residual income to support me.
In order to call myself a writer, it was important to me that I only earned money from writing. Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to maintain a freelance income. Even veteran journalists I’ve met with decades of experience do it more for the love than anything because it doesn’t pay well.
With ghostwriting, you’ll charge executives, entrepreneurs, and anyone lacking the skill to write the articles they want. Writing is an essential part of content marketing, and there will always be a market for strong digital writers. That’s where I come in.
I write articles for others to take credit. Anyone famous you’ve seen giving public speeches has ghostwriters, even your favorite rapper does. There’s an entire industry of hundreds of thousands of unknown writers just like me creating content you love under someone else’s name.
It’s a great way to earn a big paycheck, although the residuals are nonexistent. With ghostwriting, you basically sell your thoughts to someone else, letting them take credit for it. I give up long-term monetization for being able to pay my bills in the short term.
You’ve more likely read something I’ve ghostwritten than anything under my name, which does admittedly make it harder to build this blog’s reputation.
Still, it’s second only to my next subject in the amount of money you can make as a blogger. It’s fast cash when you need it, no matter how much you dread it.
7. Brand Partnerships and Sponsored Posts
The best way to make money blogging is through sponsored posts and brand partnerships. There are millions to be made this way, but you’ll need traffic to pull it off.
I got lucky in that I’m able to get my name published in big-name outlets that help me negotiate with marketers and PR agencies for free samples of their products in order to review.
Once the review is over, these products are sold to cover living expenses. It’s not a lot, but I also don’t want to be on all these peoples’ radars. That’s how this blogger lost his website to a mattress company.
So long as you follow FTC guidelines and mention that the company sent you the product for free to review, you’re golden.
Also, once you start ranking for keywords that are coveted by marketers, they’ll start offering to publish sponsored posts with you. You’ll be charging peanuts at first, but if you reach the level of HuffPost, Buzzfeed, or Cracked, you can start charging in the millions. Take a look at any of those clickbait sites, and you’ll find plenty of obviously sponsored posts like “17 Reasons This Is My Favorite Blender” or “I’ll Bet You $150 You Want to Buy This Drone.”
So long as you have enough solid content to support it, you can get away with the occasional sponsored content in order to keep your website running. More people do it than you’d think.
Making money with a blog isn’t as easy as your friend with the get-rich-quick schemes thinks. I’m constantly flooded with people wasting my time or looking for free work.
You have to push through the idiots and focus on only two things: maintaining your vision for your blog and monetizing it.
With enough effort, it’s possible to make a living as a blogger. I’m living proof. Just focus on the points above, and you’ll figure it out.
Have I missed any of the ways you make money online? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.