When I started blogging over two years ago, I honestly just thought of it as a fun hobby that I could try out for a few months. Since then, I’ve changed my domain three times, switched topics too many times to count, and completely rebranded just a few months ago. During that process, I learned a lot about the different ways to monetize a blog, and that traffic is only one of many factors contributing to how much you can make.
Personally, I didn’t start making money until an entire year after I started blogging. I didn’t even realize you could make money blogging, so I just had a ton of content without a lot in return. Looking back, I definitely could’ve monetized months earlier, which is why I’m gearing this post towards young bloggers and those who haven’t monetized yet. Before you start making money though, you need to have a solid foundation.
There are affiliate links in this post, which help me keep this blog running (as I’ll cover later in this post!), and as always I only recommend products I trust and love!
Preparing Your Blog For Monetization
Before we get started, if you haven’t created a blog yet, it’s never too late! I wrote this detailed post on starting a blog on WordPress that’s super easy to follow along, and you can have your new blog up in minutes.
Building a foundation for your monetization plan is probably the most important step in this whole post. With a solid blog, you’ll have more opportunities to make money immediately, and you won’t be overwhelmed with growing a blog and trying to monetize it at the same time. Here are the steps you should take before anything else:
Create 5+ Quality Posts
Quality is key here! Having five short outfit posts or favorite product roundups won’t get you or your blog anywhere. Your content needs to solve a problem, help your readers, and make them want to come back to your blog. Spend some time writing at least 5 lengthy posts that will not only show your readers what your blog is about, but give future sponsors an idea of your writing skills and how much they’d be willing to pay for content of your quality.
Write A Strong About Me & Contact Page
You need a quick way for readers and potential sponsors to figure out who you are and how to reach you, so these pages are a must! In my about me page, I have a few paragraphs about me and my blog’s history. This helps sponsors figure out what you post about, and whether their product would fit in with your content. My contact page is short and to the point, with a few monthly stats for sponsors to take into consideration and an easy to use contact form that makes the communication process seamless. You want to make it as easy as possible for sponsors to reach out to you, so if you don’t have a contact form, make sure your email address can’t be missed!
Have A Clean, Easy To Navigate Design
Lots of networks and sponsors take your design into consideration, because it directly affects how their products are portrayed. If your design is messy and disorganized, there’s a good chance they won’t want their product mixed in there too. Here are some qualities of a well-designed blog:
- I can immediately find your about me and contact pages
- You have an easy-to-use navigation system (like a navigation bar or obvious links in your sidebar)
- I can read your blog post easily, without being distracted by in-post ads
- Your text is easy to read, and there aren’t too many fonts (no more than three generally)
- Your blog is mobile friendly (!!!)
If you need some guidance on your blog design, feel free to contact me and we can work something out!
Get Your Social Media In Order
I have to admit, while I think I have the blogging thing down, I’m the worst at social media. I haven’t posted on Instagram in five weeks even though I’m on it every five minutes. I never remember to promote my posts on Twitter. I cringe at the thought of updating my Facebook page (which is why I’m so happy about Facebook’s shift towards showing posts from your friends rather than pages). I get over 100k monthly pageviews, but I have less than 500 Instagram followers. Basically, no bloggers are perfect, and it’s never too late to start growing your following. Social media platforms are most bloggers’ top sources of traffic, which is why you should dedicate a good amount time to growing at least a couple of yours.
For me, I know that Instagram isn’t going to bring me many pageviews (it’s just not the best platform for converting followers to readers), so I just use that platform as a way for my followers to get to know me better and keep up with my life if they want to.
Twitter is a little better at conversion, but I prefer to use it as an interaction platform rather than a sharing platform. I love tweeting at my followers or giving them shoutouts, as well as just being myself and tweeting about my day! This gives my readers a more genuine idea of who I am, and why they might like to read your blog.
I would talk about Facebook pages, but given the recent algorithm change, I don’t see them being a successful way to attract readers in the future. Facebook groups are a different story though! I’m a member of several, including Blog + Biz BFFs and InfluenceHer Collective. These groups allow you to meet other bloggers in your niche, learn about how they became successful, and gain some inspiration for improving your own blog. I wrote a huge post on why Facebook groups are horrible for promoting your blog, but great for improving your online presence, which is the perfect read if you’re struggling to benefit from the groups you’re in!
Bloglovin’ can be another great source for pageviews, although I’ve yet to figure out how to promote it well aside from literally saying, “hey, go follow my Bloglovin’!”. I actually love using it to follow my favorite blogs, but given my audience of college-aged women who may or may not be bloggers, I have no idea how many of y’all have even heard of Bloglovin’. If your niche is blogging tips though, this could be a great platform for you to build up!
And then there’s Pinterest. This is where your focus should be! Pinterest is where 90% of my views come from, and many other bloggers have the same story. To be successful on this platform, you need to have clean, easy-to-read, vertical images for all of your blog posts. Every time you publish a post, pin that image to a relevant board along with a short caption that explains what your post is about.
If you have a lot of pins on your account already, or are ready to dive deep into improving your Pinterest account, I would absolutely invest in Boardbooster. It’s a Pinterest scheduling tool that lets you schedule pins to be saved to specific boards at random times based on a time range you set. That means you can schedule hundreds of pins on a Sunday, and have them be pinned to your boards throughout the week without overwhelming your followers! I started using Boardbooster a few months ago, and while there could be a few factors contributing to this, I’ve grown my following by over 4000 followers. More followers means more eyes on your pins, more repins, and more viewers of your blog!
Now You’re Ready To Make Some Money!
Once you have a solid foundation built on your blog, coming up with a monetization plan isn’t actually that hard. It consists of figuring out what will work best for your specific niche, how much time you’re willing to dedicate to it, and what your goals are. I plan to write more posts that go into detail about each of these strategies, but here’s a summary of the main ways you can monetize your blog.
Since I started monetizing my blog about 5 months ago, affiliate links have been my primary source of income. They’re great for blogs of all sizes, because all you really need to use them is quality content!
I’ve personally found the most success with Amazon Associates, which pays you based on items that people actually order after using your link. You can link to just about any item or page on Amazon, which gives you a lot of ways to incorporate them into your posts!
The other affiliate program I use is ShopStyle Collective. I wrote a lengthy post on how to earn money with them, and why even non-fashion bloggers can find their program useful! Since writing that post, I’ve discovered one thing that’s sort of turned me off from them though: after reaching your first payout (you only get payed once you’ve earned $100), they decrease the amount you get payed per click drastically. Originally, you receive five cents per click. After that first payout, that amount will fluctuate based on your conversion rate (how many clicks are converted to sales), so if you’re getting tons of clicks but not a lot of sales, you could be making as little as half of a cent (about what I’m making right now). I’m continuing to use it only because their widgets are extremely handy for my college shopping posts, but unless you’re really good at converting clicks to sales, this program might not be for you.
I haven’t used it before, but Reward Style is another affiliate network geared towards fashion bloggers that’s a bit more prestigious, in that you have to apply to get in. Contrary to ShopStyle, on Reward Style you’re payed when someone orders an item through your link, and you’re given a much higher payout. This is great for popular fashion bloggers, but once again, getting that conversion can be hard! If you’ve found success with this program, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Finally, if you’re interested in blogging about specific products (like your favorite makeup or the place you got your blog design from), you’ll want to check out the websites of those companies. They’ll often have an affiliate page, which you can usually find in the footer of their website, where you can apply to become an affiliate and receive a percentage of any sales that are made through your link. For example, I love Elle Fit Active’s stretch guides, so I went to her website, saw that she had an affiliate program, signed up, and was given a custom link to use whenever I want to refer to her products. When someone purchases a guide through that link, I get a percentage of the sale!
I’m currently working on incorporating sponsored content into my monetization plan, because I think this is one of the more fun ways to earn money blogging. Basically, you’ll either directly (by emailing them) or indirectly (through a network) partner with a company to create a blog or social media post incorporating their product. I’m a total introvert and don’t love the idea of emailing a company myself, which is why I love going the network route! Here are a few that I’ve had experience with:
They’re all mainly geared towards lifestyle bloggers, but have different application requirements (like number of pageviews), so check out their websites to see which ones would work best for you.
Mainly used by new bloggers, these are a great initial income source if you want to connect with other bloggers at a similar blogging stage as you. Basically, other bloggers will pay you to have an image linking to their blog placed in your sidebar. I used to do this through Passionfruit Ads, but as a disclaimer, I had an issue with them after cancelling my plan and noticing months later that they’d been billing me random charges (under $10) for months. I received all of my money back, but I’ve heard of several other bloggers with this issue not being so fortunate. I haven’t heard of any other programs that offer this kind of tool, so if you use one I’d love to hear about your experience!
I go back and forth on my opinion about ads. Sometimes I think they’re a great source of passive income, but then I’ll stumble upon that one blog with five in-post ads and proclaim that I’ll never use them. Ad networks allow you to place ads on your blog, and earn money based on clicks or views. Some programs require a minimum number of pageviews, while others, like Google Adsense, are fairly easy to get into.
Be careful with ad placement though! Too many ads, or ads in distracting places (like the middle of your post or in your logo area) can easily turn readers away and ruin any other monetization plan you have in place.
E-courses/Selling Your Own Products
The one method I haven’t tried yet, and also probably the most time consuming but rewarding! Selling something you made is exciting, and if the inner entrepreneur in you is eager to start a business, your blog should be your number one sales tool. This isn’t something you should rush into though; starting an actual business comes with its own challenges, and will require a lot of time if you want to be successful!
Personally, I know I don’t have the time or the motivation to create an e-course right now, so despite the fact that so many bloggers are doing it, I feel no pressure to hop on the e-course train! Don’t feel like you have to be selling something to be a successful blogger. Some people are much better content creators that product sellers, and that’s totally okay.
If you decide you want to sell a product, be sure to ask yourself a few questions first:
- Would I use this?
- Would I pay for this?
- Is this solving a real problem?
- Do I want to make this product?
- Do I have the time to create/promote/answer questions about this product?
- Is someone else selling a similar product? Have they been successful? If not, what could I change about it to make it successful?
Coming Up With A Plan That Works For Your Niche
Understanding how your niche and monetization plan are related will really help you narrow what strategies you should try. For example, I write mainly about college and other lifestyle tips, along with the occasional blogging advice. As a college student myself, I don’t see myself enrolling in an e-course about anything related to college, which is why I’ve never created one on that topic. I could potentially see myself signing up for one related to blogging though, so that opens up an opportunity.
Sponsored posts are also very niche-dependent. Most networks that offer sponsored content opportunities are geared towards mommy and lifestyle bloggers. When I was writing strictly about blogging tips, I realized very quickly that sponsored posts were not going to be a part of my monetization plan. After rebranding and switching to a lifestyle blog though, they became a huge part of my strategy.
Affiliate links can be beneficial for almost any blogger, because they’re available for a broad range of products. Lifestyle bloggers might benefit the most from Amazon Affiliates because of the variety of products available to link to, while fashion bloggers would benefit more from ShopStyle Collective, where the focus is almost entirely on fashion. If your blog is more focused on tech, you might benefit from going to your favorite company’s website and seeing if they have an affiliate program in place.
A Few Other Things To Consider
Keep Track Of Your Expenses!
I can’t tell you enough how stressful it was to file taxes for the first time, with zero idea what I was doing, without an expense sheet. Who knows what I bought for my blog 10 months ago! Keeping track of your expenses (and income) will save you tons of time if you have to file taxes, but it also gives you an idea of how well your monetization plan is working. Your first income goal should be earning enough money to cover your expenses (like hosting, domains, and graphics applications). I like to keep track of my finances in a Google Docs sheet, and I also use a few of the spreads that Melyssa Griffin shared in this post.
Blogging definitely isn’t a get-rich-quick job. It takes a lot of time and effort to start earning even a few dollars a month, but once you have a great plan going, those numbers should continue to rise without too much more effort. Don’t set unrealistic goals from the start, because you will be disappointed. There are so many factors that contribute to blogging income, and just because you earn less than the previous month doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong! Your income will fluctuate, the same way your pageviews do.
Keep Your Audience In Mind
If it weren’t for your audience, you wouldn’t be making any money, so they should be at the top of your blog priorities list. Don’t fill your blog with sponsored posts that don’t help your audience, or stuff so many ads in your design that your readers can’t even find your social media buttons. Remember to stay transparent and genuine, and to interact with your readers.
If you have any other questions about monetizing your blog or blogging in general, let me know in the comments or check out my archives to see if your question has already been answered!