If you are interested in how to make money blogging, then you’ve come to the right place. Over the last 5 years I’ve experimented with countless ways of making money online – some successful, some dismal failures. Along the way I’ve learned a lot and decided to build a list of money making methods that you can use to monetize your blog. If you have experience in any of these, or know of additional methods please leave a comment!
Because this list is long. I’ve added some jump links below so that you can navigate easier:
- Advertising Networks
- Direct Ad Sales
- Affiliate Programs
- eBooks/Information Products
- Selling Physical Products
- Job Boards
- Email Marketing
- Lead Generation
- Other Ways to Monetize Your Blog
How To Make Money Blogging in 2014: Top 10 Methods
#1: Advertising Networks
Advertising is a staple income source for many bloggers. An advertising network brings together many advertisers and provides an easy way to display the ads on a website (through a “snippet” of code that you put on your website). There are dozens of ad networks available to publishers and they come in many forms. Ad networks can be “contextual” (where they determine what your webpage is about and display relevant advertising) or “marketplaces” where the ad network sells advertising on your site to interested advertisers. I personally use two of the largest contextual advertisers (Google Adsense and Media.net) to great success on many of my websites.
Google Adsense – Google’s ad network is the largest and best paying contextual ad network out there. Easy to get accepted into and easy to implement…but if you violate any of their Terms of Service they will ban you without warning.
Media.net – A contextual ad network from Yahoo/Bing. Not as large or sophisticated as Adsense but does allow you to format the ads yourself.
www.michiganfireworks.com – not a visually stunning site, but a good example of a niche website that makes money from advertising.
www.babynames.com – Virtually every page has 3 Google Adsense ads on it – top banner (728×90), in content (300×250) and side banner (160×600).
- Easy to implement – sign up and place code on your site.
- Completely passive – once implemented, you do not have to do anything.
- Automated – all payments, tracking, reporting are taken care of.
- Often results in low payouts – most ads will result in low.
- May have negative impacts on user experience (if implemented incorrectly).
- You receive less of the advertising dollar – for the convenience of using the ad network.
Websites that receive lots of traffic and are in broad niches that don’t lend themselves to specific products/services.
#2: Direct Ad Sales
Direct advertising is similar to advertising networks except that you will be working with the advertisers directly. Direct ad sales involves signing up your own advertisers and then displaying their ads on your site in a way that works for both of you. Advertisers will want to display their ads in particular locations on your site (locations on your pages, or specific sections of your site). Advertisers may also want to target users based on their location or other attributes. To take advantage of direct ad sales you will want to implement an ad server (like Google’s DoubleClick for Small Business -http://www.google.com/doubleclick/publishers/small-business/) to manage ad delivery.
All major media websites (e.g., cnn.com, nytimes.com) provide direct advertising sales.
www.nyctransitforums.com/advertise/ – media kit for direct advertising on a niche forum website.
- You have control over the advertisers that you display on your site.
- You can increase your advertising payout compared to advertising networks.
- More complicated to implement
- Not passive – requires you to find and manage advertisers. Advertisers will come and go.
- You will need to manage invoicing, payments etc.
Websites with an established audience and traffic to match. The best opportunities for direct advertising are websites that have a very targeted demographic in a niche that there is plenty of advertising competition (e.g., insurance).
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#3: Affiliate Programs
Affiliate programs are marketing programs offered by product or service companies to entice website publishers to promote their products. Affiliates will typically pay a percentage of a product/service sale to a blogger who refers a customer to them. Payout percentages can range from 3-8% for low margin physical products to 75% for high margin information products. Some affiliate programs offer recurring payments or a flat payout amount. Implementing an affiliate program is fairly easy – you are typically provided with an advertising banner or link that has an affiliate ID embedded in it for tracking.
Affiliate networks – there are dozens of affiliate networks that aggregate offers from hundreds of companies and provide the infrastructure to track the transactions. Some of the bigger affiliate networks include:
Share A Sale
affiliate by CONVERSANT (formerly Commission Junction)
Individual Affiliate Programs – many companies operate their own affiliate programs outside of the affiliate networks. Some examples include:
Amazon Affiliates – The most widely used affiliate program, Amazon Affiliates is easy to implement and gives you access to hundreds of thousands of products. Payouts range from 4% to 8.5% depending on volume of sales.
Niche product affiliates – often the best affiliate programs for your particular niche can be found outside of affiliate networks by searching “[your niche] affiliate” on Google.
www.treadmillpros.com/proform-505-cst-review – good example of an affiliate site that focuses on product reviews. Notice the “Check Current Price on Amazon.com” button – clicking on that button will redirect you to Amazon.com where anything you buy from Amazon (doesn’t have to be the product that the publisher is promoting) will generate a referral sale for treadmillpros.com
www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/best-online-brokers/stock-trading-accounts/ – good example of a “best product/service for…” affiliate offer. Each of the “apply now” buttons on this page will redirect you to another website AND generate an affiliate commission for nerdwallet.com if you sign up.
- Potential for high commissions per sale.
- Conversions can be high if promotions are handled well.
- You don’t have control over how well the affiliate offer converts (i.e., you can refer a customer lead to a website that doesn’t convert the prospect into a sale).
- You risk promoting a product/service that may not work well for your users.
- You can’t just put a link/banner on your website and expect to cash in… you need to add value (by reviewing the product, or giving training/tutorials etc.).
Niche websites that are targeted at specific products/services. Review websites are a classic example of an affiliate marketing website.
#4: eBooks/Information Products
eBooks are electronic books that provide guidance or teach your audience how to do something. Creating eBooks or other “information products” can be an excellent way to make money online. The intent of the product is to provide your readers with valuable information in an easy to digest format. eBooks can be used to make money directly (by charging for them) or indirectly (by providing them for free in exchange for providing an email address or to develop yourself as an authority on a subject).
www.ptfitnessmarketing.com/fitness-marketing-ebook/ – free eBook marketing in order to gain email subscribers
digital-photography-school.com/book/landscapes/ – digital-photography-school offers 20 photography ebooks for sale from $9.99 to $29.99
- Can use to establish your authority as an expert in your niche.
- Potential for high margins – you will retain more than 90% of the sales of your eBook/info product if you sell it directly.
- Potential to offer the eBook/product through your own affiliates – get others to sell for you.
- No worries about inventory management.
- Relative easy to produce the product (compared to other products).
- Takes considerable effort to create a product that is valuable to the user (i.e., they are willing to spend money on).
- Requires infrastructure to collect payments and manage delivery.
- Customer support – although there shouldn’t be any questions on how to use the ebook…you still will get questions related to the content as well as the occasional upset customer.
If you are an expert in an area that requires complex steps to complete or there is a void of information this may be an opportunity to earn some serious income online.
#5: Selling Physical Products
Selling physical products online may not make you the next Amazon.com but it is a tried and true method of making money. There are millions of physical products that can be offered online – art, books, clothing…and the rest of the alphabet of products. There are almost as many ways to sell products as there are products themselves. You can set up your own website, purchase your own inventory, and handle the sales and fulfillment in-house. Alternatively, you can choose to promote products on Amazon and have them handle the sales and fulfillment. Another popular approach is drop-shipping – you market products and you have the manufacturer keep the inventory and ship direct to the customers.
- Easy to start if you partner with Amazon.
- Good opportunity for retail store fronts to expand online.
- Usually very low margins.
- If you do fulfillment, you will need to worry about inventory, shipping etc.
- Customer support – they are buying a product from you…if anything goes wrong (damaged in shipping, product doesn’t work, wrong size/color, they don’t like it, breaks…) it becomes your headache.
Unique niches with high margins. Products that are hard to find or hard to price compare also work well. You will not be able to compete with Amazon or other major online retailers in the clothing, books, supplements, electronics area.
Some web entrepreneurs consider subscriptions/membership sites as the holy grail of online money making for one important reason – recurring revenue. The challenge with most website monetization approaches is that they are “one and done” (the customer buys one time and the revenue trail ends). With a subscription/membership site, customers are paying you each and every month.
www.thechartist.com – for $25/month you receive a monthly newsletter on stock and mutual fund recommendations from Dan Sullivan
www.webmasterworld.com – offers 6 month and 12 month subscriptions to some of their premium forums instead of relying on advertising revenue.
- Recurring revenue – the driving reason to develop a subscription business model is the lure of a predictable monthly revenue stream.
- High margins – since most membership sites revolve around information products/services the margins are high.
- Providing monthly value – if customers are paying you monthly, you better be providing them continuing value.
- Not passive – you need to be updating your product/service on a continual basis or the customers will cancel.
- Customer support – since customers will be using your service on an ongoing basis, you can expect continual support.
Information products in constantly changing markets (meaning that customers are willing to spend money to keep up to date). If you can get your customers to assist in developing/maintaining content (like a premium forum) you are in even better shape.
#7: Job Boards
Website job boards are like adding a mini version of monster/careerbuilder to your own website. With a job board on your site, you can get employers to pay to place an ad on your site. Some job board providers will also pay you to get your readers to view their own job listings.
Simply Hired/Jobamatic.com – provides a hosted job board that you can integrate into your site.
Indeed.com – The Indeed Publisher Program allows website publishers to earn money by offering job search tools.
newgradlife.jobamatic.com/a/jobs/find-jobs – example of a Jobamatic hosted job board being offered by a blogspot blogger (newgradlife.blogspot.com)
careers.stackoverflow.com – Stackoverflow’s job board.
- Can be virtually passive.
- Good for adding incremental revenue to highly trafficked site.
- Can add real value (and credibility) to site.
- Not for small blogs – you need to generate significant traffic if you want employers to pay for posting on your site.
- Limited revenue potential – very difficult to make significant dollars.
Highly trafficked sites in industries with competitive hiring (or lack of skilled workers).
#8: Email Marketing
Email marketing is different from the other methods presented because it is more of a way of marketing to your website visitors rather than a direct revenue opportunity. This technique requires you to build an email list (opt-in of course!) and market to your list on a regular basis. You can send your subscribers direct offers, entice them back to your website (where you monetize in other ways), or “rent out” your email list to other web marketers (which I wouldn’t recommend).
Aweber – autoresponder/email marketing service with over 120,000 users
MailChimp – email marketing service used by over 6 million people
- Relatively simple to implement.
- Potential for high earnings.
- Leverages all the work you did to get the reader to your site in the first place.
- Your mail list becomes a very valuable asset.
- Must develop content that is valuable for readers to receive via email.
- Risk alienating readers if you promote offers too heavily.
- Your subscribers will fluctuate…some entering, some leaving.
Niches where readers really want to be kept up to date (because information is changing rapidly or they can make more money by being on top of things). If your readers crave up-to-date information (and you can provide it) then email marketing is a no-brainer.
#9: Lead Generation
Lead generation (sometimes referred to as Pay Per Lead – PPL) is a growing source of online income. Many companies and organizations are willing to pay good money for the right leads. If you can provide qualified leads in the right markets you can make significant money. You can try and develop the infrastructure and customers to tackle this on your own or you can utilize lead generation services that provide the infrastructure and customers for you (similar to advertising networks). Industries such as education, insurance, mortgage all have lead generation opportunities.
Quinstreet and Campus Explorer both offer PPL programs for the education industry
ClickInsure.com – PPL for auto insurance quotes
Affiliate networks – many affiliate networks offer pay per lead programs for their customers
www.cnaclasses.org – focused on generating leads (via CampusExplorer) for students looking to take Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes
www.insweb.com – online insurance quotation marketplace derives its revenue from lead generation
- High earnings per lead – some providers pay significant dollars ($40 or more) for qualified leads.
- High revenue potential – if you can generate the traffic, you can earn thousands of dollars per month.
- The industries that pay for leads are extremely competitive…it will be difficult to find a niche and generate your own unique traffic.
- Not all leads will be paid – most providers “scrub” your leads to validate the leads that are likely to convert.
Sites that generate traffic in related areas. For example, if you run a site that offers money saving tips you may be able to capture leads for auto insurance or home loan refinancing.
#10: How to Make Money Blogging – Other ways to monetize your blog:
- Selling Other Digital Products (themes, apps, software, plugins) – if you have the ability to create digital assets like wordpress themes or plugins then you can develop a profitable online business.
- Directory Listings – provide a listing of providers in specific categories and charge companies to be listed.
- Training – provide training materials/services (webinars, training courses etc.) to readers to help them tackle specific problems.
- Donations – ask users for donations to help defray costs of a valuable free service that you provide them.
- Selling Services – Use your website to sell a service such as SEO audits or copyediting.
- Selling your website – Develop your website into a valuable asset and sell it to an interested buyer.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to make money blogging. Be sure to let me know if you have any insights to add!