When I first decided that I wanted to become a professional blogger after graduating college, the most common question I got was, “But how do bloggers make money?” And I definitely get why. As a blogger, you’re essentially spending a ton of your time developing content and then posting it on the Internet for free. How is someone supposed to make an income off of that?
The key that most people miss is that bloggers do more than just post content. A lot more. When I first started researching pro-blogging for my year-long thesis in college, this fact surprised me! In this post, I’ll spell out exactly what I learned from interviews with some very prominent bloggers* on how they make a living off of their passions.
*I unfortunately cannot mention which specific bloggers I interviewed due to privacy agreements, so please do not ask. Just know that many of these bloggers are considered very experienced and successful.
7 Ways Successful Pro-Bloggers Make Money
1. Ad Revenue
The most obvious revenue driver for pro-bloggers is ad revenue. You’re probably used to seeing this. Banner ads, clickable links, etc. are all very well integrated into the Internet space. Ad revenue is arguably the most common form of monetization for blogs.
How much money you make off of ads depends on a number of different factors, as discussed below.
The first determinant of how much ad revenue you bring in is the number of pageviews your site has. There’s no hard number of how many pageviews you need, but suffice it to say that the more you have, the better. Much to the dismay of the freshly minted blogger, you’ll likely need thousands of pageviews per month to make any sizeable income. Still, if you know what you’re doing, you can make much more money on many less pageviews/month than you might think. How you use the pageviews is what really counts.
To make serious money through ads, you’ll likely have to join an Ad Network. Essentially what happens is that these networks work with a lot of different advertisers to place ads all around the internet, including on your site! Methods of payment vary by ad network. The most known network is Google AdSense.
Something that not a lot of people think about but is very important to your advertisers is ad placement. Obviously, an ad at the very top of your blog will pay more than that same ad in the middle of your site, where not as many people will see it. Designing your site for optimal ad placement is a crucial part to earning sufficient income off of advertisers.
What’s even more important, though, is ensuring that the best paying ads get premium placement while the ones that earn you less are placed elsewhere on your site. If this sounds difficult, you’re right! There are companies that offer services to do this for you. You might think about hiring one of these services if you’ve got the money already.
Targeted, Content-based Ads
Another trick to maximizing ad revenue comes in the form of highly specific, content-based ads. Essentially, if one of your posts is driving a lot of traffic for a specific search term (ex: DIY rose perfume), then you will optimize the ads on that post to relate specifically to the content. So, for example, the targeted ad might show readers where specifically they can buy the products/ingredients mentioned in your post. It’s a natural transition from your post topic and also helps readers find what they’re looking for.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a little less known than advertisements, but it’s equally (if not more) powerful. Basically, affiliate marketing is when you advertise a product on your site and get a cut of the proceeds from any resulting sales. Almost every company has an affiliate program, so it’s pretty easy to get involved.
The biggest thing here is that you should only write about and promote a certain product if you really, truly love it and would recommend it to just about anyone. A blogger’s advantage over others in the world wide web is the trust of their readers. If you endorse a product just to make a little extra money and then your readers end up hating it, they won’t ever buy anything from you ever again. Also, be careful not to overdo this, even if you do love everything you’re promoting. You’re not a walking billboard. You’re a blogger.
Done right, however, and affiliate marketing can be one of your biggest sources of income. And, it’s a win for everyone! The affiliate company produces more sales, the blogger earns a profit, and the reader gets a truly valuable product!
3. Creation of Products/Services
Selling your own products and services is also another common way that bloggers make money. Most products that I’ve seen do really well are informational in nature. For example, creating a downloadable guide on how to do something that your readers are interested in usually performs nicely. Still, you can really sell anything that you can make! T-shirts, mugs, e-books, online courses, and more are all available to you. For services, bloggers often offer coaching, classes, consultations, and other such things that are applicable to their audiences.
My word of caution here is that products and services do take up more time and money than other sources. That being said, they can be good sources of revenue if you know your audience well and what they need.
4. Sponsored Content
Sponsored content is where an individual or business gives you money to write a post. Now, it might seem like this kind of revenue is very rare for most bloggers except for those that have an inordinately large following, but what most new bloggers don’t know is that they don’t have to wait for a company to come to them!
Many bloggers reach out to the company first to see if they’d like to sponsor a post! If you’ve got a decent following and your blog topics align well with a company’s product or service, then this is a great strategy! The blogger will pitch a particular post idea, and the company can either accept/reject the idea. If accepted, then another win-win situation is created! The company gets to advertise itself and some offering, and the blogger gets paid (either in money or with free products, etc.) to write about something they strongly support!
As with affiliate marketing, it’s very important that you only accept sponsored posts for stuff you would truly recommend. The trust of your readers is much more important for your business than a few quick dollars.
5. External Content Creation
As a blogger, your primary specialty is creating awesome content. Many bloggers who are just starting out and need an extra boost of income may write content for other blogs or companies. Content creation is HOT right now, so there’s no shortage of need and you can likely find this kind of work easily with a quick Google search!
That being said, this kind of revenue generation does take time away from your actual business (your blog), so I wouldn’t use this as a long-term strategy and would try to keep it contained. There’s so many companies who need content right now that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget your main focus, which in the long run is detrimental to your blog and business!
6. Media Appearances/Interviews
If you become a leading expert in your niche, it’s likely that you’ll get asked to do a media appearance or interview. This is another great win-win. You not only get paid and free advertising for your blog, but the company gets a boost from having you on, as well! I won’t delve into this one too much since, if you’re at this stage, you probably know everything in this article already anyway.
7. Paid Press Trips
Bloggers often get paid to go on press trips and blog about their experience. There are usually requirements about how many posts (on your blog, social media, and other outlets) per day that the blogger must write, but it’s usually very manageable. This is another great revenue option once you get to this stage because it’s another source of content for your own blog. Plus, the experience can often be a lot of fun!
The Key to Sustainable Income in Pro-Blogging
One issue that is often left unaddressed in other posts about this topic is how to continually make money in blogging. Some people (whom I disagree strongly with) say that blogging is dead; I argue that it has simply transformed and, now more than ever, everyday people like you and me can make a substantial income off of it because the “map to monetization,” per say, has been tried and tested. Still, blogging is continually evolving, and it will continue to do so into the future.
In order to ensure that you are making a sustainable income (used in this sense as referencing an income that is continually livable, not constant in value from month-to-month), it is important that you diversify your revenue streams. Any form of entrepreneurship is volatile, and being completely independent on one source means that you will be extremely susceptible to changes in the environment that are completely outside of your control. Thus, the more sources of revenue that you create, the more stable your income will be in the long run.
One aspect of blogging that my interviewees repeatedly emphasized was the ever-changing state of the blogosphere. Flexibility and adaptability were two key traits of bloggers deemed especially important. Keep an eye out for changing trends, and watch for how your income sources vary each month to see if one might be becoming less and less profitable. Stay abreast of the conversations regarding revenue creation in blogger circles and groups; this will help you know if you’re not currently using or maximizing revenue from a particular source.
Quick Reference: Tools to Get You Started
Google AdSense: largest online ad network
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