Though not perfect, the question of “how to monetize a blog” is often the very first thing that new bloggers ask … literally on day one of their blogging adventure.
How to start a blog and make money?
Can I quit my job already?
Okay, hold your horses! We’ll get to all that. But consider yourself warned, learning how to monetize a blog isn’t a one-and-done thing. You will need to put in some serious effort to get worthwhile results.
This is chapter 11 of a bigger guide on how to start a successful blog.
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Monetize your blog with these five, battle-tested ways:
- Affiliate marketing
- Sponsorships and advertising
- Creating an online course
- Selling a book or product
We’ll go through them one by one and explain how to implement them for maximum impact.
Where to start if you want to learn how to monetize a blog?
The order above is not accidental. If you’re figuring out how to start a blog and make money for the first time, we advise experimenting with affiliate marketing first and then progressing to the other methods (should they make sense for your specific business).
Setting out to, say, write a book or create a course right out the gate might be too much. Especially since you haven’t yet screened your niche and don’t know if people are going to be interested in things like that. In other words, your investment into writing a book or developing a product might go in vain. That’s why starting with something like affiliate marketing is usually better – since you can put things in motion in mere minutes.
That being said, please note that you don’t have to do everything described here in order to make good income. Sometimes you will get great results from just one or two techniques. Even this very blog takes advantage of just three of the methods described below.
Okay, let’s dive in! Here’s how to monetize a blog:
1. Monetize a blog through affiliate links
Affiliate marketing is the first monetization method on the list because it’s generally the easiest to get started with.
First off, what is affiliate marketing?
In simple terms, affiliate marketing is the process of promoting other people’s products in exchange for a commission whenever your recommendation leads directly to a sale.
This is all made possible and tracked via affiliate links. Here’s what a link like that might look like:
Basically it’s a standard link, only with the
affid=1234 part added at the end. This is what allows your recommendation to be tracked and then ultimately be tied to a specific sale when it happens.
Commissions are usually in the range of 5%-75% of the sticker price. If it’s physical products we’re talking about, it’s nearer the 5% mark. For digital stuff, even 100% commissions are possible.
The most important part here from the buyer’s perspective is that they still pay the standard sticker price, so none of your commission is funded by the buyer.
Now, there are two main puzzle pieces that you need to put in place if you want to monetize your blog through affiliate marketing:
which affiliate products you’re going to promote, how you’re going to promote them.
Therefore, the first order of business, how to find products to promote?
Every niche and market have its own common practices when it comes to the affiliate realm, but generally speaking, if a product has an affiliate program available, it’s going to be mentioned somewhere on the company’s website. Likely in the footer, or even the main menu.
Here are three golden rules of how to monetize a blog with affiliate marketing:
only promote products that you use yourself, believe in, and know are great only promote products that you wouldn’t be ashamed to promote only promote products that your audience will enjoy and/or benefit from
Though this might sound simple enough, this can get tricky and especially if your blog is in a niche like personal finance or fitness. There’s more than enough products in those niches that lure affiliates in with big payouts, despite being of relatively poor quality. That’s why the “personally believe in” and “audience will benefit from” factors are so important here.
An example of what we promote on this very blog as part of our affiliate marketing monetization model:
Since this blog is about all things WordPress it makes sense that some of our readers will be interested in WordPress themes. It just so happens that most premium theme stores have their affiliate programs. Therefore, whenever we mention themes in our posts, we can use our affiliate links to do so.
Here’s an example from one such post.
What can you reasonably expect from affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing can be a great source of income when learning how to start a blog and make money, but it all depends on two factors:
- the size of your traffic
- how responsive your audience is and/or how effective you are when promoting affiliate products
With time, your traffic will grow, so let’s not worry about this aspect for now. Basically, the sooner you get started with affiliate marketing the sooner you’ll see any kind of results coming your way.
When it comes to effective promotion, here are some of the possible ways to go about it. How to monetize a blog:
- review the products you’re promoting and use your affiliate links in the reviews; example: Elementor vs Divi Builder vs Beaver Builder
- publish compilation posts (lists), where you discuss a number of products that achieve a certain goal; example: 5 Best Contact Form Plugins for WordPress Compared
- recommend products in how-to posts (of course, only if they help the cause); example: How to Create a Local Search Directory Like Yelp on WordPress
Though affiliate marketing is the easiest and probably the most effective monetization technique that you can use, the devil is in the details of how exactly you run your affiliate promotions.
The core difference between this and, say, putting some AdSense ads on your site is that, with affiliate marketing, it’s only you who’s responsible for targeting and making sure that the product fits the audience. With standard ads (via AdSense or otherwise), you’re basically just renting out the space on your site, and it’s the advertisers who need to figure out what to promote, to whom, and how.
What I’m getting at is that placing a random affiliate offer on your site won’t work that well. This is why we’re using targeted reviews, compilation posts and make those direct product recommendations if and when they fit the topic of a specific tutorial on the blog.
How to monetize a blog by executing a good affiliate marketing strategy
With the above in mind, let’s get into specifics and see how affiliate marketing can be integrated into your blog. Let’s imagine that the topic of your blog is wedding planning.
Example article #1: “10 Tips on How to Cope With Pre-Wedding Depression”
The person reading an article like that probably already has almost everything about their wedding planned out, or at least the key things. For instance, it doesn’t really make sense to try to sell them on a wedding location (via an affiliate offer). They already have that.
What does make sense is maybe mentioning that preparing for a dream honeymoon can help cope with the feeling. While the advice given in the post needs to be of high quality and provide value in itself, you can also recommend specific trips or travel bureaus and get a cut of the sale if the reader buys anything.
Example article #2: “How Much Does a Wedding Cost?”
This type of article presents both a huge opportunity but also a huge challenge in terms of monetizing it via affiliate marketing.
First off, the person reading probably doesn’t have anything booked/purchased yet, and they perhaps even expect the author to recommend some solutions.
The challenge is that the person isn’t ready to buy anything either.
They’re just window shopping. So, how to monetize a blog in this scenario? Promoting wedding locations, honeymoon destinations or anything related will not likely work. The author’s best bet is just to recommend further reading on topics like:
- “Why Getting a Jaw-Dropping Dress Is Important (How to Save on Price)”
- “How to Negotiate Service Prices for Your Wedding”
- “How to Save Money on Your Honeymoon Destination”
What you do know now is that the reader is price-conscious, otherwise they wouldn’t be looking up the topic of wedding cost, so you can try to educate them and offer genuine help instead of trying to monetize right away.
You can leave monetization for your other articles – ones where the reader’s intent is more towards buying. For example, a post titled “How to Save Money on Your Honeymoon” can promote a special early-bird deal for a trip.Apart from looking into how to start a blog and make money by monetizing individual blog posts, you should also aim to get the reader onto your email list and then build a relationship with them through that medium. You can also start building up a marketing automation funnel to make sure that you time your messages just right based on the recipient’s former activity with your newsletter. Though, this is a bit on the advanced monetization side of things.
Even though you’re promoting other people’s products here, understanding the customer journey and intent can help you structure your content better and come up with niche article ideas that might get very few visitors, but can generate big returns.
For example, if you publish a post like, “Bali or Thailand for the Honeymoon,” the reader is likely ready to book a trip, but wants to make sure they’ve picked the right destination. If you publish an informative review/resource on the topic and recommend some good hotels along the way, you can earn a sizable affiliate share no matter what the reader chooses.
The main mistake that bloggers make with affiliate marketing (and classic ads as well) is that they work more for their advertisers than for their readers.
Working for your readers first is the only way to build trust and then make money as a byproduct later down the road. At least this is our approach.
What you really need to do in order to make your affiliate marketing strategy successful is spend time doing research, creating top educational content, and building trust, while only recommending affiliate products where it makes sense and where it actually brings value to the reader. This is how to monetize a blog with affiliate marketing. There are no shortcuts that would work long term.
- For a more hands-on guide on how to get started with affiliate marketing on a WordPress blog, read this tutorial of ours. It talks about specific tactics, what plugins to use, and how to set everything up.
- Also, if you'd like to promote WordPress- and design/development-related affiliate offers, we've looked into the best ones in the market in this guide. It should help you pick the best programs to promote.
- Lastly, have a look at these plugins for affiliate marketing and our learnings on bad affiliate marketing.
2. Freelance income
Most people who start a blog acquire certain skills…
Things like writing, website design, graphic design, marketing, or even social media management.
These skills can directly relate to online income. All you need to do is use your blog to advertise them.
Sounds perhaps easier said than done, but hear me out:Bill: My own income comes from the content marketing and SEO work that I do. When I first started, I was a freelance writer. I got many of my first clients by showing them the articles I wrote on my blog.
Since then, I’ve turned this freelance writing service into a full-fledged content marketing and SEO mini-agency. I have two people who work for me. And I get leads almost every week to my “work with me” page, who come from my blog.
So my strategy is to use great content to attract people who want the kind of content I create. Simple, right?
You can do the same thing by showcasing your graphic design work, having a beautiful website, or showing off your social media prowess.
If you’re ready to dive into the world of freelance work, consider creating profiles on sites like Upwork, People Per Hour, or Fiverr. While you can accept work directly through your blog, if you’re just getting started, using these job sites that already have traffic and trust can make your transition easier.
If you want to learn more, check out this case study by Elna Cain on how she used her blog to become a freelance blogger.
3. Using sponsorships and advertising to make extra cash
If you’ve ever listened to a podcast episode and heard, “This episode is brought to you by…”, you’ve seen sponsorships in action.
Getting someone to sponsor your blog can bring in a serious chunk of cash. However, the only downside is that you usually need a decent audience to get a sponsor. Still, this is something you can have on your radar as you begin building some more authority in your niche.
If this is the route you’d like to take (making money just for writing your blog? Sign me up!) then check out this guide to getting a blog sponsor.
Next, the ever-so-popular topic of advertising. Ads are kind of deceptive when you want to learn how to monetize a blog.
On the one hand, you can sign up to Google AdSense and start running ads on your blogs as soon as right now. But on the other, the time and traffic needed to see any significant earnings from ads is substantial.
So what we actually advise you to do when you’re just getting started with a new blog is the following:
Forget about ads.
Only consider running ads once you’re getting 1000 visitors a day. Before that happens, ads are only a distraction and detract from your audience’s experience with your site.
4. Creating an online course
Online courses are hot now and becoming more popular by the day. If you want to learn how to start a blog and make money, they’re an effective and honest way to do that.
- Is your blog about cooking? Teach a cooking course.
- Do you blog about bicycles? Run a bicycle repair course.
- Or do you prefer talking about your favorite online game? Make a course about how to be a better player.
For a real-world example, Venu Sanz started a blog about vegan cooking, and she now makes a full-time income (enough to hire others!) from her vegan cooking courses.
If an online course sounds like your forte, check out this guide to creating an online course, and this guide to create a WordPress membership site – through which you can deliver your online course!
5. Selling a book or product
Like a course, writing and selling a book (or ebook) is a good way to approach the topic of how to monetize a blog. Of course, it takes a lot of time and you need an audience to sell to, but in the long run, a book is a good way to monetize your audience and help them see you as an authority.
The only difficulty, of course, is … actually writing the book. Setting aside the pains of writing themselves, there’s also the problem of what to put in the book. Ideally, your book should offer some content that’s either (a) never before seen on the blog, or (b) providing some convenience to the reader.
In other words, with (b), you can repurpose your blog content and compile it into book form. Though it might sound too simple to be viable, it’s what some of the most successful bloggers have been doing for years. For instance, Darren Rowse of Problogger has his ebook titled “31 Days to Build a Better Blog.” Under the hood, it’s a compilation of a series of blog posts that you can still read for free here. The no.1 benefit of the book vs the posts is convenience.
We have a separate guide on this very blog about how to do exactly that – turn your blog content into a book.
The book also doesn’t need to be your end product, so to speak. You can sell it to serve as the initial touch point with your audience to then eventually upsell them to your course, if you use both methods!
Alternatively, you can sell physical products and turn your blog into an e-commerce store. If it hits your fancy, check out this guide to create a WordPress store.
The bright side here is that if you’re running a traditional business then you probably already have a product to sell, so why not offer it via your new WordPress blog…
A final word on how to monetize a blog
While you can start making money today by offering freelance services or busting your butt to find a sponsor, chances are it’s going to take some time to ramp up.
When it comes to how to start a blog and make money, the truth is that it’s not uncommon for blogs to take at least 6-12 months to see any viable income. So if you don’t see cash in the bank right away, don’t let that discourage you from continuing to try.
Overall, learning how to monetize a blog is chiefly about trying things out, reiterating, improving and testing. Then, once something starts working, scale it up!
This scaling up can involve trying out new affiliate programs, working on new products or books, introducing new products, trying out new promotional methods, etc.
For instance, one of the things we’ve been doing across our different blogs (this one, and also ThemeIsle) is split-testing different promo elements to see which versions perform the best.
Split-testing is a very powerful technique despite the main idea being quite simple… All you do is take two versions of something (can be a button, a sales message, a headline, product image) and run them in parallel until you have enough data to make a decision as to which is better. One way you can do this form of testing is with Google Optimize – what we use. It’s free and has more than enough features to satisfy any blogger.
This about sums up our guide on how to monetize a blog! As you can see, it’s all a matter of doing a couple of things, but being deliberate about it. There’s no accident in how some blogs can make a killing while others struggle to earn anything. Continuous effort.
That’s the secret.
I’m afraid there’s no other way to say this … it’s the end of our guide on how to start a blog. If you’ve made it this far, I have to congratulate you!
At this stage, you know enough to be dangerous with your new blog!
All that matters now is execution. Good. Proper. Execution.
We hope that the instructions from this guide will help you get your new blog off the ground and towards success!
But that’s not all! Here’s an extra chapter you might find helpful:
Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. With some simple fixes, you can reduce your loading time by even 50-80%: