As I prepare to start a monthly online income series, I figured it’d be best to start with a guide to the different methods I use to monetize my blog. Buckle in, this is a big post!
In this post, you’ll learn:
- The basics of how to monetize your blog
- The different networks and platforms for monetization (that I personally use!)
- How to tell when to accept sponsored opportunities and when to kick them to the curb
Personally, my goal isn’t to make my blog my full-time job — I love working and what I do — but I am interested in recouping money off the effort I put into this blog. As anyone who makes content online knows, it takes far more time and effort to create content than many people realize. Between backend updates, organizing blog content, WordPress disasters, creating images, updating and revising the layout, managing social media channels, and actually creating content… it’s a time consuming side hustle! I think it’s only fair for creators to monetize their content, and I love experimenting with ways to make money while maintaining a great experience for readers.
Also, a quick note: I am focusing on ways to make money directly with your blog. Many bloggers also offer services/consulting, sell products on Etsy, create e-courses and e-books, take on speaking gigs, and more — but I wanted to talk about ways that any blogger can get started with monetization.
Align Your Content with your Goals
What’s most important to me is creating the content I want to make and that my readers want to see. I try my hardest to keep my monetization efforts aligned with those goals. I follow the mantra: “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no!”
I don’t accept sponsored opportunities just because I get them — it’s important to keep content you create aligned with your brand. Think of it like this: After spending all the effort carefully building your blog, why would you tear it down for a couple bucks? Your readers won’t trust you if it looks like you’re only out for a quick buck. Instead, maintain that trust by being careful with how you monetize your blog and which opportunities you accept.
It’s also worth mentioning that bloggers are worth so much to brands. Having a loyal audience that trusts your voice is immeasurable. Some brands understand this and work well with bloggers, pitching ideas for campaigns and content that align with the individual brand and paying fairly. However, many brands don’t quite get it, and pitch content to bloggers with the idea itself, social media exposure, or product as “payment.”
Tread carefully — your time and effort is worth money, and it is reasonable to ask for what you’re worth! Sometimes, I’ll decide product or exposure is reasonable. Maybe the brand is a small business that can’t afford to pay, but I really believe in their mission, or maybe it’s a bigger brand that I’d love to build a relationship with — but if it’s a brand you’ve never heard of and aren’t passionate about, don’t feel pressured to accept. Your brand, blog, and business is worth more than accepting every opportunity that comes your way just because you can.
3 Ways to Monetize Your Blog
Currently, I use three main methods to monetize my blog: Affiliate programs, advertising, and sponsored content. Below I’ll explain what each of these methods is and some of the partners I use.
An affiliate program allows you to earn money by referring readers to outside products and services. For example, if you are writing a book review or post that recommends products, you might add an affiliate link to that site. I make a significant chunk of money through these affiliate programs and use quite a few of them.
You typically have to earn up to a certain threshold before you can be paid, which may be $50 or $100.
Some of my top affiliate programs include…
- Amazon Affiliate Program * – no payment threshold — can choose Amazon store credit or monthly payment.
- Share-A-Sale * – contains a large variety of brands within the network, so it’s easier to hit the payment threshold. I use Share-A-Sale for brands like ModCloth, Pretty Darn Cute Designs (my blog layout shop), TeeFury, and Her Universe.
- ShopStyle Collective – another affiliate network with mostly fashion and beauty products. Payment is based on clicks, not a percentage of sales.
- SkimLinks * – a piece of code that automatically converts non-affiliate links to affiliate links. I use it as a backup.
- Other affiliate programs – when looking into an individual company’s program, I make sure they pay out monthly or the commission percentage is high enough that I feel confident in reaching the payment threshold.
An asterisk (*) indicates an affiliate link.
Another way to make money off your blog is by selling sidebar ads, sometimes called “sponsorships” by bloggers. Sidebar advertising used to be the main way to make money as a blogger, but as readers have become more and more sensitive to advertising, ad prices have fallen and many bloggers have started moving away from having advertisements on their blog. Banner ads can also interfere with the aesthetic of a blog.
Personally, I still use advertising as an income source on my blog. I meet a lot of great people and brands through offering sidebar ads, and I’m not willing to let go of that just yet.
I use two main types of advertising on my blog…
- Sidebar advertising – I use Passionfruit’s ad management system to make my life far easier. Passionfruit helps you set up a shop, manage payments, and automatically rotates banners for you. With your own sidebar advertising, you control the price.
- Google AdSense – The easiest (and probably lowest-paying) ad network to set up and join. Google AdSense automatically displays ads to your readers based on their browsing history. This is also the same platform for YouTube earnings.
Sponsored content is by far the easiest way to make the largest chunk of money all at once. While advertising and affiliate program earnings are not directly controllable by you, the blogger, you set your own price for sponsored content.
Sponsored content is simply partnering up with a company or brand to create a post or video or other content for them in exchange for a payment to you. Sponsored opportunities are valuable to brands because they allow a very specific audience to see exactly what they offer, as shown by a real, attainable person.
Pricing for sponsored posts is always tricky. When I first started blogging, I charged $25 – $50. Now, I probably wouldn’t accept a sponsored post for less than $100, depending on the brand, how the post fits my audience, and the effort involved. (Personally, I allow leeway for independent and small businesses, but large companies should have a budget in place and be able to pay you.)
I avoid taking on any sponsored content that simply does not pay. Product and exposure are not payment. Unless you know that the exchange will benefit you, I recommend saying “no” to these opportunities that are not in your best interest.
What are some methods you use to monetize your blog?
Also, what other questions do you have about blogging and monetization? I want to start blogging more about blogging (so meta!) and I want to know!