How to Monetize your Blog: 5 ways to make money online in 2017
Looking for advice about how to monetize your blog?
Otherwise you’d be reading something else.
So let’s go.
I’m a full-time blogger these days. And I have to say: getting here wasn’t easy.
Making money online isn’t exactly a get-rich-quick type thing. It takes time and effort. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying.
And probably trying to sell you his online course.
The reality is, it’s work. I know several people who make a living through blogging, and some of them do pretty well.
But none of them got there without time and effort.
Caveat #1: Don’t let me stop you from trying to get rich quick through blogging. If you do make it work, good for you! I’ll buy you dinner next time you’re in Madrid. And ask you lots of questions about how you made it happen.
Ok, ready for the meat?
How to Monetize your Blog in 2017
There are lots of different ways to monetize your blog, but they can be broken down into a few basic categories.
Here are my top 5 ways to monetize a blog…
I’ve tried them all, failed at some, and had incredible success with others. And here, I’ll tell you about a few of the pros and cons of each.
Monetize your blog through ads
Most people think of advertizing as a great way to make money with a blog. And it was the first thing I tried too.
But here’s the truth: you need a lot of traffic to make money with ads.
You can set up a Google Adsense account in a few minutes, and add some banners or sidebar ads to your website with close to zero technical knowledge…
But you’re only going to earn a few cents per click.
Same with YouTube.
I can tell you all about it: I’m probably more YouTube famous than anybody else you know, but the money I make from pre-roll ads ain’t gonna put my (future) kids through Harvard.
Sorry, Daniel Junior.
You’re just gonna have to find yourself a sugar daddy.
Or go to Arizona State. Your choice.
Anyway, you can always give monetizing through ads a shot. Some niches pay more for clicks than others, and having some income from your blog is better than having no income.
Which brings us to…
Monetizing your blog by selling sponsored posts
If your blog gets enough traffic, it’ll start attracting the attention of leeches and other bottom-feeding invertabrates of the marketing world.
They’ll send you emails along the lines of:
Dear Webmaster. Your blog would be perfect for my brand. Please take several hours of your valuable time to write a post about my company’s new product. In exchange, your blog will benefit from the valuable content that you have created yourself, which I’m sure your readers will find useful and entertaining. Sincerely yours, an uncalibrated weirdo who didn’t even bother to find your name.
You can comfortably ignore those people, but even more fun is to use FBI hostage negotiating tactics on them.
Some companies, of course, are happy to pay for promoted posts. If you can work something out, it’s probably going to be profitable for both of you. The reach and popularity of some bloggers makes advertizing with them a no-brainer.
(And of course, if you’d like to sponsor a post here on The Chorizo Chronicles, you’re welcome to do so. But be prepared to pay me.)
Caveat #2: Don’t sell links. Google will hate you forever. And if you’re a blogger, you’d better stay on Google’s good side. If you do a promoted post, mark it as such and make the links “nofollow”.
Of course, there’s a whole online debate in which business owners say that bloggers suck and just want free stuff, and bloggers say that business owners suck and just want free advertising. And both sides make good points.
(You know who definitely sucks? Yo mama.)
Ahem… sorry. I just realized I’d written several hundred words since my last burst of juvenile humor.
Anyway, I don’t do a lot of this – I try to blog about stuff I like and services I actually use. But I might someday do more.
Becoming an expert in your field
I’m definitely biased, but I think basically everyone should have a blog.
And if you’re a professional or creative of any kind and don’t have a blog, you’d better get one.
No tech skills? No problem! Send me money and I’ll hold your hand through the whole process.
It kills me when I meet doctos, dentists, actors, musicians, businesspeople – anybody really – and they don’t have a blog. Just get yourname.com and put up a photo and a copy of your CV.
There’s no downside – and potentially a lot of upside to building an online presence.
All that being said, my first idea for monetizing my blog was to use it to raise prices for my private lessons. And it didn’t work as well as I had hoped – mostly because the economy was collapsing in the meantime.
But having a blog with quality content is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and raise your profile in your field – whatever that may be. And being (or becoming) an expert could lead to coaching or consulting, paid speaking gigs, and more.
Blogging will also send opportunities your way in the form of paying gigs – I ended up writing for Lonely Planet after the editor up in London found my articles about Madrid.
And just being out there for people to see you is always worthwhile… I’ve met lots of cool people (and a couple of girlfriends) just through being “that guy with the website”.
You can also…
Make money online with affiliate links
A popular way to monetize your blog is through affiliate marketing and linking to other people’s products.
Caveat #3: I’m no expert in affiliate marketing and apparently if you want to do it well, it’s a full-time job in its own right.
One of the simplest and most obvious ways to make money is to sign up for Amazon Associates and then put a couple of links to different things in every post. (Here’s my camera. It’s a Sony a5000 and it’s awesome.)
And a lot of other companies offer affiliate programs to bloggers or really whoever. I use (and recommend) booking.com when I travel and they offer both a “refer your friends” program as well as an affiliate program. You can book a hotel in Madrid right here.
I think AirBnB has something similar.
And while we’re being all James Bondish and international, you can send money with Transferwise and get your first transfer free.
I love Transferwise.
What I’m saying is, you can certainly find something in your niche out there to sell or recommend to people.
Caveat #4: The FTC requires bloggers to “disclose a material relationship” if there is one. Meaning, you should tell people that a link is an affiliate link. Guess what… All those links up there? They’re affiliate links.
A lot of bloggers take this information and go as far as to make a big deal about it every time they post a non-affiliate link too. To me, this screams “Look! I’m such a superior person that I linked to this product or service with no financial motive whatsoever. Please pat me on the back for keeping it so real.”
And finally, the nuclear option…
Make and sell something
I saved the best for last.
Affiliate linking is great for “passive income” if you want to monetize your blog, but creating and selling your own products is where the real money is at.
My first product was a short ebook, which sold enough to make me want to write several more short ebooks.
After that, I branched out into online courses.
And when those were successful, I started a subscription. Having people’s cards charged automatically every month is awesome. You wouldn’t believe how good it feels.
(That’s what she said.)
Caveat #5: Most of my actual selling happens through email, and I use the blog for lead capture. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post that I might write. Or not.
Anyway, you can sell virtual products, physical products, whatever you want. These days it’s pretty easy to set up an online store of some kind and make it happen. If you’re doing physical products, Amazon can even do the fulfillment (inventory, shipping, all that) for you.
For digital downloads, I use Gumroad. It’s ridiculously easy to set up, and they pay every week…
If somebody buys something, that is.
And anyway, learning how to sell will improve every other aspect of your life. Because so many things are a form of sales or negotiation, and upping your skills can only be a good thing.
Either way, don’t worry: there’s no magic in any of what I do.
If I can do it, anyone can do it.
Products take time to make, and the first few times you ask perfect strangers to buy your creation can be nerve-wracking. To say the least.
But in the end it’s worth it.
And that’s where I am now…
Today’s just a typical day in the life of a digital nomad and pro blogger…
Spent rolling around on stacks of money, and kickin’ it at 5-star hotels, while a whole harem of YouTube groupies and Instagram models fan me with palm fronds and feed me grapes.
I like it when they call me Big Poppa.
It’s not exactly that.
But I do get to travel a lot, and I’ve worked from some of the finest second-tier hotels in Europe.
In any case, what I like best about the pro-blogger lifestyle is that I’ve been able to fire my boss, meet new people, and set my own schedule… Plus make more money than I ever would have as a “real teacher”.
Here’s a real day in my life, if you want.
And some final caveats about monetizing a blog…
There are some final things you should take into account before you start trying to monetize your blog.
For one: what’s your strategy for getting traffic?
With no eyeballs on your site, even the best offer isn’t going to sell. And for ads or sponsored posts, you need traffic as well.
Also: is your niche even monetizable?
I guess on Amazon you can find products for any conceivable interest.
But some niches are easier to monetize than others. Guess what? They’re also highly competitive.
Lookin’ at you, mommy bloggers.
And finally: does your blog or product meet a need? Does anybody want it? Is there an aspirational or lifestyle aspect?
Without those things, it’s gonna be pretty hard to get people to read or buy.
And to wrap this up…
I’m convinced that anyone can learn how to monetize a blog.
It’s not magic. But there are certain things you need to take into account. Maybe not every blog is really “monetizable” – and the ones that are will still take some work.
Conversion rates are generally not great, so you have to focus on getting more eyeballs on your site.
And the internet is always changing, so some of the rules might be different soon. (The general principles of marketing aren’t changing, ’cause that’s just basic psychology.)
But all in all it’s quite an adventure, and earning money from a blog offers you a flexibility in your lifestyle that not many other jobs do.
In fact, I wrote most of this post on a high-speed train back from holidays in Cádiz. Where I spent 8 days for no reason at all, other than that I could.
Location independence for the win!
Might just start collecting Basquiats, like my dawg Jay Z.
P.S. Got any questions about how to monetize your blog? Or anything else? Hit me up in the comments.