The Most Profitable Ways of Monetizing a Blog

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  • Inbound Marketing
  • Updated: Apr 10, 2014

Blogging is one of the most popular ways of making money online. It is an entry point for many non-technical people as it requires no previous experience of blogging or working online to set up a blog.

It is common for many people to start a blog without thinking about how it can make money long term.

The good news is, every type of blog can make money.

If a blog has a lot of traffic and a loyal readership, it can be monetized. Today I would like to talk about the main ways you can monetize your blog. Most bloggers use a combination of the methods detailed in this article. So don't worry, you do not have to pick one particular method over another.

Affiliate Links

I have found embedding affiliate links within articles to be the most profitable way of making money through blogs over the past six or seven years. When I sold my former WordPress blog last year on Flippa, commissions from affiliate links were responsible for more than 75% of my website income.

This obviously did not happen through sheer luck. From the very start of the blog's life I set out to actively link to services I recommended. The concept is simple:

  1. Find a service that you like.
  2. Sign up to their affiliate program.
  3. Link to their website using your affiliate link.

I know of many bloggers that will link to any website if the affiliate program pays well. I strongly recommend against doing this. Trust is a precious thing and readers will quickly realise that you are only recommending a product or service because you want a commission. Therefore, I only ever review products I have tested myself and I only ever recommend products and services that I know are good.

Affiliate Program
An example of an affiliate program.

Promoting a bad product to readers may make you a quick buck in the short term but it will damage your reputation in the long term. Do not take your readers trust for granted. The rate of commission is something you should not too worry about when writing a review. It is something I believe that takes care of itself. Some products I recommend only earn me a couple of dollars, others earn me more than $20 per conversion. The most important thing is that the article is useful to the reader. You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly a few dollars here and a few dollars there can add up to a large chunk of your monthly income.

Affiliate links can be used within your posts and pages. You can also promote products and services using affiliate links on your sidebar, using text links or banners. Below is an screenshot of a page from my friends WordPress website WP Squared. Notice that within the article itself, he has reviewed a WordPress design and linked to it using an affiliate link. On the sidebar he is promoting a WordPress theme company using an affiliate link too.

Affiliate Links
An example of affiliate links being used within content and on a sidebar.

Whilst you should not worry too much about the rate of commission for promoting products when writing articles, it obviously makes sense to place your best converting affiliate programs in premium advertising space such as your sidebar. I recommend using a link cloaking application too (I use the free WordPress plugin Pretty Link Lite). Not only does it make your affiliate URL's more user-friendly, it also allows you to track the number of clicks every day.

Note that many top blogs do not use affiliate links within content. Doing so may not be in their interests as it could appear to others that they are biased. For example, The Huffington Post would not be able to appear impartial if they were promoting companies within articles (though most top blogs do this in more sneaky ways!). For most bloggers, this is not something to concern yourself about. A small disclaimer that states that affiliate links may be used is sufficient for most readers, as they know the money is supporting the blog they love.

Banner Sales

Once a blog reaches a few thousands visits per day, it becomes much easier to sell your premium advertising positions directly to advertisers. Revenue from banner sales tends to be much more reliable than promoting companies using their affiliate program. Which is one reason why most top blogs sell ad space directly rather than promoting products using affiliate links.

You can sell advertising directly through your blog. All you need to do is add an advertising information page and invite advertisers to get in touch. You could also automate this process by using a script such as OIO Publisher.

Getting advertisers to promote their services on your blog every month can sometimes be a battle. It can also be time consuming. This is why many blog owners use an advertising marketplace such as BuySellAds. They take a 25% cut of any sales you make, however they automate the whole process of selling ads. More importantly, their marketplace is viewed every day by thousands of advertisers, therefore your odds of selling advertisements on your blog are greatly increased (75% of something is better than 100% of nothing!).

Another good thing about ad marketplaces such as BuySellAds is that it allows you to find out the market rate of your own ad positions. The marketplace displays information about a website such as how many page views they generate and how much they charge for each ad position. This makes it a fantastic place to research the value of your own blog.

Sponsored Reviews

Sponsored reviews are a popular way of earning a little extra cash on your blog. I made thousands of dollars with my former blogs by charging a set fee for reviewing products and services. When a blog reaches a certain traffic level, they will attract a lot of attention from advertisers. Sponsored reviews was a way of me scaring away advertisers who did not want to pay for their product to be reviewed and a way of making money from those who did (i.e. it got rid of time wasters).

I never guaranteed any review would be positive, I only guaranteed that my review would be fair. Each review had a disclaimer at the bottom that advised readers that the review had been paid for as well.

All of my sponsored reviews came from emails I received directly through my blogs, however there are marketplaces available that match up bloggers with potential advertisers. Sponsored Reviews and ReviewMe are two of the most popular.

Sponsored Reviews

Many companies also send products to blog owners so that they can be reviewed. If you agreed to do this, please ensure that you are upfront about any products you are sent within your review. Most Countries have policies in which bloggers need to disclose whenever a company gives them a product for free (such as the Federal Trade Commission in the USA), so you need to be upfront about this.

In-Text Advertising

In-Text Advertising

In-text advertising was apparently developed to address ad-blindness amongst internet users.

It does this by converting certain keywords within your content into links. It is common for the links to be styled with two underlines, a different color or with a larger font; thus ensuring that everyone can distinguish the advertisement links from normal links. Once a user hovers over an in-text link, an advertisement box will appear.

Popular in-text advertising services include Skimlinks, Kontera, LinkWorth and InfoLinks.

I have tried in-text advertising in the past though I did not like it as I felt the links made my blog look like a spam blog. Additionally, it did not generate that much extra revenue, certainly not enough to cover the cost of pissing off readers.

Paid Posts

Paid posts allow another blogger or advertiser to pay for an article to be published on your blog. It essentially means someone is willing to pay you a small fee for guest posting on your blog. Occasionally the advertiser will give you an idea of what to write and encourage you to reword it so that it sounds authentic.

The rate you get will depend on the Page Rank and popularity of your blog. Marketplaces such as PostJoint and PayPerPost tend to offer around $25 for an article.

PayPerPost allows you to negotiate rates with advertisers.

I have considered selling posts in the past, however the poor quality of articles that advertisers submitted stopped me from ever agreeing a deal. I remember an advertiser who sent three different articles for me to review. I rejected all three because they were so badly written. It was clear that they outsourced the task of writing the article to a cheap writing service. My continued attempts to tell them that the article had to be of a high quality fell on deaf ears.

I would certainly consider this option if the standard of articles being submitted was higher. It would be a win-win situation as I would get a quality article for one of my blogs and they would get a backlink or two in the bio area. Unfortunately, the standard of articles that are being submitted to paid post marketplaces is sub-par.

Email Marketing

The money is in the list. That is what marketers have drilled into everyone's brains for the last ten years….and they are correct. An email marketing list is one of the most powerful tools a blogger can have. It can encourage readers to return to your blog, increase engagement with them and allow you to promote products and services directly to their inbox.

It is therefore vital that you build your email list from the very start. Give readers a reason to sign up to your newsletter by offering them something like a free eBook or access to an eight week email course. You can then contact readers whenever you need to.

Email Marketing

Popular email marketing companies include Aweber, MailChimp, GetResponse and Campaign Monitor. Most of these servers charge around $30 per month for up to 2,500 subscribers per month. This is a relatively inexpensive service to pay every month when you consider the additional traffic and sales an email marketing campaign can generate.

Product Sales

A loyal readership is a powerful thing. Successful blogs have thousands of people who trust their judgement. It is the kind of trust that most companies can only dream of. This trust can be leveraged to sell related products to readers. A great example of this is Copyblogger. They built upon their highly successful blog about copywriting by developing high quality products and selling them directly to WordPress users.

Copyblogger's business relies on the success of their blog.

Can you imagine how much a company would have to spend to reach the volume of traffic that Copyblogger can direct to its product sales pages, not to mention the close relationship Copyblogger has with its readers. Without doubt, blogs are the perfect platform to sell a product.

Every type of blog has an opportunity to develop products and sell them directly to readers. For example, language blogger Benny Lewis sells a language hacking guide to his readers, whilst travel blogger Matthew Kepnes has used his blog to sell books.

Can you think of a product you can create for your readers? If not, I recommend searching for similar blogs within your niche and looking at what products they are selling to their readers.

Market Your Services

Bloggers are frequently thought of as experts within their field due to the knowledge they have on their chosen subject. This places them in a great position to market their services to others. They can do this directly through their own blog or by advertising their business website through their blog.

I have used this to great effect myself. My personal blog has been the source for hundreds of blogging gigs and has been a great place for me to show others what I can do. My friend Nathan B Weller, a blogger who I have worked with on many occasions, has been developing his blog this year in order to improve his writing opportunities. The more he develops this blog, the more job offers he will receive.

Nathan B Weller
Nathan uses his blog to market his Writing Services.

Blogs are a great place to market yourself and your business, whether it be writing, marketing, consultation, life advice etc. Think about what you can offer people and promote yourself as an expert within your field to visitors. You will surprised at how many offline and online opportunities will come your way when you do.

Charge for Content

Charging people for content is another way of making money through your blog. To do this, you need to already have traffic to your blog or a related blog. Alternatively, you need to raise your profile more so that people will want to pay a premium to read your content.

I believe charging for content works best on blogs that have already have an established readership. The design blog Tuts+ has successfully followed this model. They have developed 10 highly successful blogs through their Tuts+ brand, all of which push traffic towards their premium courses, tutorials, eBooks and guides.

Tuts+ use the power of their blogs to market their premium content.

I have seen many other blogs sell premium content too. In order to do this successfully, you need to be respected as an authority within your field. If you are not, no one is going to pay money to read your content.

An Overview of Monetizing Your Blog

Blogs are a fantastic way of making money on the internet. As your blog traffic grows, more and more opportunities will arise for you to make money through it. You should do your utmost to make your blog as profitable as it can be, however I remind you, do not take your readers trust for granted.

The value of your blog relies on the integrity of you and your actions. Therefore, look after your readers. If you do, you will find that not only are they loyal, they will promote your blog to others. They will also buy your products and services and support you in all your endeavours.

What methods do you currently use to monetize your blog? I'd love to hear what interesting ways WHSR readers are using to make money through their blog.

Thanks for reading,

About Kevin Muldoon

Kevin Muldoon is a professional blogger with a love of travel. He writes regularly about topics such as WordPress, Blogging, Productivity, Internet Marketing and Social Media on his personal blog. He is also the author of the best-selling book "The Art of Freelance Blogging".