How To Make Money Blogging: A Complete Guide

A complete guide on how to make money blogging; from choosing a niche, to launching your blog, building content and monetising.

how to make money blogging

Today I’m going to cover a topic that is sure to be of interest to every blogger (and future blogger) out there – just how do you make money from blogging? After all, while to succeed you must have a passion for your topic and love writing about it, we all have bills to pay, so the pounds and pennies have to come from somewhere (that’s dollars and cents for my American readers!).

I’ve been inspired to write this for two reasons: –

  • 1) This post on thatgamingcritic, where Scott expressed his frustrations at not making enough money from his blog.
  • 2) An influx of spammy emails today with ‘make $500 a day doing nothing’ etc type subjects.

Before I start, let me say that if you are looking for a quick buck then this guide is not for you. These get rich quick schemes either don’t work (and only make money for the person who is selling the advice) or follow a ‘burn and churn’ model with no longevity.

If however you are serious about online marketing and want to build a sustainable income stream from your blog that will grow month on month, year on year, then read on – the good stuff is right here!

Why should you listen to what I have to say?

Good question! Well I’m 33 years old and  have been making money online for over 10 years (fully self employed for 7 years) and am currently sitting in my back garden in the sun writing this article while most of my friends are sitting in offices wishing their lives away and begging for the clock to hit 5pm.

Over the years I have made money online from multiple channels (ecommerce, price comparison, discount code sites, review sites etc.) and I will cover these in future articles, but today’s focus is all about how to launch, build and monetise a blog.

Can you make enough money blogging to quit your day job? Absolutely and I’m going to show you how! We’ll start right at the beginning, as Julie Andrews says ‘that’s a very good place to start’.

Pick Your Niche

Bit of a no brainer really, but to make money from blogging you are going to need a blog right… so, how do you choose what to write about?

Firstly, choose a topic which you: –

a) Know a bit about – as long as you are good at research you don’t have to be the world’s foremost authority to begin with, but you should have a decent base knowledge about your topic. If you are the world’s foremost authority… then even better!

b) Have a genuine interest in – if you pick a topic you have no interest in it will show in your content and you will quickly get bored before the money starts rolling in.

c) Has a market – it’s going to be difficult to monetise a topic that no one except you is interested in, so make sure that there will be an audience for your blog

Wherever possible think broad, i.e….

don’t write about Bugaboo prams, write about prams
don’t write about grooming beagles, write about grooming dogs

The exception to this might be if you are truly an expert in a specific micro-niche, but in general terms wider is better – you will have far more content ideas.

Build Your Blog’s Audience

So, you’ve got a blog. Great! But it’s not much use if nobody reads it is it?

I’m not going to go too much into how to generate traffic here as this post is all about monetisation, but I will quickly go through the basics and then include some links to posts which you will find helpful.

Here are the keys to building your audience: –

1) Ensure your blog looks professional – it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a clean, professional looking template will help to gain trust. Your blog is your shop window… would you walk into a messy shop?

2) Write great content – every time you hit that publish button ask yourself ‘have I made this post as good as it can be?’. There are thousands of new blogs launched every day, so to succeed your content will have to be engaging, well researched, insightful and helpful.

3) Publish regularly – whether it is once a day, once a week or once a month, get a on a schedule and stick to it.

4) Build your network – get yourself on twitter, facebook and linked in and start networking. Don’t just self promote, get involved in discussions, share other people’s content that you find interesting and answer questions

5) Comment on other blogs in your niche – great way to network and you’ll also get some referral traffic (plus potentially some link juice)

6) Build some high quality links – to start getting traffic from the search engines you don’t need thousands of links – these days it is all about quality and 1 good link will do more for your rankings than hundreds of low quality ones.

6) Offer subscriptions by email on RSS – more on this later.

Further reading on building your traffic/content

You might not like the next bit, but while you are building your traffic/network/content…

Forget About Making Money For 2 Months

This might seem an odd section when the post is all about how to make money blogging, but if you are serious then the first 2-3 months of your blog should all be about growing your audience and building trust. If you plaster your blog with ads from day 1 then you will quickly turn off readers, so keep advertising minimal and focus on creating great content on a regular schedule that people will want to share and keep coming back for more.

Making Money From Your Blog

So, after you’ve got your blog ready, looking the part, have some great content behind you and an engaged audience, it’s time to monetise. But how? I’ll go through the methods in descending order of priority, so we’ll start with what I believe is the number 1 way to monetise your blog.

#1 Affiliate Marketing

This is the reason it is so important to build up the trust of your readers. Just in case you don’t know, affiliate marketing involves promoting a product (or service) from a merchant and earning commission when a customer purchases from the merchant. It’s sometimes called ‘performance marketing’ which is probably a nicer term.

Here are some tips for successfully making money from affiliate marketing on your blog.

Amazon Associates

The Amazon Associates program is one of the oldest on the web and a potential for huge amounts of juicy commissions. The best thing about amazon is their conversion rate; if you can drive traffic to their site then the trust factor is so high and amazon’s sales funnel so well honed then you will have an excellent percentage of sales.

So, what is the best way to use amazon associates to generate commissions for your blog?

Well, the tried and trusted product review is the way to go here. But don’t just write 300 words with a link to amazon underneath. The aim of the game is to ‘pre-sell’ the customer. In an ideal world you will have used the product yourself and can write from experience, but if this is not the case then look at what others have to say about the product – the pros, the cons – read other reviews and write the most detailed (and honest) review on the web.

Communicate to the customer why they need this product in their life and make sure you have an up to date price on the page, so there are no surprises. This is where you might want to embed one of amazon’s excellent content widgets which will show a thumbnail of the product and the current price with your affiliate links embedded.

In addition to the content unit link, you should put at least 2 further text links to the product directly from within your content. The best place to put these are your first and last paragraphs, so your first paragraph might read: –

‘Today I will be reviewing the popular {name of product} (hyperlinked to amazon)…’

And you might sum up with:-

So as you can see, the {name of product} is…

And, following the don’t make me think mantra, add one final ‘click here to buy the {name of product} from amazon’ after your final paragraph and underneath that embed a content unit. Seem like overkill? Well, it works – assuming your product review is good enough customers will follow your strong call to action. You’ll be like an affiliate marketing Jedi.

If you are in the UK you can sign up for the amazon associates program here, US users go here.

Price Comparison

Affiliate Window, the most popular affiliate network in the UK, has a great price comparison widget, which allows you to embed a  continually updated comparison table for a product directly into your page. This is another great way to drive sales on product review pages as the customer is pre-sold on the benefits of the product and you are then telling them exactly where they can buy it for the best price.

I do very well through affiliate window and it’s a great network with some top merchants (John Lewis, M&S etc). You can sign up here (af).

Exclusive Discount Codes

Another fantastic way to drive affiliate sales is to agree an exclusive discount code with a merchant for a product. Write your review as before and then write a strong call to action underneath like.

‘Take advantage of our exclusive discount code {the code} and receive 10% off the {name of product} at {name of merchant} until {date}. Click here to go to the deal’

The date in the call to action puts a sense of urgency in the reader’s mind – you want them to click there and then and purchase, not read your review then go directly to the merchant a week later.

A Top 5 Post

Identify a problem that your readers might have and give them the solution to it. This works very well in a ‘top 5’ type post, for example, if you have a skin care blog, you might have a post titled ‘The Top 5 Products For Curing Acne’.

I would recommend trying to cover different price points, i.e. have a cheaper product, a premium product and a couple in the middle.

A Versus Post

Choose 2 of the best selling products in your niche and write up the definitive x versus y post, listing all the pros and cons. For example, in the gaming niche you might do an Xbox versus Playstation post. Pick a winner at the end, tell them why you think x is better than y, but of course make sure you have affiliate links to both products!

Digital Products

If you are in a tech niche, digital Products are great for affiliate marketing as (generally) the purchaser gets instant access to the product. Create that sense of urgency I talked about earlier with a review post explaining why they need the product as soon as possible.

A digital product could be anything from software, to a wordpress plugin, to a theme, to an ebook – there’s loads of possibilities.

To start marketing digital products, sign up with clickbank.

For more on making money through affiliate marketing, read my guide to growing a niche affiliate site from $0 To $3,934 In Just 6 Months.

#2 e-books

If you are an expert on a subject and can write about it with authority, then a great way to monetise your blog is to sell your own e-books. This is where building your email list (which I mentioned earlier) really comes into play.

So how do you encourage subscriptions?

Well, a great way to do this is to offer an incentive to sign up with you and the perfect incentive is a free e-book for all subscribers. For example, if you have a site about wordpress you might give away a free e-book about wordpress security – this should be very high quality (your absolute best work) and I would recommend running it to around 5,000 words or so.

But wait a minute, we’re trying to make money… why give it away?

Well, once you have your list you can start promoting your other ebooks directly and as your free one was so good, they’ll be much more likely to pay that £5/£10 for more of your amazingly helpful content.

One thing I would say about selling e-books is don’t let it hold you back on the content for your blog posts. Your blog posts are your bread and butter and what will encourage people to buy your e-books, so make sure they are all exceptional quality. What you can do with your e-books is really go into great detail on a particular topic, or consolidate information from different individual blog posts.

Use a strong call to action at the end of your blog posts to promote your related e-books, i.e.

‘For more on {the topic} you can download a copy of our 8,000 word e-book {all about the topic} for just £4.99 here.’

#3 Premium Subscription Content

Instead of selling individual ebooks, another great way to monetise your blog is to have a premium content area, where your readers pay a monthly fee (my advice is to keep it under £10) for more detailed information, secrets, pro tips etc. You might also have a bunch of ebooks in here that premium members can download.

Again (and I’ll keep repeating this) people will only want to sign up for your subscription area if you have fantastic content in your public blog, so don’t hold back – there’s always more to say on a topic!

Copyblogger is an excellent example of how to do this well. They actually have 3 tiers: –

  • The main blog
  • A free subscription area with lots of additional content (building that email list!)
  • A premium area (called authority)

#4 Sell Yourself!

Use your blog as your own advert and offer consultancy/training etc.

For example, while the main focus of this site is providing the high quality information you need to optimise your own site (and I give this information away for free!), I also offer an SEO consultancy service where I will personally develop a content marketing strategy for your site.

Again, writing excellent, authoritative content on your topic will show your expertise and build trust in potential clients, who will be much more inclined to hire you. This is also where it is very important to be you – use your picture in your articles, make sure your google+ page, facebook, twitter etc is prominently displayed – people like dealing with people, not faceless entities.

#5 Google Adsense

Google adsense is still one of the most popular ways of monetising a blog and (for certain niches) can be a good source of income.

Text ads within content work best and should be blended to fit in with your article text, i.e. if your links are red on your page, make sure your adsense links are red. Float the ad block left or right and wrap your text around it for better click throughs.

If you have a sidebar then image (or rich content) ads work well in these areas as they will grab attention.

Don’t go crazy on ad units though, with maybe 2 or maximum 3 blocks on your page. For more information on the best practices for ad placements see google’s own guide here.

Note to get approved for google’s adsense program you will need to have a high quality blog with a bank of content, so don’t apply till you have been live for at least a month or so and have a minimum of 8-10 excellent articles.

#6 Selling Advertising

Selling banner adverts on your site is another way to monetise your blogging and of course, the more traffic you get, the more you will be able to charge for the ad spots.

Like everything else, don’t go overboard – you will turn off your readers if you just bombard them with flashing ads. You might want to sell a banner at the top of the page (this should be the one you charge most for) and maybe 3/4 sidebar ads.

Contact potential advertisers in your niche which you feel will be a good fit for readers. The more closely you can match your visitors with your ads, the more likely they are to click through and buy, which will keep your advertisers happy and renewing with you month on month.

Track Performance

Make sure you keep track of clicks and if you see adverts are performing well, you might want to renegotiate your fee. After all, with an advert you will only be getting a fixed price, whereas if you put an affiliate banner in that spot your earning potential would be unlimited. With this in mind I would recommend selling ads on a month to month basis, or at the most on a quarterly basis.

How Much Can You Charge For Ads?

Unfortunately there is no magic formula for this. As a general rule the more traffic you get the more you will be able to charge, but if you have a particularly engaged audience then you might be able to charge more with less traffic. Just make sure you don’t undervalue yourself!

Check out this article on about.com for more on how to calculate advertising fees.

Note: Links from banner ads (and any ads) should have the rel=nofollow attribute added if you want to stay on google’s good side.

#7 Sponsored Posts

Sponsored posts are advertorial style articles, where you will be writing a review on a product or service for a fee. Be careful with these though as if you do too many then you can quickly lose readers.

Be honest and tell your readers that you have been paid for the review, but are still giving your honest opinions.

Again, links to the merchant’s site from sponsored posts should have the rel=nofollow tag added.

#8 Selling Links (maybe…)

Ok, now we come to the elephant in the room.

It’s a funny one this as, in terms of the revenue it can potentially bring in for your blog it should probably be near the top of the list. So why have I put it at the bottom?

Well, quite simply, if you sell links (and are caught by google) you run the risk of losing your site’s pagerank and all your organic search engine traffic. Overnight. As this article is the ultimate guide to monetising your blog though, it would be remiss of me not to include it.

In the 2 points above (ads and sponsored posts) I mentioned how you should add rel=nofollow to your outgoing links to the merchant. This is google’s strict guideline for any link which is not editorially given.

When someone buys a link from you (for the purposes of boosting their rankings), they will be looking for your to link to them within content without adding the nofollow attribute.

How Much Can You Charge For Selling Links?

Well, I get emails pretty much every day offering to buy links for various sites and I would say the average price I am offered is around £60/£70, however, I have been offered as much as £250 for a single link.

I would be lying if I said this was not a tempting proposition. 45 minutes work (writing up a post with a link it it) for £250, not a bad hourly rate, however: –

Is it really worth undoing all that good work you have put in in building up your rankings?

I say no. As I have shown above there are plenty of ways to monetise without having to do anything that can get you on the wrong side of google. But it’s your blog, so at the end of the day, the decision is up to you.

Just so we’re clear, let me just put the following phrase in bold…

I am not endorsing selling links!

So What Are You Waiting For?

Hopefully the above has given you the advice you need to start your blog, build it up and get the money flowing in. There’s nothing holding you back but yourself, so don’t put it off – do some research, pick a niche and go for it! Today would be a good day to start!

Write well, work hard, make good connections, make friends and most importantly, love what you do. That’s how to make money blogging.

I’ll be posting loads more internet marketing tips, SEO advice, blogging tips etc, so to make sure you don’t miss out, be sure to sign up by email or RSS and follow me on twitter (@top5seo). Good luck and I look forward to hearing your success stories!

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