I’ve been a blogger for nearly a decade – and the most frequently asked question I receive is how to make money blogging. First, I want to dispel the myth that it’s quick and easy money. Not even close. I had to work for nearly 5 years before I made more than $1000 per month. And a lot of that was eaten up by expenses. But now, all these years later, I can tell you that I’ve made a six figure income for three years in a row. If you want to start a blog – or grow a current blog – this post is for you. Instead of creating a series on my tips for blogging, I decided to throw it all into one massive post. It’s a lot of information, so let’s get started so you can learn how to make money blogging.
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How to Make Money Blogging
*this post contains affiliate links for your convenience*
Before you actually get to the money portion of learning how to make money blogging, you’ve got a little groundwork to do. These are the top five things I always recommend to bloggers who are either just getting started or are ready to up their game.
- Sign up with WordPress.org. That’s the self-hosted kind of blogging that you have complete control over. While you can get started on free blogs, if you ever want to learn how to make money blogging, you’ll want to be in charge of everything in your blogging world. Choosing the right company to host your website is one of the most important blogging decisions you’ll ever make. I highly recommend Orange Geek (you can save 10% on hosting fees by using coupon code SHABBYCREEK). You want to be sure you choose a hosting service that can handle your traffic (I get 3 million hits a month with no problems) and has great customer service. BUT – if you’re not 100% sure you want to invest $50 per month for hosting, BlueHost is one of the cheapest available starting at $3.50 per month.
- Pick the right plug-ins. There are very few that I consider essential, but Yoast SEO is definitely one of them. I also recommend PopupAlly for emails (more about that later) and Wordfence Security to keep your site safe.
- Take time to showcase your brand. You’ll want a good logo, but you can find a lot of great options on Etsy that don’t break the bank. If you are starting this on a budget, spend your money on good hosting. Also be sure to create good social media graphics (I use font packages from My Design Deals to keep it affordable.)
- Learn the basics of tech on your own. Paying someone to fix every tiny detail of things you need done can get to be expensive, so you should at least learn about the bare essentials. I learned what I know from Lesley Clavijo’s book What the Tech. If you fix just a couple of things yourself by learning from this book, then you’ll have saved money over hiring someone. At the very least, try to use Google to find solutions to sort out issues before you start panicking.
Now that you’ve got a blog set up, you need to add some content. And, as the old saying goes, content is king. Learning how to create blog posts that stand the test of time – and that people actually want to read – that’s the ultimate key to success – and that’s what you need to know before you learn how to make money blogging. Because without a good blog there is no money.
- Build up a catalog of sustainable content. I’m not going to go too in-depth about this one, because I wrote an entire e-book just on the topic of creating content alone called the Blog Post Tool Kit. Essentially it teaches you every tiny detail about writing blog posts and how to promote them properly (which leads to how to make money blogging), but it all comes down to this: use the keyword tool to find the best keywords, use them to maximize SEO in your posts, then promote them properly (more on that later.)
- Photography is important. Photography is the thing that grabs the reader’s attention, long before they see the words. It can make good content even better. (Notice how the images in this post compliment the content.) Teaching you about how to improve your photography isn’t really the goal here – but learning more can improve your blog a lot. The best tool I’ve used in improving my own photography was Aniko Levai’s book The Ultimate Photography Book for Bloggers.
- Creating a content plan. Any successful blogger will tell you the same thing: you need to plan out your content. Between making a project, photographing it, writing the post, then scheduling in social media promotions, there’s very little room to fly by the seat of your pants. Whether you plan on using an old school calendar to pencil in ideas, or use a more streamlined plan for creating and maintaining content, either method will need at least a little planning. You might have to reconfigure a bit when something in life pops up (because life does happen!), but having a good basic plan in place will help to keep you on track.
- Maintaing old content is more important than creating new. Yes, you just read that right. If I wrote this post, then continued for years on end to promote it without any revisions, the content would go stale rather quickly. So after you’ve built up an arsenal of good, sustainable content, be sure you take care of that content so it doesn’t die.
Writing great content isn’t enough. You have to promote that content for years and years to come. One of my strongest posts was written nearly 3 years ago – and I still promote that post almost every day. Promotion is often overlooked in the to-do list of bloggers – but high earning publishers know that the key to page views is promotion.
- Pinterest is the king for creative content. Write a DIY, craft or food blog? Then Pinterest should be your blog’s BFF. Seriously. 40% of my overall traffic comes from Pinterest, and it is 74% of my social media driven traffic. That’s huge! With over a million hits a month directly from Pinterest, it would be silly for me to ignore it. I personally use Board Booster to schedule out my pins – because you only have so many hours in the day. Just be sure you’re sharing at least 50% of other people’s content to balance things out.
- Facebook isn’t dead. Don’t worry, I used to think Facebook was useless, too. That was until I learned how to properly utilize it. With over a billion users on FB, you shouldn’t ignore the potential. Although I admit, I ignored it for way too long, now I’m using it to create crazy good traffic for my blog. I use Post Planner to help find (and sometimes) schedule out content – but good posts will not go very far unless you engage with your followers, so be present on Facebook and it will be kind to you.
- Instagram’s community is insanely interactive. I find that the most invested community among my social media outlets is Instagram. Since the beginning, users there were encouraged to like and comment on photos – so that’s what they are ingrained in doing. If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of your blog audience, Instagram can be the perfect place to do it.
- Email marketing is the best marketing. Social media sites change their algorithms often to keep spammers at bay – but your email list is yours to keep and no one can take that outlet away. That’s why it’s crucial to build up a mailing list starting as soon as you can – and use it! Every day you’re not adding to your list is a day you’ve lost forever. Start today – using PopupAlly to gather and MailChimp to deliver is my preferred way – and capture those page viewers and turn them into loyal readers. Those are the people who will help you learn how to make money blogging. Speaking of making money….
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. So let’s see… we’ve started a blog with the right set up, we’ve created good, sustainable content, we’ve learned how to market that content, and now we’re ready to get down to the nuts and bolts of how to make money blogging. No matter what other sites says, at the end of the day there are really only 5 ways to actually make money blogging. Any other option just falls under one of these categories:
- Adding on advertising networks. There are tons of them available, starting with the most basic, Google Adsense – and moving up to the cream of the crop, Adthrive (in my opinion). Each of them will either pay you per view or per click for visitors. Per view means for every 1,000 people who see an ad, you’ll receive X amount of dollars (usually between $5-6). Pay per click means you earn money when someone clicks on an ad, whether they buy or not (price varies.) If you are just looking to make money, this is the easiest way. The main objective is to get the most page views you can, because the more page views the more ad money. It’s pretty simple – yet effective. It is the #1 way I make money from this blog.
- Affiliate marketing is essential. Until recently, I never thought much about affiliate marketing. I used Amazon affiliates here and there, but it was never a huge focus. Then last year I read Tasha Agruso’s Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers and it pretty much blew my mind. Her blog receives 1/4 of the page views of mine, but she was making 10x more than I was in affiliate earnings. Since reading her book, my affiliate earnings have gone up dramatically – because I actually started using affiliate links! Now I spend as much time perfecting the affiliate links in a blog post as I do researching the keywords (like throughout this post.) It’s a little more work, but I’m earning much more money. And it kind of makes me sad to look back and see all the money I lost out on before I started. So start now. Like today. Your page views have nothing to do with your earnings – even smaller blogs can make big bucks.
- Working with brands (aka sponsored posts.) If you’ve ever been to my blog before, you’ll know that I don’t shy away from writing sponsored posts. I’m highly selective in the sponsors I accept, and it has to be a product that I can incorporate in a natural way into a project. I made 25% of my overall income in 2015 with sponsored posts. That’s a huge amount – more than I made from the day job I left 6 years ago. I know they’re not for everyone – but if you can partner with the right sponsor it can be a win/win for both sides. There’s tons to learn about working with sponsors, and Shannon Acheson’s book Bloggers + Brands is a great place to start.
- Selling your own product. These days I make about 25% of my income from product sales – and those are all digital products. On the flip side, I’m working more on products and less on sponsored posts, so those numbers will change over the course of 2016 (I hope.) I currently only have 2 ebooks available – The Blog Post Tool Kit and Super Fast Freezer Meals. There are successful bloggers who make 90% of their money selling products, so don’t sell this idea short.
- Social media promotions. You don’t have to have a huge following to make money posting on social media. Unlike blog posts (so you’re not really learning how to make money blogging here), you are getting paid for sharing content exclusively on social media outlets (like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) You can signup with networks like SheKnows who offer bloggers these deals, or try to strike your own with brands you love.
And that’s what I know about how to make money blogging. It sounds like a very long winded explanation, but you really need each of these stepping stones to create the path of successful blogging. Of course, we can dig deeper and go super in depth with advanced tactics, but that’s after you’ve tackled all of these steps.
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