Can You Make Money Blogging? 6 Strategies for a Profitable Blog
How can you make money blogging? That’s the question that every successful blogger gets when they share what they do. Even as more and more people rely on blogs as a source of information, the legitimacy and reality of blogging is constantly questioned.
So let’s put it all out in the open…
Can you make money blogging? Yes, you can.
It’s a fairly slow business model overall, but even in 2020, you can start a blog and begin to monetize it. That’s the truth.
Blogging isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, so please do not believe anyone who sells you a plan for fast cash. There are some strategies that will boost your success (more on those later), but they still require effort and time.
Blogging is one of those jobs that you work at really hard in the beginning, don’t see a massive return, feel like you want to quit, push through that struggle, and then start seeing gains.
Nearly every profitable blogger we know will tell you the same story. It was hard in the beginning, but I’m so glad I kept going.
There is a wide range of success in the blogging world, too. Some bloggers make an extra $3,000/month, which helps them pay off debt and save more for retirement. They do it while working a full-time job or raising kids, and that extra income provides opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.
There’s also a handful of bloggers in nearly every niche who make six figures a month, travel full-time while they work, and could retire whenever.
One thing that all successful bloggers have in common is that they’ve learned to monetize their sites and make money from more than one strategy. Diversifying your sources of income protects you if something happens to one.
You’re about to get a list of 6 ways to make money blogging. You don’t need to do all of them, and trying everything at once isn’t a good idea either. You want to learn about each, and master one or two at a time, then adjust your monetization strategy as you grow your site.
How to make money blogging in 2020: 6 strategies that work
1. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is probably one of the most popular ways to make money from a blog. That’s because it can feel fairly passive, there are lots of options for affiliates, and you can start it fairly early on.
Here’s how affiliate marketing works:
- As a blogger, you are the affiliate for a company.
- You’re given a special tracking link that you use whenever you mention the company’s product or service in one of your posts.
- When a reader clicks on that link and purchases the product, you earn a commission.
This can feel like passive income because you can write content once, put affiliate links in it, and continue generating blogging income from that post for years to come. But it’s not entirely passive because you still have to maintain the post and keep sending traffic to it.
The semi-passive aspect makes it a popular choice, but it can also add a lot of value to your blog when you promote affiliate products that make sense for your readers. There are legitimately affiliate products for nearly every kind of blog, so it should be relatively easy to find one that fits your niche.
The amount you make from affiliate marketing varies based on which companies you work with and the size of your blog. But it can be pretty lucrative – Michele Schroder-Gardner of the popular personal finance and lifestyle blog Making Sense of Cents, makes around $50,000/month in affiliate income alone.
Here’s an example of affiliate marketing on her site:
She’s an affiliate for Acorns, a micro-investing app, and she links to the company in a post that explains how to start investing without much money. This affiliate link makes sense in the context of her post, and she wouldn’t include it in a post about budgeting or time management.
2. Display ads
You’ve definitely seen display ads before – they are the little ads that pop up when you visit a website.
They can show up on the bottom, sides, and sometimes in the middle of a webpage. Here’s what they look like in action:
These are called display ads, and they are run by several different networks (Google AdSense is a really popular one for beginners). Mediavine and AdThrive are better as you start to increase your page views.
Ad networks pay in a couple of different ways:
- CPC (cost-per-click): You make money based on the number of people who click on your display ads.
- CPM (cost-per-impressions): Income is based on the number of views each ad gets.
The networks also do the majority of the work for you – deciding which ads to put on your site, managing relationships with advertisers, and optimizing ads as the market changes.
Display ads are a good way to make money blogging because, again, it’s fairly passive. You put the ads on your site and let the networks do their job. There’s also an extremely low barrier to entry, so smaller and new sites can monetize with display ads, but it’s best if you wait until your blog is about 6 months old. You’ll have time to establish a following, and you’re more likely to be approved for ad networks.
The downside is that display ads can take away from the overall user experience if they aren’t placed well or if your loading time starts to increase.
Here’s the other thing: display ads don’t pay very well. The average click-through-rate across all display ad placements for CPC ads is only about 0.05%. CPM ads pay around $2 for every 1,000 impressions. Not great.
Still, they can offset some of the costs associated with running your blog, like hosting fees, Facebook ads, or email marketing software.
You can learn why Laptop Empires co-founder Bobby Hoyt ditched display ads in Laptop Empires Podcast, Episode 51: Display Advertising 101.
3. Sponsored posts
Sponsored posts are when a company pays you to write content about their product for your blog, social media channels, or emails. It’s often a paid content that runs across all of those mediums. For example, you might be paid to write a blog post and companion social media posts that promote the article.
You’ll notice a disclosure like this anytime you see a sponsored post:
Companies like paying for content because it gives them access to an entirely new audience, which increases brand awareness when paired with the right blogger. Companies are paying for access to your audience.
Newer bloggers can make anywhere from $150-$250 per sponsored post, and as your site grows, you can make $1,000-$2,000 or more per post.
You really need to know who your audience is before running any sponsored posts – you should only write about products or services that can actually help your readers. And while it may sound obvious, you should try out the company’s products or services before writing a post about it.
Most of the time, sponsored posts are reviews. Like, “Hey, here’s something I use, I like it, and I think it will help you too.” You need to be honest about any problems or issues you’ve had with the company. And if there are too many issues, it might not be the best product to promote.
If you aren’t honest with your audience, sponsored posts can quickly sound scammy, and you’ll start to lose readers.
The upside is that when you do sponsored posts well – reviewing high-quality products that make sense with your brand – they can build trust and offer value to your readers.
You can learn how to get started in Making Sense of Sponsored Posts. This course is taught by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and her sister Alexis Schroeder. Both bloggers make around $10,000-$20,000 a month from sponsored posts alone.
4. Digital products
Digital products are things like ebooks, printables, how-to guides – things that can be purchased and downloaded as PDF files.
While these products still take time to create, the fact that they are digital products makes them significantly more passive than a physical product that needs to be produced and shipped. For the same reason, there’s a very little overhead cost involved.
One of the things that are really cool about creating your own digital products is that they are your own. You’re in control of what you create and sell, which means:
- You can tailor them to your audience’s exact needs
- You retain the majority of the profits (minus any processing fees you encounter while selling)
- You own the rights to your products
- You don’t have to worry about something happening to the network or company that you’re working with
To be successful with digital products, you have to think about what your audience wants and what fits in with your site.
For example, if you’re a food blogger who really wants to write a short romance novel, that’s not going to sell well on your site. A digital book of recipes would be a much better fit.
It’s a good idea to make your first digital product a free one, but still high-quality. Think of it as an investment because it shows your readers what they can expect from you.
Read more about the pros and cons of these monetization methods in Make Money Blogging: Pros and Cons of the Top 5 Strategies.
5. Offer freelance services
You might be surprised to learn that many bloggers started making money on their sites through freelance services. This is especially the case for blogs that focus on things like freelance writing, graphic design, photography, and web design.
Your blog can be a great portfolio for those kinds of freelance services, and they actually work well with a variety of niches. So do services like social media management, virtual assistance, editing, and proofreading work.
All you need is a button on your site that says “Hire Me” or “Work With Me.” Have that link to a page that explains your services and shares your contact info or a contact form.
What’s great about offering freelance services is that you can leverage your spare time and skills to make money, and it’s also a nice way to diversify your blog income. The downside is that you’re trading time for money.
6. Online courses
A noticeable shift in the blogging world over the past couple of years is that many high-level bloggers have started creating courses and selling them through their sites. That’s because courses can be super lucrative – selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars – especially when you create a course that addresses your readers’ pain points.
For example, Laptop Empires built the Facebook Side Hustle Course, which teaches people how to make extra money. Talk about addressing a pain point.
You’re leveraging your experience and skills when you create a course, and it has to work for people to be successful. You can wreck your reputation if you don’t deliver (click on that link for a wild cautionary tale).
Read Learn How to Create an Online Course in Just 9 Steps to learn more about creating a course, from choosing your topic, pricing, and launching it.
How to make money blogging: Foundations of a profitable blog
You just learned 6 different monetization methods, but it only works well if you set yourself up for success. Below are tips and strategies for a successful blog.
Start your blog
You can only make money blogging if you have a blog. You knew that already, but this step has been included for anyone who hasn’t started their blog yet.
If you’ve done any research about starting a blog, you’ll see that most sites recommend a WordPress blog hosted on BlueHost. There’s a very good reason for that – Bluehost is designed specifically for new bloggers who plan on taking their site seriously and want to make money blogging.
You also retain ownership of all the content you put on your site and get to control how you monetize that content. This isn’t the case for free hosting services.
You can start your blog using this How to Start a Blog Tutorial or check out Launch That Blog, which is a free service that sets your blog up for you. You still have to pay for hosting services ($2.95/month), but you don’t have to handle the technical aspects of setting up your site.
Picking the right niche
The reality is that some niches are more profitable than others. This is important to know if you want to make money blogging.
It’s a combination of finding a topic that people are willing to spend money on and having a large enough audience.
More often than not, it comes down to how you can help people improve their lives.
Keeping those things in mind, here are some examples of profitable blog niches and examples of monetizing each:
- Parenting: You can use affiliate links and write sponsored posts for products that you use in your daily life, create and sell printables that help you stay organized, and sell ebooks about your experiences.
- Personal finance: You can create courses that teach people how to budget or make more money and share affiliate links for budgeting or investing apps.
- Lifestyle: You can share affiliate links for home decor and beauty products, for example.
- Food: You can create recipe ebooks, create and sell meal plans, and there are lots of affiliate products to highlight on a food blog.
- Health and wellness: You can offer coaching services, create healthy meal plans for people, and write and sell ebooks.
- DIY: From crafts to home improvement, you can promote affiliate products, sell tutorials and patterns, and create ebooks.
There is a lot of room to niche down in each of those topics, which is what makes your blog stand out.
You will hear a lot of bloggers say that you need to focus on your passions, and blog about that. There’s some truth to that, but you can also be passionate about what making money blogging allows you to do.
What if you were passionate about paying off your debt, quitting your day job, traveling more, working from home, or retiring early. A profitable blog can allow you to pursue those passions.
Focus on stellar content
Good content offers an immense amount of value to your readers, and this translates into a profitable blog. But how do you write great content?
- Know what readers in your niche want: See what the most popular writers in your niche are writing about, and use that for ideas. Also, check out the Google Keyword Planner. It’s free if you have a Google Ads account and it can help you identify which keywords people are searching for.
- Make your content look amazing: This is more than words on the page; it’s how it looks on the page and how it’s delivered to readers. Does your page take too long to load? Are the images clear and relevant? Do your links work? Is your text organized well? You will be surprised by how important this is.
- Your blog posts deliver more value than others: Read what other bloggers in your niche are writing about and make yours better. You can fill in holes, add more examples, or just say it better. This isn’t about writing longer blog posts – you want a better blog post.
Get to know SEO
The most successful bloggers – the ones who make a lot of money blogging – have all learned and implemented SEO strategies on their sites. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is about making your website more appealing to search engines. This improves your site’s visibility and organic traffic.
There are a lot of parts to a good SEO strategy — keyword planning (that free Google Keyword Planner will help), on-site optimization, improving title tags, and knowing what readers want. That’s not even a complete list.
The point is, there is a lot to learn about SEO and you should start doing your research and implementing what you learn on your site. We recommend Money Lab’s SEO for Bloggers.
Start an email list
Your email list is easy to ignore in the early days of your blog. Hardly anyone is visiting my site, why would I waste time on my email list?
Email marketing has an ROI of $42 for every $1 spent, so you are never wasting your time on your email list.
Your list is a valuable asset because these are the readers who trust you enough to give you their email address. That trust means they convert to sales at a higher rate than non-email subscribers.
Read How to Build an Email List From Scratch to learn how to get started. This article includes finding the right email service provider (hint: MailChimp is free if you have under 2,000 subscribers), how to get readers to sign up, optimizing sign-ups, and growing your list even more.
Grow your blog traffic with Facebook ads
To make money with your blog, you need more readers. That makes sense, right? SEO is one way to do that, but SEO takes time.
You can set up social media pages for your blogs and use those platforms to share your content. This is worth doing and free, but it’s not super effective.
Running Facebook ads, on the other hand, is the fastest way to grow and diversify your blog traffic. Laptop Empires co-founder Bobby Hoyt used Facebook ads to grow his site, Millennial Money Man.
He started investing $1/day on Facebook ads and saw his traffic grow to around 1,500+ new readers each month. When he bumped his investment up to $5/day, he watched his numbers grow to 7,500 new readers each month.
Bobby’s affiliate income and ad revenue started to spike, which offset his initial investment and helped him make more money blogging. Here’s a look at what happened with his display ad revenue when he started running Facebook ads:
You can see the initial spike in March and notice how his earnings continued to increase.
Remember, this is an investment. You don’t have to run Facebook ads in the beginning, but keep this information in your back pocket.
You can learn more about Bobby’s strategy and how to get started at our Facebook Ads for Bloggers Course.
The bottom line: Can you really make money blogging?
The online world is huge, and there is still a lot of room out there for new bloggers. It takes a lot of work in the beginning with very little return, but if you’re willing to stick around, there is a lot of money to be made online.