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Make Money Blogging: Pros and Cons of the Top 5 Strategies
For those wanting to start a blog and grow it into a business, not only can it be incredibly difficult to predict your income potential, but it’s also hard to forecast when you will start earning that income. Blogging is a pretty slow business model overall, and if you want to make money blogging, it’s best to acknowledge that from the beginning.
To navigate all of the options for your blog, we’ve put together a list of the top five monetization strategies. And, the most successful bloggers are the ones who diversify their income through a variety of these strategies but start with one and work your way up.
These are those little boxes that pop up around the edges of a website, and they are managed by ad networks who pair advertisers with appropriate websites. These networks can help you design a layout for your ads, they manage your relationships with advertisers, and optimize ads that change with market trends.
And, blogger or not, you’re probably already very familiar with display ads, and you might even have strong feelings about them – they can be super obnoxious when they aren’t done well.
Still, this is a really popular blog monetization method and even bloggers who can afford to ditch display ads still keep them around. To understand why, let’s just get into the pros and cons of display ads.
Extremely low barrier for entry
Using Google AdSense, you can put display ads on even a baby blog with hardly any pageviews, but you are more likely to be approved for an account once your blog has been around for six months or longer.
Income from display ads is fairly passive
It’s probably going to take you a little bit of work to decide how you want to monetize your blog with display ads, as in how many and where you’ll put them on your blog. You can check out your analytics to see your click through rate (CTR) and play with where they are placed to try and increase that number.
That being said, once you have a strategy that works for your blog, you can use that indefinitely without touching it (barring that there isn’t some major change in the ad network, your earnings, etc.). This is why bloggers who can afford to get rid of display ads still use them – they’ve found a way to make some cash in the background.
Low earning potential
We know we just said that there are some bloggers who are making a decent amount from display ads, but when you compare that to their overall earnings, it’s a drop in the bucket. For example: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents earned $2,295.00 from display advertising in November of 2018, but that was less than 1.5% of her total earnings that month.
For new bloggers, it might take months to earn even $10 from display ads, and that’s because the average CTR across all ad formats and placement display is only around 0.05%. That’s only five clicks per 10,000 page views.
Display ads pull your reader’s attention away from your site
Remember that your goal is to keep readers on your site and reading your content. You want them responding to your call-to-action, clicking on other articles, etc. But, the goal of advertisers is to bring your readers to their sites, and while that’s why are you paid for click-throughs, it also directs readers away from your blog.
Lower overall user experience
We’ve all visited blogs where it feels like there are more ads than original content – pop-ups coming from every direction, video ads following you as you scroll, and even what feels like a slower loading time. This sucks, and it probably drives more readers away than it keeps.
At the same time, we’ve been on websites whose display ads are barely noticeable. These are the blogs who’ve figured out a good display ad strategy that increases their blog revenue while not devaluing their blog and losing readers.
Sponsorship deals for bloggers are when a company pays you to promote their brand through your site via blog posts, social media posts, or emails. Companies like sponsorships because when they are paired with the right blogger, sponsored posts can create brand awareness in a targeted audience.
You’re going to want to have a pretty good idea of who your audience is before trying to make money blogging through sponsored posts, and the main reason is that you really only want to promote products that are related to your content. If you know who your audience is before going in, then you’ll know what they’re interested in hearing more about.
The other thing about sponsored posts is that you will need more page views than with display advertising but not as many as you would need for affiliate income.
Sponsored posts can feel organic when done well
Even though your readers will know which posts are sponsored (the FTC requires you to disclose this), you can still make a sponsored post feel like it fits in seamlessly with the rest of your content, which you should do. Finding companies that work well with your niche and brand make this even easier.
Building trust and offering value
Your audience is trusting you with their time, and if you spend that time telling them about products that will help them, then you add value to your blog and build trust. That trust building can go south if you lead your audience to a crappy product or one that just doesn’t make sense with your brand.
Think of doing sponsored posts like this: you work for your audience, but you are getting paid by brands. If you go in with that mentality, it will help you find what your audience wants from their experience on your blog.
Building relationships with brands
When your sponsored posts do well, leading to sales for the brand, then you’ve become a valuable asset to your sponsor. That value means that you can build a long-term relationship with a brand who will want to work with you more, potentially increasing your fee as you go.
Sponsored posts can take a lot of work
There are any number of things that you may be contractually obligated to do, and they’ll all take a decent amount of work. Here are some of the things you may be asked to do:
- Write a blog post(s)
- Write a social media post(s)
- Take photos
- Use your email list to promote the sponsor
That all takes time, like hours and hours.
Before you start, you’re also going to want to put together a media kit, which is a way to tell potential sponsors more about your blog – page views, demographics, social media statistics, etc. It’s basically a “getting to know you” document. Really, having a media kit ready is going to benefit you down the road, but it’s just one more thing to do before trying to run sponsored posts.
The pay isn’t great
For new bloggers, it’s suggested that you charge anywhere from $150-$250 per sponsored post, but think about all of that work we just mentioned.
Say you need a 1,000-word post, that might take four hours of research and writing. Maybe another hour or two for editing? Add in another hour or two for taking high-quality photos, another hour for scheduling the blog and social media posts that are part of your contract, another hour writing an email to your readers about the post, and how about three more hours for engaging with your readers after the post has gone live.
That’s what, 13 hours? For $250, that’s just under $20 an hour, which isn’t bad, but you’ll be taxed on that amount too. That brings it down to about $13.50 an hour.
When you’re just starting, $13.50 might feel like a decent hourly amount (anything is better than nothing!), but sustaining your blog on just that will be hard, especially if you want to blog full time.
You might feel like a sellout
Remember when we said that sponsored posts are you working for your audience while getting paid by brands? There may be times when you feel like it’s the brand on both sides, and that can lead to feeling like you’ve abandoned your audience and your message for cash.
To avoid this feeling, you may need to rethink your strategy, say no to sponsors who are no longer feeling like a good fit, etc.
To learn how to do sponsored posts the right way, we highly recommend Making Sense of Sponsored Posts. You’ll learn the strategy two full-time bloggers use to earn between $10,000 and $20,000 a month from sponsored posts alone – including how to find brands, promote products, earn more, all while not selling your soul.
For a lot of bloggers, the next step as they try to make money blogging, as in leave your day job money, is affiliate income. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, affiliate marketing is when you write about a specific product or service, link to it using a special tracking link, and then make a commission when someone purchases that product or service using your link.
Affiliate income is pretty sweet and feels pretty passive
Affiliate income is thought to be that “earn money while you sleep” income – you aren’t actively selling anything, and as long as your affiliate relationship stands, you can keep earning. But, it still takes work to write posts that include affiliate links, maintain those posts, and continue to drive traffic to them. So, passive-ish?
Can yield a high ROI
You are putting a ton of work into your blog before you even start with affiliate marketing, but once you get a handle on how to write posts with affiliate links, your short-term time investment will feel pretty minimal.
Can provide value to your readers
Gosh, we really can’t stress this enough – Show. Up. For. Your. Readers.
Because your affiliates should be products you personally believe in, things that help you in your daily life, you are showing up for your readers by telling them about those products. This leads to a trusting relationship, more conversions, etc.
But, don’t break that trust.
It can feel spammy if you don’t do it well
Again, this is the trust thing we keep mentioning. If you are pushing products and companies you honestly don’t know anything about or are just doing it for the paycheck, your readers will know.
Don’t stuff links in every post you write – only do it when it’s actually a natural fit.
You’ll need a higher number of page views
Compared to the monetization strategies we’ve already talked about, you’re going to need even more for affiliate marketing.
Interestingly, higher page views don’t always equate to more conversions, and this can work in your favor if you’re a smaller blog and have a good handle on how to use affiliates for good not evil.
You aren’t in control of the networks
Even though you can bank some serious cash with affiliates, you are still reliant on someone else – your affiliates. If they were to change a policy, drop a client, whatever, your income could see a serious hit.
For more on affiliate marketing, we definitely recommend the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course. It has amazing reviews everywhere, and we’ve got one scheduled soon.
We’re seeing more and more bloggers trending towards creating their own courses and digital products to make money blogging. It’s a strategy we’re going after too, and we’re really happy with the results.
Creating your own courses gives you that amazing feeling of “whoa, I helped someone learn something.” Pair that with seeing how it’s positively impacting their life, and it becomes even more fulfilling.
But, what are the pros and cons of creating your own course?
You are in control of every aspect of the product you’re selling
You get to set the price, when you sell it, what your course is about… everything. You are your own master here.
You can leverage your knowledge and expertise
As you’ve grown your blog, you’ve naturally learned even more about your niche, and courses (or even eBooks) are a way to talk more in depth about what you know. Also, if you were/are freelancing through your blog, which we’ll talk about next, you can teach others about how they can make money online in the same way you have.
Courses are lucrative
When you know what you’re talking about and have your reader’s trust, then you can command a decent price for that knowledge. Pricing varies widely with courses, but ours currently run around $400. We’ve tried to set competitive pricing that accounts for our time and knowledge investment while making it as accessible as possible.
It takes time to build your reader’s trust
Building your audience’s trust enough to spend a few hundred dollars on a course is a time investment– you work up to courses. We also highly recommend that the first product you create be a free one, showing your readers what they can expect from you before asking them to open their wallets.
Your reputation is on the line
If your course bombs and gets negative reviews, that can really damage your brand. It’s the whole trust and value thing again. You need to ensure that your course has value so you uphold the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build. This also means following through on everything your course offers, if you don’t, it will wreck your reputation.
You’ll need an email list
Whether you decide to create and sell a course or not, an email list is a blogger’s best friend. It’s how you speak to your audience on a more personal level, creating a level of trust that converts sales at a higher rate.
We’re listing this as a con, though, because you’ll need to be building that email list if you want to really profit from sales.
Courses take time to create and manage
It can take months to create a course, then there is an exhausting launch period, and you’ll also have to field questions from students and manage groups.
The earning potential from courses is great, but there is a lot of behind the scenes work.
While freelancing may not feel like income you earn directly from your blog, it’s often where bloggers start – using their blog almost like a portfolio. This is especially the case if you are freelancing as a writer, graphic designer, photographer, or web designer. There are actually a ton of other freelance services you can offer through your blog – virtual assistant, social media manager, editor, etc.
If you already have a website for your freelancing business, adding a blog can be a nice addition that creates a more direct and personal link between you and your clients. And, as your client base grows, you grow your audience along the way – eventually leading to monetization through the other ways we’ve mentioned.
You can leverage your spare time and skills
Freelancing is something you can do outside of your regular job, which means you can dedicate as much of that extra time as possible to grow your income. You can offer services that utilize the skills you already have, or there is always the option to learn a new skill set.
You are in control of what you charge… kind of
Okay, so there will be some industry standards for pricing, but you can still set a price that reflects your experience, the type of services you offer, etc. You’re basically your own boss with freelancing, so you are the one who dictates when it’s time for a raise, assuming you’re providing enough value to your clients to support a pay increase.
The growth of your business is up to you
Once your freelancing business grows and you have enough clients to sustain you, you may reach a point where you’ll want to hire help to increase your income. A larger client base means more income, and it keeps you diverse so you aren’t just relying on one or two big clients.
You’ll need to find clients
We’re big fans of finding freelancers via word of mouth, but that means that you have to start talking about what you’re doing to let people know you’re open for business.
You can also use online platforms like UpWork to find clients who are looking for freelancers, but it may feel hard to break into the market when you’re starting out.
There will be limitations to what you can charge
While your per job or per hour fee is going to reflect your experience, it will also have to adhere to some market standards. What you can charge falls on both sides here.
A lack of work means a lack of pay
There is nothing passive about freelancing. So you’ll have to be actively working to make money. That makes vacation time and sicks days hard. You’ll be dependant on having work to actually earn money.