The Truth About How to Build a Passive Income Blog
Running a passive income blog is every blogger's dream. You’ve seen the income reports – $50,000 this month in passive income alone! That’s up to $5,000 from last month! It prompts this image of a blogger sitting on a beach somewhere sipping on drinks while sales are just ringing up in the background.
However, that scene is rarer than you think and it doesn’t just magically happen. It takes time and energy to set up and nurture a source of passive income.
To get to this:
It takes a lot of this:
So how do those bloggers do it, and how can you earn passive income from your blog? Read on to learn:
- What passive income is
- What it takes to build a passive income blog, from SEO to audience trust
- 6 ways to earn passive income from your blog
- How to make your passive income blog even more passive
- Real-life examples of passive income
What is passive income?
Passive income is real, but it’s a bit of a misleading buzzword right now. Like I said, there is the dream of passive income, and then there is the reality of earning it.
So, let’s start by clearly defining what passive income is…
Passive income is money you earn while you are not actively working for it. When you work most jobs, you’re trading your time for money. That’s not the case with passive income.
Now, you do have to put time in before you start earning that cash. That’s 100% the case with a passive income blog. Really, any form of passive income requires some type of upfront investment. Think of making money on the stock market – you have invested some cash before you realize any returns.
With blogging, you’re mostly investing time and occasionally some cash too. Those investments are what build your blog up to the point that you can earn passive income.
Building a passive income blog
The successful bloggers who are earning thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a month have established some key foundational components that make it possible to earn passive income:
Compelling, consistent, and high-quality content
Bloggers of all niches should be able to tell a good story, even if it’s a review of a blender or a budget app. Stories bring readers in and keep them on your page. But, your content should also be:
- Published on a regular schedule (your audience should be able to count on you!)
- Researched when necessary
- Checked for spelling, punctuation, and grammar
- Relevant to your blog and niche
A good site design
This is everything from the way your site looks to how readers interact with it. It needs to look like it’s professionally done, and that’s surprisingly easy to do when you start a WordPress blog.
Diverse traffic sources
Successful passive income blogs are getting traffic from multiple sources. They use some combination of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. They’re also using SEO (search engine optimization) for organic traffic and email marketing – more on these in a second!
Diversifying your traffic does a couple of things. One, it brings in more readers. And two, it protects you if something happens to one of your traffic sources. There will inevitably be more changes to guidelines and algorithms, and having more than one source makes it easier to ride out those disruptions.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is how you get your articles ranking high in Google searches, and Google says they’re looking for E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trust). So, when Google bots crawl through your site, those are the qualities they use to measure the value of your content.
What does that look like in practice?
- Link building
- Using keywords
- An optimized meta description
- Optimizing your images with alt text
- Updating and repurposing existing content
- Personalized posts
- A mobile-friendly site
To learn more, Hubspot has a lot to say. Then there is the SEO for Bloggers course that teaches you how to implement SEO practices on your site – from researching, writing, and setting your site up for SEO.
An email list
With SEO, you’re relying on Google’s algorithm. The same goes for Pinterest, Facebook, and any other traffic source that you don’t own.
You know what you do own? Your email list.
Not only do you own your email list, for every dollar that you spend on it, there is also an estimated $38 return… remember we’re talking passive income blogs, so a return on your investment is a big part of that.
It’s never too late to start your email list, and here are a few tips:
- Find an ESP (email service provider). MailChimp is free for your first 2,000 subscribers, and after that Convertkit and ActiveCampaign are great options.
- Give people a reason to sign-up for your list, like presenting an offer in a CTA (call-to-action).
- Leverage your social media account to gain subscribers. It can be very simple, like “Subscribe to my email list for even more tasty nuggets!” Then, put in a link to your site where they can sign-up.
- Look for guest posting opportunities to grow your readership across your niche.
This one is HUGE, and it should never be overlooked or ignored.
Trust is what gets people to click on your links, buying your products, and keeps them coming back for more. To build trust, you need to be honest about what you’re doing and staying true to your values.
Your passion and personality should show in your writing – don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly. You should build a sense of community using Facebook and other social media sites. And, listen to your readers.
How to earn passive income with your blog
Successful bloggers usually have multiple streams of passive income – diversity is a good thing. The best plan of attack is to get one up and running before you focus on the next one.
Here are six sources of passive income for your blog:
1. Display ads
These are the ads that pop up on the sides, top, bottom, and middle of a webpage. Bloggers sign up with ad networks (like Google AdSense), decide where they want ads, and the networks take care of the rest.
Bloggers earn passive income from display ads in a couple of different ways:
- CPC (cost per click) ads pay for every user that clicks on an ad.
- CPM (cost per impression) ads pay for the number of people that see an ad.
Display ads are probably the most passive form of blogging income, but they don’t pay well and can take away from the overall user experience.
Learn about the pros and cons of a display ad and other forms of blogging income at Make Money Blogging: Pros and Cons of the Top 5 Strategies.
2. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is when you promote a product or service, link to it using a unique tracking link, and earn money when someone purchases something through your link.
It’s imperative that you are only promoting affiliates that are relevant and useful to your readers. You’ll lose that hard-earned trust quickly if you start pushing things that contradict your message.
Affiliate income feels passive because those links can exist on your site and generate revenue as long as you maintain a good relationship with your affiliates. You may have an article you wrote two years ago that generates a decent amount of affiliate income.
At the same time, you’ll need to maintain those articles, keep working on SEO, build your audience, and more.
To learn more about affiliate income, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents earns over $50,000/month from it, and she’s put together a comprehensive course that teaches you how to do affiliate marketing without selling your soul – it’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
Learn more about Michelle’s course at Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Review.
3. Sell digital products
Digital products have virtually no creation or distribution costs, which makes them a pretty hot source of passive income right now. Depending on your niche, there are likely a number of different ideas for digital products you can sell on your site, and here are some examples:
- Mom bloggers can sell weekly and monthly calendar templates that keep busy families organized.
- Financial bloggers can sell budget templates and worksheets.
- Crafty bloggers can sell pdf printables for decorative signs, invites, holiday cards, and more.
There is an obvious time investment in creating and marketing the product, but after it’s set up, it takes little effort to mention the product and bring readers to where they can purchase it.
Your digital products need to be on point. There is a lot of free stuff out there, so make sure your readers know why spending $5 on a family calendar is more worthwhile than a free one they can download from Pinterest.
4. Write an ebook
Ebooks are a type of digital product, but they are getting their own section because they require considerably more work. I mean, you have to write an entire book, and as a blogger, you know how much work goes into a 1500 word post. But, ebooks don’t need the 100,000+ word count of a print novel.
Food bloggers can write and sell e-cookbooks through their site. A personal finance blogger can write an ebook that motivates and teaches people how to take control of their financial life. And, so on.
5. Sell physical products through drop shipping
Dropshipping is different than selling products you create or source, and this difference makes it a very passive form of income. Here’s the gist of how drop shipping works:
- Use an eCommerce site like Shopify ← that’s a link to using Shopify on WordPress blogs.
- Use Shopify to list and sell products from other companies.
- The third-party company handles delivering the product to the customer.
- You earn a chunk of the sales.
How does this fit in with your blog?
Fashion and beauty bloggers can set up online boutiques they never touch. Food bloggers can sell their favorite utensils, pots, and pans without needing to invest in any inventory. Mommy bloggers can sell the toys that their kids love.
Drop shipping is passive because you aren’t investing in products, storing them, or shipping them. Your blog almost acts as the middleman between manufacturers and customers. But just like everything else on this list – make sure the products are relevant, useful, and bring value to your reader’s experience.
6. Create a course
This is one of our favorite sources of passive income for a blog because it feels freaking amazing to help someone achieve something. Take the Facebook Side Hustle Course, this course has helped countless people leave jobs they hated, pay off their debt, and gain some financial freedom. There is no greater feeling.
Helping people is what courses do, but before you can help anyone, you must be an expert on what your course is teaching
While courses can turn into passive-ish income, creating them takes work!
- There is the work you do to build your site
- The time it took to become an expert
- The process of creating the course
- You have to find a platform to sell your course (we like Teachable)
- You have to market and launch your course
- Update it as needed
- Provide support to your students
And before you ever try to sell a course, you should give your first online course away.
That’s a lot, right? It is, but a course is a product you create and own. You’re in control of the cost, the course content, and how you engage with your students.
And, it can be quite lucrative – according to Teachable, nearly 30% of course creators have made $75,000+ over the course of 15 months. Approximately 40% have made between $25,000 and $50,000.
Make your passive income blog even more passive
Besides earning passive income, one thing that the most successful bloggers do is outsource some of their work. This lets you focus on the things that can increase your income like it can give you time to create a course or write an ebook.
Here are some things you can outsource on your blog to make your passive income blog more passive:
- Hire an SEO expert to optimize your site
- Hire an editor to go over your posts
- Hire a virtual assistant to manage your email inbox, social media accounts, Pinterest strategy, and more
- Hire a web developer to make sure your site is running and looking good
Those are investments you’re making for your blog.
Real-life examples of passive income
What does passive income look like in a real-life blog? We’re going to use Bobby Hoyt’s Millennial Money Man blog as our example. What you need to know about M$M is that it’s a personal finance site geared towards millennials. M$M is helping his readers earn more money, save more money, and pay off debt.
Bobby’s gotta make sure his passive income sources relate to those core principles.
Let’s see how he does that:
- Personal Capital affiliate links. Personal Capital is a money tracking tool that tracks a user’s net worth, investments, and helps them optimize everything for retirement. Bobby promotes Personal Capital because it’s a financial product he uses and believes in. He uses his experience with the product to write reviews that help people use the software. Because he’s developed a good relationship with the company, his affiliate deal gives him and his readers $20 when they sign up through his unique link. See this at Personal Capital Review 2019: Free Investment and Net Worth Tracking.
- Facebook Side Hustle Course. This Laptop Empires course is the brainchild of Bobby and Mike Yanda who both ran Facebook ads on the side to increase their income. They were so successful that Mike was able to quit his job as a lawyer and now makes $30k/month running ads. This experience gives them the authority and expertise to teach it to others. But, the course grew out of a need in Bobby’s audience – his readers wanted help increasing their income.
- Credible Student Loan Refinancing. Bobby’s student loan payoff story is at the heart of M$M, so this affiliate is relevant to his reader’s interests. But, he’s very careful in how he writes about Credible because student loan refinancing isn’t for everyone. This protects the trust he’s worked so hard to build. See an example at Credible Review 2019: Easily Compare Student Loan Rates (and Save Money!)
Bobby recently got rid of one passive income source entirely – display ads. He felt they took away from the user experience and got rid of them once he had more streams up and running.
That’s the thing about a passive income blog, the more you diversify your income, the easier it gets to make financial and business decisions.
The final word on passive income blogs
A lot of people think that all bloggers are earning passive income. That’s true if you consider the number that uses display ads. But, passive income doesn’t mean full-time income.
Turning your site into a successful, passive income blog takes a considerable amount of work, and I think you’ve seen that in this article.
With the right kind of time investment, it can be done. And once you’ve got your income streams up and running passively, you actually can be that blogger who sits on the beach sipping on a drink…
… and then it’s back to reality and work, but the point is that passive income is lucrative, real, and out there.