How exactly do blogs make money?
This is a common question among beginner bloggers and people considering starting a blog. The world of blog monetization is a complete mystery to most. However, blog monetization, in theory at least, is pretty straightforward. There are four main ways that blogs generate income for their owners, and we’re going to break down each of them in this post.
Blogging for money is a relatively new phenomenon. Within the last decade, hundreds of millions of new blogs in every niche from home decor to travel have sprung up. While some of these blogs are hobby blogs, a good chunk of them have been created with the intention to generate a side income or become a full-time job. If that’s your goal, then you’re in the right place. Let’s go over the main ways that blogs make money.
Advertising is a big money-maker for bloggers, especially established bloggers with tons of traffic. If you drive good traffic to your blog, you can earn a sizable income by working with an ad network. I don’t mean Google Adsense, which is probably the lowest paying among the major ad networks. (It’s also known to slow down websites). I’m talking about premium ad networks that can help you make a full-time income.
Ad networks pay you based on two models: cost per click (CPC) and cost per impression (CPM). You’re essentially giving advertisers access to your audience and they pay you whenever someone clicks on or sees their ads. The higher the CPC or CPM, the more you earn. Let’s go over some of the top premium ad networks for bloggers:
Ezoic is a small ad network that currently powers display advertising on 10,000 websites. This ad network is ideal for new bloggers because it’s requirements are easier to meet. It requires 10,000 monthly sessions, original content, and good standing with Google (if you previously used Google Adsense.) Once you hit the 10,000 monthly sessions requirement, you can apply to Ezoic and wait for an approval. As soon as you’re approved, the team will send you instructions to get ads up and running on your blog.
Monumetric is another ad network that works perfectly for those with small blogs. The company requires at least 10,000 pageviews per month but works with bloggers at all traffic levels. Monumetric differs from other ad networks in that it provides a unique ad strategy for your blog depending on the amount of traffic it gets. The diagram below shows the monetization strategy Ezoic uses based depending on your blog traffic.
Media.net is an ad network that manages display ads and native ads on websites. Unlike display ads, native ads match the look and feel of your website so they don’t stand out as much. If you’re looking to include ads that aren’t so glaringly obvious on your site, Media.net may be a good option. It doesn’t have a strict minimum number of page views you need to qualify. Instead, it requires a “reasonable volume of visitors,” content that is mainly in English, and majority of traffic coming from the US, Canada, and/or UK.
Mediavine is the holy-grail ad network for bloggers. Go on any blogging group and you’ll see more than a few threads about getting into Mediavine. So what makes Mediavine so special? It’s just competitive enough to get into (50,000 monthly sessions) and offers a high CPC. In evaluating blogs to accept, Mediavine also looks for long-form, original content and good standing with Google Adsense.
My travel blog has been running Mediavine ads since April 2019. Ad revenue accounts for as much as 50% of my monthly blogging income. Some blogs, such as Anastasia Blogger and Credit Take Off, make a full-time income ($5,000+ per month) just from Mediavine. This ad network can be very lucrative, and the management team takes great care of publishers.
Adthrive is widely regarded as the most exclusive ad network on the market. It’s also the highest paying ad network in terms of CPC. Adthrive requires 100,000 monthly pageviews to qualify for its ad management services. In addition to that, you need the majority of your traffic coming from the US, original content suitable for their advertisers, and good standing with any previous advertisers. Because Adthrive has a higher requirement than most other networks, it typically works with the most established and successful bloggers.
Affiliate marketing is promoting the products or services of other companies in exchange for a commission on every sale. A blog is the perfect platform to do affiliate marketing because you can write content that helps readers make buying decisions. For instance, when people are interested in buying an online course, they will search for reviews. If your reviews pops up on Google search results, people will read it and sometimes make a purchase through your affiliate link. Every time someone purchases that online course through your affiliate link, you earn a commission.
What is an affiliate link, you may ask? Let’s take a couple of steps back. To get started with affiliate marketing, you first need to join affiliate programs or networks to get a unique link for the brands/products you want to promote. Then you share your link through blog posts, emails, social media, and other promotional channels. Whenever someone makes a purchase through your link, you earn a percentage of the sale. Commission rates vary greatly depending on the niche but tend to fall within the range of 3-40%. Sometimes an affiliate program will pay you a flat fee for each sale you refer.
How do affiliate networks and affiliate programs work?
Let’s go over some definitions to ensure that everything makes sense. An affiliate program is an automated digital program that allows businesses to connect with individuals or other businesses that can promote their products. For instance, Target has its own affiliate program that allows people to access and sell products sold at Target. Also, online course creators tend to run their own affiliate programs. An affiliate network, on the other hand, is a platform that houses hundreds or thousands of affiliate programs. Within an affiliate network, you can apply to and join different affiliate programs in one place.
When you sign up for an individual affiliate program, you create an affiliate account. This gives you access to your own affiliate dashboard. You’ll be asked to provide a payment method, usually Paypal or direct deposit. Within your account, there’s usually a section that displays information like your sales summary, your affiliate link, and your commission rate. All your sales will be tracked in your account. Affiliate programs may also alert you when you make a sale via email.
Affiliate networks function a bit differently. When you sign up, you will be taken to a marketplace of different affiliate programs, also known as merchants. From there, you can apply to join individual programs. Once you’re accepted to programs, you’ll see a summary page that shows all the programs of which you’re an affiliate and the total sales you’ve earned.
Selling your own products or services
Bloggers also make money by selling their own products and services. Digital products include ebooks, printables, stock photos, spreadsheets, online courses, and templates. These are non-physical products that are sold exclusively online. For instance, mom bloggers often sell printables to help with meal prep and household chores. Personal finance bloggers may sell budget tracking spreadsheets. Bloggers in all niches sell ebooks and online courses to help people achieve a specific transformation.
In addition to selling a digital product, bloggers also sell services. A service involves manual labor so it can typically command a higher price. Some common services that bloggers offer include blog audits, proofreading, copywriting, Pintererst account management, and SEO consulting. Coaching and mastermind groups are also services that allow bloggers to leverage their expertise to earn more money and grow their impact.
Products that bloggers sell aren’t just limited to digital products and services. Some bloggers sell physical products like t-shirts, mugs, and jewelry or even experiences like tours, excursions, and speaking engagements. For instance, in the travel blogging niche, it’s quite common for bloggers to offer their own guided tours of cities and countries. Derek from Wandering Earl offers small-group tours to countries like India, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Romania, and Egypt. Jessica of Jessie on a Journey offers guided walking tours of her hometown, New York City.
After two years of growing my blog and social media, I landed my first paid speaking engagement at an affiliate marketing conference in Las Vegas. Shortly after that, I landed another paid speaking engagement at a travel conference in New Orleans. There are endless possibilities when it comes to monetizing your blog. That’s what makes it so exciting. You can be as creative as you want.
Last but not least, bloggers earn money through sponsored posts. These include sponsored blog posts and sponsored content on social media. Brands look for bloggers who create content for their target audience. They then pay bloggers a fee to publish original content about a specific topic on their blogs or social media. That way, the brand can get access to the blogger’s audience and advertise their product.
A sponsored blog post either mentions and links to the sponsor’s product or focuses entirely on that product. For instance, some brands want to insert their product into a post naturally. In that case, they may provide you a pre-written article about a relevant topic and then weave in a paragraph about their product. Other times, the brand will want a blogger to use a product and write a review about it. It’s also common for the brand to ask the blogger to write an original post that mentions the product somewhere in the body. The terms of a sponsored blog post depend on the brand’s goals and budget.
Social media sponsorships typically show the blogger using the product in a photo or video. They may also show a flat lay of the product. The specific deliverable specifications will be outlined by the brand and discussed with the blogger before the partnership begins. I’ve done several sponsored posts on my travel blog and many brand collaborations on Instagram.
Sponsored content was a major focus for me at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. The most important thing I learned about working with brands to give yourself bargaining power. This means not giving brands a fixed rate! It pigeonholes you. Instead, give brands a range so that you can negotiate a rate based on the scope of work for the project. This is one of the holy grail pitching tips I learned in Pitch It Perfect, the only course about brand collaborations that I recommend.
How much money do bloggers make?
This is sort of like asking: how much money do athletes make? It depends. The sport they play, their level of skill, the number of years of experience they have all determine their earning power.
It’s the same with blogging. The amount of money you earn depends on your niche, your writing and marketing skills, how long you’ve been blogging, and other factors. Some bloggers make $100 per month while others make $20,000 a month. If you want to make money blogging, you need to study successful bloggers. Creating a successful blog doesn’t happen by accident. It takes strategy, hard work, and persistence.
There are steps you can from the beginning to set your blog up to make money. These include choosing the right niche, mastering SEO, and consistently improving your writing. Networking with other bloggers and attending conferences are also tremendously helpful to get ahead. They open opportunities for collaboration.
Examples of blogs that make money
The best way to understand how bloggers make money is to see it in action. That’s why I’ve researched and compiled income reports from a few bloggers I’ve been following for years. That way you can see how much they make and where there income comes from. Note that these bloggers have all been around for 3+ years, some even 10+ years. Take these reports with a grain of salt. They aren’t representative of what the average blogger makes, and they are based on each blogger’s own self-reported earnings.
Blogging Her Way – $5,000/Month
Blogging Her Way is a resource for female bloggers. It provides guides, blogging tips, and reviews to help new bloggers start and grow their blogs. The creator, Dale, runs a few blogs and makes money building and flipping blogs. She makes about $5,000 a month through:
- Mediavine ads
- Affiliate marketing, particularly Amazon Associates
- Sales of her three ebooks: Get Paid To Pin, Amazon Affiliate Affluence, and 30 Days To Blog Success.
- Virtual assistant services
The Savvy Couple – $10,000/Month
Founded in 2016, The Savvy Couple is a personal finance blog that helps millennials save money, make money, and manage money. The couple behind this blog, Kelan and Brittany, make $10,000+ a month. It’s incredible to read the journey of how they went from drowning in college debt to six figure bloggers. They’ve made as much as $43,000 in a single month! You can also read one of their blog income reports to get a breakdown of their earnings, which typically come from:
- Sponsored posts
- Mediavine ads
- Affiliate marketing, particularly Bluehost, ConvertKit, and online courses
Helene in Between – $15,000/Month
Helene In Between is a travel and lifestyle blog founded by Dallas native, Helene Sula. I’ve been following Helene since I started my travel blog and have also taken her courses. On her blog, she combines travel stories with actionable blogging tips. It goes to show you that a blog with a broad niche can still work. Helene makes about $15,000/month through:
- Sales of her own Lightroom presets
- Sales of her course, Instagram Content System
- Monthly subscriptions to her membership site, Blog Boss Babe.
- Instagram sponsorships
- Mediavine ads
Start a Mom Blog – $20,000/Month
Suzi Whitford, an Industrial Engineer turned mom blogger, is the creator of Start a Mom Blog. Founded in 2016, Start a Mom Blog helps stay-at-home moms learn how to start a blog and monetize it. Suzi grew this blog from $0-$9,000 in less than a year with less than 40,000 monthly visitors. She deviates from the ads and affiliate marketing revenue model, focusing on selling her own products instead. Start a Mom Blog generates revenue through:
- Sales of her courses: Blog By Number, Niche By Number, List By Number, Printables By Number, Post By Number, The Blog Plan, and The Income Journey.
Making Sense of Cents – $100,000/Month
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, the personal finance blogger behind Making Sense of Cents, is the queen of affiliate marketing. She earns about $50,000 a month from affiliate marketing and details her strategies in the course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. Michelle makes money blogging through:
- Affiliate marketing, mainly Bluehost
- Sales of her courses: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing and Making Sense of Sponsored Posts.
- Sponsored posts
- Display ads
I hope you found this post helpful. No matter where you are in your blogging journey, I want you to know that your dreams are possible! Everyone starts from zero and builds their way up. You will make mistakes. You will experience some failures. Still, remember that you can’t fail if you don’t quit. Never give up!
One more thing: don’t forget to share this post!