The Serious Blogger’s Guide to Blog Monetization
If you type a phrase like “blog monetization” or “how to make money with a blog” in a search engine, you will get millions of results.
Some of the advice you find there will be good….
And some of it, not so much.
Here’s the thing, though:
Your monetization strategy should be your monetization strategy, not a one-size-fits-most e-tutorial method.
Sure, some people make money by following generic advice, but before you jump headfirst into some affiliate marketing mini-site scheme, you need to answer this question:
What Do You Want?
Your blog can be a hobby, or it can be a business.
If you just want to make a little extra cash from your hobby blog, that’s fine. You can Google monetization strategies to your heart’s content and do whichever one looks easiest, since it doesn’t really matter if you actually get any results.
However, if you want (or need) your blog to pay your bills, that means you’re running an online business.
To run an online business, you need to start thinking like a business owner.
Here’s what I mean:
Imagine that you decided to start a restaurant in your town.
You don’t know a lot about the restaurant business, but you shrug it off and figure you’ll learn along the way.
You can’t decide what kind of food you want to serve, so you just put everything you know how to cook on the menu! Won’t it be nice when your customers can pick from enchiladas, fried chicken, African peanut soup, and a selection of vegan health foods?
The first few weeks after you open your doors, you’re open every day. It’s really tiring, though, since you’re doing everything yourself, so you start opening only on days that you feel like it.
Gradually, you’re there less and less, until you’re only open for business once or twice per month, and sometimes you go for 6 or 7 weeks without doing anything at all.
After 6 months, you’re super frustrated! You haven’t made ANY money, nobody comes to your restaurant, and you’re exhausted.
Does that sound like a business owner mentality?
Then don’t do that to your blog!
Think Like a Business Owner, and Blog Monetization Comes Naturally
Yes, your monetization strategy will feel like the natural course of action if you’ve developed a business mindset.
That doesn’t mean it will be fast, easy, or automatic.
If you think you’re going to make $20,000 per month 6 months from now because you enjoy sharing cat pictures online, you’ve got a rude awakening coming.
Note: that figure actually is achievable, but you’ll need an aggressive marketing plan and probably some help from professional web designers and bloggers if you’re brand new. It’s not particularly realistic, but it’s also not impossible.
It takes more than reading a single blog post to start thinking like an entrepreneur – so get started on a personal growth program right away.
That means you should read helpful books, join communities of business owners, and start polishing your people skills.
You’ve also got some blogging skills to practice.
Blogging is not writing – it’s a separate, individual skill that takes time to develop.
The closest writing style to blogging is copywriting, and it’s probably worth your while to take a good copywriting course. Think of it as an investment in your business – and keep your receipt for tax season.
Now that we’ve got the prerequisites out of the way, let’s talk money.
The Two Types of Blogging Income
Blog monetization strategies fall into two basic categories:
Dependent Income Sources and Independent Income Sources.
Dependent income relies primarily on someone else’s business.
Generally, dependent income strategies are based on the amount of traffic that comes to your blog – if your traffic drops, your income plummets.
Of course, a traffic drop will have an impact on both dependent and independent incomes, but when you monetize with an independent income strategy, a change in traffic numbers is less likely to monumentally affect your earnings.
Independent income is generated on your own blog, by your own brand.
You are the one making money from your traffic, and you have a significantly higher earning potential for the same amount of effort.
There are more options for independent income strategies…
But dependent income is what is generally taught in most online tutorials.
There are a couple of main reasons that dependent monetization methods are more frequently discussed and taught:
The first is that they seem easier.
(Spoiler alert: they’re not.)
It seems like you’ll be able to make a lot of money with very little effort, and though it’s just not true, it’s still a very appealing idea.
The second reason is purely about marketing.
Lots of companies want you to market their products for them…so they teach affiliate marketing as a great monetization strategy to make money right out of your own home, while you’re still in your pajamas.
They’re not lying.
You can make money.
It’s just a terrible strategy for a primary income, and you’re going to make a lot less money selling someone else’s products than you would marketing your own.
Dependent Income Sources
Affiliate Marketing – You use affiliate links, custom links provided by a third party business, to market third party products to your audience. When your readers click on the link and make purchases, you are paid a small percentage of the sale.
Ad Space – You advertise for other people’s businesses on your website. You may use a service such as Google AdSense to place ads, or you might sell space directly to businesses. You are paid either when people click on the ads, or an agreed upon monthly fee which is based upon your traffic.
Sponsored and Underwritten Posts – You are paid to write a post that promotes a business, or you are paid to mention a business at the beginning of a post you were going to write anyway.
Directory Memberships – You compile a directory to help consumers find businesses, and you charge businesses for inclusion or for prominent features. This isn’t truly a dependent income, since your directory is your product. However, since your money is essentially made by marketing other people’s companies, it is included in the dependent category.
The two most widely taught monetization strategies – affiliate marketing and ad space – are also the two worst strategies for a primary income stream.
You will probably meet people who make money exclusively through affiliate marketing or ads.
It’s not unheard of, but it’s become more and more rare as the market evolves.
Based on current market trends, it’s likely to keep getting more difficult to make a substantial income through affiliate marketing and ads.
The majority of bloggers who try to monetize this way make miniscule amounts of money.
Dependent income streams like these are best used for supplemental income, unless you are a hobby blogger and you don’t particularly care if you go months without making a cent.
Independent Income Sources
Physical Product Sales – You have your own online store and you sell products as a wholesaler or retailer. Unlike affiliate marketing, you earn the difference between wholesale (or your production costs if you choose to manufacture) and retail pricing. Sometimes, you might handle your own stock and shipping, but some business owners choose to outsource those tasks.
Informational Product Sales – You develop, market, and sell intangible informational products. These include things like e-courses, whitepapers, videos, quick start guides, and ebooks. Note: if you choose to sell ebooks, you might use a print-on-demand service like CreateSpace through Amazon to offer physical books as well.
Supplementary Marketing – For those who already have a physical business, blogging is a way to attract new customers, expand your potential client base, and reach new consumers outside of your physical area.
Consulting – A blogger who offers consulting services generally uses his or her blog as a platform to prove expertise. Consultants don’t have to physically meet clients – it is acceptable to video chat or talk over the telephone to coach your clients in many industries.
Freelancing – Similar to consulting, a freelancer offers specific services on a per-project basis.
Endorsements – When your brand has intrinsic value, you may be approached to endorse other people’s products or services. If you are asked to appear in an advertisement, you may be paid a one-time fee, but if your name is included on the product, you should be paid royalties for the use of your brand. An example of this: a popular food blogger, Bakerella (with whom I am not affiliated) helped to develop and endorses a toy carried by Toys-R-Us called the Bakerella Cake Pops Ultimate Cake Pops Set. By the way, neither of those links are affiliate links.
Trademarks – You have trademarked a name or design, and another company pays you royalties in order to use that name or design. This is more passive than an endorsement, and the relationship is not public. An example of this Breyer’s CarbSmart Ice Cream (with whom I am also not affiliated) which purchases the CarbSmart trademark from the blog CarbSmart (with whom I am vaguely affiliated – I work with a different brand owned by the same person.)
Subscriptions and Memberships – You charge a recurring fee so that your readers can access exclusive content or services that have value. Dating sites use this model – you pay a membership fee to have a means to communicate with other members – as well as a few online magazines which charge a regular subscription price in exchange for a digital publication.
Blog Monetization – Building Your Custom Strategy
The income streams mentioned above are by no means an exhaustive list.
Blogging is a creative career, so embrace that and be creative!
Maybe you want to make the majority of your income through webinars and podcasts, or perhaps you’d like to launch a public speaking career using a blog as a jump pad. You’re only limited by your willingness to innovate.
While you’re building your blog monetization strategy, make sure you consider the difference between passive and active income.
Active income means that you have to invest time and effort in order to continue making money…
While passive income is generated even when you don’t put in the time. It’s also called ongoing income.
In the list above, consulting and freelancing are active incomes, but information product marketing and membership services are more passive.
To create a lasting, stable, and large income that continues to grow over time, focus more on passive income streams. Once you start earning a healthy passive income from one source, do the little you need to maintain it and start another. Those ongoing earnings will be the foundation for your growth.
You’re building a business, so do it right.
- Do your homework – there’s no substitute for research
- Write a business plan
- Start a personal development program
- Set goals and keep your commitments to yourself
- Learn to delegate
And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to do this alone.
Your homework today is simply this:
Come up with one blog monetization method that is both passive and independent.
Once you have it in your mind, answer these 3 questions:
- How could I fit this into my blog topic?
- How long would it take to develop this product/service?
- How much profit would I be likely to make per sale?
You don’t have to execute right now. The goal is to get you thinking about what’s possible for you and your brand.
If you feel comfortable with it, share your ideas in the comments!