The Most Lucrative Ways to Make Money Off Your Blog

Making money online as a writer
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Many bloggers begin writing as a passion project, creating a site dedicated to a topic they love and keeping up the content because they genuinely enjoy the writing and want to share their thoughts and experiences with whoever is able to find them online.

For some of these bloggers, there comes a point where the following grows from a small circle of friends and family to a more substantial and widespread group. At this time, blogging has the potential to become a full time occupation.

But making that leap from part-time passion project to full-time profession requires one very important component that can be challenging for many bloggers: monetization.

Monetization refers to the process of making money from the traffic coming to your site. It can take many forms and can be achieved with varying degrees of success.

If you’ve realized that your site has the potential to make you some money, whether a full time salary or just a bit of extra spending money, here are some of the most lucrative ways to monetize your blog:

Display ads

Though some experts have predicted that display advertising is going away, the hard facts continue to indicate that ads are a great way for blogs to make money. Usually, monetizing through display ads involves creating an account with an ad network such as Google AdSense or one of the other top ad networks available to bloggers.

These networks essentially make a market for banner ads; they match accounts that can provide ad inventory (bloggers) with companies looking to promote their products or services (advertisers). Ad networks make money by taking a percentage of the overall revenue generated; AdSense, for example, takes 32% of the total revenue and sends the remaining 68% to the publisher or blogger.

If you’re not quite sure how to set up an AdSense account, there are some easy-to-follow manuals out there that can have you up and running in no time.

Monetizing through display advertising can be quite lucrative if you have a meaningful audience, but it certainly requires a significant amount of thought and work to set up properly. There’s a fine line to walk between placing ad units that will draw the eye (and click) of your visitors and creating a negative, frustrating experience for them.

Start by placing a couple of ads on your site; the most commonly used are a 728×90 “leaderboard” and a 300×250 “medium rectangle”. From there, if you have the time and willingness, you can experiment with different implementations to find out which set-up will work best for you.

In addition to the “plain vanilla” display ads that can be served via AdSense and other ad networks, there are some more creative ways to monetize your blog content. Monetizing via display advertising means much more than throwing a couple of rectangle ad units up on your site. To get the most from your blog traffic, explore the new, non-traditional opportunities that have become available in recent years.

  • InfoLinks: Whereas display ads are served in sections of the site specifically dedicated to advertising, there are services that allow you to turn the actual text on your site into ads. You’ve probably seen this in action before: a few words of text that appear to be a link, but that display an ad when the mouse hovers over them. InfoLinks also offers some other creative ad implementations, such as the one seen here:

    InfoLinks

  • Pop-ups: If you’re willing to show an ad that “pops up” over your site’s content, you can make some nice money in the process. However, too many pop-ups can be irritating and it’s best to limit these types of ads; for example, try serving them only on the fifth page that a visitor views on your site.

  • Search engines: If you have a search box on your site, there’s yet another opportunity to earn a bit of incremental revenue. Google has a Custom Search Engine program that will give you a high-quality search function while also giving you a share of any revenue generated from clicks on the search results page.

  • Sponsored content: An increasingly popular trend, offered by companies such as Outbrain and Taboola, involves putting links — often a linked title — to external content. Under these arrangement, the publisher gets compensated for each click made to an external site.

The really lucrative opportunity in display advertising comes if you’re able to sell your ads directly, without using a network such as AdSense as a middleman. Not only will you get the full revenue, but you’ll have an opportunity to command premium rates if you offer access to a valuable audience.

Selling ads directly is a major challenge; you’ll need to dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to get traction with potential advertisers, and there’s often a very long sales cycle. If you’re serious about it, however, the first step is to build a solid media kit for your website.

Email

If you don’t collect email addresses on your site — for example, to send out a weekly or monthly newsletter — you should start. (MailChimp is a great, user-friendly program to get you started.) Not only will collecting emails help you stay in touch with your readers and build loyalty, but it can introduce new opportunities for you to make some money in the process.

Here are three ways to start making money from the email addresses you collect on your blog:

  • Show ads in your emails: Just like you can show ads on your site, it’s possible to run banner ads in your emails to subscribers. Companies such as LiveIntent have popped up to offer this service (think of them as the AdSense of email ads), which allows bloggers to monetize email messaging.

  • Set up a “co-registration” system: Co-reg is a monetization technique that happens once a user signs up for your newsletter, when they are presented with opportunities to also subscribe to similar content. For example, if you write a cooking blog, you may be able to present your new subscribers with an opportunity to also get on the mailing list for cookware companies. For each “lead” you generate for the co-reg partners, you’ll earn a bit of revenue. There are several co-reg companies out there, including Tiburon and Opt-Intelligence.

  • Email list rental: If you’re looking to get really aggressive in email monetization, you can experiment with renting out your email list to third parties who want to communicate with your user base. This generally requires a direct relationship — meaning it can be a bit more challenging to get set up — but can be very lucrative if executed properly. If you have a large and targeted audience, there may be partners who will pay well for an opportunity to advertise their products or services to them.

Affiliate Marketing

The term “affiliate marketing” often carries a negative connotation, as it’s perceived by some as a low-brow monetization technique. Moreover, many bloggers think this revenue opportunity isn’t applicable to their type of site.

But there are definitely ways for bloggers to implement affiliate marketing campaigns on their sites in ways that can translate into meaningful earnings. The simplest of these involves setting up an Amazon Affiliate account; you’ll include links on your site to Amazon, and earn a cut of the proceeds every time someone clicks through that link and buys something. Here’s an example of a site for a popular podcast where fans of the show are able to support it by using the Amazon affiliate links on the site:

Here’s where you as a blogger can differentiate yourself from most affiliate marketers: don’t hide the fact that your site has affiliate links. In fact, make darn sure everyone who visits your site knows.

If you provide high-quality, free content to your audience, don’t be afraid to let them know how they can support you. (Click to tweet this idea.) Let them know that by clicking through the links on your site to purchase the items they’d buy at Amazon anyways, they can help you pay your bills and allow you to focus on producing more high-quality content that will be free to consume.

If you have a large and loyal audience, a completely transparent form of affiliate marketing can be a lucrative way to make money. You might be pleasantly surprised by the response you get!

Bottom line

While some bloggers are hesitant to embrace monetization for fear of “selling out,” there’s really no need to fret! Making money from your blog allows you to continue to provide high-quality content to your readers for free, and keeps you motivated (and able) to continue to do what you do best.

There are countless ways to monetize; the list above is just a start. But it represents the easiest way to get off the ground and start making a few bucks from your blog. Remember, the road to blog wealth starts with a single dollar!

What strategies have you used to monetize your blog?

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Michael Johnston is a contributor to MonetizePros, a website dedicated to helping bloggers and publishers make more money from their sites’ traffic. Follow him on Twitter at @MonetizePros.... .

MonetizePros | @MonetizePros

Michael Johnston
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Comments

  1. “If you provide high-quality, free content to your audience, don’t be afraid to let them know how they can support you.”

    QFT… ! As long as you are consistently giving readers actionable quality content, they will gladly support your efforts to continue doing so.

  2. Great advice! One piece to add, though: I would recommend being very cautious about selling or renting your email list. If a writer regularly sends out valuable content via email to a large mailing list, they have established a trust relationship with those readers. Many people would not appreciate having their information shared with a third party for advertising purposes. Email marketing services like Constant Contact and Vertical Response even go so far as to disallow the use of these third-party lists — their terms of service require customers to email people only if they have specifically opted in to receive communications.

    Of course, you could say most people would never know it was you who shared their information, but to me the ethics are still questionable. These days, everyone is overloaded with junk email and if I knew someone was going to share my information, I wouldn’t sign up for their mailing list in the first place. I also use Sneakemail to generate disposable email addresses that forward to my real email so I can a.) track exactly who is sharing my information and b.) delete addresses that receive too much spam. This means a lost reader for anyone who sells my email address.

    In a time where a writer’s — and especially a blogger’s — platform and reach will likely make or break his chance at a book deal down the line, I would say the trust relationship with your audience is of primary importance. Email lists are valuable for a reason, and selling yours now may give you some cash in the short-term, but damage your platform in the long-term.

    Just my two cents. At the same time, I really appreciate the main message here, which is not to be afraid to put yourself out there and try to make some money off the significant time and energy you put into your blog.

    • Great point, Jaclyn — it’s important to consider the implications of your monetization choices carefully, and you’re right that selling or renting your email list could affect your relationship with your audience. There are so many factors to consider!

  3. I’m really hesitant asking my friends/followers to click on ads on my website to buy the things that they would otherwise buy through another website. I know that most people won’t do that, and they will automatically think that you are pestering them to do so. I have yet to see my “so called” friends who will follow my website … maybe it’s not what they need … but I have seen worse websites that have thousands of followers. With that said, I won’t be willing to ask them to click on ads on my website. I’ll probably lose the very few that I have.

    • I agree, I think it’s a good idea to let your site get established and develop a loyal following (even if it’s relatively small) before introducing ads. I’ve seen this done tastefully with success, but I think respect for the community is key. My biggest pet peeve is those ads that pop up when you hover your mouse over certain words in a post. Usually I do this accidentally and I dislike anything that makes it cumbersome to continue reading someone’s writing. If a site doesn’t have some positive inertia, I think aggressive ads would hurt more than they helped.

      • Great points, Jaclyn and Mary. Figuring out if and how to monetize a site is a challenge, but I think Jaclyn’s right that respect for the community is key — too many ads and annoying ones don’t earn you any points with readers, but there are ways to introduce them without alienating your community. Hopefully we’re striking the right balance here at TWL!

        And Jaclyn, I hear you on the hover-pop-ups — I find them frustrating as well!

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