Let us be frank. The simple answer to can you still make money blogging today? is absolutely, 100% yes. The better answer, however, is it depends or even sure, if you work really hard. Don’t let that reality discourage you. In fact, we are starting out that way to set your expectations so that we can talk candidly about the realities of being a blogger these days. Because you can make money blogging, and you can make enough to live off of. You just have to work for it and not expect to be a runaway success and give up when (not if) it takes a while to gain some traction.
Two Things to Keep in Mind
The first: you’re not Neil Patel, Gary Vee, Leo Babuta, or Pat Flynn. You never will be. And that’s okay. What you are, though, is a creative, well-intentioned, talented human being who is ready to carve out your own niche and get your own piece of the blogging pie.
You just need to keep in mind that you aren’t competing with the big names. You aren’t competing with the small, medium, or other-sized names, either. Our content manager Nathan B. Weller tells us all the time that a rising tide lifts all boats. So as we get started on walking through the pragmatic ways you can make money blogging, we ask that you keep that in mind.
The likelihood of becoming one of the top 1% of blog earners is unlikely. But because folks are out there who do, the stage is set for you to pick up a few methods that will put money in your pocket (or PayPal account, more accurately).
The second thing that we want to stress is that overnight success isn’t something that really happens. Especially overnight. For every smashing, breakthrough success you hear about, there are tons hours and months and years put into that project that you don’t hear about. So while it is 100% realistic that you can make money blogging, we have to stress that you have to do the leg work before you’re rolling in bitcoin.
That’s what we’re here for, though. To help you through that part.
All Advertising is Not Created Equal
Most people’s idea of advertising on the internet is stuck in the ’90s. Banner ads, flashing images, pop-ups that scream for the visitor’s attention. But in the end, they do the opposite. However, rather than grab someone’s attention, they’re ignored or blocked outright.
That’s when (and why) you have to get creative when talking ads for your blog. So here’s the thing: Google Adsense is still a viable way to make money blogging. But it’s by far not the best. Not only do Google’s ads only pay CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-impression), but they also tend to only pay minimally for those clicks and impressions.
Plus, can’t not to mention that the ad networks are coming under increasing fire for tracking codes, causing some folks within the blogging community to eschew banner ads altogether.
All is not lost, however. You can still run many different kinds of ads on your site. Ads that convert better are good for you and your advertisers.
You’ve probably heard the term native advertising at some point. It’s almost a buzzword in the marketing world, but it’s so ubiquitous for a reason: it works. If you want to make money blogging, using native advertising is definitely a way to do that. Our article on the topic puts it pretty succinctly:
Native advertising is a type of paid content where the ad experience fits naturally with the user experience of where it’s placed. In other words, it looks like the normal type of content that you’d expect to see on any given platform. It’s a way of monetizing a content feed.
In a magazine, they look like magazine articles. On a website, they look like website articles. They can be placed on the homepage within content and open on the same website, or as suggested articles at the end of an article which opens to a different website.
This is not link selling. You’re not placing innocuous, sponsored links in your posts as though they are organic ones. Native advertising is contextual, yes, but it is labeled as an ad or sponsored content. Social media does this all the time: Instagram’s sponsored Stories, Facebook’s sponsored posts, or Twitter’s promoted tweets. The ads look and feel like content you would normally consume (or close to it), but are externally sponsored.
Native ads aren’t blocked nearly as often by ad-blockers and so on, so their use can increase your revenue. However, they still aren’t where the big bucks are. They are better than banner ads in almost every way, though.
Different from native advertising, sponsored content is a revenue stream where you are paid to write about a certain product or service. Or maybe more likely, you are paid to publish a pre-written article about that product or service. These posts show up in your normal feed, but are labeled in some way as sponsored.
CSS-Tricks posted an article called So, you think you’ve got project management nailed down that’s a sponsored post. They don’t disguise the fact, and the article talks about the benefits of this software.
It indicates that it’s by a sponsor, and the website provides a direct link to the product. Because it’s disclosed, this is a-okay in terms of legality and ethics. Now, your audience might not like this if you do it a lot, but honestly, there are big bucks in posting sponsored content. Companies and brands will pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to get an entire article in the feed of an established publication.
The impetus, however, is on you as a publisher to only publish content that you believe your audience will find useful. Or that you only post sponsored content for products that you use or believe in. Taking a thousand dollars to post about a shoddy product or service that doesn’t work will lose you that many followers and the social capital you’ve built. But introducing your audience to a product they’d legitimately find useful (as in the case of this CSS-Tricks article) is something you’d do anyway.
So you might as well get paid for it.
Become an Influencer
We all (well, most of us) have a bad taste in our mouths at the term influencer. We’d wager that some of you even rolled your eyes when you read this bullet. However, using your blog to become an influencer is probably the best way to make money blogging. Unfortunately, it’s also the least likely. Remember how we said you were unlikely to become someone like Gary Vee? That still holds true. But there are influencers of various levels, and within your niche and community, you absolutely can become a thought leader and influencer.
And get paid for it.
Making money as an influencer with your blog is interesting in a lot of ways. Because it’s not 100% on you to figure out how to do. You can work at building your brand, building an audience, and networking with various people and businesses. But you can’t approach people and say hey, I’m an influencer in X field, and you should pay me to work with you. That’s not (generally) how it works.
Brands have influencer marketing teams who scout potential people to work with. If you get approached by a brand to basically be a paid spokesperson for whatever they’re hawking, you can rake in some big money. Far more than sponsored posts can get you because of the idea behind influencer marketing being that it’s about the relationship between people, more than the content itself.
So if want to make money blogging through influencer marketing, work on relationships, high-quality content, and putting yourself out there.
The idea behind affiliate marketing is simple: you tell people to buy something, they buy it, and you get a percentage of it. In a pragmatic sense, affiliate marketing is may be the best way to earn money by blogging. You join various programs, pick particular products, and then basically become an ambassador for them. And like influencership and sponsored content, if you choose correctly and align yourself with reputable brands and products, your audience will trust in your recommendations and flock to buying what you point out.
Earnings from affiliate links and promos can range from pennies per month to thousands of dollars. This particular method takes a lot of legwork and research, but if you’re an effective salesperson, then you can potentially eschew ads altogether and let your blog generate passive income and residuals because you’re an affiliate for quality products and services.
If you’re not sure about whether a brand or company has an affiliate program, check the footer of their main page. Often, you’ll find a link there.
If you don’t see one in the footer, but you want to associate yourself with them, go to their contact form, send a message, and ask. The worst they can say is we don’t have an affiliate program, and the best case is they direct you toward one.
To make money blogging, the name of the game (if you haven’t noticed by now) is diversification. Not only that, but being able to focus and repurpose content. As you keep a content calendar and produce more and more for your blog, you should have various topics that you go in depth on that are branches off of what Yoast calls cornerstone content. The tree structure works incredibly well for websites, but it also works great for books, too.
Being able to repurpose your blog content based around a cornerstone strategy can increase your revenue. It’s a lot of work, let’s be clear. We are not simply suggesting that you copy/paste articles into a document and post that on Amazon as a book. But you have done a great deal of writing, and in that time, you’ve likely become very knowledgeable in your field. You know your niche inside and out. People come to your page because of that expertise.
By taking a look at your cornerstone content and what you’ve used to branch off of it and link back, you should be able to squeeze two things from it that your audience will care about.
Like we said, we don’t advocate pasting old blog posts and trying to sell them on Amazon. However, you can look at your most popular topics, see where their commonality lies, and then use them as a springboard for a book (or ebook). You can use some of the same copy, headlines, and topics, but you’re charging for this. So it needs to be more than a rehash.
But the reason this is such an effective method of monetization is that you know precisely what problem your audience needs solved, and you already have the toolbox to solve it. You just have to put it together in a way that makes people want to pay for it. And books are great for that because it takes the work out of it for them. Sure, they could read some (most?) of the same information on your blog. But grabbing your book means it’s more convenient for them, and they don’t have to deal with it being spread across the site.
People will pay a premium for that kind of convenience. But you also have to make sure it’s worth their money.
In a similar vein to books, creating online courses can be a cash cow for bloggers. For many of the same reasons, too. Except that instead of the convenience of bundling it together, they’re paying you to break it all apart. Well, break it down.
Courses work for bloggers because you’re solving people’s problems. And then you have a course where you break down the solution so that your audience can see their problem being solved (and then solve it for themselves).
Making money this way can come in hand over fist. But that comes at the cost of the sheer amount of work you must put in to make a worthwhile course. You will be putting a lot of time and energy into the creation, repurposing blog content, creating new, and making sure that every single lesson brings value to the students and is understandable, approachable, and accessible.
Once that’s done, however, you have a passive income stream that you can promote through your blog and other channels that needs your attention less than creating new content for your blog does.
This method, however, is not for everyone. It can bring in a lot of money, sure, but the reality is that you have to have a special skillset to pull it off. Don’t go into this thinking it’s a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not. You have to do this right to make money, otherwise, you’ll just tarnish your reputation for putting out lackluster (or downright bad) content.
Membership Communities or Paywalls
The final ways we’re going to talk about are membership communities and paywalls. We are including these together because in some way they both deal with exclusive content. Whether that is through the actual writing and articles on your blog, or though special forums or chat servers (such as Discord, Slack, Discourse, or even closed Facebook groups).
In theory, this is probably the best method to make money blogging. You have an active, engaged community who is willing to pay you for what you provide. However, in order to capitalize on a membership community or content paywall, you have to create worthwhile content and build that audience. If you have exclusive content, but no one to consume it, you’re limiting both your earning potential and your potential audience.
When, however, you do have an audience already who’s engaged, you can charge anywhere from $1 a month for new posts or special access all the way to hundreds for access to a mastermind or exclusive forum. If you’re interested in toying with the idea of exclusive content, but don’t want to leap headfirst, we suggest a platform called LaterPay. It lets your audience consume the content and pay…later.
We love membership communities (after all, we at Elegant Themes are ourselves a membership community). But want you to remember the most important point when it comes to exclusive content: the content has to be worth being exclusive.
As we said in the beginning, you can 100% make money blogging. It’s just not as simple as tossing up banner ads or pasting blog posts into a document and calling it a book. It’s a hard road to monetize a blog, as its becoming more and more imperative for the audience to buy-in. Literally. Audience support and purchases are the main aspect of making money as a blogger, and the only way you can get them to provide that support is through doing the work and making excellent content. The method you ask for money is secondary to that.
What do you think is the best way to make money blogging today?
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