OK amigos, today we’re going to dive DEEP into a pretty important topic – how to monetise your blog.
You’re probably thinking, I already know how to monetise a blog and if so, that’s great! BUT I am pretty damn confident that you will not be aware of ALL of the methods of monetisation I am going to touch on today…
Some bloggers earn seven figures a year. The truth is that you can earn an absolute killing from blogging but it really depends on three factors…
Between all of my online projects, I bring in over $70,000 a month, but it took a LOT of work to build these projects up to this level.
Thousands of hours of work and investment – Every dollar I made online, I put straight back into building my businesses.
There are bloggers who make less than this and some who make more – there are a few bloggers out there clearing over a million dollars a year – that’s a lot of money by any stretch of the imagination.
What’s exciting about blogging is that if you put two years into it, you should be able to get to a baseline of $5000 a month – and this is more than enough to live and travel the world comfortably.
What is important to realise is that it takes TIME and dedication to get to this point – you have to be focused, you have to be disciplined, you have to work smart – it’s no good pouring hundreds of hours into a project if your strategy is flawed.
The great thing about running an online business is that there are THOUSANDS of different ways to make money. Today, I’m primarily going to focus on the monetisation of personal blogs rather than e-commerce or affiliate sites.
My best known site, The Broke Backpacker, is obviously a personal blog rather than just a faceless affiliate site and this comes with more advantages than disadvantages – personal blogs open the doors to many different kinds of monetisation.
I’ve now been professionally blogging for four years – but let me tell you something right now; I’ve been clearing $5000+ for only 18 months. And that’s TURNOVER – not profit.
My online businesses only became profitable in May 2018. Since then, it’s been a sweet sweet ride as even though I continue to spend $25,000 + a month on growing my businesses, the profits that I am making exceed my expenditure.
Anyway – I digress – the point I wished to make is that it takes TIME! And money – money definitely helps you grow faster.
But understand – I bootstrapped my blog for two years, I did everything myself, I never made a penny and I had no money to put into it. When I DID start making money, I put it all straight back into growing my site.
You may well be able to turn your blog into a money making machine much faster than me, to be honest when I started I really didn’t have a clue – I didn’t start implementing SEO until I had been blogging for nearly two years, I couldn’t touchtype, I knew nothing about design – It was a long learning curve for me personally and in my opinion it could be done quicker.
So – if you’re reading this right now and you’re thinking you want to build a seven figure online empire whilst traveling the world – understand this; it can be done.
Online Businesses = Freedom.
The freedom to travel and live wherever you want, the freedom to design your own routine, pick your own hours, be your own boss and work on things you are passionate about.
But hey – let’s get one thing straight right now; it ain’t easy. There are unique challenges.
If you don’t work – and I mean REALLY work – nothing will happen. It’s not like a normal job, you can’t just rock up, punch in and then hang out in the blind spot between the CCTV cameras eating stolen sandwiches whilst furiously swiping away on Tinder.
And when you start out – you have to do EVERYTHING.
You may feel overwhelmed with the many decisions you have to make – what niche to go for, how to style your content, branding, whether or not you should utilise social media (*cough* no *cough*), website design, content creation – there’s a LOT that needs to be learned.
Later – you can outsource a lot of this and the single biggest tip I can give you when starting is don’t waste time – it’s better to make the wrong decision quickly and to move forwards than to spend three weeks messing around with logo colours. Move fast, move efficiently, move with purpose.
It is totally possible to become a professional blogger and to make really great money out of your site but it’s important that you are realistic – it’s a hard gig. To make it work, you need to know what your up against so I want to take a moment to drop three knowledge bombs on you…
I constantly feel the need to highlight this because every week I get emails and messages from friends in this space who have started their first online venture and are feeling dejected that nothing has happened yet.
Almost always these people have been going for six months and have no idea of the VAST amount of things they have yet to learn… It’s a constant learning process, it takes time, it’s a commitment – and you need to be strong – there will be plenty of times when you want to give up, or at the least to not work as hard as you should be.
You have to push through this, you have to be your own motivator, your own boss, your own workforce – everything. It’s tough.
It really comes down to how much you want, or need, to make it work.
For me personally – I was very very lucky in that I had so many fires under my ass, so many reasons to make it work, that my resolve rarely faltered because truly – I had no fucking choice. If I failed I would have been unable to be with my wife – love is a strong motivator yo!
Invest into yourself, believe in yourself, make it happen, find your motivation – do not falter.
I’ve talked about this before.
It doesn’t matter how good your content is, how flash your website looks or how passionately you hit Twitter…
If you don’t have visitors landing on your site, it’ll be tough to make money.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need LOADS of traffic – if you have highly targeted traffic that converts (buys stuff) well and your model is built around promoting very high value products – e.g. yacht holidays – then you can make it work.
I had a conversion come through on one of my sites the other day that was worth $720 – for ONE conversion… The post that lead to the conversion had under 200 visitors in the month but every one of those visitors was highly targeted, landing on the post through strong buying keywords.
You don’t need LOADS of traffic to make good money online – but you DO need some traffic and obviously if you can capture a position on the front page for a STRONG buying keyword – e.g. ‘Best travel hammock for under $50’ then you are golden – anybody who types that in is READY to buy. Buyer intent is exceptionally valuable… tap into.
Anyway tangent over, my point is – you need traffic if you’re going to make money online.
Many people take a pretty chill approach to blogging. They start their blog with an unclear idea of how they are going to make money and assume that eventually they’ll figure it out or it’ll just magically happen.
Luckily – that won’t happen to you because you are reading this post!
So many blogs die everY year – people get overwhelmed, frustrated or lose their drive before they make any real money.
To succeed you need to have a proper strategy – that strategy will of course evolve over time but it’s important that you are clear on HOW you plan to monetise as you grow your site.
Knowing what you want to achieve – how much you hope to make per month (pick a target), who your target audience is and how you are going to monetise will allow you to come up with a better strategy for the kind of content you need to put out to accomplish your goals.
Your goals WILL change over time – but go in with a strategy, it’s well worth it and will set you up for future-proofed success!
So, let’s assume you have built your blog – it’s a work of art. You spent 6 months on it, you’ve got twenty pieces of content, a few of those are on the front page and you are seeing the first spikes of traffic…
Now what? How do you turn that traffic into money?
Alright, let’s start with my least favourite one and get it out of the way.
If you’ve read a few posts on this blog you’ve probably gathered that backlinks are a crucial part of SEO. Many companies, sites and outreach services will pay to score a backlink.
This falls into two camps…
#1: Purchasing a link in a pre-existing piece of content.
#2: Paying for a brand new post and putting a link in that.
Sponsored posts represent pretty easy money but there are two massive disadvantages – the first is that it will never be passive. You’ll constantly have to be dealing with clients, pitching people, negotiating pricing, invoicing, chasing for payment etc – it’s a pain in the ass.
The second is that selling links IS against Google’s terms and conditions and whilst 98% of the time link selling appears to carry no major repercussions there are people who have had their entire sites de-indexed by Google for selling links.
When I first started blogging, almost my entire income was from selling links – I was excited about this and attempted to scale it in 2017.
Various metrics are used to determine the value of a link – personally, I use total number of referring domains or traffic to determine how valuable a link is to me BUT the vast majority of outreach services looking to purchase links use Moz’s domain authority (DA) metric – you can read more about this here.
Knowing this, I scraped auction sites for expired domains in the travel niche with high DAs. These expired domains sometimes cost me up to $1000 or even more depending on the metrics they had. There was nothing there – no content, no site – but the metrics remained tied to the domain.
This meant I could purchase expired domains where a link sale was worth a few hundred bucks, drop a new site with 5000 words of content onto the domain and BOOM! – It looked like a real site.
My plan was to greatly increase the value of ONE link sale by having multiple sites to sell on.
The first month was pretty glorious – I sold $15,000 in links.
I hired a dedicated manager, built out a total of eighteen sites and used automated email software to bombard potential clients with a never ending funnel (yes, I feel bad!) of sales pitches.
Did it work?
Yes and no.
There was a time when this method worked EXTREMELY well but the golden period was over by the end of 2016 and I missed the boat. I do NOT recommend anybody attempt to scale selling sponsored posts – it’s a headache and there’s a lot of work involved for increasingly diminishing returns.
In May 2018, I exited the sponsored post game altogether – Overall, I think I made about $50,000 profit with my network of sites but it was a constant battle of looking for new clients and it is NOT a future-proof method of monetisation.
It’s certain that once you get your site to a certain point you’ll start being constantly pitched by people wanting to buy links on your site.Whilst you MAY wish to sell sponsored posts on your site to get some cash in the door nice and early my advice is to avoid sponsored posts if you can.
And if you are going to do them – don’t sell cheap – that doesn’t help you. Don’t plan your business model around selling sponsored posts – the sponsored post industry is changing and is only going to get tougher.
Better than a sponsored post but the principal is the same – this is where a brand or company wants some real exposure on your site (and usually on any social channels you may have).
A proper review post, on the homepage, something like that…
There are some great brand partnerships options out there and you can often score about $3000 per campaign but I personally hate doing these – the deliverables get in the way of actually BUILDING a business and many professional travel blogger friends of mine who do a lot of these kind of trips complain that they are exhausting.
In my opinion, the only income streams you should look at are ones that can become passive in time. This brings me to my favourite method of making money online…
Hands down, this is our favourite way to make money online.
Affiliate marketing is where you earn a commission for promoting another companies products or services.
It fucking rocks… Because you can capture tons of targeted traffic and throw it at a massive site with an affiliate program, such as Amazon.com
Amazon is probably the most famous affiliate program out there but there’s loads of options out there including some massive affiliate networks that collate thousands of companies together to offer a simple affiliate marketing solution, right now Shareasale is my favourite affiliate program network.
Let me give you an example of an affiliate marketing heavy post – My epic Best Backpacking Tents post on The Broke Backpacker
This is a mammoth post that we update pretty regularly – we drive traffic to both Amazon and REI and both reward us with commission for any sales, of any items, we generate within the cookie period (one day on Amazon, 30 days on REI).
This post is a good example of affiliate marketing done correctly – we have personally tested and used every tent on here and the info is solid – we know our shit when it comes to tents.
It’s totally possible to put together affiliate posts on products or services you have never used and know nothing about – the info is out there, you can find it and rehash it but this comes across as pretty spammy and it’s better to promote affiliate programs where you have at least some experience of the product or service.
To find out more about affiliate marketing, check out Aaron’s epic post – Affiliate Marketing 101.
I’ve talked about drop shipping before and it’s a MASSIVE topic so I strongly recommend you read my case study on selling my own products on Amazon.
This is NOT the best method for new bloggers because to make it work, ideally you already need to be selling a TON of the same product each month on Amazon – you then simply replace that product with your own version, switch the links on your site which are generating the sales and sit back…. You might not make a killing but you will make significantly more selling your own version of a product than the 4.5% (average) commission Amazon will pay you for selling somebody else’s products.
If you are able to successfully generate traffic via social media ads (something which I know almost nothing about) then you are better placed to step out of the FBA model of drop shipping.
For you see my friends, there is another model…
I’ve not tried this but you can utilise various plugins on your site to sell products via your site which you do not actually have – the customer purchases the product, the order info is forwarded to the supplier (and the product auto purchased – usually for far less than the customer paid) and the supplier then ships the product – this is in some ways far more promising than FBA as you do not need any stock in place however you need large sales volume to make it work as the profits are smaller since you are not buying in bulk.
To find out more about this, I recommend reading up on this admittedly extremely impressive case study. If you are a female fashion blogger – this is a model which I recommend you look into because holy shit – the markups on jewellery and sarongs are nuts.
A big advantage of blogging over running an affiliate site is that you HAVE a face… People get to know you, they trust you, they want to learn from you – you have the opportunity to position yourself as an expert in your chosen field.
And as an expert, you can sell digital products – whether it’s an ebook, a course or a membership site – you’re in a unique position to leverage your authority, real or otherwise, to create, promote and sell your own digital products.
I’ve only ever done one digital product – my ebook: ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’. In 2018, I made about $10,000 passively over the year selling this ebook.
Now, it’s free – because I wanna share the love, you can grab a copy here.
Digital products CAN be very lucrative and whilst there is often a LOT of work to do to put them together, if it’s a future-proof product you will see a return for many years.
I get it, ads are not sexy. But they can be lucrative and the advertising networks that have emerged recently – in particular Mediavine – are a vast improvement on Google Adsense – the oldest, and shittiest, option.
I’m a big fan of Mediavine because you can heavily customise how many ads render – I have many types of ad blacklisted altogether and the rest – well, they are on the LOWEST possible setting – I still make about $5000 a month through Mediavine so I consider this a win.
But how do display ads work exactly?
You know when you visit a site and see ads for a backpack or sex toy or something you were literally JUST looking at on Amazon or elsewhere?
Those are display ads – specifically, programmatic display ads.
This can work two ways. The more common works like this: Each time you click one of those ads, the company earns a little bit of money, which is why they call it pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. This is how Google ads and services like AdRoll work.
The alternative is pay-per-impression ads where you are paid not for clicks but for how many times your ads are served to visitors – I’m a big fan of this model and it’s the strategy Mediavine uses.
To make any kind of decent money with programmatic display ads, you’ll need some real traffic. To join Mediavine you need 25,000 sessions in the last 30 days.
Mediavine IS a great way of monetising any posts you may have that have crazy traffic but do not have an obvious monetisation route… For example: I have a post on the ‘best foods in Venezuela’ – this post ranks on the first page and there is good search volume, so it gets a lot of traffic – but there is NO obvious affiliate marketing monetisation option available for this post, so I turned the ad frequency on this one post way up and now it makes a few bucks daily – a quick and easy win.
Offering services is one of the fastest ways to start making money with your blog… You may not have traffic or a single cent in revenue just yet but if you have a beautifully designed site or high quality content, it acts as your portfolio when pitching for work.
I’ve hired many bloggers over the years – the first thing I ask anybody who pitches me is if they have a blog so I can check it out and not only learn about that person but also gauge the quality of their work.
There’s quite a few different services you can offer if you’re a new blogger, services that can make you cash pretty quickly and enable you to invest into your own site…
This is one of the quickest wins if you need to make cash – you’re already writing content for your own site, so you have a portfolio of writing that, if it’s good, will enable you to score work writing for others.
Freelance writing can also be a valuable way to build your first backlinks to your own site…
Whilst it’s true that many freelance writers end up working for very low amounts, there is some high paying gigs out there – World Nomads for example pay a whopping 50 cents a word!
Check out this post for a big ass list of places you can score paid writing gigs online.
Virtual assistants are in high demand for online entrepreneurs and if you’re good, you can earn great money.
I have a large VA team and a PA who handles a lot of my day to day life and they are all earning decent money that enables them to travel the world whilst working online. For some – working for somebody else, in the online world, provides plenty of freedom and I totally get it – if you CAN score a remote job then you may not even need or want to start your own online business… Part of the appeal after all is working your own hours, from where you want and you CAN do that in a remote job position – food for thought.
A virtual assistant helps business owners with everything from administrative tasks to keyword research to leadmag creation.
The services you can offer will depend on your own skillset. For example, if you have design experience, you could take over A/B testing different leadmags to see what converts best…
There are absolutely HUNDREDS of services you can offer as a VA and highly talented, dedicated VAs are always in demand – plus, if you score VA work for a leader in your own space, you are likely to learn some powerful lessons that you can apply to your own projects.
As a freelancer, there is a TON of things you can do to earn money – use your blog as your portfolio to score the kind of work you want, to expand your skillset and to earn more money to rollover into your own projects!
And that’s it amigos! These are the seven major ways you can leverage your blog to make money online! Any questions? Hit me up in the comments!
Founder of The Broke Backpacker and Co-Founder of Ditch Your Desk, Will has been on the road for over ten years. He is a Crossfit fanatic, crypto enthusiast, marijuana connoisseur and the master of the handstand pushup. Addicted to building businesses and climbing mountains, Will plans to settle in South America.