The 5 Best Ways To Monetize Your Blog: In-Depth and Step-by-Step Guide

By JoAnne D. | Blogging

best ways to monetize your blog featured image

The pièce de résistance in this series of posts, this article will describe the best ways to monetize your blog. I’ll also discuss the worst techniques (a.k.a. what NOT to do) and why passive income is a pipe dream.

You’ve built your blog from the ground up, and you’ve promoted it extensively. Now you’re ready for the next step: monetizing your blog.

First, a disclaimer. These methods are certainly doable, but monetizing your blog isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme or a set-it-once-and-it-keeps-paying strategy. It’s a long-term process and it involves a ton of hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Remember: the methods that work best take a lot more work.

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Best Ways to Monetize Your Blog

1. Membership Site

In this article, “membership site” simply means a site where there is protected, members-only content. The main reason many bloggers like this business model is the potential for recurring revenue. Who doesn’t want a regular stream of income?

Aside from the recurring income, you can also upsell products, services, and affiliates to members of your site. The fact that they’re members means that they trust you and your recommendations, making them more likely to buy.

Steps In Creating Your Membership Site

1. Plan the content.

The main thing here is research. First, look at your blog. Do you have enough blog traffic and engagement with your readers? Which of your posts had the most comments? Do you think your existing readers will be open to the idea?

drawing plan

Next, look around for any existing membership sites in your niche. Are there any? If there aren’t, don’t celebrate the lack of competition too soon; it could also mean that there’s no demand for it in your niche. Dig deeper and find out if you can create that demand.

Then, if you’re not already a member, join one or two membership sites. Ideally, they should be related to your niche, but if they’re not, that’s fine. Study how they do things. What are they getting right? What can they improve on? How much do they charge? Can you offer more content or more quality for the same price?

Lastly, check forums on your niche, or even Quora. Note the frequently asked questions in your niche so you can then plan your content around it.

2. Set up the structure.

If you’re using WordPress (if you aren’t, you seriously should), setting up a membership site right on your blog is as simple as installing a plugin. But before you even get to that, here are some features to consider:

    • Number of membership levels

Free and paid? Standard and premium? Free, standard, and premium? Whichever you choose, make sure you have the content to support all of them.

    • Payment system

One-time? Monthly? Annually? Semi-annually?

    • Payment platform

There are a lot out there, but the popular ones are PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.Net. You can also consider accepting BitCoin or offline payments such as bank transfers and cheques.

    • Protection for your content

If you allow downloadable exclusive content, you need to make sure your members don’t distribute them to just anyone.

    • eCommerce features

You might want to offer other products to your members beyond the content their membership allows them to access.

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3. Get members.

Now you can get the word out. Here are some ways you can promote your membership site and convince members to sign up.

    • Leverage your email list.

Let your email subscribers know, but don’t make it a hard sell. Inform them of this new venture and note their reactions. Take this opportunity to gauge their enthusiasm as well.

    • Offer a free email course or a webinar.

Market it as a preview of the content they can expect to get.

    • Advertise on your own blog.

Place a banner or sidebar ad and target your new visitors. Because you’re advertising it on your own blog, it’s free. Have the ads redirect to a landing page that outlines the benefits of joining.

    • Post about it on social media.

Including social media in your promotion strategy potentially reaches people who may have never heard of your blog before.

    • Let other bloggers in your niche know.

Again, don’t make it a hard sell. Just let them know. They could be interested in doing an exclusive webinar or creating an exclusive post. You might even get them as members. If your membership site offers great value, they’ll be more likely to promote it on their blogs.

Things To Remember When Managing Your Membership Site

    • Resist the temptation to undercut your competitors.

A limited-time discount is a legitimate promotional tactic, right up there with free trials. But offering a discount is way different from positioning yourself as the low-cost competitor. It’s tempting to offer low rates because this might be an effective tool to get more members in the short-term.

three dollars on a laptopIn the long run, however, it hurts everyone. Your competitors slash their prices, their content quality goes down, your content quality goes down because the price just isn’t sustainable, readers in your niche stop joining membership sites, aaaaand you’ve ruined the niche for anyone who wants to start a membership site.

It might not be quite as apocalyptic as that, but I hope you get the picture. There’s plenty of room for everyone on the internet. Focus on producing great quality content and make it worth what your members pay.

    • Welcome new members with a guide to your site.

Welcoming new members with an email containing a “getting started” guide or video, or both, will go a long way in making your members feel like they’re going to get taken care of. Plus it minimizes the time you spend answering questions like “How do I go the webinar page?” and “How do I access the members’ area?” and focus on the questions that are helpful for everyone.

    • Engage personally with your members.

Interacting with your readers is part of taking care of your community, but it’s even more important now that members of your site are parting with their hard-earned money for access. It’s not just higher quality content that they want, it’s greater access to you. They’d figure, if visitors to your blog can click “Contact Us,” commenters on posts can post their opinions, and subscribers can reply back to your emails/newsletters, then as paying members, they should have something more.

And they’d be right.

conversation

There are many ways you can set this up, but for starters, try to reply to people posting on your members-only forum. Or you can hold a regular “Ask Me Anything” for an hour every week. Or you can set up a private, members-only Facebook group where you can hold a regular Facebook Live session and reply personally to their comments and posts asking for help or leaving feedback.

Whichever method you employ, make sure your members feel your presence.

    • Listen to your members.

Take the time to listen to what your members have to say. You might have prepared some kick-ass content, but what if your members want to learn something more basic? Or even something more advanced? Needs evolve over time and you need to be able to evolve with your members.

dog whispering to cat

Survey them every 3 to 6 months and find out if they’re still happy or they want something more or different.

    • Focus on member retention once your membership reaches a certain number.

I don’t have exact industry statistics, but according to this infographic by Invesp, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. And yet you are 60–70% more likely to persuade an existing customer to buy, as opposed to 5–20% for a new prospect.

The math is clear on this one.

So how can you retain members and stop them from cancelling?

One way you can do this is to set milestones for your customers. Some sites offer bonus products or services after every 6 months of membership. Some sites offer courses with a definite timeframe (for example, three months), after which they can take up an advanced course or take up another course. Having definite milestones, even though it’s the end of a course, gives your members something to look forward to and helps them stick around.

    • Reactivate Cancelled Members

Attrition, or people leaving your site, is one of the greatest challenges that membership site owners face. For members who’ve cancelled, ask them why. Set up some kind of exit form when they cancel their membership. That way you know why they’re leaving and you can address it.

fisherman

But don’t just let them walk out that door and never look back. Chase them. Add them to a list of cancelled members and offer them incentives to come back and give it another go.

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Benefits Of Starting A Membership Site

  • Recurring revenue
  • Built-in business platform
  • Single place to keep all premium content

Drawbacks Of Starting A Membership Site

  • High maintenance (content, software)
  • More involvement (member engagement)
  • Higher commitment for readers than subscribing

2. Affiliate Marketing

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is promoting a product or service from another company and earning a commission for it. You can earn a commission by taking a percentage of the resulting sale, commission per lead (no purchase necessary, just a sign-up with an email address), or a fixed amount per sale.

handshake

Sounds simple? It’s really not. There is a lot to learn and a lot to do to set this up. Don’t be fooled by get-rich-quick programs that suggest that earning hundreds of thousands through affiliate marketing can be done with minimal effort.

On the other extreme, affiliate marketing is not a scam. It’s a viable option, but only if you take the time to learn how to do it correctly.

Your ultimate aim in affiliate marketing should be a three-way winning situation wherein:

  • you earn money for your efforts,
  • your readers get information about products that are useful for them,
  • your affiliate is happy because they have leads or sales from customers they might not have been able to reach.

Steps In Affiliate Marketing Through Your Blog

1. Find affiliate programs that are relevant to your niche.

There are a number of ways you can go about doing this. Danyon already wrote about how to find affiliate programs, so you might want to check that out.

    • Check if you’re already promoting products/services with affiliate programs.

If you’re using WordPress, there’s a plugin called Jetpack that can show you a list of your external links and how many people clicked on them. You now have a list of sites where you’re sending traffic. Then, you can go to these sites and check if they have affiliate programs. Most of the time, their footer would have a link that says “Affiliates,” “Affiliate Program,” or “Become an Affiliate.” You can now sign up.

    • List down your favorite products and services and check if they have affiliate programs.

Products and services that have solved your problems are more likely to excite your readers. You can check these companies’ websites to check if they have affiliate programs.

    • Search Google for any affiliate programs related to your niche.

For example, if you’re running a fashion blog, you can search “fashion-related affiliate programs” on Google and see if a favorite product is pulled up.

    • Research the popular blogs in your niche.

Find out which products and services seem to be promoted frequently on their blogs. Check if they’re products and services you like as well, or at least try them out. Apply for their affiliate programs as well if they seem to be a good fit.

    • Use affiliate networks that are relevant to your niche.

An affiliate network acts as a mediator between you and affiliate programs by merchants. A single affiliate network may contain thousands of affiliate programs. Some of the best affiliate networks are:

2. Prettify your affiliate links and add these links to your posts automatically.

It may take a couple of days or sometimes weeks to get approved by the affiliate programs you’ve joined. Once you get approved, you get an affiliate link to track your sales. They’re normally full of letters and numbers that look like gibberish.

makeup

What you want to do is conceal its “ugliness” and mask it with a link that looks more logical and is easier to remember. Again, as with most things, there’s a plugin to do this. One of the more popular ones is Pretty Link Lite.

It’s not just a cosmetic concern; one of your affiliates may decide to change its affiliate link, like if they change affiliate networks. If you didn’t mask your affiliate link, you’ll have to go back to all posts that had the old link and edit them to show the new one. Worse, if you’ve already sent out emails with that link, there’s no way for you to correct them. With the masking plugin, you only have to update the old link once, and the “pretty” links in your blog posts and emails still work.

3. Write blog posts that generate sales.

Review posts, list posts, and comparison posts are some of the most popular posts for affiliate marketing. Always include both the pros and cons of the products you’re mentioning, even if they’re affiliates.

4. Drive traffic to your affiliate links.

You can use the tips I enumerated here to drive traffic to your blog posts. More traffic to your blog = more traffic to your affiliate links.

Things To Remember When Doing Affiliate Marketing Through Your Blog

    • Only recommend products that you’ve used before and have helped you.

It’s only logical to promote products that are useful and familiar to you. Your confidence in the product is vital when you write about these products. If you don’t really believe in the product, it’s like a bad smell: no matter how hard you try to hide it, it will always come out.

    • Place affiliate links in your emails (but do so sparingly).

links

You can place affiliate links in your emails to your subscribers where it makes sense. However, don’t be trigger-happy with the links. Your readers subscribed because of you and the value you give. Always include more free information in your emails than affiliate links.

    • Always disclose your affiliate relationship.

Retaining your readers’ trust is key to selling to them. Be very careful not to break that trust. Being transparent is easier than weaving a web of lies. Plus, if you have loyal subscribers, they might check out the link anyway to support you. So always be honest!

    • Track your affiliate programs.

Monitoring your affiliate programs will help you determine which ones are successful and which ones aren’t. It’ll also allow you to test which promotion strategies are effective and which ones aren’t. This way, you don’t get stuck doing a strategy that doesn’t work or staying with an affiliate program that doesn’t perform well.

    • Be honest when recommending these products!

I can’t stress this enough. Always be honest about what you like and what you DON’T like about a product. Also, products that work for you may not work for others. It’s important to mention that and explain why it might or might not work for others.

pinky swear

Benefits of Affiliate Marketing

  • No need to create your own product; start selling immediately
  • Good practice for when you sell your own products
  • Control over which products you want to promote
  • Set it up once and continue making commissions as long as you’re an affiliate

Drawbacks of Affiliate Marketing

  • No control over the affiliate program; they may close at any time, discontinue the product you’re selling, or remove you as a partner blog
  • Small risk that seller may not pay you your commissions
  • Bad affiliates can ruin your reputation
  • No control over payout frequencies or thresholds
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3. Products

Selling other people’s products through affiliate marketing can indeed be lucrative, but selling your own product gives you absolute control over everything: quality, branding, marketing, etc. Most importantly, this gives you a higher profit margin compared to selling other people’s products.

lemonade stand

It’s a bit more complicated than selling lemonade in the summer.

Here are some products you might consider creating:

    • eBooks

Information products like ebooks are common products that bloggers develop and for good reason. People on their smartphones and tablets can easily read these on the go, and they’re simple to make and distribute.

    • eCourses

Another type of information product, ecourses are on-demand training courses, usually with multimedia components like audio and video aside from text presentations. If you have a more complicated concept you’d like to teach, ecourses may be a better fit than ebooks.

    • Web elements

Themes, patterns, wallpapers, logos, icons, and other elements of web design are currently in demand. If you’re a graphic designer, you can take advantage of this demand and sell these elements right on your blog.

    • Software

Applications and plugins have a higher perceived value than ebooks or even ecourses, because let’s face it, not everyone can make software. If you’re a developer and you think you can create a software to solve a particular problem, code it and sell it on your blog.

    • Media
        • Music

      Selling your own music online ensures that you get to keep all your money when someone downloads your stuff. Bonus points for selling your own merchandise with the music. Just make sure you follow applicable laws.

        • Photos

      You can sell them to stock photography sites for income, but then your photos will get lost in the millions of photographs that are already stocked. If you’re looking to make your mark as a photographer, you’d be better off selling your photographs from your own blog.

    • Merchandise

That personal touch when you hand off something tangible to another person is sorely lacking in today’s almost entirely digital world. Plus, if this is related to your niche, physical products can help your readers feel more like they’re connected to you. Pins, mugs, t-shirts, stationery, and stickers are just some of the products you can sell. If you’re just starting out, though, it is much simpler to sell physical products using a third-party site (e.g., eBay, Etsy, Shopify) at this point.

You can also create physical products to go with your digital products, such as a printed version of your ebook, or a framed print of an image you’ve made available online, customizable with your reader’s favorite quote on it. Bear in mind, though, that selling physical products would likely entail a greater cost than that of digital products.

Steps To Sell Your Products Through Your Blog

1. Find out what people seem to want, and quickly test to see if they really want it.

It’s not about what you think your readers want, or what you decide your readers need. It’s about them. What they want. What they need.

Unsure of what they need? Investigate. Lurk on forums. Read their comments on your blog. Create a survey. Objectively examine the information and evidence you’ve gathered. What do they ask about? What do they complain about? What do they wish they had or knew more about?

2. Sell the idea… to yourself.

Why on earth would you want to sell to yourself?

looking in mirror

Sometimes you get caught up in the idea of selling something that you forget why you’re doing it in the first place.

Create your value proposition. Define who your customers are, what their problem is, and how your product solves that problem. Doing this early on will keep you more focused as you go through the process.

3. Plan.

Map out the resources you’ll need, the costs you’ll incur, and the key stages in creating your product. Planning this out creates a basic timeline that you can easily see and that keeps the momentum going. Plus, it’s a psychological high when you check off something on your list.

4. Create your product.

Making the product is the most difficult and thorough part of the entire process. It’s important to keep motivated and focused at this point, as the quality and impact of your product should be central to your efforts. If you feel you’re veering off-track, refer to your value proposition so you can get back on track.

5. Validate your data by selling a pilot or beta version of it.

Launch a bare-bones version of your product to a small group of readers to get early feedback. Target those readers who have expressed enthusiasm when you were doing your product research. Or send an email blast to your readers offering limited slots to test-run your product at a low price. Offer them a huge discount off the full price if they buy the beta version.

prototype

Make it easy for them to give you feedback on the product as well. You can create a special form for them to fill out and then send the link to their emails. Leave a blank space as well for more detailed comments.

6. Polish your product.

Having a half-assed beta version is forgivable, but after receiving feedback from your beta testers, you should be able to refine your full product.

7. Launch!

Create your landing page and spread the word to all your subscribers. Promote it on your blog and your social network. Invite other bloggers in your niche to be affiliate marketers for your product.

Things to Remember When Selling Your Products Through Your Blog

    • Sell to readers on your email list.

Whatever your product is, your email list is your biggest online asset. These are the people who trusted you enough to give you their email address, so chances are they’ll trust you enough to let you sell to them.

    • Create a killer landing page.

A landing page is simply a web page that allows you to capture a visitor’s contact details (usually email). It provides details about a particular product and some additional information, convincing that visitor of the benefits of your product. A successful landing page has an eye-catching headline, a visual element (image or video), a scannable list of benefits, and a compelling call to action.

landing page

Directing potential buyers to a landing page is important so you can target those visitors who stumble upon your blog (from a Google search, for example) and convince them that your product is worth buying.

    • Have a launch strategy

While you’re developing your product (or even before), keep an eye out for product launches in your niche. Learn as much as you can from these. You can even try to reach out to them, let them know what you’re planning to launch, and ask for advice.

Set a reasonable target launch date. Create buzz around your product weeks prior to that launch date. Get your subscribers excited with teasers and by telling them how your product is going to make their life better. Offer early-bird discounts to those who would pre-order.

    • Keep the focus on creating a useful product.

The purpose of creating a product is to make something that is useful to your customers. No matter how awesome the design or the content or its features may be, if it doesn’t add any value to your customers, it’s going to fail.

Bottomline: If your product isn’t useful, no one will buy it.

Benefits of Selling Your Product

  • Readers stay on your own site instead of sending them elsewhere
  • High-quality products strengthen relationship with your readers
  • High profit margin
  • Builds authority

Drawbacks of Selling Your Product

  • High cost (time, effort, risk)
  • Unpredictable outcome
  • Low-quality products destroy relationship with your readers and ruin your reputation
  • Have to set up payment gateways

4. Services

Before you even consider this option, is the service you’re offering related to your blog in any way? Because if you’re blogging about fashion but you want to offer legal consultancy, then I doubt it will work out. If you’re blogging about fashion, then offering style consultation would be a much more logical choice.

lawn-mowing-service

An advantage of selling your services on your blog is that you don’t have to wait until you have thousands of visitors to monetize your site. Once you have enough content, a portfolio page, and a “Hire Me” page, you can start looking for clients immediately.

Then again, if you already have sizable traffic and just decided to offer your services, you already have a relationship with your readers and subscribers. They’ve seen your work, they’ve interacted with you maybe once or twice. Once they need your service, they’re more likely to go to you than to someone they don’t know.

Some general examples to give you an idea:

    • Consulting/Coaching

You can offer your services as a consultant. Blogging consultancy would be an obvious choice, but you may be an expert in another area–software development, marketing, customer service, and legal consultancies are just some of the areas you can offer consultancy in. Personal development, career, and health and fitness coaching are other services you can offer.

    • Writing/Editing

If you write well, you can offer freelance blog post writing or even copywriting, if you have the skills for it. You can also offer more specialized writing jobs if you’re qualified. Some examples would be financial, legal, academic, or scientific writing.

typewriter

Proofreading is also something you can offer if you have a good eye for surface errors, such as grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. It also involves catching inconsistencies in spelling, formatting, and language. Its aim is to ensure that the writing is crystal clear.

By contrast, copyediting and content editing involve a more proactive editor making changes and suggestions It has more to do with word choice, tone, conciseness, and readability. The aim is to improve the overall quality and impact of your writing. Editing is thus more demanding in terms of time and skill set.

    • Web Design

Designing a website is quite a different skill set from developing a website. Design has more to do with the layout, colors, fonts, images, buttons, banners, and other cosmetic features. It aims to improve the aesthetics and usability or a website. You can design custom themes, icons, buttons, and other page elements.

    • Graphic Design

You can start by offering book cover design and ebook illustrations to aspiring ebook authors. You can also design invitations for events and weddings, restaurant menus, newsletters, product catalogs, and more. When you’ve built up your portfolio, you can eventually graduate to doing company branding, which involves designing logos, brochures, banners, posters, business cards, letterheads, PowerPoint/Keynote presentations, social media branding, and other company materials.

    • Virtual Assisting

Virtual businesses are taking off nowadays because the overhead is lower compared to the traditional brick-and-mortar business model. Anyone can start a virtual business, even an individual. Virtual assisting is thus in demand because a single person can only do so much work. Delegating specialized work to other workers is a much more efficient way of doing business.

woman wearing headset

Examples of tasks that a virtual assistant can do include bookkeeping, online research, CRM database entry, email management, social media management, travel arrangement, scheduling tasks, lead generation, industry knowledge, customer contact management, file management, transcription, blog management, recruitment, and even personal errands.

One person can only do so much. You might have to outsource. We're here to help. Get started today for FREE >>

Steps To Offer Your Services Through Your Blog

1. Create a “Hire Me!” or “Work With Me!” page.

Your Hire Me page should be like a landing page, but instead of selling a product, it’s selling you. Here are the essential components of your Hire Me page:

    • Headline

Focus on the benefit to the client. For example, “Virtual Assistant For Hire” doesn’t have the same persuasive effect as “Drowning In Emails? I Can Help!”

    • How you can help them

Your first sentence should go straight to the point. “If you are in search of an experienced virtual assistant that can handle all your emails because you just don’t have the time to, you’re in the right place.”

    • Why they should trust you

What you say after that first sentence will depend largely on your skills, experience, and qualifications, but keep in mind that you need to paint the best possible picture of yourself as an employee. It’s advisable as well to distinguish yourself from others in your field.

    • Testimonials

You might not have these yet, but once you get your first few clients, ask them to put in a few kind words for you so you can post them here. It should go without saying, but you need to do a good job so you can get stellar testimonials.

    • Contact Form

There are tons of plugins available, so there’s no excuse not to put that here. It’s important to keep this particular contact form separate from your blog contact form because you’ll want to prioritize replying to any forms submitted on this page. The faster you reply, the better impression you’ll give. Don’t forget to include other contact information, such as your email and Skype, if applicable.

2. Create a Portfolio Page

A portfolio page is especially important for designers and writers. For graphic and web designers, place your best work near the top so they can easily be seen. For writers, it’s not practical to include all of your work if you’re very prolific. Your top three works should be fine. It’s rare that they’ll be read thoroughly.

It’s much trickier for other jobs, though. You might want to link out to your LinkedIn page, if you have one.

Things To Remember When Offering Your Services Through Your Blog

    • Show a link to your Hire Me page where appropriate.

Now that you have a Hire Me page it just makes sense to promote it. Some places where you can show it include your author bio, your About Me page (this should be separate from your Hire Me page), and in some of your email newsletters (don’t show them in all your newsletters; not all your subscribers are looking to hire). Your Hire Me page should also be featured on your business card, if you still carry those.

    • Don’t plug it in your blog posts so much.

Instead of doing this, just place a link to your Hire Me page on your navigation bar where everyone can see it. Or get it out of your system and do a blog post about how you did it once, then leave it. Don’t belabor your readers with your Hire Me page.

    • Offer a fair price (and don’t forget to offer discounts to your subscribers).

Some freelancers include an option in their contact form for the client to indicate what kind of budget they have for your service, which is helpful for weeding out clients that pay too low for the kind of service you’re offering. In addition, putting a price on your service upfront will help potential clients to know at that point whether or not they can afford your services, saving you both a lot of time in negotiating price.

price tag

Of course, as a “thank you” to your subscribers, offer them a special discount. Make it a tiered one, meaning your oldest subscribers get the highest discount and your new ones get the lowest discount. Doing this will make your oldest subscribers feel extra special, and also discourage those who plan to subscribe only to get the special discount and then unsubscribe as soon as they get your service.

    • Do an outreach campaign.

Look for prospective clients and reach out through email to offer your services with a link to your Hire Me page. Document all of your online interactions. Best case, you get a client. Worst case, you can test what approach works and what doesn’t. It’s still going to be a valuable learning experience.

Benefits of Offering Your Services

  • Creating a single Hire Me page is easier than submitting multiple resumés
  • Eliminating the middleman (job platforms like Upwork, recruiters)

Drawbacks of Offering Your Services

  • Income limited to how many hours you’re available to work
  • Not very appropriate to promote it in your blog if the skills you offer are unrelated to the niche you’re blogging about
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5. Native Advertising

The definition of native advertising according to Sharethrough:

“Native advertising is a form of paid media where the experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.”

Native ads don’t get ignored like traditional ads (think banner ads) because they don’t look like ads.

There are many different types of native advertising, but in terms of your blog, it’s a post that looks and feels like a normal blog post, but is actually sponsored by someone else, usually a company.

parachute sponsored by Red Bull

You can be transparent about your sponsored content without being this loud.

Sponsored posts or articles involves you publishing an article or an infographic that mentions a company. You can also publish reviews of their product or service in exchange for payment.

The most important aspect of native advertising is that the user experience should not be hindered in any way. You want paid content that seamlessly blends into your blog in appearance, writing style, and topics.

Taking on native advertisement in your blog is already a risk to your reputation in itself. Always make sure that even if it’s sponsored content, it’s in line with what your readers came to your blog for. No readers, no advertisers. Doing native advertisement right ensures that you, your readers, and your advertisers all win in the arrangement.

Things To Remember About Native Advertising

    • Publish sponsored posts rarely.

Your readers come to your blog because of your posts. They come to your blog for information. They don’t go to your blog to be sold to. Respect that. Sponsored posts should not make up most of your content.

    • Be very clear to your readers that a sponsored post is sponsored.

Sponsored posts should always be fully disclaimed even before your reader has chosen to invest time in reading. In your post, there should be a disclaimer at the very top, before the content itself. When linking to it in your emails or newsletters, always include a note that the link they’re going to click on is sponsored content. Same thing for social media posts promoting sponsored posts.

Always be transparent with your readers. You don’t want them to feel duped or tricked into clicking that link. Worse, you don’t want the FTC shutting you down if you’re writing for US audiences or your sponsor is an American company.

    • When doing a review article, be honest.

Your readers’ trust should always come first. Be honest about the product or service you’re reviewing: what you like about it, what you don’t like about it. Never contradict yourself or your ideals for the chance to be sponsored. People who are new to the site may not notice, but long-time subscribers of your blog will.

    • Make sure to create posts like this only for products or services relevant to your niche.

Again, keep in mind that your blog is valuable to your readers if you offer them relevant and useful content. If you blog about tech trends and then suddenly do a sponsored post about food, you’re going to turn off your readers.

    • Set clear expectations with the company who’s sponsoring your post.

There are many details you’ll have to iron out with your intended sponsor. How many words do they expect? Do they want a purely positive review, or can you state your honest opinion, good or bad? (Warning bells should be ringing in your head if they want only positive reviews.)

meeting

How much are you going to get paid? Will they provide you an affiliate link? Are you supposed to promote the post through social media as well? If so, will that be sponsored as well?

Remember that sponsored content is a delicate balance between your sponsors, your readers, and your blog. Done right, everybody wins. Done poorly, everybody loses.

Benefits of Doing Native Advertising

  • Diversify your revenue sources
  • Less intrusive way of getting your readers’ attention
  • Maintain control over content

Drawbacks of Doing Native Advertising

  • Risk your reputation as a blogger
  • Reduce reader trust when done improperly
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Worst Ways To Monetize Your Blog

Now that we’ve gone through the best, here are the worst ways to monetize your blog. This section may be a bit controversial and may go against what you may read in other articles, but hear me out. Read on and you’ll understand why they’re poor approaches to monetizing your blog.

Pay-per-click (PPC) Ads and Banner Ads

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a type of internet advertising in which an advertiser pays a fee every time their ad is clicked. It’s one of the most popular sources of income for bloggers, especially for beginners, because it’s simple to set up and maintain. You don’t even have to talk directly to companies who want to advertise because your selected PPC program does that for you.

billboards

How it works is that you sign up for an account with a PPC program and select the type of ads that you want on your blog (from what industries, whether you want text ads or display ads or both, etc.).

You then insert a code on your blog that allows your PPC program to displays ads on your site provided by advertisers. When a reader clicks on the ad, both you and your PPC program earn from that click. Popular PPC programs include Google AdSense, Media.net, and Infolinks.

Banner ads are spaces in your blog that you sell to businesses so they can advertise on your blog. This eliminates the middleman (i.e., PPC programs) and gives you greater control over what companies you want to advertise to your readers.

Traditionally, PPC and banner ads used to be fairly lucrative when competition was low. Nowadays, however, the value of each page view is very low. Thus, you’ll need a whole lot of traffic (think in the millions) for you to earn a viable income.

And if you have that much traffic, you could earn so much more with it by selling a product or service. Also, they drive traffic away from your blog, which of course you don’t want after taking the time and effort to drive traffic to your blog.

Besides, who even likes ads? They look unprofessional, they add clutter, and they make your readers feel they’re being sold to just as they’re entering your house, so to speak. That’s a surefire way of breaking the goodwill and trust that you’ve worked so hard to build. So at best, they’re ignored (banner blindness is a thing). At worst, it’s despicable enough to drive your readers away.

In-Text Advertisements

You’ve seen these before. That blog with the double underlines under seemingly random phrases peppered throughout the text. When you hover over one of them, a pop-up appears.

That’s an example of an in-text advertisement, usually by Infolinks. Instead of displaying advertisements in a separate box, the ads are embedded in your blog content. Random words or phrases are highlighted with those double underlines, and when your mouse cursor hovers over them, a small pop-up ad appears.

in-text-adYou can customize the appearance and how many of these ads appear throughout your content, but because they’re integrated into your content, they can be intrusive. Not only are they intrusive, but they’re oftentimes irrelevant to your topic. Plus, they slow down your blog. Also, they don’t pay a lot.

It can be argued that affiliate links are in-text ads, too. While that’s technically true, you have control over where and how often these will appear in your content. You can ensure that the affiliate link is useful to your readers. In the first place, you get to choose which companies to work with. If you depend on a third-party provider, you don’t get to do that.

Bottom line: Don’t do it. It’s just not worth it.

Pop-up advertisements

Note: To be clear, I’m talking about third-party pop-up ads that promote products or services unrelated to your content. First-party pop-ups are ones that urge your readers to subscribe to your content. The difference? You control your own first-party pop-ups, and you don’t earn money from your pop-ups that promote your own content. That’s a whole other topic for another day.

pop-up ads

Image Created by Pascale PirateChickan | CC BY 2.0
Thank goodness they don’t look this bad anymore.

It says a lot about a feature when an entire industry is created to get rid of it. Despite the popularity of numerous pop-up blocker programs like AdBlock, pop-up ads are still around, and it looks like they aren’t going anywhere.

Why?

Because readers engage with them, and that’s something that advertisers want.

The thing is, readers engage with pop-up ads only to close them. Readers detest them (I mean, don’t you?) because oftentimes they’re distracting, invasive, irrelevant to the content they want to read, and they obstruct the content that they want to get to. Sometimes there isn’t even a straightforward way to close them.

Is the money you earn from putting these to your site worth it? The answer is always hell, no. Never risk your relationship with your readers for something that pays in pennies.

Donations

PayPal has a feature that allows you to create a button for donations and accept contributions from your readers. You do have to name the button something else (often it’s “Buy me a beer” or “Buy me a coffee,” depending on your choice of poison) because the “Donate” button is actually intended for nonprofit organizations.

There was a time, maybe a decade or two ago, that many bloggers tried to earn money this way. At the time, it’s probably touted as an alternative to running advertising on their blogs. Thing is, it didn’t work for everyone, and now, more than ever, it’s difficult to make a living out of it.

For donations to work, you’ll have to have a lot of very loyal readers who are willing to shell out so you can continue to blog. But, if you already have a loyal reader base, offering them valuable content or services will be a better way to leverage your audience. It’s more profitable for you and they’ll be more satisfied.

Why Passive Income Is a Myth

Note: For the purposes of this article, I’ll define passive income as regular income that doesn’t require constant hands-on work.

The idea of living (and retiring!) on passive income is the ultimate dream.

Can you imagine creating a product once and then sitting back in your lounge chair from anywhere in the country or even in the world, and just living your life?

Many bloggers start out thinking they can get rich through passive income just by setting it up and leaving it. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it doesn’t work that way. You still have to put in a decent amount of work so you can earn “passive” income from your blog.

There is no way a successful business can be run at an entirely passive rate. Aspects of it can be passive, but there will always be work to do. There’s always marketing to get new subscribers, updates to old products or services, emails to reply to, questions to answer, readers to engage with, maintenance of the website and services to do, and customers to support. You can’t create something, forget about it, then expect it to thrive. A successful online business that is completely hands-off just doesn’t exist.

So what the hell are we doing here?

What I’m trying to instill is the correct mindset. Passive doesn’t mean effortless. Monetizing your blog isn’t just a one-off investment of time, work, and money. It’s a constant wave of creation, marketing, and maintenance. The good news is that after your initial investment, your subsequent work will be significantly less. It’s going to free up a lot of time, and successful online entrepreneurs invest that time to the creation of new things and new businesses to have many different sources of income.

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Final Thoughts

I’d like to finish off with some final reminders before you go on your way to monetizing your fabulous blog. They’re applicable to any of the monetization techniques that I discussed.

    • Do your research.

Read, read, read. Once you’ve read up and applied the technique: Test, test, test. There is always more to learn.

    • Follow through

Once you’ve set a plan in motion, see it through to the end.

    • Have patience

Don’t expect results overnight. These things take time.

    • Don’t get too attached to the financial outcomes.

You’ll have better results if you’re focused on the value you give to your readers.

    • Take good care of your readers.

It’s all about your relationship with your readers, and all relationships have to have TRUST.

    • Get started today.

Procrastination be damned. Sometimes it pays to just dive in.

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Have you tried any of these techniques? Which ones worked for you? Which ones didn’t? Did I miss anything? Talk to me in the comments!

About the Author

JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.

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