Use equal parts traffic building and monetization to make money off a blog
Making money off a blog can be a little like weight loss. Losing weight can be as simple as consuming less calories than you burn. To make money off a blog, you simply need stuff to sell and people to buy it.
Of course, anyone (including me) that has tried to lose weight will tell you it’s not so simple. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to shed those pounds. Making money blogging is going to take work and discipline as well but sticking to those two basic ideas will put you ahead of most bloggers.
Why do Bloggers Struggle to Make Money?
We looked at a Problogger survey in an earlier post on making money blogging that showed 38% of blogs make nothing and 70% of those with a blogging income make less than $500 per month.
In fact, the vast majority of bloggers give up within six months because their blogging income fails to live up to expectations.
Why do most bloggers struggle to make money off a blog, especially considering 13% report being able to make more than $5,000 a month? Remember the two ‘simple’ criteria for making money, a product and someone to sell it to, most bloggers focus completely on one of the two while completely forgetting about the other.
Play Two Roles to Make Money off a Blog
It’s not enough to be a great writer or to promote your blog posts to the masses. Making money off your blog means treating it as a business and also thinking about how you’re going to make money off each post.
Most of the struggling bloggers I talk to have spent months trying to build their traffic, studying SEO and building a social media strategy. They’ve built traffic to a few thousand monthly visitors but have no idea how to make money and they’re just about burnt out.
We’ll go over strategies for both ideas below but never ignore either of the two steps to make money off a blog. You might have a special project one month that’s more for one than the other, so let’s say you spend 65% of your time in one and only 35% on the other, but then you need to even it out by working a little more on the other side the following month.
3 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic
Social media is great for blog traffic, I know bloggers that have gotten hundreds of thousands a month from Pinterest alone. Ask any of them lately, after the recent changes to the site, and they’re pulling their hair out. Facebook, Pinterest and the rest of the social platforms change the way people find your posts so often that you just can’t rely on social traffic.
I’m not saying that Google doesn’t also change its search algorithm, masking the disastrous effects on some blogs with cute little names like hummingbird and panda, but SEO is where you want to focus for building traffic. It’s more difficult to build your search traffic but it will be much more consistent and long-lasting compared to other sources.
1) Your work starts within each post in what’s called on-page SEO. This is just making sure Google sees your posts as authoritative on a topic so it will rank highly in search. We detailed the idea in our 10-page resource guide on how to start a blog but will go over the highlights here.
- Your keyword should be at least two or three words long, something with lots of monthly searches but not too general
- Use your keyword phrase in special places within the article, places where Google looks for the article’s main idea like the title, URL and section headings
- Use the WordPress editor to change your headline and section headings to H-tags which helps them stand out to Google more than simply bold lettering
- Include relevant images which have the keyword phrase in the file name and meta-tags.
- Write a persuasive meta-description that includes the keyword phrase
- Assign the article to a category of posts that is related to the keyword topic
2) Google has said that the two most important factors for website rankings are content and inbound links. Making sure you are doing on-page SEO and writing long articles covers content but you also need to get others to link to your posts as a sign of quality. Check out this article on my three favorite link-building strategies to increase traffic and ultimately make money off a blog.
- The Skyscraper Technique is the most work but helps to build really great content and get lots of links. Run a Google search on the keyword phrase for which you want to rank and then read/analyze the top ten results. What makes them so special? Create a post that is even better than any of the highest ranking, including visual graphics and lots of information. You then reach out to people that might be interested in the post and promote it out to build links.
- Infographics aren’t as novel as they used to be but still generally get more links than just regular content. Instead of creating an entirely new post with an infographic, find one of your posts that is already getting good search traffic and repurpose the content into an infographic. Add the infographic to the post and republish it for an extra boost.
- Running a scholarship is something I’ve just started trying this year but looks like it works really well so far. It will cost you $500+ a year but can be a source of powerful .edu links as well as free content from applications. After setting up your scholarship page and application details, you reach out to institutions with a financial aid page. Even a 10% response rate on 400 college websites is still 40 inbound links to your blog and tons of Google power.
3) The final trick to grow traffic is the easiest and one of my favorites. Check out this detailed post on the republishing process to boost blog traffic but essentially, you’re just going back through your old posts to improve them and then just republishing as new. Some bloggers do almost nothing with the post and just republish, still seeing some boost to traffic but missing out on a lot of the benefit.
- Add the relevant keywords for which the post is already ranking, especially in critical places like the title and headings. Basically, you want to go back through the on-page SEO process to improve the post.
- The only thing you absolutely can’t change is the URL because that’s where your existing inbound links point.
- Republish and promote the article just like any new post. I’ve gotten an average of nearly 300% increase on search traffic to republished posts.
4 Ways to Monetize a Blog to Make Money
There are two important ideas to remember in monetization when you want to make money off a blog. First is that it’s never too early to make money blogging. If you have one visitor, you can make money. Don’t be like too many bloggers that never feel they have enough traffic to start thinking about monetization. You need to start trying to make money blogging from day one and with every article.
Secondly, success in making money blogging is about having multiple sources of income. Just like your traffic could evaporate if Pinterest stops sending you tons of visitors, your monthly income could plunge if you’re only relying on one source and it stops working. Most blogs don’t make much money off a single income source but you can really build a great income if you diversify your sources.
1) If you’ve been reading the blog then you know I LOVE self-publishing as an income source. You’re already pumping out lots of articles so why not put them together, add a little detail and formatting and make a book? Self-publishing has accounted for nearly half of the money I’ve made off my blogs. It can be an easy process or very frustrating so make sure you check out our resource guide on how to publish a book and some of the other self-publishing posts.
2) Most bloggers work freelance at some point, whether to pay the bills before the blog starts to make money or when other sites see their articles and ask if they’re available for hire. I separate my freelancing income from the money I make blogging because I was freelancing for years before I started the blogs. You’ll learn a lot about writing and what readers look for in an article and that information is valuable.
- Put a ‘Hire Me’ page in your blog menu or at least in the footer
- Reach out to large sites within your niche to see if they hire contributors, rates generally start from $100 but can go as high as $500 and more for a single article
- Check out this post on how much you can make freelancing and examples by six bloggers making lots of money
3) Just over half of the money I make blogging is from affiliate sales. This is when you write about or mention a company’s product and link to it within an article. If someone clicks through the link and makes a purchase, you receive a commission. There’s a fine line between helping readers find the best solutions for their needs and being a shill for anyone that will pay you so make sure you’re only linking to products or services you’ve used and would recommend.
- Join an affiliate network like CJ Affiliate or FlexOffers and then join individual company programs that are relevant to your blog.
- There are primarily two ways to work affiliates into your blog, through a review or a simple mention. Writing a review offers the potential to rank on Google and get visitors specifically looking for info on that product but it takes longer. Just mentioning an affiliate product within a post can work also but probably won’t get as many clicks.
- Really look through the affiliates available within the networks. There will be thousands so it will take some time but you need a long list to have as many options as possible. The more affiliate programs you’re on means the easier it will be to link to one when it relates to your article’s topic.
4) I haven’t launched any courses yet but am storyboarding a few and plan on having at least three or four done by the end of the year. Putting a course up on Udemy or some other platform is just the video-version of self-publishing. I’ll update with a post on how to put together a course to make money off a blog once I’ve launched a few but I’ve already talked to several bloggers making upwards of $2,000 a month on their courses.
Making money blogging through some sources will take a little longer than others. Self-publishing and launching courses could take a couple months of work to repurpose your blog content and edit while its fairly quick and easy to link an affiliate into an article.
This is where shifting priorities comes into play. Maybe you reduce the blog posts to two articles a week instead of three to give yourself time to put your book together. After the book’s done, you can increase posting to make up for the time you focused on monetization rather than traffic.
It’s a lot of information for one post but it really doesn’t have to be difficult to make money off a blog. Make sure you are spending time on both increasing traffic and monetizing that traffic. Not everyone will like every income source so try as many as possible and settle on at least a few that you use consistently to make money blogging. Stick with it for at least a year and you will start to see both your traffic and your income grow.