How to Make Money Blogging (From Start to Finish)

In this post you’ll learn how to make money blogging using a simple 5-stage monetization process. By using all five monetization methods in this post, you should be able to increase and diversify your income. And it’s all about the order in which things are done.

Back in 2015, I bought a mom blog. It cost me around $6,000, but it was probably one of the easiest ways I’ve make money blogging. The formula went something like this: Buy a blog. Spend around 8 hours to better monetize the site. Forget that I own the blog for around two years. Invest around 90 more hours to get more revenue generating traffic. Take it to a mid-four figure per month site.

Neglect the site, yet again, and let it drop to a low four-figure per month site. And then sell it for a profit to a random person who emails me. This story of making around $1,000/hour semi- passively is a story of laziness, disinterest and luck rather than success. And if I was going to start a blog again with the goal of making money from it – like a business – I would follow a simple 5-step monetization process.

Now, before we can get to that monetization process, we need to talk about how to make money blogging. And there are a handful of ways. You can put ads on your site. Do affiliate marketing. Sell your own products, like an online course. Get sponsorships. And sell your site. And while many people advise just going with one or two monetization methods, I actually think you can go with all five. And this will help you to a) increase your income, and b) diversify your income. Both of these things will help to increase the value of your site should you reach stage 5 of the process.

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Now, before we begin, I highly recommend starting to build an email list from day one. Reason being, email lists are a huge asset to bloggers because they help you to build an audience, communicate with them on your own terms, and to sell to them at scale. You can get started with a free account on Mailchimp or ConvertKit. Then, you can add opt-in forms on your blog’s homepage, in your blog sidebar or even within your blog posts to passively get subscribers. Alright, so let’s move on to the 5-stage monetization process. And it’s all about the order in which things are done.

1st stage of monetization

The first stage of monetization that I think bloggers should use is affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when you promote another company’s product. And when someone clicks one of your affiliate links and makes a purchase, you’re paid a percentage of the sale called an affiliate commission. So essentially, your blog is acting as a bridge between consumer and merchant. Now, the reason why I recommend starting with affiliate marketing over the other monetization methods is because it’s probably the easiest method to make a consistent monthly income when you’re just starting out. And I want to emphasize the word “consistent” here because you need consistent income month over month, year over year if you want to have a nice exit at stage 5.

Now, getting a consistent income through affiliate marketing will really boil down to if you’re getting consistent traffic to pages that organically recommend products. And both of these things can be solved with SEO or search engine optimization, which is the practice of optimizing web pages to get free organic traffic from search engines like Google.

Now, to get started, you’ll need to do keyword research to find so-called “affiliate keywords,” which are just topics where it’s easy to organically recommend products. So these will be your typical “best of” posts, product reviews, and comparisons. And these affiliate keywords are easy to find with a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

So, assuming we have a camping blog, I’ll start by searching for a couple of keywords related to my niche and run the search. Next, I’ll go to the matching terms report and all I’ll do here is set a couple of filters. First, I’ll set an Include filter to search for keywords that include words like “best,” “vs” or “review.” And this is going to narrow our list down to mainly affiliate keywords.

And because we want to find keywords where we have a good chance of actually ranking in a reasonable amount of time, I’m going to set a keyword difficulty filter with a maximum value of 10, which should show us easier to rank for topics. Hit the Show results button and we now see some great keywords to go after like this one, this one and this one. All topics where it’d be easy to organically recommend products.

Write up some great content on these topics for your blog, get some good quality backlinks to these pages, and you should be well on your way to higher Google rankings, more traffic, and more affiliate commissions. Then just rinse and repeat until you’re getting consistent traffic from Google and commissions from affiliate merchants. We have a full SEO course for beginners that’ll teach you how to do this step-by-step so I highly recommend watching that course.

2nd stage of monetization

The next stage is to join high-paying ad networks and display their ads on your site. You might have heard of Google Adsense.

This is Google’s advertising platform which lets publishers display ads on their site and make money from them. All you have to do is paste a snippet of code into your web pages and when someone visits your site, they’ll see ads from Google’s inventory. This all sounds great, but Google only gives 51 – 68% of revenue to publishers which kind of sucks.

So from my experience, other ad platforms like Adthrive, Mediavine, and Ezoic pay out more, but they usually have additional requirements to qualify as a publisher – traffic being the main one. For example, Adthrive requires that your Google Analytics be installed and have a minimum of 100,000 monthly pageviews with the majority of traffic coming from these countries.

Mediavine wants to see 50,000 sessions in the previous 30 days per Google Analytics, see that you have an account in good standing with Google Adsense, and they want you to write long-form engaging content. Now, Ezoic used to have a minimum requirement of 10,000 monthly visits.

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But that’s been removed so you can actually start advertising with them right away until you reach the thresholds from other advertising platforms. Now, you might think that adding ads to your site will decrease your affiliate commissions because they’re annoying and they’ll cause people to click away. Well, according to tests done by Dom Wells, display ads do not reduce affiliate commissions. Now, because his tests were done only on a small sample of websites, it’s worth running your own tests and letting the data lead you.

Now, because you’ll be making money from ads, you want to get more traffic even if it won’t convert into affiliate commissions. So one new thing that I highly recommend doing is to create more informational content to your blog at this stage. And informational content is simply content that answers questions that people might have in your niche. For example, “how to use hiking poles” would be an informational topic while “best hiking poles” would be your typical affiliate content. You can find these topics just like we did for affiliate keywords. Search for topics related to your niche in Keywords Explorer.

Go to the Matching terms report. And this time, let’s hit the Questions tab to see informational keyword ideas. Add a Keyword difficulty filter like we did last time, and you’ll see some great topics that are easy to rank for, have search demand, and would be interesting to the audience you’re building. Basically, you just need to keep rinsing and repeating this process and you should be able to build up to a small but “tough to ignore” income from affiliate sales and ads alone. Not to mention, your email subscriber list should be getting bigger each month. Alright.

3rd stage of monetization

the next stage is to actually sell your own products. Now, because your email list and organic traffic should have reached a pretty impressive stage by now, you should be able to leverage them to make more money from your blog. So instead of relying 100% on affiliate marketing where you promote other people’s products, you can whitelabel your own physical products and go direct to consumer.

You can also make a push to sell digital products to your email list like eBooks and online courses. Basically, you’re removing yourself from being the middleman. Not only will these help to increase your overall revenue, but they’ll also act as a hedge against losses in organic traffic, overreliance on a single monetization method, changes in affiliate policies, or whatever unexpected things that may come your way. Alright, next up is to consider selling sponsorships. By this stage, you should have a pretty healthy niche blog with hopefully a decent subscriber base. These are all things you can leverage because now you have actual assets that advertisers would probably love to tap into.

So consider mixing sponsorships into your revenue mix here. For example, that might be sponsored posts, sponsored emails, sponsored videos, or even sponsored events. Now, whether you decide to do sponsored anything is entirely up to you. But there’s some crazy potential here to make a significant impact on your revenue. So it’s definitely worth focusing on the quality and size of your audience. Alright,

4rt stage of monetization

the final stage is to sell your site. Now, you may not want to sell your site because you want to collect revenue month after month. On the other hand, selling your blog can lead to a huge pay day with a life changing amount of money. Whichever route you decide to go is entirely up to you. But for those that are keen to sell, know this: no one knows if or when things will go south. So if you plan to sell your blog, in my opinion, the best time to do it is when you have at least 12-24 months of growth where your metrics are going up and to the right. It’s kind of that time when you probably won’t want to sell because you want to see how far you can take your site. Now, there are 3 main ways to sell your site.

#1. You can go the broker route and contact people like Empire Flippers or FE international.

Or #2. you can go with a marketplace site like Flippa. Both of these routes may come with a hefty commission but it’s really for convenience and their networks. The third way is to broker your own deal.

You can try and sell your own site to people in online communities or even to your competitors with a cold outreach email. Now, as you can see, at its core, make money blogging comes down to your ability to get consistent traffic to your blog. Watch our full SEO course for beginners which is going to help you succeed.

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