This topic kind of flowed from a post I did a little while ago about some bloggers having advertising slots for other blogs. People’s comments got me thinking about the subset of bloggers who are quite focused on earning an income, and about differences in communities between income-oriented and non-income-oriented blogging, and then the various bloggers that straddle both worlds.
A Google search yields a variety of identically named articles on How to Make Money Blogging in 2021. Blogging gurus like Brandon Gaille talk a lot about bringing home the bacon, and they’re clearly very popular.
Yet there’s also a large chunk of bloggers who are blogging because they want to write and be part of a community, and making an income is either not part of the picture, or it’s a minor, on-the-side part. It seems like that goes along with other differences in approach. Some bloggers cross over very effectively, while in other cases, it can be pretty easy to quickly differentiate extremes in blogging purpose (full-on monetize vs non ) from a few surface indicators, like post titles being cookie-cutter clickbait style compared to titles that are more unique, and perhaps non-SEO friendly because SEO just doesn’t matter.
Ways to monetize
Let’s talk about the different ways that people might try to monetize their blogs. And by the way, anyone who tells you that it’s easy to monetize and make a substantial amount is lying.
Displaying ads on your blog isn’t going to bring in much income unless you have massive viewer numbers. I ran ads through Google Adsense on my site from September 2019 to May 2020, and made a whopping $26 Canadian (about $20 USD), which I may never see because the minimum for a payout is $100. Granted, I very deliberately didn’t show multiple ads per page, but still. You have control over how many places on each post where you’ll display ads, and I really didn’t want my site to be really ad-heavy.
You can also run ads through WordAds, but they give you less control than Google Adsense over what gets served up to viewers. If you actually do get a shit ton of views, there are ways to make more money with ads. To partner with SHE Media they want you to have 20,000 monthly views, and Mediavine needs you to have the equivalent of about 60,000 page views per month. You can make more money with them, but they’re way too out of my league for me to have the slightest clue how much.
Affiliate marketing involves using special links for a merchant site (e.g. Amazon) so that if people make a purchase after clicking on your link then you get a small commission. It’s nice in that it doesn’t end up costing the reader anything extra, as the merchant has already figured that into their regular pricing. Affiliate accounts are separate for each country’s Amazon site, and there are minimum amounts you must hit before you can get a payout, which may be higher in countries other than your own. There’s also a minimum earning requirement to stay active as an affiliiate.
Buymeacoffee.com and Ko-fi.com are the big players here. The basics are similar, although they do have some different features. You can get a link/button to post on your website to direct people to the coffee site, where they can make a donation or pay for content. You can also do short posts on those sites to content on your blog, which serves as a high domain authority backlink.
Buymeacoffee.com and Ko-fi allow you to offer some premium content, as does WordPress. You can find out how to do this on WordPress here.
Patreon is focused on premium content. People can sign up to be monthly patrons and get whatever content you create for them, whether that by writing, podcasts, videos, or whatever else you can come up with. The payments go through Patreon, and they take a 5% cut. You can set different membership tiers. Alternately, you can charge people only when you create content.
Having a blog shop
You can also sell items, courses, etc., on your blog. The Woocommerce plugin is useful for this.
Income potential – let’s get real
There are plenty of stories online about people bringing in a lot of income through their blogs. I suspect that for most people, the reality is much more like what I’ve experienced – trying to monetize a blog will end up bringing in little bits here and there, and that’s about the extent of it.
Earning potential is probably affected by how a blogger chooses to fit monetization into their overall strategy. Is your primary purpose to stay true to your blogging roots and continue to interact with your readers in the same type of way? Or is your primary purpose shifting from blogging to business? If business is the primary purpose, then running more ads, working harder at affiliate marketing, and doing more sponsored posts may be good choices. For me, blogging is my primary purpose, and that factors a lot into what I’m prepared to do business-wise.
My own monetization experience
I started out trying to partially monetize my site a couple of years ago, but it was only ever an on-the-side thing that I didn’t want to interfere with my main blogging purpose, which is talking about mental health with other people. This year, because I’m somewhat concerned about jeopardizing my disability benefits, I decided to de-monetize my blog except for being an Amazon affiliate. I scaled back on that, but the factors that played into that decision were that it doesn’t generate enough income to make much of a difference in anything, and also that is that it would be a big pain in the ass to go back and switch up all my affiliate links in book review posts to non-affiliate links, and I can’t be bothered, especially if I decided to go back and redo it in the future.
I have accounts with Ko-fi and Buymeacoffee, but they’re for the sake of backlinks and high-ranking images in Google Images searches. I know various bloggers include tip links on their site/posts, and I’ve wondered if people have any success with them. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to do, but it seems like the potential is limited when asking for tips for blogging from other people who are doing the same thing (i.e. blogging) and probably not being tipped for it.
Monetizing vs. non-monetiizing camps
I definitely don’t have a problem with people trying to monetize their sites, although in some cases, I’ve unfollowed bloggers because their approach became sufficiently income-focused that their blog just didn’t really appeal to me anymore. Actually, a few of those have been blogs that run ads for other bloggers. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with people doing that, but that overall really income-focused approach just isn’t the blogging experience I’m looking for.
What that does make me wonder, though, is if the monetizing and non-monetizing bloggers are, at least to some degree, in separate camps, does that limit the earning potential for a lot of those income-focused bloggers? I don’t think I expressed that very well, but it’s the same kind of thing that I wondered with using Twitter comment threads for blog promotion—if everyone involved is mostly in it for themselves, how easy is it for some people to break out of that and grow beyond the tit for tat?
Again, I’m not expressing that very well, but if one can earn some income on a blog that straddles both camps, does jumping fully into the monetizing camp grow the income level enough that it’s worth losing the feeling of keeping one foot in the non/limited-monetization camp?
I’m certainly not describing all bloggers who are seeking to make an income here; it’s a certain subset within a subset I’m referring to that have crossed mostly or fully into the monetizing side of things, and I’m not even sure if I’m accurately conceptualizing it or not.
That’s where I throw it over to you. Are you trying to earn an income in some way with your blog? Do you see differences between different communities of bloggers that relate to the presence of or degree of monetization?