In my post a little while back about blogging goals, a few people mentioned hoping to make money off of their blog. There are plenty of articles out there that will make you think that you can make money from blogging, and there are definitely some people who do make a living off of blogging, but the reality is that blogging is a tough way to make money. I’ve written about this before, but since it’s come up again recently, let’s chat about that.
What are the ways you can monetize?
I think there’s a myth out there that if you have a blog and you post stuff on it, you can make money. Blogging does not magically make dollars start appearing. You actually have to do (or try to do, anyway) particular things to open up the potential for income.
You have to get a whole lotta traffic in order to make more than a few pennies off ads. The more ads you have on your site and the more in your face they are, the more likely you are to turn off some of your readers so they won’t return. A lot of ads pay on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis rather than a cost per thousand views (CPM) basis, so simply showing ads isn’t enough to make much; you need people to actually click on them, which most people aren’t going to do.
Your options here are WordAds (WordPress’s ad program) or Google AdSense (although for that you need to either have the WordPress.com Pro plan or higher or be self-hosted). If you have >20-25K views a month, you might get accepted for ad management through companies like SHE Media or Mediavine. Given those minimum view requirements for SHE Media and Mediavine, I suspect that’s the range you need to be in to make more than a couple of bucks a month from ads.
Also, keep in mind that going overboard on ads can lose you readers. I talk more about that in the post How Much Advertising on a Blog Is Too Much?
There are various affiliate programs you can sign up for, so that if someone clicks on your link and then buys something from the site you’re referring them to, you get a commission. Options include Amazon, CJ, Rakuten, ShareASale, and Apple Services Performance Partners. Canva, a popular graphic design tool, has an affiliate program that pays if you refer people who sign up for Canva Pro.
The level of success you have with affiliate marketing probably depends a lot on your blog’s niche and whether it’s associated with things that people would buy.
You can have a tip jar on your blog or use sites like BuyMeACoffee or Ko-fi, and that can bring in some money here and there, but I don’t think that’s something that can really be relied on as a steady income stream. However, having accounts on those sites can serve as a source of backlinks to your blog.
There are a variety of platforms out there that connect brands and content creators for things like sponsored posts or product reviews. Some examples:
- Get Blogged
For those brands that are looking to connect with bloggers, your domain authority matters. A key factor in DA is the number of backlinks you have (i.e. other sites linking to your site) and the DA of those linking sites. If you’ve got a low DA, you’re probably not going to get much interest from brands.
I suspect that it’s possible to go overboard with sponsored posts to the point that it starts to turn off readers.
I think it’s certainly possible to make money by selling digital content, other products, or services, but it would require a combination of coming up with something that people will want to pay for, marketing it, and probably a decent helping of luck, too. The marketing piece is key, and that’s a separate skill set that I think a lot of us bloggers probably don’t have.
Another option is selling courses. There are various course creation tools that can help you develop your course, including:
These don’t come cheap, and you could potentially end up losing money on your course.
If you have books or digital items that you’re selling on Amazon or other platforms, your blog can be a way to market those, but the vast majority of your blog readers are not going to translate into book readers.
If you have a WordPress.com paid plan, you can make some of your blog posts premium content that people have to pay to read. Will you be able to make much money by doing this? Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I doubt it.
You can also use your blog to promote things you offer on other platforms.
If you want to be able to write and get paid for it, Medium.com might be a good option for you (I’ve talked about Medium before in this post). Because writers get paid out of people’s Medium membership fees, you’re not having to convince anyone to open their wallet just for your sake.
However, there’s a lot of high-quality content on Medium, and getting enough views to make more than a few bucks a month is hard, and it takes a lot of work. The exact figure varies from month to month, but less than 10% of writers on Medium make more than $100/month.
Besides being a way to collect tips, Buy Me a Coffee and Ko-fi also allow you to post premium content that you charge people for.
Substack lets people pay to subscribe to your newsletter. Convincing people to do that strikes me as something that would be very difficult, but some people do make money that way.
With Patreon, 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 up different membership tiers that give patrons access to different things. Alternatively, you can charge people only when you create content.
I have no idea how easy (or not easy) it is to monetize a podcast, but I’m guessing some of the options are similar to blogging, like ads, affiliate marketing, and promoting your own products/services.
Options for selling things on sites other than your blog include:
I haven’t used any of these platforms so I don’t know how likely it is that people will just happen to stumble across your items as they’re browsing around, but I’m guessing that marketing skills are very important for making money on these platforms.
What I’ve noticed from browsing through brand/influencer platforms like the ones mentioned earlier is that brands seem to be looking for people to promote stuff on social media, and Instagram particularly, rather than on blogs. I suspect that’s because it’s far easier to rack up views on social media platforms than it is on blogs.
I don’t know if this is just my perception or if it has some basis in reality, but it seems like it’s gotten more common for people to expect to be able to monetize the content that they generate. And if that is the case, I wonder if social media becomes a more appealing thing than blogging for people to focus their efforts on in order to maximize their earning potential.
A reality check
The internet is a big place, and there are a whole lotta people creating content on their various platforms. Even if only 10% of those content creators are hoping to monetize, that’s still a lot of people hoping to get money, which makes for a lot of competition. If we narrow that down to blogging, let’s say that 10% of bloggers are hoping to make an income out of doing the same thing as the other 90% of bloggers are doing without any money involved.
No matter how good your writing is, there is so much good free content out there that convincing people to pay to see your writing is not going to be an easy task. Despite all the articles out there telling you how easy it is to make thousands of dollars per month, I think the harsh reality is that the vast majority of bloggers would be extremely lucky to be able to bring in $100 a month.
It’s probably also worth considering if your blogging experience would suffer by focusing on trying to monetize. If you’re able to bring in a bit of money, but it’s frustrating and makes blogging feel like work, how sustainable is that likely to be?
So, is it possible to make money from blogging? Yes. Is it likely? Absolutely not. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t try to monetize, but I think it’s good to be realistic about expectations.
Is monetizing a goal that you have for your blog? If you’ve tried to monetize, have you had much success?