A few years ago I was speaking to a prospective accountant about what I did for a living. He was used to managing the books of traditional businesses and could not understand how blogging can be a profitable enterprise, no matter how hard I tried to explain it to him.
In fairness, I guess I understand why it’s a stretch for people who don’t have much experience of blogging or any other online enterprise.
The question the accountant repeatedly asked me at the time was what was I selling.
Well… at that time I wasn’t selling anything! My blogs literally made money solely from ads and affiliate commissions.
Because the online world was not a part of the accountant’s experience, I think in the end he assumed I must have been doing something immoral… and he chose not to be my accountant!
But I digress.
The purpose of my anecdotal preamble is to introduce this topic to explain how blogging is profitable… for some people at least.
I’ll discuss the ways in which bloggers can make money through their blogs (monetization) and explore the advantages and disadvantages of each.
How is Blogging Profitable?
There are 7 basic ways to make a profit through blogging:
- Affiliate Programs.
- Selling products you create.
- Membership Programs.
- Blogging for other People.
Now you may or may not like to see adverts on blogs, and I agree they can be distracting, especially when they’re overused.
However, I’m not 100% against them. I believe that if people are working hard to provide useful content, why shouldn’t they try to make a little profit through ads?
Debate about ads aside, advertising is perhaps the first monetization stopping point for most new bloggers.
For bloggers with low traffic, Google AdSense is usually the first place they’ll go as it’s simple and fast to set up. You add code generated by the AdSense system to your blog and Google delivers text and display ads to it automatically.
It’s a pretty smart system, delivering ads relevant to your niche, which make visitors more likely to click them… at which point you take a small revenue share.
AdSense also has no requirement the number of monthly pageviews before you can apply: another reason it appeals to new bloggers.
Mediavine and AdThrive
For blogs attracting higher visitor numbers, advertising programs such as Mediavine and AdThrive are likely more profitable. According to this article, Niche Pursuits increased their ad earnings by 80% switching from Adsense to Mediavine.
Both these programs work in the same way as Adsense in that they deliver ads to your blog via code. However, you need a LOT of monthly pageviews before you can apply: at least 30,000 for Mediavine and 100,000 for AdThrive.
Advantages of Advertisements
- Easy to set up.
- Profits increase as pageviews grow.
Disadvantages of Advertisements
- Your blog can appear more commercially driven.
- Easy to overuse and turn off visitors.
- You potentially lose a visitor when they click an ad that redirects them to another site.
When you start to receive lots of visitors you might begin to draw the attention of people who want to align themselves with you. This can lead to sponsorship.
Sponsorship can come in the form of:
- Receiving payment for publishing content or ads.
- Highlighting specific products or services in blog posts you write… for payment.
- Endorsing a brand.
This might take the form of display ads or regular featured articles, which might extend across a blogger’s social media estate. As such sponsorship step into advertising territory, albeit more of a private advertising deal.
Payment for sponsorship might vary. It could be you’d charge a flat monthly fee for the sponsor to rent space on your blog. Alternatively you might request payment every time the sponsor wanted a featured post.
Of course when you start a blog, it’s likely this won’t be extremely profitable for you: people won’t start banging on your door until you’re established and getting a ton of pageviews.
However, there’s no reason you can’t create a “Work With Us” page and start broadcasting the fact you’re looking for profitable partnerships from the get-go.
Advantages of Sponsorship
- Guaranteed income.
- Potential free trials for the products or services you’re promoting.
- Sponsored posts might provide profit diversification… it’s another way to earn a buck or two alongside what else you’re doing.
- Potential reflected value for a blog if the sponsor is prestigious.
Disadvantages of Sponsorship
- Sponsored links and content must be clearly marked as such, which might upset your visitors.
- You risk your reputation if something bad happens with the brand sponsoring you.
- Sponsors may expect a cheap ride.
- You need lots of visitors to make serious profits.
Another common way to make a blog profitable is promoting products and services for other businesses. The easiest way to do this is to sign up for affiliate programs.
You can join affiliate networks, which have hundreds of merchants offering blog publishers the chance to earn a commission for sending them visitors from your blog.
It’s a little more involved than this though because the visitors you send must complete a purchase. When this happens your affiliate relationship becomes profitable, since that’s when a commission triggers.
As an affiliate blogger, you place text links, display ads or even video produced by the merchant on your blog posts, through which any sales earn you either a percentage or fixed agreed commission.
Commission payments are usually made in arrears, mostly monthly when all sales has been approved.
Affiliate programs can be make blogging a very profitable venture but you still need to generate lots of pageviews to increase your chances of earning commissions.
My advice to any blogger considering affiliate marketing is to sign up to a reputable network such as the following:
Advantages of Affiliate Programs
- Few barriers to entry.
- You do not have a buyer relationship to manage because you’re not the seller.
- Merchants provide all the marketing assets to help you.
- There are dozens of reputable networks and thousands of merchants with things they want to promote.
Disadvantages of Affiliate Programs
- Terms & conditions can change without notice, including commission rates.
- Some merchants can withhold or dispute payment.
- Merchants suspend their programs. If you’ve built up a lot of content promoting them, it will need to be updated.
Selling Products You Create
This is one of the best ways to make blogging profitable. Since you’re the manufacturer, you keep all the profits!
If you create a digital product to sell such as an eBook or online training course, you only have to produce one asset and you can sell it multiple times over.
Production costs are your experience and your time… and you earn 100% of the sale, less fees for handling the transaction.
Most of the people running the most profitable blogs you’ve heard about are doing so because they sell their own products.
Advantages of Selling Products You Create
- You retain all profits aside from payment gateway charges.
- Digital products are created once but can be sold over and over again.
Disadvantages of Selling Products You Create
- Potential dissatisfaction of buyers and associated customer care overhead.
- Products must provide value, be well researched and deliver high quality. All recommendations and advice must be achievable.
A membership program has similarities to selling your own digital products. However, unlike the one time payment for a digital eBook, membership programs charge a regular fee for access to a gated area of a blog.
In the gated area, you would provide exclusive access to premium blog content only available to those people who pay the subscription fee.
Advantages of Membership programs
- Monthly subscriptions are a fantastic way to build an ongoing revenue stream.
- Subscribers are likely to be highly motivated and receptive to what you say.
Disadvantages of Membership programs
- Gated content must offer value.
- You need to add to your premium content regularly to keep members happy.
- Requires commitment and a lot of effort.
Blogging for Other People
Anyone who has blogged for a while knows that high quality content has a value.
It takes time to produce well researched, quality blog content on a regular basis.
Producing multiple +1,000 word articles for most bloggers can also be a drag as time goes on. It also eats into the time available for other vital blogging activities such as promotion.
Some bloggers outsource some (or all) of their content creation to make sure they publish the volume of high quality content they require.
When you have a name for yourself people may solicit you to write pieces for their blogs. This can work out in a very profitable way for you if you have developed a good blogging style and can produce great content quickly.
Of course, researching and writing blog posts is going to eat into the time available for your own blog, but the counter-balance is a revenue stream that doesn’t depend on your blog alone.
Advantages of Blogging for Other People
- It offers a potential supplemental income to your own blog revenues.
- Your reputation may increase if your name and bio is referenced in your posts.
- You may acquire a link back to your blog.
Disadvantages of Blogging for Other People
- You might end up writing for your competitors.
- The price has to be right or you earn employee rates.
- You’re not investing in your own blog while you write for someone else.
An often overlooked way to generate profits is to provide a way for people to make a donation.
At first glance, this may seem a needy thing to do, but I’ve seen dozens of reputable blogs do this.
There are a number of plugins that’ll handle this for you for whatever blogging platform you use. However, a very simple way to do this is to create a PayPal Donate button (you need a PayPal account for this).
I’m not sure donations are as profitable a blogging monetization strategy as some of the others I’ve discussed, but it’s a simple way to add another revenue source to your blog if you’re a new blogger.
Advantages of Donations
- Simple to implement.
- It can be a non-pushy call to action.
Disadvantages of Donations
- It may seem needy.
- Likely a very irregular source of income and therefore not really profitable.
- Relies on the kindness of strangers!
Blogging & Profitability Summary
I know first-hand that blogging IS profitable… but it’s no simple feat to make a full-time income from it these days.
I won’t lecture you in this post about commitment and effort required (I guess I just did actually), because I sing that song all over SideGains!
It’s my firm belief that if you produce great content in volume and work hard to promote your blog over time, blogging will be profitable for you.
That’s it for now.
I’m interested in hearing about whether blogging is profitable for you. Leave me a comment below… after all, it’s good to share!