It’s no surprise that people are looking for hustles and earning opportunities outside of traditional “9 to 5s” currently. This has inspired me to create this ultimate guide on how to make money blogging in 2021.
My plan is to walk you through what I would do if I was starting a blog right now.
Given I’ve been blogging for many years and stepped on a few banana skins myself, I’ll outline what I feel would be the best way to make money from blogging in 2021 for those starting out.
My intention is to provide you with the steps I’d take right now to get to a point where you’d start to make money in the fastest way possible… and avoid banana skins in the process.
You have to remember though, that for most people it takes time to start seeing even a penny from their blogs because:
- You need content… and lots of it.
- Your domain will be new and possibly subject to the Sandbox Effect (if such a thing exists).
- No-one will know about you and building an audience is hard to achieve overnight.
- Most blogging niches are competitive… the more competitive your niche, the harder you’ll have to work and the longer it’ll likely take.
Having said this, If you follow this guide and put in the hours, you’ll give yourself a realistic chance to make money blogging in 2021.
How Can You Make Money Blogging in 2021?
Before we get into the meat of this post, let’s reflect on how you can make money with a blog. I’ve spoken about this previously at SideGains in posts like these:
These posts explicitly discuss ways to monetize blogs and are worth checking out if you consider yourself a beginner. Each post will give you some ideas about how people make money with a blog.
The basic premise for earning money blogging is:
- Start a blog.
- Add content to it.
- Monetize it.
- Promote it.
After you’ve got your blog set up, you’ll go through a process of working through points 2 – 4, publishing content, looking for ways to monetize it and then promoting the heck out of it!
Starting a Blog
I explain how to start your blogging journey with my detailed 16-step guide to starting a blog. This walks you through every step you need to take to get a blog up and running. As a beginner it’ll probably take you a few days to get through all the steps… but I promise you, anyone can do this.
You might be tempted to set up a free blog, but I’ll advise use you against this here and now. Setting up a free blog is of course a fast way to get started. It’s also going to save you a few dollars up front. However, the benefits of a self-hosted blog are too many to ignore, especially if you want to start making money in 2021 as opposed to 2030!
For just a few dollars each month, paid hosting is a better choice long-term.
You can make money blogging with a free platform, but you’ll be far more limited with what you can do and how you can grow it. My advice is to set up a self-hosted blog with a host you pay for.
Choose a Niche… and then Niche Down!
If you’re starting a blog right now and want the best shot at progressing quickly, choose one aspect of a niche you’re interested in and build out very closely related content within it.
For example… let’s take the blogging niche.
Blogging about blogging is a very broad topic. There are so many different topic areas you could write about that it makes it difficult for you to become known for one thing. However, within the blogging niche there are dozens of sub-niches you could focus upon.
- Blogging platforms.
- Blogging tools.
- Social media.
- Email marketing.
And so on.
Niching down means focusing on one area and it’ll help you in the following ways:
- You’ll be able to build authority with your visitors and search engines much more quickly than if you were to tackle a broad niche.
- You can find very closely related products to promote across your blog that are highly relevant to the content topic you initially write about.
Over time you might decide to broaden your areas of discussion. But if you want to make money blogging fast, my advice is for you to niche down at the beginning.
Once you’ve set up a blog, you’ll need to give people a reason to come take a look at it.
Q: How do you do this?
A: By adding content to it.
Nobody is going to spend much time on your blog If there’s nothing to see on it. If nobody is spending time on your blog, you’ll have a hard time making money from it… period.
Content is important because it makes your blog “sticky”. After reading a well written post your visitors to:
- Stay and check out other interesting posts you’ve written.
- Visit you again in the future to read the new things you write about.
However, creating content that’s sticky does not mean filling up your schedule with hundreds of poorly written posts that don’t give readers value.
High quality content is super important… and not just for your visitors. In fact Google has been very clear about the importance of high quality for ranking in search results.
Content-wise, one of the key things for making money blogging in 2021 is quality…. Google demands it and so will your readers. Both require high quality content that provides value.
You’ll of course need ideas for content when you start out. I’d recommend thinking about the direction your content will take and closely tying it into a way to monetize from the outset.
This might mean researching affiliate products to promote or thinking about courses which you might offer to your visitors (I’ll discuss these techniques later on).
Think about your content and how it will be connected. Consider how each post you publish fits into your overall plan for the direction your blog will take. Finally make sure that each content topic you choose has a clear purpose and clear way for you to monetize it.
My recommendation would be to use a proper content planning tool. This might be something as simple as a spreadsheet into which you input dates, blog post ideas, related post ideas and products to promote. It might also be a content planning template you pay for.
The method you use to plan doesn’t matter… it’s the planning that’s important!
Using a plan to keep a tight hold on your content topics will help you to laser target your blog post ideas to your niche and assist you in mapping out the direction in which you’re heading in advance.
Why Must You Produce High-Quality Content?
Publishing high quality content is absolutely vital… find out why.
Now we’re at the point of this whole post… how to make money blogging in 2021.
If you plan your content with an eye on your sub-niche, you’ll find it easier to see opportunities to promote affiliate products. If you’re not sure what this term means, read this post: What is Affiliate Marketing?
As I mentioned above, you need to think about how you intend to make money at the content planning stage before you’ve ever written a single blog post. The following is not an exclusive list of monetization ideas, but they’re probably the easiest ways for you get going:
- Affiliate marketing.
- Digital products.
In terms of marketing affiliate products, you’ll need to join an affiliate network. You can sign up for accounts with the following networks:
- Affiliate Future
- Commission Junction
- Flex Offers
N.B. There are others but these are some of the big ones that have hundreds if not thousands of programs to choose from.
You’ll need to flesh out your profiles for each network. This is important since any affiliate programs you apply for will want to know you’re professional and a good fit for their business. Affiliate programs do not automatically approve all applicants, so spend time working on a quality profile.
You’ll also have to submit information about your blog, which will be tough if you’ve not yet started and don’t have a domain as yet. Just provide as much information as you can and once you have your blog all set up you can update your information.
The main point here is to join the network so you can see what affiliate products are available… you can worry about applying for specific programs when you’re up and running and have some content on your blog.
An important note here is to have content on your blog before you ever start applying to join specific affiliate programs, since this will make your application more credible and likely to gain approval.
Look through the merchants on the affiliate network and check out the products they are offering affiliate commissions on.
- Do you see any that might be a good fit for your niche?
- What are they paying?
- What do other affiliates think of their program?
If you can, try to find affiliate programs that offer recurring commissions. An example would be web hosting, where anyone signing up through your affiliate link will generate another commission for you if they renew.
If you’re handling your content planning in the right way, you should be able to see products that either fit your existing ideas or help shape your content plan and what you might write about.
Ultimate A – Z Guide on Affiliate Marketing
Read this detailed A – Z guide on affiliate marketing for bloggers.
A common way that most new bloggers make money is to display adverts on their posts. These can be ads from a direct relationship with someone who’s prepared to pay you a monthly fee or more commonly through an ad network.
In my view, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone directly who’s prepared to pay you for placing ads until you’re getting many hundreds (or even thousands) of page views every day.
A better bet to begin with us to join an ad network, of which there are many. For a new blog, the easiest ad network to join us Google AdSense.
You’ll have to apply and be approved to take advantage of AdSense, but the joining requirements are far less stringent than they are for some other ad networks. That said, you will want to have content on your blog before you apply and I recommend growing your blog to around 100 visitors a day before you apply.
Find out how to create a Google AdSense account.
As time goes on, you might think about monetizing your blog with your own digital products such as:
- Detailed ebook courses that explain how to do something.
- Image templates
- Blog plugins
- Document templates
You’d produce digital products and be able to sell them directly through your blog.
If you don’t have many visitors to your blog, a better approach might be to host your digital products on third-party sites like Teachable and Gumroad. Both of these platforms will potentially offer a far greater reach for distributing your products than your blog alone, but they will take a percentage for any sales.
Another way you can monetize the traffic to your blog is by offering your time as a freelancer. If you blog about wedding planning, offer your expertise for a price. You build WordPress blogs, sell a WordPress installation service. Or perhaps you’re a graphic designer who could sell logo designs.
Whatever your blogging niche, there will likely be ways that you can sell your skills directly to individuals at the same time as promoting affiliate products, hosting ads and selling your own digital products.
Don’t limit yourself to just one income stream!
This is something that tends to cause new bloggers a headache, since it requires a strategy, commitment to a routine, time and creative thinking. Sometimes it also means living outside your comfort zone.
Many new bloggers share the common misapprehension that traffic will automatically build as their blog gets older. The idea is that you’ll write blog posts and over time people will naturally find them and traffic will begin to compound. It’s something akin to the idea that if you build it, they will come!
There’s some truth in this up to a point, because you will likely get some visitors without doing any promotion whatsoever.
However, you will never make money blogging without building massive traffic.
If you don’t figure out and actively work on a promotion strategy, I’m sorry to tell you you won’t make a bean from your blog.
The Internet is a noisy place. There are millions of bloggers publishing new content every minute of every day. How will anyone ever find your content among the billions of new blog posts created every year?
You have to promote it.
Take a look at this infographic produced by DOMO showing user behavior through the amount of data generated and consumed every minute of every day on high-traffic online platforms:
This shows you the mind-boggling numbers that you’re going up against. If you do no promotion apart from pressing the publish button, the only activity on your blog will be the sound of crickets and tumbleweeds!
Yes, you will pick up a few visits without promotion. But you simply won’t be able to compete with the billions of new blog posts published every year (not to mention all the posts already published) without working on ways to get your content in front of people’s eyes.
So let’s start at the beginning, at a place where most people feel a sense of confidence: social media.
If you haven’t set up social media accounts, do so! Snag yourself accounts for Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook and try to brand them by giving them a user name aligned to your blog name.
If I were starting out, I would focus promotion efforts solely on Twitter and Pinterest, since these will most likely yield the fastest results for new bloggers. In my experience (it may be different for others) Twitter and especially Pinterest offer better opportunities to drive visits to your blog.
You’ll need to add content to both of these platforms regularly… and you’ll also need to engage with what other people do on there too, especially on Twitter.
Make sure you set up an interesting Twitter profile message and include a link to your blog.
You should aim to produce around 4 – 5 tweets a day. Strive to add value with what you Tweet but don’t just post links to your blog. People want to be educated, informed and entertained on Twitter and they like to stay on the platform, so they’ll need to feel compelled to check out your blog links.
More importantly, you’ll need to engage with other Twitter accounts. Look for accounts in your niche, follow them if you like what they tweet and get involved in their discussion threads, especially if they’re big accounts.
Try to add value to all discussions… don’t just write “great tweet”.
Doing this over time will help you develop relationships with other Twitter accounts and start placing you as someone with authority.
I would advise you to add around 20 comments to other account tweets a day (more if you can). You should also retweet from influential accounts occasionally (with a quote from you), and do so on a regular basis for accounts that have large followings.
For any tweet you post that gets a comment, respond to every one you get, but try to add value in your response.
Taking this approach every day will start to get you attention and your account will grow.
When you start growing, people will notice and begin to check your profile… and this is where your profile link plays a role. You can of course share your blog posts, but most of your Twitter traffic will come from people looking at your profile.
If you want to learn from someone who has a great approach to marketing blogs on Twitter, check out James Pierce from fromclicktosale.com, who operates his Twitter account under the name @fromclicktosale.
James is a great model to follow as he’s grown his Twitter followers very quickly by always producing tweets that provide real value.
Despite what you may have heard, for most people these days Pinterest is not the massive traffic driver out of the gate as it once used to be… but you can still grow very decent traffic from it.
My advice for anyone wanting to make money blogging and promoting their blogs in social media would be to start working in Pinterest from day one. You won’t grow traffic straight away but consistently pinning high quality pins to authoritative blog posts will yield results over time.
How much time it takes will depend upon your niche, the quality of your pins and blog posts and the consistency of your pinning schedule.
As with Twitter, you’ll need to set up a profile that explains precisely what you and your blog are all about. You’ll get to add a profile link, which will be your blog homepage.
Once you have a Pinterest account, convert it to a Pinterest Business Account. This is important because it gives you access to a whole bunch of features that aren’t available to regular Pinterest accounts, such as:
- Analytics – to see how your Pins perform.
- Rich Pins – to help your Pins to stand out.
- Support – you get an improved level of support for any Pinterest problems you have.
You’ll need to create Pinterest Boards to house your Pins, and these should be targeted to the specific topic areas of your blog. For each pinterest Board you’ll provide a description, which must explain precisely what the board is and who it is aimed for.
When you’re all set up you’ll have to start pinning. Ideally you’ll pin up to 25 times per day, using a mix of:
- New pins
- Reshared pins (your own and those of others)
Popular wisdom in you should be splitting your Pins into a ratio of 75-80% of your own pins and 20%-25% of other people’s Pins.
I won’t lie, this kind of pinning frequency is tough. You have to create lots of images you can use to Pin and ideally you’ll have lots of content so you can mix up the links you are building into your Pin images.
Pinterest is famous for suspending accounts: pinning lots of images pointing to the same blog post will look irregular and could lead to Pinterest suspending your account for spam.
With this in mind It’s perhaps a good Idea for you to schedule less Pins per day to begin with until you have sufficient content on your blog, so you can vary the links you promote.
It’s also hard to schedule Pins in advance, which is something you’ll have to do once you begin pinning 25 times a day. You can use Pinterest to schedule Pins but it’s time consuming, a little flaky and you can’t schedule that far in advance.
I use Tailwind to schedule my Pins and I couldn’t live without it. Not only is it the best Pinterest scheduling tool in my opinion, but it also gives you bags of other useful features:
- An analytics dashboard that shows you the overall performance of your Pinterest Account, your boards and your individual Pins.
- Tailwind Communities, which hook you up to other Tailwind users in your niche so you can each share your Pins.
Tailwind Communities alone will help amplify your Pins, so Pinterest sees your Pins as popular. The more popular your Pins are, the more they get shown to other Pinterest users.
If you want to understand in more detail why Tailwind is so helpful, read my Tailwind review.
Want to Really See a Difference on Pinterest?
Check out my review of Tailwind App for Pinterest… a tool to super-charge ALL your Pinterest activity!
Regardless of whether or not you choose to use Tailwind, I’ve written this powerful Pinterest marketing strategy, which involves other social media channels too. Using an approach like this will help you your content get seen and start driving visitors to your blog.
Regardless of anything that anyone says, link building is the most important way to promote your blog in the eyes of search engines. If you want to get free traffic from Google and Bing, you’ll need external links from other blogs. These types of links are more commonly called backlinks.
A backlink is a link from someone’s blog to a page on your blog. From a search engine perspective, backlinks are a vote for your blog… and in general, the more votes you have the more often you’ll appear in search results.
I’ve written a detailed post about internal and external links, that explains in detail how and why external backlinks are important. Read this post to get a deeper appreciation of what they are and how they work.
So how do you get people to add links from their blogs to your blog?
This is the $64,000 question! It’s not easy to build link and it takes times, patience and skill… but there are a few strategies you can use:
- Guest posting
- Linking to other bloggers in your posts.
- Writing amazing content that truly helps people.
- Sharing your content.
- Reaching out to others and asking (outreach).
One of the easiest ways to build links is to write guest posts for other bloggers.
For most bloggers, content creation is a huge overhead that eats much of their available time. As a result, the idea of adding content to their blogs written by someone else is often very appealing… as long as the content is good.
Guest posting etiquette means you’ll usually be permitted to add links within a guest post back to your blog. Guest posting etiquette also means that these backlinks will be valuable “follow” links (read my post on internal and external links to find out more).
Of course you’ll have to spend time writing a guest post, and it’ll need to be good. However, the investment will pay off in spades if an authoritative blog publishes your posts and you wind up with a powerful backlink.
One good backlink can make a huge difference in where your blog appears in search engines results across the board! That’s how powerful backlinks are.
You can easily find guest posting opportunities by running searches in Google or Bing. Just remember when you’re looking for potential candidates that you should only work with blogs within your niche, or within a niche that complements yours.
Relevancy is important!
Linking to Other Bloggers
This may seem counter intuitive. I mean, why would you give someone a link from your blog when your focus should be on gaining links from other bloggers?
Linking to other bloggers who you feel add value to the readers you want to attract is good for your blog. Giving links generously to other bloggers without asking anything in return is a way for you to begin building relationships with them.
Now I’m not being 100% altruistic about this since one of the aims of linking to other bloggers is to network with this approach. The point is that you are initiating potential reciprocation by giving first.
A great example of linking to other bloggers is roundup posts. You might write about a topic and pull in the opinions of a bunch of other bloggers and link to their blogs. When you’ve published the post, you can drop them a message and let them know.
You leave it up to them to decide whether or not they’ll share your post on social media or perhaps in future link back to you in something they post.
Done well this can be an extremely powerful link building technique.
As I’ve referenced previously, high-quality content is vital for search engines… but content that truly adds value can result in people linking back to you naturally.
If you’re able to produce unique content, or perhaps provide a different take on an old theme and do it really well, people may link to you naturally.
It takes time to create content that’s truly head-spinning. But again, if you can produce content that truly sings and you’re building relationships with other bloggers in social media and with blog commenting (see below), you’ll begin to acquire backlinks from others.
But be under no illusion, it will take commitment and time.
Sharing Your Content
If you want people to know about your content, social media is a great way to share it. If you can get enough eyes on your blog posts and they are authoritative and provide value, you may find people share it on social media and link to it from their blogs.
For me, I wouldn’t say this is the most effective way to build links… but it is a method you could try.
Outreach can be a highly productive way to build links, but it requires most people to completely step out of their comfort zone.
As the name suggests, it’s about reaching out to people with the intent of securing a backlink from their blog / website to yours. As such many people, especially beginners, don’t feel confident about doing this
In a sense, guest posting is a form of outreach. You look for a guest posting opportunity and you reach out to someone to ask if they’d like to consider a post from you. Other forms of outreach include emails and social media.
Your intention is to connect with people, with the objective of persuading them to mention you on their blog along with a backlink. As you might imagine, this is a tricky task that likely has a low success rate.
So how do you perform outreach and do it so well enough that you give yourself as good a shot at getting links this way as possible? Read these detailed approaches to outreach link building:
Take note though…
Link building must be done delicately. You can’t just go haring out of the gate and build thousands of links from low quality domains.
Search engines are big enough and smart enough to understand what unnatural linking looks like and they will penalize you for it. Penalization can be very painful… take it from someone who has experienced a Google SEO penalty and survived to talk about it!
Only build links with blogs relevant to your niche and only those that you’d be happy to take home to meet your parents!
Blog commenting is really an overlooked way to start building authority and at the same time leave links around the blogosphere that people can ultimately click.
Most blog owners permit you to add comments at the end of their blog post, within which you can add your thoughts about what they’ve written… but you must do so thoughtfully.
Leaving a thoughtful comment on someone’s blog does two things:
- It gives you an opportunity to show your knowledge and add value to the original blog post.
- Most blogging platforms allow you to add a link back to your blog when you comment.
It won’t necessarily drive hundreds of visits and nor will search engines see your links as important, since most blogging platforms don’t pass link authority as they do with links people add into their blog posts naturally.
However, blog commenting done well can:
- Make you appear authoritative.
- Increase your reach.
- Help you build relationships with other bloggers.
- Result in a link back to your blog that potentially drives visits.
If you want an example of someone who writes comments with real skill, check out Ryan Biddulph of Bloggingfromparadise.com. Ryan consistently writes blog comments that not only add to the discussion topic, but he does so with grace and consideration.
Email List Building
This should be something you work on from day one. Building an email list of people you can shoot newsletters enables you to build trust with people.
You work hard to get people to your blog and so it’s important to try to persuade as many of those visitors to sign up to your email list so you can remind them about you from time to time, build their trust and ultimately suggest products for them to buy.
Building an email list is one of the highest priority tasks you should act upon if you want to make money blogging in 2021 and beyond.
There are dozens of email marketing platforms that offer free (but perhaps limited) versions of their paid service… so it doesn’t even need to cost you a penny in the beginning.
You can set up free accounts with the following platforms and migrate to paid versions when you hit their thresholds for subscriber numbers. However, each one will give you plenty of bandwidth to grow before you need to start paying:
There are many others out there too, but if nothing else choose one to get going and migrate your list across to another when you find the provider that’s 100% right for you.
The aim of an email list is to build trust with your subscribers, so you don’t want to spam them with offers.
Send them useful content you’ve published, or even things you’ve found online. Make your newsletter a useful resource for them and then you’ll be able to make product suggestions or recommendations to them down the line.
If you want more detailed advice about email marketing, I’d recommend the Email Marketing for Bloggers Course from Rahul Choudhary. It’s an excellent course that will tell you everything you need to know about email marketing… and more!
This is something that might not be suitable for new bloggers with a small budget. Whether or not you can actually make a profit over and above investment in online advertising is a moot point also. Nonetheless, I’m mentioning it since paid advertising can drive traffic to a blog very quickly.
You can run paid advertising in platforms such as:
You’ll pay to have your ads either shown or when anyone clicks them but the exact price you’ll pay will vary.
Paid advertising won’t work well for every blogger, especially if you’re trying to make money blogging and monetizing with a low paying medium, such as displaying ads on your own blog. But for higher value affiliate products, paid advertising might be something to think about.
Paid advertising might not be something you’ll undertake at the start of your blogging journey… but it’s something that can drive massive traffic!
I’ll remind you of what I said earlier. Blogging consists of four basic concepts:
- Starting a blog.
- Adding content to it.
- Monetizing it.
- Promoting it.
As an idea, it’s pretty simple. Perhaps too simple! The reality is it takes a lot of work to make a successful money making blog.
Let me be honest, making money blogging is not an easy route despite the hype to the contrary. There are lots of things for you to put in place and you’ll be stretched in lots of different ways.
It also normally takes time to build a blog and drive a high volume of visitors to it… and you will need lots of visitors to make a livable income.
Having said this, it is entirely possible to start making money in the shorter term and then build upon it by reinvesting, growing your content and working on promoting it.
Technology also needn’t be a barrier, if you consider yourself non-technical. There are many bloggers making money quite happily with their blogs… some olympically so! Check out these 21 bloggers and find out how much money you can make blogging.
The most important thing to bear in mind is that you need to treat blogging as a business and approach it with the same degree of commitment and professionalism as you would starting up something in bricks and mortar.
If you can do the work, commit to a plan and think long term it’s totally reasonable for you to expect to make some money from your blog.
That’s all for now.
What are your thoughts? Do you have further tips on how you can make money blogging in 2021? Drop a comment or ask a question below and let’s share some knowledge!