When blogs first became popular, there weren't many options to earn an income from your blog. For the most part, it was just like monetizing a print publication, like a magazine or newspaper. Bloggers would sell ad space and or links for a monthly or yearly fee.
Today, there are infinitely more choices to make money with a blog. In the list below, I'll explain some of the most popular / best options, and arrange them by skill level of the blogger.
Don't Monetize! That's right! If you are just starting out, your main goal and focus should be on building an audience. You need to establish yourself.
Focus on producing good content
Good content is by far the most important part of building and keeping an audience, but it won't happen overnight. It takes time. I've helped a lot of people start blogs, and sometimes they get so excited that they want to write a blog post every day. Writing a blog post every day sounds awesome in theory, but in reality, you would just be exhausted and frustrated. Exhausted because it takes time to create quality content. And frustrated because most likely, you would still have little or no traffic.
When it comes to producing good content for your blog, the best advice I can give you is that quality of the content is much more important than quantity. You also need to really pay attention to SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. SEO is basically a way to optimize your content so that machines (Search engines) can understand what it is about. The best and most simple example I can give is that if you've written a great article about the rare Bee Orchid flower, you had better use the phrase or keyword “Bee Orchid” in prominent places throughout your article (Title, header tags, and in the content). This is something that should happen naturally if you've written a good article, but you should always double check and make any necessary tweaks before publishing. If you skip SEO, you will lose out on a huge segment of potential traffic, because there are always people looking for your great content. You just need to do the work to make it easy to find.
To learn more about SEO, check out 9 Essential Blog SEO Tips.
Set up social media accounts to promote your new content
You should set up social media accounts with Facebook (Make a Facebook page), Twitter, and Google Plus. You can set up more, but I'd recommend setting up at least these three. Make sure to complete each social media profile with your site's name, logo, website url, and any other info requested. Remember, these profile pages are representing your site, and you should focus on making them as complete as possible.
Now that you have your social accounts, it's time to get the ball rolling with promoting them. I think easiest and cheapest way to start doing this is to use your personal Facebook profile. If you're like most people, you probably have at least a hundred friends there if not more. Invite all of them to like your new Facebook page. You should also occasionally write Facebook posts from your personal profile inviting your friends to connect with your new Twitter, Google+, and any other social networks you are using.
If you don't mind spending some money, look into running some ads. Google+, Twitter, and Facebook all have a way to pay to promote your new pages, and this can be a way to jump-start your follower base.
Now you are ready to start promoting your new blog posts. Every time you write a post, make sure to share a link from all of your social profiles. Even though you won't have too many followers just yet, it's good to get in the habit of doing this. Adding good content to your blog consistently, and promoting that content on all of your social networks will grow your followers everywhere.
One last note: I have not mentioned email lists here, but they are important, and i will cover them in a future post.
Monitor your analytics closely
It is really important to set up some sort of analytics or website statistics to monitor your traffic. I recommend using Google Analytics. It's one of the most robust products available, and it is also free.
Analytics will allow you to learn a lot about your new site and how to improve it. Here are just a few of the most important things you can learn from analytics.
- How many people are visiting your pages – this is the most basic of reasons for having analytics, but it is very important to keep track of. It lets you know when you are doing things right, and also when you are doing things wrong.
- Which pages are most popular – Keeping track of your most popular pages can let you know what kind of content you may want to write more about in the future.
- Where your visitors are coming from and what they are interested in – Having access to this kind of information can help with targeting future visitors if you ever decide to use paid search or social media advertising.
You might have a hard time with this advice, but trust me, attempting to monetize a blog without any significant traffic can be a bad move. First of all, most ad networks and affiliate programs won't even allow you in unless your sites traffic meets a certain traffic threshold. Secondly, having ads on a site that isn't established at all just looks kind of bad/ desperate.
So focus on establishing your blog first. If you are consistent with all of the steps above, you will eventually build up a nice amount of steady traffic to your site. This is when you can consider some form of monetization.
If you have been blogging for a while, and have steady traffic to your site, then you are ready to start monetizing. Here are some options:
Advertising banners are probably the oldest form of making money online. They are also one of the most difficult methods of monetization. You basically charge someone a monthly or yearly fee to display a banner ad somewhere on your site for a specified amount of time.
This is difficult because you have to first find advertisers, and then keep track of billing them and renewing ads. It can be overwhelming for one person, but there are ad management systems that can help you with a lot of these tasks.
Google AdSense (CPM/ CPC)
Google AdSense is by far the easiest way to monitize a blog or website. All you need to do is sign up for an account with Google, and paste a bit of code wherever you wanted to display your ads. Google then does all of the rest of the work for you – which includes choosing relevant ads to show based on the content of your pages.
You are paid based on either the number of times the ad is clicked (CPC) or the number of times the ad is shown (CPM).
Lets say there's a company that sells high end blenders. They want to sell more blenders, so they offer $50 to anyone who sends them a paying customer. This is basically how an affiliate program works.
Back when I started out, I didn't do as much with affiliate sales, but they are now my favorite method for monetizing a website. I have found that if you can find a product (that offers an affiliate program) that is a good match for your website, you can make much more money that with any other method of advertising.
Using the example above, if you were to start a website or blog about kitchen appliances, you could have a page, or even a whole section devoted to reviewing new blender models. This would be a perfect place to feature affiliate links from a variety of blender manufacturers: BlendTec, Vitamix, Ninja, etc.
A quick search in Google search for “blender affiliate programs” shows just how many options there are. In most cases, you can find relevant affiliate programs this way. Just search Google for “(Your Product) affiliate programs”.
If you're just starting out, get out there and start blogging. Make Social Bookmarking pages (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Instagaram, and any others you want), and start promoting your content. Interact with your readers and potential readers. And most importantly, have fun!