The Truth About Making Money Blogging

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It's tough to earn a decent living these days. Salaries never seem to keep pace with inflation, and the traditional American dream is more difficult than ever to achieve. More than ever, people need additional income streams if they want to get ahead during their working years and earn enough to retire comfortably.

You might feel as though your bottom line is shrinking, but the worldwide economy definitely isn't. That's particularly true of the online economy. Look at these statistics.

  • Experts expect U.S. companies to spend $70.05 billion on online advertising in 2018 and $82.31 billion in 2019.
  • Consumers will spend an estimated $2.84 trillion online in 2018 and $3.45 trillion in 2019.

Although the largest organizations — companies like Apple, Amazon and Google — claim much of that revenue, so much money trades hands online that any ordinary person with a good idea can jump in and eke out a full-time living blogging for money.

Blogging for Money: Background

Content Management Systems Have Removed Obstacles

As long as the World Wide Web has been open to the public, people and companies have used the Internet to make money. Until recently, though, you couldn't even begin to think about earning money from a blog unless you either knew how to create a blog or had the money to hire a web developer. Today, though, free content management systems such as WordPress have removed that obstacle. A modern CMS looks like office software; you can figure out the basics of using it even if you have no technical expertise. Using a CMS allows you to focus on developing your business and creating content while ignoring most of the technical minutiae that occurs in the background.

What Could I Accomplish if I Learn How to Make Money Blogging?

In developed nations, almost all people have Internet access. No matter what your interest is, you can write about it and find an audience. You will earn revenue if you build a large enough audience and earn its trust. The amount of money that you can earn once you learn how to make money blogging depends on several factors. Those include:

  • The appeal of your blog's topic — how large is your potential audience?
  • The readiness of your readers to spend money — where are they in the buying cycle?
  • Your ability to write persuasively and authoritatively while maintaining your journalistic integrity
  • The effectiveness of your monetization method — does it resonate with your target audience?

Creating a blog that earns a full-time income for you comes down to your ability to create content that resonates with your target audience and link that content with a commercial need. If you work very hard to understand your audience, find a monetization method that appeals to them and create content that's the best of its type available anywhere, blogging can become your full-time job. Building a profitable blog won't happen overnight, but blogging is a skill that anyone can develop; all it takes is time and effort.

How Successful Can a Blog Eventually Become?

A blog is any website on which the home page displays the most recent content in reverse chronological order. When you think about the Internet in those terms, many of the world's most popular websites — such as TechCrunch and The Huffington Post — are essentially blogs. If you have a great idea and solid promotional skills, your blog might eventually become so popular that you can afford to hire additional contributors. If you can manage to create a popular blog with multiple contributors who pump out content every day, there is no limit to what you can accomplish.

Getting Started: How to Position Your Blog for Success

To give your blog the best possible chance of success, you should set aside plenty of time for brainstorming and research. What will your blog's topic be? Although an eclectic “blog about everything” can potentially find an audience, your chance of success is much greater if you choose one primary theme and stick with it. When you think you've identified a potential theme, research it online to find out what the market is like. Does that theme have a large potential audience? Do large, popular websites already dominate that market, or is there an opening that you can exploit?

No one in the world has had exactly the same experiences as you. You have unique knowledge to share, and building a blog around your area of expertise is a good way to ensure that you can write with an authoritative voice. Some people, however, choose to start blogs focusing on topics about which they have no knowledge. Learning about a topic as you go ensures that you can write about the topic with genuine passion while potentially earning money from a hobby that you would have pursued either way. Writing with an authoritative voice can be difficult, though, when you're writing about a topic that's new to you. You'll have to conduct plenty of research to make up for your lack of experience.

Building and Promoting Your Blog

Don't Worry About Money in the Beginning

When you're in the early stages of building your blog, figuring out how to make money with a blog isn't that important. It's far more important to build search engine rankings, authority and reader trust. You can't earn substantial money from a blog without the trust of your audience, and trust is hard to earn from an audience that you're bombarding with advertisements. You also can't earn substantial money from a blog that only receives a handful of visitors each day. Worry about the money after your blog receives consistent traffic.

Write Great Content

The best way to learn how to become a good writer is by practicing. Google tends to reward content that's thorough, informative and well organized. Learning what resonates with your audience, though, may take time. One way to determine whether an article you've written is worthy of a high ranking on Google is by comparing it to other articles about the same topic. Is your article more complete and more readable than the competition? Does your article offer information that isn't available elsewhere? Interviews, surveys and trips to the local library are all great ways to gather information that doesn't already exist online.

Optimize Your Blog for Google

Search engine optimization is the work that you do on and off of your website to give your content the best possible chance for a high search engine rank. We could fill an entire article with SEO advice; these are just a few tips to help you get started.

  • Keywords are important because they're the search terms that people use to find information online. You should write every article with a main keyword phrase in mind. Write the article with the goal of completely satisfying the intent of someone who might search for that phrase on Google.
  • Google has invested heavily in machine learning technology, and its algorithm is better than ever at processing natural language. There's no need to use the same keyword phrase many times in an article. Using many synonyms and closely related keyword phrases is a better way to show Google that you truly understand an article's topic.
  • Try to use your main keyword phrase in the article's title, in the body text and in at least one subheading. You should also use the main keyword phrase as the file name and alt text for the article's headline image.
  • Break up long blocks of text with headers, bullet lists and images. Avoiding overly long paragraphs makes your content readable and provides a good user experience. Readability is a factor in Google's rankings.
  • Structure your blog to make information easy to find and highlight your most important work. It’s much easier to organize a new blog than to organize an established one with hundreds of posts. Your organization system can tell Google what your blog's most important subtopics are.

Build an Audience and Leverage Other Traffic Sources

Unless the search engine landscape changes drastically, Google will probably always be your blog's most important traffic source. If you depend exclusively on Google for all of your traffic, though, you place your income stream at risk because Google's ranking algorithms change frequently. From the beginning, you should work on developing alternate traffic sources. Building a mailing list and becoming active on social media are two of the best ways to build and connect with your audience. If you become an influential blogger within your field, your social media followers will become your evangelists. They'll share the content that you post and expose you to an even wider audience.

Putting It All Together: Earning Money From Your Blog

If you develop your blog in the way that we've suggested in this article, you'll be ready to begin monetizing your content when you've built up a loyal audience, solid search engine rankings and a significant number of daily visitors. If you have your audience's trust, you can add advertisements to your blog without risking backlash. 

On the Internet, there is always room for a creative person to come up with an entirely new business model. You shouldn't shoehorn your blog into a particular method of monetization if you have an idea that's even better for your content and audience. These, however, are the most common methods for earning money from a blog.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a popular way for bloggers to earn money from product reviews and comparisons. Affiliate marketing involves linking to a product or business using a tracking code that records you as the referrer. If a visitor clicks your link and becomes a customer of the endorsed business, you'll earn a commission. The possible earnings from affiliate marketing with a product-centric blog are enormous. As an affiliate marketer, though, you'll have to overcome the challenge of maintaining the trust of readers who know that you have something to gain from their purchases.

These are some popular affiliate networks. After you join a network, you can begin working with the companies that use the network. Many popular online merchants also offer their own affiliate programs. Amazon.com is the most prominent example.

Display Advertisements

Most traditional publishers — such as newspapers — earn their revenue from display advertisements rather than affiliate marketing. Joining an advertising network such as Google AdSense allows you to display third-party advertisements and earn revenue when readers click those ads. Since you aren't endorsing any of the advertised products or companies, you can use display advertisements without the risk of readers calling your journalistic integrity into question. You can even sell advertising space directly on your website. Using display ads to monetize a blog does have a potential downside, though, in that many people use ad-blocking software. Readers who block your ads will not generate revenue. To earn a full-time income from display advertisements, your blog will likely need to receive thousands of visitors per day.

These are some popular networks for display advertisements.

Sponsored Posts and Influencer Marketing

Ad-blocking software doesn't just hurt the bloggers who are trying to earn money online; it also hurts the companies that are trying to get the word out about their products. In the search for alternate ways of building awareness, many companies pay for access to the followers of popular bloggers and social media influencers. Once you have a popular blog, companies may begin to approach you about sponsored posts. A company may offer to send you a product and ask you to write an article about that product. Some companies may simply ask you to link to them. When writing sponsored content, remember that you must clearly mark it as such according to the guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission. In addition, Google forbids website owners from selling links that could influence rankings. If you receive compensation for linking to a brand, you must add the “nofollow” tag to the link so it doesn't pass PageRank.

Product Sales

Many bloggers earn excellent money from displaying ads and endorsing products. There is nothing more rewarding, though, than to create and sell a product that belongs to you. These are a few examples of the common types of products that bloggers sell online.

  • Travel blogging: E-books such as travel guides for specific cities and regions
  • Food blogging: Recipe books or meal guides for people with dietary restrictions
  • Beauty blogging: Video series about emulating the makeup techniques of celebrities

Creating and selling an e-book is one of the easiest ways in which you can make money selling your own product through your blog. If you've reached the point at which you believe it's time to think about how you're going to monetize your content, it's likely that your blog has a significant number of articles. Selecting and collating your best work can provide the basis for a lengthy e-book that serves as a comprehensive overview of your blog's topic. If you update and organize that information — and add a few bonus chapters filled with information that's not available on your blog — you can create a product that your loyal readers will likely love. You can also sell your book on markets such as Amazon and potentially reach thousands of others who haven't read your blog.

Freelance Writing and Consultation

You're reading this because you'd like to earn money from a blog — and you're definitely not alone in that desire. In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 30.6 million bloggers — and most of those people would also like to earn money online. It should come as no surprise, then, that many blogs exist to help people achieve that goal. Some of the most popular blog topics include earning money online, SEO, effective content writing and social media marketing. 

If you become a successful blogger, you'll develop an innate feel for what works online — and people will pay for access to your expertise. Some popular bloggers are such prolific writers that they have the time to create and sell content to other website owners on a freelance basis. Other bloggers become speakers or SEO consultants. Your successful blog is proof of your authority. You can offer that authority to people and companies who need help with their online marketing efforts.

Suggested Resources for Further Reading

Building a blog that earns money doesn't require specialized knowledge. It does, however, require plenty of time and effort. No single article can tell you everything that you need to know about earning money with a blog, so we'd like to provide some resources that can help you get started. These are some of the Internet's most popular resources for information about blogging, marketing, writing and SEO.

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