Your belief that blogs make money just from ads is outdated. Here’s how several million dollar blogs are actually making their money and how you can employ these techniques for your own blog. A tutorial on the major monetization methods. This is part two of the series on The Secret To How Bloggers Actually Make Money. For part one, click here.
If you are excited about starting your own blog, you can get set up very easily with Bluehost. As a special for Money Habit readers, you’ll get pricing on the basic package of only $2.95/month, lower than what you’ll find on the site directly, and they’ll include the registration of your chosen domain name for free with any package. You can be up and running in 10 minutes.
The ideas you probably have about blogging are outdated. There are hundreds of blogs quietly making high five-figure to mid six-figure salaries for their owners. Often started as side hobbies, they grow organically to the point that they can buy an entire family’s freedom. In fact, there are quite a number of million-dollar blogs owned by regular people. Here are just a few examples from different industries:
As we discussed in part one of the series, and as you can see above, there are four major ways bloggers earn direct income from their blogs:
- Affiliate Income
- Selling Their Own Product
- Sponsored Content
In addition, there are two ways bloggers can use their blogs as a platform to launch other income-generating hustles: consulting and freelance writing.
Today we’ll cover the second half as well as consulting and freelance writing.
This is the method most people think of when they think about blogging. By placing banners ads or ads along the side of the blog reel, bloggers can generate income from major advertisers. To do this, bloggers (known as publishers) will join an ad network, which brokers the relationship between publishers and advertisers. They will then generate revenue based on one of several metrics:
CPM is one of the most widely used metrics in ad networks and stands for cost per thousand impression. Another common pricing model is CPC, which stands for cost per click. The average CPM varies by category and can range from $1-10. I know several bloggers with confirmed revenue per thousand impressions of over $15. The ad network will stipulate certain requirements, such as a minimum of 3 ads per page and at least one of them being “above the fold,” meaning the ad shows up somewhere in the main area when the viewer loads the page, without them having to scroll down further into more content.
I don’t currently use ads on my site, but my general sense if you want to be conservative is to estimate about a $2-3 CPM (with a $5-6 average CPM probably being considered a pretty good and a achievable rate). A $3 CPM multiplied against 3 spots per page is $9 per thousand page views on your site. So a site with 100,000 page views a month would generate $900 a month from ads. At $6, that would be a cool $1,800 a month before you layer in other monetization strategies like the previously discussed affiliate relationships.
There are dozens of ad networks to choose from. Google Adsense is a popular option. Among bloggers, AdThrive has gotten very positive reviews when it comes to revenue generation. You do have to generally be doing above 100,000 page views a month to be accepted. Another popular one in blogger circles is The Blogger Network. There are plenty of in-depth reviews when you’re ready to monetize in this way. The nice thing, too, is you can give it a shot with one company for 6 months and switch if it is not performing well. As long as you own the core asset (your blog), you can continue tweaking and optimizing your monetization system.
As companies hones their marketing strategies, it often makes sense to approach publishers for spotlight pieces. Sometimes they want to promote a specific product in more detail and have a publisher discuss it in depth. Sometimes they just want brand exposure and will ask for you to write a post on a wide range of topics, affixing their name as a sponsor of the post in order to build correlation of smart discussion with their brand. At times they will even approach you with a pre-written piece and pay you for the privilege of sharing it with your audience. The need for and criteria of sponsored content can vary dramatically.
Depending on both the size of the company and the request they are making of you (tailored review or post vs. posting something they’ve written), an average-sized blogger can make generally between $100 to $1,000 a post. One rule of thumb I’ve heard is to charge on average $100 per 10,000 page views/month. So if you’re a blog getting on average 50,000 page views a month, you might charge an average of $500 per sponsored post (again, depending on what they’re asking of you).
If you have an active social media following, you can multiply your sponsorship revenue. You might be paid an average of $500 for a post on your blog, but also $300 for an instagram post.
How To Get Sponsorships
As your blog grows, corporations will begin to approach you through your contact page. It helps if you have a bullet that actively welcomes these kinds of solicitations on the contact page so marketers know you’re in business. Some larger blogs offer a one page media kit that talks about the size of their blog and readership.
Additionally, some advertising networks also are in the business of brokering sponsored post deals. I am not well-versed in this, but my understanding is you will get the most by searching for niche-specific networks. The Finance Collective run by AOL offers sponsored post opportunities for its personal finance bloggers, as an example. A few more general sources include Federated Media and BlogHer.
Makin’ the big bucks.
Bonus Gig: Consulting
As you build a following in your area of expertise, you will more than likely find people approaching you asking for one-on-one advice. I know personal finance bloggers who charge $100-$300 an hour and make several thousand a month from their consulting side businesses, all launched from the blog. Depending on what vertical you blog about, you may also have the opportunity to consult for businesses. Here the consulting rates can really jump, as much as $500-$800+ an hour, or paid by the project. These are nice assignments because they tend to be longer (i.e. 20-30+ hours of total work).
Remember that consulting income – dollars earned in direct proportion to hours of service you provide – stack on top of the more passive income your blog may already be bringing in.
Bonus Gig: Freelance Writing
In a similar fashion, your blog can be an excellent platform for launching a freelance writing side hustle or even a full-time career. I know of one blogger who has written for major publications like Money and Forbes. She has said that her blog mostly just generates enough income to pay for its own expenses, but she has leveraged that into a full-time freelance writing career and earns more than enough to support herself in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Your blog becomes an excellent calling card to show prospective employers what you can offer. In addition, you can share your page view and follower stats to show that you have credibility and interest in the space, adding bona fide credentials to your pitches.
Holly Johnson is a pretty well-known blogger in the space who has been very vocal about how blogging helped launch her now $200k+ a year freelance writing career.
It all starts somewhere.
Source: Club Thrifty
There are numerous ways to earn money through a blog, and they will fit almost any lifestyle. Whether you want a more collaborative activity like consulting, a chance to work with major publications as a freelance writer, or a path to building a passive, constantly-increasing-in-value business asset by monetizing your blog through affiliate relationships, ads, and other methods, there is an option for you. And once you are established (which, to be frank, takes some really hard work), you can pick and choose how much time you invest and what your earnings will be – perhaps $40k-$80k working 10 hours a week is perfect for you, and you are unwilling to work full-time to reach for the million dollar club we examined earlier. All roads are open. But it all starts in one place. You have to start your blog to have these opportunities.
Start Your Own Blog Today
If you’re interested in starting your own blog, you can get up and running in less than 10 minutes. Get set up with a hosting provider and they will help you register a domain name and download the WordPress blogging platform, a free open source platform which the majority of bloggers use. I recommend Bluehost. It has competitive pricing, good customer service, and because it is one of the biggest in the industry, the ecosystem for support and getting your questions answered is top notch. You can basically google “any question + Bluehost” and be almost guaranteed to get an answer right away.
Bluehost offers a basic plan which is more than enough for the first year of blogging at $3.95 a month. They are offering Money Habit readers special discounted pricing of just $2.95 a month if you’d like to take advantage of that over here.
They have a very simple 5-step flow set up that will get you live quickly.
Step 1: Select a Plan
If you’re just starting out, I see no reason to go with anything other than the basic plan for $3.95 a month (note: for The Money Habit readers only, the link will offer you pricing of $2.95/month). You can always upgrade as your needs grow.
Step 2: Select A Domain Name
This is the fun part! I admit I spent more time than strictly necessary brainstorming names for my blog. If you already have a domain name kicking around somewhere, there’s an option to transfer that url over to your new plan. The system will come up with some suggestions if the domain you entered is taken, but I actually really got a lot of value of consulting NameMesh for name inspiration. It will combine similar conceptual words for you as inspiration, and you can just take the available one you like back to the registration workflow at Bluehost.
Step 3: Finish Registration
You will go through a couple of screens asking for payment and address information. You’ll be presented with several options for add-ons like site back-up and search engine jumpstart. I find these to be mostly unnecessary. When you install wordpress, there’ll be lots of free plug-ins to get you started which do basically the same things. The only service I chose to add was domain privacy protection. You are legally required to keep a true name and physical address on file with ICANN. I don’t know about you, but it’s weird to think my name and home address are floating around out there for anyone who visits the website to find. Plenty of people eschew the service, so it’s really a personal comfort thing.
Step 4: Install WordPress
Once you finish registering, log into your new Bluehost account and find the ‘Wordpress’ button. WordPress is a free, open-source blogging platform. It is the single largest blogging platform in the world and powers over 20% of the world’s sites. WordPress is what makes it magically easy to run your own blog.
Step 5: Pick a WordPress Template
The WordPress installation guide will walk you through the basics of how to use WordPress, and one of the first things it will do is show you a selection of free templates. Pick one that appeals to you, and that’s it! You’re live on the internet and off to the races.
For some more conversation on the topic, check out How Much Can You Actually Make Blogging? where I show examples of how much income real bloggers are making, talk about how to decide on a topic to blog about, and answer a bunch more questions in the comments.
A Final Word
I have only positive things to say about my blogging experience. There are numerous ways to win: getting to talk about things you love, meeting a community of likeminded folks in your readers, doing good in others’ lives, and possibly making some additional money for your retirement stash along the way. Invest in yourself and give yourself one more frying pan in the fire. You may be surprised by how well it turns out.