Having thought through whether you should blog for money it is now worth taking a look at some of the different models for doing so.
I tend to break the different models that bloggers are using to make money from blogging into two areas – Direct and Indirect methods.
Direct Income Earning Methods – these methods are where a blogger earns an income directly FROM their blog.
Indirect Income Earning Methods – these methods are where a blogger earns an income BECAUSE of their blog.
Most blogs tend to fall into one or the other of these methods – although there is nothing to stop bloggers experimenting with elements of both ( I’ve seen a few bloggers get into trouble with this (example: Scenario 1 in the previous post).
In this post I’ll look at 7 direct income earning methods and in the next post of this series I’ll explore indirect methods. Please note that on occasion in the following post there will be few affiliate links to services that I use and have had some success with.
Direct Income Earning Methods for Bloggers
There are many ways of selling advertising space on a blog (this could almost be a series of it’s own) but some of the different advertising options that I see working for bloggers include:
- Display Ads: Display ads are graphical or text-based ads that appear on your blog. They can be placed in various locations, such as the header, sidebar, or within the content. You can use ad services or networks like Google AdSense, Media.net, or Ezoic to display contextual ads that match your blog’s content and target your audience.
- Native Ads: Native ads seamlessly blend in with your blog’s content, providing a non-disruptive advertising experience. Platforms like Taboola and Outbrain offer native advertising solutions where you can display recommended content or sponsored posts on your blog.
- Programmatic Advertising: Programmatic advertising involves using automated systems to buy and sell ad inventory in real-time. Ad networks like Google Ad Manager allow you to manage and serve ads from multiple demand sources, including direct advertisers and ad exchanges.
- Direct Ad Sales: Selling ad space directly to advertisers gives you more control over pricing and placements. You can create an “Advertise with Us” page on your blog and reach out to potential advertisers in your niche. Alternatively, you can use platforms like BuySellAds, which connect publishers with advertisers looking to buy ad space.
- Sponsored Content/Advertorials: Sponsored content or advertorials involve creating content that promotes a specific product or service. You can negotiate sponsored content deals directly with advertisers or work through sponsored content marketplaces like IZEA.
- In-Text Ads: In-text ads appear as hyperlinked keywords within your blog posts. When users hover or click on the keywords, a small ad box or pop-up appears. Platforms like Infolinks and Sovrn offer in-text advertising solutions for publishers.
- Rich Media Ads: Rich media ads include interactive elements like video, audio, or animations. Platforms like Raptive specialize in serving high-quality, engaging rich media ads on your blog.
- Contextual Ads: Contextual ads are targeted based on the content of your blog. They analyze the keywords and context of your pages to display relevant ads. Ad networks like Media.net and Adversal offer contextual advertising options for publishers.
When considering ad services or networks, it’s important to evaluate their ad quality, payout rates, user experience, and support. You can explore multiple options and test different networks to find the best fit for your blog’s niche and audience.
Another form of advertising that a smaller number of bloggers are using is to find their own advertisers. All of the above systems have the advantage of finding you advertisers (or at least assisting in the automation of ads to your blog) but as your blog grows in profile and influence you might find other options for private deals come up.
The big blog networks have people dedicated to the task of finding advertisers (often working through ad agencies) but smaller bloggers might find this worthwhile also. I’ve been selling ads on my Digital Photography School blog for years now and as it’s grown in traffic and profile and managed to attract larger companies (who are willing to pay more) to buys space. Currently the blog features programmatic ads as well as periodic sponsorships from companies who can purchase a combination of banner, newsletter and text ads.
The key if you’re going to take this approach is to target advertisers in your niche that have products that closely relate to what you’re writing about. There are a variety of ads that you can offer them including banner ads, buttons, text links, mentions in newsletters and even individual post sponsorships. I would highly recommend that you always make it clear to readers that your post is a sponsored one when you’re writing a sponsored post.
3. Affiliate Programs
Affiliate programs are where you take a commission for referring a reader who purchases a product or service to a company. Probably the most common of these for bloggers is Amazon which has tens of thousands of products that you can link to (I reviewed it here). Other affiliate programs that represent many different companies and products include Linkshare, Commission Junction, Clickbank, Shareasale and Impact.
Affiliate programs take some work if you want to get the most out of them (perhaps more work than advertising) but can be lucrative if you match the right program with the right blog/topic. If you want to explore affiliate programs more you might like to read 10 tips for using affiliate programs on you blog.
4. Selling/Flipping Blogs
The idea of selling (or flipping) your blog is one that many bloggers have in the back of their minds for ‘one day’ but in reality it is not something that is overly common… yet (I think this is changing). Starting a blog with the main goal of selling it down the track is one that I’ve heard of a number of bloggers doing but few have been successful. Rather than starting with this intention I think if you start with the intention of building a quality site that has a large readership and it’s own good income stream you are more likely to find buyers down the track.
If and when you do establish your blogging business as a saleable entity, you can market it via sites like Flippa, Empire Flippers and FE International.
5. Donations and Tip Jars
Some blogs are making good money with voluntary payment platforms like Ko-fi and Buy Me a Coffee. To be successful with asking for money from readers you’ll want to have a large and loyal readership (and a rich one might help too). Most bloggers just don’t have the critical mass or the cult following to make it work. Many more are providing more value and content behind a paywall with subscriptions (see below). An example from podcast world of someone who asks for and receives lots of donations is Dan Carlin with his Hardcore History podcast.
Another method that some blogs use with reasonable effect is to sell T-Shirts, Mugs, Stickers etc with the blog’s name, logo and/or taglines on it. This is another idea that will probably only work if you either have a brilliantly designed merchandise range and/or you have a cult-like status as a blogger with some fanatical readers who are a little obsessive about your blog. Some blog topics lend themselves to this more than others.
7. Selling Subscriptions
The idea of charging your audience readers for content is one that is growing, particularly in the podcasting space. While there are numerous websites around the web that do this successfully (community membership sites) blogs are starting to do this too. The problem that most bloggers who have tried it have run into is that most topics that you could think to start a blog about already have free sites available. To make it succeed you would need to have some sort of premium/exclusive content and/or real expertise on a topic alongside an engaged audience with a real sense of community and attachment to you. Patreon is the top platform for this and a good example I’ve seen (listed to) lately is the Tooth and Claw podcast which alternates between free and paid (Patreon) podcast episodes.
Next in the series we’ll look at indirect ways of making money because of your blog.
If you want to learn more about monetizing your blog, you can take my “Make Money” course to transform your blogging hobby into an income-generating business.