When Taylor Stanford started blogging, she and her husband were living on food stamps.
“The thought of being able to buy whatever I wanted from the grocery store seemed like a dream I’d never accomplish,” she says.
Stanford wanted to inject more purpose into her life and make a little extra cash (one of many reasons you need a side hustle). So, she started a blog. As she consistently published blog posts, she built an audience. Steadily layering in a mix of website monetization tactics, Stanford was able to bring in about $10,000 a month after a year and a half.
That blog is TaylorStanford.com, where she still publishes posts about her daily life, provides lessons on how to monetize a blog, and offers other advice and motivation for aspiring bloggers.
“Some days, it still feels like a dream when I get to roll through the drive-through on a Tuesday at noon and order a $5 coffee,” she says.
So, how do you make money from a blog? We asked Stanford and some other pro bloggers for secrets and strategies that have helped them succeed.
4 ideas for how to make money blogging
Many people wonder what types of blogs make the most money, but there are plenty of different types that can be lucrative.
Bjork Ostrom, who along with his wife runs the food blog Pinch of Yum, says that no matter what type of blog you have, you won’t earn any meaningful income until you’ve built a dedicated readership. If you’re just starting out, Ostrom says, “Hold off on monetization and instead focus on the content, building an audience, and figuring out what really works to engage with fans of your work.”
If you do have a fan base established, then he says now’s the time to think about revenue generation.
Here are four effective strategies for how to make money blogging, recommended by professional bloggers:
1. Display advertising
Those ads you see in the margins of your favorite websites? That’s display advertising, and it can be an effective way to monetize your website if your blog is already drawing a steady stream of visitors.
James Hills, who runs the travel and lifestyle blog ManTripping and blogging community Men Who Blog, found that there weren’t a lot of blogs for adventurous men who prioritized a healthy lifestyle when he first began blogging. However, there were plenty of advertisers looking to reach that audience, and he has been able to make money from both sites thanks to display advertising.
So how much blog traffic do you need to make money? Hills says you can monetize your blog in a meaningful way through advertising and brand partnerships once you reach 10,000 unique visitors per month, but he advises bloggers to aim for at least 25,000.
When deciding how to monetize a blog, many content creators choose to work with a managed ad network because it handles all the complexity that comes with connecting advertisers to websites like yours. Ostrom points out that many of these managed ad networks have traffic requirements. Some large managed ad networks require as many as 50,000 monthly sessions to qualify. Other networks offer their services at lower traffic thresholds, so Ostrom encourages you to do your research and pick the network that works best for you.
2. Affiliate marketing
Sometimes bloggers will link to other websites, where their readers can go to buy products or services. That’s a valuable source of sales for those third-party sites, which can further incentivize bloggers to link to them through an affiliate marketing program. With affiliate marketing, brands and online retail platforms make it easy for bloggers to use affiliate links on their sites. When a reader clicks the link and makes a purchase, the blogger gets paid.
“It could be opening a credit card, signing up for a service, or buying a product on their website,” says Jim Wang, who runs the personal finance blog Best Wallet Hacks. Affiliate marketing is the main revenue driver for Wang’s blog.
“Affiliate marketing is all about trust,” says Amanda Williams, who runs the travel blog A Dangerous Business. “Whether you’re recommending something to longtime readers who already know you or you’re trying to sell something to someone landing on your site for the first time, you have to find a way to earn their trust.”
Stanford, who also monetizes her website with affiliate marketing, agrees that maintaining trust is critical. To keep your affiliate marketing true to who you are, she recommends first reflecting on all your favorite brands and then checking to see if they have affiliate marketing programs. Those that do typically provide straightforward instructions for how to leverage them, Stanford says.
Across the board, these bloggers emphasize that affiliate links can help you monetize your website, but they should always add value to your content.
3. Sponsored content
When it comes to how to monetize your blog, sponsored content is a popular tactic. When advertisers pay you to create content about their brand or provide you with content they’ve already created and approved to publish, that’s sponsored content.
For example, if you’re a food blogger, a salad dressing brand might pay you to include their Thousand Island dressing in your next burger recipe. Or let’s say you’re a lifestyle blogger. A sunglasses company might create a listicle of the “10 sunniest destinations to visit in the middle of winter” that you can feature on your blog.
However, professional bloggers say it’s important that you clearly label your sponsored content as such, because that transparency will build trust between you and your readers.
To obtain these kinds of partnerships, pro bloggers recommend creating quality content that brands would want to associate themselves with before you even have the traffic needed to monetize your website.
To get their attention, Stanford says it helps to nudge potential partners through tools like social media. She recommends tagging them in your social posts and also reaching out to them directly via email and by sending them your content. Taking that initiative, she says, can prompt them to ask you about a partnership or improve your odds when you eventually propose a deal.
Often, though, brands will reach out to bloggers and ask their rate for a certain type of post, says Georgie Morley, whose personal blog helped her launch her photography career.
She typically receives a flat fee for each piece of sponsored content, regardless of how much traffic it gets. “How much you earn is based on your audience size, the kind of content, if the brand is able to license the content for their own use and a few other variables,” Morley says. She notes that the final price you land on can vary depending on the brand’s budget and how influential you’re perceived to be.
Williams, who runs A Dangerous Business, notes that the proliferation of influencers and bloggers has made it more difficult to pitch brands on partnerships than it used to be. Hills, of ManTripping, has some advice for how to differentiate yourself when reaching out: “The key is to present the brand contacts with a way that you can solve a problem or help them reach an audience that they need to engage with,” he says. “If you can offer that, then there could be opportunities to work together.”
“Whether you’re recommending something to longtime readers who already know you or you’re trying to sell something to someone landing on your site for the first time, you have to find a way to earn their trust.”
4. Selling products and services
For the Ostroms, Pinch of Yum is actually the first of a handful of companies they’ve launched. After seeing a pattern with requests from readers and other bloggers, they realized there was an opportunity to expand their offerings to WordPress plugins and educational courses. Now they offer premium subscriptions to their content on FoodBloggerPro, a recipe card plugin at WPTasty, a nutrition label tool at Nutrifox, and blog-focused content management software at Clariti.com.
Notice a trend with these products and resources? The Ostroms created each one to solve a problem they were running into as bloggers, and they found that others would be willing to pay for the same solutions.
If you don’t think you’re the ultimate expert and are nervous about teaching others, Ostrom says not to worry. “There’s this concept we have around here called ‘expert enough,’” Ostrom says, meaning that whatever your focus or practice area is, you likely have enough firsthand knowledge and experience to teach someone who is a few steps behind where you are. This ethos is what drove the creation of FoodBloggerPro, which helps food bloggers learn how to make money blogging. The Ostroms turned the lessons they learned running Pinch of Yum into original, marketable content.
Stanford also takes this approach to selling educational content on her blog. “Make sure that your product solves a problem for someone or simplifies their life in some way,” she says. On TaylorStanford.com, you’ll find courses on topics like how to get started blogging and how to use social media to drive traffic and revenue.
How to monetize a blog consistently over time
Williams, who runs A Dangerous Business, emphasizes that making money from blogging does not happen overnight.
“You have to put in the work, and that takes time—months or sometimes even years, depending on what you’re blogging about,” she says.
As you find new ways to generate revenue from your blog, these veteran bloggers all agree that you can’t take your eye off of some fundamental principles. Here are some more blogging tips that can help you monetize your website for years to come:
Regularly post high-quality content
“Focus on regular posting and cross-promoting at first because if you’re new, you learn a lot by constantly writing and promoting your work,” Wang, who runs Best Wallet Hacks, says.
Having a large body of work not only lets you learn more about what’s resonating with your audience, it also provides more opportunities to integrate display advertisements and affiliate marketing links.
“Post with a purpose consistently,” Hills, who runs ManTripping, says. “Simply posting random thoughts four times a day isn’t going to do anything. If you know what you need to post, who you want to reach, and what they want to learn or do with the information, then it is absolutely important to post on a regular basis.”
As Ostrom decides what to write about, he first considers what questions people are asking, as well as what people have thanked him for writing about in the past. He says he has found this to be the simplest, most effective way to write content that readers value and return to the blog for.
Lean into your unique voice and point of view
The ManTripping blog targets men who like to travel, but Hills says that’s not the key to his success. Rather, he points to his uniquely tasteful point of view as the reason his blog stands out among a crowded field of competitors. He has found that this refined perspective both keeps his audience engaged and draws the interest of advertisers who want to associate with his website and connect with his readers.
Stanford agrees that her voice has helped her build a dedicated following. Her blog doesn’t have a singular focus. Instead, she writes about a variety of topics, from how to monetize a blog to skin care to visiting Disney World, and it’s her personality that keeps her audience coming back for more.
“When it comes to the internet, there are so many cold blogs and blog posts created by brands just to get their products to rank higher in search engines,” she says. “When I first started, that’s how I thought I had to write to be successful, so I tried it and got absolutely no response from people—no comments and no shares.”
When she went back and looked at the posts she’d been publishing, she didn’t like what she read. Rather than give up, she rewrote her posts as if she were talking to a friend. It was only then, when Stanford embraced her voice, that she began to build an audience.
Cross-promote and collaborate with other bloggers
The most common way to cross-promote your content is to write a guest post for another blog. It takes some effort, but successful bloggers agree that it’s an effective strategy for introducing your blog to another blogger’s audience.
“Start by building relationships with other bloggers because those relationships are very important, especially if you’re just starting out,” Wang says. Eventually, he says, you can ask about writing a guest post to expand your reach.
Sometimes bloggers don’t publish guest posts, but the relationships you build with other bloggers can still be valuable. “The important thing is that blogging can be a very solitary and lonely endeavor,” Wang says. “Making a few friends you can brainstorm and chat about challenges with can be huge.”
“If you know what you need to post, who you want to reach, and what they want to learn or do with the information, then it is absolutely
important to post on a regular basis.”
Grow your social media presence
Social media is a free channel that can help you get your blog in front of new readers and continue to engage with existing ones.
“I use my social channels to supplement my blog because, for me, my blog is always my main focus,” Williams says. She doesn’t actually see a lot of traffic generated by social media, but for her, that isn’t the point. “I create unique content for each social channel,” she says. “Each network is kind of its own audience.”
An influential social presence can also lead to new perks and revenue opportunities, Hills says. Every time he wears his favorite glasses, he tags the brand. And while it doesn’t always lead to a paid sponsorship, he does get free glasses and other products on a regular basis.
Keep your momentum going and monetize your website
Ostrom says that in the early years of his blogging journey, he and his wife were making less than minimum wage.
There’s no guarantee you’ll succeed, he notes, but if you keep grinding, you can increase your odds of success.
“Remember that most of the time in blogging, ‘done’ is better than ‘perfect’ because in this world, ‘perfect’ is constantly changing,” Stanford says. “Yes, learn a little and figure out a good starting place, but don’t get stuck learning and never take action.”
Now that you’ve learned how to monetize a blog, keep these tips and strategies in mind as you continue to grow your site into a successful, cash-generating venture. It takes time and effort, but this is how you turn your side hustle into a full-time job.
Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.