A few years ago, I started my own blog where I interviewed local business owners about their entrepreneurial journeys.
The blog was fulfilling in many ways: It gave me freedom to write about what I was interested in, allowed me to connect with inspiring entrepreneurs, and helped me learn the ins and outs of building and managing my own website.
While I never tried to monetize it, I sometimes think about how great of a side hustle it could’ve been if I had been able to make money blogging.
To figure out how to go about monetizing a blog (and maybe motivate me to re-launch my old one), I talked to people who have actually made money blogging, both as a side hustle and as a full-time business.
How to make money blogging, according to expert bloggers
Whether your blog is still an idea or you recently launched it, you’re probably wondering how you can eventually monetize it. Here are the most common ways to make money blogging, according to a few bloggers who have found success with these methods.
Display ads — the ads you often see lining the perimeter of a web page — are the most common way to make money blogging. Nele van Hout, the blogger behind The Navigatio, a travel blog focused specifically on Japan, makes a majority of her blog income through display ads.
“I currently earn money through display advertisements with a company called Mediavine,” says van Hout. “[Display ads] are about 45-50 percent of my total income.” The full-time blogger relies on a mix of affiliate marketing and brand collaborations to account for the rest of her blog revenue (we’ll touch on these methods below).
If your blog is in its early stages, setting up display ads may be the easiest path to monetization. Getting started is as simple as signing up for a Google AdSense account and connecting it to your website. As long as your blog adheres to Google’s terms and conditions, then you should be eligible to start using it right away. While there aren’t any traffic requirements to use Google AdSense, you can’t withdraw payment until your earnings reach $100.
Your ad revenue is dependent on the amount of traffic your blog generates. This means it may take a while to start seeing decent revenue numbers. Here’s an estimate of ad revenue based on page views, according to Playwire:
Once your blog grows and starts generating significant traffic (we’re talking in the tens of thousands per month range), you can use an ad management platform like Mediavine, as van Hout mentioned. Another option is Raptive (formerly known as AdThrive or CafeMedia).
These platforms make the monetization process smoother by connecting you to their built-in networks of major advertisers. Keep in mind that you have to reach a certain traffic level in order to apply. For example, Mediavine requires at least 50K sessions per month to get approved.
Affiliate marketing is another way to make money blogging. Affiliate marketing involves earning a commission from promoting a brand’s products or services and driving traffic to its website. For bloggers, this usually involves organically inserting a link to a specific product in a blog post and earning a commission if visitors click on the link and purchase that product.
U.K.-based blogger Alice Lang relies solely on affiliate marketing to monetize her website, Notes By Alice, a skincare and wellness blog. Lang started her blog as a way to share her experience with acne and the different treatments she’s used throughout her skincare journey.
“When I first started blogging [four years ago], it wasn't to make money – it was simply to share my experience,” shares Lang. “I've only started generating income from my blog within the last 12 months or so.” She continues, “At first, it was barely anything – £20 or £30 per month from Amazon Affiliates – enough to cover the running costs. Three months ago, I joined a couple of new affiliate programs and my blog income significantly increased.”
Affiliate marketing can be a great option if your blog regularly mentions products or services. For example, if you have a beauty or wellness blog like Lang, you can incorporate affiliate marketing in your product reviews. Affiliate marketing also works well with travel blogging. This is another method van Hout uses to monetize her blog.
“I'm not so keen on joining an ad network, as I don't want to plaster ads all over my site. I know I can grow the affiliate side further and potentially work with trusted brands in the future as an additional stream of income.”
“If I have used a tour, pass, or hotel in my travels that I would recommend, I can promote them in my guides and earn a commission if someone books it through my links,” she shares.
Another benefit of affiliate marketing is that you can incorporate it more organically in your content compared to display ads. If you’re like Lang, you may opt for affiliate marketing over display advertising if you want a less distracting user experience for your readers.
“I'm not so keen on joining an ad network, as I don't want to plaster ads all over my site,” she says. “I know I can grow the affiliate side further and potentially work with trusted brands in the future as an additional stream of income.”
Similar to affiliate marketing, these partnerships involve promoting a brand that aligns with your blog and your readers’ interests. The main difference between affiliate marketing and brand partnerships is the structure. Affiliate marketing is typically commission-based, while a brand partnership may include a flat fee for a set number of deliverables.
For example, let’s say you have a blog about dogs. You might partner with a dog food brand to create multiple pieces of content over a set period of time. Let’s say they want you to write five blog posts and create 10 Instagram posts that promote them over a three-month period. You could charge a flat fee upfront or set up a monthly rate — it’s up to you to decide how you want to charge in this scenario.
Brand partnerships can be lucrative if you have a niche blog and an engaged audience. Since brand partnerships require more promotion than affiliate marketing, it’s also important to only partner with brands that you genuinely believe in. The quickest way to lose your readers’ trust and loyalty is to be inauthentic.
“I regularly turn down offers to test products and supplements that I don't necessarily agree with, even though they'd be potential earners for me,” says Lang. “I only ever recommend products I genuinely use.”
She adds: “I'd never want anyone to waste their money on products that won't help their skin, as I know how that feels, and I want my readers to be able to trust me. I feel that's a big part of the reason my content ranks well.”
Your blogging side hustle isn’t limited to the confines of your CMS. If you’re serious about scaling your business into new channels, consider expanding into ecommerce. A product line can include anything from ebooks to online courses to physical merch — whatever makes the most sense for your brand. If you’ve been able to establish an audience of loyal and dedicated readers, then you probably have a sense of what type of product they’d support.
Take blogger and founder Maya Krampf, for example. Since starting her healthy food recipe blog, Wholesome Yum, in 2015, she’s also founded Wholesome Yum Foods, a natural food product line. Expanding into food products was a natural extension of her food blog, but ecommerce is just one of many income streams for Krampf’s business.
“Like most recipe websites, website ads are our primary way to monetize, but we've expanded in other ways over the years,” says Krampf. “We have a small natural food product line, print cookbooks, a mobile app, affiliate programs, ebooks and digital products, and occasionally sponsorships.”
5 blogging best practices to help you monetize your content
As you grow your blog and explore different monetization strategies, keep these blogging best practices in mind.
1. Focus on your readers
Every part of your blog revolves around your audience. The type of content you create, where you publish it, and the keywords you incorporate are all informed by your audience’s behaviors and desires. This is why it’s essential to have a deep understanding of your audience if you want to grow your blog.
“Figure out what problems or needs they have that are unmet and what you have to offer them that can solve those problems better than others,” suggests Krampf.
She recommends defining and understanding your audience before anything else, especially before monetizing.
“Focus on building and nurturing your audience before you look at monetizing,” says Krampf. “[Monetization] is best done after you reach 50,000 pageviews in a month.”
2. Write about what you love
Authenticity is essential for blogging. To grow an engaged audience and even have a chance at monetizing your blog, you have to write about what you know.
For van Hout, focusing her travel blog specifically on Japan stemmed from her genuine interest in the country. “My love for the country has helped me learn a lot about the culture and language, allowing me to write in-depth travel guides for our readers,” she shares.
Lang echoes that sentiment, emphasizing the fact that you can’t start a blog solely to try to make money. “If you're writing about something you're not interested in purely to sell a product, it'll show,” she says.
Not only does writing about topics you’re passionate about help your readers get the most accurate and valuable content, but it also satisfies Google's Search Quality Rater Guidelines — also known as E-E-A-T. The acronym stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Essentially, Google values content that demonstrates first-hand experience, which is great news for individual bloggers. Lean into your personal experience and write about topics through your unique lens to stand out.
3. Keep up with SEO
Speaking of Google, it’s also essential to optimize your blog to improve its position in the search results. You could be writing the best content in your niche, but if no one can find it, then it won’t be helpful. Having a light SEO strategy for your website ensures your content gets seen by the right readers.
While you should still only write about topics that you have experience with, choose a few target keywords to use on your website and incorporate in your posts. Use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to identify relevant keywords that aren’t saturated by other websites so you have a better chance of ranking for them.
Lang’s advice for standing out in the search results and increasing organic traffic is similar to step two — writing about topics you’re genuinely interested in — even better if there aren’t many people already covering these keywords.
“Part of the reason why my blog has done so well in terms of gaining organic traffic and ranking for relevant keywords is because there simply weren't many people writing about these subjects,” she says. “My content is unique and, as I write it from personal experience, it has always been genuine and authentic rather than just being written with [the intent] to make money off readers.”
4. Be consistent (and open to changes along the way)
Let’s get one thing straight: Starting a blog is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Figuring out your niche, creating content, and improving your blog’s SEO all take time (we’re talking several months, maybe even years, according to the bloggers I spoke with). If you’re not ready to invest your time and energy into understanding what your readers want and creating valuable content that aligns with those desires, then blogging might not be for you.
However, that doesn’t mean that you’re locked into whatever niche you chose when you first launched your blog. As Google’s algorithm is always evolving and your interests change, you may decide to switch your focus or pursue different monetization strategies. And that’s okay! As long as you’re consistent and authentic in your approach, you’re sure to find success with blogging.
For instance, when van Houf started her blog in 2017, it was focused on lifestyle and travel. She quickly narrowed the focus on travel since that’s what she most enjoyed writing about and eventually dove deeper by focusing on travel tips for Japan.
“It took me five years (without a proper strategy) to build The Navigatio into a full-time business, and it has undergone so many changes,” says van Houf.
Her best advice? “Stick with it and write about something you love.”
5. Diversify your income streams
Creating multiple revenue streams is especially important if you want to turn your blog into a full-time gig.
One way to diversify your income is by setting up different advertising structures for your blog. For example, here’s van Hout’s revenue breakdown for her travel blog, The Navigatio:
- Display ads: 45-50%
- Affiliate marketing: 40%
- Brand partnerships: 10-15%
You can also branch into other products or sub-businesses like Krampf did with Wholesome Yum. If you choose to go this route, whatever you sell should be a natural fit with your existing content and something your audience actually wants or needs.
How to make money blogging: Next steps
Building a blogging side income is a great option if you enjoy writing, have personal experience in a specific topic, and are prepared to wait at least a few months to see the fruits of your labor.
At its core, monetizing your content starts with leaning into topics that you’re passionate about, and in turn, readers will find value in them as well. From there, you can start layering on audience engagement and monetization strategies that we’ve outlined above.