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Using these tips, I've learned how to actually make money blogging. I went from making about $2,000 a month (for a long time!) to over $10,000 a month (in a short period of time), and my income goals only go up from there! I can't wait until I am making $25,000 a month. Now, onto the post…
How to Actually Make Money With Your Blog
Bloggers, we need to talk. Enough of the “fake it til you make it” crap, alright? I'm all about putting your best foot forward and smiling even when things suck, but the amount of bullshit I see from so many bloggers every. single. day. is exhausting. Let's get real and talk about how to actually make money blogging.
I've been “blogging” in some way since I was about 14 years old. I started my first profitable blog in 2010 and sold it the next year. I then created this blog, and while it's been profitable, I spent a lot of years chasing the “dream” that other bloggers were selling instead of creating my own dream. I've spent so much money on courses that were crap. I've spent so much time reading posts that were only created to get me to sign up for Bluehost (don't get me started). I want to change the narrative. There isn't just ONE way to make money with your blog. In fact, you NEED to diversify.
If you aren't making money with your blog but you want to, this post is for you. If you're faking it and need to catch up, this post is for you, too. If you're in it for a quick buck and want to sell crappy hosting (that link actually takes you to a GOOD host) to unsuspecting newbies, this post is NOT for you. Read on…
Back to basics, yo.
You probably aren't going to want to hear this, but it's the truth. Getting back to basics is the BEST way to start making money with your blog (either for the first time, or again, if you've made money before). Stop worrying about chasing that next $100 sponsored post and start cranking out AWESOME content. Period, end of story, no way around it… content is king. Always has been and hopefully always will be.
What does this mean? Surely you know, but I'll break it down for you anyway. You need to work on:
— landing pages
— longer posts (1,000+ words)
— less keyword and affiliate link stuffing
SEO is super important, and affiliate links make us money, but there's no reason to stuff your content with either of those things. Less is more. Find a few amazing affiliates (we'll talk more about those in a minute), and stick with them.
Each and every post should serve a purpose. Your posts should inform and educate your readers in some way. Deliver VALUE every single time you hit “post”. Don't just post something willy nilly. Map out what the PURPOSE of the post is before you even start typing. The purpose of this post is to help struggling bloggers get on the right track so they can make money. In turn, said bloggers will use my affiliate links and this post will make me money. The purpose of my recipe posts is to make people happy and to make me ad revenue from traffic. It's very simple, once you get back to basics.
Stop chasing your tail, stop chasing that “big” blogger that is probably lying about her perfect life and her six figure income, stop chasing everything and just write. If you hate writing, hire it out, but make sure you hire someone good (not necessarily cheap). The key is to be consistent! I want you to publish at LEAST two blog posts each week that are not sponsored. If you can post more, awesome.
Find something better to write about.
Sometimes we outgrow our content. What I mean by that is this: what you loved writing about 5 years ago might not be profitable, and it might not be what you love writing about right now. For me, it is extremely important to be passionate and absolutely in love with blogging. I couldn't do it if I didn't love it. For others, it may not be the same way, but I feel like you absolutely HAVE to have some passion for blogging to make it work. I say all of that just to say, if you aren't making money, it may be time for a change – in the form of rebranding.
Rebranding may seem crazy, especially if you've had your blog for several years, but sometimes it's necessary. If your blog name no longer fits your personality, your mission, or what you blog about, it's time to change it. I won't get into the whole process here, but if you've been thinking about it and aren't sure, chances are you should just hop in and DO IT.
Any topic can be profitable, but if you want to make money NOW, look at your top 10 posts. See if there's a theme (with mine, it's recipes – except for summer time, then it's travel). If there's a theme, it's time to make a landing page! See if you can somehow tie them all together and maybe make a few new posts to link to them as well. Create pinnable images for each of the posts if you haven't yet, then pin them all to relevant boards.
Fine tune your images.
Pinterest is a great source of traffic if you blog about pretty much any topic, but you've gotta have the VISUALS to translate your great content to great traffic on Pinterest (or any social media, really). Use sites like Unsplash to get free stock photos with no credit back required, or check out this list of free stock photography sites. Then, use PicMonkey to make your images POP for social media.
You'll want at least one portrait (Pinterest) image, and one landscape (Facebook) image in each post. I mix mine up, using a combination of photos with and without text, landscape and portrait. It is important that your images are crisp and bright. If you can't achieve this on your own, use stock photos. Spend some time learning the photography basics, but don't obsess if your images aren't perfect. You will improve with practice.
Find favorite affiliates and use them in every post.
As I mentioned earlier, you'll want to make a list of your favorite affiliates and stick with them. While it's important to diversify, I believe if you have ten quality, high-paying affiliates instead of 50 not so quality and not so high-paying, you'll be much better off.
Every post should have at least one affiliate link, unless it's a sponsored post. There is always something you can link out to that is related to your post. Don't feel like you're being spammy by using affiliate links in every post. In fact, I've had messages from readers saying “thank you!” for including links because they want to buy this or that but didn't know the best place to find it. When we use affiliate links for products we are giving our stamp of approval, which means it is VERY important to only use affiliates you trust.
Amazon is a given, but at first you might not make much. I know new bloggers who have been removed from the affiliate program for not getting any clicks for several months in a row. If you don't have traffic yet, you might not want to use Amazon affiliate links. If you have SOME traffic, Amazon is a great start. Though they pay less than literally any other affiliate I've ever worked with, the sheer volume of sales that go through Amazon every day is enough to make me link to them in every post.
Shareasale is my favorite affiliate platform of all time, by far. I've tried others such as Impact Radius, Awin, etc and they just don't measure up. It's easy to sign up for Shareasale (click here and put in your info). The Shareasale platform has affiliate options for SO many merchants, like Cricut (become an affiliate for Cricut here), Jillian Michaels, and even big stores like Dollar Tree.
Simply sign up for Shareasale, log in, and search MERCHANTS to see what's available. Doing this can even give you ideas for blog posts! That's how I came up with my subscription box posts (subscription boxes for teens + subscription boxes for moms). Creating a post (or even a landing page) based on an affiliate is a GREAT way to make some extra money with your blog.
Pro tip: I use PrettyLink Pro to shorten my affiliate URLs. This makes it easier to track clicks on my end (not all affiliate programs count properly so it's good to keep an eye on it), and makes the affiliate links much prettier!
Diversify your traffic.
Do you know how many bloggers rely on Pinterest for 80% or more of their traffic? A LOT! I have many clients that come to me and say “Help! I need something other than Pinterest traffic!”. My suggestion is to read up on SEO and make sure your posts are ALL optimized, but you probably already know you should be doing that so let's talk about other ways to diversify your traffic.
If most of your traffic is coming from Pinterest, you'll want to focus on Facebook to try and mix that up. While Facebook pages aren't performing the best for some bloggers, Facebook groups are amazing (as of March 2018 – I'm sure Facebook will f^ck that up eventually)! Think about which groups your content will organically fit in but WAIT! The #1 thing I see bloggers do is go in and LINK DROP. This is the most annoying and ineffective thing EVER. It's a waste of time, it's spammy, and it doesn't lead you back to “content is KING”, now does it? Of course not.
Slow down, take a few minutes to INTERACT with at least 10 Facebook groups related to your niche every day. Don't gasp – you're on Facebook everyday anyway… I see you. Take literally 5 minutes for each of your favorite groups to go in and comment, “like” posts, interact, etc. THEN, once a week or so, you can add a link to a HELPFUL blog post (if they're allowed – check the rules first).
You can also create your own group. I created a weight loss support group and it quickly helped grow my traffic from about 150,000 a month to over 750,000 a month. If you create your own group, it needs to be a RESOURCE, not a link farm.
Another way to get traffic from Facebook is by using your personal profile page. Instead of ranting and sharing political posts, share helpful posts your friends and readers will love. Leave these helpful posts PUBLIC so everyone can see them. Link one of your BEST blog posts 2-3 times a week (again, PUBLIC not just “friends only”). When you're helpful in the groups, people will stalk your profile, and they will see your personal stuff. They'll start trusting you, maybe even want to add you as a friend (simply put them on “RESTRICTED” if you don't want them to see your “friends only” stuff). This creates cheerleaders (which I mention later). Cheerleaders share your content without you even having to ask! Cheerleaders are kind of like soldiers, too. If you do ask for help (do it rarely or it loses its effect), they will come to your aid and share, click, comment, or whatever you need them to do!
Diversify your income.
It's so important to diversify, for many reasons. I remember recently, an ad network went under and owed people TONS of money. Imagine if you were making $5,000 a month in ad money but only about $500 a month in affiliate money. If the ad network goes under, you're screwed!
You can diversify your income in several ways. One of the ways I diversify is by being a virtual assistant. Mostly, I do content creation. So if a blogger needs a post written and they don't have time or maybe don't feel like doing it, they hire me to write it. I charge $50-$100 per post, and they take me less than an hour. Being a virtual assistant is great for me because I can write when I feel like it. If I'm not feeling inspired to write for someone else, I just go work on my own blog instead.
>>> Get a writing gig over on ProBlogger (free to use).
Another way I diversify is with affiliates. The majority of my income right now is from ad revenue. Ads can be annoying but they pay the bills so I don't complain. I feel like they're a necessary “evil” and the slight annoyance pays off in a big way. However, another chunk of my income is from affiliates via Shareasale. Like I said before, I've tried other networks but they just never impressed me. Find a few affiliates and get to work!
Last but not least, I do sponsored posts. My favorite networks for sponsored posts are MassiveSway and Influence Central. Both pay around the $300 mark for posts, which is low compared to what I make if I secure a sponsored post on my own, but they do most of the work for me and I just have to write so I'm happy with that.
If you can create a digital product (ebook, course, printable bundle) and sell it, that's another smart way to diversify. You make it once and resell it over and over again. BINGO.
There's a lot of chit chat about authenticity but when it comes down to it, so many bloggers sell their souls for sponsored posts. If I try a product and hate it, I'm letting the brand know. I'm not going to try and sugarcoat it and make it seem “okay”. I have a loyal readership for a REASON – and that reason is honesty.
Don't try and make yourself into a cookie cutter blogger to please brands, either. They'll love you or they won't, but if they don't love you THEY are the ones missing out! You will move on to bigger and better things when you're honest with yourself and your audience.
For example, I started selling LuLaRoe because a blogger I followed was selling it and doing really well with it. I liked the clothes and I really liked her so I signed up under her. Little did I know it was going to be a HUGE disaster with paper thin clothing and hideous prints, and an upline that didn't give a shit about me. I wrote a post about ways to grow your LuLaRoe business, but because of AUTHENTICITY, I had to write a follow up post because my views changed completely once I got “in” and saw how shady the company was. I even had other LuLaRoe sellers call me out and be jerks because I was being HONEST – I was saying things THEY had said in private but were too afraid to say in public. Because I was authentic, though, my next business venture (selling clothes that I bought wholesale) made me over $50,000 in 9 months! I wouldn't have done that with LuLaRoe and even if I had, I would've been lying. That's not a way to make money!
If you don't have cheerleaders yet, you need them. And no, I'm not just talking about your mom and sister. I'm talking about blog readers and Facebook friends that love your posts SO much, they organically share them on a regular basis. I have a few thousand friends on Facebook, and this is on purpose. Do I know thousands of people? NOPE. When one of my blog readers finds me and tries to add me on Facebook, I let them. They become my friend and we share stuff from each other's pages all the time – this is what I call a cheerleader.
You don't need thousands of cheerleaders, but you do need at least a few. Make sure you aren't just taking, taking, taking, either. You'll want to say “thank you” or share your friends' posts in return if you notice they are sharing yours.
Stop being lazy.
Blogging is a LOT of work. Many times, we start a blog and work on it SO MUCH that we get burnt out. Then, we get lazy. Lazy blogging is not quality blogging. Hiring random virtual assistants to complete your posts when they all have different writing styles is not quality blogging. If you want or need to hire out, try to find 1 or 2 VAs that can help you with everything so your blog runs smoothly. There are exceptions to this, like if your blog is making the big bucks and you need a whole team, but for the most part you should be good with 1 or 2 virtual assistants helping you out.
>>> Join Elite Virtual Assistants to find the best virtual assistants – for free.
Take a step back.
If you've done all of the above and you're still not making money, it's time to take a step back. Have another blogger check your blog out and give you a (harsh!) critique. There's no point in being nice at this stage; someone else picking your blog apart will help you tremendously. Yes, it can be difficult to listen to what someone doesn't like about your blog, but it is a necessary part of the process.
This goes with getting back to basics, I think, but it's SO important to make sure you're having fun with your blog! If you aren't, maybe it's time to take a break. In the meantime, you can be a virtual assistant for other bloggers and still pay the bills. But if you're feeling burnt out, the quality of your blog is going to suffer and your income is going to go down the tube, so just take a break and breathe. Get out, travel, take some pictures and get inspired all over again!
>>> I get inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk!!
Just do it!
Chances are, you've heard some of this advice before (or a version of it). There's TONS of blogging advice out there these days! Chances also are that you haven't taken action if you're still reading this post (it's over 3,000 words and you made it to the bottom!). What I want you to realize RIGHT NOW is that you have the ability to make as much money as you want with your blog. I don't care if your goal is $1,000 or $100,000… you CAN do it. But you have to make an action plan and you have to actually DO IT. Make a promise to yourself today that you're going to use these tips to make a game plan and follow through.