How to Monetize a Blog – 10 Standard Practices for Making Money on Your Affiliate Sites

October 6, 2020
Posted in Blog
October 6, 2020 Madeleine

Have you ever come across a lifestyle, food, or travel blog, and thought – Hmmm … that looks like it would be an interesting thing to do; But, how on earth do they make money off their website? Is it a glorified hobby, or do they treat it like a full-time career?

Well, not to bury the lede but, for them to be doing it full-time essentially means that they have to be deriving some form of monetary value from the content they post. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than an expensive, time-consuming hobby, which, let’s face it, won’t pay any bills.

Plus, we’re in 2020, people. There are a lot of careers today that didn’t exist in the early 00s. Blogger, content creator, social media influencer are a few of them.

You’re probably here because you’re curious about how to turn your website into a money-making beast, a cash-cow. Maybe you don’t have your own blog yet and are looking for something – a side-hustle if you will – that can generate a passive income.

There’s no sense in spending countless hours each week, creating captivating content for your site if:

  1. No one’s going to see it; and
  2. There’s no financial gain whatsoever you’re getting from it.

Without further ado, here are 10 standard practices for making money on your affiliate blog.

1. Make Money Blogging Through Affiliate Marketing

There’s a reason this is first on our list. The idea behind it is to market other people’s products – usually through an affiliate network – and earn a commission for every sale you send their way. It is especially useful if you don’t have your own products and services to sell, particularly if you're just starting.

All you have to do is create great content that pushes out whatever affiliate offers you have going on. For instance, if you’re a travel blogger, you can easily sell hiking and camping gear featured on Amazon, eBay, or any other site with an affiliate program of some kind. So how exactly do you get started with affiliate marketing?

The first step involves identifying the specific niche you want to review products in and applying to affiliate programs that offer those specific products. Once accepted, you’ll receive a special URL code that links back to their site. That way, when visitors click through that affiliate link, you earn money every time someone makes a purchase.

That’s about it.

Pros

  • You retain full control over the kind of products you market and the content you create
  • You only feature products on your site that are a great fit for your readers
  • It’s a great entry-level source of passive income that doesn’t require any additional input on your part once you upload content to your site

Cons

  • Requires a lot of creativity on your part so that it doesn’t look like a generic product review site

2. Display Ads

When you think of website ads, the first thing that comes to mind is probably pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements. Google AdSense is the most well-known ad network, although there are several others like Facebook Ads, Bidvertiser, Media.net, and Clickadu that site owners can sign up to as well.

While you can make money from them, it's probably going to be marginal at best, unless your site gets 100,000+ visitors a day. And let’s be honest – you wouldn’t be here if you were. Even with 10,000 visitors a day, your site still wouldn’t generate the kind of revenue you would expect.

So, rather than have a PPC ad on your site, it would be better to reach out directly to the advertisers themselves and negotiate for better terms to get them to use display ads instead. The rate you’re likely to get will be much more competitive than the revenue PPC ads would generate.

Just make sure that the ads you display are relevant to your content's specific niche. Displaying ads for Ferrari, for instance, would be counterintuitive if your site content is all about “how to find the best budget cars.”

Pros

  • You can make a fairly large amount of money in passive income from an ad network if you have a high amount of traffic to your site
  • You can bypass the networks and reach out directly to the advertisers to charge a more competitive rate in exchange for better value through engagement
  • It’s a great way to generate passive income when used in conjunction with other blog monetization strategies

Cons

  • You can only make money using this method if you have a fairly large and consistent traffic amount. So, you might have to focus on growing the size of your audience first

3. Email Marketing

This is arguably one of the most powerful blog monetization methods in existence. Ideally, you would be using email channels to target consumers, drive sales for your product or service, or affiliate a bigger site.

What exactly is it about email marketing that makes it so effective?

Well, it has everything to do with the degree of intimacy it offers. When you communicate directly with a contact, it creates a bigger impression than if you put up a blog post intended for thousands of users.

Email allows you to create a strong one-on-one connection with your audience. You get the opportunity to be present in their day-to-day lives, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Here’s an interesting statistic for you.

According to a report by Fluent, approximately two out of every three Americans check their email inboxes several times a day. Forty percent of them check their emails the moment they wake up. But, to use this monetization method effectively, you need to build a sizable mailing list.

Pros

  • It’s a highly affordable way to reach and build a relationship with your target audience
  • It is easy to create and easy to launch compared to other marketing methods
  • It is highly customizable to cater to the needs of each segment of your audience

Cons

  • You need to develop exceptionally-creative, highly-personalized, and super-engaging emails that can stand out in a crowded inbox. Otherwise, they might end up in their spam folders after a while

How to Build an Email List

Here are five foolproof methods you can use to build an email list from scratch.

Add a CTA on Your About Us Page

Yeah, you read right. The About Us page is often one of the most underrated yet powerful pages on your website. Its conversion potential is simply mind-blowing. If you’re not putting it to work, let’s just say you’re leaving loads of cash on the table.

Think about it for a moment. How often do you visit the About Us page of business websites you’re interested in? Probably, more often than you would care to admit.

When people visit and browse through a site they care about or whose content has piqued their interest, the next step is usually the About Us page to learn more about what the business is about. It primes them to expect more from your site. When they want more, they demand more – which inevitably translates into cold hard cash from site sales.

While your "About Us" page may not convince visitors to purchase something right away, adding a Call-To-Action (CTA) will likely encourage them to sign up for a newsletter. That way, you can get into their inbox every couple of days and eventually convert them.

Create a Personalized CTA

Here’s where most people get it wrong when coming up with CTAs for their blog – creating generic “sign-up for our newsletter today” – type calls to action. Now, if you’re like most people, the moment those pop-ups or slide-ins appear on your screen, your first instinct is to close them. Many people find them distracting and downright annoying.

Now, here’s the hack. Most people visiting your site are probably there because of a Google query that directed them to your site.

For instance, let's say that they’re there because they have websites of their own and are looking for foolproof strategies on how to monetize a blog. Let’s also say that that particular blog niche accounts for the majority of traffic you get to your site.

So, your CTA needs to be personalized to cater to that particular audience. Why not include something like: “Click here to download a blog monetization toolkit for your website”. It’s simple and straight-to-the-point.

Keep in mind, though, that you need to create high-quality content that addresses your site visitors' needs for this to work effectively in your favor. That way, once they subscribe to your newsletter, it'll feel less like a gimmicky advertisement, meaning they’ll be less likely to unsubscribe the moment they get the first one. It’s all about strategy, people – STRATEGY!

Create a Slide-in or Pop-up for Every Page of Your Site

Now, before you rubbish this method, listen up. We’re not talking about those early 00s gimmicky “Lose weight in 10 DAYS” pop-up ads that would appear on every page of a site you were browsing. If that’s what you’re doing, well, you need to stop it – now.

We’re talking about an on-site retargeted pop-up ad – the kind that displays to users after they’ve spent a certain amount of time browsing your site; the relevant kind that shows up once a visitor has scrolled a certain percentage down the page; the kind that is related to the content they're viewing on your site; the kind that appears the moment said user tries to leave your site having spent X amount of time there.

Those are the kind of pop-ups we’re talking about. If timed just right, you’ll be able to entice visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, without interrupting a purchasing decision in the process.

Create More Landing Pages

Is there such a thing as “too many landing pages” on your site? Well, if they’re ALL the same, then yes – it can be a very bad thing. Again, we can’t stress the importance of personalization.

Let’s say you have a food blog whose content predominantly revolves around healthy recipes you can make at home. You can see why having a landing page with the “Top 5 steak recipes you can try” may not appeal to someone who’s specifically looking for vegan recipes.

Recognize the fact that everyone who lands on your site is looking for something different. So, create individual landing pages that address the specific needs of your audience demographics. The more personalized your landing pages are, the more sign-ups you’ll get.

Use Sarcasm or Humor in Your CTA

The internet is flooded with those generic “Yes” or “No” CTAs to sign up to email lists. Why not try injecting some personality into them?

If you have an affiliate site that’s marketing winter wear, adding something like “No, thanks, I’d rather freeze my butt off,” underneath a prominent "Yes, sign me up, please!" would be more effective in incentivizing your visitors to subscribe. Or, at the very least, chuckle a bit before clicking the “No thanks” button. You’ll be surprised at how effective this list-building strategy is in getting people to subscribe.

4. Sponsored Content and Sponsored Posts

Quick disclaimer: If the mere thought reaching out to big brands and companies scares the hell out of you, then this may not be the thing for you. But, if your desire to make money from your website supersedes this fear, then keep reading. You’re sitting on a potential gold mine.

First off, let’s get one thing clear. Sponsored content and sponsored posts may sound the same, but they are slightly different. Here’s how.

When you’re creating sponsored content, you would essentially be reaching out to brands; giving them a bit of background on who you are and what you’re about; showing them your blog and the kind of content you post; then asking them to sponsor your content – any content – in exchange for money.

On the other hand, with sponsored posts, you would create content that’s solely focused on promoting the sponsor.

These are both forms of influencer marketing. Now, you don’t have to be a content creator on YouTube or Instagram to be an influencer. You can use your blogging platform for content marketing if you have some level of influence over your readership.

Here's the kicker: Contrary to what you might think, you don't need to have millions of visitors to your website to land a sponsorship deal. You just need to:

     a)  Find sponsors who have the financial muscle to pay for a promotion
     b)  Be upfront and transparent about your intentions
     c)  Justify the value you’re giving them in relation the amount of money you’re charging them for it

The key thing to remember is to package your offer well and create great content on your blog that makes them want to partner with you. So, what does that look like?

How to Make Your WordPress Blog Sponsorship-Worthy

While it would be great to land a sponsorship deal right away, it’s a lot harder if you’re just starting, in which case, an affiliate program would be a better, more feasible alternative.

Brands willing to pay for sponsored content or sponsored posts are buying exposure. So, they’re looking for sites that already have considerable blog traffic and engagement. As we mentioned before, your blog doesn’t need to have millions of visitors. But, having a couple hundred won’t cut it either.

The sweet spot would be somewhere in the realm of 10,000 to 100,000. Some brands would even be willing to work with you if you consistently get 5,000 visitors in a month. As long as your audience represents the demographic they’re trying to reach, you’re good to go.

With that being said, here are the top ways to make your blog sponsorship-worthy.

Keep It Clean and Up-to-Date

Your blog shouldn’t be a cluttered mess. Check that everything is easy to find and that your posts are categorized appropriately. Make it clean, easy-to-navigate, and easy-to-read. And, for goodness sake, keep it up-to-date by posting frequently!

Build Your Site’s Domain Authority

Building your domain authority means making sure that your ranks on Google for certain keywords. One way to do this would be to use proven SEO strategies to optimize every single piece of content you post on your site.

Regardless of how great your content is, if you don’t optimize it for search engines, no one’s ever going to see it. Sponsors want to know that your site shows up for the specific keywords related to their products and services.

Leverage Social Media

Enhance your social media visibility. You might be wondering what this has to do with your affiliate site. Well, most brands use social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to gauge what level of influence and reach you have over your audience.

So, while they may not be paying for a social media post, they want to see how your target audience engages with you on those platforms. Chances are, if your audience loves your social media content and actively engages with your account daily, the same would translate across your website blog posts.

Add an Advertising Page

Add a page to your blog that displays your advertising stats. Sponsors are interested in the numbers. They want information about your audience demographics. They want a bit of insight into your website stats like the average number of visitors you get, your site’s domain authority, the number of page views for specific kinds of content, media appearances, and any other information that gives your site authority.

You can even display the types of sponsorships you’re open to, any policies you may have on such partnerships, and what you would typically charge to create sponsored content or posts. That way, a company knows right away whether or not you're a great fit for what they want to achieve. Remember, all the information you post on an advertising page should paint your blog in a positive light to make sponsors want to work with you.

Pros

  • Sponsored content significantly outperforms display ads
  • You get higher engagement
  • Higher engagement equals more traffic which in turn leads to higher lead and conversion rates

Cons

  • Requires you to hone your pitching and outreach skills, and get out of your shy bubble

5. Sell an Online Course

Online courses remain the single most profitable blog monetization strategy in existence to date. It’s still the one piece of content on websites that subscribers value and are willing to pay for. There are two major reasons for this.

The first has to do with the high perceived value of courses. Education has always been and still is extremely valuable and exclusive. It’s the one thing people are willing to pay top dollar for. This explains why you can comfortably charge upwards of $100 for an online course and get a surprisingly high number of people willing to pay for it.

The second has to do with just how fast it is to monetize your blog with a course. If you've already built a sizable audience and have quite a bit of content already posted on your site, it’s an easy way to generate passive income.

All you have to do is repurpose your content, structure it into an online course, slap a reasonable price tag on it, publish it on your site, and wait for the revenue to start streaming in. You will have to market it of course.

Pros

  • Online courses have huge profit-making potential
  • You can create it in any format you like
  • You can repurpose the content you already have on your site

Cons

  • A ton of work is required to create a course from scratch

How to Create an Online Course for Your Blog

Creating an online course will be a lot of work, at first. But the great thing about it is you can sell it for years to come. Alternatively, you could use it as a lead magnet by making it available to site visitors for free. It ultimately depends on what your long term goal is.

Here are some useful tips you can use to create a great online course.

Identify Your Audience’s Pain Points

The first thing you need to do is identify a problem you can solve. Now, we’re not talking world peace here – although, if you have a solution for it, well, knock yourself out. We’re referring to your audience’s pain points.

By now, you already have a solid grasp on who your audience is, what they like, and the challenges they are currently grappling with. You already have critical insight into what makes them tick. Addressing these pain points is what should form the basis of your online course.

The top-selling online courses are in high demand for the simple reason that they offer a solution to a problem that people are willing to pay for. Now, you may think you know what issues your readers are currently facing, but you could also be way off the mark – for some unbeknownst reason.

The best way to get this information would be to ask. You could send out a survey to your email list and ask your subscribers to share what the one issue they are struggling with right now is. You could also add it to your CTA at the end of a post and ask readers to comment on what major thing they’re grappling with at the moment.

The feedback you get from your survey will advise what the subject matter of your course will be.

Pre-Sell the Course Before You Create It

Before you go ahead and spend a considerable amount of time and resources building an online course that you’re not entirely convinced people will spend money on, why not pre-sell it first? It may sound a little crazy, but here’s why it is important.

Drumming up sales for a new product/service takes time. It requires a lot of PR, advertising, word-of-mouth, and several other sales and marketing tactics before it begins to gain traction. Online courses are no different.

Preselling gets the word out before you build the course. That way, you get to validate whether your course addresses your audience’s needs. Plus, you get valuable feedback from early adopters to know if there are any tweaks you need to make in your approach.

Choose a Platform to Host Your Course

The next step involves choosing a platform to launch your course. On the one hand, you could host it on your own blog. Or you could opt for a third-party platform like Teachable, which is a subscription-based service but is free, to begin with. Alternatively, you could go with an online course directory like Udemy, which offers the best of both worlds.

Once you’ve decided on the platform you’re going to use, create a course, and upload it. Of course, a monetization blog post isn't the place to give the blow-by-blow description of how to do this. But there are several tutorials you’ll find online that teach you how to build an online course from scratch.

Don’t Launch the Entire Course at a Go

Again, this all goes back to the idea of pre-selling. Launch your course in phases. Start by creating the first two sections, pre-sell it, and get feedback before progressing to the next ones. This ensures that you end up with a high-quality product by the end of the process.

Direct Your Website Traffic to Your Course

As soon as you’ve created 1 to 2 sections of your course, you’ll need to start directing traffic from your blog site to it. You can do this by:

  • Using an email launch sequence to launch your course;
  • Offering the course to your audience at the end of a webinar;
  • Creating a banner ad on your blog with a link to your course.

6. Sell eBooks

eBooks are a relatively quick and easy pathway to monetize your blog and certainly easier than developing an entire course from scratch. All you have to do is develop a handbook or guide that’s aligned with the type of content you produce on your blog.

The simplest way to create one would be through MS Word or Google Docs, export it to PDF, and upload it to your site. You can even publish it for people to read through apps like Kindle and even sell it on Amazon. Granted, a Kindle book may not exactly be a big-ticket item, but if done right, can generate a pretty decent amount in revenue.

Pros

  • You can repurpose content that you’ve already created for your blog
  • Doesn’t require any special skills or resources to make
  • It’s a quick and easy way to monetize your blog

Cons

  • An eBook isn't a big-ticket item compared to an online course

7. Membership Site

Here’s a dirty little secret about monetization on the internet – ads don’t pay much unless you have massive, and we mean massive amounts of traffic to your site. On the flip side, however, membership sites have the potential to generate way more than what you would get in ad revenue.

Seriously – it makes using ads for monetization look like a joke.

There's a catch though. To create a successful membership site, you need to have content on there that’s worth paying for. It’s all about delivering value to site members. If all you do is post glorified blog content, well, let’s just say you’re going to have a hard time monetizing – which is ideally what you’re trying to do.

There are several different membership sites you can create. Here’s a brief overview of each of them.

Continual Content Site

This model entices members to keep subscribing to the site to gain access to new premium content as it is developed. You can include different membership tiers to encourage users to stay for the long haul if they want to move up the content ladder.

You could also adopt a “drip-feed” model where different members have different levels of access to content depending on their membership duration.

All-in-One Subscription Model

In this plan, members of your site would be required to pay one flat fee every month to access every piece of content on your site. It doesn’t have any membership tiers.

Freemium Site

This is the most common membership model that many site owners adopt. You would give your members a free trial period to access some (not all) of your content and test out some of the features of your site. Then once the free plan expires, they would eventually transition to a paid membership once they see the value they get from joining your site.

Pros

  • A membership site can be a great source of passive income
  • It allows you to create value and generate recurring revenue
  • There’s the implicit assumption that membership sites have something special that’s worth paying for. People associate paywalls with high-quality content

Cons

  • It is initially quite difficult to get members to sign up
  • It requires that you update the content on your site frequently to keep them interested

8. Freelance Blogging

Okay, quick confession – this particular method isn't strictly a blog monetization strategy for your site, per se. It is, however, an easy way to make money from creating content for other blogs.

You’ve probably heard the age-old saying: Behind every successful blog is a freelance blogger. Okay, we just made that up, to be honest, but it's 100 percent accurate. You'd be surprised by the number of people who need help with their blogs and business websites.

If you’ve been writing content for your blog, you can leverage those same blogger skills to create content for other websites. There are several people out there who make a pretty decent amount of money every month from blogging for other sites as freelancers.

So, while you won't be monetizing your site, you can apply that knowledge and expertise to make money by helping someone else create captivating content for theirs. Hey, as long as you have money coming in, that’s ultimately what matters, right?

Pros

  • Huge money-making potential since several people need content for their websites
  • Leverages the skills you’ve already acquired when you were developing content for your own blog
  • You can create guest posts for sites with higher domain authority and get them to link back to yours to increase traffic

Cons

  • Requires a huge amount of outreach and in most cases, the content you create for other sites may not have any positive impact on your own brand

9. Sell a Digital Product to Your Audience

The success of any blog monetization strategy relies in large part on your ability to offer a solution to a problem your audience is currently grappling with. This solution doesn’t always have to be packaged in the form of an affiliate product. It could lie in a digital product like a software solution or some type of download.

If you have any digital skills that go beyond blogging and creating eBooks, you can package these and sell them to your audience. Maybe you know how to code and can develop websites from scratch. A great idea would be to create WordPress themes and sell them to your audience.

Perhaps there’s a particular WordPress plugin you created that’s worked remarkably well to help you optimize your website for search engines. You can sell that too.

You can even create audio and/or video recordings with step-by-step instructions on how to solve a particular problem, upload it to your website, and charge your audience a reasonable fee to download it. That also counts as a digital product.

The possibilities are endless.

Pros

  • No inventory shortage or shipping hassle
  • You make 100 percent of the sale price since you’ll be selling it directly on your website
  • On-the-fly delivery

Cons

  • You need to develop a strong marketing strategy for your product to stand out from the competition

10. Sell a Physical Product

Another great way to monetize your blog is to sell a physical product directly to your audience. You can start by selling a few products on your website and eventually upgrade to a fully-fledged eCommerce platform.

Depending on the niche your blog content is focused on, you can start selling products and merchandise that specifically cater to your audience’s needs. After all, you probably know them in a way that most retailers and manufacturers never will.

Say, for instance, that you usually blog about common issues a lot of first time moms grapple with. Maybe you’ve discussed tangible solutions to help them overcome those challenges. You could set up an eCommerce store that sells mom and baby items that address those particular needs based on the feedback you get from the blog engagement.

Pros

  • You can scale up and down depending on the consumer trends and fluctuating market demand for particular items
  • Since you understand your audience’s needs, you only stock the products they value, which in turn, equates to higher sales
  • Low overhead costs

Cons

  • You need to invest in a solid IT security infrastructure to safeguard against malicious attacks on your site by hackers. This could have far-reaching legal and financial implications on your eCommerce business

Turn Your Website Into a Cash Cow

Now that we’ve explored the top money-making strategies and you understand how to monetize a blog, all you have to do is implement them. No rule says you have to use one single method on its own.

The idea is to have multiple ways for your site to generate passive income. The more methods you can implement, the more money you’re likely to make.

If you need a little help monetizing your site, we happen to be experts. Reach out to us today and we'll help you develop an end-to-end content marketing solution to increase traffic to your blog and optimize it for you. Start making some real cash today.

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Madeleine

Madeleine is the driving force behind the business management and growth of Content Refined. As a young entrepreneur, she is always looking for different ways to improve the business for her clients and for her employees.