How to Make Money Blogging – The Definitive Guide for 2019
The internet is full of insane possibilities. Strange but true, one of those possibilities is making millions of dollars writing pithy words on a laptop.
We know this because we are living it.
In fact, Alex and I went from making $0 blogging to making over $100,000 per month in our first 3 years:
You can read our income reports for more details on our blogging income on a month-to-month basis.
And we’re not the only ones. You can check out our post of successful bloggers to see 20 other examples of people making $40,000+ per month just from blogging.
Alex and I now teach millions of people how to make money blogging every day.
People like Natalie Bacon.
How Natalie Went From 3,000/Month to Over $20,000/Month Blogging
Lauren, of Create and Go, and Natalie (right) at a conference.
Natalie wasn’t a six-figure blogger when we met her.
Not even close.
She was making an average of $2-3,000/month blogging about finance and personal development at NatalieBacon.com, and while this may sound like a lot to some of you, it wasn’t enough to support her full-time.
Especially with $206,000 in student loan debt from law school…
Natalie chose to take a 50% pay cut from her job as a lawyer to work as a Certified Financial Planner and have more time for her blog.
As two people who worked full-time at jobs while also working full-time on our blog, we know how stressful this is.
When we first met Natalie, she was tired of feeling overworked and tired of not making enough money with her blog.
She had big dreams of quitting her full-time job and become a full-time blogger too, but she didn’t know how to get there.
Natalie was using some of the strategies that we outline in this article below, including affiliate marketing, but she didn’t have all of the pieces of the puzzle yet.
Fast forward a few months, and Natalie successfully launched her first eBook to her audience.
Then her first course…
And then her second course…
And then her THIRD course!
Since implementing our blog monetization strategies, Natalie has been able to…
- Quit her full-time job to blog full time
- Earn an average of $10,000 – $20,000/month with her blog
- Start a quickly growing YouTube Channel
- And she has even started her own podcast!
She has been able to design her dream life and have the time and money freedom to LIVE it!
How Faith Went From $0 to $2,700 Blogging in Three Months
Faith Hawkes, of South Florida, had already started her blog and had a decent foundation before she found us at Create and Go.
Faith blogs about mental health, specifically anxiety and depression, at Radical Transformation Project.
Despite having taken a couple of blogging courses and putting in a lot of time and work on her blog, she still wasn’t seeing any rewards for her efforts.
She had found an affiliate product that she believed her audience would love and really benefit from, but she had no idea how to market and sell that product.
With the blog monetization strategies outlined in this article, Faith was able to go from $0 to $2,700 in just three months!
So, we know a thing or two when it comes to making money blogging, and we think this post is going to rock your world!
Whether you’re a newbie looking to get started or a seasoned blogging veteran looking for the latest tips and tricks, this guide on how to make money blogging is going to have it all.
In this article, we’re going to show you the exact steps that we took and helped Natalie through to earn this kind of money blogging!
These lessons in this guide are the culmination of the knowledge that we have gained over the last three years of blogging and they stem from our multiple failures and successes, tears of sadness and of joy, and LOTS of trial and error.
This post is a beast, so let’s start with a table of contents.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Before you can make any money with a blog, you need to make sure that you have the right fundamentals in place.
In this section, we're going to discuss some common questions you may have and make sure you've got everything set up properly, including...
- Choosing your blog niche
- Selecting a great domain name for your new blog
- Getting started with the right hosting company and blogging platform
It's imperative that you have the right building blocks before you take your first steps towards traffic and monetization.
For all of you preferred video learners out there, here is a video on How to Make Money Blogging from our Youtube Channel below.
Before we dive deeper into our journey and show you the step-by-step process we took to getting there, there are some common questions that we want to answer to make sure we’re all on the same page here.
What Does a Blogger Do?
Other than the obvious writing of blog posts like this, there all sorts of random things bloggers do.
On a day-to-day basis, blogging can include anything from writing and editing WordPress posts, creating new products for your audience, taking photos of new outfits, doing outreach to other bloggers and websites, going to blogging conferences, etc.
It depends on what stage you're at in your blogging career, but the main job a blogger has relates to content creation. That includes blog content, email content, social media content, and any other way that you are communicating with your readers.
Most days though are pretty casual and involve a lot of working at home on my computer in my comfy clothes and simply tackling the most important task on my to-do list.
How Much Do Bloggers Make?
Honestly... Some make a lot, some make very little, and some make none at all.
It depends on a variety of factors, including how hard you work, what monetization strategies you are using, what niche you are in, how you are marketing what you are selling, and so much more.
We do have some examples of successful blogs you can check out and some of the niches people find success in are BIZZARE (hint - garden weeds).
As you read through this guide on blog monetization, you will see that some methods have the potential to earn you a lot more income than others. We've included examples both from our experiences and from our blogging students to help illustrate this fact.
How Long Does It Take to Make Money Blogging?
This is all going to depend on you - more specifically your skills and your work ethic. Like anything good worth having, it takes work and time to achieve something worthwhile.
Some of our students make money from their blog within the first month or two and some take 6 months or more. We'll tell you exactly how to do it, but it's more about what you do with that information that determines your results.
Anyone can make serious money blogging with the right tools and plan of action in place.
You can read our story below to learn how quickly we did it!
Our Blogging Story
Hey! Alex Nerney and Lauren McManus here!
We met in Dallas, Texas a few years ago when Alex was a full-time personal trainer and I, Lauren, was working as a Certified Public Accountant.
We swiped right on Tinder one fateful night and ended up with two successful blogs out of the deal! Who knew!
The first blog that we started was in the health and fitness space and long story short — it was a big fat failure.
But we didn’t let that stop us.
Despite all rational thoughts, security, and family objections, we were determined to make this “online thing” happen and stop trading our hours for dollars at our full-time jobs.
- We wanted to earn more money before we were too old to enjoy it.
- We wanted to work on something we were passionate about.
- But more than anything in the world, we wanted FREEDOM!
Freedom to travel the world. Freedom to live life on our terms — not bound to jobs in dimly lit cubicles while building other people’s dreams.
So, we started another health and wellness blog and on January 5, 2016, we quit our jobs to work on it full-time – before we were making a dime.
Talk about scary. Our family and friends thought we were crazy, and we were worried they might be right. We had enough savings to last us a year and had no real plan other than to make this thing work in whatever way we could.
This blog had had a small following, a few blog posts, and one big problem.
We were making virtually no money.
Actually, we ended the month of January at -$207.33.
Fast forward to today, just three years later, and we now make over $100,000/month blogging between both of our blogs.
Okay, are you ready!? Let’s dive in to beginning steps of how to make money with a blog!
There are a few initial steps to get started, so make sure you’ve done all of these before moving on to the next section.
Choose a Blog Niche
This first step is often where a LOT of people get stuck and what can ultimately lead a lot of people to procrastinate getting started at all.
What the heck should I blog about!?
There are a few different factors to consider when choosing a blog niche, and one of the most important is the potential for profitability.
I’m sure there is a niche group of people interested in the fine art of tossing potato sacks; however, it’s probably not a very profitable topic.
The key is to align your passion (or interests) with what people want and need. How can you use your knowledge to help others?
Lauren and I personally love health and fitness, so we created our first blog around a couple of sub-niche topics, yoga and weight loss, that we knew people actually would pay money for.
It’s important not to overthink this or get hung up on “wondering what the heck your passion is.”
Please do NOT spend weeks or months soul-searching for your passion.
If you don’t feel like you are particularly “passionate” about a specific topic, think about what you have experience in.
Another reason why we chose health and fitness was that Alex had several years of experience as a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist. I was a CPA and had several years of experience in the accounting field, so I could have easily started a blog in that niche.
Another way to look at it is to think about what topic your friends and family would say that you can’t shut up about?
Circling back… For me, that was definitely health and fitness — reason #48923 we went into that blog niche.
Decide on a Blog Name
Once you’ve decided what topic you want to blog about, it’s time to settle on a great domain name for your blog.
Most good blog names fall into one of two categories:
- Your blog name contains your name.
- Your blog name is more descriptive in nature.
If you want your domain name to include your name, you can use your first and last name or some combination of your name and a word or two that describes your blog topic.
If you don’t want to use your name, you can get a little more creative and use some descriptive words in your blog name. These words should describe your blog topic in some way.
You can (and we encourage you to) get creative during this process.
Pro Tip: Your domain name shouldn’t be too long, hard to spell, or hard to pronounce.
We failed on a couple of these with our first blog name, Avocadu — hard to spell AND pronounce (*face palm*).
In hindsight, we would have gone with a different blog name knowing what we know now, but despite this, we were still able to earn over $20,000/month with that blog.
The point here is your blog name does matter, but it’s not something to seriously stress over either.
The last tip we have is that most blog names you’ll decide on are probably taken. Some people and companies purposely buy up popular domain names and resell them to consumers at a profit.
We do NOT recommend purchasing a domain for a lot of money when you’re just getting started. If you’re positive on a name, try a “.co” instead.
For example, when we started Create and Go, createandgo.com was already taken, so we purchased “createandgo.co” instead. We also liked that it had a little ring to it!
Using a “.com” is always going to be better because it’s what people are used to typing into their browsers, but tons of companies are moving to “.co” in recent years.
We also outline some additional steps in our article on selecting a great blog name.
Start Your Blog
Phew! Now that you’ve got your blog niche and domain name picked out, it’s time to actually START your blog!
These next few steps are really important, because you need to make sure you choose the right blogging platform, hosting company, and get everything set up properly without spending too much extra time on it.
We outline all of these steps and more in our step-by-step guide to starting a successful blog.
The first step to starting your blog is to choose your blogging platform.
You can think of a blogging platform as the “bare bones” or foundation of your blog. It’s the structure that holds all of the images, coding, and everything else that keeps your website together.
There are tons of different platforms out there that you can build websites with, but they are aren’t all ideal for bloggers. I mean, think about it…
A blogger writing posts every week and selling products online has widely different objectives than a website for a hair salon that simply needs to communicate pricing and contact information.
You need a platform specifically suited for blogging, and WordPress.org is the #1 most widely used platform in the world for bloggers.
It’s what this website is using along with 60 million other websites.
Before you get started with WordPress, you need to choose a blog hosting company to host your blog on WordPress.
It can get a little confusing when you starting talking about platforms and hosting, so we’re going to simplify this as much as possible.
All you really need to know about blog hosting is that it’s the company that houses all of the servers that basically takes your blog “online.” Think of this:
There are a variety of hosting companies for blogs and websites, and most of them are fairly comparable as far as pricing and services are concerned.
Our personal favorite is Bluehost, because…
- They have 24/7 customer service that can help you out whenever you need it.
- We’ve been using it for over 3 years on multiple blogs.
- We had a nightmare experience with another common hosting company that most people rave about.
- You can get started for as low as $2.75/month.
Bluehost and WordPress also go together like peanut butter and jelly because you can install WordPress on your blog with just one click when setting up your Bluehost account
You can start a blog with Bluehost in less than 30 minutes, and you’ll need to complete this step before moving on to step two (blog themes).
You can also follow along with our comprehensive guide on how to start a blog for the step-by-step process of setting up your hosting account and WordPress blog.
Chapter 2. Design Your Blog Correctly
This section related directly back to what we said about some bloggers making money in their first month or two of blogging compared to others that take months or more.
The design stage is unfortunately where we see a TON of bloggers get hung up and spend WAY too much time. Your time is ultimately your most valuable resource as a blogger and if you're burning time, you're burning money.
If you're interested in making money with your blog as quickly as possible, you need to get this right the first time.
Honestly, I think the BIGGEST mistake that we see most new bloggers make in the first few months is spending an obscene amount of time designing their blog.
We know this because we made the mistake ourselves. Over and over again.
I’ve personally spent the better part of a week focused on creating a logo that we ultimately didn’t end up using anyway.
The truth is that you’ll end up changing your blog design 500 times over the course of the first year.
So, don’t spend an entire day trying to get your featured images to display just right or get that perfect banner image designed exactly how you want it.
Choose a Great Blog Theme
One of the best things that you can do to help with the blog design stage is to choose a great theme for your blog.
It will cost you a little up front, but you will end up savings hundreds or thousands in wasted time.
Free blog themes are incredibly limited as far as features go, and most new bloggers end up wasting days trying to get their free themes to perform like paid themes do.
Our favorite blog theme are as follows:
Divi theme, by Elegant Themes, is a great theme for beginners because it’s super user-friendly and very customizable. It will help you design a beautiful blog, with tons of personality and customizations, in no time.
Genesis Framework is for those looking for maximum efficiency and site speed.
The problem is that it’s not a very user-friendly theme and generally requires some hired help in the form of additional CSS code to make it look beautiful and professional.
Our health and wellness website is designed with Genesis:
But we waited to upgrade to this more advanced theme when we could afford to hire a website designer to design it for us.
Genesis is what we use now to run both of our six-figure blogs, but it’s important to note that we were able to achieve six figures with both blogs without this theme.
A beginner-friendly and customizable theme like Divi is the best route to go for beginners.
Consider Site Speed
In the age of the internet, site speed MATTERS.
If your page takes more than a couple seconds to load, your readers have bounced before they’ve even read the first sentence on your blog.
There are a LOT of factors that go into page and site speed, including your blog theme, plugins, page builder, images, etc.
There are also various blogging tools to help with site speed. Here are some of our favorites that we personally use:
- Optimization Plugins: Optimus, Cache Enabler, and WP-Optimize
- Image Resizing: BeFunky
- Image Compression: Optimizilla and TinyPNG
As far as images are concerned, you generally want to have the smallest file size possible without too much loss of quality. To do this, you should resize AND compress your images before uploading them to your site.
Also, remember that too many plugins can slow down your website, so make sure you are only downloading plugins that are absolutely necessary to run your website.
You can view a list of our recommended WordPress plugins here.
Avoid fancy plugins that provide quick fixes and unnecessary design elements when possible.
Optimize for Mobile
Because most of us spend our time designing our blogs and writing articles from a desktop or laptop, we tend to forget about how our sites look on mobile.
In general, 60-70% of users visiting your blog are viewing it on a mobile device.
This means that the way your site displays on mobile is FAR more important than how it looks on desktop.
Here are some tips for optimizing your content for mobile:
- Don’t make the user scroll down too far before they get to your content.
- Avoid pesky pop-ups as they can lead to higher bounce rates.
- Use a mobile-responsive theme so that your site will adjust to various screen sizes automatically.
- Check all images and other unique design elements on mobile to make sure they display properly.
Here is a screenshot of what our content looks like on mobile:
ALWAYS CHECK YOUR SITE ON MOBILE after you write new articles and make any and all other changes to your blog.
Other Blog Design Tips
There are a few other tips related to blog design that we think are worth mentioning at this stage.
The first one is that we recommend to always strive for “simple and professional” over “fancy and beautiful.”
Remember that you are running a business and the focus of your business as a blog should be on the CONTENT – not your design.
As such, the design of your blog should always be simple, professional, and designed for efficiency.
Keep your content organized in such a way that it’s abundantly clear when someone hits your website what they should do (i.e. read your content, navigate to other pages, take your call-to-action, etc.).
Some other tips to accomplish this include…
- Use a clear, readable font like Open Sans, Lato, or Roboto. Check Google Fonts for some ideas.
- Stick to shorter paragraphs with 1-2 sentences. It will make your content easier to scan and read.
- Use large, easily identifiable headlines and sub-headlines to break up your content.
Messy, overly complex designs will cause your readers to get distracted while reading your content and lead to higher bounce rates.
Chapter 3. Create Content People Need
It's time to answer the million-dollar question: "What should I write about? "
It's rather simple, really.
If you want to make money blogging and don’t want to spend a fortune on ads, there is only one type of content you need to focus on.
Now that we’ve been blogging for over 3 years now, we’ve pretty much written every type of content under the sun. And unfortunately, a lot of that content has served absolutely no purpose whatsoever.
We once wrote an article for our health and wellness blog on PURPLE POWERHOUSE FOODS…
It can be difficult to decide what type of blog content to write and what you think will catch people’s attention (and hold it).
That’s why you don’t leave it up to chance or trial and error.
Most of the content that you should create should be based on what people are looking for.
This type of content is created for search engines. The process is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
In a nutshell, you are creating content that has a better chance of being found on search engines (like Google, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.).
How do you know what type of content people are looking for?
Using Keyword Research
There are some great keyword research tools out there that will help you find what keywords and terms people are searching for related to a particular topic.
Moz’s Keyword Explorer
Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a comprehensive keyword tool that provides a ton of information on various keywords, including:
- search volume
- ranking difficulty
- click-through-rate percentages
- other keyword suggestions
- and more
It’s pretty pricey, so I would recommend starting with the free 30-day trial and trying to get as much keyword information as you can during that trial period.
If you can afford it, it’s a great tool to have in your arsenal and the best one on the market for keyword research.
Another great keyword research tool that rivals Moz is called SEMRush.
This is our preferred software because of the additional features that it comes with, including:
- domain analysis
- backlink audits
- site audits
- content analyzers
- brand monitoring
- and so much more!
It’s also pretty pricey but absolutely necessary if you’re really serious about your SEO game.
Other Keyword Research Options
Google’s Keyword Planner is great, but it’s pretty complicated to use if you aren’t running ads on their platform.
If you’re using Pinterest for blog traffic or planning on it, the Pinterest search tool is a great way to find suggested blog topics to write about.
Using Pinterest search is far less technical and it won’t give you analytics on the particular keywords, but it’s still a great way to generate blog content ideas.
Let’s look at an example.
When you type in a keyword like “Yoga Poses” into Pinterest, you’ll see some of the most popular pins at the top as well as other top searches related to your keyword:
This tells us that when people search for “Yoga Poses,” they are also very often searching for “Yoga Poses for Beginners” and “Yoga Poses for Flexibility.”
This is how we first began deciding on what type of content to create because we were driving most of our traffic through Pinterest. We have many articles on our health and wellness blog on the yoga keywords above.
Do some research to see what some of the suggested topics are on Pinterest and pay attention to common themes and headlines when you’re scrolling through the pins in the Pinterest search results.
It’s best to use a combination of all of the methods outlined in this section for optimal results.
Creating Content with Purpose
Remember that every piece of content that you write should have a purpose. By purpose, we mean:
- Make a sale.
- Get an email address.
- Get new people to a community group
- Provide TONS of value for your readers
- Sometimes all of the above.
Don’t just post about randomness or what you ate for breakfast that day because you’re a “blogger.”
If you shift your focus on creating incredibly valuable content that people are searching for, you will find it hard NOT to make money online.
Chapter 4. Drive Traffic to Your Blog and Start Building Your Fanbase
If you started your blog and hopped right in to driving traffic with Facebook and Instagram, you'll want to pay attention closely to this section.
The quantity of traffic isn't the only thing you should consider here.
The quality of the traffic you are driving is far more important, and not all social and search platforms were created equal when it comes to driving traffic to blogs.
There are a lot of different ways to drive traffic to a blog…
- Google SEO
- Guest Blogging
- Email Drops
Most people immediately hop on to Facebook and Instagram because those are the two most popular platforms on the Internet. While this is true, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to provide you with the best source of traffic to your blog.
Here is our first piece of advice on this topic.
Start with ONE Source of Traffic First
If you try to get great at every platform, you’ll end up sucking at all of them.
A jack of all trades is a master of none.
That’s not actually the full quote, but I think it best illustrates the concept.
One of the single most important reasons why we were able to achieve success so quickly is through our efforts on Pinterest.
Below is a screenshot of the traffic from our health and wellness blog so far in 2018. As you can see, we average about 200,000 views/month just from Pinterest alone.
And we only got REALLY good at Pinterest because we chose to ignore all other platforms and REALLY focus in on Pinterest.
It wasn’t until we felt that we had really mastered Pinterest that we moved on to Google SEO and other platforms. Even now, there are still platform that we avoid (Instagram) because they just don’t fit our business model very well.
And that’s okay. Please don’t feel like you need to do everything.
Start with ONE social or search platform and only move on to another one when you feel like you’ve mastered the first.
How Do I Choose a Traffic Source?
There are tons of different factors to consider here, including:
- Type of platform (search engine vs. social)
- Demographics of most users
- Ability to get people OFF of the platform (and onto your site)
- Ads vs. organic traffic
You need to consider all of these before deciding where to focus most of your time.
Let’s look at the 5 most popular platforms and some basic pros and cons to each.
Facebook has the most users of any social media platform, but it also has the highest competition for blog traffic.
Recent algorithm changes have made it VERY difficult to drive organic traffic to blog posts through Facebook, and there has been a major shift towards video content and live content on the platform recently.
In addition, Facebook traffic is usually “one and done.” You post content, it gets shown to a number of users, and then it’s gone – buried down in the depths of the social feeds.
This means that in order to drive consistent traffic from Facebook, you have to post tons of the right content very frequently or use ads to drive traffic.
Paid traffic via Facebook is VERY expensive and not a good long-term strategy unless you have a positive ROI on the products that you are selling.
Google is similar to Facebook in that it has high competition and very expensive ads, but it is a search platform.
This provides an additional benefit of the potential for longer-lasting and more consistent traffic if you can get good at SEO.
It can be especially useful if you are in a niche that is a little more obscure or not as popular because there will be less competition for those keywords.
Instagram follows a similar pattern as above in that it has high competition and relatively expensive ads, but it does have a couple of key differences.
Images and videos are the names of the game on Instagram and it can be a GREAT platform for some niches like travel and fashion.
People are scrolling through their feed at lightning speed and they are generally looking for photos from close friends and family as well as inspiration from influencers.
In short, they want to look at pretty photos — not read your blog post.
And because of this, it can be VERY difficult to get people OFF of the platform.
Keep in mind that Instagram also has a much younger audience than most other platforms, so if your target market is baby boomers, your efforts are going to fall flat on this platform.
YouTube is a different animal entirely compared to the other platforms.
The competition is FAR lower because it’s much tougher for people to get in front of the camera.
This provides a higher barrier to entry and makes it much easier to drive traffic on the platform, but the fact that you are showing your face and actually talking to your followers also helps build a lot more trust with your audience.
This additional trust can help generate a lot more sales and has worked out very well for us with our YouTube Channel.
It’s also a search engine, so you have the added benefits of SEO on this platform as well.
The downside of YouTube for traffic is that similarly to Instagram, it can be very difficult to get people off of the platform.
They generally want to keep watching videos — not read your blog post.
The audience is also much younger on YouTube as well, so consider that when thinking about your target audience.
Last, but certainly not least, is our favorite traffic source for bloggers: Pinterest.
Although most people refer to Pinterest as a social media platform, it’s not really a social platform in the sense that people aren’t communicating much with each other.
It’s more of an idea generation platform where users save ideas and content for later – generally for their own personal reasons and not to share with others, although that does happen.
Pinterest, like YouTube and Google, is also a search engine, so that means evergreen content and targeted search traffic.
Perhaps the best part of Pinterest is that most marketers and businesses don’t understand it and underestimate its potential, which means that competition for traffic is MUCH lower.
While it’s an image-based platform like Instagram, the entire concept is built around sharing ideas – not just images. The platform is structured in a way that the whole point of the content shared is to click through to blog posts.
This makes it one of the BEST sources of traffic for bloggers, and you don’t have to worry much about video content because it doesn’t generally perform all that well on Pinterest.
Another factor to keep in mind regarding the demographics is that the majority of Pinterest users (more than 75%) are women, so you’ll want to consider that if your audience is primarily male.
If you’re interested in learning more about using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog, you can take our free 4-day Pinterest Marketing eCourse.
Chapter 5. Build an Email List
Raise your hand if you get too many emails!
We know you probably have a SERIOUS aversion to writing and sending emails to your readers. That's a common notion amongst most new bloggers, and Alex and I were no different when we started.
Well, it's time to shift your mindset because I'm here to tell you that you CANNOT afford to think this way as a blogger!
Building an email list should be one of your TOP priorities as a blogger, regardless of whether you’re a new blogger or you’ve been at it for years.
Most people think that making money with a blog is as easy as slapping a few products up in their articles and sitting back and waiting for the sales to roll in.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is, the vast majority of people won’t buy products without knowing a little bit about you first.
We even ran tests to track our links using ClickMeter to determine where the majority of our purchases were coming from. As you can see below, most of them were coming from our email lists:
An email list is one of the most valuable assets you have as a blogger. Here’s why.
Emails Help Build Trust with Your Audience
Emails provide a way for you to reach someone’s personal inbox on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis as you so choose. It’s another way to connect with your reader, and you can generally get a lot more personal with someone through an email vs. a blog post.
People that randomly land on your website are generally referred to as “cold traffic.” This means that the person doesn’t know you yet and it’s going to be much harder to make a sale from them.
On the other hand, “hot traffic” refers to people who know and trust you on a level that makes them much more likely to buy your products.
So how do we turn a “cold” buyer into a “hot” buyer?
Well, you need a way to connect with your audience on a more personal level. One of the best and easiest ways is through a sequence of emails, often called a “sales funnel.”
Good sales sequences are designed to provide a bunch of free value (content) up front to help build trust with your audience before you ask for a sale.
The higher the price of the product you are selling, the more trust you’ll need to build first and the more value you’ll need to provide up front.
An Email List is a Powerful Asset for Sales
If the Pinterest headquarters blew up tomorrow, we would undoubtedly lose a lot of our blog traffic instantly. Sales would immediately plummet and we would lose a lot of money.
BUT not all would be lost, because we have an email list of over 80,000 people that we have been building for over two years now.
An email list is an invaluable asset that you own and that can continue to generate sales for you even if your traffic dries up due to algorithm changes, external crises, or other circumstances out of your control.
Let’s say we send an email about a new $47 product to an email list of 40,000 people.
- 20% of those people open the email (8,000 people).
- 5% click the link to our product page (400 people).
- 3% convert (12 people buy the product).
With the above math, that one email has the power to instantly generate $564 in sales!
It adds up FAST.
How to Get Subscribers on Your Blog
Other than writing awesome blog content, you’ll need to take a few additional measures to turn your readers into subscribers.
The days of “Sign up for my newsletter!” are long gone. You need to compete for inbox attention in today’s internet-savvy world.
Step 1. Create a stellar lead magnet.
A lead magnet is just a fancy term for a “freebie” or other incentive that you offer your subscribers in exchange for their email list.
This can be a free guide, video, or tips or any other type of free content that you think your audience would be interested in.
You can also take it to the next level and turn it into an eBook or online course.
Step 2. Add opt-ins to your blog.
Next, you’ll want to add opt-ins to your blog so that people can sign up for your email list to get your freebie.
You can do this through forms (as seen below):
And through landing pages, which are external pages that you can link throughout your blog. Our 4-day eCourse on how to monetize a blog is a good example.
You’ll need additional software to create customizable opt-ins. Here are our favorite options for various types of opt-ins:
- In-text forms: ConvertKit
- Landing Pages: LeadPages or Clickfunnels
- Scroll mats and other opt-ins: AppSumo and ThriveLeads
The two examples that we provided above are set up through ConvertKit and LeadPages.
Step 3. Create an email sequence.
Lastly, you’ll need to create your first email sequence to send to your subscribers.
An email sequence is a series of emails that are set up to automatically send to your new subscribers.
This sequence can be however long you want and as many emails as you want. We recommend starting with a 4 to 7-day sequence in the beginning.
You should start out by introducing yourself to your audience and explaining what your blog is about. This is an important step in building trust with your readers.
Your additional emails should provide some free and valuable content to your audience that helps educate them on topics that you think they are most interested in.
One of the best investments you can make for your blog is to invest in a good email marketing service to store your emails and send emails to your subscribers.
- Best Paid Email Service: ConvertKit (what we use and recommend)
- Best Free Email Service: MailChimp (free up to 1,000 subscribers)
Chapter 6. Ask Your People What They Want and Need
The first step to actually making any actual money with your blog is to recommend relevant products to your audience.
By relevant, we mean products and services that your readers actually want and need.
But before you can do this, you have to figure out what the heck your audience is looking for!
Back to the “sit and wait” method that we discussed earlier… It’s not enough to link great products on your blog or even in your emails and wait for the internet money to roll in.
It doesn’t work that way and if it was that easy, making money in the blogging world would be super hard and ultra-competitive (and it’s really not).
In the beginning, Alex and I searched high and low for great products to recommend to our audience. We even created our own weight loss product that we thought was AWESOME.
We put our hearts and souls into it, and guess what?
No one bought it…
The problem was that we assumed what our readers wanted and needed and we were flat out wrong. We also assumed WHO our target audience was and we were wrong on that count as well.
At the time, we had already built up a small email list and a decent following from our Pinterest traffic.
If we had just straight up ASKED our audience what they wanted, we would have saved weeks of wasted time and money.
The problem with making assumptions is that they are always biased because you can’t be objective. Your big fat opinion is always going to get in the way.
The funny thing is — there wasn’t actually anything wrong with our product. It was a great product.
But our marketing message was entirely wrong because we didn’t know what the biggest problems our audience wanted to be solved (or who they even were) until we ASKED them.
Upon asking, we learned that the most active readers in our audience were middle-aged women struggling to lose weight.
Not only that, but we learned specific details about HOW they were trying to lose weight and how they were currently failing (i.e. what we could HELP them with).
Once we figured that out, we repackaged our product, changed our message, and DID get to watch the sales start rolling in!
How Can I Find Out What My Audience is Interested In?
There are a variety of ways you can do this depending on how established your blog is.
The best place that you can ask for feedback from your readers is through the emails that you send.
Because you have already begun to establish trust with your readers, they are more likely to respond to your emails when you ask them questions.
The best way to get this kind of feedback is to just directly ask a question at the end of your email(s).
It can be something as simple as “P.S. What’s the biggest problem you are currently facing with [insert blog topic here]?”
We asked this very question in our first email and were SHOCKED at how many responses we received. From the hundreds of email responses, we were able to learn exactly what the biggest issues our readers were facing when trying to lose weight.
If you don’t have an email list of subscribers yet, the next best place to get feedback is through comments on your blog posts.
This follows the same principle as above. At the end of your article, ask your readers a question and then tell them to leave their answer in the comments below the article.
If your theme doesn’t come with a great design for native comments, make sure to install a good comment plugin like wpDiscuz to make people more likely to use your comment forms.
Make sure to also emphasize that you’d LOVE to hear from them!
You’re less likely to get responses this way than through email and it will take a significant amount of traffic to receive some responses, but it’s still the next best place to get feedback.
You can also ask for feedback on ideas in Facebook community groups. The best case scenario would be to post questions in your own community group.
For example, we have a free Facebook community of bloggers that I have asked many questions relating to new product ideas and other questions for general feedback.
Here is an example of a question I posted in one of our support groups asking for feedback to improve our paid courses:
It does take a lot of time and effort to create an established community group, so another option is to search Facebook for community groups in your niche.
Just be careful to read all community group rules before posting questions because some have strict rules on what you can post.
Chapter 7. Sponsored Posts and Ads
The first thing that we see most new bloggers do is rush into throwing up ads on their blog to try to earn a quick buck, and sometimes this works out GREAT.
But more often than not, the reality of ad earnings is often very far off of many people's expectations.
Sponsored posts can also be a great way to get started and network with other bloggers, but the question you must ask yourself about both of these methods is: Are they right for you?
When we started our health and wellness blog, we initially tried putting Google Adsense ads all over the website. We thought it would be a good way to monetize the blog as we grew and help cover some of our costs.
Then our first week of earnings came in…
We made $2.93.
I couldn’t believe it. At that rate, we would be able to buy one chipotle a burrito (and a half) per month with our blogging income.
My first thought was, “Why in the world would anyone bother with ads?”
Not only did the ads look tacky and unprofessional, but they were drawing clicks away from our website and we weren’t even making $0.50 cents/day for it.
Because we had our sights set a little higher, we immediately took them off our blog and moved onto other ways to make money blogging that would provide us with higher rewards.
The cold hard truth of ad income is that in order to earn a LOT of money with them, you have to either…
- TONS of traffic to your site (500,000/month+)
- or be in a specific niche that has higher earnings on ads (money, finance, technology, etc.).
Premium Ad Networks
Ad income can still be a GREAT way to monetize your blog, but only if you have the right expectations and set it up the right way.
We now earn $3-4,000/month in ad revenue with our health and wellness blog for two reasons:
- Our blog gets over 300,000 views/month.
- We have partnered with a premium ad network.
Premium ad networks require certain minimum traffic levels for your blog, but they also serve up better ads on your site and generate more ad revenue.
We chose to partner with AdThrive, and they also set up the ads on our website for us. Google Adsense requires you to set up everything yourself, which can get very technical and overwhelming very quickly.
Ad revenue still only makes up a very small portion of our overall income.
This is because if you are lucky or skilled enough to drive hundreds of thousands of visitors to your website every month, you can earn FAR more through other methods (outlined in the next sections).
Ads are fine to earn a little bit of passive income, but they should not be used as a primary source of revenue.
Our advice: Wait until you’re getting a consistent amount of traffic to your blog and look into partnering with a premium ad network such as AdThrive or one of these competitors:
Just make sure to check out their requirements before applying because they differ from company to company.
They generally all have minimum traffic requirements and some also require legal pages, a certain number of blog posts to be published, and other factors.
- love to write
- can find good opportunities that fit with your niche and your audience
- want to build relationships with other companies and brands in your niche
- want another way to diversify your blogging income
- face a lot of time constraints — it can be very time-consuming to find good opportunities and complete the required work
- have your heart set on passive income — you’re technically still trading your hours for dollars here
- want more control over your blog content
Some bloggers, like Michelle from Making Sense of Cents, make upwards of $10,000+/month from sponsored post opportunities.
It will take a LOT of time and effort to get to this level, but it’s something to consider if you need to make some side income to cover some of your blogging expenses.
A good way to get started learning more about sponsored posts and the opportunities available is through Michelle’s course, Making Sense of Sponsored Posts.
How Liesel Made $2,879 in Her First 6 Months of Blogging
While ads and sponsored posts weren’t a part of our early monetization strategies, we wanted to show you an example of well they can work for some new bloggers.
One of our blogging students and new mothers, Liesel, started a blog on pregnancy and motherhood at laborteen.com.
Liesel didn’t start her blog with high expectations and dreams of thousands of dollars per month.
She honestly started blogging because she wanted to earn an extra $200/month to hire a maid!
That and she was a full-time labor nurse, so she had a strong desire to help educate women about the birthing process.
Liesel told me, “If I could write an article that could provide some benefit to someone out there and make their experience less scary, more informed, and less like a rollercoaster ride…I would be happy.”
Lastly, she was also driven by the desire to spend more time at home with her newborn.
These driving forces led Liesel to find us and through our Pinterest strategies, she was able to generate 28,893 page views in her first month of blogging.
With this traffic and through our course strategies for ads and sponsored posts, Liesel was able to earn $2,879 in her first 6 months of blogging!
Liesel is now working on increasing her blog traffic, improving her affiliate marketing strategies, and creating her own course.
More details on these topics in the next sections!
Chapter 8. Master Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a serious trial and error process and through this process, you can learn a wealth of information about what your audience is interested in (and what they are not).
You will also learn HOW to sell to your audience.
This is a step that we missed the first time around, and it cost us a LOT of time and money...
Please, please, please don’t miss this step!
Remember how we explained above that we created a weight loss product that we were SURE our audience would love only to have no one buy it?
We spent three weeks busting our asses to create a weight loss and muscle-building product for young men and women.
Then we spent another week making an overly complex sales funnel and sales pages. Finally, after four weeks, we launched it.
Actually, we did make one sale on that product. Just one.
Her name was Anna G, and I’ll remember it until the day that I die because of how devastating the experience was.
Worst. Feeling. Ever.
So much time and creative energy spent on a product that failed, so let’s talk about what we could have done to PREVENT this fiasco.
Why Start with Affiliate Marketing
There are benefits and risks to every method of monetization, and affiliate marketing is the best place to start making real money for a variety of reasons.
Less Risk Involved
Affiliate marketing comes with a lot less risk because you’re testing out established products with established sales pages rather than creating your own from scratch.
After our first product failed, we went back to the drawing board and decided to try selling an affiliate product first before creating another one.
We had a lot of popular yoga articles on Pinterest, so we found a yoga product that we thought would be a great fit for our audience.
After creating a yoga opt-in and a series of emails to help sell this product to our email list, we made some immediate sales!
SUCCESS!!! We weren’t total failures!
Learn How to Sell
Once we started making those initial sales, we were able to continue improving our emails and our selling process to boost our sales.
This was a massive trial and error period of testing out different opt-ins, different emails, etc. to improve our conversion rates.
Here is a fun little walkthrough of some of our past failed opt-ins, most of which just never converted enough subscribers into our sales funnels…
Perhaps the best part about starting with affiliate marketing is that it will teach you HOW to sell so that you’re not left clueless when you do decide to create your own products.
Now, there are some downsides to affiliate marketing as well.
You have no control over some aspects of the selling process, including the sales price and margins, sales page design, how you’re allowed to promote the product, and other factors.
That being said, it’s still a fantastic way to determine how your audience responds to certain products and services, and it prepares you for the time that you feel ready to sell your own products and services.
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
It’s important to set the right expectations when you’re beginning to get your feet wet with affiliate marketing.
Lower-priced products will be much easier to sell but will also bring in the lowest earnings.
On the other hand, selling high-priced affiliate products can help you earn over $10,000/month, but they are MUCH harder to sell.
It’s best to diversify your offering of affiliate products to test out different products and ways of selling those products.
One of the easiest ways to get started is through the Amazon Associates program. You can receive a small commission by recommending Amazon products in throughout your articles where relevant.
This is a relatively easy way to earn anywhere from $50-$500+/month because Amazon is already a very trusted platform.
To sell higher-priced affiliate products, you’ll need to create a related opt-in and email sales funnel.
You can start looking for some affiliate products to promote on these popular affiliate networks:
Just make sure to read over all rules, terms, and conditions before promoting products as these differ by company and also to look over the FTC rules on affiliate marketing if you live in the U.S.
Chapter 9. Create Your Own Products
This is the final frontier and it's important that you take this step at the RIGHT time -- after you have learned more about your audience and successfully sold one or more affiliate products.
The yoga product that we were promoting through affiliate marketing earned us about $5 per sale.
You can do the math there. The problem was that we knew $5 sales wouldn’t break the bank anytime soon.
Even if we could sell 10 products per day, that only amounts to $1,500/month. Which is great, but it’s certainly not enough for us to live off of.
The thing is… We just needed to confirm that we could actually sell a yoga product to our audience.
So, we created a yoga email opt-in, set up a yoga-centered sales funnel, and crossed our fingers. Two days later, we had made our first sale! We were ECSTATIC.
Not only did they buy the product, but they loved it!
Once we got comfortable with the consistency of sales on a daily and weekly basis (i.e. felt sure that the initial sales weren’t some fluke or pure dumb luck), we turned our sites inward and went back to the drawing board.
At this point knew the following…
- Our audience loves yoga.
- More specifically, they are highly interested in using yoga to lose weight.
- We have a working opt-in and sales funnel successfully selling a yoga for weight loss product.
The next step was simple: create our own product on yoga for weight loss and replace that in our funnel.
And thus, the Yoga Fat Loss Bible was born.
Just like that, our $5/sale turned into $37/sale overnight.
When you create your own product, you control the product price, sales page, marketing, and more, which allow you to set your margins and take your business to levels you never dreamed of!
After finding success with this, we simply replicated the process with a weight loss product.
Now, we do want to be clear about something.
When we talk about “replacing” an affiliate product with our own, we do NOT mean copying the affiliate product in any way.
You are simply using this process to test out different types of products to see what your audience is interested in. It is then up to you create your own product or service.
This doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel with a super unique and brand new product, but you must at least put a unique spin on existing products that make them entirely your own.
We discuss this process in more detail in Six-Figure Blogger, which is our course on creating and selling your own digital products and services.
This is the final stage of monetizing your blog and how 90% of websites make a significant income online.
It comes with a lot more risk as we demonstrated with our story on our first failure, but the rewards can be near limitless if you set your sights high enough and do it the right way.
How Rachel Made $4,592.43 Two Months After Launching Her First Online Course
Rachel Paul has a PhD in Behavioral Nutrition and she was struggling to monetize her blog, The College Nutritionist, when she found us.
She had a pretty sizable Instagram account related to dieting but she just wasn’t sure what steps to take next and how to monetize her skills and Instagram following.
We were able to help point Rachel in the direction of creating her own products and services to sell to her audience. The coolest part is how she was able to monetize her skills and traffic.
You see, Rachel has some seriously impressive stats on her Instagram growth:
As Rachel says, “In my experience, I saw that the quickest way to grow on Instagram was by developing creative, clever content that the algorithm would pick up and move to the top of the Explore page, based on how initial users interact with the post.”
The first thing Rachel did to monetize this explosive growth was to create a weight loss product aimed at teaching women how to achieve their healthiest body through proper dieting.
But the other way that she capitalized on this Instagram growth was to create an entire course on how to grow an Instagram account, which she calls Beat the Algorithm.
Rachel networked with other bloggers in her network to see if anyone was interested in selling her course as an affiliate. Between this affiliate marketing strategy and the launch to her email list, she was able to make $4,592.43 in her second month after launching her new course!
These are her stats for her first few months of selling her course:
Rachel is now working with her affiliates to generate more sales and experimenting with Facebook ads to drive more traffic to her sales pages.
This is what we call the optimization stage and it’s honestly the most fun stage of the blogging game!
What are the most common blogging mistakes people make when trying to make money?
First of all, there are a LOT, but the number 1 mistake bloggers make is coming off shady and asking for the sale too soon.
It's a common mistake and will make your readers resent you for asking them to pull out their credit card too soon.
You need to build trust and establish a relationship with your customer first. The best way to do this is by providing enough value up front before asking for the sale.
Chapter 10. Scale and Optimize
Here comes the really FUN part!
You've got a system that works, and you've made some sales. Now, it's time to optimize your sales funnel to maximize your conversions $$$!
This is a two-part process that includes learning how to drive more traffic to your sales pages and learning how to sell better to that traffic.
So, now you have built your blog, started getting traffic to your blog, created your products and sales pages, and everything is set and ready…
It’s time to scale!
More specifically, you need to find new and creative ways to drive more traffic and generate more revenue. Some examples of ways to do this include:
- Outreach to other bloggers
- Start an additional traffic source
- Add additional products
- Optimize your opt-ins and landing pages to increase your conversions
This is the really fun part of blogging and the place we are finally at with BOTH of our blogs.
Just to illustrate the power of this optimization phase, the graph below shows our blogging income from both of our blogs since we started. The blue line marks the point where we finished our last course.
The revenues before this point mostly grew from the addition of new courses that we created, but everything after that point has been scaling and optimizing the ways that we sell our existing courses.
It takes a while to get to this point, but once you are there, it’s incredible and really fun to help your revenues grow!
Optimization is fun because the sales process can really be broken down into a simple equation.
Sales = Traffic x Conversion Rate
Let’s illustrate with an example.
- Your conversion rate on your sales page is 1%, so for every 1,000 visitors on your sales page, you make 10 sales.
- Now let’s say that you add a few testimonials to your sales page and include a couple more in your email sales funnel.
- That bumps your conversion rate to 2%, which means that you have just doubled your sales (1,000 visitors x 2% = 20 sales).
- Not let’s say that you start working on Google SEO as an additional traffic source and are able to get an extra 1,000 customers to your sales page.
- That doubles your sales again (2,000 visitors x 2% = 40 sales).
You can see how adjusting your traffic or factors that influence your conversion rate can translate into an immediate increase in sales.
Some factors that impact conversion rates include:
- Adding testimonials
- Improving page speed
- Making changes to your sales page
- Making changes to your sales funnel
- Other marketing changes
This part of monetizing your blog is REALLY fun because you can often see immediate improvements in your sales when you make positive changes.
Now, the reverse is also true. In the past, we have made what we believed were positive changes only to have really negative impacts on our conversion rates.
When this happens, you have to reverse the changes and go back to the drawing board. It’s a trial and error process, but you will learn a LOT about sales and marketing in the process!
If you have reached the end of this article, bravo!
We would love to hear about how you’re trying to monetize your blog and what problems you might be facing. Please feel free to leave us a comment below this article and let us know if you have any questions that we can answer!