How Successful Bloggers Make Money

For most Bloggers, a blog is a time consuming and unprofitable hobby. That's ok, as most people start a blog to enjoy the therapeutic effects of writing and creating.


The truth is that at some point the majority of bloggers, whether blogging for fun or business, grow tired and frustrated of blogging and give up, leaving the blog to rot away to the digital graveyard.

But, some of us (myself included) don't need another hobby. 😉 We want to run a successful business. A business that feels less like work and more like a hobby. A business that can make us a full-time income with part-time effort. 

The good news is that blogging can be a very lucrative business when treated like a business. In any successful business, the business owner knows how the business makes money (hopefully lots of it!).

In this post I'll cover the 5 primary ways successful bloggers make money. I'll provide an overview of each tactic, real-world examples, and the pros and cons or each.

Bloggers Are Making Big Money In 5 Ways

  1. Ad Income
  2. Affiliate Marketing
  3. Sponsored Posts
  4. Sell Their Services
  5. Create & Sell Their Own Product

Now, let's cover each tactic in a little more depth.

1) Ad Income

A quick way to monetize a site is to place advertisements on it. The eyeballs reading your articles are worth money. Businesses seeking to get their product or service in front of the right audience are willing to pay for it. 

For example, if a woman views a specific handbag at an online store, but does not buy, it is possible to follow her across the internet targeting her with an ad for the exact same bag, enticing her to come back and buy. She has already shown an interest in the bag, so to that online retailer, delivering an ad to this woman is valuable. 

Did you know that website owners make $2-$4 for every 1,000 ad impressions? Place 2-5 ads on each page and make $4-$20 per 1,000 ad impressions.

What Are The Pros & Cons of Ad Income?

  • Easy to Setup - Once approved you can have ads running on your site in a matter of minutes.
  • Free Money - Make anywhere from $2-$14 per 1,000 impressions. By placing multiple ads on each page you can easily multiply that number.
  • Distract the AudienceAds have the ability to distract the audience and even take them away from your site.
  • People Generally Hate Ads - Advertisements offer very little value to your audience, and are often hated. 
  • Ad Blockers - Ad blockers are growing in popularity, and have the potential to negatively impact your earnings if enough of your readers use them.
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    Requires a Ton of Traffic - In order to make significant money requires a lot of traffic to your site. 

Young House Love is an example that effectively places ads on throughout their site.

Young House Love Ads

Young House Love is a successful home renovation blog for people that want to create a beautiful home. They have 5 total ads on their pages, with 3 "above the fold" (can see on a desktop computer without scrolling) and 2 "below the fold" (require scrolling). 

2) Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is earning a commission for promoting another person's (or company's) product. As a blog owner, you send your visitors to another site, and when the referred visitor takes a specific action (buy, apply, start a free trial, etc.), you earn an agreed upon commission. The commission is typically a % of a sale or a flat rate fee. 

Let's look at 5 real world affiliate programs. 

Amazon Logo

Amazon, the 1,000 pound ecommerce gorilla, has a famous affiliate program paying affiliates up to 10% for referred sales.

Personal Capital Logo

Personal Capital, our favorite tool for tracking our net worth, pays affiliates $50 to $100 per qualified sign up.

Thrive Themes Logo

Thrive Themes, the WordPress theme provider we use, pays 35% commission on the initial purchase + 25% commission on any recurring revenue.

SiteGround Logo

SiteGround, the company we use to host our site for less than $5 per month, pays affiliates $50-$100+ per sale.

Airbnb Logo

Airbnb, our favorite for accomodations, does not have an affiliate program. However, they have a similar offering in a referral program, paying $25 for a new traveler.

Quick Math Exercise: If through your blog you get 1 reader per day to purchase/apply/sign up for a product earning a $150 commission, you've earned yourself $4,562.50/month, which is $54,750/year. Not bad!

What Are The Pros & Cons of Affiliate Marketing?

  • Use For Testing Purposes - Affiliate marketing is a great way to test the type of products your audience is willing to buy, which can provide insight when developing your own product.
  • No Investment Required - You don’t need to invest the time and money into creating your own product
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    No Customer Service Customer service falls onto your affiliate partner -- not you.
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    Great Earning Potential Many affiliate programs pay hefty commissions, and some pay on a recurring basis. 
  • Very Little Product ControlSince you don’t own the product, you have very little input into said product, or even whether the affiliate program continues to exist.
  • Affiliate Partners Have Potential To Become Competitors - Your readers become their customers, and there is always a chance that your affiliate partner becomes a future competitor.

3) Sponsored Posts

An advertisement in the form of a blog post that promotes a specific company, brand or product. Whereas a banner ad is an obvious advertisement, a sponsored post is a "native ad." It feels much more like editorial content, and can be hard to distinguish as an ad. 

The Roasted Root has sponsors for their recipe blog posts.

Roasted Root Sponsored Post

The Roasted Root is a recipe blog run by a young woman named Julia, focused on healthy and tasty recipes. The Sangria Recipe above is sponsored by Nielsen-Massey, a company selling extracts. Why would Nielsen-Massey want to sponsor a Sangria Recipe?

It's simple. One of the main ingredients Julia calls for in the recipe is an Nielsen-Massey extract. Per the post....

"I used Nielsen-Massey’s Orange Blossom Water to bring even more citrusy flavor to this sangria. I love how authentic Nielsen-Massey’s extracts taste – they’re my main squeeze when it comes to extracts!"

In a world where people are bombarded with traditional advertising, sponsored posts is a very effective way to stand out from the crowd.

What Are The Pros & Cons of Sponsored Posts?

  • Native Advertisements - Unlike banner ads that distract, sponsored posts match the look and feel of your site, creating a much more seamless experience.
  • The Money Can Be Good - You should charge at a minimum $100 for every 100,000 page views your site has.
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    Combines Nicely With Your Social ChannelsIf you have a loyal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram following you can potentially increase your rates.
  • Can Require A Lot of Work Many times there is a lot of leg work to identify the opportunity, negotiate the rate, back and forth on the content, etc.
  • Potential To Lose The Trust Of Your Audience - Do not write a sponsored post unless you 100% believe in what you’re promoting.
  • Requires Signifiant Traffic - Unless you have a super loyal following, you won’t make significant money without significant traffic. 

4) Sell Their Services

Services, helping companies or people do their work, are everywhere. Housekeeping, car maintenance, computer repair, life coaching, resume building, roofing, dry cleaning, pet sitting, staffing, Uber, etc. The list goes on and on. 

Great Resumes Fast Is A Perfect Example Of A Blog Selling Their Services

Great Resumes Fast

Great Resumes Fast offers services such as Resume Writing ranging from $495-$2,295. LinkedIn Profile Writing for $495. Recruiter Distribution for $275. They are experts in their field, and solving real problems (helping people land a job) with their service offerings. 

What Are The Pros & Cons of Selling Your Services?

  • You Have 100% Ownership - Unlike affiliate marketing where you lack control of the product, you control 100% of your offered services, and can make changes at any time.
  • High Profit Potential - Services require very little overhead, and are typically instantly profitable. Also, they have potential to create recurring income.
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    Your Blog Will Do Much Of The Selling - Since you’ve established yourself as a leader in your niche, and you have loyal readers, your blog will make selling your services easier.
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    Significant Traffic Not Required You can start selling services from day 1, regardless of how much traffic your site has.

  • It's Not Passive You now have a paying customer with high expectations, which will require much of your time & energy.
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    Customer Service Is Yours You're on the hook for all customer service needs, and with services, customer service needs are very, very high.

5) Create & Sell Their Own Product

Creating & selling your own product is one of the, if not the very best tactic in monetizing a blog. This is especially true if you offer a digital product vs physical product. Digital products require no inventory, come with no shipping expense, they don't break, etc. Digital products are the ultimate product to sell. 

Regardless of whether you sell digital or physical product, it is very difficult to sell another company's product. It's nearly impossible to compete with Amazon's low prices, Prime 2-day shipping, liberal return policy, and the trust that consumers have in Amazon and other large online retailers. 

Wellness Mama, a blog for mothers about natural living, self publishes and sells books (all digital!) for $15-$20 each.  

Wellness Mama Book
Wellness Mama Book
Wellness Mama Book

Young House Love, the renovation blog mentioned earlier in this post, sells branded lighting for up to $400.

Young House Love Lighting
Young House Love Lighting
Young House Love Lighting

Nerd Fitness, a fitness blog targeted to self defined "nerds," offers a community membership for $149.

Nerd Fitness Academy

What Are The Pros & Cons of Creating & Selling Your Own Product?

  • You Have Full Ownership - You control 100% of your own product. You’ll have access to analytics, customer feedback, a/b testing, etc., and can make changes, offer cross sells & upsells, or anything else you'd like to do. 
  • High Profit Potential - Products, if digital, require very little overhead, and are typically instantly profitable. Also, they have potential to create recurring income.
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    The Blog Does Much Of The Selling  - Since you’ve established yourself as a leader in your niche, and you have loyal readers, your blog will make selling your product easier.
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    Mostly Passive Once Built  - Your income is mostly passive once the product is created.
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    Start Your Own Affiliate Program  - You’ve built a product. Now, incentivize others to promote your product to their audience.
  • Large UndertakingBuilding a high quality product that sells for top dollar requires a lot of time. You’ll also need to support your customers, and update the course, as needed.
  • You Own Customer Service - Pre-sales questions, product issues, returns, exchanges, fraudulent orders, poor reviews, etc. are all your responsibility.

About the Author sarahvogt

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