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7 ways to monetize your blog (that actually work)

I know what it feels like when you’re trying to monetize your blog, but nothing is clicking into place.

It’s a pretty soul-destroying experience; you pour your heart into creating valuable content that people seems to enjoy, but there’s little financial return for all your hard work. It’s not like you expect to make millions, but earning something back would be a nice incentive for you to invest more time into blogging.

I’ve been there too and thankfully, generating revenue from your blog is easier than it ever has been, and you don’t need a massive following or hordes of visitors to do it.

A Little History

When I first started my first blog in 2004, monetizing a website was difficult to do (and expensive).

For the most part, us mere mortals had two options; run banners, or start an e-commerce store.

Back then, it seemed like companies were only interested in advertising on mega-traffic websites, while e-commerce was out of reach of anybody who wasn’t prepared to invest thousands of dollars.

Then something amazing happened.

Google created a new platform, called Adsense, which made it easy for bloggers to monetize their websites.

They introduced the concept of Cost Per Milli (CPM) to millions. I’ll explain more about the CPM revenue model in a second.

Since bloggers got a small taste of what’s possible, and while CPM is still the most dominant model that most bloggers use, a plethora of new revenue models have emerged.

I have personally used every one of these, to various degrees of success.

And some of them are seriously lucrative.

CPM

Hey look, it’s our old friend again. Cost Per Milli – (Mille is latin for thousand). You get paid for every 1,000 people who see the ads on your blog. Rates vary according to industry and the volume of traffic you’re receiving.

Some networks pay as little as $0.10 per thousand visitors (…yeah really), while others venture towards the dizzying heights of $5 per thousand.

CPM has been very profitable for me in the past, generating a consistent $3,000 – $4,000 per month at its peak. However those earnings were spread out across multiple blogs, and I was receiving a crap-ton of traffic to a few of them.

Unfortunately, CPM rates have fallen dramatically over the years.

PPC

Per Per Click is an advertisers dream. But for bloggers, not so much – unless you’ve got a seriously high volume of traffic.

Bloggers profit from every banner click, instead of the number of views. Rates are usually much higher than CPM, but it can be harder to generate revenue if your banner ads aren’t front and centre, in peoples face. Then you better hope they don’t suffer from banner blindness.

CPA

Cost Per Action is the perfect solution for advertisers. For us bloggers it’s a double-edged sword.

The payout for every action taken, such as your visitors signing up to an email list, or making a purchase, is typically much higher than PPC or CPM.

But your traffic has gotta be laser targeted for this model to work, and the offer has to solve a very specific problem.

You’ll notice that I don’t run CPM, PPC, or CPA on Profit Copilot. I only advertise my own products – and that’s because I don’t want to plaster annoying or cheesy banner ads all over a blog that I love.

Plus, there’s a perception that running these kind of offers on a blog devalues it, to some degree.

Tools you’ll need:

  • An account with Google / MaxBounty / PeerFly

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is slightly different to CPA because instead of a flat rate for every lead you generate, you earn a percentage of every sale you make.

The big daddy of affiliate marketing is Amazon Associates. You promote selected products on your blog in exchange for a commission.

They typically offer a measly 4% of every sale you send them, but that does increase slightly with volume.

One of the nice things about Amazon Associates is the way it handles cookies. If your visitor clicks on your affiliate link, a cookie is sent to their browser, and if they make ANY purchase, for ANY product on Amazon, you get the credit, and a commission.

This means you can do very well from Amazon, if you’re smart about it. If your visitors are buying big ticket items, like snazzy TVs, then you’re all set.

My results from Amazon Associates have been mixed. I’ve had weeks and weeks without any sales, then all of a sudden I’m making $100 – $200 per day with it, and then back to nothing for a while.

The run up to Christmas seems to be a good time to promote Amazon products, because people are in ‘spending mode’ as they buy presents – which you still earn a commission on.

But there is a better option that produces more consistent results which I’ll come to in a few minutes,  but first…

Tools you’ll need:

  • Amazon Associates account

E-commerce Store

Once upon a time e-commerce was only reserved for wealthy entrepreneurs or those willing to invest thousands of dollars. But with the advent of cheap or free platforms like WooCommerce, practically every blogger can quickly and easily set up their own e-commerce store.

But it can still be a logistical nightmare if you’re not well-prepared.

If you’re selling physical products, you’re gonna need:

  • Somewhere to keep your stock
  • Plenty of free time to package and ship orders
  • Plenty of free time for customer support

They are also the reasons why I stopped running my own e-commerce store. I was spending a large portion of my day packaging the items, and then standing around in the post office. Plus dealing with a barrage of “item not received” emails wasn’t exactly fun.

It just drained me. While I was making a small amount of money from it, around $75 per day, I wasn’t earning enough to hire somebody to do the grunt work for me.

Plus, my apartment living room was filled with stock. It wasn’t ideal.

Tools you’ll need:

  • WooCommerce WordPress plugin
  • Payment processor (PayPal will do)

Email List Building

You’ve heard the saying, “the money is in the list”. You might have already heard the updated version, “the money is in the relationship with the list”.

It’s true, in my experience.

If there’s one thing from this post that I would encourage you to do, it’s to start building your own email list.

I mean, look at my blog for starters. It’s obvious that I want people to subscribe to mine. But why? Not to squeeze them of money, but to build that relationship with them.

Let’s face it, the majority of the people on your email list won’t buy from you, no matter what you’re selling. And that’s ok because you only need a few dedicated action-takers to become profitable.

How do you profit from an email list?

You can promote other peoples products, or your own.

If you’re promoting other peoples products, I recommend going to ClickBank, JVZoo, or PayGear and looking through the marketplaces for digital products that might be of interest to your subscribers.

With this model, which is actually affiliate marketing, you earn a commission of each sale you make.

The difference between digital products vs Amazon, is the percentage you earn is much higher.

Typically, you should expect to earn between 50% – 75% of each sale you make, with digital products. That’s a far cry from Amazon and almost makes their 4% starting point feel like an insult (it’s not, it just feels that way).

The very first month that I promoted someone else’s digital product, I made over $1,000 in commission. But the blog I tested it on was a high traffic website and I already had a good level of trust with my audience.

Tools you’ll need:

  • An account with ClickBank / JVZoo /PayGear
  • An autoresponder or CRM

Every time I publish one of these, I feel like I die a little bit on the inside.

For that reason I heavily restrict which of my blogs accept sponsored posts.

You see, because Profit Copilot is almost like a my baby, and I don’t want to sully its integrity in any way, this blog does not accept sponsored posts (sorry guys).

But some of my other blogs, which I am less emotionally attached to, does accept them.

On those blogs I usually charge $125 per post – which I understand is at the higher end of the scale. I reduce the price for bulk, or repeat orders.

From what I’m seeing at the moment, a standard blog would normally expect to make around $30 per post. That’s not bad for all of 20 seconds work; copy, paste, and hit publish.

Because I only accept sponsored posts on a couple of my blogs, my earnings aren’t anything to write home about.

Even with my self-imposed limitations, I restrict sponsored posts even further by only publishing the highest quality submissions; just 2 or 3 per month.

If I make anything more than $300 from it, it’s been a very good month.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Payment processor (PayPal will do)

Digital Products

This is where things start to get serious.

If you’ve currently publishing on your blog on a regular basis, I’ve got some good news; you’re already making digital products.

You just happen to be giving them away for free (and that’s a good thing).

The jump from blogging to product creation is ridiculously simple, yet a lot of bloggers are afraid to give it a shot.

In its most basic format, you take one of your standard ‘how to’ blog posts and drill down into exact detail, and make it a step by step tutorial – complete with screen pints, and turn it into a PDF.

Or if you want to be really fancy, you can use video, or audio, too.

My first ever digital product was a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tutorial and I’m embarrassed to tell you exactly how much I made from it. But in the first few weeks I’d made enough to live comfortably on, for the next 2 years.

I didn’t have any experience with making digital products, I didn’t have a reputation in the SEO word, I didn’t have an email list in that niche, and I didn’t have an army of affiliate to promote the product for me.

After a few months I’d started achieving occasional 4-figure days. A couple of years later it was 5-figure days.

Obviously I don’t get those kind of results every day, or even every month, but as my friend Tony said: “Mick you only need one of those days and you’re making more than most people do in a year”. He’s right.

But that’s only the successful end of the spectrum. That’s the end everyone talks about, that’s the end that sells you on the latest shiny object.

There’s a flip side to all that success.

Let me tell you something you rarely hear about; the failures.

My first product was obviously a home-run. My second product was a flop, so was my third.

I almost gave up by my fourth, but thankfully hung in long enough to see results.

I’m grateful for these failures because they taught me something valuable; know your audience.

So if you’re looking to monetize your blog, properly, and you know your audience, then I strongly suggest you build an email list, and sell them digital information products that solves their problems.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Microsoft Word / Google Docs / Open Office
  • Payment processor (PayPal will do)

Recurring Subscription

This revenue model builds upon the digital product creation model, and we’ve got two flavours.

Paywalls

The first is a paywall, were you charge access to certain blog posts – either on a per-post basic, or through a monthly subscription.

I’ve experimented with paywalls, and saw minor success, but I do intend to return to the revenue model again in the future.

Right now, membership websites is where its at, for me.

Membership Platforms

Here, your customers get exclusive content that’s been created just for them, and pay each month for access.

These platforms are highly valuable to people who want an on-going education, and work great in industries where customers understand they need to make a longterm commitment to achieve X, Y, or Z.

The recurring revenue model can be insanely lucrative when done right.

If you can keep subscriber retention rates high, your business could explode. That means providing awesome content, on a regular basis.

Think about it, ok. In a perfect world your retention rate would be 100%. In that case, if you charges $10 per month, and get 30 customers a month, that’s $300 in your first month, $600 in your second, $900 in your third, and so on.

With this model your potential earnings can exponentially increase month after month. But as soon as it sounds, your content has to be top-notch, and there has lot be LOTS of it.

But as it’s a longterm commitment, is this going to be the right model for you? As a general guide, only think about starting a membership website if you have the next 6 – 12 months of content planned out.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Membership plugin
  • Payment processor (PayPal will do)

Summary

So here are the 7 most lucrative ways to monetize a blog, that I’ve found in the last couple of decades.

The standout revenue models, for me, have been a combination of several of these. A mix of list building, affiliate marketing, and digital product creation has consistently performed the best for me.

Like all things, your milage may vary. You might absolutely crush it in the areas that I’ve failed in.

Either way, no matter which revenue models you choose for your blog, I hope you find the right that offers the right balance between creating awesome content that improves people’s lives, and produces enough profit to make all your hard work worthwhile.