Behind the curtain: How I make money blogging
Listen, I don’t make very much money (YET!) from my blog but it’s not $0 either. My goal this year is to get to $1k a month from my blog. So I thought I would write this up – for those who are just curious as well as those who want to monetize their blog as well.
There are a lot of ways to make money blogging but for now, I am focused on affiliate marketing.
This page contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission if you choose to purchase something through the link at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and LOVE and think you’ll love too.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when a blogger partners with brands or businesses to promote their product or service in exchange for a small commission if someone from their audience makes a purchase through their trackable affiliate links. I am pretty selective about who I partner with; I only recommend products and services I have used before and love and think my audience will love too.
I also disclose when a blog post contains affiliate links so my readers know what’s up.
Examples of how I use affiliate marketing
One example and my first real success in affiliate marketing is my partnership with the Talkspace text therapy app. I wrote a post reviewing the app a few years ago and a follow-up post later on. Both included my affiliate link to Talkspace. People found my posts about Talkspace while searching Google as well as while browsing or searching on Pinterest.
Another example is my partnership with Booking.com. When I make a hotel recommendation in an itinerary post or something, I can get a commission if someone books a stay after clicking my link.
How I get people to find my blog posts with affiliate links in them
The main way is through SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. I try to make sure my blog posts (with or without affiliate links in them) are found within Google search for certain keywords. For example, if someone searches “Talkspace review” in Google, I want my blog post to come up.
I also do this on Pinterest, which is basically a visual search engine crossed with a social media platform. I used the paid version of Tailwind to manage my Pinterest.
I’m not going to explain the details of Google SEO and Pinterest SEO here because both are pretty complex topics to unpack. But that’s the gist of how I try to get targeted readers to my site.
“How else do you make money on your blog?”
This isn’t exactly “making money” but rather offsetting costs. I have gotten complimentary experiences in exchange for promotion on my blog and social media channels. For example, I worked with a Japanese tea house in Kyoto as well as a luxury resort in Koh Tao.
I definitely would like to do more of these exchanges in the future. I also want to add ads to my site, but am waiting to hit certain milestones in terms of page views so I can sign up for Mediavine, the premier ad network for bloggers.
Recommendations if you want to make money blogging
Choose a specific niche without too much competition
As in, don’t try to become a travel blogger for money!! Honey, that ship has sailed.
I recommend picking something niche, something really specific with enough interest to allow you to generate lots of content but not too much competition so you can stand out.
Niches in the B2B space (or anything where you teach people how to make more money) are IMO more monetizable. For example, bloggers in the personal finance space have a much easier time monetizing than, say, travel bloggers because people are more willing to spend money if they think it’s going to make them more money in the end.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the blogging niche of teaching people how to make money through blogging (*cue eye roll*) is very profitable. Hence why I created this page.
Once you’ve chosen a niche, you can check out my post on how to start a blog from scratch.
Understand blogging is not a fast or easy way to make passive income
If you want fast and easy money, I recommend going down a different path altogether. Blogging for money is a long game.
Invest in your blog
This means not shying away from moving onto a self-hosted platform like WordPress.org ASAP; buying a theme instead of relying on free themes; purchasing courses to teach you skills that will up your blogging game etc. (Here’s my post on how to start a WordPress blog.)
If you want to create a business from your blog, you have to treat it like a business and invest in it. For example, I took the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course a while ago to help me with affiliate marketing. I’ve also paid to outsource Instagram growth marketing to an Instagram marketer on Fiverr on a few occasions.
Sign up with relevant affiliate marketing programs
If you don’t know what you want to link out to, you could start by signing up for big affiliate marketing platforms like Avantlink or Shareasale and browsing around the merchants who offer affiliate links through them. See what you like in your niche.
Post a ton of valuable content
Once you have your blog up and running, I recommend creating valuable long-form evergreen blog posts. Content is king, ladies and gentlemen. Be as helpful as you can to your audience. Offer as much value as you can. My biggest mistake early on was making my blog all about me me me. Make your blog about your audience and their needs.
Promote your blog
Don’t be shy. Share your blog posts far and wide! On all your social media, on your email list (which you should be creating from the start!)…anywhere and everywhere, get the word out!
Here’s a comprehensive list of the tools I use while blogging
Creating a blog
Siteground – This is the web host I use. I have a GrowBig account but you can start with just one domain for $3.95 a month.
Themeforest – You can shop around for good blog themes here. (I use a theme called Make but I don’t recommend it – it’s slow and expensive!)
Logo maker on Fiverr – I paid $15 to have my logo designed by someone on Fiverr a few years ago.
Tinypng.com – I use this site to compress my photos.
Pretty Links plugin – I use the free version of this WordPress plugin to manage and cloak my affiliate links.
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course – I took this course to learn more about affiliate marketing. I recommend it for beginners.
Google Analytics – You’ll definitely want your site hooked up to Google Analytics to track user behavior from the backend. This is free.
Canva – I use the free version of Canva for any graphic design needs, like making pins for Pinterest or creating my media kit.
Tailwind – I use the paid version of Tailwind to manage and schedule pins on Pinterest.
UNUM – I use the free version of this app for planning Instagram feed posts, captions, and hashtags.
Social Warfare plugin – I use the paid version of this plugin to add social share buttons to all my posts and count shares for social proof. (I had to upgrade to this when I switched to SSL and wanted to preserve my share counts.)
Mailchimp – I use the free version of Mailchimp for my email newsletters. If email marketing is part of your funnel, I recommend Convertkit instead.
Instagram marketer on Fiverr – I’ve paid multiple Instagram marketers to grow my Instagram account in the past because it’s just one of those things I hate dealing with. Sofia from Fiverr was my most recent IG growth person and she was great.