Jan 24, 2012

Blogging 101: Ways to Make Money Blogging

When someone asks what I do now, I'm always greeted with amazement that I can actually make money from a blog. It's not much, at least compared to what I used to make as a lawyer, but it's still very helpful to our family's bottom line. If you're a blogger and looking for ways to monetize your blog, here are the three main ways I make money:

Affiliate and Referral Links - This is one of the two most obvious ways to make money as a blogger. It's also very simple - you include links that contain a specific code in your posts, and when someone clicks through and/or buys something using your link, you get paid. You'll need to sign up with the various programs and sites that you like to link to - not every site has an affiliate or referral program, and some programs have requirements that you may not meet. Be sure to read the fine print of all Terms & Conditions, as you are entering into a contract when you apply to be an affiliate. Also, each site has different payment terms and options, and there are a huge number of sites you can join out there. But here are some of my personal favorites:
  • Amazon Associates - This is Amazon's referral program and maybe the biggest one around. It's not available everywhere, as Amazon has chosen not to have affiliates in certain states because of their sales tax laws. But I highly recommend it because it's easy to use, and their selection of products is so huge that pretty much any blogger can find legitimate reasons to link to it.

  • Escalate Media - Escalate has advertising campaigns that you can share with your readers, including coupons, discounts, newsletters, free samples, and other offers. They are one of my favorite networks because of their outstanding customer service - it really feels like they care about their affiliates, they are responsive to emails, and they pay within fifteen days of the end of the month with a minimum payout threshold of $25.

  • MySavings Media and Logical Media - Like Escalate Media, MySavings and Logical Media offer campaigns to share with your readers. Each network has some exclusive offers that you won't find elsewhere, and even if they have the same offer, sometimes their payout is different so it pays to check the value. All of these sites are easy to use, but note that MySavings pays out at a $50 minimum and Logical Media pays out at $100.

  • Viglink - I'm fairly new to Viglink, but I like them as a "catch-all" affiliate link. In a nutshell, they are the affiliate of hundreds of sites, so inserting their code into your site turns un-affiliated links into affiliate links for Viglink (they don't do anything to your links that are already affiliate links). If they get paid for a purchase made through a link on your site, they'll share that amount with you. Basically, it's one way of making money through affiliate links without joining each and every affiliate program out there, although there are quite a few sites that Viglink isn't affiliated with. I think they miss some links, but overall I'm pretty happy with them. And if you are in a state that doesn't have Amazon Associates, you can still make some money from Amazon by using Viglink.

  • Linkshare - Linkshare is an affiliate manager, meaning they handle the affiliate program for a number of sites such as Barnes & Noble. You have to join Linkshare, then apply to each program separately - each program has different requirements, like a minimum number of daily visitors or minimum number of conversions within a specified period of time.

Two big affiliate managers that I don't personally use but are worth mentioning because of their size include Commission Junction and ShareASale. I might join them at some point, but I haven't found myself linking to enough stores that use them to make it worth my while.

Ads - Ads are the second obvious way of generating blog income, and perhaps the easiest way is through Google Adsense. There are no minimum requirements, it's easy to set up on your site, and you can choose from quite a few different customizable options. There are also private ad networks, such as BlogAds. Many of these networks have minimum daily visitor requirements, and it can be difficult to get in. One that I haven't tried personally but may be good for beginners is Project Wonderful. You can also sell ads privately, and will have to decide if you are willing to sell text link ads (which can cause a drop in Google page rank). Again, be sure to read the fine print in the Terms & Conditions (for example, you'll see that Google requires Adsense users to have a privacy policy).

Sponsored Content - A third way of making money by blogging is to publish sponsored content, or content that you are paid to publish. You can write it yourself, or simply publish material provided by the sponsor.

The biggest obstacle with the latter two methods is finding sponsors. The bigger and better your blog is, the easier it will be - which is why I recommend signing up for some of the main affiliate sites and Google Adsense, and then focusing on giving your readers good content. That will help build your blog, and instead of you hunting for sponsors, sponsors will come to you.

Keep in mind that in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission requires that bloggers disclose any benefit received. Disclosure is good practice anyway, because who wants to read a blog by someone they can't trust?

In that vein . . . This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for clicking through them! You can read CFO's full disclosure here.


Gina said...

Thanks for being so transparent! It's interesting to hear, though, because a large percentage of my earnings the past two years are from CJ and ShareaSale (just one company there, actually).

Chief Family Officer said...

I'm sure I will eventually get around to it - it's good to know you've had a good experience with both sites. Thank *you*!