How To Make Money Blogging in 2021: What Beginners Should Know Before Getting Started

Online guides on how to make money blogging are a dime a dozen — and are often written by people who have never actually made any money blogging.

But THIS guide is going to be different.

Why?

Because I’m the one writing it, and because our blogs have made millions of dollars in the past few years.

Don’t believe me? Check out this screenshot of our shopping cart analytics:

Shopping Cart Analytics
A screenshot of our shopping cart

We’ve also helped thousands of students achieve success with their blogs through our courses, but don’t worry — I’m not here to sell you anything today.

I am going to focus on SHOWING you how you can make money blogging. I’ll do this by sharing examples of blogs that make a lot of money and by breaking down how they do it for you.

After that, I’ll give a step-by-step guide to at least make a living — and at best, make millions — with your blog.

Excited yet?

Let’s get started!

🛒 Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make money blogging for beginners. You don’t have any customers to take care of or any product to deliver.

All you have to focus on is delivering traffic to the vendors, who then pay you a commission for the sales you’ve referred.

But how can blogs convince people to buy through their links?

Let’s find out with 3 real-life examples!

Affiliate Product Reviews

The first, and most common way, to make money blogging is by writing affiliate reviews for popular products, by ranking your page on Google, and by passively collecting monthly affiliate income.

It’s relatively easy and can be quite lucrative.

This is what moderncastle.com — a household products review site — specializes in.

Moderncastle.com Homepage

They focus on creating content that either reviews single products, compares several products, or finds the best one for a given usage. Then, they link to them with affiliate links in the content.

Moderncastle Content With Affiliate Links

After that, they optimize these pages for SEO to make them rank on Google for high search volume keywords.

Moderncastle Google Rankings

And voila! Amazon pays them a commission for all the sales generated, and they get ongoing free traffic from Google.

Amazon Earnings Summary

Email List Marketing

Another way to make money blogging with affiliate marketing is this:

  1. Build an email list.
  2. Promote affiliate products to that list.

It’s pretty simple and can be quite effective.

Social Media Recommendations

Our final method to make money blogging with affiliate marketing? Use your blog to build a social following, and then make recommendations on those social profiles.

It’s not as good as reviews, but some people have made it work by regularly sharing time-limited promotions.

That’s what Digital Foundry — a blog that specializes in the technical aspect of video games — did with their Digital Foundry Deals Twitter account.

Digital Foundry Deals Twitter

While you may think an account tweeting affiliate links wouldn’t interest anyone, they’ve managed to gather over 23,000 followers as I’m writing this post.

So, clearly, people care.

But why? 

Because they’re doing an amazing job curating the best deals in their industry. And who doesn’t like saving money?

Here’s a typical affiliate tweet of theirs:

If you are in an industry where you can find regular deals, this may be a great way to monetize your blog following.

If you’re looking for a little more information on how to utilize social media for affiliate marketing, we put together guides on making money on Tiktok, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Don’t forget to check our Youtube affiliate marketing guide as well.

📢 Advertising

Another “easy” way to monetize your blog is to put ads on it.

It’s not the nicest from a design point of view, but advertising has been getting better and better as a revenue stream in the past few years.

The main benefit of using ads is that the only thing you have to do to get paid is get traffic to your site.

This is the least involved monetization method, and is one that will please those looking for the most passive of incomes.

Avoid Google Adsense Ads

If you’ve spent at least 3 minutes looking into blog advertising solutions, then you’ve probably heard of “Google Adsense.”

It’s Google’s own blog advertising service that lets you place blocks of ads on your site and pays you per impression.

I’m sure you’ve seen these ads around the internet.

Google Ads

Unfortunately, making money with Google adsense is really hard, especially for new bloggers.

The service only pays you $3–8 per thousand visitors, so you will need a TON of traffic to make a decent amount of money.

While popular among bloggers who don’t aspire to make more than a few dollars per month from their blog, we advise against using Google Adsense on your site if you want to generate serious revenue.

Use Mediavine / Adthrive Instead

A much better alternative to Google Adsense is to use blogger specialized ad networks such as Mediavine or Adthrive.

These ad networks operate as a service where they manage all the ads on your site — including the banner ads placement — in exchange for a small cut of your ad revenue.

This is the ads solution we use for our blogs and we couldn’t be happier with it.

Adthrive Rpm

As you can see from the screenshot above, for some of our sites, Adthrive pays us over $30 per 1,000 visitors — which is really good in the industry.

Carreraddicts.com is another site that uses Adthrive for their advertising.

Adthrive Ads

However, there is a but… (there’s always a but.)

These networks come with minimum traffic requirements and tend to prefer blogs that get most of their traffic from the USA.

Mediavine requires at least 50,000 unique visitors per month, while Adthrive requires at least 100,000.

If you don’t have this traffic yet, Ezoic is also a reasonable ads solution you can use much sooner. Though it’s not as highly rated as the other two alternatives.

Try Selling Ads Directly

If your blog is very well established, you can try to sell ad space directly to advertisers through an “advertise for us” page.

This is what Sitepoint does on their blog.

Sitepoint Direct Ads

Selling ads directly often allows you to charge much higher rates than what you would get through ad networks.

It is, however, a lot more work — which is why it’s only worth it for well established blogs.

If you want to attract advertisers, you will also need to put a media kit together to showcase your stats, where your audience comes from, and how many people advertisers could potentially reach through your blog.

Sell Sponsored Posts

An alternative way to sell ads on your blog is to make brands buy sponsored posts.

This means that they will pay you a fee to create a blog post that fits within the theme of your blog but that features their products.

Pinch of Yum is one popular blog selling sponsored posts to brands.

Pinchofyum Sponsored Content

They even sell packages that include a sponsored post, and an Instagram video and story, all featuring brand products.

While it may seem complicated to work with brands, there are actually many “marketplaces” where bloggers with an audience of any size can connect with brands to work out sponsored posts deals.

Here’s a few of them:

📦 Products

If you want a blogging business model that is a bit more involved but that is also more profitable than affiliate marketing or ads, then selling products (digital or physical) may be what you are looking for.

Let me show you seven examples of blogs who make a killing selling digital or physical products.

Selling an Ebook

The most basic product you could sell on your blog is an ebook.

Usually, they are just a well put together PDF teaching about a given niche topic your blog readers may be interested in.

This is what Josh Dunlop from Expert Photography did — he put together dozens of quality ebooks for all sorts of sub niches of photography.

They are sold through a store section on his blog:

Expert Photography Ebooks

He is also running special sales regularly:

Expert Photography Special Sale

And he promotes them to his email list:

Expert Photography Promo Email

On top of that, he also uses Facebook ads:

Expert Photography Facebook Ad

According to the interview he did with us, Josh is clearing seven figures per year from this juicy ebook business.

Selling Online Courses and Training

If you want to level up from selling an ebook and make even more money selling products, then online courses may be what you are looking for.

Usually presented as videos with a customer login, online courses have a higher perceived value and can be sold for more.

The Authority Site System
Our own course area “The Authority Site System

The downside, however, is that they take more effort to put together.

But that didn’t stop consulting.com’s Sam Ovens from building an online courses empire.

In fact, he is so successful he made it to Forbes prestigious 30 under 30 list in 2017.

Sam Ovens Forbes

And, according to Ebiz facts, he could be worth over 105 million USD in 2021.

His flagship program, “Consulting Accelerator 2.0,” sells for between $1,497 and $2,985 depending on promotions.

But Sam is smart enough to understand that’s a lot of money, and so he offers a free trial to his blog readers.

Consulting Accelerator

To lure people in, he likes to upload Youtube videos on his channel — where he has over 100,000 subscribers and several videos with over 1 million views.

Sam Ovens Youtube Channel

He then invites you to either join his email list or a free private training session. Though the emails also lead to the free training, as you can see below:

Sam Ovens Free Training Email

Once you get on the free training, Sam delivers value for around 30 minutes. Then, he has a strong call to action for you to schedule a call where his team will try and sell you one of their programs.

Consulting.com Call Cta

He backs his sales pitch with THOUSANDS of video testimonials on his site to show how his techniques have worked for a ton of people to help seal the deal.

Consulting.com Video Testimonials

And there you have it.

An eight figure per year blogging courses business in a nutshell.

Sell Memberships

If selling an expensive course makes you uncomfortable, maybe selling memberships will suit you better.

With this option, you can charge a monthly or yearly fee for access to premium content.

If it’s good enough for Netflix or Spotify, it’s probably good enough for your blog!

Which is exactly what fool.com thought as well.

They are a very popular financial blog with MILLIONS of monthly visitors who come in and look for information on trending stocks and investment opportunities.

Fool.com Organic Traffic Ahrefs

Initially, their content looks like something you would find on Yahoo finance about stock news.

Fool.com Blog Post

But, if you scroll down to the bottom, all conclusions tend to look very similar…

Fool.com Blog Post Cta

They tie in the topic of the article and the question: Should you invest in it? 

This can make you doubt your decision, and can promise you there are more profitable places to put your money. 

But you’re still curious.

So, you tentatively click on the button, and…

Fool.com Cta

You’re hit with an infomercial style video, bragging about the financial advice available in fool.com’s premium membership.

Who doesn’t want to make 452% return?

I definitely want to, so I insert my email and click on the button.

And I land on their full sales page that offers me the premium membership for $99 per year.

Fools.com Premium Membership Cta

In the case that I don’t purchase, they can use the email I provided to follow up with me on the membership offer.

Fool.com Email Cta

To add to all of that, they also aggressively advertise their services using Facebook ads and Google Adsense.

Fool.com Fb Ads

Given the number of ads they are running, I would expect them to be making a TON of money from this offer. And that makes this a prime example of how to make money blogging with a membership opportunity.

Launching Paid Newsletter

A more minimalist alternative to providing a full blown membership to your customers is simply offering a premium newsletter to your blog readers.

This is what the blog, Scott’s Cheap Flights, decided to do.

Scottscheapflights Homepage

Scott’s Cheap Flights curates the best deals in flying for your preferred cities and destinations so you get to save a bunch of money on traveling.

They offer a free and paid version of their newsletter.

Scottscheapflights Membership Plans

They get people in by writing very high quality travel guides on their blog.

Scott'scheapflights Blog Post

And by dropping regular hints at the readers that they should join the newsletter to save on flights.

Scott'scheapflights Blog Post Cta

When you try to join the free version of the newsletter, they make sure to let you know of everything you’re missing by not taking them up on their premium offer — and they give you the opportunity to change your mind.

Scott'scheapflights Premium Membership

If you decide not to upgrade anyway, they will give you both a (subtle) opportunity to upgrade with each email and also bring in sponsors to make money off their subscribers.

Scott'scheapflights Email With Upgrade

They are also aggressively advertising their paid newsletter using Facebook ads. Overall, their business seems to be booming.

Scott'scheapflights Fb Ad

Donations Through Patreon and Onlyfans

Another trendy way to monetize your blog these days is to live off readers’ donations.

That’s what platforms like Patreon or Onlyfans allow you to do.

You offer a premium tier of content in exchange for a cheap subscription — which is what one of my favorite blogs, waitbutwhy.com, did.

Waitbytwhy Blog

They offer multiple levels of membership through Patreon, and, so far, they’ve got 3,501 monthly contributors on top of their one-off Paypal donations.

Waitbutwhy Membership Levels

It’s probably fair to imagine that they make at least $10,000 per month through this channel. Nothing to sneeze at!

Sell Physical Products

One really cool way to monetize your blog is to sell items in a shop section!

People LOVE to support the people they follow by shopping items they sell.

Don’t believe me? 

Ask our very own AH Pro Allumnni — Kevin Espiritu, from Epic Gardening.

Epic Gardening Homepage

He’s a bit of a sensation on Instagram:

Epic Gardening Instagram

And Youtube:

Epic Gardening Yt Subscribers

To monetize his audience, Kevin started a shop selling raised beds to his subscribers.

Epic Gardening Raised Beds

And people absolutely love them.

They buy these raised beds and pose with them, filling his store with hundreds of reviews.

Epic Gardening Product Reviews

The crazy part is, Kevin doesn’t even use ads to sell his items.

He only mentions them on social media posts and giveaways….

Epic Birdies Giveaway Social

… and through calls to action in his blog posts.

Epic Gardening Blog Cta

Software and Apps

If courses, ebooks, or physical products are not for you, maybe creating an app or an online tool is.

That’s what Kevin Curry from Fitmencook decided to do.

After launching several successful info products and books off his blog, he launched the very popular MealPrepPro — an app that helps people organize their fitness meal prep.

Meappreppro App

I’ve tried the app myself, and it’s pretty good! His blogging popularity made it one of the top apps in its category.

In terms of monetization, the paid tiers offer all sorts of convenient features and commands a price of $6.99/month or $43.99/year.

Mealpreppro App Subscription

If you have a dedicated community, creating an app and using your traffic to climb up the app store rankings may be a good idea to make money blogging.

Flip Blogs

A while ago, Mark, my co-founder, decided to remove my access from our support chat.

Understandable, when these kinds of things happened regularly:

Sell Computer Make Money

However, I did have a point — selling his computer that day was probably the fastest way to make a good chunk of money.

And the same goes for your blog.

If you want to learn how to make money blogging fast, learn how to build and flip blogs.

That’s exactly what we have done since the end of 2018.

We started our blog about software products 18 months prior, and — by applying a solid SEO strategy — we saw pretty good growth in traffic, despite the niche being competitive.

Ah Case Study Organic Traffic

But more importantly, because the niche offered some good high paying affiliate programs, we managed to grow the revenue to around $16,000 per month.

Revenue Overview Ah Case Study

This achievement was awesome, but we also realised that, to get to the next level, it would take a lot of resources (money) and time. Which was difficult, because we had other successful projects.

And because the niche was a competitive one, we weren’t sure if we could maintain the SEO rankings and revenue.

So… we decided to sell, to ensure this venture was profitable.

And so we did!

In January 2019 we received a mid six figure payment after listing the site for sale through FE International.

Escrow Payment Screenshot

Building blogs to sell is a legitimate way to make a lot of money blogging, and more and more “pro bloggers” are taking that route.

It’s just best to plan and build the site around that idea so it doesn’t depend on you or your personal brand.

🛠 Services

Consulting Services and Coaching

If you are a new blogger looking to make money with a blog, sometimes, selling a $40 course won’t cut it for you.

Simply because, to make a full time living, you need to sell maybe 100 of these a month. And small blogs struggle to generate this many sales.

The solution here is to offer something that costs a lot more so you don’t need such a high number.

And that’s where selling services and coaching comes in.

While they’re not small anymore, the team behind Nerd Fitness understood the power of services.

Which is why they started offering remote coaching to help their audience get back in shape.

Nf Coaching

Nerd Fitness is a pretty popular fitness blog started by Steve Kamb, who I interviewed a few years ago.

According to Ahrefs — who usually underestimates traffic — they get 286,000 monthly visitors from Google alone.

Nerdfitness Ahrefs Overview

According to the bio of their founders, they get over 1 million monthly readers.

Steve Kamb Twitter

With this in mind, it’s natural that Steve uses all the traffic of his blog posts by adding a huge call to action to his coaching services at the top.

Nerdfitness Blog Cta

These heavy calls to action allow him to focus his email marketing — he only targets new blog posts, because he knows people will click on the giant button on top anyway.

Nerdfitness Email Marketing

And that’s pretty much Nerd Fitness’s funnel in a nutshell.

  • Write awesome content that ranks well on Google. 
  • Add a big call to action to your services on top.
  • Email your list these blog posts regularly, so a portion of them clicks the button and buys your coaching.

Done. 

Simple, awesome blogging business.

Freelance Services

If, rather than consulting or coaching people, you’d rather do the work and collect regular payments, you can use your blog to promote your freelance services.

That’s actually what Toptal, a topgrading freelance agency, does with its blogs.

They get their freelancers to create awesome technical content that targets very technical problems their clients may be looking into.

Toptal Blog

Then, as you read the blog post and scroll through, you get prompted with a “hire this freelancer” call to action on the sidebar.

Topal Hire The Author

And when you click on it, you get his full resume with a clear “hire this dude” button.

Toptal Developer Resume

When I interviewed Breanden Beneschott — Toptal’s ex COO — several years ago on the podcast, he already said that the blog was about to overtake paid traffic for engagement rates of freelancers.

I have no doubt that this has been achieved by now, and this is an excellent example on how you can sell freelancing services through blogging.

If you don’t want to run a freelance agency but still want to get paid for hiring within your niche, creating a paid job board for people to find each other in your industry may be a good idea.

That’s what Darren Rose of ProBlogger did.

He created a job board to recruit a writer for your blog content.

Problogger Job Board

Posting a simple job ad to recruit a blogger already costs $75, but if you want to be on the first page it costs $150!

They also sell in bulk, so some recruiters drop up to $999 at once to buy 10 ads.

Problogger Pricing

Plus, premium job offers get Tweeted by Darren Rowse’s account — which has an impressive 225,000 followers (although his engagement is questionable).

Darren Rowse Twitter

Speaking Gigs

And, finally, another way to make money from your blog is by becoming a speaker at live (or virtual) events.

That’s what Dustin Stout decided to do.

Dustinstout Speaking Gigs

Dustin has a reasonably popular blog, getting around 20,000 visitors per month according to Ahrefs.

Dustinstout Ahrefs Overview

He gets this traffic by ranking high on Google for utility keywords related to social media, such as “Instagram vertical dimensions.”

Dustinstout Google Ranking

And then promoting his speaking offers in his main navigation.

Main Menu With Speaking Offer

🤓 Step by Step Guide: How to Make Money Blogging

Now that we have observed the many ways you can make money blogging, let’s take a look at the exact, recommended, step-by-step methods you should follow — even if you’re a beginner.

Step #1 — Pick the Right Niche

When most people think about blogs, they think about a website where you just share your life and your opinions.

But these aren’t really the kinds of blogs that make money.

Plus, social media is way more suited for that kind of content these days.

No, the blogs that make money specialize in a specific topic and stick to it to become real authorities in their market.

And the trick is that not all markets are equal.

If you are absolutely crazy about 16th century british wigs, it doesn’t mean they’re a good niche for you to pick for your blog.

In fact, according to Ahrefs, only 40 people per month look for them.

16th Century Wig Ahrefs Kd

And this is why, while being interested in the topic of your blog is always a good thing, passion should not be the only guide you use when picking a niche.

We dedicate 27 lessons to picking your niche in our flagship program, “The Authority Site System,” because it’s such a crucial step.

If you are not enrolled, here are 5 questions you can use to validate any niche:

1. Can you find 5 small, specialized blogs ranking well on Google?

I know — when you’re a beginner blogger, competition sounds scary.

But trust me, all niches in existence have probably already been thought of by someone.

That means that if nobody is there making money, there probably isn’t much money to be made in that niche in the first place.

My recommendation is to head over to Google and search for keywords related to the niche you’re thinking about.

So, if I’m considering starting a blog in the paintball niche for example, I’d search the query “best paintball guns” and look for blogs specializing in paintball.

Best Paintball Guns Search

Then, as I clicked on these specialized results, I’d find a blog that was probably built by a small publisher — not a huge company I couldn’t compete with.

Planet Paintball

When you’re brainstorming, try to find 5 sites like this to validate your blog idea.

2. Can you reproduce these blogs’ monetization?

When I start a new site, I always like to ask the question: Where is the money?

In other words: even if you manage to start a blog and get traffic, can you make money from it?

For this, I recommend that you observe the blogs you found in the previous step and scan for how the writer monetizes the content.

In the case of that paintball blog I found earlier, the blogger seems to use Amazon Associates to make money.

Paintball Blog Post Affiliate Link

Affiliate marketing is easy to replicate. You can simply follow our Amazon Associates guide to learn how to make money with product reviews.

Ads are also easy to replicate, but if your blog sells physical or digital products it will require more work on your end. And you may want to reconsider the niche.

3. Is the niche growing, shrinking, or seasonal?

Another thing to consider when you want to make money blogging is the fact that, while a market may be popular now, it might not be in a few years.

Additionally, some markets — like gardening, for example — are only popular during the spring and summer months.

Gardening Google Trends

You can clearly observe the peaks and dips of any niche using Google trends.

Google Trends

First, type a broad keyword describing your niche in the search box and hit enter.

Then, set the filters as shown on the screenshot below:

Paintball Google Trends

As you can see, paintball is a lot less popular these days than it was in the early 2000s.

And, if I’m taking that into consideration, I should probably reconsider this niche.

4. Can you realistically build a credible site?

Let’s say, after seeing the disappointing trend of the paintball niche, I decided to get into nutrition and helping diabetic people with their diet.

A quick search on Google shows me these kinds of articles are written by huge health blogs.

Nutriton Niche Evidence Based Post

And, if I were looking at this page and clicked on the evidence based button, this is the information I’d get:

Evidence Based

You might think this isn’t very important, but Google has been chasing EAT (Expertise, Authority, and Trust) in YMYL niches (Your Money or Your Life).

In plain English, this means that if a writer does not have the credentials in the kinds of niches that involve big life decisions — like health, legal, or finance — Google is willing to force their rankings much lower.

And that is not good news.

So, unless you’re a nutritionist or you’re able to assemble a team with the right credentials, I don’t recommend getting into one of these niches.

5. Can you picture yourself working for 1,000+ hours in this niche?

Becoming a successful blogger and making money from your website takes a lot of time.

I often say that during the first year, you’d probably be better off working at McDonald’s.

But I don’t say that to discourage you. 

I say that so you know what you’re getting into, and to help explain why things are hard in that first year. And so you know that if you’re not making any money blogging it’s completely normal.

However, one thing that will always help you make your blog successful is you enjoying the niche you work in.

Do What You Love Never Work

After running blog niches through all the previous checks, make sure that you can picture yourself enjoying working many hours on your site.

Step #2 — Get Good at Blog Content Creation

Once you’ve selected a market for your blog, if you want to have a chance to make money, you will need to create LOTS of content.

This will be your main activity as a blogger, so you need to get good at it.

And I’m not talking about bland articles, like most of what you’ll find online these days.

You need to create content that engages an audience and makes them want to come back to your blog.

(A bit like what I am trying to do now — you are over 4,000 words into this article and still reading.)

But creating great content that generates fans and that allows you to start making money from your blog will require you to master several skills. 

Here are a few of them:

#1. Keyword Research and Brainstorming Topics

Picking topics for your blog content is more of a science than an art, but most beginner bloggers don’t know that.

There are many creative ways to come up with blog post ideas, but if you’re going to focus on getting traffic from search engines (and — spoiler alert — you should!), then learning how to do keyword research is a must.

For this, you will need a keyword research tool. We recommend Ahrefs to the people following our training.

It allows you to answer very important questions about any keyword, such as:

How many people search for it?

How many people click on results?

How hard is it to rank on Google?

Ahrefs Kd Overview

To learn more about how to do this, check out our guide on seed keyword research.

Alternatively, you can use the blogs you looked at while doing your niche research and find which topics bring them the most traffic.

If I bring back one of the paintball sites I found earlier into the Ahrefs Top Pages report, I get the following:

Ahrefs Top Pages Report

I can easily see which topics bring the most traffic to this blog:

  • Belly band holsters
  • Best paintball guns
  • Best paintball pistol
  • Best mag fed paintball guns

I can then take these topics and create content around them for a much higher chance of generating traffic to my blog.

#2. Reusable Content Formats

If you want to create the volume of content you need to make money blogging, it’s important to have a process.

Once you’ve done keyword research for long enough, you’ll see that most ideas fall into a few content archetypes:

  • Step by step guides / tutorials
  • Lists
  • Product reviews
  • Product roundups
  • News reports

And so on.

It’s a good idea to build content templates for each of these archetypes — you can reuse them every time you create a new blog post.

That’s what large sites like The Verge do, for example.

When they review phones on their website, they start with an intro, then a summary box with buy buttons.

Theverge Review Post

Then, they talk about the same attributes every time:

  • Screen
  • Battery life
  • Performance
  • Camera
Theverge Blog Post

This means that, every time they review a new phone on their website, they don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

They just follow their proven format.

You need a similar system for your own website.

Each time you start a new content archetype, save notes about the sections you’ve decided to use on a free wiki software, like Slab. Then consult it and update it every time you make a new post in that archetype.

To help get you started with content templates, check out our “How to Write a Product Review” guide.

#3. Write Headlines That Get Clicks and Shares

It doesn’t matter how great the content you create for your website is, if nobody clicks it, nobody will know!

This is why headline writing requires specific attention and skill.

Title tags are a HUGE factor when it comes to getting traffic from Google.

During our headlines testing and research, we found that writing slightly clickbaity headlines worked better — especially if you referred to one of these topics:

Topics Dominating Headlines Ah Studies

If you’re writing list posts, the number of items you have in your list was also found to determine how shareable and linkable your article will be.

Numbers In Headlines Ah Study

In practice, I like to use the Sharethrough headline optimizer to give me feedback on my headlines in real time.

I usually just start with my target keyword for the post — in this case, “how to make money blogging”:

Sharethrough Headline

Then, I tweak the headline content to get the quality score box to at least green.:

Sharethrough Headline

You have to admit, this second headline will get a lot more attention when shared around.

#4. Onpage SEO

To really push your blog over the edge in getting traffic and making money online, you want your content to appear high on Google rankings. So learning onpage SEO is a must.

Think about it like fine tuning your content for Google:

Including your keywords in your content is great, but Google works with complex algorithms that look for many keywords in the lexical field of your main keyword.

For that, we recommend you check out Surfer SEO as it integrates directly into Google docs and tells you exactly which keywords to include while writing.

Surfer Seo Editor

Surfer SEO can also show you exactly what to edit on your page for it to rank higher, based on your competitors data.

Surfer Seo Audit

Additionally, you’ll probably want to learn how to internally link pages properly, as our data study shows a very large correlation between number and quality of internal links and higher rankings.

Step #3 — Focus on Growing Your Search Traffic

I get it.

Creating Instagram stories promoting your latest post is cool and fun, but you can’t deny one thing — according to industry insights by SEMRush, most blogs in most verticals acquired the majority of their traffic from searches.

Up to 69% for the marketing market!

Traffic To Industry Blogs By Source Ahrefs

The good news is, if you followed my advice on content creation, you are already in good shape when it comes to SEO.

But content, while king, is not everything.

Here are a few other parts of SEO you should consider learning:

#1. Learn How to Create a Great Site Architecture

Chances are you’re running your website on WordPress — an excellent choice to start your blog.

However, WordPress doesn’t do a very good job at organizing your site architecture for optimal SEO results.

Website Hubs Example

That’s why we recommend you look into creating custom hub pages in place of using WordPress’s default category pages.

Paintball Site Hub Page

If you want to be a successful blogger and rank well on Google, chances are you’ll need to think about links regularly.

Links count like votes for Google, and, according to many SEOs, count as one of the most important factors to ranking your site.

Google Ranking Factors Ranked

The most effective way to build links that will make a difference to your rankings is to learn outreach link building.

Usually, you get to build either guest posting links or skyscraper links. Or you can attempt broken link building, but we haven’t found much success with it.

In case you haven’t noticed, in the last few years Google has been a huge fan of showing the answer to your query at the very top of the search results:

How To Start A Blog Google Search

These are called featured snippets, and they are run by a completely different algorithm than the normal way Google ranks things.

This means that even if you’ve been struggling with things like link building, you have a shot at ranking #1 on Google and getting a lot of traffic to your blog.

The trick with featured snippets is first to rank in the top 5, as it seems to be where you are the most likely to get picked up.

Search Rank Gets Featured Snippet Ah Study

Then, you need to format your text exactly how Google likes it and build “snippet bait” they can use in the following format:

Snippet Bait Code

Step #4 — Monetize With Affiliate Marketing and Advertising First

Now that you are on your way to getting lots of traffic from Google to your website, it’s time to make money with your blog!

Because traffic takes a lot of work to generate, most beginner bloggers don’t have a lot of time, resources, or experience to monetize their site.

This is why, when you get started, we think it’s better to avoid digital or physical products and focus on more passive ways of making money.

And there’s two main ones I’d recommend:

1 — Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is the default monetization method we recommend to our students of “The Authority Site System.”

The main reason for that is that affiliate marketing, unlike ads, doesn’t always require a lot of traffic for you to make money blogging.

For example, that blog of ours generates only 56,000 visits per month from Google — which is respectable but not that much.

Affiliate Site Organic Traffic

Yet, because most of its content is product reviews and roundup reviews, the site generates over $3,000 per month from affiliate commissions.

Affiliate Site Amazon Commissions
Affiliate Site Linkconnector Earnings

The reason this site is able to generate good affiliate commissions, despite not getting that much traffic, is because most of the content you’ll find on it reviews products or product categories.

The people who find the content on Google are eager to buy, because they are specifically looking for product information.

They usually end up reading the content to make a purchase decision, click on our links, and generate commissions.

2 — Ads

The other method we recommend to make money with your blog when you get started is to use display ads.

Unfortunately, the best display ads network won’t let you in unless you have a fair amount of traffic to your website already. Which is why we tend to only implement ads after getting to about 50,000 visitors per month.

That’s when networks like Mediavine and Adthrive will consider adding your website to their pool. And these networks pay a lot more than most alternatives.

Affiliate Site Adthrive Earnings

It’s a very hands off approach.

Just sign up, get approved, and they will do all the setup for you. Then you just need to make sure you keep getting page views to your site to get paid.

Step #5 — Grow an Email List and an Audience

Blogs aren’t just about ranking on Google and monetizing with a good affiliate program or pay per click ads. 

That’s just the first step to transforming your side hustle into a real business.

Once you have regular blog traffic coming from Google, it’s time for you to start earning an audience and fans that follow you regularly and don’t just stumble upon your site once.

This is when you start thinking about social media, and — most importantly — building an email list.

These will allow you to get repeat website visitors, and build a relationship with your target audience while promoting products to them. And it will allow you to make money while doing so.

We made a full case study on monetizing an email list in this post if you’d like to see how it works.

Clickbank Sales Stats

If you want to achieve this on your blog, here’s how to do it:

1 — Collect Emails on Your Site

In order to be able to email your audience, you first need to collect their email addresses.

The good news is, if you’ve followed our guide so far, you will have a bunch of targeted traffic on your WordPress blog. And there are plenty of ingenious ways to convince people to part ways with their personal information.

Opt-In Pop Ups

This tactic is by far our favorite. I’m sure you noticed it as you browsed our blog.

I know a lot of people hate pop ups, and I can understand their point of view — they aren’t the most fun user experience.

Ah Optin Pop Up

But, if you want to make money blogging, they are a must-use tactic.

According to our opt-in pop up tool, OptInMonster, between 2.8% and 4.2% of all visitors end up joining our evergreen workshops thanks to them.

Optinmonster Stats

If you want to know exactly how to set these up, check out our beginners guide to opt-in pop ups.

Content Upgrades

Admittedly, we don’t use these as often. But they still work like gangbusters!

Content upgrades are in-content calls to action that have a direct relation with the content you are consuming.

Giveaways

My last recommended — but least preferred — tactic to grow your email list is to run giveaways.

Giveaways allow you to offer a prize to a random lucky winner in exchange for people performing actions such as signing up to your email list or following you on social media for a chance to win.

We like to use Gleam.io to organize our giveaways.

Gleam Io Giveaway

We tend to organize these before product launches or big sales to pump up our email list.

The trick with giveaways is to give something away only your target audience would be interested in, so the people joining in will also care about your future emails.

If you give an iPad away, everyone will sign up and your email list will not be very targeted.

Gleam Io Actions

Check out our full giveaways case study to learn how to run these.

2 — Engage Your Email Subscribers and Build a Community

Building an email list is one thing, but if the blogger doesn’t email his audience, they will soon forget who he is.

This is why emailing your list is so important — especially if you want to make money from it.

In order to send those emails, you need to set up an email marketing tool that will handle the technical side of things for you.

We recommend MailerLite.

It’s free for your first 1,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails per month, which is nice for beginner bloggers.

Mailerlite Pricing

Just sign up through their website, and you’ll be able to import your subscribers via CSV or a text file.

Mailerlite Subscribers Import

You can also connect OptiInMonster, Elementor, or Thrive Leads directly via API to bring in your new subscribers as soon as they sign up.

Once the subscribers are in and you have a new blog post to email them, click on the campaigns button in the top menu.

Mailerlite Campaigns Menu

Then, fill the form to create a new campaign promoting your new blog post.

I suggested using Emojis in the subject line — they’ve proven to help improve your open rate from our internal testing 😉 .

Mailerlite Campaign Options

After that, select the drag and drop editor to create your email.

Mailerlite Email Design

Use the editor to put together your simple blog post promotion email, like this one:

Paintball Authority Promotion Email

And, once done editing, select all your subscribers, review, and hit send!

Do this every time you release new content to bring people back to your site and make some more money from affiliate links and ads. 

Additionally, when a product you promote has a good discount offer, email it as well — especially if it can generate commissions for you.

This prepares your audience for the next step.

Step #6 — Launch Your Own Offers and Digital Products

The next step in the food chain is to launch and earn money with your own products.

It’s hard work, but totally worth it if you reach that stage of blogging and become somewhat of an expert in your industry.

The best place to start is to launch a course for your audience — you can take the topics of some of your most popular blog posts and make a course about it.

This is what we did with one of our websites using a very popular blog post on Juicing (listen to the podcast here).

This post alone ended up making $2,500 per month from the ebook sales.

So, how do you do that on your own blog?

Here’s the step by step breakdown.

The best way to build a product that generates daily sales on autopilot — and achieves that true passive income you’re probably looking for — is to build a course focused on the same topic as a popular blog post.

Why?

Because it guarantees you get ongoing leads for your funnel that will be interested in your course.

My suggestion is to head over to Google Analytics and find your top pages by traffic. Then brainstorm course ideas from there.

Google Analytics Top Pages

B — Build a Lead Magnet for That Specific Topic

Once you’ve identified some likely candidates, our goal is going to be building a lead magnet. One specific to the course topic so that it attracts leads that are the most interested in your potential course.

I recommend you use Canva and make a simple list lead magnet using the presentation building tool they offer.

Using Canva For Lead Magnet

When your lead magnet is ready, use a tool like OptInMonster to create a call to action on your blog post(s) and entice people to download it.

Lead Magnet Blog Cta

C — Build a Minimum Viable Product You Can Quickly Launch

Now that your lead magnet is collecting daily leads, it’s time to build something to sell to them!

It’s hard to summarize how to build a course or digital product in a blog post, but my recommendation this: 

Follow the same process you use to create blog content. However, expand each section a lot more and include more types of content.

We use video a lot these days for our premium content, and it’s a nice way to “upgrade” the feel and justify the price we charge.

Adding cheat sheets, worksheets, and other interactive content also helps create an awesome digital product.

The interface you deliver your content from is important as well, but you can use a done for your course builder like Thinkific or Teachable to give it that “premium feel” and great user experience.

Teachable Example

D — Build an Email Follow Up Sequence for Your Leads

Now that we have something to sell our leads, it’s time to make money!

And we are going to do this by creating an email sequence for the people downloading our free lead magnet to convince them to buy our paid product.

This is something we do here at Authority Hacker.

After people sign up for our free training, we offer them “The Authority Site System” and email them about it for a few days with various angles.

Email Sequence

You can easily build something similar inside your MailerLite account.

E — Learn and Improve

Now that your basic sales funnel is up, it’s time to work on growing and improving it.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to start a/b testing things like:

  • Your opt-in call to action
  • Your emails
  • Your price

Change things one at a time and evaluate the effect this has on your sales.

For example, OptInMonster will let you create multiple calls to action and run them against each other to see which one appeals the most to your visitors.

Optinmonster Data

There’s a lot more to learn about sales funnels, of course — maybe I’ll expand on it in a future blog post.

🎯 Conclusion

If you want to learn how to make money blogging and become a six figure blogger, you will have to pick up a lot of skills.

It’s like learning a new job, and so it can take a while before you start making money online.

The best thing to do? Take baby steps and treat this as a side hustle to start with while following the exact steps that we outlined above.

If you want a more in-detail how-to guide on how to get started in the best way possible with your blog, I highly recommend you attend our free training webinar.

🙋‍♀️ FAQ

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