5 Ways Your Blog Can Make Money

Ian Lurie

There’s been a lot of stink lately about bloggers bowing out. In the most publicized example, reporter Dan Lyons decided to call it quits. The refrain: “We just can’t make any money.”
I won’t want to be too confrontational, but: Bull pucky.
There’s more than one way to skim dollars off your blog. Here are some serious, and some not-so-serious, techniques, and my experience with each.

Sell Ads

The only way to make money by selling ads on your blog is to be rich or famous first, and then write about how you became rich or famous.
Before you say “But what about…?”, yeah, I know there are a few exceptions. A few. And most have 4-5 writers working in sweatshop conditions to crank out posts so fast their fingerprints have melted off. The others have names like Darren Rowse, and I’m so jealous of them I can’t even mention them here.
But, that won’t stop you from trying. So go ahead. Take your blog that gets 5,000 visitors per month and stick some Adsense ads up there, or even better, try to sell ads direct.
My attempt. I have Adsense ads, plus I sell direct.
My earnings. My best month ever? $200. That’s with an average of 35,000 visitors per month. Told ya.

Go Affiliate

You can also hawk other people’s wares. Sell enough Acai Berry for Frank’s Supplements Emporium and you can make a bundle. Sell a few really high-priced items and you can make some nice change, too. Use Market Leverage or someone similar and you get great, helpful people to help you pick the best possible offers, too.
Affiliate marketing isn’t a bad racket, actually. I’ve done OK, earning enough to keep my wife from snickering at me when I take an hour to blog instead of snuggling in front of the TV (she snickers affectionately).
But you need to pick products you can stand behind, and pick your affiliate network carefully. When I started out, I got ripped off, and I still occasionally run into situations where I don’t get paid for, oh, 4-5 months.
My attempt. I sell MarketingSherpa’s excellent guides, books via Amazon and the occasional event on this blog. I also sell everything from chocolate to books on a number of others.
My earnings. Great compared to advertising: $300-700/month. Pathetic when you consider the hours I put into writing.

Steal & Cheat

OK, I’m being a little harsh. If you want to Stick It To The Man, figure out 30 ways to fool folks into clicking on hidden Adwords ads, steal other people’s content and risk their fiery wrath, or sell your e-mail list to the highest bidder (for $.03/e-mail).
OK, maybe I’m not being harsh.
The internet is still young, and there are plenty of ways to wring cash out of advertisers or the unsuspecting via your blog. Just don’t ask me how.
My attempt. None. I have enough bad karma from times I’ve snapped at my kids for no reason or went 50 in a 40 zone.
My earnings. Zero. And proud of it.

Create Your Own Product

Create your own training course, e-book, book or other product and sell the crap out of it.
On the plus side, you control your own destiny. Create something great and it just might stand out from the 999,999 other training courses, e-books and other self-created products that every other blogger is hawking non-stop.
On the down side, there are 999,999 other training courses, e-books and other self-created products. Plus writing, producing and launching an entire training course may lead to permanent nervous ticks.
My attempt(s). I wrote Conversation Marketing, the book, as well as the UnScary, Real-World Guide to SEO Copywriting. I’ve sold a total of maybe 500 copies. Ever. In my life. Plus I have another horrifyingly late e-book on analytics due out, and a Dummies book due out in about 4 weeks.
My earnings. Not a hell of a lot. Still, it’s fun, and I love to write. I’ll probably keep beating my head against the wall on this one.

Use Your Blog To Build Your Business

A 100% guaranteed route to success, if you’re willing to put in the effort, is to use your blog to build your business. You do that by:

  • Demonstrating your expertise.
  • Building your SEO leverage with great, link-worthy content.
  • Creating a history and a tone to which you can introduce prospective clients.
  • Building a body of knowledge that establishes you as an expert.
  • Generally building your presence among potential customers.
  • Inviting others to come read your latest creation.

It’s not easy. It takes a long time. But it works, beautifully. I have yet to see someone who writes insightful, thoughtful stuff 1-2 times a week fail at it.

Before you tell me you can’t write something insightful, read this post. And ask yourself: Don’t you have one insightful moment per week? Just one?

My attempt. You’re reading it.
My earnings. If I only count clients who have found me and my company directly via this blog, $200,000 per year, average, over the last 3 years. If I count all the potential clients who I sent to the blog to further sell myself and my company, closer to $400,000 per year.

Your Choice

What strategy do you want to try? It’s your choice. Just go in with open eyes and a long-term plan, and the worst that happens is you work your way through until you find a strategy that works.
Oh, and here’s the latest product I’m hawking non-stop:

SEO Copywriting eBook
Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. Awesome post and some great outlines on how to make money with your blog. You could always dive deeper into each one in their own post in the future to further build on this.
    For your total income from the blog, can I just add a “HOLY S*!%” to this comment. I’m at about 20% of that each year. Hopefully I can build and build and hit that level of income each year. Inspiring.

  2. @Mike Those numbers look impressive but the truth is they’re very reasonable if you’re building a high-end consulting business with a big team. They’re totally, 100% attainable. That’s the element of business blogging that I think most folks are missing right now. It takes time, yes – I’ve been blogging for almost 8 years. But it works, and it’s totally worth it.

  3. You’ve only sold 500 copies of SEO Copywriting? That’s what I find amazing. I’m one of those 500. For the price, that resource was great and should be read by anyone with a web site and doesn’t have the resources for dedicated SEO “expert”.
    Maybe you need to try one of those super salesy 10 page long promotions. You know the ones, the ones that supposedly will help you sell 5000 copies in the first week. Make you 1000’s of affliate income forever. I’ll give you a video testimonial.
    Why haven’t you done that? 😉

  4. Great post here. I agree in that building your own business using a blog is the very best way of earning money with a blog.
    The earnings you can get with advertising or affiliate marketing just look pathetic when you consider the effort put in.
    One thing I thought that would be a better approach was the selling of ebooks. I’d guess that could earn you a reasonably amount of money…

  5. Great post Ian.
    With regards to advertising, I am wondering whether in text ads would convert better, though I guess they might be too intrusive for some readers taste.
    More and more I started seeing some blogs asking for ‘contributions’ at the end of the post, something you would normally see freeware vendors use.
    6. Just ask for some money (but ask nicely ;))

  6. You extremely lay out everything about making money with blog. Wow! This is very encouraging for those who aren’t making any money yet with their blog. What a great tips you give out here! Great ideas guy..

  7. Great post. There are so many blogs out there where people claim they are making tons of money, it is nice to see an honest post. Refreshing. Making money online is not easy, and probably wont pay better then if you work for a company… but you get to do it yourself and have no boss. Trade offs.

  8. A good alternative is starting out with a revenue share site. Revenue sharing sites like Flixya.com and Hubpages.com are great ways to generate Google Adsense revenue without needing to host a website. Also great that they have done the hardwork for users to enjoy the benefits. Not sure how Flixya makes money, but they pay 100% of the ad revenue to users.

  9. Blogging takes a while to get it to a decent level of profitability…But, if you can hang for a year or 2, a lot of the competition quits….
    And for a high end consulting business, your strategies are genius!

  10. I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic with regard to selling ads, but you don’t have to be famous in order to sell ad space. You simply need the traffic.
    It’s been my experience that Adsense and all of the ad networks like Adify aren’t going to pay you a reasonable eCPM. I’m running Google ads for the time being but I’m negotiating a deal as I write that will provide me with premium ads and a very respectable eCPM.
    Therefore, you’re better off selling your ad slots directly to a core group of advertisers that fit your site’s niche.
    I’ve done a lot better selling text ads – not text links though. Simple short sentences with one or two links that take up very little space on the site, usually in the sidebar or in a 120×600 ad slot.
    I’ve never had much success with affiliate programs either. At the end of the day, it’s all about traffic.

  11. And don’t forget the ever-popular Build a List via your newsletter or ezine! During the 10+ years I’ve been marketing online, The List is what stands out as the best money-maker long term…no doubt about it.
    Data points, Barbara

  12. A shout out to the power of income by way of Blogging. You did a webinar for Trump University recently on blogging. It is something I have attempted in the past but quit for lack of direction.
    As a result of your webinar I have started a weekly posting with the future plan of bringing it into a business venture I am creating.
    I have since subscribed to your blog via google reader and your recent post describing what you do in your business is what will bring you this customer in the next month.
    All that being said, it wasn’t through advertising or long sales copy, it is through your blog and bringing value to the marketplace that brought you this customer.

  13. This was a very refreshing article. I really appreciate the open marketing you have on your blog. I think it is nice to have someone tell it like it is. I think everyone knows that marketing is required. I get tired of going to an article which says nothing…and they only want to sell me somthing. Thanks for not doing that with yours. I want to read more of your stuff!

  14. great post. erm 35000 visitors and only generating $200. So if adsense gurus saying that the can earn more than $5000 a month, how many visitors do they get then?

  15. Good article. I enjoy seeing how much other blogs make and actually tell the amount they make instead of running around in circles. Good post, looking forward to more!

  16. $200 for 35k views, yikes! That does not seem to leave a lot of hope for us amateur bloggers. What is your method of contacting companies to sell your ad space direct?

  17. @Severin We don’t sell direct, actually. We let them contact us. The one thing we DO have is traffic, so advertisers show up quite often. The real moral here is DO NOT BUILD A BLOG EXPECTING TO MAKE MONEY ON PAGEVIEWS. Find another model.

  18. I LOL’d at the cheating and stealing part. I’m impressed you’re doing so well for yourself; it inspires me to actually put some effort into my own blog.
    Thanks 🙂

  19. It does take awhile to start seeing some decent cash flow coming in from blogging, but the trick with this is having an empire of blogs all working for you – VRE, Virtual Real Estate.
    It’s the same as having a portfolio of rental houses. You can collect the rent from them or flip them for some fast cash.
    I prefer a mix of selling ads with sites such as Adsense (the king of pay per click) and affiliate marketing.

  20. Loved this article! I’ve been trying to learn how to make money with my blog, and this article really gave me some great in-sight on how to get started. It’s surely a keeper for me! It looks like you can really make money blogging as long as you put forth the time, effort, dedication and patience. Thanks for all your helpful tips!

  21. Loved this blog to very informative. Love your writing style, your straight to the point no B.S. lot’s of great tips!
    Im fairly new to blogging, but i’m finding out from having my own website, that blogging is actually a lot more beneficial in my opinion.
    First off you start off with a way higher pagerank, than you would from a brand new website which is zero, the big goose egg. So you can actually rank for decent keywords once your blog is optimized.
    You can do all of the same things with a blog, as you can with a website plus more. It doesn’t take as long for a blog to look pretty, than it does a website. In my opinion it’s good to have a website, but it is better to have a well optimized blog! Especially for my affiliate marketing business. Great blog, I enjoyed reading it, thank you!

  22. What’s the best way to draw advertisers to your site? Approach those within your site’s niche individually?

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