With the right strategies and a determined work ethic, you can still make money blogging in 2021.
Many newbie bloggers have a decent part-time income within the first 6 months and a solid full-time income within 1-2 years.
Some lucky bloggers are even able to hit the six-figure mark within the first year.
But even if you do everything right, you can still fail.
The blogging landscape is more competitive now than it’s ever been.
In this epic guide, I cover the most effective ways to monetize your blog, including one little-known method to jumpstart your blog’s growth even if you’re just starting from ground zero.
Note: This in-depth guide on how to make money blogging is over 6,000 words long, so you can check the table of contents below to jump to the section you’d like to dive in to more.
My favorite way to monetize your blog is the first blogging monetization strategy (which will also help you grow your email list faster than anything else you’ve ever tried before as proven by my Virtual Summit Mastery students).
How To Make Money Blogging Even If You’re Starting From Scratch
There’s a lot of moving parts that go into a profitable blog in 2018, but they can all be whittled down into one golden rule:
Your blog has to provide value by solving your readers’ biggest problems.
If you focus on your audience’s needs, you’ll be able to turn that value into profit.
Step 1: Choose a Profitable Blog Topic
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to come up with the most innovative blog topic of all time.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you do have to provide value.
How to pick the right blog topic:
- Pick a topic that you enjoy learning about.
- Pick a topic that other people enjoy learning about.
- Identify your target audience.
- Address the problems facing your target audience.
There’s an almost endless number of blogs out there in every niche.
No matter how hard you think, you aren’t going to come up with a totally original idea.
But what you can do is bring to the table your own unique perspective.
First, ask yourself what you enjoy learning about…
What do you enjoy so much that you can think about it all day long?
Prepare to get cozy with the content you choose to create.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m not genuinely interested in something, it shows.
Don’t pick a topic just because there seems to be an opportunity in the market.
Your first blog will bomb if you aren’t passionate about it.
Blog from the heart!
The readers who you’re trying to connect with want content that speaks directly to them.
Blog about topics that you can relate to.
It’s easy to get inside the mind of your audience when you’re one of them.
Do plenty of people enjoy learning about it?
Don’t make life hard on yourself!
Pick a blog topic that a lot of other people are interested in.
Let’s say that you’re obsessed over replicating iconic Civil War battles with miniature figurines.
That doesn’t mean there’s enough of an audience to make a profitable blog about it.
Do a quick Google search of your topic.
Type in “Civil War figurines” and see how many results pop up.
As it turns out there’s nearly 7 million results for “Civil War figurines.”
Maybe it’s worth looking into them after all…
Why a Bigger Audience is Better
The larger the audience, the easier it will be to get traffic and engagement to your website.
A larger potential audience will give you a buffer against the “short-attention-span churn rate.”
The internet has blessed your readers with immediate access to information, but it’s also cursed them with short attention spans.
Readers are getting harder than ever to keep engaged.
Out of first 100 people to navigate to your content, a fraction of those will be patient enough to actually read your articles.
By picking a topic that plenty of people are interested in, more serious readers will find your content faster.
Do you have a crystal-clear image of your audience?
Your readers are going to be your new best friends.
You need to know them as well as you know your husband or daughter.
Create a detailed audience persona:
- What are their biggest fears?
- Are they single or married?
- Do they have kids?
- Is family important to them?
- What’s their profession?
- What do they do for work?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What do they do for fun?
- How do they relax?
- How do they dress?
- Are they formal?
- Are they laid-back?
- Where do they live?
Even more importantly, what’s their online behavior like?
- What forums do they participate in?
- Which blogs do they already subscribe to?
- Do they belong to relevant social networks?
- Who do they follow?
Are these questions easy to answer?
If you can’t confidently rattle off the answers to these questions, then you may not know your audience well enough to target them.
Does your audience have clear pain points to address?
When you intimately know your audience, you can provide solutions to their problems.
SOLVING PROBLEMS = PROVIDING VALUE
Your readers want to improve their lives.
Prove that you can help them by directly addressing their biggest pain points.
It won’t be long before you turn a fresh fanbase into you first 1,000 true fans.
A funny thing happens when you help people with their problems:
THEY BECOME LOYAL.
If I visit your blog twice in a week and bothtimes I find content that improves my life, guess what?
I come back for a third helping.
How quickly you gain loyal email subscribers will determine how rapidly you turn your blog into a revenue-generating machine.
Now for the most effective way to explode you email list and fund you blog…
Step 2: Build Your Audience Rapidly and Make Money Before Your Start Your Blog
There are plenty of newbie bloggers who generate a steady income using traditional marketing strategies.
However, generating revenue is only one small piece of a successful blog.
You also need to:
- Establish yourself as an authority
- Build an email list
- Make meaningful industry connections.
Turning your blog into the total package typically takes years.
With virtual summits, it can happen over the course of a single hosted virtual event.
What Are Virtual Summits?
Virtual summits are like webinars on steroids.
As the host of your own virtual summit, you bring together a couple dozen or so industry leaders for one-on-one interviews.
You can either air the original recordings live…
… you can pre-record the interviews and launch them on a specific date.
Anyone who subscribes to your email list gets to watch the interviews for free on the original air date.
People who purchase “all-access passes” enjoy bonus features and are able to watch the recordings at their convenience.
Hosting a virtual summit typically takes weeks to prepare, but the payoff can be huge…
The Power of Virtual Summits
Hosting your virtual summit is takes some work, but it can reward you tenfold.
I struggled to get my blog off the ground for over a year and had only a few hundred email subscribers and very little revenue to show for it.
Then I launched my first virtual summit, The Branding Summit, in 2014.
The Branding Summit generated:
- 3,000 new email subscribers
- $20K+ in revenue
- Meaningful connections with several industry leaders
1. Establish Yourself As an Authority
Establishing your brand as an authority is one of the most challenging aspects of starting a blog from scratch.
It can take years to build a genuine relationship with your audience and maximize your earning potential.
By rubbing elbows with industry leaders on your virtual summit, your audience will immediately see you as an authority by association.
You can see how virtual summits can condense years of trust-building into a single online event.
2. Network with Industry Leaders
The guests that you interview oftentimes lead to meaningful relationships.
You provide significant value to your guests by exposing them to a broader audience.
It’s a service that all online entrepreneurs are grateful for and by providing it you can forge meaningful partnerships.
3. Build an Email List
Your email list is central to your blog’s success.
I was so blown away by my first virtual summit that I continued to host more.
One of my more recent virtual summits, List Building School, grew my email subscribers by over 26k!
These aren’t just any subscribers either, they’re highly-motivated and ready to engage.
People who subscribe to virtual summits are serious about learning and are ready to be an active part of your community.
4. Generate Revenue
The List Building School summit generated multiple six-figures in revenue right around the time when I hosted it (and since then over $1 million in total sales).
My earnings came from a combination of all-access pass sales and affiliate sales of information products and online marketing tools that I sold off the back end.
I’m not the only one to monetize my blog with virtual summits.
The virtual summit model can be used to in any niche and at any phase of your blog’s growth.
Virtual Summit-to-Blogging Success Stories
Lisa Edwards went from a struggling photography blogger to growing her email list by 6K subscribers and generating $30K in revenue.
Prior to her first summit, Lisa was writing a ton of blog posts and running a lot of email campaigns, but it wasn’t going anywhere.
Lisa’s summit gained her authority in the photography industry and led to greater exposure and speaking opportunities.
She even started to get noticed by her fans.
Steph Gaudreau runs StephGaudreau.com (formerly StupidEasyPaleo.com).
She started blogging in June of 2013 after quitting her teaching job just months earlier.
Steph had gotten Stupid Easy Paleo all set up for monetization, but it wasn’t making any money.
Her first summit changed all that.
It brought in 19,560 new email subscribers and sold over 600 all-access passes.
Mitch Asser had a similar experience with virtual summits.
He was a personal trainer with no previous experience as an online entrepreneur.
Over the course of several summits, Mitch took his blog on intermittent fasting from zero to 30K email subscribers and generated over 6 figures in revenue.
Step 3: Decide On Your Blog Monetization Strategy
As your site grows, you’ll have increasingly more opportunities to make money blogging.
Certain blog monetization methods work best at different phases of growth.
Affiliate Sales for Early Stages and Beyond
In the early stages, you’ll might want to try monetizing directly through affiliate sales.
By working as an affiliate, companies pay you a percentage of the sales you drive to their site.
I recommend writing reviews for programs and courses you’ve taken, like I do here with Ramit Sethi’s Zero to Launch course.
Reviews like these tend to rank well in Google if you optimize them correctly and they can have a direct impact on your ROI.
Amazon has one of the world’s largest affiliate programs.
They pay their affiliates a set rate of anywhere from 1% to 10%.
Because of the low payouts, Amazon is best for sites that see a high volume of traffic.
Some of them offer as much as 70% end even up to 90% commission, but most hover around 10% to 30%.
AdThrive’s minimum is 100k monthly visitors.
Be careful not to let your site get overrun with ads.
You don’t want your blog turning into one giant billboard.
Later Stages of Growth
As you get established in your industry, more creative monetization opportunities will become available.
You may even have the opportunity to host your own live events.
Other ways for established sites to make money blogging include:
- Membership sites
- Online Courses
- Physical products
Display Ads: CPC vs. CPM
Several platforms allow you to get paid for placing advertisements in your posts.
You’ll need quite a bit of traffic before this monetization method becomes profitable.
- CPC ads pay out a certain amount each time a user clicks on an ad.
- CPM ads pay you a “cost per thousand impressions,” which means you get paid a set amount for every 1,000 times the ad is served to visitors.
AdThrive’s minimum is 100k monthly visitors.
Be careful not to let your site get overrun with ads.
You don’t want your blog to turn into one giant billboard.
How to Decide Which Blog Monetization Methods to Use
As you decide how to make money with your blog, always keep your target audience in mind.
How do you think they’ll feel about ads?
If you think they’ll be a huge turn-off for your audience, you might want to avoid programs like AdSense altogether.
Affiliate sales, on the other hand, allow you to make money while providing value in the form of high-quality, relevant products.
No intrusive ads necessary.
Warm Up Your Audience with Free Content First
It’s best to provide a ton of free value before you start trying to launch products, courses, membership sites, or ask for donations.
By the time you’re ready to launch a product, you want them to be so grateful for the value you’ve provided that they can’t wait to buy whatever you come out with.
Virtual Summits Can Be Your First Product
Virtual Summits are a product in themselves, and you don’t have to be an established blog to host one.
All you need is to connect with industry professionals and get them to agree to an interview.
Later on in your blog’s journey, you can use the email list and authority you’ve gained from your summit to successfully launch your first “non-virtual summit” product.
Step 4: Start Your Own Blog
Now that you’ve got an idea of how to make money blogging, all you need is a website and learn how to start your own blog.
There’s a few simple steps that you’ll need to take:
- Choose a blogging platform.
- Get a host.
- Register a domain name.
- Configure and design you blog
1. Choosing a Blogging Platform
The most popular website platforms are:
Wordpress is by far the platform that’s best-suited for blogging.
There’s a reason why over 30% of the web runs on Wordpress sites.
By going with Wordpress you’ll have access to a seemingly endless number of plugins for configuring, customizing, automating, and tracking your website.
- They host your blog.
- Free to start and pay to upgrade.
- You access it from their domain.
- They take care of the back end.
- You own your domain.
- Complete control over design.
- You choose your host.
- You control how to monetize.
I recommend Wordpress.org for obvious reasons.
You need to have complete control over your site’s design and monetization if you want to make it profitable.
Although Wordpress.com is easier to set up, the downsides are too great.
Wordpress.org is still easy to work with and in the end will get you to where you need to be.
2. Getting a WordPress Web Host
Your host provides the actual computing power that runs your site.
Having a quality host impacts how fast your site loads, which has an impact on how Google positions you in the search rankings.
I recommend Bluehost for beginning bloggers.
Their shared hosting plans are more than adequate for new blogs and their cPanel interface is easy to navigate.
WP Engine is what I currently use for my website and blog navidm.com (the site you’re on right now).
They’re significantly more expensive, but when you want to start ranking for more competitive keywords the faster loading times really come in handy.
3. Picking a Domain Name
You can register your domain name through a variety of sites, but I recommend doing it through your hosting provider, otherwise you’ll just have to transfer registration to your host later.
Here are some you choose between:
Keep it simple and stick with “.com.”
People are used to seeing “.com” at the end of URLs, so it still carries the most trust (although some other ones haven gained popularity in recent years).
4. Configuring and Designing Your Blog
Wordpress sites have all of the best plugins and page builders.
I recommend using the drag-and-drop page builder Thrive Architect to design your pages. That’s what I use on this website too.
ThriveCart is an easy to setup shopping cart tool for when you have products to sell.
When you’re ready to roll out your first online course, Teachable and Thinkific are excellent options to create, market and sell courses, access to membership sites, and all-access passes to your first virtual summit.
I don’t want to sugar-coat it too much.
There will be some headaches along the way, especially if you haven’t built a website before.
But by choosing the right hosting plan and implementing the right tools, you can have a site runs smoothly and is ready to start generating revenue.
All that’s missing is the killer content…
Step 5: Create Epic, Searchable Blog Content
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a multi-billion dollar industry.
SEO is the process of creating content that directs traffic to your website through organic search results.
Much of your blog’s success will come from targeting highly-discoverable, relevant search terms.
In order to rank at the top of Google’s search results, you’ll have to create epic, searchable blog content.
Create Content That People are Searching For
Write articles about topics that get searched for a lot.
Target keyword phrases with a high search volume.
In my niche, plenty of people want to know how to build an email list, which is exactly why I decided to write an article about it.
One of the easiest ways to find out if a term or phrase is searched for frequently is to use Google’s auto-populate feature.
As you type a phrase into Google’s search bar, it populates a list of suggestions based on the most commonly searched for phrases.
These keyword phrases can be a good starting point for your research.
Dig a little deeper with research tools like:
SEMRush, Ahrefs and MOZ are advanced market research tools that can be used for competitor backlink analysis as well as many other features.
If you want your articles to rank for certain keywords fast, then you’ll also want to target keywords that have low competition.
Low competition means that not very many other quality articles are written on the topic.
You can use tools like SEMRush to get detailed metrics on who’s ranking for certain keywords and what they’ve done in order to rank.
Write for Google
Your content will have to follow certain rules if you want it to rank well.
Google’s algorithms rank content according to how likely it is to satisfy the searcher’s needs.
Google is constantly evolving to provide better search results.
To rank, your content needs to be searchable, and that means having stellar on-page SEO.
On-page SEO refers to the elements of the article itself.
Your content will have a better chance of ranking if it follows certain rules:
- Include the primary keyword in the title.
- Use the primary keyword in the first sentence of the article (or at least the first 50 words).
- Include the primary keyword in several headings and subheadings.
- Have a natural keyword density
The Wordpress plugin Yoast SEO keeps track of keyword density for you.
Over-using keywords is called “keyword stuffing,” and it can hurt your rankings.
Use keywords naturally, write with your readers in mind, and you should be fine.
Write for Your Audience
“Good SEO” has grown to be synonymous with “providing quality content to your readers.”
If your audience will appreciate what you’re doing, chances are Google will to.
Follow these formatting tips:
- Avoid blocks of text.
- “Paragraphs” should be no longer than a few lines.
- Using bullet points whenever possible.
Formatting your articles in this way makes them highly-scannable, easy-to-absorb, and unintimidating.
Follow these tips for style and tone:
- Write in a conversational tone.
- Speak directly to your audience using “you” and “I.”
- Use simple words whenever possible.
- Write in short sentences.
Readers don’t like to be lectured by a professor. They like to be spoken to in a conversational tone.
When you first start going down the SEO rabbit hole, it can seem overwhelming.
Remember that Google just wants you to do what’s best for the reader.
Providing quality content to your audience is the most important SEO trick in the book.
Step 6: Promote Your New Content To Your Existing Audience
You can help your new content get traffic by promoting it to your email list.
One of the best ways to grow your site is to create shareable content:
- Solve a problem
- Be entertaining
- Offer a unique perspective
- Trigger strong emotions
When people share content, they want the person they’re sharing it with to feel the same emotions that they did when they read, watched or listened to it.
Your content needs to make your audience feel something.
You might be familiar with the adage, “be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Another way to say this is, “make content so great that they have to share it.”
Create a weekly newsletter featuring that week’s best content.
- Be consistent: Send your newsletter out at the same time every week.
- Use engaging subject lines: The subject line should always pique interest by triggering emotions.
- Never share just to share: As long as you provide obvious value every time you send off that email, your audience will continue to open it and share it with friends and colleagues who they think might be interested.
The more your content gets shared, the faster your email list will grow.
Post to Social Media
Your email list is a great place to start, but the real sharing happens on social media.
Share your content on:
Really want to make your content pop?
Try these social media hacks:
1. Time Your Shares
Don’t schedule your shares to post in the middle of the night when your audience is sleeping.
You want to share your content when your audience is most likely to engage.
Use a service like Buffer to manage your social media campaigns.
For Facebook, the best time is at 3pm on a Wednesday.
Each platform has there own optimal time.
2. Write Engaging Accompanying Text
Don’t post your article to social media without and engaging headline and hook.
Just like your email needs a subject line that grabs the reader, your Facebook and Instagram posts need to do the same.
- Trigger emotions
- Create intrigue
- Share useful facts
Stir up enough curiosity that the content has to be clicked.
3. Tag Influencers
This strategy obviously works best when you have solid industry connections.
If you’ve already run your first virtual summit, you can tag your former guests whenever you share relevant posts.
If they find it useful and “share-worthy” they may share it themselves and post it on their platforms.
4. Thank Influencers for Their Inspiration
Some say that imitation is the biggest form of flattery.
The next time you use someone else’s idea to enhance your content, let them know.
Reference them in your writing, link to them, and then reach out and let them know.
They may be so pleased that they’ve achieve “resource” status that they share it with their audience.
“Hey gang! Check out Navid’s article on ‘how to make money blogging” to get another perspective on what you can accomplish with my course.”
Step 7: Set Up Your Blog For Organic Email List Growth
Start building your email list on day one.
Each visitor is an opportunity to capture an email and turn them into a loyal fan.
Growing an email list can be slow work, but there are several things you can do to speed up the process.
Why You Should Start Growing Your Email List Immediately
One of the biggest blogging mistakes you can make is to wait to build your email list.
You might think, “I barely have any traffic. What’s the point?”
It only takes one person to subscribe.
Not having a way for visitors to easily give you their contact info is like throwing away future money.
Your email list is an incredibly powerful tool.
It helps you:
- Share new content.
- Survey your audience to help create new products and service.
- Pre-sell your products.
- Promote special offers.
Explode Your Email List with Virtual Summits
You should already have a decent sized email list if you decided to host a virtual summit.
It’s easier to continue to gain subscribers when you already have a solid base to work with.
Virtual summits allow you to gather high-quality emails even if you’re starting with very little authority.
Use a Lead Magnet/Content Upgrade to Capture Emails
You should always try to convince unsubscribed visitors to subscribe.
Sweetening the pot with a free giveaway or content upgrade can help win them over.
Create a free ebook or an exclusive ultimate guide purely for the purpose of lead generation.
Jordan Fallis runs a small personal health blog called Optimal Living Dynamics.
He uses a simple grocery shopping food guide as his lead magnet.
When someone subscribes, he sends them an email with a link to the guide.
Tools for Organic Email List Growth
A successful blog has tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of email subscribers.
Obviously, you can’t manually send out all those emails
You also aren’t going to want to use the same exact subject line and copywriting for each person.
That’s where these handy pieces of software come into play to make your life a heck of a lot easier.
1. Email Service Providers
If you’ve hosted a virtual summit, you should already be set up with an email service provider (ESP).
Email service providers are designed for mass outreach and to stay in touch with your audience on a regular basis.
Here’s three popular ESP companies to choose from: