How to make money blogging

A personal blog usually results from a passion for a special interest. It may initially begin as a hobby, but many bloggers eventually end up putting a lot of time and energy into their projects. This effort can pay off if you market your content in a professional way and make money by blogging. Once the most important requirements are met, a world of possibilities opens up.

The basics of a commercially successful blog

Even if your blog is of a high quality and looks professional, it won’t start making a profit straightaway. A considerable amount of time lies behind a successful blogging business, so if you want to establish yourself professionally in this field, you need a lot of patience. Making money with a blog won’t happen overnight.

Discipline and professionalism are essential if you want to make money by blogging, although these traits alone aren’t enough if you want to make it big online.

Find a niche and use it

A mistake that many bloggers make is trying to earn money with their blog without having a defined topic area. You should decide on a theme that is exciting and interesting. When you start creating your blog, you should already have ideas in mind about the topic of the blog. If you find a niche theme, you will speak to a more defined target group and build a true readership. And this is the exact type of target group that is lucrative for advertisers who may want to place an advertising banner on a blog, for example. Targeting a specific group is hugely important for a business’s success. Affiliate marketing (see below) only works in the right environment.

Tip

A meaningful domain including a suitable domain ending can help start up a conversation about your blog and mean that it’s established long-term on the market. Since November 21st 2016, it’s been possible to register a .blog domain to show visitors what to expect from the URL. 1&1 IONOS enables you to register your own address with a .blog domain ending just like this.

Build up traffic

When it comes to traditional print advertising, the circulation figures determine how successful an advert is. For blogging, the deciding factor is the amount of traffic generated with each article. As such, a blog that only receives a few hundred visitors a day isn’t very appealing for advertisers. However, this isn’t always the case, as some companies may be interested in a smaller readership of experts.

In either case, traffic remains a very important factor when it comes to pay-per-click advertising and affiliate marketing. However, relevant readers don’t automatically flock to a blogger; you need a lot of persistence and engagement to ‘earn’ your readers and retain them by keeping your content relevant and up to date. Only when you have many loyal readers can you start to make money by blogging. In this context, you should research about hosting possibilities: if you have commercial ambitions, you should consider hosting your own blog.

Networking among bloggers

Networking is an important factor for a successful blog, as a solid network increases your blog’s relevance. Forget about competing with other blogs and instead provide links to others with relevant topics similar to yours. It doesn’t matter whether you share posts or quote parts of a text, connecting with your competition has many advantages. The readers appreciate this ‘service’ and the bloggers benefit from this behaviour as well. Instead of worrying about losing readers to the blogs you link to, you should aim to position yourself as a hub for content, even if that means you’re also helping third parties. Outbound links are evaluated positively (as well as the backlinks that you could potentially receive from the linked blog) and this is reflected in the PageRank.

You can find out more about the significance of backlinks by reading our articles on search engine optimisation and how to optimise your WordPress blog for SEO.

Making money with a blog: traditional sources of income

What are the possibilities for those wanting to make money by blogging? With this question as a starting point, the classical methods of how to monetise your blog will be explained, then how to earn money by blogging without having to place ads on your site.

Direct marketing

Direct marketing is when a blogger rents out the free advertising space on their site directly to an advertiser. In contrast to AdSense or comparable online services, independently managing advertising space can be very lucrative, since all the income generated goes straight to the blogger. Managing the space yourself, however, does translate into more work, especially when it comes to acquiring new advertising partners. Blogs generally indicate free advertising space on their site and provide all the necessary information (media data, advertising rates, etc.) on a subpage.

Sponsored posts

Sponsored posts (also known as advertorials) make it possible to earn money with editorial posts rather than advertisements. With this form of advertising, you write articles on a certain product or a topic or you’re given a pre-written text (that has already been adapted to the target group) from the company or agency. The scope of the blog, the amount of effort, and the topic relevance also determine the compensation for the article. Cooperating with blogs is now common practice for many marketing agencies. Many bloggers find it difficult to strike the right balance between sponsored posts and believable content.

Note

Sponsored posts must be marked as such. The blogger is paid for writing the respective advertorials and advertises – sometimes very directly, sometimes less directly – for a product, a service, or a company. If the blogger does not identify the content as sponsored, this counts as hidden advertising, which is prohibited.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing relates to referral marketing. Registering for relevant partner programs is usually free for bloggers. Writers receive a commission if they recommend a product or a service in their articles and a reader then follows the recommendation (i.e. the link). The appropriate commission (around 3-10%) is only awarded when a contract has been finalised. Amazon Associates and zanox, are two very well-known affiliate programs.

Pay per click advertising

Pay per click advertising is an uncomplicated way of placing adverts on your website so you can make money by blogging. Google AdSense is by far the most well-known online advertising service. The type of pay per click ads that are shown depends on the content of the blog. Profit is made with each click, so the more traffic a blog has, the more profitable the pay-per-click adverts are.

Alternative strategies to earning money with a blog

Direct and eye-catching advertising has proven successful for bloggers in recent years and is undoubtedly one of the easiest sources of income to regulate. However, there are other ways to profit from your blog. Here we introduce some alternative solutions.

Marketing your own products on your blog

A good blog, which offers high-quality content, forms the basis for marketing further products or services. Bloggers market their expertise, become specialists for a specific topic, and use this expert status to establish further offers. Freelancers (e.g. photographers or web designers) write on their blog about their subject area and offer services on a professional level. Journalists often use their own blog for self-marketing, in the hope of receiving writing assignments from well-known magazines. Own products and services, for example, could be e-books, seminars, and workshops or video tutorials, which can be passed onto readers.

Making paid content available

An additional option to make money with a blog is to incorporate a so-called paywall. Paid content is becoming more and more popular especially amongst large publishers. A paywall requires the reader to pay a monthly subscription in order to be able to read certain content, although some articles will be left free of charge. Plugins such as Tinypass enable you to integrate a paywall into your blog. Another option is closed membership where all content is premium content and can only be viewed by paying members.

Funding on a donation basis

Your own blog can also be funded by donations. By integrating a donation button on the site, readers are invited to support the blog financially – voluntarily, of course. In contrast to the paywall model, all content remains free even if the reader decides not to donate anything. Specialised providers such as Flattr enable uncomplicated donation processing. However, the service requires the reader to be registered with Flattr and have credit in their account. Alternatively, you could enable a direct donation option by providing your bank details on your site.

Tip

If you want to make money with your blog and have a PayPal account, you can create an individual donate button on the online payment service’s official website. You must indicate the donation amount (fixed or donor’s choice), currency, and language. Afterwards, you only need to integrate the generated HTML code into your own blog project.

Selling links

An additional, seemingly lucrative way to make money by blogging is to sell links that are not marked as paid advertising. Text link sales like these can be organised through websites like BackLinks. However, you have a significant disadvantage compared to links in sponsored posts: purchased links that aren’t marked as such, violate Google’s guidelines. The blogger could therefore end up being penalised. The consequences may be a decrease in PageRank and a loss in ranking in the search engine results, which will deter many advertisers.

Rules for commercial blogging

Commercial blogging won’t work if you don’t play by the rules. There are regulations concerning tax declarations and registering as self-employed. Here is an overview of the most important facts:

  1. You should register yourself as self-employed even if you are literally earning pennies from your blog. The best solution is to register yourself as a limited company, which means that you’re named as the owner and an employee of your blog. You can set up a PAYE system to pay yourself from the profits that your blog makes.

  2. It counts as a business if you’re accepting products in exchange for writing reviews about them. Just because no money is exchanged, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from paying tax. Even if you sell samples that you’ve been given, you also have to declare how much they were sold for.

  3. Being self-employed, you need to fill out a self-assessment tax form, which documents your earning and spendings regarding the blog. The standard personal tax allowance is £10,600, which means you don‘t have to pay tax if you earn less than this amount. Any more than this amount and you have to pay 20% back on whatever you’re earning on top of the standard amount.

How much does a blogger earn?

In previous sections in the guide, it explained how you earn money with a blog in the first place. So far, the question of how much a blogger earns on average each month has remained unanswered. This is because there is no set answer, since blogs not only have different possible sources of income, but are also paid completely differently when it comes to sponsored posts, advertisements, etc. In addition to the popularity and number of visitors, the topic of the blog plays a decisive role. For example, it is possible to make more money with a professional fashion or travel blog than with a blog about exotic animal species such as the Mexican Axolotl (simply because the target group is so small).

Successful income with blogging

In the UK, it’s possible to supplement your income if not get all your income, from a well-run blog. It can be a tedious process, taking months or even years to make even a little profit. Only once your blog is becoming more popular, does it start to look attractive for advertising companies, which is why donations and selling your own products are often the only sources of income at the start. Once various partnerships have been concluded and the financial basis has been created, there is no limit to how much you can earn.

These are the top earners in the blogging industry

Blogs cover the widest variety of topics: fashion, sports, lifestyle, music, etc. Every industry has its top blogs, which all have their own success stories. There’s often more to these successful blogs than just blog posts.

Popular bloggers are known as influencers in social networks or as experts at conferences and events, and they sometimes even operate their own product chains. The project 'The Blonde Salad' was launched as a fashion blog by Chiara Ferragni in 2009 and is a prime example of this. Today, the Italian boss has a multi-headed crew and doesn’t just deal with making sure the fashion blog runs smoothly, but also the social media channels, photo shoots, and sales from the shoe collection ('Chiara Ferragni Collection'). It’s estimated that Ferragni earns more than £9 million per year. 

The following bloggers are some of the most successful and best paid in the world:

  Blogger Topic area Source of income Estimated income
The Smart Passive Income Blog Pat Flynn Marketing Affiliate marketing, product sales, podcasts, public speaking £135,000 / month
Making Sense of Cents Michelle Finance Affiliate marketing, direct marketing, product sales £90,000 / month
Pinch of Yum Lindsay & Bjork Food Affiliate marketing, direct marketing, sponsored posts, PPC advertising, public speaking £50,000 / month
Just a Girl and Her Blog Abby Lawson Lifestyle & decorating Affiliate marketing, product sales £23,000 / month
ShoutMeLoud Harsh Agrawal Blogging & Internet Affiliate marketing, direct marketing, product sales, PPC advertising £23,000 / month
MatthewWoodward.co.uk Matthew Woodward SEO Afilliate marketing, consulting £17,000 / month
True Valhalla Matthew Software development Product sales, direct marketing £8,000 / month
JohnnyFD.com Johnny Travel Affiliate marketing, product sales £6,000 / month
Single Moms Income Alexa Money-saving tips Affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, PPC advertising £5,000 / month

Make money by blogging: tips and tricks for beginners

If you plan to make money with your blog, it is time to start taking steps to commercialise it. However, with all your efforts you’ve made to specialize in your topic, finding the appropriate hosting solution, getting more traffic, and building on your relationship with other bloggers, you’ll notice it’s a lengthy process that often requires a lot of patience. There are some tricks, however, that can help increase your success rate.

  1. Optimise loading time: Blogs are accessible to anyone via the World Wide Web. Potential readers expect the same level of user experience as other web projects. In addition to the intuitive usability and good structuring, a quick loading time is also required. The latter is mainly influenced by the choice of blog or content management system as well as the hosting environment. If you use a CMS, you can often improve the loading time with plugins, for example, with LazyLoad for WordPress sites. The plugin ensures that images are only loaded when they come into the user’s field of vision.

  2. Provide more content: Many bloggers only show a couple of posts on their homepage and sometimes there is no editorial content at all. If there’s more choice of reading material, it increases the chance of attracting visitors and gaining loyal readers. The increasing length of stay also has a positive effect on search engine marketing. It is important, however, that you also keep the aforementioned loading time in the back of your mind.

  3. Use teasers: With an interesting preview picture and an exciting teaser, you increase the probability of your articles being read. It’s best for you to write the blurb yourself, explaining what the reader can expect from the article. However, many content management systems also offer features that automatically generate the preview text from the first few lines of the main text. This is handy if you don’t have enough time to think of something yourself or you’re not feeling particularly creative.

  4. Emphasise the call to action: You should make it clear to your readers if you offer newsletters, products, or services on top of your editorial content in order to make money with your blog. Buttons and forms should be made obvious and prominent so that readers see them. If you want to integrate several different action prompts into your blog, don’t give them the same importance as each other. Highlight the most important thing so that visitors don’t become overwhelmed with too much choice.

  5. Analyse user behaviour: When you customize your blog to reach new visitors, increase retention time, or improve conversion rate, you should always analyse the impact of these adjustments. Using web analytics software like Google Analytics, you can see what has caused the increase in traffic or what had encouraged more readers to convert. You shouldn’t perform all the optimisation steps at once, otherwise you won’t be able to tell which of the adjustments has had the positive effect on your blog’s success.
Tip

If you want to focus entirely on creating content and optimising your blog, managed hosting is the perfect solution for publishing your project. You will not only get a hardware structure that is optimally adapted to your blog’s needs, but you’re also supported when installing, managing, and updating your favorite blog software. With 1&1 IONOS managed WordPress hosting, you can install WordPress in just a few clicks – future security and core updates are automatically carried out. In addition, the most important plugins, themes, and extensions are available to select right from the start. The support team can be contacted at all times.

Earning money as a blogger: summary of the most important options

Our guide has explained that there are a lot of things to consider and that a lot of time needs to be invested before you can make money with a blog. Only when a project has enough traffic does it become interesting enough for advertising companies. You’re also more likely to profit from any pioneering partnerships that present themselves.

To conclude, we have summarised the different sources of income:

  Description Advantages Disadvantages
Direkt marketing Renting your own advertising space ✔ Price self-determinable; no commission fee ✘ High expenditure (especially customer acquisition)
Sponsored posts Editorial, paid posts about a given topic/product ✔ Combines the aspect of advertising with relevant information for the reader ✘ Must be marked as such; sometimes the blogger risks their credibility regarding visitors
Affiliate marketing Recommending products or services within a post ✔ Good option to make money without much effort; even with low visitor numbers ✘ Blogger only makes a profit if readers follow the link and make a purchase; risk of readers being directed off the site
Pay per click advertising Renting advertising space via an external service ✔ Bloggers don’t need to find advertising customers themselves ✘ The blog operator gets money only when the reader clicks on the ad; the revenue per click depends on the traffic
Selling own products / services In addition to editorial content, the blogger also offers services or merchandise ✔ Additional offers give visitors more value and help to attract new regular readers ✘ reat effort involved; risk of losing the reader through too much information and product offers
Paid content The blog or specific articles are only shown to readers after a fixed fee has been paid ✔ Stable source of income; blogger is not as dependent on traffic as in advertising cooperations ✘ Requires a high image quality and an appropriate target group; high competition on the web through similar free content
Donations The reader is actively encouraged to support the blog financially (on a voluntary basis) ✔ Easy-to-integrate source of income, which can be especially useful in the start-up phase ✘ Not suitable for professional blogs after they become a certain size
Selling links Selling links in published articles ✔ Simple source of income; implemented via specialised services ✘ Unmarked advertising links violate Google’s guidelines