Can I be super honest here and say that some of the ways to “make money online” just sound and seem icky. Icky* beyond belief . . . and yes, icky is my very grown up way of saying it.

Some people have Scam McScammerton written all over them and their online “businesses.” And to them I say boo, because they’re reflecting poorly on the rest of us who want to earn honest Internet monies. The kind I want to share with you today.

What this is: An overview of the multiple ways you can make money blogging (a.k.a. monetize your blog, a.k.a earn revenue through your blog). I personally use methods 3 – 7 below, as you can see on my Monthly Blog Income + Traffic Reports that I share with you.

What this is not: Magic. Sorry Charlie; this all involves hard work. By the by, who IS Charlie, and why are we always apologizing to him?

You have permission: Some people feel bad about making money online and I think it’s because there are so many dishonest ways to do so. However, I just want you to know, you have permission (not that you need it). You have permission to be amazing, to pour your heart and hard work into your blog, to spend time sharing your interests + quirks, to spend your days making the Interwebs more useful and beautiful with your art, voice, and love. You have permission to make a few dollars off of promoting products you would share anyways, and making things you’re compelled to make, even if you were doing it for free.

It’s okay when others don’t care to make money online, but if anyone tries to make you feel craptacular for wanting to do so, refer them to this post and the following message: Stop being a hater + bringer-downer of creative, hard-working people. Basically, get a life. And brush your teeth. I think your breath stinks. Thanks, Regina.

Things to keep in mind:

>> Your main focus in your blog’s early days will probably need to be creating awesome content, but having monetization strategies in place can make you a little money and get you used to managing your chosen programs early on. You will learn a lot about affiliate marketing + digital goods, etc. through trial and error.

>> Making money from a blog takes concerted effort and can take a long time. You have to try methods, assess, readjust, drop some methods, add others, and get good at creating content and optimizing your blog to make good money.

>> Multiple streams of revenue will be your friend, and I’ll explain why later. You’ve probably never, ever heard a silly little phrase about not putting all your eggs in one basket, so here’s Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald singing it, and here’s Fred Astaire + Ginger Rogers sing-dancing it. Of course, they’re romanticizing the concept, and I want you to think the opposite. Eggs in one basket = bad. Major head nod to Irving Berlin for this and many, many other amazing pieces of music that I grew up on. Love you dude. Thank you.

{and now for} 10 Non-sleazeball Ways to Make Money Through Your Blog


How to make money online, the non-sleazy way
1a. Pay Per Click (PPC) ad networks:
Pay per click ads are web advertisements that you can place on your website (through code) that {theoretically} deliver targeted ads to your audience. You earn a small amount each time one of your blog visitors clicks on a particular ad. Google AdSense is probably the most widely known program to offer PPC ads. These ads can be hit and miss, as in, sometimes the ads delivered will not be a good fit for your readers. However, PPC ads are a very low-maintenance form of blog monetization and can eventually be decent earners for you.

Example programs:

Where they go on your blog: PPC ads can go in your sidebar, header, or footer, and sometimes even between blog posts or throughout your page content (this last one is not my favorite and seems tres, tres distracting).

Who they are best for: PPC will work best on high traffic blogs because enough people need to see them in order to get enough clicks that translate into real revenue for you. This doesn’t mean you can’t put these ads in place while your blog is still in its early stages . . . just don’t expect to pay your mortgage with PPC each month yet.

In use:
One of my favorite bloggers, Ciera of Ciera Design, has Google Ads in place on her site:
Pay Per Click ad network in use on Ciera Design's blog

1b. Pay Per Impression ad networks:
Pay per impression ads (often called CPM for cost per impression or cost per thousand impressions) are web advertisements that you incorporate into your blog (through some provided code) that deliver targeted ads to your audience. >>> Very similar to PPC, right? However, you earn a small amount of $$ each time the ads are viewed. So, in theory, any visitor to your blog who scrolls to an area where you display CPM ads is earning your blog a bit of change. CPM blog advertisements have the same “hit and miss” potential as PPC; some ads just won’t be relevant to your readers, but hopefully most will.

Example programs:

Where they go on your blog: Pay per impression ads typically go in your sidebar, header, or footer.

Who they are best for: Just as with PPC, “per impression” ads earn best on high traffic blogs because you need the higher number of visitors for the larger amount of impressions/views. Many networks that pay per impression require that your blog has a minimum number of monthly page views in order to apply to their program (among other qualifications you might need to meet) so they can provide maximum value to the companies paying for the ad space.

In use:
One of the food blogs I love, Pinch of Yum, has BlogHer Ads in place on their site:

Pay Per Impression ad network in use on the Pinch of Yum blog

2. Custom web advertisement space:
You can sell individual advertisement “blocks” or spaces on your website/blog to companies and brands interested in reaching your target market and frequent readers. When choosing a brand to partner up with, make sure you do your best to build a profitable relationship with them. I know I probably don’t have to tell you this, but you only want to take their money if you think your blog is a good fit for them and that they’ll “get their money’s worth,” in essence.

This makes for a happier advertiser (who can spread good word of mouth) and someone who will want to be your repeat advertising customer. There are really two main ways to go about recruiting advertisers: (1) develop a media kit that explains your readership, social influence, and rates, then contact potential advertisers with your kit and make it available on your blog so advertisers can find you, or (2) use a third-party service or “middleman” to facilitate the sales of ad space.

Example programs:

  • you can manage your web advertisement space on your own or through a plugin
  • you can also use a company such as Adproval or Passionfruit

Where they go on your blog: Custom ad space is typically in a sidebar, header, or footer, but it can also be mid-page as well.

Who they are best for: Custom ad space is best sold on blogs with a very specific and consistent readership or on large blogs with a good handle on who their readers are. Some ad management programs such as Passionfruit will have certain qualifications you need to meet in oder to apply, but if you’re managing your ad space on your own, there are no external qualifications >>> you just have to convince advertisers to spend their $$ with you.

In use:
A popular destination for fashion bloggers, The Independent Fashion Bloggers blog, uses Passionfruit to manage their ads and fill some of their sidebar:
Passionfruit ads at work on the IFB blog

3. Product-specific affiliate programs:
You can make money from your blog when people buy products and services linked from your site that have attached affiliate/partner programs. You can find these programs in one of three main ways: (1) if you know specific website/blog owners who sell products or services, they just might offer an affiliate program that you can easily find on their website, so take a look around; (2) any larger companies you know of that sell services, digital products, and physical goods may also have a partner or affiliate program; I recommend making a list of all the products, software, and services you use regularly in relation to your blog, then researching to see if those companies have an affiliate program in place from which you can be making money; (3) you can use affiliate networks to join the affiliate programs of multiple companies and receive combined payouts.

P.S. The way to make affiliate programs non-sleazy, is to only promote stuff you actually feel adds value to the people who read your blog. I would be highly embarrassed if you were reading my blog and one day clicked on an ad or affiliate link and bought something that was utterly useless or annoying to you. The mere thought of that leads me, and many other bloggers I know, to only sign off on stuff we love and, for the most part, use regularly.

Example programs to which bloggers can apply:

Where they go on your blog: Affiliate links/image ads can be in your blog’s sidebars, posts, pages, emails, PDFs, social media shares, and more. Certain programs will have limitations on what you can say/imply with your links and advertisements, as a way to protect themselves and you.

Who they are best for: Errrybody. If you have ever found a product or service you believed in and felt compelled to share with friends, then you are perfect for partner or affiliate income. You work really hard on your blog and your recommendations turn into real sales (that likely would not have otherwise happened) for companies. Why not earn a percent of that?

In use:
A blogger I really enjoy, Bethany of Love Grows Design, uses affiliate/partner links to an e-course she really believes in from a company called Braid Creative. After reading just one of Bethany’s posts, you’ll be able to tell that she’s genuine, so you’re hopefully likely to assume her links are meant to be helpful and valuable. You can see the links in use below on her Facebook page and in a blog post.
Love Grows Design Blog

4. Affiliate/associate hybrid programs:
Affiliate/associate hybrids have a slightly different earning potential for your blog than product-specific affiliate programs. These hybrid programs will give you a small commission of any product the person (who came from a link on your blog) buys. As an example, if you clicked on one of my Amazon.com affiliate links for a book, but got to the site and bought a spiral vegetable slicer, I’d still make a commission. Or, if you bought the book but also bought a TV, I’d make commission on both items.

Example programs:*

*Each of these affiliate program for bloggers varies, so be sure to check the policies of each one to determine exactly how you’ll earn commissions and what those commissions will be.

Where they go on your blog: This type of affiliate link/image can be in your sidebars, posts, pages, emails, PDFs, social media shares, and more. Just as with product-specific affiliate programs, certain hybrid programs will have limitations on what you can say/imply with your links and advertisements, as a way to protect themselves and you.

Who they are best for: Errrybody again. No matter your blog’s traffic level, you can probably find relevant, useful links to products you would normally buy from Amazon, or Target, etc. Again, as long as you are being genuine and trying to add value, you almost can’t go wrong.

In use:
As an example from my own site, I integrated some Amazon Associate links into a post where I was recommending some business books.
Amazon Associates program for bloggers

5. Selling your own services:
Selling your own services from your blog can do a lot more for you than just the money they earn. The additional benefits come in the form of establishing your reputation & authority in your field, when you offer items such as those below.

Example services you can offer from your blog:

  • coaching/consulting
  • speaking engagements
  • workshops and seminars
  • recipe creation (food bloggers)
  • online webinars

Where they go on your blog: You can advertise your services from your posts or pages, your sidebar, your header, your footer, your social media accounts, and anywhere else you can think of.

Who they are best for: As long as you have something valuable to say, are comfortable (or can get comfortable) with helping and communicating with clients, and can package your information so that people receive it well, then selling your own services could be a great fit for you.

In use:
One of my new favorite Interwebs personalities and entrepreneurs is Melissa Alam (@RingTheAlam). For ultimate entertainment and business savvy, you can check out her Instagram and Twitter accounts. P.S. Don’t really click on those links because you’re likely to develop at least a smidgen of a girl crush. Melissa hosts various workshops that give you a huge dose of your creative entrepreneurial Wheaties. She’s genuinely helpful for free on her blog, so people probably feel compelled to work with her in person. When Sleaze McGee’s are trying to sell you something, you will feel icky or mistrusting, when someone with Melissa’s expertise is selling, it’s really more like sharing something ultra valuable that you trade a little $$ for.
Melissa Alam, workshops and trainings for entrepreneurs

6. Selling your own digital products:
Developing digital products to sell from your blog can be some of the most rewarding, hassle-free money you’ll ever earn. Typically you only have to develop a digital product once (though it may need tweaks and updates), then you can sell it into infinity and beyond.

Example digital products you can offer from your blog:

  • eBooks
  • e-courses
  • email courses/challenges
  • guides/downloads
  • pre-made designs, patterns, or templates
  • software
  • or anything else that can be delivered electronically

Ugh. Now that I think about it, I guess even (don’t read this part kids) “adult web movies” are an example of digital products. Gotta be honest here . . . not a big fan of those at all. You’re welcome for that highly relevant tidbit.

Where they go on your blog: You can advertise your digital products in the same way you do your services: from posts, your sidebar, header, footer, PDFs, other products, your social media accounts, and anywhere else you can think of.

Who they are best for: Again, as long as you have something of value to communicate, and are able to package that value as a digital good, you may want to try selling digital products. When you’re first starting out, have trusted friends or advisors in your niche review the products before you sell them. P.S. Always hire an editor for written work. We’re human. We’ll inevitably make mistakes.

In use:
One of the {seriously y’all} best resources for bloggers on the net is Julie DeNeen (@jdeneen4). The articles on her blog are in-depth and literally fabulous. She has developed a digital Social Media & Blogging Bootcamp that you can purchase as a pack, or as individual lessons. I purchased the one below but there are several interesting topics.
Blogging and Social Media Bootcamp Challenge
7. Selling your own physical products:
I’m guessing “selling your own physical products” is a bit self-explanatory, so let’s move on to some examples to get your mind going.

Example products:

  • physical books
  • handmade goods
  • prints
  • gift baskets
  • custom clothing
  • anything you want to create

Where they go on your blog: Not only can you have a “shop” or “store” page devoted solely to your products, you can also incorporate their pictures and links in your posts, sidebar, footer, header, social media accounts, and anywhere else you can think of. It’s your product so it’s your choice. The Product Placement Police Department (PPPD) will not be breathing over your shoulder and handing out Poor Product Placement Citations (PPPCs). I freaking hate PPPCs.

Who they are best for: Any blogger at any traffic level can make and sell physical products. Even if you have a small group of people who visit your blog, you can still potentially sell your fun, valuable products. And people will love you for it. If they enjoy what you do, they’ll even spread the word for you.

In use:
Par exemple (is that even correct French?), I have a friend (I can call you my friend, right Jon?) who is ridiculous with any kind of design and handmade wonders. He recently decided to start selling some of his goods, which I’m an inappropriate amount of excited about. Right now you just have to ask him nicely in order to purchase a custom item, but he’ll likely be integrating a store or other system soon.
Jon King Design-Leather MacBook Cover
P.S. I’d really like him to move to Austin so I can have a fellow creative as obsessed with Halo and wine as I am. I’d pretty much force him to become my best friend, but don’t tell him that. We don’t want to scare him away. Oh, and remember how I told you not to click on Melissa Alam’s links because you’d develop a bit of a girl crush? Definitely do not visit Jon’s blog, his about page, or his Instagram, because you’re going to fall between 30% – 100% in love with him (really 100% though). You’ve been warned.

P.S. If you, dear friend reading this right now, are in Austin and are a fan of design and either video games or classic movies, hit me up, le STAT.

8. Membership sites/programs:
You can build a site or program that requires a monthly/yearly fee to access it. This site could have information, content, courses, etc. that only subscribers can access.

Example membership sites:

Where they go on your blog: Membership sites/programs can either be integrated into your main blog, and accessible by username + password, or they can be built on separate domains. For example Food Blogger Pro (listed above and pictured below) is the membership/class site of Pinch of Yum, the blog I talked about in 1b of this post.

Who they are best for: Bloggers with highly engaged audiences are well-suited to explore membership sites. If you build one at a lower traffic point, you run the risk of it not becoming worth its investment for a long time (or ever). You also want to have enough people join so that you can get good feedback and tweak your program as necessary to keep it high value.

In use:
Food Blogger Pro is the membership site of the bloggers behind Pinch of Yum.
Food Blogger Pro

9. Exclusive access to ___________:
As opposed to just a monthly/yearly membership site or program, you could develop exclusive products and groups that people have to pay to gain access to.

Example exclusive products/services:

  • a virtual private bootcamp (conducted by video)
  • virtual clubs that center around a specific topic
  • perhaps even content similar to your “newsletter” that you email out to paid subscribers

Where they go on your blog: You could advertise exclusive content in the same places you advertise other services.

Who they are best for: Bloggers who have a loyal audience or those who want to develop a small test group to test certain products, services, or features on.

In use:
XOSarah.com offers a blog club with exclusive access to one of her Google+ community groups where she answers questions, holds meetings at certain times, and allows bloggers to glean best practices and ideas from each other.
Make money with exclusive access products

10. Sponsored posts/reviews/endorsements:
Another popular way to make money blogging is to create sponsored posts, reviews, tweets, or endorsements for a particular brand.

Example sponsored posts:

  • you might develop a recipe using a certain brand’s ingredients
  • you could make a tutorial of a certain brand’s software
  • you could do an in-depth book review
  • you could show your readers how to complete a DIY project with a certain brand’s materials

Where they go on your blog: Well, they’re posts, so you know . . . they go in your posts. However, some sponsored posts will come with a certain number of tweets or social media mentions, so you may be spreading the word in other channels as well.

Who they are best for: No matter your traffic level or “status,” if you have a brand that wants to work with you on a sponsored post, and you feel the brand/post is a good fit, and you feel you have enough blog friends and engaged readers to interact with the post and the brand, then go for it. Jumping in and trying it is the best way to figure out whether or not it’s a good long term strategy for you.

In use:
A post such as the one below on West Elm, by designlovefest, is a great example of what a sponsored post might look like.
designlovefest sponsored post

Last tips:

>>I always like to emphasize the thought that it’s best to have multiple streams of revenue in place. I say this because things can change online in an instant. For example, every so often Google will roll out an update of how its search engine rates websites. One of Google’s recent updates, called Panda, majorly affected the ranking of many sites. So, if those sites had a monetization strategy such as pay per click advertisements (or PPC) that relies on tons of web traffic, they saw drastic declines in revenues because Google was no longer sending them all of that search traffic. Now, granted, many of the sites affected used questionable linking strategies to gain Google’s favor in the first place, so many saw Panda as a major improvement on a broken system. But still, I think you can see how putting all your eggs in one basket, could be unwise.

In general, I don’t think any blogger should majorly rely on a method that requires them to gain and keep search engine favor. The hope is that your quality content will always do well with major search engines, but diversification can help in the event of something unfavorable happening. Also, for lower traffic blogs, relying on programs that require high traffic, will obviously provide little income.

>>Lastly, make sure you comply with any and all laws/requirements/agreements that are in place with each form of advertising + affiliate relationship. Here’s a great article to start with on disclosing any advertiser relationships by Victoria of “the b bar.”

Psst, if you’re srrsly interested in making money online, my one signature online school is open now (and at a special price)!

Y’all, I promise I tried to make this post short, but let’s be honest: that’s not my strong suit. There is just so much info. I wish I’d had when I first considered monetizing my blog. And I wanted it all in one place. So that’s what I tried to do here. What do you think? Do you already use some of the methods above? Considering branching out in the future? Have questions or want some ideas specific to you? Get at me in the comments below.

Photo of smiling woman: © michaeljung – Fotolia.com
Photo of woman with money tree: © Jenner – Fotolia.com