I've been blogging on my current site — Never Homemaker — for the last six years. I started out writing just for fun. In fact, I didn't understand that bloggers could actually make money by simply sharing their lives online. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that I could monetize my blog and earn a little extra money while working from home. Here are some of the essential insights I've learned along the way, and how they can also help you make some extra cash through blogging.
1. Image Ads
I started making money all those years ago through Google AdSense ads. My blog is hosted on Blogger, and the ads fit into my template like a glove. When my site gets lots of traffic, my revenue is higher (you get paid a varying amount per click), and the inverse is also true. In more recent years, I've had mixed experiences with these ads. I've definitely made less money despite similar traffic rates, which is why I've ultimately diversified.
Alternatively, you can seek out advertisers on your own. For example, craft bloggers might get shops from Etsy to sign on for ads at monthly rates. Local blogs might attract area businesses for support, and so on. You'll need a spot on your sidebar to display the ads to drive traffic to their sites and get the artwork from your advertisers in the form of a JPEG. I've seen bloggers set up contracts for this type of advertising on one month, quarterly, or yearly commitments. Some also offer different sizes at different prices.
2. Ad Networks
When I noticed my AdSense ads weren't performing optimally anymore, I shopped around for a publishing network. I chose BlogHer, which is now known as SheKnows, because I liked the community of women writers and several of my friends had shared good experiences. Like many networks, I had to apply, be accepted, and sign a contract. In the years since, I've been pleased with my decision.
Networks require bloggers to place a banner or sidebar ad in prime real estate on their sites. In return, bloggers get opportunities to write sponsored posts and do paid reviews for campaigns the team coordinates on their behalf. Another popular ad network I've heard great things about is Federated Media. Truth is, there are many out there — so be sure to read all the fine print before signing.
3. Product Reviews
Bloggers who don't want to join special ad networks can also seek out sponsorships on their own. This process might require some hunting time or — occasionally — companies might contact you directly about certain campaigns they'd like to run. Payment can vary wildly from free products/services to several thousand dollars depending on the arrangement.
Whenever I do a review outside of my network, I make sure to have a contract with all the details and conditions written out clearly. Don't be shy about setting your price. In the beginning, you might want to just do plain reviews of products in exchange for the free product. As your site gains more traffic and popularity, you can start setting rates and negotiating. Above all, it's important to give true thoughts and opinions in any reviews — no matter the pay. Otherwise, you might lose the trust of your readers.
4. Affiliate Links
There are lots of different stores and marketplaces with affiliate programs across the web. One of the most popular with bloggers is Amazon Associates. Of course, there are many alternatives to Amazon if you'd rather stick with something more specific, too. The way it works is anytime you link to a product using your referral code, you'll earn a percentage back if your readers purchase that item (and sometimes other items in that order).
Adding affiliate links to your blog is easy, but take care not to oversaturate your content with products. Instead, consider occasional shopping posts where you recommend some of your favorite items or review things you own and enjoy. That way, your content is helpful to your readers and not just a big referral link dump.
5. Text Link Ads
I've never personally used text link ads, but I have received emails with offers. Usually these arrangements involve linking a few words on a certain post to a designated site. Payments can range from $25 to several hundred in the offers I've received. There are also sites like LinkWorthwhere you can sign up to get opportunities for your site.
Be careful with this type of advertising because the sites linked often have little to do with your blog's actual content and, therefore, can seem inauthentic. Regardless, bloggers can make a good sum of money through this type of advertising.
My best advice to any blogger looking to monetize is to write first and make money second. If you are new to blogging, take care in creating unique, thoughtful content that will engage and entertain your readers. The rest can come later once you've built the relationships.