How to Successfully Monetize Your Blog in 2021

Jan 27, 2021   |   8 minutes  

You've set up your blog, you've written a bunch of content, and you're getting a bit of traffic. What now? How do you actually start making money?

Most people immediately jump into ads as a starting point, but is that really the best you can do?

Let's look at (literally) every possible way to monetize your blog going into 2021, and let's work through what is going to work best for you.

What Can You Sell?


I always like to work through problems using "first principles" before getting too deep into the weeds. What does that mean?

First principles is a term that people with a background in physics like to use. People like Elon Musk.

Essentially, it means that you take the most basic things you know and try to use them to solve a problem. It's thinking about a problem from the ground up.

On your website, there are only four ways you can possibly make money.

  1. Selling your own products
  2. Selling your own services
  3. Selling other people's products
  4. Selling other people's services

That's it.

Think about it. Have you ever bought something that wasn't a product or a service?

🍔 That cheeseburger 👉 product
🚗 That Uber ride 👉 service
🎬
Netflix subscription 👉 service

You get the idea.

The only question is who owns the thing you are selling, you or someone else? This will never change. If it's 2021 or 3045, we will still be buying and selling products and services.

Your Own Products & Services


Let's start with products and services that you own and control. These are potentially the most profitable for you, but they are also the most difficult because you have to create them.

Ads are much easier. You just drop a script tag into your site and bam! 💥 you're making money. It might only be a few pennies depending on your traffic, but it's easy. That's why everyone does it. More on that later.

Back to creating your own products and services.

Prerequisites

To successfully sell products and/or services from your website requires that you have some amount of a sales funnel. It can be pretty basic, but your sales funnel will include at least:

  • Traffic (which you should already have)
  • Email capture with an email list
  • Regular emails that go out / nurturing emails
  • Email promotions and sales

Why are these so important? Stats vary to some extent, but only 2 - 8% of people are likely to buy something from you the first time they land on your website.

That means that follow-up is critical to building a viable business. You can't do that if you don't have a way to get in touch with people.

Product Ideas


Once you've got traffic and a basic email marketing system running, you're ready to start selling. But what can you sell?

Information Products

Conventionally, bloggers are known for selling things like e-books and courses.

Why?

How did people find you in the first place? Odds are, they were looking for some kind of information, and you gave it to them. So, in some sense, they already regard you as an expert 👉 especially if they've joined your mailing list and you've developed some kind of relationship with them.

That makes e-books and courses a natural fit because you're just selling more advanced information.

But what else can you do?

E-commerce

The scope of what you can do is really only limited by your audience, your creativity, and your brand.

For example, suppose that you run a knitting blog. You could sell pre-made patterns. That's pretty specific to that niche.

Whatever your niche, if you've developed a really strong brand that people identify with, you could sell swag: things like coffee mugs with your logo on them.

If your site has something to do with self-help or motivation, you could sell products with motivational sayings on them. It's pretty easy to set up a shop on Shopify and drop-ship these kinds of products with services like Printful.

Subscriptions

If your audience is appropriate, you can create "insider" programs where they get access to unique benefits and exclusive content.

This could be as simple as a private Facebook group where they get to interact with you and get their questions answered.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Not an easy proposition (to say the least), but some bloggers have developed their own software tools and sold them to their audience.

This is difficult and expensive, but it can be right for some audiences.

Service Ideas


What services you can sell is really dependent on your niche.

To use two extremes, if you're running the knitting blog we mentioned earlier, it might be pretty tough to sell consulting. It could be done, but the demographic isn't the type to typically spend big bucks on hourly help.

On the other hand, if you run a blog about software development, it's highly likely that you could sell consulting at high hourly rates. Just look at sites like Speedshop. There are obviously all kinds of areas in between as well.

Group Coaching

One way to make coaching more accessible, scalable, and profitable is to create a group where members pay a potentially lower price, but they all get access to your expertise as a group.

Back to our knitting blog.

Suppose that you are an expert knitter and you decide to sell a monthly coaching session. Could you get people to attend a 10 person group session for $20 per session? 

Maybe. I honestly have no idea - it's not my market. But it seems more plausible.

If you can, that's $200 per hour for each of those sessions if you can fill them up.

Plenty of businesses sell services like this in all sorts of niches though. I've personally paid $600 per month for marketing coaching. I was part of a 6 person group and we met every two weeks.

It's a great model if you can make it work.

Other People's Products & Services


Let's go ahead and get the most obvious out of the way: ads.

Ads are easy to set up, and if you have enough traffic, they will make you money.

How much? As always, it depends. As a rule of thumb, I wouldn't reach for ads until you're getting 50k page views per month, but that's just me.

Why?

Ads do two negative things to your website:

  • They slow it down
  • They create a negative user experience (UX)

Now more than ever, speed is critical to how you rank in search results, and having a great UX will help you get more email subscribers and loyal fans.

You don't want to damage those things.

Do some people make a ton of money off of ads? Yes! And you can too, once you have a ton of consistent traffic.

Let's look at two other things you can sell.

Affiliate Offers


One of the best ways to monetize your blog is with affiliate offers. 

Affiliate deals are products or services that you can link to on your website, and when someone purchases after clicking your link, you get paid.

The affiliate marketing world is big, and it can take a while to get your head around all of it.

Here are a few pointers:

  • You can sell just about anything you want from Amazon as an affiliate, but it doesn't pay all that well.
  • Sites like MaxBounty collect affiliate opportunities that you can promote. These are called affiliate networks, and you can find a number of them.
  • You can also find your own affiliate deals to promote by going directly to brands. This is harder to do when you're small.
  • Some software companies like ActiveCampaign and ConvertKit have open affiliate programs where you can promote their product and get recurring revenue.

It requires a lot of research and consideration about exactly what your audience will be interested in, but affiliate marketing has a lot of revenue potential.

Miles Beckler on Youtube has some fantastic content on getting started with affiliate marketing.

Getting Creative


A lesser discussed way to monetize your site is to go out and find partners who sell things that your audience would be interested in.

Let's look at a couple of examples.

Suppose that you run a blog about how to launch a startup. Who would be interested in that audience?

  • Co-working spaces
  • Software development firms
  • Digital marketing agencies
  • Companies that build developer tools
  • etc

What could you offer these companies?

Would they pay you to send a sponsored email to your list? Would they pay you to write a guest post? What about just advertising directly on your site?

It's really only limited by how creative you are and your ability to go out there and network.