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How to Make Money Travel Blogging: Ultimate Guide to Monetization

Working Abroad

Thinking about starting a travel blog to fund your adventures? In this post, you'll learn how to make money travel blogging. It isn't as hard as some people make it sound – but it is going to take some time – and a lot of hard work.

How to make money travel blogging

Table of Contents

How We Make Money With Our Travel Blog

Making money online is not nearly as complicated or difficult as it sounds.

We've been doing business online for many years – here's how we make a living online with our travel blog.

What I'll cover in the post:

  • 6 specific ways we make money (complete with links to providers and real numbers)
  • The way we will grow our business income (it's what you should do too)

But first, here are the two general approaches to making money online:

Two Ways To Make Money on a Travel Blog

There are two basic ways to make money:

  1. Direct monetization: This is what most bloggers are looking for: immediate cash for sale of a product, service or ad space. On GringosAbroad, we've had good success with sales of links, ads, and affiliate products. Direct monetization is truly passive income. There is no hourly billing or customer service. Just place the links and ads and everything is automatically tracked.
  2. Indirect monetization: This is also useful over time. Through your site, you can establish yourself in a specific industry which can lead to contracts and off-site employment. More on this at the end of the post.

Read to start? Check out our (Free) Guide to Starting a Travel Blog


6 Blog-Based Passive Income Streams

We make money online with the following six sources:

  1. Affiliate Marketing
  2. Amazon Associates
  3. Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising / Display Advertising
  4. Link Sales
  5. Display Advertising
  6. Indirect monetization

See more information on each of these income sources below:

1. Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers

Affiliate marketing is one of the most profitable ways to make money from your site.

What is affiliate marketing? Basically, it is marketing other peoples products to readers on your site. Through a set of personalized, coded links both clicks and sales are tracked and your account is credited for all transactions. Depending on the programs, you can be paid either a fixed or percentage commission. Also you can be paid for both sales and leads. Normally payouts are made every month. Affiliate marketing is popular because bloggers can earn without having to create their own products.

Ready to get started in affiliate marketing?

What you'll need to do:

  1. Sign-up with the four networks below. Be sure to enter your site and payment information. Direct deposit is the best option as it will happen automatically.
  2. Choose specific products and services that you want to promote on your site. This can be either in display ads in your sidebar or through contextual links in your posts.

Sign-up with these affiliate networks. They are my favorites and simple to use:

Many vendors have private affiliate programs that you will need to sign-up for individually. We promote private affiliate offers in the software, insurance, and marketing space. Often you'll just have to ask what referral program they have.

Affiliate Marketing Tip: Carefully choose the products that you will promote. Because the products are going to be marketed to your readers, you need to be sure that your readers are both 1) interested in that type of product, and 2) that the specific product you are recommending is actually useful.

There is a temptation to just promote the higher profit items – even if those items are of questionable quality. Don't do it! You will lose readers if you abuse their trust. Trust is the very reason that affiliate marketing works on blogs – because blog readers trust the recommendation of the blogger.

Promote items that you can actually recommend – regardless of their commission percentage, or whether they have an affiliate program or not – and you'll never go wrong.

Affiliate marketing has become one of our top income streams. And it is definitely my favorite way to monetize our blogs.

In this section, I'll give you an introduction to affiliate marketing. You'll learn the basics of affiliate marketing so you can begin monetizing your site.

But first: What is our experience with affiliate marketing?

We make daily income from affiliate links on our sites. We've built such a level of trust that we've had 5-digit product launches (of someone else's product) from which we received a commission. When we write about a new product, we know our readers will buy it. Reviews with affiliate links published years ago are still generating monthly revenue on our blogs.

So are you ready to get started? Here goes!

What is Affiliate Marketing? Affiliate marketing is getting paid for a product recommendation.

Here's how it works:

  • Do you love your camera? Write about it and include an affiliate link. When your readers buy the camera you'll get paid a small fee. For example, I love my GoPro camera. By including the link, I give readers the ability to visit the manufacturer's site and make the purchase. Which is what they'll want in most cases.
  • Did you just finish a book that you want to share with your readers? You could just put a direct link to Amazon.com sending your readers to a place where they can make a purchase. With affiliate marketing, the same thing happens but by using a coded link (one with your affiliate account number) you will then be credited for the sales that your review generates. Your readers will pay the exact same price.

There are three primary roles in an affiliate transaction.

  • Publisher: If you run a blog, you are the publisher. Just like book or magazine creators, blog writers are also publishers (content creators). Blogs have become one of the most powerful mediums because of their reach, their level of trust and their instant nature.
  • Advertiser: The advertiser can be any company that sells anything. They make an agreement to pay you a fixed fee (either flat fee or percentage of sales) when a specific action occurs, most often when a sale is made. Products can include anything from airline tickets and clothing to online services and seminars.
  • Consumer: This is the final piece of the puzzle – and where the revenue actually comes from. It is the consumer who sees the ad and clicks on it. Once they perform the specific action, your account gets credited with the commission/fee.

Types of Commission-able Actions: Commissions can be earned from a number of actions. An “action” can refer to a sale, a click or submission of information. When signing up for an affiliate program be sure to check which actions are payable. Most often, the advertiser wants to see a generated transaction. Although there are many commissionable actions, for the purpose of this post, we'll refer to them as a purchase/sale.

Note: It's important to be transparent with the use of your affiliate links. Even though it's possible to cloak or hide affiliate links, it is always best practice to be open and tell your readers when you're sharing an affiliate link.

1. How Do I Make Money with Affiliates?

As an affiliate marketer, you'll make money each time someone clicks on your coded link and makes a purchase. These completed purchases are what generate commissions.

Coded links: Affiliate marketers must use coded links for sales to be tracked. Coded links automatically track specific analytics, the most important of which are sales or leads – whichever the program allows for. Coded links look like https://prettylinks.com?aff=bryandena (PrettyLinks). While they are long and funny looking, no one really cares. They don't need to be remembered, just clicked on. The coding is important because this is how clicks/sales are tracked and credited to your account.

We use the Pretty Links plugin to shorten our links and manage them across our whole site.

Something to remember: by creating a link on the anchor text PrettyLinks you can make your copy look much cleaner and still have the affiliate link embedded.

The best way to make money with an affiliate program: Product Reviews

Three Tips for Writing Product Reviews

Reviewing products on your blog can be very profitable. If you are going to recommend a product, make sure that:

  1. The product applies to your readers: Recommend products and services that your audience is looking for. Not only will you generate more sale, but your readers will actually be thankful to you for helping them find what they are looking for.
  2. The product is of exceptional quality: Product recommendations only work if you are truthful. If the product is awful, say so. Don't gloss over fundamental flaws just to make more sales. If you are honest in your reviews, your readers will trust your reviews when you recommend something – and you'll make more money in the long run.
  3. You have actually used the product/service: This really has to do with integrity. A truthful review cannot be written if you don't know the product. And the quality of your review will reflect that. If the product actually isn't any good, your readers will resent you for recommending it.

Examples of Review Posts (With Affiliate Links)

As you can see from these examples, the post doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) a blatant sales letter. It should include opinion and personal experience. And it should include your affiliate link in a few locations.

Payments: We receive payments a number of ways: direct deposit, PayPal and mailed check. Try to set up your payments via direct bank deposit if available. Not only does it save the time to deposit your check, but it also means your money will be in your account faster.

We've switched all of our advertisers to automatic deposit or Paypal, except for two – who still insist on mailing checks. This can be inconvenient, especially if you live out of the country. Payments are usually made on/by the 20th of the following month.

 

2. Where Do I Sign-up? Top 7 Affiliate Networks

What is an Affiliate Network? While some advertisers run their own affiliate program (there are stand-alone software solutions available) the majority of quality advertisers are part of an affiliate network. An affiliate network is a group of advertisers. The network manages the link tracking and marketing.

Using an affiliate network is the best solution for getting started in affiliate marketing. Large networks, like Commission Junction and ShareaSale, have thousands of vendors to choose from. Within one dashboard you can check earnings and click-through-rates. Once your site is approved within one network, it is easier to get approved with specific advertisers inside of the network. Another benefit is that you'll receive one monthly payment, regardless of how many vendors you represent. This makes paperwork and accounting much easier.

Here are some affiliate networks you should check out: Top 7 Affiliate Networks

  1. ClickbankThis is the easiest network to join. Clickbank primarily sells digital products (videos, e-books, and other electronically delivered training products). Commission rates are high and it is simple to get links. Tracking/analytics are solid and deep so you can see which product links are performing best. Payment is sent either by check or direct deposit.
  2. ShareaSaleThis is a smooth working and easy to manage affiliate network. They have a huge set of advertisers (including travel, clothing, personal development, and web services) and I like their tracking analytics. Getting approved for this network can be a little more challenging. We've had great success with Shareasale – this is our highest producing network. Payment is sent either by check or direct deposit.
  3. LinkShareThis is a fairly easy one to join and they carry many of the big companies. There is duplication between networks – so if you can't get approved with the others you should still be able to find and promote specific advertisers with this affiliate network.
  4. Commission Junction: This is one of the oldest networks and they are good. It was a little hard getting approved at first, but now I can use the links across all of our properties. Payment is sent either by check or direct deposit.
  5. Amazon Affiliates: This is probably the simplest and fastest way to begin making money online, although the returns are not very big at first. Simply visit Amazon.com, sign up for their affiliate program and begin placing the coded affiliate links on your site.
  6. E-junkie: Similar to Clickbank (see above) E-junkie primarily sells information products. Their site is confusing and hard to navigate. Despite this, thousands of advertisers use this platform. It is easy to get approved. In general, you'll need to know the product you are looking for because it is hard to find products to promote. Most often other bloggers will list their product on this platform. You'll see lots of e-books. When I first got started, I promoted this network a lot.
  7. Impact Radius: This looks like a powerful platform, although I have only used one advertiser in their network.

Is there a great network that I'm missing? Please include it in the comments below.

3. Six Affiliate Marketing Tips

Making money with affiliate marketing isn't hard. It does require some planning and good content creation. Here are six tips to get you started:

  1. Don't post links everywhere: While some make-money-online enthusiasts recommend posting your affiliate links everywhere (from social media to email signatures) this is a bad idea. Successful affiliate marketing is built on trust – not spam.
  2. Be transparent: Don't hide the fact that you're using affiliate links. There is nothing wrong with receiving a commission for making a useful recommendation to your readers. In most cases your whole blog is free – affiliate marketing is a way to cover the expenses of (and hopefully make a profit on) your blog.
  3. Use a link cloaking/redirect tool: Initially, you will probably have just a couple of affiliate links which would be easy to manage. As your site grows, so will the number of affiliate links and the number of affiliate networks. Using a link redirects tool makes affiliate link management very easy. I recommend PrettyLinks and use it on all my sites.
  4. Consider Your Readers: Choose products and services that actually apply to your readers. If you recommend a product that doesn't apply, your readers will tell you – either through comments or by simply not buying it. If you have the policy to only recommend good and applicable products you will build a high level of trust.
  5. Choose Reputable Affiliate Networks: To get started, I recommend that you apply at ShareaSale, Amazon Affiliates, and Commission Junction. If you want to market information products, you should also apply at Clickbank. Don't get distracted by all the other options. These networks have more than enough advertisers to get you started.
  6. Write Regular Product Reviews: Make product reviews part of your blogging schedule. If your readers are used to seeing reviews, they will come to expect it. There are search engine benefits to writing reviews and you'll build a base of posts that will generate solid monthly income.

What tips and suggestions would you add? What questions do you have about affiliate marketing?

While the next income stream – Amazon Affiliates – is also an affiliate program, it deserves a section all its own. It is the original online affiliate program.

Affiliate marketing for bloggers

2. Amazon Associates: Bloggers Guide to Making Money

amazon associates logoAmazon Affiliates: This is probably the simplest and fastest way to begin making money online, although the returns are not very big at first. Simply visit Amazon.com, sign up for their affiliate program and begin placing your coded affiliate links on your site.

When readers click your link and visit Amazon.com you will receive a commission for their purchase. Commissions range from 1% (video games) to 10% (apparel). Gift cards are 0%.

Product CategoryFee Rates
Amazon Fashion Women's, Men's & Kids Private Label, Luxury Beauty, Amazon Coins10.00%
Furniture, Home, Home Improvement, Lawn & Garden, Pets Products, Pantry8.00%
Apparel, Amazon Cloud Cam Devices, Amazon Element Smart TV (with Fire TV), Amazon Fire TV Devices, Amazon Echo Devices, Ring Devices, Watches, Jewelry, Luggage, Shoes, Handbags & Accessories7.00%
Headphones, Beauty, Musical Instruments, Business & Industrial Supplies6.00%
Outdoors, Tools5.50%
Digital Music, Grocery, Physical Music, Handmade, Digital Videos5.00%
Physical Books, Health & Personal Care, Sports, Kitchen, Automotive, Baby Products4.50%
Amazon Fire Tablet Devices, Dash Buttons, Amazon Kindle Devices4.00%
Amazon Fresh, Toys3.00%
PC, PC Components, DVD & Blu-Ray2.50%
Televisions, Digital Video Games2.00%
Physical Video Games & Video Game Consoles1.00%
Gift Cards; Wireless Service Plans; Alcoholic Beverages; Digital Kindle Products purchased as a subscription; Food prepared and delivered from a restaurant; Amazon Appstore, Prime Now, Amazon Pay Places, or Prime Wardrobe Purchases0.00%
All Other Categories4.00%

See the full Fee Schedule. Above fee schedule was current as of December 2018.

While we primarily link to books (sometimes luggage or travel supplies) we have received a commission on products such as Porsche 917 Autobiography, Bounty Hunter TK4, and a drain auger (although we never linked to any of these items). Why? Because with Amazon Affiliates, you get credit for whatever your reader buys after following your link.

Amazon Associates Tip: Make sure that the products you are recommending actually have value. In almost every case we have personally used the item we are recommending. Only when you can share your personal experience or insight, will your readers trust your recommendation.

Also, be sure that the goal of the post is to:

  • First: provide a useful resource for your readers
  • And then create a way to monetize that content.

Focus on your readers and, instead of being irritated with your affiliate posts, they'll be thanking you for putting together such a great resource.

Bloggers Guide to Amazon Associates

What is Amazon Associates? Amazon Associates is Amazon.com's affiliate program. You earn a percentage of all revenue generated through your coded affiliate links.

Amazon has numerous affiliate programs – one for each of their country or regions where they operate. These areas include the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and Japan. To sell from each of these sites, you'll have to signup for each program.

You can link to product categories, brands, and specific products. With their built-in “Site Stripe” you can link to any page on their site, generating affiliate revenue from any page.

Many bloggers use this program as a way to monetize their blog. There is no cost to get started. You can also use their widgets, banners, or store option.

Why I Waited to Use Amazon Associates

At first, I didn't want to use Amazon. It seemed way too small to be worth the trouble. I mean, how much money could you make selling a few books at 4-6% commission?

Here are some of the reasons we didn't begin with Amazon from the beginning:

  • Low Commissions: The commission rate starts at 4% of generated sales and increases with your sales volume. (See the full chart above). The commission rate changes, depending on product category, but the apparently low percentage is an initial turnoff.
  • 24-Hour Cookie: The purchase also has to happen within 24 hours of the click. The affiliate cookie expires after that – which means you get zero commission. Learn more about cookies and e-commerce. Cookies from other affiliate programs last as long as 30-90 days. Some even last for one year – meaning that if the buyer makes a purchase within that 365-day period, you'll earn a commission.
  • Country Specific: If you link to Amazon.com (US version) and your reader purchases through Amazon.ca (Canada version) you don't get paid for the sale. While this might seem like a dirty trick, they are actually separate companies operating in separate countries. There are some WordPress plugins to localize the click but I haven't had much success with these. Update: Amazon has fixed this issue with their new OneLink feature – that localizes traffic to the nearest Amazon site. Just add a line of code to your site and you're good to go.

In spite of these concerns, I started promoting Amazon products back in 2011.

How Much Money Can I Make With Amazon Associates?

It depends on many factors. Traffic and niche are probably the two biggest determinants.

You'll need to either generate a lot of clicks or have a highly targeted (and responsive) niche. Having both is even better. 🙂

In the guide below, I'll explain specific approaches to generating revenue with Amazon Associates.

Guide to Amazon Associates: Generating Affiliate Earnings 

Here are the 7 ways we generate revenue with our Amazon Associates links.

  1. Write a Specific Review: Is there a book, tool, or product that you absolutely love? Why not write a review of it? Your readers will expect a product link. If the review fits in your niche, the review will be a helpful piece of content. As with all affiliate marketing, make sure that the product is good. Your reputation depends on it. Example: Coolibar Hats
  2. Create a Hub Post of Favorite Products: After you publish a set of reviews, you can tie them all together into one larger post. For example, you might write a number of individual reviews about travel books. After you've published 3-10+ you can tie them together into a hub post that links out to all of your individual posts. It's a great way to organize your content and help readers find more related content. Example: 12 Best Sun Protection Hats
  3. Write a List Post: This is a favorite of mine. (See some examples below.) This collects sets of books and tools into a useful reference. Often I don't feel motivated enough to write a full review for each individual item, but they are resources I want to share with our audience. So we write a brief review of each item and publish them together. Some of these posts are the most read posts on our sites.
  4. Reference a Product in a Post: This is handy when you are teaching a skill, and you reference a specific tool or book that you used to accomplish one of the steps. We've had great success with this in our GoPro Timelapse Tutorials. We've sold truckloads of tripods, battery packs, and memory cards.
  5. Link to category and brand pages: This works well with clothing brands (Coolibar clothing, for example) or camera accessory manufacturers (Joby Tripods) where readers can see more of the same quality and type of product. Instead of opening up a specific item, readers will see the full list of products created by that manufacturer.
  6. Create a Resource Page: This is a powerful approach. We have resource pages on many of our sites. Along with the About Page, the resource page is one of the most read. It combines all the tools, services and books we use. Readers are generally in a buying mode when they arrive.
  7. Sidebar Ads: I've experimented with these, but found that links in posts perform better. That being said, your audience or niche might respond to these. You can choose from many ads and widgets inside of the Amazon Associates dashboard. You can target specific products and categories or even specific keywords.

Use Tracking ID's (Bonus): If you run more than one site, you should create additional tracking ID's. These codes can help you determine where your clicks and revenue is coming from. For example, we generate more sales on GringosAbroad but more revenue on ClickLikeThis. These are very easy to create and must be chosen every time you select a link.

Create Amazon List Posts

We've had good success creating list posts of Amazon products.

Why these posts work: The common thread in all of these posts is that we share our personal opinion in each of them. We own (almost) all of these books and they have helped us in some way. Readers highly value their time and don't want to waste it (or their money) buying useless books.

Sometimes, the link will generate a sale, but for a competing product – or a much more expensive one.

Are you planning on promoting with Amazon Associates? Have you had success with Amazon Associates? What works for you? Please share your tips in the comments below!


3. Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

The most popular way to generate revenue from a blog is with pay-per-click (PPC) ads. Pay-per-click advertising is just how it sounds: you get paid for every click you generate from your site. Each link is coded so you get credit for each click. Exposures are also tracked so you can see which ads perform better. PPC ads can be simple text, images or even video. While video and moving images catch the eye, the text ads still convert well.

Here are a few screenshots showing how pay-per-click ads look on our blog.

The ever-present Google AdSense text ad. Shown here on GringosAbroad in the header section.

The ever-present Google AdSense text ad.

Google AdSense Display Ad Shown in the site footer of Gringos Abroad. Product displayed is GoPro Camera.

Google AdSense Display Ad Shown in the site footer of Gringos Abroad.

Here are the top PPC ad networks:

Mediavine: We've had three sites with Mediavine for a couple of years and are very happy. We plan to move a couple more over. We saw exponential revenue growth compared to Adsense and Amazon CPM (now defunct).

Adthrive: This was the first premium ad network that I found. But a the time, we didn't have enough traffic to apply. They require a minimum of 100,000 unique monthly page views.

Google AdSense: Without doubt, the most popular pay-per-click ad network is Google AdSense. Revenue is measured in cost-per-click, which is the amount you earn each time a reader clicks on an ad on your site. We've seen cost-per-click (CPC) ranging from $0.28 to $1.91. Because the ads displayed are contextual, meaning that they fit with your content on that specific page, the click-through rate is fairly high. While we aren't getting rich with Google AdSense we see a range of $3 to more than $30 per day. Here are some of the specifics with Google AdSense:

  • RPM (Revenue per 1000 page views): $0.96 – $6.55
  • Cost per click (CPC) ranging from $0.28 to $1.91
  • Payment: Mailed check or direct deposit

Media.net: Recently this pay-per-click advertising network has been outperforming Google AdSense – even though it has less exposure on our site. We see earnings ranging from $1 to more than $25 per day in click revenue. Media.net is part of the Yahoo Bing Network. Here are some of the specifics with Media.net.

  • RPM (Revenue per 1000 page views): $0.15 – $10.55
  • Payment: Paypal (or check option)
Pay-Per-Click Advertising Tip: Don't just set up these ads and forget about them. Continually adjust and tweak both colors and placement of the ads.

One small detail can increase revenues multiple times over. With just one ad network, I was able to increase PPC revenues from $50 per month to more than $400 per month by making one small change – and with almost identical traffic numbers. If you don't get good results at first, don't be discouraged. It might just be your placement or colors – and testing over time is the only way to improve results.

4. Selling Links

Example of homepage links.

Example of homepage links.

The way many bloggers begin making money is through link sales. Selling links is quite simple. Advertisers want inbound links to help boost both their search ranking and site traffic. In order to generate new links, they (or their SEO agency) buy links both on individual posts and/or on blog homepages. It takes bloggers almost no time to post links and the money is good.

What is a link worth? We've gotten anywhere from €40 ($52) for an in-post permanent link to USD$250 for a one year link on the home page. Others pay $45 per month. All payments are via PayPal and automatically sent. We've received as high as $275 for a link published in one post. We always check the link before publishing it – to ensure that there is nothing offensive. Almost all of them are travel based sites: car rentals, flights, resorts, etc – things of interest to our readers.

Update: January 2016 We no longer sell links on any of our sites. It is just too short-sighted. We've removed all completed campaigns and aren't accepting any new links.

There are risks involved with selling links. If Google catches you (remember, this isn't illegal – they just don't like it. Google isn't the government, at least not yet) they can penalize or even remove your site from their site index. This could mean a traffic nose-dive. This is why I'll never sell links on this site – the risk of a Google penalty is too high. Our goals are different for each of our sites.

Purchased links almost always show as basic text. The key is that the hyperlink uses specific text as its anchor. Google weighs the number of incoming links, the quality of sites the links are on and the anchor text of each of these links. As you can see in the attached image under the subheading “Latest Posts,” the 3 links at the end of the paragraph are to client sites. The three links shown earn over $800 per year – with no work. They were published months ago and continue to earn monthly. Below the paragraph is a large Google AdSense ad.

Closely associated with link sales are sponsored posts. These are posts specifically written for the link(s) included in them. While we have accepted a number of these on Gringos Abroad, we don't allow them to be commercial, or promotional, in nature. Maintaining the quality and integrity of the blog is critical. We've been paid anywhere from $95 for a supplied blog post to $250 for a post that we wrote and then added the sponsored links.

If you are looking to get started in link sales, you should check out Text Link Ads (Update December 3, 2015: I've removed the link because their site is infected with viruses). There are hundreds of link brokers but many don't state that they buy links on their sites – because they are afraid of Google repercussions. If you want to find them – they are almost always listed as an “SEO agency”. SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization.

Link Selling Tip: Go slow with this one. Don't accept any links to questionable sites. If you begin linking to unrelated sites, you'll both confuse readers and signal to Google that you are a confused blogger. If you accept too many paid links you could be penalized or even banned by Google. This is an almost certain death to any blog.

5. Display Advertising (Direct Ad Sales)

To some bloggers, display advertising is the holy grail of making money online. To me, it is more of a headache then it is worth. Over the past few years, we've sold lots of display advertising space. Here's what we've learned:

  • Ad buyers don't have much money
  • Ad buyers don't really know what they want
  • Ad buyers expect the one ad on your site to be the savior to their lack-luster business

Of course, this isn't true of every ad buyer – many are professional and a pleasure to deal with. But in general, we've found that PPC ads not only perform better (make more money) they are also less work than dealing with a set of clients. Google AdSense, for example, updates the ad copy based on the context on your site and never calls or emails asking for changes or “little tweaks”. Google always pays on time and doesn't complain.

If you want to sell ads, then you can certainly make money. But you'll want to set clear parameters before you promote the space.

  1. Set significant minimum terms: When we first got started we accepted one-month terms. Now, we require a commitment of 3 months minimum.
  2. Determine who designs the ad: You can include the design component as part of the price or bill it separately. Be aware that if the client provides the ad copy – it will likely look awful. If they don't already have professionally designed ad copy – I recommend taking control and designing it for them. Either learn how to create simple ad copy yourself or hire a designer. It won't cost much and it will preserve the professional look of your site.
  3. Collect payment in full and in advance: Many of your advertisers are likely going to be either start-ups or small businesses (probably both). Their intention to pay and their ability to actually do it may not coincide. If an advertiser doesn't have the ability (or desire) to pay 100% upfront we decline the ad – no exceptions. Online advertising is not something that you can repossess if your client doesn't pay.
  4. Downplay expectations: Be sure to state – in writing – that you are not responsible for campaign results. Remember: getting paid for results is something completely different than simply providing ad space.  If you have solid traffic you will make more money with a PPC or affiliate ad campaign – where you get paid for the results you produce.
Display Advertising Tip: Don't depend on this form of revenue for your site. And don't start with it. The previous four lines of revenue will likely produce better – and with significantly less time on your part.

6. Indirect Blog Monetization

Aside from the five direct monetization method we use (as just covered) we have also received a number of indirect benefits:

  • Because of the success of our travel blog we were hired to create and run a new blog for a client. This has not only generated regular monthly income but has also resulted in two trips to the Galapagos – covered by our client.
  • We have been hired to do other contract marketing and design work, as a direct result of our blog.
  • We frequently turn down invitations to speak at international events, interview requests (television and print) and business partnerships. It is overwhelming to see the opportunities that come as a direct result of our travel blog.
  • We have been filmed for television (twice) and interviewed numerous times.

There are many opportunities available once your site becomes established as an authority in its niche. Your blog can also serve as a lead generation tool – to generate interest, leads, and sales in your off-line business.

How to make money blogging

How We Plan to Make Money With Our Blog

Our site monetization is based on traffic – the more traffic we get, the more we make.

We have been working on a number of educational products to offer to our community – but haven't completed them yet. In fact, we've had many readers contact us, asking for us to create specific products. This is on the list for the coming year – we plan to launch a number of products to help expats and travelers. We've already established that the market is there – we just need to complete the products.

An educational product can refer to any of the following:

  • e-book
  • webinar (an online seminar – either video or just audio)
  • membership site
  • video training course
  • audio programs

Successful educational products offer instant delivery to clients, answer a specific question and require no work to deliver the order. Once the product is created, everything else is 100% automated.

Fund Your Lifestyle With an Educational Product

What is the potential of a digital product? Here is one example: a fellow travel blogger, wrote an e-book a few years ago. He continues to sell an average of one per day, even years after it was written. One a day doesn't sound so impressive, but here is how the math works:

  • 30 units per month X $30 per unit = $900/monthly
  • Hours of work per month: 0

And this isn't his only book. Imagine multiplying this 2, 3 or 10 times over! Once the product is created, it will continue to sell.

Over the next six months, we plan to focus on product creation. We've had good success in building an audience – now we need to create the products that they are asking for.

How do you make money with your blog? Is it similar or completely different to ours? I hope you'll share your thoughts in the comments below!

How much traffic before you monetize

How Much Blog Traffic is Needed Before You Monetize?

I read an interesting question on LinkedIn this morning:

“How much traffic do you need before you should monetize a blog?”

In the thread, the majority of bloggers felt that a large audience is needed first.

I don't agree.

When you start an income blog you want it to generate income. So,“Why wait?” Why spend time generating traffic for a site that you aren't monetizing?

blog traffic monetize

How Are You Planning on Monetizing?

There are a number of ways to monetize a blog. Here are the most popular:

  1. List Building: Building your email list (with a tool like Aweber) is an excellent way to monetize your site. Even without ads, a site that focuses on building an email list can be very profitable. A newsletter list can be emailed relevant affiliate offers and site updates, generating significant revenue.
  2. Google AdSense: If you are going to generate healthy revenue with Google AdSense, you will need solid traffic. But it doesn't cost anything to add the code. And when you get a burst of traffic, you will have the tools in place to monetize it. Even with moderate traffic, it is possible to generate revenue. If nothing else, it will help cover start-up expenses in the beginning.
  3. Display Advertising Sales: If you want to sell ad space, you'll also need an audience. But when the time comes to sell ads, it will be hard to do if you don't have any on your site yet. Using ads from appropriate affiliate programs can help fill in those spaces, get readers used to seeing ads and help potential advertisers see how your site looks with ads. They won't feel like they are your first advertisers – even if they are. And in the meantime, you can generate some affiliate revenue even with low traffic.
  4. Affiliate Marketing: If you are going to use affiliate marketing, even a small audience can be profitable. Because you'll be writing about and promoting relevant products, they will be of interest to your audience – no matter how small it is. Remember that trust – not high traffic – it is the key component in successful affiliate marketing.
  5. Sell Your Own Products or Services: While we have yet to create and sell our own product, I've heard the argument for waiting to launch a new product until you have a solid audience. There is definitely a certain gratification to a 4-5 digit product launch. But I don't know if this would actually outsell the gradual sales of an early launch. I think having a great educational product for sale would give strong credibility to a new blog.
how-much-traffic-monetize

What I've Learned About Blog Monetization

When we launched our first blog, we waited until we had an audience.

For 18 months, we blogged. And made no money.

It ended up feeling like charity of sorts. When we finally monetized our travel blog, we did well.

After all this, it made us wonder why we waited

When we launched this site we had affiliate ads/links in place. We don't ever plan on selling links or display ads. We will only use affiliate ads and links to relevant products and services. In our first full month, we generated $143 in affiliate revenue. Nothing to get too excited about, but not shameful either. This with just 2,132 unique visitors and 6,151 page views. Obviously, this is going to improve, but we're very happy with our first-month results.

Readers Expect (Need) To See Ads

Readers are intelligent. They understand that professional blogs take a lot of time to run.

We noticed two things about blog monetization on GringosAbroad:

  1. When we didn't have ads, readers asked (on a regular basis): “What are you really selling?” or commented, “I don't know how you make money, but we are loving the site”.
  2. When we added monetization, some readers said: “We liked it better before”. They complained that we were trying to sell to them all the time. And although this wasn't true, this was their perception – because they weren't used to seeing ads.

What We've Learned About Monetization

If you plan on making money with your site, you should be upfront about it and include ads from day one. You'll avoid the confusion and make more money.

Readers will want to compensate you for the great information. If you don't sell anything, they will try to find other ways to return the favor. We've had readers insist on sending us money via PayPal and invite us out to coffee and dinner just to thank us. We even had a reader mail us a $10 bill.

What do you think? How much traffic is really needed before you monetize?


How to Monetize a Blog: 8 Business Owners Explain

Learn how to monetize a blog from eight online business owners.

In this section, I interview 8 online business owners about how they make money with their blog. Today we want to go a little broader. And to do that, we need to be very specific.

We are going to let other business owners explain how they make money on their blogs. Let's get started!

The following interviews are from online business owners – all of them making money with their blog.

The monetization methods include:

  1. Direct ads sales (banner advertising)
  2. Sponsored email blast (I recommend AWeber for email lists.)
  3. Events and promotions
  4. Affiliate marketing
  5. Subscription newsletter This is a great reason to start a newsletter.
  6. Patreon.com is kinds of like Kickstarter for artists
  7. Click ads
  8. ShopHer Media

Here are the details and the specific sites using these methods to monetize their blogs.

1. How We Monetize ILoveTheUpperWestSide.com

ILoveTheUpperWestSide

We have a pretty unique monetization model for ILoveTheUpperWestSide.com.

It's a local area blog that reports on events and stories on the Upper West Side in NYC, but it also funnels leads into real estate sales and rentals system. People love our content and trust us to help them find their next home.

We also have a banner advertising system. Because we target such a specific geographical area, it's more lucrative to sell ads directly to businesses in the area (as opposed to using a network like AdSense).

2. How I Monetize Burger Conquest: Marketing/Burger Blog

burgerconquest.com

I write the marketing and burger blog Burger Conquest. I monetize my blog via three methods:

  1. Foodie Blog Roll: – this is like Google AdSense but only for Food Blogs. It won't generate a lot of money but you'll get a little here and a little there. I don't maximize exposure to the Foodie BlogRoll which is a personal choice but you can certainly go further. To sign up, 75% of your posts must be about food and you must have at least 2500 page views per month.
  2. Email blast via MailChimp: I've built up a decent sized email list through which I send out a weekly blast with cool food and beer events in my area. Bars, restaurants and event producers can buy an entire send from me or choose a more affordable option to be listed in one of the 7 positions available in the weekly blast. If a bar or restaurant needs help coming up with or producing a food and or craft beer event, I am available for consulting which would also include promotion through the email blast.
  3. Events and Promotions: I produce a lot of my own events like NY Burger Week (which expanded to South Florida & Charleston, SC this year) and the Fall Burger Crawl.

I also run produce The NYC Good Beer Passport which gets customers a number of craft beers at a number of locations for a low price. It lasts all summer long and helps to raise money for local charities like the Food Bank For NYC. It also helps bring business to bars and restaurants during the slow summer months. These are the hardest forms of monetization but also the most rewarding.

David “Rev” Ciancio
Burger Conquest | Follow me @Yeahman

3. A Colorful Journey Blog Monetized with Affiliate Marketing

a-colorful-journey

Carolyn Dube runs A Colorful Journey an arts and crafts blog. Carolyn has affiliate programs set up through her site. While she has a Shop page, all items link out to other sites. She also runs art workshops online and in-person. She intentionally does not sell ad space to maintain a high user experience even though she has the necessary traffic.

4. Monetize an Investment Blog with a Premium Newsletter

your-second-opinion

After leading 5 investment management organizations in my career, I decided to set myself up as a consultant to leaders.

In 2011, I started a blog for free with weekly articles that addressed the concerns of leaders in the industry. I linked my blog to various social sites and also used direct email.

After a short while, interest in my views picked up. I then decided to charge for my blog. I charge $1,449 a year for a weekly report of 500-1000 words.

I charge a lot because:

  1. I give away lots of stuff for free on my web site
  2. I want people to respect what I have to say
  3. I want clients to get used to paying me a lot and hire me for larger projects.

There may be lots of stuff that is cheap or free on the internet but no one can offer my insights. The pressure to meet these expectations juices my creativity.

5. How I Monetize My Sports Blog

monetize-sports-blog

I've been running OffTheRecordSports.com since early 2009. I've made a few dollars off of it and have learned a ton about what you need to do about running a blog.

First off, let me say that the folks who want to try to get paid subscribers are absolutely fooling themselves. Even if you get a few people, that's not much money, certainly not what you could make doing it the right way. Even major newspapers that have tried going to subscriber models are learning that the web doesn't work that way.

The idea is to get as many eyeballs as possible to your blog and make money selling ads based on impressions. Simply put, on the the web, eyeballs are the key and you will be paid according to that. No traffic? No money.

There are a number of places you can go to monetize your blog and they usually have traffic requirements before they'll hook up with you. At one point, OTR was up to 50,000 unique a month and was a Google PR4. That's not bad for one guy doing it himself. That opened me up to ad networks. I used Technorati and a few others over the years. They give you code to put in your site and then their advertisers (major companies) have their ads rotate on your site. You get paid based on how many times it appears.

You can also sell individual ads to companies you have contacts with if you want to go that route. I say, “have fun and good luck.” It will be a colossal waste of time, in my opinion. If you can pull it off, good on you. It is NOT easy to do. Ad sales is a different animal.

Another way you can monetize your blog is to get paid for links. There are many companies that will pay you to include a link back to their site in exchange for money. I¹ve had companies offer me anywhere from $40-$200 for a single link in a blog post. Be VERY careful doing this. If not done properly, it can be seen as black hat SEO and you could be punished by Google. That is not good at all. Be sure who you are dealing with and make sure you know how to do it the right way so your blog doesn't get smacked down by Google.

Sometimes you can get people to pay you for a guest post. They write a post and pay you to publish it. I rarely do this unless I know it will be well written and in the voice of my site. I've had companies submit content that was laughable. I'm hardly the Wall St. Journal but I do have standards.

Micah Warren on Twitter: @MicahLargeMedia

6. Tumblr Blog Monetized with Patreon.com (M. Alice LeGrow)

I run two monetized blogs: BirthdayPartyPrincess.tumblr.com and Bloggerghast.tumblr.com

The first is a blog about my work as a birthday party princess, and the second is a character blog, written as a fictional account of the lives of people in the graphic novel series I authored from 2004 to 2011. The first is just a monetized blog by itself and the second is being monetized to finance an eventual web comic series.

Both are monetized through Patreon.com, but use different systems.

The first charges patrons per post and the second on a total monthly basis. I use incentives like patron-only content videos and locked posts to encourage people to sign up and contribute, as well as have different rewards in place for different tiers of donation.

Patreon.com is an amazing monetization tool for bloggers just starting out, who want a simple, no-fuss way to set up payment immediately and to offer tiered rewards to backers. All patrons have their cards charged at the end of the month and payments are automatically sent to your checking or Paypal account. Patreon.com takes a cut of about 10%.

M. Alice LeGrow

7. Monetize With Click Ads and ShopHer Media Affiliate Program

I work with FreeMania.net & MomShar.com and we have managed to successfully monetize both blogs.

Here are some of the ways that we monetize in order of most to least profitable:

  1. Google AdSense: AdSense is easy to implement & maintain b/c it does most of the work for you! I would recommend doing a combination of image ads & text ads to maximize profitability.
  2. MySavings Media: You can sign up to become a partner with MySavings Media (now ShopHer Media) & they will share earning opportunities with you through your portal. They gather earning opportunities that you can select.

Shari Medini

8. How We Monetize a Travel Blog (Bonus)

We use five primary methods of monetization for our sites. They include:

  1. Affiliate Marketing
  2. Amazon Associates
  3. Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
  4. Link Sales
  5. Display Advertising
Make money travel blogging

Why a Donate Button Will Hurt Your Blog

blog-donation

One of our first donate buttons…

Some blogs and books promote the donate button as a business model.

There are lots of variations:

  • Buy me a coffee
  • Buy me a beer
  • Support my site

But it all amounts to the same thing.

Begging.

{Or panhandling. Maybe we could call it busking. Give a little performance for a few coins?}

Kind of feels degrading already, doesn't it?

Setting up your donate button: It isn't hard to setup a donate button. Paypal has a feature that does just that. And you will (likely) receive some money.

But I don't think you should. Here's why:

The Negative Side Of Asking for Donations

What could be negative about people sending you cash?

Only two groups of people ask for donations:

  1. Not-for-Profits: There is nothing wrong with charitable donations. But as a business, this is not the image you want to convey. You will be selling products and/or services from your site. Do you want to give the impression that business is so bad that you have to ask people for some spare change?
  2. Homeless People: There is no getting away from this connection. Why do people give to homeless people? Pity, mostly. Not really the feeling most business people are trying to inspire in their prospects.

Who Doesn't Ask For Donations?

When was the last time you donated to a company? (No, never? Me neither.)

Companies don't need donations because they are in business. They make profits.

If you ask for a donation on your site, what are you telling your prospects?

  • I'm not a business.
  • I am a non-profit.
  • Business isn't very good. Could you give me a few bucks to pay for my hosting?

Doesn't really inspire much confidence, does it?

My Donation Experience

buy-us-a-coffee-125When we started our first blog we didn't know what we were doing. We knew we wanted to blog about Ecuador, but that was it. We didn't understand monetization or even community building.

Like many bloggers, we experimented with a donate button. We called it “Buy us a coffee”. Readers could send us money via our Paypal account.

buy-us-a-coffee-468We installed these two buttons (both shown above) to receive some money. And it worked. I don't have a final tally, but we received a few hundred dollars. Some people were so determined to send us money that they actually mailed us cash.

The problem was that people thought our blog was a free community service and that readers were paying to keep it going – like Wikipedia. But it was never a community project. From the beginning, we were going to monetize it. We just didn't know how.

If you are just getting started, you might think: “What's wrong with a few hundred dollars?”  Let me tell you.

We found two problems when we asked for donations:

  1. Readers were not conditioned to commercial offers: When we first put ads on our site, people complained. Some unsubscribed. They had misunderstood the nature of the site and were shocked when we began to monetize from our platform. This is why I recommend monetizing a blog from day one.
  2. Hundreds of people actually wanted to take us out to coffee. It seems that the nature of the ad was misunderstood and people thought we were seeking social interaction. Although this ad was removed a few years ago, we still get weekly offers to take us out to dinner, coffee or a “couple of rounds”. Obviously, this was not what we wanted.

But Don't Blog Donations Work?

Yes, there are some random examples of successful donation campaigns, like kottke.org from 2005 (it should be noted that he began selling advertising the following year).

But donations don't work for most bloggers. And they never work for business.

Unless you are a charity, donations are not a viable business model.

Once readers see that you're selling ads or a product (which you should be doing) they won't feel very compelled to donate to you.

While a donation button might create a little income, it will be nothing compared to other monetization methods: like affiliate marketing or pay-per-click ads.

Now It's Your Turn: What has been your experience with a donate button? Do you still have one? Would you consider adding one?

Why a donate button will hurt your blog

Your Turn: Tips for Monetizing a Blog

How do you monetize your blog? I would love to hear what's working (and what isn't). See you in the comments!

Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is co-editor of LivingAbroad.in - and is working to make it the best resource for current and future expats. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of GringosAbroad (Find Your Next Adventure in Ecuador) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with Bryan and Dena.

2 comments… add one
  • Harish Kumar Jan 3, 2019, 4:41 am

    Thanks for the wonderful and important information. I am planning to start my own blog, this information will be of great help. Hope to see more posts like this in future.Thanks and Regards

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