“Can you really make money blogging?”
If I received a dollar each time someone asked this simple question…
While blogging is one of the most lucrative side hustles out there, it can take months – and even years – to start earning real money.
Earning $1,000 per month was one of my earliest goals, and I was stoked when I reached that milestone!
Since those early days, my blog income has increased dramatically – first to $2,000 per month, then to $5,000 per month, to $10,000 and beyond.
How to start a blog and make money
- Choose the best host and theme
- Network with bloggers
- Write guest posts
- Scope out competition
- Learn keyword research
- Use Google
- Create a Landing Page
- Set up core pages
- Use social media
- Blog for money
- Write epic posts
- Write money-making posts
- Host podcasts
- Use quality images
- Blog with syndicate content
- Gather emails
- Create a lead magnet
- Review your top content
- Survey your list
- Commit to a full year
As of 2019, my blog has helped me earn several million dollars. I’d like to take you on a journey. It’s a journey about how I started a blog with very little experience and turned it into a money-making machine.
But you know what the best part is? I get to help people (over 9 million to date!) with something I’m passionate about: finances.
If you’re curious as to how I made over $1,000,000 blogging (and continue to make money from my blog every single month), this article is for you.
Fasten your seatbelts, people. I’m about to teach you everything you need to know to make money blogging.
How to Make Money With a Blog
If your goal is earning money on the web, blogging can help you get there. And while it might take you a while to earn a solid income, it’s important to keep your eye on the prize.
If you want to make money blogging, here are the steps you should start taking now:
1. Choose the right host and theme.
A lot goes into making money on a blog, starting the day you purchase your site. I’ve created a comprehensive guide on how to start a blog for you.
Pro Tip: Genesis is a popular theme option owned by Studiopress and the one I use for all of my sites.
Before you settle on a theme, make sure to brainstorm how you want your blog to look. Chances are, you’ll find a premium theme that makes sense with your blog style and goals.
With a solid game plan in place for content, a great home for your site, and a stellar theme, you’ve taken the first steps to earning with your blog.
2. Network with other bloggers.
Most people picture “networking” as something you do with strangers at a cocktail party. You stand in the corner, awkwardly chugging beer after beer, eventually working up the courage to meet someone new! Online networking is similar, except that you don’t have to dress up. And since it’s online, you don’t have to feel like a big weirdo for reaching out.
When I started blogging, I learned to participate in a popular forum where other money bloggers hung out. By connecting with other bloggers, I was able to build my network, learn some valuable lessons, and create new opportunities for success.
I’ll never forget what Ryan from CashMoneyLife.com told me: Remember, when you first start out blogging, it’s critical that you learn from someone who has experience. Don’t try to do this stuff on your own in the beginning.
If you’re unsure how to get started, try commenting on your favorite blogs and starting up conversations on social media. Over time, you’ll build relationships with other bloggers that can pay off down the line, which leads me to my next point.
3. Write guest posts for other blogs.
Guest posting is a great way to build relationships with bloggers and bring new eyeballs to your website. Not only can it help you get your name out there, but you can build valuable back-links to your website, too.
What’s a backlink? It’s when bloggers allow you to link a few times to relevant content on your blog from the article you’re writing for them. The more backlinks you have, the better.
Not only does this allow people to find your website, but it can also help boost your article rankings in search engines such as Google. Once your blog is up and running, offering to guest post for other websites is a smart move.
If you’re unsure who to approach about guest posting, reach out to some of your favorite bloggers via email or social media and just ask. While it’s tough to put yourself out there, remember the worst they can say is “no.”
If you want to see how far I’ve come, check out this guest post I wrote for Smart Passive Income in 2011!
4. Scope out your competition.
The internet is so vast in its offerings that it’s nearly impossible to write a blog on a topic not covered elsewhere. In addition, every niche has a range of top blogs that bring in the most readers and the highest incomes.
If you want your blog to succeed, you should figure out why the top blogs consistently pull ahead in your niche. What are they doing right? What steps are they taking to build traffic that no one else is? What kinds of topics are they covering?
Look at the most popular blog posts on top sites and figure out how you could take that topic and make it your own.
Keep in mind, you don’t want to copy people – you want to become better than they are. In addition to conducting your own research, you can use tools like SEMRush to find out which keywords the top sites are angling for.
5. Learn about keyword research.
As I started guest posting for other blogs, I began learning about keyword research. Instead of writing about random money topics, I learned I could optimize my efforts by targeting keywords with search potential.
The key here is trying to shoot for article ideas where I could rank in the search engines. You see, it’s not enough to write awesome content. If nobody reads it, what’s the point? You have to make sure your articles are searchable for the long run. If not, you’re just spinning your wheels.
My biggest breakthrough early on was coming up with a strategy to rank for “financial planner Illinois.” As a financial planner in Illinois, I wanted anyone who googled that term to find me. But here’s something funny. After posting a query about how to rank for that term in a forum I belonged to, I received this message:
“Jeff, I noticed your thread in the forum and I just wanted to let you know that ranking for those terms is nearly impossible. With you being a one-man shop and one website, you will never be able to compete with all the bigger investment firms located in the Chicago area. Sorry for the disappointing news.”
When you hear from naysayers like this one, don’t listen. I have to say, this person was dead wrong. Because my desire to rank for this keyword was so strong, I researched different strategies nonstop until I found an answer.
Eventually, my research led me to a friend who suggested I create a separate landing page for my business. For the title of the page, I chose Jeff Rose, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Illinois and added “Certified” and “IL” to help out with Google searches. The cool thing is, it worked.
Learning some keyword research basics is crucial when you’re first starting out. Initially, I just used Google Keyword Planner. I would also just type phrases into Google and see what the suggested search would come up and focus on the long-tail version of the keyword.
For example, I would type in “Roth IRA” to see what else came up. As you employ this strategy, make sure to do your searches in an incognito window so your cookies don’t influence your search results! No matter what, your #1 goal should be making sure you’re using your keyword in the URL, title, and body of each blog post. Make sure to check out this on-page SEO guide from BACKLINKO for more tips.
6. Use Google to Make Money Blogging
When I first started my blog, I knew nothing about the capabilities of actually making money from online advertising. I was clueless. The first thing I did was start with Google AdSense.
According to Google, Google AdSense is a “flexible, hassle-free way to earn revenue online.” You’ll get paid for displaying targeted Google ads on your blog. You can even customize ads to match your website’s design and track your success. Best of all, it’s free.
Once you design your ads (color, size, type of ads displayed), you will get access to a code that you can copy and paste into your blog.
I launched Google AdSense around March of 2009, during which I didn’t even make a couple hundred dollars, and then it grew significantly. In December 2009, I was able to make $3,118.20. In total in 2009, I made $14,870.84.
January 2010 (Plus Annual Earnings)
Google AdSense was amazing – I was able to make $4,392.74 in January of 2010. Keep in mind, I never thought I could make any money from my blog so to make that extra $4,000 was huge. In 2010, I was able to make an additional $32,592.88 “on the side” with Adsense.
Google Algorithm Updates
For those not familiar with the online world, Google controls just about everything – at least it seems. Not only do they have web search, but they have: Google Chrome, Google Maps, Google Domains, YouTube, Books, News, Google Play, Google Earth, Google Finance, and the list goes on and on.
Every so often, Google will release what are referred to as “algorithm updates” that affect search results.
If somebody were to search for women’s dress shoes, the number one listing might be Nordstrom. If Nordstrom were doing something illegal to make their site rank number one and Google found that out, they would be banished from the first page – otherwise known as blacklisted. For any online business that is dependent on search, that can cripple, if not put a company completely out of business.
Although I wasn’t doing anything illegal, I got hit by one of Google’s first algorithm updates called Google Panda. Why they like zoo animals, I don’t know.
But just like the kid’s film Kung Fu Panda, I felt like I got karate chopped. Prior to the Google Panda update, I was getting right around 100,000 visitors a month to my site. On April 11th, 2011, when my site got hit, my traffic dropped 70% overnight. Yowsers! That hurt.
7. Create a Landing Page
I was told that I needed to design a separate landing page for my blog that targeted the keywords in the URL. Here’s what I chose.
I built the landing page with the Thesis theme, so that was pretty easy. I included a video and a little bit about myself and my services. But now I needed to drive traffic to my landing page.
How? Through guest posting, of course! You can find the list of all the guest posts I wrote for this landing page by reading my related post at SmartPassiveIncome.com.
After a while, I started getting traffic to the landing page and converted a visitor who ended up becoming my largest client generating over $30,000 per year in fees to my firm. I hit the jackpot. And they weren’t the only client that I’ve acquired through the blog. Dozens of people have become clients because of discovering my blog.
In addition, I’ve had numerous people referred to me by other clients, CPA’s, attorneys and they always send them to my blog first so they check me out. Keep in mind, this was an indirect business income from my blog. I also made money directly from ads on my blog, and I’d like to share with you how I did that next.
8. Set up your core website pages
Even if you just want a place to write, you need more than a “blog” page for your website to become a success. Your core pages should include not only a page for your blog, but an about page, a contact page, and a page for disclosures.
Without these pages, it’s almost impossible for anyone to find out who you are. If you want people to find your website and learn more about you, it’s crucial to populate your site with the information people want.
Here’s my “about me” page if you want to take a look. If anyone is curious to learn more about me, I have the information front and center where they can find it.
Keep in mind that your “about” and “contact” pages give you the opportunity to share your side of the story. Telling people who you are in your own words can be very powerful, mostly because it helps people get to know the real you.
And, isn’t that the point?
9. Create your social media accounts
If you think you can succeed at blogging without worrying about social media, think again. By and large, social media is one of the best tools you can use to build your readership and bring traffic to your blog.
One of the first steps you should take as you start blogging is setting up social media accounts for your website.
And remember, you don’t want to use your regular social media accounts for your site! You need to set up new accounts devoted solely to your business venture.
Once your social media accounts are up and running, you’ll want to install social media buttons on your blog. This way, readers who want to follow you on social media can do so with a simple click. Read this post for help setting up social media buttons on your sidebar or footer on WordPress.
10. Start blogging for money
As a blogger, I’ve made money in a million different ways. My website not only brings in ad revenue, but additional funds through sponsored content, affiliate marketing and more. While it’s hard to nail each monetization effort from the start, you’ll want to start with these bare bones strategies from the very beginning:
I have other advertising networks that I use now. I also have affiliate revenue from places such as Ally.com, Betterment.com, or CapitalOne360.com (affiliate links). I also get paid for advertising on the banners of my website. I generate tons of leads from those seeking to buy term life insurance.
The great thing about affiliate marketing is that there are so many different types of companies that will pay you to be an affiliate.
I have affiliates relationships for everything from paid survey sites to AirBnB. So, no matter what your niche is, there should be some sort of affiliate relationship that can work for you. In my epic post on The Best Places to Open a Roth IRA, for example, I get paid any time someone clicks through my page and opens a brokerage account.
If you are just getting started and are having problems getting approved for affiliates try a network like ShopHerMedia.com. They don’t have as many affiliate offers, but they approve you for all of them once you are in the network.
Occasionally, I’ll have a sponsored post that can pay anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. Many times, content advertisers reach out to me with an offer. It’s amazing. It’s important that if you’re going to do a sponsored post on your website that you add a disclaimer.
You should always make readers aware that a post is a sponsored post, as sponsored posts have the potential to sway some people’s opinions or lead them to make statements they otherwise wouldn’t make. Now here’s the thing: I never publish content that I don’t believe in.
I would never recommend anything to anyone if I wouldn’t actually do it of my own volition. Sponsored posts are nice because they bring in some money, but I must approve of the message before it’s going up on my site. Period.
You can earn ad revenue on your site through Google Adsense, as I explained earlier. Some other great options for advertising on your website include Media.net and AdThrive. This ad revenue can ebb and flow based on the amount of traffic your website brings in, along with user engagement. Once your blog is up and running, you can experiment with ad agencies to find the right fit.
While monetization is important, you shouldn’t worry too much about it during your first few months. The most important steps to take at the beginning are getting your blog up and running, then adding content as you’re able. Once you have at least twenty awesome blog posts on your website, you can move to the next step.
11. Write epic posts!
While getting any type of content up on your site is a huge accomplishment at the beginning, you’ll eventually want something better. Over time, you should make it a priority to write at least one or two epic posts per month.
An epic blog post is one that’s longer and more comprehensive than almost anything else you write. Not only are longer posts more educational for your readers, but they tend to have good SEO value, too.
My first “monster” blog post was a Roth IRA conversion guide I wrote in 2009. While this post has been updated a few times since then, the original version was more than 3,600 words long! I wrote this post because I knew it was going to be a hot topic.
You see, the IRS lifted the income restrictions on Roth IRA conversations that year, meaning anyone could do it. If you feel like something could become a “hot topic” in the future, it’s smart to get ahead of that topic with the biggest, most comprehensive blog post you can muster. Trust me – you won’t regret it!
12. Write money-making posts
Once you’re ready, you should come up with a strategy for your very first money-making blog post. This could be an affiliate review of a product you use and love, a personal case study comparing several products or services, or something else.
As long as you’re promoting or describing a product or service you can actually sell, you have the potential to earn some cash.
Your money-making post could even be one of those monster blog posts I was talking about. One of my most popular money-making posts is called 100 Ways to Make $100 Fast. While this post started with just a few affiliates, I’ve updated it to include additional money-making opportunities over time.
As you try to nail down your first money-making post, make sure to use some basic keyword research to optimize your efforts. With the right product and keyword strategy, it’s not that hard to write a blog post that can bring in $1,000 or more each month on its own!
13. Start hosting podcasts
I started the Good Financial Cents Podcasts. Podcasts are amazing because they allow people to consume information just about any time they want. They could be driving, working out, taking a hike – you name it!
In my podcast I cover a number of different financial topics ranging from how to protect your investments in retirement to warning signs you need to fire your financial advisor. Some podcasts, though, are just for fun. For example, I’ve been told that I look like The Rock (Dwayne Johnson, just in case you’re not aware).
So, I did a podcast about the life lessons I learned from The Rock. Fun, fun! Another fun one included how to silence your haters. I know, how can a likable guy like me have haters? It’s happened. But did I stop there? Of course not!
14. Use quality images
I focused on using quality images that were worthy enough to be on Pinterest boards. I paid very close attention to detail in my images because images are a huge factor when it comes to if a reader will click or not. There are some great websites out there for stock photography.
I buy all my images from DepositPhotos.com. They have an annual deal with AppSumo for crazy cheap. It’s like $29 for 100 high-resolution images. That’s a killer deal. There are some websites that offer free photos but you better make sure you read the licenses. Many of these free sites just don’t have the quality that I’m after (or the licensing terms I desire) so I just stick with paid photos.
But you’re probably asking how we edit our images. Good question. After I’m done finding the proper images for the website, I send them over to my wife. We’ve used free tools like Canva.com to edit. Today, we use free apps such as WordSwag and Phonto on our iPhones.
iPhones? Yes, iPhones. Actually, we find it to be a lot of fun to create images using these apps. We can do it in our free time wherever we happen to be at the moment.
15. Make money blogging with syndicate content
Syndicating content is an amazing way to get your voice out there – and that’s exactly what I did. Syndicating means to broadcast information across many venues simultaneously. That means you write once, then you get that work published multiple times at different websites. This is huge. I started looking for websites where they offered syndication and soon found a few.
After I became a contributor for a few of these websites, more were likely to bring me on board – and they did. Pat Flynn once talked about being “everywhere.” While syndication doesn’t really get you everywhere online, it sure helps!
Because of syndication, I was able to get some of my blog post contributions on sites such as Time.com,Money.com, USAToday.com, ABC.com, and a variety of others. I also became a contributor for bigger sites such as DailyFinance.com, Forbes.com, and Investopedia.com who were also contributing to USNews.com and MarketWatch.com.
16. Start gathering emails
As a blogger, one of the most valuable resources you have is your email list. People who sign up to receive email updates about your blog are your hardcore followers, so you want to do this right. Adding a pop-up or email capture button on your website early on is crucial. If you wait too long to start capturing emails, you’re only hurting yourself!
While you’ll initially send your email list updates about your website, you’ll hopefully graduate to promoting your affiliates. You can also use your email list to build sales funnels that guide your readers toward products you believe in.
When it comes to blogging, your email list is practically money in the bank. That’s why you should start capturing emails right away.
My favorite email service provider is ConvertKit hands down. With ConvertKit, you can segment your email list so you’re not sending the same email to each of your readers every time. Since your website probably focuses on more than one main topic, having this option can be a game-changer!
Eventually, you’ll want to start employing sales funnels into your strategy. With a sales funnel, you’ll send certain readers a series of emails aimed at tempting them into a purchase or an affiliate sale.
17. Create a Lead Magnet
A lead magnet is a freebie you offer readers in exchange for their email address. This was something I failed to implement early on. I waited way too long to create a lead magnet for my website, mostly because I was overthinking it and focusing too much on perfection.
But when I finally launched my 1st lead magnet The Money Dominating Toolkit, the number of emails I was gathering more than doubled overnight. Your lead magnet doesn’t have to be fancy; it can be a one-page PDF filled with tips, a checklist that focuses on your area of expertise, a printable resource, or a simple email course.
18. Review your top content
Once you have a few monster blog posts and affiliate reviews up on your site, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your progress. By reviewing and updating your best content, you can make sure it’s accurate and give it the best chance at climbing up the ranks in terms of search engine optimization.
Some of my best – and most lucrative – blog posts have been completely overhauled at least five times. To make real money blogging, you have to keep your best content fresh and accurate all the time. The best way to do this is to keep a list of your top producing posts so you can update them at least 1-2 times per year.
19. Survey your list
You know what’s better than being awesome? Becoming better every year. As you grow into your role as a blogger, the best way to improve yourself is to ask your readers how you’re doing – and what you could be doing better.
Creating a short survey for your list of subscribers can help you receive valuable feedback you can use to improve your website and, eventually, your profits. A tactic I borrowed from Derek Halpern of Social Triggers is asking “What’s the #1 thing you’re struggling with?”
Since I have a financial blog, I ask what they are struggling with financially. For our Marriage More blog, we ask what kind of issues our readers are dealing with when it comes to their marriage. If you have a fashion blog, you could ask for your reader’s biggest wardrobe frustrations. If you’re into fitness, you would ask about your reader’s biggest problems with diet and exercise.
If you want to get more detailed information, you could even tie those questions into a short survey you can create for free with Google Forms. It doesn’t matter how you get the information, as long as you get it.
Remember, your readers are the reason you’re able to make money. The best way to grow your income while helping others is to figure out their pain points and create products, resources, and content that can help.
20. Commit to a full year.
It’s easy to spend your sleepy weekend mornings dreaming of starting a blog. Unfortunately, dreaming isn’t enough. No matter what side hustle you plan to launch, you must do more than dream – you have to act.
When it comes to blogging, I always suggest people commit to a full year before they even start. Keep in mind that you might earn close to zero that first year, and that your mom will probably be your biggest (and only) fan for a while. Starting off slow is not only okay; it’s normal.
No matter how anxious you are, it takes time to build a successful blog and the kind of readership you need to cash in.
When I started this website, I committed myself to the project with my whole heart. I went all in, folks. Because I felt that blogging was the future of business, I was determined to succeed.
If you want to succeed, you must commit to one year at a bare minimum. Without that kind of commitment, you’re destined to fail without really giving yourself a chance.
Start Making Money Blogging Today
If you follow every step on this list and commit to blogging for a full year, you will start earning $1,000 per month or more. It may take longer than you want it to, and Lord knows it won’t be easy.
But, I believe in you. And, you know what? As long as I have been blogging, I have never seen someone pour their soul into it for a full year and fail. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure how to get started, I totally get that, too. That’s why I created a free email series that can show you the step-by-step process for creating a profitable blog.
By signing up today, you’ll receive regular emails with action items to follow. You can earn money blogging. Heck, you can even get rich. But remember, it all starts with that very first step.
Ready for a challenge? Sign up for my Make 1k Blogging email challenge. It’s a free 10 email series that’s main goal is to help you get your blog set up and make your first $1,000 blogging. Sign up only if you want to make some extra money. 😉