Whether you're running a personal blog or managing the official blog on your company's website, monetizing your work is entirely possible — it just takes a good amount of time and effort.
While there's no exact formula to start making money, there are some tried and true strategies you can start experimenting with to see what works best for your content, your business model, and your audience.
Below, we'll dive into some of these monetization ideas and get advice from HubSpot's own blog leaders.
How Do Blogs Make Money?
Before we dive into the monetization strategies, you might be wondering, “How will my blog make money?” Well, your blog can make money in several ways including lead generation, affiliate marketing, brand partnerships, collaborations, or advertising. To find out more, you can learn about the types of blogs that make money and see which strategy would work best for your blog.
Now that we know a few ways that blogs can make money, let's dive into the top monetization strategies for your blog.
1. Map blog posts to specific conversion points.
As a company, you can use your blog to drive leads and conversions.
AJ Beltis, a marketing manager on HubSpot's channel monetization team, says, “Conversion is the foundation of blog monetization. Whether it's an ecommerce purchase, a demo request, or a content offer download, it's imperative to have your blog posts point to an intentional, related next step in the buyer's journey.”
So, you might be asking yourself, “How can I do that?”
Beltis' advice is to ask yourself what somebody reading this specific blog post would want or need from your company. Then, you should create the assets you'll need to make that conversion happen in the form of website pages, forms, or content. After that, you'll naturally place your calls-to-action to that next step in the blog post so readers are reminded about what your recommended next step is.
“By placing these CTAs in appropriate sections of the blog, you're more likely to capture the attention of readers with high intent. This process puts more readers on the path to become paying customers for your business,” Beltis adds.
2. Include information about your product or service in your blog posts — but do so sparingly, and thoughtfully.
When you're writing blog posts, it's important that each post isn't just a sales tactic. Your blog posts should provide educational content that anyone could benefit from, not just your customers.
However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't ever mention your product or service.
According to Caroline Forsey, the editor of the HubSpot Marketing Blog, “If you're writing content about the best tools for X, and your product or service is a good solution to that user's search query, I'd highly recommend including it in your total roundup of tools to increase exposure and, ideally, drive more leads and customers towards your product. This is one of the most effective ways to monetize your blog for the long-term, particularly since that same piece of content might provide your business with leads 3-5 years into the future.”
Again, this doesn't mean you should always and only promote your own product or service.
Forsey adds, “You risk damaging your blog's reputation if you do this too often, or outside of the appropriate context. Readers don't want to see a random ‘buy my product!' CTA in a piece of content irrelevant to your product — and, if they feel like your content is actually just a gimmick or hidden advertisement, they'll distrust your brand as a whole.”
To avoid this, Forsey suggests only mentioning your product or service where it makes sense, and in a list of other tools you'd suggest for businesses so they feel you're arming them with useful information so they can make their own decision best-suited for their needs.
“Trust me: if readers enjoy reading your content and feel your brand is genuinely helpful, they'll give your product or service a second look,” she says.
3. Build a lead funnel for your product.
If you work at a B2B company or have a long sales cycle, reading a blog post is usually a customer's first and furthest interaction from their actual purchase. But it's also arguably the most important stage of the inbound funnel. Attracting your audience's attention with helpful, educational, or entertaining content creates a larger pool of people to convert into leads and close as customers. In other words, your blog marks the start of a relationship with your customers.
Lestraundra Alfred, the manager editor of the HubSpot Sales Blog, says, “If you're looking to gain exposure from your blog, your content should help bridge the gap between the problem the reader is trying to solve and your product, which can serve as a solution. By creating content that your ideal customer is searching for and interested in, you can build a solid community of readers who are a great fit for your product, and when nurtured, can turn into customers for your business.”
Ideally, you'll want to craft compelling blog content that your audience can discover easily through a Google search or social media. You can also pay to amplify your distribution on Facebook, which has the best targeting tools out of all the social media sites and is cost effective, or through paid search, which can thrust you to the top of a high-volume Google SERP, although some keywords are expensive.
After people start reading your blog content more, and want to read it on consistent basis, they'll sign up for your blog's email subscription. Once strangers to your brand, they're now regular visitors.
When these visitors read enough blog posts, you can entice them to download conversion offers like Beltis mentioned above. Then, you can then nurture qualified leads with more blog posts and lead generators through email or Facebook ads. Consistently educating them and helping them solve their problems will build their trust, making it more likely they'll move to the middle of your funnel when they're ready. And once you see them researching your product or service by reading case studies, requesting a demo, or trying to contact sales, you can move them to the bottom of the funnel, where sales will qualify their fit as a customer.
Sales will close some of these leads into customers, and they'll be thanking you when they do. Your blog introduced their customers to your brand.
4. Offer sponsored content opportunities to other brands.
Publishers like BuzzFeed and The Dodo produce content that floods social media every day. And they make money by helping other brands do it too.
Brands will collaborate with their video production, social media, and analytics teams to craft posts and videos that follow their formula for virality. Publishers also distribute this sponsored content to their massive social media and website followings. This content is similar to the publishers' native content, so their audience will enjoy reading it, exposing their clients to a huge, engaged, and new viewership and boosting their followings and audience engagement.
If your blog generates a significant amount of traffic, you can leverage your editorial expertise and audience reach to help smaller brands tell captivating stories to a bigger and better viewership.
Doing sponsored content right can pay huge dividends for your brand. Not only does it create another revenue stream, but partnering with other marketing minds can help your team unleash unprecedented amounts of creativity. In fact, T Brand Studio, the New York Times native ad business, crafted paid posts that captured as much engagement as some of nytimes.com's highest-performing articles.
5. Provide coaching services.
Your blog posts can serve as a teaser for how much your readers can learn from you about a certain subject matter. Because if you write about enhancing certain skills like selling, social savviness, sports, cooking, and music, your blog posts can only teach your readers so much. They need to practice these skills in real life to see substantial improvement.
But if your readers practice these skills on their own, they'll only get so much better. If they really want to improve, training with a coach will guide them toward success faster than anything else. Think about it. What would improve your basketball skills the most? Reading Michael Jordan's book about shooting and practicing his tips by yourself? Or reading his book and then taking shooting lessons with him?
If you're running a personal brand, as a coach, your blog is your most important marketing asset. It helps your potential clients improve themselves while giving them a glimpse into what life would be like if they actually achieved one of their life-long goals. Your blog inspires readers to strive for their dreams. And when they're more motivated to reach their potential, they'll usually want an expert directing them toward greatness, not just themselves.
6. Market your freelance writing skills.
If you're a freelance blogger, you need to show potential clients that you can write compelling content. To do this, you could try to attract their attention with your previous work, but you usually don't have control over those topics. So what if they don't pique their interest?
The best way to show potential clients you can write compelling content is by engaging them with your own content. When you start a blog, you have access to your post's performance metrics and complete control over the topics you cover. This allows you to write content that you know your target audience will devour, attracting more and more potential clients to your blog. And once they realize they rely on you for content marketing advice, they'll know they can trust you to help them improve their own content marketing.
For instance, Eddie Shleyner, a freelance copywriter and content marketer, markets his business called VeryGoodCopy by writing articles about copywriting, content marketing, and psychology. His articles are so engaging and insightful that organizations like The North Face, Geico, and Mercedes Benz hire him to write articles, eBooks, landing pages, website copy, and email campaigns.
7. Participate in affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to monetize a blog when you don't sell a product or service. It's a relatively simple process too. You'll partner with an ecommerce platform or businesses that have affiliate programs and pick out relevant products to promote on your blog. Your partners will then send you custom links to their product pages that can track customers referred by your blog. And if someone clicks on the link and buys the product, you'll earn a commission.
One of the most popular affiliate marketing programs is Amazon Associates. You can choose from over one million of Amazon's ecommerce products to advertise on your blog, and you can earn up to 10% in commission.
Out of all the ways you can make money blogging, affiliate marketing requires the least amount of time, money, and resources. You don't have to build, market, or sell a product or service and inserting affiliate links in your blog posts doesn't cost any money. All you have to do is wait for people to click on them and buy something.
Start Making Money with Your Blog
Choosing your monetization strategy will depend on the type of blog you're running and the type of product or service you offer. To up-level your blog, learn how to set yourself up for success and avoid the top blogging mistakes.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.