How blogs ACTUALLY make money?

If you’re new to blog world, this might be a burning question you have…how do blogs make money? (Does it seem like everyone but you knows the answer?)

You might hear things like “display ads” or “RPM” or “affiliates” and “CPA”.

Maybe you just need someone to lay it out for you, in plain English.

Let’s do that.

These are the 4 main income streams that bloggers use:

  • Ads
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Sponsored Posts
  • Products / Services

Not every blog will use every income stream, so not every blog makes money the exact same way. Each stream it’s own benefits, but some are harder to implement than others.

All of them are dependent on one thing, however. People need to be reading your blog. 

Let’s address the idea that you don’t need page views to make an income.

You’ll hear often “big bloggers” say that page views and income aren’t related, but I believe that is pure… um… crap. (For lack of a better word.)

Sure, there are probably a few blogs out there that are doing just fine with 50,000 page views per month, but honestly, if no one is reading your blog there is no way to generate a blogging income.

Those “big bloggers” might say things like “page views were down 50% and income was up 40%!” … Sure. That’s possible. I can say it too – in fact. In March 2017, my page views fell 50% and my income rose over 100%. But let’s not overlook the fact that even at 50% down, I still had 100,000 page views in March. 

Perhaps income and page views are less tied together after you reach a certain point. But that point is far up there, like 100k / month. You need to have people reading your blog to generate an income from blogging.

Recommended Learning:  The Traffic Transformation Guide 
Recommended Learning: 
Pinteresting Strategies – how I went from 0 – 200k pageviews in just a few months

Ad Income

This blogging income stream is certainly the MOST dependent on page views.

You can earn money on your blog through display ads. You can either sell the ad space on your blog independently and privately (to companies who want to advertise on your blog) or you can use an ad network.

This is one of my very favorite ways to earn an income because it doesn’t cost anyone a penny. I am with an awesome ad network (Adthrive) who takes care of ALL my ad stuff. The ads earn based on how many people see them. (So, page views are KEY.)

You might hear people talk about RPM in relationship to their ads – that’s how much they are earning per 1000 page views. (I am currently earning around 10$ USD per 1000 page views.) RPM is dependent on MANY things, for example:

  • the ad network you are with
  • the quality of your traffic
  • your site speed load time
  • the season of the year (last quarter of the year is best!)
  • other things that I don’t understand

Most bloggers start with Google Adsense, because anyone can run these ads regardless of their traffic. Bigger (better) ad networks require a threshold number of page views before you can apply to work with them. Generally, people use Adsense until they reach 30 – 50,000 page views, and then they apply with a midsize network like Media Vine, and then once you reach 100k page views you can apply to Adthrive or other very large networks.

I find that Adsense is sort of a pain, and I would almost suggest not bothering with them at all… just work on getting those page views up as quickly as possible. (If you DO want to use Adsense, it certainly won’t HURT anything – I made a few hundred dollars with them. I installed all the ads myself with the help of google. Have at it!)

The ad network that you work with will pay you using whatever method they choose – either direct deposit, or check, or through paypal.


Affiliate Marketing

(This is an amazing way to earn an income with your blog.)

Affiliate marketing is when you partner with companies / individuals to sell their products or services and you earn a commission on the sale.

You can sell literally anything on your blog – if someone will buy it.

Affiliate marketing is one of those things that bloggers take a swing at, by throwing up some Amazon links to their favorite DVD’s, and then never make a cent with.

But that’s because there are right ways to do things, and there are wrong ways, and tossing a bunch of links into your posts is the wrong way to do affiliate marketing.

I took a course specifically to learn how to do it, and it made all the difference. I strongly recommend either MY affiliate marketing course (which I generated over $15,000 last month in NON-blogging passive income), or  Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing when you are ready to make some money with affiliate marketing.

There are some canopy affiliate sites, where one site can connect you with MANY companies. Some to check out are:

  • Amazon
  • Cj.com
  • Shareasale
  • Rakuten
  • Flex Offers
  • Shopher Media

You can also be affiliated with companies who don’t require a purchase to pay you a commission. Survey companies or apps etc will pay based on CPA – or cost per action. A great example is the the checkout 51 app. It’s totally free, but if someone signs up for it using that link, I will make 1 dollar. So, they performed an action (signing up), and I get a dollar for that action (cost).

Again, you are paid by whatever method the company you’re working with chooses: check, direct deposit, or more commonly if you’re working with an individual – paypal.

Related: 5 Reasons You’re Not Making Money With Your Blog

Sponsored Posts

This is an income stream that I don’t currently use on my blog, but will be looking into (hopefully) in the new year.

It’s another sort of advertisement, where a company is paying you a one time fee to have you write a blog post promoting their product. The fee you can charge is dependent on your page views and your social media reach. Growing you social media accounts and page views will allow you to charge higher rates for sponsored work.

This is not an income stream you can dive right into at the start of building your blog.

Many companies would prefer to pay you for this work in product, but you can (and should) certainly require a fee.

Products / Services

Developing your own product to sell is a solid way to make a blog income, but to be completely honest, it’s not something I would neccessarily tackle in the first year of blogging. Get your ad income and your affiliate marketing income streams working for you, maybe try to work on a sponsored post every month… and then look into developing a product.

This might seem like contrary advice because having a product can be one of the easiest ways to generate an income, but again, if you don’t have the page views then there’s no one to purchase.

And, if you DO have climbing page views, and have spent all your time developing a product but not learning about affiliate marketing or ads, then you are probably throwing away good passive income while you work on creating and promoting your product. (Because don’t be fooled… a product that people will actually purchase will take time and effort to create.)

Once affiliate sales and ads are bringing in that passive income, you focus your attention on creating the perfect product for your audience.

(You don’t NEED a product to earn an income blogging though – between ads and affiliate marketing, I made a full time income with my blog before I ever had a product to sell.)

Providing services is something that I’ve never been overly interested in doing as a blogger, because it’s obviously the LEAST passive income stream you can get into. But some bloggers do add to their income by providing virtual assistant services, or graphic design services or the like.

ALL of these blogging income streams require learning.

This is the part where people get major stuck.

They’ve written the posts, they’ve pushed their blog out there on social media, and page views are growing. They’ve made 34 cents from Adsense and $2.87 on Amazon and that’s IT. They refuse to invest in learning how to blog for profit and this is where their blogging journey stagnates.

You can either continue at this rate – and slowly grow your blog income from here (with that trial and error thing I talk about) over the next ten years.

OR, you can invest a bit into learning how to grow your blog income quickly. This is what I did. There is no secret to how I made a full time income quickly – I invested in learning how to do it. (And I prayed. And worked really, really hard. Those things are both important too.)

If you don’t have the page views yet, get them. Read The Traffic Transformation Guide . Then you can apply to good ad networks.

Follow that up with some good advice from people who know how to do this stuff:

Recommended Learning: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing . (You can read my interview with the course creator, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner here.)
Recommended Learning: Blog Income Boost by Lena Gott.

Blog education is key to making money blogging.