How to Turn Your Blog into a Profitable Venture

Monetize Your Blog with Advertising, Memberships, and Donations

make money blogging
••• Getty Images/miakievy

Editor's Note: This is the second half of a guest series from Mary Nolan of livemercial on starting a successful blog. In part one, Welcome to the Blogosphere: 10 Getting Started Tips for Blogging, she outlined 10 steps for planning and publishing a successful blog, with an emphasis on generating killer content that is engaging, keyword dense and informative in order to attract and retain a sizable audience.

The next step towards making money with a blog, after you’ve got started with the setup of your blog, is to determine how you can generate revenue to turn your blog into a profitable venture. While there are numerous ways to make money online (including generating leads on your blog, selling your own products and services, selling other peoples services via affiliate marketing, etc.), here we'll look at three simple and popular options to generate income from your blog. These include blog advertising, blog donations and paid blog membership.

Blog Advertising

One of the easiest ways to bring in advertising dollars is through Google AdSense, a free service that provides both text and graphic ads that are relevant to your content and target market. You get paid when someone clicks on the ad from within your blog, splitting the advertising revenue share between you and Google.

How much you can earn depends in part on how much advertisers have bid for keywords that will link to their ads. Generally, revenue comes in the form of cost-per-click (CPC) ads, where the advertiser pays a set amount every time a visitor clicks on their ad, and cost-per-impression (CPM), where advertisers pay each time their ad is viewed on your blog -- whether or not a visitor clicks on it. Google doesn't share the exact amount of how much ad revenue they are collecting versus how much of that they are paying out to you.

What makes this such as easy way to make money online is that all you have to do is place some code on your website (provided to you by Google) once and the ads will automatically show up on your website when someone visits it; there is no other work involved on your part. All of the website clicks, ad revenues, and payments are automatically taken care of; so you don't have to track anything, handle billing, or anything else -- it's all automated. Google uses their proprietary algorithm to make sure that the ads your visitors see are relevant to the content on your site - so it's a good visitor experience.

Affiliate Marketing

Another popular way to generate advertising revenue is to use an affiliate program, where you promote top-performing products by placing a text link, image or banner on your blog site. The best strategy is to identify products that have some logical relationship to your blog. For example, if you’re blogging about cat health, ads promoting cat-related products are a good fit.

Another way to increase your earnings from an affiliate program is to create longer form content specifically related to the product you want to promote. This could be something as subtle as a "how-to" article with a link to your recommended related product or something more obvious as a product review that links to the product you are promoting as an affiliate.

Most affiliate programs pay on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis, where visitors need to take some action such as registering for more information, signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase, before you earn any revenue. Some also work under CPC or CPM arrangements. Check with the affiliate for specific details on their payouts.

The great thing about affiliate marketing is, like Google Adsense, it's completely passive income. All you have to do is sign up for a vendor's affiliate program, get your affiliate link, and promote their materials on your blog. If someone clicks on the link and makes a purchase (or takes some type of action) then you get paid. The vendor handles all of the payments, product delivery, customer service, etc. and you just collect the checks.

Paid Memberships on Your Blog

Once you’ve established a broad community with a steady stream of traffic, you will know what interests your readers and what does not, setting you up to begin offering paid memberships. The blog itself can still be free, but a reader with membership status can read more in-depth articles or access other special features, creating a sense of exclusivity.

The trick to successful membership programs is to make sure you can offer a consistent flow of exclusive information that your readers cannot find anywhere else.

A great strategy for getting more paid memberships on your blog is to allow access to the beginning of an article or to allow access to an entire "part 1" of an article; then allow people to read the rest of the article or unlock "part 2" of the article once they become a paid member.

Either way, you'll still want to publish a lot of free content on your blog as a way to drive more traffic and to give people a preview of the paid content they can upgrade to.

The beauty of a paid membership is that the customer is billed every single month, giving more stable and predictable income stream in your business.

Accepting Donations on Your Blog

Soliciting donations may sound like a big turn off, but depending on the type of blog you’re publishing and its focus, donations can often make perfect sense. For example, you can solicit donations to benefit a non-profit organization that rescues cats or provides free veterinary care, a portion of which can be used to help offset the costs of maintaining your cat health blog. Or, if you’re writing about breast cancer, you can raise funds to support research or other cancer organizations in addition to generating revenue.

Of course, if your readership is strong, you can also ask for donations simply to help cover the costs of continuing to provide them with your insights and expertise.

The key is to be very clear about your intentions, how the money will be used and to make sure you’re in compliance with any fundraising and tax regulations.

Finally, if your first blog isn’t the success you expected it to be, look for new ways to attract and retain readers. Or simply regroup and launch a new blog with a different niche.

If you provide really good content on your blog, you'll be surprised at how many people are willing to make a donation to the blog as a show of their appreciation of the good information you're providing.

As Quality Control Editor, Creative Writer and Blog Editor for livemercial, Mary Nolan specializes in creating compelling, keyword dense copy for blogging communities, websites, banners, graphics and print ads. She also reviews and edits websites and media in order to assure that all publications are of the highest quality.

Note: This article has been edited/updated by Online Business/Hosting Expert Brian T. Edmondson