If you search the internet and type in “how to make money blogging” or “how to make money your first year of blogging”, you will find plenty of articles claiming to tell you how to make squillions of dollars blogging, and even better how to do this in the first few weeks or months! If you have followed my blog for a while you will know I have a penchant for that word squillions – and that’s because I think it sums up what I believe many of these articles are. Squillions is not a real word and the promises those types of “make all the money” articles make are not real either!
The truth is, making money blogging is hard. Yes, you can make A LOT of money with your blog. But there are millions of blogs out there that make very little if any money at all.
In this article I want to separate a bit of fact from fiction and give you some real-world tips on how you can make money blogging in your first year. It might not be thousands of dollars right away that those other articles promise you, but it will be realistic and achievable. So let’s dive in with what do you need to do first to set yourself up for blogging success and making money in your first year of blogging!
Step 1) Blog Set-Up
First and foremost, make sure your blog is set up correctly. This means you have all the basics covered, including you have site security with an SSL certificate, all your plugins are up to date, you have tested and optimised your website to make it run as fast as possible, you have a clear site structure, you have correctly sized and uploaded images and they all have alt text and you have started to deep link between the articles published on your website.
If you are just getting started, read my How To Start A Blog In 2019 article which will give you the setup instructions and best practices for managing your blog.
Even if you have everything set up and your site is live with a few blog posts already, take a look through that setup guide just to make sure you have done everything correctly. Go back and make any changes and optimisations required.
Why do you need to make sure your site is set up correctly? Because Google crawls your website to determine if it wants to show one of your pages or blog posts in search results. There are many factors that determine this and it’s not just the keywords. Site speed and site structure are also very important. Making money from your blog is only going to be possible if you have people actually visiting your blog. No visitors – no money – so you need to keep Google happy first and foremost!
Step 2) Have A Blog Business Plan
Having a blog business plan for how you want to make money from your blog is integral. You must consider all the different options for monetising and determine which ones you think fit with your monetary goals, your skills, and what you think you can create.
Here are a few examples of the ways that you can make money from your blog. Go through this list and identify which of the methods you want to use. Remember that you can start small with two or three of these, and add later as your blog grows and you learn more about what your readers and customers want from you.
- Sponsored articles
- Link adds and link swaps (Not recommended! I talk more about this in my blogging courses and why you should be very careful with paid link ads)
- Online shop with your own physical and digital products
- Affiliate shop
- Paid Member / Subscription area
- Digital products
- Online Courses
- Your services
- 1:1 Coaching & Mentoring
- Social Media Management
- Events and Workshops
- Freelance Writing
I cover each of these options, as well as more detail on implementing affiliates and advertising in detail in The Blogger Course.
In your business planning, you should also identify your dream web visitor or dream customer. Who is the person you really want to visit your site and become a customer and what questions do they have, or needs you can serve? This will help you to create content from the beginning when you start your blog that will attract this dream client to your website.
Step 3) Get Traffic To Your Website
As I mentioned, making money from your blog will largely rely on getting people onto your website. The more visitors you have, the more people that can click on your affiliate links, buy products in your shop, or sign up for the paid services that you offer. If no one is coming to your website who are you going to sell to? So I recommend focusing on ways to get visitors onto your website in the early stages of your blogging career.
It can take around 3-6 months for Google’s algorithms to fully index your site and start showing your content in top search results, so you will probably have to rely on some other traffic referral sources in the beginning. But do not ignore Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)! Over the long term it should be your goal for SEO to be your number one source of traffic to your website. It just won’t happen overnight, so in the meantime you can also be spending time on some of these other traffic referral sources:
Pinterest: This tool is about to become your new blogging bestie (besides me!). Pinterest is an amazing way to get eyes on our content and clicks on your blog and you need to start using it now. Like right now – after you finish reading this article, its time to start optimising your Pinterest page!
Social Media: If you have been focused on social media before you started your blog, then chances are you will have built an engaged and loyal following there that you can convert to blog readers. Social media is not an ideal web traffic referrer since it is very manual, requiring you to keep pushing your followers over to your blog every day. Social networks are designed to keep users on them so this can be challenging to send traffic to your website, but it is by no means impossible. Use these followers at the beginning whilst you wait for your hard work on SEO and Pinterest to kick in!
Facebook Groups: Find niche Facebook groups where you can answer questions on your blog’s topic and share your content with readers who are looking for specific answers that you can provide. This is great for simply building your brand and getting people to know your name. You can join my Women’s Blogging Collective group which is a great group to meet other bloggers!
Links to your website: Getting links from websites with a higher domain authority than your own will help build the profile of your website in the eyes of Google. Domain Authority is numbered between 1-100, and the higher the number the better. For example, if Forbes or BBC link to your site it will be very valuable for your blog. Domain Authority is not actually a Google terminology, but having these links will help you.
Now I hear you say, “well how on earth do I get featured on BBC” and you are right, getting these types of features takes time and luck. But you can begin getting features from websites with a higher domain than yours by guest posting. For example, you could guest post on my travel blog WeAreTravelGirls.com where we accept guest contributors, link to your blog and social channels and have a DA of 42.
Then over time, you can start pitching to write for larger publications, share press releases when you have newsworthy stories or even hire a PR company to help you with building your profile!
Step 4) Build Your Email List From Day 1
Start building your email list right away. If you have just launched your blog, sign up for a mail provider such a MailChimp which is free for your first 2,000 subscribers. A platform like this is fine in the beginning and you can migrate to a more complex funnel platform like ConvertKit in the future when you have a variety of products to sell or services that you are offering. These services cost more money and are generally better in the long run so if you want to invest from the beginning then you can go with Convertkit from Day 1 rather than migrating later.
In the beginning, you simply want to be getting your readers on to your email list and start building value for them there so that you can sell to them in the future when you have your first product.
Read my article 8 Simple Ways To Turn Readers Into Subscribers to discover a few of my favourite ways to build your email list.
Step 5) Start Monetising In Your First Year!
Once you have 1) the blog set up correctly, 2) a game plan for getting people reading your blog, 3) identified the ways you could potentially make money that matches to your skills, and 4) started to build your email list, its time to get going on the monetization itself!
There are a few options to make money in your first year blogging there are a few ways that you can do that and not all of the monetization methods you chose will work right away. Here are the ones I think you have the most chance of making work for you to make money in your first year of blogging.
Start with Affiliates Right Away
Affiliate Marketing is when you promote someone else’s products on your website, social media and your email list. If someone clicks on the link to the product from your website you receive a small commission if they purchase. Affiliate earnings can be very good with many blogs making a large percentage of their income from these. I earn around $1,250 a month from one affiliate alone on my travel blog WeAreTravelGirls.com!
Download the Monetising Your Blog eBook for some more information about choosing affiliates.
I strongly recommend that you start adding affiliate into your website from day 1, rather than waiting until you have a certain amount of web traffic (unless the affiliate requires this). Assuming you can get approved to become an affiliate by the companies you want to work with you start adding the links into your articles and on your website right away.
I made the mistake of waiting until I thought my web traffic was at an optimal level and I am still going back through 750 articles adding links! Even if you don’t earn a cent in the first few months, you will be glad you did it from the beginning and don’t have to go back through old content!
I would recommend picking 1-2 affiliates directly related to your niche and starting with those. Place your affiliates in the following:
- Write affiliate focused articles
- Promote affiliates on social media and to your email list
- In eBooks, workbooks or products you create
- In an affiliate shop
- On a ‘My Gear’, or ‘My Favourites Page’
Note – always follow the rules in your country for promoting products. You can see the FTC rules here.
Create Something You Can Sell
One of your best chances of making money from your blog in year 1 is to create something that you can sell. Your earnings from affiliates will take some time, as will the ability to implement advertising onto your website (if you even want to), so having a product or service that you can sell available will be key to making money as soon as you start getting visitors to your website.
Identify what your target readers actually want. What are the questions they are asking you? What are the problems they are facing and how can you solve them? Once you know this you can create products that they will buy.
Today, many products that bloggers create are not physical products rather these are digital products or your services. For example, you could sell digital products such as Lightroom Presets, copyright-free images, or eBooks. Or you can create a suite of services that you offer, such as 1:1 consulting, vacation planning, or photography.
Over time you can build on these to create a whole set of different products or even online courses. But don’t overwhelm yourself, start small and try things out – see what your readers buy and want from you before you create your bigger signature offers.
Placing sponsored articles on your website is a good way to earn an income from your blog. A sponsored post is an article that a company/brand pays you to write and includes links to their products, services, destination. Dependent on how much web traffic you have and how much domain authority you have the more you can charge for these posts. As your web traffic increases you will receive lots of sponsored post requests to your inbox – I receive 10-25 or more per day!
A word of caution however… it can be tempting when you are getting started to say yes to all of these sponsored post requests. A company is offering to write you a post, on your blog’s topic AND pay you $100+ for the privilege? Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch and the same can be said for these posts.
Many of the requests will be from companies building links to specific sites to ‘trick’ Google into ranking them higher. Whilst the top-level link they show you might look ok, there is a chance there is a web of other links beneath it that are not so good – posting these articles could actually end up seriously hurting your traffic.
My advice would be to reach out to brands and companies you admire in your niche, products you already love and use and pitch a sponsored post on your website – rather than accepting these random inbound requests. This way you have more certainty of what you are linking to and it will be for products you truly love and want to recommend to your readers.
Create a Paid Event, Workshop Or Retreat
Hosting a paid event, workshop or even a whole retreat is a great way to make money in your first year blogging! I launched my blog in July 2016 and by April 2017 I had launched my first retreat and sold out 24 spots on a 7 day Bali Business & Blogging Retreat!
You may not want to start this big, so instead, you can start smaller with a paid event or workshop. Think about the types of events you might like to attend in your area and that you think your audience would too. This could be a networking event, an event with panel speakers or an individual speaker. Or you could host a workshop teaching a group of people the thing that you are skilled in, for example perhaps your blog is about graphic design and branding and you could host a small in-person 1-day workshop on this topic.
Even if you don’t charge guests to attend you could get a product sponsor to pay you to have their products featured at your event helping to cover any costs and make sure you make some money from the event!
My Retreat Course is coming soon! Learn absolutely everything you need to know to run your first sold-out retreats (workshops, and events). I have welcomed over 100 women to different retreats and group getaways around the world. Having curated, marketed and hosted these from start to finish I have the knowledge and expertise to teach you how to design, market, sell out and run your first ever retreat! Sign up for the course waiting list here.
I hope that you found this article helpful for thinking about how you can make money in your first year of blogging. It is key that you decide first what methods you want to use to make money, know your exact target client and focus on getting traffic to your blog in order to start monetising quickly! Please drop any questions, thoughts, or your own tips on this topic in the comments!
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