The internet belongs to millions who have shared their passion with others via blogging. The leading authorities on their craft, providing step-by-step guides for others just starting out. The ones that relate to the research-driven decision-makers, comparing multiple options for products and services, inspiring confidence in buying decisions.
If that sounds like you or the current state of your site, you’re maybe thinking, yeah, okay, but then what’s next? How can I make a little coin on all the hard work and resources I’ve put into making this WordPress site amazing? How do I convert my readers into customers? Or at the very least, how can I recover the investment I’ve already made in the design, web hosting, and my time? Step one is to understand the type of blog you have (or would like to build!) and how it’s tailored to earn you money. Let find out how you can monetize your WordPress blog with these tips below.
1. The types of blogs that drive revenue
This question is a bit tricky because the real and true answer is that any well-built and thoughtful WordPress blog can drive a lot of revenue; there really is no secret formula. In general, your goal is to attract a sizable audience that provides high value to potential advertisers and to keep those readers loyal, driving up site visits.
In general, blogs that have a particular niche or interest group are more likely to develop a loyal readership at scale. While it might seem tempting to appeal to a really broad audience in order to boost your numbers, overgeneralizing can cause your blog to get lost in a sea of similar content and your readers may drop off quickly.
Now, let’s talk about some specific types of blogs that are perfect for monetizing.
1.1. Comparison and Review Sites
Word of mouth is the oldest marketing medium in the book, and certainly among the most effective. Providing in-depth and insightful reviews of products, services, or businesses that you have personally used or patronized can build a valuable user base relatively quickly. Comparing various services is a great way to help your readers decide among various options. Objectively comparing user experience, product quality, value for the money, and other attributes in a way that is easy to digest and informative is a highly in-demand skill, and the sites that are doing it right are making lots of money. Keep in mind, monetizing a comparison or review site only works as long as you maintain true transparency. If goods or services were exchanged for your review, or your review contains referral links, it’s imperative (and in some places, the law) that you disclose that information to your readers.
Developing a set of self-paced tutorials or instructional videos is a great way to get a loyal following, and monetizing can be a relatively quick next step. Just make sure your content is unique and provides real value to customers, or they’ll skip over it in favor of free resources. Oftentimes, introductory or “101” content is readily available, so consider the intermediate or advanced audiences as potential valuable targets.
Keep in mind that tutorials and courses do not have to live on a standalone site. If you maintain a WordPress site to advertise your photography business, you could consider adding video content about how to gain more photography clients or how to deal with unhappy clients. It’s a great way to earn passive income in addition to your core business. No matter what type of site you own or who your audience is, as long as you’re providing valuable information that keeps people coming back, you have a great opportunity to monetize! Next, let’s dive into some of the specifics of making money with your WordPress site.
2. Monetize options
2.1. Banner Ads
They’re basically the oldest trick in the marketing book, and just about as old as the internet itself. Sometimes the classics stick around because they’re effective, sometimes it’s just because no one has thought of anything better. We’d put banner ads somewhere in between. If you want to pursue banner ads, there are a few different ways to go about it.
2.1.1. Sell directly to advertisers
The first is to designate space on your site, create a rate card with sizes, specs, etc. and sell directly to advertisers. You can sell on a flat fee for a designated time period, or as a CPM (cost per thousand impressions model). The advantage to a CPM model is that you have total control over what ads get displayed on your site and can make sure they adhere to your brand standards. The disadvantage is the time and effort it takes to sell advertising and the extra step of invoicing your advertisers. It’s a fairly high-maintenance approach to banner ads and monetization in general.
2.1.2. Sell via ad networks
Your second option is to sell space via ad networks, such as Google AdSense, AdThrive, Ezoic, Outbrain, and Media.net, etc. There are several WordPress plugins available for the seamless implementation of programs like this. You can still designate where the ads are displayed on your site, but to attract the most advertisers, you’ll want to stick with the industry-standard ad sizes. We would recommend using a third-party system if you are planning to sell banner ads, simply due to the added convenience and simplicity.
● The pros and cons of banner ads
There are a few key benefits to banner ads. The first is that if you have a lot of traffic, they can drive a significant amount of revenue. If you use an ad network, aside from some initial setup, it’s relatively low maintenance. Another benefit is that they come with lots of good data. You will know via AdSense how many impressions and clicks your ads received, and which placements are the most profitable for you. You can optimize for various devices and provide data to your client if needed.
There are, of course, a few drawbacks to banner ads. First, advertisers seem to be growing wary of them. Marketers are asking a lot of questions about viewability or impression quality, or whether their desired customer even saw or retained anything about the ad. With the prevalence of ad blocking software, your potential audience might be shrinking by the second. Also, they seem out of sync with the current sleek, simple trend in web design. Ads can stick out like a sore thumb on a page that is designed with several visual components or on a one-page layout. They also take away your control over your site’s aesthetic. You have no idea whether a network ad will match your site or even who the advertiser will be. You could find advertisers showing up with which you have no personal experience or even a negative experience. Everything on your page should reflect your brand promise, and sometimes banner ads can seem like invaders.
2.2. Premium and Gated Content
If you’ve developed a loyal following of readers who are learning from your WordPress blog, you may consider developing a strategy for offering premium content to paid subscribers. This means that your best secrets, tips, and tricks are available only when someone purchases a membership on your site. We would caution you, however, against making 100% of your content gated. Free content will be what attracts new users to your site, and it’s unlikely you’ll have people lining up to pay you money unless they’re convinced they’ll find it valuable. It’s important to establish and maintain your position as an authority on your subject matter. Remember that free content is plentifully available across the internet, so yours must be unique, different, and at a different level than others out there.
One of the biggest benefits of premium content is that it can be quite lucrative for bloggers who offer great service and have substantial audiences. Depending on the content, some of it can be relatively passive, such as a class or tutorial that you create once and can continue to reuse. More personalized services obviously take a larger investment of time but can demand a much higher price than more general content.
While gated and premium content is great, there are a few challenges with this method of monetization. One is that you may need some additional development resources to securely collect payments and hide premium content behind a paywall. You’ll want to make sure the content doesn’t get shared among multiple people for free since that would defeat the purpose. This method is also less scalable than others.
2.3. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a relatively new term for a practice that’s as old as advertising itself. It’s an option available for WordPress blogs with substantial readership, most likely in the hundreds of thousands and above. It can also apply to social media accounts with huge follower counts. Essentially, if a brand believes you are a trusted authority to a group of people, including many potential customers, they’ll pay you to promote their brand via your social media channels or on your blog.
Since we’re talking about WordPress sites, we’ll talk about what this looks like on a blog. More specifically like Mindalley’s blog (Health & Wellness site), They gathered quite a large audience with their blog and styling services, and several brands have determined that the readers are a potential gold mine of new customers.
● The pros and cons of influencer marketing
Sounds amazing right? It definitely can be. The barriers to entry on this method are a bit higher than others, as most brands will want a substantial readership and a fairly targeted audience to utilize a blogger as part of their influencer marketing strategy. While it may work for you to reach out to a brand and volunteer your services, it typically works the other way, with brands approaching bloggers they have identified as valuable. In other words, don’t call them – they’ll call you.
While awesome, that can be a bit of a disadvantage as the revenue stream is entirely unpredictable. This is another method that struggles at scale. If every post on your entire blog is a sponsored post, your readers will start to wonder if they can trust you or if you’re just a corporate sell-out. It’s important to find a balance and choose brands that you genuinely believe in and speak about with enthusiasm. You must maintain objectivity and trustworthiness, or not only will your revenue stream be limited, but your readership will dwindle.
2.4. Referral Marketing
Referral marketing is a favorite of WordPress blog owners as it combines some of the best elements of all of the other methods we’ve discussed. Essentially, bloggers, instructors, and comparison sites can join referral marketing programs that incentivize them to promote products in exchange for commissions or credit when products are sold. Referral marketing is great because you get compensation for raving about products and services you already love. It seems authentic, your followers appreciate the advice, and you feel good about helping the companies you adore.
Like with influencer marketing, it’s definitely a best practice to participate exclusively in referral programs whose products and services you truly believe in. You want to make sure your credit isn’t compromised by blasting referral-linked products all over your site. Make sure they fit seamlessly into your content, and as always, be sure to disclose that your post contains referral links.
Think outside the obvious when it comes to referral marketing. You don’t have to limit your referral partnerships only to retailers in your vertical. You can join programs that aren’t standard retailers. For instance, we use Flywheel to host our site and we’ve already trusted this web hosting provider, and we also joined their referral program to recommend it to our WordPress users.
In fact, that’s one of our favorite things about referral marketing. You don’t have to completely disrupt your site or change your content plans to feature referral links. Just find and join the right programs and promote the best of the best.
Referral commissions can add up quickly, so this method has a great deal of revenue potential. It’s relatively easy to implement, too. It just takes some work initially to apply for programs, but once you’re set, it’s relatively quick and easy to add referral links to your site. Referral marketing is truly a win-win scenario. You provide valuable traffic to advertisers, they reward your advocacy, and you’re recommending the greatest tools for your readers!
The one challenge of referral marketing is that it takes a bit of effort to keep up with promotions, stock, and features offered by your referral partners. Sometimes they offer unique deals exclusively to partners, sometimes there are week-long sales or daily “Flash Sales,” and keeping up with the newest info can be somewhat time-consuming. The investment of time can have a huge payoff, but it’s imperative that any offers you advertise are current or you may get a reputation as an unreliable source of info. You also need to make sure that products you’re highlighting are still available on the site, as retailers can change their inventory frequently.
3. How to get started
Hopefully, by now you’ve developed a feel for the methods of monetization that might work best for your site. Many WordPress blog owners utilize a combination of these techniques, depending on the type of content they are promoting, seasonality, and a variety of other factors.
In general, you will find more success in a shorter period of time if you already have a great readership established. If you’re not quite there yet, maybe focus on building your audience before you monetize. Work on building value and loyalty first, then the money will start flowing. In order to determine exactly how many visitors you are getting and where they are coming from, we suggest connecting your site with Google Analytics prior to even launching. It will inform lots of choices you might make for your blog and allow you to compare different pieces of content quickly and easily. If you have a readership and you’ve decided which monetization methods you think might work for you, the next step is to get organized. You are taking your site from a hobby to a business, and like any other enterprise, you need goals and a roadmap. Make lists of your priorities for your site.
- Where does monetization fall on the list of your goals?
- What would you consider successful when it comes to the revenue driven by your site?
- How much time can you reasonably devote to your site, and what is the return on your investment?
- Is your site tuned up from a programming standpoint, or does it make sense to make changes to boost performance?
- Does it look the way you want it to look right now?
It’s possible you may need to invest time or money to make the site as impressive as possible before monetization is possible. As they say, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Identify blogs you love that seem to have effectively monetized their sites and see what they are doing well, what you like, and what you’d like to do differently.
The next step is to research like crazy. If you’ve decided that banner ads are right for you, start comparing ad networks and their various capabilities. Decide what is most important to you, be it reporting, easy integration, flexibility, etc., and look for networks that match your priorities. If you want to pursue referral marketing, make a list of some of your favorite brands, ones you can wholeheartedly recommend, and look into whether they have referral programs available.
After you have a clear vision, just start signing up. Most programs will have some kind of a screening process, so make sure to read the forms carefully and provide all the information requested. Once you are accepted into the programs, most will walk you through how to implement them. Make sure to test and retest any links on your site to make sure things are working properly. And don’t set it and forget it! Review your monetization methods frequently to make sure you’re still set up properly, links are working, and you’re getting all the referral credit you should. Last, make sure to read all communication that is sent by your service providers so you’re aware of all updates and any new features.