How I Grew A $5 Million Blog


Want to learn how to monetize a blog?

What started as just a hobby turned into one of the most life-changing things I’ve ever done – that’s starting my blog, and learning how to make money with it.how to monetize a blog

Since learning how to monetize a blog over 10 years ago, I have now earned over $5,000,000 from my site. This is still hard for me to believe, and I’m the one who’s lived it!

I started Making Sense of Cents around 10 years ago, entirely as a hobby.

In the beginning, all I was doing was tracking my own personal finance progress as I finished school and started paying off my student loans. Blogging was a very new concept to me at the time – I heard about it from a magazine – and people were just learning how to monetize blogs back in 2011.

Most bloggers started back then with display ads and sponsored posts, but the options have only increased. 

Because of all of the new ways to make money blogging, like affiliate income and selling your own products, you can make somewhat passive income as a blogger. 

Passive income is my favorite way to make money because it makes blogging even more flexible and something I can do as I work from home, travel, and work whenever I want. 

Blogging has changed my life for the better, and I’m now earning thousands of dollars a month doing something I love.

Learning how to monetize a blog takes work and time, but it’s 100% possible to do. I started earning money after just six months of blogging, and I didn’t even set out to make money when I created Making Sense of Cents. Just think of the potential if you start out knowing that making money blogging is possible!

Starting my blog is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my work, personal, and financial life. And, I urge anyone who is interested to start a blog and learn how to monetize it.

Today, I’m sharing how I built a blog that has earned me over $5,000,000 over the years and my tips so that you can create a successful blog that you enjoy.

How to monetize a blog

 

How I earned my first income from blogging

Many of my readers have heard this story, but I love sharing it because I started out like many of you, except I had no idea that blogs could make money. When I started Making Sense in August of 2011, I simply wanted a way to keep track of my financial progress and meet others who had similar goals.

As I started getting to know other bloggers in the community, a blogger friend of mine connected me with an advertiser who was willing to pay me $100 for an advertisement.

I couldn’t believe someone would pay me $100 to advertise on my site! 

While it wasn’t a lot of money, especially considering the amount of time and work I put towards my blog in those 6 months, it was very motivating to see that something I loved doing could actually make money.

After that first $100, I started doing a lot of research on how to monetize a blog, and my blogging income quickly grew from there.

One year after I started my blog, I was earning around $1,000 a month, and I was making around $10,000 monthly two years after I started Making Sense of Cents.

My income only continued to grow, and I am still earning a healthy income from this website today.

 

How To Start A Blog FREE Course

First, if you want to learn how to monetize a blog and you haven’t started your blog, then I recommend beginning with my free blogging course How To Start A Blog FREE Course.

Here’s a quick outline of what you will learn in this free course:

  • Day 1: Reasons you should start a blog
  • Day 2: How to determine what to blog about
  • Day 3: How to create your blog – in this lesson, you will learn how to start a blog on WordPress, and my tutorial makes it very easy to start a blog
  • Day 4: How to monetize a blog – this is where you learn about the many different ways to make money blogging!
  • Day 5: My tips for earning passive income from your blog
  • Day 6: How to grow your traffic and followers
  • Day 7: Miscellaneous blogging tips that will help you be successful

I’m a little biased (obviously, haha!), but this is one of the best free blogging courses you can take. It’s delivered directly to your email inbox, and you will learn how to grow a blog from scratch.

You can sign up for free in the form below.

 

Start with a plan for your blog

Sure, you can start on a whim, and that’s kind of what I did, haha.

But, I do think that creating a plan is a good idea if you want to learn how to monetize a blog. This can help you get an organized start, identify your blog’s niche, decide on your blogging goals, find opportunities for blogging income, and more.

It wasn’t until 2015 that I finally created a blogging plan (that’s 4 years after I started!), and my blog income grew significantly after that.

I credit that growth to creating a plan!

Having a plan would have been a huge help in the beginning, and I wish I would have started with one. I probably missed some income opportunities because I had no real plan or direction in the first couple of years. 

Since creating a blogging plan, I became more focused on goals and motivated toward improving and building Making Sense of Cents.

Here are some questions that you may want to ask yourself when creating a plan for your blog:

  • What will you write about on your blog? What will your overall topic be? Money, your life, food, travel, entertainment, education, etc.?
  • How do you want to make money with your blog?
  • What will you do to reach readers on your blog?
  • What are your goals for your blog?

Thinking about, researching, and answering these questions will help guide you on your journey and help you decide what to do next.

 

Write high-quality and engaging blog posts

Your blog’s content is extremely important. This will be what attracts your readers, has them coming back for more, earns you blogging income, and more.

Now, you don’t need to be an expert or need a degree to start talking about a subject, but you do need to be knowledgeable or interested in what you are talking about. And, always be truthful! This will show in your writing and actually help your readers.

To write high-quality content on your blog, here are some tips:

  • Figure out exactly what it is that you’d like to write about and why you think the content is important. Being passionate about a subject will give you the motivation to write content that people want to read. Just think about it: If you don’t enjoy writing your content, then why should you expect someone else to want to read it?
  • Ask your audience what they want you to write about. Many of my best ideas come from expanding on reader questions.
  • Research your blog topics by reading news articles, going to a library, searching for statistics and interesting facts, and more. 
  • If your blog posts are more personal in nature, then dig deep and share your thoughts, and be personable in your writing – your readers want to hear your story!
  • Write long, helpful content. Sure, some great content may only be a few hundred words, but to be as helpful as possible, long content is usually the best. My content is usually over 2,000 words, and this article is around 5,000. Now, you don’t want to just write a lot of fluff content in order to get more words in – you want to actually be helpful!
  • Reread your content. I used to read my content 10 times or more before I would publish it. Now, I have an editor who makes sure I’m always publishing high-quality content.

 

Network, network, network

If you want to learn how to monetize a blog, then networking can be extremely helpful.

Networking can mean:

  • Making friends with other bloggers
  • Attending blogging conferences
  • Sharing content that other bloggers have written
  • Following other bloggers in your niche on social media
  • Signing up for other bloggers’ newsletters
  • Joining blogging groups on Facebook

Some bloggers don’t do any of these things and purely see other bloggers as competition. I don’t believe this is the correct way to approach blogging because you will hold yourself back immensely!

Networking is important because it can help you enjoy blogging (friends are nice to have, right?!), teach you new ideas (such as how to make money blogging or how to grow a blog), make valuable connections, and more.

Keep in mind that networking is even how I earned my very first $100 blogging. My blogging friend connected me with an advertiser, which helped changed my blogging journey.

I have learned a lot about blogging from the blogging community, and the people I’ve connected with have been a tremendous support as I’ve grown my blog.

 

Be prepared to put in a lot of hard work

Starting a blog is relatively easy. But, growing and learning how to monetize a blog takes a lot of work. 

You’ll have to:

  • Start a blog, design it, create social media accounts, and more
  • Write high-quality blog posts
  • Attract an audience of readers
  • Monetize your blog
  • Continue learning about blogging
  • And more

Even when I was just a new blogger and had no plans of making money blogging, I was still spending well over 10 hours a week on Making Sense of Cents.

When I was working my full-time day job and earning an income from my blog, I was working around 40-50 hours a week on my blog on top of my day job!

Now that I blog full-time, my hours vary. Some months I hardly work, and there are other months that I may work 100 hours a week.

It’s not easy, and there’s always something that needs to be done.

But, I absolutely love blogging, which makes the hard work a little less tough. 

 

How to monetize a blog: 4 different ways

There are many different ways you can monetize your blog, including:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Advertisements and sponsorships
  • Display advertising
  • Create your own product, such as an ebook, course, physical or online products, and more

You could choose to monetize your blog using all of these methods, or even just one. It’s just a personal decision.

For me, I like to be diversified and monetize in many ways, so I do them all.

Below, I am going to dive a little deeper into each way to make money blogging.

 

Here's how to make money blogging and how I've built a $1,000,000 blog. I have earned over $1,500,000 with my blog and around $979,000 in just 2016 alone.

1. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing can be a great way to make money blogging because if there is a product or company that you enjoy, all you have to do is review the product and share a unique affiliate link where your readers can sign up or make a purchase. 

In fact, this is my favorite way to monetize a blog. I enjoy it because it can be quite passive – I can create just one blog post and potentially earn an income from it years later. This is because even though a blog post may be older, I am still constantly driving traffic to it and readers are still purchasing through my affiliate links.

Affiliate marketing is a blog monetization method where you share a link to a product or company with your readers in an attempt to make an income from followers purchasing the product through your link. 

Here are some quick tips so that you can make affiliate income on your blog:

  • Use the Pretty Link plugin to clean up messy-looking affiliate links. I use this for nearly all of my affiliate links because something like “makingsenseofcents.com/bluehost” looks much better than the long, crazy-looking links that affiliate programs usually give you.
  • Provide real reviews. You should always be honest with your reviews. If there is something you don’t like about a product, either don’t review the product at all or mention the negatives in your review.
  • Ask for a commission increase. If you are doing well with a particular affiliate program, ask to increase your commissions.
  • Build a relationship with your affiliate manager. Your affiliate manager can supply your readers with valuable coupons, commission increases, bonuses, and more.
  • Write tutorials. Readers want to know how they can use a product. Showing them how to use it, how it can benefit them, and more are all very helpful.
  • Don’t go overboard. There is no need to include an affiliate link 1,000 times in a blog post. Include them at the beginning, middle, and end, and readers will notice it. Perhaps bold it or find another way for it to stand out as well.

You can learn more about affiliate marketing strategies in my course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

 

how to monetize a blog

Advertisements and sponsorships example

2. Advertisements and sponsorships

Advertising on a blog is one of the first ways that bloggers learn how to monetize a blog. In fact, it’s exactly how I started!

This form of blogging income is when you directly partner with a company and advertise for them on your website or social media accounts.

You may be writing a review for them, a tutorial, talking about their product or company, taking pictures, and so on.

If you want to learn how to increase your advertising-income, I recommend taking my Making Sense of Sponsored Posts course

Here's how to make money blogging and how I've built a $1,000,000 blog. I have earned over $1,500,000 with my blog and around $979,000 in just 2016 alone.

Display advertising example

3. Display advertising

Display advertising is one of the easiest ways to make money blogging, but it most likely won’t earn you the most, especially in the beginning.

I’m sure you’ve seen display ads before. They may be on the sidebar, at the top of a post, within a blog post, and so on.

The ads are automatically added when you join an advertising network, and you do not need to manually add these ads to your blog.

Your display advertising income increases or decreases almost entirely based on your page views, and once you place the advertisement, there’s no direct work to be done.

If you want to learn how to monetize a blog through display advertising, then some popular networks include Adsense, MediaVine, and AdThrive.

Personally, I use AdThrive for my display advertising network. I don’t have many display advertisements on my blog, but it is easy income.

 

How do beginner bloggers make money?

Sell your own product example

4. Sell your own products

Another popular way to monetize a blog is to create a sell your own products. 

This could be an online product, something that you ship, and so on, such as:

  • An online course
  • A coaching program
  • An eBook
  • Printables
  • Memberships
  • Clothing, candles, artwork, hard copy books, and anything else you can think of

And the list goes on and on. I have seen bloggers be very successful in selling all kinds of things on their blogs.

What’s great about selling your own product is that you are in complete control of what you are selling, and your income is virtually unlimited in many cases.

I launched my first product about 5 years after I created Making Sense of Cents, which was a blogging course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I regret not creating something sooner because this has been an excellent source of income and has helped many people along the way.

 

Have an email list

If you really want to learn how to monetize a blog, I recommend that you start an email list from the very beginning.

I waited several years to start my email list, and that was a huge mistake!

Here’s why you need an email list right away:

  • Your newsletter is YOURS. Unlike social media sites, your newsletter and email subscribers are all yours, and you have their undivided attention. You don’t have to worry about algorithms not displaying your content to readers, and this is because they are your email subscribers. You aren’t fighting with anyone else to have them see your content.
  • The money is in your email list. I believe that email newsletters are the best way to promote an affiliate product. Your email subscribers signed up to hear what YOU have to write about, so you clearly have their full attention. Your email list, over any other promotional strategy, will almost always lead to more income and sales.
  • Your email subscribers are loyal to you. If someone is allowing you to show up in their inbox whenever you want, then they probably trust what you have to say and enjoy listening to you. This is a great way to grow an audience and a loyal one at that.
  • Email is a great way to deliver other forms of content. With Convertkit, I am able to easily create free email courses that are automatically sent to my subscribers. Once a reader signs up, Convertkit sends out all the information they need in whatever time frame I choose to deliver the content.

 

Attract readers

As a new blogger, you’ll want to find ways to attract a readership to your blog and your article.

No, you don’t need millions and millions of page views to earn a good living from blogging. In fact, I know some bloggers who receive 1,000,000 page views yet make less money than those with 100,000 monthly page views.

Every website is different, but once you learn what your audience wants, you can start to really make money blogging, regardless of how many page views you receive.

Having a successful blog is all about having a loyal audience and helping them with your content.

Even with all of that being said, if you want to learn how to monetize a blog, learning how to improve your traffic is valuable. The more loyal and engaged followers you have, the more money you may be able to make through your blog.

There are many ways to grow your readership, such as:

  • Write high-quality articles. Your blog posts should always be high-quality and helpful, and it means readers will want to come back for more.
  • Find social media sites to be active on. There are many social media platforms you can be active on, such as Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, and others.
  • Regularly share new posts. For most blogs, you should publish content at least once a week. Readers may forget about you if you go for weeks or months at a time without a blog post.
  • Guest post. Guest posting is a great way to reach a new audience, as it can bring new readers to your blog who will potentially subscribe to it. 
  • Make sure it’s easy to share your content. I love sharing posts on social media. However, it gets frustrating when some blogs make it more difficult than it needs to be. You should always make sure it’s easy for readers to share your content, which means your social media icons should be easy to find, all of the info input and ready for sharing (title, link, and your username tagged), and so on. Also, you should make sure that when someone clicks on one of your sharing icons the title isn’t in CAPS (I’ve seen this too many times!). 
  • Write better titles. The title of your post can either bring readers to you or deter them from clicking over. A great free tool to write better headlines is CoSchedule’s Headline tool.
  • Apply SEO strategies. SEO (search engine optimization) is not something I can teach in this small section, but I go over it below in another section.
  • Have a clean and user-friendly blog design. If you want more page views, you should make it as easy as possible for readers to navigate your blog. It should be easy for readers to find your blog homepage, search bar, blog posts, and so on.

Now, I also want to talk about helpful resources, courses, and more that can help you to learn how to grow your page views on your blog.

Below are some of my favorite blogging resources to help you improve your traffic:

  • Pinterest Traffic Avalanche: This is one of the best blogging courses on Pinterest traffic! You will learn how to get 10,000-100,000+ free monthly visitors to your website.
  • Pinterest Pin Templates: If you want to make beautiful eye-catching pins, I recommend checking out these pin templates. I recently started using them and they look very nice, plus they are easy to use.
  • Six Figure Blogger: This is more of an advanced and complete blogging course, but it has many actionable strategies that you can apply to your blog right away. This course will teach you how to earn over $100,000 from your blog.
  • Blog By Number: This is a very popular beginner blogging course that takes a step-by-step approach to covering topics like how to start your own blog, blog post templates, and launching your blog.
  • Traffic Transformation: 21 Strategies I Used to Increase My Monthly Page Views from 17,000 to 400,000+ in 10 Months is a great guide full of actionable strategies that you can put into place on your blog right away so that you can learn how to increase your blog’s page views. If you are feeling stuck or if you are a new blogger, check out this resource!

 

Grow through SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) is how you get organic search traffic to your blog. 

When you search a phrase on Google, you’ll see a bunch of different websites as the results. This is the result of these websites applying SEO strategies to their blog.

This is a great way for readers to find your blog, and SEO is important to pay attention to as you learn how to monetize a blog!

Below are some of my favorite SEO resources:

  • Stupid Simple SEO: This is my favorite overall SEO course, and one of the most popular for bloggers. I highly recommend taking it. I have gone through the whole course, and I constantly refer back to it.
  • Easy On-Page SEO: This is an easy-to-follow approach to learning on-page SEO so your articles can rank on Google. I have read this ebook twice, and it is super helpful.
  • Easy Backlinks for SEO: This ebook will show you 31 different ways to build backlinks, which are needed for SEO.
  • How To Get 50,000 Pageviews per Month With Keyword Research: This ebook shares the steps for keyword research so that you can get SEO traffic to your website.

 

Use quality photos on your blog

Putting pictures in your content is important.

Images can help you explain your story better and break up the text to make your articles easier to read.

Now, you can’t just do a Google image search and use the pictures you find, and the same goes for images and pictures you find on Pinterest. Doing those things may get you in trouble with the person who owns the photos. Similar to how you wouldn’t want someone to copy and paste a blog post of yours, you shouldn’t take photos without permission.

Currently, I source the pictures I use from three main areas:

  1. My own photos. These are usually found in my travel-related content and on Instagram. I use both my cell phone and my super old DSLR for pictures. Photography is an area that I’m still looking to improve, so I mainly use the following option for the majority of the pictures I publish directly on Making Sense of Cents.
  2. Ivory Mix. I absolutely love IvoryMix. They have great stock photos that fit perfectly with the vibe of Making Sense of Cents. They add many, many photos each month, and you can use them on your blog, social media, and more. Plus, Ivory Mix comes with unlimited download access. I also recently found Qolorfix, and I love how bright and eye-catching these photos are.
  3. DepositPhotos. DepositPhotos is an affordable place to purchase photos. They usually have a deal for around 50 or 100 photos, and it’s one of the places I purchase photos from.

 

Common questions about how to monetize a blog

Below, I also want to answer some questions I’ve received about how to start a blog.

I am going to answer:

  • How many views do you need to monetize a blog?
  • How do beginner bloggers make money?
  • Why do bloggers fail?
  • How many posts should I have before I launch my blog?
  • How many times a week should I post on my blog?

And more!

 

How many views do you need to monetize a blog?

The amount of page views needed to make money blogging varies, and there is no magic number that you should be aiming for.

This is because it depends on so many factors, such as how you will monetize your blog, your niche, the number of email subscribers you have, the quality of your website, and more.

You may see success with 10,000 page views a month, or you may see success with over 100,000 page views a month. It simply depends on the factors above.

 

How do beginner bloggers make money?

Beginner bloggers can make money in many different ways, such as display advertising, affiliate marketing, creating their own products, and sponsorships.

You can start any of these right from the very beginning.

Display advertising is usually the easiest way to begin monetizing a blog, but the payoff is not very high, especially in the beginning when your page views are not high.

 

How many posts should I have before I launch my blog?

I recommend just launching your blog as soon as you have one blog post and a design. Building a huge backlog of blog posts isn’t usually needed, and it can prevent you from ever getting started!

 

How many times a week should I post on my blog?

The more blog posts you have, then the more traffic you may get. That’s because it’s more opportunities to show up in Google searches or share your posts on social media.

I recommend publishing a new blog post at least once a week. Anything less isn’t advised.

Publishing blog posts consistently is smart because readers know to expect regular content from you.

For me, I started my blog by publishing Monday through Friday, once a day. I found that to be way too much for me, though, and I now simply publish blog posts 1 to 2 times a week.

 

Why do bloggers fail?

Bloggers fail for many different reasons. These reasons may include:

  • Giving up too soon. It takes time to make money blogging, and sadly, many people give up just a few months into starting a blog.
  • Not publishing consistently. I recommend publishing content at least once a week, as described in the previous section. Some new bloggers may go months without publishing, and this will take them much longer to make money blogging as they are simply not dedicating enough time to their blog.
  • Not spending enough time learning about blogging. Blogging is not as easy as you may think. There is a lot to learn in order to make it work. You may need to learn about how to grow your blog’s traffic, how to monetize a blog, how to write high-quality content, and more.
  • Not having your own domain and self-hosting. If you want to make money blogging, I highly recommend owning your domain name and being self-hosted. The longer you put this easy step off, the longer it will most likely take for you to make money blogging. You can learn more at How To Start a WordPress Blog.

And much more. Blogging is like any business – there are things to learn, things to improve on, and more.

 

How to monetize a WordPress blog?

WordPress is the platform I use, and it’s great if you want to learn how to monetize a blog. That’s because WordPress has lots of great plug-ins, and it’s one of the most popular platforms for bloggers. So, many companies and advertisers are already really familiar with WordPress.

As far as how to monetize a blog on WordPress, you can follow everything I have outlined in this article!

 

How do I start a blog?

If you have any other questions related to starting a blog, I recommend checking out What Is A Blog, How Do Blogs Make Money, & More. In this article, I answer more questions related to blogging such as:

  • How do I come up with a blog name?
  • What blogs make the most money?
  • How do you design a blog?
  • How many views do you need to make money blogging?
  • How many blog posts should I have before launching?
  • How do I get my blog noticed by Google?
  • How long until a blog makes money?
  • How do blogs make money?
  • How do bloggers get paid?

And more.

Other content I recommend reading include:

 

How to monetize a blog.

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post on how to monetize a blog. As you can see, there are many things that you can do to build a blog, as well as many ways to monetize one.

If you do not have a blog yet, I recommend signing up for my free How To Start a Blog course.

Do you want to learn how to monetize a blog? What other questions do you have about how to make an income from your blog?

How To Start A Blog FREE Email Course

In this free course, I show you how to create a blog easily, from the technical side (it’s easy – trust me!) all the way to earning your first income and attracting readers. Join now!

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