There's a misconception when it comes to making money with a blog. We think it needs to be flashy, slick, and that we need years of experience to really make money blogging.
I'm here to tell you that's just not true. Thankfully.
When it comes down to it, there are just 10 things every blog needs to make money. And some of these things are totally free.
In fact, when I went full time with my blog, I still had a cheap design and I was still on the old Blogger (free!) platform. It's safe to say I've upgraded since then (WordPress), but I want to clear the air and dispel any myths when it comes to profiting from your website.
While not everything I list out will be free, many of these resources or tools for your blog are very inexpensive. And if they aren't, I can tell you they are worth every single penny. Every item listed is something I've been using for years and years.
A bit of a backstory: I've been blogging on this blog for quite a long time. But before that, I worked in social media and marketing and helped other companies and blogs get off the ground. I've always been fascinated with tools and programs that can help me save time, work faster, or best of all, make money.
Now, I work full time as a travel/lifestyle blogger. I'm both. I started out as lifestyle and my interests of travel caught up to me and I couldn't help but write about it. You've probably gathered that I don't believe in blog niches either.
I work full-time on this blog. But I also travel more than 50% of the time. And I have a social life. Despite all of these things, I'm able to make an income for myself and my husband from this blog. I'm of the belief that anyone can. You just need the right resources.
How do I make money blogging?
I thought you might be wondering, so I'll share. I believe heartily in diversifying income. Here's a look at some ways I make money blogging:
- Affiliate marketing
- Online Courses
- Membership website
- Sponsored Posts
Basically, if there's a way to make money blogging, I'm most likely doing it, or I've done it. I've even sold physical products too! If you're interested in a more in-depth look on how to make money blogging check out this post.
Before you can make money blogging
Alright, let's get to the truth. First and foremost, in order to make money blogging you have to actually have a blog. So if you haven't started one yet, no worries, I have a handy step-by-step guide ready and waiting for you.
Next, we need to focus on kick-ass content. I also like to call this “foundational content.” It's the stuff that sets you apart from other bloggers out there. Basically, it's in-depth writing that gets to the core of your overall goals and messaging.
10 Tools, Resources, or Plugins, That Every Blog Needs to Make Money
Below I'm going to list out the best tools you need to make money from your blog. While the online world is continually changing and adapting, these tools have been a standard for me for years. They are tried, tested, and help my bottom line. I'll also describe how each tool is used to personally help me create income.
I'm a big believer in quality traffic. We want people reading our blogs that care. That might buy from us and will continue to click around. With that in mind, here are the tools I think will help you make money blogging.
1. Email List – Convertkit
The question is… how do you get people that casually read your blog to become actual followers? And then, even buyers? An email list. Of my entire 8+ years of blogging this is the best way that I've made money. Why? Because I have a direct connection with my subscribers. Social media is fickle. While I love it, I know that there's an algorithm. That means my posts don't always show up or people might lose interest. With an email list, I'm able to capture the attention of my followers.
Whenever I'm offering a course, an eBook, or I have a product or service I think my readers might be interested in, I send them an email. This usually helps me make money too. So it's a win-win.
I've tested out a few different email list providers and I feel Convertkit is the best. It's made by bloggers for bloggers. It's robust and full of great tools and analytics, yet it's easy to use. Now, if you're not ready to invest any money, then try out MailChimp. There's a free version so you don't have to worry about spending a cent. Here's my full guide on how to get started.
2. Social Media Scheduler – Hootsuite
I don't know about you, but I don't intend to spend my entire day sharing to social media. In fact, I'd like to have some of my social posts scheduled in advance. When I write my content, and when it's still fresh, I like to then schedule my social shares. This not only saves me time, it helps me write catchier headlines and short, attention-grabbing tweets, Facebook posts, or Instagram captions.
I use Hootsuite to drive traffic to my blog and also remind my readers and social media followers of things I offer for sale. I can schedule this ahead of time without having to constantly remind myself to sell or promote a post.
Another tool I like for social media scheduling? Tailwind – one of the best tools on the planet for scheduling Pins to Pinterest. It does much more than just that, but it's an incredible tool to gain traffic from Pinterest.
3. Affiliate Programs
If you use something and you love it, and you talk about it on your blog, shouldn't you get paid for that? YES. The thing about affiliate programs is that the programs you join are going to differ based on what you use or talk about on your blog. In order to establish trust, and therefore purchases, you should only recommend things that relate to your audience and what you blog about. For instance, this blog never discusses recipes, so it wouldn't make sense for me to have a post selling a blender. Only join programs that make sense for what you'll share.
Here are some affiliate programs I recommend:
- Amazon affiliate program – because who isn't buying stuff off Amazon?
- Creative Market – This is a great place for fonts, graphics, and website designs. If you use these on your website, you can also become an affiliate partner.
- Commission Junction – A large number of retailers and name brands that offer affiliate programs.
- ShareASale/Awin – One of the most robust marketplaces to find affiliate links.
- Booking.com – If you talk about travel at all, you need to be part of their affiliate program. It's what I personally use to book hotels and I also recommend others find them this way too.
- RewardStyle – Great for fashion bloggers or those that want to link their clothes on Instagram through LiketoKnow.it.
4. Social Sharing – Social Pug
We don't want people to just read our posts; we want them to share them too. Social Pug has handy display bars, sticky web widgets, and more social sharing icons to encourage readers to share your posts.
I've tried out a few different social sharing tools and, unfortunately, many of them don't work as intended. Social Pug is easy to use and simple to install. Note: this is a WordPress Plugin.
The more traffic on your blog means more readers, potential buyers, and more advertising money. It's just better all around. When your readers share your posts this helps you immensely. In addition, social shares on your website bring proof that your article is well worth reading.
My recommendation is to keep the social sharing icons simple. Don't have too many, just a few that people recognize and will use to share your posts with friends.
5. A Simple and Effective Design
Your website doesn't need to be over-the-top flashy. It should be easy to read and simple for people to find what they're looking for. I'll click away as fast as I can if I'm bombarded with hard to read fonts and colors that pierce my eyes. There's no need to spend an arm and a leg on a blog design. Here are some recommendations:
- WordPress – I've been with them all (WordPress, Blogger, Wix, Squarespace) and WordPress still wins. Don't believe me? I break down why.
- Genesis – First step, WordPress, next step the Framework. This is the most well-known WordPress framework and it powers the most popular themes.
- Restored 316 – This is the theme I use with my Genesis Framework for my WordPress blog. They have many beautiful and simple designs.
- 99 Designs – If you want a customized logo or blog design or really ANYTHING check out 99 designs. They designed my current logo, and it’s such a fun and unique process. Simply write in what you’re looking for in terms of designs. Then, you’ll get feedback and ideas from dozens of designers. Then you’ll pick your top 3 favorites and have them come up with their best. Then you choose your winning design. I adore this because you get so many options all for a low price.
If you're looking to streamline your design and bring in more traffic, check out my post on 5 things a high traffic blog needs.
6. Organizer and Idea Notebook – Evernote
Clearly, I wasn't sure what to call this particular resource. But, Evernote is one of the most utilized tools for my blog. I use Evernote to organize post ideas, course topics, notes, goals, checklists, and so much more. For example, when I was on the plane home a few days ago, I had no internet connection, but I was able to write out a pretty decent blog post in the span of a few hours. I did that with Evernote.
I can even make templates inside of Evernote, which helps ensure I have everything I need for my blog posts. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't refer to Evernote.
7. Photography Tools – Creative Cloud
If you want to take your blog seriously and make real money from it, then you need to have some nice looking imagery. This doesn't mean you have to be a professional photographer. You can use free stock photos or add text to your own photos. Regardless, you need a way to design or edit your images. That's why I love the suite from Creative Cloud. You pay monthly and can get both Photoshop (this is what I use to make my Pinnable images, the ones with text over them) and Lightroom (what I use to edit all of my photography for my blog and Instagram).
Here are examples of pinnable images I made for this post. Feel free to pin this post!
Another option, if you want to spend less, is Canva. This is an excellent tool for making Pinnable images and editing your photos.
Here are some posts to help you with Lightroom:
- How to edit your photos like a pro in Lightroom
- Free Lightroom Desktop Presets
- Free Lightroom Mobile Presets
- How I edit my Instagram photos
Take a look at some before and after edited images with Lightroom:
8. Traffic Analytics – Google Analytics
Google Analytics are a totally free tool to use and it's one of the best ways to understand your blog traffic and where it's coming from. I was shocked to see traffic coming from Instagram and this helped me build a better Instagram strategy.
It also helps me figure out areas where I'm lacking and how to keep people on my page longer. Here's a tutorial on how you can use Google Analytics for your blog.
9. Keyword Research – SEMRush
This tool isn't cheap. But it's just the best one out there to see how to rank for keywords. That sounds simple, but the tool is far from it. It's an all-in-one suite that helps you grow your blog traffic.
When we want to grow our blog traffic, we want to see what keywords we can rank for on our blogs. SEMRush helps you do that. You type in a keyword or topic idea, and it gives you ideas, search volume, and the likelihood that your blog will rank, aka, show up on Google. This is how I essentially doubled my blog traffic.
You can find out so much more about your blog and how to gain traffic with this tool. There's also a free 14-day trial so you can make sure it works for you. My advice is to give it a shot.
10. Continuing Education
The best way I've made money from my blog, besides my willingness to try anything, is to continue to learn. The internet, blogs, and online businesses are constantly changing. We have to be able to go with the flow and understand the new dynamics of what works online. I highly recommend that you take a new course or read an eBook at least once a year.
If you're looking to create a course or sell a product, I recommend Kajabi. This is what I use to sell my courses and ebooks!
Here are some courses I recommend:
- Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – Michelle makes upwards of $100,000 a month from affiliate marketing from her blog. Basically, she is THE guru when it comes to making money with affiliate marketing.
- EBook Bestseller Bootcamp – Ana is one of my all-time favorite bloggers. She's transparent but relatable and has some of the best strategies out there to help you profit from your blog. This course is incredible! EBooks are one of the best ways to start making money blogging.
- Instagram Unlocked – This is my eBook on growing your Instagram. It's a jam-packed 90+ page book detailing strategies, how the algorithm works, growing authentic engagement, followers, and so much more.
- See my top 10 courses for bloggers here!
Featured post: What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Full Time Blogger.
I hope this post has given you some insight on how you can make money blogging or take your work to the next level.
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