DAY 6: Monetization Strategy

Start a Money Making Travel Blog

Today is the final lesson in our Blogging Bootcamp Course, and we are so happy you’ve stuck by the entire time.

And today is a good one. We’re talking money, honey!

Specifically, we’re going to discuss how you can make a living on a blog. (Yes, it IS possible.)

We’ve already written an article on how travel bloggers make money. Check that out first if you haven’t already, because in today’s final lesson, we’re delving in deeper and getting more advanced.

You don’t wanna miss this lesson, because this is where we’re going to come up with a strategy of HOW you are going to make money from your travel blog. 

Quick Note: You’ll still want to look out for an email from us tomorrow, because we’ll be giving you a Free Blogging Toolkit, packed with resources, tools, and websites that have been game-changing for us while building our blog!

How to Make Money on a Blog

We didn’t start monetizing our blog until about 2.5 years in. And even then we weren’t doing it correctly. Truthfully, it took us about 4 years of blogging to discover a monetization strategy that really started to work. 

We want to save you the heartbreak of realizing you gave up several thousand of dollars – trust us, it sucks – and show you how to prepare to monetize your blog from day one. If you follow these steps, you’ll be far better off than we were. 

Plus, we’re going over how to create a monetization strategy that is authentic to you and your brand.

These are the main sources of income you should understand: 

  • Affiliate Marketing

  • Advertising

  • Sponsored Content

  • Commissioned Content

  • Brand Ambassadorship

  • Selling your own product / service

If you haven’t already, you’ll definitely want to read this article where we go over each method of monetization in depth.

Finding your Monetization Strategy

Every successful blogger has their own formula for how they make money, and the trick is finding a balance that that is manageable and feels authentic.

1) Check your mindset

The first thing you need to know is you will be working for free to begin with. Blogging can be a great way to earn a living, but it is not a path to quick money. If this is concerning to you, blogging is NOT for you. Trust me.

Make sure you’ve read this article: Things Nobody Tells you about being a Travel Blogger

Many of the monetization strategies listed above cannot even be started (successfully) when you are a beginner blogger. 

2) Diversify…

A successful monetization strategy will include at least 2-3 of these methods, and maybe even all of them to some extent (someday!).

I’m going to explain why…

Some months we make a killing on affiliate marketing, and other months aren’t so great. One of our biggest affiliates is seasonal, so we earn very little in the wintertime.

If we didn’t have advertising dollars coming in during the winter season, we’d be struggling for part of the year.

So why not just focus on advertising – it’s more consistent, right? Maybe so, but last year we learned a hard lesson. We had a small glitch with our site, and our advertisers shut down all ads. That meant we lost basically all our advertising income for one month. If we didn’t have other methods of monetization in place, we would have been in trouble.

So learn from us and pick at least 2 monetization methods to focus your efforts on. If you have money coming in through several different sources, you will have a much more stable income.

3) …but don’t do too much right away!

Even though it’s smart to diversify your income, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. It’s not smart to try to do every type of monetization method right away because you won’t be able to master any of them.

First, identify which 2 – 3 methods sound the most appealing to you. And rank them in order of your excitement with them. 

So it could go something like this (this is our model):

  1. Advertising
  2. Affiliate Marketing

Or maybe this sounds more like you:

  1. Sponsored Content
  2. Selling your services

Eventually, you will probably incorporate most of these monetization methods in some way, shape or form, but we would advise you start with just 2.

Spreading yourself too thin at first can make it hard to be successful with any of these.

Takeaway: Make it your mission to master the 2 you have selected, before moving onto diversifying.

4) Grow traffic, earn trust

If you learned anything from the article about how to earn money as a travel blogger, I hope it was this:

TRAFFIC = MONEY

In order to be successful as a blogger, this should really be your main focus when first starting out.

Commit yourself to learning SEO so that your articles rank in Google searches (check back on Day 3 in this course for the basics). And set up a Pinterest account (seriously, people, it works!).

But it’s not all about the numbers. You also want your audience to trust you and to really connect with you. (That’s why the lesson on Day 1 was so important!)

When you write, do it to solve your audience’s problem. If they know you provide value, they will come back. They will trust you. They will eventually buy products you recommend.

But right away, simply start by GIVING before you expect to earn money. Give good advice. Give tips and resources. Work on your relationship with your audience.

5) Lay the foundation

As we mentioned in Step #4, your first priority should be growing your traffic and growing trust. Our recommendation is to start by providing value before you expect to earn money.

There are some affiliate programs that allow you to add links even with a brand new blog. So if you want to start adding some affiliate links into you articles where it fits, you can get started right away.

Remember these 3 things:

  1. Money is not just going to flow in. You need traffic for that. So don’t expect too much right away. It’s nice to se up the links so they’re in place when the traffic starts coming in, though, so think of it as “groundwork” for money you will earn later.

  2. Affiliate marketing works best when it is authentic. If you place affiliate links everywhere for things you don’t know much about, it will never convert well even when you do get a ton of traffic.

  3. Some affiliate programs require a certain amount of traffic before they will approve you. Don’t get discouraged and let self-doubt creep in. Instead, ask what their traffic requirements are, record them somewhere and make a goal for when you will reach that number. We’ve been turned down many times, and let me tell you, it’s pretty satisfying to come back to a company that turned you down with the traffic they’re asking for. You can do it!

If you’re interested in putting ads on your site, you can set up Google AdSense even if with a brand new blog.

In our opinion, we would recommend against this. Our advice is to get to 6 months (or 10,000 monthly sessions – whichever comes first) before you consider advertisements.

The measly amount of money you’ll make on Google AdSense just isn’t worth the “real estate” on your website when you’re trying to build trust with your readers. (That’s our opinion!)

As a benchmark, I believe our highest month with Google AdSense was around $90. The next month, we switched to Mediavine and made more than $1,200 with the same amount of traffic.

6) Have patience

A lot of times, new bloggers get discouraged because they spend a month or two working consistently on their blog, and they see no results. No traffic. No money. Nothing. And then they give up without seeing their hard work ever pay off.

SEO takes time. Pinterest takes time.

Experts say it takes anywhere from 3 – 6 months for your article to be recognized in search engines. This is not a hard rule — we’ve ranked more quickly for some articles, and it has also taken much longer for others — but it is a good timeframe to keep in mind.

7) Understand the seasons

When it comes to travel blogging, remember that almost everything is seasonal. For instance, If you ONLY blog about New Zealand, you are going to have high search traffic and lots of affiliate sales (hotel and tour bookings, etc.) during the peak tourist season. So during December – March, you’ll be doing quite well.

But what happens after that? Far fewer people travel to New Zealand, so if you don’t have any other content on your site, you can expect your earnings to drop significantly.

Avoid this by intentionally having content on your website for the opposite season. For instance, much of Europe has it’s peak season from May – August, so if you add that, you will even out your site a bit.

Also, creating content that is relevant all year long — like travel gear recommendations can be another good way to drive traffic no matter what month it may be.

8) Create a realistic timeline

Based on everything you’ve read so far and the monetization strategies you are choosing to focus on, I want you to create a goal that is both realistic AND bold.

Think of how much money you would like to make a month from your blog 1 year from now.

Write it down.

Sign it, date it. Place it somewhere you’ll see every day. Do whatever you need to make this goal engraved in your mind.

What is a realistic number?

To be honest, there’s no roadmap for how much you can make blogging. If I put a number out there, someone is going to crush it and earn double that (which is awesome!). But it’s hard to say what is a realistic number for everyone.

What’s realistic for one person who is able to spend just 5 hours a week on their blog is much different than a couple who can both devote 20 hours a week to blogging.

That said, I know it is hard to even know where to start, so if you want a bit of a guideline, heres’s what I’d say to follow…

I would say if your blog is brand new, you should plan on not earning a single penny for the next 6 months. That doesn’t mean you can’t or you won’t, but it will just set up your expectations to be realistic. Plus, if you do make a bit of money over those first 6 months, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

I would also say in your first money-making month (month 7), you shouldn’t plan on earning more than $500. And from there, make sure you aren’t overestimating how quickly you’ll grow. For instance, it’s not very realistic for a blog of any size to double their revenue from month to month, so it wouldn’t make much sense to plan to earn $1,000 in your 8th month of blogging. Doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just not super realistic.

Hopefully that gives you a bit of an idea where to start.

9) Be prepared for the ups and downs

Another thing to keep in mind is that there will be months where your earnings will decrease. Could be the season (see #6), it could be a Google algorithm change. But it’s just good to be prepared for some ups and downs.

Don’t give up when you see your earnings drop. After going through this lesson, hopefully you won’t be too shocked when it happens. Instead, you can try to figure out why your earnings dropped and how you can change it for next month.

10) When will you reinvest?

As we mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, one of the biggest mistakes we made on our blogging journey is trying to do it alone.

You’ve already done a better job than us by signing up for this free Blogging Bootcamp! This stuff would have been so helpful when we were beginning.

I’m confident you are equipped with the knowledge you need to start earning money. And when you do start seeing that first bit of income, our advice is this:

Invest it into your blog.

You may choose to pay for some programs like Tailwind or hire a Virtual Assistant to help with some tasks. You might choose to get a website makeover from a professional designer. Or perhaps you will invest in a paid blogging course to move you to the next level.

Whatever it is you invest your money into, make sure you do a little research so you’re fairly confident the money spent will increase your traffic. That way, you know your investment will be directly impacting your income.

Your Assignment

  1. Write down how much you want to earn on your blog 1 year from today. Using the tips in Step #8, you should have a realistic goal in mind. It also might be helpful to backwards plan for how much money you will earn in the months leading up to that.

  2. Make it a priority to learn about the 2 monetization strategies you have chosen (Step #3). Find articles about these ways on monetization and bookmark them for future reading.

  3. Commit yourself to learning SEO so you can grow your traffic. Go back to Day 3 of this Blogging Bootcamp if you need to. Remember, Traffic = Money!

  4. Set an alarm on your phone for 6 months from today so you can check back in and see how on track you are to reaching your goals. And maybe 6 months is too far in the future. Perhaps you want to set a monthly goal-setting meeting for yourself.

Here’s our pep talk! As a blogger, it is going to be up to you to bring in the money. It is going to be up to you to stay motivated and on top on your goals. Nobody else is going to reach them for you. It’s going to be hard — really hard — especially in this next year. But it will be worthwhile. Trust us!

Remember, check back in tomorrow because we’re sending you a FREE gift — a super handy Blogging Toolkit we wish we would’ve had when we first started out!

Things you should know by now from this course:

  • Know WHO your audience is, and know how to write for them (Day 1).
  • Understand the structure of articles Google likes (Day 2).
  • Have a grasp on basic SEO techniques (Day 3).
  • Understand the importance of guest posting and know how to make the perfect pitch (Day 4).
  • Understand why Pinterest is a powerful platform and how you can create pins that convert (Day 5).
  • Have a strategy for monetizing your blog, and a plan in place to help you reach your goals (Day 6).
Blogging Bootcamp Course Katie & Ben