The other day someone I was with said “So I mean, you write your blog, right? But how exactly do you get paid?” and so I decided it was finally time to sit down and explain the “back end” of blogging, or rather, the business angle of blogging and social media. As a blogger myself, it’s easy to assume that everyone understands how bloggers make money through their blogs and social media, but as I’ve learned, that is not always the case. So much of what I do on a day-to-day basis here on this blog has become second nature to me that I don’t always realize how much of it might be a mystery for readers or the average internet consumer. Over the years I’ve gotten numerous questions about how bloggers make money, why certain Instagram posts contain #ad, why I have ads on my website and much, much more. Today I’m getting completely candid about the ins and outs of how I run my blog as a business and how I use it as a side income from my job as a writer. If you’ve ever been curious about the business behind blogging, today’s post is for you.
The Business Behind Blogging
Just as a bit of an intro, I have been blogging for eight years, but probably continuously and daily for around seven. I started my blog on Blogger as “Gridiron Lipstick” (a product of working in the NFL) and moved to WordPress with a full rebrand. I’m active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and have steadily grown my online presence over the years, with a major shift to a business approach over the last 3 years. I spend around 25-30 hours per week in this space between content creation, photography, editing, social media and administrative work (emails, pitching, etc). With that background, let’s dive in to some questions I get regularly.
How do bloggers make money?
Bloggers make money in so many different ways, but I would say that the main sources of income for most bloggers is sponsored posts, ads on their website and affiliate marketing. I’m breaking down a definition of all three in the next 3 questions, but for me, those are the top income streams and ways I make money through blogging. Admittedly, when I first began blogging, making money wasn’t something that people really talked about. I started blogging for a senior project in college. I kept it up, because I wanted to share my life with my family who didn’t live nearby. I didn’t make money on my blog for many, many years! Blogging for me, and as an industry, has evolved into something I never dreamed about when I first began. It can be both good and bad (like I said – being totally candid!).
What is a sponsored post?
A sponsored post is any content that a blogger puts on their site that has been paid for by the company. So, anytime you see a disclosure within a blog post, that means that the blogger was paid, or otherwise compensated with free product, free trip, etc. to put that content on their site.
Why do you have ads on your site?
Ads are a way bloggers earn money and there are countless different ad networks that bloggers can be part of that allow them to run ads on their blogs and websites. I am part of Mediavine, which handles which ads run on my site. To be honest, I felt really negatively about ads for a long time. I didn’t like them when I encountered them on other sites and I certainly didn’t want people to experience that on my site. And then I realized that I was spending A LOT of time on my blog, probably around 3-5 hours per day between building content, SEO, social media, sharing, e-mails, etc. I knew that in order for me to not always be doing sponsored posts, which cheapens reader experience, I needed to find a happy medium with ads. I now run ads on my site, but in a way that I feel is organic to my content and doesn’t distract from user experience. At the end of the day, all of the information I offer here is free of charge, so ads are just a small way of compensating the blogger for sharing that information.
What is an affiliate link or affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a term that means a blogger is sharing a trackable link to share a certain brand or product. When that link is clicked, that blogger makes a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to the consumer. I use affiliate links to share products I love and think my readers will love. In exchange, I get paid a tiny commission (when I say tiny I mean around 30 cents for most things I share here). Most of my links are for products I buy on Amazon and at a few select stores, but know that if you have ever clicked on a designer item on another site that payout would be much higher for that blogger. If you’ve ever seen the disclosure on my sidebar, it might make more sense now what that refers to. Over time, those commissions add up and the blogger is paid out all at once. If you have ever noticed someone on Instagram stories sharing a specific product and telling you to swipe up to buy it, it’s very likely that is an affiliate link as well. While it may seem easy, sometimes using affiliate links becomes a time-consuming endeavor, so I’m always very, very appreciative of anyone that uses them here. Thank you for supporting my blog!
What does #ad mean when I see it on social media?
#Ad #partner #spon are all indicators that the person posting is being paid of otherwise compensated (free product, gift card, etc) to post about that specific item or brand. That company has chosen to spend some of their advertising budget on that specific creator in what is known as influencer marketing. While genuine in intention, sometimes this puts a “bad taste” in the mouth of the consumers, because they feel like the advertising isn’t as “genuine” since the creator is being paid to do it. Everyone has opinions on this and I’ll say this – I have taken sponsored posts before that I regretted after the fact, but over the past 2 years I’ve been very intentional with the brands I choose to work with in an effort to keep this internet space as genuine as it can be. I talked a bit about that here.
Does blogging cost money?
The short answer is yes. But as with anything else, you’ve got to spend money if you want to make money. Does blogging have to cost money? No. When I first started blogging, I used a free template on Blogger for free. I didn’t have a website design or a unique URL (often referred to in blogger lingo as a domain name), but I also didn’t have sponsorships, paid campaigns or very many readers…and it was totally great! Through the years, I’ve invested a good bit into my blog including: a custom URL, self-hosted domain on WordPress, a site design, graphic design work, rebranding, social media tools (Tailwind for Pinterest, Hootsuite for Twitter, etc) and a virtual assistant.
How do people make money on social media?
People make money on social media in very similar ways that they make money on their blog – sponsored posts and affiliate links.
Do bloggers get paid to talk about certain products on social media?
Yes. And I think that this is where the lines sometimes become blurred between – what do people love and what are they getting paid to love? Sometimes you will see creators put something like #notsponsored on their posts (I do it too!) or say something along the lines of “I’m not being paid to say this” or “I spent my own money on this and just genuinely love it…” and I think that is a byproduct of social media becoming so saturated with sponsored content. As with posts, bloggers and creators are expected to disclose that an Instagram story/live or Youtube video is sponsored, but sometimes it’s not always obvious.
I hope this post helps to clear up how things work from a business perspective in blogging. And finally – thank you. Thank you for coming here and reading. Thank you for sharing my posts with your family and friends. Thank you for commenting, responding, providing feedback and helping me shape a valuable space on the internet. Thank you for helping me to celebrate wins, sharing in defeat and for openly sharing criticism when you feel like I’ve missed the mark. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the amazing people I’ve met and community I’ve built. So from the very bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.