How Do Bloggers Make Money? What Every Non-blogger Should Know

By Craig Ford on 6 October 2010 (Updated 4 June 2014) 10 comments

Since writing an article about how to make money blogging, I've realized that a lot of my readers and friends have no idea that bloggers make money. Interestingly, most bloggers assume that readers already know how they make money. That same realization was the motivation for an article called "Can You Trust Personal Finance Bloggers?"

Today I'm going to give you some industry tips so you, as a consumer, know how bloggers make their money. (See also: 101 Tax Deductions for Bloggers and Freelancers)

1. Bloggers make money by recommending or reviewing products.

If a blogger tells you about a product (that has a referral payment) and you use that link to buy the product, the blogger gets paid.

For example, if a blogger suggests you try Joe's Hair Tonic and you click on the link to Joe's Hair Tonic and then buy Joe's Hair Tonic, that blogger probably just made an affiliate sale. They may have received a set dollar amount or a percentage of your purchase.

How do you know if a link is an affiliate link?

Here is a detailed article that can show you, but here are a few quick rules.

  1. The link may have the blog address + /a short word/ + the name of the product. For example, on my website, most affiliate links are www.moneyhelpforchristians.com/go/productname.
     
  2. The link is long and has a lot of numbers or letters. For example, it might be www.adores59989893bso4.
     
  3. The blogger might have a statement at the bottom of the post that says something like "this post has affiliate links."

Why is this important to you as a consumer?

Products that have affiliate programs get more publicity. That is true of my blog, and it is probably true of other blogs. For example, I'm a fan of Charles Schwabs' fee-free ETF's, but I've never posted an article about it. I've also noticed that when blogs write about investing, they tend to link to brokers who offer them an affiliate payment — not companies like Charles Schwab.

I don't think most bloggers are out to scam readers, but since blogging is a lot of work, we do like to get compensated for our effort.

You need to know the motive — why is this person recommending this product?

I have a post that compares two mail programs: Mailchimp and Aweber. In that post, I've had readers insinuate that I prefer Aweber because it offers me a better affiliate payment. While that is not true, there is no way to defend that accusation. It does show that some consumers do not think they can trust the opinion of a blogger who puts affiliate links in his or her blog posts.

To remove any question of motives, some bloggers (like ViperChill) don't even put affiliate links where they could.

Can you trust a blogger's recommendation?

Many times you can only really know the motive of a blogger after you get to know his or her character and nature. Just know that most bloggers are not out to scam readers, but their links may or may not be influenced by their ability to make money with that link.

A blog that I enjoy following let me know that American Airlines was offering 75,000 bonus miles for signing up for a credit card. I was glad this blogger pointed it out, and I was happy to sign up for the the product through his link because I figured he should get paid for letting me know about it.

2. Bloggers make money selling text links.

If you go to a blog homepage, you might see a list of links to things like pay day loans, cash advances, or other such companies. Those links are usually put there because someone paid the blogger to put it there, not because they are really suggesting those products. Also, in articles, companies might pay the blogger to put a link to their site. However, you, the reader, have no way to know if the blogger put those links there because he endorses the product or because she got paid. Sorry.

3. Bloggers make money selling ads.

Adsense is one of the most popular ad networks, and for many bloggers, it is their biggest source of income. Adsense ads are easy to distinguish because they are labeled directly on the ad box "Ads by Google."

If someone clicks on one of those ads, the blogger gets paid. How much? There is no way anyone knows until after the click happens, and you (the reader) will never know. You should know that the blogger has almost no control over what links are included (though a blogger can manually exclude certain ads). Thus, the appearance of Google ads should not be seen as a blogger's endorsement of that product. That ad space has been sold without direct control of the content.

Some blogs also sell ad space much like a magazine where payments are made each time the ad is shown or ads are displayed for a monthly rate.

4. Bloggers make money selling their own products.

This one is pretty clear cut. When I write and sell an eBook, I make money from your purchase, but I bet you already knew that.

However, other bloggers can also recommend books written by fellow bloggers and receive an affiliate payment. As a standard, people are paid between 33%-50% to suggest books and products written by other bloggers.

Do you trust bloggers who get paid to refer products? What do you do to check to see if a recommendation is legit?

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Guest's picture
Romeo

Craig,

Please review and edit your parent blog, "Make Money Blogging | A Guide for Beginners on How to Make Money Online", especially since you say that you direct so many people to it, like you've done in this article. There are a few mistakes in it.

I'm was in the third paragraph when I came across, "This post shares how I make how I make money blogging, as well as a collection of some of the best articles I’ve read on the topic of blogging."

I'm no grammarian or professional writer, but I figured that you wouldn't mind the assistance.

Romeo

Guest's picture
Daniel

Romeo,

Careful on being a grammar officer, there! You, yourself, wrote:

"I'm was in the third paragraph..."

Tsk, tsk!

Craig Ford's picture

@Romeo
Thanks for the heads up. I'm guessing that a 7,500 word article probably has a lot of mistakes.

Guest's picture
Hannah

I would rather see Google ads than affiliate links. I will go out of my way to not click on them, even going to amazon or wherever in a new browser and looking the thing up myself.

I also have learned not to trust bloggers that swear that whatever they are reviewing is fabulous. I had a bad experience once where I bought something I'd seen recommended, then come back to leave a comment about my experience. What I'd found was that the product wasn't bad, but didn't serve someone with my situation. I wasn't overly negative, just cautionary, but the blogger didn't post my comment, nor was there anything buy comments praising the web service I had bought. That turned me off greatly from blogger reviews. I didn't feel scammed so much as mislead.

I don't have a problem with bloggers making money, but most of it is rather dishonest and underhanded. If that's the only way you can make money blogging, it is clearly not my thing.

Guest's picture

Hannah, you're more than welcome to buy your products however you choose.

But assuming you trust a blogger's recommendation, why wouldn't you want to support them in a way that costs you nothing extra? Amazon affiliate links don't make your purchase any more or less expensive.

If you enjoy what a blogger writes about and trust that their recommendations are genuine, deliberately avoiding their affiliate links isn't the way to encourage them to write more.

Craig Ford's picture

@Hannah
I tried to delete your comment, but I couldn't figure out how :).

Seriously thought you bring up a great concern. One that we bloggers need to hear.

I would, however, disagree "but most of it is rather dishonest and underhanded". There is probably some dishonest out there, but good bloggers only promote products they trust. But, there is no doubt that there may be conflict of interest.

Guest's picture
Troy

I'm a blogger, and I do use affiliate links (Amazon, mostly), so maybe this post is biased...

Personally, I don't have an issue with affiliate links or making a bit (usually that's what it is) of income for your efforts. To me, it's no different than a radio personality 'recommending' a product or service, and then saying "tell them that so-and-so sent you". People do that all the time in the real world, so why should the virtual world be any different?

As far as not clicking on affiliate links, and then buying the product without using the link, that's just not cool. It's kind of like having a Tupperware party and ordering product without crediting the distributor (or party host). If you are buying a product based on one person's review, you should do more research. When you make a buying decision, you should credit the person that convinced you to buy it.

Just my two cents.

Guest's picture
Michael

I agree with the whole article in general. These are basically what bloggers do these days on their sites aside from the traditional online thing. The good news is it will help them earn money with their writing hobby.

As for your question, I give a benefit of the doubt to bloggers as some of them really review a certain product while others are paid to do it. I basically read the post and see how personal it’s written. Most of the time, you’ll feel if the content is real or not by just reading them. Second, I’ll compare them with other independent review sites just to see other facts for consistency and accuracy.

Guest's picture

Hey Craig nice post. I read some of your other blog posts and there awesome. You really break your stuff down and this could get non-bloggers interested in doing it!

Guest's picture
Guest

I never buy anything through any link. I am not going to support the system that jacks up the price of anything.