I’m a member of several different blogging groups on Facebook and I’ve noticed the same question pop up a number of times:
Can you monetize a WordPress.com blog?
The answer is YES!
I’ve noticed some people don’t think WordPress allows monetization on their free platform, but this is untrue. In fact, here’s a statement from WordPress.com:
We understand monetization is important for many site owners, and we welcome and support many methods of monetizing the hard work you put into your blogs and sites. [SOURCE]
Another myth is that you need LOADS of pageviews before you can start monetizing your WordPress.com site. Again, this isn’t true. While your options are limited if you only have a small readership, there are a couple of different tools that you can use to monetize your WordPress.com site from day one. Keep on reading to find out more!
5 ways to monetize WordPress.com blogs:
To keep the site spam free, WordPress.com only allows the five following methods of monetization:
- Affiliate marketing
- Sponsored posts
- Selling products/services (digital & physical)
- Asking for donations/tips
I’ll explain each method in detail below, give some useful tips and share some of my favourite monetization tools to help you get started quickly.
In this article, we’re focusing on the free version of WordPress (WordPress.com) BUT all the tips can be used on the self-hosted version too (WordPress.org). If you don’t know the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, click here.
Note: I’ve used affiliate links below. This means I might get compensated for my tool recommendations (tools that I use every single day and genuinely recommend). Using affiliate links helps support the blog, so I can spend time writing EVEN MORE content! More info: click here.
1) Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is an advertising technique employed by brands (including big companies like ASOS, Target, eBay, Amazon, Zappos etc). The brands pay bloggers commissions on sales referred through specially tracked links.
I’ve written a free beginner’s guide. Click here to learn more.
On their support page, WordPress.com confirm that they allow affiliate links on their blogging platform:
When blogging about books you’re reading, music you love, clothes that strike your fancy, gadgets you’re drooling over, or whatever interests you and your readers, feel free to post relevant affiliate links using either text or images.
As you might expect, WordPress do NOT allow links to gambling sites, get-rich-quick schemes, multi-level marketing programs, disreputable merchants, pornography, malware, or phishing-type scams on their platform. They also do not allow sites that ONLY exist to drive traffic to affiliate links.
How to get started:
Here are three reasons why I love it:
- Sign up to just ONE platform and be approved for 20,000 merchants, including those I’ve named above and more like Travelodge, Nordstrom, H&M, Net-A-Porter, Groupon and Apple.
- Power in numbers! Because they have thousands (millions?) of publishers (including some top newspapers, magazines and blogs) they’re able to negotiate really high commission rates from brands. For instance, Nordstrom offers 2% commission by default on Linkshare but with SkimLinks, you can get 10% per order instead.
- You get access to lots of lovely statistics in their data dashboard.
Using SkimLinks on WordPress.com with Ad Control
If you have enough pageviews and qualify for Ad Control, you can configure it to work with SkimLinks. Skimlinks offer the installation instructions during setup (or find them in the tools section at any time).
Once SkimLinks is up and running, it will automatically turn all applicable product links into affiliate links in both old and new content. It’s pretty awesome.
Using Skimlinks on WordPress.com without Ad Control
Sadly, WordPress.com do not enable Ad Control for blogs with less than 25,000 pageviews per month. As such, you won’t be able to install SkimLinks and take advantage of their automatic linking technology to monetize your older content.
HOWEVER! You CAN STILL use the platform to monetize your NEW blog posts.
- Check your site is suitable for Skimlinks. If it is, sign up and wait for approval.
- Once accepted, add their Editor extension to your browser.
- As you write your blog post, visit a brand’s website and navigate to the product you’d like to create an affiliate link for (e.g. a dress you’re wearing in an outfit post). The Editor extension will pop up. Click this to create your affiliate link.
- Now add this to your blog post (by creating a link in the content, as normal).
Inserting the affiliate links manually is not ideal and it’s a shame that you won’t be able to monetize your older content automatically, but it’s a great way to get started before you hit 25,000 pageviews.
Top tip: Go back and manually add affiliate links to your top 10 or 20 posts to start earning!
2) Sponsored posts
WordPress.com allow bloggers to post sponsored content on their sites.
- You can be paid to write about a product or service
- You can write a post in exchange for a freebie
- Somebody can provide you with an article and pay you to publish it
However, there are a couple of restrictions:
- Your site should consist of MORE than just sponsored content
- All content must adhere to the WordPress.com Terms of Service
Finding sponsored post opportunities:
Here are three different methods to help you get started:
Agencies – Sign up with an agency that pairs brands with bloggers looking for sponsored opportunities, such as:
Note: I’ve not used those three agencies, so I’m not sure of their requirements for signing up. I found the suggestions at Food Blogger Central. In that post, you’ll find 15 other suggestions and plenty of information on ‘how to do’ sponsored posts. It’s really worth a read.
Twitter – Browse the #bloggerswanted and #bloggersrequired hashtags on Twitter to find opportunities.
Direct – Cold call or email the PR reps of companies you’d like to work with and simply ask them if they have any opportunities! I’ve done this myself with success. I was inspired by this video of Gary Vaynerchuk doing the same thing live on camera:
Bloggers with high levels of traffic (commonly believed to be 25,000+ pageviews per month) can run WordAds on their site. That is WordPress’s inbuilt advertising platform (it’s similar to Google Adsense).
Unfortunately, it isn’t the perfect monetizing solution. You only get limited control over what’s displayed on your site, you have limited options on where to show ads and you must have a custom domain name. But if you qualify, it’s worth trying!
Check out WordAds FAQs here.
4) Selling products (digital and physical)
WordPress.com are happy for bloggers to monetize their sites by selling either digital or physical products:
“You can sell your handmade products, art, books, or digital products such as ebooks or courses on your site using your PayPal account.” [SOURCE]
WordPress offer instructions for adding PayPal buttons to your blog here.
5) Asking for donations or tips
If you have a dedicated readership, consider asking them for donation or tips. This is acceptable according to WordPress:
“You can also solicit donations or tips from your readers using the PayPal button or link.” [SOURCE]
Again, you’ll find the instructions for adding a PayPal button to your free WordPress.com here.
If you’re providing valuable content to your readers (for example, fiction, reviews, comics or gaming guides), you might find a Patreon an interesting option. Your readers can purchase an on-going subscription and pay you an amount of their choice. You can set rewards for different levels of subscription (for example, access to a secret Facebook group, the password for extra content, a follow on Twitter, etc).
Just a note: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org:
My blogging platform of choice is WordPress, but I will always recommend the self-hosted version (WordPress.org) over the free version (WordPress.com). This is because bloggers using the self-hosted version are free to monetize their sites however they wish. (Plus, they can install whatever plugins they like and customise themes to their preference – handy if you want to test different advert locations, for example).
WordPress.com is a good solution for new bloggers who wants an easy way to get started with no upfront investment. There’s no need to buy hosting, a domain name or theme. It also makes sense for people who aren’t sure if blogging is right for them and just want to ‘test the water’.
However, if you’re planning to take blogging seriously and generate income, you should consider using self-hosted WordPress.
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