It’s a dream for many people to run their own blog, while also being able to generate an income from it. Usually it starts with the motivation to get a small side hustle project going, but of course everyone is thinking of reaching the point where it could pay for one’s living expenses (often before having even started yet). Chances are that you are in exactly this situation now and why you ended up here.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about blog monetization is of course (and unfortunately) advertising. No matter how early your journey as an aspiring blogger is, you know that ads are the dominating factor when it comes to monetizing a website today. Ads are everywhere.
Personally, I think this is very unfortunate for content creators and users alike. Creators (have to) adapt their work to incorporate ads and users are interrupted in their experience, by having annoying ads constantly fight for their attention. The only winners in this equation are the ad networks and the companies selling products which they promote through ads. I have a very distinct opinion about that situation and want to do my share in changing it, by showing no ads on my blog.
Fortunately, there are other great and innovative ways to monetize a blog without ads available and on the rise. In the following, I want to introduce a handful of those which I believe hold great potential to disrupt the current ad-driven internet experience.
Affiliate Marketing and Referral Programs
Let’s start with the most popular option first, which you are probably already familiar with — affiliate marketing or so called referral programs.
In simple terms, when participating in an affiliate or referral program of a company selling products or services, you can integrate links to those into your content. Whenever one of your readers clicks through one of those links and ends up buying something, the company will know that you sent them this customer and you will receive a commission for that sale. Such programs are being offered by many companies, including Amazon.
When you’re thinking now “Hey, affiliate programs also rely on selling some company’s products and are therefore just as bad as ads” — that’s actually true sometimes. Unfortunately, it became a method by many to make money through creating content that’s only purpose is to get people to click on their affiliate links and to receive as many commissions as possible.
I have seen far too many “ultimate review” or “best XYZ to buy in 2020” articles. Often only using images directly taken from Amazon, with questionable rating methods, and for sure an overload of links aiming to get me over to Amazon. This scenario is the kind of usage of affiliate marketing which I hate just as much as banner ads. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As long as you use affiliate links in combination with real and honest information about a product or a service, it’s absolutely legitimate to use them as a monetization method on your blog. When your readers feel, that the information you share is legit, they will be happy about you pointing them to somewhere where they can get their hands on the stuff you recommend to them.
Often times there’s even a benefit for your readers to buy something through one of your affiliate links. Sometimes a small discount on a product, sometimes an extra month for free on some subscription. In this case, a referral program can be a real win-win for you and your readers.
Just always make sure that you don’t promote something that you wouldn’t recommend to your best friend to buy. Your audience will notice your underlying motives.
To make an extra step towards being transparent in that regard, it’s best practice to mark affiliate links as such. You will see examples of that practice here in this article.
Simple One-Time Payments through Buy Me A Coffee
Next on the list is something I just recently discovered myself, but immediately liked for its simple yet effective approach to content monetization — Buy Me A Coffee.
The people behind this platform chose a great name, explaining it’s whole purpose with those four words. Their solution allows you to add a link or a button to your articles, which will take your readers to a customizable landing page, where they can easily send you a small tip worth the price of a small coffee — hence the platform’s name. They support payments through PayPal and Stripe, covering for credit cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, making the process very simple for your readers.
Signing up and getting your own link is very simple and completely free. The platform takes a 5% fee of each transaction to run their business. Payment processing fees charged by PayPal and Stripe apply on top of that. Each payment is immidiately paid out to your own PayPal or Stripe account. No need to request a payout.
Of course, you could also simply put a link to your PayPal for people to make a small donation into your articles. Yet, I think the picture they paint of a reader sending a freshly brewed coffee to the writer of an article is very appealing and the experience of giving a tip this way is super smooth.
There’s also a community building on social media around the platform, where people are exchanging ideas and inspiration, which I think is very cool to see.
Click here to quickly see the button that I integrated at the bottom of this article.
You can easily sign up and create your own page to start receiving small coffee tips from happy readers here *affiliate link*.
(Remember what I said earlier about marking your affiliate links? In this case, when you sign up to Buy Me A Coffee through my link, when you receive your first coffee tip, I will also receive one. It’s their treat for me raising awareness about their platform.)
Brave Rewards — A New Approach to Ads
Now we’re getting into the territory of real innovation, and yes, as the title of this section suggests it’s also about ads. I know you’re wondering already how this makes sense in an article about blog montization alternatives to ads, but you will understand why this makes sense shortly.
Brave is a company that challenges the way of how the internet works today. They have realized the many issues behind the fact that the internet is running on advertising and are providing innovative new solutions to solve them.
On the one side, they have released a new web browser — the Brave Browser — which is coming with built-in features to block annoying ads and to block websites from tracking your data during a visit.
I just recently made the switch myself and can only recommend you to give it a try. A small but great feature is that the browser shows you a real-time counter of how many ads and trackers have been blocked since you started using it.
I have been using the browser for three months now and my stats have been a real eye-opener. So far the Brave Browser has blocked 222,893 ads and trackers and saved me an additional waiting time to load content of 3.1 hours. Let that sink in for a moment.
Ads and tracker blocking statistics for me using the Brave Browser the past three months
If you are a Chrome user, you will definitely not want to lose access to all those great browser extensions that you got so used to work with. Here’s the good news — since the Brave Browser is based on Chromium (just like Google’s Chrome browser), all your extensions will still work with it.
So as you can see, Brave is committed towards an internet experience without annoying ads everywhere. But since just blocking ads will not help all the content creators out there to make a living, the team behind Brave also came up with a new method to replace the legacy system of tracking data and serving ads to people — an ecosystem called Brave Rewards.
The Brave Rewards platform enables two things:
- A new method of advertising that gives data control back to the end user.
- A simple method for content creators to receive direct contributions from their followers.
The underlying infrastructure for both of those methods is based on blockchain technology and a native currency for the Brave Rewards platfrom — the so called Basic Attention Token, or BAT in short.
When users are using the Brave Browser, they can manually opt-in to occassionally see ads in form of a system notification popping up. You can for example choose to see ads two times every hour. The ads are not shown within the content that you are looking at, therefore not disturbing your reading experience.
What kind of ads are shown to each user depends on which page they are currently looking at, as well as your browsing history. But even in this case, your personal data is never leaving your device and advertisers never have access to it.
The cool thing now is, that when users decide to see ads every now and then, they will also receive a small payment each time an ad is shown, paid out as a small BAT balance, directly to a wallet in the browser. The users are finally being paid for giving their attention to ads and it’s up to them to decide whether or not to see ads or not. This is very different from the advertising system we see today.
The BAT balance that users are accumulating over time can then be used by them to support their favorite content creators. Either in the form of one-time tips or as automatically occuring payments, while browsing websites of creators who signed up to Brave Rewards — like me with my blog here.
The solutions from Brave enable a better experience for both creators and users, while still allowing companies to promote their products. It just cuts out them being able to track all kinds of data about your readers and annoying them when they enjoy your content.
Give it a try yourself and get started with the Brave Browser and Brave Rewards *affiliate link*.
(Through this affiliate link, when you decide to download the Brave Browser and use it for a minimum of 30 days after installation, I will receive a small pay-out in the form of BAT for it.)
Coil — Real-Time Micropayments and a Universal Subscription Model
Let’s take another step towards technological innovation and another great solution for web monetization that I’m probably most excited about. I have dedicated a big banner above the footer of my blog to promote Coil, as I believe that this new approach has the potential to completely disrupt the way of how the underlying economy of the internet is working today.
Coil is utilizing new technology solutions, that enable to send money across the internet in a similar way that we are sending information. This allows for a scenario in which a content creator embeds his payment information directly into his content and the user streams micropayments in real time directly to the creator’s wallet, with every second that he is consuming the content. So when you are a blogger, your readers will stream a small amount of money with every word they are reading on your blog.
This concept has so much potential in terms of enabling a true “pay for what you use and consume” kind of ecosystem for the internet. I constantly get excited again and again when thinking about all the possibilities that could be enabled by it.
Imagine not having to pay a monthly subscription for Netflix or Spotify anymore, but instead directly paying for every second that you are watching a movie or listening to your playlist. This could enable some kind of a universal subscription model, which would be a great benefit to small content creators like bloggers. Imagine every person that somehow ends up at one of your articles is immidiately sending you a tiny payment while reading. It would make web monetization so much easier for everyone.
Today, Coil is already functional and in open beta status. As a creator you can integrate it into your website for free and start receiving payments immidiately. As a user, you need to subscribe for $ 5 per month to be able to start streaming payments to creators. The cost are fixed and you will never pay more than $ 5, while being able to support as many creators as you want.
Coil is also hosting its own open blogging platform with a great community. You should definitely use it to promote your content and get involved.
Patreon for Bloggers
Following on the idea of a universal subscription model, it feels like a good moment to mention another famous platform that enables content creators to receive financial support from their followers — Patreon.
Patreon has gained popularity among many content creators for offering them a platform to easily let their fans contribute to them through a monthly payment that they can subscribe for. In exchange, creators often offer exclusive content to their Patreon subscribers.
The idea behind Patreon is fantastic, but I think it’s potential is limited for bloggers due to a simple reason — you need to build a community around your content in order to get people to commit to a monthly subscription to support you.
The thing is, many blogs offer very valuable information, but many readers often only find it by looking for the answer or information for a specific problem or topic, before leaving again right away. Very rarely I see blogs that have established a true followership of readers returning again and again. This is much more common for YouTube channels or streamers on Twitch.
Therefore, I think Patreon can be a great tool for you to get your loyal community to support your blogging efforts. If your readership is consisting of mostly one-time readers finding you through Google though, it will be very difficult to convert them into subscribers to your Patreon page.
Conclusion — Many Exciting Monetization Solutions Available for Bloggers
As you can see, there is a variety of ways to check out for you to start monetizing your blog without having to use advertising.
Some of them rely on new technologies and are still in the early stages of their developement and adoption, but this shouldn’t stop you from getting engaged with them. It’s quite the opposite actually — the earlier you get involved, the faster adoption will happen. It’s up to each and every user and creator to take a stand on how we want to experience the internet.
Obviously, you should also not expect any magic in terms of making a quick buck through those methods. After all, making money from your blog will always be a long-term game and you should not expect to be able to live from it after just a few months. Consistency is key.
This also makes a great argument for getting started with it today, rather than tomorrow.
If you only came down here to see the Buy Me A Coffee button,
you can click here to scroll back up.