Hey there sea changers… Many of my recent posts have discussed how to get yourself started with an online business however one thing that is often asked of me is how to ‘make some money' from a blog that is already up and running. This is especially common in the niche we are discussing today in that many out there start their website simply listing their favourite recipes, or recipes for a particular diet or lifestyle etc. then wonder what they can do to make some extra money from their endeavours. So with that in mind, welcome to my post on how to monetize a food blog.
Before we begin however it is important to note that you may not want, or need to set all of these up right now. Some may not be viable for your site and some may not be accessible if your site is new, or not generating a lot of traffic as yet – but you can certainly keep these options in mind as your site starts to grow.
So grab a drink, a notebook and let's see how we can make some money…
Note: This post is assuming that you have a working a website, blog or social media account within the food niche (or any niche for that matter really) and are looking to generate income from within it. If you need assistance with the development of an affiliate marketing or online business website, click here.
1. Affiliate Marketing
Our first method, affiliate marketing, is the process of earning commissions based on the promotion of food related products that are sold directly via the vendor. In this case, you can utilise your website or social media account to provide information and solve problems in regards to food, cooking, diets, appliances or just about anything else used by your readers.
There are a good number of food affiliate programs available in a number of lifestyle choices and/or dietary needs (vegan, keto etc.) that can be found via a simple online search. For example, if you were looking to find affiliate programs to help you monetize a blog centred on the Paleo Diet, then simply type “affiliate: paleo” into your search engine:
From here you can search through and find programs that:
- Relate to your niche/problems that you are solving.
- Have quality products – your brand can be severely damaged if you promote poor quality product.
- Have solid payment and customer service arrangement.
- Pay decent commissions.
- Have good testimonials covering commission payouts and quality of product.
How is revenue earned?
As mentioned above, the trick here is to attract readers to your site via the provision of information and solving problems – which in the food niche, is probably what you have already been doing. I mean recipes are the ultimate problem solver aren't they? So, within the food niche, this can be undertaken via the inclusion of:
- Recipes – “10 best recipes for that luxury dinner party” or “5 recipes for a children's birthday party” and so on
- ‘How to‘ posts and lists – such as “How to feed a family of 4 in 10 minutes”
- Products rankings and comparisons of food preparation tools from different companies etc.
- Process information outlines – e.g. discussing food preparation regimes etc.
- Tips, tricks, hints and other general information.
Money is then earned by placing affiliate links to merchant/vendor sales pages within these posts. If your website visitor then chooses to make a purchase (such as your recommended food blender for example), they click on the link for redirection to the vendor site which processes and manages the sale, delivery and customer service requirements. Commissions are then paid to you as the website owner based on that sale.
When to action
Affiliate links can be loaded to a website as soon as it has been setup or a post written. Some affiliate merchants however will not accept you into their programs until your site generates a certain amount of traffic. Others, such as Amazon, will accept you immediately but on a trial basis which is terminated if you do not drive at least 3 sales to their site within the first 180 days.
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2. Multi Level Marketing
Multi-level marketing (MLM) programs are the mainstay of the ‘party plan’ world of products such as Tupperware, Mary Kay and Amway etc. and have recently become more popular within the food niche. Traditionally, the food side of things has been aimed more at the supplements market however recently there has been a few more pop up that are actually selling real food. From the point of view of someone with a website, MLMs provide access to products that can be marketed via post types as discussed in the Affiliate marketing section above. The basic premise of a MLM program is as follows:
- You join the program, either via referral from another person (known as your up line) or directly through their website.
- You promote the products of the company via your website.
- As you make sales, you offer incentives to your customers to sign up as a member of the program (there are different names for this but they all mean the same thing).
- That new member is then placed ‘underneath’ you in a hierarchical arrangement (known as your down line).
- You, and a number of levels of your up line, then gain extra commissions for everything they sell as well.
- If they manage to refer their customers into memberships, they also become a member of your down line allowing you to make up line commissions as well.
I think it has to be made clear here that MLM is not an easy platform to make money in and many require minimum monthly sales and recruitment targets in order to qualify for commissions. Not to mention that less than 1% of those that join the program make enough money to earn a living however if you are passionate about the product or company and have access to a good email or customer list, then there is definitely some money to be made.
How is revenue earned?
If you use them in their basic capacity, MLM programs mirror affiliate marketing platforms in that you make a commission on every sale that you refer to them.
It is however the secondary aspect of these programs – and where the multi-level influences come from – that can really boost your revenue earning capabilities. As above, once you can build a downline then commissions are not only earned on the sales that you make but those that are made by your down line as well.
If this is something that you were interested in adding to your current website, there are however some things to check out before you join the program:
- Some programs will not allow you to sell via your own website or social media – or online at all.
- Others will only let you sell via a website internal to the program – i.e a personalised version of their main website.
- Many require you to make minimum purchases per month.
- Some charge cost to join the program.
- Many pay commissions on a portion of the sales price only.
When to action
MLM programs can be joined at any time and generally will not be concerned with website traffic numbers. As mentioned above however, check their sales rules and regulations before attempting to implement their products onto your site.
3. Sell your own products
Of all the niches, this one is probably one with the greatest range of opportunities to sell your own products via your food blog. This process requires a little more work than some of the options above as you will need to purchase your products, create and affix your labels and manage orders and shipment but many food bloggers make some great money in this fashion.
Depending on the type of blog that you have there are so many options here that you could explore including the sale of:
- Recipes – Ebooks, books, once off, lists and so on
- Ingredient bundles – there is a guy round where I live who sells ‘spice bags' that contain all of the spices needed to make various Indian curries. They are packaged in single serve arrangements with a recipe to feed a family of up to 4. This could be managed for anything you can think of.
- Starters kits – pastes, mixed herbs, pastas, bread making ingredients etc.
- Tool kits – This could include all of the tools/utensils needed to make your own pasta, or pizza or cook meat in a smoker and so on.
There is so much more here but I think you get the picture. Alternatively, you could also choose to do down the ‘white labeling' path and purchase ‘brandless’ supplements from a vendor, add your own label and then on-sell them via your website (or platforms such as Amazon etc.). Some vendors will affix the labels that you send them and then manage the packaging and shipment for you (often referred to as dropshipping). This will cost you less to set up but obviously you will make less on the sale once they take their processing fee.
To find brandless items to sell as your own, you can again simply undertake some online searches. Again, as an example, let's look for whitelabelling opportunities within the Vegan niche. With this example, a search for “white label: vegan” found the following (a search for “Vegan: Private label” may also work here too):
Hmmm, there are a few vegan cosmetics sites here as well – maybe something you could branch out into if you are in the vegan food niche.
How is revenue earned?
This method mirrors basic retail operations where you:
- Create or source your products and add labels.
- Write about the products, their benefits, uses and problem solving capabilities.
- Provide links where customers can purchase them via sales pages on your own site or marketplace sites (Amazon, Shopify etc.).
As I have touched on above, the disadvantage here over affiliate marketing is that you will need to do all of the work in regards to packaging, shipping, sales and customer service. However on the plus side, you do hold the ability to set your own price meaning you can increase and decrease as demand or costs rise and fall.
When to action
Obviously this method can be organised at any time that suits you and your website. Some actually create their websites with their own products ready to sell. The only real influence here would be to ensure that any foodstuffs you are planning to sell have a good shelf life so that you are not stuck with stock whilst your site takes off.
Tip: One method that can be very effective in driving online traffic and sales is via the implementation of more traditional sales methods such as kiosks and market stalls etc. As people see and try your products, they can purchase from you there and then be directed to your website for future sales.
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One problem that many face when dealing with the online sales of food and recipes is the struggle to clearly demonstrate two major intangibles – aroma and taste. Think of any video or TV show you have ever watched with a celebrity chef. They spend a lot of time explaining how the food should look as it is being cooked as well as the aromas they are experiencing. So if you are selling anything to do with food, then social media can assist you in this manner.
It has the power to reach thousands and allows you to target specific segments if you choose the correct platform. In terms of a food blog, if you are looking to set yourself up as an expert within the niche, then programs such as Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest will be your go to option. This is great for visuals such as pictures and/or videos showing you working with food as well as using the utensils or appliances that you are discussing within your posts. And, if you are able to build a following you may even get noticed and be paid gazillions to use certain brands within your pics and videos – this takes time, but it does happen…
So… if you are handy with a camera then this does make a lot of food bloggers a good income via the following process:
- Take amazing photos and/or videos of your cooking exploits.
- Upload these to Social Media (Instagram and YouTube are popular within the food niche).
- Gain a good following because your photos and videos are so good and your food looks so amazing.
How is revenue earned?
In the main, funds are earned via the addition of website, affiliate or sales page links within your social media posts. However, as your following starts to grow, you can then become what is commonly known as an ‘influencer'. Influencers then earn their cash via:
- Product placement.
- Wearing, using or reviewing products in their social media or website posts.
- Linking or adding hashtags for various companies on their posts.
- Adding advertising banners to their social media (as above).
Note: This is a highly competitive market – especially within the food niche – so your social media management will have to be well managed and generate a huge following and interaction. That said, and as mentioned above, this can be an extremely lucrative income generating stream for food bloggers.
When to action
The advantage here is that social media is free however building a following takes time meaning it is never too early to get started – so start taking photos now and get them uploaded.
5. Placing ads on your site
Should you not wish to actually sell products on your site, or wish to give your website a bit of a ‘push', then placing advertising on your pages and posts can be a good way of making some passive income if your website has some decent traffic. The trick here obviously is to have enough advertising on your site to make some income, but not so much that your site just becomes annoying or worse, unreadable. There are a number of ways that you can make money from advertising on your page, including:
Pay per click ads
Pay per click ads are placed on your site or within search engine results based on the interests, internet use/search history, search behaviour and/or location of the reader. These can be utilised in one of two main ways dependent upon whether you are selling products via any of the methods listed above or not:
1. If you are not selling products on your site then you can try Banner ads. Banner ads are placed on your website and are shown to readers as they view your page and posts. You, as the owner of the site can generally determine how many ads are incorporated and what they look like (in terms of size etc.) but not on what types of ads they are. You are then paid a commission each time a reader clicks on the ad.
2. If you are looking to sell products via your site with any of the methods listed above, then you can try keyword advertising. In this case, links to your site are displayed at the top of search engine results pages based on the searches undertaken by the reader. If their searches match your chosen keywords (e.g. “vegetarian recipe ideas”), then your site will be placed at the top of search engine results. This option really only works if you have saleable options on your page as unlike banner advertising, you will be charged a fee every time a reader clicks on the link to access your site – anywhere between $0.01 and $100 depending on the popularity of the keyword and competition. Once they do click on it however, they are directed straight to the page of you choice (usually a sales page) where their chances of purchase are much higher.
You can also load these ads onto your YouTube channel for extra exposure and earning capacity. Companies that manage this form of advertising include:
- Google Adsence – Google's website ad product.
- Microsoft Advertising – Bing and Yahoo service.
- Infolinks – Offers both website ads and in post ‘text' ads – these are where they place ads within your posts on relevant keywords – keyword ads are usually double underlined.
Selling page space
These ads work in a similar fashion to pay per click ads however in these instances you are actually selling space on your site for more permanent advertising. These ads pay a higher commission but do not change based on the online behaviours of your readers. Companies offering this type of advertising include:
Social Media Advertising
This can also be a good way to increase traffic to your site and sales pages as well. Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest will allow you to place advertisements to boost your online presences and drive sales.
How is revenue earned?
This one is simple – each time a reader clicks on your ad, you either get paid or redirect a reader directly to your purchase (money) pages to increase your chances of sales. If I am being honest, these advertising processes are generally a set-and-forget type scenario as they really do not generate any real income until your site starts to generate serious traffic.
As an example, on one site I placed 3 banner ads from Google Adsence once it reached abut 200 monthly viewers and it made about $1 per month. However, for another (currently running at about 3000 views per month), I paid $25 to place my site at the top of search engines and generated an extra 2000 clicks per week resulting in an extra $230 in sales.
When to action
Generally, the advertising brokers will not accept your site unless there is some traffic generated to it. I started at 200 monthly viewers but it is really up to you when you start. My main recommendation however would be to really consider where you want to have ads placed on your site – especially if it is new and you are still tweaking the set out.
6. Email lists
Email lists are one of the most effective means of generating revenue for you and your website. This is because once you have the ability to send your readers a direct email, you are able to then promote products, promotions and special deals directly to them without the need for them to search and locate your site. In general, you will need to do the following (in extremely abbreviated steps):
- Set up your email autoresponder and email list. Common Autoresponders include Aweber, iContact and Mailchimp.
- Add an ‘optin' to your website with an incentive to join (many sites give away products – in this case it would be a couple of free recipes or spice kits etc. – for free in return for their email address).
- Send emails to your list with extra information, bonuses and sales offers/promotions.
Note: It is critical that you only send emails to those who have ‘opted in' to your email list via your website or social media. Unsolicited emails are known as SPAM and generally not accepted or appreciated by those who receive them and can do your website and brand irreparable damage. Autoresponders will also cancel your service if they think that you are spamming.
How is revenue earned?
Revenue is not actually earned via the emails as such rather provide the opportunity for higher sales due to the ability to market directly to your reader list.
When to action
Most seasoned online marketers will tell you to wait until you are generating a decent amount of traffic before setting up this type of marketing. This is usually for two reasons:
- The cost of the autoresponder software – If you have a new site that is not earning any revenue then this might be a cost that you don't really need at this point. There are however some free ones out there with limited functionality.
- You don't yet have anything to offer – With so many websites and social media platforms out there, readers are becoming more and more hesitant to give out their email address information for fear of receiving yet another raft of emails. Unless you have a pre-prepared product such as a recipe book, meal program to match dietary lifestyle choices or training materials you may not have the necessary means yet to lure someone to sign up.
That said, as with all other traffic reliant revenue raising methods here, if you feel your site is ready for it, give it a shot.
7. Offering coaching/assistance
Online coaching is a booming industry and one that you can certainly use to monetise your food site. Within a food blog, this can include:
- Use of particular herbs and spices.
- Overarching nutrition.
- General cooking.
- Recipe creation.
- Food and wine matching
- And so on.
Online coaching is generally offered via website posts, banners, popups or via your email lists with offers one on one or group coaching or mentoring.
How is revenue earned?
Revenue is earning by way of once-off training or recurring membership within your coaching program.
Note: This section refers to coaching and mentoring programs that you personally undertake with your readers and not affiliate marketing links that you may have to the coaching courses of others.
When to action
I once saw a post in an online Facebook marketing group that went like this:
“Hey guys, can anybody tell me how I could promote my new course on FaceBook marketing?”
Online coaching is all about credibility. Unless you are already an expert within your niche/field (especially within this niche where you are dealing with the food – after all, we know how ‘picky' people can be in this area) then it is probably not feasible to set up an online coaching course if you are just starting out in your business. You need to have good quality content, high levels of knowledge and the runs on the board. However if you do have that expert knowledge at your disposal (such as years of experience as a qualified chef for example) then this could be what sets you apart from the rest.
So there it is. Some fairly solid methods that you can utilise to monetize your food based website. As always, keep in mind that making money online is a long term process so just because you have some of these revenue earners on your site, it doesn't mean that you will see any immediate income. As always, patience is the key.
Have you tried any of the above methods? What worked well for you? What didn't work so well? Please share below.
Do you need some extra assistance with the right ways to monetise your food based site or do you need help in creating your very own affiliate marketing website?
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Until next time
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