According to The Nielsen Company's "BlogPulse," there were 173 million blogs online as of Oct. 10, 2011. On a daily basis, this number grows exponentially in the hundreds of thousands range. Beyond the data, blogs in the last decade have become powerful platforms for news distribution, thought leadership and idea generation. Unlike newspapers, television and radio, blogs can bring ideas to life in 15 minutes or less.

TUTORIAL: Retirement Planning

For some entrepreneurial writers, blogs create strong residual income streams. Using various forms of strategic advertising, people can transform their blogs into profit-generating media outlets. The money isn't quick, nor is it easy. However, it's certainly possible for dedicated hobbyists. If you have a high-quality blog, you should take some time to research how you can earn a profit. Here are six ways to get started.

Display Advertisements
These are banners and graphics that serve as advertisements for various companies. In general, the amount that a blogger earns from display ads depends on the amount of traffic that he or she receives. Bloggers can participate in an advertising network like Google AdSense, a program that allows webmasters to display advertisements on websites, mobile sites, videos and apps. After gaining a following, bloggers have leverage to negotiate banner advertisements directly with companies. This practice tends to produce higher rewards.

Sponsored Links
Google sponsored links are a type of text-based advertising that pays by number of clicks. Usually, blog owners embed sponsored links within content or at the end of a post. Different types of advertisers opt-in to the network, and Google will match links to relevant blogs. For bloggers, earnings will vary based on the type of sponsored link and the number of generated clicks.

Product Reviews
Public relations executives understand that blogs are high-authority marketing vehicles. For this reason, firms take an active approach to connecting with bloggers for product reviews. It's simple hypothetical companies design new products, which they wish to publicize. To achieve this goal, marketers will contact a blogger, offering the product for free in exchange for a review. Bloggers who accept will get to keep this product in addition to a possible cash payment. By law, bloggers are required to provide an impartial and objective review, and they must disclose sponsorship receipt. Even still, bloggers can make money legitimately and honestly while scoring free stuff.

Affiliate Programs
This online marketing practice rewards bloggers for connecting audiences with brands, products and businesses. In plain and simple language, an affiliate program will pay you commission for leads and purchases that originated from a specific link on your site. There are a number of programs that bloggers can join including Amazon Affiliate Program, Google AdSense and Commission Junction. Other companies run individual affiliate programs without the support of a network. (Commission Junction is owned by Investopedia's parent company.)

Sponsored Posts and Tweets
As with product reviews, companies will pay bloggers to write posts about products or brands. Per guidelines established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), bloggers need to clearly disclose post sponsorship or material connections. For more on the specifics, it would be best to fully read the guidance at the FTC website. Even still, the practice is widespread, and bloggers can typically establish their own rates. For high-traffic and specialized blogs, these rates can be higher than a few hundred dollars. To get started, bloggers can join sponsorship networks like Izea's Social Spark program, which matches bloggers with relevant brands. For bloggers with strong Twitter followings, Izea features a Sponsored Tweets service that pays people on a per-tweet basis.

Freelance Writers
As the Internet industry grows and grows, the demand for freelance writers is high. In many situations, companies will use blogs as a recruiting tool to find reputable and influential writers. If you are interested in finding freelance writing work, a blog can help you establish and promote your portfolio.

The Bottom Line
If you're planning to launch a blog, you should think of it as a financial investment with strong ROI potential. Success won't happen overnight. However, with hard work and dedication, it is possible to make money blogging. No matter what you do, make sure that you follow the relevant laws and ethical guidelines, as violations can result in harsh consequences. Most importantly, think strategically and have fun.

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