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Note from Glen: At your request, I’ve added a Print option to the bottom of all posts. This post is quite long, so you may want to give it a try. As there are over 100 million active blogs online I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of them don’t earn much money at all. I suspect a lot of blog owners can’t even cover their hosting costs. Whilst there are other benefits to blogging besides making an income, many people do aim to be financially rewarded for the efforts they put in.
If you don’t want to make money from your blog (which I totally respect) then this blog post is probably not for you. If you do want to get a return on the time and creative effort that goes into building a blog, then this guide will show you how to do just that.
In June 2008 I started PluginID; a blog I later sold, as many of you know. What you may not know is that since June 2009, the blog has consistently been making over $4-5,000 per month (over $6,000 in January, this year) without doing anything more than publishing new content.
Not only is the site making a great passive income right now, but it also enabled me to make over $4,000 in one single day thanks to a product launch. I own another blog that is making more than $10,000 per month on autopilot (well, the content is outsourced) so I like to think I have some unique and valuable insights on this topic.
I am going to discuss a number of ways to monetise a blog, but first of all, you have to…
If you know this already, feel free to read the next section. If you’re like a lot of bloggers though, you may feel slightly deterred from monetising your site. After all, you’ve built a genuine, loyal audience of people who care about your site – how could you dare charge them for something?
I’m being tongue-in-cheek with that question but it does reflect how a lot of people think. I know, because I used to be stuck in this mindset. With the traffic ViperChill is receiving right now and the size of the audience here, I could easily be making around $5,000 per month if not more. The reason I’m barely making anything is not because I don’t feel like I deserve to make money; I simply don’t need the income and it’s partly what makes me stand out in this niche.
I am totally comfortable with making money from blogs for no other reason than I believe that if you put value out there, then you deserve to get value in return. It just so happens that this returning value may be money. I put tens of hours each week into this blog for very little monetary reward. If I felt like monetising the site one day then I would have no hesitations because I believe the value I put out is genuinely worth getting something back for.
If you’re a reader of blogs and you feel like they don’t deserve to make money from their audience then you’re simply playing a part in an unfair deal. You go to that website for a reason, and though you don’t have to part with any cash, you should probably dig deeper as to why you think people adding value to your life don’t deserve value in return.
The last point is also something important to remember if you launch a product, for example. Feeling bad about making money is silly because people will only buy something if they want to buy it. If you launch a product to your audience and they buy it in droves, realise that they made the transaction because they want the value you have to offer.
As both a blog owner and a blog reader, learn to realise the true price of creativity and hard work. Feeling like you don’t deserve money for your value or someone else does not deserve money for their value is probably holding you back in many aspects of your life that are totally unrelated to this topic.
Just something to think about.
As you’ll see further down in this post, there are many ways to optimise a blog to make more money. If you’re already making money with your site then there’s a good chance that other income streams could be all you need to increase your revenue. Another, very crucial way to increase the income of your site is to work on building a high-traffic blog.
Put simply: Without traffic, you can’t make money online. Without visitors there’s nobody to click on your ads, nobody to buy your products, and nobody to sign up to your mailing list. Generally the more traffic you can get to your site, the more money you can make. It’s important that this is quality, relevant traffic, of course.
As I was in the personal development field for a long time, I see a number of bloggers who are now building up their subscriber counts nicely. Their list posts have gone hot on StumbleUpon and they may even have had a big-blog mention and suddenly their feed count looks impressive.
Whilst StumbleUpon can send you thousands of visitors in a single day, I can guarantee that less than one percent of that traffic would buy a product if they were to suddenly land on your website. Similarly, Stumblers are very used to ads so don’t tend to click them, and they have no intentions of giving away their email address.
The best type of traffic for blogs is search engine traffic and mentions from other blogs. These two have been fundamental in increasing the traffic to ViperChill and allowing me to build an audience of loyal followers. In order to get mentions on other blogs then you need to be focusing on being involved in the communities for that industry online and providing the very best content that you can.
I’ve written a number of blog posts that will help you increase the traffic to your blog so I recommend you check out:
I also highly recommend you read The Most Important Blogging Analysis Ever to get an understanding of what content goes hot online, and what your audience is looking to read.
In the most important blog post you’ll probably never read, I covered a number of different ways that bloggers are making money. The usual method, and the one I like to promote, is by genuinely helping your audience through valuable content (which can be text, video or audio based) and gaining a loyal audience by doing so.
The other side of the coin is to focus on getting traffic from search engines or other forms, and monetising them in different ways. If you want to run a blog that doesn’t care much for the audience then you don’t need to worry about providing value. Though, you may not feel great about it and still might not make any money.
A better long-term strategy in my opinion is to build a loyal, focused audience. I would rather have 1,000 loyal readers coming to my site on a daily basis than 100,000 visits from StumbleUpon every day with a 95% bounce rate. You should too if you hope to monetise your blog in the future and for a long time to come.
The best way to make money with a legitimate blog is by focusing all of your time and attention on providing your readers with as much value as you can. At the end of the day, that’s the only reason they’re reading your site in the first place. Some people may be curious about following your growth or simply want to see why you’re popular, but most people are there for your content. Not your design, your ads, your products or anything else you think might be attracting visitors.
If you provide consistent value and genuinely want to help people then you’re going to have a much easier time when it comes to monetising your site. I launched Cloud Living after writing over 100, in-depth articles on the subject of personal development at PluginID and made a large number of sales. If I hadn’t helped people with what I wrote in the past, they wouldn’t think a product from me would be worth their time.
Because I had genuinely focused on helping people and made that my aim, people knew that anything I put my name on would also meet that same quality standard and they knew I wasn’t doing it just to make money.
If making money from your blog is your main focus then you’re already heading down the wrong path. Worry about how you can help your visitors the most and you’re far more likely to make a living through blogging.
IMPORTANT: Each of the next sections will be accompanied by a graphic which shows how each source contributed to the income of my two blogs. Blog one is PluginID which made $5,000 as a steady income and blog two (Private) is a blog I recently purchased, making over $10,000 per month.
Without a doubt, the number one way to make money through blogging is by launching your own product or service. Note that this applies to blogs who want to retain a community and an audience, not automated spam blogs or blogs that get most of their traffic from search engines like with my $10,000+ per month site.
When most people think about launching a product from their blog they automatically think about creating an eBook. eBooks are great in many ways, with two of the main ones being that you can duplicate them freely as they’re just digital files, and buyers can receive them instantly. They’re also very easy to create. The whole of Cloud Living was created with Open Office which is free software that anybody can download.
Whilst eBooks are one way to make money through launching something, they’re certainly not the only way. You could also:
The great thing about having your own product is that you spend the time it takes to create it once, and then it can continue to make you money for months or even years to come. Imagine having a job where you only worked for one month and your employer paid you that monthly wage for another 11 months – it just wouldn’t happen.
Another reason selling your own products works well – and is usually better than promoting products or services as an affiliate – is because it has your name on it. If people are reading your blog for you, then it’s likely they’re going to want whatever else you have to offer. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time then you probably like my work (thank you!) and would maybe be interested in buying something I sell.
Maybe you wouldn’t (that’s fine!), but I’m sure it would interest you more than a product in the same industry from someone you’ve never heard about.
Last but not least, if you have your own product then not only can you promote it to your audience but you can offer people a commission for having people promote it to theirs. Many million dollar launches online weren’t just created because of the ‘list’ of the product creator, but from the thousands of affiliates they get to promote their product as well.
In terms of affiliate marketing, it’s usually much better to own the product at the top of a Clickbank category and having thousands of people promoting it for you, rather than being one of the thousands of people promoting a product for someone else.
Product or service creation can take a lot of time, but it’s almost certainly worth it.
Another way a lot of blogs make money is by selling advertising. I’m not referring to banner networks here or utilising pop-ups; I’m referring to privately selling ad-space on your website to relevant parties. If your site is getting a steady amount of traffic and you want to sell ads then I recommend you try out a service like BuySellAds.
They have a large audience of hungry advertisers and they handle both the automation of new ads on your site and the entire payment processing. In return, you give them 25% of your earnings which is not ideal, but they do make life a lot easier.
The solution I implemented on PluginID (which made between $200-$300 per month) was by using the OIOPublisher plugin (paid – not an affiliate link) for WordPress. The great thing about this plugin is not only does it allow advertisers to buy an ad spot and upload the banner without your involvement, but it also sends them weekly reports on how many impressions the banner received and how many clicks they got.
It’s completely up to you whether to show advertisers this, and either way you can still see the statistics from your WordPress Dashboard. With a solution like this you do get to keep 100% of the ads that you sell, but you are also only advertising the ad spots to people who visit the site already and realise that they’re vacant.
There are three smart ways to sell more ads on your site directly. The first way is to go to some of the top blogs in your niche and contact them, offering them a spot for a small fee to see if they’re interested. The second way is to find blogs who are already selling ads and then contact the advertisers from those blogs directly, asking if they would be interested in advertising on your site as well.
After all, if makes sense that if they’re already paying for traffic in your niche, they can send some money your way. Finally you could go out to webmasters directly on forums like Digitalpoint, Sitepoint and others and post a thread in the relevant forum sections to alert people to your ad availability. I’ve found the first two tactics get the best results, but this is another option to try.
If you’re not having much success, offer people a one-week trial and if the banner works well, they must pay to leave it there. The more visitors you get to the site, the more you can charge for your ads. If you’re getting quality traffic that is converting for the advertiser, then they’re more likely to continue buying from you and leave their ad in place.
As I recently wrote a post about how I make $200/day with Adsense, I’m guessing you were already expecting to see this in here somewhere. While PluginID only makes around $50 per month using Adsense (it’s in a poor position, on purpose), my other blog made over $12,000 in February alone with this type of advertising.
As I wrote on my Adsense post, the way to make the most money is by having a lot of traffic and also not being a destination website. If you want to make money with Adsense then you have to be totally fine with sending a large portion of your traffic over to other websites and away from yours.
The more blended the ads are into your site the more clicks you’re going to receive, but you’re also going to turn away possible subscribers and potentially annoy your loyal readers. If you want to build a great community around your site then I don’t recommend trying to make a lot of money through contextual advertisers like Adsense, Adbrite or Clicksor.
You can of course optimise specific pages on your site. For example, if you have a page that receives a lot of search traffic then you could put ads on that as search traffic converts highly. If it’s not a new post then loyal readers probably wont ever notice it but you can still be earning quite a lot of money.
For my other blog the whole site is designed to make money through Adsense by offering people a taste of what they want on a subject but not everything. The blog will never win any design or content awards, but it does make a lot of money. The route you decide to take is completely your choice.
The first half of Cloud Living which details how I make most of my money online looks at creating websites around affiliate products found on sites like Clickbank. If you want to know more about the process then read this long blog post I wrote which covers the topic in more detail.
You don’t have to just build brand new websites that get traffic from search to make money through affiliate marketing, though. In fact, many blogs make tens of thousands of dollars per month through promoting affiliate products. Whilst having your own product can mean that you get thousands of people promoting you for free, there are advantages to promoting affiliate products as well.
First of all, you don’t actually have to create anything. You can make a lot of money literally just by sending people to another website. If your blog starts to gain any type of traction then I guarantee you will be inundated with requests from people to have you write a review of their product.
Before you jump at the chance to make some money, make sure that you’re promoting something that is relevant, of high quality, and something of value to your audience. You may be able to make a quick buck by promoting a mediocre product, but you’ll probably never make any more money from that person if they realise they can’t trust your recommendations.
Instead of reviewing products, another option to take is to release a free guide or email course which provides relevant value to your readers. In the guide you could talk about products or services that you use and link to them with an affiliate link. Similarly, at the end of an email course you could provide an affiliate link to something relevant if people want more information on the topic.
Relying on blogging income from inline ad networks like Infolinks or text link sellers like Inlinks or Text Link Brokers is only a strategy I would recommend for blogs that don’t offer much value. In line text ads are probably one of the most annoying things online (picture below) and they would probably turn away most of the audience who comes to your site to read your content.
Before I talk more about this, I do want to say that Google look down on sites selling text links. I’m almost certain they’ve never said they will ban your site or lower your rankings, but your PR may drop and if links are clearly sold the “weight” they pass will be removed.
Example of Infolinks
I have a very old and deserted blog that I haven’t updated for two years which still makes around $250 per month thanks to Inlinks. The reason it makes this money is because the pages on the site have a high pagerank. Advertisers simply enter words that they want to buy anchor text links on and they are shown a snippet of text around that word and the pagerank of your page.
They do not get to see the actual domain until they purchase the link, which helps protect you from companies like Google finding out if you’re selling links. The whole system is automated – you simply install a WordPress plugin – and you can make a good recurring monthly income if you have a lot of pages with good pagerank.
Another way to sell text links on your site is to offer in-content, review, or sidebar links on Webmaster forums. This is similar to the suggestion I had for getting more advertising sales, but this time for selling links. A large forum like Digitalpoint, for example, has a whole forum dedicated to helping people buy and sell links.
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