How to Make Money From a Blog
By Jenny Hansen
Most blogging professionals agree: If you need money now, get a day job rather than start a blog. However, if you are a good writer who wants to work from home, creating a plan to monetize your blog increases your chances of success, particularly if you have expertise in a popular niche.
There is no guarantee your blog will take off. Blog success depends on great content, consistent updates and attracting a steady stream of readers to your site. Earning money from a blog takes several months, if not years, of consistent work.
The money generated by blogs typically comes from three sources:
Ad revenue from affiliate marketing, ad banners, and pay-per-click advertisers.
Sales of services such as webinars or speaking engagements.
Sales of products like ebooks or some other tangible item you have developed.
Affiliate marketing is currently the most popular revenue source among bloggers, but there are several forms of advertising. According to Daniel Sharkov of Reviewz 'N' Tips, "Affiliate marketing is whenever you promote some sort of product or a service and in exchange you are paid a percentage of its price once you make a sale."
Affiliate recommendations from three top-earning bloggers:
Sharkov recommends Amazon Associates, ClickBank and E-Junkie as three sites that allow you to promote a wide range of products in your niche. Sharkov says he averages the most money from E-Junkie, with commission rates ranging from 30 to 60 percent.
Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger, recommends Chitika and Amazon Associates. Amazon's commission structure varies, going as high as 10 percent. However, Rowse points out that Amazon has many high-dollar items and a huge range of products. Back in 2009, he reported more than $100,000 in earnings from using the Associates program.
Jon Morrow from Boost Blog Traffic recommends creating "ad space" to promote a top-notch affiliate partner, or to use for your own products, using Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income for an example. Flynn averages about $50 thousand in commission each month by promoting hosting giant Bluehost. Morrow believes that having ad space set aside on your blog encourages people to click on the ads and provides a set place for you to promote your own products or services.
Other Types of Advertising
There are several other types of Internet advertising available to drive revenue or traffic toward your blog.
Pay per click advertising can cost a lot of money, but if your goal is a steady stream of targeted viewers, this option might be lucrative for you. Readers find your ad by typing in key words that relate to your business. Rowse from ProBlogger recommends Google's AdSense and shares implementation tips.
Banner ads are exactly what you might expect. You insert a banner with a catchy headline at the top of a site relevant to your business -- if people click on the banner, they come to you. In turn, you could put a banner ad for an affiliate product on your site for readers to click. People have become fairly "ad blind" in the last several years, and many bloggers feel that ad banners are losing their effectiveness. Experts don't recommend spending a lot of money on this type of advertising.
Social media ads are an easy way to target new readership. Sonny Ganguly at MarketingLand predicts an explosion of social media advertising over the next few years. Ganguly likes social networking "because of the advanced targeting options, reliable conversion tracking, and prevalence on mobile devices."
- Newsletter advertising allows you to capitalize on existing subscriber lists. If a popular newsletter relevant to your business offers ad space, this could be a way to drive readers to your site. As you grow your own readership, you can in turn make money by selling ad space on your newsletter.
As your site traffic grows, particularly if you have many articles posting per day or if articles are routinely going viral, you might choose to sell your own ad space with a CPM model. CPM stands for "Cost per Thousand" impressions. This model makes money from views, rather than clicks, and requires a high volume of traffic. To put this into perspective, if an advertiser pays two dollars for a CPM ad, it means that 200,000 views of a post will net you about $200.
Sharkov recommends writing actual product reviews over simply running banner ads. Not only are the product reviews linked and searchable, they are a blog post that can add to your search engine rankings. Additionally, they provide a service to readers, and prove to affiliates that you have tried the product.
Sharkov's must-haves fora product review? Your post should include an overview of the product, along with the features you like and dislike, plenty of images, and, if possible, an offer and call to action at the end.
Selling Products and Services
The advantage of selling a service, rather than a product, in the early days of your blog is that you already possess the service in the form of your own expertise. Webinars, speaking engagements or consulting to share your skills bring revenue in now, while you wait to build your product offering. If you already have quality products ready, start selling them right away on your site. It's never a good idea to spam people, but let them know these products and services are available.
Just because you have stellar writing, amazing services and useful products doesn't mean that people know about you. The challenge with a new blog is to help new readers find you.
Four Proven Techniques to get "Discovered"
Networking with other bloggers. Visiting other bloggers in your niche, particularly bloggers who are bigger and more influential than you, and commenting on their blogs is a great way to build your own brand recognition.
Guest blogs are an easy way to build readership, but this takes some research and a willingness to give before you receive. Jeff Goins, who gained fame in the blogging world by growing his readership from zero to 100,000 readers in 18 months, defines what makes a successful guest blogger with words like polite, dependable, easy to post and willingness to share.
Tribe Marketing was defined by Seth Godin as a group of individuals who share a similar influence and passion. Sites like Triberr have capitalized on this concept by allowing bloggers to form tribes in which the individuals in the tribe share one another's content.
Making your blog more searchable. Linking to other blogs and websites, adding images, powerful titles and targeted keywords will all make your blog more searchable.
High earning bloggers like Morrow, Rowse and Goins recommend a few things to keep in mind from the beginning:
Believe in yourself and what you have to offer.
Don't be in a hurry -- blogging success takes time.
Start selling from Day 1. If you are in the blogging game to make money, you must have something valuable to sell.
Build a solid mailing list as soon as possible by adding a service like Mailchimp to your blog that allows people to opt in to receiving emails from you.
Sharkov recommends a pop-up product like Ninja Popups that allows people to opt in to more than one of your offerings at the same time. For example, your readers can Like your Facebook page and sign up for your mailing list in one screen. He warns against having the pop-ups launch with the page and recommends a delay for browsing -- his time delay is 37 seconds.
The cost for Ninja Popups is minimal -- a regular license costs about $20. This product is a WordPress plug-in; however, many blogging experts recommend WordPress as the go-to platform if you want to make money blogging.
Finally, Goins sees blogging as something "you should only do if you love it." Your passion will shine through and engage more readers.
- ProBlogger: Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging]
- LifeHacker: Can I Really Make a Living by Blogging?
- Reviewz 'N' Tips: Want to Make Money Blogging? Here Are Six Facts to Remember!
- Income Diary: Step by Step Guide to Launching Your First Product in 72 Hours or Less
Jenny Hansen has trained on technology for 20 years, working at Fortune 500 companies such as Xerox, Nestle Foods and Capital Group. She is a technical writer and member of the Microsoft Insiders User Group and does social media and blogging for a variety of industries.