“The lack of money is the root of all evil.” – Mark Twain
Money. Revenue. Passive Income. That’s a very important goal for professional bloggers like you. That’s what makes it possible for you to continue blogging and following whatever it is you’re passionate about.
But as important as money is to continuing blogging, it’s also one of the most challenging aspects of serious blogging. How to make money, real money, while publishing content, is one of the preeminent questions of any new blogger.
There are essentially two ways to monetize your blog: Active and Passive.
Active Monetization includes techniques like selling your time as a service, or selling one or more products you might have to offer.
Passive Monetization includes techniques like selling advertising space, or selling other people’s products as an affiliate.
Successful bloggers are typically able to achieve high active monetization, but low passive monetization. And that’s because, frankly, passive monetization is hard!
To make decent money from placing ads for other businesses on your site, for instance, requires tremendous traffic levels, as well as highly focused ads. If the ad content doesn’t immediately appeal to your readers, they will ignore it, and the real money from paid advertising is driven by click-throughs.
Affiliate sales are the same way. You have to find really great products or services that offer an affiliate program, and drive tons of traffic to your blog posts and pages that talk about those products or services, in order to send a fraction of that traffic through your affiliate link.
While it’s all a numbers game – build more traffic to your site to drive more ad / link impressions, clicks and sales – for most, the volume that’s needed is staggering.
My own site, for instance, gets an average of 50,000 visitors a month. When I was running Google AdSense ads, allowing Google to place ads for related products on my home page, sidebar and in banners below blog posts, I was making a whopping $50 a month.
Hardly the kind of passive income prospective bloggers dream about.
Instead, I’ve found ways to create far more lucrative opportunities for myself and my blog, and they have nothing to do with Google AdSense.
I’m going to share with you what I do, and what your options for making more money with your blog might be, as well as how to go about creating fantastic opportunities for yourself. But first, let’s talk about some of the things you should not do to try and monetize your blog.
How You Should Not Make Money Blogging
Before we get into the best ways to make money blogging, it’s probably a good idea to put out a few warning beacons on some of the worst ways to make money blogging. At least, let’s go over some of the “don’ts” so you can avoid the classic pitfalls.
Advertising Too Soon
If you’re setting up a new blog, it’s tempting to immediately put Google AdSense ads in key positions to begin generating passive income, even if it’s just a trickle. Even if you’re only getting a few visitors a day, at least some of them will see the ads, and maybe a click or two will be registered, right?
There are two issues with this approach.
First, since all visitors to a new site will be ‘new visitors’, it will have been impossible for you to have established your authority and reputation. Surrounding your content with ads will not help that cause.
Second, unfortunately, Google does not want to ‘reward’ sites that intend to make a bunch of money from advertising. Therefore, sites that implement AdSense ads too soon may actually harm their own SEO. Even sites that have been around for a while might see their organic Google traffic impacted by AdSense ads.
TheSocialMediaHat.com was launched Sept. 1, 2012, and had AdSense ad placements from the start. Through March, April and May of this year, I averaged 6,700 visits via Google search per week. On June 1st, I removed all Google AdSense ads from my site and saw an immediate increase in organic traffic – up 22% week over week! That extra 1500 visitors per week is resulting in more subscribers and site activity, and monetization via other means.
By sacrificing that meager AdSense check, I’ve essentially purchased an extra 6000 monthly visitors for less than a penny each. What a steal!
Too Much Advertising
To build on the idea that surrounding your content with ads isn’t a good idea, let’s talk about the quantity of website ads.
Generally speaking, it’s certainly OK to have a few ads scattered about. But if your readers have to wade through popup ads, banners, sidebar ads, in-content ads, pagination and more, that’s too much.
The more ads you place between readers and your valuable content, the less interested they will be. That will lead to less time on site and a poorer bounce rate, which impacts your SEO negatively yet again.
Instead, be strategic and cautious with your ad placement.
Editor’s Note: Don’t use The Social Media Hat as an example. As a Content Marketing Practitioner, I use thesocialmediahat.com as a giant testing zone, running countless experiments on content marketing techniques and tools. At any given time, we may be running multiple popup ads and ad locations and any number of monetization combinations to determine what works best.
This should go without saying, but do stay away from Get Rich Schemes and multi level marketing “opportunities.” Presenting your readers with those kinds of sales will often lead to irreparably damaged reputations.
Not to mention the fact that they seldom provide real, sustainable income.
Instead, let’s look at the ways truly successful bloggers make money.
How You Should Make Money Blogging
I mentioned above that there are two general ways in which bloggers make money: Active and Passive. Let’s go over your passive monetization options in more detail, and the best ways to implement them.
Any time you put an image or text or link on your site on behalf of another business in exchange for a fee, that’s considered advertising. The most common is the banner ad – a wide graphic that appears above or below your content and is designed to catch a reader’s eye and get them to click the ad (linked image) to visit the vendor’s webpage.
Consider though that display advertising can come in all forms and a variety of implementation options. Some vendors may pay you for impressions, others for clicks, and still others only for verified leads or sales. It depends a great deal on your site, your audience, and the vendor you’re doing business with.
Google AdSense attempts to ease all of that by providing you with a simple interface. You select the category of your site, set up a specific size of ad, then place some HTML code on your site where you want ads to appear. Google then dynamically generates an ad for each new visitor, attempting to match the content and topics of your site with relevant ads from Google’s inventory.
Alternatively, you can negotiate directly with a business to display ads on their behalf.
To do that, you would need to establish an advertising rate that you’d charge advertisers, and then of course be able to measure impressions, click-throughs, and potentially conversions.
Most sites charge on a Cost Per Impression (CPI) or Cost Per Mille (CPM) – that’s Latin for thousand – basis. What you should actually charge depends on your niche, so you’ll need to research comparable sites and see what the going rate is for display advertising.
Native Advertising refers to ads that are part of the content of the site. The classic example is an ad in the newspaper that looks and reads more like a story than a normal display ad.
Today, many bloggers will accept sponsored articles that talk about and promote a specific business or product. The articles might be provided by the advertising company, or might be commissioned for the blogger to write themselves.
Since businesses will pay hundreds of dollars to place a piece of sponsored content on a targeted niche site, native advertising can be extremely lucrative for established bloggers.
When you find a great product or service that your audience would be interested in, sometimes you can become an affiliate of that business. They provide you with a custom tracking link which you insert into your website and other promotional locations. Every click and purchase is tracked and associated with your account, and you earn a commission!
It’s easy to set up, and with enough traffic and click opportunities, bloggers have a very high potential for earnings.
The key is to find great products that are an excellent fit for your audience.
Site / Social Sponsorship
Brands seeking a more direct and immersive relationship with bloggers might offer to sponsor their site or a social campaign. The easiest example of this is IMDB.com, which allows the entire site to be sponsored by whatever upcoming film wants to pay.
In this case, the film Ben Hur has provided a site background, banners, and home page teaser video.
Bloggers who have developed a passionate audience around a particular topic have set themselves up to be influencers, and brands know they can leverage that influence for the right price.
There are a few other more obscure techniques, but those are the most common and generally most successful methods. Now, how do you actually find those opportunities?
How To Find Monetization Options
The trick to all of the above, of course, is to find those opportunities. The most easily accessible options are typically the lowest-paying, so that presents a challenge.
Take display advertising, for example. Google is the most popular search platform on the planet and one of the most well-known advertising platforms. It’s free and easy to sign up for AdSense and to start displaying ads on your site.
But as we already pointed out, AdSense earnings are not likely to be too impressive.
Finding and working directly with other businesses is a far better option – but far from easy. You essentially have to cold call other businesses and try to sell them advertising space on your site. Not fun!!
If you build a great blog around your chosen niche, certainly some businesses will approach you, but you’re still left to determine whether a business is going to be good to work with, and on your own when it comes to figuring out the details.
Patience is required, and a little luck to be sure. One successful tactic you can employ is social media and influencer marketing. If you focus on building relationships – both with other influencers and with brands – you’ll build personal and brand awareness. It’s that awareness which will lead to other businesses reaching out to you.
What other questions do you have about making money from your blog? Leave a comment below!