You have already started a blog with the intent of making it your job. You provide relevant information and views on important topics. You blog frequently and people are returning to your site for information or entertainment. Your blog entries now rank in Search Engines and drive new visitors to your website. You can measure the results of your efforts with your blog’s PageRank and Domain Authority. Personally, you are well on your way to establishing yourself as a thought leader in your “community” or industry. In short, you have found your niche. You have successfully launched your own blog. So what’s the problem? Well, you can’t make a living with it, at least, not yet.
So, how do you monetize your blog, the traffic it draws and your blogging skills? How do earn money from your blog without compromising its content or your integrity? Charlie White and John Biggs, authors of “Blogger Boot Camp: Learning How to Build, Write, and Run a Successful Blog” – offer some valuable insights that inspired the following tips:
1. Skip the Donate Button and Try Selling Merchandise Instead
The donate button is popular among bloggers whose site’s traffic volume is not sufficient to be monetized any other ways. PayPal, the most commonly utilized service for this purpose, may have been overused. Donations work only if your blog is connected to a charity or a worthy cause. Without that strong connection, asking for donations does not work. The online audience has gotten tired of seeing buttons that say “buy me a beer” or coffee, and that killed the random personal donation button.
On the other hand, if your blog benefits from a strong brand affinity, you can use aligned merchandising to generate a little bit of revenue. Create your own branded merchandise to increase your brand awareness. Bloggers use Café Press to customize everything from T-shirts to baseball caps, coffee mugs and other items that fit their specific subject area. But at the end of the day, mugs and hats won’t add up to enough to enable you to make a living out of blogging.
2. Carefully Balance Blocks of Advertising
You can monetize your traffic by placing and selling advertising blocks on your blog, if you generate enough visits. To explore this option, integrate ad blocks early on in your blog’s CSS. Placement matters. The number of advertising blocks you should create depends on your page length. Usually, bloggers locate two ad units above the fold in “prime real estate” and another two blocks below the fold. Advertising block sizes are standard. The most commonly used sizes are the Large Rectangle (336×280), the Medium Rectangle (300×250), the Leaderboard (728×90), and the Wide Skyscraper (160×600).
Combining vertical blocks with horizontal blocks is the most effective way to integrate advertising seamlessly into your blog without ruining its style. If you place too many blocks, you might dilute the value of each block. Having fewer advertiser competing means more value for each advertiser. Once you have decided where to place the ads, the next step is to figure out how you will sell them – but first, follow the money and learn the different online advertising pricing methods.
3. Know Your Costing Methods Before Selling Advertising
The easiest pricing tactic is Cost Per Time. CPT simply implies selling a banner space for a definite amount of time: days, weeks or months. The second preferred costing method for publishers is Cost Per Thousand Impressions. With CPM, your blog is obligated– as if you were a publisher – to deliver the promised number of impressions. However, advertisers usually would rather pay you based on Cost Per Click or Cost Per Action. CPC means that you get paid only when a visitor clicks on the banner. CPA is even more intricate than CPC since the visitors need to click on the banner and also perform an agreed-upon specific action, like purchasing or subscribing.
4. Sell your Ads Directly for a Higher Return
If you are going to sell ads directly, it is probably easier to offer them on a CPT. Then, show your audience that advertising is available. Add an “advertise here” page to your blog describing the options and ad formats available to advertisers. Create a media kit detailing the benefits of advertising on your blog. Include your traffic estimates (page views, unique visitors, subscribers) and your audience demographics (age, gender, interests, average household income). The more desirable and affluent your audience is, the more likely you are to be able to sell the ads directly. The content of your blog must be compatible with the branding guidelines of the corporations you approach.
Use Google Analytics and AdWords to gather data about your visitors’ demographics. Google Analytics recently deployed new features that report each visitor’s age group, gender, and interests. To use these new features, update your tracking codes, accept the new terms and conditions, and enable the reports in the admin and audience panels. Then – in just a couple of days and for a minimal cost – you can run a remarketing campaign on a small sample of your blog’s readership. This will give you useful data, but finding out the average household income is trickier. It requires you to survey your subscribers or, if feasible, to append demographic data to their contact information.
Remember to list your prices and contact information in your media kit. Finally, include a call to action in the form of a “how to get started” section. Now you’re ready to distribute your press kit to the media and to PR and advertising agencies that cater to your industry.
5. Use a Bidding Network as an Alternative
The most popular network is Google AdSense, and participation is quite easy to implement, though only worthwhile if you have many page views. Once you registered, you can customize your ads and control the content by advertiser, categories, network, and type for each of your blocks. You need a basic knowledge of html to implement the snippet of codes in your blog. The great thing about AdSense is that it presents customized ads that are relevant to each individual page on your website or ads that are specifically targeted to your distinct visitors through re-marketing. AdSense’s reporting tool is easy to understand, gives great insight into the potential for monetization and integrates into Google Analytics. The program is primarily based on CPC model with some CPM opportunities. However, on average and in most industries, the Page Revenue by thousand impressions (page RPM) is in the single digits. Consequently, this is a viable solution only if your blog has page views in the millions, though most blogs don’t generate that amount of traffic.
6. Participate in Affiliate Programs and Earn Commissions
Several websites feature affiliate programs and act as intermediaries between advertisers and publishers. Commission Junction is one the most famous. Bloggers can choose their advertisers on the basis of the product they offer and the terms of their affiliate program. Those terms usually link a commission payment or fee to a specific action, like acquiring sales lead or selling a product. Commissions vary for each advertiser. Commissions can be very competitive, but bloggers need to choose their product and advertiser carefully to make sure that the item matches the interest of their audience. With this, as with any CPA-type of advertising, the ability to convert visitors into buyers is the key to generating revenues.
Most large ecommerce retailers, like Amazon, offer their own affiliate programs on their website. Links to their programs are, in most cases, located in their website’s footer. But, many corporations now affiliate with leading bloggers in their own – or in a vertical – market. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines now has a Mom-bloggers affiliate program to promote and boost sales to its family-based clientele. In exchange for blogging about new Carnival Cruise Lines products and services, Carnival offers leading mom bloggers free cruises and financial compensation. This is a win-win situation
7. Write Advertorials with Backlinks Opportunities
Corporations and SEO professional who are expert in link-building strategies are always looking for blogs with an established Domain Authority and PageRank. They want to find bloggers who can write advertorials about their products and services in which they can place a hyperlink highlighting a money keyword. This backlink is valuable because its transfers some trust and authority to the recipient website. This is commonly referred as “link juice.” Unlike display advertising, you should not communicate about this advertising opportunity on your blog, because it is becoming a controversial practice.
Most bloggers only do advertorials for products they truly endorse. They may even back away from giving any product ratings. In terms of SEO, just stay away from link schemes that will result in penalties instead of boosting your PageRank.
8. Best Solution: Seeking Indirect Monetization
The real end game is in using your blog as a platform to sell your services as a consultant or public speaker. Many bloggers have been able to monetize their blogs by extending the way they use their talents.
Statistician and writer Nate Silver could be the poster child for bloggers who left their old jobs and changed their careers as a result of successful blogging. Silver rose to fame by developing PECOTA, a system for forecasting the performance and career development of Major League Baseball players. He sold his system to Baseball Prospectus but continued to manage it. In 2007, he began to write for the political blog, Daily Kos, under the pseudonym “Poblano.”
Here, Silver began to analyze and predict the 2008 presidential race. By March 2008, he moved his work to his own blog, FiveThirtyEight.com, and revealed his identity. (The blog is named 538 because US presidential candidates need 535 Electoral College votes to win.) As a consequence, he became the go-to political analyst for national print, online and cable news media. The accuracy of his November 2008 presidential election predictions won Silver further notoriety: he correctly predicted 49 of the 50 states (in 2012, he correctly predicted all 50 states). What happened next? Nate Silver was invited to speak at a TED conference on the topic of “Does racism affect how you vote?” In a follow up interview, he offered his views on the question of the causation between racism and the neighborhood you live in.
Fast forward to April 2009: TIME magazine named Silver as one of The World’s 100 Most Influential People. By 2010 The New York Times came knocking to license the publication of Silver’s blog under a new name FiveThirtyEight: Nate Silver’s Political Calculus. In 2012, he wrote the bestseller “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail but Some Don’t.” And now, he’s relocated his blog from the Times to ESPN, where he owns the FiveThirtyEight site as well as the brand. Is he making money from his blog? Well, that’s not hard to predict, is it?