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How to Make Money With Your Blog

March 18, 2009 

The Travel Media Association of Canada recently brought me out to the lovely city of Vancouver to talk about new media. The members were particularly interested in how to make money from blogging. This gave me the opportunity to research this topic with some prominent bloggers I know. Over the next couple of issues, I’ll share a few observations.

Many Ways to Monetize

Making money with a blog is about more than just advertising. In fact, few bloggers make a living with advertising unless they count their daily page views in the tens of thousands. Google AdSense is a simple way to generate a little beer money and there’s little downside to using it. If you adopt AdSense, be sure to read Google’s guidance on how to optimize your site for its ad targeting algorithm. Also, take advantage of the “channels” feature to test different placements and targets. In general, the more specific the topic, the higher the revenue per click. Be aware of the keywords that are most relevant to the ads you’re trying to attract and include them in your tags. Google also has AdSense for search and for RSS feeds, although the potential revenue from those sources is quite small.

Affiliate marketing is potentially a more lucrative revenue stream because transaction fees for big-ticket items like airline flights and consumer electronics can be much larger than for pay-per-click ads. Amazon Associates is probably the best-known example of an affiliate marketing program, but many e-commerce companies pay bloggers a commission for transactions that originate on their site. You can sign up for these yourself or work through one of the many affiliate aggregators that handle the back-end processing. Here’s a list of more than 60 of them.

You can run several affiliate badges on a page, although be careful not to overdo it. Sometimes one large ad can generate more revenue than several small ones. Also, be sure to ask your readers and friends to start on your site whenever they want to make a purchase from one of your affiliate partners. It doesn’t cost them anything extra and you get a commission out of it. Traveling Mamas is an example of a site that makes use of a lot of affiliate ads.

Direct ads cut out the middleman and return the biggest profit, but they require you to be an ad salesperson, which isn’t for everyone. Still, it costs nothing to add an “advertise with us” page to your site and invite queries.

When you do get inquiries, be ready to get creative. For starters, you should have some traffic statistics available from Google Analytics, StatCounter or one of the other free analytics services. Never guarantee performance, but be ready to share relevant numbers such as page views, unique visitors and time spent on site with advertisers if they ask for them. If you have statistics about the performance other advertising customers achieved, so much the better.

You can also get creative with ad placements and targeting. Advertisers don’t always want traffic directly to their websites. Some look to boost their search performance by buying links on popular blogs. If you’re one of the top blogs in your market, you may be able to charge several hundred dollars simply for a link on your homepage. Consider the implications of this strategy, however. You probably don’t want your good name to be used to enhance the search performance of a questionable business.

You can also sell ads on individual posts, particularly if they target a prospective advertiser’s market very specifically and get lots of traffic. Your CPM (cost per thousand) for targeted ads should be higher than for run-of-site ads. You should also charge more for display advertising than for text links.

How much should you charge? This is a big question, since there are no standard ad rates for blogs. The easiest strategy is to ask other bloggers what they charge. Many are happy to share this information. Some bloggers actually publish their rates, so this can give you a starting point for comparison. Don’t be afraid to shoot high and haggle your way down. It’s always easier to come down from a high price than up from a low one.

You should also think creatively about alternative advertising vehicles, such as newsletters, podcasts, webcasts and packaged products. In my next issue, I’ll look at some of these opportunities in greater depth, as well as the much bigger potential of using your blog as a way to build your personal brand.


Got Success? Speakers Needed For Inbound Marketing Summit

I’m co-organizing a conference called the Inbound Marketing Summit (the name is shortly to change from New Marketing Summit), which will be held in San Francisco, Dallas and Boston this year. The audience is corporate marketers and business owners who want to use new media to engage with customers, reduce costs and improve performance. We’re interested in practitioners who can share their true stories of success with online marketing programs. If you’ve got a remarkable tale to tell about how your company has used social media, please contact me to talk about the possibility of appearing on one or more of the programs.


Tip Of The Week: How To Embed Almost Anything In Your Website

Since we’re on the subject of making money with blogs this week, I want to point you to a resource that will help you navigate the sometimes daunting task of adding those buttons, video players, photo viewers, maps and other goodies to your website. It’s all here, or at least as much as I would ever want to know!


Just For Fun

Most of us love garlic and onions in our food — but not on our hands after we cook dinner. Did you know that the problem can be easily (and cheaply) solved by washing your hands with a glob of toothpaste? Bet you didn’t know that dryer sheets can be used to clean your shower or that wax paper can unstick wet pages of a book! Woman’s Day’s tips for alternate uses for 16 household items may just blow your mind. Which reminds me, check out the secret uses of hair dryers! Don’t forget to read the comments for even more tips and tricks.

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