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How to Make Money Blogging
A Definitive Guide from Mirasee
Chapter 1: How to Monetize Your Blog
There’s a right way (and several wrong ways) to make money from your blog. Let’s focus on the right way.
There’s a fine line between creating a business around an audience, and creating an audience for a business. And in both situations, often actually making money from a blog is an afterthought.
While having an engaged audience is one of the best strategies for monetizing your blog, you have to build your audience with your end goals in mind. You also have to avoid certain activities that prevent your blog from becoming what you want it to be.
We’re going to show you how to monetize a blog, how to avoid the obstacles, jump the hurdles and create your blog the right way, so your happy with your blog and the income it creates for you.
But before we do, download the FREE PDF ebook, so you don’t miss a single word!
Download the entire How to Make Money Blogging book here.
Why Do People Blog?
In many ways, blogging has become the modern equivalent of the mix tape. If you’re not old enough to remember, the mix tape was a collection of songs recorded off of the radio or other cassette tapes. People created mix tapes for boyfriends or girlfriends, for best friends, for parties, for studying, for driving.
Blogs are a lot like mix tapes in that people have a lot of different purposes and intentions when they create them.
Some bloggers start out blogging on a topic they’re passionate about, like birding or mixed martial arts or classic Camaros.
Other blogs start out as a place to express thoughts and opinions. More than a few pairs of friends have even started blogs as a way to have a conversation with each other in public, and often from a distance.
Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net writes:
Back in 2002 I stumbled upon an article about ‘Blogging’. I didn’t know it at the time but that moment changed my life. I know that statements like that belong on those cheesy ‘buy my $1000 training program’ sites (don’t worry I’m not selling anything more than a book) but it is actually true.
Within 24 hours of reading the article I had started my own Blog—a personal blog where I’ve explored issues of Pop Culture, Spirituality and Blogging ever since. I’ve learned so much from the experience of that blog that I’ve since started many other blogs.
As my blogs have grown in popularity and have begun to generate income, blogging has grown from a hobby (some would say an obsession), to a part time job through to a fully fledged business in recent times. I have slowly built my blogging into an income source that has enabled me to dedicate more and more time to the medium to the point where I am currently a full time blogger—a ProBlogger.”
Some creative people start blogging to create a portfolio of written work to show to clients or to showcase their visual, musical or voiceover work for potential clients.[clickToTweet tweet=”#amreading the Make Money Blogging report on how to start, run and monetize a blog.” quote=”#amreading the Make Money Blogging report on how to start, run and monetize a blog.”]
Should You Be Thinking About Monetizing Your Blog Yet?
Many people start blogging specifically with the goal of making money, but many others do not.
Most bloggers reach a point, whether they’ve started to monetize their blog or not, where they say, “I need to make some money at this.”
But if you already have a blog, it can be hard to retrofit it into a profitable business. Different types of blogs work better with different types of money-making strategies, which is why this guide will cover a variety of methods. Before you even think about how you’re going to make money, you need to make sure your blog is really ready for the big time.[clickToTweet tweet=”Before monetizing your blog, you need to make sure it’s ready. Here’s how. #bloggingtip” quote=”Before monetizing your blog, you need to make sure it’s ready.”]
Every profitable blog has a few things in common. Think of these as the foundation for your blog-based business—without a good foundation, no business strategy you build on your blog can succeed.
First, your blog needs a unifying theme. It can be a broad, popular topic, like personal development or technology, or it can be something really specific, like DIY steampunk jewelry.
What matters is that when readers come to your blog, they know what to expect. You’re not writing about the latest car technology one day and elephant mating habits the next. And, to be brutally honest, unless you’re Gwyneth Paltrow, you should never, ever write about what you had for breakfast.
Second, your blog needs good design and user experience. This doesn’t mean you have to hire a designer and a programmer, but it does mean you need to follow basic best practices.
If you’re not a designer, don’t try to make your blog look good yourself—use a theme that was created by a professional. Get your own domain and hosting so your blog looks professional. Make sure your blog loads fast, because most visitors will click the back button within seconds if your site is slow.
And make sure that the general theme and purpose of your blog is immediately obvious to a visitor. If you’re not sure, try signing up for a free user test with Peek—they’ll send you a video of a random user visiting your site, which will show you if your site has features that annoy or confuse the average person.
And finally, your blog needs an audience.
It’s okay—in fact, it’s often a good idea—to plan your monetization strategy before you have many readers. But in most cases, you won’t be actually making money till you have a sizable audience (which means a lot more than just traffic). We’ll talk more about that later in the guide, but in the meantime, be aware that you won’t be making much money till you have readers.
If your blog already meets this basic criteria, congratulations! You should be making money with your blog. Let’s talk about how.
Advertising on Your Blog Is an Easy Way to Make a Little Money
The most common technique for monetizing a blog is to run ads on your site. The question, then, is how to get advertising on your blog.
The most popular type of advertising is called pay-per-click, because advertisers pay each time a visitor to your site clicks on an ad. You’ve probably seen this type of ad in the sidebar and along the top of Google search results.
Google Adsense is the most popular ad network for bloggers using pay-per-click. You can find out more about how Adsense works at BloggingYourPassion.com.
Some other ad networks you might run across are Kontera and Chitika. The big difference is that Google places text-based ads, and Kontera and Chitika place a double underline under words in your blog post. When a user rolls their mouse one of these words on your blog, a pop up box appears. Search Engine Journal has a great article about this type of contextual advertising.
Another way of using advertising on your blog is called CPM, which is a strange acronym for cost per thousand. It’s actually “Cost per Mil,” with mil meaning thousand. If CPM weren’t confusing enough, you’ll also hear this kind of ad called impression-based or performance-based advertising.
Basically, with this type of advertising you get paid each time an ad is seen by a different visitor on your site, known as a “unique visitor.” Unfortunately, if Sally and Joe each visit your site 20 times a day because they really like you, and Sally sees one ad 14 times while Joe sees it 17 times, that’s still just one impression per day for Joe and one for Sally, for that particular page.
The third type of advertising you could put on your blog is also a variation of an affiliate marketing method in which you get paid for sending business to another person or business. This is called CPA, for cost per action. (Hurray! We’re back to the acronyms making sense.) With this kind of ad or marketing, you place a link, image, or call to action on your site and you get paid when a user takes an action.
Here’s an example. Miranda is a parenting blogger. She writes a blog post about a great diaper rash cream that she received as a sample from the company. She loved it because it cleared up Bobby’s diaper rash in an hour, rather than the days that Desitin takes.
At the bottom of her blog post, Miranda includes an offer to get a free tube of Diaper Rash Miracle, just by filling out a form. When a reader fills out the form and gets their free tube of Diaper Rash Miracle, Miranda gets paid a fee for capturing that lead for the Diaper Rash Miracle people. Miranda’s reader gets a free tube of Diaper Rash Miracle, and the company gets a potential new customer and the ability to follow up with that lead.
We’ll call all three of these methods of monetizing your blog “advertising,” because that’s what they are.
If you’re interested in advertising, you should know that there are text ads, which are exactly what they sound like—ads made of text. You can also publish display ads, which are image ads. If you’re interested in display ads, you might like this article on CPM vs CPC vs CPA in display advertising for publishers.
Now, all three of these methods are legitimate ways to monetize your blog. Unfortunately, advertising is not going to make you much money, because the math simply does not work for new blogs. You’d have to have hundreds of thousands of visitors per day to make real money running advertising on your blog.
One of our community members at Mirasee ran Google Adsense on her blog for a full year—and made $110 and change. Even if she only put in ten hours a week on her blog (which is a low estimate), she made less than a $0.25 an hour, when the federal minimum wage in the United States was $7.25 an hour. Ouch.
That’s the bad news: advertising is not likely to pay your bills when you start your blog. However, there are a few ways to use advertisers to make sustainable income from your blog, such as sponsored posts and direct ad sales, which we’ll talk about more in chapter 3.
Selling Your Blog Is a Hard Way to Make a Little Money
Another common dream for monetizing a blog involves building something you can sell. There are two forms of this dream. The first is planning to build up your blog into a big blog, and sell it for millions. The other version of this dream is to start a blog, build it up a little bit, and sell it.
This process is called “flipping,” a term that the blogosphere has borrowed from the world of real estate.
Let’s look at the dream of building up your blog and selling it first. You’re going to blog like crazy, build up an audience, create a blog someone would want to take over, and sell it for a tidy sum. You’re okay if it doesn’t sell for hundreds of millions, or even tens of millions. If you can just get paid for the time you put in, you’ll sell.
The fact is that this just doesn’t happen on a regular basis. It has happened. It might happen again. But it doesn’t happen a lot. You probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than selling your blog for millions.
You hear the occasional success story, like Fotolog, which sold for $90 million, and Sumo, which sold to CNet for $29 million. The reason you hear those stories is that they’re unusual. They make the news.
Building a blog to sell it for millions just isn’t a good monetization plan with an additional money-making strategy. No one is going to pay a lot of money for a blog unless it’s already generating income through a sustainable business model.
But what about blog-flipping? Can’t you build a blog and sell it for a few thousand dollars, and make a living?
Blog-flipping typically involves creating a blog on a popular topic, one in which you may not (and probably don’t) have any interest. You build the blog and drive traffic to it. Sometimes you drive traffic by buying traffic, which increases your investment in the blog. You start generating revenue.
Then you sell the blog for several thousand dollars, if things go the way you hope they will. More often, you sell the blog for a few hundred dollars or even a couple of hundred. You may not even make back your investment in the form of your time and your expenses (things like buying a domain name, custom blog theme, and ads to drive traffic).
If you don’t drive traffic and create revenue, you can still sell the blog, but not for thousands of dollars, or even hundreds of dollars. For your work creating the blog, you’ll make somewhere in the neighborhood of $50, give or take $25, and you’ll have to pay the flipping service’s fee of $10 or so.
If you’re interested in how blog flipping works, you might want to check out this ViperChill article. Keep in mind, though, that flipping blogs well involves a lot of work, time and effort, and the average person doesn’t make a living at it.
If you want your blog to create a life, as well as a living, advertising is not going to get you there. Neither will selling your blog.
Is the Goal Selling Your Blog or Selling on Your Blog?
There’s a very good reason that these two monetization methods don’t work. The problem with advertising and selling your blog is that these methods approach everything from the wrong angle.
Think of it this way: the only way to make money is by selling something. As a blogger, you have two things you could sell. You can sell products to your readers—which could be your own products or someone else’s—or you can sell your readers to companies who want access to them.
In the first case, you could write a book and sell it. You’re creating a product and selling it to your readers. In the second, you could sell a banner ad across the top of your home page to a company that has products relevant to your readers. That’s a case where your readers are actually the product, and the company is buying access to them.
Take Facebook as an example. Facebook’s product is you. Facebook sells advertising, and it does so very, very well. It does well because it has over 1.5 billion users it can sell to advertisers. And it attracts new users faster than it repels them.
But as a lone blogger with an average audience, you can’t afford to treat your audience as your product. If you do, you won’t create the life, the income or the blog you want. Fortunately, there’s a much easier way to make money with your blog, and that’s the approach we teach at Mirasee.
Monetizating Your Blog Through Audience Building
The right way to monetize a blog is to consider long and hard the following questions: What are you writing about? Who you are writing for? What are your readers’ needs? How you can meet those needs?
The key is to focus not on making money, but on offering value.
“Value is a measure of usefulness you provide to your readers or customers, so value can exist completely independently of money.
One way to remember the difference between the two is this:
You can purchase value with money, but you can’t use money to create value. But on the other hand, money is often created as the byproduct of first providing value.”
– Gary Korisko of Reboot Authentic
Putting your audience first rather than the money creates far more interesting and effective ideas for making money. As an added bonus, focusing on your audience will also create far more income than focusing on money.
You may have heard the saying, “People buy from people.” That may sound obvious, but the point is that people want to buy from another person. They don’t buy from your blog; they buy from you.
By developing relationships with your audience, you create the atmosphere for them to buy what you have to offer.[clickToTweet tweet=”Making money on your blog starts with building relationships. #bloggingtip” quote=”Making money on your blog starts with building relationships. “]
Going further with this, networking expert Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals, says that people buy from people they “know, like and trust.”
Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, says “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what they believe.”
These quotes go to the point: People want to interact with and do business with other people. Further, they want to be treated like people, not like a product.
When you care about your audience, find out what they need and then do everything you can to meet that need. If you do, your audience will reward you with their dollars. And we’re not talking about the $0.40 you could earn for a click on an ad, or even the $1 you could earn per 1,000 visitors to your site.
Instead, we’re talking about the fact that your visitors will reward you with far more money relative to the size of your audience than you could ever make with advertising or by building a blog to sell.
If you build an email list through your blog and sell valuable products to the people on that list, you can conservatively expect that for each person on your email list, you will make at least $20 per year. That doesn’t mean that every single person on your email list will pay you $20 per year, but rather that if you have 1,800 people on your email list, and you monetize correctly, you can easily make a living of $36,000 each year.[clickToTweet tweet=”Cool! Bloggers, for each person on your email list, you can make $20+ a year.” quote=”Cool! #Bloggers, for each person on your email list, you can make $20+ a year.”]
By the way, that’s probably a conservative estimate. Jon Morrow at Smart Blogger says, in Lesson #15 of this article, that his blog earns about three dollars per subscriber per month, which adds up to $36 per subscriber per year.
So there’s definitely the potential for more earnings. It’s all in how you target your audience, how you engage with them, what you offer them and how your audience values your offer.
In the process of getting to know your audience, and what they need from you, you will work with your audience to create the blog you most want to have, one which shares your passion or promotes your cause. You’ll soon realize that your audience are your people and that you’re not just making a living—you’re making a life.
Selling to Someone vs. Forcing the Sale
Before we wrap up this chapter, it’s important to point out the difference between selling a product or service to someone, and selling someone on your product or service.
People don’t like to feel like they’re being asked to buy something that isn’t right for them. Ask anyone and they’ll agree: they don’t like feeling like they’re “being sold.” Especially in the world of online marketing, the experience of being sold is often compared to buying a car from a sleazy used-car salesman.
On the other hand, if you’ve done a good job of identifying what your audience wants from you, then you know that they need what you are offering and that they have the money for it. In fact, it does not just about need—they want to buy it. They want you to serve them by providing what they need in exchange for their money.
People love a fair exchange of value, and they understand the difference between offering something for sale and treating the customer as the source of your next paycheck.
Now that you understand that difference as well, you’re well on your way to monetizing your blog the right way.
The next step is to make a plan, so that you know where you’re going and how to get there. We’ll cover that in the next chapter, so for now, let’s recap what we’ve covered so far.
Don’t miss a single word. Download the entire How to Make Money Blogging book here.
We covered a lot of information in this first section. Here are the key points to keep in mind:
- People blog for a lot of different reasons, from sharing a passion to communicating beliefs to teaching something online.
- Many people who blog want to make money from their blog, whether that’s a full-time living or just a little extra cash on the side.
- There are several ways to make money from, or monetize, your blog. Some monetization models work better for beginning blogs than others.
- Advertising is a popular business model that doesn’t work particularly well for beginning blogs. First, your audience is your product. Second, you need hundreds of thousands of daily visitors to make any real money from advertising.
- Building a blog to sell it also does not usually bring in a lot of money, simply because most blogs don’t sell for a whole lot of money and they take a lot of time and effort to create.
- To build a sustainable income, build an audience of subscribers who want to hear from you.
- With an audience needs the product or service you’re offering, you can expect to make at least $20 per subscriber per year. And, you don’t need thousands of subscribers to reach this income level.
- There’s an important difference between giving people what they want and need in exchange for their money, and viewing your audience as the source of your next paycheck.
Self-Assessment: Where Are You Now?
Based on everything you’ve read in the first section, where are you in your blogging career? It’s important to analyze everything that’s currently going on, so that you can set some concrete goals in the following sections.
To do an analysis of everything that is currently going on in your business, answer the following questions:
- Does your blog look and work the way you want it to? Is it user-friendly and well designed? If not, make a list of the changes you’d like to make.
- Can you make the needed changes yourself? If not, do you have the resources (time and money) to hire someone to make the changes you need?
- Do you have an email list? If so, how many people are on it? Are you using your blog to manage the email list, or do you have an account with an email management system like MailChimp or AWeber?
- Is your list engaged? Do they respond to your emails and take the action you want them to take?
- Do you have a good way to get more subscribers?
- Are you currently making an income from your blog? If so, how much? Divide your income by the number of subscribers—are you close to the $20 per subscriber per year income that we talked about in this chapter?
- What is your ideal yearly or monthly income from your blog?
- What resources do you currently have available? Which tools, technologies, and software packages are you already using, or have access to?
- What knowledge do you have? Consider skills, abilities, talents and trainings.