How to Make Money From Your BlogNovember 17, 2011
Try searching the web for advice on ‘how to make money from your blog.’ It’s a bit like searching for advice on ‘how to get rich and retire early’ or ‘how to pick up men/women’. There’s no shortage of web wisdom out there, much of it from people who seem to model themselves on Bernard Madoff.
However the good advice is fairly consistent and practical. Forget about all the people offering to take your money to optimise your site. The first piece of advice you’ll get here is this; spending money is easy. Making it is harder. Of course salesmen will tell you that you ‘have to invest to reap the rewards’. True, but what you should be investing in a blog is time rather than money. Most really good business people spend a lot of time ensuring that they spend no more money than they need to achieve the desired result.
People won’t keep reading your blog because it’s at the top of the rankings. They’ll read it because it is good, entertaining and you tell them stuff they want to know. Like most things on the web, blogs take off because other people broadcast what you have to say; they put the word out to others who put the word out. It’s the network effect. That will generate traffic and traffic allows you to think about making money from:
It’s obvious but if you have traffic you can think about making money from advertising.
A good example of this is the website Strobist, devoted to the art of photographic lighting using off-camera flash. The man who started it, David Hobby, coined the word strobist and it has become established as the term enthusiasts the world over use for the art.
David sells banner ads, footer ads and sidebar ads. You buy the space and then pay per thousand hits the site gets over the month. Strobist gets about 1.5-2 million each month.
There are plenty of manufacturers who realise that he has a virtual lock on anyone interested in off-camera flash. No ad on the site is a wasted ad in the sense that people looking at Strobist are into flash photography – not nature photography, not sports photography, not nude photography or any other field that may or may not use flash lighting, but flash photography in all its myriad forms. So if you sell flash photography accessories you need to be there. David has a waiting list of people wanting to advertise because his blog appeals to people who are prepared to spend money on equipment related to what he writes about.
According to the site, the six sidebar ads go out for about $3,600 each per month, the banner about twice than and the footer half. It all adds up to around $30,000 per month or $360,000 per year – a good living by most people’s reckoning.
However what is a good living on 1.5 Million hits a month is pretty unexciting on 15,000 hits (still a good number for many blogs) – scaled down that would translate into a mere $3,600 per year – perhaps enough to pay for a holiday, not enough to live on.
2. Sell Stuff
If you write about something that sells, then sell it. It’s not that difficult to add an online shop to your blog. If you write about gardening perhaps think about offering seeds or gardening equipment. If you write about collecting dolls, the perhaps sell dolls. A lot of bands blog about their music and what better shop window than your blog through which to sell their wares.
There are caveats however.
First and foremost remember that, as a blogger, trust and reputation are your capital. If you can’t give something your wholehearted endorsement, if you don’t like it, if you don’t or wouldn’t use it – don’t sell it.
Even then you have to bear in mind that some of your readers may wonder whether you’re writing simply in order to sell stuff.
Of course if you write about round the world yachting or accountancy or power station maintenance it may be harder to settle on an attractive range of accessories for your online shop – you have to be blogging about the right sort of thing.
3. Sell other people’s stuff
In case you haven’t come across this there are things called affiliate programmes. In simple terms online affiliate programmes are a deal between one website and another whereby a site that hosts links to products on a sales site gets a small payment from the seller every time someone clicks through to their site from your and buys something.
It’s pretty handy if you review stuff – music, books, electronics etc. (though don’t expect Apple to pay you a royalty – it’s not that Apple is in the process of designing iStingy 3.0, it’s that they don’t need you to sell stuff that sells itself).
Again be aware of the pitfalls that commercial relationships present for writers; you don’t want people thinking you gave something a good review in order to make cash, and you may not want to worry that the outfit you have a deal with may dump you because you decided that one or more of their products was really terrible and you felt honour bound to tell your readers not to buy it.
I know that asking for money from strangers to keep one in biscuits while blogging sounds a bit hopeful, or perhaps a bit embarrassing, but as a number of futurists have suggested (Cory Doctorow included), micro patronage may be the way forward to fund many of the small things we like. Imagine having a virtual bag of coins – perhaps containing no more than a dollar or two and with a 10 cent limit on payments to reduce the security threat so the convenience can be increased to the point where people have a donate button and you can click on it to give them 5 or ten cents. You can easily donate $5 to Wikipedia if you’re so inclined and don’t mind the hassle of logging onto your payment site, and by the same token you could put a donate button on your own blog. Sooner or later straight forward micropayments may become easier. in the mean time you could join Flattr. You have to pay money into your Flattr account in order to sign up and every month some of that goes into the big Flattr pot to be distributed amongst those who have signed up. However the quid pro quo is that you can then put a Flattr button on your blog and if people click on it, you get a proportion of the pot according to the number of Flattr button clicks you’ve recieved weighed against those everyone else has recieved.
5. Blog to support your business
A lot of companies run a blog. Mancx has this blog (and sponsors The Knowledge Market – a Q&A news site). In this case it’s less ‘how to make money from your blog’ as ‘how blogging can help build your business.’
Most businesses have a stream of minor news items. Very few will make it into the trade press (unless they’re cravenly seeking advertising money), even fewer will appear in the mainstream media. However if your business runs a website then you have a ready made narrowcasting system – people who turn up on your website have already indicated that they are more interested in what you do than most.
Business blogs also allow you to let customers look behind the scenes. You make cricket bats? A blog can focus on the different stages of the process. You can give customers tips on how to get the best from your product or service. Sachin Tendulkar turns up to collect a bat from you? For heavens sakes, blog it!
Again there are pitfalls. Blogs need feeding. If you let your blog lie fallow for six months or more customers and partners may start to worry if your business has died. If you decide to stop blogging simply remove the blog from your site. Otherwise even one or two pieces a month offers regular visitors to the site something new every time they click through. However be prepared for a small commitment.
6. Advertise Your Expertise
So you do blog about round the world yachting, accountancy or power station maintenance?! If you’ve read thus far you’ll have concluded that the ‘dolls of the world’ collection isn’t right for your site. However a professional blog is a great advertisement for your expertise.
Of course you’ll want to make sure you are scrupulous with your fact checking, your spelling and your grammar. If you’re a lawyer and can’t write precisely all you’re doing is warning people that you may not be able to spot a mistake in a contract.
However if your blog demonstrates what a very skilled and knowledgeable professional you are then make sure your blog contains your contact details. If someone feels your blog gives them the measure of you and they like what they read they may engage you.
7. The Mancx Widget
It’s been a while since a new avenue for making money from blogging has emerged but that changes this week. Mancx, for the uninitiated is a knowledge market. It’s a site that makes it easy to trade information or expertise that has value. A lot of blogs act as shop windows for the people who write them. But think of that window as the window of a Savile Row tailor. Yes it contains a couple of nice suits but the people who walk through the door go there because they want a bespoke suit made to fit them, not because the exact one in the window is their size – and they’ll pay for the privilege.
The Mancx widget embeds into your blog and allows readers to ask a question while making an offer of payment for your answer. It could be $10 for the phone number of someone you blog about, it might be $200 for a list of contacts in your industry. Someone may offer $500 for a hot sales introduction, or they might even put thousands of dollars on the table for you to work on a particular project for them.
If advertising micro-monetises vast number of visitors, then the Mancx widget extracts real value from the individual visitor who hopes you may know just the thing he or she needs to know. It’s the ‘long tail’ approach to knowledge and it could just be a game changer.