Monday, March 21, 2016

The Basics of Blog Monetization: An Introduction

Wow - this blogger is doing a series on everything she's learned about making money from her blog in 7 years of blogging!  Sharing ways you can monetize a blog with ads, sponsorships, and affiliate ads.  Great way to work from home and only be online a few hours a day!  She even lays out the process for beginners.  Tons of ideas on how to make money from your website!

I am so excited to start a new series on the blog today!

Of all of the questions I get from blog readers, the most asked is definitely about blog monetization.   I've had a ton of emails about it, mostly asking how the heck you get started making money off of a blog.  A couple of years ago, I did do a smaller post going over the very basics of how I monetized, but that doesn't even start to scratch the surface of how I do it (plus it's pretty outdated now).  The world of blog monetization is a huge one and one that can be a little overwhelming when you first dive into it.  There is just SO much to learn.

But let me tell you...once you do figure it out, it is an absolutely amazing source of income.  I've thought about doing the income reports that I love reading on other blogs like this one, but yeesh...I don't know if I'm ready for that just yet.  I will tell you that the revenue I've made from my blog has been an absolute blessing to our family, and has now replaced the income I made as a teacher.  All while I get to stay home with my babies and can work on my own schedule, maybe 10-15 hours a week.  It really is the best of both words and I'm absolutely blown away every day that this has fallen into my lap!  Plus, the world of blogging professionally really does fascinate me.  Noah can tell you I'm a huge dork in this department.  So the work I do have to do is interesting and really fulfilling to me.  I'm telling y' couldn't be a better set-up for our family!

So, for those of you that want to jump into this realm, I am going to attempt to make that learning curve a little bit less steep with this blog series!  Over the next couple of months, I'm hoping to post once a week (maybe once every two weeks, we'll see how it goes) about "monetization for dummies," if you will.  I want to look at both the big picture of establishing a money-making blog and break that big picture down into easy-to-digest parts.  Not only am I doing this for the people that want to make money off of a blog themselves, but so I have a little bit of accountability with my readers.  I know, as a blog reader, I like for there to be honestly and transparency in this department...I hope this series establishes a little bit of that between the two of us!

Without further ado, let's get started!

I think blog monetization can a very tricky subject to navigate as a blogger.  Many people would like that extra little stream of income (or even to blog for money full-time), but they either a) don't want to alienate their readers or b) don't know where to start.  I get that, and I still often struggle with both things after 7 years of doing this.  For problem A, I wish I could give you a magic formula of how much money you can make with your blog without driving away readers, but there just isn't one.    There's a very fine line there that differs with each and every blog.  It's a balance you have to find yourself, usually involving lots of trial and error.

I will reiterate something that I put in my last post on monetization that I think bears repeating.  Monetizing your blog means you using the opportunity to enhance the quality of your blog, not deplete it. I think it is the blogger's responsibility to find opportunities that...

1) ...don't waste your time as a blogger. - Choose opportunities to share things with your readers that are relevant to you and your lifestyle. Don't promote a product that you wouldn't personally use, or that you don't know the first thing about. I probably get 3-4 requests a week (*more like 3-4 requests a day now*) to promote people and products that aren't relevant to me or my readers - I respectfully decline. Also make sure you put an appropriate value on your time...don't accept opportunities that pay so little that they aren't worth the effort. Only you can put a value on your time and energy!

2) ...don't waste your readers' time. - It is silly to post about things that aren't relevant to your readers. Choose products and promotions that you think they would love. I usually try to do promotions that include a giveaway for my readers - an added bonus! Also choose wisely - even if every post is a relevant review, that still means every post is a review...nobody wants to read that.

Now, as for problem B...I can definitely help with that!  In my opinion, there are four big ways with which you can make money off of a blog.  They are...
  1. Ad Revenue
  2. Affiliate Marketing
  3. Sponsored Content
  4. Product/Service Sales
If you take nothing else from this series, remember these four things.  Most full-time bloggers recognize these as the "big four" when it comes to making money off of a blog.  I'm planning on doing a full post about each one of these, including resources I use to maximize my revenue.  But today, let's take a look at what each one means:

1.  Ad Revenue - Simply put, these are displayed graphics or words that make money each time they are viewed by a reader.  Sometimes, they make money each time they are clicked...we'll go into more detail on that later.  On my blog, I have display ads...
  • On my sidebar (graphics that vary in size)
  • On my blog post pictures and graphics (appearing at the bottom of select images within a blog post)
  • Ads within select popular blog posts (like this one)
Many bloggers also utilize resources that turn the actual words in their posts into ads.  For example, you might see a word within a sentence linked to a certain company.  Sometimes this is automatically done by an ad company; sometimes a blogger might sell that link to the company directly and install it themselves.

As of right now, most every ad that is displayed on my blog is sourced through an ad company.  I'll list those out and discuss each one in another post.  There are also many bloggers out there that sell their own display advertising through a company like Passionfruit ads.  I did this for awhile, but honestly found that the time that had to be put into it wasn't worth the money made from it.  That being said, there are many bloggers that have mastered making money through this...I'm just not one of them!

2.  Affiliate Marketing - Through this revenue stream, bloggers link to a certain company and/or product within a blog post.  If the reader clicks on the link and then buys something through that company, the blogger is paid a commission, usually somewhere between 1-10%.

You will occasionally see graphic ads on a blog sidebar that are linked to an affiliate link.  For those, same concept...if a reader clicks on it and buys something, the blogger gets paid.  This is different than the traditional display ad that pays a blogger when a reader views it or simply clicks on it.

Affiliate ads are great for bloggers that frequently discuss products.  I've always advised that a blogger doesn't talk about products just so they can use affiliate links; instead, seamlessly integrate the affiliate link if you just so happen to be talking about a product.

3.  Sponsored Content - This involves a blogger publishing content on their blog and/or social media that is paid for by a company.  This can be done in so many different ways; a review of a product, a how-to post that shows the product integrating into use in a project or recipe, a lifestyle post that demonstrates the product in use, etc.  The possibilities for a sponsored post are really endless!

Most of my sponsored content is through blog posts (like this one).  However, more and more, I'm integrating sponsored content into my social media.  Through my ad companies I get offers to publish content to social media (mostly Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest).  Here's an example of that in action.  Sometimes, these campaigns are related to my sponsored blog posts.  Many times, when you get an offer for a sponsored blog post, there are social media shares required as well.

4.  Product/Service Sales - Many bloggers have found that they have a product within their niche that is sellable.  This could be an online course, an eBook, printables, consulting...again, the possibilities are absolutely endless with this one, and the product or service that you sell would really depend on your area of expertise and your blog niche.

I'll admit that this is the weakest of my blog monetization areas.  Many of you know that I used to design custom blogs, so maybe you could consider that my area of product sales that stems from my blog...I think that's really a weak correlation though.  I've thought about jumping into the world of printable sales, but with a newborn that just hasn't happened yet.  Maybe sometime soon!  There are many bloggers that have been extraordinarily successful within this realm though.  It's definitely something to consider if you have something to offer that you feel readers would pay to have.

And that is a very summarized, very overall look at how to make money off of a blog.  Over the next couple of months, I'm going to go into further detail on how to set up a monetized blog, how to utilize each of the "big 4" areas of blog monetization, and how to keep track and optimize it all!

So tell me...what questions do you have about blog monetization?  Leave them in the comments below and I'll make sure to address them in future posts!

Check out the next parts of this series here!

The Basics of Blog Monetization: How to (Frugally) Start a Money-Making Blog
The Basics of Blog Monetization: Using Ads on Your Blog
The Basics of Blog Monetization: Using Affiliate Links on Your Blog 
The Basics of Blog Monetization: Creating Sponsored Content
The Basics of Blog Monetization: Selling Your Own Product(s)

(If this post interested you, you might also like this post about promoting your blog!)