Business of Blogging is a series we’ve got going on the blog that skims what’s covered in our Business of Blogging workshops we hold online and at select yoga retreats. In the first post, I talked about my background in blogging and my projected income this year from blogging. In the second installment, I talked about how to start a blog and build readership. Today, we’re talking about how to make money money from your blog.
How to make money from your blog
First things first? Forget about making money. Ok, correction. Don’t forget about it, but don’t make it the your priority because it just won’t happen right way. It’s not how things work, unless you have some fantastic connections like a famous best friend who can send serious traffic your way, or luck is in your favor and you miraculously get featured on BuzzFeed or something right off the bat and your traffic goes through the roof. Otherwise, it’s a natural, slow, organic process - and honestly, that’s better because these people are the ones who will check in every day, not just once from a referral link.
When it comes to figuring out what to focus on, I would suggest the following, in this order:
Content - Your blog is only going to make money if you’re putting out great content consistently because the traffic is what’s important. If you’re not writing good stuff, or publishing often enough, people won’t be checking in on your site.
Creating a community - You want to create meaningful connections because in my opinion, at the end of the day, a great blog is about the community of people it’s brought together. So, create original content that helps bring people together in some way.
Monetization - Lastly, when the first two are taken care of, you can hone in on a monetization strategy. This is where this blog post comes in.
Let’s say you’re putting out great content, you blog community is thriving, and you’re ready to monetize. How do you even get started? Here are a few ways.
Ad Networks - How do they work?
If your blog is bringing in consistent traffic, you might want to consider joining a few ad networks to get the ball rolling. Ad networks are companies that will provide you with an ad tag (this is just HTML code) that you’ll plug into a space on your site like the sidebar. For you, there is no other work involved. The network will take care of what ads to run on your site, track everything, and pay you once you hit their payout threshold (usually around $100). Easy enough. Ad networks to look into include google adsense. At first, making money this way will be painfully slow. Don’t be discouraged if you’re just a little blog - I seriously remember the days when I would check into my account and see I made a whopping 3 cents. A good day was more than 5 cents. Seriously. But hey, 3 cents here and 5 cents there, and one day (maybe a year or two later), you’ll get your first check. Haha, it’s kind of funny thinking about it, but it really is such a grind, and that’s why monetization shouldn’t be a priority. Don’t quit your day job because it ain’t easy making that first paycheck!
Sponsored Posts - What are they and how do they work?
Sponsored posts are when companies who have a bit of an advertising budget decide to branch out from traditional advertising in magazines and tv commercials and use blogs to get the word out. This can be a great opportunity to make some money, but be sure that the company you choose to work with is in line with what you write about. You wouldn’t believe some of the companies that reach out to our little yoga blog. I had a casino, of all businesses, email us a few months back. They had a huge budget, and with all YBC’s current expenses (office space, retreat travel, employee pay, etc), it was really, really hard to turn it down but at the end of the day, there was no way I could write about slot machines - it just had nothing to do with anything YBC is about (although don’t get me wrong, I love a good night out at the casino but I hate gambling because I work too hard for my money, haha). I’m also pretty strict with what food companies I work with because I follow the GAPS diet, which has a lot of rules. I’ve had to turn down a number of small businesses that I would’ve liked to help, but it doesn’t make any sense for me to recommend a bar that I can’t eat and haven’t even tried, you know what I mean? Anyway, what I’m saying is, stick with what feels right and forget the money. You’ll make it if you continue to work hard.
How much to charge for your sponsored post?
Well, charge what you’re worth. Do you have a lot of traffic coming to your site daily? Are your posts resulting in sales? If so, you can charge a little more because you know that you’re truly helping a brand gain exposure and drive sales, and their investment in your blog will pay off tenfold. If you’re not bringing in big traffic, however, keep the price on the lower end. Remember that even if you’re not driving sales, you’re still helping the brand out because every time you link someone’s company on your site, you’re helping with their search engine optimization.
Once you decide what you’re worth, you still may need to adjust your price depending on what kind of company you’re working with. Clearly Nike is going to have a far bigger budget than the little mom and pop brand you’re trying to help gain exposure. Adjust accordingly.
So let’s talk numbers because, to be honest, when I was first starting out, I googled like crazy and no one would just give me a straight answer as to how much to charge. If you’re a smaller blog, getting just a trickle of traffic, you can charge $15 - $100. If you’re middle of the road, you can charge between $100 - $500, and if you’re pulling in big numbers, you can charge $600+ depending on the company’s budget, the coverage you’ll do for them, etc. I know of bloggers who charge $5,000 just for a mention, not a full post, on a product. So the potential is crazy.
Now, finding companies to work with can be a full time job in itself, so there are companies out there that do the search for you (and take a small commission or charge the brands that come on board). TapInfluence is one such program. I've worked with them a couple times and have been very happy - their platform is very user-friendly, the brands they work with are extremely reputable, and I was always paid on time.
Lastly, be sure to disclose that posts are sponsored. Readers will understand that you need to earn a living, and it also follows the Federal Trade Commission guidelines.
Affiliate Programs - How do they work?
Many companies have affiliate programs you can apply to. An affiliate program is offered by either a blog network or a brand itself that gives you, the blogger, a small commission when your readers click and/or buy a product you’ve linked to. For example, if I’m an arts and crafts blog and I recommend my favorite glue when I'm show you how to make my latest DIY project, I can create a special link through the affiliate program that will track when my readers click and purchase the recommended glue. The commission is super small - usually 5% - 15%, but over time it can add up. Affiliate programs can be kind of tough because they’re usually concentrated on a specific product. For example, unless I’m writing about glue all the dang time, or unless my blog post is going to convert into thousands of glue sales, then I may never reach the payout threshold with the glue company, so being a part of their affiliate program isn’t that enticing to me, see what I’m saying? Additionally, some ad networks will kick you out if you haven’t earned a commission within 60 days, so even if you earn $99 of your $100 payout threshold, you won’t get your money. Woof. Just be sure to read the fine print before you sign up.
Ad Space - How to sell ad space on the blog?
You can also sell ad space on your site but it’s kind of old school and I don’t recommend it because research is showing that readers sort of have tunnel vision when they visit blogs. They don’t really look at the sidebar much, and for that reason, it’s a better fit for a company that has a huge budget and is looking for maximum exposure even if it won’t result in any sales. They’re kind of like the company that is already doing extremely well and has the budget and desire to be around in any way possible, including hanging out in people's peripheral vision because they know the more they’re out there, the better. But if you’re primarily dealing with small businesses, I couldn't, in good conscience, offer someone sidebar ad space because it doesn’t drive much (any?) traffic their way.
Sell a product
If you’re willing to go the extra mile (and you totally should, it’s worth it!), you can make a killing taking your skills a step further and selling a product you’ve created. Here’s what I’d do:
Figure out what you’re an expert in. Hint: This usually is what your blog is about. Are you awesome at styling and fashion advice? Arts and crafts? Photography?
Figure out a problem people have who are interested in this niche. If you’re a craft blog, I had this idea a couple years back, someone please do this - I love the idea of curating boxes for specific parties (take bridal showers, for example), in which you put all the items you need for a tablescape or decor or whatever. The hostess feels like she’s giving the party a DIY feel but your box made her life a million times easier by not having her run all over town getting the stuff she needs. TIP: If you’re not sure what problems people have in your niche, think as a beginner, not as the pro you are. What did you struggle with when you were first learning your craft?
Create a solution. Offer a webinar, e-book, DVD (related: here’s the process I went through to produce my own power yoga dvd), or curated party box as described above! :)
Sell your solution on your blog (and this is another reason why it’s important to have a strong readership), sit back and collect your check. But then get back to blogging to keep your community thriving!
I hope that helps to answer any questions you may have about making money via your blog. Please let me know down in the comments below if you have other questions, and don't forget I offer one to one Business of Blogging consults if you're looking to take your blog to the next level.
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