How to Generate Income from Your Blog
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If you are a serious blogger, then your goal is to get and grow blogging income. I once had a boss who said, “The job’s not finished until you cash the check.”
Most of us don’t use checks much anymore because bank transfers and debit cards are more convenient. But the same principle applies. The job is not finished until you can go to your local cash machine and withdraw the money you earned.
Profit from Your Creativity
You deserve to get paid for your creativity, time, and dedication to blogging. Your blog has the power to give you the financial freedom to live life on your terms.
Once you have attracted blog visitors, and keep them coming back for more, you can build an income. It may only be an extra one or two thousand dollars per month to augment your existing income, or you may reach for the stars and make tens of thousands of dollars per month.
Success is not guaranteed to anyone. It takes a plan, and it takes tenacity. Sometimes you have to rework your plan and double your perseverance, but hundreds of thousands of people create income from their blog, and you can do it too.
In this step, I’m going to discuss the three best ways to make money with your blog. I expand on some of them, and add others, in Step 8, but these are the income fundamentals that are important to you now.
You see ads on almost every blog. Bloggers recognize quickly that they are an easy way to get income flowing into their accounts. The first thing many new bloggers do is open an account at Adsense and festoon their site with ads.
Is that a wise move? No. The mistake is that new blogger’s reason that the more ads they have, the more money they’ll make. Wrong.
The reality is, site visitors have limited tolerance for ads. If they see too many, they’ll think the site is spammy. Your post content loses credibility, no matter how good it is. You want to have ads, but you want to strike a balance. Site visitors should see them, but you don’t want to be in their face.
I stressed in Step 3 that you want a minimalist blog. Don’t waste your time making your blog look flashy. People are there for the content, not an art show or fancy functionality. The same applies to ad placement. Start with a minimalist approach and then test over time to determine how to get the most income from the least number of ads.
Adsense offers these different types of ads. But they are not alone. These are the industry standards, and all ad networks use them.
One of the most common ways of making money with ads are advertisers who pay based on CPM. That acronym stands for “Cost per Mille (thousand).” When the ad loads 1,000 times (each is an “impression”), you get the agreed fee, usually every month. Third-party software tracks the impressions.
People don’t have to click on the ad for you to get paid, it just must appear so people have the choice to do so.
Advertisers want to pay you as small a CPM fee as possible. Google Adwords makes advertisers bid on them, and you get a cut of that through Adsense. What is a reasonable CPM rate? That’s difficult to say, but $5.00 is not unusual. You want to reassess your site or your advertisers to improve your CPM rate.
The key to making money with CPM is to have a high volume of site visitors. If you have 1,500 site visitors per day, and the ad was presented to all of them, you’d make about $225 per month at the $5 rate. If you were showing three ads at the same time, that would add up to $675 per month from this one type of ad.
This acronym stands for “Pay Per Click.” You don’t get paid for impressions. You only get paid when someone clicks on the ad image or link and go to the site to see the advertisers offer. Your visitor does not need to buy anything when they go there, but you get paid for sending them.
PPC rates are all over the place. Advertisers bid on them on Adwords, and you get a portion of that money when you display them on your blog via Adsense. But the same applies to all ad networks.
What is the PPC range? They can be as low as a few dollars up to $100 or more per click for some high-flying specialties. For example, lawyers are willing to pay a lot of money for leads, and the same is true for people who sell high-ticket items.
The key to making money with PPC is contextualized ads. If your blog is on legal matters (you need specialized expertise or licensing for that), people are more inclined to click on lucrative PPC ads that link to lawyers who might help them solve their legal problem.
When the topic of your blog and your PPC ads coincide, you get a high Click Through Rate (CTR). Advertisers love that, and it also means a big payday for you.
This principle applies to any topic, of course, and that’s another reason to choose your topic carefully in the first place. It’s a great thing when the topic that interests you is also one that brings in high PPC rates.
CPA stands for Cost Per Action (or Acquisition). Some bloggers love CPA because of the possibility of high payouts. But CPA can be problematic.
With CPA, you only get paid when your site visitors click on the ad and takes the action the advertiser desires. That may mean buying something, or it may be another action like participating in a poll or submitting a form.
With CPA advertising, you don’t get paid for impressions like CPM or a fixed price for clicks like PPC. If people may click on the CPA link on your site yet take no action. You get nothing.
Some CPA advertisers want to run ads that are not appealing because they want brand exposure that comes through free impressions. Verify that CPA ads are offered from a reliable source because CPA fraud has been an issue at times.
Typically, these are ads you sell yourself. People have a compatible product or service they want to advertise on an ad hoc basis, and you can accommodate them if you wish.
How much should you charge for a 125 x 250-pixel display ad? As much as your traffic will allow. Low traffic sites (100 visitors per day) should get at least $50 per month for an ad this size. You don’t get a CPM, PPC, or CPA fee. You just rent the space like it was real estate.
Collect payment in advance. Charge an extra fee if your advertiser wants you to create the graphic ad image. Always reserve the right to not run ads that are ugly or link to a site that has content you don’t like.
You can make an excellent basic income by running CPM, PPC, or CPA ads on your blog if you have high, relevant traffic. Without traffic, ads are merely decoration.
When most new bloggers think of ad networks, they think of Google Adsense. No problem with that. Adsense is a good place to start for three reasons:
- Easy to display ads
- Reliable payments
- Low entry barrier
The low entry barrier is important to new bloggers. You can open an Adsense account with almost no traffic if you have a dozen or so blog posts in place and have met the Adsense legal requires for a Privacy Statement and Terms of Service.Just keep in mind that as your traffic grows, you want to drop Adsense like a hot potato. Once you reach the minimum site visitors (it varies) required by other ad networks, you want to jump to them because they all pay is far better. Here are some of the best opinions, in my view.
Media.net. Advertisers who want to escape Google and Google search use Media.net. Their contextual ads run on Bing and Yahoo, so they offer an excellent source of income at higher rates to you.
Infolinks.com. This is a trusted ad network that specializes in ads that show between the text, not in your blog sidebar.
Mediavine.com. This is where you want to be when you reach 30,000 page views per month. They have quality advertisers and won’t load you down with too many ads.
When you are ready to jump from Adsense to a better-paying company, be sure to do your homework. Get the best fit for your content and traffic.
Being an affiliate is my favorite way of turning my blogs into money machines. I choose what I want to promote, and I choose products or programs that I know will help my site visitors and will also bring me a good payday.
Making money via an affiliate is different than just running ads. There may be some confusion about this since they sometimes appear to be the same. They can be a graphic like an ad, or they might be a link.
The big difference is that affiliates only pay when you make a sale. But the commission for sending buyers can be substantial in most cases. One-click and one purchase can bring you $25, $50, $100, or sometimes far more.
How it Works
When you sign up as an affiliate with a company or network, you get a unique link, and that takes care of all the accounting, You can go to a dashboard and see how you are doing at any time.
Affiliate marketing is simple. You promote the product by placing an ad on your site, writing a post about it, or sending the link in your email newsletter.
In most cases, you’ll get paid on a thirty-day schedule when you meet the minimum payout amount. Most send your money to your bank or PayPal account.
You want to select products you think your audience will buy. The seller usually provides images and links to you and delivers the product for you. Your only role is to send the person a paying customer. You have no other responsibility.
Best Affiliate Programs
There are a vast number of affiliate programs available to bloggers. There are usually no special requirements for most of them. You want to pick products that that will appeal to your blog fans.
The Amazon Affiliate program is available to most people who have a blog presence. They will visit your site to make sure they want to be associated with it, including quality blog posts.
The amount of money you get varies widely. Rather than calling it a commission, they pay “advertising fees.” It’s still based on a percentage of the sale, so that’s good.
One of the smallest fees is for books, so you generally want to add products to your blog that sell at higher prices. The only real benefit of selling other people’s books, at least over the long haul, is that the buyer you send to Amazon to buy a book may also buy a computer or camera while they are there. You’ll get a fee from that sale too when they on the same visit after clicking your link to see the book you displayed..
Be sure to read all the rules associated with the Amazon Affiliate program. There are many of them, and they change. One fundamental rule is that they require you to inform people that you are an Amazon Affiliate. As you see, I post that notice on every page. Blogs require a number of different kinds of legal notices, and I discuss key ones in this Step 7 Bonus Content.
This site offers a wide range of affiliate offers from mostly small to mid-sized companies. You can pick products you want to promote from categories like fashion, home and garden, family-oriented products, sports, and many more. The variety is excellent.
The companies you sign up with via ShareASale.com offer resources to help rigger sales. For example, most have banner and text links, coupon deals, and even videos that sell products if you want to use them.
Even though ShareASale.com is home to over 3,900 affiliate programs, you don’t want to hitch yourself to one star. Different affiliate programs meet different blogger needs.
This is an affiliate aggregator who accepts all sorts of products from individuals and companies. Sign up (it’s free) and explore all the products they offer by searching different keywords in your blog niche.
Generally, you want to pick products that offer:
- Something useful to your site visitors. This is always your first concern.
- A high commission. Is it less than $20? Think twice.
- A “Gravity” between 20 and 100. This metric is unique to Clickbank. It designates how well a particular product is selling. Catch the wave while you can.
Bloggers can make serious money via Clickbank. The trick is to pick offers that are relevant to your audience and to replace offers when sales falter.
You want to continually review which affiliate programs give you the best income. Sometimes you want to switch the way you sell (blog post link instead of a banner-style ad, for example), but often you’ll find that products go stale. Don’t be afraid to swap out one affiliate offer for a completely different one.
Should You Pay to Join an Affiliate Program?
Most affiliate programs are free to join, but others want to charge you a fee. Sometimes it is a one-time fee, but others want to charge you monthly. They justify these fees by suggesting you will get extra training and support.
Some outfits like Wealthy Affiliates keep you at a low commission until you pay up, and only then you can make more from each sale. Some people find value in companies that do business this way, but I’m not one of them. My advice is to NEVER pay to become an affiliate. Reputable companies should be able to make enough money off the sales of their product or service, so to me, it’s a giant red flag if they want to make their salespeople a profit center. Avoid such companies, no matter how appealing their sales pitch may be.
It’s okay if you disagree with me. I do ask that you avoid paying to joint any affiliate for at least a year after you start blogging. Once you get some experience, I think you’ll likely agree with my perspective. New bloggers think that paying to be an affiliate anoints them with money-attracting magical powers, but that’s not the case. Companies that charge you to be an affiliate want to make money off your inexperience, in my view, and that’s not nice.
Selling Your Own Products and Services
If you have a blog that reaches a broad audience, you can offer your own products or services. I discuss this in greater detail, in a slightly different context in Step 8, but this is a useful introduction.
The first fundamental principle is that you must know your audience to determine what they might buy. You may think you can sell icicles to Inuits, but they would probably prefer insulated undies. Know your audience and offer them useful products and services.
What are products? They are tangible items that you sell. The items can be a product that you’ll need to ship, or it could be something in digital format that people can download, like an ebook or something that streams like an online course.
Books are usually easy to sell. Also, people are eager to take online courses, so if you know how to produce them, you can support your blog, and perhaps your family, by offering relevant, helpful, unusual instructional materials.
Personally, I offer products like my books, my online courses, and merchandise from my own designs, and you can do this sort of thing too.
A few of my books about writing
Some of my online courses
A sample of my growing line of “Merch” designs
Should you sell third-party products? Well, you can. If your blog is about how to paint landscapes, you could sell starter art kits with paint tubes, basic brushes, artboards, and an instructional booklet you created.
In some cases, you might be able to arrange for drop shipping by a supplier for a product like this, but you’ll make the most money if you assemble the components yourself, box, and ship them. But that takes time and capital investment. It’s like having a shop. Do you want to get involved with products that need to be shipped? Only you can decide.
Am I prejudiced in favor of offering hassle-free digital products? Yes. I have made a good living off my ebooks and courses. If people want to order one of my paperback books, they can order them through Amazon from my sites. I can double-dip that way. I get paid the usual percentage for my book, plus the Amazon Associates affiliate commission.
There was a time when I shipped my own paperback books. Remember, I started my first blog in 1999 and sold lots of then through it. It was crazy back in the day:
- Book buyers sent their credit card via email. It was the only way back then since there were no secure shopping carts. I shudder when I think about the security issues. But people were unconcerned back then.
- I processed the credit card manually. I completed a paper credit card slip and had to call the credit card clearance center to get an approval number to add to it.
- Each day I had to go to the bank and deposit these slips as if they were checks.
- Then, I stuck the book in a jiffy bag along with the credit card receipt and put a name and address label on it.
- Each day I took stacks of paperback book-filled jiffy bags to my local post office for postage and shipping.
- Remember, I had to have a garage filled with boxes of books and jiffy bags. That required a significant investment.
- Later, when Adobe released PDF (Portable Document Format), I used it to deliver ebooks via email. However, that took time to catch on. People wanted paperbacks.
So, today, do I want to deliver everything digitally? Absolutely. Other than that, am I happy to pay Amazon a percentage to print the paperback and ship it. Some people criticize Amazon for taking a cut, but not me. Their warehouses are a godsend to anyone selling physical products, and their Whispernet system of delivering ebooks is a modern marketing miracle.
Make a list of digital products you can sell. It could be an ebook, outlines, plans, diagrams, shortcuts to accomplish a goal (“cheat sheets”), audio files, online video courses, software, and almost anything you can package for download.
If you have a physical product, and it sells in any volume, my advice is to find someone to handle the order fulfillment. That’s a headache you don’t want.
These kinds of products are the Holy Grail of income. When they’re related to the topic on your blog, people will want to buy. You have built a relationship with them, and they trust you. And, of course, this kind of income is passive income. Once you create it, you don’t need to do anything more. People buy online with a credit card and download it without additional intervention from you. You make money as you sleep.
I love selling the products I create. Most of what I offer are training products (books and online courses) that enhance the lives of people, and that brings me a lot of personal satisfaction.
What are services? They are usually the freelance jobs you do for a fee. You may offer to consult in your area of expertise or other kinds of services. It depends on your niche.
- Substantive editing (reading and reporting on first drafts)
- Copy editing, which is line-by-line editing for spelling, punctuation, and about 50 other things to make a manuscript readable and marketable.
- Bookcraft, which is transforming completed manuscripts into books
- Ghostwriting blog posts, scripts, and books
Yes, passive income from creating a product and selling it many times is preferable. But you have to do what you love. I have been doing freelance work for some clients for years, and they provide a steady income. New clients that come to me via my blog keep me fresh, so I enjoy them too.
As you see, deciding to provide a service is a personal thing. It depends on the skills you have and how you want to use your time. Personally, I like writing and maintaining my own blogs, writing 2-3 books and writing and producing 2-3 online courses each year. But I also enjoy interacting with aspiring writers, and the services I offer helps me keep a foot in the real writing world. The income is great too.
You’ll have to think about the kinds of services you want to offer in your niche if any. You may be able to make enough money off products and ad income to satisfy you. We all have different skills, motivations, and goals.
Step 5 Action Plan
Relevance is the first rule of offering your own products or services. Offer them only if they are relevant to the mission of your blog.
The second rule and the only other important one is that you don’t want to seem like your blog exists only to promote your products or services. Balance is required between telling people what you have to offer and what is known as the “hard sell.” Offer your products and services by highlighting benefits and giving a call to action. You don’t want to sell or over-sell in any way that others might consider offensive.
- Visit blogs that are similar to the one you intend to create. How have they monetized them? Make a list of what you see. If that blogger had success with certain products, you can too.
- Visit the affiliate sites I listed. Think about what companies or products might make a good match for the topic you intend to blog about. While you’re visiting these sites, be sure to read their rules.
- Make a list of products you might be able to sell. Digital products are the best. However, you may craft products, and you can sell them if shipping does not consume too much of your time.
- Make a list of services that you might offer to others. If you have professional-level skills, you can make money doing many different things related to the topic of your blog. With your topic knowledge, you can at least receive pay as a personal consultant from people who want to pick your brain.
Keep the central focus of your blog in mind when you write posts. Selling your own products and services is important, but secondary. Follow “best practices” for attracting people to your blog.
Remember, the more traffic you have, the higher your income is likely to be. Getting traffic takes additional work on your part, but it could be a good use of your time. Traffic-building involves research and writing, two skills all writers already have. The products you offer must help people solve the problem they came to your site to get answered. You increase income when your ads, affiliate offers, and products are congruous with your topic.
There are two keys to receiving an income from your blog. One is the site visitors (traffic). The more traffic you have, the higher your potential for making money. Second, a successful blog requires superior content in the form of your blog posts. Visibility for your writing comes through site promotion. Never pass up an opportunity to promote your blog in ways large and small.