Lets be honest, most of us are interested in earning a little extra income from our blogs!
In this part of the 10 step guide to building a blog I will cover the best ways to monetise your website and look at how to maximise your blogging revenue.
We’ll discuss different options and look at how to get the most from them.
My most successful site was actually created from passion rather than a lust for money! But even if you are creating a community site for fun you can be forgiven for wanting it to pay for itself and even if you are not keen on pushing ads down people’s throats there are ways to set up revenue streams without inconveniencing your visitors.
Let’s start off by looking at the different options that anyone can adopt to start earning from their blog.
The Adsense network will be familiar to nearly all web users. This is the advertising network run by Google and used by webmasters all over the world, you’ll recognise the “ads by Google” logo from thousands of sites.
The system works by automatically generating highly targeted adverts based on the content displayed on your web site. So if your site is about blogging, the system will pick out adverts that your readers will be interested in reading and hopefully clicking on.
The first rules of adsense:
- Blend your adverts in with your site. No, I don’t mean camouflage them! No, I mean position them in prominent places within your site and make them feel like part of your content. You’re not allowed to trick readers into thinking it is your content of course, but by clever integration you can make them harder to miss.
- Experiment, test and change. Small changes in the appearance, size and positioning can have large impacts on your revenue. As a rule there is no “right answer” to this so what works for me will probably not work for you. This is why you need to keep trying different combinations – if things improve, keep the new idea, else try something else!
Many web stores around the Internet operate what is known as an Affiliate scheme. This is a simple model which enables webmasters to earn a small percentage commission by sending customers over to these stores.
The more targeted your website, the more quality traffic you will get and the more highly targeted traffic you can send over to an affiliate partner the higher the conversion of customers into sales and the greater your potential income.
Smaller commerce sites do not have the resources to micro manage 1000s of smaller affiliate partners and therefore they will hire the services of an affiliate network to manage these relationships for them.
Larger sites such as Amazon and eBay will be able to set these schemes up for themselves.
In the following section I will cover some of the larger players in this space, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Chosing an affiliate partner is something that gets easier with experience, you will want to know:
- How well your affiliate converts
- How financially sound they are
- What facilities they provide; product feeds, widgets, etc
- How much commission they pay
Initially I would advice that you stick to some of the bigger names in your market place. Often the big names will convert well so it should give you a good idea of what can work. As your site grows and your understanding grows you can then look at striking up some more specialised relationships that should give you a better deal.
In the meantime, check out the following:
- Amazon: A great place to start. It’s actually where I started! The great thing about the Amazon Associates scheme is that you don’t have to work to sell the store’s brand. Everyone already knows who they are and the vast majority are happy to buy from them. They have also mastered the art of “cross-sell” so your site may be about flared trousers but you will see sales for books, CDs and movies. They also provide a wide range of widgets which will feed product information onto your site. This is ideal for anyone with a smaller technical budget and those looking for quick set up times. There are a couple of downsides; big ticket electronic items have their commission capped fairly low compared to other stores, only sales made that day will count (other schemes include sales for weeks or months after), if you use Amazon outside of your location you have to sign up again and they will pay you with a foreign currency cheque. It is disappointing to see Amazon behind the pack in terms of geo location but hopefully they will catch up sooner or later.
- Ebay: The worlds biggest online auction site has a well developed affiliate scheme that anyone can sign up to. I have found that ebay revenue streams do not necessarily work well on all types of site. You need to think about what sorts of things people buy from online auctions and what sort of people make these purchases. Unless your site is designed with this in mind then be prepared to see lower returns. I would actually go as far as saying that you should specifically build your site around ebay if this is something you are interested in exploiting.
- Affiliate Window: Affiliate Window is one of the larger UK networks and a good starting point for those in Britain. Many of the high street brands operate through the AW network. A centralised administration area provides access to all the voucher codes, deals, product feeds you need and some basic widget technology can help the beginner along. Hopefully some more sophisticated Amazon style widgets will follow.
- Commission Junction: This is the largest affiliate network in North America and manages the schemes of almost half of the marketing schemes for the top 500 web retailers worldwide. They manage the affiliate partners of over 1000 sites around the world, making this a great network to sign up to when starting out.
There are obviously many many more schemes out there run by a range of affiliate management companies. As you get more experienced you will be better placed to be more selective over the schemes you promote. As your sites get bigger you will be in a position to approach program managers for better deals and you’ll find it easier to get accepted onto different affilite schemes.
SkimLinks and Viglinks
Does signing up to affiliate networks sound like a pain? Want to spend more time blogging than worrying about optimising your income streams? No problem. There is a new breed of affiliate network that will do all this for you and do it very well.
There, is a down side, they will take a cut of your profit. But weigh this up against the time and effort that goes into micro managing all of this and you may find signing up to one of these sites frees you right up.
Once your site gets to a certain level of success you will find you are in a position to sell advertising slots on your site directly.
This isn’t something I have done as I was not interested in managing these relationships however I find from time to time I get emails through requesting such opportunities!
How much should I charge for a blog advert? On a new blog I would look at how much the space could make from adsense, then add a fair bit on, see what they say. Remember that sending traffic somewhere else may also impact your affiliate revenue so make sure you factor that in. There is no point taking ads on if you will be worse off. It is likely that the advertiser may not think it is worth the money to advertise on your site. So be it. You need to make decisions that make business sense.
The good thing about having a forum is that it gives your visitors a good opportunity to speak out against things they don’t like on your site. And boy that’s just what they do! An early lesson I learnt was not to over force the commercial side of your site upon them at every opportunity. After a point it will make little difference to you users and may have a negative effect. So approach this next section with caution. Optimise, but don’t patronise.
Google Optimiser: I have spoken previously about the importance of testing. Don’t rely on your own experiences of using the net when making key layout decisions. For a start, if you are reading this site you are likely to be a more savvy user. You probably have a fair understanding of how sites are monetised and, if you have read through this article, are now aware of Google’s adsense and how it works. Google optimiser can be used to perform real tests with real users. It allows you to try different combinations of content and different styles of buttons or anything else and see which ones give the best results.
Ad Space: One of the things that you will want to test out is the size and position of any advertisements that you carry. There are a range of standard advert sizes and there is no real need to deviate from these. By designing your site around the standards it will make it much easier to swap in new adverts when required. Ad placement will come from experimentation but there are a few obvious starting points. Think about where your visitors are most likely to look. This is a prime spot for placing ads! But, you need to balance placement with usability – don’t force adverts on your users if you are looking to build a site that attracts long term use. However if your strategy is to get people in and out of your site straight away then perhaps this isn’t a problem. But remember Search Engines will favour genuine usable content sites every time!
Link words: I am not a big fan of those affiliate schemes that force little pop-ups when your mouse moves past certain words . I don’t think many of your visitors will like this either! However I don’t think there is anything wrong with more subtle schemes. For example the use of standard links to connect people up to Amazon for example. I would suggest formatting them so that your users understand that they are auto generated links and not part of the article. Users can find it frustrating to click through links only to discover they weren’t actually a hot lead on a new piece of technology.
Revenue vs Usability
Never forget that, if you are interested in building a long term sustainable site, you need to keep the interests’ of your visitors at heart.
I accept that it is possible to build sites that are all about getting people to click in and click out and that these can have periods of success. However I have always built sites that people want to come back to again and again. Blogercise is all about building long term sustainable sites.
The sites that have become successful are providing consistent income month after month and in most cases are seeing slow but steady growth. This to me is far more valuable than a quick win that makes a few dollars and then sinks to the bottom of the search rankings as soon as Google works out you are playing the system.
Got your money making plans in place? Now learn how to grow you blog to the next level!