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Diversify Your Blogging Income with Secondary Money Earners

One of the lessons that I learned after a a year of blogging for an income was the danger of relying upon a single income source for your blog.

To that point I’d heavily focussed upon AdSense as a revenue stream on my blogs and was making what I thought was a reasonable level of income (enough to justify cutting back on other work a couple of days a week). I was incredibly optimistic about the growth of my blogs and was making all kinds of forecasts to my wife of the money that we’d be earning in a year’s time if the blogs continued to grow as they were.

The flaw in my ‘business’ (and I don’t think what I had back then truly was a business – but that’s a whole other debate) was that while things were on the up and up, it all hung largely on one company – Google.

Google was crucial to my income on two fronts:

  • They sent me traffic – I was lucky enough to have decent ranking in Google.
  • They gave me a way to earn money from the traffic with AdSense.

While I knew this at the time I was naively optimistic and made no real contingency plans for what I’d do if one or both of these elements was taken from me.

Of course in the lead up to Christmas 2004 when my AdSense earnings were approaching a level where I could go full time as a blogger the worst thing imaginable happened to me – I almost completely disappeared from the rankings at Google for each of my three (or was it four?) blogs.

My traffic dropped by two thirds and my income similarly disappeared. I learnt at that point the lesson that I talk about regularly here – diversification. I made a decision at that time to attempt to diversify in a number of ways.

  1. Firstly I’d attempt to build other types of traffic (largely through RSS, newsletters and building reader loyalty).
  2. Secondly I’d build new blogs on different domains (up to that point each blog was on the one domain) so that if one was hit by Google the others might stay strong
  3. Thirdly I’d find new income streams to supplement AdSense.

It’s this third point that I’d like to expand upon a little in this post.

The beauty of AdSense is that it’s a reasonably customizable advertising system that allows you to run it side by side other ad program. This means that you are not faced with the choice between it and another program (unless the other program is contextual – AdSense doesn’t allow contextual ads on the same page).

Over the last two years I’ve experimented with a large variety of direct income earning systems on my blogs, but as I reflected yesterday upon them I realized that I have three ‘tiers’ of programs that I use.

Tier 1 (the A-list) – two income sources sit above all others for me in terms of income levels. They will be no surprise to regular readers at all. Between them they account for anything between 60-90% of my income on any given day (depending upon many factors – they are usually pretty steady but the other tiers below can be quite varied from day to day) and are at a very similar level to one another.

  • AdSense – The popular contextual ad system. This is probably the most popular money maker in the blogging community at present. I’ve written extensively about it on this blog – you can find tips on how to optimize it on your blog here.
  • Chitika eMiniMalls (aff) – A non contextual, pay per click system that many bloggers find converts well on product related sites (note: by no means is the opinion about Chitika as positive as mine across the board. While it works very well for some bloggers it works poorly for others – largely depending upon topic and implementation. For more on Chitika you can read my review on it here and some optimization tips on it here).

Tier 2 (the B-list) - below these two primary sources of income from my blogs comes a range of medium level income earners that supplement AdSense and Chitika quite nicely. Between them they make up between 10%- 30% on any given day.

  • Text-Link-Ads (aff) – This text-link ad program has been a recent addition for me but is one that is steadily growing. I don’t foresee that it will ever reach my A-list (there is a ceiling really for it per blog as they limit how many ads each blog can sell) but it’s increasingly important as an income source on both my own blogs and b5′s. The beauty of it is that it’s a system that you can set up and leave to do it’s job. It does take a little while for them to sell the ads on your blogs (so far about half of the ads I could have on my blogs are sold and half are not) but overtime it does fill up. This month this program will earn me around $1000 across my own blogs.
  • Amazon Associates (not an aff link) – Despite the bad news for Amazon publishers from yesterday, this is and will continue to be a popular income source for bloggers. It is an affiliate program and not advertising so involves publishers earning a commission from purchases of customers that they refer to Amazon. I’ve reviewed Amazon here.
  • Consulting – I have very limited time for this at present but do pick up some consulting work if it’s worth my while. I tend not to talk about the people I’ve done this work for unless I’m also writing about the product and have a conflict of interests (in which case I disclose it). These jobs range from short 1-2 hour sessions through to longer ongoing associations. The income levels on these vary considerably also.
  • SixFigureBlogging – last year Andy and I ran did a live version of this course and had a fun time doing so. These days it’s a downloadable resource. The income from it was decent enough (especially from the live course – although it is split between two after expenses) and was a nice bonus to my year’s earnings last year. These days it’s slower – but in the second half of the year we’ll possibly do another live run of the course and there is the possibility of some other similar courses on other blogging topics.

Tier 3 (the C-list) – lastly comes a range of smaller programs that seemingly make very little when you look at them individually on a daily basis but which overtime do add up to a nice supplementary income. There are days when some of them actually earn enough to be on the B-list but mostly they earn less than a dollar (or a few dollars) per day range.

  • Clickbank – I have a love/hate relationship with this affiliate program. I dislike it because so many of it’s programs are junkie – but I love it because there are a few gems in it that actually can pay quite nice commissions. For example in comparison to Amazon paying 4-7% commission, some of Clickbanks can pay 50% or more. As a result some days this belongs in my B-list (in fact over the last 3 months the fortnightly cheques that they’ve sent me have increased significantly so it should really be up there). I’ve reviewed Clickbank here.
  • BlogAds – Some bloggers make ALOT of money with BlogAds (particularly some of the more popular political bloggers) but my experience with it is that it’s not a massive earner. I could probably do better with it if I gave it more prominent position on some of my blogs but this would mean moving other ads that pay more.
  • Adbrite (aff) – Similarly to BlogAds – this is a program I could probably do better with, but with my change in focus to Text-Link-Ads (above) I’m slowly moving away from this one.
  • ValueClick (aff – previously FastClick) – Once again, this one bubbles away at a few dollars per day but has at times earned me enough to be featured on the A-List as it is an impression based ad and if a blog suddenly gets a lot of traffic it can be quite lucrative.
  • Miscellaneous Affiliate programs – Over the years I’ve enrolled in quite a few affiliate programs – many of which I’ve forgotten I’ve signed up for. Occasionally I’ll get a cheque in the mail or a paypal payment for one but most of them don’t add up to much.

I still am largely dependent upon two income sources these days from my blogs but know that because they are spread out over a number of blogs and because I have a number of secondary income sources supplementing them that if AdSense and Chitika fell over for one reason or another that I’d have enough coming in to survive.

Keep in mind that different blogs and blogging styles are suited to different money making approaches. The above is my income mix but other Pro Bloggers will have a completely different one. What income streams do you focus upon? Do you concentrate predominantly upon one or have you diversified?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    Hey Darren,

    A question on Chitika, how much traffic do you think you need to justify putting them on your site?

    Thanks,
    Kevin

  2. Don M says:

    Great post. There have been a lot of similar posts today around the blogging world.

    One of my bigger moneymakers has completely dropped off the Google Search Results. Fortunately I am getting a lot of referrals that are converting via (gasp!) MSN – and they actually seem to have increased the last two weeks.

    I notice I am back in Google Blog Search … but still nothing from regular Google Search Results.

    In any business, diversification is important.

    DM

  3. Chi An says:

    Chitika and Text Link Ads have made about 30%-40% for me. Walmart affiliate under Linkshare also contribute a good money on last Xmas too. Well, I still looking someone can be my BlogAds sponsor

  4. Elamb says:

    Darren,

    “I was incredibly optimistic about the growth of my blogs and was making all kinds of forecasts to my wife of the money that we’d be earning in a year’s time if the blogs continued to grow as they were.”

    This paragraph describes where I am now. It has been a year and I’m now experimenting with diffent sources of income, different methods of getting unique visitors and (something you didn’t mention) different types of blogs.

    I’ve noticed that my blog provider periodically goes down, costing me a few dollars here and there. Worse, I wrote an article that got published to the front page of digg and ended having to purchase more bandwidth. So I’ve been looking into cheaper bandwidth on webservers using apps like drupal and expression engine.

  5. Jim Kukral says:

    Yeah, good stuff Darren, as usual. Man, I wish somone would come up with something new for bloggers. Wait… ok, not yet. Stay tuned.

  6. Paul Mernon says:

    Darren, thank you, it is a great post. I’m myself blogging less than four months, and I’ve put AdSense on my site only this month, but I’m already thinking about diversifying my income.

    I see two ways how several income streams can be applied to one’s blogging business:

    1) You have many blogs. Each blog is optimized for one particular (maybe two) income source (AdSense, for example). It can be called ‘one blog – one income source’ approach.

    2) You have one/many blogs. On each blog you use a variety of advertising systems/other income sources. This approach is ‘one blog – many income sources’.

    The question I’m thinking about is what are the pros and cons of these two approaches? Is one of them better of worse than another, and why? Is there a sense in building a blog optimized for one particular income source? How to determine the best way to monetize a blog based on its theme, content, post rate or other things?

  7. jim says:

    Kevin – While traffic does matter I think that your blog’s topic is a major factor in the success of Chitika (since it’s a “mini-mall” that features products). If your site is about products, like finding deals or reviews or something of that nature, then Chitika will work better than if you deal with information – such as How To’s.

  8. One thing everyone should keep in mind: don’t take Darren’s list as the last word – do what he did, experiment with every possible revenue source, and make your own list of what works for your site(s). (Darren said that at the end, but it bears repeating.)

    For example, AdSense is in my “B list” and FastClick/ValueClick and Amazon are “A list” for me, along with Casale Media and Tribal Fusion. Chitika doesn’t even make my “C list” yet.

    That’s for all of my sites together. For single sites, some make money from mostly AdSense and others have a different list. Take some time to try lots of different things and find out what works for your site.

  9. Brian L. says:

    Still Looking for a good alternative to Adsense. Can’t find any. Perhaps I have to wait till YPN and MSFT Adcenter come out of Beta? There is no decent alternative?

    Thanks,

    Brian

  10. Joshua K says:

    Maybe I misunderstand “contextual” ads, but Howard Forums has Google Ads and intellitxt..

  11. Darren Rowse says:

    Kevin – my theory with ads is to put them up early on. I don’t wait for the traffic to come first because with any level of traffic they’ll start to earn something and lots of ‘somethings’ add up to be a bigger something….

  12. Thanks for the tips, Michael! I applied for both Valueclick and Casale…. Never heard of Casale. We’ll see how the application processes go. I don’t see why Technosailor would “not” get approved but then I’ll have to determine which programs to actualy use and which onesto pass on. Now if I could get my other blogs to acceptable levels that would e grand.

  13. Mike says:

    Darren, Have you tried Linkworth? They are working pretty well for me.

  14. Chi An says:

    I’ve just joined Backlinks.com, similar to Text Link Ads. But publisher may set own price and has the right to decline ads that TLA doesn’t. No commission on sales made through Backlinks but it takes 1 out of 12 spots of your ads.

  15. Power Play says:

    My ads are pretty diversified, but Adsense, YPN and Chitika get most of the airplay.
    Recently signed up for Azoogleads, and even got a phone call follow-up today.
    Time will tell.

  16. Kashif Aziz says:

    Darren, that’s really a burning question that I ask myself most of the time. Currently we rely 95% on Google for our revenue which is very bad, startegically. We have tried chitika, and it turned out to be a huge flop as they confiscated our payment without any reason. Also, CPA based advertisers haven’t worked out well for us. Although we generate lot of traffic from the sites, most of the traffic goes unused.

  17. Jason says:

    Great advice. I’ve been hearing horror stories about AdSense accounts getting banned–from actual bloggers I know. It got me a little worried, so I’ve been looking for what you call “multiple streams.” …I like the idea of AdBrite.

    From what I read on your site, it doesn’t look like Chitika will work for me, considering I don’t write about products…

    I might check out your six-figure blogging course once I earn a buck. I’ve been a writer for many years, but I’ve only been blogging since January. I hope I can turn this into something. Your posts certainly help.

    Cheers,

    JP

  18. Subspace says:

    My AdSense account was sabotage by one of my ex-classmate, is it possible to enable back the AdSense account? Please give advice!

  19. Jason says:

    Subspace,

    I know you can appeal with AdSense. I’ve heard of people getting their accounts back after several e-mails to Google, but from my knowledge–it’s rare. My two cents…

    Cheers,

    JP

  20. Subspace says:

    Jason,

    Thanks a lot for you advice, I’ll try my best. See you around…alive and kicking.

  21. xing says:

    hi, friend please teach me how and what you doing for the internet living ? becouse i try in ad sence but nothing i get from there, how you do it? Thank

  22. Kensai says:

    Does anyone know if ValueClick support websites outside the USA area? I cant even get to register with them (dont have a SSN, Europe here), plus they dont provide any info on their site regarding international publishers

  23. Amigo says:

    Hey.. I don’t think any one has asked about this yet..

    I’m not completely sure I understood if Google allows me to have another advertising company on my site..

    What are the rules? am I allowed to have text ads? only image ads? link ads? affiliate ads? and so on..

    Thanks for this site! great info!

  24. Adsense is a good source of income, but affiliate programs can provide a residual source of income for you.Diversifying is the key, and one should never rely on just one source of income.

Trackbacks

  1. Anonymous says:

    Diversify Your Blogging Income with Secondary Money Earners

    Darren Rowse talks about different ways to earn income from blogging.

  2. elenusky says:

    ¿Alguien quiere un “Oscar” por su blog?

    … como mejor weblog de entretenimiento y weblog mejor escrito
    ProBlogger como mejor weblog de desarrollo web

  3. [...] Diversify your investment to decrease risk. It is very rare that a single blog alone will make you break even. It may not provide returns for the time/money that you've invested in your blog; spread your investments across various blogs if necessary and across different advertising media – for eg., my primary readers are not informed about my blog via the Internet; they come here through mouth-to-mouth advertising!! Problogger Darren Rowse explains how his income from blogs didnt come from one source alone – Adsense. (ok I dont know him personally, so I would redirect all questions to him if you have any.) [...]

  4. [...] Do you have an online site that actually makes you money? ProBlogger Darren Rowse recommends you find secondary sources of income: “Diversify Your Blogging Income with Secondary Money Earners.” I still am largely dependent upon two income sources these days from my blogs but know that because they are spread out over a number of blogs and because I have a number of secondary income sources supplementing them that if AdSense and Chitika fell over for one reason or another that I’d have enough coming in to survive. [...]

  5. [...] Darren actually has quite a few tips up about affiliate marketing at http://www.problogger.net/category/affiliate-programs. If you’re interested in learning more, check out his site. [...]

  6. [...] Google Adsense has really given so many people the opportunity to make a living, or at least have some extra cash on their passions and hobbies. Its a great start, but eventually you must start diversifying your income, not only to protect yourself from a “single point of failure,” but to really start growing your income levels. Look into things like Text Link Ads(Aff), Chitika, Amazon, or start filling ad space with house ads. [...]

  7. [...] It is important to optimize your Adsense adverts, such as through positioning of the ads and the colors of the adsense links. You should also explore alternative income streams. [...]