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.
- Firstly I’d attempt to build other types of traffic (largely through RSS, newsletters and building reader loyalty).
- 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
- 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?