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Brainstorming an Out-of-the-Box Approach to Blog Monetization

This Guest Post was written by Wendy Piersall from eMoms at Home.

Last March I attended Elite Retreat – a rather exclusive conference with a small number of participants and 7 big name presenters who taught us much of what they know (including Darren himself!). One of the biggest eye openers I had at the conference was that I had been a bit too hyper-focused on sticky blog content creation. I know – it sounds counter-intuitive! But when you create really good content, your blog readers don’t want to click ads. They stick around to read your stuff and then usually leave the site via a link to other great content.

So it was one of those “DUH” moments when I realized that I had better re-think my monetization strategy on my non-product blog.

A New Advertising Strategy

For blogs that are focused on creating compelling content, AdSense and other CPC (Cost Per Click) ads aren’t the way to go. My blog was building my brand, so it made sense that I shift to an advertising strategy that would build the brands of advertisers as well. This meant a shift into selling advertising directly and charging on a CPM (Cost Per Impression) basis. That way the site would make money based on page views rather than clicks.

Since I started selling advertising on my site (with Darren’s and Yaro’s help), revenue has increased substantially and next month I expect to make over $1000 just from CPM based ads. Because of this I have been able to spend more time writing and driving traffic instead of optimizing ad placements.

A New Product Strategy

It took a conversation with Jeremy Shoemaker for me to have another one of those “DUH” moments. Knowing full well that product blogs make money easier than content blogs, Jeremy sparked an idea to create a blog focused on small business products and services. Since regular blog visitors came to my main site for content (and not to shop), it made sense to create a separate blog just for the products and services that they would be interested in. My readers appreciated the fact that I was able to both give them relevant commercial content AND put it in a place that didn’t interfere with their enjoyment of regular articles, thus Shoestring Smarts was born.

By segmenting the content in this way, both sections of the site compliment each other but draw different visitors for different reasons. Since this new blog has been making money from day 1, it’s definitely been a success.

A New Marketing Strategy

The biggest takeaway from Elite Retreat was that I found a renewed enthusiasm for affiliate and email marketing. Once you’ve built a relationship with your blog audience, selling becomes a two-way street. I buy products and services from readers or via their affiliate links, and they do the same on my site. RSS subscribers climb regularly, but this can still limit you. Only about 30% of internet users use RSS – and far less than that actually KNOW they use RSS. Plus, you can’t just sell to regular readers, unless you don’t want to grow.

Most people want to shop in a familiar setting – especially online. Traditional methods of marketing via email and setting up ‘store sections’ on the site aren’t generally appealing to other bloggers. But they do invoke a sense of professionalism and trust with sporadic site visitors and less tech-savvy folks. It comes back to ensuring your blog is appealing to a larger audience than just other bloggers.

Creativity and Out-of-the-Box Thinking

Although I am an extremely creative person, it really took a different perspective to come up with fresh ideas and ways to market my site. I highly recommend networking with other bloggers to build co-mentoring or group mastermind opportunities, or attending conferences like Elite Retreat to be able to brainstorm with others.

Some of my most successful money making initiatives have come from conversations with other bloggers/marketers in which I said, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that myself!”

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Comments

  1. Jon says:

    Inspiring article Wendy!
    btw…your link to Shoestring Smarts is 404, and I’m eager to check it out.

  2. JuliaxX says:

    This is all true for blogs that have over let say 10.000 page views per day but still I would disagree with blogs for passion or blogs that make less then hm 50 u. visitors and 100 views ?

    Also about the readers, it is true to somewhat, but let say mine is not consistant at all , my readers jump from 97 readers to 52 readers to 59 readers to today 22 readers! in last 4 days. And I bet you by tomorrow there will be 40-50 again.

  3. Carmelo Lisciotto says:

    Of course product blogs make money, who wants to pay for simple rants and personal attacks that compose 90% of all content blogs.
    “imho”
    Carmelo Lisciotto

  4. Um, I don’t like to be mean, and this is a very useful blog, but when I read this headline I truly thought it was a joke. Just buzzword bingo fodder to make a point about writing clearly and effectively. The post is great, but hey, you really don’t need these buzzwords and they obscure your bright ideas…

    “Brainstorming an Out-of-the-Box Approach to Blog Monetization” WTF? How ’bout: New ways to make more money on your blog?

    “I had better re-think my monetization strategy on my non-product blog.”

  5. Ari Shohat says:

    I kind of agree with Laura’s comment above actually, sometimes the headlines overdo it as they build up your expectations too much. Overtime one tends to not go for them as much if that happens to headlines so often. Even the subtitles; “A New Marketing Strategy” – new to the person writing perhaps, maybe not so new to the rest of the readers, “Different” might have been more appropriate.

    Back to the post though:
    “The biggest takeaway from Elite Retreat was that I found a renewed enthusiasm for affiliate and email marketing.”

    That’s awesome of course, I’ve also found that any time I go to a conference that has to do with anything you love to do you come back with renewed enthusiasm.

  6. foodette says:

    I thought this was interesting, but it could be because I am still at the very “young” point where my advertising strategy = writing content. I am currently in the process of building readers, and making my blog sticky would be my ultimate goal. I like to know what type of strategies are out there for my next future steps. These type of posts always make me think.

  7. Another “duh” moment for me too. I have started and failed at three blogs that were all information oriented. I really thought I wrote well and provided good information but never made any money.

    Thank you Wendy for steering me toward product oriented blogs. After reading your post, I sat down and wrote out a full page of product ideas I am both interested in and informed about. So I guess this means I should put my research hat back on and get to work.

    Thanks for the advice.
    Charles Brown

  8. My blog is mostly information based so a CPM add strategy would be great for me. I use AdSense now and have only made about $50.00 but the CPMs I get are quite high. What are people using for CPM ads?

  9. Amanda says:

    Product blogs can make money easier but not necessarily. It depends on the product and how much you put into adveritising. If your blog is popular to begin with and you send them over yes granted you could make more through a product blog but you also have to put it seems a lot more footwork in.

  10. I enjoyed this article. I have been thinking about content blogs vs. product blogs and this post helped me.

  11. It was very clever of you to focus on a blog that helps people. That is the secret for your sucess – to provide a useful service to your readers.

    I did something similar, but i’m still waiting for the readers to come and take advantage of the info i publish.

    It was good to know you anyway! The best of luck…

    Rosinha

  12. Ray Dotson says:

    Hi Wendy, I don’t have any problem at all with your title. It actually drew me in to read your post.

    You bring up some very good points about the fact that adsense doesn’t do well on content and branding focussed blogs as opposed to niche product blogs. The PPM idea is also very good. I’d be interested in hearing more about how to attract those type of advertisers.

    Also, Shoemoney’s suggestion follows along with his philosophy of creating closely related sites/blogs around another one that is already successful and well established. If you already have a brand, this can be a great way to tap into that potential for even more success. Great post!

  13. terra says:

    Great article, with very useful information. I always love to hear stories of when bloggers have that epiphany of a moment.

  14. Jason says:

    Thanks for the article. It’s just hard to believe you can make more off selling ad space than with AdSense.

  15. Thanks everyone – Jon – the site should be up and running normally now – I am in the process of moving to a semi-dedicated server this week and this post was just published here with some unfortunate timing. :)

    And Jason, I made more money in my first month of selling direct ads than I have in a year of using AdSense. But I will qualify that by stating that AdSense results vary widely in different niches. Home business ads don’t have a very good CTR. I have a personal blog that gets a consistent CTR more than 1000% percent better than on eMoms – too bad it gets about 1000% less traffic. ;)

  16. TheLocoMono says:

    Congratulations on your “out of the box” thinking. I tend to think “off the wall” myself so am learning how to build my website to promote it and drive traffic as well as make money promoting the products and companies themselves without Google Ad-Sense cluttering the space. It makes for a more visual pleasure than anything else.

  17. Melanie says:

    I really need to start thinking about monetizing my site better. I’m focused on writing ‘compelling content’ and have been using AdSense and CPC, however it hasn’t been making much money! Thanks for the great advice Wendy!

  18. Phil Voice says:

    Sometimes, a blog just seems to get too big and there is a danger that many people will start to believe everything that is written. This cult status could become a noose around Darren’s neck.

    One of the most refreshing things about this post is the feedback comments from the readers. In the blogosphere one minute, we are being groomed to write write write good content to attract genuine readers and the next there is this ‘out of the box’ strategy to just make money at the cost of exploiting our readers for gain.

    The money is the reward in my opinion for being liked by your readers and I totally disagree with building a blog just to advertise. It kind says, hey I don’t care if you read by content, just buy and make me rich!

    I would like a bigger audience but I can honestly say that I have a good interaction ‘off screen’ with a lot who regularly read my pages. I know from my stats that I have a hardy bunch of regular readers and I have researched their likes and dislikes in a passive way.

    What this has done for me is build a loyal base by genuinely interested people who tell like minded people about my site. It might take a little longer to build my readership this way but there are too many people just looking for a get rich quick scheme

    Stick to what you know if your good it will work and forget the bolt on advertising site imo.

    Phil

  19. Ray Dotson says:

    Phil, this blog is called ProBlogger, as in “Professional Blogger.” Professionals (like Darren and Wendy) most often get paid for their work. This blog is geared toward all bloggers, but it’s focus is on how to blog as a money-making business. Yes, a business.

    There are many purists out there who think that blogging is some sort of art form that shouldn’t be tarnished by the pursuit of filthy lucre. This is incredibly naive. Some people play baseball for fun and some lucky few also play it for millions of dollars in compensation.

    There is nothing at all wrong with making money from blogging and nothing at all wrong with starting a blog as a money-making business. Blogging doesn’t have to be some elevated art form that must be held sacred and unavailable to the unwashed masses.

  20. Phil Voice says:

    Hi Ray

    I have read my post again and maybe I concede to being a bit naive with what I wrote.

    I guess, your analogy in the sporting context puts the baseball player in two camps. 1. He who plays sport to make money and one who plays sport and is rewarded with money.

    The danger in blogging, if danger is the right word, is there will be some bloggers (and this isn’t directed at Pro Blogger) who will write what people might want to hear and those that write what they believe and is proven by trial.

    I do find the whole social science that blogging encompasses very interesting though.

    All the best

  21. Ray Dotson says:

    Hey Phil, I get your point. There is a deluge of information available to us these days and not a few bloggers who are wannabe blog evangelists. We definitely have to pick and choose the ones we pay attention to. With that said, Darren and Wendy are on my short list, along with Maki (Dosh Dosh) and Andy Beard and a few others. If you want the straight dope on blogging, these are the sources to go to. Good luck with your blogging,
    Ray

  22. I’m most curious about when the numbers make sense to go from a ‘grow my audience’ phase, to monetization mode. I’ve got about 20,000 unique visitors a month on 100,000 page views. Is that the beef?

  23. Jason says:

    Wendy, thanks for your reply. The only problem I have with the idea is this. Why would a company pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to you to place their ad on your one website, and per impression… when they could use a pay-per-click program and have their ad all over the internet for less?

    Not trying to be rude, just trying to learn. =)

    Thanks,

    Jason

  24. MedSpa – those are some healthy traffic numbers – you could be making some good money off of your traffic!

    Jason – impression advertising is slightly different than CPC advertising. For one, there’s a definite trend towards AdSense blindness. Also, impression advertising does more than target clicks – it also raises brand awareness as well as builds off of established brands. Search Engine Guide wants my readers to click through to their site – AND they want my readers to associate the “eMoms” brand with their brand.

    Additionally, in mainstream media on high traffic sites, ads are only sold on an impression basis. The reason is that the media site can’t be responsible for EACH of their thousands of advertisers clicks and conversions – Yahoo isn’t going to create new ad placements for their advertisers – they have a pretty fixed layout. It’s up to the advertiser to come up with a good enough ad to convert the traffic into customers. Yahoo provides volume and targeting.

    Hope that answers your question! :)

  25. Jason says:

    Thanks so much for your response, Wendy. Brand awareness especially clicks with me now. I heard some stat like, a consumer needs to see your ad 3 times before he remembers it. A single advertiser paying for impressions on a single site actually makes sense to me now. Also seems like you can get the perfectly targeted advertiser to fill that space and they will be happy with it.

  26. ecoshopper says:

    I don’t know if you have to separate your website into 2 and have a content blog and a product blog. I think better use of categories and sub categories is better. For instance you can have a news section or a media section and the product category sections.

    In my blog I review eco friendly products, and I find that there is always a story about how these products came about . I guess its because they are new and innovative. I you are writing about a regular laptop there is nothing to say, but if its an eco friendly laptop which is with a bamboo casing then you can write something about it.

    There are always new trends in any product/field so you can write about that. I don’t think blog software was made for just product pictures and a description. Bloggers who are doing this just do this because its too easy and they don’t know a lot of HTML or PHP… There are a lot of web database scripts outher there if you just want to have product images…

    Boris

  27. arshad says:

    That was a great article.Thanks a lot :) It is high time bloggers understood that they themself find out which monetization works best for them rather than taking the advice of others.

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  1. [...] those of you who are missing my writing, please check out my ProBlogger Guest Post today on how Elite Retreat helped to change my monetization approach (with great [...]

  2. [...] Brainstorming an Out-of-the-Box Approach to Blog Monetization [...]

  3. [...] recent guest post by Wendy Pierall over at ProBlogger brought my attention to the fact that I had had a similar conundrum recently and tackled it in a [...]