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How to Make Money Blogging – What We Wish We Knew

This post on how to make money blogging is part of the ‘What I wish I knew when I first started Blogging’ Series. In this post I’ll share readers comments on the topic of making money from blogs as well as some of my own experiences and advice.

When I asked readers for their regrets when it comes to making money there was a variety of responses – from bloggers wishing that they’d started experimenting with ads and affiliate programs earlier to others wishing that they’d never started monetizing blogs at all because it was a distraction from what they actually liked doing – writing about their topic of interest.

My Own Experience with Making Money from Blogging

I sometimes look back on my blogging with a twinge of regret that I didn’t get into blogging earlier and establish myself in my niches before ‘competitors’ did. I dabbled in making websites about 10 years ago (5 years before I started my first blog) and blogged for a full year on a personal blog before even considering that I could make money from blogging or starting blogs on any focused topic.

If only someone had told me what I now know – getting a foot in the door in my niches back then could have had some amazing payoffs.

Having said that – part of me is very glad that I didn’t ‘Go Pro’ or start commercializing my blogging too early. That first 12-18 months of blogging on a personal blog was very formative. I learned so much about communicating online, building community, writing and the way that blogs operate – to the point that when I began to blog on a commercial level I had a lot of skills that helped me grow those new blogs faster.

The other great thing about that first year or so was that it gave me a love for blogging. I blogged because I enjoyed it and not with dollars in my eyes. As a result I wrote about things that interested me and not what would make money.

In a sense, that first blogging experience was an apprenticeship or training ground for what came later.

I see a lot of bloggers rushing into commercial type blogs that I think could learn a thing or two from starting a personal blog for a few months (or longer). These blogs quite often are on topics that they think will make money (rather than things they know about and love), they quite often have ads slapped all over them (instead of presenting their content as the prime thing on the blog) and they quite often have content that is regurgitated from elsewhere, uninspiring and uninteresting.

These blogs rarely survive longer than a few months because the blogger gets frustrated by the lack of initial earnings (remember it takes a year or so for a blog to ‘hit its straps’) and has no real interest in the topic to keep them blogging.

Should a blog Be Monetized from Day 1?

There’s always been debate over whether to start monetizing a blog from the day you start it or not.

Now that I’m established as a blogger my own approach when starting a new blog is to introduce some income streams from day 1 in order to set good expectations with readers – however not to slap too many ads up all over your blog (especially in the early days). Note: I’m not contradicting my last point about doing an apprenticeship before getting into blogging for money – this is more for bloggers who have blogged before and are starting other blogs. I’ve written a lot more on this question of how quickly to put ads on a blog here.

Experiment with Different Income Sources

The other main advice that I’d give on the topic is to experiment with the many different ways of making money from blogs. There are literally hundreds of options for doing it and each method will suit different blogs differently. I semi-regularly post a list of the top ways that I make money from blogging and while AdSense has always remained in my top two earners the rest of the list has constantly been in a state of change as I’ve experimented with the mix of income streams.

Also, keep in mind that your blog has to directly make money from it. Some blogs will never make much money, however they have the potential to increase the profile of the blogger to enable them to enhance their earning capacity in some other indirect way.

Relevancy and Position

Another lesson that it took me a while to learn about making money from blogs was the importance of having income streams that are relevant to the content that you are writing about. I still remember in the early days slapping Amazon affiliate products up on my personal blog that were for the highest priced electrical goods I could find. Of course they never converted. I learned over time that a lower priced affiliate product could earn me much more in a post about that actual product.

The other problem with my early attempts at an income from Amazon was my placement. I stuck the ads in my sidebar (mainly low on the page). Of course affiliate products tend not to convert so well well over there – people need to see them and if they are close to your content (or better still, in it, they’ll do so much better).

The Importance of Good Traffic

I chatted with a blogger earlier in the week who told me that he was so frustrated because his site was getting so much traffic but that he wasn’t making much money from it. I asked for more details and discovered that the guy was bringing in hundreds of thousands of impressions each week but was making barely enough to pay for his server load (which was considerable).

When I dug deeper as to the source of his traffic he told me that he was buying it from a traffic generation service. He’d heard that all he needed to do was generate a lot of traffic and he’d be rich. I explained to him that there are different qualities of traffic and that depending upon it’s source it will convert very differently with different income streams.

Bought traffic generally doesn’t convert well with advertising or affiliate programs (in fact many ad programs will ban you if you use it). Similarly, traffic from social bookmarking sites like Digg is generally much harder to monetize with contextual ads like AdSense than traffic coming from a search engine.

Do work to get your traffic levels up – but understand that not all traffic is equal. It took me a year or more to really learn this.

Reader Comments on Making Money from Blogging

OK – enough of my ramblings. Here are a few of the comments that readers left on the topic of making money from blogs when asked what they wished they knew when they first started blogging.

Adam writes – “I wish I knew I could make money from them. ”

Rose writes – “About the thing that I only really regret is that I didn’t start adding Adsense sooner.”

Jason writes – “Ad positioning. I went from placing my ads in yellow zones in the beginning, outside the content, then finally I found a code for positioning ads within the content. If only I had known the importance of ad placement in the beginning I would have made a lot more money!”

Brandon J writes – “I still wish that I didn’t concentrate on the money part of it. I have less than one hundred readers and I can tell my site isn’t very “sticky”. Most of my decisions are financially based and I wish I could just write content without worried about how much money I’m making.”

Ankur writes – “Well I wish i had considered ad placement an important task in Adsense… just by making a slight change in my ad location… i have seen my revenues growing 6 times.”

Chris @ Martial Development writes – “I wish I had known that your choice of niche will affect your contextual ad revenue by a factor of 100! And that certain niches can therefore never, ever be profitable with Adsense!”

What do you wish you knew about making money from blogs when you first started blogging?

Read the rest of the What We Wish We Knew Series

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. Mike Mahon says:

    Funny you should write this today. I just finished my first posting/tirade about the frustrations of a newbie blog entremanure. This will be studied throughly rest assured. Thanks, Mike

  2. Ray J says:

    I wish I would have learned patience and not been so driven by money . Now I am learning that and blogging is coming a lot easier to me.

  3. The Reviewer says:

    I wish I knew how to get CPM movie ads. You would think some movie advertisers would like CPM movie ads on a movie review site, but I can’t figure out who serves them and how I become a member for them. My adsense ads really don’t convert very well and I really don’t like them much, I would much rater have movie ads.

  4. AmeyJah says:

    I wish I had known that blog presentation and wordpress (hosted) would bring be bright future. I also wish I had considered linking to smaller blogger rather than wasting my time in directly sending only 30 to 50 visitors to a list bloggers.

  5. Brad Isaac says:

    Reviewer, you might want to try a few months with a big ad network like Valueclick or doubleclick. Movie studios go to the ad networks to set up this stuff because they are big enough that they want to just pay someone else to find the sites to list the ads.

    I used to run a Pocket PC news site and movie studios were placing movie ads on my site through doubleclick. Which in itself is pretty strange because it wasn’t targeted.

    But it just goes to show you that movie studios will advertise on your site.

  6. Great article. I wish I knew more about every specific ad type. I’ve been reading your blog for about a week now, really good content. I’ll be back for more.

  7. This series is super useful, thanks so much to Darren and everyone who is sharing their perspective.

    I’m not new to online writing, but I’ve never developed a platform for my own regular writing and online profile before.. these discussions about potential revenue streams are very enlightening. My site is just starting to pick up momentum and I’m trying to keep functionality and networking in line with an increasing readership. My question to you all is at what point do you Monetize? Do you guys think there is a critcial mass of readership? That maintaining a site starts to take up X amount of time a day? Or is ad revenue something that should be built brick just like the rest of a blog?

    I’m not really sure how to develop this aspect of my online presence, but I know this series will be a key resource.

  8. Brandon J says:

    I can’t believe my blog is listed on problogger.net. It’s crazy. I’m headed for the big time now. Thanks.

    Brandon J
    Money for Military

  9. I added Google Adsense mainly as a lark because I was accepted. For awhile I had my ads in the wrong place and made nothing. Then I experimented and started to consistently make some money, not a ton but enough to cover hosting and domain name expenses. Unfortunately, that has come to a crashing halt since I moved from Typepad to my WordPress blog. I am assuming the problem is that Google now has to re-index my site due to the fact that the permalinks have changed.

    WordPress has given me more control over my ads so I will work to optimize them, especially since they are obviously not in the right place (I assume).

    The thing I would recommend is to start with something like Adsense and then follow the recommendations of people who have had success with it but don’t blog based on what is best for Adsense. Blog on what you want to write about.

  10. HH! says:

    Hey Darren, what do you think of adding adsense to a new blog? do you think I should create an audience first and then add the ads or right from the beginning?

    HH!

  11. Mario Ruiz says:

    I got tired of being around of different tools and different sites looking for consolidated information about what the status of my site. So I decided to make a report that looks like this.

    This is a basic report not an automatic generated work. This is done manually with specialized tools.

    The most important part is the recommendation part.

    http://www.oursheet.com

  12. Yes, i regret not starting sooner too! I would be coming up on 10 years right now! woah…

  13. I have a similar story to yours, Darren. I got into web design because I loved it, and I got into blogging because I loved it even more. When I wanted to try my hand at making money online, I knew it could only be with a blog I enjoyed doing, so Google Video of the Day was born (now GoogleTube Video of the Day, since the buyout).

  14. Stephen says:

    On thing I thought would be worth mentioning is that the idea to make money from blogging was what got me started. The knock on effect was that it motivated me to keep writing. 12 months later with little improvement on adsense earnings and various frustrations I am still at it, more from the love and knowing that eventually it will pay off.

  15. Re: Mark’s comments:

    “The thing I would recommend is to start with something like Adsense and then follow the recommendations of people who have had success with it but don’t blog based on what is best for Adsense. Blog on what you want to write about.”

    Well said!

  16. Bush Mackel says:

    Crazy good post and great comments too may I add. I’m still pretty green so I don’t know that I add too much to this discussion except I wish I had immediately realized how welcoming people can be in the blogosphere. I’m just getting around to “making new friends” now…Could’ve started a while ago…But I’m young yet. (#):)

  17. Traveler says:

    I wish I had put up AdSense earlier as well. When I did, I realized I had been giving up at least a pint of beer a day for years on end. Damn!

  18. Karen W. says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your statement: “I see a lot of bloggers rushing into commercial type blogs . . . ”

    I really think (at least in the beginning) one needs to ask themselves: what would I blog about if there was NO opportunity to make any money.

    I had several ideas floating around my head and the one I decided to start with is the least promising in terms of $ potential. If I can’t keep up blogging about something I love than I know starting a blog with money as a primary goal will not be something I am likely to stick with.

    Great as usual, Darren!

  19. I didn’t take it seriously. I started blogging almost three years ago. I considered it a hobby. I love writing, and this was my virtual outlet. I originally started Vegan Momma as a way for others to see how “normal” it was to be vegan; eventually, I started writing about other areas that interested me.

    I didn’t start taking my blog seriously until this past May. I started monetizing my blog at that time. If I could again do it I would have taken my blog more seriously I think I would have started monetizing it after a year instead of waiting until now.

  20. antonio says:

    In my opinion, bloggers must not think in making money in the first year. The most important thing must be learning about writing and designing a good blog. Isn´t it?

    (Hello everybody from Spain)

  21. My main regret is that I’ve started too many times. I’d write a blog for 2 -3 months, not get many visitors and then come up with a new idea and go with that. WRONG! I should have just refined and refined and refined. Another mistake was to try and do it for free. If it’s free it’ easier to dump. If it’s paid for you at least want to get your investment back.

  22. Jason says:

    Neat learning about your first years, Darren. I was kind of the opposite. I got into it for the money only, but I grew to love blogging about things I liked and also reading other blogs of interest. I really don’t care what I make at this point in my life. I make a decent part-time living, but I really just don’t care right now, like I said. It’s just fun being part of the blogsphere.

  23. Raj says:

    I feel have I have slapped ads all over my site instead of concentrating on building good traffic after reading this article. Good one, Darren. Not a rambling.

  24. Hi Daren,

    This post is a very interesting story, the story of your lessons on your way to business blogging. I am glad that you shared it with us. this way your lessons will become my (our) lessons. The smart way is not to repeat your own mistakes. But the smartest way is not to repeat other people’s mistakes and learn from their lessons.

    Thank you!
    William

  25. CatherineL says:

    Interesting what you said about having a personal blog to practise on first. I have been writing daily for many years, but it amazes me that so many people who don’t even enjoy writing, start a blog in the hope of making a fortune.

    Personally, I wish that more of the topics I’m interested in paid better adsense rates, but I couldn’t blog on something I had no interest in at all, even if it paid out $10 or more per click.

  26. James says:

    I wish I had chosen a dot com instead of info domain. At least it is not a blogspot subdomain.

  27. calvin says:

    Hi Darren,

    I don’t know if this is just another copycat. The lines in this post are startlingly similar to what Darren wrote here. Are this what they call “Automate” blog posting? You guys really have to look at it. Scary.

    http://money4online.blogspot.com/2007/07/how-to-make-money-blogging-what-we-wish.html

  28. hello
    Blogging is not a easy task.It needs patience and knowledge.
    I have to learn more about blogging strategies and techniques to design a new blog.there are too many tools in blogging:wodpress,p-machine,blogware,blogger,typepad..
    I am satisfied with your statement.we can earn money from blogging

  29. Shine says:

    Thank you Darren again for a great question followed by excellent answers. I found that if you are really serious about blogging, you’ve got a lot of thinking and planning and learning to do. There better be a strategy and therefore the advice and sharing of the experienced and established helped a lot.

    And, I can’t agree with Darren more in regard to writing something that I really love and know about – for otherwise we bore ourseleves as well as the readers very quickly. It’s nevertheless a great experience to share with others what we are passionate about – and find like-minded friends and people appreciate what you wrote along the way.

  30. Zach says:

    I wish I felt more motivated to write every day. Money isn’t the priority to me.

  31. Joshua says:

    I wish I had for my spam stock site. It got picked up by boingboing, digg and a few others, and by the time I added the adsense code I had lost a lot of valuable clicks. I still made money, but sometimes you can’t control when I bit hit happens, may as well be ready ahead of time.

  32. ciken says:

    I must learned how to be patience right now because it’s hard to be a better blogger…frustations!..but your story is good for refreshing me!…thanks

  33. Jason says:

    By the way, I must have not seen where you plugged my comment and just skimmed your page when I last commented. Thanks for another plug, sir!

    I’m glad my comments are making a difference. And just to add… those codes I was talking about are…

    <TABLE align="right" width="120">
    <TR>
    <TD>
    PASTE AD CODE HERE
    </TD>
    </TR>
    </TABLE>

    or to the left

    <TABLE align="left" width="120">
    <TR>
    <TD>
    PASTE AD CODE HERE
    </TD>
    </TR>
    </TABLE>

  34. nisha says:

    Great blog , I have also created a lens in a same niche hope u like it ….. ..Are you fed up with work? Maybe your boss is a grade-A pain in the behind. Well, don’t fret about your current situation; it’s time to look for an alternative route to income. That company office cubicle isn’t the only way to earn a living. These days there are opportunities opening up all the time. With the World-Wide-Web in full swing, many individuals are turning to the Internet in search of a money making business. Have you ever considered this new-age road of opportunity?

  35. Starfeeder says:

    another very insightful post, thanks!

  36. dinash mia says:

    Thank for the great tips about marketing strategy. I can learn something new today from your tips.

  37. Jaz says:

    I guess there were several things I wish I had known at the beginning. For instance, I should have known about content. My blog is my own feelings and opinions but much of it is a rehash of the news or odd things. Some of it is just stuff I wanted to show like Youtube videos. And of course, some is sponsored posts. Those are usually, but not always, about things I am interested in. I can see the mistake but I do work for a company that requires that I blog about each opp given to me. It makes for an interesting time trying to make it fit into my ramblings.

    I still do not have the traffic I want though. Having done several things that were suggested from a variety of places, it seems that my blog may not be as interesting as I thought it was. Sigh.

    This is very good advice. Thank you.

  38. zackire says:

    Hmm… I seriously think blogging should only be about what we like and not what the advertisers want to see on our blog.

    I’ve been a member of a few paid blogging community and even though they set me out to advertise about their sites or products, I put my own touch and thoughts about it, even though it was a negative impact on them.

    Its really sad to see some of my friends actually praises the advertisers products and stuff when in actual form, they complain and tsk-ed at the advertisers. It seems that money can even blind us of what we really want.

    Anyway, good post. I’ll be reading your blog more often..

  39. Always appreciate you sharing your experiences. It helps me apply the knowledge I’ve learned from your other blogs

  40. I have a pet peeve… I never knew I had one till earler this week. Blogs That Dont Make Any Sense! … have no beginning nor end. Where do I start ?? :/ Anybody know what I mean ??

  41. Tim says:

    Great post it s amazing the difference adsense positioniing can reall make. i recieved alot of traffic to my site from DIGG in the past couple of weeks , about 3500 referrals to be precise and they have only put $200 in my back pocket with adsense been 20% of that. So Digg traffic aint great. We all want the laser targeted googl juice thats where the money really is. COuld you imagne what 10, 000 goggle targeted visitors could do to you income,

    Got an article on it at http://money-makingtruth.blogspot.com/ Check it out

  42. Asat says:

    Very informative for newbies like me. Thanks for sharing these valuable tips.

  43. Mel says:

    Thanks, your site is very informative, easy to follow and laid out nicely for the reader. I’m going to apply the techniques you’ve suggested and see where they take me!

  44. Jo says:

    We help our bloggers spice up their content and make it sell – that’s more effective and less intrusive for your readers than any other form of making money. It’s really worth trying for everyone who believes to have valuable content.

    Sell your content on Klatcher