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An Interesting Blog Business Model

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

Most of you will be aware of the most popular business models for blogs. A large majority of blogs rely on revenue from advertising such as banner ads and paid reviews. Once a blog is very successful, its owners usually branch out and sell physical and digital products too such as books, membership courses, and premium content. Many successful bloggers simply use their blog as a platform to promote their own consulting services.

It’s important to do a little research into what business model suits you and your blog, as it’s going to be the way you make money through blogging. When I launched my WordPress blog a year or so ago I decided to adopt a magazine model and make money through banner advertisements, adding paid reviews once the site is more successful.

Once the site is established I will be in a good position to sell products through it, too, in the same way that Darren has launched his fantastic blogging workbooks through ProBlogger and the hugely popular ProBlogger book.

A business model with a twist?

The majority of blogs fall into the 10 Blog Business Models that Skellie spoke about a few years ago, however there is nothing stopping you doing something a little different.

A great example of this is WP Candy (one of my favourite blogs about WordPress). Well designed and updated regularly with great content, its owner Ryan Imel adopted the magazine model for WP Candy, though he did things a little differently. Instead of selling banner ads, WP Candy has managed to stay ad-free by using a so-called “Powered By” system.

The “Powered By” system is quite straightforward. Every blog post has a small link at the bottom stating who “Powered” the post. It is very similar to those who allow advertisers to sponsor a post, though there’s one main difference: instead of the link going to the sponsor’s website, it goes to a thank you page on WP Candy that tells you more about the website and lists the number of posts the sponsoring company has sponsored (Have a look at the biggest contributor for an example).

Advertisers have a number of ways in which they can gain exposure on the site. Just $5 a month will get you a link in a thank-you post every month, while a one-off payment of $50 will give you a permanent “Powered By” link on a post and a thank you in the weekly podcast.

Skeptics may look at the business model WP Candy has adopted and say that all they are doing is selling text links instead of banner ads. Perhaps this is the case, though they haven’t broken any rules—they are simply linking to a dedicated page for sponsors and the links on that page are coded “nofollow”.

So what they have managed to achieve is provide a unique way for advertisers to promote their products and services whilst removing all banner ads from the site, making the reading experience more enjoyable for the reader (something that Leo Babauta also did with Zen Habits).

Think outside the box

I’m not encouraging you to adopt the “Powered By” system that WP Candy has created. What I do encourage you to do is be more creative with the way you make money through your blog.

  • Build a more personal relationship with your advertisers and encourage your readers to interact with them.
  • Develop high-quality products and services that are related to your blog.
  • Grow your newsletter subscriber base so that you can interact with your readers more.
  • Do something interesting—something that no other blog in your niche is doing.

I’d love to hear of the interesting ways you generate income for your blog. Have you grown beyond the magazine business model and developed alternative ways to make money through your site?

Kevin Muldoon is a webmaster and blogger who lives in Central Scotland. His current project is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News and Modifications.

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Comments

  1. Genius blog post, all I can say!

  2. Tom Ewer says:

    Not sure about this…send them money and get credited as a “producer of a podcast”? Isn’t that just a lie?

    • me too says:

      Me too think saying “post powered by somecompany”, but having no relation between somecompany and post content is kinda odd.

    • Kier says:

      No more a lie than half (or more) of the “producer” credits on any given Hollywood film.

      I like the WP Candy idea. Seems like it’s also a semi-decent way to track your most popular (or at least most well-liked) posts. And it’s a step up from just a micropayment “tip jar’” link of some sort.

    • Often producers for tv and movies, especially “executive producers” do little more than put up the money.

    • Vago Damitio says:

      No, I think it’s just fine. Producers are the ones that come up with the money. In the middle ages (and still today) you can pay for a title. I do the same thing on Vagobond.com , I take the old soap opera twist of “This post is brought to you by….” i.e. the reason they are called soap operas is because brands like Ivory Soap used to sponsor them because housewives watched and bought soap. Personally, i don’t think there’s anything wrong with selling links either as long as they bring value to your readers, like ivory soap did to those housewives who loved soap operas.

  3. I used to advertise within posts like this, however, google dinged me for doing it and I temporarily lost pagerank as a result.

    • Chris. If you look at the code on their site you will see that the link to the advertisers profile page is no follow and the links there are no follow too. Therefore they haven’t broke any rules at all.

  4. It sounds like the same model just a different format (text instead of photos). And for advertisers who knows about SEO, the nofollow links aren’t going to fly.

  5. Rick Rouse says:

    This sounds like an interesting model for producing revenue, but I think the term “Sponsored by…” would be more appropriate. As long as the actual links to the sponsor’s sites are nofollow it shouldn’t have a negative affect on search engine rankings. This type of advertising should be geared towards gaining direct traffic and brand recognition instead of a PR boost, and if the site is heavily trafficked it could very well work – especially at $5 a pop.

    • I think the text before the advertiser details is irrelevant. For example, instead of ‘Sponsored by…’ you could use ‘Brought to you by our friends from…’ etc.

      Some people are ad blind due to the volume of advertising on the web therefore it pays to do something a little differently. :)

  6. talia says:

    I have a WordPress blog and I’m confused about what to do to make a little money off of it. My concern is getting ads that doesn’t fit my goal for the site which is for beginning writers to have a place to network, get resources, and get advice. How do I approach someone to put a ad on my blog? And is it for everyone?

    • There’s always a way to make money from a blog. I wouldn’t concentrate too much on the income side of things just now if you are just starting. Just try and write the best content you can and build a readership. You can then think about monetizing the site once you have a loyal base of readers.

  7. I am not sure whether this stuff will works in my blog.. by the way it give me some new fresh idea on how to generate new revenue ..

  8. Hi Kevin,

    Developing high quality products is the best way to make your advertisements interesting. Sow, reap. Offer really good stuff, and people will want to click on your ads, because they trust you. They tend to believe what you believe in, because they trust you.

    I don’t do banner ads but see no problem in placing a few – within reason – on your blog. If what you offer is valuable, if your content is helping people to make money, to improve their lives, you deserve to advertise in whatever form you desire.

    Some people feel bad about selling. This is why they place their ads, or opportunities, under layer after layer of barrier. Others are shameless and put up a crazy number of ads without offering something of value. Find a middle ground. Feel great about selling, but don’t over do it.

    If you feel a model similar to WP Candy works for you, go for it. One caveat: absolutely do not adopt this ad strategy from a place of fear – i.e., I don’t want my readers to be annoyed – for your readers sense these feelings on a deeper level, and you won’t get many clicks. Do it from a place of wanting to help others, wanting to serve others, and wanting to prosper in the process. Such a subtle difference, but it is THE difference, and it’s why guys like Darren make a nice living from blogging.

    Darren believes fully in what he has to offer, has created sensational content for a number of years, and has no problem selling what he believes in. You can tell fear isn’t mastering his decision-making process when it comes to advertising.

    Thanks for sharing the your marketing insight Kevin.

    Ryan

    • no problem Ryan. I glad you enjoyed the article.

      I am not adopting the WP Candy model myself. With my own site I have went down a traditional magazine business model of advertisements etc (and later products). It is however good to see other blogs making money differently. It’s inspiring and reminds you that there is no right or wrong way to make money through blogging.

      Off topic, but have you considered moving from Blogspot to your own domain?

      :)

      Kevin

  9. Megan says:

    Ryan is absolutely right (again!). Most people, if they are honest, want to make money from their blog. But we should never approach with that mindset from the start. it has to start with great content. If I started writing my blogs with my advertisers in mind, it may threaten my impartiality.

    However never avoid the subject of money with your readers. In fact, some people suggest that being completely honest about how much you expect from your readers can work wonders. Many sites have donate buttons and they work very well.

    As writers we are providing a service to our readers. Good and regular content in much the same way as a magazine might. Readers have no problems with advertising in print – so why would they mind when it comes to digital media?

    • Daniel says:

      Good points, Megan.

      As you say, most people would wish to see some monetary gain for the work they are putting in. And so they should! Though, if visitors are attacked from all sides by ads and ” how I got ultra rich” sales pitches, yet the content just does not live up to all the hype, you would have some serious doubts.

      Making money from(Through) a blog or website is not the issue, it’s the way some people have gone about it.

      Also, many people feel very uncomfortable when it comes to the idea of making money from their blog or website.

      This I believe, is one of the biggest barriers to their becoming more successful.

      On the other hand, there are many Bloggers or websites owners who are ultra confident yet, spruiking(Selling) false claims. Yet, they get away with it.

      With Blogging, I feel you need to balance the quality content(Provide something helpful, useful, entertaining, a service, etc,etc) then balance that with quality content within the overall Blog(Site).

      The Making money aspect needs to balanced out with what is being provided, overall.

  10. Vivek Parmar says:

    Awesome, thanks for the great post.
    If you are in blogging business then it is essential to have a perfect business model without this nothing works

  11. Thanks Kevin, I really enjoyed your post. I’ve often thought about how best to monetize my blog when the right time comes. My challenge is partly in determining when that “right time” is and then in deciding which monetizing model will work best for me. What’s your advice for someone like me who is trying to grow a blog to the point where it would make sense to monetize. What are three key, strategic points to bear in mind?

    • Hi Bjorn,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t think there is a right or wrong time. Many people have advised that you shouldn’t place any advertisements on a blog when it is still growing however I haven’t seen any concrete evidence that suggests that doing so will harm the growth of a blog.

      I do always recommend people to concentrate on writing killer content and building traffic when they first start though, as this is what will develop a readership. If you are spending a large part of your time contacting/dealing with advertisers then you have less time to write etc. Again, I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong way. The journey to the top has many different routes so I guess the best piece of advice in that regard is to work hard and love your blog (cheesy I know, however if you take a pride in your blog it will be reflected in your articles).

      Three points: 1. Write good content, 2. Build traffic, 3. Monetize

      There’s always a way to make money. For example, I am moving to south america for a year or so in a few months so I’m learning Spanish. I’ve started subscribing to a great blog called Fluent in 3 Months. He makes money by selling his ebook to readers. The book explains tricks that he has learned to speed up the process when learning a new language.

      Bottom line, if you build a readership, there’s always a way to make money from that :)

      • Three points: 1. Write good content, 2. Build traffic, 3. Monetize – Thanks very much for the reply Kevin, I am making that my mantra! It can all seem a little intimidating but with each post I put out there and with each connection I make to the masters (!!) it feels a little more doable.

        Where are you going in South America? I studied Spanish in Buenos Aires for about four months. I had the basics down before arriving but I was pretty good when I left. I checked out Fluent in 3 Months – I think Benny is right, it IS possible to learn a language with the right approach/hack… I am guessing you have checked out Tim Ferriss’s posts on the same topic… good confidence boost material..:
        http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/01/20/learning-language/

        Thanks again!

        • I’m heading to Colombia first to attend a language school to learn Spanish. Will probably be at the school for at least 3-6 months. Then after that I would like to travel all around – Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Brasil etc. I don’t have a set plan as yet. I’m just going to learn Spanish first and then see what happens from there :)

          Yeah I came across that Tim Ferriss book recently as I downloaded a book about the top 1,000 words to my kindle :)

  12. I don’t think outside the box any more. I’m too exhausted.

  13. This is a really nice idea and certainly a creative solution to the possibly stagnant solution of making money through banner advertising. I don’t think however that this method will take off in a big way. I seems a little bit to similar to an ordinary text links page but jazzed up. It is however an idea that I have never thought of and I doubt many (if any) have, if you keep coming up with new ideas one of them is bound to stick and your blog, which looks good, is going to be huge.

  14. You’re right with ‘Think out of the box’ monetisation strategy. However, if it’s too much to come up with a new concept, my all means follow the known pattern and get rewarded for your good work. If your strategy to make a few bucks off your hard work is honest (if you are actually helping people), a reader who chooses to get annoyed shouldn’t be on your blog in the first place (except you are trying to build a blog for everyone). We all deserve to be encouraged to keep up what we do and pay up some bills.
    Thanks for sharing

  15. Bogati says:

    Interesting post ‘Think out of the box’

  16. Adam Haworth says:

    Great blog, finding the time to do all this is a struggle alone. I try to make my blogs as interactive as possible but its not easy. My aim to in get more comments interaction on new site.

  17. Matt Smith says:

    Interesting Post! Its always important to try and think outside of the box when monetising a website. I’m not sure whether this method will be as popular as many of the current methods, but it is always good to find alternative ways of making money online.

  18. Don Kim says:

    This post reminds me to focus on the business side of my blog.

  19. This is really interesting. I’m not sure if I would take on the same tactics as WP Candy, but I can guarantee it’s gotten me thinking about how I can improve my blog (www.comerecommended.com/blog).

  20. This is a very interesting business model and although it is sort of selling links, well, it is done creatively and not as obvious as selling links directly. I read on some SEO guru article that is not that important whether the link is a “no follow” of “do follow” links because they almost work the same.

  21. minka kelly says:

    Thank for your idea. I like it to motivate myself. Of course I need to learn deeper into your brilliant article.

  22. Steven Kwok says:

    My question is how many people will pay attention to the short text :”Powered by XXX” ? And how many of them will click the links?
    Maybe the blog should have tons of traffics every day.