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How I Diversified My Blogging Income Beyond Having All My Eggs in the AdSense Basket

Last week I wrote about the experience of almost losing my online business as a result of having too many eggs in one basket and then followed up with a post on what I did to diversify the traffic sources coming into my blog to become less reliant upon Google.

Today I want to continue talking about diversification but to switch our attention to diversifying income streams.

Ways-to-Make-Money-Blogging1

Back in 2004 when I almost went under, I not only was too reliant upon traffic from the Google Search Engine – I was also very reliant upon Google’s AdSense Ad Network as the main source of income for my business.

AdSense had been very good to me up until that point (and it continued to be for years after), but by focusing so much of my efforts upon it I now see that it left me exposed and in a risky position.

As I suggested last week, a great question to ask is:

Is there a single thing that could kill my business right now?

At that time, AdSense accounted for 95% of my income – losing it would have had pretty devastating consequences.

I had already been experimenting with a few extra income streams in 2004 (including Amazon’s Affiliate program, some small time direct ad sales, and some other affiliate programs) but had become a little lazy in these experiments – mainly because Adsense was already doing so well (I was pretty much at a full time income from it).

As a result of almost losing it all in December 2004, I came to my senses and decided it was time to get my act together and to begin to grow some serious extra income streams.

How I Diversified My Blogging Income

Other Ad Networks

My first experiment was to try to find another advertising network that might work like AdSense. I tried a few (Yahoo had one at the time, for example) but none really converted as well as AdSense for me until I found Chitika (aft).

Chitika blew my mind. I remember the day I came across it and was impressed with it because, like AdSense, it was just a matter of copying and pasting code into my blog to show the ad – but unlike AdSense it showed ads with product images IN the ad unit. This was particularly good for me because my blog at the time was a camera review blog and I was talking about products every day.

I excitedly added an additional Chitika ad unit to every page on my photography blog at that time and the next day logged in to see how it had performed.

It did really well and that single ad unit made about 25% of what AdSense did every day.

Over the coming weeks I added more ad units and tested new positions of ads and grew that Chitika income to the point that some months in the year that followed saw it earn more than AdSense. Amazingly to me this increase in income from Chitika didn’t come at the expense of AdSense which continued to work well.

Note: Chitika ads don’t work perfectly on every blog. I myself noticed that they slowly slid back in what they earned over the next few years and today I don’t use them any more – mainly because we’ve moved to selling ads directly to advertisers (more on that below).

Making Money BECAUSE of my Blog

As my blogs and my own personal profile grew (particularly here at ProBlogger) I began to notice opportunities open up for me to generate an income by offering my services of creating other products to sell.

These largely fell into three categories – speaking, consulting and writing a book.

The speaking came first. I had already done a little speaking for free in my local area, but after launching ProBlogger I began to get paid opportunities to speak to groups about blogging.

These started off being local opportunities in my city but then grew to become interstate and international.

Similarly, as my readership on ProBlogger grew, I began to get emails from readers wanting to hire me to help them with their blogging.

I began to offer ‘blog consulting’ services where I would charge an hourly rate to advise bloggers. I didn’t stick at this for long as I didn’t find it as enjoyable as actually blogging – and I also thought I could probably help more bloggers by writing about blogging rather than working one on one with bloggers.

Also around this time I was approached by Wiley US to write the first edition of the ProBlogger book (a paper one). This book is now in its third edition.

While speaking, consulting, or the book never became million dollar income streams, they all did help me to diversify my income – they also all helped me to grow my audience and learn a lot!

Additional Onsite Income Streams

Over the years since numerous other income streams have emerged.

These have come to include the Job Board here on ProBlogger, the membership site at ProBlogger.com (stay tuned for some big news about this in the coming months) and what became my biggest income stream – selling eBooks that relate to my blogs topics.

Each of these streams started as a small experiment to see what I could learn and what I could grow.

The job board has been a slow burner income stream in many ways. It generally only sees 1-2 jobs added to it every day at $50 a pop, but over the years this has added up to bring in more than $100,000.

eBooks had a more spectacular impact on profit. Again, I started slow with a single eBook that I put together largely by myself and a little outsourcing. I didn’t know how it would go but after nervously launching it to the photography blog audience that I’d worked hard to build up, it generated over $70,000 in a week (important note: I had been blogging on that blog for years and had build a decent audience – it didn’t happen overnight)!

The success of that eBook launch led me to publish more photography eBooks (15 so far) and ProBlogger eBooks.

Other Related Sites

As Digital Photography School has grown, there have been a number of opportunities to start new related ventures off the back of that original site.

The first of these was SnapnDeals – a deals site for photographers where we promote both our own eBooks that might be on special, but also other people’s products as an affiliate.

Similarly, we’ve also launched SnapnGuides – a photography mini-eBook site (we’ve published two eBooks there so far) that are smaller and cheaper eBooks/guides on niches of photography.

I have numerous ideas for other smaller ‘sister sites’ for the photography niche that I’d like to roll out in the coming years.

Events

Four years ago I had an impulsive idea to run an event for Aussie bloggers. Six weeks later we held our first ProBlogger Training Day for 100 bloggers in Melbourne.

We’ve held this event every year since, each each time growing not only attendance levels, but also the professionalism of the event.

We’ve also added a ‘virtual ticket’ for those unable to get to Australia for the event.

While not a huge money spinner, it is another income stream in the business and helps support other aspects of what I’ve built.

Direct Ad Sales

In the last few months I’ve circled back to one of the early income streams that I touched on above – direct sales of ads.

I’ve never really stopped doing this but last month have completely removed AdSense from my blogs for the first time since I started blogging and have engaged the services of a great little team of ad sales specialists to sell ads directly to advertisers.

The initial results have been very encouraging!

While I know some people have a lot of negative things to say about AdSense, I’ve never really written it off completely. It’s an ad network that has generated over a million dollars over the last nine or so years, and the people at Google have been nothing but helpful to us. But for now, we’re seeing more potential in working directly with brands.

The Current State of Play for Me

Here’s a breakdown of my own income streams in April of this year. While it doesn’t reflect the switching off of AdSense (Ad Networks) or the increased attention to direct ad sales, it shows you how I’ve become less reliant upon any one stream of income for my blogs.

NewImage

What is Your Income Split Like?

That’s my story – what about you?

Of course there are many many more potential income streams for a blog, but I’d love to hear your experience.

Have you got a variety of income streams? Or are you focusing pretty heavily upon a single one?

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. Lenny Gale says:

    I’d be lying if I said I was diversified. I’ve had significant success tying my brand, Life is NOYOKE to Vitamix. My thinking is that if my brand is the first that comes to mind when people think of the other, I’ll be in good shape. Not only am I tied to one brand, I’m primarily tied to one traffic source: Google search. I rank highly for several valuable Vitamix keywords and am reliant on them for 95% of of my traffic.

    My goal, per my recent blog post about goal setting, is “to be an influential leader in the American Health and Wellness Advocacy community.”

    This is getting long, but, to diversity my income, my plan is to focus on speaking engagements. Not sure there’s a better way to simultaneously increase my reach and diversify my income.

    Thoughts on making speaking engagements my #1 priority to begin diversification?

  2. Congratulations for your success over the years. I also like your openness about your income and you have achieved it. I am still reliant on google adsense from my youtube channel. My income is still in the hundreds of dollars every month and google adsense makes up more than 90% of that.
    Through reading blogs like yours I have decided to diversify as well into mainly affiliate marketing,as being reliant on adsense really gives me a headaches. With adsense you can just wake up one morning to discover that your account has been banned.

  3. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for providing us the various ways you make money online. I also enjoy your honesty about the way you make money and how it did not happen over night. Your an inspiration to all of us. Congratulations on the success you have achieve with your blog.

  4. Nikki Comma says:

    Thanks for this breakdown of your income streams. Once we get a higher reader base it is easier to diversify. Any tips on how you could have diversified as a start up blogger?

  5. Great info there! Most people only think about the end game, not realizing the struggle to get there. Your article offers a lot of much welcomed insight from your journey. Thanks!

  6. Shivam says:

    Definitely, putting all eggs in one basket is the biggest mistake anyone can do. There are hell lots of proven methods to make sound amount of money online. However, many newbie bloggers are not much aware of it or they’re more confused with all stuffs.

    I’d like to recall your line – “Important note: I had been blogging on that blog for years and had build a decent audience – it didn’t happen overnight!” … This is what every newbie should look for. It’s never going to be an overnight success. Building trust and Brand Name take a good amount of time and hard work. But when achieved, getting the flow of money from all sides will not be that much harder!

    With that being said, being a blogger myself, I’ll not be shy in confessing that I’m not that much diversified. But will look forward to increase that circle.

  7. Steve says:

    Working backwards from your 1-2 jobs added per day at $50 a pop. Let’s take it as 1.5 jobs per day which equates to $75 a day or $2,250 a month. You then say the Job board is 4% of your monthly income. So we can assume that 100% is $56,250. A yearly profit of $675,000. A fantastic return.

    • Darren Rowse says:

      Steve – nice maths. The only factor that I’ll add is that things do swing up and down from month to month between streams and that the pie chart is just a snapshot of one month (April this year). April is typically a bit of a slow month for us so probably not an average one.

      To illustrate the riese and falls – here’s a chart for the period of April-December last year – http://www.problogger.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Screen-Shot-2013-12-06-at-7.43.29-pm.png

      Hope that is of interest.

      • Dhruv Bhagat says:

        Seems like you have tasted all those fruits of “make money blogging”…

        We all know that YOU are the GODFATHER OF BLOGGING WORLD. :D

        Do share something about CPA networks.. We all will learn something different from YOU. :)

  8. JR John says:

    I’m actually in bit of a dilemna myself.

    As a relevantly new guy on the blogging scene, I’ve often heard many marketers say that “the money is in the list”. I’m realizing that they are right, after seeing more and more case studies on the subject.

    Which is one reason why ALL my efforts are going straight to list-building as of right now. I’m not even monetizing my blog. I’ve got one aff product up (I’ll be creating my own soon), but apart from that, I’m just giving away free value.

    When I have a larger readership, I hope to do e-mail marketing to make those ends meet. Do you think this is a good strategy?

    Even if I was to experience a severe drop in traffic (I get a measly 50-100 visitors a day myself, but my blog is only a couple weeks old), I would still have my list to fall back on traffic wise.

    Good strategy? I’d love your expert advice.

    Regards,
    JR John

  9. Saqib Razzaq says:

    I use Google Adsense on my blog as well, but I don’t really think much about any other networks because I believe on Google. But the recent behavior of Google has forced me to start looking for alternatives too so if I get into trouble, I have something to fall back at. Searching for it is how I landed on this post. Thank you very much for creative piece.

  10. Edson Hale says:

    Your income chart shows the power of personal products; your 38% income is from your purely personal products of ebooks. I think after a few years nearly 90% income stream of blog will be from personal products due to same market share and millions of blogs to grab affiliates and PPC ads.

  11. I’ve been loving your revenue series lately and must say you’re doing a great thing with ProBlogger. It is inspiring to hear of your success and while my current venture isn’t for profit(I plan to donate 90% of income to charities,) I know ProBlogger is helping me every step of the way.

    In all honesty I plan to use my current venture to build a readership, my presence in the blogging world and then at a point in time, that I feel I can leave my current venture in capable hands, create my own ‘revenue’ venture. My hope is by then I will have been blogging, researching and gained enough knowledge to make a success of blogging.

    The future of revenue from blogging is very important to me and not because I desire to be filthy rich. I struggle with the official language where I live and I honestly don’t know when or if I will ever be confidently fluent in the language. That has, and is to this day, affecting my ablity to get into the workforce and I have my family, that in the next few years, will include another child to worry about. If I can turn a talent for blogging into secondary passive income(I still want to do Special Care Counselling with troubled kids,) then my family and I will be in a great place.

    Wow. Kind of wrote more then I had planned to there, haha. Once again thanks for everything you do here at ProBlogger and keep it going :)

  12. James Penn says:

    Hi Darren

    It would be great to get a follow up post on how you go about getting direct ad sales. I’ve got a few blogs that are rising in terms of page views month on month but Adsense (which is responsible for about 80% of my income) is decreasing and decreasing. Many Adsense publishers are noticing similar things.

    I’d like to move more into direct ad sales, or even just through an ad network and would be great to read your thoughts and advice.

    Thanks,
    James

  13. Syed Balkhi says:

    Thanks for the great insights Darren. I’ve learnt a lot from you over the years.

    Right now my company revenues are fairly diversified.

    1. Consulting & Services
    2. Affiliate Income (highly diversified with hundreds of merchants)
    3. Google Adsense
    4. Products

    Direct ad sales have been one of the things that I want to work on. I’ve done it in the past, but don’t have a dedicated team for it.

    I know you’re pretty busy most of the time, but would love to chat sometime about this over Google Chat or Skype.

  14. Drewry says:

    When it comes to making money online and revenue-generating diversification, it’s always good to affiliate oneself with multiple online ad networks. I learned this the hard way years ago. it’s good to so just because. The reason why many people may possibly only depend on Google AdSense for income is because that’s the only network they know. Some people don’t want to go through the hustle and bustle of enlisting with multiple affiliate networks. They will learn sooner or later through experience that diversifying their income with different advertisements from different networks on their blog or website is much better versus solely depending on Google AdSense.

  15. Thank you Darren for this wonderful post. I am one of those protagonists of income diversification. I have decided to embark on massive diversification of the sources of my revenue. I am not yet where I should be; but I believe that remaining consistent in my drive would definitely take me there.

    Income diversification helps prevent a situation where you suddenly go financially bankrupt should anything happen to that source you have solely depended on. I am happy you have various sources that are giving you money.

    Every businessman or bloggers who is able to lay different foundations and get money from different sources would easily become rich by pooling those little incomes together to make an ocean of wealth.

    Thanks once again Darren for this post. Do have a pleasant weekend.

  16. Josh says:

    Darren,

    I too am trying to diversify. I’m in the beginning stages, though. However, I’ve never used adsense. Well, I had for one day on one of my blogs. Till I started to see some of the ads that they were putting up there. Anyway, eBooks is where I’m heading to next. I have one that I’m writing right now that will be given out to people when they sign up for my newsletter. I’m all about quality, so I want my readers to be happy when they sign up.

    I have an eBook written for one of my other blogs that does the same thing. It serves just to entice people to sign up, but am still editing it. In the near future, I’ll be going live with it, and hope to see great results.

    I love your transparency, Darren, Thanks as always for the great job.

    Josh

  17. Can we get an audio recording of this post so we can listen to it in our sleep? Really drill diversification into our minds? (I may have just, inadvertently, given you an option for another income stream) This is a great post! I’m definitely bookmarking it. After I go ahead and read it again…

  18. Chris says:

    I’m still at the beginning of my journey but it is encouraging to see that you started speaking locally and then branched out. I have only recently started being asked to speak at some local conferences about blogging and inspiration, but it’s hard to see a light at the end of that tunnel. Add to that the fact that I write about fatherhood and you can see where I am having trouble seeing a bigger picture.

    Anyway, you are the first person I started following with regards to blogging and I have read everything ever since. Thank you for sharing this kind of information because it really helps keep me motivated, knowing that there is so much more out there for me to accomplish.

  19. Deborah says:

    I have no income (from blogging) as of yet. I am way, way, way new to the game. Just trying to learn all I can, but I totally agree, that you cannot put all your eggies in one basket, when you do your work online (writing, art, craft sales, etc.) You have to be willing to try new things and learn new stuff every single day. Thanks for sharing so much of what has worked and is working for you!

  20. Katna says:

    I have been following your blog for over a year, and this is the first time that I have made a comment. This particular post has been eye opening for me as I am not as diversified as I would like to be in my income streams. This post has given me insight on how to do that and where to look for diversification. I am excited about getting started. Thank you!

  21. Gina Hiatt says:

    How refreshing to see an honest breakdown of your income with the backstory! This is so helpful. I have two “Software as a Service” companies, but I worry, nonetheless about what could go wrong. You’ve inspired me to think about other sources of income. I’ve already planned some classes, and I’d like to write a book (or maybe some ebooks for sale, as you did?) Congratulations on your success — I enjoy your blog.

  22. Sai Krishna says:

    Truly the problem of all eggs in adsense basket is common problem now of most of the bloggers, thanks for your valuable advises. Personally I enjoyed reading your income sources, its awesome.

  23. Ah! I got the Google slap…but I couldn’t reapply to get another google adsense account, so I started to move away from CPC to more CPA type monetisation. But is Google Adsense still paying well? I am getting feedback that it’s been lowering to a point that it’s not very useful…… i know the its really hard to get adsense approved for newbie bloggers and i strongly recommend them to read this post.. thanks from http://www.stensly.com/

  24. Rihsam says:

    Wow amazing income streams and you’re really a problogger. Darren, you made several probloggers around different corners of the world. We benefit from each and every post you share with us. Thank you

  25. Douglas Karr says:

    Our largest has been sponsorships and everything pales in comparison to that. When we started having sponsors, our revenue went up 100 fold.

  26. Sahil Garg says:

    Hello Darren Sir
    Thanks For Sharing many other Ways to Make money.. i Just used adsense yet, i like that You Shared Your Other Sources of Income.. Congrats For Your Success in all Sources.. Thanks For Sharing the info With Others… :)

  27. Phillip Dews says:

    Hi Darren,
    A great and insightful post buddy!

    I have not made anything from my blog as yet as I have been blogging for only 2 months now and finding my feet.

    Basically I earn my keep from my web design and development business so atm the blogging is just a hobbie for me but I hope it turns into a long term venture a I get better over time.

    I was wary about adding advertising to my site but eventually bit the bullet and added Adsense a few weeks ago and now have just signed up to Chitika so thanks for the link!

    I have also offered my technical services and joined forces with Ryan Biddulph of CWATC blog which is something I am looking forward too. which is something some small to medium bloggers should do after all there is power in numbers hey?

    Anyway just wanted to leave my 2 pennies worth and wanted to say thanks for a great inspiring post.

    - Phillip Dews

  28. Getting away from adsense is so hard especially if you are not writing about a particular product or teaching a skill.

  29. Mardi Smyth says:

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of information. I am in the process of researching the blogging world so I can confidently launch a blog in early 2014.

  30. Max says:

    Great article.

    I really enjoyed reading about how your process evolved as you changed the content and type of blogging focus. These are great to get in the mind of someone who has been so successful in this realm.

  31. Darren, Excellent post on diversifying risks with respect to income streams. Also, thanks for sharing the useful mindmap and the report on your current income pattern

    Having AdSense alone is a huge risk. I know many tech bloggers who banged only on AdSense and regretted when they got banned for apparently no reason.

  32. Phuong Le says:

    Diversity is now the key to make blogging business stable, i used to rely mostly on adsense ads and now I am familiar with other kinds of monetization

  33. Michelle says:

    Great post with a lot of great information! I am fairly diversified, but I do plan on increasing that more. I would like to focus more on affiliates, as well as eventually creating my own ebook. I have so many ideas, I just wish there was more time!

  34. Great info there! Most people only think about the end game, not realizing the struggle to get there. Your article offers a lot of much welcomed insight from your journey. Thanks!

  35. Great article.
    Thanks for some of the breakdown of your earning sources. Earlier I also used to depend on AdSense but after lot of Pro Bloggers recommending to use alternatives, finally I have stepped into affiliate marketing as well and so far I am seeing good success.
    Now I just hope that 2014 proves to be best year for me.

  36. Matthew Neer says:

    Hey Darren,

    Great post man. My biggest portions of income are definitely affiliate sales. Having a few well placed banners ads is more powerful than a lot of people think. I’m looking to expand more into my own product creation and perhaps even selling some ads to well payed advertisers. I think it would be a lot cooler to sell one BIG ad, versus 4 smalls ones.

    Would you agree?

  37. Darren,
    Diversifying my eggs, I’m learning, is so very important today. I love this post and thank you for being so apparent with your income strategies, I’m learning so much for this info. I’m a new blogger, however, I’m paying attention and taking action on what I’m taught! I just started my blog less than a month ago and I’m proud to say the PR is 2/10 and my Alexa is still high but comes down continuously on a daily basis. It’s now at 480k…

    Would you say I’m doing good or is this average??? I appreciate your expertise and knowledge. Thank you for being here and bing YOU! Please take a look http://mariagallowayblog.com Give me suggestions if you have any thank you!

  38. Jagan says:

    Great information and great diversification. Every Bloggers has to follow these methods, by which more traffic and more sales.Purely depending on ad-sense is a risk thing.

  39. Pau says:

    I am very new to making money online (haven’t made a cent yet really), so I am working on just one source of income, but I appreciate your post so much. I will definitely diversify as time goes on.

    I have heard in the past how important it is to have multiple sources of income, but never from this perspective so thank you :)

  40. Ben Troy says:

    Monetizing with multiple income streams can not only increase your overall earnings, but can insulate you from the often unexplainable income declines from various sources, which as I referenced above can and do occur. This is even more true as Google continues to tweak and modify their search engine algorithms

    • You couldn’t be more right. Why do you think we see companys have multiple products and services? Because diversity prevents one weak or underseling product from sinking the company.

  41. Mags Sikora says:

    Many thanks for the insight re Chitika, I am going to test them.

    Also, it is very rarely to see an income split of a popular site shared with it readers! so thank you! I am just in the middle of writing my first eBook. It is looks like it is the right step forward.

  42. Jimmy says:

    This is a really important post for me.
    Not putting all your eggs on one basket has been my philosophy since I nearly went bankrupt 5 years ago. I’m now trying to get my blog off the ground with an idea for other business. If I can earn a small income in a variety of ways from different sources then I can go full time on my own and hopefully leave working for my company ie- my soul destroyer!!

    Thanks for sharing this info. Great read! :)

  43. Brandon says:

    Thanks for sharing the breakdown. everyone preaches diversify… easy to say, harder to do. Real world examples like this make it seem possible for the little guys like myself!

  44. Direct advertising is the safest income source for any blogger. Because, we have complete control over what we choose to display and it doesn’t depend on anything else but the popularity and branding of our blog.

    • I agree with this! There is something to be said about having complete control over aspects of your website(s). When it comes to money you can never be too careful.

      Thanks for the insight.

  45. Yassin says:

    I have to admit that when i diversified my sources of income. my profit tripled. i used to rely completely on making niche sites relying on Google traffic. a penguin update and I’ll devastated the next day. however i started diversifying everything, sources of traffic, income methods… they talked gold when they said don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

  46. John says:

    I rely heavily on adwords so will certainly take a look at Chitika, thanks

  47. Mike D says:

    The best way I’ve found to monetize my blog is to prominently promote my email newsletter.

    It’s the best way to squeeze every ounce of value you possibly can out of your subscribers.

    It’s definitely something that you’re taking advantage of… I see.

    :]

  48. andi says:

    I like the way you explain it using diagram. It is very understand. CPM really works for my blog.

  49. Chris says:

    Darren, I’ve been watching your website for quite a time right now and this is what I was looking for. It can be tough for us the bloggers to get a stream of revenue coming and after we get that solved, it may not be easy to starting diversifying more.

    All of us should understand the importance of diversification. I paid for it myself as I had all the eggs in only one basket and now I have to build up everything over. However, I’m gonna do it differently this time. This post gave me the inspiration necessary!

    All of us should know that it’s not about the money, it’s the value we create. The money will come afterwards!

  50. Kashif says:

    Thanks for taking us through the history, Darren. I am following your blog since so many years and have observed the transition from Adsense to other monetization methods that you have listed in this post.

    So many publishers have suffered due to Adsense policy shifts, most of them still unable to find the foothold back. Having said that, Google Adsense is still the simple and quickest way to generate revenue from your content site, if you do not have the traffic and followers like Darren Rowse. Right?