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2014 Reboot: Make Money From Your Blog This Year

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we focus on that old chestnut – is it REALLY possible to earn some cash doing what we love? Well the answer is “yes, but”. So if 2014 is the year you finally knuckle down and make it happen – Darren’s got just the post for you.

This post “Is it Really Possible to Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I know about Making Money Blogging] first appeared in November 2012. 

Every now and again I am pulled aside at a conference or am emailed and/or tweeted by someone wanting to get the “real” scoop on whether it is possible to make money blogging.

  • Is it really possible to make a living from blogging?
  • Is it just a small number of people making money from blogging?
  • Is it only really possible to make money blogging if you write about the topic of making money blogging?

I completely understand the questions and would probably want to add one more:

  • If it is really possible to make money blogging, how likely is it that you’ll succeed?

I’ve written many times here on ProBlogger about this in the hope of giving a realistic picture of the topic, but I think it is worth touching on again because there is a lot of misinformation out there right now.

On one hand, we see hype on the topic. Periodically someone will claim to be able to make millions from blogging quickly. These claims are usually accompanied with the release of a product or service (i.e. they are marketing spin).

On the other hand, I periodically see people writing about how it is impossible to make money blogging (or that anyone claiming to be full time is either a scammer, a liar, or is selling something on the topic of making money online).

The reality is somewhere between these two extremes.

7 Things I know about making money from blogging

1. It is possible

I’ve been blogging for just under ten years and for nine of those I’ve been making money blogging. It started out as just a few dollars a day but in time it gradually grew to becoming the equivalent of a part-time job, then a full-time job, and more recently into a business that employs others.

I used to talk about the specific levels of my earnings when I started ProBlogger but felt increasingly uncomfortable about doing so (it felt a little voyeuristic and a little like a big-headed boasting exercise and I didn’t really see the point in continuing to do it)— but my income has continued to grow each year since I began.

On some levels I was at the right place at the right time—I got into blogging early (in 2002 … although I felt I was late to it at the time) and have been fortunate enough to have started blogs at opportune times on the topics I write about.

However I know of quite a few other bloggers who make a living from blogging, many of whom have not been blogging anywhere near as long as I have.

For some it is a hobby that keeps them in coffee; for others it is the equivalent of a part time job/supplementing other income from “real jobs” or helping their family out as they attend to other commitments (raising a family). For others it is a full-time thing.

I’ll give you some examples below.

2. There is no single way to monetize blogs

Recently at our Melbourne ProBlogger event I featured numerous Australian bloggers in our speaker lineup who fit somewhere in the part-time to full-time spectrum. They included:

The year before, we had others, including:

Most of these bloggers are full-time (or well on the way to being full-time bloggers). They come from a wide array of niches and all monetize quite differently—doing everything from selling advertising, to having membership areas, to selling ebooks, to running affiliate promotions, to promoting their offline businesses, to selling themselves as speakers, to having book deals, and so on. Many have a combination of different income streams.

They are all also Australian, and are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is happening here in Australia—the same thing is being replicated around the globe.

There are many ways to monetize a blog. To give you a quick sense of the many methods check out this “money map” I created a year or so back, which outlines just some that I brainstormed (click to enlarge).

Ways to Make Money Blogging.png

I also recorded this free hour-and-twenty-minute webinar giving an introduction to the topic.

3. There are no formulas

From time to time, people have released products that claim to be formulas for success when it comes to making money online. They outline steps to follow to “guarantee” you’ll make money.

In my experience there is no formula.

Each full-time blogger I’ve met in the last ten years has forged their own path and has a unique story to tell. They have often acted on hunches and made surprising discoveries along the way.

There are certainly similarities in many of the stories but each blogger has their own personality and style, each one is reaching a different audience, and each niche tends to monetize differently.

The key lesson is to be aware of what others are doing and to learn what you can from each other, but to also be willing to forge your own path as well!

4. Many niches monetize

One common critique of the topic of monetizing of blogs is that the only people making money from blogging are the ones writing about how to make money blogging.

This is simply not true.

In the above list of speakers from our Melbourne event you’ll notice I included topic/niche of each blogger. None sell products teaching others to make money blogging—all are on blogging on “normal,” every-day topics.

My own experience of having a blog about blogging (ProBlogger) and a blog about Photography is that it is my photography blog that is by far the most profitable blog (I’d estimate it’s ten times more profitable).

I’ve interviewed numerous full-time bloggers of late in a webinar series including:

Interestingly, none of them make money by teaching others to make money online. Sarah largely blogs about health and wellbeing, Tsh blogs about simple living, and Ana blogs about woodwork.

5. Most bloggers don’t make a full-time living from blogging

Every time I’ve surveyed readers of ProBlogger about their earnings, we’ve seen that those making money from blogging are in the minority.

In a recent survey of 1500 ProBlogger readers we asked about their monthly earnings. What you’re seeing below is the spread of earnings from readers who are attempting to make money blogging (note: not all ProBlogger readers attempt to make money, so not all are included in these results).

Keep in mind that ProBlogger readers are generally newish bloggers—about half of those who took this survey had been blogging for less than two years.

So of those trying to make money blogging, 10% don’t make anything and 28% are making less than 30 cents per day. A total of 63% make less than $3.50 per day.

Let’s be clear—most bloggers who are attempting to make money are not making a living from blogging.

Having said that, of the 1508 bloggers surveyed 65 (4%) are making over $10,000 per month (over six figures per year) and a further 9% were doing over $1000 per month (which is at least a part-time level of income).

My feeling, having been attending blogging conferences for six or so years now, is that the number of full-time bloggers is on the rise, and there are actually quite a few more people now at least making the equivalent of a couple of days’ work a week in income from their blogs.

However, most bloggers don’t make much.

6. It takes time to build

When I dig down into the stats from the survey on income levels above, and do some analysis of those who are in the top income bracket, it is fascinating to look at how long they’ve been blogging.

85% of those in that top income bracket have been blogging for four years or more. Almost all of the others had been blogging for three or four years.

This certainly was my own experience. I blogged for a year without making money and once I started monetizing it was around two years of gradual increases before I approached a full-time income level. It would have been four years before I joined that top bracket of income (over $10,000 per month).

Blogging for money is not a get-rich-quick thing. It takes time to build an audience, to build a brand, and to build trust and a good reputation.

And of course even with four or five years of blogging behind you, there’s no guarantee of a decent income.

7. It takes a lot of work

Longevity is not the only key to a profitable blog. The other common factor that I’ve noticed in most full-time bloggers is that they are people of action.

Passivity and blogging don’t tend to go hand in hand.

 

Blogging as “passive income stream” is another theme that we hear in many make-money-blogging products, however it is far from my own experience.

I’ve worked harder on my business over the last ten years than I’ve worked on anything in my life before this. It is often fun and gives me energy, but it takes considerable work to create content on a daily basis, to keep abreast of what’s going on in the community, to monitor the business side of things, to create products to sell, to build an audience, and so on.

The key is to build blogs that matter to people, that are original, interesting, and helpful. But this doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of work.

Conclusions

Yes, it is possible to make money blogging. There is an ever-increasing number of people making money from blogging at a part-time to full-time level —however they are still in the minority.

Those who do make a living from blogging come from a wide range of niches, however one of the most common factors between them is that they’ve been at it for a long while.

How long have you been blogging? Are you looking to make money from it—and have you already? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

30 Lessons from Selling $30 Million Worth of eBooks

This is a guest contribution from our very own Shayne Tilley.

class snapshots

Before you hit me up for a loan, let me preface this post. That number represents eBooks sold in for various masters and partners in the last decade. Yes there are a couple of mine in there, but it’s a tiny fraction of a % of the total.

Okay, with that out of the way, a big part of my digital life has revolved around eBooks. I’ve been trying to sell eBooks before anyone really knew what they were. I’ve tried just about every approach, channel, launch strategy there is, and made pretty much every mistake in the eBook. I’ll admit, a lot of the time I was making it up as I went along. There were no rules to this eBook game.

If you’re about to start your own journey with eBooks here are 30 lessons I learnt along the way…

1. Good eBooks sell eBooks

When it comes to selling eBooks, there are lots of techniques and tactics that will people motivated to buy, but there is none more powerful that a great eBook.

True word of mouth will sell more copies than your marketing copy ever will.

2. Page count doesn’t matter (when it comes to pricing)

People are happy to spend a $100 on an eBook that solves a problem they put a high value on. Higher than the eBook price anyway. The length of your eBook should be as long at it needs to be to deliver the value you promise.

Don’t pad for price.

3. Some people are great at explaining things, some are not

I read and listen to people like Darren and my friend Kevin Yank and I know they are better at explaining things than I am.  It’s the truth but it didn’t stop me writing two eBooks. It did teach me that I needed to focus on the skills I wanted to improve on.

4. Momentum early pays off immediately and in the long run

Every eBook I’ve launched that has gained great early momentum (and was evergreen) has always delivered the most over a long period of time.

Don’t think about what you’ll earn from great launch now; think of the impact momentum will carry over the life of the eBook.

5. You’re not actually selling content

I’m talking about practical eBooks here. You can read / listen / watch for free on the web a how-to on any topic.  EBooks organise things for us into a nice little bundle and often have a higher editorial standard. That convenience and quality is what we buy, not the content. There are exceptions to this I’ll admit, but it’s something to think about

6. The story matters

People care about why you wrote the eBook just as much as what’s inside. When you tell a story and share emotions, people will be a lot more inclined to listen to what you have to say.

7. Marketplaces find buyers but screw with your pricing

If you want to play in the sub $10 eBook market then getting your eBook into places like iEBookstore and Amazon are a no brainer.  But they’ll work against you if you want to aim higher than that.

Used well, these marketplaces can reach millions of readers but if you have your own audience you might not need to bend to their will.

8. Reviews matter

Bad reviews can kill eBooks – legitimate or not. Sometimes there’s not much you can do about a bad review but you should know what people are saying. Don’t just look at Amazon reviews, Google ‘[your eBook] review’ and see what comes up.

Chances are your potential customers already are.

9. Print is still prestige

Whilst this is perhaps fading, printed books carry more prestige than an eEBook. You might consider printing a small batch of books so you can give them to your clients (and your mom).  This is even more important if your eBook is the bait not the fish (we’ll talk about that later).

10. Evergreen lives longer, relevant launches bigger

If you want your eBook to live a long life then evergreen content is the way to go. If you want a big win now, a timely eBook is an option as long as you remember that the clock on the longevity of your sales is already ticking.

11. You’ll sell more than anyone else will

You just stick your eBook on Amazon and let Amazon work it’s magic, right?  Wrong. Don’t expect to create an eBook and just magically sell your way to retirement.

You’ve got to continue to sell you and the eBook at every moment, if you want it to pay the bills.

12. If there are 100 of the same eBooks on your topic, you need an audience

The amount of times people talk to me about their social media eBook does my head in. Honestly. There are so many eBooks on this topic already – why would someone buy yours?

If you’re going to plonk your eBook into an open marketplace with a bunch of similar eBooks that already have history, sales and reviews, you might be wasting your time. But if you already have your own audience and can launch it to them, you might just get some instant momentum.

13. Invest in an editor, and or a proofreader

People expect quality in eBooks. I don’t care how good a word nerd you think you are. Get a second opinion.

14. There’s not such thing as a perfect eBook

Don’t expect to create the perfect eBook. It doesn’t exist and probably never will.  For the perfectionists, call it done and ship!  You won’t make any money with it in draft.

15. Even the niche of a niche can be profitable

Don’t think you need to create the next 50 Shades of Grey to make good money.  Even the super niches are large enough to create a volume of buyers and well worth your while.

The wider the niche the more potential customers but the more competitive it will be, so it’s a balancing act.

16. Write your blog post / press release first

This is a technique I use to understand who my readers are and what they want.  Your sales page should be full of benefits and promises. Write those promises first, then make sure your eBook delivers on them as you create it.

17. You might have an eBook and you don’t even know it

Two of the most successful eBook publishers I’ve worked with created their first eBook as a collection of posts – with a few extra bits wrapped up in a nice design.

Remember what you’re selling, then look at what you’ve created already and you just might find an eBook in there.

18. Think in launch month, not launch day

I’m not going to talk much more about launches, as there’s another 30 lessons in there.  But if your launch plan is only one day – you really need to talk to me!

19. Get someone else to review or write your sales copy

Of the hundreds of eBooks I’ve launched, the only sales pages I didn’t write were for my own two eBooks. Why? Because I just couldn’t be objective.

You’re likely to focus on the hard parts to write, which probably are not the part your readers care about. You’ll infer and miss stuff — it’ll get messy. Get someone else to do it, or, at a minimum get someone else to pick it to pieces for you.

20. Sometimes you just can’t pick ‘em

I’ll guarantee you this, there’s no guarantee or sure fire success when it comes to eBooks. Sometimes you can pick ‘em and other times, they’ll come out of left field.

But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

21. You’ll be surprised who doesn’t help spread the word

When you launch you eBook, there will be a bunch of people who you’re convinced will help you spread the word. You’ll learn a lot about the people who do and who don’t.

22. Your perfect launch day was probably yesterday

I’ve spoken about this before, there is no one size fits all perfect launch day (or every single eBook would launch on the same day!). So just get it done and stop worrying about when.

23. Your eBook can be the bait, or the fish

You can write eBooks, charge money and that’s your income. You can write eBooks, charge money and open doors. Or you can give away eBooks to sell other products and services.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these plans however, you need to understand your objectives and focus on them – rather than trying to get the best of every world.

24. Lots of people will tell you it’s easy

Creating an eBook isn’t easy. There are lots of things to think about and anyone who tells you it is easy probably has a product to lead you to. That said, it’s hard work done once and can be extremely valuable. At a minimum, it’s something to be really proud of.

25. It’s not a forever investment

There is a time-limit on every eBook. Well, maybe not all eBooks – but most. Don’t expect that in a decade, you’ll still be selling the same eBook in the thousands.

If you want to keep the revenue flowing, think about new editions and new titles.

26. Procrastinators need a stick

My stick is my partner Justine, and Problogger’s stick is Jasmine, our eBook creator (she’s a wonderful person!). If you procrastinate, you need help. Find it in any way you can, or you’ll never ship.

27. Titles and cover images matter (even digitally)

Think about what your title means to a reader, now and tomorrow. Think about how they will remember your title and how they will describe it to others.

Coming up with a great eBook title is a bit of an art form like email subject lines and headlines but you don’t have as much chance of running A/B tests to get it right!

28. Split your selling and your writing

This is really a tip about your mindset. When you’re writing, you’re delivering a message to your reader and you need to focus on doing the best possible job. Immerse yourself and be narrow-minded.

When it comes to selling, you need to approach it as objectively as you can. Try to think like your selling someone else eBook not your own — or get some help

29. What worked for them, won’t always work for you

If enough people try something, eventually someone will get it right but that doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Someone else’s success is probably during a different time, on a different topic with different readers – and you’re a different writer.

Your perfect launch story is your own.

30. Just go with it

Of all the things that scare you about putting an eBook out on show, the reward (even if it’s just a personal one) will be worth it.  I’m a two-time author who got D’s in English.  If I can do it then you can!

So there you have it, 30 things I learned selling a crap load of eBooks.  I’m sure there are more so I’d love to hear about some in the comments!

Nine Tips to Create Banners for Profitable Advertising

This a guest contribution from full time affiliate marketer, Nrupen Masram.

Some people think that banner ads are coming to an end. The problem is most of us use banners in way as they were used in 1994-2003.

As time passes, the industry changes and so does the use of banners in marketing plans. However, banner advertising is a flourishing billion dollar industry that pervades advertising, teaching, publishing and every other information marketing industry you could name.

The end of banner advertising is a fallacy.

If you’re planning to spend money on banner ads, here are a few tips to think about before you get inside and play dirty:

1. Size does matter

Three shapes dominate. Boxes, stripes and skyscrapers and they vary in size.

Banners with long height and small width are known as skyscraper banners while stripe banners are small in height with a relatively large width. Box banners were named because they were traditionally placed inside software and CD boxes, and because of their square shape.

However, not all sizes offer the same conversion rates.

Since most screens are limited to 600px in height, banners with more than 600px height will make people scroll, reducing the likelihood of conversion. Banners with width lesser than 120px will hardly appear and banners with more width than 160px might overtake your sidebar’s most important task of navigation.

2. Banner Placement

It is generally understood that if your banner is placed in a visible section of a site such as a side bar or above the fold, it will be clicked more often.

If you use a skyscraper banner, place it in your sidebar for better conversions. Striped banners are better placed above content, below a video product review or on the side of the site header.

The key is to put your banner where people will see it and feel motivated to act.

3. Woman Power

Marketing experiments firms and labs have proven that using a beautiful woman on any banner attracts much more attention than using a man. Some tests show a man’s image might be more relevant but when woman was also introduced in same banner along with man provided much better results.

Sometimes you don’t even need female images. Wording also works well. For example, “Mom of Four Earns $7,438.12 in One Week” is likely to do better than “Broke Dad made $12,976.45 in 7 days.”

 

The example image is from Mike Geary’s product Truth About Abs. After testing banners Mike found a banner with a female torso performed much better than other banners. In current set of affiliate tools of TAA, most banners features female torso in front of a man.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. Mike is one of the best when it comes to provide highly tested affiliate tools, that’s the reason why he runs a multimillion dollar info-product business.

4. Authority Works Even Better Than Woman Power

Have you seen the banners on the sidebar of the Problogger.net? There isn’t a lot of emotional pull. Nor is there a call to action. However, I am sure they might be the most successful banners on ProBlogger.

The reason is obvious. This is the most popular blogging for income blog in the world. Darren’s blog has set a benchmark in blogging industry and these same types of banners will work equally well when used the right way on other sites.

The reason is that every one of them have the ProBlogger logo which tells you that ProBlogger either owns the product or certifies it. A site logo will grant instant authority and credibility for people wanting to build a successful blogging business.

Authority works well for these banners. The name instils trust and a proven track record for success.

5. Copy is King

No banner is finished without the copy. Copy is, and always will be, the king of conversions. You can’t change that indisputable fact.

Copywriters rule the roost in email, video and content marketing, the creation of sales pages and other forms of paid advertising and traffic strategies. While it may sound harsh, it’s a fact you can’t alter.

Unless you have powerful click-triggering copy, any trick you might consider using, including the authority one, simply won’t work. The sample banner is among the best dating niche banners in terms of performance. It’s intelligent copywriting because it makes you click without resorting to a call to action.

6. An Obvious Call To Action (CTA)

Use of “Click Here” might work well if your copy have curiosity element but if not, you can definitely come up with a most motivating reason to act. If you have hired a copywriter to do a banner copy, ask them what they can recommend as your CTA.

7. The CTA Color.

Crazy Egg has done considerable research into this topic. If your CTA buttons use red, green, orange, blue or yellow, they’ll have far greater success than other colors.

There’s a scientific reason for this. These colors have the longest wavelengths, which means they attract more attention, thereby leading to extra sales. So it’s not coincidental that most CTA buttons you see anywhere use one or more of these influential colors.

Following are some really good performing banners of different products from ClickBank. Have a close look on their size, copy, CTA and color.

8. What is Traffic Monetization?

Traffic Monetization says, “the nature of traffic is always dependent on the sources of traffic.”

You can’t use the same landing pages to convert all types of traffic. Why? Because just as traffic sources are all different, so are their responses. This same rule applies to all banner ad traffic.

Your marketing can be divided into two sections; Front End and Back End Marketing. The Front End aims to put your offer in front of your client and to get them inside your sales funnel. Once they are there, the Back End makes the actual sale.

The majority of landing pages are only optimized for affiliate sales but not for traffic from banner ads. If you get traffic through from your banner ad, use product specific squeeze page to nudge them into your sales funnel and then make the sale.

9. Rules that Apply to Paid Traffic also Apply to Banner Ads

Paid traffic source should be constantly split tested, customized and optimized. You also have to use specific methods to work out on your metrics and your return on investment (ROI).

There are free and paid tools that you can use for testing and they can also reveal what banner was loaded, the page that a click triggered and the different traffic paths that people took to get to the conversion page.

Kiss Metrics is a high-end tool used by the marketers to find every minute detail to enable them to improve their traffic monetization strategies.

Example Of Sites That Are Successfully Using Banner Ads

IncomeDiary.com is one of the most successful site with banner ads. They spend lot of time optimizing and tweaking banners for max performance because almost all products that they promote on their website belong to them. Stripe Banner is placed above content; one 250 x 250 banner is placed on sidebar above fold. Rest banners are also 250 x 250 banner.

JohnChow.com and ZacJohnson.com also place stripe ads above blog content. ZacJohnson.com uses 250 x 250 flash banner on sidebar above fold whereas JohnChow.com uses 250 x 250 banner in content.

Other Things To Consider

The first time ads were used, people used to just click them because they assumed the ads were a part of the website. Now people know the truth.

People don’t visit your website to see ads. They want to see the real information on your site, not ads that are dumped there. So you need to put a lot of thought into the design, look, color, feel, size and copy of your banner ads… if you want results of course!

Nrupen Masram has been a full time affiliate marketer since 2010. He isn’t a millionaire marketer but he earns his full time income online. He write about affiliate marketing on his blog http://NrupenMasram.com.

What Advertisers Want: 6 steps to Attract Advertisers to Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Brianne Bauer.

How do advertisers determine whether a blog is worth their marketing dollars? Promising blogs start out with must-have elements — interesting content, loyal readership, eye-catching design and regular updates.

But what’s missing? Here are six ways bloggers can become more attractive to advertisers.

money jumping from Laptop like blog advertising

Cross-Media Integration

Advertisers looks at many metrics when considering advertising on a blog — page views, daily visitors, average time on site, CPM, among others.

One of the growing metrics on an advertiser’s radar is a blog’s social media page. Advertisers not only look at how many followers a blog has but, more importantly, also look at the conversations being held on the blog’s page and social media channels. Can advertisers see themselves being a topic of conversation? Are open-ended questions being asked around a certain product?

When advertisers see a blog’s large following on Twitter, they see their ROI increasing. Incorporating sponsored social media posts (i.e. sponsored tweets) into your offerings will make a blog’s brand more lucrative. Outside of social media, consider other media. During the past five years, I’ve made more than 50 TV appearances that focused on blog content. As a lifestyle blogger this was a natural fit, and this is an attractive option to heighten exposure for your advertisers.

Get Advertisers Involved

Offer a variety of sponsorship opportunities other than banner ads. Polls, product spotlights and giveaways are great ways to help a blog’s aesthetic and give advertisers options to showcase their brand.

Some advertisers want to only participate in giveaways while others may only want to guest post. Guest posts are among the most common ways advertisers get involved with blogs. Guest posts are typically used by brands to build web traffic and to put readers in a purchasing frame of mind. Along with their content, guest posts typically have a byline and a link to the respective blog or website increasing their web stats.

Note that it is imperative to remain up front with readers and disclose that a special section is paid for.

Get Readers Interacting with Advertisers

This is arguably one of the most important components of a campaign. If, for example, a blogger reviews a storage product like Backup Genie review and then asks readers to weigh in with their opinions, ask them if they are already using it, plan on buying it or how it would make their lives better. Getting readers to interact with a brand is what advertisers are truly searching.

Know Your Blog Rank and How to Improve It

There are two leading ways advertisers use to measure a site’s performance: Google Page Rank and Alexa ranking. These ranking systems allow website owners to benchmark their websites and give advertisers metrics for evaluation.

Google Page Rank is an algorithm that ranks a site from 0 to 10 with a major emphasis on quality backlinks. It’s no surprise that if the Google bots don’t like something, like a broken backlink, a blog’s Page Rank score could be in jeopardy. As Page Rank (PR) is slow to update (PR is only updated every 3-4 months), it’s difficult to better your PR in a short amount of time.

If a blog is stagnating at a PR3 for a while, it could mean there are on-page issues that should be checked using Xenu. Alexa ranking is a free online directory that measures how many daily visitors a site receives, along with other traffic metrics and search analytics. Both are important to advertisers, but Page Rank is measured on your website reputation and Alexa is measured on website traffic.

Let Numbers Speak for Themselves

A media kit gives advertisers a quick glance of what they need to know. It should be updated regularly (and honestly) with the blog’s positioning, like this:

  • Google Page Rank: 4
  • MozRank: 5.25
  • July 2013 Visitors: 13,485
  • Pageview: 72,856
  • Average Time on Site: 2:02
  • Bounce Rate: 72.42

Bloggers should be forthcoming if certain stats don’t scream success. Share additional facts such as:

  • Strong niche following for Topic XYZ
  • Active in social circles (only share follower number if blog’s social media has more than 5,000 followers)
  • Blogs for two group blogs
  • Contributing blogger for major Topic XYZ website

Know Your Advertising Options

What better way to help build your brand than to hit the pavement and meet advertisers, share your inspiration for the blog and why you think they would benefit from advertising? But if being in the field isn’t your thing, let those who specialize in blog advertising help win new advertisers. Adsense and Amazon Affiliates are among the leaders but research to find a good fit for your blog.

It’s getting easier than ever to garner interest from new advertisers, but harder to weed out scammers.

The longevity of a blog is on based consistent, quality content (and ranking!) but bloggers monetize best when they deliver results to advertisers.

Brianne Bauer has garnered publicity for lifestyle brands like Paramount Pictures, and personalities such as Mariel Hemingway and Cheryl Tiegs. With a background in magazine publishing and corporate PR, she is now a freelance publicist and writer based in Minneapolis.

How to Make the Switch Between Monetizing with Ad Network to Selling Ads Directly on Your Blog

Over on Reddit today someone asked for some advice on switching from monetizing a blog using just ad networks (like AdSense) to selling advertising directly to advertisers. I found myself writing a rather long response and thought it might also be of some use to readers here.

Here’s the question:

I was reading a post about blogging and money and was wondering when in a bloggers career do the emails start coming in where companies are trying to advertise on your website? I am curious because when first starting out you don’t have a lot of traffic so no proof of presence so companies don’t really care to be shown for long periods of time on those blogs. So people get adsense or amazon ads up. Then at a certain point there are a ton of people coming in and people now want to throw ads up. This is a great point to just take down the automatic ads and go with the ad management setup.

When did you realize your traffic was high enough to switch over?

And my response (which wasn’t really written as a blog post – so I hope it is helpful):

This is a question I hear fairly regularly and I wish there was a magical number that applied for all blogs. The reality is that I’ve seen bloggers sell ads directly to advertisers before they launched and to bloggers who couldn’t sell ads directly, even with tens of thousands of visitors a day.

As with most things in blogging – there is no formula.

My own experience is that I have monetized my blogs in a variety of ways from day #1 and  that as my blogs grow this has not changed. What has changed is the type of monetization.

As your traffic and brand develops, new opportunities will open up for different types of monetization.

So for me, in the early days, I started with AdSense and a little affiliate marketing (Amazon’s program). This generated a few cents a day – but they were a few cents more than I had when I started! More importantly, I learned a lot about ad placement and design, and what type of ads worked best on my sites.

As my traffic grew, I began to realize that I might one day be able to sell ads directly to advertisers. However, these advertisers didn’t magically appear. I had to go and chase them.

While I had an ‘advertise with us’ page on the site, the only ads I was able to sell were small ads with small advertisers. I had a camera review blog and my first advertisers were small local camera stores who paid $20-$30 for a month of advertising (discounted for 12 months). It wasn’t much – but it was $20-$30 a month more than I had… and again I learned a lot from selling those ads!

As traffic and brand grows, you can command more for ads but you shouldn’t just rely upon advertisers coming to you.

Ask yourself a few questions to identify potential advertisers:

  • What is my readers intent? Why are they coming to my blog? If you can nail what this is you might just find an advertiser who matches that intent. For my camera review blog, I realized my readers were researching before they purchased a camera, so pitching to camera stores was a smart move.
  • Who are my readers? What are their demographics? Knowing who is reading your blog is golden information when finding advertisers. Surveys and polls of your readership can help work this out. Once you know that, ask ‘who is trying to reach this type of person?’
  • Who is actively advertising on my niche? Look on other blogs/sites/forums to see who is advertising. Look to see what advertisers ads are appearing on your site through the Ad Networks you use. Look to see who is advertising on Google when you type in key words related to your niche. These advertisers are in the market for readers in your niche and should be places you go to pitch your site as a place to buy ads.

As you approach advertisers you’ll see that they want certain information that you can begin to pull together into a media kit.

Information about your readers is important to include (readership numbers, demographics, reader intent etc) as well as the opportunities and costs associated with advertising.

Include what type of ads you can run (ad size and placement).

Also think about how you can offer bundles of ads. For example, you might offer ads in your newsletter, on social media or to do a giveaway to your readers. These extras could be offered either as incentives to advertisers (buy some ads and we’ll throw in XXXX) or you could use them as up-sells.

In time, you’ll see what kind of information that advertisers want. Smaller advertisers often won’t need as much but as you approach bigger advertisers (usually you need to do this through their agencies) they’ll ask for more and more information and make more demands in terms of paperwork and your pitch.

Even when your site is big, you’ll still find that you need to pitch TO advertisers more often than not. Some will come knocking but I find that these are more likely to be PR people wanting you to write about their products for little or no money or in return for product (it’s hard to live off free products).

Having said that – this depends a little on your niche and traffic. If you’re writing about something very specialized and in demand, advertisers are going to be more keen and will seek you out, even if your traffic is small.

Lastly – I’ve done many direct ad deals over the years but even though they are regular I still run some ad network ads on my blogs to fill the gaps.

I’ve also found that as your traffic, brand and reader engagement grows there are other ways to monetize by developing your own products (eBooks, courses or even physical products) as well as doing some affiliate marketing. But that’s probably another story :-)

Hope something in that helps!

5 Ways to Prepare Your Blog for Affiliate Selling

This a guest contribution from full time affiliate marketer, Nrupen Masram.

Using your blog to earn a passive income through affiliate sales is something many bloggers aspire to. Isn’t it? But you won’t make money if you don’t get visitors to your site and you won’t get that consistent traffic until you have a blog worth visiting.

There are lots of ways to generate affiliate sales through your blog but having affiliate products to sell is just a small part of the picture. This article will focus on five elements you should consider, before and after you sign up to any affiliate programs.

1. Become A Niche Expert

If you simply focus on making affiliate sales, you’re likely to scare people away. When you do a search on Google for anything related to a particular niche, what are you looking for? Usually, you’re looking for expert. So, it follows on that if you’re an expert in a particular niche, you’re going to attract traffic. So how do you establish yourself as an expert?

There’s more than one piece to this puzzle. You obviously need lots of knowledge about your niche. You need your own blog where you can share your knowledge and engage in discussion. Write plenty of content to educate people. Once people are comfortable with you as an expert and you’ve developed a community, you can start slipping in affiliate products in your blog posts.

Nobody wants to be sold to all the time. They want to believe they’re making the buying decisions on their own so when you include affiliate links and products in your blog posts, you should aim to provide genuine solutions to common problems.

2. Create a Recommended Products and Tools Page 

Word-of-mouth advertising is by far the best, strongest and most effective form available…and it’s free! Everybody’s favorite price. This is what you are trying to harness in affiliate sales and you can consolidate all your best product recommendations on one page. As you’re building your reputation as an expert, your followers will trust your opinions and a single page of recommendations allow you to recommend products outside of a blog post.

Every time you recommend a product or tool, you’re putting your own reputation on the line and that’s one of the most valuable assets you have in business. Never recommend a product or service that isn’t good quality and never lie, say a product is good if it’s not. You only have to do it once to lose all the trust you have built up with many of your followers.

You can also create your own tools and products and add them to this category if you have the necessary skills or are willing to outsource this aspect of your business in order to make even more money.

3. Write Product Reviews

Product reviews are a great way to include affiliate links in a useful and educational blog post. Where possible, never write a review about a product you haven’t used yourself. If you’re going to make money this way, it’s best to truly know how well a product performs so you have be honest with your community.

However, it’s not always possible to use every single product and so some reviews will be based on research and opinion. You must always write an honest, but positive, review of the product and have an affiliate link within the review that goes to the product.

It’s critically important here that you don’t hide the fact you’re an affiliate. A lack of transparency may cost you the trust of some of your readers. There’s nothing wrong with making commissions based on reviews you have written if you’re honest about everything.

4. Build Your Own Mailing Lists

A growing mailing list is key to long-term success in affiliate selling and your blog for that matter. However, just because somebody subscribes to your blog, it doesn’t give you permission to hit them with countless sales emails every single day. You’re smarter than that!

Using an autoresponder (such as Aweber or GetResponse) will help keep in regular contact with your subscribers but you should vary the type of information contained within the emails. Regular newsletters give you the opportunity to share free articles, reports, ebooks and even free products sometimes.

Your affiliate sales emails should be interspersed with these other emails so the people on your lists don’t feel like they’re always being sold to. This comes back to building relationships and rapport. Also allow your subscribers to provide feedback to make sure you know if you’re taking the wrong approach.

Banner Ads 

Banner ads can be effective but you need to consider the size and placement within your blog. Most affiliate products tools have a selection of banners you can use so test different ones to see which banners can give you the best results for your money. Avoid large banners and ones that have clashing colours  Remember that they’re merely one aspect of your blog design. They shouldn’t overtake everything else you worked so hard to design.

Making money with affiliate sales can be very lucrative but it’s not as easy as waving a magic wand. It involves a lot of short, medium and long-term planning to ensure your business grows consistently and your income also grows. Never be afraid to change things to see if they can improve aspects of your business. You can always change them back if they don’t work.

You’re the master of your own destiny (and your blog). Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

My name is Nrupen Masram. I started affiliate marketing after completing college and since year 2010 I am full time affiliate marketer. I sell both physical as well as digital products but mostly my income comes by promoting physical products. I am not millionaire marketer but I do earn full time online. I write about affiliate marketing on my blog http://NrupenMasram.com.

Check out This Amazing Bundle of Training for Bloggers and Online Entrepreneurs [72 Hours Only]

A few minutes ago an amazing bundle of great hand picked teaching for online entrepreneurs was made bundle at a great discount from some guys I’ve come to know and respect.

Check it out – it’s called Only 72 and as the name suggests it’s a once off bundle that lasts for just 72 hours.

I’ve not done a major endorsement or promotion of anything as an affiliate here on ProBlogger for over 12 months because increasingly I’ve been disillusioned with the quality of what’s been produced in this space and have felt skeptical about many of the people’s motivations behind products.

I’m happy to say that this one is different. Two of guys behind this bundle are people I’ve come to know and respect – many will be familiar with them – Pat Flynn and Adam Baker. They are experienced online entrepreneurs who not only do well at business but who are genuine guys who act with good faith, transparency and a down to earth approach.

You can get to know them a little more in this trailer.

The bundle that Pat, Rick and Adam have put together for this 72 hour period is called the ‘Be Everywhere Bundle‘ and includes:

  • Pat Flynn is contributing a portion of his first premium course – ‘Breakthrough Blogging‘ – targeted at bloggers who have started but who have stalled or are not yet seeing the result they want.
  • Scott Dinsmore offers four modules from his ‘How to Connect with Anyone‘ training which will help you to grow your network and make genuine and beneficial relationships with others to help you grow your business.
  • Adam Baker has put together some training modules with Emmy Award winning studio production study Stillmotion to help you create Better Web Videos. It’ll help you with talking head videos, gear, audio, lighting and more.
  • Gideon Shalwick has rereleased his Rapid Video Blogging course – the perfect companion for the other video training in this bundle. It has video monetization strategies, covers viral videos (the theory), content creation and more.
  • Cathy Presland has a great course called Publish Your Book on Kindle which is a great training on self-publishing for the Kindle. You’ll learn what to write, how a kindle book fits into the big picture of what you do, how to make writing easy, how to format your book and more (this training in itself is the best rated course on Udemy, has 98 modules, 13 hours of teaching and normally retails for $199 – the price of this whole bundle).
  • Cliff Ravenscraft offers some great training on Podcasting which will give you everything you need to know when podcasting.

All in all this is one of the best bundles of training for bloggers and online entrepreneurs that you’re going to find. You’ll come away with training on blogging, networking, video, eBooks and podcasting – some great content to set you up for the rest of 2013!

The price of this bundle is $197 – a massive saving as if you were to buy the parts individually it’d cost you over $1500! In fact most of the parts of the bundle would normally cost you more than the $197 deal.

It is only available for 72 hours though so check out all the details and grab yours here before time runs out at midday US Eastern time on 4 July.

The Secret to Using Your Blog to Generate Sales

This is a guest contribution from Karl Staib of Domino Connection.

You’ve probably been at a party where some fool is talking his face off at everyone he meets. He talks about his trip to Spain and how he is such an amazing photographer. He never asks, “What you do or what interests you?” He just blathers on and on about himself.

On a good day I silently chuckle at this guy’s lack of social common sense. On a bad day I snap and scream, “PLEASE listen to me for just 10 seconds!”

When all you do is talk about yourself, you send people running in the other direction. If you don’t care about other people they for sure won’t care about you.

This was how the old school way of marketing worked. Megaphone style.

Image by nem_youth

Many of you might not think of your blog as a business and I understand, but one day you might want to create a ebook, product or use your blog to leverage a new career. When you improve your engagement your blog it becomes a tool to help you level up your life and career.

Spray and Pray

Back in the day, companies used to spray and pray. They sprayed their message in as many places as possible (magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, etc) and prayed that they picked the right advertising spots. Larger companies could afford to pay for market research, so they were able to make sure most of their efforts paid off.

Smaller companies didn’t have this luxury. Straight out of college, I worked in the marketing department for a high pressure valve company. They grossed about 10 million a year in sales. Not too shabby, but nothing compared to the bigger players in the industry.

We had to carefully choose our national magazines and our marketing company told us who read the magazines and which ones we needed to advertise in. We had to believe them. We had nothing else to go on.

This style of marketing has been turned upside down due to blogging and social media. Every business has the opportunity to measure their engagement on their website, email and social media accounts. The problem with all these new tools is we have the wrong attitude toward them. Companies are afraid to be transparent and engage with their customers.

Why? Because it’s hard work.

Truly Listen

Mr. Blather Lips, from the introduction, had a great time at every party he went to because he didn’t have to gauge people’s emotions. He just blathered on until he found someone to listen or it was time to go home.

Now businesses actually have to listen to their customers because if they don’t, a social media storm comes crashing down upon them. Just ask Netflix if they wished they had a better plan for when they doubled their prices.

Listening to your readers isn’t just for dealing with social media storms. It’s also so you can anticipate them and avoid them before they even happen. Now, every business has the opportunity to do market research. You can ask specific customers if they would be willing to fill out an online survey. You can ask them direct questions on your blog or social media that help you figure out what they want from you.

You don’t have to guess what you think people need. You can ask them directly and find out. You can even include them in the process of creating your product.

Invitation to Join In 

Threadless created their million dollar t-shirt company from this idea. They have people send in t-shirt designs, have the users vote on which designs they would like to buy and print only the most popular ones. They already have a built in audience for their t-shirts. It’s a win-win for everyone.

The company prints the most popular, making some good cash and the buyers get a limited edition t-shirt that they are proud to wear. Even the winning t-shirt designs are helpful to the designers. They can add this accomplishment to their resume.

You probably knew that engaging your ideal people was wise, but now what?

Now you have to go out and find them and start a conversation, but before you do you need to find out where you can connect with them.

  1. Write a description of the ideal client for your product

You have to ask yourself some specific questions to help you gain clarity:

      • What does she look like?
      • What motivates her?
      • What does she do for fun?
      • What are her career goals?
      • Where does she hang out? (Facebook, conferences, Twitter, etc.)
      • How do you engage with her? (light banter, philosophically, monetarily, etc.)

The hard part is making the mental switch from talker to engager.

I’m not just talking about being a better listener. That’s a good start, but to engage with people you have to be listening and asking great questions. It’s part art and part science.

If you want an example of someone who understands her community then visit Mayi Carles to see how she is creating content that engages and builds trust. You’ll notice that she creates content around branding and business building. All a perfect target market for her.

Engage Your Readers

Ask

Image used with permission

If you want to engage your readers, start by asking questions to show them how much you care about their success. Ask them:

  1. What topics they would like you to cover?
  2. What products you could create to help them?
  3. How you can improve your services?

By keeping the focus on your readers you’ll improve engagement, find new ways you can help them and use your blog to grow your influence.

You will also learn the type of language they use. It’s this copywriting trick that you need to use to engage your ideal readers.

Using the language they use in the copy on your sales page will increase your conversion rate. It’s that simple.

For example, let’s say Problogger gets a lot of questions on how to create content for their blog. His ideal people might not reference the word “copy” they might use the word “write” or “blog”. If this is the case then the key to writing a great sales page is to insert these words into the page so they feel comfortable with the sales copy.

Your Turn 

How have you learned to increase your visitor’s engagement on your blog? (Please share in the comment section.)

Check out Karl Staib of Domino Connection and his e-course “How to Create an Amazing Product Launch,” You can also click here to download the Domino Connection sales page checklist for free so you can create a compelling sales page that converts potential customers into buyers.

Is Making Money from Blogging Passive Income?

Recently, I attended an event and heard a speaker talk about how they’d build a passive income from blogging. The person sitting next to me leant over toward me and at whispered:

“Based on your Twitter Stream, I’m not so sure that blogging is ‘passive’ – is it?”

I thought it might be an interesting discussion to re-open here on ProBlogger – do you think that income earned from blogging could be classified as ‘passive income’?

Wikipedia defines ‘passive income’ as:

Passive income is an income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it.

Wikipedia also goes on to define it from a tax perspective, which I’m won’t get into here. I’m more interested talking about the ‘with little effort required to maintain it’ aspect of the definition, which I think is what many people are attracted to when they hear anyone talk about ‘passive income’.

Relaxed Person Hangs Flip Flops Out The Car Window

Let me kick off the discussion by making a few comments:

Most Bloggers Making a Living from Blogging, Work Hard

This has been a recurring theme here on ProBlogger, since I started the blog in 2004. While there’s no single way to make a living from blogging, most full time bloggers I know – who blog as their primary income stream - work pretty hard on their blogs.

They:

  • Post content on a daily basis
  • Spend a significant amount of effort to maintain the community around their blogs
  • Work hard on promoting their blogs and finding new readers
  • Build relationships with other bloggers
  • Work hard to maintain their income streams (whether that be by liaising and working with advertisers or developing and launching products)
  • Also work on any number of other tasks including SEO, maintaining social media accounts, answering emails, moderating comments, blog design, racing other blogs, managing hosting etc

Some full time bloggers have grown to the point where they are able to outsource some of the above – but then there’s the task of managing a team!

Income from blogging is neither quick or easy. In short, if you expect to earn an income from your blog, you need to consistently put time and effort into it.

Some Aspects of Blogging Will Generate Passive Income

Having just said that blogging for income takes a significant amount of work, there are some elements of blogging that could be said to generate ‘passive income’. Let’s look at a few examples:

There’s Gold in Those Archives

Each post I publish could potentially generate an income for me, on the day it’s published but also tomorrow, next week, and next month. Even years into the future.

Example 1 – when I dig into my Google Analytics account and drill down into the AdSense stats there, I see that last month my post ‘Aperture‘ on dPS earned me $233.23 and this Wedding Photography Tips post earned $222.61.

Those posts were published in 2007, five and a half years ago!

Example 2 – when I look at my Amazon Affiliate earnings, I can see that my Popular Digital Camera and Gear post generated $60 yesterday for me. That post has been up since 2009 and while I do update it from time to time, it has been over 2 months since I reviewed it.

Of course, part of the reason those old posts continue to generate income for me is because I continue to publish new content on the site. Alongside the new content, the posts in my archives have the potential to earn income for years to come (if all goes well).

You could argue that a blogger who spends years doing all of the above could then completely stop doing any work and still make some income based upon continued traffic from search engines. However, that traffic (and the income from it) would decrease in time without you maintaining your blog (depending a little on how evergreen the content of your blog might be).

The Long Tail of Products

In a similar manner, when you develop a product to sell to your readers that product can continue to generate an income for you into the future, without needing continual development.

Example – when I first wrote and released 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, it took significant work to get ready to be published. There was the time I put into creating the content, the editing, the design, the setting up of shopping carts, the marketing etc.

In return for that effort the eBook produced a good income when it launch during the launch period.

However, it has continued to sell almost every day since then. I did a full update of the eBook and added new content in 2012 but other than that, the 31DBBB continues to sell (as do our other eBooks) thanks to it being promoted in our sidebar/navigation areas and through annual discount promotions we’ve run.

This is the beauty of creating something to sell for your readership, particularly if it’s evergreen and doesn’t date.

Is Making Money from Blogging Passive Income?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic – do you see the income you earn from blogging as ‘passive income’?