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How I Make Money Blogging: Income Split for August/September 2010

Since April this year I’ve been putting together income reports for my own business to try to give readers a sense of how bloggers make money blogging from a variety of sources.

It’s been a couple of months since I gave an update, so today I’m going to cover both August and September.

Below you’ll see two pie charts with the two months’ splits. You’ll notice that there are a few differences between them, with ebook sales being the biggest mover of the month (it always shifts quite a bit when you launch a new ebook, as I did in August with the Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers).

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Below I’ve also included a chart that tracks the different income streams across the last six months, and shows both total income and each of the streams.

You’ll notice that September had the lowest income since last May, mainly because I didn’t launch a product or do any large affiliate promotions that month (it’s the calm before the storm, hopefully, as the end of the year looks like it’ll be busy, busy, busy).

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The other factor at play here is that the exchange rate between the USD and the Aussie dollar has not been working in my favor.

Where I was getting $1.20AUD just a few months ago for every $USD, the exchange rate is now almost 1:1, due to the strength of the Australian economy at the moment (we seem to be one of the few countries in the world that didn’t have a recession).

As always, people will ask why I don’t put dollar figures on these charts. I’m not really into getting that specific, except to say that the business generates a seven-figure income each year.

What were your last couple of months like?

If you’re interested in the previous months’ breakdowns they’re at:

7 Reasons Why $7 Products Rock

This guest post is by Steve Martile of Freedom Education.

I currently charge $400 monthly for one-on-one coaching. That’s a hefty price tag for some people, even though I know some coaches who charge up to $10,000 per month, which makes my coaching look like a bargain.

One prospective client said that she really wanted to do coaching with me. She saw the value in it. She needed it and wanted to buy, but she just couldn’t come up with the money. It was either buy the coaching or pay the rent. She decided to pay the rent.

Since coaching is the highest price service I provide, I decided to come out with a product that almost anyone could afford.

Enter: $7 products

The reason I started with $7 is because it’s low. I figured almost anyone in any country could afford that price … and that way I could at least test different price points and see what worked best for my readers.

I created my first $7 product two months ago on my Blogging for Coaches site. It’s a membership site where we provide coaches with mentoring on how to build their business using blogs and blogging—at $7 per month. It’s a steal for coaches who want to build their coaching business online.

The coaches must have thought so, too. When we announced this product to our mailing list of about 300 people, 11 of them bought. That’s a conversion ratio of about 3.6%. So if you think you need a big mailing list to start making money, you’re wrong!

Six weeks ago, I offered a $7 membership to my Freedom Education blog readers. Three weeks after that, I offered an audio book on motivation for $7. Both of these products sold. I love $7 products.

7 Reasons why $7 products rock

#1. They’re low-risk.

If you can reduce the cost of your products or services and package them into a $7 product, then your readers are more likely to buy. It’s a lot less risky. I mean it’s only $7… if they don’t like it, they haven’t lost much.

If that doesn’t convince you, try offering a product guarantee. Promise your buyers that you’ll give them their money back, no questions asked, if they’re not satisfied with the product. Very few of your buyers will come back to claim that guarantee.

#2. It’s easy to write an offer for them.

Your offer is also known as your copy. I don’t know about you, but I’m a blogger. I write newsletters and blog posts. I don’t write copy. Writing copy is a bit foreign to me. The last thing I want to do is write a ten-page piece of copy for a $500 product that doesn’t sell. What a waste of time.

What’s easier for me is to write a shorter piece of copy for a product that sells for $7.

It’s only 7 bucks—you don’t need to write a novel. Even 750 words will make it compelling, and that’s about as long as a blog post. Just make sure you focus on the reasons why someone should buy your product. You want to keep reminding readers why your product rocks and how it will help them.

#3. You don’t need a big product launch for them.

This gives you a huge advantage: you don’t need a big product launch to sell your $7 product.

You just want to make an announcement to your Newsletter and on your blog. Tell your readers about your product and how it will help them solve their problem. When I announced my new product, I sent three emails to my newsletter subscribers and published two posts on my blog over the course of a week. You don’t need to be that aggressive, but it’s really up to you and what fits your style.

#4. Producing them takes less time and skill.

Imagine writing a piece of copy for a $500 product. It could take 12-16 hours to write this if you’re a really good copywriter. And what if you’re terrible at copywriting, like I do? Then it probably won’t sell.

Instead, imagine a $7 product. It took me eight hours to create the copy, write the email announcements, and publish the blog posts for my very first product: just another Sunday afternoon for a blogger. Then I put my blog and newsletter on autopilot and let it all happen. I was out walking with my wife on Monday afternoon when I got my first sale. It was a great feeling.

#5. You don’t need affiliates to sell them.

I love this part. You don’t need affiliates for a $7 product. If you’re like me, you don’t have any idea how to approach affiliates or even how to set up an affiliate program. So instead of going through all the hassle, take the next baby step—which is to offer a $7 product.

#6. They’re easy to sell.

With a $7 product, more people will buy—even if the currency exchange is high—because it’s so cheap! You’re not going to get rich with this strategy, but it does get your feet wet. It gives you an idea of what your readers will buy and what they won’t. And knowing that helps you come up with new ideas for higher-priced products.

#7. They build your confidence.

I think this is the most important reason why you should start offering $7 products, especially if you’re new to selling products. If you just started blogging and you’re not seeing the return on your investment, consider creating your first $7 product.

When you sell your first $7 product online something happens internally. You shift inside: you start to believe you can make money from your blog. You start to see how you could go even bigger maybe creating $27, $45, $100, and possibly $500 products … and then it gets exciting.

But you’ve got to start small. Once you sell your first $7 product, you start to believe. You gain immense confidence in yourself and you realize that even you can make money online.

Steve is the creator of Freedom Education: Manifesting Your Desires and 7 Secrets of Rapid Transformation. He’s also the co-creator of Blogging for Coaches.

10 Ways to Reduce Friction in Your Purchase Process

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

The harder you make people work to order your products, the less people will buy. This basic knowledge has been proven both on and offline. Unfortunately, we’re all not blessed with same level of brand loyalty and scary desire for our customers to line up for our latest ithingy like Apple is, so we need to take a serious look at how much friction we’re causing our customers—and find ways to eliminate it.

There are lots of different ways to go about fixing friction. Here are some easy wins to get you started.

1. Capturing information that’s only necessary for the sale

You might want to know everything you can about your customer so you can help service their needs. But the checkout is not the place to ask for that information. Until the money has cleared, don’t ask them for anything more than you need to make the sale. After the sale has been made, quiz them all you like. The same goes for setting up accounts and passwords: think very carefully before you ask someone to create an account and password—even if your intentions are good.

2. Including direct order links from your emails or blog posts

This might not work for all products, but it’s worth a try. When you’re promoting a product or offer in a communication (such as an email or blog post), don’t send readers to a sales page—send them directly to your checkout page, with the product already in the cart. You don’t need to re-sell to them in a sales page if you’ve done a good job in your communication piece.

3. Recalling the information you know about the customer

If you’re running your own checkout process and you’re (securely) storing customer information, when it comes time for a customer to purchase their second product, fill out as many details as you can for them. You need to allow for them to update the information if required, but many will just sail straight through.

4. Minimizing cross-sell and up-sell messages

In the past, I’ve been guilty of creating friction by attempting to increase my average order value with up-sells or cross-sells. There’s a very fine line to tread when it comes to balancing these two needs. Personally, I limit myself to one up-sell message of one product in an entire checkout process. Any more, and you might risk reaching the friction tipping point.

5. Avoiding bouncing customers to unknown third parties

For some, this might be something you can’t avoid, as you don’t have an internal checkout process. But if possible, keeping the checkout process consistent in terms domain, aesthetics, and style will reduce the shock associated with bouncing to a third party. If you do need to ship your customer somewhere else, make sure the customer knows what’s about to happen. My only exception to this rule is PayPal. It’s such a recognizable brand, the effect can actually be positive rather than negative.

6. Making your process usable, accessible, and cross-browser compatible

For me, this one’s a bit of a given: the lower the number of people who can access your checkout process, the fewer sales you’ll make. It’s a pretty easy calculation, yet so many people fail to make their checkout processes consistent for everyone. Google Analytics, when configured properly, will make it easy to identify whether people with specific browsers are converting a lower rate than everyone else. This will help you quickly identify any problem areas.

7. Using smart and intuitive data validation

Even after you’ve reduced the number of fields you’re asking your customers to complete, people will still make mistakes. If you’re not giving people a clear message about what they’ve done wrong—and what they need to do to resolve it—the sale is going to very quickly be thrown in the too-hard basket. Make sure your error handling is smart and intuitive.

8. Doing what the big guys do

The reality is that the big guys, with the big budgets, are going to be better informed in terms of what constitutes the ideal checkout process. If you want to see a seamless checkout processes in action, be sure to buy something from the likes of Amazon so you know where the benchmark is.

9. Tracking checkout drop-offs

This is all about being as informed as you can about what’s actually happening though your checkout process. My favorite piece of free web software, Google Analytics, is the best place to start. You can thoroughly integrate your ecommerce pages with Analytics—some of the insights you’ll gain might even scare you a little. How you do that is another post in itself, so if you want me to step you through the process, be sure to let me know.

10. Asking people why they’re leaving

Another obvious but seldom-used method to gain insight into why people don’t order your products is to ask them. On-exit pop-ups and light boxes are a great method to quickly ask your customers why they’re leaving. This detailed information will show you very quickly where your friction points are.

When you think about it, if someone abandons your checkout process without completing it, you’ve only got yourself to blame. You’ve done all the hard work to convince the customer that they want to buy your product, then managed to talk them out of it with a poor checkout experience. Reducing the friction in your checkout process is one of the easiest ways to maximize your revenue.

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing more of his tips undercover here at ProBlogger over the coming weeks.

11 Ways to Convince Readers to Buy Your eBook

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

eBooks are a great monetization channel for your blog. Unlike methods such as advertising and affiliate programs, your own products allow you to keep the lion’s share of the profit. But with this great power comes great responsibility. Unlike other monetization methods, with ebooks, it’s up to you to turn your readers from fans into real customers.

In this post I’ll explain 11 ways you can convince readers that your ebook justifies them pulling out their credit cards.

1. Don’t leave them wondering.

If a reader has to think twice about how to buy your ebook, that’s one time to many. Your readers shouldn’t have any doubts in their minds about how they can order your product. Now this doesn’t mean you should turn your sales page into one gigantic Order button (believe me, I’ve tried), but it does mean you should have clear and identifiable order buttons at the top, middle, and bottom of your page.

2. Give them safety in numbers.

People don’t like missing out, nor are they comfortable with feeling as though their friends, competitors, or colleagues have the jump on them. If 10,000 people have read your ebook and they all love it, make sure you let everyone know. Give your readers safety in numbers, and they’ll give you their credit card numbers!

3. Connect them with advocates.

Anyone can write testimonials, including testimonials that never actually happened — and your readers know that. But what you can do is provide advocates. If there are real people in the real world who love your ebook, ask them if they’d be prepared to openly share that with others who might be interested in the product. A testimonial from someone who includes their social media profiles and encourages readers to get in contact with them is going to pay much better dividends than a testimonial that you made up yourself.

4. Give them a guarantee.

Buying any product requires some sort of leap of faith on the part of your readers. You’re asking them to spend their money on something that, even with the world’s best sales copy, is an unknown. You can reduce the size of that leap by guaranteeing your ebook: “If this doesn’t deliver all that you hoped for, we’ll refund your money – so you’ve got nothing to lose.” The smaller you can make that leap of faith, the more sales you’ll make.

5. Give them a sense of urgency.

Perhaps an unfortunate reality is that we’re often lazy, or easily distracted in our daily lives, so you need to create a sense of urgency to ensure your readers stay the course and complete the entire purchase process. An easy method to achieve this is to threaten a price increase after a certain number of days. If they don’t act now, they’ll pay twice the price.

6. Tell them your story.

Whether yours is a technical book or a novel, readers will value being able to connect with you as the author. If you book involves the completion of a journey that a potential reader is about to embark on, and you can help them avoid all the mistakes you made, they are much more likely to order.

7. Don’t bore them to death.

If your ebook’s sales page contains as many words as your first chapter, you’re going to do nothing but bore them away from your page, and your key sales messages will be lost. Write your sales page as concisely as you can, then strip out 50% of the words — and you’ll just about be there.

8. Make it easy for them.

You’ve only won half the battle once you’ve got your reader to click that Order button. What happens next is perhaps even more important. If you ask them to jump through four more clicks and fill out 20 fields with information, chances are you’re going to lose them. Ask your potential customers only to do the minimum required to make your sale, and get the money in your bank account. If you want extra information, do that after the sale is made.

9. Cater for their preference.

eBooks these days are more than just PDFs. iPads and Kindles have changed the expectations of ebook purchasers. If you can, make sure your product is available in the maximum possible number of formats (ePUB and Mobi). This can be a great point of difference in a competitive ebook market.

10. Know your audience members’ problem and tell them how you’ll solve it.

You probably should have figured this out before you wrote the ebook, but you need to still convey what problem your ebook solves for a reader, and make sure this message dominates your sales copy. Your friends will buy any book you write, but the mass market will buy books that solve their problems.

11. Give them one thing to do on your sales page.

It’s very easy to hedge your bets when it comes to creating a call to action on your sales page. There should be your clear Order button, but you might be tempted to add a Tweet This button, or an alternative product, or even someone else’s ad! Unless you stand to make as much money from someone tweeting your book page, or clicking your ad, as you will through an ebook sale, then ensure your page asks visitors to do one thing and one thing only: buy your ebook.

Selling ten ebooks is easy; selling 10,000 can be a little more challenging. I hope these tips help get you going.

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing more of his tips undercover here at ProBlogger over the coming weeks.

How I Make Money Blogging: Income Split for July 2010

Over the last few months I’ve been sharing a monthly breakdown of where my income comes from in the hope of illustrating some of the methods bloggers might like to look at when making money from blogging (see previous months linked to below).

The month of July was the second month in a row where eBooks were the biggest money maker for me. Here’s a pie chart showing the percentage breakdowns.

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Before I say much more let me show you how the different income streams have tracked over the last 4 months (note I’ve expanded ‘speaking’ to be ‘speaking and events’ to include the ProBlogger Training Day (which wasn’t a massive earner as we kept the price down – but because it’s something I’d like to try again). I have also added a ‘total’ line to this chart to track total income.

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A few comments:

  • Obviously there was a big eBook spike in June as we launched a photography eBook that month. July was down on the launch month but still very healthy – partly because of a few specials that I ran in July (I did a ‘Christmas in July’ special as well as offering a few communities a discount on the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook).
  • AdSense was also pretty good last month – there’s no real explanation for this as traffic was steady. I can only guess that some advertisers were involved in a bit of a bidding war on Digital Photography School which drove prices up a little.
  • Affiliate programs were quite down – that can be explained simply by me not doing as many promotions in July – mainly because there were not too many product launches in my niches (for some reason they always seem to come out at once).
  • Direct Ad Sales are on the rise and you’ll see this continue to grow next month as I’ve been working with a direct ad sales rep who is now selling ads for my sites which has already led to some new clients.
  • Over all it was a good month. While not as spectacular as July it was up on the previous two months significantly.
  • Continuity Programs – a few people have asked what they are. In short – they’re membership sites – ProBlogger.com and The Third Tribe.

August is shaping up to be an interesting month. Later this week I’ll be launching a product here on ProBlogger (at a fairly inexpensive price point) which will be interesting to track. I’ve also participated in a couple of affiliate launches and have seen some interesting direct ad sales. I’m not quite sure whether it’ll be as good as July but am working toward it.

How was July for you?

If you’re interested in the previous months breakdowns they’re at:

Repeat Visitors vs New Visitors – Which is Worth More to Your AdSense Earnings?

A few days back I shared a little analysis of my AdSense earnings as it related to sources of traffic and looked at how – for me – traffic from newsletters was actually the most valuable traffic that I get on my photography site.

This dispelled the myth that loyal readers to your site become blind to ads and are not likely to click them – but I wanted to dig down a little deeper to look at the difference between first time visitors and repeat visitors and how they interact with ads. Here’s what I found when I looked at the last 3 months.

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On my photography site it is the case the new visitors click ads and earn more per 1000 visitors than repeat visitors.

In addition to those coming from newsletters repeat visitors on my site would include RSS readers, visitors from social media (facebook and Twitter).

This makes sense – those there for the first time are probably clicking around more, exploring and looking for things to click on. They’re also seeing ad units for the first time and are likely to click them.

However repeat visitors are not far behind. I’m not allowed to share the exact figures but the difference in CTR was tiny and the eCPM difference while noticeable was not huge. Repeat readers are still valuable – particularly as many of them are coming back on a daily basis so on a per visit basis they’re not earning as much but over a year they’re earning considerably more than a one time visitor.

update: I should say that one of the reasons that I suspect AdSense is better at converting for repeat visitors these days is that they not only rely upon CPC (cost per click) ads but also use CPM (cost per impression) ads which means that people no longer need to click ads for you to earn anything.

What They Don’t Tell You About Successful Product Launches

Many times we see successful product launches being talked about and are so dazzled by the huge sales numbers and income generated but fail to see all the hard groundwork that has been done behind the scenes for months and years before the launch.
[Read more...]

Big Content Monetisation Ideas for the Little Guy

Earlier in this series, we talked about treating content as an asset. In reality, content may represent an asset for a number of reasons: because it’s evergreen and can be repurposed into other forms; because it’s time-critical and extremely viral, sparking conversation and attracting new users; because it’s unique and can only be found on your blog … the list goes on.

We all know the standard on-site means of monetising blog content: through advertising programs, affiliate programs, and so on — Darren’s written about them in detail. Here, I’d like to look at some of the other ways you can get more out of your existing — and evolving — content inventory.

Creative Monetisation

When we discussed content strategy earlier in this series, we talked about the importance of having a grip on your content inventory so that you can achieve the best possible return on your investment in content.

How can you achieve that ROI? There are many options. In fact, as we’ll see, being creative about your monetisation strategy really can pay off.

To get you in the mood, take a look at the blog of illustrator and artist James Jean (Warning, artistic nude drawings there). Check his store to see some innovative approaches to the concept of “content monetisation”.

Whitepapers and Ebooks

Whitepapers, reports, and ebooks are established means by which to repackage quality content you’ve published on your blog into new, cost-effective formats. But don’t forget physical products, either — it works for James Jean, and it could work for you, too.

Before you begin, consider existing competition in the space — if leaders in your field release quality research or insight free, you’ll have to do something different, and do it well, if your audience is going to pay for your offering. Simply republishing a selection of your current blog content as an ebook won’t cut it. Augmenting that content, as a basic platform from which you can provide a range of value-adds, tools, and philosophies, might.

If you’re constantly immersed in your area of interest, you’re likely to come across information that, while it makes for good blog posts, also fuels your creative fire. It might start you innovating and exploring, and the resulting insights and experiences may generate new content or new perspectives that can augment and extend your existing content in other formats.

Products like these are usually most successful if you can provide solid practical value, unique insights, and compelling evidence. Don’t neglect to give your customers a means to assess the information for themselves, independently, as well as under your guidance. Interpret the results of your research in a paid report, by all means — but provide the raw data to allow users to conduct their own analysis, too.

Paywalls and Subscriptions

We’ve all heard about the News Corp decision to charge for access to its news sites — a plan that’s now going ahead in the UK and USA. Although opinion is divided over charging for web news, many blogs offer premium subscriptions that provide access to suites of value-added content such as research and interpretation, or deep insight and opinion. The free GigaOm network does this with its GigaOm Pro subscription service. Subscription services may also take in alternative media formats, such as videos or podcasts, that aren’t available through the free area of the blog.

Subscriptions won’t work for all blog types — expert content on business and academic topics seems to be one area in which paywalls have proven successful, but the average hobby blogger may have trouble justifying this tactic to an audience that can obtain parallel content free of charge elsewhere. If you do go ahead with a paywall, you’ll have to think carefully about how you’ll communicate the value of a subscription to your readers: will you offer a free trial? A demo? Will you let users pay on a weekly or monthly basis, or have them purchase a longer period, perhaps at a discount?

Users are already skeptical of paywalls and subscriptions. They can work, but usually they’re best left to the larger players who can afford to take such risks.

Content Syndication that Pays

An interesting alternative to the online news paywall approach has been developed by the UK’s Guardian news organisation. The Guardian is launching a service that allows others to syndicate Guardian stories free of charge — with the caveat that the content must appear as provided, and that includes an advertisement.

Syndicating your blog’s content with automatically-included inline ads may not be an option just yet. But are there other forms of “syndication” you can use? Could you arrange to republish selected posts regularly in another industry publication — perhaps in print — for payment?

Reselling your posts can be tricky, since you don’t want to dilute your brand or readership. By the same token, a well-planned strategy can serve to build your audience and your income. For example, you might syndicate time-critical content to other publications for a payment, but publish timeless, evergreen content, posts that build and engage community, and articles that provide great educational value, exclusively on your own blog.

Finding outlets that will pay to republish your posts may be a challenge, particularly while you’re still establishing your foothold in your chosen space, but as the Problogger income split posts prove, the small steps — and approaches that aggregate a range of income sources — really do add up.

What techniques have you used to monetise your content?

Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.

About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.

Brainstorming Activity: What Could You Sell from Your Blog?

Today I’d like to suggest an exercise to think about the future of your blog. It’s a brainstorming task to get you thinking about the types of products and services you might one day add to your blog.

I remember doing this for ProBlogger 4 or so years ago and coming up with a long list of potential things I could add to the blog including a job board, membership area, eBooks, ‘real’ book, events and more.

At the time I wasn’t ready to add any of these new products, services or featured – but having that list in the back of my mind enabled me to keep moving my blog forward towards achieving some of them.

The other benefit of identifying these potential income streams that you could one day develop is that others may already be developing them. This might feel a little like you’ve missed the boat but it could also be an opportunity as those with these products might be potential advertisers and/or might have affiliate programs that you could promote.

Once you’ve come up with your list of ideas feel free to share some of them in comments below – it’ll be great to see what everyone is thinking.

PS: stuck for ideas? I don’t blame you – it can be hard to think of how to add a product or service to your blog. Check out the list of products and services that other bloggers have added to their blogs in the results of a poll I ran here on ProBlogger exploring this very topic.