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How I Use Email Newsletters to Drive Traffic and Make Money

Yesterday I shared 6 reasons that I find email newsletters to be a more effective way of driving traffic to and making money from blogs than RSS.

Today I want to show you exactly how I do it.

Firstly a word about technology – I use Aweber to deliver my emails (I talk about why here). However you can use pretty much any email newsletter service (many also choose and highly recommend MailChimp) for the process I outline below as long as it allows you to set up an auto-responder or sequence of emails.

I should also say that the process I’m about to share has evolved over time. It started out very very simple and has slowly developed with time – in fact it continues to develop as I learn more and by no means is where I want to take it…. yet.

Lets start with a visual on how my process looks (click to enlarge) before I explain the elements:

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Reader Subscribes

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Because email newsletters are such an important part of my site I put a lot of emphasis upon getting this conversion moment with those who come to my site. There are a variety of places around the blog where I attempt to get readers to sign up – some are more subtle than others. Some are anything but subtle including a popup signup box that readers see 20-30 seconds after they arrive on the blog.

The pop-up is set to only show once per visitor (unless they’re blocking cookies) and while it is intrusive and I was very hesitant about adding it – it’s incredibly effective at getting readers to signup.

I switched to using this Pop-Up signup technique just on a year ago and at the time wrote up how it took me from getting 40 confirmed signups a day to 350 over night here. Since that time subscriber numbers have continued to climb – I now get around 500 new confirmed subscribers a day. This adds up to around 180,000 a year which is exciting growth. It does annoy a handful of readers (I get an email or two per month) but for the payoff it’s something I’ve decided to continue with.

Welcome Email

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When someone signs up and then confirms their subscription by clicking a link in an email they’re then sent (double opt in is required by law) the new subscriber is immediately sent a welcome email. This email is all about making them feel good about subscribing and giving them a quick introduction to the site.

I’m presuming that most people who sign up for the newsletter are new to the site so it’s a great opportunity to introduce myself, show them around and help get their expectations right about the site.

This welcome email has a site logo, my picture, some links to key parts of the site like the forum, some suggested reading for catching up on key posts in our archives (I send them to a few ‘sneeze pages‘ that send them deep within the archives and get them viewing multiple pages) and shares what the subscriber will receive in the coming weeks in terms of future emails.

The email also asks people to add the email address that emails are sent from to their white list/contact list to help ensure emails are delivered.

It’s written in a personal and friendly style and seems to connect as I get a lot of replies to this email from new subscribers thanking me for the personal welcome.

Weekly Updates

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As you’ll see from the chart above – weekly updates are what readers get the most. They’re largely updates on what has happened on the blog/forums in the past week.

You can see one of my more recent ones here (although it loses some of the formatting in the web version) where you can see that these emails have a bit of a structure. I usually have the following sections in these weekly updates:

  • Welcome: usually just a sentence that intros the week. If there’s something important I’ll often highlight it here. Sometimes I’ll also do a quick update on something cool that happened on the site during the week (record day of traffic, milestone in terms of subscribers, a mention in the press – this kind of update seems to build morale/momentum among readers)
  • Quick Links: here I share the weekly assignment, any discussion oriented posts/polls, any competition announcements and occasionally a ‘featured post’ that I want to especially push traffic to etc
  • Tips Tutorials and Techniques: new blog posts of a more general nature
  • Recommended Resource: in this case it’s an affiliate promotion (a great product) but occasionally I swap this section to be a ‘message from our sponsors’ and have it as a sold ad position.
  • Post Production Tips: updates from this section/category of the blog
  • New Gear, Tips and Reviews: again, updates from this section of the blog
  • Hot Forum Threads: a bit of a summary of key threads happening in the forum
  • Reader Images: Being a photography site visuals are important and the images get clicked on a lot. They also give readers some incentive to post images in the forums as they could get featured in this newsletter that goes out to over 200,000 people..

I do mix things up a bit. Some weeks I’ll run a little promotion of our Twitter of Facebook accounts, other weeks I might throw in some older posts form the archives that people may not have seen and sometimes I’ll run a promotion encouraging readers to forward the email onto a friend. Really anything can go in these emails as long as they’re on topic and useful

The main goals of these weekly updates are to:

  • Drive traffic to the site
  • Build Community, reinforce brand with readers
  • Make money through the promotions

Readers love these newsletters because while they’re largely links to the site the links are all content rich and useful resources. I title these emails ‘Photography Tips for Your Weekend’ and that’s how many of our readers use them – as a spring board into their weekend with their cameras.

Note: these emails are manually put together. They take me an hour or two a week to do. There are tools that will send out automated update emails (Aweber has one) but I prefer to do it manually to ensure that the emails are tailored for maximum impact and usefulness.

Themed Updates

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I’ve written about this concept once before here on ProBlogger in a post titled How 24 Hours of Work Will Send Millions of Readers to My Blog.

The idea really came about when I realised that the majority of my blogs thousands of pages of content was going largely unseen by new readers to my blog. While I would occasionally link back to key posts most of my archives don’t get a lot of traffic.

These ‘themed updates’ are all about sending readers back to old but useful content around a single theme. Here’s how they work.

I use the ‘auto responder‘ or ‘followup’ feature of Aweber to set up these emails (Mailchimp also has an auto responder service). This means that they go out at pre-determined intervals to readers a certain number of days after their last scheduled email.

The first email in the sequence is the ‘welcome email’ that I mentioned above. 8 Days after that email goes out the subscriber receives the first ‘themed’ email. The topic is ‘portraits’ and is a newsletter that contains a short intro to the topic and then some links back to some of our most useful portrait photography tips. It also has a few recommendations of good books on portraiture (with affiliate links).

30 days after this portraits email they get another themed email (remember they’re getting weekly updates in between). This email is about ‘exposure’ (pictured right – click to enlarge) and contains links to some of our best posts on subjects like Aperture, Shutter Speed etc. It also contains a couple of recommendations to good books on the topic (with affiliate links to Amazon).

30 days later they get an email on composition (same format as above with links to archive posts and books). 30 days later they get another themed email.

The main goals of these themed updates are to:

  • Drive traffic to the site – particularly older posts
  • Make money through the affiliate links – while they’re not big ticket items they do convert

These emails do take some time to set up but once they’re set up they become automated and go out every day without me ever having to think about them. With 500 people signing up for my newsletter every day I know that 500 people are getting each of these emails on a daily basis. I have 6 of these emails set up in a sequence at present and add more to the list every now and again so I know 3000 people in total get them each day of the week – forever.

Promotions

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Screen shot 2009-10-29 at 3.05.59 PM.pngThis is the most recent addition to my sequence of emails and I’m still perfecting their use but the signs are very promising already.

I use the auto-responder sequence mentioned above to deliver these (they’re going to go out every month or two) and the content of these emails is to highlight a resource or product that I recommend to readers.

The products are affiliate products that I take a commission from any sale of. We disclose that relationship in the email and get a lot of positive feedback on the disclosure from readers.

The key with these promotional emails is to choose products that you genuinely recommend. The reason for this is that at any point subscribers can leave your list – if you push too hard or recommend dodgy products they can leave (with a bade taste in their mouth).

It can be hard to find quality products – I’ve found there to be a lot of junky products in my niche for example – but when I recently found a product that I believed in (123 digital imaging) I knew I had my first product to add to the sequence.

I only sent this first promotion email 17 days ago so it’s yet to go out to everyone on the list but it’s generated 500 or so sales and will continue to sell as long as the product is on the market as it goes to another 500 people every day. In many ways it’s become a nice little passive income with a few sales every day being generated.

When we release our first ebook in the coming weeks it will also be added to the sequence of emails in a similar way.

The main goals of these promotional updates are to:

  • Make money through the affiliate links – the money these earn starts with a bang when you send it out to the bulk of your list on the first day but after that it becomes a steady trickle. The cool thing about it is that once you have a few of these set up in your sequence you can be having a number of affiliate promotions paying off each day.

Summing Up

All in all I find that the above mix of emails that we send out to our list gets very positive results. I work hard to keep them a ‘win/win’ for both our readers to get useful and relevant information but for me/the site to generate income. So far I think I’ve got the balance right – I regularly get emails from readers saying thanks for the newsletter and if I’m even an hour or two late sending it get people emailing to ask where it is. On a revenue front it’s increasingly profitable – between the sales of products and the ad revenue increases from the increased traffic it certainly has become a central part of my income stream to have this email list.

With the cycle as it is readers do occasionally get 2 emails in a week – however it’s never more than that and on most weeks it is just the one weekly email. I make it clear when they signup that it’s at least weekly to get this expectation right as I don’t want them feeling duped into signing up.

I also use Aweber’s scheduling feature for the auto responder emails which allows you to specify what days of the week they can go out. I schedule the sequenced emails (the themed and promotional ones) so that they never go out on a Thursday or Friday (the same day as the weekly ones).

Lastly I generally focus my efforts with this list on HTML emails. Aweber does give you the ability to send out a text email as well for those subscribers whose email system doesn’t allow HTML. For the text version I usually just send out a short email that links to a HTML version of the email. I did use to send out a full plain text email for these people but found that when I switched to a shorter email linking to the HTML version that most readers clicked through and appreciated seeing the images (this might be particular to my niche).

So that’s how I’ve set up my email newsletters on DPS. It takes a fair bit of work to get some of it set up but as I mentioned in yesterdays post – the pay off has been great and continues to grow as we recruit new subscribers to the list.

6 Reasons Why You Need to Consider Email as a Communication Strategy on Your Blog

Email is back!

Earlier in the week I mentioned that one of the emerging themes in the monetization sessions at Blog World Expo was the idea of membership sites as a way to make an income from a blog.

The other theme that emerged in a number of the sessions was that many bloggers were placing increased attention on the medium of email as a way to communicate with readers.

Email is back!

Actually email never really went away – but it’s back on the radar of many bloggers after a swing over the last few years away from it in favour of other mediums such as RSS.

RSS feeds are far from being dead as a way to communicate with readers but while some saw the advances in feeds and feed readers as an email killer many entrepreneurial bloggers are now realising that perhaps they should not have given up on email.

I shared on at least one of the panels that I was on at BWE how email on my photography blog is much more effective than RSS on a number of fronts:

1. The Numbers Speak for Themselves

On DPS I currently have a total of 340,784 subscribers. 223,081 of these subscribe via email – 117,703 of them subscribe via RSS. That’s a 2:1(ish) ratio. While this ratio will vary from site to site considerably (depending upon the niche) I’d guess that on most blogs it’d be similar – the exception possibly being sites with a more techy/social media focus.

2. Email Drives Great Traffic

The days I send out Newsletters are the biggest days of traffic on the site. I shared this graphic a few months ago but here’s the traffic to the blog area of my site on newsletter days (it’s pretty obvious which days the newsletters went out):

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RSS certainly does drive traffic – however it is less – probably because most people read the content in their feed reader.

3. Email subscribers are monetizing better than other subscribers with onsite advertising

One of the interesting things that also happens on newsletter days is that the rate that people seem to click on ads also seems to go up slightly. This was a surprise to me when I first saw it because I would have thought that subscribers who visit the blog each week would become blind to the ads but the CTR (click through rate) on my AdSense ads goes up on newsletter days. Here’s a quick screen grab of total AdSense revenue on the DPS blog – again you can see the rises for newsletter days.

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4. Email Also Monetizes Better with other Income Streams

Not only does AdSense income increase on newsletter days but I’m finding that other monetization strategies also work well in the newsletter. Three come to mind:

  • Affiliate promotions have worked really well in newsletter for me. I’ve tested this a number of times by posting a blog post about a product I’m promoting and sending an email about the product. In every instance that I’ve tested it the newsletter wins hands down. The best performing affiliate promotions actually work best where you do a blog post AND an email promotion – but without the email component I find I’m definitely leaving money on the table every time.
  • Product Launches - if you have your own product to launch I find that in a similar way to how affiliate promotions work best in emails – so too does selling your own stuff. Again – posting both on your blog and via email (and in other places like twitter) can help increase sales further but email is crucial in driving sales.
  • Direct Ad Sales – lastly the few times that I’ve sold ads in my newsletter to direct advertisers I’ve had very good feedback from the advertisers. We ran a big promotion both on our blog and in our newsletter earlier in the year for a big computer brand and the feedback we got was that the campaign was most effective on newsletter day from clicks from within the email.

5. Email is Personal and Builds Community

There is something about a regular email newsletter that just seems to make people feel more connected to you. I find it hard to put my finger why but there’s something about receiving a good email that just seems more powerful than reading a good blog post via an RSS feed. It just seems a little more personal, more special.

Perhaps it is because RSS is generally read in an RSS feed reader where there are hundreds of competing posts to be read or perhaps it is because an email is delivered into an inbox filled with more personal communications or perhaps it is because when someone signs up for an email they have to give you something personal – their address – whereas with RSS they don’t have to reveal anything about themselves.

I’m not sure WHY it is the case – but every week I get people emailing me to thank me for the emails I send them. I’ve never had anyone thank me for my RSS feed….

The newsletters I send do more than drive traffic and make money – they seem to make people feel as though they belong. To get an email someone has to sign up – they become a member of sorts and this is reflected in the emails that they send me that talk about ‘our site’.

6. Email is more Accessible

I only really started to experiment with email because someone in my family asked me how they could get updates from my photography blog. When I told them about RSS they stared back at me with a blank face. I added an email option and they immediately subscribed.

If you only offer RSS as a way to access your site’s information you’re excluding my family member and probably a lot of other people too.

For this reason I advise giving people a variety of ways to get updates whether it be RSS, daily emails, weekly emails, Twitter updates…. whatever is relevant for your audience.

Don’t Forget about RSS

I don’t want this post to be seen as writing off RSS. It’s an amazing technology and is still really important to my own sites. It too drives traffic, makes money, reinforces brand etc – all I guess I’m arguing is that bloggers take a 2nd look at email.

My personal approach is to have multiple points of connection with readers which reinforces what I’m doing on my sites and maximise the impression that I’m able to make upon them.

How I Use Email

Tomorrow I want to continue this focus upon email to talk about how I use email newsletters to achieve some of the above things. While you can set up tools to just automatically send out emails at predefined intervals to those that subscribe to your blog you can actually take it to the next level and set up a system that is much much more effective.

Tomorrow I’ll walk you through the emails that I send to my newsletter list and share with you some of the techniques that I’ve found that work to drive traffic and make money.

UPDATE: part 2 is now live at How I use email newsletters to Drive Traffic and Make Money.

Attracting “Money Traffic” To Your Blog

A guest post by Andrew Hansen from http://1000NewVisitors.com

If you’re a new blogger, particularly one who’s looking to make money from your blog you’ll know that generating traffic to your blog is, at least initially, priority number one.

But something that gets talked about much less is generating the right kind of traffic to your blog. When I say the “right kind” of traffic, I mean, the kind of traffic that is going to generate revenue. This is one step above “targeted traffic”, this is “money traffic”.

For many bloggers, the thought of trying hard to bring the kind of visitors to your blog that are going to be the most likely to make you money, is a little too “marketer-like”. But as we’re going to see in this post, it’s easy to attract the kind of visitors that are going to make you money while at the same time providing the high quality and value in your blog posts that you always do.

First, let’s answer the question:

What Are “Money Visitors”?

Regardless of the niche your blog is in, it’s likely that it has certain little sects or groups of people that are more likely to buy things than others. (Note that the reason I say this is that whether you’re monetizing your blog with ads or affiliate offers, it’s the people who buy things that are, at the end of the day, going to make your blog profitable.) Identifying those little sects within your niche and occasionally writing something to suit them can unlock hidden profit potential within your blog.

For example, say you have a photography blog. Let’s say some people found your blog online somewhere as they were searching or browsing for pictures of pretty sunsets. Another group of people found your blog while they were searching for a particular model of camera that they were thinking of buying.

In a monetary sense, while both groups represent traffic to your blog, the latter group is more likely to result in income for you, if you know how to leverage it. Those are “money visitors”.

Finding YOUR “Money Visitors”

More or less every niche has it’s “money visitors”. Your job is to locate the sects in your niche, to which you feel like you could provide quality information. It’s by providing information to those money sects, that your blog will become more profitable.

So how do you find your “Money Visitors”?

It starts with a little brainstorming and it helps if the niche you’re in is something you’re interested in personally. Start by asking questions like:

“What do people in this niche spend money on?”, or…
“What do I, as someone interested in this subject, spend money on?”

It’s easier than it sounds. If your niche is dog lovers, they spend money on dog collars, dog toys, dog food, dog beds, dog insurance… and the list goes on.

If the niche is photography, they spend money on cameras, lenses, holidays on which they take photos, and of course plenty more…

Once you have some ideas, you can get into some good old fashion search analytics (not complicated, don’t worry!)

You can take one of the terms you found above (let’s say it’s dog collars) and type it into the search tool at:

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

And see what you find. This tells us that people are out there on the Internet looking for information about these dog collars. And in some ways this is representative of the Internet as a whole. I mean if there are 10 000 people searching for “leather dog collar” in Google, we can safely assume that there are at least some people on social networks, dog lover forums, or other blogs that have a similar interest or intent.

So you scan the list of “dog collar” type terms that people are looking for.

If there’s something there that you think you know about or at least, could know about with a little research, you’re in luck. There’s no limit to the number of these little sects that you can find and capitalize on to make your blog more profitable.

Turning Visitors Into Profit

Now that you’ve found these sects of people that are looking to spend money in your niche market, how do you:

1. Bring them to your site; and
2. Provide them value and perhaps make money from them.

First you scan your list of dog collar “sects”.

Is there anything here that you can write about? Is there any existing content you have on your blog where you could include some info on any of these collar terms and provide an affiliate offer? (searching for a relevant affiliate offer is a little outside the scope of this post). If so, you’re in luck again!

Next, you need to go about doing some search optimization around these terms to attract visitors who might be looking for that particular dog collar or some variation of it.

This can be as simple as making a couple of mentions of the keyword in your post, or as full on as writing a new blog post targeted just to that keyword (this might involve having the keyword in the blog post title, using a wordpress plugin like All in One SEO to make sure the keyword is in the description and keyword tags of that post, and so on). You can even make mention of that post in another blog post of yours, linking to the post with the anchor text “leather dog collar” (or whatever the keyword is you’re trying to target) to build internal links to that post with the keyword you’re trying to rank for.

Then it’s just a matter of finding an affiliate program for a shop that sells some leather dog collars, and slot in a text link or a banner to it, and you’ve increased your profit potential significantly.

Scaling It Up

The great thing about this as a blog profit strategy is that it’s very scalable. Once you’ve found some money sects and worked out how to tailor some content to them and have it rank in the engines (like anything good, it’ll take some time and effort) you can do the same thing for new “money sects” as often as you have time.

If you wrote about dog collars one week, you can write about dog food the next week, dog training guides the next week and so on.

You don’t have to be a big salesman on your blog to increase it’s revenue. By throwing a bit of content out every now and then for your “money visitors” you’ll make sizable increases in the profitability of your blog and increase your readers happiness while doing it.

Andrew Hansen is a blogging an affiliate marketing strategist, CEO of Dreamlife Softwares and blogger at AndrewHansen.name. His free report at http://1000NewVisitors.com shows bloggers how to generate 1000′s of new “money visitors” to their blogs every month without spending a fortune in the process.

How to Make Money (Passively) With Your Blog

Today, Shaun Connell from Learn Financial Planning explains how to build a passive income from your blog without sacrificing value.

Trying to get the most “bang for your buck” has been behind the invention of the wheel, light-bulb, the Internet and pretty much every other major technological advancement in history.

True to this desire for efficient productivity, in the online business world one of the most popular quests for someone who is just starting out in their blogging business journey is to make money passively.

In this post we’ll talk about the nature of a “passive” income, how to avoid the short-sighted “greedy” tactics that can destroy one’s entire blogging income, and how this all relates to value-oriented blogging.

Passive Income: Short-Sighted or Good Business?

A passive income is, according to Investopedia:

“Earnings an individual derives from a rental property, limited partnership or other enterprise in which he or she is not actively involved.”

If you make money without actively working at the time to earn that money, then that’s part of your passive income. Rental earnings, dividends — both are often considered to be part of a passive income, though whether any income is “passive” is always debated.

Tragically, thousands of get-rich schemers have latched onto the desirability of a passive income, luring desperate consumers into their traps with promises of “unstoppable systems” that can just be “turned on” to make money forever. In a sense, these schemers have given a bad name to passive income, making it feel (to some, at least) almost like it’s cheating.

Of course, the schemers are wrong — as are those who reject passive income streams out of a (reactionary) principle. Building a passive income isn’t about “get rich quick”; it often takes longer, usually takes more work, and almost always takes much, much more planning.

Before we move on to the exact tactics you can use to make money passively, let me reiterate what should be one of the most important concepts here: trying to make a passive income doesn’t mean that you try to stop writing valuable content, or that your goal is to make money online so you can “stop working.”

The exact opposite is true.

Writing valuable content and maintaining community is not at odds with developing a passive income. You can do both at the exact same time. Even more than that, developing both a passive and an active income with your blog leads to more success, more financial security, and a stronger income.

The best passive income strategy is multiplied by blogging with valuable content. Every single tactic listed below is simply deadly effective if mixed with value blogging.

How to Make Money Passively With Your Blog

By definition, a passive income from your blog is any money that you make if you completely stopped working. Not income without work — but income that continues to come in indefinitely after work.

The 3 tactics listed below are just to get you started — there are tons of different ways. If you have an idea, be sure to share it in the comments section.

  • Search-Engine Marketing.

Search-engine marketing is a little different than just writing “for the search engines.” For example, Brian Clark over at Copyblogger has one of the best “user oriented” websites around. He’s the copywriting guru of blogging.

Yet if you look at his left sidebar, you’ll see a collection of links to pages, including one to Copywriting Courses. On the page he lists two reviews of affiliate products that can help you master your own copywriting. Of course, that page is the first result for “copywriting courses” on Google, and will continue to stay there.

To build a passive search-engine marketing income stream from your blog, just write enough valuable content that gives your main domain a great amount of authority because of “real links” from other bloggers. Then write an SEO page for the sidebar. I’ve done this with topics like “online savings account” and it certainly does make money.

  • Subscription Marketing.

The best affiliate programs out there are those that offer residual returns. In other words, if you are an affiliate for a magazine, it’s better to make $2 per month the person signs up than it is to make $20 one-time… the reason should be fairly obvious.

If only 1/5th of the subscribers stay on for several years, then that 1/5th of the buyers alone will earn you more than getting paid one-time from all of the buyers combined. Plus, you also make money from the 4/5ths who didn’t stay on for several years — all-in-all, you can double your income by earning on a subscription/residual level.

Also, if something happens to you and/or your blog, building a residual income will provide a “safety cushion” for your income.

Bonus tip: mixing subscription marketing with search engine marketing is simply deadly. Then you have a passive income that is growing passively. Win-win!

  • Project Outsourcing.

Of all of the tactics listed here, this is probably the least “passive,” given that you still need to oversee the projects, and aren’t making the entire blogging process passive — still, you can increase the “passiveness” of your entire online business in this manner.

Outsourcing is when you hire someone to do some of your work. That’s it.

Outsourcing is something all of us need to do, at least on some level. Unless you have your own server, design your own blogs, write all your own content and registered your domain without spending a dim to anyone else… you’ve outsourced to somebody somewhere.

Some people, like Timothy Ferriss, are famous for trying to outsource their entire business. Others, like Jon Morrow and Brian Clark, reject the idea that outsourcing is always the best call.

So what should you outsource? I’ve experimented with hiring people to design my projects, host my designs, write some of my content (all of it for some websites), build links and market my content. So far, I have not found the perfect formula for deciding what to outsource.

For smaller blogs with less competition, I usually outsource the content. For my “flagship” blogs, I almost always write my own content.

By writing my own content, I can make sure that I’m building a relationship with my readers on a personal level, that the integrity of my content is never compromised, and that the posts are optimized for humans and search engines with just the right balance.

Help Us Out

This is just the beginning, of course. This post is more of an introduction than it is a comprehensive guide. There are tens of thousands of different ways you can make money passively, and I’m sure you’ve stumbled across several of the methods, or are even using some yourself.

Of course, almost all of the tactics and tips completely depend on your blogging business model. Still, finding out new strategies allows you to customize your blogging plan to be perfect for your own personal blogging style.

What do you think about building a passive income? Overrated? Under-discussed? If you had to build your blog in a manner that the entire income had to become passive, what would you do? Which of the above tactics do you find the most helpful? The most risky? Let us know in the comments!

This post was written by Shaun Connell, the guy behind Learn Financial Planning, where he writes about everything from picking online bank accounts to learning how to make money online

3 Money-Making Magazine Strategies for Blogging Success

magazines.pngIn this post Rodricus Kirby shares some strategies of making money blogging by looking at strategies used in the Magazine world.

Magazines have been a medium to contend with for years because of their influence over readers, large subscription bases, and their power to generate big advertising dollars. By maximizing these 3 advertising strategies you’ll begin the profitable transformation of weblog into web property;

Seek Featured Advertisers

Strategy: Think of it as a “one advertiser to rule them all” type of deal. A featured advertiser should be one main company or brand that can get their message across effectively through every opportunity available on your site. This includes; a written featured article about the company, its products and services, a 1-on-1 interview to coincide with the article, a product or service review, and banner ads across high traffic areas of your site. Essentially you’ll come out from behind the desk as a blogger and into the arena of journalism and entrepreneurship. It’ll take some work, a little networking, and some sales tactics, but once you land that first account it’s all money from there.

Why is it a win for you? – You’re able to charge a premium advertising fee depending on your site’s traffic, your online social status, and how much targeted content you can generate for the advertiser.

Why is it a win for the advertiser? – It’s simple, less competition for your readers’ attention on your site = more traffic and profitability for them.

Note: Create different advertising packages with different price points. Depending on what the advertiser spends will depend on how much, “content coverage,” he or she receives. (Don’t go overboard with the pricing, if you’re a new blogger then you probably haven’t built up a large enough audience to entice big dollars from a major advertiser. Be strategic!)

Tools: When you write the featured article, use tools such as twitter search (real-time conversations) and yelp.com (community reviews) to find out what others are saying (only the good comments) about your featured advertiser. Also, try out Blogtalkradio.com (internet radio show hosting) for conducting your interviews, and possibly shooting video for the product or service review. The more dynamic the content the more engaged your readers will be which = an epic win for your advertiser.

Get Sponsors for Featured Content

Strategy: When I say featured content I don’t mean your life tips or opinion piece typed articles. The post has have a certain level of marketability. Something that will resonate with readers and be a perfect fit for a sponsor. For example; “Black Enterprise’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs under 40 Sponsored by Bank of America.” Or, “50 Greatest Gadgets of all time Sponsored by Microsoft.” Get it? This featured content becomes less of an article and more of a multimedia presentation as you should incorporate video, audio, and written pieces to drive your main points of view home. It’s a more targeted piece of content than that of the first tip. Where as the latter is kind of spread around with a focus on the advertiser, here, the advertiser focuses on a particular topic.

Why is it a win for you? – When you have a Featured advertiser as mentioned above, they will take up all the attention of your readers. However, having sponsors for your featured content easily allows you to sign as many advertisers as you would like since they’ll be attached to specific pieces of content on your blog. Say it with me together kids, “M-O-N-E-Y!”

Why is it a win for the advertiser/sponsor? – The first thing sponsoring featured content does is; it gets the advertiser closer to their target market. Trust me; Pepsi’s not going to sponsor a list of the “50 Greatest Kool-Aid Flavors of All Time.” The second thing it does is; it positions the advertiser’s brand as a participant in their market. It shows market engagement and a form of connection to who they want to buy their products or services.

Note: Brainstorm and come up with lists or featured stories that would resonate within your blog community. Select a few companies (online or off) who target the same kind of market, put together sponsorship proposals, and be persistent in pursing them. It might also be a good idea to partner with different bloggers and come together for a huge collaborative feature and seek sponsors together. The greater the “market basket” for a potential sponsor, the easier it is to seal the deal for the sponsor seeker.

Create a classified Ads Section

Strategy: Every magazine I flipped through had a classifieds section toward the back of their books. It listed every company under the sun that offered just about every kind of opportunity, service, or product. No doubt, this was the last line of offense for generating revenue for a magazine. Why can’t it work for bloggers as well if it’s done in a tasteful way?

Note: Keep your ads specific towards a certain market and you’ll attract more relevant advertisers. That means if you’re running a Christian blog then there shouldn’t be any Viagra ads on your site. Consider having a “free” classifieds section and run ad sense or other affiliate ads of your own for “traffic generating money.” Also, as mentioned above, you might pool your resources with other bloggers and split the costs, workload, and revenue of this marketing technique.

These are just a few examples that magazines give us as bloggers on effective advertising for our blogs. While ad sense, affiliate links, and text links are great ways to generate income, these techniques will take your blog to new heights. I would love to hear your feedback on this topic in the comments below.

Rodricus Kirby is an author, success coach, and consultant. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Success Center, the #1 online destination for Christian entrepreneurs to become inspired, empowered, and equipped for success.

Has the Economy Impacted Blogger Job Listings?

In August 2006 I realized that I was regularly getting two types of email requests:

  1. Companies looking to hire bloggers
  2. Bloggers looking to be hired by companies

As a result I decided to start a Job Board for Bloggers.

The concept was simple. Those looking to hire bloggers could place an ad for 30 days for $50. Those looking to find a blog job could subscribe to the job board RSS feed to be notified of new jobs.

It has been 34 months since I launched the job boards. In that time we’ve seen 720 paid listings for jobs on the board.

As I was doing some analysis of the job listings over this period I realized that the data might be interesting to others also as an indicator of how the current economic climate has impacted the job hiring scene.

While I wouldn’t read too much into the data as the sample size is relatively small I found the following chart interesting.

blog-jobs.png

A few notes on the chart:

  1. the first month (Aug 06) was a partial month – we launched the job boards late that month
  2. the last month (May 09) is an estimate. We’re on track for 31 listings this month.
  3. the line is a moving average based upon the last 4 months/quarter of listings

A few observations:

  1. there are some definite cyclical trends to be observed – the most notable is that December has been a low month in each of the three years. November has also been a low month and October has been the highest month in each of the three years.
  2. looking at the moving average – the end of 2008 and start of 2009 saw a definite dip in job listings. Interestingly there’s been a definite upswing over the last 3 months with a new job being added each day.
  3. I don’t have a chart to show it but the RSS subscriber numbers for the job board are on the rise. The growth in those numbers has been quite steadily on the increase since the job board has been launched.

Again – I wouldn’t read too much into these figures due to the size of the sample and the natural growth of the site as it has become more well known but I do at least take a little comfort from the fact that there does seem to be hiring going on in the blogging industry despite what’s happening in the wider economy.

The Other Side Of ProBlogging: Making Real Money Right From The Start Of Your Blogging Career

In this post Ali Hale from the Office Diet shares some tips on how to make money from blogging by being a ‘Staff Blogger’. Learn more about Ali in the footer of this post.

You started a blog with the dream of making a living from writing about something you love. A month, or six months, or two years down the line, you’ve got a handful of subscribers, a few pennies accumulating in Google AdSense, and a growing sense of frustration. The gurus touted blogging as an “easy” way to make money: frankly, digging ditches is starting to look more appealing.

Even if you are willing to put in those early months of unpaid hard graft before you find an audience, you might just not have the time. In the current economy, you might need your blogging to start paying off now – not in two or three years.

I’ve got good news for you. Instead of struggling your way to an audience, you can start with a ready-made crowd of 50,000+ readers. Instead of watching those AdSense pennies trickle in, you can receive a fixed sum per post.

Staff Blogging – The Other Side Of ProBlogging

You might have noticed that ProBlogger has job boards. You might even have applied for a few jobs through them. This is just the tip of the iceberg of a blogging industry out there, where writers are hired and paid good money to write posts for large blogs.

If you love writing – and dislike the process of marketing, building traffic and doing techy things – you’ll find that staff blogging lets you have all the great bits of blogging without the tedious ones.

It’s not just about the money; it is also a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy writing and variety.

(Chris Garrett, ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six Figure Income, p124)

So what exactly is staff blogging? It’s sometimes called “freelance blogging”, but bloggers often use that phrase to talk about traditional ProBlogging too – writing for themselves and making money through ads.

Staff blogging is writing regular posts for a blog (anything from several per day to one per month), and receiving a set fee per post.

Can You Really Make Money Like That?

Yes, you really can – and good money, at that. I’m paying my rent and bills purely from my staff blogging work, and I live in London in the UK – hardly the cheapest place in the world!

There are numerous blogs which pay writers a decent rate (I wouldn’t advise blogging for less than $20 per post, unless the posts are extremely short). Big names in the blogging industry advise high-powered bloggers to “outsource” the writing of content – and in many cases, the editing of the blog.

If you have cash to spare (err…invest) then paying for blog content is a great way to motivate people. If you are serious about building a blog network then you better be serious about rewarding your writers very well. (Yaro Starak, How To Grow A Great Blog Without Writing It Yourself)

How Do You Find Well-Paying Blogging Jobs?

Whenever I talk about staff blogging, this is what everyone wants to know: where are the well paid jobs, and how do you get them?

First, be proactive. Don’t sit around hoping that your dream job will appear on the ProBlogger boards: instead, look at the blogs which you read and see if any use multiple writers. If they do, there’s a good chance that they pay. Hunt around for pages like these:

Send a guest post to blogs which look promising, and mention that you’d be interested in becoming a regular, paid writer. Be a good guest blogger and don’t make careless mistakes that spoil your chances of success.

I’ve found all my best jobs through contacting editors personally in this way – not through trawling job boards. In a couple of cases, I didn’t even ask for a job: my guest post had landed in an editor’s inbox at just the right time, and I was offered a paid position:

I first met Ali Hale via a guest post submission. She sent an article to be published on Daily Writing Tips, and it was so good that I offered her the chance of becoming a paid staff writer on the blog. (Daniel Scocco, Daily Blog Tips Interview With Ali Hale)

Even if you’re applying speculatively, take the time to write a good email, to follow any guidelines (blogs may request guest posts or speculative posts in a certain format), and to behave as professionally as you would if you were applying to a blogging position listed on a jobs board.

Do I Need To Be A Great Writer?

One thing that worries a lot of potential staff bloggers is whether their writing is good enough. Of course, you need to have a good grasp of the English language – but you definitely don’t need to be the next Shakespeare. Blog readers want posts that are written in a clear, straightforward and engaging manner – and editors like to give their readers what they want!

Don’t try to use long, ponderous or difficult words in an attempt to impress. Sonia Simone calls this “fancy nancy” writing and warns against it on CopyBlogger, telling bloggers that instead they should just keep things simple and direct:

Write plainly and with vigor. Get your point across directly, with as much grace as you can muster. You can’t make a connection if your reader has no earthly idea what you’re talking about. (Sonia Simone, Are You a Fancy Nancy Writer, CopyBlogger)

If you do want to improve your writing style, these blogs are packed with tips and advice:

  • Daily Writing Tips (especially good if English isn’t your first language, or if you need to brush up on the basics)
  • CopyBlogger (which has a focus on blogging for marketing purposes, but lots of general advice too – good for intermediate and advanced writers)
  • Men With Pens (a mixture of writing and freelancing advice, much of it aimed at bloggers)

These two posts are particularly worth a look for some quick tips:

How Staff Blogging Can Help Traditional ProBloggers

Perhaps you don’t get a thrill just out of writing: you’re motivated by the idea of owning your own Technorati Top 100 blog, like Darren. You might have thought about writing for pay, but it seems like a waste of your time. You may even have been advised not to work for other people’s blogs, with warnings that staff bloggers work for

…a flat one-time fee with no residuals. If such bloggers stop writing, they stop earning. And apparently there’s no shortage of bloggers willing to work for such rates. (Steve Pavlina, How Much Is a Blog Post Worth? Would You Believe $2400 Each?)

Steve goes on to recommend that bloggers stick with writing on their own blogs, citing himself as an example of how this would be financially beneficial – he calculates that each post on his blog has brought in $2400. (This was in 2006, I imagine it’s considerably more by now.)

I’m going to have to disagree with Steve here. Most of us don’t have the writing and business talents that he does, and most of us aren’t anywhere near making $24/post on our own blogs, let alone $2400. Besides, getting some staff blogging experience is hugely beneficial for your own blogs. This could mean:

  1. Improved skills: The more you write for blogs, the better you’ll get at blogging. Writing for several different blogs gives you the chance to try out different styles and voices – this could help you to discover your blogging voice. And having your posts edited can teach you where you’re going wrong: writing for Dumb Little Man taught me to craft more engaging introductions to posts.
  2. Better discipline: Have you ever run out of ideas? Suffered from “blogger’s block”? Have you felt uninspired about your own blog, and lacked the motivation to write? Have you been “too busy” to blog? Getting a staff blogging gig will drive all your excuses away: when an editor’s expecting a post every week, you’ll find that you can write to a deadline.
  3. Traffic for your own blog: Some blogs which I’ve written for (Dumb Little Man is a good example) give me a short bio line as well as paying. This means I get great traffic and exposure.
  4. Google juice for your own blog: Most blogs that use staff writers will have a page listing those writers’ bios and linking to their sites. Since blogs that can afford to pay tend to be long-standing ones that rank well in Google, that link will improve your own Google ranking.

And, on top of that, staff blogging can give you some vital extra cash early on in your journey towards the blogging A-list. You can staff blog and write for your own blog as well: it’s not an either-or decision.

So what are you waiting for? Take a browse through some of the blogs that you love, look to see which have several regular writers, and shoot the editor a great guest post. Follow it up with a polite enquiry about getting paid to write for them, and you may well hit lucky…

Bio: Ali has been paying her rent and bills through staff blogging since September ‘08. She’s just released the “Staff Blogging Course” – a short, self-study ebook course packed with advice, tips and practical exercises and handouts. The course sells for $19, but ProBlogger readers can get a $5 discount by entering the code “ProBlogger” (no quotes, not case sensitive).

Should I Add a Donation Button to My Blog?

Donate.jpgA question that hits my inbox or is sent to me on Twitter from time to time is – ‘Should I Add a Donation Button to My Blog?

When I first started blogging 7 years back it was not uncommon to see bloggers attempting to add an income stream to their blog with some kind of a donation button or invitation on their blog. Often these buttons were tied to a PayPal account that enabled the readers of the blog to send the blogger a little money as a thank you and/or as an encouragement to keep blogging.

Many bloggers tried the reader donation model as a way to make money from blogging but few made it work.

Example of Someone Who Made it Work (For a While)

One of the few who was able to sustain himself completely via donations was Jason Kottke who in 2005 famously quit his job to focus upon his blog solely funded by the generosity of his readers (see his supporter list for 2005 as an example of the large numbers of gifts he received).

His model was simple and worked to at least some level – one month a year he called for people to become micropatrons – he limited these calls for donations to a week long campaign so as not to overdo it with readers over a full year. You can read some reflections on how it went in the first year here – he actually did make enough from the donations to keep his income to a level he could live off but in his reflections admitted that it might not be a feasible model in the long term.

Jason proved that it was possible to make a living from your blog solely on the back of reader gifts – but it is worth noting that these days he has sold advertising on his blog (via the Deck) since 2006 and in his RSS feed.

I’m not completely sure of the reason that Jason switched his model to an ad based one back in 2006 but in chatting to quite a few other bloggers who went down the donation model route I suspect it was a pretty difficult model to sustain – even for a blog with large traffic like Kottke.

Can Donation Buttons Work?

So in answering this question of whether donations ‘can’ work on a blog I guess we’d have to answer with a ‘yes’ – at least in theory. However the reality is that they are not likely to work on the vast majority of blogs.

If they were to work I suspect the blog would have to have some or all of these factors:

  1. a very large readership – a small % will always be willing to donate but to get enough to live off you’d need a large readership
  2. a very loyal readership – obsessed readers who simply couldn’t live without the blog who were willing to dip into their own pockets to keep it running. Of course to get this high loyalty you need to provide readers with something that they can’t live without whether that be some kind of service or fulfillment of a need of some kind.
  3. no other forms of income – I think sites with lots of other income streams (advertising, affiliate programs) would be likely to see a decreased chance of readers contributing as there would be a perception that the blog was already making money

Donations as a supplementary Income

So making a living solely from donations is not likely unless you have a lot of raving fans – but this doesn’t mean it is a model with no merit at all. I do know of a couple of bloggers who are using it as a secondary income source. They know they’ll not make a lot of money from it but are still able to supplement their other non blogging income streams with the donations that their blog brings in.

One of those bloggers just uses a PayPal donations button and another uses a ‘Buy me a Beer’ WordPress plugin under their posts. Neither sees big money but both are happy to let this help earn them some extra dollars instead of running advertising on their blogs.

Adding Value to Supporters

Let me finish by saying that one way that I think donations could work for some bloggers is if they gave extra value to those who made donations. Whether this be by giving away a free ebook with donations, allowing donators to be listed somewhere, giving them larger avatars and a signature in their comments….. etc. This is a model that I’ve seen quite a few forums use successfully. It’s not purely a donation in that the person paying gets something in return but it is a low cost way for those using the site to give something back but also get something to acknowledge their gift.

Have you Ever Asked for or Received Donations on your Blog?

Got some experience to share on this topic? I’d love to hear your story of asking for and/or getting donations on your blog in comments below.

More Full Time Bloggers than Computer Programers? – Thoughts on Making Money Blogging

I’ve had a lot of people email and tweet me today asking for my opinion on a Wall Street Journal article – America’s Newest Profession: Blogging.

In it the journalist writes about how there are almost more people in America making their living from blogging than as lawyers and that bloggers outnumber computer programmers and firefighters.

I’ll let you read and give your feedback on the article but here are a couple of reactions of my own:

Full Time Blogger Numbers Are on the Up

While the stats can be debated (and they are being around the blogosphere) there’s certainly an increase in the numbers of people for whom blogging is their primary source of income.

I’m not sure that the number is as high as the 2% of blogs that the article quotes – but I know that I’m coming across new bloggers that I’d not come across before carving out a full time living from blogging every week.

Most Bloggers Continue to Earn Peanuts

The reality is that while this article is full of impressive figures about what bloggers can earn that most bloggers earn nothing or very little from their blogs.

Note: this is certainly covered in the article – however most of the commentary I’ve seen about the article seems to be focusing upon how much bloggers make and how there are more full time bloggers than computer programers.

Even here on ProBlogger where most of our readers are attempting to earn money from their blogs every time I ask readers about their earnings the vast majority don’t earn much.

Last time I did such a survey 39% of respondents said they didn’t earn anything from their blogs.

Of the 61% who did make money 54% reported making less than $100 a day.

While the same survey also revealed quite a few of or readers are making good money from blogging the take home message is that it’s not a reality for the majority.

It’s not just an advertising game

There’s a sense in the article that online advertising is the main way that blogs earn income. While most bloggers I talk to do focus upon this model many blogs are also exploring a variety of other models.

Of course there is also the affiliate/commission type model that many bloggers also do quite well from but a trend I’ve been noticing for a year or so now is to see bloggers releasing their own information products for sale and increasingly leveraging the profile that a blog brings them personally to make an income indirectly from their blogs. Even smaller bloggers are finding success as a result of releasing e-books which they sell from their blogs.

READ THIS:

I’d like to finish this post with a link to another where I answer the question – Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging?

In that post I attempt to give a realistic picture of blogging for money and getting your expectations right as you enter into the field of making money from blogs.

Other Reading:

Update: Penelope Trunk has published a good read in the last day or two – Reality Check: You’re Not Going to Make Money from Your Blog.

Penelope’s put it perhaps a little more bluntly than I would (I actually think that there’s a little more hope than she says) but makes some great points. I particularly think point #3 (supporting yourself with a blog is crazy hard) and point #7 (Blog for better reasons than money) are good.

It is possible to make money from blogs without a background in media (I was working as a minister and putting myself through a Theology degree when I started) or without a background in design or with a web developer partner (My first blog’s design was like an explosion went off in a candy store and I remember one day taking 3 hours to work out how to align an image to the left) and I did get a book deal and a fair bit of speaking work purely from my blog – but it is a lot of work and takes a long time.