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How Early Should You Monetize Your New Blog?

A common question that I get is ‘how early should I begin to monetize my blog‘.

I understand the concern behind the question – some bloggers certainly like to build their audience before they introduce monetization and you do need readers before whatever monetization model you choose will work – but have always believed that if you intend to monetize your blog one day you should probably do it in some way from early on.

I’ve never heard a shop owner ask – ‘how early should I monetize? – shops open from day #1 with products to sell.

Likewise – Newspapers generally run ads from Day #1, Businesses open with sales staff from Day #1, Gyms generally offer membership packages from Day #1… why shouldn’t a blog that intends to monetize start with that in mind.

It’s never too early in my opinion.

Monetizing from the start has a few benefits:

  • Firstly it’ll generate a little income – it won’t be much early on but a little is better than nothing and you’ll be surprised how even just earning a little can motivate and energise you!
  • Secondly – you’ll learn a lot by just trying. The first time I tried to monetize I used AdSense and Amazon’s affiliate program. In the first week of doing so I learned a lot – knowledge that I’ve utilised ever since.
  • lastly, and perhaps most importantly – monetizing from the start means your readers expectations are that your blog is one that will be monetized and you don’t have to break it to an established community that you’re suddenly going to start monetizing in some way.

A better question might be ‘HOW should I monetize early on?’

Some blogging monetization techniques will work better from Day #1 than others.

For Example

If your goal is to sell advertising directly to advertisers/sponsors – you’ll need to build your traffic before an advertiser is likely to want to advertise with you. In that case you might want to consider running ads from an Advertising Network like AdSense or Chitika (aff).

Or if your eventual goal is to sell your own products (an eBook or course perhaps) it may not be feasible for you to have a product developed from Day #1. In that case it might be worth promoting someone else’s eBook or course as an affiliate while you develop yours.

When Did You Start to Monetize?

I’d love to hear your experience – did you monetize from the start or introduce it later? Or are you still waiting for something to happen before you do it?

Mastering the Upsell

Everyone’s heard of the term ‘would you like fries with that‘ – it’s probably the most famous upsell of all time. The fast food industry are not the only ones working the upsell magic. Retail, supermarkets and yes online are all over it.

There’s two common terms used in the corporate world that are measured and heavily invested in — and it’s all related to upsells. The first is average transaction value. It’s essentially the average amount each customer is spending on each transaction. The second is the average number of units per transaction, so how many ‘things’ people buy each time they transact. To a business even a small lift in each of those measures can result in significant increases in revenue and profit. The same goes for bloggers who are selling products.

If you’re a ruthless businessman you’ll stop at nothing to get those upsells happening, regardless of if the customer likes it or not! But I know all of you don’t think that way and you certainly don’t take for granted that behind these measures are people and whilst you would like to have them spend more money with you, you don’t want to resort to trickery to make it happen.

… and that’s why I’m happy to share all my experience with upsells online.

When I’m looking at upsell opportunities, I first break them into three groups; The pre-sale upsell, the checkout upsell and the post sale upsell. Each of these areas require a different approach that I’ll try to explain.

Pre-sale upsell

These upsells typically happen on the sales page. They form part of the overall sales pitch of the product. You might have something that costs $19 on your sales page, but you also offer it as a bundle with another product for just $9 extra. You present both of these options to the customer before they check out.

We use this exact technique right here on problogger. If you look at the workbooks tab you’ll notice that each workbook is laid out for you to explore, but at the top and bottom, are details of a special offer to buy the entire library and save 40%. It’s not a hard sell, but something I want potential customers to have in the back of their mind as they are shopping around.

Checkout upsell

This is when a customer has indicated through some sort of action (clicking an add to cart or buy now button) that they wish to buy a particular product. On your way to the checkout you’ve got a couple of opportunities to, in your own way, ask if they’d like fries with that.

We use a specific technique on Problogger. If you head to the Blog Wise sales page  for example and click the download it now button, you’ll be presented with an upsell that looks like the below.

With this type of upsell, I only ever offer 1 product. I’m interrupting the checkout flow so I keep it short and simple also ensuring there is an easy way for the customer to say ‘no thanks’ and continue on. I’ve found that this is my best performing upsell technique, however it seems to be seldom used elsewhere.

The second opportunity you have in the checkout process is when someone is confirming their order. You can see in this example from SitePoint that they are subtly suggesting some alternative products. Amazon do a great job of this as well.

Post sale upsell

The post sale upsell is one of the most often used techniques and normally is an email sent post purchase offering them a similar product to the one they purchased. It might be a more advanced eBook or course if they originally purchased a beginners guide. It’s much easier to sell another product to an existing customer than it is to find a new one. That is of course as long as you treat them well.

What to upsell and when

At each stage of the above upsell techniques, the customer is in a different stage of the sales cycle. In the first instance when they are reading the pre-sale upsell they may not even have decided to buy. In the checkout stage they have committed (in their own mind) that they will buy, and post sale they are hopefully enjoying your product. So…

Pre-sale: I find bundles of similar priced products work best here. So ‘buy two books and save X’.

Checkout: Again I find bundles work well here, but also slightly cheaper priced add-ons can also work well. So for example, extra video content or downloads for $5 on your course page.

Post sale: This is where you have some freedom. Having proven yourself with one product you might look to offer your premium, more expensive offer. For example you might offer personal coaching services to someone who purchased one of your eBooks. Alternatively you can simply offer alternative products to the one they purchased. With a little testing you’ll figure out which upsell works for you.

Some things to consider so as not to piss off your customers

Upsells done well can be very rewarding, done poorly and you can frustrate your customers to the extent they no longer wish to deal with you. So here’s three little tips to ensure you don’t look silly.

Automatically adding things to their cart.

Adding things to people carts that they didn’t ask for surprisingly converts really well, but there is an element of dishonesty about it and if trust is important to you I would walk away from this.

Offering an additional product that they already own.

Where possible (and this is often difficult) try not to offer someone an upsell on a product that they already own. A customer doesn’t care about the technical challenges of this. They’d like to think you value them enough to remember what they have bought.

Offering them the same product when they’ve already said no thanks.

Most people don’t mind being offered an upsell. But when you offer them the same one over and over again it can start to become frustrating. Don’t be afraid to offer the upsell, but honor the decline if a customer indicates such.

Doing the math on the benefits.

There is a fine line to walk when balancing upsells with a low friction checkout process, so you need to ensure that you are measuring your upsell offers and they are not resulting in lower overall sales. I’d be suprised if they are, but there has been instances where I’ve had to back off my upsells to find the right balance.

So that’s how you can use upsells to boost your bottom line.  If you don’t, you might be leaving money on the table.

From Spark to Sale in 18 Days

Some of you will know that Darren has just headed off for a well earned 10 day break. While enjoying his holiday, Darren has bravely given me the keys to ProBlogger to share a collection of posts – with of course the one condition that I don’t scare you all away :)

Together we’ve picked 5 posts that I do hope you will all enjoy and importantly get something from.

The first is a story, or a mini-case study if you like about SnapnGuides. A new brand and product that went from idea to reality in less than three weeks. Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I want to give you the context behind the SnapnGuides decision…

The Need before the Solution

For some time we’ve talked about creating short mini-guides on Digital Photography School(dPS). There were quite a few potential eBook topics with clear demand that our current publishing process couldn’t meet. The subject matter was valuable, but wasn’t as deep and broad reaching as previous dPS eBooks, thus we could never give them priority over other eBook ideas. We knew with some out of the box thinking, there must be a way to deliver these mini-guides, however there were a couple of considerations we needed to make outside of our publishing priorities.

  1. Historically dPS eBook titles have been significant both in length, subject and market appeal. – In other words they are big books that comprehensively cover a subject that most photographers would be interested in. Our mini-guides on other hand are quick reads that cover a topic within a specific photography niche.
  2. Prices of dPS eBooks are between $20 and $30, due to their size, scale and comprehensiveness. – We couldn’t charge the same as existing eBooks for our mini-guides. Correction, we could have, and some people would have been happy to pay, but we felt $7-$10 was more appropriate. The risk was if we launched lower priced eBooks on dPS it could devalue the larger eBooks.
  3. The value of the dPS brand is something you only carefully tinker with. – Millions and millions of people visit dPS every month to help improve their photography. It’s built on a foundation of value both through the free content on the blog and great discussions in the community but also the content available through the eBooks. These new mini-guides were a new, unknown entity for us. Our standards of quality would always be maintained however they were shorter, cheaper and more niche. The impact they would have on the dPS brand was unknown for us — and presented quite a risk.

A quick rule of thumb about brand impact. If you’re thinking of making a change that may impact your brand, I like to ask the questions “Will this change the way other people describe my brand? How will it change? Is that a change I want?” In the case of our mini-guides it would be “I got this great little book from dPS, it only cost me $10 and was perfect for me as I like X.”

Enter SnapnDeals then SnapnGuides

Talking through these issues, Darren and I first considered SnapnDeals as a place to publish the new mini-guides. We could still leverage the dPS audience to bring awareness to the guides and given SnapnDeals is more about deals and cheaper prices this seemed a good fit. The problem with SnapnDeals was that it’s sole purpose is time limited offers on photography products, not publishing it’s own products. Adding this new dimension to the brand might dilute its original purpose. We ummed and aahhed about this for a while before finally coming up with the answer. Solution:Create a new brand under the ‘Snapn’ sentiment but focused on publishing and thus SnapnGuides was born. It …

  1. Allowed us to define a new, ‘fit for purpose’ brand
  2. Presented little or no risk to the dPS brand
  3. Came with no existing price expectation

However what that meant was, we needed to a start a brand and website from scratch and due to scheduling we had only three short weeks to get it done. Always up for a challenge, it was time to make it so.

Building SnapnGuides in three weeks

Given the time pressures we had to adhere to three basic rules.

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Leverage what we can
  3. Fine tune later

Keep it simple

In a perfect world we would have designed a new theme for the site, installed WordPress, got it on our main hosting platform but that takes time. Instead we chose to launch the site and brand with one single page, the sales page for the book. If it’s successful (more on that later) we’ll do it right. We also kept the people involved to a minimum to keep decision making simple. There was Darren, Jasmine and Myself and all decisions were made within a 30 second Skype chat.

Leverage what we can

We’ve already got a good system set up for selling dPS eBooks. We did want to separate the brand where possible, but leverage what we already had where needed. For example we are using the same Paypal account as dPS however have a separate payment email address and an independent e-junkie account (shopping cart) so we could keep the experience on brand.

Fine tune later

I’m not a perfectionist like say my friend Matt Magain, but I do like it when things just work. That said, when there is a time pressure, you need to come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to get everything right upfront. You’ll be fine as long as the fundamentals are there — you can always circle back and fix up the rest.

The process

I thought I’d share the actual process we went through (outside of creating the mini-guide itself).

Hosting and domain

  1. Register and setup the domain
  2. Create hosting environment (see note below)

Sales page

  1. Wireframe and write copy for the sales page
  2. Hand the wireframe to a designer
  3. Review and finalise design (artwork only)
  4. Hand the design to HTML and CSS coder
  5. Review and test web page
  6. Load up to the hosting environment.

Hosting the site: For ProBlogger and dPS we use synthesis from CopyBlogger however, we were eager to play with a new service called site44.com. How this works is it simply creates a dropbox folder for your website which you save the files too, it syncs and your site is live. It’s sits on Amazons server cloud so can take just about any traffic you can throw at it. We did go the paid option but did all our testing on the free plan. It’s very cool.

eCommerce

  1. Create a new e-junkie account for SnapnGuides
  2. Create a new email alias for current Paypal account
  3. Link new email alias to e-junkie account
  4. Set up and load SnapnGuide product
  5. Integrate with sales page (above) and test.

Prelaunch

  1. Final changes to the landing page. (I tend to make lots of changes here)
  2. Independent review and test of sales page. (more changes again)
  3. eCommerce check (actually buy the product yourself)
  4. Scalability test

Then of course there’s the launch, but that’s a whole series of posts!

The result

It was a late night on the date of launch (most of them are) but as I fell asleep at 3AM I was really happy with what we’ve been able to create in such a small period of time. That smile widened when I checked in on the sales a little later in the morning. Suffice to say that our experiment was a success and we’re likely to see more SnapnGuides in the future. Doing things that other people say can’t be done, in timeframes that seem impossible is really a part of my everyday life. But I’d love to hear any stories you might have in launching a new product under a time constraint and of course if you agree or disagree with anything above.

Four New Ways to Monetize a Blog

The ad industry is dead.

Target will only buy remnant inventory. Federated Media, the darling of the online ad world, is just about vaporized. And media behemoth IAC is building a state-of-the-art ad sales system that will work like a trading floor where you don’t even know what content you’re buying—you only see the profiles of the people who are viewing the content right this second.

So how are people going to make money blogging? Here are four ways.

whiteboard

Image by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons

1. Build a paywall

This was once seen as impossible. But after growing up online, generation Y reads and writes more than any other generation in history and is therefore more willing to than others to pay for online content.

This attitude has opened up lots of fee-based content models. Today The New York Times is successful in its paywall strategy, and it’s paved the way for bloggers to start looking at this as a viable option. Andrew Sullivan, for example, launched a paywall and raised $100K in a few days.

The problem is that a paywall is limiting rather than expanding in terms of the ways you can connect to the world as revenue options grow and change.

2. Turn your brand into a company and take in investors

As a serial entrepreneur, I saw this option coming early in the blogging game. So I named my blog something that was not attached to the domain name. Then I built up the brand name, sold the brand to investors, and spun off a company.

I don’t know why more people don’t do this. It’s a great way to leverage your community-building abilities, if you have them.

In this scenario, you hold onto your blog and your personal brand and you own stock in the spin-off brand. (And look: I recently gave up the CEO position and went back to blogging. But I held onto the founder’s stock. It’s like a big lottery ticket.)

3. Use your blog as an incubator

The best way to test new companies is to launch them. You could throw up a product offering on a web site, then announce it on the incubator blog. If it takes off, fine, if it doesn’t, then announce the next product.

In this scenario, the blogger is like a full-time marketing team for a range of startups within the incubator. Keep writing good content and you can send your audience to any beta site you need to. In this scenario, you’d get stock in each of the companies that you help launch.

4. Go after a talent acquisition

It’s common these days for companies to buy a startup to get the employees who would otherwise not be in the job market. You could create this same scenario with your blog.

Typically, a talent acquisition is for developers. But I can see it happening for someone who is amazing at PR, for example, and is essentially offering up her social media sauce and her high-powered media network in the talent acquisition of her blog.

Another way I can see this going is that someone uses the blog as a way to display thought leadership in the industry, so the acquisition’s purpose is to have the property attached to the larger brand, but also, to get the talented thought leader behind the blog.

What will you do?

Each of these four ideas takes planning, but with ad sales no longer being a viable option for blog revenue, we need to think more creatively.

Blogs are clearly becoming more and more prominent in the social and intellectual fabric of our lives. Those of us who can adjust in the most creative, big-thinking ways will benefit the most from our blogging talents.

Contributing author Penelope Trunk is a serial entrepreneur, and the author of the bestselling book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. She has written for a wide range of publications including Time, Business Week, and the Wall St. Journal, but she likes writing for her blog best: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com.

Behind the Scenes of a Successful Blog Acquisition [Case Study]

I really love the idea of buying and selling websites. Recently I listed one of my blogs on Flippa, a marketplace for buying and selling websites, and sold it successfully.

Then, I bought another blog outside of Flippa. Since we’ve already talked about selling blogs this week, I wanted to walk you through my buying experience today…

Fortune cookie

Image by Flickr user quinn.anya, licensed under Creative Commons

A couple of months ago while browsing the web I landed on a blog called WPBlogTips.com. Eventually, my eye got stuck on a banner that said, “This site is for sale”.

At that time I was thinking of starting a blog in the internet marketing niche, which is the niche that WPBlogTips.com covers.

To be honest, I personally hate to start a blog from the ground up. It’s a lot of work! Choosing the domain, crafting content, building traffic, waiting till the Google sandbox effects end before you can start link building, growing an active community … obviously there’s a lot to do, and in many cases the job is tedious. I would prefer to buy an established blog in a niche that has decent traffic, an engaged community, and quality content.

Long story short, I decided to buy that blog.

Doing due diligence

Before jumping in to buy that blog, I undertook some due diligence research on both the owner and the blog itself. Doing your homework before you purchase may help you to avoid disappointment down the track.

So before I made an offer on the blog, I researched a few things:

  • the owner of the blog
  • the site’s traffic stats
  • the blog’s monetization history.

Knowing more about the seller

Knowing more about the seller is really important task before you make an offer, or can even calculate how much the blog is worth. It’s especially important if you are not willing to use a third-party transaction site like Escrow.com to manage the transfer of payments and assets in the acquisition.

Here are the simple steps I took to research the seller of the blog.

  • Search the domain’s WhoIs information: Check if the domain is handled by the same person who runs the blog. In my case, the domain was not WhoIs guarded, so I was able to find the owner’s details and their address. If that information was protected, I would have ask him to remove the guard so I could see the data. This is an important first step in verifying site ownership.
  • Do a seller profile web search: A simple Google search should show you the profile of the seller. I also found some other blogs that this person owned, and I found that reassuring—it’s nice to deal with a person who has some kind of reputation online. That’s not something most people would achieve if they weren’t honest and trustworthy, nor is it something they’d throw away by behaving badly in a site sale.
  • Search on social media: A simple search on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ also told me a lot about the seller, and how he deals with others. Today everyone is social, especially bloggers. So this is a good way to research a site owner.

Analyzing blog traffic

Once I’d got the details of the blog’s owner, I contacted him and asked him to send me some stats for the site’s traffic and its monetization history.

If you’ve ever looked to buy a site on Flippa, you might have seen a section called Claim Traffic where sellers need to claim their traffic by uploading Google Analytics verified stats. The problem is that straight traffic stats say nothing about the site’s traffic sources, or what the most popular content is. These are important factors in the site’s current success and its potential, so it’s important to ask for more detailed stats before you buy.

Importantly, traffic screenshots can be faked easily. So always ask for verified Google Analytics reports when you’re asking for Analytics data. Then, start analyzing…

1. Determine what the Analytics stats really mean

You will get a bunch of details from Google Analytics, but those details are as good as junk if you can’t analyze what they really mean.

  • Unique visitors per month: This is one of the key factors that helps determine the blog’s value.
  • Bounce rate: I think the normal bounce rate of a blog should be around 60-70%, but in this case, the bounce rate was very high. By looking more closely at the blog, I found that the main reason for the high bounce rate was poor site navigation and a lack of user engagement. I felt that with a little effort, I could bring the bounce rate back to a normal level.
  • Average visit duration: Again, I wasn’t satisfied with this data, since it was lower than my other blogs’, so I had to look a little deeper to find out the reasons for it. The reason for the low visit duration was, again, a lack of reader engagement.

The key lesson here is to check the blog’s stats, not only to get some idea of what the blog is worth, but also to determine where you can improve the blog, and how. This will help you get an idea of how much time you’ll need to put in to improve things, which will help you to come to a decision about whether to buy or not.

2. Looking more closely at traffic sources

Believe me, getting traffic is not a big deal today. Just Google “buy traffic” and you’ll see tons of services that offer you 10,000 visitors to your site for just $20.

The only way to make sure that the traffic to the blog is original and of high quality is to look at the traffic source stats of the site’s Analytics reports.

My case

Before I bought it, WPBlogTips.com’s traffic was highly dependent upon Google and other organic sources. This is both good and bad.

The good thing is that we can say this blog has high targeted traffic.

The bad thing is that whenever Google updates it search algorithm, chances are high that the traffic will drop—if not almost disappear.

One of the things I discovered as I looked at this data was that Facebook and Twitter aren’t in the top ten traffic sources. The main reason was that the blog had almost no social presence. It did have a Facebook page and Twitter account, but there was no reader activity in these forums.

Another thing I found was that when I excluding Google from the mix, there was no strong referral traffic source. Likely reasons were a lack of networking and link building. So obviously I would need to focus on building these elements after the acquisition.

3. Uncovering the audience’s interests

The interests of a blogger may vary time to time. It is quite common for a blog to have many transitional stages before it reaches to its “present” state. For example, WPBlogTips.com was obviously in the “blogging tips/internet marketing” niche, but the previous owner had also published many articles that had to do nothing with that niche.

So before buying a blog, it’s important to find out what all of the popular pages of that blog are. Sometimes the blog you are about to buy may have high Google ranking on topics other than its main focus. Let me explain.

Imagine that you are buying a blog in the internet marketing niche. Your main goal in buying that site is to sell SEO services without paying a penny for advertisements or making any extra marketing effort.

Now, what if that site has a low rank for the specific keyword you are targeting—the traffic’s coming through comparatively off-topic posts? Or, what if most of the blog’s audience is actually interested in a topic that’s off the main topic of that blog? If you don’t intend to maintain that off-topic focus in your content, you may well lose a large chunk of the blog’s loyal readers.

So it’s important to understand the exact nature of the audience for the blog you’re researching.  Find out which are the popular pages on the blog, and ask for content keywords  lists from Webmaster tools. This information gives you a very precise idea about the interests of the blog’s audience, and on which keywords Google ranks the site well.

My case

Most of the readers of the blog I was researching came to the site through search engines. Because people were getting the exact thing they were looking for, they weren’t returning to the blog.

I could see that if I added related articles lists to every post, that may catch the eyes of readers without harming the user experience, and increase the blog’s time on site metric and repeat visit potential.

I also noticed that a few of the off-topic posts on the blog had received some Google juice, but I was planning to remove those, so that didn’t factor into my buying decision.

Another problem I found was that the blog wasn’t ranked well on Google for any relevant long-tail keywords. This was especially a problem on the Services page, so I couldn’t expect many client requests to buy those services. I thought this may because of a lack of effective link building, but it meant that, to begin with at least, I’d need to buy traffic from Adwords.

Reviewing monetization

A couple of months ago Flippa introduced a new feature called the Verified AdSense Report, which is similar to the Verified Analytics Report. This feature is hugely helpful for buyers, since it means they don’t need to rely more on screenshots of AdSense income provided by the seller.

However, there’s still no way to verify PayPal earnings like there is with AdSense. So while deciding how much a blog is worth, as the buyer, you still have to rely on screenshots provided by the seller, no matter whether you’re buying the site through Flippa or independently.

That said, I would always prefer to buy a blog that is under-monetized and has massive traffic rather than a blog that has decent traffic and makes a lot of money. There are two reasons for this.

1. You need to rely on the seller’s data

When you’re calculating how much a site is worth, it is common to give preference to earnings over traffic.

This means that the higher the earnings of a website, the more you will pay to acquire it. The problem is that as a buyer, I can’t be 100% sure that the data provided by the seller is true, unless he gives full access to verify the payments, which is almost impossible.

So the risk here is that the seller’s not being truthful about the earnings, and if you base your valuation of the blog on a false earnings figure, you’re going to lose out.

2. What if the traffic declines?

Recently I came across an article by Daniel Scocco entitled, Where there’s traffic, there is hope. In it, he explains his experience of buying two different blogs: Blog A, which had high traffic but was under-monetized, and Blog B, which had decent traffic and earned a lot of money. Due to fluctuations in search ranking, the second blog’s traffic dried out, and so did its earnings. Blog A, on the other hand, continues to make a profit.

So I repeat: where there’s traffic, there is hope!

My case

The blog’s owner had not tested any monetization methods on WPBlogTips.com. He tried to sell blog migration services from the site, but didn’t have a nice portfolio to support the work.

I felt that his offer was not unique. Hundreds of different blogs provide Blogger-to-WordPress migration services, and there was nothing to make his service stand out from the crowd.

Soon after the acquisition I started an AdWords campaign to promote those services. To make this offer unique I offered free Blogger to WordPress migration. The only catch is that the client must buy Hostgator hosting through my link, so I still gain income, in the form of affiliate commissions.

Currently, I’m also testing AdSense units on that blog. I will be testing how those units work and, if they’re a success, I’ll continue to use them on the blog. I am not a believer of quick money making schemes. Making money from a blog definitely takes time.

I also started an email newsletter subscription on the blog. Email lists will definitely help me monetize this site in the long run. In coming months I’ll also try selling direct ads. However, I’m not hurry. I’m currently focused on attracting more traffic and making readers more engaged with the blog.

Pricing the blog

Most first-time sellers won’t have any idea when it comes to deciding how to set the price for their blog. In fact, sellers frequently overestimate the value of their blog, since they have an emotional engagement with it and have spent so much time and energy building it up.

Many people suggest that setting a price using the monthly income of your blog is the way to go. But for a buyer, to be honest, this kind of equation doesn’t make much sense.

For example, imagine that Darren decided to sell Problogger.net. Do you think that he would be willing to sell it for 24 times the monthly income? No way. He’d want more than that, for sure. On the other hand, imagine you own a blog with no reputation, and you wanted to sell it for 24 times the monthly income. As a buyer I probably wouldn’t be interested in paying such a big price for a blog with no reputation.

In simple terms, buyers value the reputation of a blog—as that impacts reader loyalty—sometimes more than the history of earnings or traffic stats.

My case

As I mentioned, WPBlogTips.com hadn’t been monetized. Yet the seller wanted a very high price. After some negotiation, I bought it for 37% of the initial price he’d set.

All of the negotiation was done over email. However, after we agreed on the price, I made a phone call to the owner. Why? Because it is nice to establish a good relationship with the guy who you are dealing with—especially when you’re about to transfer large sums of money in exchange for an asset like this.

Managing the purchase transaction

The safest payment method for buying or selling digital assets online is to use a third-party service like Escrow.com—especially if both the buyer and seller don’t share a high level of trust.

The buyer can create an account on Escrow.com and transfer the money to this account. Escrow.com will hold the payment until the transaction of property is complete and both parties flag that they’re happy with the outcome.

My case

The seller of WPBlogTips.com is Indian, like me. This helped to make me confident about the transaction.

Even if a problem did arise, the law we would be dealing with would be our national law, not other international treaties that may not be consistent across nations. I felt pretty confident that no problem would arise because I knew the seller has good reputation as blogger, and he would continue to run other blogs after the sale, so he wouldn’t want to tarnish his reputation online. My due diligence had paid off here.

I told the seller that, as a first step, I’d pay half the price we’d agreed. After he received the money, he’d transfer the ownership of the blog to me, and after that I’d pay the balance. We didn’t use Escrow or similar services, and for us, everything went smoothly.

Content strategy

Even if you are buying a blog that has a lot of good content, nicely targeted traffic, and a massive community you might need to spend your time building content.

Sometimes the previous owner may have a personal approach to the content. In such cases, the challenge for you will be to write more content without boring the community, or losing them altogether.

How can you enhance your readership by helping readers, and thereby growing the community on your blog? To get clear idea, answer these questions.

  1. Will you have time to spend on your blog writing content?
  2. If not, is it profitable to hire a freelancer? Will accepting guest posts enhance your community?

My case

The old owner had accepted and published many guest posts on WP Blog Tips. But my strategy is different. I wanted to bring more visitor engagement to the blog, so I stopped accepting guest posts and started writing every post myself. This really helped. The comment counts increased and an interactive community started to grow up around the blog.

As I mentioned earlier, there were many off-topic posts on the blog. I won’t be deleting those posts, because I hate to be landed on 404 pages and expect the same goes for my readers. But I will be developing a more focused content approach going forward.

Blog acquisition success

Buying a blog is not a tedious task—at least, it is not as tedious as building a blog from scratch! If you do it correctly, buying is breeze.

WPBlogTips.com was not properly monetized before I acquired it. I am not looking to sell it in future, so this will be my main online project as of now. My goal is that within a year I can make the money I spent to buy it.

Here are a few other tips I learned in buying a blog that I believe will help you.

  • Respect the seller’s work: Yes, you’ll need to ask the seller for different stats, but make sure that you always respect the seller and their work. Understand that this has benefits for you both. The rule of thumb is to give respect first; only then can you expect to get it back.
  • Beware of “potential”: Don’t get obsessed with the supposed “potential” of the blog that the seller might be keen to show you. Most of the sellers have habit of claiming that their blog has huge potential, in an effort to make huge money. But the fact is that they would be unlikely to sell the blog if it had massive potential. So rely on the stats, and your assessment of how well the blog fits your skills—not on the “potential” the seller describes.
  • Analyze the performance: When I bought my blog, I found that its bounce rate was very high. I was sure I could improve it a lot with little effort. So it’s important to carefully analyze the blog. Learn how you can improve the overall performance of the blog and what strategy you can implement to monetize it further. This will help you to gauge the potential of the blog for you, specifically.
  • Start networking: A couple of months before I acquired the blog, I started networking with other bloggers in the same niche by commenting on their blogs. The result was that those bloggers who I interacted with have helped me out by spreading the word about the blog, and commenting on my blog. This not only increases my traffic but it also helps me to build an interactive tribe on the blog.
  • Remember, you can buying outside Flippa: Flippa is one of the best places to buy a site. But if you are serious about buying I’d suggest you look beyond Flippa. You can find tons of sites for sale—try searching on Google with keywords like “<your niche> website for sale”, “<your niche> site for sale” and “<your niche> blog for sale” using double quotes.

One final tip is to ask a blogger directly if they are ready to sell their blog. They may not consider selling until you ask! If you can’t find any recent posts or activity on a blog, chances are high that the blogger might be busy with some other work and would consider selling it. Believe me, this strategy works, and asking costs you nothing.

Have you ever bought a blog? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Contributing author Shahzad has recently bought a blog WPBlogTips.com where he writes about unconventional blogging tips. Find his free guide on buying and selling websites here.

The State of the Blog Sales Market: Interview with Andrew Knibbe of Flippa

As blogs are increasingly recognized as business assets—or businesses in their own right—more entrepreneurs and publishers are looking to enter the blogosphere by buying a blog. And as we’ve already seen this week, in many cases, bloggers are happy to sell.

While blogs are often bought and sold privately, to get a reliable overview of the blog sales market, we spoke with Andrew Knibbe, Operations Manager of Flippa.

Andrew Knibbe of Flippa

Andrew Knibbe of Flippa

Among the little-known facts we discovered in this interview were:

  • blogs make up more sales than any other site type on Flippa
  • the platforms used to run and monetize a site can affect its value
  • building your authority in your niche can be a big help if you want to acquire a blog down the track
  • yes, Blogger blogs do sell!

For full details, read on.

PB: Today I’m speaking with Andrew Knibbe from Flippa. Andrew, thanks for talking with us.

No problem.

First up I was wondering if you can tell us a bit about the market for blogs on Flippa. Not much is known about the blog sales market and you guys obviously have a good overview of what websites and being bought and sold at the moment. So can you tell us a bit about that in relation to blogs?

Sure. Blogs are probably the biggest part of Flippa. About half of our websites sold tend to be blogs. It’s probably a fraction up on previous years—it’s probably grown at two percent in 2012 based on 2011. So they’re pretty popular, they sell well, and it’s probably our bread and butter.

Blogs as a % of total sales

Blogs make up the main site type sold at Flippa

The next [site type] is ecommerce, and that’s at about ten percent of what blogs sell for. So blogs are a big part of what we do.

Are there particular types of blogs that sell better than others or key niches that are more popular?

Yep. The ones that tend to sell most in terms of volume are health, entertainment and internet-related niches. Entertainment and health are up on the previous year but internet’s dropping in terms of demand.

The demand tends to reflect in terms of the multiples as well. So the prices people pay for those sites is up for health and entertainment. The prices for internet sites tends to be dropping a little bit compared to the previous year.

Also I guess the resourcing of these sites kind of varies a lot, so we see different quality blogs in some of those niches come through which tend to drop the price down was well.

So overall are you seeing more developed or more advanced blogs more frequently? Or is the spread staying reasonably consistent?

Currently the spread is relatively consistent. I think about two or three years ago when Google’s SEO algorithm was a bit more lax we saw a lot more autoblog content come through. That seems to have trailed off primarily because the buyer demand is less—because they don’t perform so well in terms of search engines—so that’s trailed away.

But in terms of the sophistication of sites and blogs that come through, it’s stayed relatively constant. There’s some really awesome ones, there’s some blogs that have obviously been neglected for a while, and people are selling them off, and everything in between. It’s pretty stable.

So there’s opportunities if you’ve got a reasonably developed blog—from that point on there is an opportunity to sell it?

Yeah, absolutely—depending on a few factors. But for the most part, if it’s got something going for it—and even age is something that goes for a blog, buyers value that—that gets reflected in the price.

How blog management affects demand

So with the blogs that are sold on the site, do they tend to be more single-person operations (like just me and my blog and I want to sell it), or do you also see sales of larger blogs with multiple authors or multiple owners?

Yeah we’ve seen, as of late, more sophisticated blog operations come through. My understanding when I see some of the sellers is that they’ve become a bit more sophisticated as well. They tend to operate as “publishers” rather than pure solo bloggers. So they won’t set up a staff, but they’ll have contacts that they use to write some of the content—either in full or to supplement their own effort.

We still see a few solo ones, but we’re seeing a growth in people who outsource part of what their blog does.

Firstly, when you say “publishers”, would they have a portfolio of sites?

Often, yes, they’ll have more than one. If they’ve got a special-interest blog, it tends to be the solo person who’s got an interest in that particular niche, and that’s what they focus on. But also we’re seeing a larger segment of people who’ve got multiple interests and have multiple blogs, and kind of run it as a bit more of a commercial operation.

And so that outsourcing—does that make the blog more saleable because it’s more of a business than a personal labour of love, or because there’s automated aspects?

Yeah, I think a lot of the buyers tend to favor sites where it doesn’t take up a lot of their time necessarily, and also that means that the revenue and cost base is reflected a bit more clearly as well, because the costs are [shown] for the people who do the work rather than the owner who doesn’t necessarily cost out their time.

But yeah, we’re seeing a few more of those come through, which is interesting, and probably positive.

From the buyer’s perspective, would most of your buyers be people who are looking to add to an existing portfolio of sites? Or they have a site and they need to tack a blog on? What are most of your buyers like?

There’s probably two segments. One of them is people who are just starting out, and they tend to buy newer blogs that aren’t necessarily SEO-ranked, for example.

For the guys that are buying existing sites, they tend to own one already—it might be in a complimentary niche or it might be something totally new—but they’ve got some background behind them where they’re trying to expand out to what they’re buying. So they’re not necessarily buying a blog for the sake of having a full-time job as a result of that purchase.

Are people selling blogs in languages other than English or from countries other than the western hemisphere? Are people using them as a means to enter a new market in any cases?

Possibly. For the most part, given the internet’s global, most of it tends to be English-based. That doesn’t mean they’re from English[-speaking] countries, but they’re English-language sites.

We’ve seen a few French, Spanish, Italian sites come through. Not a whole lot, but there’s a few that are on there, and they tend to attract those sorts of buyers. Whether people are looking to enter a Spanish market and they want to buy a Spanish blog, the volumes probably aren’t enough for them to do it that way, but they might stumble onto it, and as a result get into a particular country.

The key blog value drivers

You mentioned age before. How much does that matter? Are there particular characteristics at particular ages with the blogs that are for sale that are influencing price or interest from buyers?

Age is a good one. I think at some point, age matters a lot. So if you’ve got a blog that’s been around for a few months, and it has nothing else going for it, it’s worth a lot less than a blog that’s been around for like three years and has a good lot of traffic. So that age component counts for a lot.

Having said that, once you go past maybe three, four, five years, the age component tends to drop off, so you’re not getting a whole lot more bang for your buck once you go past a certain age point. But age definitely counts, because you can’t really replace age buy building [a blog] yourself. That’s probably the biggest thing there.

If you had missed that window where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck on an age basis, obviously there would be other factors that would come into play that would affect the value of your blog thereafter. Could you tell us a bit about what those key factors would be.

That would drive blog value?

Yeah, particularly for the older blogs.

For an established blog, the biggest thing that’s going to drive value is revenue. So if your site is earning two thousand dollars a month, you’re going to get more money for your site than someone who doesn’t.

I think after that, there’s traffic. So you might not be earning revenue, or revenue might not be so strong, but if you’ve got good traffic, both in terms of the quantity of traffic—visits, for example—and also what they do on the site (so if the bounce rate’s low, pages per view are high), that tends to keep the value pretty high as well.

Outside of that, I think some of the SEO components tend to be valued very highly. If you’ve got a whole lot of backlinks without a lot of traffic, that’s something that new buyers can fix up and do something with, and then either keep or sell on.

Another one is niche. We touched on a few niches beforehand, but there’s definitely some niches that are worth more than other niches. Finance, business—those niches tend to be more lucrative because they tend to generate more revenue. So if you’ve got a thousand users on a finance blog, you’re going to get a lot more money out of those guys than a thousand users on a pets blog, for example.

Buying assets: content, lists, social media and more

The word that I was waiting for in your list of value items was content! Obviously that plays into a lot of things—your traffic and your revenue and that kind of stuff. But I know that a lot of our readers focus very heavily on content.

So how’s blog content handled in the sale? A lot of bloggers might want to retain rights to the content they’ve written. Are rights normally included in the sale? Would they retain some rights? And what about guest posts, where it can be a grey area for a lot of bloggers?

The content baseline: we run Copyscape on Flippa, so if there’s no Copyscape matches, that tends to be attractive to buyers. Unique content is good, and the quality of that content tends to be reflected in things like SEO ranking and the like.

But when you’ve got that content and you go to sell your site, for the most part that’s included. My view is that if you’ve got a blog that you want to sell, but you don’t want to sell the content, you’re really just selling the domain, and that’s a different transaction.

So usually the content’s all included. Usually they’ll try and flag that it’s unique, and that they’re allowed to publish that content, and you can take the content with the site. Guest posts I’ve usually seen go across—I haven’t seen excluded necessarily. I don’t know if the guest poster comes back later on and asks for it to be withdrawn.

But on the whole the content comes across because it’s such a big driver of site value. So you’ve got an audience that’s been built around specific content, so without that, that audience is likely to disappear and search engine rankings and possibly revenue and the like mightn’t be there either, so in most cases that content component comes across—as does the source.

If they’re using existing writers to create the content, that’s an important part of the sale as well, to make sure those contacts don’t get lost as part of the transition.

One other question I have about content is to do with off-topic or outdated content. I know that one of the other articles that we’re running this week is a case study about a blogger who bought a blog and when he was doing his due diligence on the blog he could see that there was some off-topic content and outdated content on the site.

Do blog sellers on Flippa tend to shape their blogs for sale, and remove that kind of content first? Or is it up to the buyer to know what they’re buying, and that they’re not paying money for content that they later realise is not appropriate.

It’s probably more on the buyer’s side. To be honest, I think most blogs that sell on Flippa are being sold because the owner’s lost interest or they’ve run out of time, and so it’s probably started to wind down a bit, and it’s not as good as it could be. And so they’re not really going to invest too much in the blog necessarily before they sell it, apart from making sure that it’s running and doesn’t have broken links and the like.

But very often we’ll go and visit a blog that’s been bought later on, and it usually has a whole new design, has new navigation, they’ve probably improved their tagging of some of the content and I’m guessing they’ve fleshed out some content as part of that as well.

So it’s definitely more on the buyer end where they try to fix some of those things up and ultimately improve the ranking of the site as a result of that.

So that sounds like potentially good opportunities for buyers, in that if they’re buying a site that has room for improvement rather than necessarily looking for a site that’s at its peak.

Actually there’s probably two things there. I think some buyers are looking for the sites with awesome content that are broken in some other way, and they’ll tweak whatever it is, and suddenly make the content more available, and the site picks up from there.

And there are others that are looking to fix up broken content on a site that’s otherwise doing well and take it to the next level as a result of that.

As well as content, I know there’s some other assets that bloggers see themselves as having: one would be social media accounts, and the other would be lists—email lists. And you’ve also mentioned contacts in terms of content generation, but there may be other contacts that a site owner has made. Are those kinds of things often included in the sale?

Again, it depends. I think that the email list is the interesting one. Some site owners will buy and email list and attach that to the sale, even though they can’t really sell it. So I guess the smarter buyers will check out that it’s a double opt-in arrangement with email, and it’s for the site being sold.

We’ve got in our terms that you can’t include items that come from sources outside of the site being sold, but it’s almost impossible for us to police that. If we know about it, we’ll shut it down, but otherwise the buyer’s in the best position to check that stuff out.

The social media footprint is an interesting one, too. If the blogger or the person selling has done it right, the social media’s all attached and quite clean. But if they’ve got their personal Twitter account, for example, that’s driving traffic to the blog, that’s likely to not be included as part of the sale, and that’ll probably reduce the value of the blog if that’s a big source of traffic for that blog, or the audience. So that’s an important point.

I think the social networks themselves are a bit of a grey area in terms of transferring some of those accounts over, but in most cases it goes through. I’ve not heard of someone who’s bought a site with a Twitter account and had problems with it once it’s been moved across.

What about Pinterest? Are people selling Pinterest [accounts] as part of their blog sales?

We saw a whole bunch of Pinterest-type clones come through when Pinterest was big—eight or nine months ago.

Since then we haven’t seen much of a focus on that. I’ve seen a few ecommerce sites where Pinterest is driving a lot of their traffic—they’ve got an account with a lot of Pinterest followers, and they drive traffic to their ecommerce store from that. There’s probably a smattering of bloggers that do the same. I think it might depend on the individual nature of the blog as to how big a role that plays.

Brands and audience engagement: a balancing act

The next thing I wanted to talk about is the personal blog or the personally branded blog, versus a business branded blog, or one that’s not got your name attached to it. And then also grey-area blogs, like ProBlogger in a way. ProBlogger’s got its own brand, but then everyone associates Darren Rowse with it.

Do you see more personal blogs or more business? I’m assuming you’d see more business blogs?

Yeah, more non-one-person-associated blogs. I think that grey area is probably a relevant one, when the persona of the person who runs the blog even though it’s generic—I think even TechCrunch had that happen when they sold, as well—they tend to be taken into account, but it doesn’t necessarily drive the value.

I think, my name (AndrewKnibbe.com), if I tried selling that it’d be almost impossible—not because it’s just rubbish, but even if it was awesome, I think I’d be reluctant to sell it, because someone else has got my name, and they’re publishing things under my name, which I’d have no control over. But at the same time, the person that buys it has to try to stay authentic with an audience that knows I’m no longer there.

As a result of that—and they’re my two assumptions—we don’t see a lot of personal-brand blogs being sold on Flippa, because I think they’re kind of impossible to sell.

We definitely see a lot of blogs being sold where the person who’s founded the blog is very much front and center on the blog, and I’ve seen different ways people have managed that.

Can you tell us about those?

The ones I’ve seen that’ve worked most successfully is when someone who’s kind of in the same niche or industry, and who comes from a position of authority, takes over the blog, and takes it to the next level, which is a good thing.

Blogs that tend to get sold aren’t necessarily at their peak—they need a bit of attention—and so when someone [like that] takes it on, they’re likely to reinvigorate the audience, the content, and everything else, and then those people appreciate that. They don’t want to be getting low-quality content on a blog they used to love.

So I think the personality thing is a good question, but I think it’s manageable, depending on who takes it over.

A seller of a blog like that—would they be a bit selective about the person that they’re selling to?

It varies. It’s not always a price thing. My assumption would be that the one who’s willing to pay the most money is the one that the seller’s most likely to sell the blog to.

In a lot of cases we’re seeing people who’ve probably got an interest beyond pure money—in terms of making sure that their baby continues off into the sunset in a way that they like. And so they’ll ask a lot of qualifying questions of bidders to say, “Why are you interested in my blog? What would you do with it?”—that sort of thing to qualify them before they accept bids. It’s interesting.

So from the buyer’s point of view, if you wanted to buy a blog in your niche, then it’s probably a good idea to be building your authority for that purpose as well.

Absolutely. Especially if you come from a nicely related niche that’s complementary rather than competitive, that tends to work quite well. I’ve seen people do that—they’re in sport for example, and they’ve got a few sport blogs and they’ll go onto parallel [niches]. They’ll be into tennis and they’ll go into hockey or something.

They have some authority in one space and they kind of transfer that and people see they’re serious in what they think about it, and that comes through when they try to buy.

When those transactions happen, is it common that people would stage that so that the new personality is introduced to the audience rather than an immediate cutoff of the seller]?

I think it varies. I’ve seen in forums, where people who are active in forums who aren’t necessarily the owners of the forums, feel a sense of ownership over the forum so if the forum sells, they’re not so happy about it.

I think blogs with a lot of activity from the audience, they might feel the same way—they feel like it’s their platform to a certain degree. And when it sells they want to make sure that’s being done properly.

I’ve definitely seen some buyers take over a blog and they’ll contact the subscribers and let them know what they’re doing, what their plans are, and why it’s so awesome to stick around. Others I’ve seen not really do a whole lot in that regard, and I think it depends on how sticky the audience is to a certain degree.

Are there particular niches where that is more common?

Yeah, possibly the softer niches, pet or entertainment niches, or home style niches. That’s usually where that kind of approach is taken.

The value of a blog business, and the platforms it’s built on

We’ve talked a bit about key factors influencing a blog’s value, but one aspect that I wanted to look at were blogs that have a business attached to them, or where the blogger’s taken their blog and now they run a course, for example, so they’re selling a course through their blog. Or other products, like ebooks, or maybe they have an online store attached to the blog which is selling curated affiliate products.

Does that approach tend to be valued more highly than the traditional publisher monetization strategies like ads?

If when they go to sell that’s all included as part of the sale, in terms of those affiliate pages, definitely—don’t know if you want to hear it—but advertising models are the lowest performing. So if you’ve got a blog that relies on AdSense or BuySellAds or something, our stats show that these guys are earning typically less than two cents per visit off those blogs.

As soon as you include things like affiliate sales—again it depends on the niche—but monetization methods that are a bit more effective, like affiliate sales or drop-ship or some kind of ecommerce arrangement, suddenly you see the yield per visit just shoot through the roof.

Sometimes you’ll see people buy a blog that’s been monetized with AdSense, and within a few months it’ll be an affiliate network blog, and these guys are making a lot more money off the same audience simply because they’ve got a better monetization method plugged into it.

If you’re able to show that when you go to sell, if you’ve been able to monetize your audience better than through straight ads, that contributes to the sell price, most definitely.

In the stats that you gave us, one of the things that stood out to me was that in those different monetization strategies—and also within the different blogging platforms—those factors, the different ad network you choose, the different affiliate network, the particular blog platform you use, can affect the value of the blog.

Capital and revenue yield for popular affiliate networks

Flippa’s assessment of revenue and sales price for sites using popular affiliate networks

Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes the match between the niche they’re in and the affiliate network they use tends to be hand-in-hand. There’s the Apple app review blogs, and those guys tend to use LinkShare as the affiliate network, and as a result they tend to get quite good conversions because people buy apps all the time from those blogs.

There are others that are more built for forums, and so they convert as well, apparently, because of that.

So with those things, like LinkShare, is the blog worth more because that network has affiliates that suit the niche better? Or is it also because potential buyers are used to using that provider?

I think it’s the former. If people pick a niche that’s got a good affiliate provider, that’s always going to work in their favor. Having said that, you can have certain niches with multiple providers, and at the same time, you can pick providers who don’t provide a good return in terms of views or conversions.

For the buyers, it depends. If they know that the network being used is low-value, and they can switch it out for a higher value site, they’ll probably pay a higher multiple for that site, just to get it and switch it across.

There’ll be other buyers who don’t necessarily have that savvy, but they want a sure thing, so they know if they’re on a network that earns well, they’ll just want to buy it and they’ll pay market rate for it and then they’ll know that they’ve got a good income from that going forward.

And in terms of platform selection, I’m just wondering if for many blogs that are sold on Flippa, the buyer would change the platform that it’s built on.

You definitely see that. It tends to trend in terms of if you’ve got a really old, archaic platform, someone might move it onto WordPress because that’s what they’re working in, or move it onto Drupal or Joomla because that’s what they’re familiar with.

We see a whole bunch of Blogger sites being sold on Flippa, which surprised me. But you can see that trend going down over time, whereas things like WordPress is always right up there and Drupal seems to be coming back as well, which surprised me.

I don’t think people necessarily stick with the platform that the blog comes in on. Having said that, it could be hard-coded and it might be a nightmare to move it—I don’t know if they’d bother.

Great. The only other question that I had was can you tell us some ways that bloggers can work out the value of their blog or get an approximation?

I think valuations are inherently pretty hard, because no two websites are the same. A lot of people use Flippa to do valuations, so they’ll do a search on Flippa to try to find sites or blogs that are very similar to their own, and then they’ll watch those auctions and see them play out, and get a bit of a feel for what kind of demand there is, and what kind of values these sites go for.

Outside of that the rule of thumb is that the blog tends to go for between, say, 12 and 36 months’ worth of revenue, and that’s influenced by what we talked about before in terms of niches and traffic quality and the like.

Otherwise, you’re probably looking, by our rough guesses, at about 50 cents per monthly visit when you go to sell. So if you’ve got 1,000 visits, that’s $500 that you’re likely to sell for. It’s highly variable, based on a whole bunch of things, but that seems to be the middle ground, which might be helpful if you’ve got no idea at all.

It’s worth checking out what the current market’s doing, cause that gives you the best feel for what real buyers are paying for these sites.

Cool. Thanks very much for your time, Andrew.

No problem.

Heavyweight Help: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Blog

Did you know there’s a massive marketplace out there filled with people who want to buy your blog?

Yep, your blog!

Sale sign

Image courtesy stock.xchng user JMGRIFFIN

It’s really big business and you can make serious money if you know what you’re doing.

In fact, some clever people make a pretty decent living just from building up blogs and then flipping them for $10k, $50k or even $100k+. And while I haven’t been quite that successful I have sold several blogs for around $20,000—the first time all the way back when I was at Uni.

In this post I’m going to try and cover everything you’ll need to know to sell your blog for the best possible price with the fewest possible regrets. I’ll cover things like:

  • why you should think carefully about whether you sell or not
  • how to calculate your blog’s value and why that measure is controversial
  • how you should set up your blog so it’s easy (and possible) to sell
  • where you can sell your blog safely
  • how to write a good and trustworthy listing
  • steps to take to ensure you have a stress-free transaction
  • clever things to do with the sale money (and an embarrassing story).

This is going to be a long post so set your eyes to strained and get your scroll finger warmed up. Let’s do it!

Why you should think carefully about selling

How good does it sound?

You build up a blog, make a bit of consistent revenue, and then sell it for a handsome sum of money.

Great, right?

Well, actually, there are a few considerations that you need to take into account before you get selling. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of pre-sale issues to think about:

  1. Emotional factors: You might be keen to sell your blog now but are you sure you’re not going to miss it once it is all said and done? Remember, once that blog is sold you lose all rights to your logos, articles, design—it will all belong to the new owner.
  2. Financial factors: Having a big chunk of money in your bank account is really exciting but you need to figure out how long it’s going to last you, what you’re going to invest it in and whether the short-term payout amount is more valuable to you than keeping the blog for five or ten years.

If you are thinking about putting your blog up for sale I urge you to take a few weeks to carefully think things through.

Most importantly, if you rely on your blog for a good portion of your income you need to make sure that you have some other projects on the go that are already earning you some money. One of the key mistakes people make (myself included) is selling their blog before they really have another solid income to rely on.

What is your blog worth and what are buyers looking for?

The title of this section covers both what your blog is worth and what buyers are looking for because often those things are totally separate from each other.

What do I mean?

Well, as I wrote about in this post on valuing a blog, you’ll often find that what your blog is worth to you is totally different than what it is actually worth in monetary terms, or to an independent buyer. The cold calculation of a blog’s value is often not inclusive of all the things that it means for you and your career.

How to calculate a blog’s sale value

Some people are going to disagree with this but in my experience the safest way to calculate what your blog is worth is like this:

Monthly revenue x 12 to 24 months = sale price

This is by no means a hard and fast rule; some people get 36 months, 48 months, etc. But for the most part you’ll find that people who buy blogs usually only offer around one to two years’ revenue.

So, at the most basic level, if your blog makes $1000 a month you will probably be able to sell it for between $12,000 and $24,000.

You’ll often see people trying to sell a blog or website for a higher price because it it is under-monetized, inefficiently set up, or not fulfilling its “potential”.

These words and scenarios mean very little to buyers who are essentially trying to purchase a successful and stable business. It is rare (though not impossible) to find someone who is investing in developing blogs because they want to build them up.

How to calculate a blog’s real value

Something that I learned the hard way was the fact that your blog is worth a lot more than just the money that it brings in. It sounds crazy at first but you’ll often hear guys like Darren say that even though Problogger.net doesn’t make him huge amount of money it elevates his profile and gives him a hugely valuble marketing tool.

When thinking about selling you need to consider whether your blog:

  • Promotes other stuff: Do you use your blog to promote and expose other products or websites? Can it send traffic to other sites and give solid SEO links to new projects?
  • Helps you: Some people use blogging as a method of dealing with stress or anxiety, which is obviously hard to put a dollar value on.
  • Connects you: Does your blog help to connect you wither big players in the online world and therefore bring in new opportunities?
  • Utilizes its list: If you have a big mailing list but have never done any successful promotions you might be sitting on an asset worth a lot more than it would appear on paper. Remember, a good mailing list promotion can bring in large amounts of money in a single day.
  • Has a replaceable social media brand: The last point is that almost all of us have social media accounts that are connected with our blogs. For example, if Darren sold Problogger.net, would he also have to give up the hundreds of thousands of followers @problogger has on Twitter?

As I mentioned, a lot of these last items are things that are totally irrelevant to an independent buyer. They are, in some ways, unquantifiable considerations that will often hold great importance to you but very little to someone else.

What are buyers looking for?

Now that we’ve got the basic valuation types out of the way it’s a good idea to discuss exactly what buyers are looking for. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as there is a post coming up later in this series about buying a blog which will get you sorted.

However, having a basic understanding of what buyers are looking for will help you plan future sales:

  • Consistent earnings: Google updates and other internet changes often mean that blog earnings fluctuate in a way that is totally unacceptable to regular businesses. You need to make sure your earnings are stable if you want a good sale price.
  • Consistent statistics: Again, if buyers can see big fluctuations in your search engine rankings they will consider it a warning sign that you might be selling for a reason that you’re not disclosing.
  • An easy-to-adopt website: If your blog is totally wound up in your personality and has readers and content that apply to your life and experience it will probably be very difficult for someone else to take over and profit from.
  • Historical reports: I almost lost out on one big sale because I hadn’t installed Google Analytics on the blog in the early stages and thus the buyers was worried that the current trends and traffic levels weren’t truly representative of what was going on. Make sure you have stats installed early on and clear histories of traffic and earnings.

So, if you want to sell your blog, make sure you know how much it is worth to you (in the short and long term) and how much is worth to a buyer. These are different numbers.

How to set up your blog for an easy and comfortable sale

What a lot of people don’t realize is that selling a blog means that buyers are going to need access to a lot of stuff that you might never have intended to hand over to anyone else.

If you think you might want to sell somewhere down the line or you’re building a blog specifically for the purpose of a future sale, you want to make sure you have a few things covered.

1. Make sure you are on a separate, self-hosted set up

Although it does happen sometimes, you’ll find that most of the time people will want to buy sites that are fully owned and operated by the individual they are dealing with. With free blogs like Blogger and Tumblr the lines are less clear—who own the domain, the content, the theme, etc.?

The ideal situation is one where you have the domain name and WordPress blog host all in separate, individual places that aren’t mixed in with your other sites and domain names.

Of course, it isn’t all that hard to transfer a domain name or migrate a site to someone else. But it is much easier if you can just do one change of ownership transaction, which means the site doesn’t experience any downtime.

2. Try to have social networking accounts that you can sign over

As mentioned before, it can be a little bit tricky if your personal social networking accounts are also tied up in the brand name that you are selling. For example, my Twitter handle is @blogtyrant which means that if I ever sold www.BlogTyrant.com I would probably have to hand over that Twitter account as well.

I once spoke to Kristi Hines about this issue and she told me that it is much wiser to have a personal account that you use for yourself and a brand-name account that is just for the website and its followers. This is a lot harder than it used to be, however, with Google+ profiles and pages, YouTube, Facebook and accounts all over the place being linked together and muddled up.

If you can manage, find a way to separate your personal accounts from your brand-name accounts so you don’t lose it all or have headaches transferring them.

3. Be careful with linked email services

When you own a blog you often sign up for things like Google Analytics and other online services with your personal email. Much like the social networks, this can cause a huge pain in the future if you sell the site and need to give someone else access to this stuff.

Some services don’t let you remove the original email address that you signed up with but instead only allow you add new accounts. What this means is that you might always be linked to that old site in some way if you want to hold on to that email.

As far as I can tell, the best way to avoid these traps is to sign up for a separate Gmail account or create a Google account/other accounts with an [email protected] email address that you can hand over at the sale.

4. Make sure you know what you own

I’ve heard of blog sales getting into hot water when the seller doesn’t realize that some of the assets for sale actually belong to someone else.

It’s extremely important that you know whether you have the copyright all sorted for photos and images as well as whether your theme is original or something used by thousands of other people.

Where to sell your blog safely and simply

When it comes to selling your blog, the options are actually a lot more expansive than people usually think. That being said, I really only recommend going about it either of two ways, in order to keep your stress levels low and your chances of success high.

  1. Sell your blog on Flippa.com.
  2. Sell your blog in a private sale.

I’m going to go over each option in a little bit of detail so you get a good idea about how they work, and which one is best for your situation.

1. Sell your blog on Flippa

Flippa.com is the absolute go-to website for selling your blog. It is the largest marketplace of its kind and, even better, it is owned by Australians—a trustworthy and handsome lot.

A Flippa listing

All jokes aside, Flippa is the kind of site you rely on because their entire business model is wrapped up in the convenient and safe sale of blogs and websites. That’s all they do. What that means for us is that we get a good service because Flippa knows that their reputation is important for their continued success. In 2012 alone over 29,000 websites were sold there.

Flippa seller ratings

The great thing about this site is that you find a rare mix of highrollers and budget buyers here. This means that you can sell blogs that might only be worth a small amount as well as those $100k+ monsters.

How does Flippa work?

Selling a blog on Flippa is a lot like listing a product on eBay or any other selling site, except that Flippa only deals with websites and blogs.

The basic process goes like this:

  1. Create an account: You’ll need an account to list a site for sale as well as manage any messages that bidders send to you.
  2. Create your listing: This is a seven-step process where you list all your blog details, provide screenshots of traffic proof, explain your reasons for selling, etc. You’ll also be able to set a Reserve Price so that you don’t sell for less than you hoped for. More on this process below.
  3. Add upgrades: One of the ways Flippa makes money is by offering you certain upgrades to enhance the visibility of your sale. Some of these are a really good idea and you can see them all at Step 6 of the listing process.
  4. Manage your listing: Once your listing is up and live you can’t just leave it alone; you need to stick around and answer any questions that people have. Most serious bidders will ask questions and won’t be willing to move ahead until you’ve answered them properly.
  5. Proceed with the sale: Once someone has placed a winning bid or purchased your blog for the Buy It Now price, you proceed with the sale process. This is extremely safe and involves using Escrow.com which means that nobody gets any money or domain name access until both parties are happy.

Of course, the whole shebang is a lot more involved than that, but those steps should give you the basic idea of how Flippa works. I’ve gone into some more detailed Flippa listing tips below, but this video gives a quick overview of the auction listing process.

What are the advantages of using Flippa?

Some of the main reasons I think Flippa has gained so much popularity include:

  • Safety: The Escrow process and the increased transparency that comes from requiring buyers to be verified, etc. makes the whole process a lot safer for everyone.
  • Reach: To put it simply, there are a lot of buyers on Flippa looking to acquire your blog. I’m yet to find another marketplace that has such an active community.
  • Support: The support staff at Flippa are happy to jump on board and give you help when you need it with a transaction or a listing problem. I’ve found them to be quite responsive.
  • Simplicity: The listing process is extremely easy to follow. It’s no harder than composing an email and attaching a few images to prove your revenue, etc.
  • Feedback ratings: Although not always relevant, Flippa has buyer feedback ratings which means you can see how buyers have performed in previous transactions.

What are the disadvantages of using Flippa?

As always, not every web service is perfect. There are a few drawbacks that people often talk about when it comes to using Flippa as a blog seller.

  • It’s somewhat expensive: Flippa has listing fees and upgrade fees but, frustratingly, a fairly high success fee. What this means is that an established website will pay $29 to list the site (without upgrades) and then 5% of the final sale price. This is capped at $2,000 but for some people it is still too high considering other costs that go along with making a big sale, like local taxes.
  • There are still risks involved: Although a lot less risky than the alternatives, there still are risks involved in selling a site on Flippa. Admittedly the risks are higher for buyers than sellers but you still need to exercise a lot of care.
  • Publicity: I have heard some people express concerns that listing a site for sale on Flippa can have a negative impact on that site’s readers and even SEO rankings. Flippa does offer an option to hide your listing from Google, but you still need to consider any impact that can occur if people find out you’re selling, and then you don’t actually make the sale after all.

Overall Flippa is, without a doubt, the best place to sell an established blog that you really care about. The second optionis something that’s perhaps better suited to more experienced sellers with some trustworthy connections.

2. Sell your blog to a private buyer

The only other option that I really wanted to share as a method of selling your blog is to do so yourself, through a private buyer. This has a lot of advantages but also some pretty tummy-upsetting disadvantages.

How do you sell to a private buyer?

Unlike using Flippa, this process has many different variations depending on who you are selling to an how paranoid each party is. Generally, however, it will go something like this:

  1. You decide to sell: First of all you need to make the decision to sell your blog and package it up ready for the transaction. This means getting your accounts in order and having another project ready in the works.
  2. You find buyers: Perhaps the hardest part of all is finding buyers without actually listing your site anywhere. Of course, many people do list their site for sale in various places and then move the transaction to private method but this is both risky and against many of those flipping sites’ terms of service.
  3. You bang your head against the wall (or “negotiate”): The next step in a private sale is the process whereby both parties go back and forth for days, weeks, or even months until a price is agreed upon. This involves giving them access to revenue proof, stats, etc. as well as not caving in at the 12th offer simply because you are so exhausted.
  4. Arrange the terms: Because there is no site guiding you on the transaction, you need to come up with the terms of the trade yourselves. How is payment made? Which shadowy carpark will they meet you in with the contract? So on and so forth. This is the stage where a lot of inexperienced sellers get into trouble. You really want contracts and other protections in place.
  5. Make the trade: Selling your blog like this is better described as a trade. They give you money and you release the site files and, last of all the domain name. Once the buyer has that domain name, there is no going back, so you have to make sure you have the money and are totally happy before that happens. Again, it’s very wise to use a site like Escrow.com for this process, and not a site like Paypal where there is less protection.
  6. Assist with the transition: If you’ve made a good sale to a genuine buyer, they will probably want you to help with the transition period. It’s always a good sign when the buyer asks you to stay on board for six months so as to train them up and keep the site running well.

Again, each blog sale is a different process that can be done in different ways. It’s important to know how the basic process works and to make sure you know as much about the buyer as possible. This is a big asset that you are giving up so you want to make sure to take your time and get it right.

What are the advantages of a private sale?

Let’s have a quick look at some of the advantages of selling your blog to a private buyer:

  • No fees: Unless you use a payment site that charges a fee there are no fees involved in the process.
  • No restrictions: You aren’t restrained by any website terms or service and as such can often negotiate a better position for yourself or take more time to select the right buyer. It’s not a matter of “highest bidder wins”.
  • Better prices: It might seem strange, but I’ve heard people say that they’ve achieved slightly better prices with private sales because the buyers didn’t feel guided by “standard pricing” that often becomes commonplace in set markets. Of course this is a very case-by-case phenomenon and might be totally incorrect for your sale.

I have sold one five-figure blog in a private sale and it went extremely smoothly. The clinching factor, however, was that the guy lived in my town and I was able to meet him face-to-face to sign papers, have a chat, etc. That gave me a lot more confidence.

What are the disadvantages of a private sale?

By now you probably have a pretty clear idea about why you might not want to sell your blog privately:

  • It’s really risky: You have no idea who this person is or what their motivations are. Are they trying to scam you? Are the competitors trying to see your stats and methods? You need to exercise a lot of care during a private sale.
  • It’s not monitored: When you use a site like Flippa, you can often contact support if something fishy is going on. When you are doing things privately there are very few methods you can resort to if something weird happens.
  • It’s stressful: To be honest, I get a lot more stressed out than most people by this stuff so you might not find it as horribly nauseating as I do. All the negotiating, risk-taking—it just stresses me out too much and makes the Flippa fees seem worthwhile.

All in all Flippa is a really good place to start out and learn the ropes. The process is simple and extremely guided which means you’ll have less chance of running into trouble. Of course, you still need to use your brain and be careful when you are dealing with such an important asset, but by and large you should be happy with the process.

How to create a listing for trust and success

I couldn’t really talk about how to sell a blog without sharing a few tips for creating a listing that will help you promote your blog well while creating trust and increasing your chances of a successful sale.

Most of these tips will apply to Flippa sales but you can implement a lot of them in private sales emails and negotiations too.

1. Study successful listings

I’m really surprised at how badly some listings are put together. There’s a lack of clear information, unbelievable reasons for selling, etc.

Before you sell your blog it’s a good idea to check out some other Flippa listings that are doing well. Of course this has a large part to do with the quality of the site for sale, but you’ll also pick up some tips on how to write your listing so as to improve your trust.

2. Don’t skimp on the proof

As I pointed out before, most blog buyers are looking for established businesses that they can purchase and maintain. This means they need proof. They want to know that your traffic isn’t periodic or paid and that your SEO rankings aren’t going downhill.

Make sure you give good and transparent proof while still keeping in mind the various Terms of Service agreements that you have. For example, there are parts of your Adsense statistics that you aren’t allowed to reveal publicly.

3. Be personal

Some people might disagree with this but I’ve found that a lot of people want to buy not only a good site but a good site that comes from a good person. If someone is going to part with $10k+ they are probably going to want to know that the seller is trustworthy and cares about the site.

Of course, you don’t want to go on about your weekend in the sales pitch, and you don’t want to give away any information that puts you in an unsafe position, but you do want to create a sense of transparency and honesty that buyers feel comfortable with. Be open about how the site developed, why you like it, why you’re selling, any concerns you have, etc.

4. Stand your ground but don’t be rude

Especially in any private negotiations, it’s really important to know what you want out of the sale and to not back down because someone is a better negotiator than you. Quite often you’ll face savvy buyers finding very good reasons to get your price down even though they fully intend to pay what you’re asking for. Know what price you want to achieve (realistically) and be prepared to back yourself.

5. Never, ever be dishonest

Honest people don’t need to be told this, but it’s critically important that you leave any sleazy sales tactics at the door and forget about lying or exaggerating to get some money. Not only does this make for a bad listing, it can really ruin someone’s financial situation if you sell them a site that has “skeletons in the closet”.

Comments on a Flippa listing

One of the most common things you’ll see in this regard is people trying to sell a site that has just been penalized by Google for one reason or another and claiming that they are just bored with the niche or need the money for family reasons. Forget it! It’s dishonest and will come back to bite you. As you can see from the few honest users featured in the screenshot above, there are both buyer and seller ratings, so all of your dealings go on record.

6. Use headings and organized formatting

Wait a sec! Writing a sales listing is like writing a blog post? You got it!

It’s not uncommon to see listings that are pages of clumpy text with no real order. Try and keep it in a structured format that is easy to digest. Break it down into headings like Background to the Sale, Why I’m Selling, Traffic Details, Revenue Details, Expenses and Costs, Problems and Issues, and so on.

This is the largest ever sale completed on Flippa ($750,000) and while I don’t support gambling sites I think it is an interesting study in setting up a listing.

7. Emphasize your blog’s strong points and what buyers want

If you are asking for a decent amount of money for your site you’ll want to know its strong points and be able to communicate them convincingly. Now, I’m not talking about tricking anyone or being really pushy. I’m just saying that it’s wise to clearly communicate why your blog is a good buy.

For example, if you rank for a particularly competitive set of keywords you might want to share that. If your site has survived Panda updates that other sites in your niche haven’t, that is also a good thing to get across. If you have a high converting opt-in form or a great email open rate you should absolutely tell them about it!

Don’t assume that revenue details are all they care about (although it is a big deal). Some other factor might be the difference between them buying your blog or another one on the same page.

How to ensure you have a good transaction (and post-transaction!)

As soon as you sell a blog you’ll have one of those “wish I had thought of that…” moments which can leave you with a few regrets. With that in mind I thought I’d go over a few little things you can do that can make a big difference to your happiness before and after the sale.

  • Know the process: A lot of bad mistakes happen when people haven’t done their research. Find out about how the process works and what is expected of you before, during and after.
  • Know the financial details: Find out how much the transaction is going to cost you from every angle. You need to know the fees Flippa charges, if you’re using that site, as well as any other fees/costs like bank fees or taxes.
  • Know your limits: If you have a strange feeling in your gut about something or someone then just stop right there and wait for another buyer. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s a good idea to set up some limits that you won’t go past to keep you focused during the sale.
  • Control the post-sale climate: In some situations it is possible to specify what can and can’t be done with your site once you sell it. You might need the help of a lawyer in order to draft a contract but if you don’t want your site getting used for unethical purposes down the track, for example, try and make it a condition of the sale.
  • Stay on board: Again, if you care about the site it is sometimes wise to stay on board for a few weeks or months to help the new owner get used to the day-to-day activities involved in running it.
  • Protect yourself: Don’t give out personal information that you don’t need to and try to use every protection that is available in the selling situation.

A lot of this stuff comes with experience but if you are selling your “pride and joy” blog it’s a good idea to take your time to do the preparation.

Some clever things to do with the sale money

I thought I’d share a pretty embarrassing story at this point.

When I sold my first blog I was quite young and was living like a broke college kid. So when the money hit my account I was pretty excited. It felt like a million dollars to me!

A smart person would have stored that money away or re-invested it into new businesses or blogs.

Not me. I ate the money.

Not literally, but I spent most of the profits sitting around playing video games and eating footlong Subs. It was a great holiday but a huge waste of money.

So what should you do with the money?

Well, it seems to me that if you’ve just sold a blog for a good profit, then maybe you have a skillset that you can develop and grow. Making money online isn’t easy so it might be a good idea to see how far you can take the blog development/sale process and whether you can scale it up.

For example, if you sold one blog for $50,000 with two years’ work, I wonder whether you could repeat the process on a larger scale and aim for three or four sales a year by hiring writers, coders, assistants, etc. A post later this week will look at buying blogs so that might be a good place for you to begin.

Reinvesting the money is smart. Eating sandwiches isn’t.

Would you sell your blog?

Sometimes we bloggers spend a lot of time reading and not a lot of time doing (myself included) and so I thought I’d encourage you to develop your own guide to selling a blog by trying it for yourself.

Remember, selling your blog is forever, so make sure you really want to go ahead with it before jumping in.

I’d love to hear from the Problogger.net readers on this one. Would you sell your blog? How much would you hope to get? Are you worried about the risks associated with the transaction? Drop a comment and let me know.

Update: check out our followup posts on selling blogs at:

Contributing author The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.

Internet Freedumb: Are You Falling Prey?

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

I can explain why you’re not making any money online in one word: Freedumb.

The irony of my writing a free post aimed at curtailing your misuse of free offers is not lost upon me. While your eyebrows fuse together and you determine whether reading this information is really worth your time, let me assure you that there is a valid reason for not charging any money for this work.

I absolutely believe that it’s worth quite a bit, but the people who need to read it (you’re in that group) would only purchase such knowledge if they already understood the concepts within it! Ironies abound, and you’ll realize just how ironic this entire volume is the further into it you get. In the end, I know my audience, and this article will target them, which is a skillset you need to learn to for yourself as well.

The greatest danger to entrepreneurs worldwide is the concept of Internet Freedumb. It is more lethal than the IRS, writer’s block, and months of poor sales figures combined. When you allow this cancerous notion to enter into your brain, it becomes the equivalent of quicksand beneath your feet. What’s really scary, and the reason it is remarkably deadly, is the fact that it sounds so damn appealing. Yet nobody seems to address it or feel the need to warn entrepreneurs of its affects.

I refuse to sit back and watch your internet dreams fly out the window. You owe to your business and yourself to read this entire document in a single sitting. Enough words of warning, let’s dive head-first into a word that you see every day but have never had access to the vernacular necessary to properly identify it.

What is Internet Freedumb?

Internet Freedumb is difficult to describe—much like the word “pornography.” I can tell you when I see it, but it’s a struggle for me to nail down an all-inclusive definition. Let’s focus on the result of Internet Freedumb in order to help define it.

The effect of Internet Freedumb on an entrepreneur, when you boil it down, is the entrepreneur thinking that making his or her content entirely free is the only way they can compete in the marketplace. It’s also the belief that creating 100% “free stuff” will lead to lots of traffic. This devolves into the use of advertising as the primary source of revenue, which is almost always done poorly, with little foresight.

Instead of building a business model, victims of Internet Freedumb literally set themselves up for bankruptcy.

The most confusing part about Internet Freedumb is the misconception that giving everything away for free makes people’s lives easier. No, it most certainly does not. How much garbage do you have downloaded onto your desktop? How many pdf’s, links, and videos? Probably far too many. We are bombarded day in and day out by the results of Internet Freedumb. Keep in mind, entrepreneurs ironically do this because they believe it will help them to stand out.

You know what does stand out? A paid product that removes the fluff and filler that makes up most Internet Freedumb giveaways. A $37 price tag sticks out. But even better, a $99 price tag really sticks out. As long as you deliver excellent content that both reduces Internet Freedumb inspired garbage down to manageable levels, and adds your own two cents, you will have a product that truly stands out.

By charging people money, you actually are helping them place a value on your work.

Think about when you want to ask the internet for help, and compare that with times when you want to purchase instructions. When you Google something, it’s usually a single question with a very basic answer. For example: “Dear Google, who invented electricity?” Conversely, you don’t go to the internet for a tutorial on how to learn AP Physics. Instead, you’ll spend your money on a concise, structured book about the subject or, even better, attend a course on it.

If you want to make money online, you need to focus on creating the manuals and video courses that teach people something. These must be objects of value, things that stand out above the wasteland of Internet Freedumb-inspired rubbish. It is only then that you will be able to make a living online.

You must not listen to the skeptics who believe that Internet Freedumb is the only way. Most importantly, you must build a new series of experiences that disprove the Internet Freedumb concept we all seem to initially believe in.

Let me clear up some initial confusion: this disease is not the same as the objects it spawns. Remember, we’re talking about entrepreneurs following a doomed-to-fail mindset, and it’s important to distinguish the cause from the result. The reason for this should be obvious: not all free stuff is dumb. There certainly is a time and a place for free pdf downloads and products. Problems arise when entrepreneurs take this too far, and usually they think that they will solve the puzzle of earning money from their free stuff later.

That “later” doesn’t ever come.

So Internet Freedumb really is just a mentality. It’s a losing mentality that makes you feel like a winner. You’ll think to yourself: “Yeah, I’m giving away lots of great stuff for free and everyone will love me for it!” Unfortunately, you’re just peddling more garbage amongst the gigantic pile of everyone else’s garbage online. You’re not building a business, and you’re certainly not making enough money to justify your hours worked.

Everything we do as human beings is aimed at helping someone (especially ourselves). In most cases, we make the wrong choice for the right reasons. Someone who succumbs to the Internet Freedumb mentality believes that they will help their readers. This is a great reason. Unfortunately, the choice of how to deliver that content (all free, all the time) does not lead to making that reason a reality. This someone also believes that giving everything away for free will get them traffic and money. Sorry, it just never works out that way.

Let’s say you have a really amazing product and are getting ready to price it. All too often, you will drop the price down to ridiculous levels, and eventually give it out for free, because you keep telling yourself that no one is going to pay for it. When someone sees the option to download your product for free or pay $50 for a well packaged tutorial on the subject, you instinctually believe that you’ve made their decision easy.

Unfortunately, our minds tend to consider paid products on a higher quality level than free ones. By giving your masterpiece away, you are devaluing it in the eyes of the reader to the point of possibly not even being worth glancing at.

If you find yourself making pennies from hours of hard work, then you have Internet Freedumb sickness. Don’t for a second believe that this only affects “losers.” In many ways, I myself have been bitten by this bug. Any time you cut corners and produce less than optimal quality content, you are falling for Internet Freedumb. It truly is a disease that destroys your work ethic and the ability to read what your customers want from you.

In the end, subscribing to Internet Freedumb means that you are truly selling out. At first you will think that I am lying to you. “No, selling out would be selling a product.” Actually, by giving away more free garbage, you are basically telling your audience that they aren’t worth creating a quality, paid product for.

The cure

How do we cure ourselves of this deadly disease?

The hardest part about defeating Internet Freedumb is the fact that our heart and brain tell us it’s the right way to go. You cannot defeat these forces without the will to experiment. By being willing to try something new and go outside of your comfort zone, you will have a shot at experiencing the opposite of what you thought had to be true.

Let’s say you ask your audience what kind of product they want you to create, and you actually make it beyond their expectations. If they spend money on your product and love you for it, then you will have a real experience to fall back on anytime someone tells you the Internet Freedumb lie, especially yourself.

Here are four actual steps you can take to experience truths that dispel the lies behind Internet Freedumb.

1. Start using a list

The money is in the list, but for technical or psychological reasons, you’ve been avoiding getting one started.

Let’s cut to the chase and actually get to work on the most important part of your online career. Get a list going!

I recommend Aweber for their “$1 for the first month” deal and easy-to-use tools. If you utilize my tactics outlined in the video course, So You Think You Can Blog, then you should be making a hundred to eight hundred dollars per month in no time.

2. Sell outside products

If you want to disprove the Internet Freedumb mentality sooner than later, you’ll need something to actually sell to your audience. Since creating a high quality product takes time, while you wait to implement one, you can sell someone else’s online product.

I would suggest finding anything above $10 and starting there.

I don’t just want you to disprove Internet Freedumb, I want you to remove it from your brain forever. It’s going to take a bunch of sales from your grateful audience to do that. Thinking along those lines, make sure that you pick a product you both use and love yourself before attempting to sell it.

Now, when you go to sell it, make sure that you don’t just slap a banner on the page and say “Buy this awesome product, I recommend it!” Give it some thought and dedicate your time to writing a review or presenting the product in a more colorful light.

3. Work on your own products

Use video software and a camera to produce at least some raw footage about your niche. Focus on featuring yourself because nobody else can be you. Yes, free has been done before, but a product that you create with your voice, and comprehensive thoughts within it, has definitely not been done before.

Be a new voice even if you’re sharing old information and you’ll be shocked at how much money you can make. At the very least, use a microphone like my Blue Snowball and record high quality podcasts. Just do something, even if it’s not the best presentation the first dozen attempts. But be sure to charge money for it.

4. Surround yourself with winners

Stop hanging out with just the crowd of people who believe in Internet Freedumb. Get out there and meet the entrepreneurs who actually are successful in selling products. Maybe you’ll even learn when it’s okay to use free stuff.

Follow my advice and you will quickly find yourself building experiences which contradict the Internet Freedumb mantra. After a short while, you’ll realize just how stupid it is to follow such a suicidal ideal.

What will it be? A real business based on value or a fake business built on free garbage? You decide.

Chris The Traffic Blogger. Creator of “So You Think You Can Blog” – A video course showing how to make $100,000 per year blogging.

How to Brand a Blog Product: Tips from the Pros [Case Study]

Branding. We’re always talking about it, but too rarely do we stop to think about what it actually means. So today I thought I’d step through two great examples of blog product branding and see what tips we can take from these stories. The products I wanted to look at are conferences, which I mentioned in my last Blogging in Brief post.

Amphitheather

Image courtesy stock.xchng user gozdeo

Whether or not you run a conference off the back of your blog isn’t important. I’ve chosen conferences as the example because they’re such a personal, real-time embodiment of a blog’s brand and ethos. Since conferences are often the biggest-ticket item on a blog’s product list, bloggers tend to put a lot into promoting them, so this is a really good way to learn about the branding techniques the pros are using.

The conferences we’ll look at here are very different: Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit and the BlogHer ’13 conference.

World Domination Summit: rockstar branding

This conference’s homepage combines casual and cool really well. To me, the background map image says “wordly, adventurous, unpretentious.” And the other thing that draws the eye on this page—the still photograph from the video—says “rock concert!” I wonder if you feel the same when you look at it?

WDS homepage

The navigation items are also casual-sounding: Story, Schedule, and Headquarters. Unusually, they’re sub-titled, and those subtitles are cheeky and fun. The page’s call to action follows the same spirit: “In July 2012, a small army of remarkable people converged on Portland, Oregon for a weekend of strategizing and adventure. Join us in 2013?”

Language is an important part of branding, and this site proves it. Instantly we know that this conference is going to be a blast.

Clicking around, again the imagery stands out. Most of it looks creative, like the Instagrammed photos we see on Twitter. People are important in these shots—the black-and-white Featured Guests photos look really natural (and their “bios” focus in on the personality and what they’ll teach in a candid, friendly way). But the imagery also focuses on the things you’ll enjoy if you attend: the Portland atmosphere, good food, and an exciting, rock-concert vibe.

Overall, that’s what I get from this conference site: that WDS is going to be an exciting and fun adventure. No wonder it’s already sold out!

WDS also lists its attendees on a map on the homepage. Clicking on the map shows you a profile of the attendee, along with the distance they’re travelling to get to the conference. This is a great way to underscore the value of the conference to peers of the site’s visitors—it’s almost saying, someone like you is willing to travel 576kms to get to this conference. What are you missing out on? Again, to me this reinforces the rock concert vibe.

There’s also a link at top-right of that map which takes you to “The Worldwide Dispatch”—a complete overview of the social media footprint of the event and its attendees, which is great for social reputation-building.

BlogHer: educating women bloggers

BlogHer looks to be targeted at women bloggers who want a kind of blogging “professional development” program. The site offers access to a lot of conferences that carry the BlogHer brand, but we’ll focus on the main conference.

The homepage image is an important one: it shows attendees talking one on one, but that crowd stretches off into the background. Instantly we get the idea that attendees will make personal connections with large numbers of people, and have the opportunity to share stories and learn from each other.

BlogHer home

The navigation for the conference material is very straightforward: Agenda, Register, Sponsors, Attendees, Speakers. And the copy manages to communicate enthusiasm with clarity. The homepage call to action says simply, “Be sure to join us and register now!” And here’s the description of the “Newbie Breakfast”:

“BlogHer welcomes our new attendees to a breakfast dedicated just to you! Spend some time with other attendees just as nervous and excited as you are. Grab a plate, make a buddy, and kick your conference off on the right foot. We’ll offer you some helpful tips to get the most out of your conference experience, walk you through the program, the sponsors, and the social ecosystem of BlogHer ’13.”

This conference sounds fun and very welcoming. There’s no “edge”—the site definitely communicates that attendees will get the opportunity to learn in a comfortable environment.

Speaking of attendees, this page is another interesting contrast with the WDS version. The BlogHer Attendees page is clear, not fancy, and puts attendees front and center. Click on a person, and you’ll see that their profile is designed to allow you to connect with them directly, perhaps even before the conference.

While the information is similar to that presented about WDS attendees, it’s presented differently. It gives access to the attendee’s social media presence, shows their activity in the BlogHer forums, and has space for chats too. Where WDS attendees answered questions about dreams and ambitions (and “What’s your superpower?”), the BlogHer profile is less confronting, providing a snapshot of the individual, and access to communicate with them.

Where personalities might be the focus for WDS, at BlogHer, it seems relationships are most important. It’s a subtle distinction, but I think it’s an important one.

What can we learn?

This quick analysis provides some valuable insights that we can use to review our own blog products, and our blogs themselves, to make sure that our branding is as strong as it can be.

1. Make your products themselves emphasise your brand

Every product we make should be an extension of our core brand. We can see that WDS is an extension of Chris Guillebeau’s blog, The Art of Non-conformity. The imagery and language reflects the attitude on which Chris’s blog is founded. And the presentation of speakers and attendees really emphasises the individualism of the people who’ll be at the conference.

The conference looks like it’ll be even more non-conformist than The Art of Non-conformity—it’ll take this much-loved brand to a whole new, more intense level. Every blog product should do that.

2. Target your audience with every aspect of your product’s presentation

The BlogHer conference site embodies the unintimidating nature of this conference. From the simplicity of the navigation to the opening call to action on the home page, you get the sense that the conference is big, inclusive, and welcoming.

The site is simple to use, and there’s nothing unexpected—unlike the WDS site, which is full of surprises, from the nav subtitles to the map. These presentations have been carefully designed to home in on the emotions that the target audience is likely to feel about attending the events, and create a sense of connection on each of those points.

Both sites tell the target audience, “meet other people just like you.” What’s interesting is how clearly they communicate what “just like you” means—and how much that differs between the two products. Do your blog products connect with their audience this strongly?

3. Communicate your product’s point of difference with perfect clarity

A quick glance around either site communicates its point of difference.

WDS is for those who want to live an exciting, untemplated life.

BlogHer is for women bloggers who want to connect and learn about blogging.

Importantly, you don’t need to read the page copy to understand these differences—the imagery, rich media, page designs, and taglines do a lot of the work. Nothing on either site is inconsistent in this regard. But a as a prime example of that communication, compare the agendas for both conferences.

Here’s the WDS agenda:

WDS agenda

And here’s the BlogHer agenda. BlogHer has multiple events running simultaneously, with titles like “Interest & Identity (Presentation: What Type of Social Media Leader are You? / Roundtable: Beyond the Vertical, Into the Niche),” and provides a brief description of each one.

The agendas of events, and the lists of speakers, are really where the crux of a conference lie. So it’s really interesting to see the differences between these presentations for these two events—instantly we can see these brands’ points of difference.

The critical elements of any blog product should embody its point of difference.

4. Back up that branding everywhere

WDS—and The Art of Non-conformity—targets people with a spirit of adventure—people who are embracing the journey of their lives.

So it makes sense that the WDS site includes interesting details about the city in which the event’s located. It makes sense to mention how far each attendee is travelling in their profile. It makes sense to have a “Headquarters” navigation item, which echoes the idea of having a “home base” when you’re on holiday—a place where you can relax and focus, and which you head out from each day on a new adventure.

Meanwhile, the BlogHer Agenda helps users out with links to an “at-a-glance” session list, and links to speakers and additional program announcements right under the page header. Again I get the feeling that the BlogHer attendees are going to be well looked after—they’ll never get lost at this event.

BlogHer more info

These little things seem like, well, little things. But they add up to consistent branding that speaks to the audience on multiple levels simultaneously. That makes the product branding trustworthy.

5. That’s right: everywhere

Blog product branding isn’t about creating a coherent atmosphere through your product and its sales pages—you also need to look at the way you’re communicating about it on your blog, on social media, in any content or off-site marketing you do (including ads and promotions), and so on.

That might mean you need to be selective about the information you provide to affiliates. It might mean you avoid guest-posting on certain blogs that don’t reflect the ideas or ethos that your product is promoting.

Don’t just limit your branding to your own sites and efforts: try to ensure that the keys to your product’s ability to connect with customers are consistent wherever it’s mentioned.

More branding tips from the pros

I know many of you have blog products of your own, so it would be great to hear what you’ve learned about blog branding and product branding through your own work. Let us know your tips in the comments.