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

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

Here’s the question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself a few questions to identify potential advertisers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope something in that helps!

5 Ways to Prepare Your Blog for Affiliate Selling

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

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

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

1. Become A Niche Expert

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

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

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

2. Create a Recommended Products and Tools Page 

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

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

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

3. Write Product Reviews

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

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

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

4. Build Your Own Mailing Lists

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

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

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

Banner Ads 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret to Using Your Blog to Generate Sales

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

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

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

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

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

Image by nem_youth

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

Spray and Pray

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

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

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

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

Why? Because it’s hard work.

Truly Listen

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

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

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

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

Invitation to Join In 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engage Your Readers

Ask

Image used with permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Turn 

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

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

Is Making Money from Blogging Passive Income?

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

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

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

Wikipedia defines ‘passive income’ as:

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

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

Relaxed Person Hangs Flip Flops Out The Car Window

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

Most Bloggers Making a Living from Blogging, Work Hard

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

They:

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

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

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

Some Aspects of Blogging Will Generate Passive Income

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

There’s Gold in Those Archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long Tail of Products

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

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

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

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

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

Is Making Money from Blogging Passive Income?

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

My April Blogging Income Breakdown

Yesterday I published a post telling my story of adding 12 income streams to my blogs over the last 10 years.

Screen Shot 2013 05 08 at 12 24 58 PM

One of the comments and tweets I had a number of times was a request to make the diagram I used shows how the 12 different streams of income go towards making the overall revenue on my blogs today.

It has been a over a couple of years since I did an income breakdown so I decided to put together the numbers today. The categories don’t completely coincide with the 12 income streams mentioned in yesterdays post (for example I no longer do consulting and I’ve combined all the affiliate income and all the ad network income – however you’ll get the picture.

Income streams breakdown

The above breakdown is for last month’s income (April 2013). It is worth noting that while I chose April as it was a pretty typical month for me that things can vary quite a bit from month to month depending what the monetization focus of my blogs is.

For example if I were to show you December last year you’d see Affiliate earnings and eBooks dominating the chart more as we do a 12 days of Christmas promotion on Digital Photography School that promotes a series of affiliate products and our own eBooks over a two week period.

Or if I created a chart for March this year you’d have seen ‘Events’ as a bit bigger as we launched our ProBlogger Event Early Bird Tickets that month.

I hope it helps to see a visual of the breakdown of what I was talking about yesterday.

What was your #1, #2 and #3 income stream last month?

12 Blogging Income Streams [And the Story of My 10 Year ‘Overnight’ Success]

Today I was speaking with a blogger (I’ll call her Alice for the sake of this post) who was feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of monetizing her blog. She expressed that as she looked at other blogs in her niche, everyone seemed to be doing such amazing things. She said she felt she’d never be able to compete.

Other blogs in Alice’s niche were running online courses, selling out hundred people live events around the country, selling ads to fortune 500 companies, authoring best selling eBook and more. The thought of even beginning to monetize her blog in these ways was completely paralysing Alice!

It is so easy to be overwhelmed to the point of paralysis when you look at what other bloggers are doing. I know this from personal experience!

My advice to Alice was to keep in mind that all those other amazing blogs started in the same place that she was – without any income streams at all.

Often it is easy to forget this and see a successful blog as always being what it is today.

By way of illustration, I shared my own story

When I started blogging, I did it as a hobby. I had no intention of it ever being more than that and there were no examples of people directly monetizing blogs.

Over the coming year and a half, my blog grew in popularity and the hobby became something of a passion and obsession. It also began to cost me money to run for hosting, domain, design etc.

Phase 1

Blogging Income 6

I began to dabble in monetizing with the hope of simply covering my costs. My first experiments were with Google AdSense and the Amazon Affiliate Program. The results weren’t spectacular but they were encouraging enough for me to keep trying. A few dollars began to trickily in but more importantly – I was learning a lot!

Phase 2

Over the coming months I continued to experiment with AdSense and Amazon. I vastly improved how I was implementing the programs (better ad positioning, writing reviews for affiliate products). I also began to think about how to drive more traffic to my blog. I even started a second blog (and then more followed)!

The results were that my income began to grow. I began to see my blogging as a part-time job and even began to wonder if it could one day be full-time.

Over the coming year I also began to also look at other forms of monetization.

Blogging Income 6

During this time I started promoting affiliate programs with other online stores. I also did something that terrified me but which became a great income stream, I picked up the phone and began to sign up advertisers directly. This was a period where I had to bite the bullet and start to treat blogging not just as a hobby – but as a business.

Again – these new income streams started small and were experiments. My first ad sale was for $20 for a month long ad. It didn’t bring me overnight riches but securing the ad taught me a lot and contributed to my overall income.

It was around this time I realised that while none of my income streams were enough to sustain me alone, a blog could actually sustain multiple sources of small income that could add up to something significant.

My goal was to go full time as a blogger. To do that I knew I needed to grow multiple streams of income and my blog’s traffic.

Phase 3

It was around this time that other Advertising Networks began to appear. I experimented with quite a few but the one I had most success with was Chitika. At the time, AdSense was my #1 source of income but putting Chitika on my site almost doubled that income overnight and allowed me to go full time as a blogger!

Blogging Income 6

Of course it wasn’t just that Chitika worked well. I’d also been growing my traffic, building reader engagement/community etc – but the extra income stream helped a lot.

Phase 4

It was around this time that I’d started ProBlogger as a blog along with a whole new range of income streams. I did monetize ProBlogger in the early days, using all of the above income streams but I found that ProBlogger was actually better to monetize indirectly.

By ‘indirect monetization’ I mean that ProBlogger began to grow my own personal profile and authority on the topic of blogging and I began to be approached to provide products and services that I could sell. The blog itself didn’t necessarily make money – but it enabled ME to make money as a result of the blog.

Blogging Income 6

For example, it was through ProBlogger that I landed my first paid speaking opportunity. I was asked to fly to Washington DC to speak at a conference – (all expenses covered plus a small fee paid).

Around the same time, I was approached to write the ProBlogger Book (the hard cover one that is now in it’s 3rd edition). This only came off the back of the ProBlogger blog.

Similarly, around this time I began to offer my services as a consultant to help people with their blogging strategy (a service I don’t offer any more).

Once again, these income streams started small (in fact writing a Book isn’t generally a big income stream for most authors) but they each contributed to the overall revenue from my blogging, which was now adding up to be a lot more than I’d ever earned from any other job (keeping in mind that I’d been blogging now for 4-5 years).

Phase 5

Most of the above income streams have continued to grow but other opportunities have presented themselves as new technologies emerge. While I’d previously been approached to create a hard copy book, we began to see the emergence of eBooks. While people previously had asked me to speak at their live events we began to see people delivering content via virtual/online courses and conferences.

Blogging Income 6

I began to experiment with creating eBooks and membership areas to my sites. eBooks have gone on to become my main income stream (both with ProBlogger eBooks and Photography eBooks). The main income from eBooks tends to come in fits and starts, when we either launch a new eBook or run a sale/promotion on one but even when we don’t have these events happening they still steadily sell each day in small numbers. Again, contributing to the overall revenue.

I also added the Job board here at ProBlogger.

The job board is an interesting example of what I’m talking about today. It has never been a spectacularly huge income stream but it has actually been a pretty steady source of income over the years. We generally see 1-2 new blogger jobs advertised every day and that $50-$100 per day in income adds up over time. I’ve not got the exact figures but I’d estimate that over the last 5 years it has brought in over $100,000! I’m glad I started it!

By this stage my income was growing to the point where I was able to bring on others into my team. This started with some very part time outsourcing of small jobs but in more recent times has enabled me to hire a number of team members to help run different components of my business.

Phase 6

The final income stream has become a growing focus of my team and I (although I have to say it’s not a massive income stream at this point) has been running events and conferences.

Our annual ProBlogger Training Event here in Australia has grown in number each year and this year we think it’ll probably turn a small profit. Having said that, my intent with these events is not to make a lot of money. Rather, it is about giving something back to the Aussie Blogosphere (it is also great for branding and gives me a lot of personal satisfaction and fun).

We’ve also started to run some smaller more focused workshops (our Email Marketing workshop in Melbourne still has a handful of spots left).

Blogging Income 6

My suspicion is that events will be something we’ll see expand a little in the coming years.

Final Thoughts

Let me sum up with a few thoughts, disclaimers and words of encouragement:

Keep in mind that all of the above has happened over 10 years. While today there are obviously 12 or so income streams (although I’m sure I’m forgetting something) they all started quite small and as experiments.

There have been moments where it did seem like I had rushes of income, those rushes were usually the result of several years work and investment of time and money.

I also would say that in each case, I started each experiment not really knowing what I was doing (on at least some level) but really seeing the experiments as a chance to learn. For example, my first eBooks were taking previously published blog posts and updating, completing and adding to them to offer readers a more convenient way to access my content.

At the time I had no idea if that would work and the design and delivery of the eBooks was fairly basic. In time I learned what did and didn’t work and was able to grow the sophistication of my delivery systems, design, authoring and marketing to the point that it’s become a fairly well-oiled machine.

The key is to pick something to try and to see whether it connects with your readership and to learn as much as you can while you’re doing it. Often you end up evolving what you do to the point that it is a better fit for you and your blog – but you’ll never get to that point without starting.

Update: I’ve since published a followup to this post that gives a split of the different income streams.

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.