I’ve spent the past few weeks interviewing and connecting with some of the greatest bloggers in the globe for my book (to be published September!) The Million Dollar Blog. And what has been great is beginning to understand all the ways in which blogs and websites are monetised.
What follows is loosely organised in the order in which different stages of income tend happen for bloggers and website owners, but nothing is set in stone. How quickly you move to earn money from your blog also depends on your own goals and the approach you want to take. I’ve also made it clear whether the money you earn will be direct earnings, ie through a check out process happening on site, or indirect earnings, which would be paid opportunity that results from your website and the content you create. Both are valuable strategies and can lead to huge earnings.
So, here, in a nutshell, the 11 main monetisation strategies for a website or blog.
Affiliate marketing (direct earnings)
Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting or recommending other people’s or companies products. Essentially, you find a product you like, promote it to your audience and when a sale is made, you’ll earn a piece of the profit.
This is something you could do from the off, as even if you have just gained your first reader, what is to say that reader won’t buy something you have recommended or talked about, allowing you to take a percentage of the sale? Affiliate advertising can work especially well when you are recommending fairly high priced equipment or you are operating in a product based niche. A chef for instance might be talking about expensive kitchen products, a car blogger who is reviewing and recommending cars could easily start making significant commission based on sales of cars that have been read about from the blog even in the early days when traffic isn’t necessarily that high.
Whether you are blogging about real world or digital products, affiliate marketing is based on you offering other people’s products to your audience and readers, and getting paid each time someone buys it. It’s incredible how many brands, both online and real world, now offer affiliate programmes to pay commission to those who generate sales for them. Pretty much everyone does. You can either get in contact with brands direct to become an affiliate, but this is time consuming and many brands will refer you on to affiliate partners otherwise they would spend their entire time getting bloggers set up. If you sign up with companies like Skimlinks and Affiliate Window you’ll be able to earn revenue from thousands of brands they represent.
And the good news is today’s sophisticated web browsers want things delivered quickly. They are used to reading product reviews and there being a link directly to the place that they can buy it.
Percentages vary between brands, products and the deals you strike. Make sure you place a small disclaimer on your blog advising readers that you may use affiliate links from time to time.
Consulting, services or coaching (indirect earnings)
Your blog and website is a place for you to market yourself and promote the experience you have and this is another route to monetisation you could have from day one. There are a lot of people out there who are willing to pay you for your knowledge, time and expertise and many experts and professional service providers blog in order to showcase their talents. Your blog is a CV for the digital age, it’s about using the internet to build reputation and authority, but the services are offered in the real world. For example, I blog about digital strategy and small business, and that brings in real world clients.
Having a good looking blog and creating regular content enables you to raise your prices and be seen as premium service provider. It also makes you more likely to be found compared to those who are not blogging. Think of it like this, if I am looking for even as simple as someone to train my puppy, I’m most likely going to turn to the internet. And who will I be more impressed with, the person with a blog lead site showcasing all their training techniques, with plenty of great photos of them with happy looking dogs and a run of their success stories, or a static one page website that says ‘Dog Training of Nowhere’. The blog site most likely. The blog site that is kept freshly updated with copy is also more likely to rank than a static showcase site. So it’s easy to see how those who blog can start to outshine the competition. And then think of all those dog trainers who aren’t even online, so don’t stand a chance of someone like me finding them!
Freelance blogging (indirect earnings)
An unexpected form of monetisation for many of the bloggers I’ve talked to, which was especially helpful in the early days, was that they suddenly found themselves landing writing jobs even though they weren’t actively trying to showcase their talents as a writer. So there they were blogging to build their personal profile, or about a particular niche they were passionate about, and one of their readers, running a completely different business and knowing they need to get into digital marketing, asks the blogger to blog on their behalf.
Some bloggers contributed as a paid writer to a number of different business blogs while building the profile and audience of their own blog. All businesses need to be blogging and have their digital strategy completely nailed, and many don’t have the time to blog or don’t know what to write. It’s a job they outsource and in their eyes, the ideal person to write it is the person whose blog they absolutely love. Even if the subject matter is different, writing is writing. You may not keep it up forever but writing for other people can be a good way to earn money from your blog while you’re still getting it established.
Banner ads (direct earnings)
Once you reach a certain level of traffic, you can start to sell advertising space direct to advertisers. Most of the bloggers I’m talking to think that this level is around 5000 visits a day but some have sold ads much earlier.
Blog owners normally charge advertisers a fixed fee for a certain time period, or a number of impressions. You get the most money if you sell adverts direct, but you can also use advertising networks who sell your ad space for you and take commission. Google adsense is a popular ad network, in which you allow Google to place ads on your site. Likewise, you can also monetise videos by allowing Google to run their adverts ahead of your videos.
Blog post sponsorship deals (direct earnings)
Brands are always looking for subtle yet effective ways of getting in front of an audience and promoting their products, and they love doing this by partnering up with bloggers who already have an audience who trust and listen to them. Normally, this takes place as a sponsored review, where a brand pays a blogger to review or write about their products.
But the best bloggers are getting increasingly creative about how they do this, thinking up all sorts of ways to feature the product whilst not alienating their audience. Paid posts refer to articles that advertises have written and you publish on your blog for a fee. Paid posts often won’t resonate with your audience in the way that posts you have written yourself will, and NONE of the bloggers I’ve spoken to so far do this.
Digital products (direct earnings)
Digital products, whether that is ecourses, ebooks, paid for audio or video products are a huge market. If you build up a great personal brand, and establish your expertise, you can use it to sell digital products of your choice that you have created. You can even create a digital membership club. Businesses can also sell digital products, particular if they are training products that compliment their real world services.
And trust me, all around the world people are making incredible money selling digital courses on everything and anything you can imagine. As the author of a digital product, you get all the money and the product, if created to be ‘evergreen’ – a popular word in the blogosphere which means the product won’t date easily – can keep selling for years and years.
It doesn’t even matter if other people are selling the same or similar products. Once people connect to you, they want to hear YOUR take and opinion on how to do things, not anyone else’s. If you think how much information is available for free on Google, it seems surprising that people pay for information at all, but they do, in their millions. They are paying to not have to sort through Google and to get a quality product for a source that they trust. What you are doing is packaging it in a way that is right for your audience.
You can set your course up to last as long as you want, be delivered in weekly modules or downloaded in one hit, to contain video demonstrations or audios to listen to. The great internet marketers all follow the same technique when selling their digital products, and we will be coming to that in the next chapter.
Branded products (direct earnings)
Popular products associated to blogs include software, t-shirts, and accessories. The key is to make sure your product is closely related to your blog’s topic so that it feels like a natural extension of your brand and something for your fans to be excited about rather than a cold sell just to earn money.
Aps and software development (indirect earnings)
Once you’re living and breathing the online and digital world, expect to spot new opportunities in the tech space. You might decide that your blog products or services could be delivered through a paid for ap, or spot a hole in the ap market for an ap that you could create (I highly recommend reading our sister book The Billion Dollar Ap to learn more about aps).
Speaking & book deals (indirect earnings)
Bloggers with huge social media followers are the new celebrities of our era, and so all sorts of opportunities exist for bloggers now that previously would have been reserved for celebrities. These include book deals with real world publishers, like, ahem, the one for the book I am writing now.
If you’re a well known expert, the world can be your oyster in terms of the highly paid speaking opportunities you can get. Seth Godin is a case in point. His blog isn’t monetised, but as we discussed when I interviewed him, his blog brings him incredible opportunities and the ability to have written 18 books.
Writing for magazines and television presenting
As a former journalist, I can tell you that a lot of people in the traditional print industries are pretty peeved with the fact that bloggers are suddenly being offered articles to write and guest spots on popular daytime programmes. BUT WHO CARES! That, my friend, is just the way the cookie crumbles. You’ve got a following and a status and if a magazine or TV show has noticed you and wants to pay you to contribute to their programme then so be it! What’s the saying about Lady Luck? She favours the bold right? She doesn’t necessarily favour those who have worked their way up straight career paths no matter how much effort they have put in.
Bonus! Free products
OK so not strictly cash in the bank but once you’re getting free holidays, make up, laptops, cars, computers, cinema tickets or whatever products fit with your blog, it certainly saves spending your own cash on these items. I am literally green with envy at the freebies some of the bloggers in my book are getting. I know I know, envy is not a good thing but when you read about them you’ll see what I mean!
Your blog is your business. If you suddenly discover that you can earn money from your blog by connecting banana sellers in Timbuktu with shopkeepers in Tasmania, then go for it.
If there’s a blog monetisation strategy I haven’t mentioned here then message me or leave a comment below!