Maybe you’ve got a Google Adsense account and have some of their ads smattered around your posts (I use it at the bottom of all RSS subscriptions to this blog). Maybe you’ve started looking for direct advertisers for your blog. Here are some of the ways I’m finding ways to make a little bit of escape velocity money from my blog projects that might be useful to you. (Note: EVERY link in the post is probably an affiliate marketing or advertising-related link. Consider this a blanket disclosure for the post.)
Straightforward advertising is based on your web traffic more than anything else. It’s the whole cost per thousand (CPM) method that’s been in place since we started online marketing over a decade ago. What I’ve found is that, unless you’re a really big traffic site, that’s the hardest way to make money. Here are some alternatives instead:
Create Your Own Products
Probably the easiest way to make money via your blog is to create something worth selling. I’m cofounder of Third Tribe Marketing, and it’s a site where you pay a monthly fee to get tons of content and to get information and help via a very active online forum. That makes me plenty more revenue than a Google Adsense ad.
You might sell ebooks. You might sell software. You might sell consulting services. Whatever it is, your own products will get you much more benefit than any advertisement.
If you can’t make your own stuff, or don’t have the time, affiliate marketing is a way to marry up other people’s products and services with your audience/community. The MOST IMPORTANT part of doing affiliate marketing, in my mind, is the trust and relationship factor. Never sell or promote something that you can’t endorse or that you don’t feel is going to be useful to your community. Every product I promote via an affiliate link is something I think will be of value, and something I’ve touched and investigated.
The big difference between getting started with affiliate marketing versus CPM-based marketing is that everything is paid on a “cost per action” (CPA) basis. That means that I’m only paid for sales. I use this kind of advertising alternative all the time on my blog. See my sidebar? These are the programs I promote there:
Three of the four programs are affiliate. I trade space on my blog with Blue Sky Factory for a free account.
Beyond that, I promote other projects I think are great, like Chris Guillebeau’s Empire Building Kit:
To me, affiliate marketing has lots of benefits. There are many places to sign up for programs. I’ll give you a few to start with:
You can find lots of programs and offerings that might be of interest to your audience there. I use this heavily at Man on the Go , but it’s been too soon to share the results. I will when I get them.
Over at Man on the Go, the guys at 9Seeds installed the wp125 ad widget. It works really simply, and gives me some stats. This lets me place do-it-yourself ads, where I set the rate and the terms of the advertisement.
For instance, my friend Joel Libava wanted to advertise on Man on the Go. I’m running a special because the blog has just launched, so there’s not enough traffic to ask for top dollar. So, Joel and I agreed, and then I put up his little 125×125 ad, that looks like this:
This is a fairly man-made ad. At the end of the 30 days, I can tell Joel how many people clicked it, and he can decide if he wants to advertise with me again. Simple.
It’s Always a Balance
There are sites that look like the sides of NASCAR cars from all the advertising they run. I don’t know how effective they are, but I know that I get the feeling that I’d better worry where I place my mouse and what I click, because I might accidentally click something and buy it.
Some people want their sites to have no advertising. I went years and years feeling like that.
What changed my mind: first, I found programs that I really thought were worth it. I think the Thesis WordPress theme is one of the best themes out there for a design skeleton and for improved SEO. I like the Scribe SEO plugin because I don’t know much about search engine optimization, so I let the plugin help me. That’s how I got started.
What else changed my mind: I realized that what I’m providing here is a benefit and a value to others and that I shouldn’t feel ashamed to make the ask from my community, should they be in the market for some of what I find interesting and useful. There’s no shame in offering things of value to your community.
Now, there is a perception hit to being an open-faced salesperson and marketer on your site. People might see this is cheapening the brand. People might say, “Well, he must not be a very successful speaker and marketing company president if he has to hock WordPress themes.” It’s okay if you feel that way. I don’t mind. I use some of my affiliate money for charities. Some days, I just use it to buy my family a nice meal. My “real” money? I try to bank it.
Your mileage may vary, but it’s definitely worth thinking about.
Questions? How have your own experiences been? What else can I tell you?
Photo credit jbcurio