Which Blog Monetization Strategies Work For Long Term Growth?

blog monetization strategies

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Blogs can be monetized so many different ways that it’s hard to figure out which methods will work in the long run.  Choose the wrong strategy and you can scare off your audience.  Choose the right strategy and you can bank some cash and even provide valuable services to your readers, imagine that!

You can easily make a quick 100 bucks by running a paid post from an advertiser, but what long term damage does that do to your credibility? What about those annoying ads that appear when you mouse over a link?  You might get paid, but you’ll have less repeat visitors, which means less money in the long run.

On the other hand, if you build trust with your readers and occasionally offer value-added affiliate products that help them, you can grow your subscriber base and make money at the same time.

There are definitely optimal ways to make money from your blog, but so many more ways to just irritate your readers.  Sometimes you need to forgo short term paydays and keep your reader’s best interest in mind in order to build your blog for the long run.  Here’s my thoughts on which tactics work when used in moderation and which will repel your readers.

My Take on Popular Blog Monetization Strategies

Advertising
Type of RevenueHow It WorksMy Take
PPC (Pay Per Click)Advertisers pay you each time someone clicks on an ad (either text or an image). A popular example of PPC is Google AdSense.USE IN MODERATION You can make a decent amount of money through PPC. Search traffic tends to do better than social network traffic that is untargeted or repeat visitors who are used to ignoring your ads.

I keep hearing that the big square blocks of ads placed within a blog post convert really well, however I find those obnoxious and sneaky. Also, tricky ads that look like your normal links run the risk of alienating your readers (admittedly, they do convert better). Here’s an excellent AdSense Tutorial from one of my blogging friends.
CPM (Cost Per Thousand impressions)An advertiser pays you based on the number of times an ad is viewed on your site, no click necessary. AVOID Unless you are a very big brand name or sell your own CPM ads, most advertisers pay low rates and it’s hard to make much money.
Affiliate MarketingAdvertisers pay you when a referred visitor takes action on their site. This typically means more than clicking a link. Visitors usually need to purchase something, create an account, or submit their contact information. USE IN MODERATION For bloggers that are selective about which companies they promote, affiliate programs can be a great benefit to their readers. For example, on this site I explain how to use Elance to find freelancers. I recommend it because it’s a valuable service to my readers and I get paid a commission when someone signs up.
In Text AdsAd networks dynamically insert links into your post based on keywords. These links often have rollover effects like pop-ups and you get paid per click.AVOID There is nothing I hate more than reading a post and seeing ads pop-up when I roll-over links in the content. Unless the post is mind-blowing I leave the site quickly.
Sell Ad Space DirectlyAn advertiser pays you a monthly fee for displaying a banner or other advertisement.USE IN MODERATION These days readers are trained to blank out ad images in your sidebar. So if you can find someone to pay you for an ad whether or not it gets clicked, you’ve got little to lose (as long as it’s not too distracting or an inferior service). Unlike most other ad options, this can also be a fairly consistent revenue stream.
Selling Link Juice
Type of RevenueHow It WorksMy Take
Sponsored PostsAn advertiser pays you to run a blog post with targeted links/keywords. The post can be written by either you or them (but if you write it you can charge more). Companies that do this are rarely interested in the traffic from the link and more often interested in creating backlinks that raise their search rankings.MOSTLY AVOID Occasional use in an established blog can be ok, but you can easily turn off your readers. However, if you write the post yourself and are selective about what websites you work with it’s not unreasonable.
Text LinksSimilar to the previous item, companies will pay you to insert a link on a side bar or in a previously written post. If you have a link in a sidebar that appears on all posts you can typically charge monthly as opposed to sponsored posts which are typically a one-time fee.AVOID Text links usually seem a little out of place and are rarely helpful to your readers.

If Google notices you accept paid text links (without nofollow tags) you run the risk of having your search rank being penalized (for sponsored posts too). And most smart advertisers are not interested in paying for links with nofollow tags.
Selling Your Own Stuff
Type of RevenueHow It WorksMy Take
eBooksWrite your own expert content and save it as a .pdf file so you can sell it on your site through a shopping cart like eJunkie or Clickbank.AVOID with one exception; if you’ve got a big fan base these can be extremely profitable. If you have a small reader base or mostly search traffic, this can be a waste of time. If you really want to write an eBook, consider giving it away for free, but include affiliate links or some other value added service.
Physical GoodsSell wedding linens, tshirts, a self-published book, ShamWow’s, Ginsu knives, or any other physical product drop shipped to the buyer.CONSIDER If you’ve got something useful to sell and there’s a market for it by all means sell it. But don’t expect to build a blog readership around a product. On the other hand, you might be able to sell a product to your existing blog readers.
Market Your Own Freelance ServicesPromote your own services like staff writing, web programming, web design, photography, or speaking services.CONSIDER If you’re an expert at something and have time to freelance, your blog can help you get the word out and drum up new business.
Sell Access to Premium ContentCharge visitors to view some of your extra special content.AVOID I’m a fan of giving everything away for free. It’s just too easy for a visitor to move on to the next site if they have to pay to read yours. Unless you’re the Wall Street Journal or you’ve got exclusive naked celebrity pix this is an uphill battle.
Flipping Your SiteYou create or buy a blog and sell it for a profit on a marketplace like Flippa.com.CONSIDER This is an interesting strategy, and many people try to flip blogs like real estate investments. You have to be really good at building a blog to make money this way. And if you are good at it, there’s often more money to be made through some of these other channels.
DonationsAsk people for contributions if they found your website useful.CONSIDER This works best for altruistic or charitable sites and those sites that provide in depth informational services that clearly provide value to the reader. If you ain’t too proud to beg, it’s worth a shot.

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5 comments on Which Blog Monetization Strategies Work For Long Term Growth?

Praveen Rajarao September 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Hi Geoff,

Nice matrix you have here, very helpful and gives a lot of hints. Thanks.

Reply

Sandor October 5, 2011 at 9:33 pm

It is funny, what you write about eBook selling. Do you mean, that an info product with a good sales letter is a waste of time, if somebody don’t have tens of thousands followers?

Many marketers are saying, that this is an extremely profitable opportunity, and many people are making a living from it.

An info product shouldn’t be always free, if it contains great value for the target audience. No, it should charge the user for giving this special info, or teaching.

I myself bought many info products, and I didn’t care so much about the follower base of the author, if the subject was important for me and I hoped a great outcome from the product.

Don’t you agree?

Reply

ddiy October 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Hi Sandor, you’re right, I did make a sweeping generalization about selling ebooks. That said, the days are long gone when anyone could write an ebook and make a killing.

Without a following, standing out in the crowd and proving you are an authority on a subject is a real challenge. I’m not saying it’s not possible, just much harder than it used to be, mainly because there is no barrier to entry. Anyone with a computer can write their own ebook (and they do!). I know many people that have written great ebooks (without a following) and have had an extremely difficult time marketing and selling them in the past year or two. There are much easier ways to make money with great content online.

Reply

Steve October 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm

So given that you think everything’s in a range from “consider” (hardly a strong recommendation) to “avoid”, what do you think? Is blog monetization largely useless? I’m just curious what your take is.

Reply

ddiy October 13, 2011 at 11:30 am

Hi Steve, good question. There’s definitely still lots of money making potential from blogs. However, it’s more difficult than it used to be and there is no one “magic bullet” approach that works, so “consider” is about as strong a recommendation for any one tactic I’m willing to make. You have to understand your demographics and traffic sources and then thoughtfully combine monetization and content strategies together.

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