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The Ultimate Blog Monetization Guide

blog monetization

When I first decided to start a blog in 2009, I focused on building an audience rather than blog monetization. I created this blog to share top notch blogging tips, wordpress tutorials and pillar articles which will always be useful and can be used till the existence of blogs and wordpress. There are no banner ads on this blog, no text links or any kind of annoying stuff that would be a distraction for my readers – then, how does this blog make money?

If you are thinking that banners ads, text links, adsense are the only ways to make money from blogs then, too bad, you are wrong. Well, I am not saying that you can’t make money with these methods but its time that we all think outside the box. Just think about it, how does viperchill and zenhabbits make money? They don’t have any annoying ads on their blog but still are making a lump sum :). I will talk about this later on this post. Keep reading and by the end of the post, you will be able to master all the blog monetization methods and strategies for real.

As of 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence. More marketers are trying to secure a space in the blogosphere because blogging has become an easy and cost effective way to build brand presence. Also, not all blogs make money online. If you want to make it to the level where you can make a consistent income from your blog then, it is vital that you stay on top of the curve and make the best out of your blog. Visitors make you money and in order to get that quality traffic, a blog has to be neat with easy navigation, proper headings, graphics etc. These are the basic stuff you need to know before considering blog monetization.

I know a lot of people who make a big sum from their blogs; not from adsense or banner ads but by implementing different and creative monetization methods. And today, on this post, I will share almost everything I have learned and compiled from popular blogs.

Disclaimer: Some of the blog monetization strategies might be new and some old to you. Some methods are basic and some are advanced. Whatever it is, they work and the result may vary individually. Not all methods and ideas mentioned on this post are mine. I have taken ideas from other popular blogs such as problogger, entrepreneurs-journey etc and I would like to thank them for their amazing contribution. Last but not the least, I don’t see myself as an expert writer (not bad either, what say?) so please excuse all the grammatical errors if you find any ;) Now sit back and enjoy the post!

Blog Monetization Guide That Works

 

List Building

This is one of the core money making methods in the industry. Everyone is talking about building that list that would make them the next millionaire. I am sure you have heard the phrase “the money is in the list”.

Why list?

First of all, why build a list? Think about this: if you owned a restaurant, your priority is your customers. Lets say, one day you have 10 awesome customers who dined at your restaurant. As a business owner, I am sure you would want them to come again and become a loyal customer so you could make consistent money from them plus of course, provide good food :). How the heck would you do that? How would you make them come again? You simply cannot ask them for their contact details, but you can definitely get them to sign up and give out their email address. How to get them to do that? I will talk about that in a bit. The same rule applies for blogging; the success of a blog depends on its growth and loyal audience. Your main focus should be your readers and how to get them back on your blog on a regular basis. And to do that, you have to setup an opt-in form where your readers can subscribe to your list. Aweber is the best and recommended since I use them. Mailchimp is also good because they are free for managing a 1000 and below subscribers. Check out both and suit your needs.

List building is very important if you want to make a lump sump while providing value to your community. No doubt, its listed #1 on my blog monetization guide

How to get visitors to opt-in?

Now, the important question is how to get your visitors to sign up to your opt-in. Most marketers or bloggers will tell you to create a squeeze page, setup a popup or give out free stuff. They are not wrong and I agree with them but, when you give out free stuff, ask yourself first: is it worth it? Would you personally use it? Is it related to your niche? Would your audience like it?

This is important because I have seen bloggers and marketers incentivising their list with B/S products or e-books and they ask their readers to do the same. I don’t agree with this strategy and it is a shame. I feel that regardless of what you are trying to achieve online, you should always provide the best. It not only boosts your reputation but increases your followers and readership.

Incentive options

Again, the restaurant story: imagine you have 10 new customers and you want their email. What would you do? The best and easy way would be to give them a free sample of your new dish and in exchange request them to signup to your list. Was that difficult? Trust me, it works.

There are ton of stuffs that you can giveaway for free to your readers. You can find quality e-books, plrs and free tools that are not bullshit and worth giving away. You can also create an e-book where you can share your secret/personal tips which haven’t been shared elsewhere. This makes it unique and gives a good reason to sign up. No one wants to subscribe for some crappy rehashed e-book.

First impression is the last one: the first product or e-book your readers receive from you will decide if they remain as a loyal subscriber or not. If your sample dish doesn’t taste good then there is a great chance that you will lose the 10 new customers. If it takes a click to subscribe, it also takes a click to unsubscribe. Remember, always think outside the box. If you have nothing to giveaway that’s worth it, then wait, create something good and then start building your list.

What are the best list building tools?

 

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is really one of the best ways to make money online. The best part is; you don’t have to own or create any product. You simply promote ready made products created by others and make a commission from it when purchased through your link. Most of the popular blogs make money from affiliate marketing and there is no reason why you can’t. :)

You can do affiliate marketing in several ways such as promoting your offers through ppc, media buys etc. But, when you are implementing it in your blog, you must be very careful when choosing products to promote. It’s easy to promote a shitty product using facebook ads or google adsense because no one knows who is running the ad but, when promoting on your blog, you are putting your rep on the line.

If you find something useful and want to recommend it to your readers then affiliate marketing is awesome. Look out for that product, check out their affiliate page (most have one), sign up and link it to your review. This way you are sharing your personal experience with your readers as well as making a commission from it when purchased through your link. You can earn up to 75% commission on some products and as a matter of fact, you can build a successful online business on the back of affiliate marketing.

Recursive Affiliate Income

Not much different: in this case, you just get commission on a regular basis. This type of affiliate programs are known to be the best. For example: let’s say you promote a product that has a monthly fee. The visitor who purchases through your link will have to maintain his/her membership every month. Whenever he she makes a payment, you get a commission. To make this even simpler, let’s assume member ship costs $20 monthly and your cut is $10; this means you will make $10 each month as long as the visitor remains a member. If you have 100 people signed up through your link then you make 10 x 100 = $1000 each month without any hard work :) sweeet ain’t it!

Just go around and find a recursive affiliate program that is relevant to your niche and your audience and start promoting it on your blog. Clickbank is not the only option; it’s rather getting saturated. There are several other affiliate marketing companies, just google.


I prefer to be transparent and I have no problem mentioning if it’s an affiliate link. This way I gain more trust from my readers/visitors thus make more sales. I like it this way. If a product works out for me, I enjoy promoting it.

Referral Marketing

Another type of affiliate marketing based on referrals. Due to the rise of affiliate marketing, ad networks have been competing against each other. They are doing their best to attract as many advertisers and publishers. As bloggers, we have a platform to discuss about the ad networks and recommend the best ones to our readers. This is one reason why residual referral program was created. With this system, if you refer a new affiliate (friend/reader) to an ad network using your unique referral link, you will make a 5-10% bonus commission on that referral’s earnings. As of now, it’s pretty hard to make a good sum from referrals because not all new affiliates get accepted in the ad network. However, if you have a decent amount of traffic, niche and targeted audience, it might work well for you.

Things to ask yourself when choosing a product to promote

  • Is it worth promoting?
  • Is it related to your niche?
  • Did you use the stuff personally?
  • Would you use it for your personal use?
  • Why should your readers check it out?

 

The best way to promote an affiliate product is by reviewing it and backing it up with solid proof. It’s better to promote one product that you have tried and support than multiple products that you don’t know about. Don’t do for the sake of money, do it for people and they will make you money. Educate your readers and tell them how the product will change their life. Don’t fake it, just be real :)

Sponsored Reviews

Paid reviews are a nice way to make some solid income. It depends on the traffic of your blog. More traffic means more chances of getting offers. Most businesses and individuals are seeking ways to get more exposure for their brand, blog, product or even service. This is where you can help them. Although not all blogs offer review posts but they are on the rise and a lot of bloggers are considering this method. I am sure you have heard about SocialSpark or ReviewMe. If not then check out this post I have made earlier: Sites that pay you to blog

 

Review only products that are relevant to your niche. You have the right to decline any offer which you should when the offers are not worth the hype.

Product Reviews

One of my favorites :). I will tell you the reason shortly. First of all, I call this “buy-experience-review-money” method. Sounds cool right? In simple terms, you buy a product, use it, and experience it. If it’s good, review it and insert your affiliate link. Trust me, if you do a little seo and have some good traffic, the money will roll in.

Writing a review on a product that you have used is easy because all you do is explain how the product helped you and why others should consider purchasing it. Find a product that you have used or currently using and write your personal experience with it. Best way to get more sales is by providing lots of images, proof and sources; it also helps to back your claim. Also make sure you provide the disclosure as required by the FTC. I will be adding some examples of product reviews when I do some in the upcoming days. Do check it out.

When I didn’t have a blog, I used squidoo to review a lot of stuff; some worked for me and some didn’t. I have learned from my mistakes.

5 Things to consider before reviewing a product

  • Always be patient and choose products very carefully.
  • There is ton of stuff that you can promote and make money but if you don’t personally support it, don’t risk your rep.
  • Don’t promote stuff that has a bad sales page.
  • Don’t promote stuff that you will never use
  • Don’t promote stuff that has no customer support or guarantee

The fun part is, once your blog becomes a little popular, you can get free stuff to review. Companies will send you their products so you can review it for them. Of course, you get to keep it ;) There are several companies that are looking for exposure for their new products and they will love to send it to you for review; everyone knows that bloggers can do wonders.

 

Paid Content

If you work hard, provide value and be consistent, no one can stop you from being on top of the curve. When you become a successful blogger, you are seen as an expert in your field which means people would love to pay you for your ideas/tip/expertise. It doesn’t end there. A lot of opportunities will open up for you and you will be able to make more money while providing value to your readers. Paid content is a good blog monetization method for bloggers that regularly offer useful information.

Membership Programs

Membership blogs- are one of the best ways to make lots of recurring money. They are on the rise because they are easy to set up, especially on wordpress. Heard the word “freemium”? Its like you create awesome content for your audience for free and then you create some extra awesome premium content for those readers who are willing to pay for it. In simple terms, you provide premium level content and charge a monthly membership fee- this can easily generate a steady income for you. Some good wordpress membership plugins: Wishlist member & Magic members. I have used both and recommend them.

Membership forums- forums are also quite popular because, unlike a blog, it’s an open board where everyone can contribute and share stuff with each other. You can also monetize forums. It’s not necessary to convert your blog to a forum because you can keep both running on the same server. Monetizing a forum is pretty simple: check out Blogmaster point. Before you do, remember that you might find some flaws at the moment because the forum is still being tweaked and developed and, is under beta mode ;). Anyways, notice that there is a VIP section. You might have to register before this secret thread becomes visible to you. This is a paid section which means there is a monthly fee for maintaining your membership on this forum. While providing the best content in other sections, we created a paid premium section for VIP members who will get some extra awesome stuff which will not be available outside this paid section. Got it? If not then join my forum and ask your questions there. I and my team will do our best to respond to each of them :) You know I try.

 

Whether you are providing access to published content or just ad-free content, make sure you are delivering a quality product that your readers are willing to pay for.

Information Products

Idea sells. Knowledge has no limit and sells for big. Once you develop a connection with your audience, you will gain more followers and become popular. This means now you can sell your ideas and knowledge to them. Creating a good product is simple only if you have a solid idea or content to offer. You can create products in the form of an e-book, videos, softwares, audio and digital goods. Trust me it’s not that difficult. Offer something that is unique, something that you specialize in; just think outside the box. The sweetest part of creating your own product is that you get to keep 100% of the profit. One of the best information products I have seen is Frank Kern’s Mass Control. Just google it and check it out for yourself and be prepared to be amazed :) You can always learn something valuable from other’s products, launches etc.

Consulting, Coaching, Phone Calls & Services

Did you know you could make money by providing services, consulting businesses and coaching individuals? It’s another great method to make some solid side income. A blog is actually a best way to get more clients. Let’s assume that you have a simple html static website where you offer services or coaching. You might not be able to make enough sales because people don’t know about you. There has to be a reason why others should follow your lead and listen to you. A blog is the best way to build a brand presence and targeted audience to whom you could offer consulting, coaching and even services which would lead to a higher rate of sales compared to the previous example (static html boring website). This can be lucrative and a good money making method. Setup a “rent me or hire me” section and list out all the gigs that you can offer. You never know this might just become a good source of side income. A good way of building up your reputation is by providing the best of what you have.

The only drawback of this method is that you are trading time for money which makes it scalable to a certain extent. But what if you could outsource services ;); again, think outside the box.

Job board, Directory & Marketplace

Job boards work but not for all blogs. You need to have a massive amount of traffic in order to benefit from a job board. A good example would be Problogger that charges $50 for 30 days membership. If you have good traffic and a target market then give it a shot.

Creating a directory on your wordpress is simple because you can find lots of plugins for it. You can charge businesses/individuals for getting listed in the directory. Again, you need to have good traffic in order to make real money from it.

Ever thought of having a marketplace section on your blog where people would pay for listing their gigs? I haven’t seen this on that many blogs but a good example would be Shoemoney.

Speaking Offers

Your blog can get you noticed by industry leaders and can land you speaking engagements at conferences and seminars. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan & Frank Kern make a ton of money from several speaking gigs. If you become an expert in your niche, you can leverage this method and make not only money but network with other like minded leaders.

Events

Large blogs can easily host events and generate revenue. Project physical events online and make money by charging admission, attracting sponsors and selling subscriptions to future events. A good example would be shoemoney’s elite retreat. At his event, you get to meet many industry experts and get strategic action plans from each on how to accomplish your goals. It’s not easy to setup an event unless you have a huge reach. Start small and see how it goes. If you don’t try, you will not know.

Merchandising

Merchandising is fun. If you build a solid connection with your audience, they will definitely want to support you. You can give them what they want by merchandising. The best part of merchandising is that you make money while getting more exposure. Check out iJustine’s t-shirts and goodies :). She has a great following and she knows her stuff quite well. Want to follow similar business model? CafePress and Printfection makes it easy for you to put your blog’s or brand’s logo on t-shirts, bags, mugs and other items.

 

Direct Advertising

Most people put this on top of their money making list but, it’s at the bottom for me :). Not that it doesn’t work; I feel that the above blog monetization methods are more superior. Selling direct ads on your blog is the basic stuff. Everyone does that and there’s nothing new about it.

Remember that direct ad sales do not work well with all niches. It will work with affiliate marketing industry but might not with cooking, sports etc.

Whenever you see a banner ad, I am sure you don’t like it or do you? If you think that no one clicks on banner ads then you are wrong. It depends on the niche and the traffic to your blog. Let’s give a sweet example: if I place irrelevant ads on this blog such as gambling related or health related, it will not make sense; thus, the ads will perform poorly in terms of CTR (click through rate). But, if I place blogging and money making related ads, they will definitely have a higher CTR. John chow charges from $100-$1000 for banner advertising. He gets ton of sponsors because he has a massive flow of traffic to his blog and has a targeted audience. Who doesn’t want a blog like that ;)

Selling direct advertising at the beginning of your blogging journey can be frustrating because you will have to build your rep, grow your blog and get quality traffic. Without these, there are less chances of getting a sponsorship deal. If you really want direct ad sales to work for you, then listen to me and just work hard for the first 6 months. Provide quality content and grow your blog. This will attract readers and convert them to subscribers; more readers means, you will get noticed and may get sponsorship deals.

If you don’t want to sell your own adverts then you can monetize the blog with Adsense, Kontera, Tribal Fusion etc. Adsense didn’t work that well for me but I know people who make a full time living from it. The important thing is to test and find out what works best for you. Don’t assume because something is best for someone else’s blog that is the case for all blogs.

 

Donation

There is no such thing as free lunch. I wonder who said that ;). Well, I think there is. There is a difference between begging and asking for a donation. If you blog hard and provide quality content regularly, your audience will definitely want to support your ongoing success. First of all, it doesn’t hurt to set up a donation button on your blog. I have seen a lot of people doing that. “buy me a beer”, “donate”, “keep it alive” are few tabs I have seen around in the blogosphere. Want to implement a donation button on your blog? Use paypal as they allow you to place a donation button with ease. Always remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

 

Flip Your Blog

Flipping websites is a lucrative business. Let’s say your blog makes $1000 a month. You can easily flip that for $10,000. How does that sound like? If you have put a bunch of work into your blog and it has great stats, you can flip it for a lump-sum payday. Believe me or not, you can also sell dead blogs (blogs that perform poorly). There are people who are willing to buy such sites because by leveraging their marketing and seo skills, they can easily flip the site for a profit.

Flipping blogs have become very popular. If you are interested to learn how to create a simple blog and flip it for a profit then check out Zac Johnson’s Flipping that website. Zac has done a great job in detailing everything you need to know about site flipping. There is a huge industry of individuals building up micro niche blogs then flipping them for a quick profit. If you intend to sell your blog for a big figure then, grow your blog and subscribers count, provide quality content on a regular basis and create legitimate income sources.

 

Verdict

There are many ways to make money online. Those who have made it big have done so by thinking outside the box. All the blog monetization methods mentioned on this post can work for you only if you take action. You will never know until you try so give it a shot and let me know.

As a personal suggestion, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to monetize their blog if it gets less than 200-500 UV (unique visitors) a day. It is harder to get sponsors for a small and fairly new blog. Once you reach the level, slowly roll out some blog monetization techniques and see what works best for you.

Blog monetization will only work effectively when you have a steady flow of quality traffic and a group of loyal audience. Focus on your content and audience first and blog monetization later.

I will be updating this post with a few more links and content when I have them ready. After all, this is the ultimate blog monetization guide :). What do you think about this article? What are your blog monetization strategies?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.eventsbymonroe.com Renee McIntyre

    I am a Philadelphia event planner who seconds as an obsessed blogger and SEO/social media enthusiast. This article was forwarded to me by someone who came across it and thought of me. In one word ~ phenomenal. And I am very excited to have found another fantastic blog to follow.

    My only suggestion would to be to make something like this into a series (so shorter posts spread out), or at least split it into two parts. It is hard to take in so much great content all at once. Especially for those of us who may be having a bit of an A.D.D. day. But it was so great I forced myself to sit still, read it, and then re-read it until I understood it from top to bottom :-)

    • http://www.salmanahsan.com Salman Ahsan

      Hey Renee, i am glad you liked it. Usually I do not write so much but for this one, I dont know what happened :). Since the title says “ultimate guide”, I wanted to make it ultimate. However, I will definitely consider your feedback. As for the series, look out for the 7 days blogging e-course. It will go live in 7 days. This will be the only awesome newsletter for this blog where awesome and quality content will be sent directly to your email once or twice a week. No spam or bullshit stuff , just pure amazing stuff :). What to expect in the course? blogging from scratch to blogging to the bank, case studies, personal experiences, viral marketing, secret insider tips that I share only with the subscribers and more..see you inside

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  • SEO_Robert

    Great article, comprehensive advice for bloggers and niche chasers.

    There’s not much to add to a huge guide like that, but I would like to comment on a couple of points on affiliate links.

    Regarding mentioning of affiliate links. Some sites do this, making it clear that a link has an affiliate code on it, some go ever further and offer a second link that is stripped of the affiliate code. Some bloggers even use to fact that it is an affiliate link as a kind of bonus, for example everybody trusts Amazon.com, so tell your readers it’s an Amazon link.

    Because they trust Amazon, and because they know there are customer reviews after the jump, they are more inclined to click.

    Food for thought!

    • http://www.salmanahsan.com Salman Ahsan

      yup. Its always best to be honest. Although I have a separate disclaimer page that explains everything, I still think its good to let your readers know if its an affiliate link. We only recommend the best products that work :). I have also noticed that the best way to get the highest CTR is by posting only relevant offers/links. For example, I promote backup buddy because I personally use it and find it very useful. When I wrote a post on “how to backup and move wordpress to different host”, I mentioned about backup buddy. Why? Because they are relevant. Hope it makes sense :)

  • Marcus

    It’s worth re-emphasising what is said above about direct advertising and banner ads. People still say “ah nobody clicks on ads any more”, well, I have a site that says different, in fact I have several sites that say different.

    If you have the numbers, then the percentages will work, and you will get clicks, BUT, as it says above, you have to box clever and get RELEVANT ads on your site.

    I had a page that was getting a tonne of traffic and a good banner ad came along. Even though the banner that totally unrelated to the page, I put the banner ad on there because it had a really sweet commission payout, only a few clicks would have made it worthwhile.

    Guess how many clicks it got? NONE.

    Don’t get tempted by good commission deals, make RELEVANCE your top priority.

    • http://www.salmanahsan.com Salman Ahsan

      You are just right on the point! Kudos man :). Being greedy and impatient will get you nowhere.

  • http://www.onlinemonetizing.info Joey

    This is literally the best blog monetization guide I have read. I am glad I finally bumped into this site of yours while doing a google search for one of my free giveaways. It is currently 5 AM here and I am simply loving this site of yours and all your amazing articles. I have a few things to add to one of your articles which I’ll probably comment on tomorrow. Looking forward to having more talks with you.

    • http://www.salmanahsan.com Salman Ahsan

      I am glad you like it, there will be more stuff coming soon.. I cant promise anything right now since I am so busy :( but, definitely expect something nice. Thanks

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  • http://getfreeitunescode.com hansa

    Well written article. Yes knowledge got no limits. Affiliate marketing I feel has got good future.

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  • http://greatplacestovisit.wordpress.com/ Lee

    Looking forward to the e-course!

  • http://techbii.com Sid

    Hi Salman, one of the longest and best blog monetization guides I’ve ever came across. I think through this post, you have covered almost all methods to earn from a blog and this is of course a must read guide for newbies. As you said, targeted and flowing traffic is the key and all come rest. As a tech blog owner, as far as I tried, CPM/CPC ads and sponsored posts are the best methods to earn without much effort. I have been very success with this combination and simply making 1.5k$/mo just from that. When it comes to blogging niche blogs, affiliates and services are the treasure hunts. Anyway, through experiments, we can exploit all available possibilities as well. Once again, brilliant stuff and worth reading. :D

    • Salman Ahsan

      Thanks Sid :)