commit: 6b2ca8a - #414 (2014-03-05 12:54:44 -0500)
Striking a balance
between quality content, a good user experience and also monetization can be
very tricky for blog owners. What advice would you give for blog owners that
are looking to make money from their site without cheapening it, and what have
you found to work/not work on your own blog?
I don't think compromising the quality is necessary for making money from you blog. You can monetize it through Affiliate Programs and selling your own stuffs and service by providing quality content at the same time.
I think one of the issues that can arise from that can be your readers are put off - this is really relevant within niches like travel. Travel blogs are usually focused around giving genuine advice to other travellers. Now, if you start placing affiliate links within your posts about your travel experiences, a lot of people will see straight through it and question the whole legitimacy of the content - almost like there's an ulterior motive.
This is different for other niches, like online marketing, where people expect these kinds of things, but even then it can limit the reach of your content. For example, any articles that have affiliate links within them will not be shown on Inbound.org.
I think there's a fine balance here - I think if you within a niche where you could very easily turn off readers by using affiliate links, you need to be more transparent with your use of them, i.e. make it painfully clear why you are using an aff link. To take this a step further, I think affiliate links within niche blogs should be representative of a true vote from the author. For example, I occasionally use affiliate links in my posts, but only for a handful of products that I actually sue myself and would publicly advocate. I know for a fact that there are a lot of bloggers in the marketing space that will write posts JUST because a product has an affiliate program, or they will put together a post and then go hunt for all of the affiliate links - and while this may make some money, I think this is a example of how not to do affiliate marketing.
Just my $0.02.
Great point, Nick - I suppose with communities that are more unresponsive to monetization, it's important to have that transparency with them - people will either respect it or just decide that it's not for them.
Contextual and subtly, i'd always keep those in mind, if i have learnt one thing whilst blogging is that people do not like being sold too.
Agreed - it's always tough to sell to people when they aren't in that mindset. On the topic of contextual monetization, have you done much work with affiliate linking within posts? If so, what niche was it within and what ways did you find it worked best?
I run 12 affiliate accounts and we have text based link so yes, but i have never tried it for personal blogs, always stuck to banner or skyscrappers.
In terms of niches what works best, retail: womens fashion kills it, closely followed by sports clothing/ apparel.
The only personal sites I can give examples of is a womens fashion blog (I've mentioned it in the past) that i run and spin content daily on. Banners at the top of the post tend to do quite well.
Thanks Martin. So you would say stick to in-post banners as opposed to text links?
I suppose it makes it a little clearly that the banners are for advertising purposes, as opposed to the text links that can sometimes look either spammy or just like you're trying to trick someone into buying something.
I think people have grown accustomed to banners to the point where it no longer feels like a "hard sell" Although that obviously comes down to what the banner is, positions, size ect.
A text link is more leading, CTR higher and conversion better but it's more of a deceptive process.
When you have people pushing services within a industry i think text links would do better. but It's kind of subjective to how good the content is and if the reader knows or not if it's a sell.
I've bought SEO services off Matt Woodwards site based on his tutorials, i knew it was affiliate link, but that didn't bother me, because 1. he's open about it and 2. he provided good quality content to provide it's worth.
On my blog If i start pushing womens boots reviews down people throat, without genuine picture of someone wearing them it's not going to make a sell.
If i spin some celebrity fashion content and link to an item they are wearing, it's more likely to convert.
I really depends on the niche and the content you create.
Good points - I actually used Matt Woodward's blog as an example of perfect monetization the other day. I've also purchased products from Matt's in-article affiliate links and I can't actually remember the last time I ever did that.
He has an awesome way of being open with his monetization and from the time he spends on content you almost feel like you owe it to him to drop him an affiliate sale!
I think that stems way beyond the monetization method and more to the ethos of the blog itself. You're right, he's really open about it, but he always offers value in the prods/services he links to. I think that's key.
If you're offering services (as the primary source to make money from the blog), then I don't think this will be an issue. Since the more you share useful/actionable information (especially things that people can only find in your blog), the better the conversions.
With affiliate marketing/ads, I think giving so much information (for free) works very well too - given that visitors tend to stay longer (better impressions) and they also have greater chances of visiting back to the site.
For selling digital products, I believe the same thing also applies - the more you're giving away free information, the more your readers will trust you (and buy from you).
TL;DR - you make more money by genuinely helping people out (even it's for free).
Great advice, Jason. I've always found that within my digital marketing-focused blogs (Find My Blog Way, for example), I've made the most money from gaining consulting work indirectly, just from writing huge content pieces.
When it comes to ads, I've not had the same joy. This is especially relevant for my travel blog, which is REALLY tricky to monetize because it's so easy to turn off readers with too many ads, etc.
Have you found any examples of really unique strategies for monetization that are slightly out of the ordinary (i.e. not just affiliate programs or ads)?
How about dropshipping? I've been exploring this one for quite some time now, and will be launching 2 test sites soon.
Pretty much the same with Affiliate Marketing - though this one's more challenging.
Funny you should mention that because I'm currently in the process of testing a similar thing - with good results so far! (I will share the results in a few months).There's a lot of synergy with the affiliate marketing side of things but with drop-shipping you can also be looking at building a brand in the process, so there lies a few obstacles already.I'm sure that there would be ways of actually integrating this into an existing blog as well, for example, by augmenting your current site to also now offer an online shop. If you were a fashion blog, for example, then you could open up a small e-commerce section that sells some of the clothing that you mention in your site - would be endless internal linking opportunities and a fantastic way to build trust with your buyers + encourage repeat purchases.
Thanks for inspiring that idea, Jason!
Back in 2011, I started using AdSense on my smartphone site (consisting of a blog, and a more popular forum). It didn't work too well, generating around $100 per month for around 120-150K pageviews per month, for around 60-70K unique visitors. Another thing I've noticed with AdSense is that the more popular your site gets, the more cost per click (CPC) you get, generally, may be due to higher competition.
If you're running a mainstream blog that gets tons of generic traffic per month, like a funny pictures blog, I'd recommend you to try AdSense on it. Same is applicable for news/media sites.
If you've got a niche site, or any kind of a site that attracts purchase-minded visitors, affiliate marketing is your way to go.
I myself prefer not-too-agressive affiliate marketing over ugly and slow advertisements.
Another way for niche site owners, or site owners who have a certain level of expertise in a certain field is to sell a product through their blog. Kind of like how Neil Patel sells his QuickSprout Traffic System.
Awesome input, Rohit - thanks for that. I think the phrase 'purchase-minded visitors' is key here. A lot of blog owners really get this part wrong and can try to over-monetize their site in a way that puts off users that aren't in that kind of mindset.
Exactly. I've seen a few mates destroy their sites' reputations by placing too many ads, or too many affiliate banners and links. Those who could, activated AdBlock Plus, and those who couldn't, just fled away.
You can also sell an information product.
When you have a popular blog, you already have an audience that respects your authority and expertise. So you don't need to hard sell them.
That's how Derek Halpern at SocialTriggers.com monetizes his blog, and he makes a killing (the course registration fee is $700+).
Great point, Brian. I've seen a few blogs that do a similar kind of thing, especially within marketing, that have worked really well.
Something that works really great is selling something that teaches other people to make money. Your audience must be desperate.
They don't necessarily have to be desperate.
Some of the most successful information products out there teach people with money how to make MORE money (pro investing courses)...or how to go from good shape to GREAT shape (P90x).
You can do really well by helping people take their game to the next level.
Agreed - this is more of a corporate example, but Distilled's DistilledU is a great example of how this can be done effectively - Chris Dyson and a few others do Link Club (http://www.hitreach.co.uk/link-club/) as well, which is pretty similar and is a great way to generate revenue from their content (they're always linking to it within their content).
Yeah Link Club!
Yeah, I agree. :)
Create content that you are proud of first and monetize later. For example, you could set a policy that you will only add affiliate links to posts that are 1 week, 1 month or 1 year old. That way it's written purely for your built in audience, but you make money off of the long term search traffic that comes in.
That's an approach that I took to a post of mine that ended up doing well. The product I recommended has an affiliate program and after I saw the page ranking highly I went through and added an affiliate link and a disclaimer to the post about 3 months later. Still ranks well, still helps people solve the problem and I get a little bonus when people sign up.
That's a great idea, Jeff - and one that I hadn't thought of. I suppose you miss out on a lot of the short-term traffic hype but you avoid putting off those users that are probably your returning visitors checking out your latest content. Then, with the users that are entering the site on a specific piece of content, you can serve up some relevant affiliate links that offer value to them!
There are still people in this world that just want to write good content, and don't even care if they make any money or not.
This is really a broad question, and not able to be answered with one response.
Before you can monetize you need to create a community. Before you can have a community you need traffic. Before you get traffic you need really solid content.
A blog all about lawn care design would be monetized much different than a blog about programming in Rails, for instance.
The blog I most frequently write for, and own I do not care about monetizing.
I get your point, Patrick, but there are a lot of people out there that actually make a living from their blog. I get that it can be completely different from one niche to the other, and that's why I'm curious to find out the challenges that blog owners have faced during their transition to monetization.
Completely agree about the community side of things; this helps to build trust with your readers and make them feel more comfortable in converting into customers (whether that's direct or indirect).
I've never had ads or affiliate links on my blog but I've still made money from it (in a roundabout way) - a couple of clients of mine discovered me and/or wanted to hire me based on my blog's content, i.e. via showcasing knowledge. Additionally, my blog ranks for "seo cardiff" type keywords, which has led to a few enquiries.
The blog's always been a hobby for me, so the fact that it's helping me to win work as a freelancer is a massive added bonus.
I think that's one of the best ways to monetize within our industry. People that are looking for digital marketing services will always feel reassured when they can actually see that they person they are buying services from actually knows what they're talking about. Ironically, barely any of our SEO business comes directly from our SEO work - it's more from our content marketing efforts.
I've never had ads or affiliate links on my blog but I've still made
money from it (in a roundabout way) - a couple of clients of mine
discovered me and/or wanted to hire me based on my blog's content, i.e.
via showcasing knowledge. Additionally, my blog ranks for "seo cardiff"
type keywords, which has led to a few enquiries.