How To Make Money Blogging
Published 8/19/09 (Modified 12/9/13)
Review Of How To Start Earning A Full Time Income With Just A Blog
Previously, I shared a little background overview of how I got started as an aspiring full time blogger and pursued my dream of working from home and making money with a blog. For many years, I worked a traditional day job as an attorney, whether it was with the federal government or whether it was in the private sector. A few years ago and rather unexpectedly out of the blue, I stumbled upon the idea of starting up a blog to make some money on the side. The idea was not to replace my seemingly stable and indispensable full time day job as a lawyer, but to supplement my salary with an alternative income stream. Little did I know and much to my subsequent surprise years later, my small network of profitable online weblogs would one day start reaping monthly incomes that greatly exceeded what I could earn as an ambulance chasing attorney. While I continue to balance my part time legal practice profession with my mixture of online businesses and other side ventures to this day, my blogging operations have finally grown to the point where they are now capable of providing me a stable and nearly free source of revenue - offering me a boost in a quality of life I never dreamed possible before.
If it's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that persistent adaptation, continuous self education, a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and the uncanny ability to function with little sleep - are traits that can truly be turned into financial success. Becoming a semi-full time blogger and giving up the tedious commute and traditional desk job - to work from home and earn a stable living is a reachable goal for many. The process is not easy and most of those who attempt to walk down this deceptively daunting and challenging path will undoubtedly fail miserably, but the fiercely determined and highly self motivated few will succeed - I'm living proof of that.
As entire books and trilogies can be easily written on the subject, the following is more of a quick summary for beginners who are interested in getting started with running their own profitable blogs than a comprehensive guide. Here are some of the key pointers that I've learned over time as a blogger who now earns in excess of six figures a year. I'm by no means an expert - just a guy who's witnessed and endured first hand both his personal share of lucky successes and misguided failures when it comes to the subject of blogging online to earn a living.
If You Want To Make Money As A Blogger, Blog About A Subject Other Than Merely How To Make Money Online
This is not a blog about blogging, nor is it a blog about how to make money online per se. While I do occasionally dwell into ways how ordinary consumers can take advantage of arbitrage opportunities such as advantageous 0% balance transfer offers, reward credit card bonuses, and paid online survey offers that compensate participants looking to make some extra cash on the side - the primary focus of this blog has always been first and foremost focused on personal finance and long term financial planning and investing. The emphasis has always been on the nitty gritty elements of saving money, debt reduction, and planning for one's financial future. One of the most recent endeavors of mine was to start sharing my personal net worth reports and income progressions over time. On this blog, I track and provide my own net worth tables for all to see, not to boast or demonstrate some ego-boosting bravado, but to show readers that I am just a regular guy, trying to work hard and turn my life's fruits and efforts into a future retirement nest egg. I have had a tremendous number of failures in my life, whether they be personal, relational, or professional - but I have continued to strive for my dreams. That's one of the essences of blogging - the sharing of personal viewpoints and the trials and tribulations of personal experience.
Those of you who want to quit your full time day jobs and end the seemingly endless cycle of trading hours for dollars, and start blogging online will do well for yourselves by picking a real world topic instead of dwelling in the saturated "make money online" tar pit. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with writing about your passion for blogging and generating income via your efforts on the web if that is your interest and true calling, but the fact of the matter is - it's not a topical niche that deserves the type of massive attention and copycat imitation that it receives. Like the overrated careers that populate the professional landscape, the "make money online" niche is vastly over saturated, with supply outstripping the demand, and conversion rates (the ability to convert blog traffic into income producing sales) from its natural audience of extraordinarily tech savvy readers - too aggravatingly low. It's not impossible, but I think you are better off choosing a less tapped into subject matter that's not so exceedingly rife with scams and get rich quick junk products. Frankly, the same negative sentiment can be said for the technology niche as well, although fortunately for that area of tech based information, the content matter is more broad, more varied, and perhaps sufficiently diverse to accommodate new blogging entrants.
When choosing a subject to blog about - make sure you pursue a subject that is sufficiently broad and dynamic enough where you would be able to sit down and write out 100+ new blog titles on the spot if you had to. The world is currently filled to the brim with a tremendous number of subject matters and questions that still await to be responded to with updated information. Do you enjoy clothing and fashion trends? What about cooking, parenting advice, personal fitness, or outdoor activities like camping or fishing? How about coupons, shopping deals, lifestyle do-it-yourself tips, interior decorating, real estate news, home improvement, or celebrity gossip? Those are all interesting subject matters worth blogging about with plenty of advertisers to tap into for the passionate blogger.
How To Find Advertisers For Your Blog As A Beginner Blogger
Whenever I'm at a family gathering, with friends I haven't seen for some time, or at some church function, one of the most common questions I get whenever I talk to someone about my online business (once I've overcome the blank stares after I tell them my self employment job title), is how I find relevant advertisers for my blog and how I actually get paid for my blogging efforts. Frankly, advertisers are everywhere and you just have to know where to find them. When your blog ultimately hits the big time and starts generating massive traffic, prospective advertisers and curious companies (and even advertising spammers) will naturally start tracking your contact information down. But until then, your best bet is to seek out and partner with the middle man companies out there - the affiliate marketing networks that consolidate and aggregate the various affiliate and lead generation offers out there on the Internet.
Through these affiliate marketing networks, you will be able to locate advertisers from a very wide variety of categories - all willing and able to pay you whenever you refer targeted sales or business to them through your blog or website. Many will allow you to access their affiliate product inventories and compensate you for a variety of sales referrals including - pay per click ads (PPC) which pay a tiny sum of money per text or banner ad click, pay per sign up or action type ads (CPA ads) which pay you a much larger referral cut in the way of commission percentages whenever you refer a prospective customer to them, and pay per impression ads (CPM) which pay a sum for a set number of website viewing impressions. For example, if I wanted to promote Monavie or any number of acai berry juice brands/scams for example (I don't - but just giving this product as an example), there are plenty of companies out there willing to pay me a set referral commission (hypothetically, say 5-10% or $10.00 per lead) for every new customer I refer. Picking the right mixture of advertisers depends on your blog's subject matter and your target audience.
Check out the following below recommended and popular affiliate marketing networks and companies for advertisers. Bear in mind, there are also quite a great number of specific advertisers and companies out there who also run affiliate programs, but are only obtainable if you contact them directly, and many frequently won't deal with you until your blog reaches a certain traffic minimum (on average at least 5,000 unique visitors per month).
List Of The Best Affiliate Marketing Network Companies (Pay Per Click and Pay Per Referral):
Remember to negotiate for the best commission rates and learn to leverage your ever steadily increasing blog traffic to your advantage. Your negotiation clout will slowly increase as your blog traffic increases with time - be patient. Compare affiliate payout rates and offers and go with the best rate provider. All of the following affiliate networks below provide similar banners, ads, and website scripts you'll need to get started, but each differs in the exclusive offers each carries in its inventory cache of advertisers. Many of the individual offers overlap between multiple affiliate network providers, but each of the following networks offers uniques. Be forewarned, it will likely take many, many, many months of very hard (but frequently fun and interesting) trial and error work before you'll figure out how to maximize your ad revenue, but if you are persistent and are constantly learning, you'll figure it out in time. Trying signing up and tinkering with each affiliate provider to get started:
- Google Adsense: The most well known and best pay per click advertising network is run by Big-G. Google's highly targeted contextual advertising program is a must have if you are a beginner to blogging. Just run the Adsense script on your blog and ads relevant to your content will automatically be displayed. Pay per click income is great for beginners but its usefulness tapers off in income potential after your site gets bigger.
- Amazon Associates: With this popular and versatile program, simply link to Amazon.com related products for affiliate income earning potential. Very useful and scalable for even mature sites.
- Ebay Partner Network: With the eBay affiliate publisher program, you can link to any specific eBay auction or link to an eBay ad based on keywords to get a commission cut of the sales generated.
- Linkshare: Lots of very nice ad exclusives but less customer support and attention then I'd like. But in general, the exclusive affiliate offers are worth signing up for as you can't get them anywhere else.
- Commission Junction: The 800 pound gorilla of pay per action ads. Like them or not, they are the biggest of the advertising networks.
- Flex Offers: Run by the same guys who run CardOffers.com. A personal favorite of mine as my longtime rep has consistently offered me the best affiliate payout rates. Lots of great exclusive affiliate offers for a diverse selection of categories.
- CardOffers: A very popular choice for credit card sales and affiliate referrals if you are into the financial niche. The best credit card payout offers have all but dried up recently however. The economy is to blame.
- NCS Reporting: Owned by Bankrate.com, it's one of the biggest credit card referrals company. However, payout doesn't seem as consistently high as CardOffers and account security was a problem for a while (major breach of my account by cunning online thieves).
- Acclaim Network: Allowed me to run Citibank credit card links as a new start up blog when the other card affiliate companies wouldn't permit it. Payouts are pretty low though.
- Commission Soup: Invitation only affiliate company that offers great service and good payouts on most of their affiliate offers.
- Market Leverage: Great referral program and an up and coming affiliate network company. Market Leverage is big among big name bloggers.
- PepperJam Network: Another up and coming ad company that's popular among established bloggers and affiliate promoters.
- ShareASale: Provides a variety of affiliate companies to pick from.
- Chitika: Touts quite a number of search targeted ads similar to Google Adsense
- Google Affiliate Network: Seems like a blatant conflict of interest to me, but Google does offer a few exclusive deals. Not a well developed affiliate network as of yet however.
- Text Link Ads: Used heavily during its heyday, but has grown somewhat taboo these days as a means to build up page rank based search engine authority, but some sites still use them. I personally don't, but that's because my site's been around for a while now and I don't need to use such services, which are better suited for beginners perhaps.
- Azoogle Ads: Affiliate network that allows publishers to buy and sell text links and various ad space.
- Clickbank: Offers primarily text links, random ads, and e-books of all sorts (big chunk of those offers are targeted at the make money online MMO niche).
How To Start Blogging For Money and Generating Blog Traffic
As there is simply no way I can write down every single advanced blogging technique and trade secret strategy I have about how to make money online and generate money with a blog (there is just too many), I'll share just the basics as this is a post primarily to serve as a call to action for beginners. Here is how you can get going if you want to start getting serious about blogging as a way to replace your existing full time job and for you to start working for yourself. As entire blogs and books can be devoted to the subject, the following is just a basic primer to help newbies get started on the road to blogging for income. Please don't fall for those stupid and utterly useless Shortcut To Internet Millions and related eBay type scams that promise lots of money with no effort and no computer know-how. Don't be misled - you will need to work very hard, for months or years, but making money online with a blog is possible. The following are the entry level steps I took to get started blogging:
1) Register A Domain Name and Purchase A Monthly Web Hosting Service: I recommend starting out with a free Blogspot.com or Wordpress.com account as a way to get your feet wet into the wonderful world of blogging. However, for long term brand name and website setup purposes, if you plan on making this whole blogging deal into a serious venture, I very strongly recommend registering for a formal domain name and choosing a paid web hosting service sooner than later. After all, doesn't MoneyBlueBook.com seem much more professional than say - moneybluebook.blogspot.com?
- Get A Domain Name: Go with GoDaddy.com for your domain registration needs if you want to go with the service that most people are using at the moment. GoDaddy is a very popular registrar choice for bloggers just starting out. I personally use Dreamhost.com for my domain name registrations - but that's only because they're the company I started out with and I want to stay consistent. Good luck finding a short domain name however - it seems like all of the juicy domain names are all taken, especially the coveted "dot com" ones.
- Get A Reliable Web Hosting Provider: MoneyBlueBook.com is currently hosted on a dedicated LiquidWeb.com server. I pay about $150 a month for excellent and very reliable hosting, but that's because this blog generates pretty decent traffic. Liquidweb is more expensive than other companies, but I've found their service to be extremely reliable with an excellent uptime track record. Most start up blogs can probably run sufficiently on a cheap shared server at least for some time with a hosting company like BlueHost, GoDaddy, or DreamHost for about $10-20 a month. But ultimately though, you get what you pay for. Cheap hosting equals unreliable up time. It's not a big deal when you're just starting out, but it'll kill your business when your sites start generating serious traffic.
2) Install and Learn To Use Wordpress: Wordpress is the best and most reliable blogging platform to date. Some popular blogs out there are still operating off of other blogging programs like Blogger, but most are steadily migrating to Wordpress. Most professional web host providers can help you install this very powerful and versatile free blogging tool for you. It will take time for you to truly master the ins and outs of Wordpress blogging and learn how to fully utilize all of the Wordpress plugins and widgets available, but once you get the hang of the versatile blogging tools at your disposal, you'll find the free Wordpress software to be quite indispensable.
3) Start Blogging On A Daily Basis and Pace Yourself As A Writer: The key to surviving as a blogger and building a sustainable future as a blogger capable of making a living online through blogging - is to stay consistent and not get overly burned out too soon. At the start, there is a natural euphoria of excitement as you start witnessing the blogging traffic fruits of your efforts, but don't let the initial excitement force you to over exert yourself. Similarly, during your blogging journey, at some time or another, you are likely going to get stricken with an affliction of what's popularly known as blogger's block (aka, writer's block). But fear not - even seasoned bloggers experience this feeling of laziness and lack of motivation on frequent occasion. Cut back on your blogging activities if you have to but don't give up.
When you first start out, your readership will be pitifully few, but that's absolutely normal. Don't stop writing quality content as that is the only way you will generate readership in the very long run. This feeling of blogging loneliness and frustration caused by lack of traffic may persist for many months, but if you are to succeed, you must give it time. It takes a lot of time to get accepted into the good graces of the search engines and for strangers to organically discover your blog through the series of tubes of cyberspace. From the time I personally started blogging with the intention of ultimately making money online, it took 12 months or so before I finally started to generate a substantial income from my blogging activities. Blogging is easy to get started but difficult to truly master.
4) Learn To Monetize Your Blog Readership and Increase Your Blog Traffic: Blogging should always be a work in progress. You should always be adapting and finding ways to do existing things better. Even after you've started to generate traffic and establish a cadre of readers, you should be constantly trying to figure out ways to increase that traffic and tweak the effectiveness of your advertising pitches. Strategic Google Adsense placement, targeted blog titles, and improved search engine optimization updates are ways to boost your income and traffic.
Getting listed in search engine submissions, blog directory listings, exchanging blog rolls, swapping reciprocal text links, participating in blog carnivals via blogcarnival.com, guest posting on other blogs, writing comments in popular online forums, participating in popular and related blogs, article marketing, as well as engaging in social media sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Facebook, mySpace, and Twitter - are all valid ways to get traffic but you'll need to experiment with each one to find out what truly works in terms of improved monetization and what methods are just ways to generate exciting blog traffic numbers, but that don't actually convert into tangible sales. Tip: Social media marketing is vastly overrated for monetization purposes as social media readers are not looking to buy or have their specific questions answered - thus targeted, organic search engine traffic is key. If you want to make money blogging, you had better be praying to the great temple of Google and figuring out what the Google gods want in the way of blog content and optimization.
5) Never Stop Learning, Experimenting, and Examining Your Competitors: You should never be trying to re-invent the wheel. One of the best ways to improve your own blog and blogging approach is to learn from the techniques of others. Take a peek at your competitor's blog or visit your favorite blogs to see how they monetize and how they structure their blog content for clues as to their success. Don't worry about feeling like a spy - after all, more likely than not, they are peeking right back at your website as well. That's what smart businesses do - they examine their surroundings, learn from the best, and constantly improve. After all, if you owned a struggling ice cream shop, wouldn't you secretly visit competing ice cream stores that are more successful than yours to figure out why and how those shops are able to generate more ice cream sales than yours?