My first piece of advice is an ironic and possibly radical one. The best way to make money online blogging, is actually to make that goal secondary. The methodology here, is that you should first, actually enjoy writing about a certain topic, whether you’re making money or not. If your blog isn’t a labor of love, then you’ll get burnt out far before you ever make any substantial money. I see it time after time where the writing is placed as a secondary concern, especially over on the Google forums.
People will install WordPress (WordPress is a useful tool, don’t get me wrong), load up some crappy cookie-cutter theme, and then slap a bunch of ads and affiliate links all over it, thinking they’ll magically make tons of money. Then, they start putting up canned and dupe content to get hits from Google, with maybe a few uninspired original writings thrown in.
They’ll run some shady SEO campaign and come complaining on the Google forums about: why are they not getting a ton of traffic, why their PageRank has dropped, or why they were penalized by Google. It’s the same sad story over and over.
On my blog here, I didn’t even think about monetizing for the first entire year (that’s a little extreme and not a recommendation in most cases by the way). I started this blog so that I can have an outlet to write about web and tech (some of my biggest interests). In fact, I probably never would have started to think about monetizing it at all, until I wrote this article about my web hosting recommendation.
That article sat there for a good long time until one day I was logging into my host control panel and I noticed an Affiliates link in the menu. I read it out of pure curiosity. Turned out, they were awarded $65 per referral. I thought “What? Wow. I’m already referring their service anyway, maybe I can make a buck off it?” and with that, comes my first piece of advice:
Affiliations with services and companies that you refer is the best way to make money blogging, hands-down. Unlike ad revenue, where ads pop up from a pool of ads and you’re paid some minuscule amount per click. Affiliations are one-on-one, where you’ve actually signed up directly with a company’s program in order to refer their products and services. You make an agreement with the company that they’ll pay you a commission, a percentage or cut of new customer purchases that you refer to them.
The problem with this is that most people sign up for as many affiliate programs as they can through CJ and Google Affiliate Network and then litter them about all over their blog, whether it makes sense or whether they would really refer the product or service to their readers or not. This is a mistake.
You should always, always, be writing content for the content’s sake, for your reader’s sake, not so you can advertise something you’ve never even used yourself before. After you’ve written a quality article or perhaps review, then you should take a look “Did I refer any services or products?” If you did, now that would be the time to go run a Google search for “x affiliate program” and see if you can affiliate with something you’re already referring anyway.
When you do this, I strongly recommend not using affiliate banners or other often-ugly looking graphics to refer stuff. Track down the simplest affiliate URL that you can and work it into a simple text link and always make sure to nofollow affiliate links, example:
If you need a purple zap gizmo, I personally recommend <a href="http://someservice.com/affiliates/2774990" rel="nofollow">Purple Gizmo 2000</a>.
Go ahead and set up Google AdSense and forget it, really. It is a legitimate way to make money, but don’t go obsessing over it. I see tons of forum threads and blog articles discussing and obsessing over how to make more money with AdSense, how to optimize for it, etc.
The bottom line, is that the more popular your blog is, the more readers you’ll have, the more potential people there will be to click on your ads. So, going back to the original piece of advice, work on your content first and foremost, and on your design and features and continue improving them.
Set up your own direct advertising opportunity where advertisers pay you directly $x amount per month to rent ad space on your site and put up their ad banners. This of course, requires more of your time.
Services and Products
Is there an underlying reason why you started blogging to begin with (besides making money of course, which we’ve learned is a failed concept)? Maybe you’re a baker that owns a bakery? Maybe you sell e-books, premium content, or other products and services. Well, why not slip a little note in every article, maybe at the end with a coupon for a free cupcake to get people into your store?
I place this last because I’m not sure I’m perfectly comfortable with this method or recommending it. The idea is to charge a premium, a monthly charge, to give people extra access to a special forum or blog or supposed exclusive content. But, it just seems like a shaky concept, considering you can find all the information you’ll ever need elsewhere on the web for free. I’m not saying that it won’t work and that you won’t be able to get monthly subscribers, it just doesn’t seem ethical. Perhaps there are some rare exceptions.
Money Making Ideas to Avoid
There are some tempting ways to make money that you should avoid at all cost. The reason you want to avoid these techniques is because even if they’re not considered spam, where you can get penalized by Google, they’ll certainly annoy or even alienate your readers:
- Do not write paid reviews that are dishonest
(where someone, for example, pays you to write a positive review about their gizmo — if it’s an honest review, however, I don’t see the issue)
- Do not place paid links on your pages
(for example, someone pays you to put “Buy Cheap MP3s” in the footer of your blog)
- Do not use pop-up ads
- I highly recommend NOT putting content-blocking ads up
(you’ve likely seen this where you are going to read an article and are blocked by an ad spot where you have to click “continue to article” to get past)
- I highly recommend NOT using in-text links like Kontera
You’ve likely seen this before where in the actual article, are spammy looking links to ads that feel really out-of-place. This will annoy and mislead readers to no end. Just because some big companies do it, does not make it okay. Sure, readers do not like ads in the first place, of any kind, but ads should never be obtrusive, blocking people from reaching the content.
In my opinion, affiliate links are fine and not misleading because they still reach their intended destination. Affiliate links get a bad wrap and people don’t like them, but really the right mindset should be “Great, this is what I was looking for and I can reward the author of this blog as well.” — Unfortunately, the reality of it is that most people feel it’s sneaky.
That’s about all I can think of for now. What are some other ideas?