Blogging Bucks

dollars pixabay

A friend, knowing that I write on a number of blogs, asked me how much money I make from blogging. Answer: Basically, nothing.

The reason he asked was that he had read that the Huffington Post has a monthly income of $18 million. They have recently rebranded from The Huffington Post to the HuffPost and they have changed blogging. They are an interesting case study.

The site launched in 2005 by millionaire socialite Arianna Huffington used her money and her contacts to turn it into a major international news platform. Like most online media companies, they get most of their money from advertising revenue.

It was bought by AOL for $315 million in 2011. Today it is worth an easy $1 billion.

But there are also sites that are blogs or that started out as blogs that you probably haven’t heard of that make a nice profit. Club Thrifty has grown beyond a blog (but still has a blog component) and is said to have a monthly income of more than $25,000. It is a home finance blog+ site run by Holly and Greg Johnson based on their own zero-sum home budgeting.

A blog can make money from advertising, but some also use affiliate links, sponsorship, or as a way to promote and sell products, freelance work or online courses.

A very meta example is problogger.com run by Darren Rowse who is a professional blogger with a number of profitable blogs, but who has made more money by selling his “secrets of how to blog like a pro.” He earns his income by selling his blogging tips through articles and a podcast and through advertising banners, a jobs page for online writers, and the sale of ebooks.

So, how might I make some money from blogging? Although I have the occasional Amazon affiliate links (click here, buy something and give me a few bucks!), I don’t do the things that moneymaking bloggers do.

Those things would include display ads (generally sold through networks like Google AdSense) or private ads sold directly to clients. Some ads are sold by PPC (pay-per-click) which are ads where advertisers pay for the number of times it is clicked (rather tan running the ad for a fixed length of time or some other contract).

I will say that I have had offers for  “sponsored content” which is when brands and vendors might, for example, pay for a review of their product or to run a blog post that they have written. I have never accepted sponsored content on any of my blog sites. That may sound noble or stupid depending on your point of view.

The little bit of affiliate marketing I do (and so far, only via Amazon) comes from items I mention in a post (often a book, film or sometimes a product) that are part of my own content. They are not “sponsored”ads. For example, in this post I can link to books about how to blog or specifically to a book like Master Content Strategy: How to Maximize Your Reach and Boost Your Bottom Line Every Time You Hit Publish or  to the book that “inspired” this post, The Essential Habits Of 6-Figure Bloggers: Secrets of 17 Successful Bloggers You Can Use to Build a Six-Figure Online Business.

If you plan to use affiliate links, you should know some basics. If someone clicks any of these ads but does not make a purchase, you get nothing. If they click that first general link to a group of books and purchase any of them you get a small percentage of the sale. If they click on a link to a specific product and buy it, you get a bit more from Amazon. But if they click any of your affiliate links and buy anything (that is you led them to browse Amazon) you will get a tiny slice of the sale. And by tiny I mean probably $1-5 depending on the price of the item. on one that inspired this post, such as  They can make money from this by asking for that company to give them a unique affiliate link. Whenever someone clicks that link and makes a purchase, the blogger earns money, effectively as a referral commission. Places to get started with affiliate marketing: Amazon, CJ

Now, if you clicked on this link for the Lenovo ThinkPad P71 Workstation Laptop or the image of it and bought one (or buy something), you would really help me pay off my own Lenovo ThinkPad!

Also, Amazon has a threshold for paying you. If you only have affiliate sales of a few dollars in a pay period, they will wait until you hit the threshold level, yes, there are months when I don’t get a penny or my links.

Feel free to click any of these other format ads which really do look like ads and I find more obtrusive than the embedded links and images. They might be more obvious and work better. Some may show a price which in the case of a low price (book) might encourage you to click or a high price (laptop) which might turn you away.

There are other more sophisticated ways to run ads, of course. Sticking just with Amazon, they offer recommendations ads and “native” ads that can be customized to your blog’s content.

Social Media Attribution

When I first started consulting on social media back in 2005, I was introducing blogs, wikis, podcasts and the newly -emerging social networks such as Facebook.

Both with my academic colleagues and with clients, one of the persistent questions was “How do I know I’m getting any benefit from these social tools?”

Seeing the impact of your social marketing relies on attribution, which is similar to the older metric of ROI (return on investment). Both are sometimes difficult to quantify.

ROI is a very dollars-and-cents measurement. You invested $1000 for an ad buy and it produced $5000 in sales. (Some might call that ROAS – Return on Ad Spend – but I’m being simpler here.) .

In a more detailed article on Buffer, attribution is said to assign value to the channels that drove an outcome. That might mean dollars but it might not. Attribution could measure a purchase or a web visit or a download.

It is a bit of reverse engineering or backward design because you re looking at something like someone signing up for your service or just a newsletter and tracing back to determine what channel or channels can be attributed to that event.

A simple example that doesn’t concern ROI is my own tracking of the referring sites for posts on this site. I can see if traffic to a post came from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, one of my blogs or just a search engine. When someone finds me via Google, I can see what search terms they used. Those results can be surprising. I might get a surge of traffic from a search or link on a site to “Erik Satie” or from “flat web design.”

touchpoints

Attribution is generally broken down as being in three modes: Last-touch, First-touch and Multi-touch attribution. (Take a look at this diagram from digitalthought.me about more on multi-touch models called Even, Time Decay, Weighted, Algorithmic, etc.

The first-touch attribution credits the first marketing touchpoint. For example, you run an ad and monitor how many contacts you came from that ad.

Last-touch attribution credits the channel that a lead went through just before converting. Maybe you ran an ad on Facebook which someone later tweeted and the lead came from the Tweet that linked to your site for a purchase, so Twitter gets the attribution.

Last-touch is easier to measure, but both single-touch models fail to show the complete and sometimes circuitous customer journey. That’s why multi-touch attribution is used. This gets much more complicated and more difficult to track. More complicated than the scope of this post. But as an example, the time decay attribution gives more weight to touchpoints closer to the final conversion event. If your original ad is the starting point but the final purchase came after a tweet that was retweeted and then posted as a link in someone’s blog a week later, the blog gets more credit (as a personal endorsement) than the ad although obviously none of this would have happened without the ad.

Back to that question I started getting in 2005 – it is important to remind clients that social media used for marketing and as engagement and brand-building may not always generate leads or sales directly but rather indirectly.

Attribution is more complicated than this primer, so you might want to check out these sources: