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.

Better Blogging

laptop writing

Over the 12 years that I have been blogging, I have read about the rise of the blog and the fall/end of the blog several times. As I watch blogging go through the “hype cycle” (that branded tool created by Gartner), what remains consistent is what makes a good blog and blogger.

That cycle is said to be:

  1. Technology Trigger
  2. Trough of Disillusionment: a time of some disappointment
  3. Slope of Enlightenment: it becomes more broadly understood and used
  4. Plateau of Productivity

I would say that blogging has been through all 4 and has returned to 2-4 again. Right now, it sits on that Plateau of Productivity. They are used for personal and business reasons.

What makes a better blog? The so-obvious-it-is-overlooked key to a good blog is that it has good content. I would overlap this with having regular content.

If you don’t have something useful to say, don’t post.

I schedule my posts so that there is regular content. On one of my blogs, that means 2 or 3 posts every weekend, but on others that means one per week. I am blogging several times a day, but not on a single blog, but across them.

When all this Web 2.0 began, one of the things that was appealing about writing a blog was that you could have subscribers who could follow your posts and receive them through email or a reader app. This ability (via RSS) gives you a powerful push technology that had previously been something only the big media newspapers and magazines could use.

But you won’t hold onto followers (“subscribers” seems to have fallen away – perhaps because it implies payment) if they don’t get something on a regular basis to read.

When your blog has some readers and a decent archive of posts, you can start to get a sense by looking at the analytics about what posts get the most attention and what search queries brought them to your blog. Does that mean you should change what you write based on those stats? It depends.

If your blog is about hiking the Appalachian Trail but the greatest attention goes to posts about equipment should you turn it into an equipment blog? I wouldn’t. But I would consider having regular equipment posts and perhaps working equipment into other posts.

Include images in your posts. They do attract attention. Make sure you have the rights to those images. The best thing to do is use your own, but otherwise use images from some of the royalty-free sites (Pixabay, Pexels and others) and Creative Commons.

This is also true for videos. Use your own or embed ones from YouTube and Vimeo or any site that allows this.

Social Media is required. All your posts should be shared on multiple social media platforms available. This can be your personal social accounts, but I would advise creating new ones for the blog, especially if it is a project or business. If I follow your blog on Twitter but many of the posts are about you, your family, your politics etc., I will unfollow you. My blog, Endangered New Jersey, has its own Twitter account separate from my personal one.

My blog analytics show me that besides Google searches most of my traffic comes from Facebook and Twitter with a bit from LinkedIn.

 

Some bloggers send out a newsletter, but I’m not a fan of them. You can share the best content of the week. MailChimp is a popular way to do that and it is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.

You should always use categories and keyword tags on posts. As the blog grows, people will often follow a category or tag, and it’s great to be able to find other related content with a click.

 

 

Don’t ignore word-of-mouth for your marketing. It is powerful. You might want to have guest bloggers write occasionally. “Experts” attract attention and add authority to your site.  You might also be a guest blogger on other sites.

Comments are controversial. I have blogs where I had to shut off commenting due to the amount of spam that hit. If your blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic, you can probably set comments to be approved before they post. I do that on several blogs. WordPress is quite good about snagging blatant spam and it doesn’t take long to approve the comments I do get. Comments are a good thing, when the comments are good.  Engagement with your readers is very good.