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July 11, 2007

How to Make Money Blogging - What We Wish We Knew

Posted in: Blogging for Dollars

This post on how to make money blogging is part of the ‘What I wish I knew when I first started Blogging’ Series. In this post I’ll share readers comments on the topic of making money from blogs as well as some of my own experiences and advice.

When I asked readers for their regrets when it comes to making money there was a variety of responses - from bloggers wishing that they’d started experimenting with ads and affiliate programs earlier to others wishing that they’d never started monetizing blogs at all because it was a distraction from what they actually liked doing - writing about their topic of interest.

My Own Experience with Making Money from Blogging

I sometimes look back on my blogging with a twinge of regret that I didn’t get into blogging earlier and establish myself in my niches before ‘competitors’ did. I dabbled in making websites about 10 years ago (5 years before I started my first blog) and blogged for a full year on a personal blog before even considering that I could make money from blogging or starting blogs on any focused topic.

If only someone had told me what I now know - getting a foot in the door in my niches back then could have had some amazing payoffs.

Having said that - part of me is very glad that I didn’t ‘Go Pro’ or start commercializing my blogging too early. That first 12-18 months of blogging on a personal blog was very formative. I learned so much about communicating online, building community, writing and the way that blogs operate - to the point that when I began to blog on a commercial level I had a lot of skills that helped me grow those new blogs faster.

The other great thing about that first year or so was that it gave me a love for blogging. I blogged because I enjoyed it and not with dollars in my eyes. As a result I wrote about things that interested me and not what would make money.

In a sense, that first blogging experience was an apprenticeship or training ground for what came later.

I see a lot of bloggers rushing into commercial type blogs that I think could learn a thing or two from starting a personal blog for a few months (or longer). These blogs quite often are on topics that they think will make money (rather than things they know about and love), they quite often have ads slapped all over them (instead of presenting their content as the prime thing on the blog) and they quite often have content that is regurgitated from elsewhere, uninspiring and uninteresting.

These blogs rarely survive longer than a few months because the blogger gets frustrated by the lack of initial earnings (remember it takes a year or so for a blog to ‘hit its straps’) and has no real interest in the topic to keep them blogging.

Should a blog Be Monetized from Day 1?

There’s always been debate over whether to start monetizing a blog from the day you start it or not.

Now that I’m established as a blogger my own approach when starting a new blog is to introduce some income streams from day 1 in order to set good expectations with readers - however not to slap too many ads up all over your blog (especially in the early days). Note: I’m not contradicting my last point about doing an apprenticeship before getting into blogging for money - this is more for bloggers who have blogged before and are starting other blogs. I’ve written a lot more on this question of how quickly to put ads on a blog here.

Experiment with Different Income Sources

The other main advice that I’d give on the topic is to experiment with the many different ways of making money from blogs. There are literally hundreds of options for doing it and each method will suit different blogs differently. I semi-regularly post a list of the top ways that I make money from blogging and while AdSense has always remained in my top two earners the rest of the list has constantly been in a state of change as I’ve experimented with the mix of income streams.

Also, keep in mind that your blog has to directly make money from it. Some blogs will never make much money, however they have the potential to increase the profile of the blogger to enable them to enhance their earning capacity in some other indirect way.

Relevancy and Position

Another lesson that it took me a while to learn about making money from blogs was the importance of having income streams that are relevant to the content that you are writing about. I still remember in the early days slapping Amazon affiliate products up on my personal blog that were for the highest priced electrical goods I could find. Of course they never converted. I learned over time that a lower priced affiliate product could earn me much more in a post about that actual product.

The other problem with my early attempts at an income from Amazon was my placement. I stuck the ads in my sidebar (mainly low on the page). Of course affiliate products tend not to convert so well well over there - people need to see them and if they are close to your content (or better still, in it, they’ll do so much better).

The Importance of Good Traffic

I chatted with a blogger earlier in the week who told me that he was so frustrated because his site was getting so much traffic but that he wasn’t making much money from it. I asked for more details and discovered that the guy was bringing in hundreds of thousands of impressions each week but was making barely enough to pay for his server load (which was considerable).

When I dug deeper as to the source of his traffic he told me that he was buying it from a traffic generation service. He’d heard that all he needed to do was generate a lot of traffic and he’d be rich. I explained to him that there are different qualities of traffic and that depending upon it’s source it will convert very differently with different income streams.

Bought traffic generally doesn’t convert well with advertising or affiliate programs (in fact many ad programs will ban you if you use it). Similarly, traffic from social bookmarking sites like Digg is generally much harder to monetize with contextual ads like AdSense than traffic coming from a search engine.

Do work to get your traffic levels up - but understand that not all traffic is equal. It took me a year or more to really learn this.

Reader Comments on Making Money from Blogging

OK - enough of my ramblings. Here are a few of the comments that readers left on the topic of making money from blogs when asked what they wished they knew when they first started blogging.

Adam writes - “I wish I knew I could make money from them. ”

Rose writes - “About the thing that I only really regret is that I didn’t start adding Adsense sooner.”

Jason writes - “Ad positioning. I went from placing my ads in yellow zones in the beginning, outside the content, then finally I found a code for positioning ads within the content. If only I had known the importance of ad placement in the beginning I would have made a lot more money!”

Brandon J writes - “I still wish that I didn’t concentrate on the money part of it. I have less than one hundred readers and I can tell my site isn’t very “sticky”. Most of my decisions are financially based and I wish I could just write content without worried about how much money I’m making.”

Ankur writes - “Well I wish i had considered ad placement an important task in Adsense… just by making a slight change in my ad location… i have seen my revenues growing 6 times.”

Chris @ Martial Development writes - “I wish I had known that your choice of niche will affect your contextual ad revenue by a factor of 100! And that certain niches can therefore never, ever be profitable with Adsense!”

What do you wish you knew about making money from blogs when you first started blogging?

Read the rest of the What We Wish We Knew Series


Return to: How to Make Money Blogging - What We Wish We Knew


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