Written by Lisa Canning
Every second two new blogs are created. According to a fairly recent statistics from blog-tracking site Technorati, the blogosphere has doubled every six months for the last three years. That’s 175,000 new blogs per day worldwide.
Blogging is a great way to build an audience of readers who care about what you care about over a period of time. And if your ideas, and the content you publish, are interesting enough to your readers, you will find that as readership grows so do the number of people contacting you who want to pay you for advertising their product or service on your blog.
At this point, you are at a “critical fork in the road” in the blogging world. Do you want your blog to become an income stream or have you created your blog to build trust and authenticity among readers who you hope to attract as customers for another service or product you offer or soon will? Is it possible to do both at the same time?
Let’s explore how to earn money, and the implications if you do, from four primary revenue models for blogs: advertising, affiliate programs, paid memberships and donations.
One of the easiest ways, in most industries, to bring in advertising dollars is through Google AdSense– a free service that will provide you with both text and graphic ads that are relevant to your blog content and hopefully (no guarantees here) your target market. However, keep in mind that in an arts related profession, it might be easy for Google to not be able to identify the market for whom your product is intended if it is not easy to classify.
All the same, if you elect to give this a try, the way you get paid is when someone clicks on the ad from within your blog.
How much you can earn depends in part on how much advertisers have bid for keywords that will link to their ads. Generally, revenue comes in the form of cost-per-click (CPC) ads, where the advertiser pays a set amount every time a visitor clicks on their ad, and cost-per-impression (CPM), where advertisers pay each time their ad is viewed on your blog — whether or not a visitor clicks on it.
Using populated ads to earn income while easy to do, comes with a price tag. While you can shut down Google AdSense from your blog at anytime, and you can block ads from general subject categories like apparel, internet services etc. as well as sensitive topics like religion, politics, and sexual issues, ads are populated randomly and certainly clearly give a commercial feel to your blog. If you began your blog from a personal point of view will this change turn off your reader who has come to feel as though they know you? Will it change their perception of your blogs value?
Another popular way to generate advertising revenue is to subscribe to an affiliate program. Inside David Cutler’s Savvy Musician website is The Savvy Musician (TSM) Bookstore, which is an affiliate revenue model. In an affiliate program model you would promote top-performing products that you feel are a good fit for the subject matter of your website/ blog by placing a text link, image or banner on your site.
In 1996, Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com, popularized this idea as an Internet marketing strategy. Amazon.com attracts affiliates to post links to individual books for sale on Amazon.com, or for Amazon.com in general, by promising a percentage of the profits if someone clicks on the link and then purchases books or other items. While you as the affiliate helps make the sale, Amazon.com does everything else: They take the order, collect the money and ship the book to the customer.
Affiliate models offer a revenue opportunity which gives you a lot more control over the impression you will make on your reader since it is up to you to select an affiliate program and associated products that you feel will be complementary to your service or product. The question is, does this deepen the relationship you have with your reader or push them farther away from you because they now believe you are simply trying to make a buck from your content?
I think this depends on your core motivation. If the product or service you offer is consistent with the type of product you are offering through the affiliate program you choose to participate in, then it would seem more logical and congruous to your reader. However, if it is vastly different then it will seem out of place and be more obvious to your viewer what you are doing and may reflect less positively on you.
Once you’ve established a broad community with a steady stream of traffic, you will know what interests your readers and what does not. This might lend itself to offering paid memberships to a portion of your content. At 500bc the blog itself is free, but a reader with a membership status can read more in-depth articles or access other special features through their paid membership model. This creates a sense of exclusivity, actually. The trick to building a successful membership programs is to make sure you can offer a consistent flow of exclusive information that your readers cannot find anywhere else.
This particular revenue model is a win-win, if done well. Readers feel that their investing in their future, and believe your blog is worth more because of the quality content you provide for a price.
Soliciting donations may sound like a big turn off, but depending upon the type of blog you’re publishing and its focus, donations can often make perfect sense. For example, if you are a painter and your not for profit organization design murals in neighborhoods that are poverty and crime stricken and you blog about your efforts working with different communities, asking for donations for your next mural project might be perceived by your reader as a great thing to donate towards. Or, if maybe you write about teen suicide and use a donation paypal button link to raise funds to support a local mental health clinic for teens in your community.
At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that you’ll get rich off of the revenue generated from your blog. So the question is, why are you blogging? On a daily basis ETA turns away potential ad revenue because we want our readers to know that we value their patronage enough to not run ads for anything other than our our own products and services from time to time. In the long run, I believe this will generate many more loyal readers, and paying customers, because of the good will investment ETA is making into our readership on a daily basis.
The minute you turn what you write into an opportunity to be paid, your reader will never look at your content the same way. So think very carefully about the ways you can make money from your blog and if, when the opportunities present themselves, they are worth it to you. The true value you place on your blog, because of the investment of time it takes you to create it and keep it up, will be a direct reflection to your reader of what you value most.
About Lisa Canning
What motivates you to explore your creativity? Follow me @IAEOU