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September 17, 2008

How to Make Money From Your Blog

These days, most people who spend a lot of time online manage at least one blog. Blogs are the new web sites and they’re cheaper, faster and easier to build than ever before.

With all the free blog services available now, such as WordPress, Blogger and LiveJournal, you can set up a new blog in about 10 minutes and the only investment required is time and commitment.

But how exactly do you make money with a blog?

Take a look at Technorati’s Top 100 blogs and you’ll see blogging rockstars like:

Look at their sites and you’ll see the secret formula is made up of just 2 ingredients: traffic and advertising.

So how can you apply this to your own blog? How do you get the traffic to justify selling advertising space?

Let’s take a close look at these tactics:

Traffic Tactics

The blogging heavyweights spend a LOT of time building up their subscriber base and attracting more and more eyeballs to their blogs.

You too can do this in several ways:

1) Generate valuable timely content on a daily basis

This is the time consuming part. You need to make regular posts on your blog (daily if possible) that people want to read. You can either do this yourself, hire some writers, find guest bloggers, or syndicate content from other sites, either free or purchased.

2) Make your blog appealing enough to entice visitors to return

This is an obvious one. Your blog needs to provide value or generate enough interest in your readers that they will come back regularly.

3) Encourage visitors to subscribe to your blog feed

Anyone can do this but it is surprising how often it’s overlooked. ASK your blog readers to subscribe to your feed!

4) Make it EASY for visitors to subscribe

Another easy one. Make your feed button large and stick it in an obvious place on EVERY page of your blog. Use a feed format that is readable by a wide range of readers. Services like FeedReader convert your feed into a reader-friendly format.

5) Remind visitors to bookmark your blog

Another no-brainer. ASK your readers to bookmark the blog and come back!

6) Aggressively participate in social networking and post-sharing

Apart from content, the other time-consuming part of blogging is social networking. When you write a new post on your blog, don’t just let it sit there and hope for traffic. Submit it to your favorite social networking haunts like Digg, Sphinn, StumbleUpon etc. Send a link to your friends and colleagues and ask them to send it on.

Create a profile in the major social media sites, participate in the community and support other bloggers by submitting and sharing their posts if you like them.  You’ll be amazed at the amount of support and traffic this can generate. Such is the power of social networking.

7) Encourage readers to share your posts with others

Make it easy for your blog readers to promote your content by placing icons to the most popular social media sites underneath each post. Encourage them to share the posts that they like via email. Provide the ability for your readers to comment on your posts. If you receive comments, reply in a timely and helpful fashion, making sure you thank visitors who make the effort.

8) Push marketing to your subscriber base via newsletters and email

Once you’ve got a subscriber list, make sure you keep in touch with them regularly. Send them links to useful articles. Ask them to comment on your latest post. Seek advice about your blog design. Offer them something for nothing. Or simply thank them for subscribing. The key here is not to overdo the contact and to remember why they subscribed in the first place.

9) Give stuff away

Shoemoney works this angle well. Got an e-book you think your readers would like? Offer it to your readers as a bonus for subscribing to your feed. Run a competition and give away Amazon vouchers or other prizes. Better still, find advertisers who are willing to donate prizes so there is no cost to you at all.

10) Have an attractive design

Another no-brainer. The lovely anime images on DoshDosh are a major factor in the blog’s appeal. People tend not to hang around places that hurt their eyes. Make your blog a pleasant visual experience and use a soothing color scheme and design.

11) Create a sense of community

Like-minded people tend to congregate in the same places. If your blog is attracting a certain niche crowd and you are interacting with them, you’ll find that word of mouth will spread. They will tell their friends and so on and so forth. Your readers will start to “hang out” at your blog for the sense of community it provides.

12) Create some controversy

Another thing that Shoemoney is good at. Jeremy likes to drop a bomb and watch the fallout. It’s a risky tactic, but a very good traffic generator.

Advertising Tactics

The most successful bloggers gain advertisers like a magnet. How can you imitate this?

1) Attract a high level of traffic

Traffic generation is your key to getting advertisers to hand over cash to you. Once you have followed the traffic tips above and your blog is pulling high numbers of subscribers and visitors, advertisers will start knocking on your door almost immediately.

2) Focus on a niche market

The most successful blogs are verticals – those that specialize in a specific vertical market e.g. SEO, politics, humor and so on. Make sure your blog is targeted at a specific niche market and feed that niche with only relevant, related content. Advertisers will pay good money for access to a highly qualified audience in their target markets. This is because you are providing access to a market that advertisers can’t get anywhere else.

3) Have an attractive, professional looking site

As mentioned already, people like soothing color schemes and professional looking web sites. This means no obvious spelling errors or tasteless graphics. Advertisers know this and would be more likely to advertise on a blog that follows these rules.

4) Provide appealing ad options

Many blogs only provide a single advertising option, usually the 125 x 125 pixel banner ad, surrounded by 3 or more ads from other advertisers. But the blog rockstars know that advertisers like to have other options such as exclusivity, text ads, peel-back ads and skyscraper banners.

You should also think about whether you want to charge for advertising based on time frame, cost per impression (CPM) or cost per click (CPC). Providing a wide range of advertising options will increase the potential number of advertisers your blog can attract.

5) Promote your advertising programs on your blog

This one sounds obvious, but take a look at 10 blogs and you’ll see that only a couple will be actively promoting their advertising programs. What a waste! Be in the minority and promote your blog advertising by sticking a big link or button marked ADVERTISE HERE which links through to your contact form or to details about advertising rates.

6) Provide value for money to advertisers

Obviously advertisers are going to expect value for their advertising dollar. Keep your ad rates low until your subscriber base reaches a reasonable level. Provide discounts for long-term advertisers. Give them something for nothing e.g. buy 2 months, get 1 month free.

7) Respond quickly to potential advertisers

Once you receive an advertising enquiry, respond quickly and get them booked in. If you have no slots available for the current month, offer them a discount to book into a future time-slot. Be willing to negotiate with advertisers and encourage loyalty.

8) Use the scarcity principle

The scarcity principle is a well-researched phenomenon. Scarcity indicates the lack of something. When we realize that we do not have something, we desire it. Telling someone that something is not available only makes it more desirable.

Rockstar bloggers use the scarcity principle all the time to hype up readers and advertisers with the “you don’t want to miss out” factor. You can imitate this by promoting a limited no. of advertising opportunities, promoting a time-limited offer or talking about how your ad slots sell out quickly.

9) Make it easy for advertisers to pay you

Provide a range of payment options for advertisers. Allow payments via PayPal, credit card, check or bank transfer. The more options you provide, the wider range of advertisers you are likely to attract. Remember, you can’t make money unless you give people a way to pay you.

You may not become a blogging rockstar overnight, but if you implement these tactics you’ll be well on your way!