Reader funding is a very popular and effective way to support a blog. The readers appreciate the straightforwardness, and those unwilling to participate can easily ignore the call. The key with donation-based monetization is to be polite and not push. A small, consistent donation block on the main page is enough. Another key is to have modest expectations. Donations can help a blog be self-sufficient, but if the goal is to make a career out of the blog, then this approach likely won’t be enough.
Selling a product is a great way to make money online, but most bloggers aren’t in a position to manufacturer or host an inventory. Merchandising, however, doesn’t require these things. Many online businesses provide direct-shipping services that allow a blogger to sell blog-themed merchandise: coffee mugs, t-shirts, hats and so forth. Merchandising is an excellent alternative to donations. It has a similar appeal for the reader, but it provides them more value and has more profit potential for the site.
Generally, a blog is a platform for a blogger’s particular brand of expertise, and some of that expertise might be valuable enough to warrant direct payment. In an optimal scenario, the blog actually exists as marketing platform for the services that the blogger sells. For example, a freelance SEO specialist can use a blog to market affordable SEO services directed at other small websites. The important aspect here is that the blog must provide real value and act as a showcase for the blogger’s skills.
Paid content is another form of a selling a product, and in this case, the blogger is actually creating that product. These items are usually digital, such as e-books, podcasts and videos. There is some overlap between this and the concept of selling a service, but the main difference here is that the blogger is selling an individual item that involves no long-term commitment. It can be difficult to sell paid content directly, but platforms like YouTube allow people to consume the product and pay for it indirectly.
The most common way to monetize a blog is to sell advertising space, and the easiest way to do this is through an advertising network, such as Google AdSense. The benefit to this approach is that even new and small blogs can immediately take advantage of a pay per click (PPC) agreement. The agreement will scale with the website, and when traffic volume is high enough, the site can take advantage of pay per impression (PPI) agreements. Blogs must be careful when using ads for profit. It is very easy to alienate a reader base with the wrong ads or too many ads. Text ads tend to achieve the best balance.
In the right contexts, affiliate programs are an extremely lucrative alternative to simple ads. The reason for this is that the marketing is much more focused. The conversion rates are higher, and the profit per conversion is much higher than with basic PPC ads. The downside to affiliate marketing is that it generally requires much more effort on the part of the blogger. Amazon Associates is one of the most popular online affiliate programs, but it works best on blogs that are very consumer focused.
Most websites these days incorporate some form of social networking, and blogs in particular are very active on Facebook and Twitter. If a blog can build an active base on these mediums, then they can be used to sell products and services, to host ads, and to further affiliate programs. Social networks are difficult to do well, but the upshot is that they provide a much more lucrative ad-to-content ratio.
The heyday of the mailing list faded with the advent of social networking, but mailing lists still provide a great deal of profit potential when used correctly. Mailing lists are like Twitter in that they only require a passive user, but they’re a much more robust in terms of the content supported. The key to a successful mailing list is to provide a newsletter with real value that the subscriber is going to want to read. If that’s accomplished, the blog can effectively integrate advertisements and affiliate marketing.
Sponsored posts are potentially very lucrative because the blogger receives substantial compensation at the point of publication. What happens after that point is only the concern of the advertiser. The first hurdle is that sponsored posts typically require blogs that have significant and loyal traffic. The second hurdle is that sponsored posts can make readers feel manipulated. To avoid this, the blogger must choose opportunities carefully and must remain genuine with the audience at all times.
Earlier, we discussed the blog as a platform for a blogger’s particular brand of expertise. A blog is essentially a portfolio, and if applied well, can be converted into additional opportunities. Many successful bloggers earn additional income by writing on a guest basis for other blogs. Some bloggers have even been able to convert their successful blog enterprise into a series of speaking engagements.
In the introduction, we mentioned that the key to successful monetization of a blog is balance. Balance is achieved by being true to the audience. If a blog provides value and is transparent, the readership will embrace it and continue to grow. If a blog seeks to exploit its audience, the audience will sense that and react to it. Exploitation can deliver in the short term, but authenticity can deliver a blog with long-term, maximized profit potential.