Bloggers everywhere are picking up their spears and lighting up their torches, preparing to come knock down my door and burn me at the stake for that headline. If you’re one of those who clicked on the link to this post out of anger, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Let’s get down to business.
First of all, before you get too fired up, go back and read that title again.
Ok, did I say “Why You Can’t Monetize Your Blog“, or “Why You Won’t Make Money From Your Blog“? Nope.
This post is not me up on my high-horse telling you that you’ll never make a dime from your blog. This post is me knowing a thing or two about a thing or two and sharing it with you in hopes that you will make money from your blog, but without making the almighty dollar your main focus.
Got it? Good.
Let’s get something straight, shall we? It’s perfectly OK for you to monetize politely and authentically, but it’s not OK to start a blog with the sole intent of making money. In other words:
How do I know that’s a bad idea? Because I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
I got caught up in the blogging frenzy of sponsored posts and monetizing ideas and ads and everything else trying desperately to make enough money to quit my job.
Want to know what happened?
- Seriously crappy blog posts that lacked value but made me a few bucks
- Inflated analytics that were bought & paid for with giveaways rather than hard-earned with quality content and engagement
- Loss of passion
That last one? That’s what made me hang it up. I’m going all Sophia from the Golden Girls on you for a minute.
Picture it: One Tough Mother, my first blog. December 2013.
I was working my little bloggy fingers to the bone to pump out yet another half-ass blog post to make a few bucks, all while holding down a full-time job and sacrificing any spare time I had with my family to be working on the blog.
One morning, I woke up, and got slapped in the back of the head by God Himself, giving me an all-too-clear vision of what my future would be if I didn’t walk away. It wasn’t pretty.
My daughter was growing up without my involvement. My husband was spending countless nights alone in front of the TV. My life was passing by at warp speed and I was on the sidelines watching it go by.
So, I walked away. I had pageviews in the six figures, a part-time income, and my Facebook fan count was growing by a couple hundred a week. And I walked away.
It took me six months to pick up my proverbial blog pen again, and when I did, I gave myself a strict set of rules to go with it.
- I’ll blog by my own standards, not someone elses.
- I’ll create my own brand of success.
- My family is priority #1, no matter what.
- I’ll say “no” to things that don’t fuel my passion or guide me toward my purpose.
And I’ve stuck with it. That was May 2014, and in just over a year, I’ve been blessed with more success than I ever saw in a combined 3+ years before I took time off.
Now I could leave you with some nugget of wisdom about staying true to yourself and all your dreams will come true, but that wouldn’t do you any good, right?
I want to help you. That’s why I’m here. So no matter what stage of your blogging career you’re in, I have advice that will help you monetize politely and authentically, without losing yourself in the process.
Let’s do this.
WHAT IS YOUR MISSION?
First things first,
I’m a realist you need a mission statement. (Sorry, my inner-Iggy pops out every now and then.)
What is a mission statement, you ask? It’s your commercial. You’re “elevator pitch”. It’s how you define what you do and why you do it to your target audience.
But it’s more than that.
It’s also how you determine if something is in line with your goals.
My mission for Sweet Tea, LLC is to educate, inspire & encourage the overwhelmed and overcommitted woman and blogger who has lost sight of her passion. After losing my own passion & walking away from a blog I built for 3 + years, I have learned my purpose, and want to help other women do the same.
Through valuable educational tools, inspiring creative projects, and encouraging community engagement, I enable you to pursue your passions and connect with a community of like-minded women. Break free from comfort zones, define your own brand of success, and live a life of passion.
I learned from the always-epic Regina of byRegina.com how to craft a mission/brand statement, and I want to share it with you.
A mission or brand statement should answer four questions:
- Who do you serve?
- Why do you care?
- What do you actually provide?
- What makes you different?
Take some time to craft your mission statement. Then once you have it, make it public. Mine is front and center on my home page. You can put it on your about page, sidebar, or wherever you think is best.
Your mission statement serves two main purposes:
- To let people know what you do and why you do it
- And to give you a gauge for all the future work you will do
Consider it your measuring stick. Got an offer to do a sponsored post? Great! Does it align with your mission? No? Then say “no”. Or change your mission.
Alright, let’s get to the meat of the matter…
I’ve broken all of us bloggers into three main categories to make things a bit easier. We’ll begin with the newbs.
CATEGORY #1: BABY BLOGGERS
You’re just cutting your teeth on this whole new shiny blog thing and you know that money is out there and can’t wait to sink your teeth into your first paycheck!
Slow down sister! Not only should you not blog for the sole purpose of a paycheck, but making money should be the last thing on your mind when you are just beginning to blog.
Baby bloggers need to focus on CONTENT, among other things. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:
Think about it: Would you, as a brand or business, want to invest money into a blogger who has a handful of posts, no engagement, and no real sense of direction? Probably not.
Just like anything else in life, learning to be a good blogger takes time and hard work. There are plenty of people out there who have books or courses or whatever designed to help you “Grow Your Blog Fast” or “Make $1000/month in 6 Months!” or “Start a Blog The Right Way!” or whatever.
That’s all fine and good, but I truly believe we have become too focused on monetizing and not focused enough (or at all) on creating great content and building engagement with our readers.We have become too focused on monetizing & not focused enough on great content. Click To Tweet
That’s what baby bloggers should be focused on. Here’s a handy list:
- Developing quality content
- Engaging with the community
- Improving photography
- Learning the in’s and out’s of blogging
- Promoting & growing your readership authentically
- Building an email list (I can help with that)
- Finding your voice
All of those things will make a massive difference when you are finally ready to graduate from “baby blogger” to our next group…
CATEGORY #2: INTERMEDIATE BLOGGERS
You’ve been blogging for a while, have built a pretty good gallery of posts all tied to your niche, and you’ve learned how to blog authentically. Now you’re ready to start making some money.
ADS & AFFILIATE LINKS
Ads on your sidebar, in your header, in and around your post, and even on-image ads are a super easy way for bloggers to earn a little coin, but just like everything else in life, moderation is key. You don’t want your blog to turn into something that resembles the Las Vegas strip.
There are literally dozens upon dozens of networks out there who work with bloggers, but a lot of them have minimum pageview requirements, and you might not be there just yet as an intermediate blogger. Does that mean you can’t have ads? Nope!
Google Adsense is probably one of the most used advertising platforms for bloggers, and is super easy to set up. Essentially, you’ll create your Adsense account, link your URL, then start displaying ads on your blog. You will get paid based on clicks and pageviews.
Rather than getting wordy on the how-to’s of Google Adsense set-up, I’ll just send you HERE, and let Fabulous Blogging give you the 411.
Want more control over the ads on your site? Passionfruit allows you to sell ad space on your blog or website. You can also buy ad space from other bloggers. There is a fee to use this service, and I’ve heard mixed reviews about their customer service and technical support. Just like anything else, do your own research before forking over cold hard cash for any paid service or feature.
Infolinks is not your typcial advertising platform. Rather than sidebar or header image ads, Infolinks provides in-text ads. Have you ever been on a blog and noticed a word or phrase highlighted or underlined, and when you hover your mouse over it, a little ad pops up? That’s Infolinks.
You can select the types of in-text ads you wish to run on your blog, and control (to a degree) how much content is linked to advertising.
A word of caution: I used Infolinks for years before deciding to turn them off on my blog, Sweet Tea & Saving Grace. I received multiple emails from readers explaining that one of my links sent them to a malware site. After some research, I discovered it wasn’t one of my links, but an Infolinks ad. I did contact the company and that advertiser was removed, but it left a sour taste in my mouth. The payout was decent, though.
Becoming an Affiliate
What is affiliate marketing? It’s a type of advertising that rewards you with an incentive when you send business to someone else. Let’s say you sign up to be an affiliate for my ebook, An Inbox of Opportunity. Each time someone purchases my ebook using your unique URL, you’ll get a small cut of the purchase price.
Everyone from huge brands to your average blogger uses affiliate marketing because it works. How do you get started? It’s as simple as signing up!
You can start by checking the websites of companies you shop from, services you’ve used, and brands you know and trust. (Hint: Scroll to the bottom of the website and look for “Affiliates” in the footer menu.) Here’s what that looks like on the Target website:
A lot of larger brands, like Target, use third-party services for their affiliates, like Commission Junction or Shareasale. Signing up for an account on these sites allows you to shop for other affiliate companies.
Payouts might be better, however, when you become an affiliate for smaller brands or other blogger’s products or services, or even blog-specific companies. For example, you might notice on my sidebar that I have ads for Genesis Framework and Restored316 WordPress themes. I am an affiliate for both of those products. I use them myself and love them, and recommend them to other bloggers.
Keep an eye out on your most frequently visited blogs for products and services they offer. Chances are they have an affiliate program that you can participate in.
A FEW NOTES ABOUT AFFILIATE MARKETING:
- Just like anything else in life, moderation is key. Don’t clutter your blog with ads and affiliate links.
- ALWAYS disclose affiliate links. Always. It’s the law, and it’s just the right thing to do.
- To get even better payouts for your affiliate links, write a blog post about that particular product or service. HERE is an example of my own.
**You may have noticed I didn’t mention Amazon affiliate marketing. A ton of bloggers use Amazon affiliate links and make good money doing so, but I personally don’t use them. Amazon has their own set of rules, one of which does not allow you to use Amazon affiliate links in your email marketing. This means that, if you write a blog post and include Amazon affiliate links in your posts, you have to be sure that none of those links appear in your RSS-driven campaign for that post. That isn’t make or break for me, however. I just choose to promote other products & services on my blog without using Amazon.**
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and do epic stuff with your blog!