Money by "401(K) 2012"

Making money is not easy. If it were, everybody would be making tons of it. But making money out of an online business or blog is probably easier than doing so in the offline world—the costs involved in getting some revenue out of your website are fewer (I’m talking about hosting, DNS, and so on), which means that giving this option a try is much less risky and very attractive. There are other hidden costs, such as the time you’ll have to spend generating content on your site and promoting it that I’m deliberately ignoring… but, hey!, those also apply to real businesses, right?

So, let’s say you launched a blog and you want to monetize it. How do you do that? Well, what you have to do is monetize your traffic. There’s plenty of ways for doing that (some of which I’ll cover in this post), and they’re pretty easy to implement. However, there’s a catch—most of them need a sizable traffic, and, as you may already know, getting a lot of unique visitors to your website is not easy either.

The first problem you have to address is increasing the number of visitors your website has. This primarily involves Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for the keywords that are relevant to the topics you talk about, generating some relevant and high-quality content, and promoting all your work through social media. The more traffic that arrives to your site, the more revenue you’ll get! All this work, however, will take some time (it may be a while, actually), so what do you do in the meantime?

#1. Google AdSense and Other Ad Networks

An online advertising network is a company that connects advertisers to websites that want to host ads. In other words, you define some areas on your website that will contain ads and the ad network you’re working with will place their advertisers’ ads in there. The ad network acts as an intermediary between you and the advertiser—it’ll select which and whose ads should be displayed on your website, handle the process of billing all advertisers, and pay you for the displayed ads.

Piggy Bank by Pictures of Money
Piggy Bank by Pictures of Money

How much will you get? I can’t tell you beforehand! These platforms usually offer pay-per-click advertising slots. That is, each time a visitor clicks on a link, you’ll get paid something.

Do you like the idea of using an Ad Network in your site? Then I’m not going to lie: sooner or later you’ll end up using Google AdSenseGoogle AdSense is probably the most well-known platform for banner and text link ads. What I especially like about this platform is that it’s a contextual ad framework, which means that all the advertisements that appear on your website will be related to the topics you discuss. This means, the ads that are shown to your visitors are more likely to appeal them and, therefore, to get you more income.

Google AdSense is easy to setup. You simply need to subscribe to the service, add AdSense ads to your blog, and wait while your account is reviewed and (hopefully) accepted by Google. Once your account is ready, you’re good to go! Take a look at the following video (and the related playlist) to learn more about the platform:

The most important advice I can give you is: make sure you review and comply with their policiesSome examples of AdSense policies are:

  • Invalid clicks and impressions. Don’t click your own adds or look for methods that automatically click on them.
  • Encouraging clicks. Don’t try to fool the system by asking your visitors to click on the links.
  • Content guidelines. Don’t display ads on webpages with content that is adult, violent, or advocating racial intolerance.

Should you fail to comply with any of those policies, they might suspend your account! And, believe me, you don’t want that to happen. If it does, you will not be eligible for further participation in the AdSense program… and you probably don’t want to lose a source of income, do you?

#2. Affiliate Links

In affiliate programs, advertisers (like Amazon) use affiliate IDs to record the traffic that is sent to their website. After subscribing to an affiliate program and getting an affiliate ID, you’ll be able to promote the products or services the advertiser offers. Compared to Ad Networks, affiliate links offer more control on what’s promoted and how: you’ll be able to add links (along with your affiliate ID) to the advertiser’s website wherever you want. For example, you may add a link in a post content, or you can use it on an image ad you have in a sidebar. If one of your visitors clicks on that affiliate link and purchases something, you’ll get a percentage of the sale.

As you may already have noticed, ad networks and affiliate have an important difference. Whilst the former will pay you each time a user clicks on a link, the latter will only generate some revenue if an actual sale takes place. So if you’re tempted to use ad networks only, don’t do it an combine it with affiliates. Even though clicks are more likely to happen, the cost per click is much, much smaller than the percentage you’ll get for an affiliate sale. In my opinion, these two methods work great altogether!

#3. Direct Advertisements

As you and your blog gain popularity, a strange phenomenon will occur. You’ll be approached by people who want to promote their work on your website! Once you reach this level, you may be able to guarantee a fixed stream of revenue, because you’ll simply need to agree on a quota per week or month with the advertiser.

Times Square, Approaching Blue Hour by Andy
Times Square, Approaching Blue Hour by Andy.

As you can imagine, though, it’s much more difficult to advertise anything using this channel. On the one hand, we’re assuming that the advertisers will contact you, and that doesn’t happen often nor easily. And, on the other hand, even if you take sides in this matter and start looking for advertisers yourself, you’ll have to persuade them of the convenience of advertising in your website. In general, this means you’ll need to have data about how unique monthly visitors you have (so that you can “guarantee” that a certain amount of people will see their ads) or show the conversion rates of other campaigns you added previously. Complicated, I know, but, then again, not impossible 😉

#4. Memberships

Another option once you have a fixed stream of loyal visitors is to charge them availing your content. If they’re really into your content, they’ll be more than willing to pay. But keep in mind there’s always the possibility that some of them might leave because of the levy. Anyway, there’s a lot of flexibility on what you charge and what you offer for free. For example, you may offer the newest content for free and, once it’s one week old, charge for it. Or the other way around: charge for the newest and offer only the older for free. It’s completely up to you!

#5. Other Spaces

Finally, there are other channels that you can explode and will get you some extra revenue. For example, you can create a YouTube channel where you share videos that address similar issues to those discussed in your blog, and you can include relevant ads there. You can also place ads or affiliate links in your newsletters, which usually get a lot of attention from your readers (be careful not to spam them too much, or they may loose their interest in what you have to say). Or, if you’ve been able to establish yourself as an expert in your area, you can even consider doing things such as: talking to conferences, placing webinars, or writing books!

In Summary

If you want to monetize your website, you can—there’s a lot of ways for doing so, and all of them are complementary. None of this is rocket science, but I have one final tip for you:

Create Split Tests for Optimizing Your Ads! You should explore what’s the best location for placing your ads and test different copies for them; you never know which one will convert the best!

Widget Experiments, for example, are one of the easiest ways to discover where your ads convert the most (assuming the ads are widget-based). Don’t waste any more time and monetize your blog!

And for further information about this topic, you may be interested in continue reading How to Make Money From Your Blog.

Featured image by Money by 401(K) 2012.

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