I get emails on a regular basis from other bloggers that aren’t in the coupon/deal blogging niche. Maybe they have a recipe blog, a crafting blog, an ed blog, or just a stream of consciousness journal of sorts.
They know there’s money to be made from blogging, and they would like to make some but they don’t want to “sell out”.
There are those that feel very strongly that if you are providing enjoyment, education or a service for others for free, it somehow becomes less if you stand to profit off of it. Even if you aren’t actually asking your readers for a single nickle, they feel that your information is less honorable because you have sold out.
I’m not one of those people.
I give the information I give on Family Friendly Frugality freely. I do not require my readers to pay for any service I offer that is related to my website. Free emails, free phone apps, free coupon database, etc. All of these cost ME money or time, but I do not pass those costs on to my readers.
I do however, monetize my website.
I am in a niche that is very conducive to monetization. In fact, if I didn’t make money off of this blog, there’s simply no way I could keep it up. A frugal living blog with a deal focus requires constant updating, which means that in any given day, anywhere from 8-20 hours goes into the production of Family Friendly Frugality (don’t worry, I do have help). Not to mention, the traffic alone requires more than just your average $10 hosting plan.
However, what if you have a blog that isn’t so labor intensive? Maybe you update when you want and you have very little overhead?
Can you even monetize a blog like that?
Should you even monetize a blog like that?
Yes you can, and if you want to, well then yes you should.
How though? How do you monetize a recipe blog? How do you monetize a journal or picture blog?
Here are some options for advertising on any blog within any niche:
Become an affiliate
Just about every company that has an online website has an affiliate program. They know that to get noticed on the web, lots and lots of people have to be talking about them. So they start affiliate programs and in exchange for linking to them, you earn a commission off of what your reader purchases.
How do you use affiliate programs in your content without turning into one big commercial though? It’s actually quite easy. Think about how often we mention brands, products, services etc on our blogs. Maybe we link to them so our readers can learn more, or maybe we don’t. These mentions aren’t forced. They are natural and flowing and they fit right into our content. These mentions would have a place in our content whether we cared about making money on our blogs or not. Therefore, why not make some money off of them!
Here are some examples:
Journal Type Blog-
“Jimmy and I are just really having a rough time right now. My friend suggested we read this book, (Insert Name of Book here…linked to Amazon with an affiliate link), because it really changed the way her and her husband get along.”
“Next you are going to want to add all of these ingredients to your slow cooker. I use this (insert affiliate link to slow cooker on Amazon, Sears, Target, Walmart, etc) slow cooker and I find I have to add a bit more water to bring the liquid level up to about 3/4 to the top. “
“Then we realized we totally left (insert affiliate link to treasured toy) at the dr’s office! I KNEW he wouldn’t sleep without him so we rushed back. He was gone when we got there, so I raced to Target (link with affiliate link) in hopes of finding a duplicate. Thankfully, they had one left!”
Using affiliate links is really the easiest and least invasive way to monetize your blog content. Many affiliates are actually part of bigger affiliate networks, so when you join one network, you actually have access to several (although you will likely have to apply to each individually).
Here are some affiliates and affiliate networks you can consider signing up with:
- Amazon Affiliates-All Amazon, all the time. Certain states can NOT participate in Amazon Affiliates. For you, there’s Skimlinks. Use Skimlinks to monetize your Amazon affiliate links if you are in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.
- Commission Junction-Gap, Old Navy, Disney Store, Woot, Ulta, etc
- Linkshare-Walmart, iTunes, Crocs, Sephora, etc
- GAN (Google Affiliate Network)-Kmart, Sears, Lane Bryant, Target
Do you ever feel like you are just being assaulted by ads everywhere you go nowadays? So why would you want them on your blog?
When integrated into the flow of your design, ads can be a unobtrusive and logical way to monetize your blog.
The key is knowing where to place the ads and knowing how much is too much.
Also, you need to know that there are two main types of ads:
- PPC – which pay per click
- CPM – which pay per 1000 impressions
In most cases, you will have more luck with CPC ads unless you have a high volume of traffic. This means that someone has to actually click on the ad for you to actually make any money.
There are many ad networks out there that you can work with to serve ads on your site, or you can privately sell ad space on your website.
Privately selling ad space is a great idea if you are a well trafficked blog within your niche. Other members of your niche might wish to advertise on your site because they are looking for a similar reader base. Advertisers for products and services might want to advertise on your site because your demographic is actually the demographic they are trying to sell to as well.
There are some cons to private advertising though. It can be time consuming. You have to collect the payments, keep the ad space full (which in some cases might mean contacting companies asking if they are interested) and please your advertisers. You also have to come up with what you think would be a fair advertising price within your niche. A good way to do this is to go to other bloggers within your niche and ask what they are charging. It varies due to traffic and ad size, but if someone with your traffic in your niche is charging $25 for a 125×125 ad and you try charging $75 for the same ad space, you likely won’t get any takers!
If you decide private advertising is not for you, or you want to do both, you can also join an ad network and place their ads on your blog. Mostly this is plug and play. They give you the code, you stick it in your sidebar and they take care of the rest. Very easy and not much upkeep for you.
The cons with this approach is that you don’t have complete control over what ads are showing on your website. Which might not seem like a big deal, until it’s political season and a candidate you can’t stand all of a sudden has an ad serving up on YOUR blog. In most cases, you can contact the ad network and tell them if you don’t want an ad showing, but first you have to catch it!
The easiest and most profitable ad network I’ve worked with is Google Ad Sense. I’ve worked with a few other ad networks and the income varies. Be careful going to ad networks that ask you to sign a contract. In some cases, you could end up losing out on a lot of money because you contracted out that ad space for low performing ads.
Some big things to remember when monetizing your blog with ads:
- Do NOT click your own ads. That’s cause for termination with many ad networks. Many of them will shut you down immediately if they think you are clicking your own ads.
- Try to work the ads into your content naturally. Check out this hot spot diagram from Google. These are spots you want to focus on, but make sure it fits in well with your design. A poorly placed ad not only won’t perform well, it also might turn off readers.
- More ads equals more money. But many ad networks limit how many ads you can have on each page. Be sure you follow their recommendations as well as their guidelines. Remember that you need to put aesthetics for your reader first, and the money will come. Same goes for private advertising. Just because you CAN sell 50 125×125 ads on your sidebar for $30 a pop doesn’t mean you should.
- Vary it up. Test different ads in different placements to see what works best for your site.
More traffic = More Money. So don’t fear if you aren’t making much on ads at first. Over time as your traffic increases, so will your ad revenue.
Product Reviews & Sponsored Content
Okay, here we go. Product reviews and sponsored content are probably what a lot of us place the blame on when we notice that a favorite blogger of ours has really strayed from their roots. Now, instead of thought provoking posts or tasty down home cooking recipes, every post reads like a Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercial. What happened!?
To be honest, as of this moment in time, making money from sponsored content and product reviews is actually probably the easiest money a blogger can currently make. Why?
Well first off, you are paid regardless of whether your readers are interested or not (in either product or cash). This takes some of the burden off the blogger.
Most likely, the company asking for the sponsored post or product review has already looked over your site and decided that it’s a good fit for their advertising dollars, which can be pretty flattering. Especially if it’s a BIG well known brand.
Finally, advertisers understand that (for now) blogs are a worthwhile place to sink their marketing teeth into. Advertisers know, if they get in good with bloggers, they can have a slew of social media savvy writers talking up their newest product to an established and loyal audience. This means that if you have the numbers (traffic) and the clout (or Klout as the case may be), you can be guaranteed a steady stream of product reviews and sponsored content opportunities for as long as this fad lasts (and I think it will last a good long while).
This isn’t all bad.
Relationships between brands and bloggers are beneficial for all consumers. Bloggers provide valuable feedback and can help get good products out there into the general population, but they can also make real change to products and services that need it. Bloggers who adopt a policy of honesty & integrity first can review products and post sponsored content without sounding like a commercial and without selling out.
Product Reviews & Sponsored Content can have their place on your blog and earn you a good deal of income as long as you remember a few key points:
- Don’t lie. If you don’t like a product, please don’t say that you do. If you feel uncomfortable posting a bad review, let the company know you didn’t like the product and if you did post a review, it wouldn’t be favorable. In some cases, advertisers will still want you to post the review. In others, they’ll thank you for your honesty and ask you not to post the review. However, if you didn’t like the product, and you feel your readers need to know, tell them. You are never under any obligation to post a good review. Likewise, if you think a company stands for all that is wrong in the world, don’t put their sponsored content on your site. You can review products you are interested in and write for companies that you believe in (for pay) and still make good money without ever having to compromise your morals or ethics.
- Be careful that what you are posting is relevant to your readers. The readers of your recipe blog don’t want to know about Joe Schmoe’s campaign for Governor. They might be interested in what you think of that snazzy new Kitchen Aid appliance though. Don’t post a catnip review on a blog about dogs. If it’s not relevant, I don’t care how much they want to pay you, it doesn’t belong on your blog.
- Make sure your original content outweighs your sponsored content heavily. At all times.
In many cases, these opportunities will come to you as you grow and become known within your niche. They might actually come sooner than you think. I was offered my first review when my blog was only 1 month old!
However, you might need to seek them out. Here are some ways to find sponsored content and product review opportunities:
- You are in LOVE with brand x. Email them and let them know! Tell them your audience and ask if they might be interested in working with you. Cold contacting advertisers typically just involves tracking down the PR contact on their website.
- See a product being reviewed on other blogs in your niche? If you know the blogger, it’s okay to ask for the contact. They might not be able to give it to you (and they might not want to!) and you have to be okay with that, but it never hurts to ask. If you can’t get it from them, check out the website for the brand and see if you can track down a PR contact.
- Join Social Spark, or other blogger friendly groups/services that link up bloggers and companies.
You must ALWAYS disclose if you received money or products in your posts. It’s the law. You can get in big trouble. Don’t risk it.
Disclaimer–I received a free X from Company ABC to facilitate my review. I have provided my unbiased opinion of Product X and was not compensated to write this review.
Time To Make Money?
You can make money from your blog. You can make money from any blog!
The main thing to remember is that your readers are what matter most. Above anything else.
You will not make a dime if you alienate your readers.
In addition, in order to be effective monetization, it has to be a Win/Win/Win for everyone involved. Your reader has to benefit, the advertiser has to benefit and you have to have to benefit. Take one of those wins out of the equation (yes, even taking yourself out of it) and your efforts have become unbalanced and ineffective. If you receive an offer, but it’s not a good fit, you owe it to everyone involved to turn it down.
I hope this helps some of those bloggers in niches that aren’t easily made profitable. If this helped you, I’d love for you to share it with your blogging friends!
9 thoughts on “How To Monetize A Blog Without Selling Out”
I truly appreciate your timing of this post! My blog is at a point where I need to make the decision as to this exact thing….do I stay where I am at or do I expand and monetize the blog, etc…. FFF is one of my fav’s and I have learned so much from you…thank you my friend for all your support and for all you have taught me!!! You are an inspiration!
I’m so glad I could help! I was recently very convicted when someone asked me how many of my ideas do I actually bring to fruition and how many just whither away. This post was weighing on me for awhile and the other day I got an email from someone once again and I knew I just had to go ahead and write it!
So glad to help Sonya.
Thanks for this great post! I really appreciate all the info you’ve shared. I’ve been running a book blog for about a year, and just recently took the plunge to buy a domain name for it– and so I thought I might try joining the Amazon affiliate program to try to at least cover the cost of the domain name. Will it work for me? Who knows? This post made me feel more confident that I made a good decision to at least try!
I hope it does! Amazon can be great for book blogs. I think you’ll do well!
Thank you for this article! I’ve been blogging daily for nearly 2 years and making a piddly about of money, especially compared to the hours I put in. The few affiliates I had assume you already understand how everything works. This is really helpful.
Hi, I was wondering if you use a skimlinks or viglink affiliate type of service or if you hunt out your own affiliate links? They look like they could be great for beginners but paying them 25% of all commissions seems like a lot. Thank you.
I do use skimlinks for affiliates that A.) haven’t approved me (usually because I haven’t applied yet, nowadays I get approved for 99% of what I apply for) and B.) don’t have an affiliate program that I have access too (like Ebay)
I just discovered your website recently and I truly appreciate all the insights and information you have shared. You have inspired me to move forward with creating more valuable content for my website and to post more consistently. Plus, from your post you really helped to give me a clear direction on how to try to monetize my site. Your step by step guide got me started and I was able to move forward fairly quickly thanks to you. Starting with Amazon and Google Adsense. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m so glad I was able to take the first steps. Thanks again…