Yes, there are many different programs or methods for making money with your blog. Those are the tactics. But, if you really break it down, there are just three strategies for doing so: indirectly, directly, or marketing over time.
Each strategy is very different, so I will cover them in separate sections below.
Make Money from Your Blog Indirectly
With an indirect strategy, you are supplying some type of content, whether educational, informational, or purely for entertainment. You are not promoting a product or service (this is definitely not a sales letter of any type), and you are not sending anyone through an affiliate link or anything like that.
You are simply providing words, pictures, and maybe some video.
But, around this content (or perhaps in it) there ARE ads of some sort. Whether it be actual separate ads placed around or in the content, or whether some of your text is hyper-linked to an ad, there is a way for a person to be directed to a product or service that relates to the content you are providing.
Basically, think of it like selling advertising space, the same as a tv network showing a half hour show. The show itself is actually only about 22 minutes, while you are shown about 8 minutes of commercials. You don’t have to pay directly to watch the show; the advertisers who pay for the advertising pick up the tab.
This is powerful in a number of ways, not the least of which is that you can simply provide information without needing to “sell”, and yet you can still make some good money. By using the right programs correctly, software can automatically match up the ad space you effectively have for sale to a willing advertiser. When you step back and think about this way, it is actually quite amazing!
There are 4 main ad services that I would recommend to help you carry this off: google adsense, kontera, clickbank or commission junction with aLinks, and ShoppingAds.
Google trail-blazed the way to monetize websites in an automated way back in 2002-2003, and they are still a staple in this arena.
Once you sign up for an adsense account, you simply copy and paste some code that they give you to your webpages, and related ads will automatically start showing up on your website.
Whenever a visitor clicks on an ad, YOU will get a portion of the amount that the advertiser paid to google. (My understanding is that somewhere around 75% is paid to you, though google will never publicly disclose this amount.) It is that simple.
Now, there IS an art as to how to integrate the ads into your webpages. The basics are to keep the coloring scheme consistent with your site, so that it integrates as seamlessly as possible, and to incorporate the ads into your text so that they seem more like part of your content and less like ads. (Think about the old school “banner ads” that used to be so popular, that people have learned to generally ignore.)
You can easily incorporate ads into your sidebar using the google adsense widget, but for each page-specific integration, you’ll need to paste in the code exactly where you want it to show within the page or post itself.
For much more detail about using, integrating, and profiting from adsense, I’ll refer you to the “guru” of adsense, Joel Comm.
Kontera is a second indirect way to monetize your site, and it works WITH google adsense.
It has an advantage over adsense though, because rather than being a separate ad, Kontera hyperlinks text that is already within your content itself. The text will show up as being double-underlined (and a different color as per your specification), and when a reader hovers over the text, a small ad box will pop up. When the reader clicks on the hyperlinked word or the ad box, they will be directed to the advertiser’s site and YOU will share in the ad revenue.
You can sign up for a Kontera Account here, and then use their plugin to intergrate their ad network into your site.
Affiliate Service with aLinks Plugin
Technically, using affiliate programs is a more direct approach to marketing that is discussed below. However, when used with the aLinks plugin, it really becomes more automated and passive. So, you don’t have to worry about “selling” here. Your readers can sell themselves!
What aLinks does is to hyperlink a given word or phrase with a link out to an affiliate program of your choice, automatically. This setup has several advantages. First, the “ad” is integrated directly into your text, so that there are no separate ads being shown, just like with Kontera. However, unlike Kontera, you are not paid per click, but share in any sales. This can result in $20, up to hundreds of dollars, depending on the product.
When using Clickbank or CJ, as discussed in more detail below, you have thousands of products to choose from. And for digitally delivered products, you’ll typically earn 50 to 70% of the sales price.
You can learn more about the aLinks Plugin from my How to setup Widgets on your Blog page.
Shopping Ads is kind of like Adsense in that separate ads will be displayed on your site.
Unlike Adsense though, you will share in any sales that are made, rather than sharing in ad revenue directly. The ads that show are from ebay, and are based on keywords that you assign.
Additionally, if a vistor clicks on an ad and is not already a registered ebay user and signs up for an account, you will also earn a referral fee.
The Direct Approach: Buy This.
The second monetization strategy is the direct one. In this case, you know precisely what action you want readers to take: you want them to buy the service or product that you are promoting.
Commonly, and especially in a blogging atmosphere, a review of the product will be written up, and then a link out to the product through your affiliate link will be provided. You are credited with any purchases through your link, and typically share substantially in the sales, especially for digitally delivered information.
The advantage here compared to simply displaying ads is that you are paid as much as 50-70% of any sales that are made, which can be hundreds of dollars per sale depending on the product or service. The disadvantage of course is that an actual sale needs to be made for you to be paid, not simply just a click.
Just like prudent investors diversifying their investment portfolios to include both stocks and bonds, so should you diversify between selling advertising space and referring people to specific products through affiliate links.
So, what affiliate programs should you be a part of? I would say that there are 4 that you should definitely join almost no matter what your blog is about, and then you should do some specific market research on your niche to find other programs. Some product owners simply join “affiliate malls” that you can tap into, but others run their own affiliate program from their own site, so you need to find those and sign up for appropriate ones individually.
The 4 to join are:
- ClickBank – Mall of 10,000 digitally delivered products and software. Some products are high quality, some are not so great. I would strongly recommend buying and reading or using any product that you recommend to others, whether from clickbank or any other site.
- CJ (Commission Junction) – Largest affiliate network in the world. Along with digital products, has physical products and CPA (cost per action, ie get paid for referring “leads” who fill out an application)
- Amazon – Largest bookseller, and much more. When also using Smartlinks , any books you mention by title will be hyperlinked with your affiliate id.
- Ebay – Largest online auction. Integrates with ShoppingAds mentioned above.
For niche-specific programs and products, do some google searches on your major keywords and look around to check out what products and services are being sold in your niche. If you find some that look like solid products that solve specific problems, search on that website for “affiliates” or “affiliate program”. In many cases, an affiliate program will be available. If so, you’ll just have to sign up with the vendor to set up your own account, and all the necessary information and sales links, tools, pictures, and resources will be provided.
An example of a really strong affiliate program that I found in my niche of helping people start a home-based business by using internet marketing and blogging, that you may be interested in using yourself for your own education, is StomperNet. They have a very sophisticated program that pays out 2 levels, and allows you to play hours of free educational videos from your own site. (Ie, this isn’t something that is going to show up in clickbank!) They cover all the important SEO information that you’ll need to know (both on-site but also the extremely important off-site factors that I am not covering in this blog series) to really drive up traffic to your blog.
My point in bringing that up is that there are some GREAT affiliate programs out there, but you really need to dig around and understand your market to find all them. Joining clickbank or cj and searching those marketplaces is a good start, but you need to do more digging to find even more resources that will benefit your readers.
Third Approach: Maybe Next Time.
Overall, no matter how good your information is and how relevant the ads that are integrated into that content, and no matter how good the sales letter or genuine personal review of a product is, most people are not going to click on an ad or buy your product. That is just the way the numbers work.
But, there is a way to still get some value from the people who leave, IF you get their contact information before they go. If they don’t, let’s face it, you’ll likely not cross paths again. (Unless they specifically book-marked you, but even then there is no guarantee that they will come back.)
If you have their contact information, you can follow up with them over time, automatically, and basically at no cost to you. This lets you develop a relationship over-time, and allows you many chances to get them back to the great content and resources of your blog. The technology to do this is by using an auto-responder, which is perfect to integrate into a blog .
Another strategy is to get visitors to subscribe to your blog. If you can do that, you have another way to reach them and a way for them to grow to trust you and value your information. To do that, you should simply get the FeedSmith Feedburner plugin as mentioned here, and follow the instructions. You can then easily add a way for visitors to subscribe to your blog through an RSS reader or by e-mail. That way, any time you make a blog post, they are notified automatically.
Additionally, you’ll want to add in the Subscribe Remind Plugin, so that readers are automatically reminded to subscribe to your blog at the end of each blog post.