Testing and optimization
In the beginning you won’t know which potential streams of income will work best for you. So try everything that’s reasonable for you. If you learn about a new potential income stream, test it for a month or two, and measure the results for yourself. Feel free to cut streams that just aren’t working for you, and put more effort into optimizing those streams that show real promise.
A few months ago, I signed up for an account with Text Link Ads. It took about 20 minutes. They sell small text ads on my site, split the revenue with me 50-50, and deposit my earnings directly into my PayPal account. This month I’ll make around $600 from them, possibly more if they sell some new ads during the month. And it’s totally passive. If I never tried this, I’d miss out on this easy extra income.
For many months I’ve been tweaking the Adsense ads on this site. I tried different colors, sizes, layouts, etc. I continue to experiment now and then, but I have a hard time beating the current layout. It works very well for me. Adsense doesn’t allow publishers to reveal specific CPM and CTR data, but mine are definitely above par. They started out in the gutter though. You can easily double or triple your Adsense revenue by converting a poor layout into a better one. This is the main reason why during my first year of income, my traffic grew at 20% per month, but my income grew at 50% per month. Frequent testing and optimization had a major positive impact. Many of my tests failed, and some even made my income go down, but I’m glad I did all that testing. If I didn’t then my Adsense income would only be a fraction of what it is now.
It’s cheap to experiment. Every new advertising or affiliate service I’ve tried so far has been free to sign up. Often I can add a new income stream in less than an hour and then wait a month to see how it does. If it flops then at least I learned something. If it does well, wonderful. As a blogger who wants to generate income, you should always be experimenting with new income streams. If you haven’t tried anything new in six months, you’re almost certainly missing some golden opportunities. Every blog is different, so you need to test things for yourself to see what works for you. Failure is impossible here — you either succeed, or you learn something.
Pick your niche, but make sure it isn’t too small
Pick a niche for your blog where you have some significant expertise, but make sure it’s a big enough niche that you can build significant traffic. My wife runs a popular vegan web site. She does pretty well within her niche, but it’s just not a very big niche. On the other hand, my topic of personal development has much broader appeal. Potentially anyone can be interested in improving themselves, and I have the flexibility to write about topics like productivity, self-discipline, relationships, spirituality, health, and more. It’s all relevant to personal development.
Pick a niche that you’re passionate about. I’ve written 400+ articles so far, and I still feel like I’m just getting started. I’m not feeling burnt out at all. I chose to build a personal development site because I’m very knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate about this subject. I couldn’t imagine a better topic for me to write about.
Don’t pick a niche just because you think it will make you money. I see many bloggers try to do that, and it’s almost invariably a recipe for failure. Think about what you love most, and then find a way to make your topic appealing to a massive global audience. Consider what will provide genuine value to your visitors. It’s all about what you can give.
A broad enough topic creates more potential advertising partners. If I keep writing on the same subtopic over and over, I may exhaust the supply of advertisers and hit an income ceiling. But by writing on many different topics under the same umbrella, I widen the field of potential advertisers. And I expand the appeal of my site at the same time.
Make it clear to your visitors what your blog/site is about. Often I visit a blog with a clever title and tagline that reveals nothing about the site’s contents. In that case I generally assume it’s just a personal journal and move on. I love to be clever too, but I’ve found that clarity yields better results than cleverness.
Posting frequency and length
Bloggers have different opinions about the right posting length and frequency. Some bloggers say it’s best to write short (250-750 word) entries and post 20x per week or more. I’ve seen that strategy work for some, but I decided to do pretty much the opposite. I usually aim for about 3-5 posts per week, but my posts are much longer (typically 1000-2000 words, sometimes longer than 5000 words, including the monster you’re reading right now). That’s because rather than throwing out lots of short tips, I prefer to write more exhaustive, in-depth articles. I find that deeper articles are better at generating links and referrals and building traffic. It’s true that fewer people will take the time to read them, but those that do will enjoy some serious take-away value. I don’t believe in creating disposable content just to increase page views and ad impressions. If I’m not truly helping my visitors, I’m wasting their time.
Blogging is dirt cheap.
I don’t spend money on advertising or promotion, so my marketing expenses are nil. Essentially my content is my marketing. If you like this article, you’ll probably find many more gems in the archives.
My only real expenses for this site are the hosting (I currently pay $149/month for the web server and bandwidth) and the domain name renewal ($9/year). Nearly all of the income this site generates is profit. This trickles down to my personal income, so of course it’s subject to income tax. But the actual business expenses are minimal.
The reason I pay so much for hosting is simply due to my traffic. If my traffic were much lower, I could run this site on a cheap shared hosting account. A database-driven blog can be a real resource hog at high traffic levels. The same goes for online forums. As traffic continues to increase, my hosting bill will go up too, but it will still be a tiny fraction of total income.
Depending on the nature of your blog, you may be able to enjoy some nice perks as your traffic grows. Almost every week I get free personal development books in the mail (for potential review on this site). Sometimes the author will send it directly; other times the publisher will ship me a batch of books. I also receive CDs, DVDs, and other personal development products. It’s hard to keep up sometimes (I have a queue of about two dozen books right now), but I am a voracious consumer of such products, so I do plow through them as fast as I can. When something strikes me as worthy of mention, I do indeed write up a review to share it with my visitors. I have very high standards though, so I review less than 10% of what I receive. I’ve read over 700 books in this field and listened to dozens of audio programs, so I’m pretty good at filtering out the fluff. As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a great deal of self-help fluff out there.
My criteria for reviewing a product on this site is that it has to be original, compelling, and profound. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, I don’t review it, even if there’s a generous affiliate program. I’m not going to risk abusing my relationship with my visitors just to make a quick buck. Making money is not my main motivation for running this site. My main motivation is to grow and to help others grow, so that always comes first.
Your blog can also gain you access to certain events. A high-traffic blog becomes a potential media outlet, so you can actually think of yourself as a member of the press, which indeed you are. In a few days, my wife and I will be attending a three-day seminar via a free press pass. The regular price for these tickets is $500 per person. I’ll be posting a full review of the seminar next week. I’ve been to this particular seminar in 2004, so I already have high expectations for it. Dr. Wayne Dyer will be the keynote speaker.
I’m also using the popularity of this blog to set up interviews with people I’ve always wanted to learn more about. This is beautifully win-win because it creates value for me, my audience, and the person being interviewed. Recently I posted an exclusive interview with multi-millionaire Marc Allen as well as a review of his latest book, and I’m lining up other interviews as well. It isn’t hard to convince someone to do an interview in exchange for so much free exposure.
I don’t think you’ll get very far if money is your #1 motivation for blogging. You have to be driven by something much deeper. Money is just frosting. It’s the cake underneath that matters. My cake is that I absolutely love personal development – not the phony “fast and easy” junk you see on infomercials, but real growth that makes us better human beings. That’s my passion. Pouring money on top of it just adds more fuel to the fire, but the fire is still there with or without the money.
What’s your passion? What would you blog about if you were already set for life?
Perhaps the best part of generating income from blogging is the freedom it brings. I work from home and set my own hours. I write whenever I’m inspired to write (which for me is quite often). Plus I get to spend my time doing what I love most — working on personal growth and helping others do the same. There’s nothing I’d rather do than this.
Perhaps it’s true that 99 out of 100 people can’t make a decent living from blogging yet. But maybe you’re among the 1 in 100 who can.
On the other hand, I can offer you a good alternative to recommend if you don’t have the technical skills to build a high-traffic, income-generating blog. Check out Build Your Own Successful Online Business for details.
Thanks again to Steve for the great content! Go click on some of his links! :-D