In response to Chad Randall’s post detailing his 7 Levels of Revenue for your Blog I’ve compiled my own ranking list of what I consider the best methods to make money from a blog.
This list reviews my preference starting from the best to the least effective monetization methods I have implemented on my blogs. Note the list is entirely representative of my experience and I believe what monetization methods work depends heavily on the topic you blog about and consequently the type of reader you attract. This is why, as you will see, my list differs from Chad’s, although I do agree with him that AdSense is at the bottom of the heap.
The important thing is to test and find out what works best for you. Don’t assume because something is best for someone else’s blog that is the case for all blogs.
1. Recursive Affiliate Income
If you are on my early notification list for Blog Mastermind you already know why I love recursive affiliate income. Affiliate marketing is great because you sell something and you don’t have to deliver any product or provide customer service. With commissions as high as 75% you can run an online business that never produces anything, all on the back of affiliate marketing.
Recursive programs are the best type of affiliate program. When you sell a continuity product – something people pay for on a regular basis to maintain their membership – you are also paid an affiliate commission on a regular basis. If you build up enough recursive affiliate sales you can secure a stable income source.
As an example, I don’t just recommend programs like StomperNet because they are great products backed by real experts (which StomperNet is), but also because they have recursive affiliate programs. When a person signs up under my affiliate ID I make a commission every time they are charged to maintain their membership.
In your case you might have to look around to find relevant continuity products with affiliate programs to promote on your blog, but it’s well worth it.
2. Direct Ad Sales
Chad called this fixed monthly sponsors, which is exactly what I do as well and I agree with him, it’s a fantastic way to monetize a blog. There are no middlemen to take some of your profits and you can maximize the return on investment of your advertising inventory.
I’ve been selling banners off of my websites for eight years and it’s always been a consistent earner. Lately text links have become more popular, but it really doesn’t matter what the format is, it’s all about providing value to sponsors. In my experience I’ve usually had a small handful of sponsors who remain regulars and buy my ad inventory on a repeat basis. They see the value in this advertising medium and I appreciate the regular source of income.
If you don’t have one already, the first step for attracting sponsors is to set up an advertise page. Take a look at my advertise page as a good simple example to follow.
If an advertise page doesn’t translate into sponsors, and this might be the case if your blog is small or new, you will need to be proactive and look for sponsors yourself. I did this many years ago on a hobby site about the card game Magic: The Gathering. To locate sponsors I found all the most prominent online retailers that sold the game and emailed them to see if they would be interested in sponsoring my site. The end result was one advertiser coming on board and sponsoring the site for four straight years and others coming on for many months at a time.
I have always sold ads on a per month basis, but you can do per impression (CPM) or per click or even per lead. I once tried per-click for banners but unless you charge something ridiculous like $1 a click you don’t make much. Banners are simply not good for direct traffic in my experience and are better used as combination branding/exposure tool to associate your company in the minds of the people in a certain industry. That way, when they do come to decide they need something that your company provides, thanks to seeing your banners everywhere, they remember you as a provider of that product/service (in other words – effective branding). But I digress…
3. Text-Link-Ads.com Brokering Service
Text-Link-Ads is a very well known text link broker that connects advertisers with publishers who are paid to place text links on their site. The Text-Link-Ads service acts as the middleman company, taking a cut of the revenue in exchange for sourcing the sponsors for you.
From a blogger’s perspective this is a very low-maintenance monetization method. You install the plug-in, assuming you are a WordPress blogger, add a line of code to your theme template for where you want the text links to appear and then sit back and let Text-Link-Ads do the work. It’s been a proven income source for me now for many months, and while it’s not a massive return, a consistent $500-$700 a month is nice to have.
For smaller bloggers Text-Link-Ads is still an option, just don’t expect to earn a significant return or sell all your ad inventory until you increase your traffic and pagerank.
4. One Time Affiliate Income
Affiliate income takes position number four on my list too but the difference to recursive affiliate income is that this time I’m talking about products that pay out once, each time you make a sale. In this case the money isn’t quite as dependable as recursive programs since you need to keep selling in order to generate revenue, however some products have large payouts and just one sale can make it worth while.
I find there are two types of products that have sold well for me as an affiliate. The once-a-year big events like conferences and workshops, which pay out commissions ranging from $100 – $1000 depending on the cost of a ticket. I don’t usually sell many of these, but with such a high commission just one or two ticket sales can be enough. About two years ago I promoted Perry Marshall’s conference which cost $2000 to get into and he paid a $750 affiliate commission. I only sold two tickets, but that $1500 was more than I had generated in the previous year of blogging.
The other good seller is staple products, things people in my industry eventually buy. Most industries have a seminal book or a service you can’t do without (for example web hosting) and if you review these products and mention them now and then you usually can sell a few on a regular basis. Perry Marshall again makes a good example again, with his $49 Definitive Guide to Google AdWords ebook, a solid repeat seller since if you intend to do AdWords campaigns you must have this book.
No doubt in your industry there are must-have products or services that you can review and recommend as an affiliate, just make sure the margins make it worthwhile. Try the Clickbank catalog if you are stuck for affiliate products to promote or just think back over the last few purchases you made online related to your blog topic and see if there is an affiliate program for them.
5. Paid Reviews
I’ve almost stopped doing paid reviews recently, but I still think the ReviewMe service is a great way to start earning from blogging. In previous months it has been a consistent $300+ income source, but frankly I’m moving away from income sources that require output from me directly to generate. Since you have to write the review to get paid it’s far from the kind of passive or near-passive income sources I prefer, even if it does pay out $125 per review in my case.
6. Google AdSense
Google AdSense has never been a favorite monetization strategy for me. It forces you to focus on increasing pageviews and thus AdSense displays in order to earn more, which is a labor-for-income relationship, which I try and avoid. The payments are very low and unless you blog in certain product categories even high traffic sites earn peanuts.
That being said, AdSense is fantastic on sites that have user-generated content and thus traffic, because you can set it up and let Google handle the optimization. There’s almost always a higher-paying method to monetize, but sometimes the simplicity of AdSense is appealing.
7. Miscellaneous Programs
There are many other options, including ad brokering services like Chitika, BlogAds, AdBrite, AdVolcano and Blogkits. Some of these I briefly tested but did not like their system or my current monetization methods pay more.
Again, these options might be fantastic for your blog but you won’t know until you try. However in almost all cases, if you sell ads directly to sponsors you make more, it just might be harder to manage and initially procure the sponsors, especially for small and new blogs.
As I’ve said many times before, I suggest you not think about monetization for the first few months of blogging, or until you get to at least 100 visitors a day, preferably 500. Once you hit that first milestone, slowly roll out some monetization tests, perhaps starting with an affiliate promotion to your readers in the form of a product review and then work your way through the list above to see what works best in your case.
If you want coaching with the blog monetization process please consider joining my mentoring program, Blog Mastermind.