How to create and monetize an effective blog

Creating and monetizing your blog can be a daunting process, but if done correctly, will not only bring you in a good stream of money, but it will improve your blog to your readers too!

There are many ways to monetize your blog (just search “ways to monetize blog”) and you’ll get vast number of hits, even a site that claims to have 101 ways to do so. I’m not going to even try to beat 101 ways, but I’m going to lay the groundwork for you so you know how to go about fattening your wallet — but not at the expense of creating a viable blog, of course. You should start a blog if it’s about passion and love for what it is you want to do. Not to make money.

Why should you listen to me? Because I have almost five years experience with blogging. I jumped into blogging before it exploded and have a lot of experience with it. I own and operate MVN.com, an independent sports media Web site and have experience with the business side of blogging therein. I offer the following for your knowledge, should you choose to accept it.

First, the content is key.

You cannot bolster traffic (traffic begets advertisements) if you do not follow several key tenets of bloggers. You must have proper spelling and grammar, of course. Get an editor if you have to. Write consistently and give your readers an opportunity to expect new content on your site when they hit it. Don’t let them cross their fingers and hope for new content. Let them expect it. Whether that’s daily, multiple posts a day or every other day, be consistent. You need to have a clear idea of what your blog is. Yes, you know the topic, but what’s your voice? Are you analytic? Humorous? Newsy? Opinionated? Find a voice and stick with it. Compel your readers to comment by constantly asking questions and challenging their thought process, then respond to these comments.

Keep your articles short and sweet. This is the internet age, and trust me: no one will stick around to read an article that makes you scroll the page ad infinitum. A good rule of thumb is to stick to about two to three scrolls, and that’s assuming that your blog section isn’t from one end of the screen to the other. Break your paragraphs up, it’s far easier on the eyes and makes the content more digestible. Long paragraphs equal readers leaving. Oh, and it helps to be controversial. Should you be controversial all the time? That’s up to you. But the occasional controversial article will bring traffic and comments in droves.

Lastly, photos, photos, photos. You need to live and breathe photos. There is a reason newspapers use photos, and no, we’re not talking about the seminal photos. We’re talking ones that couldn’t matter less, the ones shoved deep in the paper that’s a headshot of some person you will never meet or care about. It’s about breaking up content. It’s about giving the reader’s eye a visual key and a way to identify with the article in question. If you’re not a believer in photos, then you’re not a believer in making your blog the most attractive — and by not making it the most attractive, you’re turning down money. And photos are incredibly easy to come by. For one, Flickr allows you to search for photos which can be used with proper attribution in their advanced search. There’s an application called PicApp that gives you actual photos from the AP, Getty, et. al and the way they are able to give it to you is because with each photo comes an advertisement that they make money on. It is extremely simple to find a photo and to put it on your blog that it’s heretical if you do not.

If you do all of the above, the readers will come. And with readers? Advertisers. But not so fast… we need to get you a community too.

Second, build your community.

One huge benefit of being part of a blog network is that you almost instantly get a community. That’s good. But how can you get more? And for those just starting on their own, how can you even get any? The answer lies in the word “proactive.” Go chase down other blogs that have similar content (your “competitors,” if you will) and ask them to exchange links. This will get the writers aware of your blog, and they may choose to make your blog a place to stop by. Remember, first impressions are key. When you e-mail them and ask to exchange links, they will visit your site. Make sure your site is presentable and has consistent content. Again, readers and bloggers alike will stop coming to your blog if you don’t blog consistently.

Another thing to do is to leave comments on other blogs with a lot of traffic or even message boards, and always putting a link to your blog as part of your signature. Don’t leave comments saying things like “Yeah, I talked about it on my blog. Here it is.” And then leaving. Be a part of the discussion. Engage. Inquiring minds will want to know more about you, so they’ll click through. You can also ask other bloggers if you can place a guest column on their site, do a question and answer session, participate in a roundtable… the choices are endless. Blogging is a very open community. While you are certainly competition, it is a friendly rivalry and everyone is interested in helping each other out. Why did you start blogging? Your team was your passion and you wanted to share it. They’re the same way.

Now you have your community… which will be the people clicking on your advertisements.

Again, though, there’s one more step…

Third, make your blog attractive to advertisers.

You will quickly learn that the word “PageRank” is what advertisers eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and any other imaginable deal in between. To be honest, most (text) advertisers couldn’t care less about readers clicking through and actually using their product. Sure, that’s always nice. But the link is where they put their money, because the link has huge implications in search engines. The more a Web site is linked to, the higher up the search results page they climb and the higher the page rank is, which means the more chance a reader searching for their product will click on them. So you want to optimize your search engine ranking (Search Engine Optimization). How can you do that? Follow the three-hit rule. Your blog should have a unique name and that name should be reflected in your domain and your summary of the team. Head over to Google and type in “apple.” What comes up? No, not the fruit. Apple.com comes up. That’s hit No. 1. The title is simply “Apple.” That’s hit No. 2. And hit No. 3 is that the word “apple” is in their summary three times. Make your blog have a unique name, make that name reflected in the domain, and refer to your blog constantly by that name. Someone who comes across your blog but can’t remember how to get there can just google your blog name in the search engines and boom — they’ve got it. You’d be surprised how many readers you get this way.

As for PageRank, the more you are linked to, the more traffic you have, the more cachet you have. The higher the PageRank, the higher advertisers are willing to pay to get on that page. 6 is fantastic. 4 is good. Anything less… well, get going! Web sites with higher PageRank cause search engines to pay more attention to where those sites link to. There is one drawback, though: Google is very aware of the way advertisers try to manipulate the system, so if they “recognize” that the outgoing links on your page are text links, your PageRank takes a hit. Your PR takes a hit, your wallet takes a hit. So what can you do? Well, you could add a “nofollow” tag — that tells the search engines not to pay attention to these links — but then the advertisers will leave you entirely. It’s a rock and a hard place. You can’t win either way, so just take the money and run.

Blogging Librarian, Flickr

Okay, now we’re ready to talk about the principal ways to advertise.

Lastly, get the advertisements.

This is actually, believe it or not, the easiest step.

The easiest and fastest way to get advertisements is text advertisements. For the most part, these people will come to you. But for a blog striking out on your own with no significant traffic or content, it’s best to hold off until you build it up. The companies that deal in text link advertisements (99 percent of which are ticket brokers, the other 0.9 percent are sports gambling sites) will find you. You can also go find them by going to virtually any blog and looking for their text links. Click through and then find a contact e-mail on that site and make your pitch. They give you money, you slap an advertisement on the page. It takes minutes, it’s inobtrusive, and to you, it’s basically free money. Another type of text advertisements is Google Adsense, which is by far the best option for you to pursue.

I can’t stress enough that you go after text advertisements. As I mentioned, you can just go to virtually any blog page and find the section devoted to text links (of mostly ticket brokers) and e-mail them asking if they would like to advertise. It’s a good source of cash that requires minimal time investment past the first big batch of e-mails you send out. They pay in a lump sum.

Adsense is your best friend (if not fickle, though). It requires no maintenance and you can decide where it goes and how it looks. It’s a constant stream of income that only requires you to sign up and put the code in and then get a check in the mail every month. One pitfall is that Google is extremely stringent about fraud, so if you click on your own links (yes, even if you want the product) or they detect someone clicking on the links many times to drive up revenue, you’re done. They’ll cut you off and never let you back on. It’s a one-and-done program, so proceed with caution. Adsense pays per impression (page load) and click. You get more money if someone clicks on the link, but relying on traffic alone with zero clicks will still bring it in.

You can also put in display advertisements (all those fancy flash advertisements that appear on all the big sites) simply by… signing up. There are many different companies out there that will give you their product: Advertisements.com, SpecificMedia.com, the list goes on. I can help with contacts or you can strike out on your own.

You can also sign up for BlogAds, which are similar to what graphic ads are, except they are at a much more grassroots level, are more inobtrusive and allow you to set the pricing. You can also sign up for Google AdSense or any competing product therein (Chitka, Yahoo Search Marketing, etc.) and run text/image advertisements on your page which you are paid through the number of pageviews you get.

BlogAds is not worth the time. It is more maintenance than Adsense and you can’t really go out and sell through BlogAds as hard as you could otherwise. You’re at the whim of if an advertiser chooses to advertise on BlogAds, and a lot of times you will just have an empty BlogAds slot sitting in a prime spot — and it has to be in a prime spot, otherwise you won’t get any ads at all. It’s a crapshoot, and it’s not worth the constant prime location it would command. There are sites out there that succeed tremendously through BlogAds, but you have to be the right fit for it. They also pay a lump sum, so like text advertising (and unlike Adsense) it is not performance based. Although, they will leave and leave you without advertising if they’re not seeing good conversion rates, unlike Adsense, which will never leave you.

You can also sign up for affiliate programs, which I’m generally not a big fan of because you have to cross your fingers and hope for the best. Revenue is not guaranteed as it is rare that a consumer will buy based on an advertisement on your blog, so they get tons of facetime. However, this is another option and is popular with a lot of companies so you can sign up for those — but be warned, all these images and links to affiliates will only make the signal to noise radio that much worse and destroy the aesthetics of your blog. That being said, there are some great affiliate programs out there and the best is probably Amazon‘s, where you can insert a link to the product in question you are referring to on Amazon and if they end up buying something on Amazon through you, you get money. All it requires you to do is to link the product whenever you mention it at any time you please (or never at all).

Only get affiliate programs where you’re guaranteed revenue. Don’t go for affiliate programs from some obscure company (such as shoe, ticket, flight, general apparel companies, for example) that pays out low percentages. Go for highly targeted, niche programs that will bring you back revenue. A clothing store dedicated to the team you cover that pay out a healthy amount of percentage (and the healthy amount of percentage is subjective) and it will likely be useful space of advertising.

Some other ideas for advertising:

  • Donations. Every year, you can run a donation drive centered around a specific event or to help keep the blog going. You could split it with a charity or keep the take, as long as the readers know exactly what you’re paying for. This usually only works best for blogs with high traffic.
  • Apparel advertising. An example can be found at Cafepress.com. You can put your blog logo, any type of art, saying, etc. on pretty much any type of apparel imaginable and charge a small overhead for your readers. It does require some minimal skill at working with logos and images, but if you can’t do it, chances are one of your friends can.
  • Local advertising. Call up local potential advertisers: a local, grassroots souvenir shop, a food vendor at a sports park, anything that deals with your general theme of blog and discuss possible advertising or partnerships.

Again, the primary focus of blogging should be about passion. You should genuinely want to blog about the topic you have chosen and take pleasure in sharing your thoughts with the world. Advertising should be a way to supplement and enhance your blogging experience, but you shouldn’t use it to justify blogging. If you remove money from the equation, would you keep blogging? I hope the answer is yes. If not, you might want to re-evaluate if you really want to do this. It will show in your blogging and readers will catch on.

The above are principles and practices I have learned during my times blogging. I hope they are of use to you. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you’d like to ask me some questions!

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2 thoughts on “How to create and monetize an effective blog

  1. Hi Evan,

    Did you ever think about selling some of your blog’s articles? You can now do this with Oronjo.com.

    See knowledge.oronjo.com for some arguments supporting this approach.

    Regards,

    Lisa Cremer

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