Making Money from Your Blog 200 Tips for money with Blog 2018
This blog explains strategies to reap the benefits of your blogging activities. We’ll start by looking at direct, easy-to-implement ways you can earn money from your blog. I realize that you may have zero interest in making money from your blog. That’s fine. Feel free to skip this blog as well as the next blog on promoting your own products. But if you’d like to get paid for your blogging efforts, pay close attention and get ready to earn some extra cash.
Common Monetization Strategies
The following are some of the most common direct monetization strategies for blogs. We’ll discuss indirect ways, such as selling your own products or promoting your blog.
We’ll dissect each of these, focusing on best practices and profitability.
Make Money with Ads
Advertising is the first strategy to consider to start monetizing your blog. Thanks to ad networks such as Google AdSense, placing ad units on a blog is very straightforward.
Such networks act as intermediaries between advertisers and publishers (i.e., you). The details vary, but essentially ad networks aggregate a series of ad spots on a large number of sites and let advertisers pay to place ads in them. This frees you from the burden of finding advertisers, agreeing on a fair price, collecting payments, and so on.
How Google AdSense Works
If you intend to place ads on your blog, you can sign up for free with Google AdSense (the most common choice among bloggers) and then set up one or more ad units, Setting up a Google ad unit. AdSense is the site owner (i.e., publisher) counterpart to the Google AdWords program, which is the interface used by advertisers to buy ads on search results and sites belonging to the Google AdSense program.
Ads that are relevant to your content will automatically be displayed inside such spots on your blog, and your account will earn a variable amount of money each time a visitor clicks one of those ads. This is called contextual advertising because the ads that are served vary depending on the content of the page.
The amount of money you receive will be what the advertiser paid to have an ad displayed on your site minus a substantial cut that Google takes. Realistically, this means putting anything between a few cents to a few dollars in your pocket for each click. Such numbers really depend on the competition level and niche you’re in, but for technical blogs, the CPC (cost per click) you’ll earn tends to be well below a dollar.
Google will display a maximum of three ad units regardless of how many units you place on a given page. This means that you shouldn’t place more than three ad units on any page of your site. (Each unit may contain a multitude of ads, however, and this is handled automatically by Google.)
Blogger users can take advantage of the AdSense gadget, which is available in the Page Elements pane within the Design tab.
Regardless of your blogging engine, you can add a search box powered by Google AdSense if you wish. When users search your site with it and end up clicking any ad that’s displayed on the results page, you get a cut. Google also enables you to include ads at the top and/or at the bottom of your feed.
Using fonts and colors in your ad units that match your theme will increase your CTR (remember, click-through rate). Squares and rectangles also tend to have good CTRs. Likewise, choosing key positions in your template will help you achieve a higher CTR. In my experience, visitors are significantly more likely to ignore AdSense units that are located in the sidebar than those placed before (much more so) or after your posts
To increase your revenue you can either bring in more visitors or up the number of clicks you get from the current volume of visitors you receive (your CTR). Ideally, you’ll be able to do both.
Avoid positioning your ad units in a way that makes them appear to be actual content, such as horizontal ad units containing a few links that resemble a list of categories or pages for your blog. Such ads should not be placed where your navigation bar would normally be. Misleading your visitors is never acceptable, and Google will sometimes intervene in situations where such behavior is reported.
Detailed reports will allow you to figure out which ad units and products (e.g., AdSense for Content, Search, and Feed) are performing well. These reports include details such as the number of ad impressions/pageviews you served, the CTR, CPC, and RPM (revenue per mille; Mille is Latin for “one thousand”). RPM is often called CPM elsewhere, where the C stands for the cost.
Don’t try to game the system or you’ll be banned, and all of your unpaid earnings will be frozen. Avoid clicking your own ad units, and never invite your readers (or friends) to click them either.
In your account settings, you’ll be able to specify how and when you get paid, but by default you’ll receive one payment per month provided your account balance reaches at least $100 (if it hasn’t, then the balance will be carried forward until you reach $100 or more, after which you’ll receive a payment for the month in which that occurs).
Alternatives to AdSense
AdSense may be the most common ad provider for bloggers, but it’s certainly not the only option available. A wide variety of ad networks exist, and some of them may be good matches for your blog. Here’s a list, by no means exhaustive, of a few of the most popular choices you may want to check out:
Burst Media (burstmedia.com/publishers.html)
Project Wonderful (projectwonderful.com)
Value Click Media (www.valueclickmedia.com/publishers)
Federated Media (federatedmedia.net/publishers)
Some of these networks pay publishers in the same way AdSense does, on the basis of the actual clicks received (CPC-based), whereas others sell you ad spots at a fixed rate per thousand impressions (CPM-based) or per given time period. For the latter two types of ad networks, the ads’ click-through rate does not affect your earnings.
Keep in mind that if you opt for an ad network as a technical blogger, you may be better served by niche networks that specialize in the area of your blog, if such is available. For example, in the creative and design field, both Fusion Ads and The Deck will generally perform much better than AdSense.
Likewise, a world-class Ruby blogger may try to join the exclusive Ruby Row niche ad network. The author of a humorous, comic-centered blog might look into Blind Ferret. Keeping an eye on fellow bloggers in your niche is a good way to spot niche-specific ad networks that could potentially lead to decent rewards.
For my programming blog, I personally use Federated Media, which has a strong technology subnetwork (a federation in its terminology). In this system, I have AdSense in place as a backup for those times when Federated Media isn’t able to provide any ad campaigns for my site to run, therefore helping my blog get the best of both of these ad revenue worlds.
In the majority of cases, there is an approval process that your site must go through before you can join a network, some of which are by invitation only. The main criteria are always traffic and content quality. If you show up with a brand-new site and little traffic, relatively few ad networks will take you on. Build a following first.
Ads and Technical Audiences
Placing ads on your blog is a straight forward monetization strategy, particularly if you stick with a network like AdSense, which won’t make you jump through hoops in order to have your site accepted. Unfortunately, it’s not the most profitable way of monetizing your blog, and it comes with a series of negative implications. Let’s review the most noteworthy shortcomings.
Ads tend to put visitors off, particularly technical folks. Don’t place too many ads or your blog will end up looking like a spam site and you’ll be bouncing visitors like a pinball machine.
Accept that many technical users will have ad-blocking browser extensions installed, such as AdBlock Plus. Don’t try to detect and block these users from viewing your content, as some sites do. It’s your right to show ads with your content. It’s your visitors’ right to decide not to see them.
Search engines tend to dislike overly commercial sites that are filled with ads and other offers and may penalize your search result ranking if you go overboard.
Technical audiences tend to ignore ads. This means that your click-through rate will be low, which in turn means that for every thousand impressions of your ad, you’ll only get a few clicks and bring in very little revenue. The end result is that your average RPM (again, your revenue per thousand impressions of an ad unit) will not be worth boasting about.
In most cases, you’re looking at the lower end of the $1–$5 USD range. In turn, this means that if you manage to attract 10,000 visitors in a given month, that ad unit will only bring you between $10 and $50, and the actual figure will probably be in the lower end of the range. This is why AdSense is sometimes humorously referred to as blogging social welfare.
It can be argued that you are inviting the visitors you worked so hard to attract to leave by clicking ads at the rate of mere pennies per visitor lost.
At times, people have been banned from ad networks like AdSense through no fault of their own, simply because foul play has been suspected. Many thousands of dollars have been lost by bloggers in such disputes, where there is little recourse for the innocent.
Should You Place Ads on Your Blog
In the beginning, when you’re just getting your site off the ground, don’t place ads on your blog. Initially, you’ll have relatively little traffic, so the chances of earning anything substantial from ads are immensely slim. On the other hand, the chances of putting off your early visitors are substantial.
As a general rule of thumb (and depending on the economic goals you’ve set for your blog if any), don’t place ad units until your site is established and receives at least 10,000 pageviews per month. However, I would think twice before placing ads in your feed even at that point, as they’d be going out to your most valuable readers, the people you want to maintain and not annoy (with ads) the most.
Also, keep in mind how well defined a niche your blog is. A targeted audience will generally perform better ad-wise than the audience of a general blog. In the case of contextual advertising through programs like AdSense, the ads that are shown will be more relevant and interesting to your audience, who will then be more apt to click and, in turn, generate more revenue for you.
Use a tasteful number of ads (e.g., one or two per page) once you’ve managed to attract a decent following and have established yourself somewhat in your niche. Don’t consider ads to be your main source of income for your blog, because they likely won’t be. Instead, ads can be one source of revenue in a diversification strategy that includes multiple sources of income.
Finally, don’t place ads on your company blog. Your main objective with a company blog shouldn’t be to make an extra $100 a month by filling your blog with ads. Your primary product, whatever that is, has far more potential to earn you real money. Putting off readers or sending them away from your site when they click an ad doesn’t make sense from a business perspective.
Make Money with Sponsors
Conceptually not far from ads, sponsorships are an excellent way to make money with your blog. The basic idea is that you find companies that are relevant to your niche and then contact them about sponsoring your blog. In exchange for a monthly fee, you’ll provide them with high visibility to your blog’s readership.
For example, the popular blog Daring Fireball makes a substantial income by offering RSS feed sponsorships.
Before you approach potential sponsors, though, you should have detailed information about your audience, which is easily obtained from Google Analytics. Prepare a page on your blog or as a PDF that you’ll send by email with the details of your demographic as well as with details about what you’re offering. If you are good with graphic design, make your presentation appealing and be sure to include lots of attractive graphs. Eye candy sells.
Key information you should enclose in that page or document:
Site usage statistics: The average number of unique visitors and pageviews per month, as well as your subscriber count. Include trends if your blog is growing rapidly.
Geographic information: Where are your visitors from? Include the top ten countries and the percentage of traffic these locations provide.
Demographic information (optional): If you’ve run surveys and know about the profession, age group, income, and other demographic information about your visitors, include these stats, too.
Relevant keywords (optional): If the majority of your organic traffic comes from keywords that are relevant to the sponsor, consider including the top ones in the information package you send out so as to show that your blog has the right audience.
Your offer: Detail exactly how much you’d like potential sponsors to pay for the sponsorship and what you are offering in exchange. Clarify whether you are offering sole sponsorship or cosponsorship of your blog.
Traffic stats aside, what really seals the deal is an appealing offer. You could offer any or all of the following perks to potential sponsors.
A banner advertisement in a predefined format and position on your blog (a so-called media buy). Link to the sponsor, of course, but opt for a nofollow link (i.e., rel="nofollow"). This way Google won’t think that you are selling links for PageRank purposes. In your offer, let the sponsor know that such links will be nofollow to comply with Google’s policies. Specify if you are limiting the offer to the front page (unusual) or throughout the blog (more common).
A thank-you note and backlink at the bottom of your posts. For example, “This post was sponsored by Acme, the best solution for all your cartoon explosion needs.”
A periodic thank-you post that includes a shout-out to your sponsors, links to them, and a brief explanation of what they offer your readers. If your sponsor turnover is not significant, this kind of post can become annoying for your readers, thus you’ll want to keep them infrequent (e.g., once per quarter).
Interviews, guest blogging, and other content-based arrangements that benefit both the sponsor and the readers. Always disclose your affiliation. Don’t hide the fact that you have a sponsor from your readers.
Trials, giveaways, and special offers that are useful to your reader and great marketing for your sponsor.
If you don’t have any companies in mind, do some research to see if there are companies in your niche that are already sponsoring other blogs. It’s far easier to convince them to also sponsor you than it is to approach a company that has never heard of blog sponsorship before.
You can also have an Advertise page in your navigation bar as well as a Your Ad Here banner or button in a spot that you’re offering to sponsors that links to that page. Making a post in which you explain that you’re accepting sponsors is also an aggressive but legitimate way to go about it.
There are companies that facilitate the whole process so that it’s virtually identical to selling ads through a network, but part of the benefit of sponsorships is that you deal with a handful of companies only, one on one, for months or even years at a time.
So once your initial agreement is set up, there isn’t much work to do on your part except for collecting payments. You may as well cut out the middleman, establish good professional relationships with companies, and keep all the revenue for yourself.
Should You Find Sponsors for Your Blog
Without a doubt, sponsorships are a great way to generate recurring sources of extra cash as a technical blogger. I don’t advocate you seek sponsors the same day you launch your blog, though. Establish yourself first, and then go after sponsors. If you’re lucky, you may even be approached by companies who are interested in a media buy before you’ve started looking for them.
As usual, respect your readers. Opt for tasteful ads and banners. Don’t permit Flash ads that include sounds, and limit the animation level of your banners to a minimum. Likewise, don’t feed your readers low-quality, spam-like sponsors, just to make a quick buck. I constantly receive offers for sponsorship and link purchases from companies I do not trust. I always turn them down, and so should you.
For startup or company blogs, just like ads, sponsorships don’t make much business sense.
Make Money with Affiliate Offers
When I was a kid I created an arrangement with my local computer store in which I would refer friends and acquaintances to them, and the store would then give me a small percentage commission based on what those people bought. I didn’t know it at the time, but the service I was providing to that store was a form of affiliate marketing.
This type of arrangement can be extremely beneficial for both the company and the affiliate. The company receives new business from customers it may not have reached otherwise, and the affiliate gets a commission for each sale that can be directly traced back to the affiliate’s site (online, usually through a cookie or coupon).
Typically, online affiliate offers work like this:
1. The affiliate links to an offer with a tracking ID embedded in the link.
2. A visitor visits the link and is redirected to the landing page on the company's site.
3. A browser cookie is stored with a certain expiration date on the computer of the visitor. This cookie associates the visitor with the affiliate that referred them.
4. If the visitor makes a purchase at any time while the cookie is still valid, a commission is provided to the affiliate by the company.
Depending on the type of goods and the company’s approach to affiliate marketing, the commission can be anything between a few percentage points to 100 percent. Yes, you read that right. Some companies will go so far as to give away the entire sale price for a promotional period in order to attract more affiliates and perhaps recurring customers.
More commonly for digital goods such as ebooks and courses, margins are exceedingly high, which means that content producers routinely offer affiliates a 50 percent commission rate for all sales made within a large period of time after the initial referral (e.g., sixty or ninety days, which, again, is often tracked via cookies).
As you can imagine, you can generate a substantial amount of money from affiliate marketing if you have a large enough audience that you’re offering relevant services and products to.
As a blogger, you already have the audience, and as we’ll see in a moment, you can find relevant affiliate offers to present to your readers. Affiliate marketing really is the one monetization strategy you can’t afford to ignore.
Before jumping into key affiliate programs for technical bloggers, I want to provide you with a little background about the stigma associated with affiliates (and affiliate marketing) in general.
The reason affiliate marketing has gained such a bad reputation is that the economic incentives to promote a company’s products are very high. Here we’re not playing around with a dime a click. Depending on the product and the commission, we could be talking as little as a few dollars or as much as hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars (on the higher end of the scale) per referred customer.
Affiliate marketers have gone to great lengths to grab such generous commissions, including spamming, misleading, and downright scamming users.
I really encourage you to look past the negative connotations that are associated with affiliate marketing. In this section, we’ll take a very ethical approach to this subject, which can reward you handsomely without the need to mislead, spam, or promote crappy offers or products to anyone.
Amazon Associates A Blogger’s Best Friend
Amazon Associates was one of the earliest and most popular affiliate programs on the Web. Every time you refer a customer to a given Amazon site (e.g., Amazon.com) with your tracking ID, you’ll receive a small percentage of the total cost of whatever that person purchases during the next twenty-four hours.
Some affiliate marketers and bloggers greatly underestimate the earning potential of Amazon Associates on the basis of the tiny cookie duration (only twenty-four hours, instead of, say, sixty days) and the small commissions (usually between 4 and 8.50 percent, depending on your monthly sales volume, instead of the 30 to 75 percent commissions that are common for digital goods elsewhere).
While both counts are true, there are many benefits to Amazon that make it a very worthwhile program for reputable bloggers.
Virtually everyone knows and trusts Amazon as a store. You don’t have to convince your visitors that their credit card number won’t be stolen when they shop there.
Amazon’s inventory of physical products is fantastic. They carry so many items that you can always find something of quality to promote, almost regardless of your particular blogging niche.
Amazon spends millions of dollars studying ways to increase the percentage of visitors who end up buying products (i.e., optimizing the conversion rate of their pages). Your main goal is really to send traffic to Amazon by way of your affiliate links, after which Amazon will take care of converting many of these visitors into customers, thus earning you a commission on all of those sales.
Unlike other referral programs, you get a cut for every sale that’s made within a twenty-four-hour period, not just for sales of the product you promoted. My technical blogs have received commissions for goods that I never promoted, including watches, swimming pools, and adult toys.
That is because you may send visitors to check out a blog, but once on Amazon, they may purchase other books or other products (either instead of or in combination with the original item) within the twenty-four-hour period for which your tracking ID is valid. Those unexpected, additional sales add up quickly.
Unlike some other affiliate programs, it is considered normal for bloggers to routinely link to Amazon in their posts. This means that your archives will contain many posts including Amazon affiliate links, generating you commissions long after you initially posted them.
Earn Money with the Amazon Associates Program
Head over to affiliate-program.amazon.com and apply for the program. You can sign up even if you’re not a US resident. You’ll be asked about a series of things, including payment information and details about your blog. The overwhelming majority of people who apply are accepted.
Note that once you are approved, you’ll be able to use Amazon affiliate links on a variety of sites you may own and not just the one you applied for.
Amazon has several associates programs, depending on the locale of the store you are targeting. Currently, there is a program for the American store (Amazon.com) and one for each of the Canadian, British, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese stores. Again, you don’t have to reside in one of these countries to sign up for any of their respective affiliate programs.
Register for each of the programs according to the demographics of your traffic and your blog’s language. For example, if most of your traffic arrives from the States, the UK, and Canada, then apply for each of those three Associates programs. (You’ll be applying three times.) You can select the locale using the drop-down menu in the top right corner of the Amazon Associates login page.
Build Links with Your Associates ID
Your Amazon Associate account will be provided with an initial tracking ID (known as your Associates ID) that is specific to a given Amazon site (e.g., Amazon.com). Such an ID must be embedded in the links you build and place within your blog. For example, the main Associate's ID for my US account is Thesis-20. So if I want to link to a product on Amazon.com, I need to enclose my tracking ID in the right portion of the URL. Here are some link examples:
Note that 1934356344 is the ASIN number of this particular blog, an identifier that can always be found in the URL of a product you visit on Amazon. The ASIN and Associates ID alone will uniquely identify a product on a given Amazon site and track your commissions (via a cookie that is set when the end user visits the URL).
You can build such links manually, or you can use one of Amazon’s link-building tools, which are available from the Links & Banners tab in the Amazon Associates administrative interface (provided you are logged in to the site). When opting to create a Product link, you have an opportunity to select Text and Image, Text Only, Image Only, or Add to Widget, if you are creating a widget to display more products.
Text Only and Image Only are the ones you should use to create textual links and linked images, respectively. (Others won’t perform as well.) The resulting URLs will be more verbose than the ones I outlined above but equally valid.
You can always use the Link Checker, which is available in the left sidebar on the Links & Banners tab, to verify if a link you’ve built is correctly attributed to your Associate's ID.
I sometimes provide links to multiple Amazon locales next to the name of the product by linking the words the USA, UK, and Canada with the correct URLs for each, as follows: “The Passionate Programmer (USA, UK, Canada).”
This way I can maximize earnings from users who don’t shop at Amazon.com while at the same time providing them with the ability to quickly shop in the Amazon store that is most convenient for them based on where they reside or prefer to shop from. (I used to have a script that chose the store and associate ID based on the geographic location of the visitor, but geo-redirects are rarely a great idea from a UX standpoint.)
If you like this approach and you opted for the bookmarklet route, you can create three bookmarks, one for each locale, and use them to generate the three links each time. You’ll need to replace both the Associates ID and the TLD of the Amazon site (i.e., .com) to create the, say, Canadian and British bookmarks. (When you sign up with a given local Amazon Associates program, you are assigned a unique Associates ID that’s different from those of other locales.)
If you’re unfamiliar with bookmarklets and using them sounds complicated to you, feel free to ignore my trick and instead build your links through the Amazon Associates product link building tools. It’s not as convenient, but it won’t affect the end result.
Use Multiple Tracking IDs
Click your Account Settings link at the top of the Amazon Associates page and then “Manage your tracking IDs.” On this page you’ll be able to create more Associates IDs for your account. Why would you do that? Mainly for the following two reasons.
The most obvious reason is to keep track of different sites (if you, in fact, operate more than one). When you pull reports for your earnings (via the Reports tab), you’ll want to have different tracking codes for different sites so that you know which site generated which revenue.
The more subtle use is to distinguish what worked and what didn’t on a given site. You could, for example, use an Associates ID for your posts, another for a certain sticky page, and the third one for a product you link to in your sidebar.
Use IDs freely enough, though don’t use a different tracking ID per post, as you’d quickly run out of them (the default is 100 IDs per account). You would need to request additional IDs directly from Amazon, and your reports would be way too messy.
Understand Amazon Associates Reports
When checking out your reports (available as sidebar links in the Reports tab), focus on the Tracking ID summary report. This will show you how many clicks each tracking code received, how many orders were placed, how many items were shipped, what the total sales value of the shipped items was, and what your commissions (known as advertising fees) on those sales were.
You can select the reporting period, including the current week, quarter, or month so far, but by default, you’ll be shown yesterday’s reports. The previous day’s stats are usually ready by some time the next morning (e.g., 8 a.m. EST for Amazon.com).
You only earn a commission once items have shipped, not when they are ordered. This means that a tracking code may show you $0 in fees for the day before, even though there were many sales (assuming none of the items have shipped yet). The Earning and Order reports will clarify which items were ordered and when and which items were shipped and on what days they went out.
With a few exceptions for products such as Amazon Instant Videos or most electronics, your commission will be performance-based. This means that when you ship between one and six items in a given month, you’ll get 4 percent of the sale price.
If the number ranges from seven to thirty items shipped, you’ll jump to 6 percent. Then, slowly, you can work all the way up to 8.50 percent if you sell a huge number of items that month. The commission rate is reset with each new month.
My commission tends to be in the 8.0–8.25 percent range because in a given month I usually sell somewhere between either 631–1570 or 1571–3130 items (shipped). When the commission percentage changes throughout the month as you sell more items, your existing earnings for that month will go up accordingly so that the new percentage rate applies for all the existing items you’ve already sold and shipped that month.
Given that the commission percentage for all the items you sell is affected by the number of sales you make, it’s important not to ignore the promotion of small, inexpensive items, too. They won’t bring much revenue on their own, but they may increase the percentage fee you get on big-ticket items such as expensive textbooks or DIY tools, both of which visitors seem to be fond of.
Refunds, which you’ll see from time to time, will appear as negative values. You won’t be asked to pay anything back out of pocket; instead, they’ll be deducted from the current balance (i.e., your future checks).
You can verify that your payment plan is performance based through the “Change your fee structure” link in your Account Settings. It makes absolutely no sense to opt for the Classic fee structure, where you get the bottom-of-the-ladder rate (4%) no matter how much you sell.
Earnings at the end of the month will be paid out in two month’s time. For Amazon.com, US residents can opt to be paid directly via bank deposit. If you’re located outside of the US, you can be paid by Amazon gift card/certificate (so not actual money) or by international check.
In Canada, such checks in USD tend to be withheld by the bank for fifteen business days (as is standard practice for US checks) unless you have a different arrangement in place with your local branch. It’s likely that other countries will have similar policies.
That is to say, you’ll get your money, but it won’t be immediate in the beginning. Thankfully, as you routinely earn enough commissions to go over the set threshold for payments (e.g., $100 USD), you’ll automatically receive payments each month.
Make Money with Affiliate Offers
Get the Best Out of Amazon Associates Here is a cheat sheet for getting the best out of Amazon.
Be genuine and caring. Don’t promote a product simply to make an extra buck. Only endorse the kinds of books and other items you would recommend to your best friends.
Write reviews of technical books you’ve read and products you’ve tried. A recommendation from someone who’s perceived as an expert in a given niche can convert to sales like crazy, and people will love reading your thoughts on a given item that’s near and dear to their interests.
Create lists of products (e.g., 5 Books Every Agile Developer Should Read). They can be cheesy or downright good advice. Opt for the latter.
Announce new books. Let your readers know when an important new industry-related blog has been released—even if you haven’t read it yet and therefore can’t write a full review at that point in time. One time I announced that a new edition of a blog was out.
I wasn’t the first to announce it, so I didn’t even promote the post (it was a heads-up for my regular readers); however, someone saw it and submitted it on Slashdot. My announcement made the front page of Slashdot, bringing me an unexpected few thousand dollars. Results like this are not typical, but it does happen from time to time. Besides, you are offering a very valuable service to your readers.
Mention books and other products. Even if the point of your post is not to review a product, you can still mention it. At times, that innocent mention can lead to awesome rewards if your post ends up getting popular.
Start linking to Amazon right away. Unlike other forms of monetization, affiliate links aren’t as annoying, so you can start using them right off the bat.
Ignore Amazon banners and other similar widgets, as they have really lousy conversion rates. Focus on product links in reviews, lists, and other posts instead. People click links to books and products you promote because they trust your recommendation or mention. Automatic widgets and automated product listings look just like ads to most people and are bad for SEO.
• As well, ignore embeddable stores like aStore, as they generally perform poorly for blogs.
• Use images from Amazon in your posts. You can obtain these from the Image Only tab in the product link building area of the Associate's site or directly from the publisher’s/company’s website.
If you are adventurous, take your own pictures of products you’re blogging about if you happen to own or have access to said items; this will prove that you are promoting something you tried yourself. When you include a blog or product images in your posts and pages, link them to Amazon with your Associate's ID. Such images will increase your CTR and convert well.
Don’t cloak your URLs (i.e., hide that they are Amazon links) unless the tool you use to generate and track these links does it for you. Even then, use disclaimers and disclose that your posts contain affiliate links. Honesty and transparency are important currencies as a blogger.
Don’t specify an exact price. Prices vary too much over time, plus doing so is against Amazon Associates’s terms and conditions. If you wish, say something vague like “which sells for less than $XX at the time of writing.” Generally speaking though, steer clear of discussing prices unless the fact that a particular item is on sale is the whole point of your mention.
Create resource pages. For example, I have a list of recommended Ruby and Rails books on my programming blog. On my math blog, I keep a list of recommended mathematical books that are organized by category. Both have brought me thousands of dollars over the years.
Stop and think about if such a page can be created for your own niche and if so, get to work making it. It will be a useful resource for your readers and an easy moneymaker for you.
Make your Amazon links nofollow. Google and other search engines will be less likely to penalize you for the presence of commercial links.
Finally, a counterpoint—if you are a founder who runs a company blog, it’s your call whether or not to include Amazon Associates links when linking to products on Amazon.
If your main objective is to promote your own product or service, losing Amazon’s commissions in exchange for coming across as more genuine and less motivated by money in your recommendations may be a worthwhile trade-off.
If you are an indie developer or small startup, the revenue such links can generate may help supplement your income, so opting for them can be a good choice. If you are blogging for an established company or a well-funded startup, then don’t; you are after far bigger fish.
Where to Find Other Reputable Offers
Keep your eyes peeled for other reputable affiliate offers and networks. For example, alternatives to Amazon Associates (at least for books) are the affiliate program from The blog Depository and Barnes & Noble. While these programs won’t make you as much money as Amazon can, they are good alternatives if you were rejected, unable to sign up, or are otherwise opting not to go with Amazon.
Likewise, don’t ignore niche-specific programs. For instance, a photography blogger can sign up with stores who offer affiliate programs, such as B&H Photo Video and Adorama. Depending on your niche, there may be other companies looking for affiliates to promote their products that would be a really good fit for your site.
Check out popular affiliate networks that have a huge variety of products and CPA offers (which stands for cost per action, because the affiliate is paid a fee when the referred visitor takes the desired action, so this applies not just to a product purchase but also to other determined actions such as signing up for a given newsletter, a trial offer, and so on).
Common players here are Google Affiliate Network, Commission Junction, and ClickBank. Particularly with the last, you’ll have a majority of low-quality information products, with a few gems here and there. If you can find decent products, there is no shame in promoting them from such a site. So apply for all of these programs as a publisher/affiliate.
With the emergence of self-publishing, you should also keep an eye on new releases of good digital titles within your field. I make decent money from self-published PDF and video releases that are created by esteemed colleagues in the Ruby and mathematical worlds.
Finally, continue looking for possible offers among the products you use regularly. Affiliate programs for technical audiences can be found virtually everywhere these days. You can promote hosting, premium blogging templates, domain registrations, email marketing providers, and other similar products simply by using them and then advertising that you do and why.
Make Money with Other Monetization Strategies
Affiliates offers, sponsorships, and ads are going to bring in the majority of direct revenue for most bloggers. However, if you’re creative about it, there are several other monetization strategies to be found. The most common ones are subscriptions, donations, and merchandise sales.
Subscriptions and Membership Sites
Users are not exactly fond of paywalls (sites that require a payment in order to access articles), but if you attract a loyal following you can offer monthly subscriptions in exchange for some form of exclusivity. You could offer extra features to pro users (such as your articles in PDF and audio format), access to exclusive content that’s not available to your regular readers (e.g., a screencast section of your site), or exclusive access to a useful resource (e.g., a private forum where you personally help people).
WordPress users can look into plugins such as wp-Member and WishList Member to obtain membership site features for their blogs. Users of other blogging systems may have to get creative to find similar features for their blogging platform or use third-party scripts or services. The risk of membership sites is alienating your user base and creating two classes of citizens among your readers (paying and non-paying).
Be careful if you decide to experiment with this monetization strategy. It has the potential either to generate plenty of income or to destroy your community, so tread lightly in terms of how you go about this approach. In particular, do not make your readers pay to read your blog posts. Doing so goes against the spirit of sharing your knowledge via blogging.
Receiving donations is much simpler than adding premium membership features to your site. You simply add a payment processor button (e.g., PayPal) and invite readers to donate. You can make it cuter and ask for a specific amount that would pay for a coffee, beer, or slice of pizza rather than having this approach come across as out-and-out panhandling. Add a nice coffee cup icon next to your call to action, and you may get a few donations here and there.
In my experience, donations are not a particularly lucrative approach to monetizing your blog. To make them work and be sustainable for you, you’ll need a particularly large audience of very loyal readers. Furthermore, you may have to motivate such users by recognizing them in a page on your blog.
Another problem with donations is that if you try to earn money from your blog with ads, sponsorships, and affiliate offers, very few readers will feel like donating to you. And if you get rid of those revenue channels, you generally won’t be able to make up
Merchandise sales can quickly add up and, unlike the early days of the Web, you don’t have to ship products out of your garage. Using services such as CafePress, Spread Shirt, and Zazzle all you really need is a nice design.
If you did a good job in terms of branding and ensuring that your readers feel a part of a community, you may end up selling quite a few T-shirts and other types of merchandise with your logo on it. If you have a cute mascot like Reddit or Hipmunk both do,18 selling will be even easier.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit merchandise to your logo or mascot. With the help of a good designer, you can very easily create cute, fun, witty T-shirts and other gift shop-like items that are relevant to your niche and make some extra money via that route.
For example, I could add another source of revenue to my math blog by simply creating a series of math-related T-shirts designs that I sold for a markup over the base price I was charged by a third-party service. So far, I have not tested my hypothesis on Math-Blog, but I suspect it might work well.
Much of what you’ll learn in the next blog when we discuss techniques to help sell your own products, can be applied to merchandise as well. Keep this monetization strategy as something worth exploring later in your life as a blogger, perhaps a year or two after having established your blog.
Promoting Your Own Business
This blog is dedicated to the topic of promoting your own business through blogging. It is beneficial to two types of readers: people who are interested in promoting and growing their company (or their employer’s business) and bloggers who’d like to increase their income by selling their own products.
The distinction between the two is not that important because the information I provide here serves both categories of business well. If you don’t run or help promote a business or don’t intend to sell your own products (books, videos, software, etc.), then feel free to skip this blog.
A company blog is not very different from a regular technical blog. What this blog does is build on top of the knowledge you’ve acquired so far to help you hone a blogging strategy that’s specific to your company.
A Checklist for Company Blogs
Let’s start by reviewing some of the startup/company-specific concepts that have been introduced so far. This list acts both as a checklist and a quick recap.
Identify why you’re blogging. Is it for customer acquisition and to increase sales? Providing support to existing customers? Finding moral support and sharing war stories with fellow entrepreneurs? Expanding your team by recruiting new hires? Get to the root of what you want to accomplish with your company blog.
Identify who you’re blogging for. Now that you know why you are blogging, try to understand who your target readers are. This will help you determine what to blog about, with what degree of detail, what kind of tone, and so forth.
Keep your blog on the same domain as your company. Opt for yourcompany.com/blog or blog.yourcompany.com.
Prominently link between your blog and your site. Anyone landing on your site should be able to check out your company blog with ease. Much more importantly though, someone landing on a random post should immediately be able to find out more about your company and products. Whether the two sections of your site share the same navigation bar or not, the main marketing purpose of your blog is to get readers to discover your products. Make it easy and obvious.
Use the same logo and general look and feel for your blog, even if the layout and style is slightly different from that of your main site.
Don’t place ads and offers from third parties on your company blog. As a business, income from sales should overshadow any extra income ads can provide. You don’t want your blog readers to leave the site. Instead, have buttons, banners, and other ads for your own products in multiple spots around your blog template.
Host your blog on a different infrastructure from your company site. If your site were to become unavailable, you’d still be able to communicate with your customers through your blog. This isn’t by any means necessary, but it’s a good trick that can facilitate communication during outages.
Make it a team effort. Unless you are a one-person startup or a micro-ISV, you should try to enlist the help of others in your team when it comes to keeping the blog going strong. Depending on your company’s age and structure, you can turn to cofounders or fellow team members. Even if you plan on doing most of the blogging yourself, don’t forget to enlist the help of other experts on your team so as to enrich your collective company blog.
Determine if you need more than one blog. Some companies choose to have two blogs; one for announcements and news and another for their “From the Trenches” or “Behind the Scenes” posts. Try to determine if a second blog could help you better achieve your blogging goals.
This last point is one that we have discussed the least throughout the blog, yet it’s an important early decision. Let’s take a moment to discuss it.
Do You Need More Than One Blog
Maintaining one blog is a sizable effort. Of course, it’s one of the best marketing tools at your disposal. There’s no denying, though, that it still requires work, consistency, patience, and commitment. Marketing is hard work (contrary to what some believe).
The moment you introduce a second blog, you have if not doubled then at least certainly increased the challenge and responsibility you face. You’ll also need to clarify which blog is for what so as not to confuse your customers.
As a big believer in the power of simplicity, my default stance is that you should focus on one company blog only unless you have a good reason not to. An obvious advantage of going the one-blog route is that your announcements and news will be shown to subscribers who mainly follow your site for the subject matter expertise you share. Remember that such posts are another occasion to get your products in front of your prospective customers.
To help you decide on this issue, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I have enough product announcements and news to justify a separate blog?
Do I have the manpower and drive to manage two blogs?
Is there a big disconnect between the content and audience of my main company blog and those of a blog about my products? Keep in mind that this gap between the two is only justifiable if the purpose of your non-product-related blog isn’t to acquire new customers (e.g., hiring, finding business partnerships, etc.).
If your main objective is to get new customers and increase sales, the content of your company blog should be crafted so as to interest your prospective customers as much as, or more than, a dedicated product blog would.
Do I post so often in my company blog that I want to provide a second, less frequently updated the blog for those who are solely interested in news and announcements from our company?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then, by all means, consider the second blog option. Perhaps host it on news.yourcompany.com or yourcompany.com/news or something equally telling, so that its purpose is readily apparent.
Likewise, ensure that your non-product blog (which is usually aimed at expertly discussing topics related to your niche or activity) has a clear title and/or tagline to identify its purpose.
Some companies go as far as having a multitude of blogs (e.g., balsamiq.com/ blogs), and it’s not rare for large companies to have various blogs operating on a department or industry basis.
Identify and Understand Your Readers
Now that your company blog is in place, you’ll likely be wondering what you should blog about. As you probably know by now, the answer is that it depends on your goals. But let’s narrow things down.
Most companies are after new customers, increased sales, retaining customers, increased loyalty, and other traditional marketing purposes. So your main goal is likely to be getting your products in front of as many prospective customers as possible.
With such a goal in mind, you should blog about topics that deeply interest your prospective customers. Answer their pressing questions, clarify their doubts, stimulate their curiosity, inspire them to achieve their full potential and succeed (particularly with your products). Become that comforting, expert voice in their industry that readers can rely on and trust.
You can and should talk about your products at length in your blog. Showcase how they work, what they are good for, what’s possible to achieve with them, what announcements you’d like to make (unless you have a separate blog dedicated to covering announcements), and so on. However, if you focus on your products alone, the audience you’ll end up attracting will be rather limited.
You need to reach a wider audience of prospective customers with your content and then gently introduce them to what you have to offer. The key here is to persuade customers to purchase by first offering value so as to win their trust and respect. Once a relationship is in place, you won’t have to rely on hard selling by being obnoxious and pushy in your efforts to have them purchase what you’re selling.
Instead, you’ll be able to perform a so-called soft sell on your landing pages. Your sales copy (the text in which you explain your offer) will be able to focus on the benefits of your product, and the reader will have more reason to believe your claims. Your friendly and conversational tone won’t look out of place or unfamiliar, because it’s the same clear and expert voice that has been providing valuable advice and knowledge, without any strings attached. In other words, your sales message will be more effective and welcomed.
You could, for example, append a banner ad at the bottom of each of your posts detailing what your company does and how it can benefit your readers. You are definitively selling, but you are not coming across as imposing or annoying. All you’re saying is, hey, by the way, here is an offer that may interest you if you have found this post interesting or useful.
Returning to the example of the educational applications for the iPad, you could conclude a post entitled “How to Use the iPad to Teach Your Children the Joy of Learning” with the following paragraph:
Thank you for reading this post. I hope you and your child will have tons of fun playing with your iPad and learn a lot in the process. And if you are looking for an application to help your child learn basic numeracy, check out MyNumbers in the App Store. We built it specifically for children between the ages of two and five.
In this fictitious example, our small ad in the text of the post does not come across as invasive or out of place. If that helpful and inspiring post were to be read by thousands of parents like Laura, you’d be guaranteed to receive a significant boost in sales.
To further back up the approach I just suggested, let me tell you what I do to promote downloads of DB2 Express-C, a free version of the commercial database produced by IBM (my current employer) on my personal programming blog. You’d think that the best approach would be for me to talk about DB2 every chance I get (on my blog)—maybe even go so far as to call the site “Programming with DB2” and grab a domain name along the same lines.
That approach enriches the DB2 ecosystem but tends to be suboptimal in terms of actually reaching new developers. Who searches for a DB2-related blog? For the most part, people who already use DB2.
Instead, I blog about all sort of interesting topics for programmers who may have never heard of DB2. This way I built a large, receptive audience composed of the exact people IBM would love to see adopt DB2 Express-C.
Every time someone reads an article on programming in general or on, say, Ruby, they’ll see a DB2 download button toward the top of the sidebar. Out of thousands of readers, quite a few end up clicking and investigating what it’s all about.
Then when I occasionally post about DB2, I have a very sizable audience of subscribers reading about that very database. Those articles are also hosted on a popular blog now, which in turn helps to obtain better search engine rankings. Guess what happens?
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of people heard about DB2 through my blog, and many thousands have tried it or switched over. It would have been virtually impossible to achieve this with a blog focused solely on DB2.
In your company blog, you should do the same thing. Mix some posts about your products with content that is not about your products per se but is still highly interesting and valuable to people in the industry you are targeting. Check out the KISSmetrics’s and MailChimp’s blogs to see two companies that nail content marketing.
From the Trenches Blogs
It’s very tempting to use your company blog to share all the good things you are doing from a business or development standpoint. Your blog "From the Trenches" can motivate you, help you clarify your thoughts and vision, and psychologically help you cope with the challenges that entrepreneurship will inevitably throw your way.
Remember, however, that if you are blogging for customer acquisition, your focus has to be on blogging for prospective customers. Of course, if your customers are fellow entrepreneurs, then you have a match between your marketing goals and your desire to share your business experiences and lessons learned.
In fact, if your customers are entrepreneurs, typically because you have a B2B (business-to-business) product, you may even go so far as to share detailed statistics about your success. People are attracted to successful companies and their stories.
By showcasing how well you are doing, you will inspire and attract a serious following from the very people you are trying to market to. In addition, your articles will be heavily shaped by these potential customers.
Throughout this blog, I’ve mentioned Balsamiq and 37signals a few times. Both companies used this technique to earn a great deal of respect (and new customers). Balsamiq shared its figures publicly from the very beginning, documenting its own journey from day one. Its unconventional approach truly paid off; there was a time when you couldn’t stop hearing about Balsamiq on Hacker News, Twitter, and the like. The figure-sharing approach worked.
A smaller-scale and less famous example is KreCi, a Polish developer who published a series of income reports after quitting his job to develop Android applications. He was one of the first developers to publicly share earning figures from Android apps, so he received a good deal of attention (particularly on Hacker News). When he came out with his short ebook on making money on Android, many were eager to buy it.
It’s not just the strong allure of wanting to emulate and listen to someone who is making money; it’s that when you are sharing your figures, you are being specific. And readers trust and appreciate specifics far more than vague statements such as “We did X and it’s working for us.”
If there isn’t a fit between what you’d like to share and what your audience wants, consider starting an additional company blog or launching your own separate blog on the topic of entrepreneurship and startups. The former approach has SEO advantages, while the latter may put a greater emphasis on you, thereby boosting your personal visibility in the industry.
Convert Readers into Customers
By now, you should have a clearer picture of what to blog about in order to promote your business. What’s left to explore in depth is how to convert the audience you are attracting into actual customers.
Your Company Blog Layout
Just like your content, your company blog should be laid out in agreement with what you are trying to accomplish.
The company logo or title will typically link to your company site. This helps increase the number of people who will end up on your actual product site. Just ensure that there is an easy way to access your blog’s home page (in our case, the Blog link in the navigation bar does that).
The blog shares the same navigation bar with the company site.
The sidebar gives priority to the newsletter and to your own product ads without ignoring the promotion of other blog articles. Note how the RSS feed and the company’s social presence are easily accessible as well.
At the end of each post, regardless of whether the content promoting your products or not, the layout embeds a signup form. This is the type of template that will help your readers discover your commercial offerings.
When in doubt, use a heat map service like CrazyEgg to see where your readers’ clicks are focusing. Ensure that the attention is on your brand, your call to action (e.g., newsletter subscription), and whatever else you are trying to highlight.
Get and Promote Your Newsletter
A newsletter is your most valuable asset as a marketer. To show this, let’s compare the interactions of three visitors on our site.
Visitor A checks out a blog post and leaves.
Visitor B checks out a blog post and clicks on our product ad. B may buy or may not be ready to commit to purchasing our product or service, so B leaves.
Visitor C checks out a blog post and signs up for the newsletter before leaving.
Visitor C is far more valuable than B. Only a tiny percentage (e.g., 2 percent) of B visitors will buy our product. The rest may never come back to the site, and thus we won’t have a way of communicating with them again. C visitors, on the other hand, are leads. They will be reminded about us and our products every single time a new post is published, a new offer is sent out directly to subscribers, and so on.
This repeated exposure greatly increases your chances of making a sale. In fact, have you ever visited a site and in doing so seen ads for that particular site that suddenly pop up seemingly everywhere? This is called retargeting and it’s very effective due to the repeated exposure, if albeit a bit spooky.
So in your template, emphasize newsletter signups. If possible, create a freebie only available to subscribers to get more people to sign up. Make it a short guide, white paper, ebook, video, or anything else that your visitors will perceive as being valuable and useful.
How to Set Up a Newsletter
As a business, you shouldn’t rely on the email service provided by FeedBurner (use it for your RSS feed, though). Instead, get your own newsletter through a third-party provider such as MailChimp or Aweber. This way you’ll have full ownership of the list and will be able to market it as you wish.
Here are the macro steps that you’ll need to take:
1. Sign up for an account with your newsletter provider, and set up a new list.
2. Customize the signup forms and newsletter template. Require new users to only prove their first name and email. Requesting first names will decrease the number of signups slightly, but as mentioned before, doing so will help make email communication with your customers more personal, therefore increasing your newsletter’s open and click rate.
3. Setup/customize a welcome message for your readers. This can be a special signup offer (e.g., 30 percent off for the first year), a list of selected articles for users to explore, or anything else you’d like to communicate.
4. Set up an RSS feed-to-email campaign so that new posts are automatically sent to subscribers.
5. Embed the signup form in your blog.
The newsletter can then be used for announcements that are not publicly made on your blog (if any), special offers (e.g., holiday discounts), and other promotions. You can get creative and do things like setting up an autoresponder that sends out an offer for a discount on your product or service a week after new members sign up.
When you create a manual campaign (not one from your feed), ensure that you include the first name of the subscriber. There is usually a tag that you’ll need to embed as you design the campaign (e.g., *|FNAME|*) that will allow for this. Placing the first name in the subject is a very powerful attention grabber that will increase your open rate, but don’t abuse it.
One technique that I’ve found to be very effective is to create a campaign that relies on repetition. The basic idea is that you offer a great deal to customers for a limited time and email them two or more times about it.
For example, you could be offering your product for 50 percent off for three days only. You’d then send a persuasive email announcing this great offer on the first day, followed by a different email the second day, reminding subscribers that the offers ends tomorrow. And finally, a third email on the last day (e.g., “Antonio, last chance to buy at 50% off”) to let them know the window of opportunity on this offer will be closed in a matter of hours.
Will this annoy a few of your subscribers? Almost certainly. You may receive a few extra unsubscribe requests and perhaps even a couple of “Enough with these emails already!” messages. But you’ll also make a killing with your sales (particularly if your list has a few thousand subscribers). So it’s up to you to decide if this is an approach that’s worth doing or not.
This brings us to another important point with newsletters. You need to know which subscribers are customers and which ones are prospective buyers. You don’t want to send an offer like this to those who have already bought the item or service you’re offering at full price. Likewise, you don’t want to send the second-day email to those who already purchased on the first day.
To solve this problem you can segment your list. Simply add a segment or extra hidden field that you can use to store details such as whether a subscriber bought your product already or what specific products the subscriber has purchased so far. Just ensure you update these fields when new orders are made.
Most e-carts allow you to invoke an API, such as the one provided by MailChimp, to update the list every time an order is placed. Consult the documentation of your newsletter provider to see how they handle segmentation and if they have an API.
Track the Impact of Your Blog
OK, you are writing great content and promoting it as described earlier on in the blog. You check your statistics and notice that your blog obtained forty thousand page views during the past month.
That’s a so-called vanity metric for someone promoting a business. All you really can claim is that you attracted some traffic to your blog.
What did these people do when they landed on your blog? How many subscribed? How many ended up visiting your product pages? And how many went from being visitors to being customers? It’s important to distinguish between vanity metrics and actionable metrics.
The first thing you need to do is to ensure that you understand which spots on your blog (or which email campaigns) are sending traffic to your product pages.
For newsletters, providers like MailChimp will automatically tag your URLs for you, provided you enabled statistics tracking for your links. Tagged URLs have a series of parameters that uniquely identify campaigns so you can understand where traffic is coming from when using Google Analytics and other analytics suites.
For your blog you may want to manually craft a different URL for, say, your ad in the sidebar and another for the product ad at the bottom of your posts. You can do so by using the URL builder in Google Analytics.
You can now track traffic that comes from your blog and newsletter to your product pages with a finer degree of control. There is still one other step, however, before you can fully make sense of that data and try to take action in response to the information you’ve collected.
Keep Track of Your Sales Funnel
You need to understand your sales funnel so as to determine and improve your conversion rates. You have a large group of people reading your blog, but how many of those visitors will actually end up clicking your product page? And of this smaller group, what percentage will actually buy your product?
You can obtain these types of conversion rate metrics by defining your goals in Google Analytics or Clicky. Alternatively, you can use a dedicated conversion rate tracking tool like KISSmetrics.
Other Approaches to Selling More
It’s out of the scope of this blog to provide a detailed tutorial on marketing in general. That said, here are some promotional techniques that shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to marketing your product or company.
Approach fellow bloggers and offer them the chance to receive your product for free in return for a review of that item, service, etc. Many people will take you up on this kind of offer, and you’ll end up leveraging the existing audiences that those bloggers have already established. Guest blogging, extensively discussed before, is also a great tool for this purpose.
Consider establishing an affiliate program. Good affiliates are formidable marketers who can help you connect with prospective customers that may otherwise be tricky (or even impossible) for you to reach.
Consider a live chat widget for your site so as to support and engage your prospective customers. Olark and SnapEngage are two common choices (olark.com and snapengage.com, respectively).
Don’t ignore paid advertising, such as Google’s AdWords program. Free traffic from SEO, blogging, and social media is probably the best tool you have in your marketing utility belt. It would be foolish, though, to put all your eggs in one basket. Always diversify your customer acquisition efforts, provided each channel continues to give you a positive ROI.
Don’t forget offline marketing efforts either. There are still companies out there doing extremely well through traditional advertising and publicity channels. Augment your online efforts by recruiting prospective customers in the offline world as well.
When you do so, you’ll quickly discover what is and isn’t working (and providinga return on investment) for your company.
If you want to introduce changes and see how your conversion rate is affected, you should look into A/B testing tools or services, as these will allow you to test two different versions of a given page in parallel. Doing so will determine how a change affects the conversion rate in the next step of the funnel.
Small changes on your site can have a significant positive impact on your conversion rates within the funnel. Others won’t, though, and some may even make your conversion rate worse.
For example, adding social proof, such as showcasing a large number of Facebook fans, should theoretically increase your conversion rate. But there’s always the risk that users will get distracted and end up on Facebook instead of completing the steps you want them to take.
How will you know for sure? Run an A/B test long enough to obtain statisti-cally significant results. Every A/B testing tool worth its salt will automatically calculate this for you, so you don’t really need a knowledge of statistics.
You can program KISSmetrics to do A/B testing for you, or you can use a dedicated, arguably easier tool. Visual Website Optimizer, Optimizely, and Website Optimizer by Google are popular choices.
Always remember that your ultimate goals as a marketer are to attract a large targeted audience and to increase the efficiency of the sales funnel by improving your conversion rate at each step in the process of converting visitors to customers.
How to Sell your Blog 2018
Since starting my brokerage, I’ve helped sell countless different websites with deals ranging from lower-end 4-figures, all the way up to high-end 6-figure and 7-figure sales. Being involved in so many deals can teach you a thing, or two. When it comes time to sell your first blog or website, there are certain things you’re going to need to expect, that may come as a shock to you when they happen.
Entrepreneurs tend to make a lot of mistakes with their first sale, simply because they don’t know what they’re getting into before it happens. If you know better, though, you can avoid making those same mistakes, and earn more from the sale.
This article is going to highlight some of the unknown realities of selling blogs and websites and how to sell blog 2018.
If you are thinking about selling your blog, even if you’re just entertaining the idea, take a look and set yourself up for success.
#1 - Finding a Blog’s Value Can Be Difficult
One of the most common questions entrepreneurs have when they’re ready to sell their site is “how much is my website worth?”, and “how much money should I ask for my website?”. Trying to put a value on your site when you’re ready to sell can be difficult for some people, but figuring out the true market value is actually relatively easy.
The short answer to this is your website is worth whatever an buyer is willing to pay for it. But that doesn’t really help anyone, because buyers can be as random as the day is long. Each of them will have their own valuation strategies and know how much they’re willing to spend.
Most buyers are going to look at the average monthly profits of your business, and then multiply that by a certain number of months. To give you an example, if your business generates $2,000 per month in profit, an buyer that’s willing to pay 12-months’ worth of profits will offer you $24,000 to buy the business from you.
Typically, you are going to find that buyers are willing to offer between 10 to 24 months’ worth of profits to buy the business, with some higher-profit sites generating anywhere from 30 to 40 times the average monthly profits. This really all comes down to the buyer and the specific website or business in question, though.
If you aren’t sure of how much you should be asking for your website, you will want to speak with a broker that focuses on selling online businesses. They can help you work through the sale, and help you ensure you’re getting the highest price possible.
Most brokers are willing to offer you a free evaluation with zero commitment that you’ll have to use their services to sell the website, so it definitely doesn’t hurt to reach out and talk to them, to find out what they believe your website is worth. Before you sell, you’re also going to need to step back and figure out what the website is worth to you, personally.
Most entrepreneurs are going to want to put a higher value on their website than a buyer is going to be willing to offer. This is because you have more emotions tied up into the website than a buyer is going to have, and it’s a natural reaction to list the website for more when it’s so valuable to you.
Go into the transaction with a minimum that you want to achieve -- the lowest amount that you’re willing to settle for. Then, set an asking price that is higher than what you’re going to want to receive from the sale.
Most buyers are going to want to haggle with you, negotiating the price down in their favor. If you know the minimum you’re willing to accept, and stick to your guns during negotiations, you’ll usually walk away with a price higher than what you went into the deal thinking you would get.
#2 - Most Buyers Want a Deal
When buyers are thinking about submitting an offer to buy your business, it’s because they want to purchase the business so they can turn a profit. That means they’re going to want to get the best deal they possibly can.
Most buyers are only going to be interested in purchasing a business that has been undervalued, or that they believe is being listed for far less than real market value.
Undervalued sites are sites that have been listed at a price that’s considered to be low when compared to the amount of profits the website generates each month. They can also include websites that haven’t been monetized properly or could be even more profitable with simple tweaks and changes to the business structure or the website itself.
This is especially true if you are selling the website on a public marketplace, like Flippa.
Most buyers that are browsing Flippa are frequently looking over the listings because they want to spot good deals. That’s why it is always recommended that you try to sell the website on your own before you resort to listing it on Flippa -- especially if you’re expecting to get more than $10,000 from the sale.
There have been cases where sites will sell for more on Flippa, but in most cases, you’re going to be better off by locating a buyer on your own or working with a broker to get the website sold.
#3 - Potential Can Be Worthless
Entrepreneurs love talking about how much potential their business has, especially when it comes time to look for a buyer to buy it from them. The temptation to talk about the business’ potential is easy to understand, though.
Entrepreneurs love to think about the possibilities, and “what if’s”, and what can happen if the website is placed into the right hands. When they’re trying to figure out the value of their business, entrepreneurs tend to double down on the potential.
Unfortunately, buyers aren’t interested in potential -- at least, not enough to pay more for the business because of some unseen revenue that isn’t guaranteed.
They’re going to pay you based on the profits you’re generating, and maybe the traffic that is coming into the website every day. Buyers are focused on how quickly they can get an ROI after buying the business from you.
While potential may be great, and something that smart buyers are going to want to see and think about, the amount that they’re going to give you for the business doesn’t change based on its potential. With most rules, though, there are exceptions. For instance, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion even before YouTube was turning a profit. Those exceptions, though, are incredibly rare.
#4 - Time Typically Reduces Profits
When you’re thinking about the value of your business and calculating your monthly net profits, most entrepreneurs will take the amount of revenue being generated and then subtract the amount of expenses that are required to run the website.
However, buyers are going to look deeper into the business, and consider more factors than simply your revenue and expenses. The amount of time it takes you to maintain the site is a key factor they’re going to consider.
Most buyers aren’t going to want to run the business themselves, which means they are going to have to hire someone to take care of your role in the business. Hiring someone will reduce the profits they can generate even further.
To give you an example, if you are devoting 10 hours per week to the website, and your buyer has to hire someone at $15 per hour to handle your workload, that is going to equate to an additional $600 per month. Buyers are going to take this $600 per month away from the profits you’ve used to calculate the value of the business.
Depending on the amount of time you devote to the website each month, and how much your buyer thinks it’s going to cost them to replace your role, the value of your business can vary wildly. If the buyer is figuring out the value of your website based on a certain number of months, reducing the profits being generated will also reduce the value they’re willing to pay.
Make sure you’re prepared for this. You can do that by keeping accurate records about how much time you’re spending on the website each month. You can also prepare for the sale by hiring someone to take care of your workload and show buyers what it will cost to replace you.
If you can show buyers that replacing you within the business is relatively inexpensive and affordable, you may be able to negotiate a higher offer, especially since you’ve reduced the amount of work that your buyer will have to take on, in terms of transitioning into owning the business.
Another way to negotiate the value is to reduce how much time you’re spending working on the website by being more efficient and cutting out aspects that simply aren’t required, or aren’t providing you a substantial return on your time invested.
#5 - Selling Yourself Can Be Challenging
When you’re thinking about how to sell your website, you have 3 different options:
You can try to find a buyer and handle the sale by yourself.
You can use a broker or an investment banker to handle the sale for you.
You can list the business for sale on an open marketplace, like Flippa.
When you’re working with a broker or an investment banker, you are going to be paying them a commission based on the final sale price.
When you list the business for sale on Flippa, you’ll pay a small listing fee, along with a 5% (or more) success fee, once the business has sold. There may be other fees if you use a service like Escrow to handle transferring the money, as well.
Locating a buyer on your own can help you save on these fees and get a higher final sale price than what listing the business on Flippa can deliver. However, finding that buyer and then negotiating a high price tag isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
For any decent sized website that is worth more than $10,000, working with a broker is always going to be the best decision. Many entrepreneurs underestimate how long it’s going to take to get a website sold, especially by selling the website themselves.
If you are looking to sell the website by yourself, make sure that you plan ahead and understand exactly what you’re getting into. This can reduce the amount of time it takes to locate a buyer and get the business sold.
#6 - Success Is Not Guaranteed
If you have decided that you want to sell your website so that you can move onto your next set of goals, you’re going to want to keep in mind that getting the website sold and seeing that same level of success in your next project isn’t guaranteed.
While you may have learned some incredibly valuable lessons through building your first business and can transfer these successes over to your next project, there are no guarantees in business.
This isn’t being said in order to discourage you. When you sell a successful website, you are trading your stable, recurring income for a single, sometimes large, lump sum. The loss of income you’re going to experience is something that you need to take into consideration.
Embrace the change as a new challenge and then make sure that you’re rising up to that challenge. Saying this doesn’t make the process any less stressful, but it can help you work through the massive changes you’re going to experience after selling a profitable website. Be prepared and understand the risks you’re taking as you enter into the process.
#7 - Get Ready to Be Invaded
Buyers are going to want to dig deeper, every single time. They want to see detailed reports, accounting and financial statements, obtain access to your Analytics, and verify that the revenue you are claiming is being honestly and accurately reported.
If you have never sold a business before, it may seem a little invasive to share this data with other people.This is especially true if you are going to list the business on an open marketplace, like Flippa.
Are you going to be comfortable releasing all of the intimate details of your business to the public? In many cases, this may not be a problem for you. However, if you’re in a high-competition industry, releasing this information publicly could create issues for you.
If you are selling the website by yourself, you may be able to avoid giving buyers access to this information early on in the process.
As an example, you may want to only provide a buyer access to your Analytics or provide proof of your revenue after coming to an agreement on the price your buyer is willing to pay, based on the information you’re providing being accurate.
When you work with a broker, they are going to require buyers to sign paperwork and have documents in place that can protect you and prevent buyers from gaining access to this information unless they have submitted a serious offer -- again, an offer that hinges on your accurate portrayal of the information you’ve provided being accurate.
#8 - No Contract, No Deal
Anytime you are entering into a large deal, such as selling your successful website, you are going to want to have contracts in place.
Flippa has a default contract that you can use if you are listing the business for sale on their platform, and a quick Google search will also turn up other contract templates that you can use.
However, if the deal is on the larger end of the spectrum, you will want to have an attorney that is familiar with selling online businesses draft a contract for you or, at least, go over the contract you intend to use to get the deal done.
For smaller sales, since attorneys can be expensive, a default contract will usually be enough. For any larger deals, especially those over $10,000, it will be worth the $100 to $200 an attorney will charge to go over your contract. They can suggest changes to help work the deal more in your favor.
#9 - Prepare for a Non-Compete
A non-compete clause is going to be included in most contracts and is designed to protect your buyer after you have sold the website to them.
The details of the non-compete can vary from one situation to another but, in general, you are signing a document that prevents you from getting into the same industry, market, or niche, and competing directly with your buyer for a set period of time -- usually a few years.
In most cases, you are going to be unable to start another website in the same industry, but you can still start websites in other industries that aren’t in direct competition with your buyer.
If you already own other websites in the same industry, and you intend to continue working on those websites, it’s best that you are upfront and honest with your buyer. This can help you work out potential issues with the non-compete and keep you out of legal troubles in the future.
Regardless of whether you own other websites, or what other websites you do currently own, it’s never a bad idea to talk to your buyers about your plans for the future, to ensure that they aren’t going to create issues that could be affected by your non-compete. You don’t want to work out an agreement with your buyer, and then lose the deal because unexpected terms popped up in the contract.
#10 - Buyers Will Rebuild Your Work
If you’ve devoted a large amount of time, effort, and emotional energy into growing and managing the website, it may be difficult to finalize the sale because you are going to be handing over full control and a large part of your life to someone else.
Most buyers are going to significantly change the website after they’ve purchased it.
These changes typically don’t happen right away, but if you revisit the website after 6 to 12 months, for instance, you’re usually going to find that quite a bit has changed. The buyer may end up doing things that you don’t necessarily agree with, or wouldn’t have done on your own, so you need to prepare yourself for that possibility.
This is especially true if you’ve become attached to the website. You’ll need to think about how you’re going to react if you notice large changes have been made. If you think it will affect you, avoid visiting the website after the deal has been finalized.
#11 - You May Regret Selling the Blog
It’s fairly common for entrepreneurs to regret selling their business once the deal has gone through.
A lot of this regret has to do with the emotional connection to the business that they have built, but also comes from the direct loss of income, or potential opportunities that they are going to miss out on because they are no longer in control of the website. To minimize the chance of you regretting selling the business, avoid rushing into the process.
Make sure that you are comfortable with the price that buyers are offering to buy the business from you. You can also document the reasons that you are wanting to sell the business, so you have something to look back on if you notice feelings of regret starting to pop up. Ensure that you are comfortable with the person you are selling the website to, and the chances of you regretting the sale are dramatically diminished.
Would you ever consider selling your business?
Most entrepreneurs think they would never sell a website or business that they have built from the ground up, while others are looking forward to the day they can make a profitable exit. If you have decided that you want to sell, make sure you’re following the tips laid out in this article, and the chances of you making a profitable exit are substantially higher.