When I was at Blissdom 09, one of the hot topics was monetizing your blog. If you were following along on Twitter, you might have seen a flurry of women trying to figure out how much the panelists are making from their blogs. Was there a certain threshold of blog traffic needed to start monetizing? Are ads the only way to make money? How do we deal with PR people wanting to work with us, and do we charge for product reviews?
Yes, it’s been two weeks since Blissdom and I’m just now getting to the topic. I like to take my time thinking these things through. Here are my thoughts:
[Before we go any further, I'll add that I'm NOT an expert by any definition.]
1. Blog primarily because you love the subject.
Making an income should be your second priority. Write what you know and give something useful to your readers. Care about the community you’re in.
I’m hoping that the majority of these women already had their own blogs, writing about topics they enjoy. Because I think the first lesson of monetizing your blog is to be writing for the love of the subject. If you start a blog with the intention of only making money, you’re likely to get burned out quickly. Have a plan that doesn’t involve money – I write this blog because I love writing about my family, and I have my reviews blog because I love trying out new things and sharing my opinion with others.
2. Use your traffic and your influence to determine your worth when approaching or being approached by advertisers.
Once you do feel you’re ready to add some advertising or reviews to your site, where do you begin? How much do you charge? I remember when I received my first request for a private ad, I had no idea what to charge. Is $5 a month good, or am I selling myself too cheap? If I ask for $25, will I be laughed at?
Thankfully, Dawn from KaiserAlex recently cracked the
DaVinci code and revealed a formula you can use to get an idea of what you should be charging. It’s such a simple formula – I wish I had it a year ago! The formula is based on your traffic, and while it’s not perfect, it’s a very good start.
Speaking of traffic: traffic is an issue that many people feel touchy about. Kim Moldofsky recently wrote about being asked for her traffic numbers from a PR company, and how bothered she was that they started this new relationship with a demand for her traffic numbers. It’s OK to protect your traffic stats – you shouldn’t have to give them out to everyone who asks. (Obviously, if you’re joining an ad network or specifically asked to be a part of a PR campaign, you will need to supply your traffic numbers.)
I’m not one to go shouting my traffic stats to everyone, mostly because I feel there’s more to me than the numbers Google Analytics shows me. My reach as a blogger is not completely based on numbers – anyone can have a high traffic month from dumb Google searches for “Paris Hilton naked”. My traffic may be lower than some, but I may have more dedicated readers than someone with lots of traffic.
I also have a decent number of subscribers who read but may not always click through. And beyond my blog, I have other outlets that increase my value: I have a decently large following on Twitter, I use StumbleUpon, I network on Facebook, and I write for other blogs. I also attend blog conferences that give me the chance to network with others and share what I know.
So what am I worth as a blogger? I still don’t know for sure. I’ve figured out an advertising rate I’m comfortable with, and I know how much I’m paid to write at SavvySource. I occasionally am paid for the time I put into product reviews, but that payment is usually an Amazon gift card, and often I’m given nothing more than the product itself. I’m comfortable with the rules I’ve established with PR companies. (Note to self: publish my PR guidelines on my blog soon. Do as I say, everyone…)
3. If you want to make this a full-time living, consider looking for paid blogging positions.
Several people at Blissdom wanted an idea of how much money can be made by blogging. No one was willing to share specific income numbers, and since income is still very much a taboo subject to talk about in our society, I wouldn’t expect them to do that. I actually told everyone on Twitter how much I made in 2008 – not because I wanted to show-off (and it wasn’t an amount high enough to even call showing off), but because this isn’t full-time for me. If I was making my primary living from blogging, I might be a little more cautious about telling the world, too.
I’d also caution readers that I think very few people can make a decent amount of money blogging just through advertising and affiliate programs. I’d bet that many who do make a full-time income writing are making a large share of their money through being paid to write for others. My ad income is enough to pay one utility bill each month – but I make more than double that by writing for others. Mir has pointed out more than once that a lot of her income is from her freelance writing, not directly from her blog.
Problogger has a good listing of paid blogging gigs, but often the ones you’re likely to enjoy the most come from contacts you already have. I found my SavvySource job because I already followed the hiring editor – CityMama – on Twitter. If someone is looking for bloggers in your content area, you’ll find out first from those in your niche.
4. If all you think about is new ways to attract readers for a larger payout, you may have lost your purpose in blogging.
Why did you want to start blogging? What are you giving back to readers? Do you need to step back and reconsider your goals?
You can easily spot a blog that only cares about making a buck – you feel no connection to it, and you are likely to not return. Even some blogs that write about “making money from blogging” are good reads – they offer something valuable to the reader, and care about keeping their reader interested. If I’m not happy with what I’m writing and my heart isn’t in it, I have to wonder what’s wrong. If it’s simply a lost muse, I can wait it out until she finds her way back. But if it’s because my focus has shifted past the writing of my blog, then it might be time to rethink what I’m doing.
So what do you think? Am I way off on this? I’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic.