Posts made in October 1st, 2011

blogging, behind the scenes: monetization


Posted on Oct 1, 2011 in Career

Missed the other entries in the Blogging, Behind the Scenes series? Check them out here.

I struggled a little bit about whether to post this entry in the behind the scenes series just because I think monetization is an extremely personal decision. Some bloggers out there are adamantly against earning money off of their words. Some will show ads but refuse to accept free items from companies. Of course, there is also the other end of the spectrum where you get so inundated with ads and company sponsorships on a blog that it’s hard to tell where the blogger ends and the marketing department begins. So as with all of my behind the scenes posts, I’ll tell you what I do that works for me. It’s up to you to decide what works for you, your blog and your readers.

Why did I decide to monetize? Honestly, I think it is only fair that I get some sort of compensation for the number of hours I work on this place every week. I’m not even making minimum wage here (I’d say, after Uncle Sam gets his take, I’m making around $3/hour), but it’s enough to recoup some the money that I might be making if I was devoting time to something more well-paying (freelance design or writing, for example).

I know when I say “monetization” a lot of people equate that with cold, hard cash, but the truth is, the financial gains from being a blogger come from a whole heck of a lot of different ways than just a check in the mail. Today, I’ll explore those different ways and I how I went about tapping into them. We will start with the cold, hard cash part and then move on to more indirect financial gains.

Advertising Networks

I currently am under contract with the advertising network Foodbuzz. Their mission is to focus entirely on blogs that have content that is mostly food-centric. By doing that, they can target the ads to include relevant companies like Frigidaire, Butoni, etc. It is a win-win for the both the companies and the blogger. I get relevant ads to my topic. The company gets an engaged audience. Foodbuzz is also nice because they reach outside of the ad and give us a lot of great opportunities to partner with their companies. We get to try new products first. We get to join in competitions and conferences.

Foodbuzz is only one of many advertising networks out there, and all of them will make you sign a contract that requests certain things of you. In exchange for a guaranteed payment per ad impression, you have to make certain concessions. Most are fine (like, the ad must be placed in the first 1000 pixels of your site) and some are a little frustrating (no other advertising may be placed on the page), but it’s a price I pay for the ease and consistency of working with an ad network. I’d say my ad network revenue makes up about 40% of my total blog revenue.

Ads on Feeds

While I love it dearly when people come to my website in their browser and see my pretty new fall header (like it?), I understand that for convenience, a lot of people read BTHR through an RSS feeder. Most ad networks do not service RSS feeds, so I was free to put my own Google Ads on my feed. This way, even if someone never comes to my site, I still gain a small amount of ad revenue. My ads on my RSS feed generate about 10% of my blog revenue.

Amazon Affiliates (and other referrals)

Almost every single online store out there has an affiliate program, which pays you a percentage for referring sales to their website. I link to a ton of products in my blog, and when I can, I link through my Amazon affiliate links (which benefits me, but is also most frequently, the cheapest place for you guys to buy the item, too). It would be almost impossible to distinguish every time I have an affiliate link in a post, so I placed a disclaimer about that in my bylaws. I know a lot of people find it smarmy that people make money off of your purchases, and if you feel that way, feel free to not purchase through my affiliate links. Just try to keep in mind the whole “less than minimum wage” thing. :) From Amazon Affiliates and other referrals (Ebates, Swagbucks, etc.) about 10% of my blog revenue is generated.

Outside Gigs

If you want to get into writing as a career, I’d say there isn’t a better portfolio out there than having a blog. It is like a constantly fresh, up-to-date resume that showcases your skills 24-7. Both my gigs for Edible Indy and AnytimeHealth are thanks to my work here at BTHR. Are they directly related to my blog? No. But I would never have gotten them without it. For my AH gig, I was directly contacted by the head of their interactive communications and asked if I wanted to join the team. For my Edible Indy gig, I saw the call-out for writers and submitted my blog as my writing sample. My outside writing gigs generate about 30% of my blog revenue.

Free stuff and things

This one is often forgotten in the land of monetization talk, but I definitely consider free stuff compensation. One of my “rules” is that I always try to snag free items for you guys when a company offers me something to test out, and more often than not, I get something free to try out and a fun giveaway for you guys. We’re not going to stop buying groceries anytime soon, but having a little bit of free stuff to pad our fridge and pantry sometimes is really nice. How do I go about getting free stuff? Two ways. Most frequently, companies contact me thinking their product will be a good fit for my readers. If I agree, I test it out and offer up some for you guys, too. If it isn’t a good fit, I gracious thank them and let them down gently. Other times, I see a product being given away on another blog and think, “Wow! That’d be an awesome thing to give away to my readers!” and contact the company directly with a little bit of marketing spiel about my demographics. More often than not, companies are willing to work with me to give you guys some free stuff (it’s cheap advertising for them). Most important thing I’ve learned in blogging? If you want something, just ask for it. Free products and other comped items add up to about 10% of my blogging revenue.

And that’s how I make money off of BTHR. I won’t be quitting my job anytime soon, but it is a nice little bit of extra padding in the checking account. Worth noting, my monetization strategy is constantly evolving and changing. I’m always looking at new ad network and new ways to bring some cash in. This list might be totally out-of-date next month.

How do you monetize your blog?