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Jun
28

Web Site Monetization – A Reality Check

By Char

easymoney.jpgI would venture to say that one of the leading reasons people start blogging, is the perceived potential to make money. In my first year of blogging, I have learned more about monetizing a Web site than I can possibly fit into a single post, so I will just hit the highlights for you!

Before I entered the world of blogging, none of the websites I designed for clients or myself had been monetized in any way (and none of them were blogs). I was aware of direct advertising as a means of getting a return on your investment, but I really hadn’t clued in to much else. One of my clients had started including affiliate links in her web updates and then she wanted some Adsense blocks added. I had never done any of this before so I had her tell me what she knew and I set about doing my own research to get more information.

The big names in the internet marketing world lead you to believe that all you have to do to start making money from your web site is to slap a few Adsense ads up there, buy their book or e-book, sign up for their affiliate program and “poof” – you will be an Internet Marketing Millionaire overnight. Guess what? That’s not quite how it works.

In my experience, monetizing your web site takes:

  • Research
  • Trial and error
  • Traffic
  • and Patience

Every web site is different and there are many different ways you can monetize a site. Certain methods work better than others based on your content, your audience, your traffic level, and your end goals.

Adsense and other contextual ad programs

Where it works: Niche sites tailored to a specific audience. Health, celebrity, consumer product, and extremely specialized niches work best. The less “tech-savvy” the audience, the better the click through rate is going to be (in my experience). Also, the higher your traffic rate, obviously the better you are going to do.

How to maximize your earnings: Use a mix of link ad and ad blocks and blend them into your design as much as possible. Try out a variety of placements using channels. If using on a general topic blog, place on single pages only for more relevant ads.

Affiliate Programs

Where it works: There are affiliate programs for just about everything from specific products to e-courses and absolutely everything in between. Affiliate links work best when presented as recommendations or reviews. Landing pages or pre-sale techniques really help. Affiliate links, if done right, work well even with a the traditional non-clicking audience.

How to maximize your earnings: Do your research. Find affiliate programs for products your audience already uses or would use – especially with a good recommendation from you. Use a pre-sale technique such as a well written landing page for better conversion rates.

Direct Ad Sales

Where it works: Selling text link ads or banner ads have the highest pay potential once your site gets fairly mature and starts getting consistent traffic flows. Having a defined niche/audience helps dramatically. Also, strong content and good SEO techniques make your site more attractive to potential advertisers.

How to maximize your earnings: Have a page about advertising on your site, or at a minimum, have solid statistics on your traffic, click through rates, and your demographics on hand. Be willing to share this information with potential advertisers. You can use brokerage services as well, but keep in mind that they will take a cut of your earnings. However, this may be the easiest way to break into the direct ad arena.

Paid Blogging

Where it works: You can do paid posting through a brokerage service or you can get paid to write regularly for a network. Most of the time the brokerages that offer pay per post (or review) opportunities require your site meet some basic requirements, but beyond that, you can choose which paid opportunities you wish to write on. Writing for a network requires application for the position, but can be a great way to earn money from blogging – especially when you consider what your current blog makes.

How to maximize your earnings: Look for pay per post opportunities that you enjoy, offer some value to your readers, and ones that pay fairly well. When getting paid to blog for a network (or similar), look for a network with a solid reputation, fair pay and bonus opportunities for increasing site traffic.

The Final Word

There are plenty of people making a really good living using a combination of web monetization methods, however I doubt any of them got there overnight and without making plenty of mistakes along the way. And for the record, I didn’t make very much money my first month of monetizing my sites – or my second – or my third. Around the 4th month, things started picking up. After a year of monetizing my sites, I have gotten to the point where I can consider MYSELF as a client – allowing me to stop doing some of the client work I no longer enjoy. I know there is still ALOT more I have to learn about making money on the Internet, but we’ll revisit my progress in another 6 months.

I would LOVE to get your insights on web site monetization. What has worked for you? Am I painting a realistic or accurate picture or have I had a totally different experience than yours?

48 Comments

1

Hey Char,

Your picture is realistic, at least for me! But I think the sad fact is that it is the same people who are killing the industry!

I feel that web site monetization is still very possible and lucrative though, as long as your site is in the Internet Marketing (or other competitive) industries.

I mean, hey, I KNOW that those things below your comment box are ads. I won’t click them unless I really want to find out about the site behind the ad. If you have a site in another niche industry, you will find that the click thru rates are so much better :)

2

It’s true that the success of a website monetization does not happen overnight. It took my (personal) blog a few months before it became attractive to advertisers. The technique that worked for me is getting more backlinks, especially links from other trusted websites.

3

Thanks a lot for the helpful tips. I just started into this topic and right now I am between ‘research’ and ‘trial and error’. Of course my possibilities are limited to the facts that I run (a) a general blog (b) in German (c) with blogger. I use Adsense and three affiliate programms. I still focus more on the blog design than on advertising quantity. I don´t want to use pop ups and neither would I write payed posts (at least so far).

4

You are right! We must do lots of Researches and having great amount of Trials and Errors. Eventually, you will have Traffic. But Traffic have its down and up. Not always climb steadily to the top. Many obstacles that will slap your traffic down again and again. But Still Patience is the key to make things move again! :)

There is a quote that I love most: “Success is merely the absent of Failure” It make senses because you will fail every day, every moment, until the failure absent from the class, you will find “success” in front of you! :)

Nice Post, Char!

5

Very interesting reading… But I didn’t get into blogging with the intention of making money, and I have no plans to monetize my site – I did it purely for the G-list fame and the ego boost. ;)

6

I agree, it takes TONS of research and trial and error. I’ve been blogging now with blogger for a little more than a year and still trying to figure it all out. I haven’t made that first $100 with adsense yet but am hoping to do that by september. I’ve learned what most of my viewers like and am now aiming towards it.

Great tips Char!

7

Kian Ann – Of all my sites (blog and non-blog) this site makes the least from contextual advertising and that is okay. I have a few niche sites that are doing very well because of the nature of their content and audience.

Joni – thanks for your input – getting back links is very important.

Ingo – you are one of the people who started blogging for non-monetary reasons – if you have a good site, there is nothing wrong with monetizing it.

8

Ken – thanks for your encouragement! It is a long term process with lots of ups and downs is right.

Paul – have you gotten any benefits to your bottom line as a result of blogging – new projects/clients? This blog, while it doesn’t make a lot of money in the obvious sense, has opened up quite a few opportunities for new projects and paid work and if you add that in, it is my most lucrative site.

Homemom3 – It took me 4 months to get my first Adsense check but the majority of it is coming off of one niche site. Be patient, you will get there.

9

Hi Char,

My blog has made me money, although not through advertising (barr a few tiny text link ads). My articles have helped me attract more clients, how pay much more than any ads would.

I’ve just ordered Lorelle’s book on blogging and I know she talks about how you should really author a blog for a year or more before even thinking about adverts. That ring true with me to some extent, although other people would prefer to run ads online from the very start.

10

David – your blog is a great example of how to use blogging to increase your business, educate clients and potential clients, and spotlight your work.

Lorelle’s book is great! You will really like it.

11

Great overview! I think 99% of the bloggers out there are still working towards their first $100 payout from Google Adsense!

12

One thing still puzzles me: Why established bloggers still need to “pull a fast one” on their readers by craftily sandwiched or secretly tagged along those Google Adsense ads in their blogs?

13

Short update: I have no idea what happend but I just found out that I have been banned by Google Adsense (and that means for all online projects I will ever run and not only for now). I did nothing wrong and followed the rules but some traffic must have been occured that made their protection system put my account to a rest. I heard about that before but never thought this could happen to my blog (or within the first 7 days of using Google Adsense). I had generated 8 Dollars in the first week – so it´s not because of the money that I am disappointed. From what I´ve heared there is no chance to get that right again with the mighty G. So where is local Yahoo when you need them?

14

Ingo – whoa! I would definitely write to them and ask for an explanation.

Are there any others here with experience in this department that may be able to help? I know there are some who have been banned but were able to get to the bottom of it and get unbanned.

15

“and Patience” I’ve never heard that ingredient mentioned before ;-)

16

Char – I will not do any business or correspondence with a company that doesn´t communicate with its customers BEFORE it takes action against them.

17

Great post! Now if we could just get everyone with internet access to read it :)

Blogging isn’t the easiest money maker, but for me, it has been the most rewarding by far.

18

Gayla – what would you say the biggest factors to your success have been?

19

Without a doubt it’s that I have a blog and a website that deals with a health related issue that I know very well.

Knowing what you’re talking about in a way that lets people know they can trust you is tops – no doubt!

In the early days I remember what it was like to not have a clue who to trust — and oh Gawd those horrible infomercial looking sites, I hated those.

I believe being real is almost always followed by success :)

20

Thanks for the insight. I just started a new blog and will be tracking and blogging about my traffic for a year. I’m trying to increase traffic (who isn’t) and reading and learning a lot about that. I’m completely hooked on this stuff and I hope that one year from now I’ll be making some kind of income from my blog.

Thanks

James

21

Char, this is an excellent article. I always have clients coming to me with a great blog topic and a plea to become monetized.

On this point, something that is certainly clear is the fact that your blog must be at least 6 months old before you can even dream about making a substantial amount of money. (Except if your blog is a super-sensation.)

Sometimes clients don’t get this, and then they get frustrated. There just aren’t gobs of money out there waiting to be collected (even though there are many eager bloggers out there!)

22

Hi Char,
Tks for sharing your journey. It’s inspiring to know some kind of benchmark, at least I don’t feel so discouraged though my 1mth old blog is not getting many visitors, not to mention any $$$. 4mths it shall be then! My target to start seeing results :)

23

Thanks for sharing your experience. I would like to make money with my site, but I know it’s not a get-rich-quick business by any means. I’m not even remotely interested in Adsense, so it’s good to know that I may not miss much.

24

In my niche, contextual ads have worked the best, followed by text link ads. I’ve never been successful with affiliate marketing.

25

Wow, I love your site pulak (one of our Malay language slang :) . I stumbled unto yr blog from the list of blogs that were on the meme I did on the face behind the blog. “:”http://seaykopitiam.blogspot.com/2007/06/face-behind-blog-meme.html”
I learn so much from your blog.
Keep up the good work.
Cheers !
Have a blessed Fourth of July.
Jamy from Sunshine Florida.

26

As someone who wants to scale back the Adsense on my blog, this has given me some timely insights and reminders. Thank you.

27

I am just beyond the four-month mark on my main blog, which has made that $100 Ad Sense check and about the same from Amazon sales. Nothing, zip, from affiliate sales despite many impressions. At least that’s what LinkShare told me.

Traffic is just now starting to have some predictability. I was lucky enough to get a PR6 in the second month, for what that’s worth.

My feeling is that whatever you initially think Ad Sense will do for you, cut your estimate by 95%. I suspect what Char says about less sophisticated readers is true, they may be more likely to click. Everyone else is blind to those ads at this point.

Since getting into the blog business, I’ve learned to click on a google link or two when I get something of value from someone else’s post/site.

Good luck, guys

28

This is a newbie question. I’d like to know what level of traffic you need in order to earn money from AdSense without click-throughs. I simply can’t find a SIMPLE description of how you actually earn money with AdSense! I personally NEVER click on ads on any of the many sites I visit daily. I think everyone is becoming too savvy for click-throughs, even if they are not “scammy” or “spammy” links. (And by that I mean questionable debt consolidation companies on personal finance sites, for example.) I just don’t see the potential. Can someone share a ballpark figure of traffic required (# visits/day) to earn anything with AdSense WITHOUT click-throughs? Or maybe I just need to pursue other advertising options.

P.S. Thanks for this overview article — very helpful. I think all of us need encouragement and reminders to be PATIENT with blog traffic and earnings growth.

29

This is a great article, Char, thank you. So many “monetization” articles are heavily biased towards doing it no matter what, and paint (I think) too rosy of a picture.

I find this to be honest and realistic, which is refreshingly encouraging.

30

@ Char: I’ll be quite candid here… I’ve only been running my main blog for about three months, and in that time the blog has directly brought me in an additional GBP 2000 (USD 4000) in business. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel the need to monetize the blog directly! ;)

@ Ingo: There’s loads of alternatives to Google and Yahoo mate – and none of them will rip you off or shut you down without warning!

31

Beth – I would think you need very high traffic numbers to make any money from Adsense without click throughs – and if you traffic is that high, there will be other options that are MUCH more lucrative than Adsense impressions.

I am most likely going to take Adsense off this site entirely as it is just not a good match.

Paul – the money I earn/will earn from design/consulting jobs as a result of this blog will far surpass anything I could earn via advertising. But my attitude with this blog is that anything extra that it earns is a bonus.

32

Definitely! I’m not saying that nobody should monetize their blog – it’s rather lucrative for some people! It just doesn’t feel right for me personally… ;)

33

The one thing that makes starting a blog as a money making enterprise different from say an online store, is that the blog will take a much longer time to show any traction (unless you think you can win in the AdSense arbitrage game). The key is find a niche market (preferably something you are passionate and knowledgeable about), find a need within that market and fill that need.

As for AdSense and its effectiveness, a lot of that comes down to your audience. We tend to be blind to the ads (those blogging or who work with the Internet), and we therefore tend to take our behaviors as the standard when in fact we are likely the minority.

34

Thank you for a good summary.

Personally I use Adsense and found its performance varying. From my experience, it takes about 6 months to get some decent traffic.

35

Great post on Monetization! I wish there were more like it that told the truth. I am in my third month of blogging and just totaled my ad sales for the first two. I am actually pretty encouraged at 23.00 but most of it came from Adsense….surprised. Nothing from Linkshare or CJ. I am experimenting with different sources that match my niche to see what brings in the most revenue and will try to stick with that.

What I still don’t get is how Gayla makes so much money! What is your secret??????

36

I started, like most, with Google Adsense.

It’s been quite a disappointment – very very little clikcs and also, I see ads I would prefer NOT be shown on my site.

What has worked thus far is affiliate programs that target the “niche” of my blog – dreams and altered states, consciousness exploration, etc.

BTW – great post and what a nice, clean-looking blog. You can tell you’ve put a lot of care into it. Good job!

37

Affiliate programs have worked best for us. It is better to get 10% of one big sale, than a whole month of AdSense clicks.

There is monetized, and then there is optimized. The best advise I can give is that the Google and Yahoo heat maps of clicks work. Anything that you want read, or clicked, needs to be above the fold to have its best chance. in other words, no scrolling. The exception to this are single page websites that are online info-mercials.

One of the best blogs for monetization is doshdosh. It is all about traffic and money to the point it borders on greed.

“Do what you love and the money will follow”, is what you always hear. Let me add, if it doesn’t, at least you loved doing it.

38

I just started my blog and I am still testing some of the advertising revenues available out there. And you’re right, there are way too many factors to consider because not all blogs make money. I know some bloggers are making $10,000 per month and they are using a variety of monetizing avenues.

39

Very concise write up of how new bloggers should approach monetization. It’s a lot harder than what everyone thinks, even when done right.

And blog software like blogspot perpetuate the ideas of easy blogging. Where most users put up one or two entries and call it blog. Which we all know is not even close.

40

You hit the nail on the head. The reason many so called “guru’s” want to make monetization easy is to sell more ebooks or courses.

As someone who’s started several offline business’s, I’d say starting a successful online business or blog is just as time consuming and takes just as much knowledge and effort.

Thanks for sharing that post!

Don

41

I have a different take on this subject. I did not set up a blog that I am trying to monetize, I’ve set up a website, and my blog is to draw attention and traffic to my website, which I am trying to monetize.

As they say in India (or they did in the late 80′s when I was there.) “Same Same, but different.”

42

Char, thanks a lot for a really great post. I found it by originally clicking on Jonathan Phillips shout to your site. Nice work! I truly did not know there was so much to it.

43

At what point do you think it is worth thinking about monetizing a blog? 100 visitors a day? 500?

Adsense is not good for younger sites, what is the best option?

Thanks for the good information.

44

Actually no prior monetizing options are good if your website doesn’t have content. Content is the first priority, the other is design and layout. If you have those you will get traffic and if you get traffic you can see a money flow.

45

Thanks for a great summary.

Personally I use Ads and found its performance varying. From my experience, it takes about 2-5 months to get some decent traffic.

46

I tried Adsense on what I thought was a useful financial website, but the payout seemed low.

So, I started a new way for a blogger to make money — direct payment from the audience on a per-minute basis.

Now, I’m advertising this new product using AdWords — and I’m paying an $0.08 CPM. I guess it wasn’t just me not making a lot with AdSense.

Extraordinary blog here, btw, congratulations.

47

You should try pubmarketplace.com. You can put their new graphical ad tag cloud on your site and it reaches a very wide audience, it doesn’t have to be a site that is tailored to a specific audience. It takes text ads to a higher level, animating them and proving to have higher CTRs and conversion rates. In my opinion their technology is way better than Google Adsense.

48

You hit it right on the button! There is no such thing as easy money on the internet. An online business is no differnet than any other brick and mortar business, if anything it is harder to succeed! Any program that promises instant overnight riches is most likely a SCAM! The only one who makes money is the person selling you false hope.

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