Three Easy Steps To Earning Money From Your Blog

October 9th, 2006 · 4 Comments
by Booksquare

Last week, we link to an article with the grand plan of returning to the topic later that day. Days have a way of getting away from us. As do weeks. But we have been dwelling mentally on the subject, and woke up this morning ready to write about the all-important topic of making money from blogs.

Lynne Scanlon notes that making money the traditional way (selling a book to a publishers, receiving an advance, earning out an advance, waiting months and sometimes years for royalties to be paid) doesn’t really work for her. Let’s all face facts: if you’re writing to get rich, you might also want to consider winning the lottery as a back-up plan (also, note our advice below). Scanlon has decided to (catch phrase alert!) monetize her blog.

It is a natural urge to try to make money doing what you love or do best. Especially if you have thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people reading you ever month. If you compare the daily readership of some blogs to the sales of most authors, the differences would make most publishers cry. However, the financial models are very different.

Scanlon discusses potential avenues for earning revenues (ads, ads, and sponsorships). These are, indeed, viable sources of money. We have had some modest success along these lines with other sites in the BS family. However, that success came not because we slapped up ads and counted the money as it rolled in. There are three basic elements that are essential if you’re serious about making your online ventures pay. These are not big secrets, by the way.

  • Niche – You need to figure out where your blog fits into the grand scheme of life. If you regularly visit grocery stores, you’ll notice that there are very few general interest magazines on the racks. Each and every publication differentiates itself (not all successfully) by targeting a specific niche. The Real Simple niche — people looking to streamline their lives in an upscale-ish sort of way — is very different than the Budget Living niche.

    To be a successful paid blogger, you need to know your niche and write about it. Sites such as Boing Boing get a pass on this rule because they have built a massive audience by targeting a wide range of interests with a geek perspective. Boing Boing is an exception, and if you read it regularly, you’ll understand why. In the world of blogs, specific trumps general.

  • Content – People do not generally come to your blog (or website) to admire your brilliant design. Okay, if it’s a brand-spanking new look, maybe you’ll get a rush of traffic admiring your lovely colors and hot boxes, but generally design doesn’t a destination make. People visit blogs and websites for content.

    Content comes in many forms: text, sounds, and images. We’re going to focus on text, because, well, our particular niche is very much into the written word. You’ll notice that A-List blogs have certain things in common, mainly good, strong writing with distinctive voices. Original content matters; repurposed, cookie-cutter content doesn’t work. Hmm, sounds like the publishing industry is dictating the rules of the Internet, no?

    Your content must be engaging and interesting. It must inform people about the topic at hand. It must be evergreen. Okay, it should be evergreen — content that gets digested by search engines and ranks high in Google (or other search engines) when people type in key phrases. Content that drives traffic to your site long after the post is off the home page. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule. There are always exceptions.

    You would think that writers would be particularly inclined toward creating good content. Let us add one more rule: frequent content. You don’t have to post twelve times a day, but you do need to post often. Daily, weekly, whatever your schedule, but the more you write, the more content. If it’s good content, then that leads to more traffic. Vicious circle, yes.

    In other words, bloggers who make serious money off their sites often treat their blogs like full-time jobs. Or part-time jobs if they’re thinking the money will be less serious. Successful bloggers are constantly writing and networking and doing all the things that writers do to sell their words. Because there’s one more key element of paid blogging:

  • Traffic – We’re not going to pretend we understand CPMs and all that advertising lingo. There are books, we’re sure, that explain it all. But we do understand the basic laws of traffic: you don’t make money off your blog if you don’t have decent traffic. Ten, twenty, one hundred visitors a day is simply not going to cut it (unless you have a high-paying niche and click-happy readers).

    Building website traffic is an art form, meaning it’s far more complex than we can get into here and now. You need a target audience, you need content — fresh and evergreen, and you need to employ traffic-building strategy. Very rarely do you build it and they come. As we’ve discussed in the past, this involves linking to others and community and writing articles that people want to link to, posts that people want to pass among their friends. Work, you know.

    You can, possibly, buy traffic, but that capital outlay won’t do you much good if there’s nothing behind it. People who come once won’t come twice if there’s no reason to make the effort. Have we mentioned the part about good writing and distinctive voice?

Bloggers do get paid for their work, and writers, especially, are well-positioned to take advantage of the medium. In order to make money off your site, you need to make your site a destination. Throwing up a bunch of links or grabbing canned content won’t do the job. And thus ends today’s rant.

[tags]writing, publishing, blogging, paid blogging, content[/tags]

File Under: Back To Basics · Marketing For Introverts · Non-Traditional Publishing

4 responses so far ↓

  • Lorra Laven // Oct 9, 2006 at 11:04 am

    Sounds like you really know your stuff, Booksquare. And I’m not surprised. This is the first blog on writing/publishing that I started reading on a daily basis because first, and foremost, it is well written and entertaining. I like “your voice”; it’s young and approachable, funny and well informed. When I first started reading, I pictured a twenty-something, sitting at the kitchen counter in cozy PJ’s with little bears on them (the bears are pink), hammering out daily content while “the husband” sipped his coffee nearby.

    I’ve been coming here for nearly two years (I think) because I often find an article, like this, that is worth reading. Even if I don’t, I always enjoy listening to your “voice”: your funny asides about the husband and traffic on the LA freeway, to name a few, are a bright spot in my day. And since I live in the midwest, those days can be very long and dark and gloomy come winter.

    After reading this post, I think I’ll use my time at this #@$& computer to write, occasionally sneaking peaks at entertaining blogs like yours. (Occasional is a such a lie.) I believe my time will be better spent.


  • Brandon // Oct 9, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    What a great post. While I’m not interested in making money from my blog, I do find your advice very useful and sobering. I’ve had several blogs in the past, but it wasn’t until I started The Bibliosphere that I really found my niche and learned the importance of having original content. I promised myself from the outset that I wasn’t going to rehash Bookslut by piling readers with links. This rule has kept me on my toes and forces me to put a little thought and effort into what I write. And it doesn’t hurt that I love to write.

    I’ve found that networking is important, too. The blogosphere is a community, and I’ve found that I actually love posting comments on other blogs. And if someone leaves me a comment, I pick an interesting post of his or hers and I say something about it. I don’t have a massive readership, but I understand that building a blog takes time.

  • KathyF // Oct 10, 2006 at 11:03 am

    Thank you for writing this post. I thought about writing something (in a more sarcastic vein) but I was laughing too hard to write it.

    The article was funny, but the comments were sad, especially the commenter who wondered if she should learn how to make a website so she could start blogging and make money in her sleep. Because, you know, you can just write about your child eating cereal and everyone will flock to your site!!!

    Oh crap, I’m laughing again. Must. Not. Spew.

  • Booksquare // Oct 10, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    I appreciate the response to this one (hey, Lorra, long time, no comment)! I believe that making money from your writing is very important, and if blogging is how you express yourself, if you can make it pay, yes, yes, yes! But it’s not easy.

    Kathy, I do so admire your self-restraint. If only I could practice such good habits…

    Brandon, your comment about not being Bookslut is interesting and smart. When I first made the decision to start this blog, I really considered what I wanted to be (and it’s changed since those first few posts…oh, how awful they were!). As I’ve never had an opinion I didn’t want to express, this was natural. As there were few blogs equally comfortable discussing literary and genre fiction, that worked in my favor. As I write like me and nobody else has the same style, it worked out just fine.

    Building traffic is a long, hard process, but I firmly believe that doing it in an organic manner (as you are) is the best approach. And community is critical. I cannot stress how important community is. I have been very lucky in that regard, and I cannot say enough about the generosity of the online literary community.

    By the way, the pajamas were indeed too cute for words. But instead of bears, they were adorable little skiing kittens. I wore those things until they (quite literally) fell apart. Never underestimate the amazing power of great pajamas. But (almost all of) your vision is pretty darn close. Except the age thing, but you know how that goes.