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How to Monetize Your Authority Blog

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This post is part of a series called Build a Profitable Authority Blog.
How to Create an Audience for Your Authority Blog

We've made it!

After nine posts covering everything from picking a blog topic to choosing high quality plugins for your site, our series on building a profitable authority blog is coming to a close. With that in mind, it seems fitting that we finish by talking about a topic that interests most people more than any other: how to make money from your site.

If you've come this far then the pieces of the puzzle should be falling together. You should have a great blog topic, your blog's design and functionality should be up to scratch, you should be creating epic content, you should have the beginnings of a social media empire and (most importantly) you should have started building an engaged audience. Now it's time to reap the fruits of your labor.

The concept of making money from your authority blog can quickly become overwhelming. With a plethora of "make money online" bloggers telling you exactly how you can supposedly make a six figure income overnight in so many different ways, how on earth do you know where to start? Furthermore, how can you monetize your blog effectively without alienating an audience that is used to getting everything for free?

In this post we cut through all of the fluff and focus on the key considerations for effectively monetizing an authority blog.

The Truth About Monetizing a Blog

According to blogging.org, 81% of blogs never make any more than $100. Most blogs will never even make it to the stage of attracting more than a handful of visitors (let alone making money), so if you have achieved that, you're already one step ahead of the game.

The simple truth of monetizing a blog is that it's not easy. The biggest piece of the equation is not what you should do, but how ready your audience is to generate an income through you (by whatever means). To quantify this, I essentially mean how much each visitor to your site is worth.

For instance, a visitor to a celebrity gossip blog will be worth very little. They're certainly not on the site to spend money, so advertising remains the only viable option of monetization. But this type of person is also likely to be web-savvy and blind to most forms of advertising, which will drive the cost to advertisers down.

Although celebrity blogger Perez Hilton makes a lot of money from his blog, it has to attract an enormous number of visitors to do so. The lesson: if you want to make good money from your blog, don't write about celebrity gossip (or any other such topic that is likely to attract "low value" visitors).

On the more profitable side of the scale, consider a blog that features high-end hi-fi equipment reviews. Now we're talking. Visitors to this site are likely to be affluent and ready to buy (why else would they be seeking out reviews?). If the owner of this site can refer them to hi-fi equipment purchases and pocket a commission on the sale, he'll be earning a good return on his blog.

Now I'm not saying that you should launch a hi-fi reviews blog, but the moral of the story is that you should carefully consider how your approach to your topic affects the value of your visitors.

At the end of the day, if you have a blog with an audience, you can make money from it. The only questions are:

  1. How much can you make?
  2. How easily can you make it (i.e. how valuable are your visitors?)

You should consider these questions carefully. Keep them in mind, as we go through the different methods of monetization below.

Method 1: Advertising

Advertising is the lowest common denominator when it comes to making money from your blog. It is undoubtedly the most popular form of monetization (due to platforms like AdSense) and the easiest to implement. You can whack up some advertising banners on your site today and start making money if you have anything more than a handful of visitors to your site.

The screenshot below is an example of Google AdSense on a website, something you will have seen many times before.

It may seem too good to be true, and to an extent it is. Although online advertising is very easy to implement, you'll struggle to make much money from it unless you have high volume of traffic to your site. Your income per visitor will be very low.

For instance, I currently have a small niche site of five pages (shown above) that attracts just 600 visitors per month. Each unique visitor is worth just half a cent to me on average. While that's an extreme example (you can certainly earn more per visitor than that with advertising), it underlines the difficulty of making anything more than a modest sum from online advertising.

Contrast that with my blog, Leaving Work Behind, which makes its money via two of the monetization methods discussed below. Last month the income per visitor was nine cents. That's 18 times as much income from each unique visitor to my site.

We use advertising as part of our monetization strategy here on FreelanceSwitch, as shown above.

Advertising is an option for your blog. Yet, be wary of relying on it as your only blog income source. You should only choose advertising when you have exhausted all other options or as a supplement to other monetization methods.

Method 2: Affiliate Marketing

With affiliate marketing we're wandering into the realms of making real money from your blog. However, your journey won't be without its pitfalls.

For those of you who don't know, affiliate marketing is simply the act of promoting someone else's product or service and getting a slice of the proceeds as a commission when a sale is completed. It is hugely popular amongst bloggers as it combines the ease of implementation of advertising with the high income potential of more lucrative (but more involved) forms of monetization.

This is my Resources page on Leaving Work Behind, complete with affiliate disclaimer. It's important to include a disclaimer to notify your audience that you are promoting affiliate products.

There is a dark side to affiliate marketing to watch out for.

In promoting other people's products in order to gain commissions, it becomes very difficult not to compromise yourself. Say for instance you're making $1,000 from a product every single month. What if that product releases an update that you hate? Do you now publicly denounce the product at the risk of losing that reliable income? This is the kind of dilemma that affiliate marketers face.

In fairness, some don't consider this a dilemma and are happy to keep on promoting, but I'm assuming that you have moral values that guide your business decisions.

Furthermore, affiliate marketing is an area in which you can experience varying degrees of success. Consider for instance how I make money from affiliate marketing. The majority of my affiliate income is derived from sales of web hosting packages. Each commission nets me a cool $100.

On the other hand, I could help to sell literally hundreds of other products I recommend and still not make as much money as I do from hosting. When it comes to affiliate marketing, you can make as little as you might from low-value advertising, or as much as you might from a high-end product release. There's a huge range of income potential.

Although I made nearly $1,500 last month in affiliate income, as shown above, Amazon accounted for just $13 of it. If Amazon was the only affiliate income channel on my blog, I'd be making a low return on this monetization strategy.

Another issue with affiliate marketing is that of ownership. As an affiliate marketer, you don't own the product you are promoting.

A company might go bust and you would never get your money. It might take them 90 days to actually pay out. There are typically minimum income payout thresholds for payout. You may find that the affiliate program for a product you promote is pulled literally overnight. When you don't have control of the product, you don't have control of the income.

In short, affiliate marketing is not for the faint hearted. While you can make a great deal of money from it, you will almost certainly be presented with situations in which you are challenged to compromise your moral values. Furthermore, a lack of control can lead to frustrating scenarios. But if you can deal with these issues, then there certainly is money to be made.

Method 3: Offer Services

This is one of the most lucrative but arguably the most overlooked methods of making money from your blog, probably because it doesn't adhere to the concept of "passive income" that so many bloggers desire. But ignore the possibilities to your detriment. Offering services via your blog is what enabled me to quit my job and is the reason you are reading this right now.

Offering services is as simple as putting a Hire Me or Services page on your blog that (as you might expect) offers a service to your reader. Here's the Hire Me page on my blog:

The concept is simple: figure out a service that your blog readers would be interested in and provide a solution. Examples include:

  • Freelance writing for a content marketing blog.
  • Weight loss consultancy for a health and fitness blog.
  • Graphic design for a blog that showcases great logo design.
  • Bookkeeping services for a financial planning blog.
  • Photography services on a wedding blog.

The list could go on, practically indefinitely.

Put simply, if someone has a need, and you have the valuable skill to solve that need, then you can provide a relevant service through your blog. It takes very little effort to sell that service on your site. You just need the time required to create your Hire Me or Services page and you can start making money tomorrow.

Of course, the downside to offering services is that the business model is a straight time-for-money deal. You work for X hours and you make Y dollars. Of course, a lot of people wouldn't complain about earning $100 or more per hour (which is certainly possible with the right service).

Perhaps the best thing about service provision is that you can offer it from day one and your readers are unlikely to bat an eyelid. You're offering a service that they can use or not and it's coming from you directly, which isn't the case when you're pushing affiliate products or plastering your website with ads. Those more "blatant" forms of monetization will always leave a question in the reader's head regarding your motives. When it comes to intent with your own services, you can be completely transparent with your offer.

Method 4: Information Products

I've saved my favorite until last.

For those who are in search of the passive income holy grail, information products is where you will find it. The concept is simple: create an electronic product and sell it. That product can be a PDF, a video course or even a membership site. The overheads are extremely low and the profit margin is extremely high. Furthermore, once you've created the product, there is little more to do other than tweak your sales page, promote, and collect your money.

Nerd Fitness—an extraordinarily popular health and fitness blog—makes close to 85% of its income from information products (source: Fizzle).

Of course, creating profitable information products isn't quite that easy. First there's the challenge of creating something that people will perceive as valuable enough to spend money on. This can have as much to do with how engaged your audience is as it does with the quality of the product. Then you need to figure out how to sell it (both figuratively and literally) to your audience.

However, creating information products needn't get too complicated. I'm a big advocate of jumping in head first and learning from experience. Even a small subscriber base can result in a profitable outcome.

It's Time for Action

Although I've mentioned four methods of monetization above I would really only heartily recommend two: services and information products. While affiliate marketing is a great option (I use it), it can compromise your approach to blogging and should be approached with caution.

Meanwhile, selling your own service and information products allow you to blog with a clear conscience and will reveal all sorts of money-making opportunities.

Even if your blog is a day old you can launch a Hire Me page and start your journey to making money from your blog. Similarly, even if you only have a handful of subscribers, you can create an information product and work on building your blog around it. Once you have the infrastructure in place, it's just a case of driving more people to your blog.

So there we have it folks. We are at the end of our series on creating a profitable authority blog. You now have everything you need within these ten posts to create something of true value. The only thing left to do is take action. Good luck!

Photo Credit: bixentro.

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