Making money with a blog seems to be the Nirvana of self-publishing: everybody talks about it, a few claim to be there already, but fact is nobody really saw it.
I always was fascinated by this incredible opportunity offered by blogging. Just 6-7 years ago, self-publishing, although praised and awaited, was nothing but a science fiction topic. People were dreaming about a way to publish their thoughts, their experiences, their ideas, without the hassle of traditional mass-publishing. No fussy editor, no sales channels, no waiting in line, just you, your message and your (potentially huge) audience. It seemed like a dream, for many. And yet, right now, we have hundreds of millions of blogs.
But soon, the fresh self-published wannabee will face a real life problem: how to make some money from this blogging thing? How to be self-sustainable? Doing what you love is surely fulfilling at the emotional level, but at the bills level things are a little bit messy.
The Prehistory Of Blog Making Money
First, there was traffic. Lots of traffic. Page impressions and an inflation in pride. If you did your game well, you could climb in a few months to the top of the ladder. At that time (6-7 years ago), you could actually sell your traffic in chunks. Advertisers were fighting over good, visible web space. That was the prehistory of making money with a blog. It’s called display advertising.
Then, contextual advertising came. You will not sell pixels anymore, but interactions. AdSense entered the scene and changed the game completely. The ads on your page were linked to the content. A huge leap forward. Now you could target some niches, write your text in a certain way, and voila: all the important advertisers were magically on your page. Of course, the user had to click on those ads in order for you to make money.
And then the affiliate marketing came in. Your traffic wasn’t so important anymore. What started to count was your retentive audience: your subscribers. Your page views were suddenly obsolete. Your carefully crafted posts wouldn’t generate clicks anymore. The only chance was to concoct a “special offer”, package it nicely and send it over directly to your subscribers inbox. A lot of them felt so honored by that message, that they’re actually buying.
Well, those were good times. Unfortunately, they’re over.
Making Money With A Blog Now
The blogging game has changed completely. There are a lot of new factors influencing this activity, and I’m only thinking about the economic part of blogging. Social media is riding the wave now and your message is more and more difficult to be heard. Unless you take a big chunk of your message and package it specifically for social media. Which isn’t blogging anymore, right?
And yet. there’s still a way to make some serious money blogging. How? It’s called reputation. And it’s the core of you next generation business. What follows is a detailed description of my own money making strategy on this very blog. It may not be your cup of tea, if you’re used to traditional ways of making money, but then again, living prehistorically is not a viable choice anymore too, in my humble opinion.
What Is Reputation?
It’s a combination of Authority and Authenticity. Those are 2 of the 7 traits of the highly successful bloggers, by the way. Reputation is what makes you believed and respected. It’s also something that attracts your audience to your blog over and over again. As you will see by the end of this article, reputation is also the subtle glue which ties together your new money making mechanism.
We live in an information overloaded society. We do not have enough time to go deep into every detail. We do not want to know all the gimmicks in a new device, all we want to know is that we did a good choice. We do not want to know everything about sailing a boat, we need to know enough to get by. We need a reputable source. A truthful and authoritative answer.
If we want to change our lives, all we have to do is to follow the advice of someone else who did it. And did in a trustable way. We need somebody to rely on.
And that’s exactly what reputation does to you: it makes you believable.
Shifting Your Money Focus
Suppose you’re already there: you have a reputable blog, a little bit of traffic and a living ecosystem around your blogging realm. Now, when you think at monetizing it, you start all the process from the prehistory: you try some advertising, then some AdSense then some affiliate stuff. Being prehistoric, that approach will give you prehistoric results. If you’re lucky. Most of the time it will give you nothing.
That’s a pivotal point. Because, based on these results, you draw some incorrect conclusions. Since you don’t make money with a blog, you start assuming that you’re doing something wrong at the other level, in writing. You change your style aiming at a broader audience. You start to make some compromises just to attract more and more traffic. You start a numbers game. If I make 100 dollars / month using AdSense, then I will just have to multiply my audience 100 times.
Wrong. Deadly wrong. And you know why? Because when you’re starting to make some compromises, you’re affecting your authenticity. And authenticity is one of the 2 pillars of reputation. Basically, in search of money, you’re ruining your reputation. And, even if the traffic numbers are higher and higher, you’ll soon see that revenue is going lower and lower. Your loyal audience will be alienated and the new one will be too volatile.
So, what to do? Is there a way to escape this number race?
Yes, it is. Here’s the short version: shift your focus. Don’t use the same prehistoric tools to attract money. Go out of the box.
And now let’s talk about the long version.
The Reputation Ecosystem
First of all, stop thinking at your blog as a revenue source. That sounded a little bit counter-intuitive, right? How to make money with a blog… without a blog? Well, that’s a fundamental confusion. Your blog is your main tool for building reputation. Not your money making product. The money making thing is the reputation you build with it. Got it?
The blog is just a tool. Treat it like this.
Second, shift your focus toward other areas in which your reputation could be converted into money. Some of these areas may have common points with the blog (or with the online economy), some of them may not. Don’t reject the latest.
Use your blog as a common land for your activities in these new areas. Here are just 5 types of activities, personally tested, which will help you make money with your reputation. Which you previously built with your blog, of course.
1. Build Your Own Digital Products
The easiest way to extend your reputation into payable goods is to create your own digital products. These products will carry on the same authority you used to create your blog, with the small but fundamental difference that they will be available only after they’re paid for. These products will contain as much value as your blog, but they will be packaged differently.
The easiest example for these digital products is an ebook. It’s also familiar. If you are an experienced writer on your blog, you wouldn’t find it difficult to write an ebook. But digital products are not limited to ebooks. I did an experiment once with creating an audio version of one of my posts. Here’s the link (it’s only USD2.99):
33 Ways To Get And Maintain Motivation.
As for the ebooks, I already wrote 4 ebooks and all 4 are still selling. Here are the link for your curiosity:
- 30 Sentences For A Millionaire Mindset
- 100 Ways To Live A Better Life
- 100 Ways To Screw Up Your Life
- The 7 Ages Of An Online Business
One very important thing to remember about digital products is that they have a specific revenue time span. It decreases over time. Usually, the launch will generate 80% of the sales, with the rest of the 20% spread over 6-9 months. So, unless you become a New York Times best seller, your regular digital product won’t be a recurring revenue stream.
But you can always write more ebooks, of course.
2. Promote Other, Related Digital Products
Another way to extend your reputation is to recommend other people products. This looks a lot like affiliate marketing and it even shares some technical terms (you will become an affiliate for the seller) but it’s very different in nature. Because you will not actively seek buyers for these new products. You will endorse them in your articles. If your readers will find those products interesting, they will buy. There’s no obligation. And no incentive either. It’s just your reputation on the line.
And that’s a big difference. Usually, in the affiliate marketing business, you will identify the products first, and then start building some content around those products. In my approach, you will just endorse some products that are “clicking” with your blog vibe. Of course, that means that you’re not going to promote exotic cheese products if you’re a personal development blogger. That, again, will ruin your reputation.
Here are some of the products I recommended (and still recommend) in the last few months. Of course, all the links are affiliate links, so if you buy, I will get a percentage of the sale.
- Unautomate Your Finances – by Adam Baker from ManVsDebt.com
- How To Network Awesomely – by Colin Wright from ExileLifestyle.com
- Upgrade Reality by Diggy from UpgradeReality.com
- The Personal Excellence Book – by Celestine Chua from CelestineChua.com
As you can see, all the products are coming from respected bloggers in the same field, self-improvement.
3. Promote Your Tools Of Choice
If you have a well respected blog, chances are that you are using some specific tools to maintain it. These tools can also be an extension for your reputation. For instance, I’m using WPSumo, an incredibly useful wordpress framework (and I’m not saying that because I’m a part of WPSumo, it really is a very good product). I’m also using Scribe SEO, a brand new tool which helps me with my SEO copywriting. As you can imagine, I am actively promoting those 2 tools.
But, there is a “but”. Just promoting them wouldn’t be enough. I took the time to dive in and bring out some extra value to those products. As I already told you I am a partner in my own wordpress framework, WPSumo, and that makes me work day in and day out for it. Also, I tooke the time to present Scribe SEO in details. You know why? Because my reputation is on the line.
Speaking of tools I endorse, I couldn’t end this paragraph without talking about MacJournal. I’m using this very powerful tool not only for writing my articles and keeping my blogging setup in order, but also for writing my ebooks or even creating habits. This time I signed a direct deal with the producer. Basically, each month you get a specific Mariner promo code, unique to my blog, which will give you a 25% discount.
4. Pick A Parallel Niche
And grow a related product there. This will require a little bit of a leap of faith, so to speak. Because you’re going really far away from blogging.
In my case, this parallel niche is about iPhone apps. I wrote a lot about productivity here and I also created a life management framework called Assess — Decide – Do. So, I went out of the box and created my own iPhone productivity app. It took me a little bit over 30 days, but it is well worth the effort. Now it has a life of its own and it’s doing pretty well on the App Store. It’s 2.99 USD and, from what I saw on my App Store reports, it’s not at all a big price. In other words, it sells. 🙂
I didn’t spent a dime on marketing for this product. All I used as marketing was my reputation. The blog is the only platform that keeps this product floating around. It’s still early to call this a success, but it is surely an incredibly important lesson to learn. The Apple ecosystem is by far one of the most interesting in terms of revenue these days.
5. Sell Your Reputation By The Hour
Consulting. Workshops. Coaching. Whatever you feel you can deliver outside your blog, in the real world, in a face to face interaction. I did this too, creating two real life products, a mentorship program fro young entrepreneurs and a three days blogging workshop. Both were what I can call a definite success. Extending your reputation over real life products is often the most ignored way of monetizing a blog.
It’s very important to note that this money making approach can be recurring. Instead of selling your physical presence, you could package it into an online course and make it available to your blog audience. Again, Brian Clark from CopyBlogger stand up with his Teaching Sells program.
As you can see, there is very little here related to display advertising, contextual advertising or other prehistoric tools to generate money. As a matter of fact, this money making approach looks like a rather scattered land. You actually generate revenue using a variety of sources, not all of them directly (or visibly) linked to each another.
And that’s the true mastery of making money with a blog. To build such a powerful glue that it will not only keep together this distributed mechanism, but it will also make it grow exponentially.
I call this glue reputation.