Making Your Blog Pay

If you write, you can make money online – or so you’ve probably heard. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it looks; you may make money, but getting rich, or even a living wage, is a little trickier. This article collects some ideas for your consideration.

First, you’ll want to make sure that your own writing is up to snuff. Sure, you can name any number of places online with deficient writing, and so can I for that matter. But bad spelling and grammar gets in the way of your message, and web users with short attention spans will not want to cut through the chaos. This should be basic, but some of the sites I visited while researching this article reminded me that it isn’t.

Beyond the actual writing, there are certain matters of formatting you might want to consider. Jennifer Osborne, writing for Search Engine People, completed a very good article called “10 Golden Rules of Blogging.” Much of it involves keeping in mind the special points that make writing for the web different from any other kind of writing. For example, there are things you can do to encourage more people to read what you’ve written, such as including buttons for submitting the article to social networking sites. And remember that short attention span I mentioned? You’ll want to cater to it with:

  • Killer headlines every time that grab the reader.
  • Blog entries that are short and succinct, perhaps 400-700 words long, and mostly substance.
  • Posts that are easy to scan, with bulleted lists, bold text, and enough white space to allow the content to “breathe.”
  • Pictures and images that help convey your point. Clip art does not look professional for a business blog, but an on-topic image, regardless of the topic, is not hard to find.

Osborne lists a number of important rules, and I recommend you follow the link. But even she admits, “They’re just table stakes to make it even possible to sell.” I’ll come back to that point later in this article. In the next section I’ll discuss a couple of firms that actually pay bloggers to write.

One of the best-known ways to make money from your blog, if you’re specifically producing content and not trying to use it to sell anything, is AdSense. This Google program lets web sites earn revenue by allowing the search engine to place relevant text ads on their pages. Your content must be acceptable; Google provides a long list of rules which a web site must follow to be approved for AdSense. You’ll still have to promote your site on your own to get enough views and click-throughs on AdSense ads for this to make money for you.

There are also affiliate programs. Practically everybody knows about Amazon.com’s program; it was launched back in 1996, making it perhaps the oldest such program on the web. Three of our sister sites regularly run items with affiliate links to Amazon. If you’re an avid reviewer, this might be a way for you to make a little income on the side. Once again, though, you’ll have to promote your own web site.

If you’re not averse to promoting advertisers within your blog, you might want to look at Pay Per Post. The Pay Per Post business model matches advertisers with bloggers, letting advertisers sponsor specific blog entries if the entry’s content meets with their approval. The blogger then gets paid.

It’s a little more complicated than that; every Pay Per Post blogger is expected to follow a code of ethics under which they are required, among other things, to reveal when their post has been sponsored by an advertiser. The amount of money a “Postie” makes varies depending on the opportunities they choose to accept, whether their posts are accepted, and many other factors. Top posties can make $2,000 or more in a month, but the average seems to be closer to $200 or less for casual bloggers.

Associated Content offers an interesting business model. It encourages bloggers to write on any topic and submit the post to its “yield management system.” It then pays the writer an up-front fee that usually runs between $4.00 and $20.00. Contributors get another $1.50 for every thousand page views their post receives. AC puts the post on its own web site, and also distributes it directly to specific web sites in its network. AC will also put out “calls for content;” a recent check of the site revealed 83 of them for subjects ranging from celebrity gossip to health issues (such as appropriate exercises for multiple sclerosis).

There is some controversy surrounding Pay Per Post and Associated Content. Some complain that these kinds of companies reduce the quality of content online. Others say that paying bloggers for content, especially the way Pay Per Post does, may cause them to be dishonest in the opinions they express, thus causing problems with the online signal-to-noise ratio. At least one blogger has accused Associated Content of unethical business practices.

Be that as it may, a number of professionals have observed that a good writer can make more money writing their own blog for their own purposes than they can if they write for Pay Per Post or Associated Content. In the next section, I’ll talk about some of the things to keep in mind if you’re using your blog to sell.

Let us assume that, rather than getting paid for your content or advertising around your content, you’re selling a product or service. Your blog then becomes a sales tool. Blogs can be great for building traffic; people are always searching for information on the Internet. If you provide them with the information they’re looking for, they’ll not only stop by and read it; they’ll subscribe to your blog and tell their friends about it. That doesn’t automatically mean they’ll purchase from you, however.

You need to change readers and browsers into customers. How do you accomplish this? Osborne recently wrote about five steps a blogger can take, after mastering the ten golden rules of blogging, to get readers to convert. Some of these also make sense if you’re focused on content and your goal is to boost traffic.

For example, the first step is to build your authority. Are you an expert? Make sure that your readers know it – not from you saying so, but from your sharing your knowledge. Is there one aspect of your field that you know better than anyone else? Write about it. Read about it, too, and link to other blogs in your industry that contain information useful to your readers.

Speaking of links, you can use them proactively to get your readers to convert. Osborne calls this following the “loop strategy” in your posts. Link your reader to the logical “next step.” If you’ve shown them interesting content, link to the next thing they’re likely to find of interest.

Here’s something you might not expect: one of the things your reader might find of interest is who YOU are. That’s why your third step is to make sure you have an “About Us” page in your blog. I’ve written about the “About Us” page before, so I’m not going to rehash all my arguments here. I’ll agree, however, with the one Osborne makes.

To put it simply, if I read a blog on a topic that interests me, and I’ve never heard of the writer, I’ll want to know something about them. If you don’t have an “About Us” page, you will leave me wondering – and you’ll pass up an opportunity to build my trust in you. People don’t buy from those they don’t trust; they can’t trust you if they don’t know who you are; and, while there are lots of ways they can find out who you are, isn’t it easiest for you to just tell them?

Now, earlier I said that it’s a good idea to have a “loop strategy” that takes your reader to the next page in which they’re likely to be interested. That could very well be a landing page for your product or service. There’s nothing wrong with linking to a product if it’s related to your blog entry or article and you’ve given the reader useful, related content. For example, who writes articles about the weight loss benefits of green tea? Those who want to sell you green tea, that’s who. “Does that bother me? Not if the article was useful,” Osborne notes. (And if you’re really observant, you’ll notice I used the loop strategy myself in the first paragraph of this section).

Here’s another good reason to link your blog entry to a landing page: it means that you can have your “call to action” for the purchase somewhere other than in your blog post. A blog, ideally, lets you provide information; it’s not a direct salesman. Leave that to your landing page. There are a number of ways you can ask for the close on that page; I’ve written about landing pages as well. But your blog is not a landing page.

Your blog can bring you money in a variety of ways. I’ve listed only a few here, and given you some tips for using it in conjunction with selling a product or service. I hope I’ve given you enough ideas to work with. Good luck!

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