Thursday, December 01, 2005

Adsense Tips for Bloggers

How do you make money from the Google Adsense Program?

I have been asked this question so many times in the past few weeks that I thought I should write something on the topic. It seems increasingly bloggers want to try to cover their hosting and ISP costs with some revenue from their blog - and perhaps even make a few dollars on the side. Many are turning to Google’s Adsense program.

Covering costs of my Living Room and Digital Photography Blog is why I originally signed up with Google Adsense - blogging can get expensive when you have high levels of traffic and a lot of pages.

Whilst the agreement you sign with Google stresses that you are not allowed to give specific information about your earnings from the program I can say that I’m glad I’ve signed up because its well and truly covered my costs - and then some. In fact I think its quite feasible to expect that Adsense coupled with other strategies for making money from Blogging could quite easily generate a decent living. It takes time and hard work, but I think its very doable. (Update: Since writing this series I’ve revealed that I am now looking at making over a six figure income this year in 2005 from blogging).

So how do I make money from Google Adsense?

This will be the first in a series of posts on this topic. Let me say up front I’m no expert - there are a lot of people out there making a lot more money than I am using Adsense - however most of them are not telling their secrets - well not for free anyway. I’ve got no secrets to hide and am willing to share what I’ve learnt since I signed up for the program 8 months ago. If you want a REAL expert’s opinion on Adsense I’d recommend buying Joel Comm’s What Google Never Told You About Making Money with Adsense E-Book. Joel earns $15,000 per month from Adsense and has some good things to share.

I know some bloggers are put off or offended by the idea of making money from blogging so I’ll try not to let these posts dominate my blog - however if you are not interested in the topic, simply skip over these posts.
I am going to assume a few things in this series to cut down the amount of introductory comments I have to make. Here is what I am assuming:

* You have a blog. Whilst most of the following tips will apply to other types of websites I run Adsense on blogs and will speak from that experience.
* You have (or will) read a basic overview of Adsense and have some understanding of what it is.
* You have(or will) read the program policies as outlined by Google. These give details of site eligibility, ad placements and other requirements for using the system.

Is Your Blog Suitable for Adsense?

Is your blog suitable for Adsense? - Before you rush into signing up for Adsense expecting it to earn you a million dollars it is worth asking the question of whether Adsense is the right revenue strategy for your blog. By no means is it the only option - you might like to check out this tip on other ways of making money from blogging.

Whilst there are some amazing success stories about earning big dollars with Adsense out there, it is worth taking a realistic look at some cold hard truths about the Adsense program.
Google does not accept every site that applies to the Adsense program.

* Google Adsense Program Policies indicate that the content of sites must not contain things like excessive profanity, pornography, illicit drugs etc. Basically your blog needs to have content that is reasonably ‘family friendly’.
* Also in their policy document is a reference to them not normally accepting pages of a personal nature. This is the topic of discussion in many Adsense forums and is obviously open to different interpretations. Many (if not most) blogs are personal in nature - however to maximize your chances of approval by Adsense a blog should be targeted on a particular topic/s. For example whilst this blog is often personal in nature - most of my individual posts (pages) focus on very specific themes which are repeated throughout the blog. update - this may have changed recently with Blogger now allowing blogger blogs to use Adsense.
* Sites accepted into the Adsense program are also required to be easily navigable, have an adequate quantity of text based content (don’t apply if you’ve been blogging a week) and be written in English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, or Spanish. They may not to have excessive advertising or other contextual/competing advertising.
* Whilst not stated in the Adsense Policy document, many also believe that sites accepted into the program also need to have reasonable levels of traffic. If your blog is new, it may be worth waiting a few weeks or months before applying to build up traffic and content levels. Others speculate that a professionally designed, well-organized and privately hosted blog has a better chance of being accepted. The more professional and successful your blog appears the more likely it is to be accepted by Adsense.

If still in doubt after reading Google Adsense Program Policies you can email Google for clarification or just apply and see how you go.

Of course, acceptance by Google into the Adsense program does not guarantee your success. The fact remains that certain blogs will always be more successful than others at generating income.

Future posts in this series will focus upon strategies and tips for increasing your revenue but it should be stated here that the most successful sites are generally sites with very high traffic levels and/or content that is directly related to a particular product or service (the more targeted and niche-like the better).

It is also worth saying that Adsense works best on pages with lots of text content. It only reads text in determining ads, not images so make sure you have enough relevant content.

An Equation for Success

There are many factors that impact the level of revenue generated from a blog using the Google Adsense program. Books have been written explaining expert strategies for Adsense - However for the purposes of this series we’ve boiled it all down into four elements that we believe impact your Adsense earning capacity the most. Speaking in general terms here is a simple equation that illustrates how the factors each contribute to Adsense Revenue.

Adsense Revenue = Traffic Levels + High Paying Ads + Relevant Ads + Optimally Positioned and Designed Ads

Its not Rocket Science. Each of the above four elements contribute directly to the total revenue that your Adsense Ads will produce. Don’t just work on one of them though because if any one is weak it will hold your potential earnings back. Lets break each factor down….

Traffic Levels - The more people that see you Adsense Ads, the more likelihood there is that someone will click on them. As I examine the statistics provided by Adsense that report my daily earnings I notice that my earnings in the past 8 months have increased considerably as my total page impressions have increased. For example earlier in the week when Slashdot linked up to this post I had an influx of 50,000 visitors in 24 hours to my blog - it doesn’t take a genius to work out what this did to my Adsense earnings that day! Work on increasing your traffic levels and you should see an increase in your Adsense Revenue.

High Paying Ads - Once again I’m stating the obvious, but if the content you provide on your blog attracts high paying ads you’re going to do significantly better. For example it has been documented that the PVR Blog is doing pretty well when it comes to high Adsense earnings - the secret of its success is partly due to it being served with ads that are high paying. The topic of the PVR blog is, as you’d expect, PVR technology including TiVo, Replay TV etc. This is cutting edge technology and therefore advertisers are willing to pay top dollar to get their products and services out there! In comparison if a person was to start a blog on ‘toothpicks’ I suspect the ads are not likely to pay very much. It would take very high traffic levels to earn as much from a toothpick blog as it would the PVR blog.

Relevant Ads - A second reason the PVR Blog is successful is that it servers relevant ads. To put it simply people looking for information on PVR technology are confronted by Adsense ads for PVR technology. I recently visited a blog that was having trouble getting relevant ads - they had a blog on Tourist destinations in Australia - but unfortunately they were getting Adsense ads for remote control cars. You can guess what their revenue was like. Increase the relevancy of your Ads to your content and you are one step closer to increasing your Adsense revenue.

Optimally Positioned and Designed Ads - One of the coolest things about the Adsense program is that they give you freedom in choosing the best position and color scheme for your ads. Just like in the wider world of advertising - positioning is a key element to an ads success. A Billboard positioned on a road where no one drives is not likely to get the same results as one positioned on a busy intersection. The position and design of your Adsense Ads is critical - if they are out of site they’ll never get clicked on.

Bringing them Together - The above four elements are in many ways pretty obvious when spelt out like this - the challenge comes to improving each to optimize Adsense revenue.

Your revenue will only grow as high as the weakest one of these factors on your blog. For example if you have high paying, relevant, well designed and positioned ads but no traffic you’ll not do well. Likewise if you have high traffic, high paying and relevant ads but they are poorly designed an in a position where they’ll never be seen - you’ll waste all your other hard work. Its not enough to work on one element.

How do we improve each? In the next four posts we’ll examine each area in turn and suggest a number of ways that you might try tweaking them to increase your revenue.

Increasing Traffic

I have argued the case for our equation for increasing Adsense Revenue

Adsense Revenue = Traffic Levels + High Paying Ads + Relevant Ads + Optimally Positioned and Designed Ads

I now will turn my attention to each of the four elements of good Adsense revenue in turn and give some practical easy to implement tips to improve each from my experience.

Increasing Traffic Levels is a key component to increasing Adsense revenue. As I wrote previously, ‘The more people that see you Adsense Ads, the more likelihood there is that someone will click on them.’

Increasing the readership of your blog is not as simple as it sounds, it takes time, patience and hard work (and sometimes a bit of luck) Having said that there are many things you can do to get your blog in front of a wider audience and there exposing the adsense messages on your site to more potential ‘clickers’. Here are a few tips…

* Quality, Interesting, Useful and Original Content - What are the blogs that you read the most? If you’re anything like me they are blogs that have quality content that ’scratches me where I itch’. This is essential to increasing your readership unless you have a pretty amazing ‘gimmick’ to bring readers in.
* Good Blog Design is really important if you want your blog to create a good first impression. With millions of other blogs and sites out there its worth some effort to make yours stand out. Also worth a read is Good Weblog Design and Layout.
* Link to others - be generous with your links to other bloggers big and small. You’ll be surprised how many links come back your way. This not only brings traffic from their sites but doesn’t hurt your ranking in Google.
* Comment on others blogs - Some of my most loyal readers came to my blog because I genuinely interacted with them on their blogs through comments. Hear me now, I say genuinely because its easy to spam in comments, but this will have the opposite effect of generating readers to your blog.
* Update Frequently - There is nothing that turns me off a blog faster than seeing that it hasn’t been updated for a month or more. Keep it rolling over with interesting content.
* Interact with Readers - Having an interactive blog that invites the involvement of readers is one way of generating repeat visitors. I’ve written a tip on Interactive Blogging including a number of interactive tools that you can use on your blog. Also check out this tip on using comments effectively to increase interactivity on your blog.
* Optimise for Search Engines - I can’t stress enough how important Search Engines are to increasing traffic, especially traffic that will click on your ads. I find that 95% of my traffic comes from Google and have found that anecdotal evidence suggests this traffic clicks through on Adsense ads at a higher rate than traffic from links on other blogs and sites. So work hard at getting listed and highly ranked on Search Engines.
* Add a signature to your outgoing email - Learn a lesson from Hotmail who have used signatures on the bottom of their users emails for years to promote their home page and generate interest in their product. Be careful though if you don’t want your worlds to collide!
* Web Rings - There are literally thousands of webrings that you can sign up for. I’m not sure how effective they are these days, but some people still swear by them.
* Add an RSS feed to your blog - more and more people are reading blogs without ever visiting them through News Aggregators that pick up information using RSS. Whilst this does not guarantee those reading through aggregators will visit your blog (and therefore see your Adsense Ads) it certainly increases the chances of them dropping by, especially if you invite comments and have internal links on your posts.
* List your site on Portals - There are a growing number of sites which exclusively list blogs. If you want people to find you its worth submitting your blog to be listed on them. Some focus on specific topics (like Eaton Web and Globe of Blogs). Other portals like BlogShares, Blog Street and BlogTree also list a lot of blogs in different ways which might increase your blogs profile.
* Blog Search Engines and Indexes - Get yourself registered on sites like Blogdex, Popdex and Daypop (they require RSS I think). These sites have features that allow people to search for blog entries via topic and keywords. They also list the most popular recent topics and each have other interesting features which can enhance your blogging experience.
* Start a Newsletter - Offer your readers a newsletter service to keep them up to date with your latest posts. I’ve found since adding a free weekly newsletter to my digicam blog that hundreds of readers have signed up for regular updates of my latest posts. Think about this - hundreds of people have given me permission to invite them to come back to my blog - every week!
* Get Involved in Blog Projects and Memes - From time to time other bloggers will invite your participation in a blog project of theirs. Get involved, support their project and you might find it pays off. On the flip side start your own blogging project or meme. Do something that is of service to other bloggers. Rachel’s Blogger Gallery was a great example of a project that allowed others to get involved. I tried something similar with Underblogs and Blogger Idol.
* Get involved in other web forums - Genuinely participate in web forums and discussion pages on topics related to your blog. Many of these allow you to add a signature to your posts which raise your blogs profile.
* Promote your Posts - If you think you’ve written something worthwhile spend a few minutes letting others know about it. I regularly shoot other bloggers to notify them of what I’ve written if I think it will interest them. Think about it before you send the email and don’t bombard the same people constantly with every topic you write on - be selective, concise, polite and helpful with your emails but don’t be afraid to promote yourself.
* Add a ‘Email a Friend’ Option to your posts - make it easy for your readers to tell others about what you’ve written. I know this function gets used regularly on my blog and brings in new readers that I would never otherwise have been able to reach.

These are just some of the ideas that I’ve used and seen others use to increase the readership of a blog and thereby increase the exposure of Adsense ads to a wider audience.Many of the above tips were taken from my Blog Tips Series including the ‘Finding Readers’ Series.

What methods have your found to be effective at increasing the readership of your blog? What works for your and what doesn’t? What tips would you add to this collection?

Of course increasing traffic alone won’t greatly increase your Adsense revenue, but it can help! In our next Adsense Tip for Bloggers we will explore ways to generate High Paying Ads - the second component in our Adsense Revenue Equation.

High Paying Ads

Adsense Revenue = Traffic Levels + High Paying Ads + Relevant Ads + Optimally Positioned and Designed Ads

The next element of this Adsense equation to be examined is how to get high paying Adsense Ads running on your site. Obviously in any business one way to get higher profits is to charge more for your product - whilst you have no direct say in how much is charged for ads run on your site - there are ways of targeting types of ads that might bring in a higher return than others.

As we mentioned in our initial explanation of the equation, the PVR Blog is one example of a blog that targets a well paying ad type - ads for PVR technology. Whilst I do not know specifics of earnings I would suspect blogs like Gizmodo who run Adsense ads would also be generating a higher paying ad, due to their focus on technology.

The lesson we can learn from blogs such as these is that they attract specific ads (that presumably are well paying) by keeping their content targeted on the same topics. To over simplify what we’re saying - if you want ads about Camera Phones blog about Camera Phones.

Finding High Paying Ads is not as easy as it sounds (is anything?). Do a search for Google on High Paying Adsense Ads and you won’t find too many sites listing the best keywords for Adsense. The top Adsense users in Adsense discussion forums tend to be pretty secretive about not only what keywords they focus on, but also what sites they run. I don’t blame them either - its good business sense really.

Having said this there are a number of strategies and tools that you might like to employ to help find high paying keywords.

* Buy them - Finding high paying keywords for your blog is possible by yourself for free - but as with everything a few entrepreneurial types are willing to do the leg work for you to save you some time and give you a comprehensive result. One service that you might like to try to find good keywords is Top Paying Keywords.
* Trial and Error - I know this will frustrate some of you who want a nice and easy quick fix but overall it is one of the best pieces of advice I can give. Try writing on a topic - track the results - if it pays off do it again….lots. Adsense allows you to track specific pages or sections of your blog using its ‘channels’ feature - if you’re smart you’ll watch which sections of your blog are generating the highest ads by dividing your overall earnings by the number of clicks and comparing it to other channels. Keep trying new topics until you strike gold and then dig in like crazy!
* Are there Any Ads? - This is a good first question. Despite the many thousands of advertisers using Adsense there are some topics where the answer to this question is no. A simple way to check is to head to Google and do a search for the key words you’re wanting to blog about. The results page will bring up not only a list of other sites writing about that key word (they are you competitors) but on the right hand side there will be a list of ads - these are the same sorts of ads you’ll get on your site if you write on the topic. If there are ads there, it is a good sign. If there are not - maybe its worth finding another topic to write on if you’re hoping to attract ads.
* 7 Search has a list of the 100 of the top paying keywords (in their advertising program - not Adsense) at the moment. Its a bit depressing actually to see a list like this because you’d have to sell your soul somewhat in order to go with many of them. Its an interesting site to check out though.
* Also from 7 Search (and more useful) is their Keyword Suggestion Tool which gives you an idea of what people are paying per click on different tools (again this is not specifically for Adsense but it will give you an idea of what the going rates are). Find What also has a similar service.
* Google Adsense’s biggest competitor are Overture (they run the ads on Yahoo) - they offer a service where you can enter your keywords and they will not only tell you how much advertisers are paying for the words but also how many people are searching for the term. This is a very useful tool.
* Sign up for Adwords - One way of getting a feel for how much people are willing to pay per click is to sign up with Google as an advertiser yourself. It doesn’t cost much to start a mini campaign and do some research this way. You’ll get a feel for what people are bidding on different words very quickly this way.
* Word Tracker is the best tool I’ve seen to help in finding keywords that people are searching for in the major search engines. The excellent thing about Word Tracker is that they also tell you how many other sites out there are targeting the same words! This is very handy as it will stop you targeting ‘Britney Spears’ as a Keyword phrase even though its one of the most searched for keywords on the web because literally hundreds of thousands of other sites have beaten you to the punch. Word Tracker has a free version to trial it and their paying version is even better - well worth the investment.
* I’m told Keyword Sleuth is a similar program to Word Tracker however I am yet to trial it.

Targeting High Paying Adsense Ads is an important aspect of generating an income from Adsense. It is not enough in and of itself however. You can have $10 per click ads (I’ve not found any of these yet) but without generating any traffic your research into the right ads will be useless. Likewise it is one thing to identify which ads you want to target - but it is another thing to actually get these relevant ads showing on your site. It is to this topic which our next post in this series will head - Finding Relevant Adsense Ads.

Relevant Ads

Revenue = high readership + high paying ads + relevant ads + well placed and designed ads

The third element of our Adsense equation is that of relevant Adsense ads. It is all very well to rank high in search engines to generate high levels of traffic, but without relevant ads that relate to the content of your blog you are not likely to generate much in the way of click throughs.

Let me give you an example. Recently I was asked to help a fellow blogger who has struggling with his Adsense ads because whilst his content largely focused upon the topic of ‘health care’ - most of the ads being served to his blog were focused upon ‘blogging’. He was getting quite reasonable traffic levels and had a reasonably high paying topic (there are some good health care ads out there) but as you’d expect, people coming to a blog about health care did not click on ads for blogging software and services at a very high rate. The challenge was to get his ads reflecting the content of his blog.

Another fellow blogger had the problem of not getting ANY ads being served to his site. Instead of paying ads all he was getting was the public service ads that Adsense serves when they couldn’t find any relevant paying ads (these pay nothing).

How do you get relevant ads? Here are a few things to try.

Make sure there are ads available - My friend who didn’t get any paying ads served was focusing on a key word for which there was no or very few ads. A simple way of checking this is to do a search on Google for the key word you are targeting. If they don’t serve ads on their own search results page its an indication that such ads are scarce - if not non existent. They way we got ads on my friends blog was to experiment with other related keywords. He didn’t have to change the focus of his blog - just the way he described his topics. For example if there are no ads for ‘bed linen’ try ‘blankets’, ’sheets’, ‘quilts’ etc. Experiment with different combinations until you find something that works.

Increase your Keyword density - The more you use your keywords the more likely you are to get ads on those topics. Its not common knowledge exactly how the Adsense bot decides what ads suit your content best (if someone knows feel free to post it in comments below) but it’s a pretty safe bet that if you put you keyword in your title, at least once in your first paragraph and then scatter it throughout the rest of your page that you’ll convince the Adsense bot of what your topic is. It MAY also be helpful to include your keywords in the URL of your page (Moveable type can let you do this - ie look at the URL of this page - it incorporates my title and therefore some keywords). It MAY also be worth putting your keywords in outward links, bold, italics etc. All of these strategies also help optimise yor blog for search engines which won’t hurt either.

Examine your Sidebars, menus, header and footer - It is not just your main content that the Adsense bot searches to find the topic of your page, but also your other areas. When I looked at the healthcare blog that was getting ‘blogging’ ads I noticed that he had the word ‘blog’ in his title, three times on his sidebar and once in his footer. It was also in his URL and he also used the word quite often in his content. My recommendation was to remove the word from as many of those places as possible and to increase his health care keywords. The ads improved their relevancy almost immediately.

Stick to one topic per page - Obviously this may not be feasible on your front page - but attempt to keep each individual blog entry/post as highly targeted as possible. I’ve noticed that some people often include two or three topics in one entry - this will confuse Adsense’s bot so split them up into two entries.

Block irrelevant Ads - Sometimes despite your best intentions Google just gets it wrong and serves your ads that have nothing to do with what you write. If you’re getting some repeating irrelevant ads block them. Adsense lets you do this to quite a few sites and its easy to do. I have a number of ads blocked, some because they are philosophically not consistent with what I write about, but mainly because they just are not relevant to the topic of my blogs.

Ask Adsense - If all else fails notify Google Adsense of your issue. Of course they are busy people - but Google prides itself on being responsive to its users. I’ve emailed with queries a number of times, once on an issue of irrelevant ads, and every time I’ve had positive results from my query. You’ve got nothing to loose - shoot them an email!

If you do all of the above you SHOULD find Adsense serves you with relevant ads. In conjunction with the other elements in our equation this will contribute to increased click throughs and hopefully higher Adsense revenue. Next in this series on maximizing Adsense revenue is a post on Well Placed and Designed Adsense Ads.

Well Placed and Designed Ads

Revenue = high readership + high paying ads + relevant ads + well placed and designed ads

The forth element of our Adsense Equation is that of having well designed and optimally placed Adsense Ads. I’ve found that ad positioning is incredibly important. I remember shifting the ads on one of my blogs a while back and being over the moon to discover the next morning that the move had doubled the click through rates that I’d had over night! Its worth doing some tweaking.
Adsense Ad placement and design is an issue that is often hotly debated in Adsense discussion forums. It seems that each Adsense user has their own strategy - some like ads that blend in, others like ads that stand out from the rest of the page. Some like ads in banner positions, others in skyscrapers, others like to put them right in the middle of content. In my experience, different strategies work on different blogs at different times. The key tip I’ll give you is to experiment. Try new positions and design and track your results. One of the best ways you can do this is by using Adsense Tracker which is an amazing tracking package for adsense which gives you much more control over what and how you track your adsense performance. It does cost to purchase the tracker but in my experience you’ll make your money back pretty quickly by using it to adapt your Adsense strategies.

Let me also share a few other tips that you might like to experiment with.

Blend - Most successful Adsense users seem to be taking the approach of blending their ads into the overall theme of their page. This often means making the ad’s background (and often border) the same (or similar) colour to the background of the page and making the title and URL the same as links of the rest of the page. In this way the ad does not stand out as being ‘ad-like’. Having said this I know of a few bloggers who take the opposite approach and make their ads as bright and ugly as possible in the hope of attracting the attention of their readers. I don’t subscribe to this because I think it cheapens the overall feel and look of a page.

In Content - More and more bloggers (and webmasters) are putting their ads inside the main body of their posts. In this way the ads are prominent and more likely to be seen by readers as they read your content. If your text wraps around the ads this can be quite effective. On the flipside of this argument is that you may run the risk of frustrating your readers with dominant ads. People reading content online are a fickle bunch and get easily turned off by blatant advertising.

Above the Fold - it is generally accepted that your Adsense ads should be placed towards the top of your page and be visable without your reader having to scroll down. Studies show that blog visitors stay on average for only 60 or so seconds, many without scrolling down. If you ads are hidden towards the bottom of your page you decrease the likelihood of them ever being seen let alone clicked.

Placement-4Left is Best - Google has put together a ‘heat map’ which is probably the best thing that you can look at when thinking about the positioning of your ads. You’ll see from it that they have found that ads on the left hand side of the page do much better than those on the right hand side.

Too Dominent? - The position and design of your Adsense ads needs to be balanced with the overall purposes and design of your blog. What is the priority of your blog - is it to make money or is it something else. I have a number of blogs - and place ads differently on each depending upon their purposes. For example this blog is not a commercial blog - I’m more interested in building relationships, sharing and hearing others ideas and updating those interested in what I’m doing with my life. As a result my Adsense Ads are in a less prominent banner position and are designed to fit with the overall theme of the blog. However on my Digital Photography Blog there is obviously a more commercial intent (as well as it being something of a passion and hobby). As a result I experiment with more prominent Adsense ads (usually skyscraper and within content).

I cannot stress enough how useful it is to experiment. What works on one blog doesn’t always work on another. I’ve also noticed that if you have a blog with regular and loyal readers that it is good to keep things changing as your readers tend to get used to the way your blog is and become blind to things like Adsense Ads. I notice that when I move my ads around that it often creates higher click throughs for a few days - until the blindness kicks in again. Joel Comm’s What Google Never Told You About Making Money with Adsense is an excellent E-book written with lots of good tips on positioning your adsense ads if you’re wanting to get another person’s opinion on this topic.

I’m a Six Figure Blogger

I’m a Six Figure Blogger

It just hit me - like a truck - that I’ve just become six figure blogger. When Andy and I selected that name for our course on entrepreneurial blogging - earning over $100k from blogging in a 12 month period was more of a catchy name and a dream than an achievable thing - but sometime in the last month or so it actually became a reality.

August is over and my monthly Adsense figures were a new record - the daily average was $511.27 with the monthly total coming in at just a stones throw from $16,000 (USD). The following picture is a screen capture (with my personal details blocked out) of the monthly total. It actually ended up being 0.36 cents higher than the total you see there (it all counts I guess).


As you’d expect, I’m pretty happy with that total - but what made me even happier (and made my heart skip a beat) was to look at the total for the past 12 month period and realize that this month’s total took me over the magical $100,000 since 1 September last year. In fact it took me over that mark considerably.

I wasn’t planning on an announcement of earnings this month - but I guess in the lead up to a course on six figure blogging it might be a good thing to actually let people know that it’s possible for a one person show to hit that kind of mark with enough time, luck and honest hard work.

10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs

10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs

We’ve now looked at a number of popular affiliate programs for bloggers and today I’d like to finish off this series by giving a few tips that should help bloggers get the best results out of any affiliate program that they choose to run with.

1. Consider your Audience - It almost goes without saying - but it’s worth putting yourself in your readers shoes and consider what they might be looking for as they surf by your blog. Are they shopping for specific products? Might they be looking for related products or accessories? What would trigger them to purchase? Start with your reader in mind rather than the product. If you take this approach you could end up doing your reader a favor as well as making a few dollars on the side.

2. Genuine Recommendations and personal endorsements always work best. There are literally hundreds of thousands of products and services for you to choose from to recommend to your blog’s readers but making money from them is not as simple as randomly adding links to them from your blog. Your blog’s readers come back to your blog day after day because something about you resonates with them - they have at least some level of trust and respect for you and perhaps the quickest way to destroy this is to recommend that they buy something that you don’t fully believe will benefit them.

The best results I’ve had from affiliate programs are where I give an open and honest appraisal of the product - including both it’s strengths and weaknesses. The most successful affiliate program I’m involved with here at ProBlogger is Joel Comm’s e-book which I reviewed here. If you read the review you’ll see that I not only tell readers who I believe the book is for but I also mention those it is NOT for. In a sense I critique it. On a surface level one might think that this wasn’t a wise move and that I should have given a glowing review - however the sales that I’ve had through the program have proven otherwise. People want to know what they are buying first and even if they know a product has limitations they will buy it if it meets their particular need.

3. Link to Quality Products - We all like to make sure we’re buying the best products money can buy - your readers are no different to this and are more likely to make a purchase if you’ve found them the best product for them. Choose products and companies with good reputations and quality sales pages. There is nothing worse than giving a glowing review of a product only to send your reader to a page that looks cheap and nasty.

4. Contextual Deep Links work Best - When I started using the Amazon Associate Program I naively thought that all I had to do was put an Amazon banner ad (that linked to Amazon’s front page) at the top of my blog. I thought that my readers would see it and surf over to Amazon and buy up big - thereby making me a rich man. Nothing could have been further from reality - I was deluding myself.

I always says to bloggers that I’m consulting with that they should learn something from contextual advertising when it comes to affiliate programs. The secret of contextual ads like Adsense is that a reader is reading a post on a particular topic on your blog and when they see an advertisement for that same product they are more likely to click it than if they saw an ad for something else. The same is true for affiliate programs. A banner to a general page on every page on your site won’t be anywhere near as effective as multiple links throughout your blog that advertiser products that are relevant for readers reading particular parts of your blog.

So if you’re writing a blog about MP3 players and have a review for a particular product - the most effectively affiliate program that you could link to from within the content of that page would be one that links directly to a page selling that specific model of MP3 player. This is how I use the Amazon program today. It is more work than contextual advertising because you’re not just putting one piece of code into a template but rather need to place individual links on many pages - but I find that it’s been worth the effort.

5. Consider positioning of links - One of the things I go on and on about with Adsense optimization is the positioning of ads. I tell bloggers to position their ads in the hotspots on pages (like the top of a left hand side bar - or inside content - or at the end of posts above comments etc). The same principles are true for affiliate advertising.

6. Traffic levels are Important - While it’s not the only factor - traffic levels are obviously key when it comes to making money from almost any online activity. The more people that see your well placed, relevant and well designed affiliate links the more likely it is that one of them will make a purchase. So don’t just work on your links - work on building a readership. Not only this, consider how you might direct traffic on your blog toward pages where they are more likely to see your affiliate links.

7. Diversify without Clutter - Don’t put all your affiliate efforts into one basket. There are plenty of products out there to link to so there is no need to just work on one. At the same time you shouldn’t clutter your blog up with too many affiliate program links. If you do so you run the risk of diluting the effectiveness of your links and could disillusion your readership.

8. Be Transparent - Don’t try to fool your readers into clicking links that could make you money. While it may not always feasible to label all affiliate links I think some attempt should be made to let people know what type of link they are clicking on. I also think consistency is important with this so readers of your blog know what to expect. For example here at ProBlogger usually put a note beside or under affiliate links to simply let readers know that that is what they are. On my Digital Camera Blog I don’t do this because of the large number of such links make it clear by the text around the link that clicking on it will take them to some sort of shop or information where a purchase is possible (ie a link my say ‘buy the XXX product’ or ‘get the latest product on XXX’.

9. Combine with other Revenue Streams - Affiliate programs and advertising programs are not mutually exclusive things. I’ve come across a few people recently who have said they don’t want to do affiliate linking because it will take the focus off their Adsense ads. While there is potential for one to take the focus off the other - there is also real potential for both to work hand in hand as different readers will respond to different approaches. You should consider the impact that your affiliate links have on other revenue streams - but don’t let one stop the other.

10. Track results - Most affiliate programs have at least some type of tracking or statistics package which will allow you to watch which links are effective. Some of these packages are better than others but most will at least allow you to see what is selling and what isn’t. Watching your results can help you plan future affiliate efforts. Keep track of what positions for links work well, which products sell, what wording around links works well etc and use the information that you collect as you work plan future affiliate strategies.

How the Most Highly Visited Blogs Earn Money

How the Most Highly Visited Blogs Earn Money

Yesterday I spent the afternoon wading through some of the most highly visited blogs going around at Truth Laid Bear’s Traffic Ranking page which ranks those blogs with Sitemeter statistics. I quite often head over there to keep track of who is doing what. Whilst it doesn’t track all blogs it does give you a hint at what blogs people are reading in terms of topic.

Today I was surfing through the top 30 of these blogs and I started to keep track of how many of them have some sort of income stream (whether it be ads, affiliate programs, donation buttons, merchandise for sale etc). I did the same exercise informally about 12 months ago and found that just over half of the top blogs had income streams. This year I found that things have changed - the Blogosphere is becoming more commercial (or at least the most highly visited blogs are). I’ll outline what each of the top 30 are doing to earn an income below - but let me first share some initial findings:

* All blogs in the top 30 have an income stream. Only one blog had no advertising or affiliate programs (it did have a donation button though).
* The most popular Income Stream on these Blogs is BlogAds - 23 of the top 30 have them.
* The next most popular income streams were donation buttons and Amazon links (mainly to books).
* Also popular were AdBrite text ads.
* Only 8 of these blogs use Adsense.

There are plenty of other observations to be made from what I found but I’ll let you chew over them a little and make your own remarks below in comments. Here are the notes I took on each of the top 30 blogs in the list:

One note of explanation - I deleted two of the blogs listed in Truth Laid Bear’s Traffic Ranking page due to them being duplicated in the list. The numbers below are their daily visitors (averaged from their last 7 days traffic).

1) Daily Kos - 443841 visits/day - Runs Blog Ads (15 currently running) ranging in price from $13000 per month for the premium position down to the classified position at $500 per month)

2) Gizmodo - 175706 visits/day - Runs a variety of Ads including an Affiliate program with CNET, a variety of private sponsorships and button ads, text ads using AdBrite ($400 per four week campaign). They also run Adsense ads on individual and category pages. Details on their Advertising Rates.

3) - 129981 visits/day - Runs BlogAds (8 ads currently showing) - ranging in price from 6000 per month for the Patron Position to Classified $500 per month. They also have a Donation Button and Amazon affiliate links.

4) Gawker - 104460 visits/day - Runs a variety of sponsorship/banner and affiliate ads (CNET again). They also have AdBrite text ads available at a cost of $600 per 4 week campaign. More information on their Ad packaages.

5) Eschaton - 103837 visits/day - Running BlogAds (currently with 8) which range in price from $2500 per month down to $100 for a classified ad. They also include a donate button and see to be running an affiliate program with a book store.

6) Defamer - 91942 visits/day - Similar to the above Gawker blogs with CNET affiliate program, banner ads, text ads with AdBrite ($450 per four week campaign). More on their ad packages.

7) lgf: journey heaven is a funky moose - 82475 visits/day - Blog ads (currently running 10) which range in price from $2750 per month for the premium spot down to $800 for a second tier ad). They are also running Amazon affiliate and have options for donations.

8) Power Line - 62304 visits/day - Blog ads (currently running 11) which range in price from $1400 down to $450 per month. They also have an ad for an insurance company (could be CPM or could be affiliate ad). Lastly they have a store which sells merchandise (t-shirts, cups, caps etc).

9) Wonkette - 54963 visits/day - Similar deal here to the other Gawker Blogs with the exception of some BlogAds (currently running 10) ranging in price from $1700 per month down to $650 per month). Their AdBrite text ads are $150 for 4 weeks. They also sell Wonkette T-Shirts. More details on their ad packages.

10) - Daily Dish - 48804 visits/day - BlogAds (3 currently running) range from $3200 down to $250 for 4 weeks. Andrew also runs Adsense ads on a few pages, with a few Amazon affiliate ads and runs a successful ‘Tipping Point’ donations campaign.

11) Michelle Malkin - 45661 visits/day - Also runs BlogAds (six at present) ranging in price from $1900 to $650 per month.

12) The Smirking Chimp - 41947 visits/day - Runs BlogAds (2 at present) at a cost of $425 per month. They also run some amazon affiliate ads and a merchandise store.

13) The Washington Monthly - 41482 visits/day - BlogAds (4 of them today) cost $395 per month. They also have affiliate links for Amazon, Adsense ads and a Donate button. You can of course also subscribe to the print edition.

14) Go Fug Yourself - 38742 visits/day - BlogAds (7 of them) cost $275 per month). They also sell t-shirts.

15) Blog for America - 33746 visits/day - No ads that I can see - but you can make a contribution/donation.

16) - 26517 visits/day - Currently 5 BlogAds running - the cost of which is $1000 per month. You can also buy Hugh’s book via an affiliate link on the sidebar where he has a few other books linked to also. There is also a site sponsor banner ad and a tip/donation button.

17) Captain’s Quarters - 20817 visits/day - BlogAds (currently 23) cost between $200 for premium ads to $125 for second tier ads per month. They also have affiliate links (amazon) in their sidebar as well as a donation button.

18) Lifehacker - 19185 visits/day - Similar to other Gawker Blogs with a range of banner ads (some served by double click - impression based I guess). Details of their advertising.

19) - 16078 visits/day - This blog focuses heavily upon Amazon affiliate links (they are in every post). They also have 3 BlogAds ads at ranging from $700 to $210 per month. There are also a few other affiliate program ads scattered around their blog.

20) Wizbang - 15379 visits/day - BlogAds (2 at present) ranging in price from $500 to $100 per month. They also have a text link or two on the sidebar through AdBrite ($150 per 4 week campaign) as well as amazon affiliate links to books.

21) - White House Briefing - 15125 visits/day - Has a variety of ads including banner ads and text ads run via a number of systems including Overture, doubleclick etc.

22) The Volokh Conspiracy - 14337 visits/day - Runs a DoubleClick campaign at the top of its sidebar as well as a donation button.

23) Kim du Toit - Daily Rant - 14179 visits/day - BlogAds (currently 4) cost $140 per month. They also accept donations via PayPal.

24) - 14025 visits/day - BlogAds (currently 8) range from $280 to $140. They also run Adsense ads in their sidebar and some sort of impression based ad or affiliate program on individual pages under posts.

25) MyDD - 13964 visits/day - Blog Ads here cost $500 for premium ads and $100 for classifieds per month - they currently have two running.

26) Drudge Retort: Red Meat for Yellow Dogs - 13667 visits/day - This blog runs a variety of ads including Adsense Ads across the top of their blog and BlogAds (currently 3) which cost $200 per month.

27) Roger L. Simon: Mystery Novelist and Screenwriter - 13388 visits/day - Roger runs BlogAds (currently 3) which cost between $800 and $300 per month. He also has Adsense ads in his sidebar and affiliate links to his books as well as a donate paypal button.

28) Matthew Yglesias - 13353 visits/day - BlogAds here as well (currently 6) ranging in price from $220 to $130.

29) Crooks and Liars 12933 visits/day - BlogAds here (3 at present) cost between $230 and $75 for a month campaign. They also run Adsense Ads in the side bar, accept donations

30) Digital Photography Blog - 12518 visits/day - The most prominant ads here are Adsense ads on all pages. There are also Adsense Adlinks and is a Adsense Search Bar. There are also Amazon affiliate programs, BlogAds (2) at $107 per month, text links from $49 per month and other affiliate programs.

Principles of Choosing a Profitable Blog Topic

Principles of Choosing a Profitable Blog Topic

B.L Ochman has a post in which she summarizes information gleaned from an interview with Stephan Spencer who gives some solid advice on starting a blog. Here are two of his suggestions:

‘- Pick a very narrow topic. Nowadays even a blog specifically about Google is too broad. There is a blog about Google AdSense – now that’s nice and narrow, he says. “You are more likely to be seen as an expert in a narrow topic area.”

- Make sure you have enough content to be able to keep the blog going.’

Stephan’s approach is very similar to my own.

I was chatting on the phone to a reader wanting to start her first blog today. As we talked I realized that in choosing the right topic for a new commercial blog there are many factors that you want to weigh up and attempt to find some balance in. Some of these factors include:

Topic Popularity - One important factor in the success of any commercial blog is that it will need to find readers. I could probably build a blog that would dominate the niche for ‘green striped paper bags’ and get 100% of those searching for the term on Google (there is no competition) however the fact of the matter is that I’d probably be my only reader. It’s important to choose a topic that meets a demand for information. It need not be on a topic that absolutely everyone is searching for information on - but the popularity of the topic is obviously one factor that could increase the chances of success.

As a practical example of this - when I started a blog six months back on the Pope I knew that there was likely to be a good demand for information on the topic. It was not my only motivation for the blog - but it did influence my decision to start it. Now that we have a new Pope and that the news surrounding him has settled the demand for information has decreased significantly and the blog’s profitability has of course decreased also.

Topic Competition and Narrow Niches - Another way of increasing the chances of profit is to choose a topic which currently has few quality sources of information already existing online. You may think that no such topic exists - but you’d be wrong. Whilst the web is a crowded place there are many topics where there is little competition and as a result you have the ability to be one of the biggest fish in that small pond. Sometimes you have to narrow your topic to find such niches, other times you have to be ‘the first’ as a new topic emerges and other times there might be existing sites on the topic - but they are of a low enough standard that you can compete easily by producing something better or more useful.

My narrowest niche blog is one that I run on UAV’s or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Now it’s not my most profitable blog by far - and there are not many people searching on the topic but I know I get a fairly large % of those searching for my keywords because I rank so highly on Google for them (example). Once again it’s not the most profitable blog I run but it’s an example of what you can do over time if you’re willing to carve out a niche for yourself.

Availability of Revenue Streams - Ok so you’ve found a topic people search for and you don’t have much competition - but you’ll never turn a profit on it if you don’t find an income stream for it. Anyone who has played with contextual advertising programs like Adsense know that some topics pay higher amounts for a click on an advertisement than others. As a result two blogs with the same levels of traffic with the same rate of clicking through (CTR) on ads can pay significantly different amounts of money.

If you are going to use Adsense you ideally want a high paying topic. Unfortunately whilst you might identify one you may just find that your competition is incredibly high. Sometimes it is worth picking a topic that is in the medium level of click values and has less competition.

Adsense is not the only revenue stream available to bloggers and in considering how you’ll generate income it’s also worth considering what affiliate program are available for your topic and what opportunities there might be for sponsorship from private advertising sources. If you type ‘your topic affiliate programs’ into Google you should be able to find any that exist reasonably quickly. Also check out Amazon’s affiliate program as they have a very wide range of products that you can earn a small commission off (nb: Amazon doesn’t pay huge commissions but it’s a good starting point if you’re new to affiliate programs).

Availability of Content - Like Stephan says - you’ll want to do a little research on your topic before starting a blog to see if you’ll be able to sustain it in adding fresh content over a long period. The thing that kills many commercial blogs very quickly is that the author simply runs out of things to write. I’ve started numerous blogs over the past couple of years that I quickly found I had nothing much to say about.

If you’re wanting to test the availability of content you might like to check how many articles Google News has indexed on it in the past few days (Topix and Yahoo! News also have similar services). Another wise move would be to do a keyword search on a tool like Bloglines, Technorati of Blog Pulse to see what is being indexed there.

Measure your Energy, Passion and Interest - Lastly (and very importantly) it’s worth trying to objectively measure your own passion, interest or energy level for the blog. Whilst there might be plenty of news going around on the topic will you still be energized by posting on the topic in 6 months time (without the motivation of money - because it might take take a year or two to establish yourself in a niche). If you don’t have something motivating you to post on a topic it can become very difficult to keep doing so - unless you have a very dedicated personality type.

Put it all together - The fact is that you’ll rarely find a topic that all these factors come together on unless you’re either very lucky or the first in a popular new niche that you just happen to have a passion for. Most blogs fall down in one (or more) of these areas. This does not mean it can’t be a viable and profitable blog, but it’s good to be aware of the weaknesses as you venture out. The beauty of blogging is that there are no rules - and some of my most successful experiments have flown in the face of most of the above principles.

For example (just to disprove myself and give a little hope to you rebellious types) - arguably the most successful blog I’ve ever been involved with (over a short period of time) was the Athens Olympics Blog that I ran with a mate which generated 2 million visitors in a few weeks and made us a tidy sum of money.

This blog succeeded despite having massive competition (from every major news website going around) and despite having very low click value on Adsense and few lucrative affiliate programs. The sheer weight of people searching for information over a short period of time was the main ingredient to our success. This was coupled with us working incredibly long hours (around the clock for two weeks and for months before) providing a blog that was actually quite useful. We actually became known as a site that updated statistics and information faster than most of the ‘professional’ sites covering the event.

Despite being dormant (and falling into disrepair lately) it still even gets reasonable visitor levels to this day.

So take these principles as friendly advice - not rules. In many ways they are ‘ideals’ which you will almost certainly have to compromise some of at some point but which can help you choose a topic that has a greater chance of success.

Blogging for Dollars

Will blogging produce millionaires? Can blogging financially provide people with a full time earning capacity? Will we see more and more professional bloggers? Can and should blogs earn money?

An increasing amount of people are writing about making money from Blogging. There is a quite a bit of debate about the legitimacy of doing so.

Megnut wrote an interesting article titled Blogging for Dollars: Giving Rise to the Professional Blogger . She writes:

‘Most financial discussions focus on blog content and explore donations, advertising, or some type of sponsorship/patronage model as the means to compensate bloggers. Very little progress has been made towards finding viable economic models because people still think of Weblogs as personal sites. If you aren’t Andrew Sullivan (who purportedly makes $6,000 per month on his site through donations), it’s hard to imagine how you’d get the traffic and donations to generate such revenue….

By paying great bloggers to produce Weblogs, we remove economic constraints and enable them to devote their energies full-time to producing compelling content and creating outstanding Weblogs.’

Whether you agree with it or not - here are some of the ways bloggers are going earning money from their blogs.

Link to your favorite stores and earn money!Advertising - An increasing number of bloggers are running advertisements on their blogs. Programs like Blog Ads have popped up around the place which help you find advertisers. Of course these programs generally take a cut of the revenue earned. Other bloggers (often the bigger ones) find their own advertising or use a combination of their own and other programs. Nick Denton from Gawker Media is one person who seems pretty good at doing this on his numerous successful blogs.

Market Banker is another program similar to Blog Ads that lets you sell ads through their system automatically. They allow both banner and text ads. I have used these successfully on my Digital Camera site. You do give up a cut of the revenue to Market Banker, but for ease of use and the receiving of smaller payments this is a good option.

coverPrograms like also offer to serve ads to your site. If you have a lot of traffic this is a great option definately worth considering as many of their ads pay per impression. I’ve reviewed the fastclick system here.

Also worth checking out is the Chitika eMiniMalls system which have become my biggest blog income earner. You can read my review of Chitika eMiniMalls here.

Adsense - Google Adsense is one advertising tool that many are using (including me). Ads are run depending upon the content of the page. If you flick through my individual archives you’ll see that each page has a different focus of ad.

Google pays people who run their ads per click on the ads. Payments vary on the type of ad. I started using this two months ago. Part of the agreement in signing up with the program is that you don’t talk about your specific results and figures so I’ll refrain from that except to say that I’ll never become rich through it - but that I’ll continue to go with it. To do well with this program you either need to have very high traffic or blog on topics that pay well. Some of the following links talk about using adsense and other such programs.

- Adsense Tips for Bloggers (a series of posts about maximizing the potential of Adsense on your Blog).
- Blogging for Dollars with Adsense
- How to Boost your Adsense Revenue
- Introducing Google Adsense
- Nick Denton on Adsense

Amazon Associates - Other bloggers are Amazon Associates. In this program bloggers link (either via text, images or actual advertisements) to Amazon products or pages. If people purchase after following these links they take a small comission from Amazon, either for cash or gift vouchers. Blogs liks Blogcritics use this very intentionally. It is a system I’ve been trialing (mainly on my digital camera blog) recently. I have found it to be a worthwhile move to be an Amazon affiliate - its not my biggest revenue stream, but supplements Adsense nicely and is growing with my blog. I like it because you have complete control over what products you will promote and can tailor ads to fit exactly with your content.

Other Affiliate Programs
By no means is Amazon the only affiliate program available to bloggers. There are many affiliate programs that focus on different regions and products. Some pay a percentage of income generated from those being referred from your site, others pay on a per click basis, others pay for leads. The success of such programs tends to vary depending upon the match between your blog and the type of product your affiliate is offering. I’ve tried a number of programs but am yet to find them to be overly successful to this point.

Some affiliate programs that you may wish to experiment with include:
- Clix Galore
- Affiliate Sensor (I’ve found this one works pretty well for me so far).
- - This one works well for me also.

coverBusiness Blogging - An increasing number of people are starting ‘business blogs’. These take a variety of forms but generally are blogs about a particular service, product or business/organization. Check out the following articles on the topic.

- Blogs may be the cheapest way to communicate with your customers.
- New biz on the blog
- Business Blogs - The Big List
- The Small Business Blog

Tip Jars - Other bloggers have decided to simply ask their readers for donations. I know of many bloggers that do this through a variety of tools - the most popular of them being ‘PayPal’. I surveyed a few this week and most have never or only rarely had donations - but for others like it is a major source of income. Andrew Sullivan is said to have made $80,000 in his last pledge week through donations. Here are some links that talk about it.

- Tip Jars
- Andrew Sullivan - Will Blog for Cash

Other Interesting links that talk about different approaches that you might want to check out might include:

- Gold Blogger - How to Make Money from your Blog
cover- Blogging Network - get paid to blog
- Blogging for Bucks - an interview with someone who does
- The rise of professional bloggers
- Paid Content
- Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content
- Blogonomics - Making a living from Blogging
- Jeff Jarvis - The Free Me

Different earning methods will suit different blogs depending upon content, readership levels and the goals of the blogger concerned.

Predictions & Observations

Is it possible to make money from blogging? I believe so. Will there ever be ‘millionaire bloggers’? I suspect it will happen in the next few years. Will people earning a living from blogging be as common as people earning livings from plumbing, stock brokering or gardening? I’m not so sure.

Blogging has the potential to generate income - but I believe it will only be a select few who will be able to make their fortune (or even earn a full time income) purely through blogging. A few very creative entrepreneurs, good marketers and powerful communicators will make it big but the average joe shouldn’t expect to set themselves up for retirement through blogging.

I think we’ll see the rise of people who are able to supplement their income through the medium. Personally I would love to be able to get to the stage or earning a day or two a week from it (anyone want to advertise in this space?) to support my other work in the community. I also think that we’ll see more and more people earning enough to pay their blogging costs through some of the above means.

coverI suspect we’ll also see more people earning money off blog related tools and products. They may not technically be blogs as such - but if blogging continues to grow at the rate it has been (and as it is predicted to) a ‘blogging industry’ (of sorts) is likely to emerge. This will include blog consultants, blog tools, blog search engines, blog designers etc. (all of these things already exist - but with increased numbers of bloggers they are likely to start paying off). This will probably distress some blogging purists but it will happen.

Clusters/colonies of bloggers working together in alliances will emerge - not just because they have common interests to blog about - but so that they can work together to market and promote one another.

Dangers - In summing up my thoughts I think it worth saying that there are perhaps some dangers in blogging for dollars. The concern that I share with others is that in the quest to earn money from blogging that content could suffer. Balance is needed to keep advertising from dominating and setting the agenda for content.

Blogging for dollars is here to stay - it will continue to stay on and climb the agenda for bloggers everywhere. Its therefore something that I feel is important to discuss and I’m interested in what others might think about it - please feel free to critique or add to this post in comments - your opinion is highly valued.

Income Streams for Bloggers

Advertising Programs - Perhaps the most obvious changes in the past few months have been with the addition of a variety of viable advertising options for bloggers. No longer are bloggers only presented with the Adsense and/or BlogAds choice - instead they now have a massive array to choose from. Getting the most publicity recently have been Chitika’s eMiniMalls (the way I make the majority of my blogging income).

Add to that Adgenta, CrispAds, Text Link Ads, Intelli Txt, Tribal Fusion, Adbrite, Kanoodle, AVN, Pheedo, TextAds, Fastclick and OneMonkey (to name just some of the options - I’m sure I’ve forgotten some) and there is a smorgasbord of options. Of course there is more to come with MSN Adcenter and YPN both in beta testing and with a variety of other advertising system currently in development (so I hear).

RSS Advertising - The past 12 months have seen some advances in RSS Advertising also. I’m yet to hear of any bloggers making big dollars through it to this point - but as improvements are made to the ad programs exploring this I’m sure we’ll start to see examples of it being profitable.

Sponsorship - In addition to the array of advertising programs that are available to join there is a growing awareness in the business of the value and opportunity that exists for them to advertise directly on blogs. I’m hearing more and more examples of this and have been fortunately to have a couple of ad campaigns of my own in the past month - one with Adobe a couple of weeks ago and another currently with Ricoh for a new digicam over at my Digital Camera Blog. These are not isolated cases - as I say I know of many blogs exploring sponsorship with advertisers at present and suspect we’ll see more of it in the year ahead. Sponsorship is also happening on a post by post basis with some bloggers being paid to write on certain topics by companies - either in one off or a regular fashion.

Affiliate Programs - There are larger affiliate programs like Amazon, Linkshare, Clickbank and Commission Junction but also literally thousands of others from the large to the very small.

Digital Assets - Increasing numbers of bloggers have been developing other digital assets to support and add revenue streams to their blogs. By this I mean that I’m increasingly seeing e-books, courses and tele-seminars being run by bloggers. My recent foray into this with the first series of the six figure blogging course that Andy and I completed this week was proof to me that adding a complimentary digital asset to an established blog can be a very worthwhile thing. This type of activity will only increase in the coming year.

Blog Network Writing Gigs - with the rise in popularity of Blog Networks - bloggers are also being presented with more places to earn an income from their blogging - by writing for and with others. While it might be difficult to get a writing gig with one of the bigger networks - there are plenty who are always asking for new bloggers to join and who are willing to pay bloggers using a variety of payment models. While there are distinct advantages of blogging for yourself - blogging for an established network who will handle a lot of the set up/promotion/admin/SEO etc has it’s advantages also. More and more bloggers are combining writing for themselves on their own blogs with taking on blog network blogs as additional income streams.

Business Blog Writing Gigs - as blogging has risen in it’s profile as a medium more and more businesses are starting blogs. Many of these companies have internal staff take on blogging duties - but an increasing number of them are hiring specialist bloggers to come on and run their blogs. I know of a number of bloggers who in the past month or two have been approached for such paid work.

Non Blogging Writing Gigs - Also becoming more common are bloggers being hired to write in non blogging mediums. Manolo’s recent coup of a column in the Washington Post is just one example of this as bloggers are increasingly being approached to write for newspapers, magazines and other non blog websites. Along side this is the rise of bloggers as published book authors - this is to the extent that one blogger I spoke with this week complained to me that they were one of the few bloggers than they knew who didn’t have a book deal!

Donations - Tip Jars and donation buttons have been a part of blogging for years now but this last year saw a number of bloggers go full time after fundraising drives. Perhaps the most high profile of these was Jason Kottke of who through the generosity of his readership was able to quit his job and become a full time blogger.

Flipping Blogs - Also more common in 2005 was the practice of ‘Blog Flipping’ - or selling of blogs. This has happened both on an individual blog level (I can think of about 20 blogs that sold this year) but also on a network level (the most obvious of these being the 8 figure sale of Weblogs Inc to AOL).

Merchandising - My recent attempt to sell T-shirts wasn’t a raging success, but it is an example of how an increasing number of bloggers are attempting to make a few extra dollars from their blogs by selling branded products through programs like Cafepress (although I have to say they’ve lost one of my own orders and are being quite unresponsive to my requests to follow it up at present). While I didn’t have a lot of success with merchandising - quite a few larger blogs are seeing significant sales - especially blogs with a cult following. I’m not at liberty to discuss details - but I know of one largish blog which will see sales over $20,000 in merchandise for the calendar year of 2005.

Consulting and Speaking - While it has been popular for established consultants to add blogs to their businesses we’re also starting to see bloggers with no consulting background earning money by charging readers for their time in consulting scenarios BECAUSE of the profile that their blogs have built them. Blogging has the ability to establish people as experts on niche topics and we all know the value of being perceived as an expert. I spoke to one blogger last month who charges himself out at over $200 an hour for speaking and consulting work - his area of expertise was something that he knew little about 18 months ago - but through his blog he’s become a leader in his field and a minor celebrity in his industry.

I’m positive that I’ve missed some income earning methods that bloggers are using - so feel free to add in comments below those income streams that you’re trying or have seen others give a go.

What is a Blog?

What is a Blog?

So what is a Blog anyway? This is a question I am asked every week via emails, converation and Instant Messaging chats. If you’re reading this you may well be asking the same question.

There are a number of ways I could answer this question ranging from the broad to the highly technical. Let me attempt a few comments to help you get your head around it.

Here are a few definitions from others to get us started:

‘A weblog is a hierarchy of text, images, media objects and data, arranged chronologically, that can be viewed in an HTML browser.’ Source

‘A frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links.’ Source

‘From “Web log.” A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.”‘ Source

‘A weblog is kind of a continual tour, with a human guide who you get to know. There are many guides to choose from, each develops an audience, and there’s also comraderie and politics between the people who run weblogs, they point to each other, in all kinds of structures, graphs, loops, etc.’ Source

‘A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.” Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in cronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominantly.’ Source
So What is a Blog???

Confused yet? Don’t be - its really quite simple. To put it as simply as possible - a blog is a type of website that is usually arranged in chronological order from the most recent ‘post’ (or entry) at the top of the main page to the older entries towards the bottom. Have a look at the main page of my blog at here for an example. for a different example you might like to look at this one.

Ok - now you are a seasoned blog reader - you’ve seen two already at least. Blogs are usually (but not always) written by one person and are updated pretty regularly. Blogs are often (but not always) written on a particular topic - there are blogs on virtually any topic you can think of. From photography, to spirituality, to recipes, to personal diaries to hobbies - blogging has as many applications and varieties as you can imagine. Whole blog communities have sprung up around some of these topics putting people into contact with each other in relationships where they can learn, share ideas, make friends with and even do business with people with similar interests from around the world.

Blogs usually have a few features that are useful to know about if you want to get the most out of them as a reader. Lets examine a couple briefly.

Archives - You might look at the front page of a blog and think that there is not much to them. A few recent entries, some links to other sites and not much else. However its worth knowing that there is a lot more going on under the surface that might initially meet the eye. For example in addition to the main page of this blog - at the time of writing this post there are over 520 other pages or posts below the surface that I’ve written over the past few months.

When I write a post like this one it goes to the top of the front page. As it gets older and as I add more current posts it begins its journey down the page until it disappears from it. This is not the end of its life however, because it goes into the ‘Archives’ of my blog. It sounds like a dusty dark place but its really just like a filing cabinet that is easily accessible in a couple of ways. You can read my ‘archives’ simply by looking on the ’sidebar’ (over on the left of this blog) at the ‘archives’ or ‘categories’ section. There you will see links to all my old posts which you can access either by month or by category. You’ll see a category for ‘Advertising’ - click that link and you’ll see all my old posts on the topic of Advertising with the most recent at the top and the oldest at the bottom. Click on a month and you’ll see what I wrote during that period.

Comments - Not all blogs use comments - but most do. This blog is not a monologue but a conversation. You can give me feedback on almost everything I write simply by clicking the ‘comments’ link at the bottom of each one of my posts. This will take you to a little form where you leave your name, email and a link to your own blog if you have one as well as your feedback, comment, critique, question, essay on why you love my blog, promise of money…. etc). Try it now. Scroll to the bottom of this page, click ‘comments’ and fill in the blanks with a little introduction to yourself.