Not all blogs are created with the intention of making money. But blogging can be lucrative. If you want to make money from your blog, have you figured out a monetization strategy yet? Some bloggers worry that making money could drive away some readers or make people question their integrity. And if you go about it the wrong way, that can happen.
You don’t have to fall into that trap though. It’s about exercising restraint and conducting tests until you fine the best monetization strategies for your own blog and target audience. Sometimes people think of big banner ads and leave it at that. But there’s so much more worth considering. Just to give you some ideas to start with, here are five potential ways you can make money from your own blog or website.
1. Ad Networks
Ad networks (like Google Adsense) allow you to place ads on your site or blog from a third party service. These ads are often contextual, which means the network places ads on your site based on the content of each individual page. That is designed to keep the ads relevant to your audience (and therefore make them seem a bit less spammy).
Of course sometimes ads you don’t want to support will slip through. The ad networks generally have a way for you to log into your account and ban specific advertisers. For example, you might do this if a competitor’s site is advertised.
2. Private Sponsorships
Private sponsorships can be a good option for making money from your site or blog, but they can also be the most questionable if you aren’t careful. These types of ads take many forms. For example, a privately placed banner ad or text link is a private sponsorship. So is a paid review or paid “guest” article from the sponsor.
It’s always a good idea to disclose these paid relationships on the site or blog to minimize the impact they can have on visitors’ trust. Real problems mostly seem to crop up in cases where the sponsorships influence the editorial side of the blog — like a company paying for a review and requiring that the review be positive. That’s unethical, so you have to be prepared to deal with those requests or the consequences if you accept them.
3. Premium Features and Content
Sometimes blogs and traditional website content are supported by additional features or premium content on the site. For example, you might run a paid niche Web directory and have a blog attached to it. Or you might have a paid classified section on your website.
The blog content or other content on the site is there as a free resource to attract relevant visitors and interest them in other features. Those other features in turn support the production of new content by serving as an income stream.
4. Sell Other People’s Products
Affiliate programs are another popular option for monetizing blogs and websites. The idea is simple. You promote another person’s product on your site. And every time someone who is referred from your site makes a purchase, you get a cut of the purchase price.
This is another case where you have to be careful about crossing ethical bounds — such as giving positive reviews of bad products you’ve never really tried just to make sales and get income. I find honest (and balanced) reviews tend to interest readers more, and in turn lead to more sales anyway. That means I not only review the positive elements of a product, but I also offer a few suggestions for improvement if I have any.
It builds trust between you and your readers, so when you do recommend that they buy something, they know you really mean it. If you positively review bad products for the money, you might get away with it once or twice but eventually people will catch on and they’ll stop buying affiliate products you recommend.
5. Sell Your Own Products
Probably the most lucrative option for monetizing a website or blog is to sell your products. That doesn’t mean you have to get into retailing physical products. You can create “information products” instead.
For example, you can write and sell e-books. You can create informational “kits” to help people do something. You could sell forms and templates related to your niche, maybe in packages instead of individually. You might develop a piece of software or an app. Anything you can deliver digitally can be a good move with little overhead effort (like packing and shipping).
Better yet, create your own products and get others to help you sell them. While you can sell directly to your own site’s audience, other bloggers can join your affiliate program to help you make more sales. While you pay out a portion to your affiliates, you still earn a portion of the sale for yourself even without added effort.
It isn’t as difficult to make money blogging or by developing websites as many people think. The main problem is jumping into a monetization strategy that isn’t right for your site (like assuming ad networks will work for everyone). You need to get to know your audience. Would they have a problem with a bunch of ads on your site? Then consider selling your own products instead. Do they tend to trust you a lot? Then why not make some honest affiliate product recommendations? The key is to always put the audience first. It’s only when you become “all about the money” that you risk ruining your reputation in the process. And that’s an easy mistake to avoid.
How do you make money online? What kinds of products do you sell? How do you disclose affiliate and sponsor relationships on your website? Leave a comment below to share your stories and tips.