Most people who try to make money blogging do it by selling (directly or indirectly) other people’s knowledge and this often leads to a very poor return on the time and effort invested into the blog. I made over $2000 last month and none of that income would have been possible without this blog but the majority of that income came from my own knowledge, not somebody else’s.
Photo by Gaping Void
Why Do People Start Blogs?
I’ve been in this Internet Marketing game for six months now and I started the blog just to keep a record of my progress. It was never intended to be a money maker – I always have other projects for that. What surprises me is how often I see advice given to newcomers to start a blog. Personally I think starting a blog is a very bad way to start making money online.
Why? Two reasons. Firstly it takes a long time to get the momentum going with a brand new blog and secondly, the monetization models chosen by most people rely on having lots of readers and traffic which makes the whole process rather slow and painful.
Popular Blog Monetization Models
First I want to mention what most people do and highlight how they are usually proportional to the amount of traffic or subscribers that the blog has. Also, have a read of what Darren Rowse, Yaro Starak and Josh Spaulding recommend.
- Advertising (needs traffic) – this includes all sorts of on page advertising such as AdSense as well as direct ads.
- Affiliate Programs (needs subscribers) – this can take several forms but usually the best way to make money as an affiliate is to do a good review of an affiliate product or share your experiences with using it. I would class affiliate banners as another form of advertising.
- Sponsored Posts (needs subscribers) – these kinds of posts pay out in proportion to the popularity of your blog. It is difficult to make money with them as a new blog and once you start to get popular you can lose credibility with them. You won’t catch me doing one any time soon (ever).
There are all sorts of variations of the above but the most common forms of monetization used by the vast majority of bloggers falls into these categories. There is certainly potential to make money with these techniques but you tend to have to keep working at it month after month. An advertiser can stop advertising at any moment, and you always have to keep finding new affiliate programs to promote or your blog audience will get bored.
Now if you have a hugely popular blog then you probably won’t have any difficulty finding advertisers but if you’ve managed to get that far then I would argue that you could still be making a lot more money by selling your own knowledge.
Selling Your Own Knowledge
What do I mean by “selling your own knowledge”? I mean putting together some kind of product based around the topic of your blog. That product might be an ebook, a course, a tutorial video, a membership site or maybe even some kind of physical product. I have been looking at a lot of blogs lately and I am surprised at just how few of them do this. Those that do seem to be the ones who are making money!
When starting a blog a popular piece of advice is to “pick a topic that you know about”. After all, how can you expect to write on a regular basis on a topic you know nothing about? Okay this blog is kind of an exception to that rule as I knew nothing about making money online when I started. However, the key thing is – I do now! And now that I do, I can cultivate that knowledge into a form that I can package and sell to others.
Blogging is a time consuming activity. The vast majority of blogs that are doing well are filled with value-laden posts that have been carefully crafted and researched. This takes time. It also takes a huge amount of time to get out into the blogosphere and promote that content so that the blog actually draws in new readers. Why do all this work if all you are ever going to do is display ads for other people’s products and be an affiliate for other people’s products?
Analyzing the ROI
Advertising seems to fall into two camps. One is the on-page ad programs such as AdSense. These only bring in pennies per click so you need a LOT of traffic to make any significant income from them. The other is direct advertising such as those 125×125 ads you see on many blogs including this one. The more popular your blog becomes the more potential you have to earn from these but there is always a ceiling here due to the limitations of screen real estate. John Chow recently discussed this problem on his blog when a reader suggested he could extend his income from his blog to $300k a month.
The other popular method is selling products; either your own or other people’s as an affiliate. When you sell your own product you own 100% of the profits. Of course if you bring affiliates in to sell your product for you then you pay them a cut but any income generated by affiliates is income earned that is totally outside of your blog – and that’s another one of the advantages.
You can use your blog as leverage – to get your brand out there, to build credibility, to develop relationships in your niche and this allows you to extend your revenue earning potential far beyond the reaches of your individual blog.
When you make money as an affiliate for somebody else’s product you can only earn as much as the sales that you can directly produce from your own blog. Sure there are programs with several tiers but each tier earns less thus reducing that ROI further. When you sell your own product, your own blog is just the starting point, not the end point.
Look at the following diagram:
What I am trying to show here is that when you only sell other people’s knowledge you are confined to the reach of your own blog and thus you are entirely dependent on how much traffic and how many subscribers you can directly attract to your blog. When you sell your own knowledge in the form of a product that other people will want to help you promote, you open up the field and now have access to the reach of all those other bloggers combined.
Analyzing My Own Income
I’ve had two months where the income has significantly jumped and the reason for that jump is largely due to affiliate revenue of the BlueHost hosting package that I promoted in my free ebook about WordPress. Notice that I haven’t even had to actually sell anything here. My ebook was free but the principle is the same. I had some knowledge which I packaged up and monetized, and I then harnessed the power of other bloggers to extend the reach of that ebook far beyond what I could have achieved from my blog alone.
5 Steps To Selling Your Knowledge
Step 1 – Establish Credibility About Your Topic
Your blog is your platform to allow you to show off your writing ability and your knowledge about the topics you choose to cover. The first product that I am going to actually sell will be my course on StumbleUpon but I have already started to establish a certain amount of credibility by blogging about StumbleUpon in the past. Not only that but as this is a social media site I can demonstrate social proof by publicly displaying my profile so that other people can see how many sites I have rated, how many fans I have and so on.
If you try to launch a product cold with no prior mention of it you have to work extra hard to convince people that you know what you are talking about. Having a blog is a wonderful pre-selling tool. You can talk about a subject long before you even give people any idea that you might be developing a product around it.
Step 2 – Develop & Package The Knowledge
I didn’t have much knowledge when I started this blog but now I’m starting to learn things. I know a lot about Twitter, WordPress, StumbleUpon and I also know a thing or two about building a reasonably popular blog in a fairly short time. Look to your own blog, delve into your posts and see which topics you could expand upon.
I never thought about producing a product about StumbleUpon until somebody else did the same thing. I feel somewhat guilty that I kinda stole his idea but once I started to write down what I knew about StumbleUpon I realised it was a huge amount of information. What do you know a lot about?
You don’t have to know everything right now. Look to the future, what are you learning about that you might be able to teach later on? I have a strong interest in developing niche sites that make money. I haven’t succeeded yet but if and when I do, I might be able to teach other people how to do it. You don’t have to be an expert right now. People seem to like my posts where I show how I fail at things!
Step 3 – Allow People To Get To Know You
When you create a product, it usually needs to be professional, to the point and free of personal anecdotes and any fluff. That is not the same when it comes to your blog. Feel free to talk about your personal experiences on your blog. Be a bit more informal. Stick a picture of your ugly mug on your home page, write an about page, include a way to contact you and over time people will get to know you.
People buy products from people. If they like you they are more likely to buy from you! Of course not everybody will like you, that is just human nature but if you never reveal anything of yourself on your blog then people don’t even get a chance to know you and decide whether they like you or not.
Step 4 – Get To Know Other People In Your Niche
In order to extend your reach as I showed in the diagram above, you have to get yourself out into the big wide blogosphere and network! There are many ways to connect with people in your niche – you can even use StumbleUpon to network in some niches!
I’m no expert in product launches (I’m still hoping somebody’s gonna buy me Jeff’s new Product Launch Formula!!) but from my own experience I have found that one of the best ways of promoting something is to email people who already know you about the product. Sure you can email a bunch of strangers, and I did do that when marketing my Twitter guide, WordPress ebook and most recently my Easter Egg Hunt but the majority of the people who promoted those things for me were people I already knew from our chats / emails / comments exchanged over the last few months.
Step 5 – Putting It Together and Launching
I don’t have the answers to this last step as I have only scratched the surface myself but I know that my readers are getting to know me, I am getting to know other people in my niche and I’m starting to formulate ideas for products that I can create in the coming months.
I’m going to buy that Product Launch Formula that everybody and his dog is promoting at the moment and hopefully I can apply it and then perhaps in the future I can come back to this point and expand on the launch process itself.
Making money blogging is a popular way to start making money online but the common monetization models bring in very little revenue for the amount of work needed to really get the blog off the ground. If you are going to bother building a popular blog then don’t just give away all your knowledge for free and rely on selling other people’s knowledge. Sell your own!