A guest post by my friend and colleague Annabel Candy.
Are you interested in blog monetization?
Then it's time I told you about how I may have lost $1,000 per month through my blog. Yes, lost, not earned!
I don't want to focus too much on blog monetization at Successful Blogging but today it's time to talk dirty. It's time to discuss blogging and money.
We've already established how you can make money from blogging. Now let's talk about how much.
My Blog Advertising Philosophy as a New Blogger
Soon after starting blogging in 2009 I decided not to put any advertisements on my travel blog Get In the Hot Spot. Mainly because blog adverts look ugly, but also because, when your blog is new and has limited visitors, you won't earn much from advertising anyway.
So why sully your brand and lose visitors who leave your blog via the ads, in return for a few dollars a month? It doesn't make sense.
I also hate the idea of having multiple or competing ads on my blogs and animated ads would drive me nuts.
But it's not just the idea of plastering ugly ads on my blogs that distresses me.
The vocabulary that goes with blog advertising and especially the word “monetization” sounds grubby and sordid. It doesn't fit with my personal or business values which are more oriented towards fun, adventure and relationships than money.
My Blog Advertising Philosophy After Two Years Blogging
So up until recently I'd been happily blogging away and counting myself lucky because I do make money from blogging in three main ways. They're listed here from most to least lucrative:
1. By selling services – web or blog design and web copywriting.
2. By selling my book – Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps for writers and small business owners.
3. By selling affiliate products – mainly blogging resources like other people's books, courses or membership programs.
My income from selling affiliate products is so small it's more a service I run to help my readers and other bloggers who've spent time developing new products.
My Blog Advertising Wake Up Call
I always talk to Yaro about web advertising because he's a leading expert and this time, to see if I was making the right choice by keeping my travel blog ad free, I asked him how much I could earn on Get In the Hot Spot through advertising based on blog traffic of around 20,000 visitors per month.
Now I don't want to hold Yaro to his off the cuff comment, but his guesstimate of $1,000 per month got me thinking.
$1,000 a month? Was it possible?
Was I losing $1,000 a month by not advertising on my blog?
$12,000 a year is too much money for me to ignore just because advertisements look ugly.
Now I wondered how much money I'd already lost because I don't advertise on my blog, and how much longer I'd lose money for.
The answer is not much longer because it feels as if, in the light of this estimate, my no ad decision isn't idealistic and moralistic. It's just plain idiotic.
So since July 2011 Get In the Hot Spot has undergone some advertising experiments.
My Blog Advertising and Sponsorship Experiments
1. Google Adsense
First I tried Google Adsense which I already knew was doomed to fail and proved to be so.
Not only did I earn just AU$9.59 a month but I hated handing over control of my blog to someone else.
Although Pammy Anderson seems nice enough, I don't want to see her face and cleavage on adverts on my blog. My ideal reader doesn't either.
2. Selling advertising myself
Now I'm selling my advertising at Get In the Hot Spot like Yaro does at Entrepreneurs Journey. Although it will take time to set up and organize, the payment could be worth it.
There was a bit of preparation involved but in September 2011 I set up an advertising page and created a media kit.
My media kit is a 10 page document which includes information on:
- Who I am;
- What my blog's about and who reads it;
- Advertising rates.
3. Sponsored blog posts
I also created a section in my media kit about sponsored blog posts because they are something Nikki Parkinson from Styling You, another fabulous Australian super blogger who was also on the blog panel with me and Yaro, has had great success with.
My Blog Advertising Success
So, with many thanks to Nikki and Yaro for their advice and inspiration, I made the first steps into blog advertising and sponsoring.
Since my media kit took me ages to create, I was keen to use it.
Every day I get emails from people requesting text links on my blog which I delete. Now, instead of deleting them I replied attaching my media kit and saying I looked forward to helping them more.
I refuse to negotiate on my blog advertising rates or packages and I also kept the prices high because I don't want to devalue my brand.
Yet to my surprise within one week I sold my first sponsored blog post. For US $799.
More on Sponsored Blog Posts
Some bloggers charge less but I believe my price for sponsored blog posts offers excellent value now and is worth double the cost.
I set a high but not crazy rate for my sponsored blog posts because I wanted to test the waters and because I will only accept a sponsored post from a reputable company and if I write it myself.
I don't want to run the risk of having boring content on my blog and losing readers in exchange for money. So I need to be paid for my writing time, for building a conversation around a brand and for making the brand look hot through their association with my blog and community.
That endorsement is much more valuable than just an incoming link.
It's a personal recommendation from someone my readers know and trust (me!).
So I'm glad I've laid clear ground rules for me and my advertisers.
I'm also glad I can make money from blogging by selling advertising and sponsored blog posts so I don't have to keep developing new products and flogging those. I don't like that model of blog monetization although I know from experience it's important to have multiple income streams from your blog if you want to run it as a business.
Blog Sponsorship and Ambassadors
My real dream, one I've had for years, is of having one corporate sponsor for my blog whose values I share.
That would create a personal relationship between the brand, me and the readers which would be a natural extension of how I blog and how our community engages on and offline.
Right now many brands are thinking about working with bloggers but don't know how to go ahead. So instead they stick with what they know – generally throwing a lot of money at traditional advertising on television or in print.
Many brands who do work with bloggers don't pay them, instead offering payment in kind.
It's a social media barter system where bloggers write posts in exchange for a product or an experience. That can be fantastic but bloggers can't live on free drinks, free clothes and free parties can they? I wouldn't mind trying it but my kids might get a bit hungry.
There needs to be a balance of blogging perks and financial remuneration if you'd like your blog to be a successful business.
Bloggers and brands need to work together and decide what's a fair trade. Sometimes an exchange of goods or services works fine, other times cash is king.
Eventually I hope my blog will be endorsed by and endorse a product I really love. I can't fake it – I'd have to really believe in the brand and product.
That presents a challenge as I'm not a huge consumer so the options are limited, but for my travel blog, possibilities include travel companies, airlines, luggage, clothing, hotel chains and gadgets like cameras and iPads.
My Sponsor for the Problogger Conference 2011
The Tailor is a luxury travel company that creates and organizes Australian and African travel experiences for discerning travelers.
Sounds good doesn't it?
The Tailor have very kindly organized for me to spend four nights in luxury at The Lyall Hotel in Melbourne and tour the city. In exchange I'm looking forward to writing about those experiences on Get In the Hot Spot.
The Future of Blog Advertising and Sponsoring
Blogging is a more cost-effective and effective medium than traditional media because it can help brands reach a targeted audience and get endorsed by someone consumers view as a trustworthy friend.
It's also fast to roll out a blog marketing campaign.
While today many brands don't want to work with bloggers, or don't want to pay them, in the future they'll be fighting over them.
So don't sell yourselves short bloggers. You work is valuable and worth paying for or exchanging for something of equal value.
But remember, while I might have lost thousands of dollars by not advertising on my blog sooner I can live with that. Because fun, adventure and relationships really are more important to me than money.
Blogging is all about building relationships and community so that's not something I'd ever compromise.
What do you think about blog advertising and sponsoring?
We'd love to read your ideas and experiences in the comments.
Is blog monetization a dirty word or should I have monetized my blog sooner? Do advertisements detract from the blog reading experience or are they a necessary evil? Do you have a selling point and if so what is it?