For Love Or Money?
After making over $10,000 in 6 months of writing at Frugaling, a number of people inquired about how they might mimic the results. No single recipe will get you from start to money, but there are some things you can do to put yourself in a position to succeed.
Too many people are focused on pumping out a certain number of articles per day, week, or month. The goal makes sense: The more I publish, the more I’ll get my name out. But when you’re just starting out, there isn’t a network to share and enjoy your content. Eventually, most sites/blogs/independent writers lose momentum, and the strategy fails.
We’re all motivated by the idea that our work may someday be read, and it can be challenging to publish and parish – losing sight about what intrinsically interests you about a subject. Simultaneously, in the most productive push, people make the least amount of money. It’s a lose-lose – a recipe for disaster.
This article will walk you through a process of creating and cultivating a site worth visiting. From there, I’ll talk about how you can start making money. Between advertisers, private connections, and affiliate sales, you can begin raking in some serious dough.
Here are 5 steps you must take to monetize your blog successfully:
1. Create Content Worth Sharing, Network Like A Boss
A number of people have approached me and asked how they can make five figures in 6 months. The road is circuitous and doesn’t always end up with the success I had. There were a number of pleasant accidents that led me here, but it all started with a fundamental building block: Creating strong stories and content.
I didn’t set out to create a money making machine. Frankly, my writing style is more opinionated and personal than financial. I wanted to put the personal in personal finance. This was going to be my story. If I made a little money along the way, great! At the heart of my decision to write about student loan debt and other financial concerns was my own desire to write about what I was learning. I intrinsically wanted to be doing this – money wasn’t the sole motivator.
From very humble beginnings, I wrote what I considered to be deep, thoughtful pieces about struggle and areas of my life that I needed to improve. There were many cracks in my budget, ideas about finance, and how to make my small salary work. Through writing and getting feedback from others, I gained some confidence in my monthly budget, created some rock solid plans, and became more frugal. By writing, I was embodying what I wanted to become, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Beyond my content and spending time to better my writing style, I networked as much as I could. I found people of all personal financial stripes to trade links, comment on work, and email for help. There were times when I frustrated, pestered people or asked for too much. I realized that some people didn’t really like human-to-human interaction in this world of personal finance. But others loved it, and that’s where I devoted 80 percent of my time.
Every website I visited was an opportunity to network and connect. Those connections led to Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and much more. Between creating content worth sharing, reading others’ sites, commenting on great articles, and establishing relationships with those in the field, I was primed for advertisers.
2. Invest In Your Theme, Design
When I first turned the server space on and started Frugaling on May 4th, 2013, this site looked like a patchwork quilt. It was cute and homey, but unprofessional and unattractive in certain parts. I felt limited in time and money to change the website’s look and feel. Unfortunately, by not evolving the website over time, I was limiting my potential for growth and new readers.
A theme and solid, consistent design cannot guarantee you success. Similarly, great content that isn’t accessible and easy to read will just be swept under the rug. To be in the right place for success, you need the content and theme to match. I’ve been to many personal blogs over the years, and when I see something that’s poorly contrasted, uses strange fonts, and/or doesn’t offer me an easy way to navigate, I lose interest.
If your theme doesn’t seem professional, you may be losing traffic; at least, from people like me. Colors should be themed throughout your site. Text should be black on a lighter color – preferably white. Use smoother fonts for easier, more friendly reading. These things should be common sense, but mishaps occur all the time. Don’t make it challenging for me to read your site!
Over the last few months, I’ve received a few different emails about my own themes. Generally, I point them in two directions: buy a theme or modify a free theme. Buying one is simple and opens the world to terrific customer service. There are traditionally money back guarantees that help reassure you as well. Personally, I’m frugal and cheap. The theme you see today is absolutely free. You can check it out here.
3. Apply For And Install Google AdSense
Now you can actually think about making money. That day has come. You’ve created a wonderful entrance to your site and you’re publishing terrific articles. The flow of traffic to your website has steadily increased. Maybe you even have a little following.
For many, their first advertisement dollars start rolling in from Google’s AdSense platform. Overall, AdSense has been the second largest money maker for me. It’s one of the largest ad networks in the world, and provides advertisers access to nearly every popular site, and publishers with a steady stream of financial support. Somewhere in between, Google takes a hearty chunk out of the profits and provides a seamless process.
The Google network is relatively easy to apply to and setup. Once you’ve been approved, you can begin plastering your site with advertisements. Meanwhile, your visitors may be shocked by a sudden onslaught of ads. This can be a seriously unwelcome and unfriendly wakeup call to many. If you can, be cautious and deliberate when choosing the placement and number of ads.
Initially, I placed ads in the content of single posts, but I quickly learned how annoying that is as a reader to withstand that advertising onslaught. To be popular with more critical social networks such as Reddit, you cannot place ads inside an individual article. If you do that, you’re setting yourself up for failure – and it’s clear you’re only in this for money, and not reader enjoyment. All I’d suggest is be contentious about ad locations and frequency. Respect your readers and they will honor the service you provide them.
4. Available, Accessible, And In Demand
As your Alexa rankings rise and traffic statistics show a growing, thriving audience, you should begin thinking about private advertising opportunities. Month-to-month Frugaling regularly has around 14-15,000 page views. At that rate, I’m about a fifth of some of the large personal finance sites’ traffic. While there’s room to grow, advertisers may be interested in a niche audience.
Private advertisers tend to pay per month, which necessitates that they understand your current traffic. All of this information needs to be packaged up and easily accessible to possible companies. Just like making your site easy to read, offer advertising opportunities that are easy for companies to understand. Create an advertising page with some basic information.
Offer some ability for companies to get ahold of you. I recommend a contact form because it shows the IP address of the person. If you’re approached by a scammer or spammer, showing an email address may aid them in stealing something from you. I’d highly recommend the default contact forms within WordPress’ Jetpack plugin.
Private advertisements are far and few between, but landing something like this puts you a cut above the rest. Following these aforementioned steps will put you in good territory to get one.
5. Share Top-Notch Affiliate Offers
Making over $10,000 was a shock, and the big money was with affiliate links and articles. One day, I logged into my bank account to find about $2,000 deposited from a leading affiliate company. Suddenly, I felt this infusion of energy and confusion over why I had made so much.
I looked at my Google Analytics account to find a huge amount of traffic frequenting one of my affiliate articles. Naturally and organically, people were finding and making their way to my site. I didn’t have to do anything and suddenly I was making up to $3,000 in some months.
Affiliate companies and links can be great fun to work with, but I highly recommend you establish a strong audience before applying in a network. First of all, it’ll make you less likely to be outright rejected from the entire network. Secondarily, you’ll be far more likely to be accepted by individual companies. The best affiliate offers require some serious website traffic. You’ll just be declined time and time again if you go into a network without a sufficient baseline.
Affiliate offers are like the top of the food pyramid: use sparingly. In my experience, they come in handy when recommending products I already use. For instance, I use BigScoots web hosting, which can be purchased here. If you signup for an affiliate company and just share all the links you can, you’ll likely lose readers and credibility. I find it to be one of the more annoying parts about visiting certain personal finance sites. They clearly aren’t writing about a product because they truly love it, but you’ll find tens of articles that gush about for-profit products. Both as a consumer and publisher, you should be wary of selling out in this manner – it may tarnish your reputation to visitors.
Google has an unofficial company motto that says, “Don’t be evil.” It just means, do what’s in the best interest of most and be kind while doing it. Sometimes Google fails to live up to that standard, but the philosophy is still exceptionally important.
You may want to monetizing your blog and make a few bucks doing something you love, but don’t lose sight of why you started writing. If it was simply to make boatloads of cash, you’re likely not going to make it very far in this business or with your motivation to continue. Blogging and writing regularly must be a labor of love – don’t become evil in the need to monetize your blog.
Keep your affiliate articles, ads, and private deals at a minimum. The ideal is a safe, comfortable place for visitors to stay for a while and browse around. There’s no need to inundate them with popups, popunders, multiple ads in content, and affiliate links everywhere you look. Over time, hopefully, readers will see what you have to offer is worth it and give you a referral. But you have to start with the fundamentals: great content and design. Once you’ve built a solid foundation, get ready for some profits.