Being a great blogger is one thing – knowing how to monetize a blog is quite another. In this article, we’ll discuss a selection of key strategies for making money from your blog, whether it’s a standalone venture or a content marketing platform for your brand.
Acquiring leads (and converting them)
If your blog is a standalone venture, skip to the next section.
One of the most prevalent ways to make money from a blog is to use it as a means of adding value to your brand and website.
From high-street fashion labels to B2B service providers, all sorts of brands use blogs integrated with their websites to achieve the following benefits:
- Attract web visitors from search and social
- Win over customers (82% feel more positive about a brand after reading custom content (Demand Metric))
- Build SEO value (fresh content and increased traffic both reflect well on the site)
- Encourage people to stay on the website longer
- Gather user data to strengthen targeted marketing (e.g. Customer X viewed our blog article “The Top Ten Jeggings in the Nike Store” > automated retargeting serves Customer X an Ad sequence promoting jeggings)
- Strategically highlight aspects of offering and strategic position
- Generate content for social schedule
These are just a handful of the advantages an integrated blog can offer a brand. In one way or another, they all serve to bring leads a step closer towards making a purchase.
Using your blog to acquire leads
An especially important use of brand blogs is lead acquisition, via search engines and social media. Traffic gained in this way has been central to many brands’ online success, notably – and revealingly – including the SEO specialist Moz.
Acquiring leads through a blog will typically require separate strategies for search and social.
In the simplest terms, your strategy for search should be based on creating and suitably presenting content that caters for what your target audience is searching for online.
Meanwhile, your social media strategy should be tailored to your audience’s interests, which may be explicitly known (e.g. if they have ‘liked’ a topic on Facebook), or inferred/predicted from data.
Any one blog article can be targeted for social and search users in different ways. We’ll give you a few examples:
Blog Post: 10 Bread Recipes Using [Brand] Flour
Search strategy: recipes included are chosen based on which types of bread are getting high search
Social strategy: sponsored Facebook posts targeting people who have liked ‘Home baking’
Blog Post: FAQs: How to Use a [Brand] Hosepipe
Search strategy: FAQs are based on popular question-type search queries about using hosepipes
Social strategy: sponsored Facebook posts targeting people who have liked ‘Gardening’
These are just examples of the theory behind search and social targeting – an actual strategy will require greater detail, such as the specific demographics you are targeting.
Make commercial intent a factor in your search strategy
Many of you will already be considering search traffic when you plan your blog content. Which phrases relating to relevant topics are people likely to type into Google? How can my content cater to these people’s requirements?
For the sake of improving your conversion rates, we recommend factoring commercial intent into your search strategy. So, alongside topics chosen for their sheer usefulness to the reader, e.g.
…you would also publish content appealing to search users who seem likely to buy a certain product or service, e.g.
We designed our “Improve your digital marketing skills” podcast as a resource that’s useful in its own right. However, it is also targeted at search users who are looking for precisely what we sell: ways to improve their digital marketing skills.
There’s a delicate balance to strike here. Factoring commercial intent into your SEO strategy is an important factor in making your web content – but on the other hand, topics and keywords with a clear relation to commercial intent are often highly competitive.
How to measure lead acquisition via your blog
You can measure how many visitors a blog post has attracted to your site using Google Analytics (find out how to set it up here).
- Sign in to your Google Analytics account
- Under ‘Behaviour’, expand ‘Site Content’ and click ‘Landing Pages’
- You can now see all pages of your blog/website which have attracted traffic over the chosen date range (which you can edit in the top-right corner of the panel)
Now you’re here, explore some of the options on-screen. You should be able to see how many people each page has acquired, how long those people stayed on the page, and much more. If you have set up conversion tracking, you should also be able to see how many visitors have converted (i.e. made a purchase or signed up) via each page.
All this information can provide insights into your content’s performance, and can, therefore, feed into your ongoing content planning.
Referral marketing is an ideal monetization option for bloggers who would rather leave the job of closing the sale to a masterful third-party.
In referral marketing, an affiliate (who in this case, is the blogger) earns commission every time someone clicks through from their site to a third-party retailer and makes a purchase.
The classic example of this would be Amazon Associates, which has been a cornerstone of Amazon’s growth since 1996. Affiliate partners post links to Amazon products on their blogs, and receive commission for every resulting click/sale. If you write about products of just about any sort on your blog, this represents a clear opportunity to earn commissions.
If you’re not a fan of Jeff Bezos, you’ll be glad to hear there are plenty of other affiliate marketing schemes to choose from – we advise researching several to find the best fit for your blog.
Incorporating affiliate links into a blog article without compromising the editorial quality of the content is a fine art. Here are some pointers:
- Add your links to anchor text in the body of your content, rather than as standalone CTAs.
- Top lists are an effective way to get multiple products and links into a single post
- In-depth reviews of a product have a relatively high chance of ranking competitively in SERPs – especially if you can squeeze more quality content out of the subject than your competitors
Display ads have a bad reputation. Historically associated with poor customer experience, low returns, and embarrassing misplacements they’ve come to be seen by many as more of a hindrance than a help.
Is this a fair assessment? In some cases, it has been – but in recent years we’ve seen major players improving online ad quality to such an extent that bloggers have cause to think again. Leading the charge is Google AdSense, which offers various ways to match quality ads to quality content.
AdSense takes information from your content and uses it to insert appropriate advertising in natural contexts. The idea is to create a more cohesive – and clickable – user experience than pre-existing display ad services. You can find lots more info on AdSense here.
Hosting sponsored content
Online publishers at many different levels of the industry are earning revenue from sponsored posts.
The likes of The Guardian and Telegraph host sponsored articles from well-financed advertisers, whilst independent blogs – including some relatively minor ones – are providing sponsored post/mention/link/review opportunities at cheaper rates.
How much you can expect to charge for hosting sponsored content on your blog will depend on factors including your:
- Web traffic
- Domain/page authority score
- Alexa ranking
- Social reach
- Brand recognition and reputation
- Subject matter
Broadly the same factors apply whether we’re talking about a sponsored article on a world-beating news website, or a £50 product placement on a small-time blogger’s top-10 listicle.
The need for caution when hosting sponsored content
Hosting sponsored posts is not for everyone (you may have noticed that we don’t do it!)
There are three golden rules to doing this well:
- Insist on your usual content quality and subject matter (i.e. create the content in-house)
- Make it clear that the post is sponsored
- Consider using “no-follow” links in the content, to make it clear that the post is not for SEO purposes. Google condones sponsored posts as a means for advertisers to gain direct traffic, but not as a means of passing page rank from the publisher to the advertiser.
If your blog has strong brand appeal, you might consider creating store for branded merchandise.
There are lots of companies out there that can print merch like t-shirts, mugs and posters with your branding/other creative in small batches, so you can test your audience’s appetite for merchandise without much risk.
This option is best suited to brands with a substantial audience of regular followers.
According to BlackBaud’s Giving Report for 2016, online giving increased by 7.2% last year, whilst overall charitable giving grew by just one percent.
Many people understand the difficulty of making web content pay, and as such are happy to donate money to support their favourite content producers.
If you intend for donations to be one of your most important revenue streams, we suggest using a tool to streamline the process.
One popular platform offering this service is Patreon, which lets supporters sign up to pay a regular monthly contribution to their favourite content producers. The content producers, meanwhile, can ask for higher monthly contributions in return for Kickstarter style rewards, such as credits and early access to content.
Doing well through Patreon as a content producer is largely a question of understanding what to ask for and how to ask for it in your content.
If you’d like some good advice on this topic, we refer to this article on how to use Patreon to support your writing, which was written by an author who used Patreon to fund a novel.
Do bear in mind that Patreon takes a 5% cut of successfully processed payments. If you can create your own donation mechanism in-house and expect to receive a high level of contributions, doing-it-yourself might save you money in the long run.
What’s the worth of your blog?
We’d like to finish off this article with an important reminder: how much money your blog makes does not define its overall value.
Many of us want – and need – to make money through our blogs, whether that’s by generating revenue directly, or funnelling leads through to other webpages.
However, we must also bear in mind other benefits which are harder to measure. Blogs can build trust in the long-term, help establish an organisation’s sense of mutual purpose, positively influence the lives of thousands of readers and much else besides.
Understanding that direct revenue is one benefit amongst many will help you to maintain high standards, and ultimately, to get the most out of your blog.