When it comes to monetizing a blog, there are really only four main income streams to consider.
Now keep in mind that this doesn’t mean there are only four ways to make money on a blog—that’s not what I mean at all.
Within each of these four main categories of monetization, there are a nearly endless number of possibilities, but in the end, everything you do to make money will fall under one of these four main streams.
1. Ad Networks
The first strategy is profit through ad networks. If you think of your blog as virtual real estate, then profit through ad networks is revenue generated from leasing out your space to ad networks such as Google AdSense, who then fill the space with ads from their clients. The more page views your site receives, the more valuable your real estate. This is probably the easiest and most passive way to earn an income on a blog, but it also requires a large number of page views.
When it comes to monetization, sidebar and banner ads (and ad networks) are usually the first things that come to mind, especially to those unfamiliar with the business of blogging. They are easy to see and understand, and therefore the most concrete explanation for how to make money on a blog to someone who just doesn’t understand. The model seems simple:
Blogger Install Adds → Reader Clicks Ads → Blogger Makes Money
The thing that makes ad network revenue so desirable to many bloggers is that it is completely passive. Once your ads are in place, you don’t have to do anything.
They make you money just by sitting there. They don’t have an opinion about what you write, nor do they require you to spend time pitching to brands or trying to convince your readers to buy something. It is about as close to free money as you can get.
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The Problem with ad network revenue
While the above model seems easy to follow, the reality of how ad networks really work is not quite that straightforward. If it were, every blogger out there would be making all their money from ad networks. After all, who doesn’t want free money? But that’s not the case. In fact, very few six-figure or seven-figure bloggers these days make the bulk of their revenue through ad networks. So what is the problem with ad network revenue? Why do some smaller blogs earn much more than others with way more traffic? Why don’t more bloggers focus on increasing their blog revenue from ad networks? Aside from the main problem, that being able to earn any sort of significant ad revenue through ad networks requires a high number of page views, another big problem that I see with ad network revenue is that it can be inconsistent. Trends can cause certain niches to rise in popularity.
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Advertisers are willing to bid more for their ads, which then makes those ads extremely profitable. If you happen to fall in the right niche at the right time, you might do very well for a while, but then, as the trend starts to fade, so will your earnings. Once you’ve come to rely on an income stream, the prospect of losing it can be a very scary thing
2. Private Advertising
The second strategy is profit through private advertising & working directly with brands. This means selling ad space on your blog directly to a company or brand or perhaps promoting a company in some other way on your blogs, such as with a sponsored post or brand ambassadorship.
3. Affiliate Marketing
The third monetization strategy is profit through affiliate advertising. This means using special tracking links to recommend products to your readers that other people own, then earning a commission when someone purchases those products.
This can be a very effective strategy for monetization, especially when you can find recurring affiliate programs to promote that are both a good fit for your audience and pays a high commission rate.
4. Creating Products
The fourth monetization strategy, which is my personal favorite, is profit through selling a product. Your product could be anything from a book to an e-book to an online course to service to an actual physical product that you manufacture and sell. There is usually a fair amount of work involved in creating & launching your product, but the payout is also usually much more significant.
When it comes to successfully monetizing your blog, the goal is always to focus on the strategies that will generate the maximum revenue per reader.
You want to make sure you are always leveraging the audience that you already have, rather than constantly trying to grow your audience in order to grow your revenue.
And quite frankly, this is where a lot of bloggers get stuck. They continually spend their time working to grow their traffic and obsess over the number of page views they are receiving and never really move on to the monetization phase, where they focus on making sure they have maximized their revenue potential in every possible way.