Heads up – today’s post is NOT about Therapeutic Riding! This post is about how to make your blog pay for itself, like I did, in hopes that it will help someone out, like all the internet articles helped me. So unless you’re looking for this specific info, you can skip it 🙂
About 2 years ago I started moving my blog from the free hosting of WordPress.com to the pay-for-it-self-hosting of GoDaddy.com. While there were tons of great resources on the web that helped me do this on my own, there was nothing with all the information in one place for my exact situation. In the spirit of passing things on to help make the process easier for others, and I am creating these posts. Part 1 is how to transfer your blog. Part 2 is how to monetize it, so it at least pays for itself. I hope someone out there finds it useful!
PART 2: How to Monetize Your Blog So It Pays For Itself
Why Monetize Your Blog?
First, why even monetize? It depends on your goals for your blog. Possible goals are:
- In the least, to make the blog cover its own cost of purchasing a domain name and web hosting
- In the middle, to make a little money back for the time you spend on it
- In the most, to make a living off it – though I’ve heard that you can’t do this just on ads, you have to use your blog to sell a product such as books or a membership only section of special resources and videos
For example, my goals are:
- To make enough money to cover the cost of the blog
- To make a little extra to buy related resources with, for my own continued education (books, webinars, etc.)
- To one day sell books combining posts into collections of activities, teaching tips, etc.
- Not necessarily to make money for myself, but to give back, such as to an instructor certification scholarship
The Types of Monetizing Programs
Ad Placement Programs are programs you join so you can put their ad space on your blog and get some commission. They choose the content based on the viewer, but you may be able to veto certain ads. Depending on the program, you can get paid by impression (views), per click, per click and purchase, etc. Examples include Google AdSense, Commission Junction, ClixGalore, Adclick, BlogAds, Chikita, etc.
Affiliate Marketing are programs in which you partner with a company to recommend their product. You post a link to their product on your blog and if someone clicks on it and orders, you get a commission. Examples includes Amazon Associates, Commission Junction, and partnering with small companies you trust whose products are geared toward your readers. Be careful with recommending products as you want your readers to trust you and not feel like they’re always trying to be sold something.
Private Ad Space Sales is where you sell a location on your blog (and “ad space”) to a company to put their ad. They pay weekly/monthly/yearly for the ad space, so you don’t get a commission if someone clicks or purchases through it.
Sponsorship is where you get someone to sponsor you or your blog or a particular post. Often Sponsorship Program which involves a package deal such as ad space, access to free membership, their name on stuff, etc..
Writing Reviews is where a company sends you their product for free in exchange for a review.
Donations are where you can set up a “Make A Donation” area and accept payment through PayPal, etc. Make sure to explain why you need donations.
Sell Your Own Product, such as a digital ebook or continuity membership with exclusive access to special resources and articles.
How to Choose Your Monetizing Programs
Some important concepts to know as you choose which programs to use:
- Know your goals (see above) and your target audience. This helps determine what programs you choose, and keeps you focused instead of going crazy with every ad possible. Your target audience are the people your blog content is aimed at.
- Choose programs based the people most likely to visit your site, NOT how great the program’s pay rate sounds.
- Less may be more. The less ads on your site, the possibly higher payments because there’s less ads for viewers to see or choose from.
- Ads relevant to your audience are generally more effective than general ads.
- Ads about free stuff generally work better, so try them out if your affiliates offer them.
- Beware of competitor ads if you’re selling your own product.
- Monitor and Manage. Every once in a while re-evaluate how ads are doing on your site. If performance drops, then switch it out. So you can choose several, then rotate them through to see which works best.
For example, my goals are to make enough to pay for the blog and some extra. My main readers (I expect) are 1) therapeutic horseback riding instructors, 2) all horseback riding instructors, and 3) horseback riders. Equine advertising is a rather narrow spectrum, and I assume getting big ad payers and sponsors is only available to much bigger websites. Therefore so I chose to go with AdSense (which targets individual viewers), rotate some of the few equine affiliates on Commission Junction, and become an Amazon Affiliate since I recommend books sometimes. With these three I make enough for the blog to pay for itself and I evaluate every few months to see what improvements I could make, but don’t waste my time trying too hard on it, rather focusing on continued good blog content.
Sign up and put ads on your blog
These are my recommendations for how to go about deciding which advertising methods to decide upon and use.
First, start with something basic.
Google AdSense is basic, chooses the ads for you, targets the individual viewer, and pays per impression even if no one clicks on it. Note that their minimum payment is $100 (so you have to wait until you make more than that to get paid, due to taxes), you can’t have more than 3 ads per page, and you can’t click on your own ad. Follow these directions to add AdSense to your WordPress site. I also added the Google Adsense Plugin to put the ads where I want them – I like it because it’s easy and they visually show you the potential places to put the ads on you site. Note it may take 24-48 hours before you see ads on your site, so don’t freak out like I did (I definitely did). I hear the best ad sizes are 336×280 and 300×260, but mine performed best placed below the link to the first post, right in the middle of the page. I only use 1 ad so I can try out others, but this 1 add has made enough to just about cover my initial investment. You will only start making cents at first, but over a few months and consistent views it will get better.
Think about Ad Placement. Here are two good links discussing this:
Second, add something specific toward your target audience.
Commission Junction (CJ) is a collection of advertisers you can partner with through CJ. I chose to use CJ because the bigger equine sales sites form affiliates through it. Note that their minimum payment is $100. It’s a little confusing at first because they call ads “products”, but their support page has good instructions. Apply for affiliates, once accepted choose products (ads), get links, and put them on your page. Apply for several, but rotate them instead of putting them all on your page at once.
UPDATE: I stopped Commission Junction because if you don’t continue making money, they delete money from your account (only from what you made until you get back to zero) so for a small time blogger like me, I made some then lost it all!
Third, add something else.
Amazon Associates is the thirds program I chose. You can use it as a word link or an image link within your post rather than an advertisement on the page/theme like the other two. If someone clicks on the link and buys the item, you get a small profit or “referral fee” (note that “referral fee” is what they owe you, not what you owe them! It’s a little confusing at first if you don’t know that.) If you choose direct deposit or gift card, the minimum payment is $10, if check then $100. The downside is if someone bookmarks the item for later, it’s not registered as having come through your side, so you lose the referral fees. Some resources said it’s not easy to earn much from this program, but I figure for my goals, every little bit counts, and if I’m already recommending books I might as well do it anyway! It’s also a good third option that’s not an actual ad on the website.
Make It Look Pretty
Some considerations about where to put your ads, now that you have them:
- Content first! Ads should not be distracting or overwhelming.
- Most ads can be put in the sidebar by pasting the link into a text widget.
- To put ads elsewhere in your theme, such as the header or footer, you can manually edit your theme or use a plugin. My theme doesn’t allow editing so I use plugins.
- Ads toward the top of the page get more views and impressions, which some payments are based on. I never read which get the most clicks.
- Incorporate text links for Amazon Affiliate items (books, products, etc.) so as not to break the flow of your blog post with a picture link (unless you really want to show a pic).
Traffic is how your ads will make you money. So remember to post! While setting all this up, don’t forget to create new content for your blog. The more I posted, the more views I got, and the higher the payments slowly rose.
Ideas for how to increase traffic:
- Create more blog posts. Make a goal to post ____ times a week.
- Get your blog listed on other’s sites, such as an industry list of links, or as a sponsor, or trade links with other sites.
- Do a guest blogger exchange with another blog. Ask someone to do a guest blogger post for you and hope that they reciprocate.
- Submit articles to industry websites.
- Ask people who support your blog to spread the word.
- Make business cards and hand them out when it comes up, or at a conference.
- Make a Facebook page and share when you post.
- Create a Pinterest board with some links to your site, and put a Pinterest widget in your blog’s sidebar. (On Pinterest, click on the board you want to widget, click “Create Widget,” copy the text, and put it in a text box widget. If the size doesn’t work, you can click “Custom Build” on the Pinterest board.)
- Get media attention. Somehow.
- Do giveaways and reviews.
You can also increase traffic through Search Engine Optimization, which are rules for making your posts easy for people to find and more likely to come up at the top of the list.
- Put keywords in: the blog pot title, headers the first few sentences of your post, links
- Change your settings so that blog posts URLs are named by the title not the date
- Make titles as descriptive as possible
- Words displayed in images don’t count as keywords, search engines don’t read those
- Tag keywords to each post, as often and accurately as possible
- Get a plugin that helps you do this such as Yoast WordPress SEO
Monitor and Manage
First off, be patient. It takes a while to start earning money. Then, after a few months have passed, revisit your ad decisions and decide if what you’re doing works or if you need to change something. Here are some helpful concepts:
- Ad programs that put the most relevant ads on your site may take a while to get good at knowing which ads to show to get the best impressions or clicks. It took half a year for Adsense to improve for me.
- Ad programs that don’t put the most relevant ads on your site, or are just always the same ad, must be managed. This means monitoring them and switching them out if they’re not working. Test the ads and see how they do.
- Don’t keep an ad just because it pays well. If it’s not working, you won’t get anything anyway.
- If an ad does well at first but drops in performance over time, it’s probably time to rotate it out or use a different ad from the same advertiser. If an ad stays up too long people tend to stop seeing it.
- If an ad does not have many takers, remove it. Either it was unattractive or not suited to your target audience.
- Use a plugin or app to monitor how your ads do. (Haven’t done this yet so I don’t have any recommendations).
- If all ads aren’t working, consider what other options may be more attractive to your target audience or advertiser, such as sponsorships, private ad space sales, continuity programs, etc.
Other Ways to Monetize
Much of what I read said you don’t make money on advertising, but on using your website to sell something else. Some ideas are:
- Create your own related product line.
- Create an Etsy site.
- Create an eBook.
- Offer services, like consulting.
- Offer speaking gigs.
- Offer Webinars.
Since my blog is already self-maintaining with just ads, I didn’t have any huge desire to do anything else. I hate blogs that half the time feel like they’re trying to sell you something. However, a few people have asked about me selling a book compilation of blog posts, so they can have the activities all in one place, which is the next goal I have.
Note: I have not been paid by anyone for these recommendations! Just reporting what I’ve done.
Congrats, now your blog is now monetized!
Now that I’ve helped you out so much, I have to say no questions please!!! I’m not an expert, you can Google them yourself : )
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!