Today’s assignment: put on your CEO suit and think through whether marketing and monetizing are right for your blog. If so, take one step.
Blogging is always a labor of love, where rewards take the form of engaged readers, substantive comments, new friends, and a better understanding of yourself as a writer. It’s also a time-consuming activity, though — and time often is money (directly or indirectly).
Should you invest money in promoting your blog? Should you try to monetize your carefully crafted content?
Today’s assignment: put on your blog’s CEO suit and draft a marketing and monetizing plan for your blog. Execute the first item on your list.
Why do this?
- Because the lessons you learn from thinking strategically about your blog are important whether or not you make money off of it.
- Because, for some of us, our blogging and professional lives might have significant overlap, and this is a natural next step to consider.
Note: Marketing and monetizing your blog might not be a priority for you, and that’s fine. We still recommend you think through these issues, as it’ll force you to think seriously about your blog’s strengths, target audience(s), and brand.
If this isn’t for you, spend today analyzing the early returns from your poll and creating a three-step plan to act on the results, or reaching out to a few potential buddies.
Promoting your posts
We start blogging because we have something to say, but we’re also motivated by other (successful) bloggers: Andrew Sullivan, Jenny Lawson, Nate Silver. Their success makes us wonder: could we also make it big in the blogosphere?
Statistically, most of us don’t become rich and famous through blogging, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to broaden our reach.
One of the tools in the aspiring mega-blogger’s arsenal is content promotion: you pay money to get eyeballs on your posts. The idea isn’t just to get a traffic bump, but to engage audiences who otherwise wouldn’t have known about your blog. Several publishing platforms let you do this in a fairly low-cost way. On Facebook, you can promote particular posts or advertise your blog generally. Twitter and LinkedIn offer promoted tweets and sponsored updates. StumbleUpon charges a fixed fee for readers it sends your way.
Beyond the extra views, these programs allow you to choose specific audiences for your promotion, using parameters like interest, age, gender, and geographic location. This means that a well-targeted promoted post might reach precisely the readers you’d want.
Here’s our post fleshing out the pros and cons of paying for blog traffic, if you want to ponder this a bit more.
The cons of paid promotion are obvious: readers might not actually stick around. It might turn you into a stats-obsessed zombie and distract you from what really matters: expressing yourself. It also costs money.
Still, today’s assignment is to check out the various avenues for promoting your content. Would any fit your blog? What demographics would you target? How would you budget it? These are valuable questions that will help you focus your brand, whether you decide to advertise or not.
Becoming an ad (wo)man
With blogs, money can also flow in another direction: towards you. Should you monetize?
Bear in mind that making significant money blogging is rare, and demands a long-term investment of time and other resources to develop a mass a following. Per our own ads guru: “All bloggers should understand that they would need hundreds of thousands of page views to generate meaningful earnings.”
That said, as long as you’re aware of the odds and stay focused on publishing posts you’re proud of, blogging can be a source of supplemental income.
Depending on your blog and goals, there are a few ways to monetize on WordPress.com (those of you who are self-hosted or using other platforms will have additional options):
- You can start at the level of the community, and add a donation button to your sidebar so readers can “tip” you (note: this requires a PayPal account).
- If you review books or gadgets, talk about fashion, or otherwise mention products in an organic way, you can apply to an affiliate links program, where merchants would pay you for any customers you refer to them via your content. Amazon Associates is the biggest and most popular. (If you’re a WordPress.com blogger, be sure to review the guidelines on affiliate links first).
- If your blog has consistently strong traffic, it might be time to consider applying for WordAds, WordPress.com’s advertising program. If you want details or are wondering whether your blog’s a good fit, here are some insights from Jon Burke, the WordPress.com ads wizard.
If you want your blog to be an ad-free zone, you can consider the no-ads upgrade to remove the ads that WordPress.com sometimes displays.
Other ideas to think about: if you have a strong brand and a loyal readership, you could consider selling branded merchandise. If you’re a self-published author, promoting your book is a form of monetization. If you’re a DIY or design blogger, linking to and otherwise featuring your Etsy or Ebay store is a way to capitalize on your blog’s success.
Think about the most organic way you might monetize your blog: which option appeals to you the most? What are the best ways to leverage your blog’s strengths? How much time would you allocate to such an effort, and how would you balance it with your blog’s main focus? If you decide to go for it, take the first step: add a “donate” button or affiliate link, or complete the WordAds application.
We know there’s a lot to think about here. Don’t feel like you need to make this decision today, and use the comments and Commons to hash things out with your co-bloggers.