Guy Kawasaki writes, “In case you hadn’t noticed, most bloggers don’t make a lot of money from their blogging efforts.” Ouch. No wonder then that Kottke has gone public with the failure of his business model. And there are other cases where bloggers make so little money from their blogs that they do not even want to mention it.
Having said that, there are many cases where people make a respectable living from blogging (eCreativa Media is one such company, though we tend to use a more broader definition of what we do – “online publishing” that includes not just blogs but web pages that are not syndicated; maybe an issue for those technically inclined but vast majority of surfers don’t care about the underlying technology).
Should you blog for dollars?
If you are blogging because it is your passion (and you just happen to make some money as part of that process) then it is fine the way you are, and so just enjoy the extra pocket money. However, if you are blogging for dollars, then you need to apply the basic principles of business to assess how you are doing and if you should be in this business. In subsequent paragraphs are my tips on how to make a living from blogging (or by publishing online content).
In order to calculate if you should blog for dollars, take what you think is your fair hourly wage (some of us are under/over-paid, so adjust accordingly). Now if you are not making comparable income from your blog, either develop a strategy to get at that level in a reasonable period of time (it is possible) or don’t waste your time or continue blogging because you like to, not because you are running a business.
How not to blog?
- If you merely link to other blogs and add comments, who cares? Unless you create real value, you will not develop a brand, people will simply follow the links that you recommend, and it will be hard to make a buck.
- If you just want to share your opinion, who cares? Everybody has an opinion in blogosphere, and unless you are Guy Kawasaki or Arianna Huffington or Lawrence Lessig, the appetite for opinion is rather small.
How to blog to make a living?
- Carry real ads. Donations don’t add up for 99% of the bloggers. Neither do affiliate programs. My recommendation with the highest ROI: Google AdSense.
- Help someone. Rather than providing your opinion (unless the world really is dying to hear yours), make someone’s life easy. For instance, if you love fixing cars, share your tips on how to do it.
- Our research shows that opinion websites produce the lowest clickthrough rates. The highest clickthrough rates are for “problem solving” websites. For instance, one day I realize that my skin is really dry. I search for “dry skin” and find articles on the topic. I pick one, read about possible reasons for dry skin and then see ads for moisturizers, click on them to learn more or even order one online. Everybody is happy. Indeed, I do read many opinion websites but when I do that I am not in my “shopping” mood and have no need to learn about products or services.
- Pick your target carefully. Here is a little secret. The more sophisticated your reader is, the less money you will make even if the cost-per-click is very high. Sophisticated readers do not like advertising. So you will have far more success with writing about “shoes” or “celebrity vacations” than “enterprise resource planning” or “CNC lathes.”