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How to make money from your blog - the 'secret' formula

The underlying explanations for our personal choice of blog reading may seem somewhat nebulous. With Twitter referrals prompting some visits to sites, it may seem a bit random.

There are some great websites to read, that maintain interest with insightful content or otherwise have a formula that works for the reader and blogger. In addition there will be an element of trust; we hope and expect to learn some new insight that comes from a genuine desire on behalf of the author to tell us something we don't know, personally or professionally, perhaps with the lines a touch blurred. That all boils down to integrity.

Every blog has its angle, so we hope and trust that this is made clear. Advertising, for instance is a public ‘declaration of interest’ with an implicit understand that that potential influence is the price paid for free content.

It’s very rare for advertising to be a lucrative source of income for bloggers, unless the blog has a significant audience.

If you’re a great writer you’ll find a way. If, as is more likely, you have a business to promote there’s really a better way to make money from blogs - and not taking advertising makes that easier.

More generally, to make your blog work for you need to be clever and focused on the marketing objectives of your business.

My personal favourite blogs of choice wax and wane. I return to
Dave Winer’s scripting.com for an experienced and often contrarian view on technology; John Gruber’s Daring Fireball for insightful Apple commentary; and BoingBoing for general weirdness and a laugh.

These sites have largish audiences and exist for reasons unique to their founders. In the case of Gruber initially to promote a software product but evolved to be industry commentary site, supported by advertising. Boing Boing was a magazine that evolved to a web site supported by advertisers.
Scripting.com promotes certain technologies, and sometimes covers politics. It's policy is not to take advertising (with the view that this would be like including someone else’s advertising on your valuable billboard).

This sample of successful blogs has gained a following through having interesting things to say, from an identifiable viewpoint - and promoting it through the tools available. Their success also results from telling an insider story.

My reason for writing this blog post is that I was approached to develop an Oxford based blog that had found something of a following, and its author wanted to re-organise it to attract advertisers.

This Wordpress blog site was intends to promote a ‘lifestyle’ business but in a somewhat random manner and from an non identifiable viewpoint. That might be understandable but makes it somewhat difficult to discern the personality and source of expertise of the content that readers would need to trust for the business to be effectively promoted.

The example site that this blogger wanted to follow was
http://galadarling.com - the writer and public speaker, showing a colourful personality (take a look) that reveals enough to intrigue an audience. “Hello” (the about page welcomes you. “I’m Gala Darling. (Yes, that is my real name!) I am 28 years old. I was born in Wellington, New Zealand & lived in Auckland, New Zealand, & Melbourne, Australia before moving to the United States, so I have a fun hybrid accent. I own two passports. I am an only child.”

Presumably Gala is canny enough to market her speaking engagements and books to audience. So I’d be prepared to make a bet that Gala makes more money from that than advertising. I expect some of her material from her blog ends up in her speeches and books too, and vice versa.

Blogging clearly works in some cases, so what’s the ‘secret’?

One would be not to learn the wrong lessons. Each business is unique. Copying someone else's methods that isn't relevant to you would clearly be a lesson ill-learned.

In the past, I successfully, in my terms, used a blog to promote the sales of a magazine (and earned some advertising income). There wasn’t a straightforward measurable return on investment, but I’m absolutely sure it was worth doing the blog - and would have been better to forget about chasing the advertising. The real gain - with an immediate connection with readers and by generating content by itself improved the magazine as a product overall.

That’s my lesson from one business - yours will definitely be different but there's a underlying thinking there that could be apply in an appropriate way for your business.

My point is to monetise a blog you need a holistic approach. The more focused the better. You should want to expose yourself to the consequences, so long as it will be in line with your planned objectives, but most likely in ways not foreseeable.

In my next blog post I’ll propose some methods for how organise a blog to match these objectives, but in case anyone feels I’m being negative about blogging I personally feel the reverse.

A large portion of the planet is doing it anyway; on Facebook and Twitter. So why not do it for your own ends and, if the feeling takes you, demonstrate a passion that you have in public. I’m passionate about self-expression which is why I love bloggers and blogging. If you share that passion you will enjoy it too. So I say just go and do it, and only worry about making money from it indirectly, as that would be worth more.

If you’re really focussed on using a blog for your business, the SEO content might attract some attention but it’s the lessons you will learn for exposing and improving your business as a whole that should be more valuable.

Use your blog to advertise your passion, and by extension your brand!

Tim



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