making money with your blog

I had a former client ask me this question today:

from what you’ve seen in traffic [on his site] what kind of revenue stream do you think is likely with the traffic here?

My reply:

Frankly, I have no idea how blogs make any money. I’ve had modest success with AdBrite.com and Google’s AdSense.com. But on blogs getting hundreds of hits per day, those still only draw about $5 a month, if successful. I think one method blogs have had success with is putting ads in their RSS feeds to serve those users who read blogs in an aggregator like Google Reader. As a user though, I don’t like that experience.

BlogAds.com seems to do very well for certain niche blogs. I know it’s used to great effect by the top gossip blogs. I had some luck with it but to get any advertisers at all, I set my prices as low as the service allowed.

I think an effective strategy is a combination of many efforts. BlogAds, AdSense, Amazon Affiliates. If one jumps out as a money maker, drop the others and hone that one.

It’s a difficult proposition to make money on a blog based solely on traffic. At a BlogCon a few years ago, I sat in a panel with Henry from BlogAds and he was peppered with questions from bloggers wanting to know how to get Levis and Coca Cola to advertise on their blogs. I thought this was the wrong strategy. I just wanted the bar down the street to buy a $10 ad on my music blog. I still
think that sort of local niche could work well for the blog and advertiser. But it’s a lot of leg work for a little money.

I know that’s not a really satisfactory answer. Take my remarks with a grain of salt because I’ve thrown in the towel as far as making money on blogs. To wit, in two and a half years, I’ve never received a payment from Google AdSense because I’ve still not reached their minimum payout.

That said, one place to start would be here: http://yoast.com/articles/wordpress-seo/. There is a lot of great information about improving your blog’s search engine results. With popularity, there is probably money.

Those remarks are actually tempered. It’s not just that I think it’s hard to make money blogging, I don’t think you should even try. Especially not on a personal blog. But even on single-author blogs that cover a certain “beat” (political blogs, for example), I doubt the efficacy of advertising efforts. Even if they bring in your server costs each month, they’re generally a lousy user experience.

I still use them on sites I create but I usually pick one ad solution and stick to it rather than plaster all sorts of ads on a site. But in those instances, I still don’t like them and wish for a better solution.