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					How to Make Money Off Your Blog




Do you actually want to monetize your blog?

Some people have strong personal feelings with respect to making money
from their blogs. If you think commercializing your blog is evil,
immoral, unethical, uncool, lame, greedy, obnoxious, or anything along
those lines, then don’t commercialize it.

If you have mixed feelings about monetizing your blog, then sort out
those feelings first. If you think monetizing your site is wonderful,
fine. If you think it’s evil, fine. But make up your mind before you
seriously consider starting down this path. If you want to succeed, you
must be congruent. Generating income from your blog is challenging
enough — you don’t want to be dealing with self-sabotage at the same
time. It should feel genuinely good to earn income from your blog — you
should be driven by a healthy ambition to succeed. If your blog provides
genuine value, you fully deserve to earn income from it. If, however,
you find yourself full of doubts over whether this is the right path for
you, you might find this article helpful: How Selfish Are You? It’s
about balancing your needs with the needs of others.

If you do decide to generate income from your blog, then don’t be shy
about it. If you’re going to put up ads, then really put up ads. Don’t
just stick a puny little ad square in a remote corner somewhere. If
you’re going to request donations, then really request donations. Don’t
put up a barely visible “Donate” link and pray for the best. If you’re
going to sell products, then really sell them. Create or acquire the
best quality products you can, and give your visitors compelling reasons
to buy. If you’re going to do this, then fully commit to it. Don’t take
a half-assed approach. Either be full-assed or no-assed.

You can reasonably expect that when you begin commercializing a free
site, some people will complain, depending on how you do it. I launched
this site in October 2004, and I began putting Google Adsense ads on the
site in February 2005. There were some complaints, but I expected that —
it was really no big deal. Less than 1 in 5,000 visitors actually sent
me negative feedback. Most people who sent feedback were surprisingly
supportive. Most of the complaints died off within a few weeks, and the
site began generating income almost immediately, although it was pretty
low — a whopping $53 the first month. If you’d like to see some month-
by-month specifics, I posted my 2005 Adsense revenue figures earlier this
year. Adsense is still my single best source of revenue for this site,
although it’s certainly not my only source. More on that later…

Can you make a decent income online?

Yes, absolutely. At the very least, a high five-figure annual income is
certainly an attainable goal for an individual working full-time from
home. I’m making a healthy income from StevePavlina.com, and the site is
only 19 months   old… barely a toddler. If you have a day job, it will
take longer to   generate a livable income, but it can still be done part-
time if you’re   willing to devote a lot of your spare time to it. I’ve
always done it   full-time.

Can most people do it?

No, they can’t. I hope it doesn’t shock you to see a personal
development web site use the dreaded C-word. But I happen to agree with
those who say that 99% of people who try to generate serious income from
their blogs will fail. The tagline for this site is “Personal
Development for Smart People.” And unfortunately (or fortunately,
depending on your outlook), smart people are a minority on this planet.
So while most people can’t make a living this way, I would say that most
smart people can. How do you know whether or not you qualify as smart?
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you have to ask the question, you
aren’t.

If that last paragraph doesn’t flood my inbox with flames, I don’t know
what will. OK, actually I do.

This kind of 99-1 ratio isn’t unique to blogging though. You’ll see it
in any field with relatively low barriers to entry. What percentage of
wannabe actors, musicians, or athletes ever make enough money from their
passions to support themselves? It doesn’t take much effort to start a
blog these days — almost anyone can do it. Talent counts for something,
and the talent that matters in blogging is intelligence. But that just
gets you in the door. You need to specifically apply your intelligence
to one particular talent. And the best words I can think of to describe
that particular talent are: web savvy.

If you are very web savvy, or if you can learn to become very web savvy,
then you have an excellent shot of making enough money from your blog to
cover all your living expenses… and then some. But if becoming truly web
savvy is more than your gray matter can handle, then I’ll offer this
advice: Don’t quit your day job.

Web savvy

What do I mean by web savvy? You don’t need to be a programmer, but you
need a decent functional understanding of a variety of web technologies.
What technologies are “key” will depend on the nature of your blog and
your means of monetization. But generally speaking I’d list these
elements as significant:

    blog publishing software
    HTML/CSS
    blog comments (and comment spam)
    RSS/syndication
    feed aggregators
    pings
    trackbacks
    full vs. partial feeds
    blog carnivals (for kick-starting your blog’s traffic)
    search engines
    search engine optimization (SEO)
    page rank
    social bookmarking
    tagging
    contextual advertising
    affiliate programs
    traffic statistics
    email

Optional: podcasting, instant messaging, PHP or other web scripting
languages.

I’m sure I missed a few due to familiarity blindness. If scanning such a
list makes your head spin, I wouldn’t recommend trying to make a full-
time living from blogging just yet. Certainly you can still blog, but
you’ll be at a serious disadvantage compared to someone who’s more web
savvy, so don’t expect to achieve stellar results until you expand your
knowledge base.

If you want to sell downloadable products such as ebooks, then you can
add e-commerce, SSL, digital delivery, fraud prevention, and online
databases to the list. Again, you don’t need to be a programmer; you
just need a basic understanding of these technologies. Even if you hire
someone else to handle the low-level implementation, it’s important to
know what you’re getting into. You need to be able to trust your
strategic decisions, and you won’t be able to do that if you’re a General
who doesn’t know what a gun is.

A lack of understanding is a major cause of failure in the realm of
online income generation. For example, if you’re clueless about search
engine optimization (SEO), you’ll probably cripple your search engine
rankings compared to someone who understands SEO well. But you can’t
consider each technology in isolation. You need to understand the
connections and trade-offs between them. Monetizing a blog is a
balancing act. You may need to balance the needs of yourself, your
visitors, search engines, those who link to you, social bookmarking
sites, advertisers, affiliate programs, and others. Seemingly minor
decisions like what to title a web page are significant. In coming up
with the title of this article, I have to take all of these potential
viewers into consideration. I want a title that is attractive to human
visitors, drives reasonable search engine traffic, yields relevant
contextual ads, fits the theme of the site, and encourages linking and
social bookmarking. And most importantly I want each article to provide
genuine value to my visitors. I do my best to create titles for my
articles that balance these various needs. Often that means abandoning
cutesy or clever titles in favor of direct and comprehensible ones. It’s
little skills like these that help drive sustainable traffic growth month
after month. Missing out on just this one skill is enough to cripple
your traffic. And there are dozens of these types of skills that require
web savvy to understand, respect, and apply.

This sort of knowledge is what separates the 1% from the 99%. Both
groups may work just as hard, but the 1% is getting much better results
for their efforts. It normally doesn’t take me more than 60 seconds to
title an article, but a lot of experience goes into those 60 seconds.
You really just have to learn these ideas once; after that you can apply
them routinely.

Whenever you come across a significant web technology you don’t
understand, look it up on Google or Wikipedia, and dive into it long
enough to acquire a basic understanding of it. To make money from
blogging it’s important to be something of a jack of all trades. Maybe
you’ve heard the expression, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.”
That may be true, but you don’t need to master any of these technologies
— you just have to be good enough to use them. It’s the difference
between being able to drive a car vs. becoming an auto mechanic. Strive
to achieve functional knowledge, and then move on to something else.
Even though I’m an experienced programmer, I don’t know how many web
technologies actually work. I don’t really care. I can still use them
to generate results. In the time it would take me to fully understand
one new technology, I can achieve sufficient functional knowledge to
apply several of them.

Thriving on change

Your greatest risk isn’t that you’ll make mistakes that will cost you.
Your greatest risk is that you’ll miss opportunities. You need an
entrepreneurial mindset, not an employee mindset. Don’t be too concerned
with the risk of loss — be more concerned with the risk of missed gains.
It’s what you don’t know and what you don’t do that will hurt you the
worst. Blogging is cheap. Your expenses and financial risk should be
minimal. Your real concern should be missing opportunities that would
have made you money very easily. You need to develop antennae that can
listen out for new opportunities. I highly recommend subscribing to
Darren Rowse’s Problogger blog — Darren is great at uncovering new
income-generating opportunities for bloggers.

The blogosphere changes rapidly, and change creates opportunity. It
takes some brains to decipher these opportunities and to take advantage
of them before they disappear. If you hesitate to capitalize on
something new and exciting, you may simply miss out. Many opportunities
are temporary. And every day you don’t implement them, you’re losing
money you could have earned. And you’re also missing opportunities to
build traffic, grow your audience, and benefit more people.

I used to get annoyed by the rapid rate of change of web technologies.
It’s even more rapid than what I saw when I worked in the computer gaming
industry. And the rate of change is accelerating. Almost every week now
I learn about some fascinating new web service or idea that could
potentially lead to big changes down the road. Making sense of them is a
full-time job in itself. But I learned to love this insane pace. If I’m
confused then everyone else is probably confused too. And people who
only do this part-time will be very confused. If they aren’t confused,
then they aren’t keeping up. So if I can be just a little bit faster and
understand these technologies just a little bit sooner, then I can
capitalize on some serious opportunities before the barriers to entry
become too high. Even though confusion is uncomfortable, it’s really a
good thing for a web entrepreneur. This is what creates the space for a
college student to earn $1,000,000 online in just a few months with a
clever idea. Remember this isn’t a zero-sum game. Don’t let someone
else’s success make you feel diminished or jealous. Let it inspire you
instead.

What’s your overall income-generation strategy?

I don’t want to insult anyone, but most people are utterly clueless when
it comes to generating income from their blogs. They slap things
together haphazardly with no rhyme or reason and hope to generate lots of
money. While I’m a strong advocate of the ready-fire-aim approach, that
strategy does require that you eventually aim. Ready-fire-fire-fire-fire
will just create a mess.

Take a moment to articulate a basic income-generating strategy for your
site. If you aren’t good at strategy, then just come up with a general
philosophy for how you’re going to generate income. You don’t need a
full business plan, just a description of how you plan to get from $0 per
month to whatever your income goal is. An initial target goal I used
when I first started this site was $3000 per month. It’s a somewhat
arbitrary figure, but I knew if I could reach $3000 per month, I could
certainly push it higher, and $3000 is enough income that it’s going to
make a meaningful difference in my finances. I reached that level 15
months after launching the site (in December 2005). And since then it’s
continued to increase nicely. Blogging income is actually quite easy to
maintain. It’s a lot more secure than a regular job. No one can fire
me, and if one source of income dries up, I can always add new ones.
We’ll address multiple streams of income soon…

Are you going to generate income from advertising, affiliate commissions,
product sales, donations, or something else? Maybe you want a
combination of these things. However you decide to generate income, put
your basic strategy down in writing. I took 15 minutes to create a half-
page summary of my monetization strategy. I only update it about once a
year and review it once a month. This isn’t difficult, but it helps me
stay focused on where I’m headed. It also allows me to say no to
opportunities that are inconsistent with my plan.

Refer to your monetization strategy (or philosophy) when you need to make
design decisions for your web site. Although you may have multiple
streams of income, decide which type of income will be your primary
source, and design your site around that. Do you need to funnel people
towards an order form, or will you place ads all over the site?
Different monetization strategies suggest different design approaches.
Think about what specific action you want your visitors to eventually
take that will generate income for you, and design your site accordingly.

When devising your income strategy, feel free to cheat. Don’t re-invent
the wheel. Copy someone else’s strategy that you’re convinced would work
for you too. Do NOT copy anyone’s content or site layout (that’s
copyright infringement), but take note of how they’re making money. I
decided to monetize this site with advertising and affiliate income after
researching how various successful bloggers generated income.   Later I
added donations as well. This is an effective combo.

Traffic, traffic, traffic

Assuming you feel qualified to take on the challenge of generating income
from blogging (and I haven’t scared you away yet), the three most
important things you need to monetize your blog are traffic, traffic, and
traffic.

Just to throw out some figures, last month (April 2006), this site
received over 1.1 million visitors and over 2.4 million page views.
That’s almost triple what it was just six months ago.

Why is traffic so important? Because for most methods of online income
generation, your income is a function of traffic. If you double your
traffic, you’ll probably double your income (assuming your visitor
demographics remain fairly consistent). You can screw almost everything
else up, but if you can generate serious traffic, it’s really hard to
fail. With sufficient traffic the realistic worst case is that you’ll
eventually be able to monetize your web site via trial and error (as long
as you keep those visitors coming).

When I first launched this blog, I knew that traffic building was going
to be my biggest challenge. All of my plans hinged on my ability to
build traffic. If I couldn’t build traffic, it was going to be very
difficult to succeed. So I didn’t even try to monetize my site for the
first several months. I just focused on traffic building. Even after 19
months, traffic building is still the most important part of my
monetization plan. For my current traffic levels, I know I’m
undermonetizing my site, but that’s OK. Right now it’s more important to
me to keep growing the site, and I’m optimizing the income generation as
I go along.

Traffic is the primary fuel of online income generation. More visitors
means more ad clicks, more product sales, more affiliate sales, more
donations, more consulting leads, and more of whatever else that
generates income for you. And it also means you’re helping more and more
people.

With respect to traffic, you should know that in many respects, the rich
do get richer. High traffic leads to even more traffic-building
opportunities that just aren’t accessible for low-traffic sites. On
average at least 20 bloggers add new links to my site every day, my
articles can easily surge to the top of social bookmarking sites like
del.icio.us, and I’m getting more frequent requests for radio interviews.
Earlier this year I was featured in USA Today and in Self Magazine, which
collectively have millions of readers. Journalists are finding me by
doing Google searches on topics I’ve written about. These opportunities
were not available to me when I was first starting out. Popular sites
have a serious advantage. The more traffic you have, the more you can
attract.
If you’re intelligent and web savvy, you should also be able to
eventually build a high-traffic web site. And you’ll be able to leverage
that traffic to build even more traffic.

How to build traffic

Now if traffic is so crucial, how do you build it up to significant
levels if you’re starting from rock bottom?

I’ve already written a lengthy article on this topic, so I’ll refer you
there: How to Build a High Traffic Web Site (or Blog). If you don’t
have time to read it now, feel free to bookmark it or print it out for
later. That article covers my general philosophy of traffic-building,
which centers on creating content that provides genuine value to your
visitors. No games or gimmicks.

There is one other important traffic-building tip I’ll provide here
though.

Blog Carnivals. Take full advantage of blog carnivals when you’re just
starting out (click the previous link and read the FAQ there to learn
what carnivals are if you don’t already know). Periodically submit your
best blog posts to the appropriate carnivals for your niche. Carnivals
are easy ways to get links and traffic, and best of all, they’re free.
Submitting only takes minutes if you use a multi-carnival submission
form. Do NOT spam the carnivals with irrelevant material — only submit
to the carnivals that are a match for your content.

In my early traffic-building days, I’d do carnivals submissions once a
week, and it helped a great deal in going from nothing to about 50,000
visitors per month. You still have to produce great content, but
carnivals give you a free shot at marketing your unknown blog. Free
marketing is precisely the kind of opportunity you don’t want to miss.
Carnivals are like an open-mic night at a comedy club — they give
amateurs a chance to show off their stuff. I still submit to certain
carnivals every once in a while, but now my traffic is so high that
relatively speaking, they don’t make much difference anymore. Just to
increase my traffic by 1% in a month, I need 11,000 new visitors, and
even the best carnivals don’t push that much traffic. But you can pick
up dozens or even hundreds of new subscribers from each round of carnival
submissions, so it’s a great place to start. Plus it’s very easy.

If your traffic isn’t growing month after month, does it mean you’re
doing something wrong? Most likely you aren’t doing enough things right.
Again, making mistakes is not the issue. Missing opportunities is.

Will putting ads on your site hurt your traffic?

Here’s a common fear I hear from people who are considering monetizing
their web sites:

Putting ads on my site will cripple my traffic.    The ads will drive
people away, and they’ll never come back.
Well, in my experience this is absolutely, positively, and otherwise
completely and totally… FALSE. It’s just not true. Guess what happened
to my traffic when I put ads on my site. Nothing. Guess what happened
to my traffic when I put up more ads and donation links. Nothing. I
could detect no net effect on my traffic whatsoever. Traffic continued
increasing at the same rate it did before there were ads on my site. In
fact, it might have even helped me a little, since some bloggers actually
linked to my site just to point out that they didn’t like my ad layout.
I’ll leave it up to you to form your own theories about this. It’s
probably because there’s so much advertising online already that even
though some people will complain when a free site puts up ads, if they
value the content, they’ll still come back, regardless of what they say
publicly.

Most mature people understand it’s reasonable for a blogger to earn
income from his/her work. I think I’m lucky in that my audience tends to
be very mature — immature people generally aren’t interested in personal
development. To create an article like this takes serious effort, not to
mention the hard-earned experience that’s required to write it. This
article alone took me over 15 hours of writing and editing. I think it’s
perfectly reasonable to earn an income from such work. If you get no
value from it, you don’t pay anything. What could be more fair than
that? The more income this blog generates, the more I can put into it.
For example, I used some of the income to buy podcasting equipment and
added a podcast to the site. I’ve recorded 13 episodes so far. The
podcasts are all ad-free. I’m also planning to add some additional
services to this site in the years ahead. More income = better service.

At the time of this writing, my site is very ad-heavy. Some people point
this out to me as if I’m not aware of it: “You know, Steve. Your web
site seems to contain an awful lot of ads.” Of course I’m aware of it.
I’m the one who put the ads there. There’s a reason I have this
configuration of ads. They’re effective! People keep clicking on them.
If they weren’t effective, I’d remove them right away and try something
else.

I do avoid putting up ads that I personally find annoying when I see them
on other sites, including pop-ups and interstitials (stuff that flies
across your screen). Even though they’d make me more money, in my
opinion they degrade the visitor experience too much.

I also provide two ad-free outlets, so if you really don’t like ads, you
can actually read my content without ads. First, I provide a full-text
RSS feed, and at least for now it’s ad-free. I do, however, include a
donation request in the bottom of my feeds.

If you want to see some actual traffic data, take a look at the 2005
traffic growth chart. I first put ads on the site in February 2005, and
although the chart doesn’t cover pre-February traffic growth, the growth
rate was very similar before then. For an independent source, you can
also look at my traffic chart on Alexa. You can select different Range
options to go further back in time.

Multiple streams of income
You don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket. Think multiple
streams of income. On this site I actually have six different streams of
income. Can you count them all? Here’s a list:

    Google Adsense ads (pay per click and pay per impression advertising)
    Donations (via PayPal or snail mail — yes, some people do mail a
check)
    Text Link Ads (sold for a fixed amount per month)
    Chitika eMiniMalls ads (pay per click)
    Affiliate programs like Amazon and LinkShare (commission on products
sold, mostly books)
    Advertising sold to individual advertisers (three-month campaigns or
longer)

Note: If you’re reading this article a while after its original
publication date, then this list is likely to change. I frequently
experiment with different streams.

Adsense is my biggest single source of income, but some of the others do
pretty well too. Every stream generates more than $100/month.

My second biggest income stream is actually donations. My average
donation is about $10, and I’ve received a number of $100 donations too.
It only took me about an hour to set this up via PayPal. So even if your
content is free like mine, give your visitors a means to voluntarily
contribute if they wish. It’s win-win. I’m very grateful for the
visitor support. It’s a nice form of feedback too, since I notice that
certain articles produced a surge in donations — this tells me I’m
hitting the mark and giving people genuine value.

These aren’t my only streams of income though. I’ve been earning income
online since 1995. With my computer games business, I have direct sales,
royalty income, some advertising income, affiliate income, and donations
(from the free articles). And if you throw in my wife’s streams of
income, it gets really ridiculous: advertising, direct book sales, book
sales through distributors, web consulting, affiliate income, more
Adsense income, and probably a few sources I forgot. Suffice it to say
we receive a lot of paychecks. Some of them are small, but they add up.
It’s also extremely low risk — if one source of income dries up, we just
expand existing sources or create new ones. I encourage you to think of
your blog as a potential outlet for multiple streams of income too.

Text Link AdsAutomated income

With the exception of #6, all of these income sources are fully
automated. I don’t have to do anything to maintain them except deposit
checks, and in most cases I don’t even have to do that because the money
is automatically deposited to my bank account.

I love automated income. With this blog I currently have no sales, no
employees, no products, no inventory, no credit card processing, no
fraud, and no customers. And yet I’m still able to generate a reasonable
(and growing) income.
Why get a regular job and trade your time for money when you can let
technology do all that work for you? Imagine how it would feel to wake
up each morning, go to your computer, and check how much money you made
while you were sleeping. It’s a really nice situation to be in.

Blogging software and hardware

I use WordPress for this blog, and I highly recommend it. Wordpress has
lots of features and a solid interface. And you can’t beat its price —
free.

The rest of this site is custom-coded HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL. I’m a
programmer, so I coded it all myself. I could have just as easily used
an existing template, but I wanted a simple straightforward design for
this site, and I wanted the look of the blog to match the rest of the
site. Plus I use PHP and MySQL to do some creative things outside the
blog, like the Million Dollar Experiment.

I don’t recommend using a hosted service like Blogger if you want to
seriously monetize your blog. You don’t get enough control. If you
don’t have your own URL, you’re tying yourself to a service you don’t own
and building up someone else’s asset. You want to build page rank and
links for your own URL, not someone else’s. Plus you want sufficient
control over the layout and design of your site, so you can jump on any
opportunities that require low-level changes. If you use a hosted blog,
you’re at the mercy of the hosting service, and that puts the future of
any income streams you create with them at risk. It’s a bit more work up
front to self-host, but it’s less risky in the long run.

Web hosting is cheap, and there are plenty of good hosts to choose from.
I recommend Pair.com for a starter hosting account. They aren’t the
cheapest, but they’re very reliable and have decent support. I know many
online businesses that host with them, and my wife refers most of her
clients there.

As your traffic grows you may need to upgrade to a dedicated server or a
virtual private server (VPS). This web site is hosted by ServInt. I’ve
hosted this site with them since day one, and they’ve been a truly
awesome host. What I like most about them is that they have a smooth
upgrade path as my traffic keeps growing. I’ve gone through several
upgrades with them already, and all have been seamless. The nice thing
about having your own server is that you can put as many sites on it as
the server can handle. I have several sites running on my server, and it
doesn’t cost me any additional hosting fees to add another site.

Comments or no comments

When I began this blog, I started out with comments enabled. As traffic
grew, so did the level of commenting. Some days there were more than 100
comments. I noticed I was spending more and more time managing comments,
and I began to question whether it was worth the effort. It became clear
that with continued traffic growth, I was going to have to change my
approach or die in comment hell. The personal development topics I write
about can easily generate lots of questions and discussion. Just imagine
how many follow-up questions an article like this could generate. With
tens of thousands of readers, it would be insane. Also, nuking comment
spam was chewing up more and more of my time as well.

But after looking through my stats, I soon realized that only a tiny
fraction of visitors ever look at comments at all, and an even smaller
fraction ever post a comment (well below 1% of total visitors). That
made my decision a lot easier, and in October 2005, I turned blog
comments off. In retrospect that was one of my best decisions. I wish I
had done it sooner.

If you’d like to read the full details of how I came to this decision,
I’ve written about it previously: Blog Comments and More on Blog
Comments.

Do you need comments to build traffic? Obviously not. Just like when I
put up ads, I saw no decline in traffic when I turned off comments. In
fact, I think it actually helped me. Although I turned off comments, I
kept trackbacks enabled, so I started getting more trackbacks. If people
wanted to publicly comment on something I’d written, they had to do so on
their own blogs and post a link. So turning off comments didn’t kill the
discussion — it just took it off site. The volume of trackbacks is far
more reasonable, and I can easily keep up with it. I even pop onto other
people’s sites and post comments now and then, but I don’t feel obligated
to participate because the discussion isn’t on my own site.

I realize people have very strong feelings about blog comments and
community building. Many people hold the opinion that a blog without
comments just isn’t a blog. Personally I think that’s utter nonsense —
the data just doesn’t support it. The vast majority of blog readers
neither read nor post comments. Only a very tiny and very vocal group
even care about comments. Some bloggers say that having comments helps
build traffic, but I saw no evidence of that. In fact, I think it’s just
the opposite. Managing comments detracts from writing new posts, and
it’s far better to get a trackback and a link from someone else’s blog
vs. a comment on your own blog. As long-term readers of my blog know,
when faced with ambiguity, my preference is to try both alternatives and
compare real results with real results. After doing that my conclusion
is this: No comment. :)

Now if you want to support comments for non-traffic-building reasons like
socializing or making new contacts, I say go for it. Just don’t assume
that comments are necessary or even helpful in building traffic unless
you directly test this assumption yourself.

Build a complete web site, not just a blog

Don’t limit your web site to just a blog. Feel free to build it out.
Although most of my traffic goes straight to this blog, there’s a whole
site built around it. For example, the home page of this site presents
an overview of all the sections of the site, including the blog, article
section, audio content, etc. A lot of people still don’t know what a
blog is, so if your whole site is your blog, those people may be a little
confused.

Testing and optimization

In the beginning you won’t know which potential streams of income will
work best for you. So try everything that’s reasonable for you. If you
learn about a new potential income stream, test it for a month or two,
and measure the results for yourself. Feel free to cut streams that just
aren’t working for you, and put more effort into optimizing those streams
that show real promise.

A few months ago, I signed up for an account with Text Link Ads. It took
about 20 minutes. They sell small text ads on my site, split the revenue
with me 50-50, and deposit my earnings directly into my PayPal account.
This month I’ll make around $600 from them, possibly more if they sell
some new ads during the month. And it’s totally passive. If I never
tried this, I’d miss out on this easy extra income.

For many months I’ve been tweaking the Adsense ads on this site. I tried
different colors, sizes, layouts, etc. I continue to experiment now and
then, but I have a hard time beating the current layout. It works very
well for me. Adsense doesn’t allow publishers to reveal specific CPM and
CTR data, but mine are definitely above par. They started out in the
gutter though. You can easily double or triple your Adsense revenue by
converting a poor layout into a better one. This is the main reason why
during my first year of income, my traffic grew at 20% per month, but my
income grew at 50% per month. Frequent testing and optimization had a
major positive impact. Many of my tests failed, and some even made my
income go down, but I’m glad I did all that testing. If I didn’t then my
Adsense income would only be a fraction of what it is now.

It’s cheap to experiment. Every new advertising or affiliate service
I’ve tried so far has been free to sign up. Often I can add a new income
stream in less than an hour and then wait a month to see how it does. If
it flops then at least I learned something. If it does well, wonderful.
As a blogger who wants to generate income, you should always be
experimenting with new income streams. If you haven’t tried anything new
in six months, you’re almost certainly missing some golden opportunities.
Every blog is different, so you need to test things for yourself to see
what works for you. Failure is impossible here — you either succeed, or
you learn something.

Pick your niche, but make sure it isn’t too small

Pick a niche for your blog where you have some significant expertise, but
make sure it’s a big enough niche that you can build significant traffic.
My wife runs a popular vegan web site. She does pretty well within her
niche, but it’s just not a very big niche. On the other hand, my topic
of personal development has much broader appeal. Potentially anyone can
be interested in improving themselves, and I have the flexibility to
write about topics like productivity, self-discipline, relationships,
spirituality, health, and more. It’s all relevant to personal
development.
Pick a niche that you’re passionate about. I’ve written 400+ articles so
far, and I still feel like I’m just getting started. I’m not feeling
burnt out at all. I chose to build a personal development site because
I’m very knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate about this subject.
I couldn’t imagine a better topic for me to write about.

Don’t pick a niche just because you think it will make you money. I see
many bloggers try to do that, and it’s almost invariably a recipe for
failure. Think about what you love most, and then find a way to make
your topic appealing to a massive global audience. Consider what will
provide genuine value to your visitors. It’s all about what you can
give.

A broad enough topic creates more potential advertising partners. If I
keep writing on the same subtopic over and over, I may exhaust the supply
of advertisers and hit an income ceiling. But by writing on many
different topics under the same umbrella, I widen the field of potential
advertisers. And I expand the appeal of my site at the same time.

Make it clear to your visitors what your blog/site is about. Often I
visit a blog with a clever title and tagline that reveals nothing about
the site’s contents. In that case I generally assume it’s just a
personal journal and move on. I love to be clever too, but I’ve found
that clarity yields better results than cleverness.

Posting frequency and length

Bloggers have different opinions about the right posting length and
frequency. Some bloggers say it’s best to write short (250-750 word)
entries and post 20x per week or more. I’ve seen that strategy work for
some, but I decided to do pretty much the opposite. I usually aim for
about 3-5 posts per week, but my posts are much longer (typically 1000-
2000 words, sometimes longer than 5000 words, including the monster
you’re reading right now). That’s because rather than throwing out lots
of short tips, I prefer to write more exhaustive, in-depth articles. I
find that deeper articles are better at generating links and referrals
and building traffic. It’s true that fewer people will take the time to
read them, but those that do will enjoy some serious take-away value. I
don’t believe in creating disposable content just to increase page views
and ad impressions. If I’m not truly helping my visitors, I’m wasting
their time.

Expenses

Blogging is dirt cheap.

I don’t spend money on advertising or promotion, so my marketing expenses
are nil. Essentially my content is my marketing. If you like this
article, you’ll probably find many more gems in the archives.

My only real expenses for this site are the hosting (I currently pay
$149/month for the web server and bandwidth) and the domain name renewal
($9/year). Nearly all of the income this site generates is profit. This
trickles down to my personal income, so of course it’s subject to income
tax. But the actual business expenses are minimal.

The reason I pay so much for hosting is simply due to my traffic. If my
traffic were much lower, I could run this site on a cheap shared hosting
account. A database-driven blog can be a real resource hog at high
traffic levels. The same goes for online forums. As traffic continues
to increase, my hosting bill will go up too, but it will still be a tiny
fraction of total income.

Perks

Depending on the nature of your blog, you may be able to enjoy some nice
perks as your traffic grows. Almost every week I get free personal
development books in the mail (for potential review on this site).
Sometimes the author will send it directly; other times the publisher
will ship me a batch of books. I also receive CDs, DVDs, and other
personal development products. It’s hard to keep up sometimes (I have a
queue of about two dozen books right now), but I am a voracious consumer
of such products, so I do plow through them as fast as I can. When
something strikes me as worthy of mention, I do indeed write up a review
to share it with my visitors. I have very high standards though, so I
review less than 10% of what I receive. I’ve read over 700 books in this
field and listened to dozens of audio programs, so I’m pretty good at
filtering out the fluff. As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a great
deal of self-help fluff out there.

My criteria for reviewing a product on this site is that it has to be
original, compelling, and profound. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, I
don’t review it, even if there’s a generous affiliate program. I’m not
going to risk abusing my relationship with my visitors just to make a
quick buck. Making money is not my main motivation for running this
site. My main motivation is to grow and to help others grow, so that
always comes first.

Your blog can also gain you access to certain events. A high-traffic
blog becomes a potential media outlet, so you can actually think of
yourself as a member of the press, which indeed you are. In a few days,
my wife and I will be attending a three-day seminar via a free press
pass. The regular price for these tickets is $500 per person. I’ll be
posting a full review of the seminar next week. I’ve been to this
particular seminar in 2004, so I already have high expectations for it.
Dr. Wayne Dyer will be the keynote speaker.

I’m also using the popularity of this blog to set up interviews with
people I’ve always wanted to learn more about. This is beautifully win-
win because it creates value for me, my audience, and the person being
interviewed. Recently I posted an exclusive interview with multi-
millionaire Marc Allen as well as a review of his latest book, and I’m
lining up other interviews as well. It isn’t hard to convince someone to
do an interview in exchange for so much free exposure.

Motivation
I don’t think you’ll get very far if money is your #1 motivation for
blogging. You have to be driven by something much deeper. Money is just
frosting. It’s the cake underneath that matters. My cake is that I
absolutely love personal development – not the phony “fast and easy” junk
you see on infomercials, but real growth that makes us better human
beings. That’s my passion. Pouring money on top of it just adds more
fuel to the fire, but the fire is still there with or without the money.

What’s your passion?   What would you blog about if you were already set
for life?

Blogging lifestyle

Perhaps the best part of generating income from blogging is the freedom
it brings. I work from home and set my own hours. I write whenever I’m
inspired to write (which for me is quite often). Plus I get to spend my
time doing what I love most — working on personal growth and helping
others do the same. There’s nothing I’d rather do than this.

Perhaps it’s true that 99 out of 100 people can’t make a decent living
from blogging yet. But maybe you’re among the 1 in 100 who can.

On the other hand, I can offer you a good alternative to recommend if you
don’t have the technical skills to build a high-traffic, income-
generating blog

				
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