How are you currently making money from your blog? For many bloggers — indeed, too many — the answer is CPM ads. These are prominent throughout the web. Load up any random blog, and chances are you’ll see many 300-by-250 rectangle display ads, along with the occasional banner, skyscraper, or leaderboard. There is a good reason you see so many blogs employ these CPM ads as their primary source of monetization.
They are easy to implement
It takes such little effort to slap some CPM ad spots on your blog. You just sign up with a service such as AdSense, fill out some basic information, create the ads, and then copy some code onto your blog. There is a downside, though. Nothing good comes easy, and this applies especially to CPM ads. With few exceptions, you won’t make much money off CPM ads. The old guard refer to AdSense as webmaster welfare for good reason.
Stop Selling Readers
It’s easy to think of a blog’s content as its product. After all, the blogger creates the content and then the reader consumes it. But the reader does not pay the blogger, except in the rarest of cases. In some cases this is the end of the transaction. The blogger writes out of pure enjoyment and hopes readers share in that enjoyment. For the majority of bloggers, though, there is a monetary aspect to consider.
If readers aren’t directly paying the blogger for the content, then the content is not the product. With CPM ads, the monetary exchange occurs between the blogger and the advertiser. The advertiser is paying for the blogger’s audience. Therefore, the readers themselves are the product. The content is merely a vehicle for attracting that product. The blogger is, in essence, selling his audience to an advertiser.
Bloggers who have not thought about the blogger-reader-advertiser relationship in that manner might feel a bit uneasy at first. After all, we all value our readers. Unfortunately, by monetizing our blogs with CPM ads, we implicitly devalue our audiences. We allow advertisers to value them, while we the bloggers value the advertisers for the income they provide us.
If you’d like to change this paradigm, you are not alone. We can create a better environment, both for ourselves and our readers, if we cut down on the level to which we sell our audiences to advertisers.
Start Selling To Readers
People don’t pay for blogs, because they are a dime a dozen. Even if your blog stands out in your niche, chances are you can’t put up a paywall and start charging readers. Only in the rarest cases is this possible, and it usually comes from bloggers who already posses unique knowledge of a niche. The rest of us have to look for alternative methods for income generation if we want to avoid selling our audiences to advertisers.
The answer lies in the the age-old profession of sales. Instead of using our blogs as vehicles to attract an audience, which we sell to advertiers, we can use our blogs as vehicles to attract an audience, to whom we then sell products and services — directly or indirectly. This works out in favor of both bloggers and readers.
It works for bloggers, because we retain more control over the situation. When we place ads on our blogs, we are dividing our audiences’ attentions. The more they pay attention to the ads, the less they pay attention to us and our content. By offering the products and services directly, we retain control over the audience’s attention.
It works for readers, because they are no longer bombarded by often-random advertisements. Instead of receiving a message from whatever advertiser that chose to pay for a certain spot, they receive 100 percent of the message straight from the blogger. That is, there is no third party involved. That makes life easier for the reader.
How can you start selling to your readers? The process is anything but simple, but the payoff will prove worth the effort if done properly.
Types of Products To Sell
At this point many bloggers will find themselves baffled. They merely create content. How are they supposed to start selling products? Again, the transition is anything but simple. You can’t just slap product endorsements on a site, as you would CPM ads. It takes some finesse and skill. The first step is identifying the different sales methods available.
1. Affiliate Sales. Affiliate marketing has been a buzz word around the net for several years now. The industry can feel intimidating, because many of its biggest players have been in the game for over a decade at this point. But that doesn’t preclude new entrants.
The model of affiliate marketing is quite simple. Retailers want to attract the largest possible audience, but don’t have the resources, in terms of both time and money, to market to niches. They can focus only on the mass market, which will bring them the largest number of sales. In order to reach niches, they offer a commission to third parties who market their products. Bloggers can jump on this by marketing these products, inciting readers to click coded links that tell the retailer to pay the blogger a commission.
2. Product Resales. Chances are you won’t be able to manufacture or even store your own products to sell. That’s just too large an operation. But you can take advantage of wholesalers that allow third parties to resell their products. This works in a similar manner to affiliate sales, except it places more of the burden on the seller. But with this additional burden comes additional revenue opportunities.
When affiliates sell products to readers, they redirect those readers to the retailer’s website, where the entire transaction takes place. When bloggers act as resellers, though, they control the transaction. They market and advertise the products, they secure the sale, and they take the customer’s information. The only place they’re not involved is with shipping, because any wholesaler worth doing business with offers drop shipping. Interested bloggers can browse sites such as Top Ten Wholesale to find wholesalers to work with.
3. Direct Sales. Yes, bloggers can create their own products to sell directly to readers. These typically come in the form of information products: books, videos, audio programs, and other methods of disseminating information. This content comes at a premium; it is not information they can find easily on blogs, and it is usually presented in a novel format. While direct sales take the most time, since the blogger has to invest in both product creation and marketing, the reward potential is much higher. Save for a few transaction fees, the blogger keeps all of the revenue.
What You Need
If you want to change the paradigm and start selling to readers, rather than selling your readers to advertisers, you’ll need a few things before you start. These typically aren’t difficult to find or obtain, thankfully.
- Affiliates will need a source of companies that offer affiliate programs. Many of them offer directly on their websites, but others go through affiliate exchanges such as Commission Junction.
- Affiliates, Resellers, and Sellers will all need a few lessons in content marketing. There are some differences between blogging for entertainment and blogging for marketing. Services such as the Content Marketing Institute can provide valuable content lessons that will get you on your way.
- Resellers and Sellers will need a transaction processing system, such as an Intuit merchant account. This is how they accept credit cards and other payment forms.
- Sellers will need content creation mechanisms, such as word processors and PDF compilers for ebooks, audio software and microphones for audio programs, and a video camera for videos.
With these items in hand, it’s time to get started changing your relationship with your audience. Sure, there is still a time and place for CPM advertising. I can provide a nice supplement to income earned in other ways. But for bloggers who want a real monetization method, look to sales for the answer. The hurdles will prove more difficult, but the payoff will be greater for both you and your audience.
Image © momius – Fotolia.com