Monetizing your Blog – Session notes from Blogging Conference

Liveblog notes from a presentation by Susan Getgood of Getgood Strategic Marketing.
Note: This post originally appeared as a liveblog post on DOGthusiast.com. I wrote these liveblog notes at BlogPaws Conference 2014, an event for professional pet bloggers. The following is a cleaned up (slightly edited) version of the notes from this session.

The Three Rs:

  • Revenue
  • Reputation
  • Recognition

Focus on building reputation and expertise.

  • Strategy is how you put them together.
  • Example: Right decision about what not to do. An opportunity might not get you closer to what you want to do, your goals. It could actually make what you want to achieve even harder.
  • If you want advertising on your blog, make sure your design/template supports blogs before you pursue advertising.

Figure out WHY you blog

  • Is it a stepping stone to get writing blogs, and so on. Personal goal. Pet related business. Get a book deal. Speaking engagements.
  • How does advertising fit in. It means that there could be conflicts of interest if you have advertising.
  • No such thing as an overnight success. There are very few overnight wonders, and fewer the more crowded the space is getting.

Differentiate yourself.

  • Not many blogs in 2004. It used to be easier to differentiate yourself.
  • You want to be the first (dog) blog that does something. What is your unique differentiating point. Makes you appeal to advertisers, sponsors, speaking. What is your secret sauce.
  • Then: Focus on that one thing. You do have something that is unique to you.
  • This gets complex once you work on your business/marketing plan: positioning about this. There are books about this topic: positioning.

Exercise: About your blog to think about positioning.

Exercise: about your blog

  • Your proposition: _____
  • Your audience ________
  • Your niche or category ________

My blog is (what is it) which offers (unique perspective) for (specific audience).

Don’t be afraid of cliches – they are comfortable for people.

Of all the professional blogs she knows, she does not know of anyone who has a single revenue stream. It’s all a mix of advertising, another job, paid writing, affiliate (although this is a tough nut to crack).

About social networks

Is it important to be on all networks?  It is important to be on the ones where your audience is. Important to know where the people you’re trying to reach are. And also important to be where you are comfortable – you need to have a good time to be there. Do not stress yourself to do something you are unhappy with. Do this because you love it, because there are lots of easier ways to make money than this.

Mix of where audience is, where you are comfortable, and where the storytelling works. Different social networks do different things well.

  • Twitter: great for being a megaphone.
  • Facebook: Back and forth relationship with a smaller group of people. More about social connections – getting deep into a personal social network.
  • Pinterest: Visual, inspirational, things you think you would like to do, wear – aspirational.

Does your blog help the readers

For example, you are helping shelters, helping people find deals – ask your readers to help you back. Harness your community to help you market by sharking your content more, challenge them to bring in X-number new readers.

Storytelling is more important than deals

Balance between commerce and storytelling. Bringing people back: it’s the storytelling, not the deals, that brings people back. Example from food blogs: Sponsors like to read stories, not recipes.

Focus on adding stories about your pets more, it brings people back.

Making Money with your Blog

No one (or very, very few people) makes money in one single way. You need multiple efforts to do this full time.

Paths to Monetization:

  1. Getting Hired
  2. Advertising
  3. Sponsored work
  4. Affiliate

Advertising:

  • Important part of the mix
  • Exception: If your blog is about setting self up in a particular field, may want to avoid.
  • Passive revenue (especially ad network).
  • Network will sell the ads for you.
  • Google AdSense
  • Remenant providers (DoubleClick)
  • Sell your own – Not recommended. Much better off looking at Google AdSense, Ad Networks.

“Native” ads : Vibrant, etc.

A simple definition Native ads

Native advertising is an advertising message delivered in the native (natural) format of ad platform. This is a new way to ad additional monetization to your blog.  All of them are content related – other articles, and those articles have advertising.

  • Inline ad units
  • In text links
  • Content recommendations (outbrain, visible measures) – pay you to put the unit on the blog, CPC basis.
  • Cost per thousand basis. Advertisers are buying the ads for every 1000 people who see the ad (impressions). Content related ads.

Affiliate Networks

Two primary options:

Amazon

Low barrier to entry.

Retailer Affiliate Programs

  • Most are managed by affiliate networks like Rakuten, ShareASale and Commission Junction
  • Need to apply to the network and then to the individual retailer.

Really have to work a lot to have any level of success – a lot of posts, writing based on the affiliate links in order for them to work. Ton of work. And need to really do a lot of work during the holiday (Nov/Dec).

 Ads, Affiliate, Networks by jdehaan

Be careful with pop ups, links, etc – junks up the blog. Really need to evaluate whether there is enough return to add these elements to the blog.

Affiliate – make sure it’s a product you really love. It’s a lot of work.

Ad Networks – Most networks have opt outs (types of ads, products, and so on).

Do it, but be careful about doing too much of it.

Sponsored Content

Working with brands: it is a big opportunity.

Sponsored content

On your blog
Use your social graph (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc).

Securing opportunities

Through your ad network
On your own, proactively by reaching out to brands
Pitches from PR

Active revenue. How much of this do you want to be in the mix. It is work – how muhc is that work worth?

How much is Your Work Worth? by jdehaan

Baseline: Compensation for Work Performed

  • What is the task? (How to, make a recipe, simple post? cover an event?)
  • What is the unique expertise
  • How much time will it be take?

Next: Factor in your reach

  • Your monthly pageviews (more important than uniques) – it’s more valuable to the sponsor
  • Your social graph – esp. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Results and Projections

  • Quality and timelines of your work for the sponsor in the past
  • Previous results, including the number of post pageviews, comments, earned social shares/pins, clicks to sponsor site.
  • What are you willing to guarantee?

The brand really cares what you are delivering to them.

Was it a good post, or did you phone it in – give good examples of past work.

Typically what I deliver to sponsors is this: outline the whole package, and “I am going to try and deliver this to you at what time.”

Fees: Factor in – What do I do, how many readers, what can I deliver to the sponsor.

Question: What is good pageview to a sponsored post?

10-15% of your traffic sent to the sponsored posts – of whatever your traffic is.

Question: How do you stand out to a sponsor?

Write about products you love anyway, then approach companies about your results.

Getting Hired

  • Freelance opportunities on other blogs, for companies/media properties.
  • Brands are looking for content.
  • Book deals
  • Consulting
  • Spokesperson, speaking
  • FT Employment

Writing for another sites for free – if it gets you value or meet goals – then this is good.

Driving traffic – do it once, and if it doesn’t drive traffic then never do it again.

Doing a trial is fine, and pushing back, asking for more money is fine.  If you don’t ask, the answer is definitely no. If you do ask, you have a 50% chance of getting a yes. Just don’t be offended at a no. It’s all business, not personal, all negotiation.

Some products can be worthwhile – it depends on the value of the product, if you want it, and so on. Do you intend to continue. How do you want to go forward, after you get product it’s hard to get cash.

See and be seen: Be easy to find

  • Make sure that you have an email address, not a contact form. Contact forms are not well loved, because the person emailing you wants a record of what they sent.
  • Be an active participant in social networks. Try them all but focus on the right ones where your audience is.
  • Invest time, and even money, into SEO. Most important: Use the right keyworkds, title and first paragraph match – title relates to what you talk about in the first paragraph. If you don’t want to do it yourself, hire someone to do it for you.
  • Submit to speak at appropiate conferences
  • Network.
  • Meeting new people is never a waste of time. There’s never a bad meeting.

Credentials and Tips

  • Press, industry awards, make people want to know who you are.
  • What is one good thing to tout on your blog. I am an expert in ____ because of _____.
  • Act like a pro: Meet deadlines, create a simple media kit and have a clear ide a of your rates but don’t publish a price list. Be willing to talk about results.
  • Look like a pro. Invest in a professional logo. (Author note: I can help you with this!)
  • Contracts: Read them. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
  • Understand your value: What is the return on investment for a marketer that works with you? Understand your Google Analytics. A good mix for a blog: 30% of traffic previous visitors, 30% referrals, 30% searches. Brands like this. If a lot of traffic comes from search engines, not brand love. Want to know that people are returning to your blog on a regular basis.
  • Know how your site works: Don’t become a hostage to a web developer to change everything. Know how to do things yourself.
  • DON’T work for free. That’s volunteering and you should only volunteer for causes YOU care about. You should be getting something out of it.
  • Do Blog Hops help? Things like this tend to have high bounce rates. You want people to come, stay, read a couple posts.
  • Do something a few times and see how it works for you. If it works, do it again. If it doesn’t, don’t continue. It’s all about paying attention to a few key metrics, so you are in charge of it all.

Find your tribe

You are functioning within a community once you find your tribe, affect the tribe.

All your decisions impact the wider community – hope that others in your tribe are doing this for you. It’s about being a respectful member of your community. What you do affects other pet bloggers.

Ethics, disclosure and other best practices

Disclosure and FTC Guidelines

FTC: Helps advertisers comply with Section 5 of the FTC Act, which broadly prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce”.

  • Apply to all types of marketing, including viral, word of mouth, blogs, etc.
  • Require to disclose a material connection between a seller and an endorser
  • Impose liability for false statements on both seller and endorser

Bloggers must:

Disclose compensated relationships such as

  • Product reviews
  • Paid posts or tweets
  • Post about a gift, free trip, or other benefit
  • Consulting or employment

Follow stated policies, Failure to do so could be considered “deceptive business practice”

Strive for accuracy.

If you are compensated, you are liable for false statements. Protect yourself!

Tell the truth. Don’t say you used it if you didn’t, or like it if you didn’t.

Bottom line: Connection must be disclosed. Simply tell people that you were given something, hosted, or paid – just be transparent. As long as you are being honest, organic, and authentic then the sponsorship doesn’t matter as much to your audience.

Disclosure should be at the beginning of the post.

Twitter: should be at the front using something like: #ad

Copyright and plagiarism

  • Protect yourself, and not plagiarizing.
  • Copyright is form of protection. You own the copyright even if you don’t assert your copyright. You should be asserting your copyright.
  • Always get permission to use content.
  • Put a copyright statement on your blog. Use Creative commons on your site (author note: There are WordPress plugins for adding this by default to all posts, pages, etc).
  • Add a watermark on photos.

Do it because you love it

Because there are a lot other easier ways to make money.

Author Jen deHaan

Jen deHaan is a freelance graphic and web designer, fascinated with great layout and usability. She has been working in the software industry since 2001, and has held positions with Macromedia, Adobe, and Motorola in the Silicon Valley area near San Francisco. Jen has written and contributed to over 20 print publications on web design that have been published by Peachpit, Adobe Press, and Wiley. She now lives on a farm with her family and dogs in central Vancouver Island, Canada.

More posts by Jen deHaan

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Adam says:

    Realy nice round-up Jen. There are actually a lot more ways to monetize a website but what’s covered here is what I’d recommend for a pet blogger. Getting speaking and consulting gigs can be a bit tricky but is definitely something to look into.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks for the comment! Definitely many more things one can do (I think this session was more of a beginning blogging standpoint, although I don\’t think necessarily pet blogger). Getting paid speaking gigs is sometimes challenging to do, given the conferences that won\’t do much more than a free ticket (if that, sometimes!) And speaking gigs are much easier in some niches than others – like tech vs. pet. I do like her emphasis that advertising and affiliates is a poor way to make money. That ship sailed long ago! Adam have you had something that has worked particularly well for you in the past couple years, regardless of blogging niche, that you might recommend trying?

      • Adam says:

        You are lucky if the conference organizers cover travel and hotel costs.

        Actually affiliate programs work well but you need to choose products which are expensive to buy.

        • Jen says:

          Yeah, super rare that they ever cover that – some of the more progressive tech conferences do cover those expenses and sometimes even a stipend, which I think is fantastic. But rare. There was a list around recently about what tech conferences cover what. Makes for a better conference because the speakers are less prone to pitch their goods to make up for their personal cost to attend. And man, those presentations are a ton of work to put together let alone lost work during the conference, travel, etc.With affiliate programs you *really* need to work them, and yeah choose the expensive ones (she did mention that, probably missed it in notes though). I\’m not sure the work is worth it, unless that\’s what you\’re dedicated to doing as a PT/FT gig and like you say – big ticket items. Amzn affiliate never netted me a sale regardless of ticket price, so I think you really have to work that stuff first, and second choose the right stuff to sell. And somehow position your blog that you\’re not just one big ad. Tricky indeed!

          • Adam says:

            BlogPaws is a reasonable priced conference compared to others I’ve attended. A lot more value than you will get at most events. I was not able to attend this year though, but I imagine they followed the same format.

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