While many of us start blogging for personal reasons – a love of writing, a desire to share thoughts with the world – many others launch blogs and websites with the intention to earn money. Ideally, your intentions are a combination of both.
I started Branding Outside the Box, because I love helping people identify and launch their personal brands and I wanted to expand my expertise beyond the publishing world. I had started and stopped blogging a number of times over the years, and I was getting the itch to start again. I had hundreds of ideas for blog posts, newsletter topics, themes, and bonus content, all of which I was eager and excited to create.
But generating revenue is also important.
Through my e-courses, affiliate links, book sales, and consultations, I’m able not only to cover the expenses of running the site, but also compensate myself for my time. The revenue isn’t life changing (I’m not buying a villa and retiring to Hawaii anytime soon), but it’s enough that I feel that generating the content, creating the digital products, and spending the money to promote the site feels worth it.
Most people I talk to feel “icky” about monetizing their blog. They feel they’ll lose credibility and come across as snake oil salesmen. I understand their concern; I’ve seen many quality blogs succumb to click bait-y display ads, sponsored posts that don’t reflect well on their brand, and a flood of affiliate links. But there are ways that you can maintain your reputation and creativity, and still generate income through your blog.
Lead with Quality Content
The first mistake I see bloggers make is that they let income streams drive their content. They’ll write sponsored posts for anyone who will write a check, regardless of what their audience is interested in. Their posts read more like marketing copy than useful, actionable information. As soon as your content deteriorates, so does your audience.
The monetization that comes from Branding Outside the Box doesn’t diminish the quality of the content. I’m not recommending products I don’t use personally even if they offer a killer commission or writing blot posts you’re not interested in just because a company paid me to. The content you create needs to be valuable; not just marketing copy for a paid sponsor.
Put Your Audience First
When you monetize your blog, your audience becomes your customers, and you should always put your customers first. When creating posts aimed at generating sales, or recommending products for affiliate partners, you must first consider the needs of your subscribers. If they’re not likely to be interested in that content or product, then you shouldn’t be sharing it. If a company approaches you about a sponsored post, but their product isn’t something your audience would be interested in, then it’s your responsibility to turn it down. If you are approached about helping to launch an e-course or other digital product, you should only agree if your audience truly would benefit from and be excited about that product.
On the flip-side, you shouldn’t turn down monetary opportunities because you think your subscribers will be offended. If these are products they want and need, they will feel grateful for the resource. If you’ve written a book that your blog readers would be interested in, then they want to hear about it. When I crafted my How to Run a Seamless Webinar tutorial, it was because so many people have reached out to me with questions about hosting webinars. Those people didn’t care that I also included an affiliate link to Crowdcast (the webinar service we use). They were grateful for the information because they were also interested in learning about a reputable service for hosting their own webinars.
Go With Your Gut
There are countless ways to monetize your blog, but not every tactic is right for you. E-courses and affiliate links may be right for me, but others may be more inclined to go with display ads and sponsored posts. So much will depend on you, your audience, and your industry. If an opportunity presents itself to you but it doesn’t sit right with you, you don’t think your audience will respond, or it’s too far removed from your industry’s standard, then it’s best to politely decline.