What makes the difference between blogs that make money... and those which don't? Find out how blog monetization REALLY works in 2017... and how it has everything to do with getting traffic. Pick your date and time for this free blog monetization workshop.
December 15th, 2014
25 min read
It is that thing we all want with our blogs, yet it seems ever elusive at times. But, there is a reason why it proves so elusive to so many bloggers…Bloggers who build blogs make no money. Bloggers who build businesses can make serious money.Click To Tweet
One doesn’t “monetize” a business. It is monetized naturally. However, all businesses require marketing and a central place to conduct business… and this is where the blog comes in.
Now, if you’re serious about conducting real business on the Internet and you’re OK with making money, then stick around. I’ve got more to share with you on this blog post.
If you’re OK being one of the 90+% of bloggers out there who make less than a dollar a day blogging, feel free to leave.
If you’re OK with using your time tweaking Adsense tags or finding new places to stuff affiliate links all around your blog, you can go now.
If you’re OK living on the content hamster wheel, where you constantly have to just create new content over and over and over again, spending what’s left of your time “engaging” on social media and dreaming up new “epic” content… all to make roughly 1% of your monthly page views back in income (which is pretty average)… then by all means, hit that back button and have fun out there.
I’m here to play a different game. One that works. And if you are as well, let’s get started…
This Is A Road Map For Real Blog Monetization
What follows is a road map to how to really use a blog to make money. It is powerful, it is based on tried and true principles, and it is efficient.
This is a business system.
It also happens to be based on the same kind of business system that you’ve seen all over the place. You’ve seen countless online businesses do it, but you will have seen it in a ton of offline businesses as well. Everything from Amazon to insurance to car dealerships – you name it.
To preface this system, let’s lay a few ground rules…
- Realize the truth that blogs don’t make money. Businesses do.
- Money will get made by gaining customers.
- The only way to gain a customer is to sell them something.
- In order to sell them something, you’ll need to gain their attention first. That’s where the blog comes in.
So, any oddball ideas you may have about what “blog monetization” is, just throw all that out the window and replace it with one simple truth…
If you are trying to maximize revenue, then you’re blogging in order to attract customers.
Banner ads, you say? Child’s play. And an incredible waste of traffic, because your only hope to making decent money with banners is to attract a ton of traffic (we’re talking thousands of visitors daily). And trust me, by the time you’ve done the work to make that happen, you could be making multiple times the amount of revenue if you were selling something directly than by sending them to somebody else’s site for a few pennies.
The average revenue for a thousand banner ad views, industry wide, is $2.80. Now, considering that you’re likely going through an ad network of some kind who will take around 30% of the revenue, that means you’re getting about 70% of it. Which means for 1,000 views on your site, you make around $1.96. It doesn’t take a math wizard to see the tragedy of that one.
Affiliate marketing, you say? Yeah, that works. But, thing is… those affiliate marketers who make good money are VERY well aware of this business model. They use it even though the product isn’t their’s. Those who don’t… the ones who just plaster a few affiliate links on the blog and cross their fingers… well, they don’t usually make much money at all.
So, OUR plan is to turn your blog into a true business platform. And that business is designed to do 3 things. This comes from Jay Abraham, a very well known business executive and author.
There are 3 ways to grow a business…
- Get more customers.
- Increase the number of sales each customer makes.
- Increase the average value of a sale.
In order to do that, there is a business machine behind the blog that is intended to sell. The blog may be the public face – and a very effective one. But, the formula is simple…
BLOG + BUSINESS MACHINE = $$$$$
It is similar to an iceberg. There is the part that you see above water and then the potentially massive part that is hidden beneath the surface.
The blog and the business machine behind it work together. The blog has the task of attracting people as well as segmenting people into groups based on their interest, and the business machine has the job of selling.
The Blog Monetization Model
There are a lot of things you can know about.
Lots of tactics. Lots of strategies.
But, there is little to no value in knowing those things if you don’t know the context. If you don’t know how they fit together.
Learning all about WordPress SEO, or Twitter, or Facebook ads, or podcasting, or video marketing, or [insert whatever online marketing skill you think is important here]… there’s no profit in it. Each unto itself is just an island of knowledge. However, there is enormous profit in understanding how and where all these strategies come together into an overall strategy.
Information and strategy alone is useless. Information coupled with understanding is priceless.
Here is the bird’s eye view of the model…
Let’s do a brief walkthrough of this funnel…
Step 1: Determine Product/Market Fit
This comes first because it is so crucial. And the reason a lot of bloggers fall on their face is because they skipped right over it and headed straight into setting up their blog.
“Blog monetization” – the way it is traditionally done – usually fails because the whole basis of the blog wasn’t based on a solid product/market fit. It was based solely on an interest or passion – and that isn’t good enough. Anybody who advises you to start your online business primarily based on your passion is just blowing fairy dust up your butt. No amount of work is going to magically create good income if you’re in a crappy market.
At the core, the basis of any business is a pretty simple thing. Your business is designed to deliver an outcome. In much of the training I do, I refer to this as the transformation.
This is a kind of before and after, but in the context of whatever your business is delivering. In the nutritional and diet market, the transformation is obvious. Very often they literally show the transformation with before and after photos. But, this before and after is found in all markets.
What people are looking for, searching for, and BUYING is ultimately found on what lies on the other end of that transformation. They’re seeking an outcome. People don’t buy products, they buy outcomes.
Now, where your blog content and products come in depends on what lies along the path of the transformation. Your customer is going to need to travel a typical journey to arrive at that outcome. They’ll need to surpass certain barriers to get there. In my training inside the Blog Monetization Lab, I teach an exercise called the transformation map to help outline this whole thing. And those barriers then form the foundation for your blog content and your products.
When the transformation you deliver is known, it maps out beautifully to everything else. Product ideas and even blog content begin to fall into place. There is alignment.
With this in mind, the essence of product/market fit is finding that group of hungry people (people who are actively seeking a transformation or outcome) and then finding out what product they are looking for. Within this exercise, we would use various tools and exercises to determine how big the market is and what kind of prices will work. We will also delve into the head of the people in this market to find out exactly how they think and envision this transformation for themselves.
All of this is very different than what most bloggers do, which is think only about their passion or a lack of competition. That is absolutely the wrong way to think about it. Passion is nice, but not necessary. And competition is actually a good thing.
Having your product/market fit down forms the foundation of everything else.
More From The Blog:
Step 2: Choosing Your Traffic Source(s)
In the process of determining your product/market fit, you’re going to learn a LOT about that market. By this time, you should have a good idea where your target audience is “hanging out” and where you can reach them.
Traffic is just an issue of getting those people who are already out there to come over to your place.
Thing is… a lot of people really struggle with this. The reason so many struggle with traffic is because they don’t have a full revenue model in place.
Huh? (you may ask)
Well, the problem of “traffic” for most bloggers is usually tackled by way of two basic efforts:
- Lots of social sharing
But, trying to solve a traffic problem this way is like farting upwind. SEO is very much a long-term play and it is also hit-and-miss. And social media is turning more and more into a “pay to play” environment. Facebook, for instance, has decreased organic reach of standard Facebook posts substantially, to the point that sharing something to your Facebook page with 1,000 fans may only result in as little as 50 of them actually seeing it.
The absolute most predictable way – and it works every time – to get traffic is to buy it. To pay to reach the exact kind of people you want to reach.
This is literally the difference between growing your own vegetables versus just going to the grocery store to buy it. Most bloggers today are doing the equivalent of growing their own garden. And most don’t have a “green thumb” so it dies or never gets off the ground to start with. Other people (the smart ones) just go to the traffic store and buy traffic.
But, how can you do this without just throwing money away?
The answer is by building up a business machine for your blog based on this one. If your funnel has things a person can buy, then it allows you to pay to acquire them. For instance, if you knew that for every 100 people who came through your funnel, you’d make $10… then that means you could spend up to $10 to send those 100 people to your funnel and you wouldn’t be losing any money. Yet, those people are getting onto your list and maybe becoming a reader of your blog (and potential future buyer) even if they’re one of the 99 who didn’t buy.
See how that works?
To do this, though, you need to understand…
- How to track and measure what your traffic is worth.
- How to get somebody to buy from you immediately.
When you understand this, it opens up a whole new world of traffic generation to you. No longer must you solely rely on SEO and social media shared posts, but it will open up to paid ads on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.
Your blog will prove to be an incredible home base for paid traffic, by the way. However, you need to have those backend systems in place to monetize that traffic so that you have the ability to do it.
More Resources On Traffic
From the blog:
- Ultimate Blog Promotion Guide: 10 Smartest Things You Can Do to Promote Your New Blog (UPDATED)
- The ‘Deadly Quartet’ For Rapid Audience Growth And More Traffic
From The Monetization Lab:
Step 3: Set Up Your Home Base (The Blog)
At the core of this system is your “home base”. That’s going to be your blog. It is the hub of the entire thing.
But, this isn’t just a blog full of opinions, rants and pictures of your vacation. No, we’re talking about a blog which is specifically set up for conversions. The name of the game of your blog is a very simple funnel:
- Attract people with awesome, helpful content.
- Get them into your funnel by getting them to subscribe to your email list.
A lot of bloggers get pretty good at #1. However, things get dicey when they go for #2. Some bloggers aren’t even trying to build their email lists. Others offer one main (somewhat weak) lead magnet in their blog’s sidebar… and that’s it.
A blog is an extremely effective marketing vehicle, but everything from the design to the content needs to be done in such a way as to serve a strategic purpose.
The other function of your blog, if we’re going to be really efficient about everything, is to build your retargeting audience. Retargeting is where you can reach out to people who have already visited your site using paid ads. It is quite affordable because the audience is more limited, and typically the ROI on it is fantastic.
See, reality is that there will be a lot of people who come to your blog, read something, and then turn around and leave. In other words, they’ll “bounce”. However, by “pixeling” them, you have the ability to reach out and advertise to them again despite the fact that you have no idea who they are. Essentially, the blog is building TWO lists: your email list AND your retargeting list.
You don’t have to understand the whole thing at this point. We’ll get into it more later on, but trust me, it really ramps up the effectiveness of your monetization. By merely publishing new blog posts and bringing people to read them, you’re increasing one of your lists – even if they never opt-in.
More Resources On Blog Marketing
From the blog:
- The Rice Krispies Guide To How To Package Your Blog Content To Get Read
- How To Set Up Your Blog The Right Way
From The Monetization Lab:
- Content Marketing Clinic (a course on content that converts)
Step 4: Offer A Lead Magnet
The main purpose of your blog is to get people onto your email list. That is the very first transaction they’ll have with your business. No money changes hands, but it is still a transaction nonetheless.
You give them something valuable… and they’ll give you something valuable (their email, in this case).
So, the lead magnet is just something valuable to attract them to your email list. It could be a PDF download, a video, a course, a book, a webinar… all of it is fair game. One thing that is important to keep in mind, however, is that you do NOT need big giveaways to be an effective lead magnet. In fact, usually the smallest lead magnets win.
The key is specificity. The more specific the lead magnet in terms of what it is promising, the better. It will usually convert better – PLUS it better sets up the person for a paid offer.
So, a BAD opt-in offer would be “Subscribe To My Newsletter” or “Subscribe For Free Tips”. Just horrible. Waste of time. Much better, to float my own boat for a minute, would be one such as my 27-point pre-publish checklist. It is specific, people know exactly what they’re going to get, and it isn’t drawn out.
And while lead magnets can be offered directly on the blog (and you should be doing it this way), the most effective way to go about it is by using single-purpose pages, called a landing page or a “squeeze page“. These pages drop all the usual design elements of a blog and instead are optimized solely to convert the visitor into a subscriber.
While the typical blog opt-in rate will hover around 2%-5%, it is usually pretty easy to get a squeeze page to convert at 30%-50%. So, obviously, there’s a HUGE difference.
Squeeze pages that you create with these tools will go at the very top of your blog profit funnel. It is the first step.
More Resources On Lead Magnets and List Building
From the blog:
- 2016 Ultimate Guide To Building An Email List: List Building That Works And Makes You Money
- The 7 Criteria For An Effective Lead Magnet (And Why You Shouldn’t Make That Big-Ass Ebook)
From The Monetization Lab:
Step 5: Offer a front-end offer.
Much earlier in this post, I gave the 3 ways to grow a business. And the first one was to increase the number of customers.
The keyword there is customer. A person who has actually bought something. There is a HUGE difference between a person who opted into a list just to get a freebie and a person who has bought something from you. So, there is a definite value to your business’s growth to increase the number of buyers as much as you can.
This is where the front-end offer comes in.
This offer is presented to them right after they opt in for the lead magnet. This product doesn’t have to be big at all. In fact, it can work against you if it is.
The front-end offer should be specifically targeted to a specific problem, with a specific solution. It should be closely related to the lead magnet (because they obviously already demonstrated interest), and it should be priced in “impulse buy” territory. In many markets, prices of $10 or less are within “impulse buy” territory. People don’t usually have to think all that hard about spending less than $10.
The amount of money which changes hands here isn’t really all that important. The real purpose of the front-end offer is to fundamentally change the relationship with that person. They’re now a customer.
You’ve seen these offers all around you:
- One dollar trial offers
- Free books, just pay for shipping and handling.
- Cheap Kindles (because they know you’ll buy books on it)
- Cheap oil changes (because you know they’re going to upsell you)
- Get 10 CDs for a penny and then be enrolled in a monthly CD club (remember the old BMG music days?)
Make the front-end offer as irresistible as you can. The goal is to maximize the percentage of new leads who buy it (that’s your “conversion rate”).
Also at this stage, you will notice an automated followup series and a retargeting campaign. In fact, you will see that at each stage of the funnel. The idea is simple:
- If they don’t buy the initial offer, then they’ll get an automated series of emails buy over the next few days to try to get them to take it.
- Simultaneously, you can add them to a specific retargeting audience for that specific part of your funnel, meaning they’ll also be reminded about your offer when they’re on Facebook, or even another website.
- If they buy the initial offer immediately, then obviously you don’t send them the same sequence and instead move them along in your funnel.
More Resources On Sales
From the blog:
- 5 Things People Will Pay The Most Money For
- 4 Killer Pricing Strategies To Have Your Prospects Hyper-Ventilating
From The Monetization Lab:
Step 6: Your Membership Site Offer
This business model has been used for years both online and offline. Many businesses will insert a kind of “core offer” here. The idea is to take your brand new customer and move them into your flagship product, whatever that may be.
But, we’re bloggers. And I’m a pretty firm believer in the membership site as a business model, especially for a blog. For that reason, I’m pretty specific at this point about setting up as a membership site.
See, the front-end offer is designed to increase the number of customers, which is the 1st of 3 tactics to grow your business. The second tactic is to increase the number of sales a customer makes. Now, what better way to do that than to get a customer to make a sale each and every month? This is called continuity.
It is the idea of a recurring revenue model where you bill your core community on a monthly basis in exchange for an ongoing flow of value. This provides a sustainable, growth-oriented business model. As long as you have more members joining than who cancel, you’re on a growth trend. And the revenue can really add up.
For instance, let’s take a small membership site with the following assumptions:
- 5% Member Churn (which means about 5% of members cancel each month)
- Average of 20 new members per month
Here’s how the revenue would add up:
Within a year, this program would be earning a steady $3,665.74 per month. And it would just keep going. Keep in mind, too, that this revenue wouldn’t include any front-end sales and no back-end sales. This is just steady revenue. There are also a number of things you can do to tweak the revenue outcome in your favor, such as offering annual memberships, limited-time bonus offers, or even split-testing the price.
The compounding effect of a membership site and knowing your numbers gives you some real power. In the above model, a monthly rate of $30 instead of $20 would have you making about $5,500/month by the end of month 12. When you consider front-end sales and backend sales that would be natural in this business, you in essence would have a six figure business by the end of a year.
See the power of this?
Membership sites are awesome, and for many of us, I believe they are a SOLID option to serve as our core offer. That baseline of recurring revenue grows over time and, as time goes on, grows into a predictable online income that you can count on – month after month.
The membership site model is the ideal business platform for a blog. For one, we’re creating content anyway so this is just a natural extension. Second, it literally turns your blog into your business. But, it is also highly leveraged since you can then splinter off any piece of content from the membership into a front-end offer. Two birds, one stone. 🙂
You do that while also keeping track of your metrics and having this full funnel in place, your blog will be “monetized” better than ever.
More Resources On Membership Sites
From the blog:
- Want To Sell Digital Products? 6 Reasons Why You Need To Turn Your Blog Into A Membership Site
- Membership Site Examples: Get Some Ideas From These 10 Membership Sites
From The Monetization Lab:
Step 7: Higher-End Offers
The 3rd tactic to grow your business is to increase the size of the average sale. The way this is traditionally done in business is to offer upsells.
When you buy a burger at McDonalds, you’re asked “want fries with that?”. That’s an upsell. When you go to buy any product at Amazon, you’ll see the “Frequently Bought Together” option which lists 3 products you can buy as a bundle. Buy a laptop at Best Buy and you’re offered a support contract or warranty.
These are profit maximizers. They’re intended to do just that… maximize the profit.
You can do this, too.
Can you bundle a second product in with the first for a higher price? Can you offer some back end offer to your members, such as the option to hop on the phone with you?
The other thing to keep in mind is this: You will make money a whole lot faster if your average transaction is larger. It is easier to make 2 sales of $500 than it is to make 33 sales at $30 if you want to make $1000. So, if you want to grow your business into a six figure range or higher, you can’t keep yourself in the low-ticket territory with your prices. Any fully developed sales funnel will have higher-end options… because there always those few people in your audience who will take you up on it.
Step 8: Automated Followup & Retargeting
Each step of your funnel has a followup email series to go along with it. This is where your autoresponder sequence comes in. It is just a series of emails you’ve written in advance which get delivered to people in that specific part of your funnel.
So, if they opt in for your lead magnet and DON’T buy your front-end offer… no problem! They’re put into a followup email series. You now know that this person is interested in whatever that lead magnet was about. So, you first deliver that lead magnet (obviously), then you use the followup to deliver more value and build the relationship over time by helping them on the topic of that lead magnet. Then, later in the series, try to offer it to them again.
And so on, and so on. Each offer in your funnel ideally should have a followup email series that is sent to them – but only when they’re ready for it because of the actions they’ve taken.
It is very important here that you know how to set up an email list, to use multiple lists, list segmentation, etc. Because, email is extremely important to our business. But, to use it right, it needs to be more strategic than just a “one blog, one email list” strategy that so many people do.
Retargeting, again, is the ability to reach out to people who have visited your website in the past using paid advertising. Any retargeting service out there will allow you to segment your retargeting list based on criteria, the most popular of which is the URL they visited. So, you can literally retarget somebody who visited a specific blog post on your blog. Pretty cool. 🙂 However, in our funnel, we use this segmented retargeting to help push people through the sales funnel. For example, if they’ve bought your front-end offer and you’re now trying to get them to sign up for your full membership, you could retarget them on Facebook specifically with a trial offer for your membership site.
More Resources On Email Marketing
From the blog:
From The Monetization Lab:
Step 9: The Return Path
It is a simple fact of life that not everybody is going to buy from you. Statistically, a majority of people who you make an offer to aren’t going to take you up on it.
Thing is, they make take you up on it later. I’ve had people sit on my list for months – even years – before ever buying from me. You just never know when and why. One day, something you say just strikes a chord and they decide to buy. Thing is, if you’re not following up with them regularly and maintaining that line of communication, then you’re going to lose out.
The return path is just that – a pathway to bring them back to your site. Ultimately, the purpose is to get them to enter another profit funnel and go through the process again.
Good news is that most of what we, as bloggers, already do is perfect for the return path. We continue to write new blog posts, email those posts out to our list, maybe do ongoing podcasting, and be engaged on social media. All these things serve to attract both new visitors as well as repeat visitors. Many blog owners execute the return path fairly well already… where they drop the ball is that they have no business machine set up so it is all for nothing.
You want these people to have frequent contact with you, your blog, your business and your brand. The only way to do that is to be “out there”, to be where they’re at, and consistently communicate. You will find, though, that your email list is the most effective return path.
More Resources On Return Path
From the blog:
- Is Social Media Your Only Traffic Building Strategy?
- 8 Strategies To Improve Conversion Rates From Your Blog Posts
From The Monetization Lab:
- Leveraging Your “Money Posts” – from the Blog Masters Club training
- Mechanics of the Effective Call To Action in Your Posts – from Content Marketing Clinic
This Is The System
Growing an online business is freakin’ frustrating if you don’t have a system.
You’re given this laundry list of things you’re supposed to be an expert in, but little of it has any CONTEXT.
Why is it important to blog? Why is it important to engage on social media? Why do you need to be on Facebook? Why is it important to know how to analyze your site’s metrics?
Without context, all these things are damn near useless. Its just a big sea of data…and it all seems equal. And the result is overwhelm and confusion and failure.
Well, I’m pretty big on systems here at the Blog Marketing Academy.
Honestly, I haven’t always been. And I know (and have experienced) what can happen when you don’t have a system.
In this post, I’ve laid out the entire framework. And inside the Blog Monetization Lab, we get into the details on implementing everything.
One component at a time, we’ll implement this system. It works. The degree to which it works is only a matter of how thoroughly you execute it.
Here’s how we can get started…
- You can click the big PDF graphic below to instantly download a full-resolution copy of this Model for your own reference.
- To gather the bare minimum tools of the trade to build this business for yourself.
- Consider joining the Blog Monetization Lab, where members are currently building this model for themselves with the help of myself and the entire community.