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Which Comes First: Traffic or Monetization? (How Everything Has Changed)

Which comes first for your blog: Traffic or monetization? It used to be that you had to build the audience before you could monetize. Is that still true?

If you’re a blogger looking to build a business around your blog and generate real revenue, then you need to realize something…

We’re in a different world today when it comes to getting traffic.

The days of being able to blog your face off and guest post your way to a viable business are over. There is simply too much noise out there. Too many awesome content creators.

If you’re willing to get out from behind the written word and firmly embrace video marketing or podcasting, you can still make a dent. But, even then, you’ve gotta bring the personality and branding to the table to stand out.

Things Are Quite Different From When I Started

I got started in blogging 20 years ago. Before the word “blog” had even been invented yet.

I got started with a computer and technology blog. Ultimately, I built it up into a six figure business doing over a million page views per month. And… I did all of it without ever spending a dime on traffic.

But, I could not do that again today.

Things are so different.

monetize-tech-blog-pcmech

My tech site was called PCMech, short for “PC Mechanic”. And, quite frankly, I don’t think I could build it up again today the same way I did then.

With the nature of the tech market, the internet itself, and traffic tactics, I could not build up that site today again without doing things very differently.

Hell, I don’t even think I could have built the Blog Marketing Academy from scratch today in the same way. When I started up BMA, I had 2 things which I could leverage:

  1. My track record with my technology blog.
  2. Relationships with other bloggers in the blogging niche.

And when I came out of the gate with my first flagship training course (called the Blog Masters Club, now available inside The Lab), I had several affiliates involved and it really made a dent in the market and put this site on the map.

Today, it would be quite difficult to repeat. The online marketing space has matured and grown quite a lot since. Many large blogs won’t even accept guest posts anymore because of all the spammy crap posts they got. Many people don’t promote any products not their own.

So, yeah… I most certainly benefited from being early in this game. Today, I could not build up again from scratch by doing things the same way. Not in the two primary markets I’ve operated in… since both are big honker markets. 🙂

But, I have no doubt that I could build up from scratch again. Difference is, this time I would need to play the game as it is played today.

Even when it comes to blogging, we live in a pay to play world today of traffic. And that's freakin' AWESOME!Click To Tweet

You know why? Because that traffic that you so desperately need to fuel your business is everywhere to be had.

All you’ve gotta do is take a trip to the traffic store.

Traffic = Business Fuel. Imagine If It Were As Simple As Going To The Gas Station.

gas-pump

When you want to drive your car somewhere, you need gas. Well, imagine if you had to do all the legwork to actually acquire gas for your car on your own.

  1. You’d have to have access to the land with oil under it (hopefully).
  2. You’d have to prospect for the oil and find it.
  3. You’d have to drill for it and extract it.
  4. You’d have to get it to a plant for processing.
  5. You’d have to process that crude oil and turn it into actual gasoline. Probably even pass a ton of government standards.
  6. Put it into your car, cross your fingers, and hope you did it right. 🙂

A lot of work is done before that gasoline hits your tank. Billions in investment. Years of research, prospecting, and man-hours. You get to just go to the store and buy it and pump it into your tank.

Putting fuel (traffic) into your online business cab be just as simple as a trip to the gas station. And, really, it is.Click To Tweet

The way I grew my businesses back in the day is pretty much the equivalent of creating my own gas from scratch. But, today, it would be like reinventing the wheel to try to do it the same way. Plus, it would feel like all the land had already been claimed.

Today, I can pull into a gas station and just fill up with traffic.

Those traffic fill stations go by the names of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

They are literally traffic stations with nice, big traffic pumps..

They’ve done all the work to create sites and brands that attract TONS of people… and they’re inviting you to come by and buy some of their traffic.

Facebook has done the legwork to build a property that has over 2 billion active monthly users. 66% of those people use it daily. They’re primary business model is about selling those eyeballs to you and it is actually pretty easy to do.

Google has done the legwork to become the world’s #1 search engine by a long shot. The word “Google” is pretty much used as a synonym for search today. They’re integrated into our daily lives and most sites around the web. Their primary business model is also about selling those eyeballs to you.

Youtube is a Google property and rules online video by a longshot. And yep, you can pretty easily place ads on Youtube.

And every one of these traffic fuel pumps has the tools in place so that you can reach the kind of people you want to reach, control your own budget and manage the whole thing. These companies entire business model revolves around people like YOU using the traffic fuel pump that they have provided. And collectively, these compaies control most traffic across the entire internet.

Does it not make sense to use it?

And, it’s funny…

People like to complain about the price of gas. Or to bash oil companies around. Rarely realizing just how freakin convenient they’ve made things for us that we can go buy a gallon of gas for $2-$3.

And, so it goes for paid internet traffic. Many people avoid it because… well, it isn’t free. But, look at all the work it just saved you! Really, like a gallon of gas most of the time, the price of traffic is really cheap and affordable on the whole. The issue is just what you do with it.

There’s Peas and Carrots. And… There’s Traffic and Monetization.

1257686598-forrest-gump

In the immortal words of the great Forrest Gump:

From that day on, we was always together. Jenny and Me was like peas and carrots.

Such a good movie. But, I digress…

Traffic and monetization go together like peas and carrots. Even for bloggers.Click To Tweet

This here is another big way that the game has really changed. It used to be that you built up traffic in order to monetize. That monetization was something you could do once you had the traffic and the audience.

Nope. Not anymore.

Today, monetization is something you do in order to enable blog traffic. Not the other way around.Click To Tweet

The two go hand in hand, like Forrest and Jenny.

The revenue that you generate is what pays for the traffic. It is what allows you to make regular stops at the traffic fuel pump without going broke.

Today, your online business is basically a traffic & conversion funnel:

  1. You go acquire the traffic.
  2. You convert that traffic to revenue.
  3. Turn around and do it again.

Once the machine is running properly, there’s no net cost of paid traffic. In fact, you’ll be making money on the whole thing.

It takes some work to fine-tune the machine to that point, but if you’re using paid traffic, the whole process is sped up drastically. Because you’re not out there re-inventing the wheel anymore. You can put your message out in front of the right people… on your terms.

Over time, you’ll build up your owned media assets and be able to get traffic and eyeballs without paying for it. But, those assets are something you need to build.

Why Monetization Should Be Tackled From Day One

If we know that traffic and your ability to make money from that traffic go hand in hand, then I hope it is obvious that monetization is something that needs to be addressed right from the get-go.

I’ve seen the advice out there from some “blogging gurus” about how you should focus on building an audience first. They tell you to focus on community and build your brand and relationship before you ever try to sell anything.

To put it bluntly, they’re full of crap.

They may be saying that because it sounds good in theory. Or it may be because that’s the way they did it, but without giving full credit to the fact that they might have also been the beneficiary of good timing like I was with my tech blog. They really shouldn’t go around glibly parroting off this kind of advice to new bloggers because it is gloriously outdated.

Now, when you’re at the very beginning with your blog, you have a decision to make:

  • Do you want to blog primarily for the purpose of community and fun? Or…
  • Do you want to create a business out of it?

Now, it’s great when you can do both at the same time and certainly those businesses exist. However, if you wanna make money, you need to plan for how you intend to do that right from the start.

If income is an intention of your’s, then plan for it. And figure it out right from the start.

When you do that, you will be in a position where you can play the traffic game as it works today.

If you have no monetization set up at all, then you’re either going to need to spend money on advertising with no chance of return or you’re going to be stuck trying free traffic generation methods only. And, that can work but it will likely take much, MUCH longer. And a lot, LOT more work. And, it might not work to your liking. And… it might not be the kind of traffic you need for income purposes.

In other words, without monetization set up from the beginning, you’re leaving a lot of things up to chance and lengthening your runway.

By focusing on monetization FIRST, you are setting up a framework that can take care of your traffic problem for you. You can turn your blog into a self-fueling system.

But, How Can You Monetize Without First Having Traffic?

Let’s be clear…

You need traffic to make money. You have to have somebody to sell to. That much is certain.

So, what I am talking about here is setting up the mechanisms for monetization right away. It doesn’t mean you’re actually going to be making money yet. It just means your blog has the potential to make money.

It is like being a fisherman and putting your hook in the water. You clearly will never catch a fish if you don’t have a hook and bait in the water. Sitting there in the boat thinking about fishing isn’t going to catch a fish. It is the same with our monetization.

So, you want to craft an offer suitable for your target audience and you want to have a way for them to buy it.

Craft an offer. Not a product.

Don’t go off and create a whole product before anybody has bought it. You simply craft an offer for it as a pre-sale. And you set up the super basic funnel and a landing page for this offer and you put it on your site.

It could be a course you’re thinking of creating and you’re pre-selling it. It could be a service or even a simple hourly consulting offer. But, start somewhere.

Put your book and some kind of bait in the water.

Then, you begin to run paid traffic to this thing. You test things. You make adjustments.

Follow the process and you create a self-fueling traffic system. That’s the initial goal. From there, you will obviously seek to make it profitable.

Will You Depend On The Traffic Store?

I’m telling you in this post why it is important to focus on monetization right out of the gate. And that reason is so that you can go to the traffic store and buy traffic to fuel your business.

But, does this mean you end up relying on it?

Just throw your blog out the window just focus on buying traffic and selling stuff to them?

Well, not gonna BS ya… you could do that if you wanted to. It is certainly possible to make good money online without a blog. Money is made through traffic and conversion. The existence of traffic fuel pumps means you can short circuit the whole thing and just buy all your traffic.

That doesn’t mean that’s your best long term strategy, though. And certainly, the ideal scene for all of us would be that we have our own established audiences and a good amount of incoming traffic just coming to your website every day. You’d be able to make sales and essentially spend nothing on traffic. It’s pretty freakin’ awesome. 🙂

Content marketing is alive and well and always will be. Your blog is going to work for you in all the ways that you hope it will. However…

  • Paid traffic is highly useful to kick things off and get that initial bit of inertia.
  • You’ll probably find paid traffic will always be part of a cohesive traffic strategy.

A brand new business has no inertia. No energy. You’ve got to charge that battery somehow, right?

When you buy a chargeable battery that isn’t yet charged, how do you get the power into that thing? You plug it into the wall. You are taking energy from an establishes source and moving it to the battery to charge it up.

That’s how our online businesses work, too.

Your online business is like a rechargeable battery. It needs to be charged up sometimes in order to keep powering your bank accounts.Click To Tweet

So, no, you’re not going to rely on the traffic stores and do nothing but pay for traffic all day. You’re using it to build up inertia and get off the ground. Over time, you will use it to keep up the energy and fuel it, however your system will have some ability to self-sustain as you build up your email list and audience.

How To Move Forward With This

When you’re at the beginning, it is hard to figure out what to do to kick things off.

You might have read this post and it may perfect sense to you. You see how the idea is to create a self-fueling traffic & conversion system. And, while you may get a little nervous at the idea of spending a little money on paid traffic when the return isn’t a sure thing, you get why it works.

But, how do you proceed?

I prepared a workshop series that walks you through the whole thing. It is called the Business Building Bootcamp.

This 8-workshop series will walk you, step by step, through the initial phase of building up your online business from scratch. The entire thing is oriented around building and proving your monetization framework before you dive into actual blogging.

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