Serious blogging takes effort, so it’s understandable that bloggers tend to expect some form of monetary reward. Sure, blogging can be fun and its own payoff, but most bloggers have certain expectations, or at least hopes, when it comes to their blogging income.
Sadly, many people find themselves disappointed by the results. One of the key reasons for this is that they approach blogging monetization differently than pro bloggers do.
The difference in traffic is a huge factor of course, but the RPM (Revenue Per Mille, or per thousand page views) among pro bloggers is also much higher than your typical blogger. So all things being equal, the big guys tend to milk their traffic far more.
In this post, I’ll discuss how pro bloggers make money by doing essentially the opposite of what most bloggers do.
The wrong approach to blogging income
An overwhelming majority of bloggers who try to monetize their blogs, will take the path of least resistance and opt to simply place AdSense ads on their blogs. Doing so doesn’t take much effort and in turn, it typically leads to… not much in return. Perhaps a few dollars a month, unless they have monthly six-figure page views or they cover a very specific niche that happens to have extremely high advertising costs (and therefore payouts).
A smaller percentage will then seek higher RPM ad networks (either because of the nature of the ads or because it’s a network specific to the topic covered in their blog). This will typically improve one’s blogging income a little, but it will still be quite limited for sites that don’t receive massive amounts of traffic.
Another small percentage of bloggers will try their hands at affiliate marketing, typically with a program like Amazon Associates or eBay. Assuming they are accepted, and they do a good job reviewing or discussing specific products in their blogs, these bloggers will generally start to see some extra revenue in the form of a percentage commission of every sale generated by their referral within a given period of time (e.g., 24 hours).
Some, but not many, will seek high paying affiliate programs where the commission will be substantial (e.g., $50+) or recurring each month if the buyer remains a subscriber of whatever product/service the referral was made for. Having huge traffic becomes less necessary when a single person buying the product (e.g., a hosting package you recommend) can generate $50 or more for you.
Whether people visiting your blog have the right intention (e.g., are they looking for hosting recommendations?) and whether you are a credible source of said recommendation, become much more important factors. But of course, the more traffic the merrier still applies.
A tiny percentage of bloggers will end up creating their own product that appeals to their audience. Think an ebook for $39, for example. Those who do a good job by creating a genuinely useful product and then market it correctly to their readers, can start to see income that would take decades to accrue with AdSense at their current traffic level. Think five (and more rarely six) figure income, depending on how successful they are.
An even smaller percentage of bloggers will add a final high ticket item to their marketing funnel. This is typically an expensive course (in the $397-$1,999 price range) or some exclusive, direct mentorship offer for an equally substantial fee. The sky’s the limit here in terms of income.
The inverse pyramid of blogging income
There is an obvious correlation between the effort required, the economic reward, and how popular each approach is.
The least rewarding, AdSense, requires the least effort, produces the least amount of revenue for the blogger, and in turn is the most popular monetization method among bloggers.
The most economically rewarding option, creating your own high price items, requires the most amount of effort both in terms of creating something of so much value, and marketing it (e.g., $397 is definitely not an impulse buy for most people). But you can make scary amounts of money from it.
The real problem is that most bloggers looking to monetize their blogs tend to follow the pyramid as presented above. Many will stop at the first four steps, at best, never venturing into making their own product.
The secret to increasing blogging income is to invert the pyramid and focus your efforts and priorities accordingly.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have AdSense, but you should prioritize the high reward items, as they are the ones that are most likely to make you serious extra income – even if you only get a few thousand visitors a month to your site.
In fact, I’m reminded of Stephen Covey of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame (killer book, by the way, for personal growth). In it, he argues that if you try to place large rocks last in a jar filled with sand and pebbles, you won’t be able to. But if you prioritize the large rocks first, you’ll always be able to squeeze in the pebbles and sand. He was talking about time management and prioritizing goals and tasks, but it applies here as well.
In our analogy, your own products are the big rocks, affiliate commissions are pebbles, and ads are sand.
How serious bloggers make money
That’s how serious bloggers make money! They create what is essentially a funnel that’s laser-focused on getting readers to buy the useful product they’ve made.
They attract a lot of visitors with great free content that is relevant to their blog topic. Content that both helps people and establishes the blogger’s authority on the subject at hand. Then they will typically offer some sort of valuable freebie, like an email course or a PDF guide to turn their site’s visitors into email subscribers (this freebie is known as a lead magnet).
They’ll continue to provide value to their subscribers with great content, for free, as well as making them aware of some kind of offer related to their products (remember, people love sales). Some will even first sell the inexpensive product (e.g., a cheap ebook or course) and then upsell true believers to their more expensive products and/or services. If you are familiar with Tony Robbins, that’s what he does. But pretty much anyone raking in big bucks through digital sales adopts a similar strategy.
There is a reason for the common mantra, the money is in the list. Nothing beats having regular readers you can continue to communicate with directly. You’ll be able to provide them with useful information on a regular basis and sell them valuable products that will help them, and in turn, help you achieve your financial blogging goals in the process.
It’s worth noting that depending on the reasons that you personally blog, direct monetary gain might not be your main interest. And that’s okay. Your career itself might be the high ROI “product” in that case.
It’s important to understand that in most cases blogging is a content marketing tool for business, but it is not the business itself.
It all boils down to this. If you want to maximize your blogging income, sell a product through your blog. That product can be an ebook, course, private membership, or software, as long as it’s extremely useful and relevant to your readers.