Four Ways You Can Earn Money as a Blogger

So you’ve been blogging for several years, or at least several months, and you want to start seeing a little cash for your efforts. I was recently talking about making money with blogs on a blogging forum, and shared this answer. I thought it was worth expanding on and resharing here, since it’s a question I’m frequently asked when I give talks about blogging.

1) Sell ads.

Put a Google AdWords feed on your blog. As you write content, Google will examine your content and put up ads that seems to fit what you’ve written. Then, as people show up to read what you’ve written — presumably because they’re interested in the topic — they’re more likely to click an ad, because they’re interested in a product or service about that topic.Spray painted dollar sign on street

Upside: Very passive. You don’t have to do anything extra to your blog. Set the code, and then you’re done. Just get traffic and hope they click. However, you’re always in readership gain mode, which you should already be doing. But if you’re depending on this for your income, you need to focus on getting readers more frequently.

Downside:It feels a little slimy, if you don’t want to commercialize your site. It turns your blog into a billboard. And depending on the kind of blog you have, it may not work, or it may just clash with the theme and topic of your blog. If your blog is for your business, ads will probably not work. And why would you want to damage your credibility for the sake of a few bucks in Google Ad revenue?

2) Become an affiliate marketer.

This is where you open, say, an Amazon affiliate account and link to a few books that you really enjoy. When someone clicks a link that you provide (with your affiliate account embedded in the link), you make a little money if that person orders the book. The more people who buy your affiliate product, the more money you make. You could even become a book and product reviewer. Whenever you link to that book or product, you embed your affiliate link and see if you can get people to buy the product based on your review.

You can be one of two kinds of AMs — the sell everything everywhere kind, or the kind who wins a really big audience of loyal followers who will buy anything you suggest. The former kind are usually messing around with every type of affiliate product they can find, the latter are in constant network growth mode (see #1).

Upside: Better return than ad sales. Decent rate of return, especially as you load more products onto your affiliate site and get a bigger audience.

Downside: Affiliate marketing can be hard work, and often requires you to take on several products with several websites if you want to make a lot of money (if you want to be the first kind), or work your ass off to become a rockstar with thousands and thousands of groupies. You may also open yourself up to spam tactics if you want to be one of the big-dollar affiliate marketers.

3) Become a product or service reviewer.

I need to preface this by saying you should never, ever charge a company to review their product. That’s not ethical. You’re a citizen journalist, you have a media outlet. If you charge money, then you’re writing an advertisement, not a review. However, you are completely free to accept a product or service in exchange for reviewing it.

Let’s say you’re a parenting blogger, and you want to start reviewing products. You could review baby products, toddler toys, and children’s books. Or you could take a techy turn, and review technology products and services that might be of interest to other parenting bloggers (i.e. video cameras, blog platforms, blogging conferences), which in turn helps you become a better blogger and reach an even bigger audience.

Or you could become a family blogger, which opens up other avenues, like trying out new family-friendly restaurants or vacation spots. (I do some travel blogging for my state’s office of tourism, so I get to take some trips around Indiana once in a while, but my stories always have a family angle.)

Upside: Free stuff!

Downside: No money. You do this to earn perks and benefits that you might not otherwise get, which can stretch your family’s budget, but this is a tough way to earn a living. On the upside, it could lead to other opportunities later on. I know someone who started writing a travel blog, and is now a professional travel writer who gets flown to far-off locales and gets paid to describe his experience. You also have to disclose any kinds of financial gifts or payments you received, according to the FTC’s blogging rules.

4) Become a freelancer.

Professional Blog Service is a corporate blogging services company. We write regular blog posts for corporate clients who want to have a corporate web presence. We’re ghost writers, basically. And even though our company is an agency, I know several freelancers who are ghost bloggers on their own, without being an “official” agency. We’ve even (gladly, willingly) helped a couple of our freelancers get started and become our competition.

Good writers can earn anywhere from $500 – $1,000 per month for a single client. Get 4 – 5 clients, and you’re earning a decent salary. You can work from anywhere, work your own hours, and get to hone your writing skills constantly.

Upside: This is going to be the best, most consistent way you’re going to make money as a blogger. You’re not building readership and are not in reader generation mode. You just write. However, it’s a real job with real responsibilities and work hours. You don’t get to take a “I don’t feel like doing anything today” day.

Downside:It’s hard work. It’s also not on your own blog. No one will ever know what you’re doing, because you’re a ghost, and you’re supposed to keep your involvement quiet. You will also do a lot of writing, which can cause burnout. There are days I’m so tired of writing that I slam my laptop lid down a little harder than necessary and just sit in front of the TV. And if you love writing, you may start to not love it if you’re not careful.

Bloggers, how do you make money doing what you do? Are you a full-time blogger? Or are you just earning a little extra cash on the side? Any methods or ideas you’d be willing to share? And newbie bloggers, are there any questions you have?

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds (Flickr)

The Number One Reason Companies Need to Blog About Their Products

We write a lot of product blogs for our clients. No matter what size, shape, color, or price of the product, we’ve written several hundred blog product posts.

But for all the hundreds of posts we’ve written, there’s only one reason we do it: to win search.

Chris Baggott of Compendium Blogware has long beat the “blogging wins search” drum. (And while I don’t agree about his “myth of the reader” — I believe you should try to get and keep regular, returning readers — he makes a great point about winning search.)

A product blog post is one of the easiest things to write. It’s just 200 – 300 words describing a particular product with a link back to the original catalog entry or product description. Each post equals a backlink back to your website, and the more backlinks you have to your website, the better you rank in a search.

Should I Keep My Blog Inside My Website, or Have a Separate Blog?

We’re fans of keeping a blog and a website together, but there’s no harm in keeping the two separate. After all, the search engines recognize it as a separate website that links back to your original one. However, you’re better off putting your blog on your static website and use internal backlinks to go from the blog to the static pages.

But if you want to boost your search engine rankings even further, create a second blog where you publish your blog posts, and keep it separate from your regular corporate blog where you’re publishing your authority posts, credibility posts, issues posts, and educational posts. This way you can improve search and find first time visitors with one blog, and gain returning readers with the other.

No One Likes My New Job Title

It was a brief spark of an idea, and one I got a little excited about: I wanted to change my job title.

I am currently the VP of Operations and Customer Service. It’s a little wordy, but accurately describes my position here. (I’m also a co-owner.)

“I know,” I said to myself. “I’ll change my title to Chief Blogging Evangelist. That’ll be cool.”

I asked Paul Lorinczi, my business partner, about it, and he said it sounded kind of buzzwordy.

“Bah!” I thought, and emailed Jason Falls whether he thought the title sounded “cool” or “eww.”

I’d say “content” evangelist to stay hip with on- and off-site services.
I don’t think it’s bad. Not necessarily “cool” but not bad.

So I threw it open to my Twitter network. We’re always preaching about using one’s network, so this was going to be my chance to do it. I was looking for confirmation that Chief Blogging Evangelist was a cool title, and that it would help me land more speaking gigs, and make me look really cool (I mean, cooler) when I go to my high school reunion next month.

I received 37 responses on my SurveyMonkey.com survey, and was stunned at the results.

Question #1: When I first saw the title “chief blogging evangelist,” my first reaction was:
Love it!
Meh
Don’t care for it.
That’s stupid.

Out of 37 responses, 1 person loved it.

(One person?! And I didn’t even vote! What the hell? This is cutting edge! This is Job Title 2.0. This is the epitome of social media coolness. And only one person liked it? If I didn’t know any better, I would think my mom had voted.)

It gets worse: 15 people thought it was “meh,” 11 people “didn’t care for it,” and 10 people thought it was “stupid.” In other words, 21 people either didn’t like it or downright hated it.

In question #4, (I think the title “Chief Blogging Evangelist:”), 36 people said it was either too buzzwordy or trendy (23), or it would scare off customers (13).

If I ever wanted proof that I can have some fairly dumb ideas, my Twitter followers and SurveyMonkey just showed it to me. (Except I didn’t want proof. I like being blissfully ignorant and thinking my ideas are awesome.)

So I asked for a few alternatives. And people were very helpful and creative. Some of my favorites were:

  • VP, Verbal Artistry
  • VP of Social Media
  • VP of Creative Services
  • Creative Vice President of Operational Services
  • Chief Social Media Evangelist
  • VP of Communications
  • Chief Blogging Atheist
  • Big Daddy Blogger

But my favorite response was:

  • It made me laugh, but then I said “seriously?”

So, I don’t know what my new job title will be, or if I even need one. But I know what it’s not going to be.

Of course, “Big Daddy Blogger” has a nice ring to it. I wonder what that would look like in a Garamond. . .

5 Tips to Become a Professional Blogger

Someone once asked me, “How do I become a blogger?”

“Simple,” I wrote back, “Raise your hands over your head, and shout to the heavens, ‘I. Am. A BLOGGER!!‘ And then you are one.”

It really is that easy to become a blogger. Truly anyone can do it. You just need some basic software, and know how to type. After that, you’re good to go.

But becoming a professional blogger is a whole different matter. Here are 5 tips to becoming an actual professional word slinger.

    1. Make sure you define what you mean by “professional.” There are two types of professional blogger: the person who makes a lot of money selling something via their blog, usually either Google Ads or ebooks, and the professional ghost blogger. While finding success as the former is possible, finding it as the latter is more likely. I have one friend who has a very popular blog, and sells Google AdWords on it. It only brings in a few thousand dollars a year, certainly not enough to make a living. Ghost bloggers, on the other hand, can earn a decent living writing blog posts for other clients. Part copywriter, part social media geek, part blog manager, the ghost blogger is your basic freelance writer, but working in this specific electronic format.

 

    1. Make sure your writing skills are strong. Writing is easy, writing well is hard. I realize that we can all write in complete sentences and organize our thoughts into semi-coherent patterns. So can your average eighth grader. Unfortunately, some people never progressed beyond that level of skill. If you want to be a professional blogger, your writing needs to be of a higher quality than most.

      If you’re not sure, find some other writers you trust and whose skills you admire, and ask them to honestly evaluate your writing. Tell them you don’t want the typical pat on the head and “it’s pretty good” assessment. Ask them to be honest, and to give you a real evaluation of your skills. If they truly like it, then you’re on your way. If they don’t, start a blog, and work hard to improve. I’ve been a writer for 20 years, and am still learning and improving.

 

    1. Try to specialize in an area you have experience in. It’s not a requirement, but it will make your life easier. The one interesting thing about newspaper reporters is that they are an expert for a day, absorbing enough information to write their articles. The next day, they move on to a new subject. Ghost bloggers do this. They learn as much about the client as they can, and will write whatever the client wants them to. The client will usually dictate what they want said, the writer writes it, and then gives it to the client for approval. This way, the writer learns about the client, much like a reporter learns about his or her beat.

      When we take on a new client, we spend a lot of time learning about their industry and their company. As we work for them over the months, we do become knowledgeable about their field. But the clients we truly excel at are those we have experience and knowledge in. With them, we can hit the ground running, and our learning curve is significantly flattened.

 

    1. Associate with other professional writers. It’s often said we’re only as good as the 5 people we hang out with the most. If that’s the case, make sure you’re spending it with other professional writers (or at least really good amateurs). In fact, some of your best mentors and referral sources will be your competitors. Read their blogs, meet them at conferences, hang out with them at coffee shops. You’ll learn a lot from them. Then — and this is the important part — be willing to do the same for other, younger writers who come to you for advice and education.

 

  1. Read a lot. Every writer has a writing style they learned from reading someone else’s stuff. I learned mine from reading Dave Barry, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Waits, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ernest Hemingway. To keep my own style from becoming stale, I revisit my favorite works and re-immerse myself in their words and style. I also seek out new writers with similar styles, and draw inspiration from them.

    It’s important to remember, however, not to copy your favorite styles, but take the best from each of them, and synthesize them into your own. By creating your own distinctive writing style, you’ll stand out as a quality writer and blogger, worthy of the fees you demand.

What about you? Do you have any writing tips or suggestions for aspiring professional bloggers? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Photo: Brad J. Ward (Flickr), noted social media marketer

Writing for Readers Always Beats Writing for Search

As a blogger, which is more important to you, winning search or winning readers?

Quantity or quality? Spiders or readers? Left brain or right brain? Classical or Romantic?

Less filling or tastes great?

Some of the authorities in our blogging community believe quantity is more important. That as bloggers, it’s more important to just throw up as much as you can and see what attracts Google’s attention.

“Don’t worry about the quality,” one Spiders-oriented blogger told me. “Just get up as much as you can, as fast as you can. Spelling and grammar aren’t that important.”

I shuddered involuntarily.

“I don’t worry about search,” said a Readers-oriented blogger. “I don’t pay attention to SEO, keywords, backlinks, or any of that. I just make sure I write good stuff, and the readers will come.”

It works too.

Both are experts in their field, and are widely sought after as speakers and consultants in the social media and blogging realm. But the Readers blog has a much bigger social media footprint. He’s got more Twitter followers (18,000 vs. 1,200), more blog readers, higher Technorati rank (1526th and 598 auth. vs. er, none), more readers (approx. 50,000 vs. 7,000 via Compete.com), but fewer Google hits (84,000 vs. 44,000).

(I emailed my friend the Readers blogger as I was writing this post, and he told me he doesn’t pay attention to numbers at all, and wasn’t that concerned about them.)

The results are rather telling. Quality is winning out over quantity, readers are winning out over spiders.

Tastes great is beating less filling.

The problem is, you can write for spiders and search all day long, but if people don’t like what you have to say, they’re not going to stick around, let alone come back on a regular basis. Just because they showed up once doesn’t guarantee they’ll show up again. That’s where good quality writing comes in.

You could argue that it takes search to bring a person in and then hook them with good writing. But there are so many other ways to bring them around: Twitter, Facebook, speaking opportunities, networking, business cards, etc.

As a writer, I’m also more concerned about readership than, well, spidership. I’m not that concerned about winning search, because I write about a number of esoteric topics. However, I occasionally get lucky. On my Laughing Stalk humor blog, I have seen some pretty weird results.

  • I once won search for “animal methane problem” out of 30,000 results, and topped out at 7th for “animal fart gene” out of 17,000 for 9 months or so. Results: 2 – 4 visitors per week during those 9 months.
  • I beat the original “Suite Talk with Peyton Manning” website, where you could get customized greetings to you from Peyton (they got 2nd). Results: Big fat zero. Who wants to read about the commercial, when you can see the commercial.
  • I’m currently second for “it’s in my raccoon wounds” out of 135,000 results. I held first for a few years, for a post in 2005. Results: I still get 1 – 4 visits per week for some variation of “raccoon wounds.”

The net result of this? About 3 – 8 visits per week on two rather weird and unrelated topics. But if I tried to build a readership off of this, I would have to write about a whooooole lot of weird stuff and win a series of long-tail searches before I started gaining traffic.

That’s why I do a lot better by focusing on writing, rather than writing a bunch of stuff as quickly and sloppily as possible.

Bottom line: anyone who’s interested in building a blogging following needs to devote more time and energy to their writing than their search engine optimization.

At the Top – Entrepreneurial Networking for Indianapolis

Ron Sukenick approached me several weeks ago and described a new networking event he was putting together called “At the Top”. As he his idea, it had a familiar sound to it. It sounded a lot like the old Entrepreneurs Alliance of indiana.

I thought, “Man, I miss the old Entrepreneur’s Alliance.” I miss seeing everyone on the 3rd Thursday of every month to have drinks and learn about how business started, failed and succeeded.

So, Ron asked if Professional Blog Service would like to be a co-sponsor of the event. I said, “Absolutely.”

Here is why, I would not have co-started Professional Blog Service, if not for the Entrepreneurs Alliance. It was there that I heard many stories from many different Indianapolis business people who were just like me. My all-time favorites were:

  • Ray Compton – “You don’t need a lot of money to market, you need to be creative.”
  • Harley Davidson – “There are three things needed to be a successful manager – knowledge, experience, and emotional competency.” With the emphasis on emotional competency.
  • Jeff Smulyan – Great story about how he got started

And the other companies:

  • Ritters Ice Cream
  • JD Byrider
  • Scott Jones
  • Ontario Systems

The list really goes on and on. There were a lot of great companies and speakers that participated at the Entrepreneurs Alliance of Indiana.

So, Ron has resurrected this idea with his “At the Top” program. The venue is the excellent Skyline Club downtown. (Get it? “At the Top” on top of Indianapolis?) The format is going to be similar to what we did at EAI. There will be cocktails and appetizers with a guest speaker for each meeting.

So, if you are an Entrepreneur seeking inspiration from other Entrepreneurs that have gone through what you are experiencing, go to the “At the Top” meeting November 18, 2009.

What: At the Top
When: November 18, 2009
Time: 5:30p
Where: Skyline Club – Downtown Indianapolis

Professional Blog Service is very happy to be a co-sponsor of this important series of meetings. Without entrepreneurs, there is no economy. And we’re happy to help contribute our efforts to this event.

Photo: ExistDifferently

When Ghost Bloggers Don’t Have Time to Write About Ghost Blogging

I always used to laugh at the marketing companies that had so-so or even non-existent websites, not out of a sense of schadenfreude, but more because I remembered the saying about the shoemaker’s children having no shoes.

It’s an understandable problem. The successful companies are often so busy, they can’t devote enough attention to their own website, because they’re so busy working on clients issues.

“I’ll never get that busy,” I told myself once, but quickly changed it once I realized the ramifications of what I said. “I’d like to be too busy to work on my company’s blog.”

Et voila! Here’s my first post in nearly two weeks, because we’ve all been too busy to write them. (If you’re a client, don’t worry. We’ve been too busy working on your stuff.)

Think about it: we’ve been too busy ghostwriting other people’s blog posts, we haven’t been able to write blog posts about ghostwriting. (Trust me, if you were at a college party, you’d think that was really deep.)

Admittedly, it’s a nice problem to have, but it’s not how we like to operate. We’re able to get our work done, but at the end of the day, when 9 of our 10 To Do items are finished, guess which one #10 is. And guess where it goes on tomorrow’s list.

This is the very same problem most of our clients have. They think, “Writing my own blog isn’t that hard. I’ll get to it when I’ve got the time.”

For a couple weeks, they do. They’re faithful, they’re dedicated, and they’re busy. Then one day, it’s easy to let one slide. No big deal, you’ll do it tomorrow. Then you let it slide another day. And then another, and another.

Pretty soon, you’re looking at three weeks without any posts whatsoever. Not even an electronic sausage.

That’s why it’s important to have some kind of blogging strategy in place. Whether it’s doing it yourself, and writing ahead, or hiring a company like Professional Blog Service to do your blogging for you, you need to keep a schedule of some sort, and stick with it.

We understand you’re busy. Business and work have to come first, but we also understand the importance of blogging when it comes to search engine optimization and online marketing. It has to get done, or you’ll be ignored by your customers and left in the dust by your competitors.

Basically, we do the work so you can go to your meetings.

So what are we doing to fix our own problem? Working with a couple outside writers, asking people to write a guest spot or two (and doing the same for them), and just buckling down to make sure it gets done.

Because we’ve got work to do.