Hey there, it’s Darren from ProBlogger. Welcome to Episode 154 of the ProBlogger Podcast where today I want to continue on from the last episode, 153, where I outlined the timeline of how I added different income streams over time. I felt like there was a little bit more I could say about diversifying your income in that way and growing your income because I think whilst hearing a story, I think there are some principles that we can pull out of this story. I hope that you find these observations and words of encouragement helpful for you.
Let me get into a few thoughts on that story I have told you. Let’s start off by talking about three ways that you can grow your blogging income. You will have heard in that story three things that I’ve done over time to grow my income. The first one, probably the most obvious one in that particular story, was that I diversified my income streams. I did this right from the start, I had AdSense and Amazon Affiliate Program. One earned me a dollar a day, one earned me a few cents a day. It wasn’t really that spectacular a story, I have to admit.
Along the way, you heard me tell how I added a second ad network. That was a really important moment for me where I added Chitika on top of my AdSense earnings. That almost doubled my income over night. That was a really important moment, it was an exciting day. The same thing happened when I moved from just having advertising and affiliate promotions as the bulk of my income and then started to create ebooks. Within a couple of months, I again doubled my income streams. That was a little bit more spectacular than just going from a few cents a day to a dollar a day.
Diversifying your income streams is something that I think a lot of bloggers who have been blogging for a while, most of them are really focusing in on one or two income streams. Maybe there is a way that you can exponentially grow your income in a relatively short time because you’ve done a lot of that hard work already of building your audience up. If you’ve got an audience, if you’ve got engagement, that is perhaps a bit of a shortcut. It’s still going to take you a lot of work but it’s definitely something to consider.
A couple other things that you can do to grow your income in addition to diversifying your income streams. Firstly, and these aren’t rocket science but these are things that you need to be working on all the time. Grow your traffic, you heard me talk about that first year where I didn’t have any income streams, that was a year where I put time into growing my archives of content, building traffic, and deepening engagement with my readers.
Growing traffic is something that’s really important. I realized very early on, literally within a day or two, that I could double my AdSense income by doubling my traffic. You can’t always double your traffic and that doesn’t always translate over because different types of traffic convert for different types of income streams at different rates. The principle applies through all the income streams that I outlined in the last podcast, all of them will grow up if you are able to increase the amount of traffic that you have and also the quality of traffic that you have as well. By quality, I’m talking there about getting the right type of readers to your blog and getting engaged readers to your blog. Work on growing traffic to your blog.
This is something that generally for most bloggers takes time, it’s usually a gradual thing but it’s something you should be always focusing your attention on. That’s why I do so many podcasts on the topic of growing traffic to your blog. Traffic alone is not the only way to increase your income, the other thing that I found really does help a lot is increasing the conversions. The conversions mean different things for the different income streams but converting that traffic into the income, there are things that you can do to optimize that along the way. It’s different for the different income streams. I thought it might be worthwhile to just briefly touch on each of the different income streams that I’ve mentioned or some of them at least.
Advertising networks, that was my first one. Google AdSense, Chitika. I realized very early on that more ads would lead to an increased amount of income. You don’t want to go overboard with that, I think AdSense has a limit, three or four ads per page. Different ad networks have different limits on how many ads you can have. If you have too many ads on a page, Google also penalizes you from a search engine optimization point of view as well. Don’t have too many ads, you don’t want to overwhelm your readers with ads. But certainly rather than just having one ad, try a second ad. You will increase your income that way.
Also, different positions of ads work differently. AdSense for example, if you have your ads above the fold in the top half of your site, if you try putting an ad that floats in your sidebar and follows your reader down the page so they’re always seeing it, that can have an impact as well. Different positions of ads definitely will convert at different rates. Different sized ads, some ads, there are more advertisers targeting those sites. 300×250 pixel sized ad is one of the most popular ones. We find our 728×90, the ones across the top of our blogs, the header type blogs, they work quite well for us as well. Experiment with different sizes of ads.
There’s all kinds of different technologies, even within AdSense. They now have traditional banner ads but they also have ads for mobile, responsive ads. Whatever ad network you’re using, if you’re using one, optimize it, learn about the different options that they have. Keep abreast of the new things that are happening and the new techniques that can be used because this is one way that you can significantly increase your income over time.
Again, you have to have the traffic there for AdSense to work. If you’ve got the traffic, if you’ve got high volumes of traffic, you can actually see quite remarkable leaps in income from optimizing the way you do your advertising.
Affiliate marketing, again there’s ways that you can optimize your affiliate marketing. One of the most simple ways is to think about where you’re promoting your affiliate links. In the early days of my own blogging, I had my affiliate links in the sidebar and they converted every now and then. But certainly when I began to write reviews of books and I put the affiliate links inside my content, I saw significant increases in the commissions that I was earning.
Later on when I developed an email list, sending out emails that were promoting affiliate products, particularly ebooks and courses where it was a high commission, that again is a way that you can optimize your earnings there. Different calls to action, you over time learn how your readers work and what type of products work for them as well. Always be thinking about how can I increase the conversions.
If you’re selling products, there’s lots of different ways that you can optimize that whole process. Changing and testing out landing pages or sales pages. We recently ran a test to different versions of the same sales page for one of our products. We had a Lightroom course that we did, a course that we’re selling on Digital Photography School. We ran one version of the sales page which we sent 50% of our traffic to, and then we ran alongside it the other half of our traffic from our email to a different sales page. They both had exactly the same copy on it but they were designed different; one was a lot cleaner, one had different positioning of the buttons, and some different calls to action on it.
It turns out that there was a 30.4% difference between those two sales pages. This is another way that you can be optimizing the conversions of your site there. The same can be said for when you’re selling services on your site as well.
There’s three different ways that you can increase your income, these are three different areas that I would be encouraging you to think about as you look to grow your income on your blog. Firstly, traffic, it should always be your goal to be increasing traffic to your blog. Don’t become obsessed with it. You don’t need millions of readers, but grow your traffic and grow the quality of your traffic, find the right reader and work on getting them engaged and getting them hooked into your site. Work on the conversions, work on optimizing your income streams or whatever they may be, and then also think about diversifying your income. There’s three things that come out of that story that I told you a couple episodes ago.
A couple other things that I want to mention, firstly you will have heard me in that episode talk about that first year where I had no income streams and the reason I had no income streams was that I didn’t know you could have an income stream and that’s certainly the story of some bloggers. If you do know there’s some income streams, I really want to encourage you to resist the temptation to monetize too early or to put too much time into monetizing early. Really work a lot in those first few years of your blog on the other things that I talked about; learning how to blog better, creating great content, building traffic, and building community.
When I started Digital Photography School back in 2006 it was, I spent the first two years really not monetizing that site very much. Yep, I had some AdSense ads on there, yep I occasionally linked to Amazon, but I did very little active monetization of that site. I kind of had those things there but I was more focused on the other things I just mentioned, creating great content, driving traffic, because I knew that if I really spent that time investing into those foundational things that I’d be so much more effective at growing an income later.
Another thing that I want to say out of that story I shared was that most of the income streams I talked about there started as really small, uncertain experiments. All of them started small in some way or another. Yes, some of them had more spectacular starts like the first ebook I had which I mentioned sold $70,000, but that was still a very small nervous experient. It was repurposed content, it was me not quite knowing how it was going to go, so only spending a little bit on design. It was me signing up for shopping cart that cost $5 a month, E-Junkie.
I could’ve put a lot more time, a lot more energy, a lot more effort into that income stream but I am a bit risk averse and decided to bootstrap it and to see what would happen. I’m so glad I did because I could’ve spent years developing that product and then find it didn’t work. I’d rather spend a few months developing that product, get it out there, learn a lot and then see what happens. Small experiments are totally okay. You’re much more likely to take action on a small step than a big perfect product which will never actually happen, you can’t develop a perfect product, it’s just impossible. Small experiments.
In each case, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I want to be clear on that. A lot of times, you hear full time bloggers talking as if they know all the answers. I had no idea, those first ebooks I didn’t know whether they would work, I didn’t know whether anyone would buy them, I didn’t even know whether my readers would get angry, some of them buying something that was already on the site. That’s why I undersold it and I over-explained it in my first product. I had no idea whether they would work, I didn’t really understand the whole process but I did it anyway. That’s the important thing, taking action on these things.
Another thing I really want to point out from the story is that everything I did, almost one thing led to another. It’s very easy to say monetize your blog with courses but I only did courses because I did ebooks. I only did ebooks because I did affiliate marketing of other people’s ebooks. I only did affiliate marketing of other people’s ebooks because I started doing affiliate marketing on Amazon. You can kind of see, yes I ended up here, but I only ended up doing what I’m doing today because I started with some of these other things. Treat this as an evolutionary process.
The same could be said for selling ads directly to advertisers. I’ve done some big campaigns with advertisers over the years but they only came about because I rang a camera store a few years ago and organized a $20 on my site. I only did that because I stuck some AdSense ads on my site. I hope you can see here that there’s a progression. You don’t have to just jump straight to the end result. Learn by doing little things. As well as those little things bringing you income, you’re going to learn a lot. It’s the learning that’s as much the gold of all this as the actual income that you bring in as well.
The last thing I want to touch on is I really want to talk to those of you who are wondering which income stream to try. This may be those of you who are just starting out and you want to add your first income stream, or maybe it’s those of you who have had some income streams on your site but hasn’t really worked and you want to find one that’s better suited for your blog.
One of the things I would encourage you to do if that’s you and you’re trying to work out which income stream, I want you to really try and put yourself in the shoes of your readers and try and get in touch with their intent and ask yourself the question why are your readers on your site? Why are they there? Try and get in touch with their intent, what are they doing there? Are they there looking for information, are they there looking to learn something, are they there because they want community? Are they there because they’re researching something and are in the process of buying something? Are they there because they want to be entertained?
The reason I really think it’s important to dig into the intent of your reader is that different reader intents lend themselves to different types of monetization. I learned this the hard way. My first digital photography blog, which doesn’t exist today, was a digital camera review blog. It was one where I reviewed cameras, I talked about new cameras that were being released, and I aggregated reviews that other people were writing around the web. You could come and find a particular model and then go and easily be able to find out what other people are saying about it.
The reader intent of that first blog was that my readers were on my site to research a purchase of a digital camera. They were there trying to work out whether they should buy the Canon or the Sony. They were there trying to work out whether they should buy the A70 or the A90 camera. They were there basically in a research mode. What worked really well on that site was affiliate marketing where I’d link to camera stores or Amazon where they could then buy the product. They’re researching it, we give them a recommendation one way or the other, we tell them which camera is right for what type of person, and then they are like okay, I’m going to buy that camera. There’s a link to where I can buy it. A high percentage of them bought those cameras. Affiliate marketing worked really well.
Advertising also worked well, both ad networks but also working directly with advertisers because advertisers who sold digital cameras wanted to have their brands and wanted to have their stores in front of our readers at the time they’re buying a product. The reader intent really worked well for affiliate and for advertising, particularly around gear and cameras.
What didn’t work well on that first photography blog was us promoting products like ebooks on how to use cameras. Even though they were still about photography, people were not there looking for that type of information. They were there making a decision about buying a product. Ebooks did not work at all on that particular blog. I tried quite a few them out, let me tell you.
Later on, I started Digital Photography School. Digital Photography School how to use cameras and the intent of our readers on Digital Photography School to this day is they want to learn how to use cameras. Any kind of information product, our own or an affiliate’s, works well. So does software or some sort of prop that’s going to help them improve the end result of their photos, that’s what our readers are there looking for. Some of them have a secondary intent as well, some of them are actually looking to improve their photos by upgrading their camera gear as well.
Affiliate links and advertisers looking to sell gear kind of work on our side with some of our readers. Your blog might have major intent, they’re there looking to learn but then they might have a secondary kind of intent as well. Other income streams may work as secondary income streams as well. Get in touch with the intent of your readers and that may give you a hint as to what income stream might be useful to your readers.
The last thing I’ll say particularly if you’re in the early days and you’re trying to work out what income stream might work for you, one of the quickest things you can do is to look at other blogs in your niche and particularly other blogs that have similar reader intents to you. Look around, see what other blogs are using, what ad networks are they using. You can often tell if an ad is from an ad network, there’s often a tiny little icon in the corner of the banner ad which will tell you which ad network it is.
Check out what ad networks they’re using, what sponsors are they directly working with. These might be people that you can directly reach out to as well. What affiliate products are they promoting, what products of their own do they have? You could become an affiliate for those products or you could develop something similar as well. Look at what they’re doing, what services are they offering as well would be another one. Check out what others in your niche are doing, it’s just an easy way to work out what income streams might be worth investigating as well.
I hope you found that useful. I look forward to chatting with you in the next couple of days, I hope you’re doing well. Let me know in the comments on the show notes if you’ve got any questions. If you wouldn’t mind popping over to iTunes and leaving a review, that would be greatly appreciated as well. Chat with you soon, bye!