Starting a Great Blog Part 8 – Monetization

Welcome to part eight of the Starting a Great Blog tutorial. So, what are we doing today? Monetizing your blog. While you can do this now, some people prefer to wait awhile before putting ads on their website. As a starting blog, you’re not likely to make much money off ads. I’ve been a webmaster since 2004 (though I haven’t been doing ads on any of my sites that long), and with mixed success I’ve made small amounts of money off ads. I’m still only 1/4 of the way to an adsense payment. I’ve made larger amounts of money with other ad networks, though AdSense is undeniably the easiest to deal with (despite their high minimum check amount).

The question is: Is your blog ready to have ads on it? There are no definite answers to that question. Some people wait until they have 50 regular visitors, while others jump right in and add some ads (pun unintended). It’s up to you.

Whatever you choose, I’m still going to write about monetizing your blog. Let’s start with AdSense.

Google AdSense

Google Adsense, or just AdSense for short, is currently the largest ad network on the web (thanks to their recent acquisition of DoubleClick, they doubled in size [What? Another pun?]) . It’s really easy to get an account with them, and even easier to manage your ads.

To register, head over to www.adsense.com (or adsense.google.com if you prefer the long way). Be warned that the registration requires your SSN (if your a U.S. resident), and some other information for tax purposes. It’s a good idea to skim through their help documents before registering, though not necessary. They don’t ask for much. One thing you definitely do need to read is their Program Policies.

Once you’ve registered, you can access your AdSense account. There you can check your earnings, and generate ad-code. What types of ad formats are there? Take a look at their Ad Formats page. They’ve got plenty of sizes to choose from.

To create an ad, click the “AdSense Setup” tab on the AdSense website. You want “AdSense for content” normally, though you can read about the other options in the help section of AdSense. On the next screen, pick “Ad Unit”. In the box next to it, you can choose whether you want

  • just Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads
  • just Pay-Per-Thousand Pageviews (CPM) ads.
  • both

CPM ads are graphical banner ads, while PPC ads are text-links. Leave it at “both” for now and click “Continue”. Choose the ad format from the list, and then edit the color scheme. It’s best if the colors match your site well. When you’re done, click the continue button.

On the next page, you can tell AdSense what channel the ad belongs to. This helps you figure out which ads are making how much money, helping you adjust your ads to make you more dollar signs. Just click “Add new channel” and enter something like “Blog – Sidebar Skyscraper Ad”. Press the continue button, and copy the ad code from the next screen. Just paste it onto your blog where you want it to appear. It’s really that easy.

Well, it’s easy to put ads on your blog, but it’s amazingly difficult to do it well. Here are some suggestions that tend to work well:

  • If you have a wide layout, like Webmaster-Source’s, you can float (use a DIV with a float:left style) a 200×200 square ad in with your content. If you set it to show both text and image ads, it works pretty well.
  • Use a Leaderboard ad set to display image ads only.
  • Skyscraper ads set to images only work just as well as Leaderboards.
  • Use a Banner format ad set to images only.
  • Ads pay more when they’re above-the fold (visible onscreen without any scrolling).
  • People click text ads more often when they’re in with textual content. See the first bullet point.
  • I’ve found that a Leaderboard (set to image ads only) fits at the very bottom of nearly any layout.

Remember, you must avoid annoying your readers with your ads. Ask someone (a friend, family member, etc) if the ads are overly intrusive.

There are plenty of free resources for AdSense optimization available online. Be wary of sites offering to sell you a $50 ebook that “gives you the secrets to earning millions with AdSense”. Get real, most of these are scams.

Adbrite

Adbrite is quite different from AdSense. With Adbrite, you pick how much money your ads are worth. You basically rent ad space by the day, week, or month. If an advertiser buys a spot for a month, you can make a fair bit of money, though you don’t tend to get advertisers too often. When you don’t have anyone buying, Adbrite wills the space with some Adsense-like pay-per-click ads, which are a lot less profitable. Check them out if you want. I’ve made $60 off Adbrite so far (and I’ve received half of it to date [it's payed on a NET-60 basis]). You can even choose your minimum check payout, instead of being stuck with the $100 minimum AdSense has.

No matter what ad network you use, a starting blog isn’t going to make much money. Sure, there are a select few making a living blogging…but their blogs have a well-established user base (think like, oh, 2000 or so regularly returning readers). You’re not going to make a ton of money just because you have ads on your blog. With a good blog, some Search Engine Optimization, a bit of marketing, and a lot of time, you can make some money off your blog.

My advice: Find some un-intrusive ways to fit ads onto your blog, then forget about them. Just blog, and get more users. For advice on getting more users, check out the Blog Profits Blueprint, a free free ebook (about 80 pages or so).

Disclaimer: I’m not making much money either. If you want advice from people who really know what their talking about, check out ProBlogger.

That’s it for today. Come back tomorrow for something a bit more fun (though it doesn’t involve money). What is it? Stat tracking! Wouldn’t it be cool to know more about your readers? How many are there? Where are they from? What do they read the most on your blog? We’ll cover that tomorrow. See you then.

Starting a Great Blog Part 9 – Stat Tracking