Before we get into the details of building your blog’s audience and making money, it’s important to understand that not all blogs serve the same purpose. There are at least 5 different types of blogs:
- Personal blogs
- Corporate blogs
- Authority blogs
- Niche blogs, or Made-for-AdSense blogs
- Spam blogs
Most blogs would probably fall into the personal blogs category. The purpose of these blogs is usually just to share things from everyday life and to communicate with family and friends. It is basically a public online journal. I have friends who have started a blog after having a baby to share photos and videos. I have other friends who have started blogs to communicate with friends and family while they’re on a trip. Personal blogs can cover just about anything and they are usually not intended to make money.
In recent years many companies have added a blog to their website. The blog could be used for making company announcements, introducing new products and services, and generally for communicating with customers.
Corporate blogs are usually intended to help improve a business or to make money indirectly. You typically won’t see corporate blogs being heavily monetized with ads. Instead, the goal is to communicate and build a stronger relationship with customers, which will ultimately benefit the company financially.
First, I have to give credit to Chris Garrett for the term “authority blogger.” Authority blogs can come in a lot of different forms, but the general purpose is to establish the blog as a respected authority in the industry. It could be an industry news blog like TechCrunch or an informational blog like ProBlogger. We’ll look at more details about why authority blogging is a great opportunity in just a minute, but for now I can summarize it to say that if you want to make money blogging I believe this is the best approach. The information in this guide is geared towards authority blogs.
Niche Blogs and Made-for-AdSense Blogs
Google’s AdSense is one of the more popular ways to make money online, and as a result some blogs are set up primarily for the purpose of showing AdSense ad units and getting clicks on those ads. Not all blogs that use AdSense fall into this category. AdSense can be used on personal blogs, corporate blogs, and authority blogs as well. The difference is the primary purpose of the blog.
Most MFA (Made-for-AdSense) blogs follow a similar approach. It starts with keyword research to find a search phrase with enough searches per month, a low level of competition for the top rankings in Google search results, and a decent payout per click. The blog is then set up with a handful of posts optimized for the targeted search phrases. Links are then built from other blogs and sites to improve search engine rankings, and AdSense units are placed in prime territory to encourage clicks.
Once these blogs are set up there is usually a small amount of maintenance that is done on an on-going basis. Content isn’t added constantly, only as needed. People who make money with this approach will typically duplicate the process over and over again with many different blogs. Because these blogs are targeting low hanging fruit (search phrases that don’t have tons of competition) the income potential is usually not that high for any one blog. A successful MFA blog might only make a few hundred dollars per month, or less. But since it takes very little on-going work and because it can be duplicated, the income potential from having a number of successful MFA sites can be quite high.
In this guide I won’t be covering MFA blogs or niche blogs. Although some of the strategies are similar, they require a unique approach. My opinion is that MFA blogs or niche blogs are certainly capable of providing a good income, but I prefer to focus on building an authority blog with higher long-term potential.
If you are interested in creating niche blogs, please see 50+ Resources for Making Money with Niche Websites.
Unfortunately, there are millions of blogs out there that are little more than spam blogs. It can be done in several different ways, but one method is to “scrape” content from other blogs. These spam blogs automatically re-post content from other blogs, which in most cases is a violation of copyright laws.
Spam blogs typically don’t get much traffic, but since they are mostly automated there is little effort needed by the site owner. They may be able to attract a small number of visitors and make money from ad clicks. In rare cases some spam blogs do get significant traffic, but Google has taken a lot of steps to prevent this as much as possible.
Since spam blogs are only re-posting content from other sites, and in many cases not even crediting the initial source, they really offer zero value to visitors. Unfortunately, some people are actually able to make money with spam blogs, so the trend continues.
My advice is to not waste your time with autoblogging or spam blogs. I don’t personally know anyone who has ever made money with this approach, although there are obviously some people who have been able to do it. It’s a much better use of your time and effort to take a different approach.
Why Authority Blogging?
Now that we’ve looked at several different types of blogs you may be wondering why authority blogging is my recommended approach.
Long-Term Income Potential
While it definitely will take time and effort to establish yourself and your blog as an authority within your niche or industry, the rewards can be well worth the effort. Once you have reached that point of establishing your blog as an authority and you’ve proven that your content is genuinely valuable to readers, the income potential is unlimited.
The hardest part is getting to that point of being recognized as an authority, but once you are there you can make money by selling your own products, recommending other people’s products as an affiliate, selling ads on your blog, and any number of other methods (we’ll look at monetization in a lot more detail later). And best of all, you can continue to do this month after month.
Making money with an authority blog follows a curve. At first there is a lot of work and little payout. As time goes by and your reputation is being established, the amount of work can drop off a little bit and your income will increase. The reason the needed amount of work can drop off is that at first you’ll probably have to work hard to get visitors to your site. As your blog becomes established, the visitors will come to your blog with very little effort on your part. You may spend the same amount of time producing content for your blog, but your promotional efforts can decrease significantly.
Another way of looking at the curve is how you are spending your time. With an authority blog you’ll always want to dedicate time to producing quality blog content, but at first you’ll also need to spend time promoting your blog to get visitors (we’ll cover traffic techniques in chapter 6 and chapter 7). So most of your time at first will probably be spent off your blog. You may be writing guest posts for other blogs, commenting on other blogs, networking on social media, etc. As time goes on and your blog becomes more established, these efforts off your blog won’t be necessary because you will have more repeat visitors and search engine traffic. So gradually you’ll shift your focus to spending less time on things off your blog and more time on things related to your own blog. You might spend more time creating content for your blog, producing your own products to sell, tweaking your blog for better conversions, etc.
In addition to having the potential to make a significant amount of money each month, you’ll also have the option to sell your blog at some point. Profitable authority blogs can often bring substantial amounts of money when being sold. There are a lot of people and companies out there who are interested in buying established blogs and websites. If you’re not familiar with the market for website sales, visit Flippa, a popular website marketplace, and see how many sites are listed for sale and the selling prices of some.
Selling the blog can be a good option if you get tired of working on the same project and you want to move on to something new, or if you want to cash in on your work with a lump sum. I’ve done this several times myself over the past few years, selling blogs/sites from low four-figure amounts up to mid six-figure amounts.
Unlimited Monetization Opportunities
One of the great things about building an authority blog is that you are not limited to one, or even a few, possible sources of income. You can make money in countless different ways, and some creativity will go a long way. Once you have established your blog and you have a responsive audience, monetization opportunities will find you.
As you build your readership you may notice that many people in your audience share the same need or the same challenge. In this case you may decide to develop a product that helps to meet this need, and you’ll have a great audience that you can promote your product to right away.
We’ll talk in more detail about some specific monetization options later, but for now the key point is that authority blogging opens up more doors than other types of blogging. For example, made-for-AdSense blogs really only have the opportunity to make money from AdSense. There may be some possibilities to shift to promote affiliate programs instead of using AdSense, but in general the options are far more limited.
Personal blogs have very little monetization possibilities because readership is typically small and these visitors are generally not interested in buying anything or clicking on ads. The exception would be blogs that are somewhat of a hybrid between a personal blog and an authority blog. Some people blur the line between the two, but ultimately it is the aspects of authority blogging that can make money. Unless you are a celebrity, personal blogging is highly unlikely to produce any revenue.
Authority blogs provide a natural gateway to many of the best ways to monetize a website or blog. The content of the blog that is available for free is critical to the success of the blog. If the quality of the content is high (something that many visitors would be willing to pay for) you can establish yourself as an expert on the topic. Once you are considered an expert, the monetization possibilities are endless.
Building the trust of your readers is critical. If readers view you as an expert and they feel that they can trust your recommendations, the result is a highly profitable blog. You can create and sell your own products and they’ll be far more successful because you’ve already established yourself in the eyes of your readers. They will be much more likely to buy your product than to buy from someone else. They’ll also trust your recommendations when you promote affiliate products, which can be highly lucrative for you.
The key here is to provide the highest quality and most useful content possible over a period of time on your blog. It won’t happen instantly, but it’s key to the process. One thing you must avoid is taking advantage of readers in any way. Building trust takes a long time, but destroying it can happen instantly. Make sure that any product you promote, whether it is your own product or an affiliate product, is truly useful to customers. Never use your authority to make a quick dollar, or you’ll wind up losing that trust and authority. Keep your readers’ best interests in mind and they will recognize that and they’ll be more responsive when you do promote something.
As you are working to build your credibility and to get to the point where your blog is viewed as an authority in the industry or niche, you’ll also be building your own name recognition. Name recognition can be highly valuable because it really makes just about everything easier. Whether it is selling a product, marketing services, getting links from other sites, or just about anything else involved in building a profitable blog, name recognition makes a difference.
Building name recognition is far more achievable with authority blogging rather than any other type of blogging. You really don’t even have to focus on building name recognition. If you’re working on establishing the authority of your blog through high-quality content, name recognition will happen as a side effect.
High Traffic Potential
Every blogger wants more traffic. For stats junkies it’s easy to focus on metrics like unique visitors, total page views, page views per visitor, etc. The truth is, traffic doesn’t always equal income. It’s far more important to have a profitable blog than to have one that attracts a ton of visitors. However, having visitors is essential to building a profitable blog.
With authority blogging you are most likely (at least you should be) publishing new content each week, and in some cases much more frequently. Over a period of time you’ll build up the archives and the older content should continue to bring in visitors through search engines and links from other sites. Also, as you establish your authority, readers will come to you when they are looking for some specific type of content, thanks to your reputation.
While building traffic to any type of blog will take time, in the long-term it’s very possible to build enough traffic to your authority blog to be highly profitable.
High Value for Readers
Another aspect that is essential to authority blogging is the value of content for the reader. Made-for-AdSense blogs might be able to attract search engine traffic and make some money from AdSense clicks, but the content is usually not all that helpful to readers. In some cases the content of MFA blogs is left intentionally vague, which can lead to more AdSense clicks because visitors haven’t found what they were looking for and they continue to try to find it by clicking on the AdSense links.
In order for an authority blog to be successful the content MUST be helpful to and appreciated by readers. Without quality content the blog won’t establish authority and credibility, and it likely won’t be profitable. So the authority blogging approach essentially forces you to work at producing the best content possible, which is a great thing for visitors.
When it comes to making money online you never want to have all of your eggs in one basket. Google is notorious for banning AdSense accounts with no warning or for no apparent reason. So it’s possible that you could build a network of made-for-AdSense blogs and get to the point where you’re earning a really nice income each month. But at any time that income could come crashing down if Google decides to shut down your account. This may seem unlikely, but it’s happened to plenty of people and it will continue to happen in the future. Most of the time there is some violation of Google’s terms that causes the ban, but it could even be some type of unintentional mistake. Google doesn’t usually give a warning, so by the time you know, it’s usually too late.
In the case of an AdSense account being banned you could move to another monetization method, but you would almost certainly still experience a significant drop in income. There is a reason why AdSense is the industry standard, because its competitors simply don’t produce as much income for publishers.
Even if you’re not making money from AdSense you could still be vulnerable if you are relying primarily on one source for traffic. Google searches are the leading source of traffic for many blogs and websites, but the algorithm is changed constantly and it’s not uncommon for sites to lose huge amounts of traffic overnight due to this. In the past few years Google has had several major updates that impacted thousands, if not millions, of sites and blogs.
The benefit of authority blogging here is that you are not tied down to once source of income or one source of traffic. Ideally, your profitable blog will bring in money in a few different ways. AdSense may be one of them, but you may also have income from affiliate programs and from your own product sales, and maybe from ad sales. In this case, if your AdSense account is banned you may experience a drop in income, but it’s not devastating. Also, authority blogs should be attracting traffic in a lot of different ways (search engines, repeat visitors, newsletter subscribers, links from other sites), so a drop in search engine rankings shouldn’t be devastating either.
With one of my blogs in the past I experienced a significant drop in traffic after a Google algorithm change. Despite the drop in traffic, I was able to keep income steady by releasing new products and making some tweaks to the site to increase sales. This helped to decrease my reliance on Google, and I improved the stability of my income.
Launching Point for Other Blogs and Websites
Once you have an established and successful blog, duplicating the process can be much easier. Many bloggers choose to launch a second blog on a related topic, one that would share a similar target audience. In this case you can announce the launch of the new blog on your established blog, and everything in the process of making the second blog profitable will be easier and faster.
When visitors appreciate and respect your blog they’ll be excited about new blog launches if the topics of content are of interest to them. You can leverage that trust and authority that you have built into a successful network of blogs. The key is (aside from building the authority of the first blog) finding related but separate topics. The topic ideally will be of interest to your readers, but it won’t be a duplication or an overlap of the content on your first blog.
Likewise, you can also launch other types of websites off of your blog. For example, you could create a separate forum, membership site, social networking site, job board, or some other site related to the same industry as your blog. With an established blog it becomes much easier to build up another site quickly.