Blog Money: The Income Outlook for 2009

Blog Money: The Income Outlook for 2009

Reader Comments (119)

  1. Brian, I appreciate your thoughts on this because my team has been going back and forth on the best way to deal with those little square boxes in the sidebar.

    At the moment we’re testing sponsored spots vs. affiliate ones and leaving the lion’s share of ad real estate for our own products. The sponsored spots have proven to be the least productive, income-wise.

    I think it should be mentioned that promoting subscription programs (where available) is both smart and profitable long-term.

  2. Great insight and advice on these points. Once I get my traffic numbers up and set out to monetize, I’ll definitely consult these ideas.


  3. Here’s my crazy prediction: 2009 is going to be the year of segmentation, dividing the blogging community into two separate groups that both call themselves “bloggers.”

    The first group will be focused on making money from their blog. They’ll treat it like a small business, hoping to build it up to the point where they can quit their job and become a full-time online publisher.

    The second group of people will be focused on spreading their ideas. They’ll treat their blog like a platform, expanding it with the purpose of helping their ideas spread faster.

    Of course, there will be some overlap. The first group will spread their ideas for the purpose of making money, and the second group will make money as a result of having such a large platform.

    But I think two separate cultures will develop. Seth Godin is probably the leader of the second group. I’m not sure who will lead the first. Maybe Copyblogger? 🙂

  4. 2 quick takeaway points for me here:

    1. I fairly quickly realized that a blog’s real income comes from selling something tangible–whether it’s one’s services or products. In certain blogging circles, you see 125×125 sidebar ads for the same products or sites on most of the major blogs.

    What’s really unique (and potentially valuable to customers) is what we individually can offer.

    2. “The mass-media model trumpeted a separation of editorial from promotional in a futile attempt at ‘objectivity,’ and now that seems to be falling apart in the online space, especially with social media.”

    That separation is absolutely falling apart with the web–and it’s one reason why “objective” mainstream media newspapers are falling apart.

    The cable TV talk shows and talk radio–both very opinionated, promotional, and definitely not objective–have no problem garnering high ratings and revenue.

    Listen to Rush Limbaugh promote products on air seamlessly (does anyone in media sell better than him?) or watch Bill O’Reilly hawk his books and mugs right after he lambastes some politician.

    Strong opinions on interesting subjects can attract an audience that you can then target with products or services they will want.

  5. This is a timely article for me. I’ve been debating if I should keep my Google ads and Amazon links. My blog doesn’t have high traffic yet and I realize that my numbers will need to spike astronomically to begin earning income from these sources. Additionally, while I plan to earn money from my blog I realize more and more (as your article mentions) that these sources aren’t the best for me.

    Thanks for reaffirming what I’ve been thinking, I look forward to more!

  6. Good post. I’ve eschewed ads for awhile now because it was important to me to have very little visual clutter that would distract from my actual posts. I think I’ve done a good job so far, and have been thinking about taking on a single sponsor like you describe in #3.

    What I want to know (and can’t seem to discover) is HOW do you attract the right sponsor? And then how do you create a relationship that works for the both of you?

    If you could write a post on that, it would be be a huge help.

  7. Bloggers are going to have to figure out how to capitalize on different sales techniques to make it in 09. I think other companies searching for revenue models will as well. Advertising is too annoying and difficult to make real money off of these days.

  8. In general, it’s so much better to sell your own stuff than someone else’s. You hit number one right on the head, Brian.

    I’ll make most of my blogging-related money in 2009 by selling access to my time and expertise (blogging strategy, blog improvement, blog promotion, etc.). I probably won’t even try to really make money by selling things for other people.

  9. You’re right! Mass media hasn’t treated their news as a product, but rather put themselves on a self-appointed pedestal. (We blogged about this very subject today, coincidentally).

    People are circling the wagons in a down economy, and with the Madoff blow-up, they realize even more that relationships they saw as personal still need to be vetted in terms of financial and emotional investment.

    Someone who can successfully cross the bridge will do extremely well. Look for the referral to maintain the strongest returns.

  10. Very gratifying to read – I started my blog as a way to highlight my network marketing business, as I didn’t want to bother my friends and family (and I still don’t)
    Ironically, with starting the blog, I started learning about the OTHER forms of making money – affiliate marketing, etc. – besides network marketing – and it’s been an eye-opener.

  11. I’m not even close to trying to make money from my blog yet, but I’m very serious about trying to do it in the future if things go as I’m planning them. But the more I research things, the more it becomes clear to me that traditional advertising will not be an important part of that strategy, or even at all. It seems to me that taking a more controlling and personal approach will be a lot more effective. But I still have long way to go… We shall see!

  12. Thanks Brian, for you post and your information regarding blog money but as you see so many people are now using blogs and social media to promote their networking marketing opportunity. Most people who are promoting online are starting to make money with blogs because they don’t bother friends and family.

  13. I’ve been trying to decide how to make some money from my little blog. To be honest there is so much information out there. Some say “do this” others say “do that”. I am completely and utterly confused.

    The more articles on this subject the better. It will help clear my foggy mind. So thanks for this one!

  14. I love this point: “Mass media is a historical aberration. For a short 70-odd years of human history, a relatively small group of people told us what to think and what to buy, and we were expected to passively accept it… Before mass media, people marketed their wares directly to one another in a social context.”

    Thanks for a brilliantly thought-out post.

  15. The thing I like about the new monetization models is that you can really adapt them to your own community and your own relationship with that community. You can create something much more organic than simple ads can ever be.

  16. I’ve considered taking down my Adsense ads from all websites. I don’t make enough at the moment on them to consider them income. They are a pittance really. I have some e-books but I give them away. I need something I can sell, you’re right.

    Chitika looks better than Adsense for my audience, and I’ve applied… but, there must be some simple products I could sell that relate to this group.

    I’m not into any of the programs hyped on most personal development blogs – I don’t buy them myself and so can’t push them to others. Clickbank is something worth considering – and though I’m a publisher for them I haven’t maxed that out at all.

    Whatever happened to micro payments? Seems to me that micro-payments which have been talked about for years as being a savior for small online businesses should be here already but I don’t see it much. Is it possible that I monetize each page for 10cents a view? People would do that if it meant they didn’t need to enter their info each time. At least some would. Non-payers could see an outline of the page and payers – the meat. Non-payers could see enough to decide – do I want to pay a dime for this?

    Well, I won’t wait on that system. Will get something else going – but it’s really a task to find something that makes as much money for the blog as I think I should be making!

    Keep up the good work here – wow, you’re PR7. Excellent. I finally got a PR6 on my blog and I was jumping through the ceiling. ..

  17. Slapping too many ads up too soon can be distractive. And I think it is limiting blogger’s income to just ads. Once they earn something, they tend to focus on it more, which in this case means generating more pageviews and get more advertisers.

    Bloggers may treat their visitors as customers, or as a community. The latter seems to be much more powerful in reaching even more people. And your monetization options give several ideas for people with this perspective.

  18. Hi Brian,

    Great article, simple and straight to the point. I like your thinking on the network marketing angle, though I’m wondering to be successful at network marketing online if you need to be as single focused, as in the past since it could just work like your typical affiliate links?

    (one month blogging newbie)

  19. As a “Network Marketer” I can’t tell you how many times someone reads one of my posts and simply picks up the phone and calls me. My entire organization is “cold market” (meaning no friends or family)

    Last year, I took a risk and started blogging about what our company was going through. Very public, and somewhat nasty.

    Best move I ever made. By discussing it openly, I became the authority from those inside the company. Put together a “members only” newsletter and the combination of blog and newsletter has flourished.

    While I’ve only been focused on the monetary aspect for a short time, it’s growing. I have noticed a better response rate when I actually write about something with a simple text link embedded rather than a banner or 125 x 125.

    I like your ideas and from what I’ve seen, they appear to work. Time to bump it up a little more.

    Thanks for the post. Great stuff.

  20. Great ideas.

    I agree that basic advertising is a pretty poor plan to monetize. I think affiliate marketing for many people is the best bet. Obviously you want to sell your own product but if you don’t have one then selling something that can support your ideals is great.
    If you write a blog you probably have an opinion or passion about something so try to sell something that tailors to those passions.

  21. As a long time web entrepreneur, affiliate sites were never attractive to anybody. On average you need about 10,000 – 100,000 unique users per day to generate any type of revenue. With those numbers, you need to have something to sell.

    Via a multi-pronged e-com effort, single transactions with High Margins is the objective. The content must be compelling to want the user to come back for another one.

  22. I’ve really been concentrating on 3rd party advertising as of late, but your post makes a lot of sense…

    You’ve got me wondering if I should be spending more of my time on the affiliate marketing activities.

    Thanks, and best to you…

  23. Your ideals are indeed smart and applicable – as it’s a better situation for advertisers and publishers to work one on one. A better relationship is evolved, and the publisher can find intrinsic ways to incorporate that product into his thoughts and dealings on the internet.

    Sponsorships of products are where I see the future of online advertising. Why do you think Affiliate marketing has grown so large in only a few short years?

  24. I just started my blog recently, and I decided not to use Adsense or ads. I wanted it to be a source of useful information, not another source of interruption marketing. Besides, the click-through rate on many banner ad campaigns I’ve seen is pretty poor.

  25. Adsense seems to me to uglify one’s blog without giving very much in return. Better to use that real estate for something more relevant and useful to your readers, and to handcraft the right offers for them instead of letting Google sell the space to the highest bidder.

    I think PPC is great . . . on Google. Much less so on blogs.

  26. It’s an interesting one Brian! We’ve just upgraded our site so that we can offer a wider range of advertising opportunities – including context realted banners, buttons and text links.

    Personally – I think they enhance the experience for site visitors – especially if the adverts relate directly to the context.

    I must say that Google Adsense is annoying when reading a blog post. Sometimes it’s hard to see the story for the adverts.

  27. the 4 ways you mention above, its very inspiring me, cause im new blogger, but i have optimistic mind, to do more, thanks for the tips

  28. Too true about mass media. We are moving beyond the age of information to the age of communication. Information failed us because there is too much of it and editorial spin undermines our confidence. Information is useless unless it is easy to choose what is important and believe it. What we want is communication and genuine meaning. Here’s to 2009.

  29. The point you made about it being naive of us to cling to how we’ve been marketed to and educated for only 70 years in history was something I’d never thought about before.

    It makes total sense and the way we’re moving now seems so much less, how would you put it, “Icky.”

    I also admire your idea of affiliate marketing to your list to get a feel for what they like buying.

    Also, in reference to the network marketing online idea, everyone here might wanna look out for what the membership site internet marketing whiz, Ryan Lee is cooking up.

    Before the year ended he was blogging about bringing a sexy version of network marketing to his fans.

    Maybe he’ll knock it out of the park. Maybe he won’t. Look him up and find out.

    Note Taking Nerd #2

  30. Regarding the network marketing opportunities, as a former marketing manager for a network marketing company and a current consultant, I can tell you this:
    1) Network Marketing still comes down to that personal touch, so be sure you’re using the web to increase your chances to personally work with someone. The beauty of Network Marketing/Direct Sales is that you can simply plug into a proven system. The downside (in this instance, at least) is that there are thousands of other Distributors offering the same products at the same prices as you. So YOU actually become the differentiator.

    2) Network Marketing companies struggled for years on how to sell product online and give the right Distributor credit for the sale. It was a real battle between a customer-first or Distributor-first mentality (esp. since your Distributors are also your best customers). The industry is finally coming around, but it’s been an ugly journey.

  31. Great reminders to start a year. I definitely agree that bloggers should start to create a solid plan if they are really serious about make money online.

    Making money from Adsense is still a good way to start I believe, but it depends on what you like – readers or ad clickers. After establishing yourself and learning some techniques, it is a must to think of other ventures.

    Creating your own product is definitely better but it may take a while, as you also need to build a good reputation first. I just hope I can make one soon.

  32. I think when people are starting out and beginning to build a blog there’s nothing wrong with monetizing through some ads, especially until you are able to start monetizing through affiliate type activities better.

    right now adsense is doing very well for me, and affiliate income not nearly as well. Until I get the affiliate stuff working a bit better, I won’t consider dropping adsense and other cpm ads because they’re producing a nice side income right now.

  33. Though I’m not quite ready to remove all my third party ads, I will have to start adding my own products to my sites, making sure they’re visible enough for people to see and making sure people know that I developed them. I also like what you’re saying about affiliate ads, and I must admit I’m bad at that. Good article; it’s making me think.

  34. Beautiful point about mass media. I never really looked at it that way and you are right that it is a bad idea to base what will happen in this new age on what occurred during the anomalous and very short time period of mass media influence. BTW if you see this, looking forward to ASW.

  35. Great post. Myself, I got a mixed bag. I have adsense, affiliate, and rewards program. What I do on referral and reward program, I sign up and write a post about the company which offer rewards to its loyal customers by referring their friends or family members. So far it’s a slow start but I believe it will pick up on these hard times once people realize they can make few bucks.

  36. I agree about posting advertisements on a sidebar online. From my experience, most people don’t even think to look at them. I think it may not be a bad idea to try but try other ways of promotion and advertising, such as listed above! great article!

  37. Fantastic Article…. I think sponsorships, with direct promotion through relevant and useful post highlights to even product reviews is the way of the future. I mean if it really is useful to them… then why not tell them about something great. Then, be their with your affiliate link to show them where to find it.

  38. Hello Brian,
    Thank you for such clear advice. I’m especially interested in affiliate marketing and would love to learn more about how to establish connections with sponsors.
    I am just getting started but have very real products to offer as well as content rich commentary and free tutorials which reference many additional products in my niche (art and art instruction). I know my websites, blogs, videos etc will be lots of fun for visitors, but I will be spinning my wheels if I don’t monetize. But I’m not sure how to approach and attract sponsors so I can sell their products.

    I have so much to thank you for – copyblogger is wonderful! If you write more about affiliate marketing, I’ll be reading!
    Best wishes Anne Bevan

  39. Great post! I think that you have to figure out the right recipe for your blog… depending on what market your in and depending on your prospects that you attracted… Hopefully you didn’t attract freebie seekers! lol… another great post!

  40. Between reading your posts and working with Social Traffic, Inc – I haven’t had any time to weave baskets to write a new blog about … BUT I WILL … have time, and I will be the better prepared because of your posts! Thank-you.

  41. Hello all just want to say nice site you got here I’m new to all this but some great imfo have to come back and read what you all got to say.

  42. What a great piece of thought!

    I was running down the article (after I read it of course) to the comments to get others reactions to “making money” with the blog and quickly jumped ship with some peoples opinion. However, I did like quite a few of them. I think making money with a blog is very similar to making a profit with your own business. It takes certain practices, abilities… luck… ya know, not just a platform. Sure, anyone can open up an LLC, but who can turn a buck doing it!?

    Great article, thanks for the info.

  43. Great Article! I specially liked the Number One : Direct Sales, yes why not use blog for direct sales!

    Absence of Google AdSense or other Ad publishing in list is quite interesting! And I liked this too, according to me Advertising can earn enough money only when you have millions of page views a day on your blog! And most probably, Only Barack Obama will get millions of page views on his blog if he writes about his economic policy and war on terror! But than, after you become president of United States of America, you need not blog to earn money.

  44. I really appreciate all the advice you’ve given on this particular post, and even more – your sincerity.

    I agree with you that simple advertising is hardly a source of great income, unless your website/blog is visited by thousands per day.

  45. I’ll be bookmarking this.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far with my limited experience, its that passive ads stuck in the sidebar won’t do you any good. Active advertising, preferably in your content itself converts a whole lot better.

    I think the biggest thing you can sell as a blogger is influence and trust. But then, as a blogger you have to be very very careful with your advertising partners or promotion techniques; the trust you’ve built up could disappear very soon if you choose the wrong partners or the wrong methods.

  46. Good stuff. As a newbie blogger with an ambitious site and an agenda that includes monetization, I’m being mentored by an established big hitter who echoes all of this to a tee. He’s getting all his revenue from affiliate links, none from self-published content (other than his blogs to draw traffic). He’s brilliant, yet he says those who can write without subbing it out, and create their own products in the process, are way ahead of solely relying on links to sell products. Very encouraging… thanks Brian, for covering all the bases.

  47. I wonder if there will ever be a way to monetize that’s not based on products and services at its heart. I suppose not, but it will be interesting to see as the internet evolves.

  48. If you’re starting out with a blog then once you have some decent traffic (say 100+ visits a day) the 125 banners are a great RELIABLE income. I think you put in an element of risk when hitting affiliate commissions (they don’t always pay out) and should have a healthy mix of both.

    Selling leads is also a great money maker!

  49. Yes, just having ads won’t work, especially on small blogs. You need to have thousands and thousands of visitors per day to make real money from adsense.

    I believe the trick is to diversify. Spread yourself around. A little here a little there. The too manye ggs in one basket, type of thing

  50. The returns on direct sales can be attractive, provided one knows how to safeguard one’s digital assets. This is becoming more and more difficult every day and 2010 is unlikely to be different.

  51. I have a very small amount of traffic going to my web site at this point but I am able to squeeze 25 to 50 cents per day in ad revenue from it. I have been playing quite a bit with my format and have added and taken off various ads in search of the right blend. I think my advertising objective is to offer my readers real value or savings with my ads, rather than just trying to drain their wallets.

  52. Now I am working on making my blog more niche than general. And looking for business model as more traffic I have, more I see than general ads (Adsense) have no sense…

  53. Came across the site based on a recommendation on knowhr and spent last hour reading various articles and learnt a lot already. I have found that in some sectors i seem to earn far more from adsense than affiliates but in other areas the earnings from adsense are a pittance while the affiliates are very profitable. I think what i have learnt is experiment with ideas over a period of time as what works on one site can often fail badly on another.

  54. Found your blog at the top of a search for “income blog” when I started getting traffic for ranking onto the same search. Really good points – especially the insight that network mass media is a historical apparition. We are moving back toward personal story telling and teaching just with a new name.

  55. What I wrote in this post is still holding true, especially about selling your own products and affiliate marketing. It’s a very different climate now when it comes to putting the business on equal footing with the blog. It’s not one or the other, it’s a balancing act called content marketing.

  56. I have been thinking about moving up to higher pay grades myself. I never really thought much of those little square ads, cause I have never clicked one, but, those subtle text links in the well written articles are the best.

  57. What are your thoughts on the new FCC regulations regarding having to disclose that you are making money from any affiliate links on your website. Is the FCC really going to be able to police all the blogs out there?

  58. Great stuff, Brian.

    I have several blogs that relied on banner ad blocks for revenue. The income from these has been insignificant.

    What I have learnt from this post is that I need to take a step further. I need to consider any problems my audience has, and provide a service or product that solves that problem. Or look at what they would like to achieve, and create my own product or offer a service that helps them to achieve that.

    Thanks Brian.

  59. Most people start doing the affiliate marketing, and eventually moves to direct sales. I haven’t used sponsorships integration but I’m looking forward to doing that soon.

  60. This post has been very thought provoking. I am about to get my first Amazon affiliates check…$18.
    Glad to get it but it isn’t nearly the gold mine I thought it could be.

  61. Hi, I am a developer and have been running my website for last 10 years and generating some (can I insert HTML to make it italic?) revenue from it. I want to share my 2 cents.

    This article is spot on when it comes to generating revenue from displaying ads. Lets face it, we hate ads. The more you have them, the more the bounce rate will be for your website. And if you have to put Adsense, then it becomes even worse.

    With Adsense, you have to place it, as they call it, above the fold to improve our dismal CTR from say 0.05% to 0.1%. Above the fold means making the visitors see these ads as the first thing on your website. Not only it gives the impression that you are perhaps one of those struggling bloggers trying to make your first $100, it puts off the visitor entirely.

    What I advise to users is to please focus on the content of your website. If you are not even getting 100,000 page views a month, you shouldn’t be putting ads on your website at all. Unless of course, you can sell ads directly to advertisers.

    Promote yourself! That’s they key thing. I missed the social networking train myself. Your objective should be to get your visitors to come back, at least one more time. Your goals should be to get followers on Twitter, likes on Facebook, get email and RSS feed subscribers.

    The thing I liked when I read this blog post was that Copyblogger has placed in the most important visible area on their page, that is, top right corner, a subscription form for their newsletter and a link to their Twitter account. That my friends is what I am talking about! Promote yourself, write good content, and motivate yourself by seeing a constant influx of new followers and subscribers on your social networks.

    How to make money? As a developer, I can say that the answer lies in innovation and creativity. It is easy to develop a web application, a piece of software, write a technical article or journal, and contribute in a book if you are a developer. You have got to have something of your own to sell.

    Ads are the single worst thing that kills your website repeat visitors. I had the model, but now am changing this to writing my own software and selling it. I develop software and then give it away for free; actually explain how it works step by step in my tutorials. This is all fine and I will continue with that. But I will also develop that piece of code further, that I wrote about in the tutorial, and make it available to be purchased online. Giving users value.

    So please don’t worry if you aren’t earning much. Focus on your content, with discipline, keep on adding content to your blog. Try to judge the value of your blog from the growth in terms of visitors, page views, followers on Twitter, likes on Facebook, subscriptions to your newsletter and subscribers to your RSS feed. Keep yourself motivated and keep following the blogs that inspire you. Your persistence and perseverance will reward you.

    Besides, if you love blogging and enjoy blogging about what you know and love, there is nothing that is going to stop you from blogging anyway, money or no money, right?

    • Faisal,

      That is interesting how you mention having 100,000 visitors every month! I have far less visitors than that, but still generate interest from people looking to purchase my services. I decided long ago on my blog that it was more worthwhile for me to provide good content then to keep the Google ads up there. People contact me now for my services, and maybe that is why I think telling people you need a 100,000 visitors every month seems high. It will vary depending upon your business model.


  62. Good food for thought here! Never thought about it quite like that. I have a new blog about alternative green energy ideas and I am keen to try whatever is out there!
    I have some adsense up and a bit of chitika. But I like your thought pattern!
    Thanks for the gold nuggets there Faisal khan! I will keep that in mind 🙂

  63. Whilst I agree with the majority of this slightly dated post and the sentiment of most comments. I can only wonder why Adsense and Google search are so successful then? If Ads on websites don’t work, then they’re a massive joke because Adsense is all over the internet and people pay for those Ads.
    Just like Ads on TV, if it’s overdone people will turn off. Same with a blog, if content is scarce and Ads, sponsor banners, and product placement pictures are all over the pages, visitors will leave and possibly not return.
    But, I reckon most educated readers of good information bloggers websites understand and tolerate a few Ads on a page.
    When I visit sites like Engadget I go there for free information and reviews but the Ads don’t turn me off and it seems sites like them do ok…
    If a blogger (like me) wants to whack a few Ads on their site, I can’t see any major issue and I personally haven’t seen or recieved any evidence or feedback to state otherwise. So until I do, I’ll keep trying to Adsense earn enough to pay for my hosting fees (at least) then the information I offer will REALLY be free for everyone.
    Nevertheless, like the post at the top of the page and many comments thereafter alluded to – content is king, so, I’ll keeping working at doing just that…writing quaility posts!

  64. Actually, I’d put Guttenberg’s mass printing of the bible as the first mass advertising campaign, by the Church, and also the longest continual campaign.
    Otherwise, this looks like excellent communication of valid information and concepts. I like it.

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