Okay, my cynical mood purged a bit...
I've recently started a couple of blogs just for fun and therapy and because I yearn to be part of the in crowd and the entire in crowd seems to have a blog or two these days. These are not ideas that began as money-making ideas nor do I ever expect them to make any money. These are topics I wanted to write on for recreatino and I added in advertising only to experiment with Adsense, affiliates and so forth just to figure out how it works.
So I am NOT the voice of experience in this domain. I am the guy who, judging by your first post, is about three weeks ahead of you. I celebrate if I offset out of pocket costs and just chalk up my time as recreation.
I've been making a *small* amount of money (like a cup of coffee a day not "woohoo let's retire honey!" money) on a couple of blogs I started in mid-December. Like I say, nothing that would in any way compensate for the time. This is stuff I do for fun and I'm blogging about stuff that should by all rights not make any money at all especially given that I'm lucky if I manage to post once per week. Anyway, so my experience won't tell you too much, but I've been
- using Adsense
- running affiliate ads including essentially being an affiliate of myself (directing to another site of mine).
- made a one time sale of some of the content as a result of a cold call (sold a photo).
The biggest cash value item was the one time sale of some content, which I don't expect to repeat, though it could happen.
The most total cash has come from directly hawking stuff related to the subject of the blog (about $100 per month, though dropping to zero for May so far). Even though the blog itself typically gets single digit visits, the junk I promote seems to please people and I get about $1.50 to $6.00 per sale and I end up with about a *sale* (not a click) per ten visitors or so. I don't think I had a single adsense click in the first few hundred visitors so I took the adsense off until it has more traffic (likely never).
Meanwhile, on another site, with 10x the traffic, but still tiny tiny numbers (under unique visitors 1000 per *month*).
- Adsense: about $7/ month
- Affiliate sales: who knows, I only made one affiliate sale last month, but it was $7.50, but that's sort of the point. That one click almost equaled the Adsense revenue.
[edit: THIS IS THE POINT]
So I've earned almost nothing, but I'm watching my logs and trying to figure out what happens. I think the obvious lessons are
- it's not about traffic, it's about Earnings per visitor x number of visitors. If you are hawking some affiliate product with $75/sale and you sell one per week, that's not bad for a hobby. If you get ten Adsense clicks for a very low-paying area, well you've earned a dollar.
- if you target "information" audiences instead of "shopping" audiences, they will neither buy stuff nor click on ads. You can have as much traffic as you want, but your click through rates will be so low that you can't make anything at all.
- if you target affiliate programs like Amazon that will pay you about 5% on a $20 book if anyone actually ever buys one before the cookie expires (does anyone actually do this?), that hard-earned click will earn you $1 and you'll be lucky to have any success at all, even if the entry in question is a book review. Most people will not buy, so your earnings per click on that Amazon ad will be more like $0.10 or less per click. I have even had people arrive by doing a Google search for a review of a particular book, but I made no Amazon sale. At this point, the only way I would even take the time to create an Amazon affiliate link is if I had a script that would do it automatically by parsing the post. Meanwhile, if you target affiliate merchants who have Earnings Per Click of more like $10 (almost anyone) or $50 or more (lenders, places like that who, as it turns out, I do not target), then you still don't get many clicks, but if the click is worth a bit more, then you don't need much traffic.
- most subject areas have affiliates that will give a decent payout per sale, but not all approaches to the subject will work. "Coffee Mug Reviews" will do much better at affiliate sales of coffee mugs than the "Coffee Mug Repair Blog" which will do better with all those glue affiliate programs out there.
So as I start thinking about other blogs or blog-like sites that I might want to do, but would not do for the sheer pleasure, my first steps are
- think of an idea. Talk to someone I trust who isn't necessarily savvy on the subject but can give a good gut reaction (wife, brother, etc). Would anyone read it? If they say no, that doesn't mean the end of the idea, but it means some thinking. Pay attention to what people ask for your advice on. I had started a handful of pages a few years ago with an idea for a site, but wasn't thinking in terms of affiliates or anything and then forgot about it. Recently, someone asked for my advice on the subject. I told her I had written a few articles on the topic a couple of years ago and I would dig them out. Surprisingly I found them and thought "These are pretty good." That got my head rolling.
- see what's out there. Can I add something to what's already there? The forgotten articles pass this test.
- check the possible affiliate options. Are there affiliates that seem like good businesses that I would support myself? (again, my idea passes this test) The affiliate that made me my first sale last month is a friend of a friend and just a good honest business and I'm happy to send business to him. The payout is low, though, and for a money-making blog I would make sure that the affiliates that seem likely would have better payout and a reasonable possibility of a sale (they would pass the "would I buy myself? test). I am planning to add two affiliates that, at least statistically according to the Commission Junction stats have much higher earnings per click and they are both businesses that I have purchased from multiple times and hold in high regard. That's one nice thing about looking for affiliates in an area you blog in - you have an interest so you should know the reputable companies by name when you seem them in CJ.
- ask yourself what aspect of the subject area would tie in best with the affiliates you've identified. Reviews? Daily bargains page? Insider's secrets to Destination X (e.g. for travel blog). Not sure if the rediscovered articles pass here, but I'm still thinking.
- then start thinking about content and design accordingly and start writing. Since it's an area on which people have sought my advice on several occasions, I have a set of articles (some just long emails that I saved) that are ready to go...
Like I say, this is NOT expert advice. This is just what's running through my head lately. I haven't made any real money doing this, but it's been about $200 for the year, plus $125 from the one-time content sale I mentioned. I guess it's 375 dollars I wouldn't have, but it's not what I would have made had I spent that time working, so it hasn't been worth it in that respect. It has, however, been cheap entertainment, lots of fun and very educational. I've also gotten some notes from people who've foudn me through search engines and off technorati and some nice reivews of both blogs from people I had never heard of before, so that was a payoff in its own right.