I read an interesting question on LinkedIn this morning:
“How much traffic do you need before you should monetize a blog?”
In the thread, the majority of bloggers felt that a large audience is needed first.
I don't agree.
How Are You Planning on Monetizing?
There are a number of ways to monetize a blog. Here are the most popular:
- List Building: Building your email list (with a tool like Aweber) is an excellent way to monetize your site. Even without ads, a site that focuses on building an email list can be very profitable. A newsletter list can be emailed relevant affiliate offers and site updates, generating significant revenue.
- Google AdSense: If you are going to generate healthy revenue with Google AdSense, you will need solid traffic. But it doesn't cost anything to add the code. And when you get a burst of traffic, you will have the tools in place to monetize it. Even with moderate traffic, it is possible to generate revenue. If nothing else, it will help cover start-up expenses in the beginning.
- Display Advertising Sales: If you want to sell ad space, you'll also need an audience. But when the time comes to sell ads it will be hard to do if you don't have any on your site yet. Using ads from appropriate affiliate programs can help fill in those spaces, get readers used to seeing ads and help potential advertisers see how your site looks with ads. They won't feel like they are your first advertisers – even if they are. And in the meantime you can generate some affiliate revenue even with low traffic.
- Affiliate Marketing: If you are going to use affiliate marketing, even a small audience can be profitable. Because you'll be writing about and promoting relevant products, they will be of interest to your audience – no matter how small it is. Remember that trust – not high traffic – it is the key component in successful affiliate marketing.
- Sell Your Own Products or Services: While we have yet to create and sell our own product, I've heard the argument for waiting to launch a new product until you have a solid audience. There is definitely a certain gratification to a 4-5 digit product launch. But I don't know if this would actually outsell the gradual sales of an early launch. I think having a great educational product for sale would give strong credibility to a new blog.
What I've Learned About Blog Monetization
When we launched our first blog, we waited until we had an audience.
For 18 months, we blogged. And made no money.
It ended up feeling like charity of sorts. When we finally monetized our travel blog, we did well.
After all this, it made us wonder why we waited…
When we launched this site we had affiliate ads / links in place. We don't ever plan on selling links or display ads. We will only use affiliate ads and links to relevant products and services. In our first full month, we generated $143 in affiliate revenue. Nothing to get too excited about, but not shameful either. This with just 2,132 unique visitors and 6,151 pageviews. Obviously this is going to improve, but we're very happy with our first month results.
Read how eight online business owners make money with their blogs: How to Monetize a Blog
Readers Expect (Need) To See Ads
Readers are intelligent. They understand that professional blogs take a lot of time to run.
We noticed two things about blog monetization on GringosAbroad:
- When we didn't have ads, readers asked (on a regular basis): “What are you really selling?” or commented, “I don't know how you make money, but we are loving the site”.
- When we added monetization, some readers said “We liked it better before”. They complained that we were trying to sell to them all the time. And although this wasn't true, this was their perception – because they weren't used to seeing ads.
What We've Learned About Monetization
If you plan on making money with your site, you should be upfront about it and include ads from day one. You'll avoid the confusion and make more money.
Readers will want to compensate you for great information. If you don't sell anything, they will try to find other ways to return the favor. We've had readers insist on sending us money via PayPal, and invite us out to coffee and dinner just to thank us. We even had a reader mail us a $10 bill.
What do you think? How much traffic is really needed before you monetize?