Monetising a WordPress blog – making money through visitors to a site – is as much an art as it is a science. Monetisation itself can be a bit of a minefield which leaves WP blog owners confused what to do first and which methods are likely to bear the most fruit.
Upfront we should point out that with the abundance of free information sources on the internet, value is a key ingredient. Visitors may perhaps first be attracted to your site because of a high ranking for a chosen keyword in the Google organic search results or from a pay-per-click advertisement, but visitors won’t stay longer (or return again) if they aren’t receiving value.
The reason is because whilst the information provided may be free, their time is still valuable and in limited supply. They’re not thinking about the time it has taken you to set up the blog and produce the content; your site visitors are in it for themselves and that’s where their focus lies. What’s in it for them? Where is the value here? You need to adjust your thinking towards how your target customer thinks; not how you think…
When considering monetisation, it is important to appreciate that not every method will either be appropriate or work well for every site. With some niches, site visitors will not appreciate advertising but may respond well to a carefully chosen offer for a product that exactly matches the topic of the site. In other cases, visitors are looking to learn more and receive good product suggestions rather than be left floundering now knowing what to do next. It all depends on the niche, what the objectives of the visitors are, and what they expect to do during that visit.
With that said, below we will cover the main ways that a WordPress blog can be monetised:
Advertising is one of the easiest ways to get paid for blog traffic. In some cases it only requires signing up for an advertising account with the advertising network and then adding their advertising code (including your advertising network ID) to your website. This is usually accomplished either via manual changes to pages or by using a WordPress plugin which can do it for you (the preferred option in almost all cases).
CPM – Pay Per Impression
Pay per impression (which is known as CPM that stands for cost per mile) is one type of online advertising. The CPM means the cost per one thousand impressions, or displays of the advertisement. The advertiser pays for the number of impressions. They do not pay for the number of times an advert is actually clicked on a web page. This type of advertising is a bit closer to magazine or TV advertising in that sense.
The revenue – or CPM – per thousand impressions sits usually around $1-$7. Specific networks tailor to this form of advertising. One of the more popular ones is BuySellAds. They do usually require a website to have been established for at least six months and to be receiving significant traffic, so they won’t suit a brand new blog.
In the case of BuySellAds, their best publishers tend to be highly focused. For example, a site focused on blogging tips is likely to command a lower rate than one specifically about social media or marketing on Facebook. This is because the advertiser can more specifically target exactly their market with a more targeted audience which makes their advertising spend potentially more profitable.
It is also true that with a site that has many areas of focus, BuySellAds can end up with a laundry list of different ads types offered (several different sized ads and differently positioned ones for each section on a site). This can end up being too long for advertisers to bother to navigate through. A more focused, niched-down, website audience performs much better with BuySellAds.
On the plus side, the amount of revenue that can be generated by highly-targeted pay-per-impression ads is considerably better than when using most pay-per-click ad options.
PPC – Pay Per Click
Pay-per-click advertising is generally more common around the internet. This is where the publisher (the owner of the website where the ad is placed) is paid for each verified click on the advert.
It depends on the network whether the blog owner will have any control on the adverts displayed. This can be a concern for sites that have a particular focus, like an organic food site which wouldn’t want unhealthy food products promoted in advertising seen on their site. Google Adsense lets the blog owner have some degree of control over the ads shown. Other PPC ad networks include RevContent, The Blogger Network, and Media.Net.
Typically most ads on Google Adsense will only generate pennies per click which adds up to only $1-3 per thousand visitors. This means that even a blog with 100,000 unique monthly visitors would only receive $100-300 in ad revenue from Adsense PPC. There are some more profitable ad niches with Adsense, but these are also pretty competitive.
There have been a number of high profile cases where Google has frozen Google Adsense accounts without warning and given an inadequate reason why. There are also strict rules on how many ads can be shown on a page. Google Adsense is perhaps the most common PPC network, but certainly not the most popular for these reasons.
In-content advertising (where the ads are almost part of the content) are useful on sites that cover many different topics where finding advertisers is difficult due to the split focus. It is an easy first step for new blog owners who wish to see what trickle of revenue they can create through their site while their traffic is relatively low.
The Advanced Ads plugin can be helpful in placing ads correctly.
Private advertising is where the blog owner doesn’t rely on an advertising network to find advertisers for them. The blog owner goes out to find the direct advertisers themselves.
The advantage here is that long-term deals can be struck at preferential prices and there is no ad network determining what ads are acceptable. The blog owner is able to pre-quality the advertising company, its product and its message before approving their advert. This amount of additional control is attractive. However, it is time-consuming to try to sell advertising directly and for low-traffic sites it seldom makes sense.
For a comparison, when Google takes on a new advertiser with its Google Adsense program they often share approximately 25-40% of the ad revenue with the publisher while keeping 60-75% for themselves. When selling direct, 100% of the ad revenues go to the publisher.
CPA – Cost Per Action
Cost per action is another form of promotional activity. It is useful for companies wishing to have visitors sign up to a newsletter, agree to receive a posted sample, and other promotionally beneficial actions. The basic idea is that a visitor to their site will be interested enough to share some contact information so that the business can interact with them in some mutually beneficial manner.
When the new visitor takes the targeted action, the referring site gets paid for this at an agreed rate.
Quick Tips with PPC, CPM, CPA and Private Advertising
Tip #1: Avoid placing too many adverts across the site or on a single page. One well-placed advert can receive a much higher click-thru rate than five ads will do while cluttering up the page.
Tip #2: Use an Advertising HeatMap to get a clearer idea which areas of the page get attention from visitors. This way ads can be placed in those locations and possibly removed from others.
Tip #3: Banner advertising generally performs poorly compared to other forms of advertising like pay-per-click or pay-per-impression.
Tip #4: Banner ad income is usually fixed per page or per site. The income derived from the ad spot will usually not scale up as the site visitor numbers grow. This can end up leaving money on the table. Yearly deals also prevent an extensive redesign of the site because the banner needs to still fit in the header or the footer, depending on what was agreed in the advertising contract.
Tip #5: Always look to see whether other forms of monetisation would be a better fit for the audience. It is quite possible that advertising can take away from the revenue achievable from other forms of monetisation. There is no obligation to include advertising within a website; it is usually the lowest-paying revenue source for a site.
Affiliate marketing is a way to promote a product on behalf of another company and receive a referral commission if the site visitor follows the link to the company’s website and makes a purchase. In some cases, the commission can include other products in the shopping cart at the time of the purchase which can considerably boost the total revenue received.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Actually Work?
An affiliate marketer (the blog site) can add the advertising block to some pages on their website which promotes an affiliate product. If the visitor chooses to click the advert and subsequently buys the product within a given period of time (this varies between affiliate networks from 24 hours to months), then the affiliate (the blog site) will be paid a commission for the sale.
In some cases, the blog will have a written review of the product. This can provide a considerable amount of additional information beyond what most e-commerce sites will share about a product. This additional information can help the reader make a buying decision about the featured product. The review needs to be honest and balanced with pros and cons so that the reader is convinced that the information is reasonably unbiased and it can be trusted.
Revenue from affiliate marketing can be anywhere from $10 per thousand visitors upwards. Making $30-60 per thousand visitors is not uncommon which considerably out-paces what can be earned from advertising. It makes it possible to achieve a good income from a site even if it doesn’t receive a huge amount of traffic because of smarter monetisation.
Suggestion #1: Match products closely to the site’s subject matter.
There is no point promoting products that have little to do with what your target audience is interested in. These will never sell or generate any revenue.
For instance, a site about the best camping spots is a perfect place to feature some reviews about the best camping tents and cooking equipment to brew up that morning cup of coffee on chilly mornings. Whereas a promotion about the best sports cars is likely to fall on deaf ears. Choose wisely.
Suggestion #2: Avoid being overly promotional. Be straightforward and honest. Have you actually tried the product? What were your observations?
Longer reviews tend to do much better than short 500 word ones. The reason is that the reader can jump to the paragraphs that cover the areas of interest about the product and still find enough useful information there to make an informed decision.
Suggestion #3: Remember to include alternative options because not every reader will share your particular preferences or interests exactly. Or they may want a product at a different price point.
A round up of several products is a better idea than only featuring one product, unless you review a number of similar products and then have a review to compare each one.
Suggestion #4: Disclose that you make income from affiliate commissions.
It is now a requirement for websites focused on the US market that they disclose somewhere on the site (usually at the bottom of the home page) that they derive some income from affiliate commissions on recommended products.
This is in fact a good policy to disclose anyway because it provides a truthful level of transparency to the reader. If they are being provided value in the form of a helpful in-depth review then most site visitors won’t have a problem with you receiving a commission if they make a purchase.
Suggestion #5: Keep affiliate links only on the pages where they are relevant
Just like with displaying too many adverts on the home page when the visitor first arrives, pushing affiliate ads left and right that have little to do with the content on the page isn’t likely to be received well.
The reader needs to be convinced that you have their best interests at heart rather than you’re just publishing content to make money. When they feel like you are genuine and a real person, they are far more open to smart recommendations that are closely aligned with their actual needs.
Suggestion #6: Look for a large website or recommended affiliate network
A large site like Amazon.com will be a good idea with their Amazon Associates affiliate program because they offer so many products in numerous categories. Alternatively, there are different affiliate networks focused on different types of products types from many other online retailers.
Clickbank, for instance, is focused on info products which are digital downloads offering commission rates ranging from 5% up to 80%. Amazon’s commission rates typically run between 4% and 8.5% with unit volume being the main determining factor on what commission rate is applied to the total sales for a given month (some items like electronics receive a lower fixed commission rate).
Develop Your Own Product or Service
Creating your own product or service is one of the best ways to generate out-sized returns from an online marketing activity. Depending on how the product is sold and whether it is a digital or physical product, the revenue per thousand visitors can dwarf those achievable through advertising or even from affiliate commissions.
Affiliates can be signed up to sell the product on your behalf. Depending on the network chosen to act as an affiliate manager, this may involve giving away 20-80% of the revenue generated as an affiliate commission. For this reason, the pros and cons of offering an affiliate program need to considered carefully, as does the eventual sales price.
Tip #1: Match the needs of the site visitors. Consider running a survey to see what products visitors would like to buy or what features are lacking in the ones they already own.
Tip #2: Develop a website that provides insightful information which already aids the visitors in reducing or eliminating their pain points. Provide information that will be relevant to your product. This will make it a more natural fit for visitors who later become buyers.
Tip #3: Become an authority in the niche or market that you’re involved in. Make sure that relevant movers and shakers in the industry know your name or brand. Become a talking point. Create buzz around the upcoming product launch.
Tip #4: Sign up visitors pre-launch who would like to be notified about the product when it is launched. Better still, take pre-orders before the product is ready. Use the orders to determine true levels of interest from buyers.
Companies are interested in reaching just the right market for their product. A blog with a readership that is focused in the their niche or sub niche is ideal.
A sponsored review is an excellent way to provide detailed information about a product to a willing audience. This can be far more complete than a fleeting advertisement that can impart little real information to potential buyers.
It is important that a disclaimer is included to state that remuneration was provided by the product supplier in exchange for a fair review of their product. Sometimes companies would prefer that you do not reveal that the review was sponsored, but not being transparent can lose the respect of your readership and raise the ire of Google if the blog uses their advertising network.
Release a Book
Whether a legacy published book in retail stores or a Kindle eBook, launching a book is a good way to make more people aware of your brand.
Without being overly promotional about what your site can offer, the quality of the writing and subject matter covered can speak for itself. A bonus offer for readers who click-thru to the website to sign up to your newsletter also allows the site to collect contact information from book buyers who choose to participate.
A book can also act as a lead magnet for a more in-depth course which can take advantage of video and sound presentational / teaching capabilities that a book is less well suited for. Therefore, a $2.99 book can lead to sales of a video course or membership site at a higher price point.
Webinars ran regularly like once a month can be an excellent way to demonstrate expertise in a live discussion or presentation with attendees.
A webinar can include guests and be a subtly-veiled marketing effort where along with providing instructional information to attendees, the people running the event can also promote their products near the end of the session.
Carefully managed webinars can be attended by anywhere from ten to 1,000 people simultaneously. Only the most interested people will take the time to spend an hour or more with those running the presentation. This leads to a good level of sales on related products offered.
A service like GoToWebinar can provide the necessary server resources to handle different numbers of webinar attendees without needing to manage the infrastructure yourself. You’ll require a fast, reliable internet connection along with a good microphone and web cam set up.
Try making some YouTube videos to practise talking into the camera. Test out how you look on camera and which outfits look best with your equipment (avoid stripes, etc.) Consider the lighting in the room where the webinar will be held. If you need a whiteboard to write on, set it up well ahead of time and test how it looks on camera.
One of the best ways to generate additional revenue is by collecting email addresses via a newsletter sign up process. This will allow you to turn casual visitors who may visit once and never return into people that can be contacted by email later.
Provide a lead magnet – an eBook or other item – to give an incentive to subscribe. People do not necessary read or look at the item but it still successfully manages to get the subscription of those people who would otherwise remain on the fence.
New blog posts can be promoted to the email list to generate new traffic, comments, and more. Affiliate products can also be sprinkled into newsletters here and there as long as they are relevant to the readership.
Ensure that you do keep in contact with subscribers regularly. Failure to do this can result in many unsubscribe requests because the legitimate subscribers genuinely do not recall signing up to your newsletter. Conversely, consider how often you will to contact subscribers. You do not want to be seen as overly promotional causing many people to unsubscribe.
Generating income from a blog is vital if the site is to continue. Other than hobby blogs, you may eventually wish to reduce your involvement by outsourcing to freelance writers, graphics artists and other people who can reduce your workload. This isn’t possible to do unless the site revenue matches or exceeds the cost of outsourcing.
Good monetisation is often about choosing the most effective monetisation methods that suit the niche. Think about what visitors would be receptive towards. Keep offers closely related to the subjects covered on the blog. Above all else, provide a measured amount of monetisation so that it has a good chance of generating a substantial amount of fresh funds while not alienating the blog audience in the process. Moderation is needed here.