This is a guest post written by Jennifer Mattern.
How Bloggers can Monetize a Blog Without Selling Out?
Do you run your own blog? Would you like to make money through your blog, but you worry that you’ll be perceived as a sell out? Well stop worrying! Making money doesn’t have to mean selling your soul to advertisers. You can make money blogging, be compensated well for the hard work you put into your blog, and still keep your ethical standards. The trick? Put yourself in your readers’ shoes.
Before we jump into tips on making money from your blog while maintaining your standards, let’s look at what it really means to “sell out.”
What Does it Mean to “Sell Out” as a Blogger?
As a blogger, here are some examples of things you might do that could damage your reputation and make readers view you as a sell out (or stop visiting altogether):
1. You write more for the money than for your readers — as in you have a lot of affiliate reviews and not much else.
2. You let sponsorships influence the editorial side of your blog in any way.
3. You accept money for posts, reviews, or other sponsorships without fully disclosing that relationship to readers.
4. You have so many ads littering your blog that readers can’t bear to spend time there.
10 Tips for Monetizing Your Blog Without Selling Out
You can be assertive about monetizing your blog without falling into those groups. Consider these ten tips to help you make money blogging without selling out and alienating your readers.
1. If you take on a regular sponsor, disclose it as soon as that relationship begins and disclose it in every post where that sponsor is mentioned.
2. If you accept freebies for reviews, let your readers know. It’s only fair that they know whether or not you cared enough about the product or service to pay for it out of your own pocket.
3. Keep reviews balanced. That means sharing both the good and the bad. If someone requires “positive” reviews for a freebie or payment, run. That’s unethical and it’s a violation of your readers’ trust — classic sell out behavior.
4. If you take on private advertisements, vet them thoroughly. Only take on advertisers you are willing to stand behind. Readers should know they can trust a site you accept as an advertiser — it’s a form of recommendation from you to them. In other words, if you’ve had terrible experiences with a certain airline, don’t accept their money in the form of advertisements on your travel blog. Choose advertisers you would patronize personally. If you use a contextual ad network, you can usually filter out “bad” ads.
5. Test affiliate products before promoting them. If you haven’t used something, you really don’t have any business telling others to try it. This isn’t mass media. It’s blogging. Readers build a more personal connection to you, and those promotions come across as personal recommendations. If you unknowingly get readers to spend money on garbage — like luggage that barely survives the first trip — they’ll remember that later.
6. Don’t overwhelm visitors with too many ads. You can actually hurt your conversions with ad overload. Keep them minimal at first and test different ad placements over the course of several months. Placement can matter much more than quantity. If you come across multiple placements with good conversions, consider adding more ad spots later. Just make sure the blog remains user-friendly.
7. If readers report questionable ads, remove them. The same goes for when a company does something you consider unethical. You never have to support companies, products or services you don’t believe in — even if you did believe in them yesterday. Readers understand that opinions can change. If an advertiser’s quality does, reconsider their offers.
8. If you’re really uncomfortable putting ads on your site, consider a donation model instead. You aren’t selling anything, so you can’t technically sell out. And people compensate you based on the value they find in what you offer.
9. Focus on building a solid readership and not just on stuffing more ads on the blog. The more readers you have, the more you can generally earn. But you also have to “earn” those readers. Keep the focus on relevant quality content and conversations and you’ll set yourself up for better long-term earnings without selling out in any way.
10. One of the best ways to make money blogging without selling out is to use your blog to promote and sell your own products. For example, consider writing a short e-book or a collection of travel planning worksheets.
You don’t ever have to sell out to third parties to run a financially successful blog. And it isn’t worth the risk of potentially alienating readers for good. What’s your balance between blogging income and reader trust?
Share your own tips for making money blogging without selling out in the comments.
Nice piece of info. Thanks for sharing.
I’ve mentioned this before also. Your comment always land into spam since you tend to leave your blog’s link in comment. I have once again removed it.
However, your blog’s link is available alongwith your name. 🙂
That is a very informative post… The tough part is to get a very solid and genuine reader base…
Yeah, that’s the toughest part.
What I always recommend is that first one should build up a reader base for one’s site before even attempting to make money out of it.
And your readers are not always your friends & family but who sincerely think you are producing a good content. It’s really a hard job.
I believe the content of the blog should be close to truth or personal experience with due acknowledgements. Monetising blogs takes a long long time, if you have a commercial model than that it better.
These are great recommendations. I also liked the list of what is considered a ‘sell out’- I was never sure what that was…but as I read through the list, I agreed.
A valuable post.
@arti – Just stick with it. If you keep providing content people really want, eventually they’ll do the work of spreading the word for you. 🙂
@umesh – There are definitely different types of blogs. Those focused more on personal experience tend to be less focused on income. Those focused on income tend to deal more with news or niche subject matter (such as how-to tutorials for a specific audience). There’s nothing wrong with any kind of blogging. We all have our own goals and different approaches to it. And it sounds like you have some good idea for your own. 🙂
@connie – I’m sure others will have their own interpretations. I just tried to pick some of the more common examples. My philosophy is this. It’s ok to make money with your blog. It’s ok to make a LOT of money with your blog. But it’s not ok to value money so much that you start to neglect your readers. In the end, putting readers first usually helps you earn more because you build trust and a loyal readership. I think the biggest problems come when people want to earn money but they don’t want to put in the work to build that readership and the trust.
There are blogs I simply stopped reading because of that. Either the ads were slowing down the website (some even made me computer crash!). Some reviews are so obviously scripted they are painful to read.
At one point, some people decided they wanted to get rich fast with their blog. It didn’t happen and they lose their readers.
Some people are always interested in money part whether it is yours or theirs.
When one of the persons I know was casually told that I blog, first thing he asked me, how much money I make from it ! Otherwise, why should anyone ‘waste’ his/her time on something like writing a log or building a reader base.
I was bemused. 🙂
@zhu – That’s just it. They’re told they can get rich quick. That’s not the case. You can earn a decent income in a few months’ time if you really work hard and have a good niche. But when people tell you it’s easy money, that’s usually because they’re making their own easy money by selling that idea (blog ads or e-books for example).
This was really good to know, the posts and the comments. Thanks!
Jennifer good 10 commandments as it were for writing a blog and trying to monetize, i have been engaged in blogging from Sept 2007 did not seriously care to monetize, except you may see google advts crop up since they have offered the platform….do check out my site and give your valuable feedback http://www.indiabackpacker.blogspot.com/ great day.