We all know there are a lot of blogs out there that promise to teach you how to make money online. You can bet that 99% of them aren’t making anything significant. Sure, there are folks like Pat Flynn who are making tons of money; I believe Donna Merrill‘s probably making livable money… if not more (I’ll let her tell you if she ever sees this lol).
after I finish this corndog
Truth be told, I’m not sure how to make money anymore by blogging. I say “not sure” because at a couple of different points I was making a nice bit of “side money”. I was averaging around $600 a month with this blog and later around $300 a month on my finance blog. Two years ago I was averaging around $250 a month on my medical billing website/blog; now it’s down to $100 every 4 months (curse you Google!). That’s certainly not livable money, but it was great making some extra cash without having to work very hard for it. Continue reading →
I’m going to tell a truth up front; I want to make money off my blogging efforts. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make money, especially if you put a lot of time into it. I may not be blogging 24/7/365 because, after all, I do have a life and responsibilities, but I put enough time into it that it wouldn’t be depressing if I started making money off it (by the way, did you ever notice that little blurb just underneath the commenting policy before you leave a comment? lol).
With that said, I decided long ago that the first thing I wanted to establish with anyone who ever visited any of my websites or blogs or even my videos is that I could be trusted, and that I had ethics that would preclude me from doing anything I didn’t believe in or that gave me the impression that I couldn’t trust the people who might want to work with me. To that end, let’s start with a video:
What Helps You Trust Others https://youtu.be/SIW8wPqCcNA
As you can see, I’m not overly trusting of a lot of people. Of course I trust most of you who comment here (okay, no I don’t lol), but in general I like to make people earn my trust, just as I work at getting people to trust me.
In the early days of this blog, I used to add a product at the end of every blog post. That’s when I used to be with Commission Junction and I was new to affiliate marketing. I was probably familiar with 50% of the items I shared, but I definitely wasn’t familiar with the rest of it.
I was trying to appeal to the people who were coming to the blog, which means that sometimes I had things like shoes, dresses and baby items… none of which I’d ever use. It took me a couple of years to realize that wasn’t the way to go and I stopped doing that, only posting things I actually used or knew about (which is why I link to a lot of books). I also never made any money from any of those things, and I didn’t deserve to (the only thing I ever made money off was that Mailwasher Pro ad over there on the left; I still use that and yeah, you should too. BTW, this isn’t an affiliate link, but a link to the original article I wrote about the product).
Don’t I look ethical?
Over the years I’ve come up with my own ethics as it pertains to affiliate marketing and accepting sponsored posts (which I don’t do on this blog or my main business blog). I used to apply these standards to guest posting on my finance blog when I accepted them and, because so many people didn’t follow through on their agreements, became one of the reasons I stopped accepting them. It was way too much time upfront and on the back end that it just wasn’t worth all the effort anymore.
A phrase I hear all the time these days is “side hustle”, which basically means finding ways to make money off your blog via ads and such. Many of these folk are doing it the right way, but I also know there are folks who are doing things that they really don’t believe in because, to them, it’s all about the money; money trumps everything.
Man… if y’all knew how much money I’ve let slip by me over the years because there were things I just wasn’t going to do you might want to slap me across the face and say “get real”. Hey, if it violates my own ethics or standards I couldn’t live with myself. This isn’t a religious thing either, since I’m a non-believer in anything like that. It’s just my belief that there are way too many people willing to do literally anything for money, and I refuse to be one of those people.
Anyway, that’s me. I’m not going to ask anyone if they believe in being ethical for money or if they’re being ethical in making money because I don’t want to put anyone on blast. Instead, I decided I’m going to share some of my positions regarding my ethics, or “rules” if you will, that help me determine what’s good and not good to do.
1. If you really don’t believe in a product or service, don’t write about it.
It’s rare that I’ve written about products on this blog other than when I’ve talked about books. I did write on that Mailwasher Pro item and since I’m still using it all these years later I think I’ve proven that I really believe in it. The last product review I wrote about was concerning the Fitbit Flex, and I was as detailed as I could be about how I use it.
My friend Pete sometimes writes product reviews on his main blog, but one of the best he ever wrote was when he talked about buying solar panels for his home and all the research he put into it before deciding on who to go with. Check out this post and notice the quality of the information he give about solar panels in general and why he selected the people he did. This is the kind of quality one can give you if they’ve actually used a product or service, and he’s not even making any money off it.
If you want people to trust you, your words will come across better if you’ve actually seen what you recommend personally, rather than many of the researched reviews about products that, if you’re actually paying attention to the articles, you realize folks have never used.
2. If you accept guest or sponsored posts, have a policy and make sure people read it before you work with them.
Some of you know I’m not big on guest posting, and I don’t accept it on any of my blogs unless I ask someone to write one based on their expertise. With that said, I do accept sponsored posts on 3 of my blogs (although only one actually gets requests), but I have one rule that I stick with.
That rule is… people need to use my name in the email. It might sound petty but I’ll tell you why I have it.
I learned that my finance blog is on a lot of lists of sites that accept guest posts. I learned about it 4 or 5 years ago. This meant that, though I have an advertising policy on that blog that most people aren’t even seeing it.
I know this because most of the email I get is something like this:
My name is XXXXXX and I recently found your blog and wanted to reach out on behalf of some of my clients.
Specifically, we are interested in guest posts and sponsored posts. Is this something you offer?
If so, could you please send over more information.
My gripe is that the advertising policy is right on the main page of the blog, with the link just under the About link. It’s nice and bold, very easy to spot. That I’m always asked about guest posting or sponsored posts and what it entails when everything is written in the policy is irksome.
Babies know ethics 🙂
The advertising policy also tells people to write to Mitch at the blog’s email address. I do that because it’s a test. See, I’m big on responding to comments (along with 29 other things as it regards blogging), and if I accept a comment on this blog I’m going to respond to it (because unfortunately we know that some comments won’t pass muster).
Thus, I expect anyone who wants to have a sponsored post on my blog to respond to any comments those articles get. A good test to see if people will pay attention to the rules is to see if they’ve even made an effort to see if there’s an advertising policy (or guest posting policy) on a site before reaching out to the person. If they don’t, it’s easy for me to tell. After all, the rules are in the policy; it’s not like I’ve made it hard to follow.
3. If you accept banner ads, at least check out the advertisers first.
I not only accept banner ads, but I’ll accept sponsored links on posts that are more than 6 months old. That comes with two caveats though. The first is that the link has to have something to do with the article. The second is that I get to check out all links before I approve them.
I check out all links and websites. There are topics I won’t accept, so if they have blogs I check those out as well just to make sure we’re on the same page. If I’m going to link to it I want to make sure it’s trustworthy because my name is going to be associated with it. We also know the Big G is always looking at everything we do online, and even though I won’t go out of my way to please them or any other search engine, it’s stupid to intentionally antagonize anyone right?
4. Have established policies or procedures that you want others to follow and that you yourself follow.
I shared my advertising policy for my finance blog above. I haven’t added it to either of the other blogs that I would accept advertising for because I’ve yet to be asked. I have comment policies on 4 of my blogs where they’re easily seen (if not always paid attention to) just above the comment area.
I also have a way to show people when I’m linking to an affiliate product (a light blue line under the link) and this year I’ve started adding a disclaimer at the end of any article that has a link in it (I used to put a note pretty much anywhere in the post). That’s actually requested by search engines, although I’m not sure how they’d know there was a notice or not.
5. Let people know whether or not you’re providing the service
You might be trying to make money by providing services instead of products. In that case, I’m going to assume that you’re including it in your articles when you write on certain subjects or in your About page.
However, I’ve also known people who say they’re providing services, then turn around and give it to someone else to do. If you have employees that’s fair, but if you’re giving it to someone you don’t know via Fiverr or some other service, that’s disingenuous and sneaky, especially if you’re not telling people that’s what you’re going to do.
I see that often with people who contract with someone to provide articles, then pass it off to someone else and pay them way less than what they’ll be getting. That’s when quality starts to fall, and you’re going to be the one who takes the blame and gets the criticism.
Your ethics don’t have to be my ethics when it comes to making money. All I’m suggesting is that you think about your ethics when you’re ready to start trying to make money online. In person people are pretty forgiving; online, not so much. Be honest and real; that’s all I’m asking for.
With the first post of 2017 I thought I would talk a little bit about something bloggers can do to make money on their blogs. That would be accepting advertisements. If your blog is popular it can be quite wonderful and lucrative, but it can also be dangerous and bad for your blog. Let’s try to take these one step at a time, since there are many things to consider.
pretty blatant advertising!
The first is their relevance to the content of your blog. For instance, there’s a local bakery in town called Harrison Bakery and I happen to like some of their products… a lot! If I went to them and said “Hey, would you like to advertise on my blog”, and I was talking about this blog, I might have some issues with search engines (y’all know who I’m talking about lol).
The reason I would have problems with search engines is that this blog has nothing to do with food or baking and that could be seen as someone buying paid ads on the blog. Obviously that’s what it would be, and that’s what all advertising is, but because there’s no relevance to the content on this blog then that would be problematic. I know the dangers in that because back in 2009, Google took away my page rank (anyone remember that?) because of the text link ads I was accepting, which were paying me a lot of money, and once that was taken away the advertisers stopped coming, I stopped making money, and put through a request to get my page rank back… which took 6 months.
Of course it’s not that I couldn’t link to the bakery anyway, but let’s look at this in a different way.
I actually have a local blog, and since the bakery is local, in general that type of thing should be legitimate for advertising purposes. Unfortunately, the search engines would have no idea that my blog is specifically a local blog (even though I’ve been optimizing it in that way for years), and they wouldn’t pick up on the relationship between the local business and that particular blog. That means I would have to add nofollow tags to the link or banner ad, which wouldn’t surprise me one bit, but if the advertiser was savvy it might make them a bit reluctant to advertise with me.
However, I did link to them in this post; kind of. I linked to their Google Plus page, which is allowed by all search engines and probably ignored as well. I could have linked to their site if I’d added the rel=nofollow tag, but I decided to go through the other route; I couldn’t tell you why now.
The rules by the Federal Trade Commission, which we have to deal with here in the United States, says that if we have any kind of affiliation with a business, or if someone sends us something free, and we write about them and it’s favorable, that it must be disclosed up front, especially if we get paid. I’ve always disclosed when someone has given me something free, although in my case it’s always some kind of book, of which the last one I reviewed that I got for free came from my friend Rasheed Hooda called Life: It’s A Trip.
On my local blog because I write about places and events all the time, but I tend to make all links nofollow to avoid issues with the search engines. Since none of those businesses don’t know I write about them at the time, and since I’m not always nice, legally I’m fine and the search engines can’t bother me.
What if it’s your own product you’re advertising? For instance, 4 of those things over on the left are products of mine, and I advertise something on 4 of my blogs and my business website. Do the search engines know they’re all related to me? Could I get in trouble?
It turns out they do! I’ve registered all my sites under my name via Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. I also attached all those properties to my two Google Plus accounts because I didn’t want to take any chances, and I’ve done the same thing for both of my YouTube channels. You know what else? Since I have all of my sites on the same account via my hosting company, they all share the same IP address; winning! 🙂
Next, let’s talk about those folks who want to write guest posts for you and link to another company; should you accept those posts, especially when they don’t want the links to be nofollow? That answer is “no”, but it comes with some caveats.
For instance, if you have “sponsored post” in the title then you’re probably good because you’re disclosing that there’s some kind of relationship. If you ask me my opinion on that, I believe you should be getting some kind of payment for it… while still putting “sponsored post” in the title.
This is different than people who want to write a guest post for you with the intention of sending traffic back to their site. Accepting guest posts can help build up the traffic on your site and if you’re up for the editing it can become a win-win for both parties. In that case you might want to weigh whether or not you want those posts to have the nofollow tag or not, but if the website isn’t overly prominent and is a blog instead of a website, you could get away with adding a link without any further attribution. That’s because there’s no money involved and no trading of services.
If it’s an actual website and it’s not related to your blog’s subject… well, that could end up being pretty dicey, and either you or they risk being penalized somewhere down the line (y’all remember all those letters asking you to remove links from your blog?).
The last consideration is traffic… but it’s not always a lot of traffic, and if you’re savvy you might figure out a way to get around the search engines and still make a good amount of money. For instance, in my post last year when I was talking about going to the Blogging While Brown conference, I linked to one particular fashion blog of one of the presenters at the conference.
Based on traffic numbers, the blog might be considered a failure by many regular bloggers. However, they gear it towards their particular local audience, they do almost all of the modeling, and they get out into the community and market themselves to the extent that they’ve become fashion consultants and make most of their money off that than with the products they market. Even if the search engines de-listed them, they’d be doing just fine because they’re not as reliant on social media as the rest of us might be, thus they can break the rules and not have anything to worry about; that’s kind of cool, right? Then again, though they have advertising on their blog, they rarely add links to those folks, so once again they’re getting away with murder, and looking good while doing it. 😉
One of my considerations for this year is making a better income via all the blogging I do. I only make money off one of my blogs at this juncture, and not all that much. It’s not as easy as the “experts” make it out to be, and one of the most honest and revealing articles about this was written by Ana Hoffman of Traffic Generation Cafe, which I recommend you read, because no one knows more about generating blog traffic than she does.
My plan is to do more writing, more promoting, and contacting more potential suitors for my services in 2017. As an independent business, it’s all on me to decide how I’m going to generate income and how much, and I can’t tell y’all anything if I’m not doing anything.
Take into the account the things I wrote about above and give it some serious thought. Then get out there and make 2017 your most successful year ever!
Look down below at the big window where you’d write a comment… whether you’re going to write one or not. Look just above that space. Do you see the little message about donation and the Paypal button? Would you believe that’s actually been on this blog since 2009? Would you also believe that I’ve only ever had one person donate something to me… which was back in 2009… and he’s now, unfortunately, deceased?
Knew business; closed anyway…
I added that to the blog after a blog comment I got from a lady who runs her blog on real estate with her husband who calls herself Coco made the suggestion on a post where I was talking about all these affiliate ads I used to have on both sidebars, of which I only have one now (the Mailwasher Pro link just below my book Embrace The Lead, there on the left). She thought it would work well because back then I had a lot more people coming to the blog and leaving comments.
I’d actually forgotten I had it, and wasn’t reminded of it until my buddy Rasheed started his recent Patreon campaign. It sparked a memory in me that I thought I had something, so I came back to look at a post and realized I actually did still have it. However, when I added my comment policy in 2011, then posted part of it above the same commenting window, I ended up having that donation button above the policy. Since no one reads the policy, they never noticed the button, and I’d totally forgotten about it. Thus, I’ve just moved it so it’ll be easier to see.
First, I’d like to mention the reason for the donation button in the first place. It’s there in case you decide you happen to like a certain post a lot and your mind says “Hey, I think I’d like to give Mitch a couple of bucks for this one.” There’s no set amount on it, so if you ever decide you think anything I write is worth something and you’d like to contribute in some way, whether or not you comment, it’s there… and you know I’d thank you till the end of time… or at least that week. 🙂
Second… I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that it’s time I start figuring out how to generate some income from all this writing, with the intention of earning enough money to pay bills, eat, have at least a little bit extra and write some more. There are other things I’d “like” to do, but my main intention is to be able to generate enough income so I don’t “have to” go on the road if I don’t want to. As I mentioned in my post about life and blogging, my mother’s health is worrisome and I’d like to be able to stay close enough to get to her as much as possible (as opposed to spending months at a time out of town like I did while I was in Memphis).
Third… what I’ve recognized after all these years is that I’ve done a lot of things, haven’t done a few others, and in the end the conclusion, which I’m sure most of the rest of you know, is that making money blogging, and I mean real, livable money by blogging, isn’t all that easy to do. There are some people who are getting it done, most of it having little to do with actual blogging, yet somehow they’re able to make money off the consequence of blogging, and I think that’s pretty cool.
With that said, there’s a lot of people who write things about how to make money that, in my opinion, have little to do with actually making money. Let me rephrase that; they might be components of the overall drive to make money but it’s not how they make money. How do I know this?
It wasn’t this guy lol
Years ago I tried to get a guy, who I’m not going to name here (if you want to know who it was send me an email and I’ll tell you; and I mean an email; if you ask me in the comments I ain’t saying nothing lol), who was listed at one of the top 50 people online making big time money, to do an online interview with me. I told him that my issue was there’s all these people talking about how to make money online yet not a single one of them actually ever reveals anything.
I used to buy a bunch of books, listen to a bunch of webinars, and none of them offered anything except a “deal” on their $997 product that they were making a one time price of $497. Heck, it might have been good, but I predicate my buying on what I’m seeing before that, and not a single one of these people gave me anything that encouraged me to buy their product.
Back to my story, I asked him if he’d participate in my interview and he said yes. I sent him a series of questions, asking some specific things, and there were only 5 questions. Well… not only did he never answer them but he never wrote me again. I mean… I followed up 4 or 5 times with him by email, sent him a message on LinkedIn… nothing.
I recently came across another post by a guy named Ravi Chahar, who wrote a post titled Reasons Why Bloggers Don’t Make Money From Their Blog. He listed some pretty good things about how to have a successful blog, but a lot of them have nothing to do with making money whatsoever. I’m going to call a few of those things out.
I’d agree that this will drive people away from your blog and they may never come back, but if it was this simple then there are tons of people who’d be making money hand over fist. I read tons of blogs and some folk are brilliant writers yet I don’t believe they’re making tons of money blogging, if any at all.
For context, go read this post by my buddy Holly Jahangiri, who just participated in the A to Z Challenge in April, which means she had to write 26 articles in the month, titled Be a Data Driven Blogger as an example. Trust me, she’s not close to ever being boring!
Poor Business Skills
Does this help anyone? It might be true overall, but this doesn’t really apply to blogging as much as, well, being in business in general. I should know; next month I’ll have been self employed for 15 years. Business skills I have; marketing… that’s a different thing entirely. Without business skills you’re not going to survive in anything you do if you want to be self employed or trying to make money on your own. In all these years, I’ve had 2 years where I made more than $200K, yet I’ve still never made more than $5 a year on blogging. So that correlation is missed on me.
Spelling And Grammar Mistakes Suck
Once again, this has more to do with blogging in general than making money. I know this because I see some blogs where I know the owners are making pretty good money, as in a livable income, but their grammar and spelling isn’t all that great. These are folks for whom English isn’t their main language, so they’re forgiven for not being more accurate. Still, they’re able to communicate with their audience in some way that they’re doing fairly well.
This has nothing to do with making money blogging either
There are some others I could mention but I’m not going to; please, go read this post and you’ll see what I mean. I think it’s a great post about what not to do as it pertains to blogging in general, and in that vein I’d recommend it, but after reading the entire thing I left knowing that if I employed every single thing he wrote I still wouldn’t make any money.
For instance, one thing I’ve had people constantly telling me is that if I don’t have an email list that I won’t make any money. My response is that even if I had an email list, what would I market to them to make money with? I tell them that I actually used to have two email lists when I was writing my two business newsletters, and I never made a dime from either of them, though one of them I wrote for 10 years. I was marketing my business books and other related books on each post… nothing, nada, zip. The thing is, even if leadership is considered a tough topic to sell, these folk subscribed on their own, some stuck with me for all 10 years, and no one ever bought a thing. So much for being niched.
Just so you know, it’s going to be my intention to figure out this “make money blogging” thing. There’s got to be something that’s not a major secret, and I’m not supposed to be a dumb guy. Over the years I’ve gone the affiliate marketing route, the create product route, the pay-per-click route, but the only way I ever made money was via the paid link ads, which didn’t have anything to do with the blog and eventually lost me my Google page rank (which I didn’t care about but the advertisers did) and ended that bit of cash.
If, or when, I figure it out, I’ll let you know how I did it. Actually, if anything starts looking like it’s starting to make an impact I’ll probably be writing about it here. Y’all know I like to share things; all I do around here is share. I wonder if that’ll earn me a couple of bucks with my little donate button… hmmm… 🙂
What do y’all think about trying to make livable income by blogging? Real dream or pipe dream? Products, services? Ideas?
I tend to violate some rules that those who say they make a lot of money from blogging believe are essential. This is one of those times, but I’ll get back to the main subject in a minute. First, the latest progress from my offer on being available for doing an interview has led to two new posts elsewhere. The first is an interview I did with Olawale Daniel on his blog TechAtLast blog. The second is a guest post I wrote for Mitchell Allen of Morpho Designs titled “70’s Music – The Last Days Of Innocence“. I hope you check them out and thanks to both of you.
In previous interviews I’ve done, I’ve been asked this question about making money by blogging a few times. I used to always say that it was never really my intention to try to make money by blogging, and lived by that, even though, before this year, I always popped in an affiliate ad, just in case someone saw something they liked and decided to check it out. I can easy say that was NOT been successful, which is why I dropped it. I still run some banner ads here, but I’m sure they’re being missed by almost everyone as well.
I now have to modify my statements from back then a little bit. I still don’t try to make money off “all” my blogs, but I do try to make money specifically off one blog, and encourage others to help my income on others. It’s time for a breakdown because I’m going to be the one to tell you an amazing truth about making money online, but especially with blogging; it’s not going to happen the way you think it will.
I have earned a few dollars here and there from this blog over the years, but very little. I’ve sold a couple of affiliate programs, know I sold one of my books (up there to the top left) from this blog, and made, I believe, a whopping $1.35 from Adsense before it was pulled from this blog. That’s it; almost nothing. I’ve made nothing whatsoever from two of my blogs, those being my Syracuse blog and my SEO blog. The first has no advertising on it so far, and the second is just past 3 months old.
My main business blog, Mitch’s Blog has made more money than the other 3 blogs, but not how you’d think. What it’s done is helped me get a speaking engagement and a presentation to a company that both paid fairly well. I have also sold a couple of books on management and one of my CD series from that blog, but the first two things I mentioned makes it my biggest money maker by far, if not my most consistent. See, the purpose of the business blog is to show authority in my fields of business, and it worked well enough to get me two projects that paid nicely. So, I can say I made money online, even if it was for offline projects.
My finance blog, Top Finance Blog, is my most consistent money maker, and in some ways more in line with how some people might think of making money online; sort of. I make almost all of my money on that blog through paid advertising. Companies pay me to put banner ads on the site. They pay me to add their links to previous posts, and some pay me to put a post on there that they wrote. Some even pay me to write a special post for them, knowing it’s going to cost them more because y’all know me, I’m going to write what I want to write about when I want to write it unless I’m getting paid. Even though I have a couple of products on that page and my own banner ads, they don’t generate anything close to the advertising.
That’s not how I saw it coming when I started that blog. I always believed that if I wrote in that niche that I would sell all sorts of products and information geared towards it. That’s how it all began with me as well, having all kinds of sales stuff on there. What happened instead is people with business interest in the financial niche wanted to be a part of it as its rankings and position increased. If there was ever anything to be said for the power of finding a niche and sticking within it, this is it for me. I didn’t manifest income in the way I thought I would, but I’ve manifested it all the same. Now, before you run off trying to do the same thing, let me make this point clear; I’m not “yet” making enough to live off on that blog, and unless I totally write only that blog I don’t think I ever will. But it’s a nice income, and though the last 7 days are kind of a fluke, I did make close to $500; I’ll take that for now. 🙂
Can you make money blogging? Yes you can. Do I recommend trying it? Can’t hurt, as long as you know what the realities are. My finance blog will be 3 years old in December, and it’s taken that long to generate enough interest so that it can make money. If you’re looking for a quick hitter it’s rare that it will happen, so don’t hurt yourself trying. If you have the time, you’ll make something.
And now it’ll probably be another 7 to 9 months before I touch this topic again. lol