Monetization is a marathon: Advice to a real blogger trying to monetize a DIY blog.

Aug 4, 2014Blogging & Content

[mashshare]

One of my developer buddies reached out to me last week, asking for some advice. He had a DIY blogger friend who wanted to work on monetizing her blog. I’m sure her story is similar to hundreds (or more) bloggers out there. She felt like she had decent traffic but was just spinning her wheels on actually making any (actual) money from her site. I know where she’s coming from. Blogging is a lot of work and it can be very discouraging to put full-time effort into a website that produces less than part-time money.

I agreed to take a look and provide some advice to the blog owner. I didn’t know the blogger well, but I did know how some of us can take blogging very personally. I trusted that she was interested in genuinely improving her blog and would be able to look past any seemingly critical feedback in the interest of the end results.

Video: Advice to bloggers to monetize a blog.

Prefer to watch the blog post than read? You’re in luck! Below is my first video blog post summarizing my advice on how to monetize a blog. Click play and sit back, relax and enjoy.

Hey [Developer-Type-Guy],

I had a chance to look over the blog you sent over. I know you mentioned recommendations for monetization, so I will speak to that a bit, but also invariably get into usability, user behaviors, etc (because they’re related). I’m a bit honest in some of my thoughts below, so feel free to edit if you think [the blogger] would take offense.

Observations – Blog Metrics

  • Averages 65k page views per month with 50-55k uniques.
  • Almost 35% of traffic comes from social sharing.
  • Around 30% is organic search.
  • Less than 20% are returning visitors.
  • Average pages per session is < 2.0 (this means they view an article and bounce).
  • Average time on page is 1m 34s – this is a bit low. This tells me users are skimming, rather than deeply engaged in the content.
  • The above are pretty typical metrics for blogs.
  • Page speed times are very slow – sometimes 60+ seconds to load a page.
  • Mobile / tablet accounts for 33% of her page views.
  • The bounce rates are 20% higher on mobile than desktop and pages per visit are nearly 70% lower on mobile than on desktop.

Observations – Personal Impressions

  • This looks like a typical “amateur blog”. It’s disorganized with WAY too much going on. There’s no focus. The user skims the blog post, is confused and leaves out of frustration.
  • The content is really good and shareable – hence so many hits from social sharing. People like the subjects, but once they arrive on the site, they find it too confusing and rarely return. They generally DON’T continue reading additional content once they land on the site. I don’t see a “related posts” section of a blog post detail, so they’re not really asked to continue reading.
  • The majority of blog posts have comments (good).
  • It looks like a lot of the commenters fill in their website address, so they may just be looking for back links or traffic from this site.
  • She’s likely breaking FTC & Google rules by not marking “sponsored posts” as such (FTC) and not setting links to sponsor’s websites as rel=”nofollow” (Google). She has a disclosure page, but all sponsored posts must be marked. Example: [link to blogger’s website]. She could get herself and her sponsors in trouble by continuing these practices.

Recommendations – Improved Usability

  • Remove the clutter. Personally, I think she has way too many distractions on her site. She’s got not one but two sidebars with ads on each and every page. She should be focused on her visitors having an enjoyable experience for the reason they came – her content. I’d then work any promotional efforts INTO the blog posts, rather than as ads in a sidebar.
  • I think she needs to work on her brand. Her blog looks amateurish and the best way to monetize a blog is to build trust and sell to your readership based on that trust and your expertise.
  • She needs to speed up her page load times. This is hurting the user experience and also likely her SEO rankings.
  • She has a site search tool but she’s not tracking (in GA) what people are searching for. This would provide her with valuable insight on what people are looking for on her site and possibly help her come up with ideas for future blog posts as well.
  • She needs to get a mobile / responsive site design.

Recommendations – Blog Monetization

Her current site is over-reaching on its current attempts at monetizing. She’s got sponsored posts, Google Ads, Amazon affiliate widgets, newsletter subscription calls to action, etc. Personally, I’d axe the Google Ads. Her goal should be to get her time on site, pages per visit, (etc) type metrics up. Google ads essentially take her users away from her site and while they provide a small amount per click, she can make more money through other means.

People seem to be gravitating to “free” stuff on her site. It’s tough to monetize this type of traffic. I’d recommend micro transactions where she offers something for sale for <$1 (like a downloadable / printable PDF step-by-step guide on “how-to” make the craft on the page). It has to be inexpensive for the purchaser but still add value worth the price of the item. It has to provide something that the blog post doesn’t. Digital products are perfect for this.

As another option, she could also include a contextually relevant product from Amazon and leverage her affiliate relationship. This would be easier to do with less up-front work (no need to create “products”) but her profit margins will be much higher if she makes the “products” herself. For example, if she’s trying to sell something that requires a specialized glue, provide an affiliate link (image) to that glue in her blog post.

Those are my thoughts for now. Let me know if you (or she) have any questions.

Thanks,

Daniel Brent Ruyter
Digital Marketing Strategist & Project Manager
http://danielruyter.com/
Connect with me on TwitterLinkedIn and Google+

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.

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