Prompted by Make Money off Your Blog, a recent editorial article from The Washington Post contributor Mike Peed, I would like to share my discoveries and recommendations on how to make money with online content while keeping interruptive ads (banners, pop-ups, flashy ads, etc.) off your site.
On February 1, 2005, as promised, I turned off the rest of the banners and sponsor promo boxes appearing on my mini-network, as current revenues no longer rely on traditional, in-your-face, interruptive promotional messages. As the road to successful online ad promotion is indeed another one.
But these are unique, effective revenue channels you might want to consider to boost the sustainability and profit potential of your micro-publishing enterprise. If used right, these channels help any serious online publisher move her news site from a part-time passion into a serious, competitive business.
You can’t do it overnight, but with enough nose, patience and dedication you can make good content pay back for itself and then some.
Google AdSense:AdSense is by far the best, most rewarding monetization resource for blogs, news sites and small, content-rich information sites. Google offers AdSense, a service that lets independent publishers, bloggers and news site owners to publish text-based, context-relevant ads next to the content on their sites. This is done automatically without you, the publisher, having to worry about anything else except putting small-sized code inside each of your Web pages.
For every click on Google AdSense contextual ads, the publishing sites receives credit for a small amount of money, while Google keeps an undisclosed amount of the total advertising share. Though many lament lack of relevance for the ads and little return for the increased info clutter on their pages — many silent publishers — probably the ones who consciously make less noise about this, are making serious money with this program.
What few understand, is that to make AdSense work for you ($$),it involves strategic work. Just placing the code on your pages isn’t enough. The focus of your site, the way the content is organized, the way web pages are coded, the titles you use and the color and position you select for placing your AdSense ads on your Web pages all make a difference to the results you get. Significant.
What is important is that different rules apply to different types of pages and content. So no set of rules equally apply to all sites. The key is for the publisher to keep questioning the integration of contextual, text-based ads by doing systematic, ongoing testing, experimentation and optimization. For a focused blogger, this can mean from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per month. For a dedicated publisher covering high-paying information areas, it is possible to get into the 5-digit range without any major investments and with a relatively short time-to-market. I am not talking about a blogger in the traditional sense, but rather to focused and very professional independent information resources like or, for example.
AdSense offers also the opportunity to monetize site searches while providing a powerful, lightning-fast search engine for your own site at no extra cost. By providing search-relevant ads on your site’s search results pages. Google AdSense adds another great opportunity to monetize premium service and access with relevant text-based information about products and services.
Too bad Google AdSense doesn’t let you select your contextual advertisers from its inventory.
•Blogads: Blogads is an effective solution for taking control of your advertisers and comparing your profit share with your online ad agency. As the name clearly implies, Blogads is an advertising service for blogs. When the service first came out, As I mentioned that Blogads offers a great opportunity for small, independent publishers, blogs and news sites to sell their ad space in a direct and useful way. Blogads keeps 20 percent of your net revenue and sends you the rest by Paypal or check as soon as you reach a predetermined amount.
For your advertisers Blogads provides a great bonus in terms of speed and simplicity: “Ordering an ad takes just two or three minutes. Submit your image and/or text ad. Define its duration. Pay with Paypal’s secure forms. You are done. After the blogger approves the ad, return to tweak and optimize clickthroughs, renew or order on new blogs.”
In the case of Blogads the publisher has control over which ads to accept and which ones to reject.
Alternative services:
Crispads is an advertising network focused on blogs. Crispads allows publishers to place ads in blog entries so that they’re included in their RSS/ATOM feeds to generate revenues for syndicated content.
grokAds – an advertising clearinghouse for both buyers and sellers which works with any type of site. Offers quick and easy advertising to a specific market.
Tagword – Much like Blogads, Tagword also lets you to select which kinds of ads you want to sell to your site visitors as well as setting the prices you want to charge. Add the code provided to your selected web pages and you are selling text ads on your site! Users can create their text ads directly and submit them in minutes. Purchased ads appear on your site as soon as you’re ready.
Create your own Text-based Ads service
TextAds is an open source text ad management system for web sites using PHP. It’s been deployed with content management systems like PostNuke and should work with any PHP-based website.
The Idya AdSystem is a text ad management solution for web sites. It supports keyword-driven text-ads and PayPal payments. Installing takes a few minutes. Simply upload it to your site, use the installer to install it, and your site is ready to show text ads. You can check the entire list of its features. The AdSystem uses PHP 4 and MySQL, though it port to other DBMSs. The AdSystem has been undergoing re-engineering for version 2, however, it looks like the site is at a standstill and hasn’t been updated since 2003.
•Amazon Associates:The Amazon Associates program lets independent online publishers with the opportunity to promote any product in Amazon’s inventory as affiliate agents. All it takes is adding a small, identifying code to the links that take your site’s visitors to a specific Amazon product page (books, DVDs, electronics, etc.). If the visitors who clicked on your link buy an item even if it’s not the item you point to — you earn a small commission.
Though the amount of return with the Amazon Associates program is small, nonetheless, it is another way to get income without adding clutter or not-relevant disruptive information to your valuable content. References to relevant books add to the user experience as it helps those who want to search for more information on a topic to see immediate and hand-picked recommendations.
As a matter of fact, it is possible to earn as much as 10 percent per sale as an Amazon Associate.
•Text Links: Text links are controversial for some purists, but for those seeking a way to monetize content without adding clutter and intrusive ads — it is an interesting opportunity to explore further. Text links are an emerging advertising market that brokers small, text-only links, which often don’t need prominent placement (the payback is not on the clicks) on your site pages.
What the advertisers want is a link presence on your site to gain extra “authority” (like the Google PageRank indicator) in an artificial way. This is why you may have noticed many of these text links being placed at the bottom of content pages or in other non-premium positions. The goal is to increase a site’s value in search engines. The good thing is that as this market grows, the independent publisher has more and more options from which to select. Also, the publisher can approve and accept text links that are complementary and relevant to the site’s content.
Though many text links point to second-rate services and products (online casinos, poker, Viagra, etc.) — this marketplace is growing and becoming more visible, therefore more advertisers of mainstream products and tools are popping up in numbers. Since you are the one accepting such advertising contracts, the selection of what you display is up to you.
To play this game, it is helpful to have a Google PageRank of 4 or more. (Here is an article where you can find out how to measure Google PageRank). For those having a PR value of 6, 7 or more, there is great opportunity for serious monetization. As an indicator, five or six text ads can easily bring in a few hundred dollars every month on a PR 6 site/blog.
•Premium Content Sponsorships: Selling sponsored space is another option for the independent publisher. While this was associated with prominent flashy banner ads, this is changing and expanding in many ways. In my view, the successful strategy is to use selected and relevant sponsors to introduce, give access or extend the value offered by premium content.
A relevant product or service can sponsor a news channel or RSS feed. Sponsors can also sponsor a rich section of additional related content to a standard article. Having a resourceful bibliography or annotated resources section in your next ebook or mini-guide is also fertile ground to effectively showcase relevant sponsors.
X-events, podcasts, live and recorded web conferences, online interviews are great unobtrusive and relevant sponsorship opportunities.
•Related Reports: Another opportunity should see more in the near future is affiliate marketing of related research reports. For sites that cover specific industry or niche topics, this is an opportunity to play an effective marketing role for research clearinghouses and large publishers of intelligence reports, analyst insider briefings, white papers and research findings.
These types of reports usually carry a higher price tag than normal ebooks and physical publications. The reason for the high price tag is because their content is focused on specific industries and topics, and it has information that’s hard to find elsewhere.
The technology that makes this possible is available from 21Publish (the blog hosting provider) in partnership with Market Research.
•Affiliate Sales: A good monetization channel for select products and services is affiliate sales. This approach involves signing up to become an affiliate reseller of specific products.
As long as the affiliate products do not affect the publisher’s credibility and provide pointers to useful, high-value products that the publisher fully endorses, affiliate sales are a rewarding monetization channel.
The commissions received for these sales vary depending on the product and the original vendor sales and marketing strategy. LinkShare and Commission Junction are two of the largest affiliate program brokers. Check out their catalogs to get a good idea of what products and commissions are available.
If you write and publish your own e-books and other premium content publications, you may want to consider using an affiliate sales program to give your products greater reach and exposure.
•Online Guides and E-Books: Self-published books, e-books, mini-guides, tutorials and other types of premium content generate a respectable source of income for those with relevant and useful content to share. Focused guides and reference publications in niche areas are a growing demand from qualified customers, especially when these products can be easily pre-evaluated in some form.
For bloggers, news sites and small independent publishers’ ebooks and online guides should make a natural monetization channel. Much of the content written for a site is easy to re-edit and re-purpose for commercial use. Reviewing editors, topic-specific bloggers can use their writing talent to put together the best content they have on a specific topic.
Selling ebooks requires good online marketing skills, lots of exposure, visibility and honest testimonials from satisfied buyers. A little army of affiliate resellers can go a long way in helping your ebook get extra exposure and visibility. Plus partnering/bundling your product with those who are already the best in your class helps get more copies out the door.
•Bookstore Distribution and POD Publishing: You can also increase profitability and exposure of your e-books by using a company like Lightning Source, which can distribute your digital content on Amazon bookshelves while allowing you to offer printed versions of your masterpieces using POD technology (print on-demand).
•Merchandising: Selling your branded t-shirt or baseball cap makes sense when your publishing project has a strong brand, a powerful message or an issue that it stands behind. Why would people shell out USD $20 or more to buy a branded t-shirt promoting a web site? If a bold tagline spells out a strong message or slogan about something of which many are passionate, readers want to support the cause by wearing them.
I think this works effectively where a) the personal brand is good enough to create a desire in readers to “stand” for it (few bloggers or news sites have this kind of charisma, but I people like Joi Ito or Howard Rheingold most likely can command some of this), or b) the author or blog / site stands for something clearly identifiable. It may be an overarching mission or a number of changing issues that make effective marketing themes for such products.
CafePress offers an extensive catalog of shorts, caps, calendars, mugs with over 80 customizable merchandise products waiting for your logo and tagline to be printed on them. CafePress provides the raw merchandise that you can customize by uploading your artwork and interactively adjusting it on through its online command center.
While CafePress charges a base cost for the material (e.g.: USD $13.99 base price for T-shirts), you can price your branded merchandise however you like and CafePress dutifully manages the transaction, payment, shipment and your monthly payments for your hard-earned commissions. In the process CafePress, also creates a full web-based shopping center that can be customized to match your Web site’s design.
•Collections, Anthologies, Compilations and Curated Content on CD-ROM
Thanks to CafePress and similar services, independent online publishers also have the opportunity to deliver vast amounts of content such as aggregated anthologies of articles, reports, audio and video files, or research collections on CD-ROM. All with complete infrastructure support for the mastering, duplication, labeling and shipping of these.
Again, the publisher pays a wholesale cost for the production of each CD-ROM ordered and the profit comes from the markup that the publisher decides on for each item sold. CafePress clears payments from customers, prints the CD, packages it and ships it to your customer. It sets aside your profit margin and cuts a check for you at the end of the month.
The publisher base price is USD $4.99 per CD (excluding shipping). You can mark up the price as much as you want and CafePress collects payments and sends your profit margin to you.
•Paid Assignment: While many find this very controversial, more companies are using bloggers and independent sites to talk about, promote or cover specific products and issues. The Marqui program, in which I’ve participated, is a good example. But there are other ways to go about it. A person can go to a company and become its official online blogger. A person can take specific assignments for prominent sites and work for them, with or without credit, covering specific issues. The important thing here is to be clear and upfront about it. People are inflexible about this because they’re afraid that the people they trusted and read without question before may now write articles because they are paid for it.
Source: Mastering New Media     
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