Strategies to Increase Your Blog Earnings
In today’s lesson, I want to talk about two things I’ve been doing on my main blog to increase the profitability of the blog – both have been working really well!
I’m going to talk about 3 income streams in particular – AdSense Ad network (although this will be relevant to other networks too), Affiliate promotions and selling our own products.
So if you want to increase the profitability of your blog – this show is for you.
Further Resources on 2 Blog Monetization Strategies that Have Increased My Blogs Earnings by over 40%
My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, which is a blog, a podcast, an event, a job board, a series of ebooks and numerous other things all designed to help you as a blogger to start a blog, to create great content that’s going to change the world in some way and make your audience’s lives better and build that audience to the point where you are able to make a profit from your blog.
You can learn more about ProBlogger over at Problogger.com.
In today’s lesson, I want to get a little bit personal. I want to talk about some other things I’ve been doing over the last month or so to increase my blog’s income. To increase the profitability, particularly of my main blog, Digital Photography School. In particular, I want to share with you two different strategies that I’ve been working on with my team there that have worked well.
I am actually going to talk a little bit about three different income streams. One of them is AdSense, the Google’s Advertising Network. Although what I’ll share will probably be relevant for other advertising networks too.
I want to talk a little bit about affiliate promotions and also selling our own products. If you monetize your blog in any of those ways, today’s episode will be relevant for you.
“What are you doing on your blog this year that you’ve never done before?” That was the question that I asked in the ProBlogger podcast listener’s group on Facebook this week. The responses that you, as a community, shared with me were fascinating. The reason I asked that question is that I’ve become more and more convinced lately that many of us as bloggers fall into patterns and habits as bloggers that can limit what we achieve.
One of the things I strongly believe and I’ve always believed this but I need to relearn it again recently, is that if we want success with our blogs, we need to be willing to do new things, to experiment. If we want to increase traffic on our blogs, we need to promote our blogs in new ways. We need to let that evolve. If we want to build income on our blogs, we need to constantly be trying new things in that area too.
You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity that often gets attributed to Albert Einstein. He was said to have said the definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I’ve heard that quote attributed to numerous people but whoever said it, smart person because there’s truth there. If you want to experience new, good things in our lives, we need to be willing to step outside of our comfort zones and live in new ways. To live our lives exactly the same way year after year and expect new things to happen to us? There’s really not much sense in that.
The same is true for our blogging. Anyone who’s been blogging for awhile now will know that it’s very easy to fall into patterns and rhythms and habits of doing things on our blogs that are just the same year after year after year. It’s very easy to almost see what we’ve built as machines, as something that we need to continually feed and we’ve always done it that way so we’ll continue to do it that way. As a result, even though some of those habits start out for good reasons, we can end up seeing our blogs, our business plateau or even slump.
To be honest with you, last year that’s what happened to me. The realization at the end of last year as I looked at the stats of my blog in terms of traffic but also in terms of profit, that perhaps I become a little bit complacent. Perhaps I had allowed some of the patterns that I built into my blogging to stagnate a little bit and I’d become a little bit lazy in my approach to blogging. Particularly, that was the case in how I monetize my main blog, Digital Photography School.
Since 2009, I’ve monetized Digital Photography School with three main income streams. Previous to 2009, my income had largely been about AdSense, that’s continued. That’s the number one income stream on the site. Not in terms of size. It’s not the largest but it’s been a consistent good part of the income of Digital Photography School.
Another area is affiliate promotions, we tend to promote ebooks and courses and memberships of other people and take an affiliate commission.
The third way we monetize DPS is through our own products. Initially through ebooks, some courses that we’ve developed and also some Lightroom Plugins, some software.
We have these three income streams on the blog. I’m a little bit complacent in each of these areas. Whilst I’ve always believed that we need to need to constantly be experimenting and I talk about that on the podcast all the time, in terms of monetization, I hadn’t done much experimenting, I hadn’t changed things out for quite a while particularly with the AdSense Ads.
AdSense, if you’ve ever done AdSense on your blog, you know that you put a bit of code into your sidebar, you might test it a bit in the early days but then it’s a set and forget type thing. it’s very easy to just allow it to sit there on your site. It seems almost like passive income but unless you tweak it, unless you’re willing to experiment with new things, you can see diminishing returns on it.
In all of these areas, I kind of become a little bit complacent. At the end of last year, I looked at the stats of how much the site had earned and whilst it had been a really good year, profitable year, a year that had paid for our mortgage and enabled us to take holidays and all that type of thing and we had a profit, it was a lower profit than the previous years. There were a numbers of factors at play but one of the main reasons that I identified for this small slump in our income was that I become complacent and I realized that it was time to shake things up on Digital Photography School a little bit and to try some new things particularly with monetization.
The year before, I’ve shaken thing up quite a bit in terms of driving new traffic to the sites and we did some SEO on the site, we’d really shaken things up in terms of getting more email subscribers. I’ve become a little bit complacent on monetization. There’s been a number of things that I’ve been working on this year on Digital Photography School.
Today, I want to share with you two of them because I think they cover most scenarios in our listenership. Most of our readers are monetizing through launching their own products or doing affiliate promotions or running ads on their site. I want to give you two things that I’ve done that relate to those.
The first thing that I want to talk about is the way we’ve been doing our launches over the last couple of months on Digital Photography School. Since 2009, we’ve done periodical launches on Digital Photography School and those launches have largely been about our own products. Every time we create a new an ebook, we do a launch. Every time we create a course, we do a launch. But also when we promote someone else’s product, we will do a launch as well.
Typically since 2009, our launches have usually gone for 3-5 weeks with our launches. Ever since about 2010, we’ve had this pattern of our launch. The pattern really worked well in the early years and it’s continued to work okay but the first thing that we’ve done to shake things up this year is to shorten our launches.
We’d been doing 3-5 weeks for our launch. Typically our launch in previous years had gone like this: we would send out a big email to our full list on the day the product launched. We would usually do discounts at 30%, 40%, 50% discount for early birds, we might sometimes add in a bonus, we might sometimes run a competition as well. And then for the next 3-5 weeks, depending on how long we had in our calendar, we would send out one email per week and then in the last week, right at the end of the week, we would send out a last chance email. That had worked quite well for us.
We weren’t emailing everyday, we were emailing once a week and each of the emails had a different flavor to it. One of our emails would announce the product, we’d do another email that was a testimonial type email once we start to get some feedback from other people who’d bought it. We might do an email that talked more about the benefits of the product, we might do an email that promoted a guest post from the author of the ebook. We might do an email that was a last chance type email towards the end of the campaign as well.
Each one of the email are a different flavor. We would typically do a blog post at the start, we would do a number of social media updates throughout those five weeks as well. It was long, it was spread out, we were trying not to annoy our readers too much with lots of emails too quickly.
One of the things we’ve been trying this year is different types of launches. We’ve really tried to shorten our launch period. This is for a number of reasons. One, it means that we’re able to get a launch from start to finish over and done much quicker which is less work for our team. It doesn’t tend to drag on. One of the things we heard from our readers was you aren’t emailing us too often. It’s only once a week but it’s five weeks of hearing the same thing over and over again. We’ve decided to shorten our launches for those main reasons and to see how it went.
The first launch we did this year was for a course that we had on Night Photography. We launched it on the 31st of January and it was all over by the 14th or the 15th of February. It was just over two weeks and one day. In that time, we ended up sending four emails. We ended up sending as many emails but we really shortened the space of that.
In the first email, we said, this process is only going to last two weeks so we built that urgency right from the start. In previous launches, we would build that urgency towards the end of the launch and it really worked a lot better. We still did very similar types of social media updates, there were less of them because it was over two weeks but there was a little bit more urgency in them as well. We also built into our launch this year a ticker, a counter with a countdown for how long the launch had to go so people could see how long that process is going to last. That was both on the sales page but also on the rest of the site. We have a bar that would appear at the bottom of the site that was counting down, so anyone arriving on the site would see that something was happening as well. That probably helped quite a bit as well. But definitely making a short launch worked well.
The other type of launch that we’ve done since, we did this a couple of weeks ago now, was an affiliate launch. This launch went for five days. It was even shorter again. Five-day launch and it was a bundle of products, photography based products that we promoted that someone else had put together. I was nervous about it being a five-day launch, a five-day campaign because we typically, we’re going five weeks and then we’ve done a two week one and we’re like oh, this is the jackpot, this has worked very well but how’s five days going to work? But we had no say in that, the partner that we were working with, that’s what they were doing so we promoted it for a five-day launch.
There were a number of reasons why that particular promotion did really well. For one, it was a great product, it was $4,000 worth of products for less than $100, so it was a big discount but I think it being a short launch worked really well as well. We sent out a number of emails over those five days. Again, I was nervous about that, sending so many emails in such a short period of time. Was it going to annoy our readers? And I’m sure it did for some of our readers but we were amazed how few unsubscribes we got from that particular campaign over those five days. Again, that one worked really well.
Short, sharp launches is a new strategy that we’ve been trialing. We’ve so for done a two-week launch and a five-day launch. We will probably do some other experiments with different lengths of launches as well. But I will say, so far, the signs are really good and it’s now, as I record this of the 8th of March, my wedding anniversary, my mom’s birthday. Happy anniversary Dawn and happy, happy birthday, Mom. But it’s been the best start of the year that we’ve had for many years. In fact, it may be the best part of the year ever we’ve had in terms of affiliate income and income from our own products as well.
If you’ve been playing around with different types of launches, change things up, see how they go. Try something shorter and sharper and more intense. If you’ve been doing short, sharp ones maybe you want to try something that’s longer. I’m not saying that short is the only way, I’m saying experiment with it.
The other reason I think it works to change things up is that your audience can become aware of the pattern of your launch as well. The reason I know that is that occasionally I’ll get an email from one of our readers saying I know you usually add in a prize or usually these launches go for a few weeks, do I have enough time up my sleeve to make this decision? Whilst there’s probably some positives if your reader’s beginning to know what your rhythm is, I actually think there could be a bit of complacency as well and maybe your audience can become a little bit blind to the techniques that you’re using. Change things up. See what works. Try some new graphics on your screen. Try some new social media strategies as well during your launches, you might just find that you unlock something that really works well.
One of the things that we’ve been trying in addition to shorter launch is sending in a very last minute email as well. We’ve been sending out an email as the last email in our campaign saying you’ve got four hours left in this campaign. Again, I was nervous in doing a four hours to go type email because I’m like what if someone gets it six hours after we send that email and the launch is already over? But that email in both of these last week campaigns that we’ve done has generated more sales than any of the other emails in our campaign as well. Last minute emails can really work very well. For us, in both times that we’ve used it, it’s been a very short email, it’s always been like a courtesy type email, just didn’t want you to miss out on this, there’s four hours left, check it out here. That’s what worked really well for us as well.
That’s the number one strategy. Play with different types of launches and reinvent your launch sequence. Don’t become complacent. You’ll learn so much by trying new things.
Number one, reinvent your launch sequence. Number two is about our AdSense. I did an AdSense order on the site. One of the things I realized with AdSense is that I really haven’t played around with new types of positioning for ads for quite a long time. I think we redesigned Digital Photography School about three years ago now and that was the last time that we changed anything with our AdSense account. That’s a long time, that’s ridiculously a long amount of time. I should have been tweaking and playing with that for quite some time.
The reason I hadn’t been playing with it is that AdSense isn’t our biggest income stream. It’s been something I’ve used since 2004, and it’s done really well for us over that time and it’s just a slow burner but I really hadn’t changed things for about three years and so I decided that we needed to do a bit of a review of that and we really dug into our stats, worked out what type of ads were working well for us. It’s really clear from our site that 300 x 250 pixel ads are working really well for us. The ads that work best for us are ads that we put inside the content so we actually put an ad in the middle of an article, they are the ones that work best for us because they are the ones that people are seeing as they’re reading the content.
Ads over in your sidebar or up in your header, they will work, they’re worth having on your site but the ones in your content worked much better. What I realized is that there are few things that I could do to really change things up in terms of the ads on our site.
Firstly I decided to look out what was happening in our mobile theme. We’ve got a responsive design of Digital Photography School. The way we set it up is that we had 2-3 ads on any page for mobile. If you are viewing Digital Photography School on your mobile phone, you scroll through one of our typical articles. You might see two ads, you might see three. That was how things were set up. That was partly because AdSense used to have a limit on how many ads you could show on a page. I think their limit was three up until August last year. I’d heard that they changed their policy but I didn’t do anything about it. That was a bit crazy. I should’ve done something about it.
The new policy is that you can have as many ads as you want on your page except that they do say you do want to have more content than ads which is probably really wise not only from their perspective but also your users. You don’t want to overwhelm your users with too many ads, so you can change things up.
One of the things that we have done in terms of our ads for mobile, and this is really what we’ve been working on so far is adding more units per page, particularly adding more units into the content itself. Previously, we had two ads in our sidebar which came in underneath the content on mobile and we only have ever had one ad in the content itself for mobile. A lot of the articles on Digital Photography School are 2,000 worth articles. We only really have one ad in the article itself, so we realized that those longer articles we could be inserting more ads in. We’ve got some rules now on our site the way we’re displaying our ads, we’ve built it in, coded it into our system that if the article is over 500 words, we’ll add two ads in. If the article is over 1000 words, we’ll add three ads in. If the articles are really longer like a 3000 word article, we’ll add in four ads.
Depending on the size of the content, you’ll see different amounts of ads. We’ve got some rules in there about them not appearing too close to each other so there’s always paragraphs between them. We’ve got rules in there, I think on how close they will appear to pictures because we don’t want them right budding up against the picture, we want to space them out. We’ve built some rules in on that regard and that’s taken a little bit of coding to do but it means that we are seeing more ads shown on the site which will increase the income and has increased income as well.
We’ve also pushed the ads a little bit higher on the page. One of the things that I realized in doing this order was that we had more ads right at the bottom of the page because that’s where we were showing our sidebar and not so many at the top. Of course many people won’t get to the bottom of the page and they’re scrolling on a mobile, so they weren’t seeing those bottom ads, so they weren’t earning us anything at all. We’ve been a little bit more aggressive in terms of where we show the ads on mobile as opposed to desktop as well. There’s more ads, they’re higher on the page, particularly showing different types of ads for different lengths of content as well.
How is it going for us so far? Purely by just changing the ads on your mobile we’ve increased our advertising revenue through AdSense by—it’s seven days since at the moment and each day is a little bit different but it’s between 40-50% higher every day since we launched that compared to the last few months of earnings.
The next thing that we’re going to do is a bit of an order on our desktop ads as well. And again, we are going to add in an extra ad unit per article, at least one, some of the longer article will get two extra ads and we’re going to be a little bit more aggressive with ads inside the content on the desktop as well and I’m pretty confident that we will be able to increase our revenue from advertising, hopefully another 30-40% as well.
Don’t get complacent. That’s the big lesson when it comes to monetizing today. Don’t do what you’ve always done. The reason we’ve been positioning our ads like we’ve been positioning them was because I learned some lessons years ago. Things change. AdSense has changed since years ago. There’s new types of ads that you can put on your page. There’s new policies constantly being added so you can tweak your approach. That’s the key lesson here, when it comes to your launches again tweak and you will see lots of new things as well.
Let me give you one little last thing that we’re going to be trying in the coming month or so in Digital Photography School. We’ve decided to add in a new type of promotion on Digital Photography School and this is a promotion of our own products, our own ebooks and courses. We’ve decided to do what we’re calling pop-up sales. These will be sales that appear on the blog itself. We’re not going to send an email because we’re already sending a lot of emails through the year and we don’t want to continually bombard our list with email after email but we’re going to promote these sales of our products throughout the year.
Every month for the rest of the year, we’re going to nominate one of our ebooks or one of our courses or bundle of our courses and ebooks together that we’re going to do a pop-up sale. The pop-up sales will last between 24 hours and 48 hours so they’ll be really quick shop sales. We’re promoting them with a blog post or we’re promoting them with a hello bar with a timer in it like we did in our recent longer launches. Also, we’ll be doing some social media around that as well. The idea here is to bring a bit of attention to one of the many products that we have sitting in our store. We find that typically on every day, we might sell one of a certain ebook. Over a month, we might sell 30 of each of our ebooks, which is great. That’s a nice little bubbling income that comes along but I guess the question is how could we shine a little bit more light on those products to sit there, to increase the long tail income from those as well.
Those pop-up sales, we’ll test some different percentage of type deals, or test some different bundles of products as well. It’s really just to try and increase some of that. I don’t expect that those pop-up sales are going to bring in a massive amount of income like if we send out several emails, but I’ll be very interested to see what we can generate in terms of those just to bring out a little bit of the income from day to day as well.
There are couple of things we’ve been trying on Digital Photography School. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes as well that I’ll continue to report back to you on but I’d love to hear what you are trying. To answer that question, you might actually want to go join the group and find that question that I asked, what are you doing this year in your blogging that you’ve not done before? If the answer is nothing, can I encourage you to come out with something? If you want to achieve results that you’ve never had before, you need to be willing to do things you’ve never done before on your blog. This really relates to monetization but also relates to driving traffic, it also relates to the content that you’re producing as well, the ways that you’re engaging with your audience. What are you doing this year in your blogging that you’ve never done before? Answer that question over in the ProBlogger Podcast Listeners Group on Facebook or on today’s show notes at ProBlogger.com/podcast/184.
Thanks for listening. Head over to the show notes where I’ll have some further reading for you as well.
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