The following is a paid review and is completely of my own opinion and is not influenced by being paid. If you’re interested in having me review your site or product, please view my advertising page.
I received an e-mail yesterday from a blogger who wanted to know how he could improve his blog income and better monetize his blog. I receive a lot of e-mails asking for help, and while I always answer all my e-mails, I kindly told this fellow that I didn’t have enough time to properly evaluate his blog and give in-depth tips on how to improve revenue, and suggested that he purchase a paid review.
Therefore, this paid review will not focus on summarizing his blog, but instead give tips and suggestions on how he can increase his blog’s revenue.
The blog in question is FatManUnleashed.com, a weight loss blog run by “fat man” Israel. His blog is a weight loss journal showcasing his day-to-day attempts to lose weight, with topics such as Exercise Your Way to Better Blogging, How Many Sets Should You Do Per Exercise, and Link to Eating to Lose Weight.
Israel asked me not to disclose his blog’s earnings and traffic, although I do have access to his Analytics account and know what his blog makes, so I can gauge how well his site is currently monetized.
While I can’t disclose these details, you can see that he has an RSS of close to 1,000 readers, an Alexa of 71,000, and without revealing too much I can tell you that he gets quite a bit of traffic. Yet, while his blog stats are very good, his income is a lot less than it could be. In my estimation, Israel should be making at least 4-5 times what he is now, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he could make 10-15 times as much.
He actually has a very nice blog: he writes daily, his posts are pretty fresh and interesting, he has a nice blog design, and is pretty well branded with his “Fat Man” theme. All he really needs to work on monetizing his blog better.
So with all that said, let’s get started:
Improve Private Advertising
The first thing I always look at when a site is trying to monetize their site is how their private advertising is set up. Israel did a pretty decent job of putting his advertise page together, but there is one main element missing: traffic statistics.
Why Israel is apprehensive to disclose his traffic is beyond me (remember, he didn’t want me to disclose it in this review as well), but I’d strongly recommend for him to reconsider. As an advertiser who purchases ads on other sites myself, when I see an advertising page with no traffic stats listed, I usually leave – thinking that the owner did not disclose the traffic because it is low. Occasionally I’ll contact the advertiser privately to ask what their traffic is, but that’s beside the point: disclosing traffic statistics is a must when trying to sell private ads (unless you’re keeping your prices private too).
Sure, I can see the RSS numbers and Alexa, but none of the ads appear on the RSS and Alexa is a very rough metric tool. As an advertiser, all I really care about are the amount of unique hits and pageviews so that I can estimate the value of my campaign purchase.
Get Rid of Rotated Ads
All of the banners available are only available as rotated ads. I personally despise rotated ads for many reasons… there are certainly some valid uses and situations for rotating banners, but generally I think that they only scare away advertisers.
Again, as somebody who advertises on other sites myself, I never purchase ads that are in rotation with others for several reasons:
- When I buy a slot, I want to own that slot. For me, I don’t buy ads on sites purely for click-through’s. I also want to establish branding and awareness; people don’t need to click on my ads, but if they see them everywhere it creates exposure. Think offline branding advertising and how that works. They don’t get clicks or immediate sales, they are simply promoting their brand. By being in rotation, I’m sharing that spot with others.
- Often when advertisers purchase ads, they want to generate a large volume of traffic relatively fast. When being in rotation, you are effectively only getting a fraction of the exposure.
- Limiting competition. The nice thing about purchasing a spot is that you usually own it until you stop renewing. When in rotation, you can have competitors in rotation with you.
I also appear not to be the only one who hate rotated ads. In his post I Owe $28,000 in Medical Bills. I Need Some Sponsors, a commenter named James wrote:
“I know the thing I totally don’t like is the fact that you “offer” only rotative ad spots. If I buy something, I want it to be fixed at that location for the duration of the period.”
It’s important to view advertising from the advertiser’s perspective.
Price According to Demand
At the time of this writing, I see that on FatManUnleashed’s advertising page Area A has 3 spots open, Area B has 10 spots open, and Area C has 10 spots open. That’s 23 unsold slots.
When ads aren’t selling, it is important to lower them. The funny thing is, you are more likely to actually make more money by lowering ads, than by keeping your current high-priced ads that aren’t selling. Even if the prices seem too low, if they sell, it is more than the current $0 that the unsold slots are selling.
Take my blog for example. 2-3 months ago I introduced 125×125 banner slots for sale. I priced them at $15 each. I knew that this was a very low price, and far below their market value, but at that time, even though they were brand new, I had zero demand for them. Once they started selling like hotcakes, I raised their price. As my waiting list continued to grow, I raised the prices again. They now sell for $40 each and I still have a waiting list.
It’s much better to have a strong demand for ads and a waiting list than it is to have unsold inventory.
For example, Area B on FatManUnleashed is currently priced at $28 per slot, with 10 slots available, effectively making that slot worth $280 with 100% filled inventory. However, nobody has purchased anything. Since there is no demand, Israel needs to lower the price. I recommend starting very low, then gradually increasing it as demand increases. Even if he priced them at only $5 per month per rotation and only sold 5 slots, that’s still $25 more than he’s currently making.
Continue Reviewing Affiliate Products
I won’t write too much about this since Israel is already doing a good job with this, but I want to encourage it.
Writing legitimate reviews on various affiliate products and services related to your niche is a great way to monetize your blog. But be sure to keep your reviews completely honest, or you won’t establish trust, and you’ll have a harder time producing conversions. Therefore, I actually recommend occasionally reviewing a product or service that you know you’ll give a bad review for, just to prove that you aren’t promoting and endorsing everything under the sun.
The weight loss niche is actually one of the highest-paying topics out there, and there are plenty of products and services to advertise. NeverBlueAds, for example, has 25 campaigns for weight loss, with the top 3 paying $34, $33, and $23 per lead. Per sales obviously pay even more:
Another affiliate company I’d like to recommend to Israel is JoeBucks, which is an extremely high-paying and lucrative affiliate company that sells pills and health products including weight loss.
Be Creative & Unique
It’s easy to just throw up some ads and call that monetizing a site, but when you put your mind to work, the opportunities of making money are literally endless. Be creative… think outside the box. Try to focus on how you can take advantage of the particular strengths of your niche.
For example, if you owned a computer game site, why not run a tournament for site members with an entry fee, pocket 10% for yourself, and give out 90% in prizes. If you had a large site and 240 members entered the tournament with a $20 entree fee, that’s $480 in your pocket right there.
Here are some examples and ideas Israel could use for FatManUnleashed:
Sponsor Weight Loss Milestones
FatManUnleashed is all about weight loss, diet, and fitness, with its focus on actually following Israel’s struggle and effort to lose weight. So why not try to monetize that?
How about getting sponsors to purchase various milestones? Each milestone could be purchased by an advertiser, and they’d get their ad/link next to it showing their ad and their support. Their sponsorship would be for permanent for each milestone purchased. As Israel loses more weight, he gets paid for that milestone. It also provides incentive for him to lose weight.
To help illustrate this example, I took the liberty of creating the nice chart below:
In the figure above, WeightLossForums.org would pay Israel $250 once he loses 20 pounds. Now, while this is a great example of how to be creative to make money, obviously it is not a long-term solution since he cannot lose weight forever, but the whole point is to think creatively.
When Israel is 185 pounds, perhaps he could change the chart to bench pressing weights. See? The opportunities are endless when you think outside the box.
As another idea, Israel could take bets from regular readers in challenges. For example, Israel could have a bet where if he didn’t lose 7 pounds within a week that he’d have to sing a 30-second song in a video about the bettor’s website. Each bet would be $10, and if he made his goal, then he wouldn’t have to do the song and dance. Either way, he would keep the $10 bets.
I’m not sure if Israel knows this, but I actually own WeightLossForums.org. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no traffic, and I’d love for it to get going.
If Israel had contacted me with a proposition (I’m suggesting here that he contact 2-3 dozen weight-loss related sites) to somehow grow my site by leveraging his blog’s traffic, I’d definitely be at least interested in hearing what he has to say.
Perhaps I could pay him money to run some type of joint-contest between the two sites, or maybe he simply contacted me to let me know about his advertising options available. The point is to not just sit idly back, when there are so many opportunities out there.
Well, there might be one – I noticed the “Free Photo Sharing” text ad at the bottom of the top post, which can be seen in the green highlighted area below:
…but this only appears in a few select posts. While this is better than nothing, it’s a waste for all the posts that have nothing underneath them. Therefore, since Israel is selling this spot privately, he should offer them at the bottom of every post, and not rotate them.
If priced decently, I might even be interested in purchasing it.
But the best way, in my opinion, to monetize RSS feeds other than writing paid reviews, is to embed banners in it. There’s a reason I offer embedded 250×250 banners into my posts and it’s not just to create another advertising area on my website; it’s to create ads that my RSS readers can see.
RSS readers, of course, do not see a blog’s design or banners. All they see is what is in the posts. By embedding a banner into your posts, you are giving it exclusive exposure to your entire RSS readership. In Israel’s situation, that’s 1,000 people who would see that banner everyday. In the figure above, the banner would appear in every post, in the red area, with the text wrapped around it.
Again, if this was priced right and not rotated, I’d purchase this slot as well. As an advertiser, I especially like advertising to RSS readers since they show a very high level of interest in the topic and are more likely to visit related sites.
Since an embedded ad is the only ad shown in an RSS feed, you can price it at a premium. But as suggested above, I’d start this low, and raise it based on demand (I must admit I say that partly because I’d be interested in grabbing it for cheap ;))
Remember Who Your Audience Is
Replace Unrelated Ads
I am not sure if these are private ads or ads placed there by Israel himself, but I think that they were the latter: I highly suggest removing all unrelated ads. I see large Napster and Celebridiot ads, and while they can classify as general ads that cater to the large part of the population, they are not related to weight loss. If you have a gardening site, you’re not going to put up ads for bowling are you?
Why put up related ads to your niche? Because apart from having a far greater CTR and conversion rate, you’re actually providing useful (debatable) resources to your readers.
“amazon_ad_include = “health;fitness;sports;books”
Which means that Israel inserted a specific category for Amazon to place ads for. Sounds smart, right? It’s obviously a lot better than not doing so, but just how targeted are these ads?
At the time of this writing, I currently see four ads: a Women’s Health magazine, a Twister Dance DVD game, a Men’s Health magazine, and a book titled “It Only Takes 1% to Have a Competitive Edge in Sales”. I can only see two of these products being related, can you guess which two?
From my own personal experience, Amazon is not a good source of income unless you’re selling books, and in some cases, DVD’s. But that is not the point. The point is to try to keep ads as closely related to your niche as possible. I’d recommend replacing the Amazon ads with some affiliate weight loss offers, contextual ads such as YPN or Google, or even private ads.
The nice thing about using affiliate networks is that you know exactly what you’re advertising on your site; you never really know what the ad networks will give you.
I was going to write a lot more on the following topics, but this paid review is already epically long (Israel sure got value for his money!) so I’ll try to keep them short:
- This is a question to Israel: Do you get paid for the “What’s Your Celebrity BMI?” flash ad, or are you simply using it to try to provide a related service to your readers? If it’s the latter, I’d highly recommend removing it and switching it with an affiliate offer form. You could probably find related weight-loss offers that pay you at least a few bucks every time somebody fills out a similar form.
- Kontera is another monetization solution you may want to look into. Weight loss keywords should pay pretty well, I’d imagine. I’m adding Kontera onto my blog this week.
- To find advertisers for your blog, simply post on some webmaster forums explaining that you have advertising slots available. Many webmaster forums have a section dedicated specially for buying and selling ad space. Take advantage of these resources.
- Create a recommended products & services page. Keep text to a minimum and simply organize them into categories, and link to them with your affiliate URL. Be sure to only recommend actual products and services you can honestly endorse.
There is never one magical thing you can do that will explode your income numbers overnight, but by simply making many small improvements and adjustments, your profits will grow. Small things really do add up over time. By implementing even half the suggestions outlined in the review, Israel should in the very least triple his income.
On a side note, this may take the award for being my longest paid review yet, at just under 3,000 words. Yet another reason why you should grab a paid review from me while they’re still dirt cheap…