Maximizing Blog Income: Real Life Example

January 30, 2008 Posted by Tyler Cruz
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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.

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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

Disclose Traffic

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.

Two examples of posts on FatManUnleashed that market niche-related products are Eat Smart’s Nutrition and Digital Food Scale and to Tae Bo Aerobics Kicked My Butt.

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:

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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:

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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.

Contest/Betting

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.

WeightLossForums

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.

Monetize RSS

One of the largest monetization methods I see most people neglect is monetizing their RSS feeds. FatManUnleashed boasts an impressive RSS of nearly 1,000 readers, yet there are no ads in his feed.

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:

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…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.

Another example apart from the Napster and Celebridiot ads are the Amazon ads posted on various pages of the site. For example, Israel’s archive page contains an Amazon ad which is category based. If you look at the source code, you can see in the JavaScript:

“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.

More Methods

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.

Summary

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… :)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below, subscribing to my RSS feed, or following me on Twitter.
Posted: January 30th, 2008 under Paid Reviews  

38 Responses to “Maximizing Blog Income: Real Life Example”

  1. Jean Costa says:

    Top notch quality review Tyler! You have really outdone yourself, and have created real value, that is worth much more than what you ask.

  2. Matt Hanson says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Matt Hanson

  3. shy guy says:

    Yes I agree with u..His blog have a good niche and good traffic..

  4. I’m confused, you only work 3 hours a day, yet, can’t even look at the guys site? You did a decent review, I don’t doubt that, but come on Tyler, that’s a cheap cop out to make $60 or whatever a paid review costs.

  5. Mike says:

    TYler, Great review. I was thinking of starting a blog in this niche also and well be refering back to this post for tips when it comes to monitizing my new blog.

  6. Bryan says:

    I am not sure where this Robert Norton gets off. I dunno, I thought that was an above average review.

    When my site is up and running I will be contacting you for a review on how I can monetize my site.

    I think that your insight was great because you were looking at it from the spectators point of view versus trying to make a buck I would say the 110 dollars you made was well earned on this. Either Robert is ignorant or being sarcastic.

    Hopefully its the latter because I’m personally sick of the ignorant people.

  7. Sportsrmylife says:

    Tyler,

    Even though I found it as a cheap way to force “FatMan” purchase a paid review by telling him that you are too busy I have to agree with you. You are running this blog as a business and time is money. If you start to do free reviews now then your mailbox is going to be full with requests for “quick reviews” of their sites/blogs.

    Now your current price of $110 is a bit retarded….that review you just gave is worth at least $300!! Why that amount? Well the indepth breakdown of the site and the numerous ways you gave him to make more money a $300 investment should be made back tenfold in a matter of six months.

    If you are going to put this much time, energy, and thought into your site reviews you are going to see a major increase in requests since the content that you have provided is well worth it. I know that the end of the month is a few days away and I would seriously consider raising your rates to $300 minimum.

    I’ll put this in terms that you are going to understand even more clearly..a poker game. You are at a live full table $1/$2 NL game (9 players). You are in the big blind. The first player to act raises to $20 and every person at the table calls (similar to your inbox having 9 requests for $110 site reviews or $990 total). You look down and see AA! Now you know that AA is a great hand but it doesn’t play well against a full table. If you only raise to $50 you may get 6 callers and have alot of work to do after the flop. (If it takes you 2 hours per review you are looking at 12 hours of work for $660. Plus you may see some really ugly sites). If you reraise to $200 preflop you are only going to get called by the serious hands like KK, AK, QQ and then AA is a much bigger favorite and plays better against fewer players. (The same can be said with your reviews. Raising the price to $300 may only get a few serious requests a month but you can focus on each review making it worth the money.) I think that your review above is well worth at least $300.

    Just a simple suggestion from a newbie. Very nice job!

  8. Very good advice for FatManUnleashed. I like his layout and how it displays how much weight he’s lost.

  9. Damn. Keep your review price the same till I get back from the holidays, I’m ordering one :)

  10. PigsnieLite says:

    That was a great post, Tylee! I didnt fall asleep once, hahaha! And I dont even haf a blog to monetize!

  11. Bruce Cat says:

    Excellent review from Tyler. I actually read Fat man unleashed from time to time. Not saying I’m fat and need to shed some pounds or anything :)

  12. [...] Maximizing Blog Income: Real Life Example | TylerCruz.com: An Internet Entrepreneur’s Journey [...]

  13. lisa says:

    hey tyler, im a 29yr old woman who has just got into blogging for love and money and you are totally inspiring. this was a great review and im going to enjoy reading your blog, thanks! :)

  14. Gyutae Park says:

    This is great stuff Tyler. Israel is lucky to receive this review.

  15. Mike Huang says:

    Tyler, this is actually the best review I’ve read so far from you. Not only did you help Israel, but you also helped me in realizing a lot of monetizing techniques :)

    Thanks!

    -Mike

  16. mastersofseo says:

    great tips! I’ve learned a ton from this article thanks.

  17. Probably the highest-quality review I’ve read…keep up the good work Tyler!

  18. Ive been seeing this guy around allot. Looks like he has a good blog going.

  19. I also like the really idea of weight loss sponsers. Could be profitable as well as giving even more incentive for your original goal.

  20. Will says:

    nice post. very imformative.

  21. MrBlue says:

    Great Site. Great Tips. Will be reading more.

  22. This is one of the best things you’ve posted in a long time. It really transcends being a “review” and is almost a blog consultation. You should consider marketing it as such and then you have another monetization stream to promote. I think you would have lots of buyers.

  23. Tyler, I get to know you since your competition with ‘Winning the Web’, since then I subscribed to your feed looking at the quality of the content and today you proved it again that I didn’t make wrong decision ;)

  24. This blog is pretty cool

  25. [...] Maximizing Blog Income: Real Life Example This is probably one of the best blog reviews I’ve seen in terms of advice for blog monetization. Tyler Cruz reveals some of his methods for making money online and I suggest you look through the article to gain some ideas of your own. [...]

  26. I have to agree with Tyler on the branding aspect of rotating ads. When I buy a spot I want everyone that comes to someone’s blog to see my ad in one of the same 6 or 8 spaces available on every page they go to.

  27. I also agree, and I think that by leaving the ads ‘static’ readers can associate better with the ads.

  28. Tom Ross says:

    Absolutely fantastic review Tyler! You certainly think like an entrepreneur. I especially like the suggestion of sponsored weight loss – it’s just so targeted to the sites theme it would be an instant success!

  29. JBiggs says:

    Hello
    At the moment i still learning how to make good income from internet, searching for great tips and advice to help me successful.
    I found your articles very help me to get an idea about how to make money online.
    Thanks once again.
    JBiggs :)

  30. Mathewbary says:

    Hi. You did a great review. Blogging has created a whole new platform to the people where they can express themselves. But there is a lack of awareness about monetizing blogs and a proper guidance is required to improve the revenue.

  31. Bookmarked gotta lose some weight too :)

PeerFly

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