Here I go again: talking about how to make money. But Rachel, you think, I have plenty of money! I am just blogging for fun! Well, dear reader, congratulations, but this post is for the rest of the blogosphere who needs to pay some bills. So let’s get down to it.
One of the most common ways people monetize their blogs or websites is through online advertisements. As with any other steps in growing your business, however, it is crucial that you consider the best methods of advertising for your particular brand and manage your advertisements and any related disclosures closely. When you are on top of your advertisements and disclosures, you won’t risk endangering your credibility with your readers.
Selling Ad Space on Your Blog
When you think about advertising on blogs, you’re most likely thinking about selling traditional ads like graphic images in banners or sidebar ads. Ad space can also be text links and text-based ads that you can embed within your blog text itself or on the page.
To host these kinds of advertisements, you sign up with a provider like Google AdSense and provide the space on your blog to include the advertisements. Google AdSense, for example, is a free service for the blogger that provides ads targeted to your readership. Depending on the type of agreement you choose, you can receive income based on the type of ad or the number of clicks the ads receive. Usually, these ads are graphics, but Google AdSense can also appear as text-based ads that you can embed below or within your page.
Another way to advertise is directly through the text of your posts by using text links. Text links, like image ads, are usually targeted ads provided by an ad service. So for example, if you are blogging about homeschool textbooks, the advertiser pays you to change the word “textbooks” in your post to a text link that takes your readers to their textbook sales website.
Lastly, you can cut out the middleman by selling your ad space directly to the advertiser. Advertisers might come to you, or you might connect with them (which is why you are networking, right!?). Some websites dedicate a page of their site to enticing advertisers, including a summary of what their online brand is about and contact information for statistics, placement options, and rates. We’ve already done the legal legwork for you with our advertising agreement that will help you negotiate the terms of your direct ads.
Of course, there are some things to consider when selling these types of ads on your blog or website. Mainly, you want to be able to control content – or at least restrict ads that may be useless or offensive to your readers. Working directly with advertisers enables you to have total control over your site’s image, will probably pay more, and could lead to sponsorship projects. On the flip side, the ad services require less work on your end and may not require as many unique visitors and page views.
A newer way advertisers are working with blogs is through sponsored posts, sometimes called native ads. These are ads where the advertiser provides the blogger with a product or experience, and the blogger writes a post highlighting the product or experience. Sponsored posts tend to be similar to a blogger’s normal posts: clothing stores provide clothes for fashion bloggers to wear as their outfit of the day; furniture stores send furniture to home design bloggers for their room renovation projects. The blogger gets paid or gets free stuff, the advertiser gets a glowing review and flattering image of its product, and the reader gets an easy link to where to buy the product they now covet.
So, about that easy link…it’s probably an affiliate link. Affiliate marketing is when bloggers include links to buy a product directly from the advertiser, and in turn, receive a commission from the advertiser when readers click through with the link to buy the item. Amazon is a big provider of affiliate links. A blogger may not get paid to post about her favorite shoes, but she may get paid when you buy her favorite shoes using her affiliate link.
Disclosing your Sponsors and Affiliate Links
The Federal Trade Commission does not like misleading advertising. Sponsored ads and affiliate links could be considered misleading if the reader can’t tell that the blogger is benefiting financially from them. Disclosure is the answer. It will keep you credible with your readers and advertisers. And, of course, a hashtag (or three) was born. Conscientious bloggers advertising on social media identify these posts with hashtags like: #ad, #paid, or #sponsored. Read more about the FTC’s disclosure rules here.
You will be able to keep your advertisers happier and longer if you remember to disclose when you’ve benefited in some way. And hopefully, everyone continues to make a little money…because isn’t that what we’re talking about anyway?