How I replaced my day-job with earnings from this blog
In 2 years I went from not knowing what a blog was to making more money blogging than my day job.
The purpose of this article is to show you how to make money with a blog. I suspect most people won’t stick with it long enough to make a full-time income, but even making an extra few hundred dollars a month isn’t too bad either (here are 23 other ways to make money as well).
This article is extremely long (more like 10 articles), but I wanted it to be a thorough and helpful resource for those wanting to start a blog or make some more money from the one they already have.
I should also mention that I really haven’t written about blogging or making money from blogs on ChristianPF yet, because I wanted to make sure that it was a viable option for making some cash. Now that I have found that it is, I decided to pour out everything I learned the last two years about it…
- How it all started for me
- 4 Steps To Get Started Blogging in 10 Minutes!
- Blogging basics
- How to get a self-hosted blog
- The importance of a customizable theme
- How I make money with this blog
- How long does it take to make money from a blog
- How to get traffic to your blog
- SEO tips for blogs
- How I increased Adsense income by $1500
- 11 Tools that have helped me succeed
- Warnings for those just starting out
How it all started for me
About 2 years ago I was talking to a friend of mine about the idea of building websites full of free information to help people. After brainstorming a bit, I got a couple ideas of topics that I was passionate about: Proverbs and Personal Finance.
My first idea was to post a Proverb each day and comment on it. As I explained my idea further to him, he informed me that I would basically have a blog. I didn’t know what a blog was, but I thought, “oh, ok, sure.”
So, over the next few weeks I read as much as I could find about blogging and ultimately decided on creating a blog about Personal Finance from a Christian perspective. I had been very interested in helping people with their money, so blogging seemed like a great way to reach people all over the world.
Over the next couple months, I started writing articles and officially launched ChristianPF in June of 2007. At this point I had thought about making money from the site, but had no idea how and honestly didn’t really think it was possible to make a living at it. I threw up an Adsense ad just to see what would happen and I still remember how excited I was when I saw that I had made my first 7 cents!
From there, I set a goal to make $100 by the end of 2007 which was pretty easy to accomplish – even without knowing anything. I should also mention that from June 2007 to June 2008 I spent about 4-6 hours each weekend writing articles and averaged about 4 new articles each week. And I spent a few more hours each week on site maintenance, emails, social media, etc. So in total I probably was spending about 10 hours each week working on the site.
I have been updating this article over the past few years, but since releasing the Book Version of it, I have been updating that version rather than this blog post. So to get the most updated details of the rest of the article check out the Kindle or Paperback version.
Getting laid off
In July 2008 things got interesting. The large brokerage firm that I had worked 5 years for was bought out by a larger firm. I was told that my department would no longer be needed, so they handed me a severance check and I was on my way. By this point I was making some money from the blog, but not enough to even pay the rent each month.
After much prayer I decided against looking for another “day job” and decided to work full time on building the blog. Thankfully we had paid off most of our debt, and had my wife’s income as a support to buy us some time. I figured I would give it a shot for a few months and if it didn’t work out I would find another 9-5. From that point, the income generated from this website has increased each month and in February 2009 it exceeded my monthly income from my old day job.
I am still a little bit in awe and can’t believe that I am actually paying the bills from this website!. But, I thank God everyday that I get to do this – I really did not like working in Corporate America and am so thankful! It is hard work, but it doesn’t really seem like it when you are doing something that you are passionate about and love doing it.
4 Steps to Get Started Blogging in 10 Minutes!
This is just a quick cliffnotes version for committed bloggers only. These recommendations aren’t best suited for those dabbling with blogging, but they are the things that I would do if I had to do it all over again.
1. Find a domain name
- Go to psychicwhois.com and search until you find a domain name that is available (green ones are open, red ones are taken).
- If possible aim for one that has at least one of the keywords you would like to be found in the search engines for.
2. Get a domain name and web hosting package from Hostgator (my recommended host)
- Head over to Hostgator and select either the “Hatchling” or “Baby” plan.
- Then make sure to register the domain that you found in the first step.
- Next enter “ChristianPF” as a promo code and it will knock 25% off for you.
- Now follow the remaining steps to complete your purchase.
3. Install WordPress (with a little help)
- Either watch the video above for detailed instructions or just jump on the phone or use the chat box with Hostgator.
- When you get them on the line just tell them that you want to install WordPress on your blog.
- They should hold your hand and walk you through the process (if they don’t please email me). When complete ask them for the WordPress login information.
4. Login to WordPress
- Once they give you the login information you can go to http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin and login.
- Now that you are logged in to WordPress you can begin making changes to your site and or publish your first post.
So that should get you up and running. If you are new to WordPress you can learn the basics of running a WordPress blog in my Blogging 101 course.
I am going to try to boil this down to the essentials. There are whole books written on this subject, so I am not going to try to cover everything here. If you are looking for a good book about blogging for beginners, I suggest reading Darren Rowse’s “31 Days To A Better Blog”. But for a quick, bottom-line version keep reading…
What is a blog?
A blog is short for “weblog”. Basically, it is just a website that has entries listed in reverse chronological order. The original idea behind it was to be a online journal or diary that was updated daily (or as frequently as the writer chose). Over the last decade many software programs and blogging platforms have been created to make the process VERY EASY. As the blog writer, depending on which platform you use, you can just type your entry, press submit and it shows up on your blog for the world to see. Most bloggers don’t know any programming languages and are not “techies.” Starting a blog is one of the easiest ways out there to start a website. If you haven’t started one yet, why not try it? It can be very quick to set up and can be completely free.
Is it easy to start a blog?
It is very easy. Even if there are steps along the way that are confusing, there are plenty of resources to get the help you need. There are over 20 million blogs in existence, so it can’t be that difficult.
How much does it cost to blog?
There are many services that allow you to start a blog for free (see below). I suggest using one of the free services to get a basic feel for blogging and “get your feet wet.” Once you decide you want to stick with it and that you want to make money with your blog, I suggest moving up to a self-hosted blog (see below). Anyone who is really trying to make money with a blog will probably be more successful with a self-hosted blog. Getting a self-hosted blog may not be free, but still can be VERY inexpensive. You will need to pay for nothing more than a domain name ($10) and web-hosting (as cheap as a few bucks a month).
Getting a blogging platform
All 4 of the options listed are free. The first 3 options are the easiest, but the are also limited on features. If you are just trying to make an extra few hundred dollars from your blog, these options could work. But if you are really serious about trying to make good money from your blog, I recommend self-hosting your blog (which we talk about in the next section…).
Tumblr.com – This is probably the simplest blogging platform to use, but it also is the probably the least customizeable. So, it might be something good to start with, but it would be more difficult to build an income-generating website with it.
Blogger.com – Blogger is also very good, easy to set up, owned by Google, you can customize the theme, and the domain name includes “.blogspot.com” (in some people’s opinion a little less professional). Blogger continues to become more customizeable and currently has a lot more options than they did a few years ago.
WordPress.com – I like wordpress.com they are completely free, easy to set up, you can customize the theme, but other customizations are limited, domain name includes “.wordpress.com”.
WordPress.org – Wait, what is the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org? To put it simply WordPress.com is where you will go to set up a basic, easy blog with limited features. WordPress.org is where you will go to get a self-hosted wordpress blog. If you get to the point where you are serious about blogging and really want to make some money with it, you need to self-host your blog. Now I should mention that you don’t actually ever have to visit wordpress.org, if you use Hostgator as your host, they will be able to help you install wordpress on your selfhosted blog. Just follow the steps here.
How to setup a self-hosted blog
If you are going to be using one of the first three options above, you can skip this section.
If you are serious about blogging and are looking for the best way to customize your blog’s look and other features, then getting a self-hosted blog from WordPress.org is probably the best way to go. It is currently the top choice for most bloggers. It does require more work up front and does have small costs associated with it: buying a domain name ($10/year) and hosting your blog ($10/month).
One of the big advantages is that you can use your own domain name (i.e. yourblog.com). While this might not seem like a big deal, it is a lot easier for people to remember yourblog.com rather than yourblog.blogspot.com which is what you will be given if you use Blogger.
I will warn you, being a non-techie myself, this took me some time figuring out how to get my self-hosted site set up. WordPress.org has a great step-by-step guide for getting you set up. While it is more work on the front end, I am really glad I got good advice and did this at the beginning, than having to do it now.
Pick a Domain Name
1. You should start by purchasing a domain name. Domain Samurai is a great tool that will help you enter in a keyword and then find a bunch of related domains that are still available. I would suggest going to for a .com rather than a .info or .us or anything else for that matter. It is just too easy for people to get confused. A .com is always going to hold more value than any other extension. For a simpler tool, just go to psychicwhois.com and find an open one.
2. Once you get it picked out, you need to find somewhere to purchase it. I bought my first few domains at GoDaddy.com and have bought the remaining ones from my hosting companies. While GoDaddy is about one of the biggest names out there, I can’t say that I recommend them because of some of their advertising campaigns that they run. I now recommend just buying the domain and hosting from Hostgator as it will make the whole process simpler. But if you already have a host, then Namecheap is a good and cheap way to buy a domain.
Pick a host for your blog
The webhost is the company that you pay to store all of your files for your blog. There are also a million web hosting companies out there. I don’t suggest just looking for the cheapest one, because a lot of these companies are not very reliable and your site might be down quite a bit. I like to go with the bigger companies who have a longer track record and are more established.
They may cost a dollar or two more a month when you are starting out and it is well worth it. I have hosted my websites with Dreamhost from the beginning, mostly because I knew a lot of people using them and I got a hosting package for about $7.00 a month.
I still host most of my websites at Dreamhost, but have moved this site to MediaTemple. The main reason was that since my livelihood now depended on the website I wanted a higher level of service from my hosting company. MediaTemple has been great in that regard, but as always it comes with a price. I am currently paying $150 a month for hosting with them.
Watch this video to find out which host is best for you!
(Added 01-05-10 – I am currently in the process of buying a website that is hosted on BlueHost, and after digging around the backend quite a bit, I am starting to think they are a better choice than Dreamhost. Their prices are slightly lower than Dreamhost, but they seem to have things a little better organized and create an easier experience for new users. I haven’t dealt with their customer service yet, so I can’t comment on that yet, but my overall experience so far leads me to like them a bit more than Dreamhost. For what it’s worth.)
(Added 05-04-10 – After using Bluehost a bit more and calling their customer service reps, I can safely say that I definitely like them more than Dreamhost. Just the fact that they have phone support gives them a leg up – but the rep I spoke with was very helpful. So Bluehost gets my recommendation for beginner hosting.)
(Added 04-04-11 – After more and more frustrating experiences with MediaTemple’s customer service I started looking for another host that I could scale up with. I still really like Bluehost – especially for the price, but the fact that they only offer shared hosting makes me hesitant about hosting my sites that pay my mortgage each month. After looking at Hostgator‘s site it became very clear that they are a host that you can start with for as cheap as $4/m and they also offer much more thorough hosting packages as your site grows. I had heard great things about them from others, so I figured I would check them out. I called them up and asked a bunch of questions and I was surprised to find out that even though they cost a fraction of what MediaTemple costs, they have some features that MediaTemple didn’t.I opened an account with HostGator and used the chat feature to get help 2 different times and I was very pleased with their knowledge and helpfulness each time. Honestly, I was so impressed that I am getting started on moving many of my sites over to Hostgator. I will let you know how things progress…)
Hosting Companies I’ve Used
|As Cheap as…||
|Notes||I started hosting with Hostgator after being increasingly frustrated with MediaTemple. From my experience their customer service seems to be far better than any other host I have used. I have been so impressed with their customer service that I am in the process of moving many of my sites over to them.||I host a few of my sites with Bluehost and I have had a really good experience with them. They are cheap and have great phone support, the only downside is that they one have one hosting package – which is fine for small-medium sites, but not so good for bigger blogs.||I started with Dreamhost and still have a few sites hosted there. I was happy with them for the price, but I always longed for phone support and they don’t really offer it. If you decide to use them, I have a coupon code you can use for 25% off… just enter “Christianblog” as the promo code.||$20/mI currently host this site with MediaTemple. Starting at $20/m they aren’t cheap, and they have been great in terms of site uptime, but I am becoming more and more dissappointed with their customer service.|
Get a customizable theme
After I took the step the self-host this site, the next step that greatly helped me increase earnings was choosing a highly-customizable theme. I don’t necessarily recommend doing this at the beginning, since it does cost money to get a good theme, but once you are committed to blogging and are willing to invest a few bucks, putting that money towards a good theme is a good investment.
For this site, I purchased Semiologic, which is a fantastic theme that gives you a lot of control. It costs $300 for the full version, but I quickly made that money back because the theme allowed me optimize my ad placement in ways that no other themes did. If you are a programmer, you really don’t need to buy a theme because you can make the all the customizations yourself to any basic theme. Since starting to blog a couple years ago, I have learned some HTML codes, but I am still about the furthest thing from a programmer! So for people like me, a customizable theme allows me to control things and areas of the site that I would never be able to change with out the help of a programmer.
At the time of this writing, I am still using Semiologic for the theme on this site, but since I had been hearing so much buzz about the Thesis Theme, I decided to buy it and try it out on another one of my sites. I have to admit, I never thought it would be able to compete with Semiologic, but I am finding out how wrong I was.
After testing it out, I really am very impressed with it. Right out of the box, it provides you with a very pretty looking site that is very easy to customize. It is SEO optimized very well, has a ton of support for it, and once you figure out how to use the hooks you can customize it to oblivion if you want. The kicker is that you can buy it and get lifetime updates for $87.
I still really like Semiologic and think it is a great theme, but for the price, if I were shopping right now, I would go with Thesis. I am going to get to know and learn Thesis on my other site for a while and make sure that it really is everything that I think it is and eventually I will convert this site to Thesis.
Update: I have now switched this site over to Thesis and I couldn’t be more happy with it. If you do get Thesis, I highly recommend the OpenHook Plugin – you will be able to easily do just about any customization that you can imagine.
How I make money with this blog
When I go to family functions or social events I often get a blank stare when I explain what I do for a living. I think people understand the part that I write articles and put them on a website, but when it comes to making money from it, they don’t get it. In this section I will lay it out and hopefully it will help bring some clarity…
CPC Ad Networks
There are a few different ad networks that I use on CPF. The most successful one has been Google’s Adsense program. Basically what they do is read the article that I write and find ads that are relevant to it and display them next to the article. The great thing about it is that by having extremely relevant ads, it actually can be quite beneficial to the readers as well.
For example, if I write an article explaining what an IRA was, but didn’t mention where you could open one, Adsense would likely be displaying ads of places to open an IRA. So as a reader, if I read that article and decided that I did want to open an IRA, the ads would be providing options that the article did not. I am currently doing a few tests with another CPC network called Chitika. Apparently, you can use it in conjunction with Adsense. The jury is still out, but I am interested to see how it compares to Adsense. All things considered, I have found that if optimized correctly, Adsense really can work well. I will explain more about how to optimize it in sections below.
CPM Ad Networks
While Adsense pays on a click basis (CPC), I use other ad networks that pay by the total # of impressions (CPM). At the beginning, these networks didn’t produce much income, but as the traffic grows CPM networks seem to work well in conjunction with Adsense. I use (or have used) ContextWeb, AdClickMedia, Adbrite, Adify, BuzzLogic, and Casale Media. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and may be suitable for one kind of a site and not another.
Affiliate Product Sales
Basically an example of an affiliate sale would be if you sold lawn mowers and I referred a customer to you, if they purchased you would pay me back a % of the sale for referring them. There are a million options for this on the internet now. The main programs I use are
There are many others, but these are a few of the more popular ones available.(Added 10/20/10 – I recently found out about a new site called Viglink which allows you to automatically turn all our links on your site to affiliate links. I am testing it out and am pretty excited about it since it greatly simplifies the process of adding affiliate links.)
I have a very strong policy about honest recommendations. I give my honest opinions about products that I find regardless of how it will affect affiliate sales. For example, I wrote about Cash Crate and updated the article to show what I didn’t like about them. Because Cash Crate has such a generous referral program, I know some people making lots of money from it, but I just don’t feel comfortable recommending it since I had a bad experience using it.
On the other hand there are products like Cap One 360, Ebates, Perkstreet Financial, Swagbucks.com, and Tradeking that I recommend and also have some sort of affiliate or referral program as well. These are what I love because I can help readers by pointing them to good resources and tools that have helped me and get paid in the process. I know some people don’t have a problem promoting anything that will pay them, but I just can’t, in good conscience, recommend something to someone that I don’t genuinely believe will help them.
Direct Ad Sales
I also sell ad space directly to advertisers. This hasn’t provided much income for me yet and may or may not even be worth my time. I know that in certain niche markets direct ad sales can work out very well, but thus far it hasn’t been a big money maker on CPF.
How long does it take to make money from a blog
The second question that people normally ask after, “how do I make money with a blog?” is, “how long is it going to take?”. Well, let me just say this, if you are looking for a fast way to make money, blogging isn’t it. It takes time and hard work. As you can see from the chart below it took me a long time before the trend started moving upward.
But, for more than a year I was working at it about 10 hours a week. And don’t forget I didn’t know anything about blogging, advertising, getting traffic, etc when I started. So, if you know that ChristianPF is a blog, then you have a head start on me. Also, you have the wonderful privilege of reading this article where I am going explain most of the things that I did to help create that upward trend seen below – that I didn’t know the first year.
Blog earnings visualized
From other people I know who make a decent amount from their blogs, this curve seems to be typical. While the first year didn’t yield much income, it was crucial for the second year to be able to. While I wish I could tell you that you could jump right ahead to where the income starts increasing quicker, but I just don’t think it is likely. There are some tips in this article that I wish I would have known at the beginning and I think they will make things go a lot quicker, but there is no getting around the fact that it is going to take time to get there. But just like anything, the more you put in, the more you get out. The two keys are consistency and a willingness to learn. Without them, I would say that it will be very difficult to make money with your blog.
How to get traffic to your blog
So now are getting to the point of this article where I start sharing everything I have learned over the last couple years about blogging. So, if you are like most, you want to create a blog so that others can read what you have to say. Sadly, people will not find your blog (in the beginning anyway) unless you do a little legwork. These are some of the things I did to get traffic and some that I still do. The first thing I suggest doing is writing a few great articles about your topic and feature them in your sidebar. Then I would start working on generating traffic, because you not only want traffic, but you want returning traffic as well.
I think this is one of the best ways to start getting some quick traffic. Almost every blog I know allows guest posts (even this one) – and almost every one of those does not discriminate. What I mean is that most bloggers (that I know anyway) will accept or reject a guest post based on it’s quality, not on whether they know the person or not. This provides a great opportunity for a newbie to write an article that could be seen by 20,000 readers. I don’t know of any other method that could bring traffic as quick. I must admit, I could still do more guest posting myself. I have been pleased with the results in the past. The key is to write a great article – don’t hold back your best stuff. I have seen people grow their blogs very quickly by giving some of their best articles away as guest posts. Also, only submit unpublished content as a guest post. If it has already been published, then the blog that is allowing you to guest post won’t get any search engine traffic for that article. But there are places to republish your articles you have already published – we will get to that in a minute…
Sign up for blog community sites
Just a few off the top of my head are mybloglog.com, technorati.com, and blogcatalog.com. Look for other blogs in your niche and join their networks and ask to become their friends. Networking with some of your fellow bloggers here will send a few visitors your way and is a good way to get started.
Submit to Blogcarnivals
One of the best things beginning bloggers can do is to sign up for blogcarnivals. At this site you can submit articles that you wrote on your blog to be included in a list of articles by the hosting blog. It is kind of like “open mic night.” If you have a good article with a good title, you can get some good traffic from blogcarnivals, not to mention incoming links from other related sites.
If I were starting a blog today, one of the first things I would do is Google “whatever topic I want to blog about” + “directory” This should return a list of web directories about your topic. Getting added to these directories will only help. You may not get a lot of traffic from them, but ultimately they will help you get more traffic from the search engines. A few of the more valuable ones to get you started…
One of the absolute best ways for new blogs to get traffic is just to comment on other blogs. Commenting with a thoughtful and provocative response will often send a few visitors your way. The blogging community is generally a very social community and those who are active in the community often reap the rewards of it.
Becoming involved in forums related to your topic and having a link to your blog in the signature line can send a few visitors. Google “your topic” and “forums” and you are sure to find a few. Just don’t be annoying and go in just to promote yourself. People can see that from a mile away. The new age of the internet (aka Web 2.0) is very much a “give and you shall receive” environment. If you seek to give and be a benefit before seeking your own rewards, you will be much better off. Why not get started at the Christian PF Forums?
Linking to other blogs
I don’t know what it is, but everyone wants to know when someone is talking about them. So it is with blogs. When people link to my site, I get a notification and often go check out who linked to me and what the context was. I have had some good relationships form just from this.
Create Squidoo pages
Squidoo.com, InfoBarrel.com, Hubpages.com, and a handful of others are sites that allow you to build a simple page about a topic. You can do it very quick and the pages often rank well in the search engines. If you build a page that gets a little bit of traffic and have links coming back to your site, you will catch some of those visitors. If that weren’t good enough, many of them allow you to earn money from your articles as well.
Submit articles to article submission sites. These sites collect articles and most allow a bio-section that can include a link back to your blog. Here are a few that are worth looking into…
SEO tips for blogs
It will take a while to get a decent amount of traffic from the search engines. The search engines do not like NEW websites. They like more established sites that have a lot of people linking to them, hence proving that they are reputable. This is why getting links from other bloggers, directories, other web sites that have a good reputation in the search engines’ eyes is very important. As your blog begins to grow by having more pages and more links the search engines will begin to send you more and more traffic. This is a good thing!! But, as I mentioned earlier, they are very wary of new websites – so time will be your ally when it comes to the search engines.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an science/art (depending on who you ask) that focuses on getting your website or blog to the top of the search engine listings. Being at the top of Google’s results for any decent keywords can be a great source of traffic and the greatest part about it is that it is FREE TRAFFIC!!!
I am not going to get deep into SEO much here, there are far more thorough books about it (i.e. SEOBook) but as your blog grows you should try to learn more about it, as it will only help you by knowing more. Just like most of the things you will learn while blogging, you don’t need to be an expert at it – just having a working knowledge will provide great results.
The thing to remember about the search engines (especially Google) is that they are trying to create a perfect system where any searcher can find exactly what they want. Google wants to display the most relevant websites to their searchers. They will never have a perfect system, but they probably won’t stop trying. If you can keep this in mind, it will be very helpful when you are trying to optimize your blog. Don’t waste your time trying to trick them, they will figure it out and will punish you for it. Just focus on making it very clear to them what your site is all about and writing great content for your reader and the rest will take care of itself.
So, let’s get to some SEO. These are some of the most important (in my opinion) pieces of SEO that every beginner should know. If you do these right, you will be much better off than most people who don’t know anything about SEO.
1. Title Tags
This may be the single most important part of on-page SEO. The title tag of your website is what shows up in the top of your browser window. It is also one of the most important determining factors that the search engines use to determine what your site is about.
In the above picture you can see that the title tag is “Christian Personal Finance – Financial help, debt help…” You WILL want to make sure that your title tags contain the keywords that you want to rank for in the search engines. If your site is about rock climbing, you will not want to have “welcome to Bill’s blog” in the title tags. Something better would be “Rock climbing 101 | the best rock climbing techniques”
2. Anchor Text
Anchor text – the text that people use when linking. For instance, if I created a link for a great search engine you can see that the link will go to Google. “great search engine” is the anchor text. The anchor text is a big deal, because it tells the search engines what other sites say your site is about. Google really places a lot of importance on what words are in the anchor text. Obviously, you will not be able to control how other people link to your site all of the time. But, for those times that you can, you should use your keywords when possible. Linking to other pages and posts on your website, directory submissions, blog carnivals, and your signature line in forums all may be good places to make sure you get your keywords in your anchor text.
3. Keyword Research
If you are trying to get traffic from search engines, it is always a good idea to know what people are searching for before you start writing. I often use Aaron Wall’s keyword tool and run some keyword ideas through it to get estimates of how many people are searching for them.
4. Get links
We already lightly discussed the importance of links coming into your blog. Other that the great benefit they play in improving your search rankings, they also send visitors to your site. It is an obvious benefit, but often overlooked by people focusing on SEO. If you get a link from a blog that gets a lot of visitors, you could see a huge traffic spike from it. If you get links from lots of blogs, you could and will see visitors coming from most of them. Maybe not a bunch, but as you get more and more links, you will see more visitors coming. The bottom line about link-building is that you have to create something great that people want to link to. If you can consistently do that, many other things will fall into place.
How I increased Adsense earnings $1500 in less than 3 months
This section is going to be a little bit beyond the basics and I will provide details of how I dramatically improved earnings from Adsense. Just to clarify, at the time of this increase I was already making some money with Adsense, but I had no idea how much difference a few tweaks could make. In my case I increased earnings over $1500 in a short amount of time. The thing you have to understand about Adsense is that no two sites are alike. Every blog has a different audience and different articles and most likely a different layout, all these things affect Adsense earnings. Knowing that, testing and trying new things is critical to find the winners!
2. Put ads where people’s eyeballs went…
For me there is an eternal struggle between usability and profitability with ads. While I want need to make money to pay my bills, I still want to make this site as user friendly as possible. So, I have made some sacrifices with this site in order to maintain certain levels of usability, but one of the main keys to making money with Adsense is ad placement.
Like I mentioned before, this needs to be experimented with. But for the first year or more of this site I just kinda threw the ads where ever I had extra room. Once I changed the location of my ads, my earnings tripled overnight. It really freaked me out. I had no idea that just moving an ad a couple inches would have such a dramatic effect. The diagram to the right (from Google) provides some good starting point for what locations work and don’t.
3. Section Targeting
This was another tweak I made that made a noticeable difference in earnings. Basically “section targeting” is telling Google what text on your site to look at when deciding what ads to show. Google is pretty good at figuring this out if you don’t do this, but if you have a lot of stuff going on in your sidebars and footer sections, it is probably worth experimenting with. It is very easy to implement. You only need to use this tag…
to tell Google to start, and this tag…
…to tell them to stop. I just added a text widget at the top of my post for the start tag and after the content for the end tag.
4. Who Sees Ads Plugin
This is a great plugin that allows you (as the name suggests) choose which visitors see which ads. There are lots of criteria that you can select, so you can specify that Search Engine users see a particular Adsense unit when regular readers see something else. I have found that search engine visitors click Adsense ads a lot more than regular readers. I still show some Adsense to regular readers, but I focus my energy on the visitors from search engines – this plugin makes this very easy.
5. Changed the colors
When Adsense first came out, people said to make the colors as loud and ugly as possible to draw attention to them. Next I heard that the best thing to do was to blend them into the site. Of the two methods I think that blending works a little better, and definitely looks a lot better! But, I have a slight variation of that has worked even better for me. Currently I have have most of my links set to a lighter blue color. I used to have many of my Adsense ads match that, but I saw a nice increase when I changed the Ad titles to the old standard Link Blue. I feel that visually it is a complement rather than a match. It stands out a little bit more, but doesn’t look bad either – IMO…
6. Wrote articles people are searching for
This might seem unrelated, but it is very important. If you are like most bloggers, you have a regular readership and you have readers from the search engines. For some reason, a lot of bloggers just don’t give much respect to search engine readers and don’t really try to reach out to them other than trying to “convert” them to a regular reader. I approach things a little bit differently, rather than getting frustrated at the fact that so many search engine visitors don’t come back, I started to embrace it. I realized that my main goal of this site was to help people, so why should I care if they only visit once or on a daily basis if they are getting helped?
So while I very much appreciate and value my regular readers, I also understand that I can help those who find the site via a search engine. I started doing keyword research to see what people were looking for in the search engines. If there are people searching to find the highest paying jobs without a degree, I want to help them find out! What happened for me as I started to become more conscious of what people were searching for was that I started getting more search engine traffic – which of course leads to higher earnings from Adsense.
7. Added a Google search bar
This is a no-brainer. Google is the master of search, so you can bet that their search capability on your site is going to be better than the default WordPress search tool. By installing this, you will help your visitors find the information that they are looking for on your site and make some extra cash in the process. When the search results (from the websites you choose) are displayed they have the standard Google ads present, just like normal Google search results.
8. Hooked Google Analytics up with Adsense
A few months ago, Analytics started allowing the option to integrate your Adsense data. This has been so helpful for me. It provides webmasters with a wealth of information about earnings. It is simple to see which articles are making the most money, which keywords are yielding the most, what sites send the most valuable traffic, and a whole lot more. If you use Adsense, don’t pass this one up.
9. Tested, re-tested, and tested again…
When running Adsense tests, I typically let them run for a month in order to make sure they are very thorough. I have a calendar that I use to mark down when I make changes and what changes I make. Then when the test is complete I compare CPM and eCPM rates to see what performed better. A/B split testing is a better method when possible, but for certain tests is just isn’t possible or practical. But either way, if you want to make more money with Adsense, experimenting and testing is a must!
11 tools that have helped make it all possible…
Not all of these tools directly contribute to the bottom line, but each one of them have been very helpful over the last couple years.
- Google Analytics – which is a wonderful (and free) statistics tool that will help you keep track of your visitors and analyze a lot of data about them. As I mentioned before it now integrates with Adsense to give even more valuable data.
- Semiologic WP Theme – This is the theme I used to use for most of my WordPress sites. It costs about $300 for the full version, but I started with the free version, which I think is far more customizable than the vast majority of WP themes out there already. So if you are just starting out your probably don’t need the full version yet, but eventually it is probably worth considering. For what it has allowed me to do I know that it has paid for itself many times over.
- Google webmaster tools – This will help you see how Google views your blog. They will also let you know if there are any problems with it that you may not be aware of. For me I had some issues that were really hurting my search rankings, but I found out about them and fixed them and voila! All better.
- Aweber Email Marketing Service – I haven’t been using this too long, but if you read anything about internet marketing, you will certainly hear about the incredible value in having an email list. I have been happy with Aweber thus far.
- Google’s Keyword Tool – This is a great tool to get ideas about popular keywords as well.
- SEObook Keyword Tool – I use this to get a ballpark estimate of how many people are searching for particular key phrases.
- SocialPoster – This tool allows you to submit articles to multiple social sites. I used to use it to submit to about the top 5-10 social sites.
- Hittail.com – This one provides ideas for articles based on what you have previously written about and could probably rank for. I just noticed that the free version is gone. If you have a blog that is established it might be worth paying $10 a month for it – I suggest doing the free-trial and see how much it helps you.
- Stock.xchng – The best free stock photography site I have found.
- BigStock - The best cheap stock photography site I have found. They have lots of images that you can get for just about a buck.
- Feedburner – If you have a blog, you will want to burn a feed. Feedburner makes this fun, organized, and easy…
A few more tools that may be worth checking out…
- Scribe SEO Tool for WordPress – I wrote a more thorough review of this tool that the blogging tips subscribers received (you can sign up for free below if interested). But basically, I tried it out and decided not to continue to use it because I thought it was priced a little to high for what I got from it. It can make the SEO process a bit easier, but I just wasn’t sure about spending $27 on it. If they lower the price, I might recommend it a bit more.
- How To Build A Successful Blog Business – I haven’t read this ebook yet, but some of the biggest names in the business have some great things to say about the book.
- Frugal Theme for WordPress – This is another premium theme like Thesis and I haven’t tried it out yet, but it seems to be gaining popularity.
- Yaro Starak’s (and Leslie’s) Become a Blogger Training Course – I haven’t tried this, but have heard good things about it. Yaro is an extremely successful internet marketer and I have learned a whole lot from him. If I were starting out today and could afford the program, I would do it.
Warnings for those starting out…
Don’t quit your day-job
Even if you know a lot about making money with a blog (which just be reading this article, you have a tremendous advantage over me when I started) it is going to take a while. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, it is more of a work-for-free-for-a-long-time-and-then-reap-your-reward type plan. The beautiful thing is that I can now say that it does work if you are diligent and open to learning from your mistakes. But either way, convention wisdom says, build your blog part-time and when you start making more from it than your day-job consider making it a full-time deal. My situation is a unique one and I don’t recommend doing what I did unless it really is God calling you to do so. In my case I am now thankful that I got laid off – if I hadn’t I would probably still be doing a job I didn’t like!
Learn everything you can
One of the advantages I have is that I love to learn and don’t stop when I make a mistake. I work really hard to learn from my mistakes and figure out what the better course of action would be for the next time. You are going to do things wrong, but you just have to keep going and keep learning. Learning how to use Google search is very important. If you do, you will be able to find an answer to just about every problem you encounter on the web.
Checking your stats every hour, reading 500 blogs in your RSS, playing on Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, or Youtube all day will kill your productivity. Focus on what yields results and stay disciplined to stick with that. Social media is an important part of building traffic, but you have to keep it in check.
While I wrote this article as a guide to help those who want to make money with a blog, I understand that many people don’t really care about that. Either way, life is too short not to be enjoying it. So whether you want to be a full-time blogger or just communicate with friends – have fun!!
This article was written by Bob
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Many people have told me that I am “giving away too much for free” with this article. That was my intention. I have had some success making money blogging and want to help others do the same. I just figured that by creating a great and free resource a lot of links would follow – and they have. Some people ask me how they can repay me – which is not necessary -but for those wanting to show their appreciation, I just say linking to the article from their blog is the best compensation I could receive. Thanks for reading!
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