If you want to make money with a blog pick your subject matter carefully

Even though we put some Adsense units on this site I never had any expectations for them beyond a few clicks here and there. That’s because readers don’t come to this site with a purchase or product research in mind. The subject matter (Internet marketing and business) isn’t closely associated with buying.

Gawker Media, the big blog network, announced that it was selling off a few assets including Wonkette, a very popular inside Washington political blog that had over 5 million pageviews last month. With that kind of traffic you’d think they’d be crazy to dump an otherwise successful site. My guess is, that with a downturn  economy, a site like Wonkette which never had a strong advertising model- readers go there for opinions and gossip, not shopping, was probably seeing a big drop in ad revenues. I’m guessing their CPMs were in the toilet despite the high traffic.

To make money with a site you have to choose your subject matter carefully. Is the information you’re providing something people seek during a buying process? Are the types of purchases associated with the site Internet e-commerce friendly? Things like books, jewelry, gadgets, courses and other high value, easily shipped, high margin products work best. Things that are heavy, cheap and have low margins like pet supplies, large appliances and groceries don’t cut it.

Is the subject matter information-intensive? If the buying decision is easy you can’t add enough value via a web site or blog. Look at the ads on general news, opinion and lifestyle blogs/sites- they are often big brand ads for cars, insurance and other generic subjects that are neutral in relevance to the content. These kinds of ads generate almost nothing in CPMs (measured in cents per thousand impressions) and contribute to banner blindness.

Getting a formula that delivers higher revenues requires something a lot of Internet media entrepreneurs don’t want to do: hard work. I’m in the process of inserting relevant affiliate text links into the hundreds of articles on one of my kitchen design sites. I have display affiliate ads but they draw very poorly. The text links are carefully chosen for very high relevance but it’s a lot of work:

  • Determine what the reader of the article is most likely to be interested in at that moment. I have an article that recommends getting material samples when planning a new kitchen. The reader wants to know where they can get these.
  • I go through the various affiliate programs and find a vendor that not only offers samples but pays out for sample requests, in this case $15 for a sample order (because they know that if you have a flooring sample you like you’re likely to order that specific flooring- resulting in a big sale). This takes a lot of time to research.
  • I build a text link with the affiliate code that includes the appropriate anchor text. Free Flooring Samples from XYZ, for example
  • I choose the appropriate place the article and insert the link text inline with the content. I don’t hide that it is a link (different color) nor do I hide the brand because I want it clear to the search police that I’m offering legitimate relevant content even if it is commercial. And I want the reader to know that I considered their interest, time and needs when selecting this revenue model.

This is a lot of picky busy work but when I’m done I’ll have an information site that is optimized for revenue-generation in a way that the consumer appreciates. And it is sustainable because once the work is done the site is self-sufficient.

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