This is a guest post written by Jennifer Mattern.
How Bloggers can Monetize a Blog Without Selling Out?
Do you run your own blog? Would you like to make money through your blog, but you worry that you’ll be perceived as a sell out? Well stop worrying! Making money doesn’t have to mean selling your soul to advertisers. You can make money blogging, be compensated well for the hard work you put into your blog, and still keep your ethical standards. The trick? Put yourself in your readers’ shoes.
Before we jump into tips on making money from your blog while maintaining your standards, let’s look at what it really means to “sell out.”
What Does it Mean to “Sell Out” as a Blogger?
As a blogger, here are some examples of things you might do that could damage your reputation and make readers view you as a sell out (or stop visiting altogether):
1. You write more for the money than for your readers — as in you have a lot of affiliate reviews and not much else.
2. You let sponsorships influence the editorial side of your blog in any way.
3. You accept money for posts, reviews, or other sponsorships without fully disclosing that relationship to readers.
4. You have so many ads littering your blog that readers can’t bear to spend time there.
10 Tips for Monetizing Your Blog Without Selling Out
You can be assertive about monetizing your blog without falling into those groups. Consider these ten tips to help you make money blogging without selling out and alienating your readers.
1. If you take on a regular sponsor, disclose it as soon as that relationship begins and disclose it in every post where that sponsor is mentioned.
2. If you accept freebies for reviews, let your readers know. It’s only fair that they know whether or not you cared enough about the product or service to pay for it out of your own pocket.
3. Keep reviews balanced. That means sharing both the good and the bad. If someone requires “positive” reviews for a freebie or payment, run. That’s unethical and it’s a violation of your readers’ trust — classic sell out behavior.
4. If you take on private advertisements, vet them thoroughly. Only take on advertisers you are willing to stand behind. Readers should know they can trust a site you accept as an advertiser — it’s a form of recommendation from you to them. In other words, if you’ve had terrible experiences with a certain airline, don’t accept their money in the form of advertisements on your travel blog. Choose advertisers you would patronize personally. If you use a contextual ad network, you can usually filter out “bad” ads.
5. Test affiliate products before promoting them. If you haven’t used something, you really don’t have any business telling others to try it. This isn’t mass media. It’s blogging. Readers build a more personal connection to you, and those promotions come across as personal recommendations. If you unknowingly get readers to spend money on garbage — like luggage that barely survives the first trip — they’ll remember that later.
6. Don’t overwhelm visitors with too many ads. You can actually hurt your conversions with ad overload. Keep them minimal at first and test different ad placements over the course of several months. Placement can matter much more than quantity. If you come across multiple placements with good conversions, consider adding more ad spots later. Just make sure the blog remains user-friendly.
7. If readers report questionable ads, remove them. The same goes for when a company does something you consider unethical. You never have to support companies, products or services you don’t believe in — even if you did believe in them yesterday. Readers understand that opinions can change. If an advertiser’s quality does, reconsider their offers.
8. If you’re really uncomfortable putting ads on your site, consider a donation model instead. You aren’t selling anything, so you can’t technically sell out. And people compensate you based on the value they find in what you offer.
9. Focus on building a solid readership and not just on stuffing more ads on the blog. The more readers you have, the more you can generally earn. But you also have to “earn” those readers. Keep the focus on relevant quality content and conversations and you’ll set yourself up for better long-term earnings without selling out in any way.
10. One of the best ways to make money blogging without selling out is to use your blog to promote and sell your own products. For example, consider writing a short e-book or a collection of travel planning worksheets.
You don’t ever have to sell out to third parties to run a financially successful blog. And it isn’t worth the risk of potentially alienating readers for good. What’s your balance between blogging income and reader trust?
Share your own tips for making money blogging without selling out in the comments.
About Jennifer Mattern
Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer and professional blogger who writes about freelance writing, social media, indie publishing, and small business.
She also publishes e-books for freelance writers and is scheduled to publish her first nonfiction book, The Query-Free Freelancer, next year.