My blog is at the small end of a mid-size blog, and I feel like I’ve tried every source of revenue over the years: text link ads, independent advertisers, affiliate networks, sponsored posts and tweets, running an independent shop… the list goes on.
In many ways, it's the hardest place to be when you want to monetize your site: if you base your blog ad rates on CPM (cost per mille or cost per impression), you may find your rates competing with much larger blogs who undercharge for their ad spaces. If you’re an advertiser, well– would you rather spend $35 for an ad on a site with 30,000 page views/month or one with 100,000 page views/month?
In the past few months, I've scaled back the ways I’m willing to monetize my site, and I’ve been focusing on affiliate networks and ad networks. I prefer these because they’re a passive approach to monetizing my sites: I’m not pressured to keep up with renewal dates with indie advertisers, create new content for sponsored posts, or risk penalties for placing a text link ad.
I’ve been using rewardStyle for the past few years now and there are many, many aspects I love: the analytics are clear, interactive, and easy to use. The Link Ninja app is great, especially for building clean and beautiful widgets– this really saves my life! The range of advertisers they have is great (though I'd love see more plus size brands represented), and having an account manager who is easy to reach is superb.
But as a program based on commissions, I’ve gotten frustrated at times. Since opening my account, I’ve earned about $750 in commissions– and have received two barely at $100 payouts. (I have commissions from NOVEMBER 2012 that haven’t cleared!)
Ed note: All rewardStyle graphs have been removed at rewardStyle request for violating their terms of service.
For April, ‘ve had over 1,600 people click the links– with only 9 people buying items. This created a coversion rate of of .56%. This is compared to my conversion rate for the month of April, which is higher than my yearly average of .46%– which means that some change I've made has worked in my favor! For the year, you can see that I've had over 4,000 people click on links… and only 20 people buy as a result.
What I can learn from these statistics is simple: the women who read my site click through to products, but a very small majority of them actually buy. Where rewardStyle is great is by tracking your best performing links. I know women who come to my blog are more likely to buy a Marc by Marc Jacobs purse or a plus size swimsuit from Modcloth than they are to buy a piece from an outfit I wore.
I know that rewardStyle is great for producing evergreen content because these links also correspond with my most trafficked posts. My most popular posts via Google searches are for Marc by Marc Jacob purses, plus-size swimsuits, and plus-size little black dresses. You can see from above that 5 of the 10 links above come from those posts.
I started using ShopSense after reading Taylor’s Case Study: Affiliate Earnings from rewardStyle vs. ShopSense. What I took from her post that can be applied to my own experiences is this: as a small to mid-size blogger, my regular audience is women who love clothes and love to shop, but are often on budgets. They may click through to check it out, but they’re not going to buy.
Much of my success in using ShopSense comes from my ability to use it on sites I guest post or freelance on, like Already Pretty. My posts from Already Pretty have a much higher click rate, and you can see those spikes. I also don’t post as often as Taylor does, but you can see how each day has a few cents trickling in. It may not be as much as a successful commission from rewardStyle, but it adds up quickly. With the right traffic and post, you can see the earning potential available at ShopSense.
ShopSense has really limited statistics for you to use; above you can see what I earned in one week with ShopSense, how much was earned each day, and what tool was used. API means a link was clicked, and widget means I used one of their display tools. While it isn't a lot, I've earned $40.55 within a month and half of using ShopSense– about half way to the payout level of $100. If I used this affiliate marketer more aggressively, then I'm sure I could reach payouts more quickly.
For my site, ShopSense has been great to use in conjunction with rewardStyle because I can target where they're both used. I use ShopSense for posts that are lack a call to action: what I wore, style advice, or posts where women want to look, but not buy.
In addition to ShopSense and rewardStyle, I thought it was worth quickly mentioning ShareASale and my successes with it. I use ShareASale in a limited capacity as it works with a few brands (City Chic, eShakti, and Monif C) that the other two do not, but that yield a high return of sales for me. These are brands that I love and wear; with the lower $50 payout threshold, it's easy to get payouts every month. This is really to emphasize the point of knowing your audience, what they're buying, and where it's best to use each individual affiliate network
I only recently began re-using Google Ads. They’re easy to set up, and you see them running on most sites (including Amazon). They really are the most passive means of advertising, and you can filter what topics you do–or don’t– want running on your site. Just install a bit of code, and you're in business! Like rewardStyle and Shopsense, you have to meet the $100 payout threshold to receive payment.
Since installing it on my sites (one ad on Dramatis Personae and one on Style in Cinema), I’ve seen the following profits coming in in the last month (after having installed them towards the end of March):
As you can see, my last payout was in February 2012, and it's passively earned $53.95 in the 14 months since. For the month of April, I've received $19.43 and 1.84% of the people who view my site click on an ad; compare this to the .46% conversion rate at rewardStyle. That's over 3 times as many people! While I'm still early in the phases of this new Adsense relationship, I can see it being a fruitful way to boost up my income, especially as my site grows larger and gains more traffic.
The monetization process is a long, slow, and really tedious process. Finding the best route for you blog means having a greater understanding of your readers, who else may be visiting your site, and WHY they are visiting. Then you have to experiment to find the best balance, which can be another long journey.
If your blog is in the small to mid-size range, I'd love to hear what monetization techniques you've had the best success with, and why!
[Image source: Shutterstock.com]