Can Problogging Build your Bottom Line?
Five and a half months. That’s how long it takes for the blogosphere to double in size, according to David Sifry of Technorati, which tracks more than 50 million blogs already. For consultants, the boom in blogging is also a boon. Blogs let you show off your knowledge of Java, Windows or adware detection, proving your knowledge better than any sales shtick. They also attract readers who convert — sometimes quickly — into clients.
That’s not bad for something that costs only dollars per month to maintain. But a blog also can be a source of revenue, if you know how to use it right. Blogging for cash, or “problogging,” is gaining speed.
Myth or Magic?
Just don’t get greedy. Stories abound of people making six figures blogging, but they’re in the minority. Perhaps the most famous is Heather Armstrong of www.dooce.com, a Web designer who got canned for snarky comments on her blog, then turned the blog into a full-time job that earns enough money to pay the mortgage.
However, for every cash-building blogger, there’s a Jane Chin (www.janechin.com), who reports earning 19 cents in the initial months of her blogging “experiment” (her word).
There is evidence, however, to suggest probloggers aren’t all paupers. In an informal survey on ProBlogger, Darren Rowse, the site’s owner and a well-known problogger himself, found that nearly 17 percent of respondents made $1,000 or more by using Google’s AdSense in November 2005. AdSense is the blogosphere’s best-known ad program, placing context-based ads on your blog, depending on what you blog about.
For a consultant, $12,000 a year (or $1,000 a month) is no cause for shame. And just more than 4 percent of respondents claimed to earn $10,000 or more a month, making problogging a tempting project indeed.
Traffic Ain’t All There Is
Most blogs make their money from ads, using programs such as AdSense or Adbrite to build revenue. Just drop some code in your HTML and poof — you’ll get a monthly check based on the number of ads displayed or the number of times readers click on them.
Because that’s a numbers game, most bloggers wrongly assume that a blog’s traffic determines its revenue. True, more traffic helps, but it pays to remember that hordes of readers don’t always translate into mounds of cash. Some readers are more likely to click on ads than others.
What’s more, ads in some fields will always pay more for clicking than ads in others. Investing and finance tend to pay well — ads for knitting or nature walks don’t.
It’s also useful to know the finer points of the ad program you choose. Google, for instance, lets you place your ads wherever you like: at the top or bottom of a page, in the margins or even between posts. You can puts ads between posts and tweak their fonts, colors and borders too. Often the smallest change can result in drastic jumps or drops in revenue, so it pays to know the basics of design and information architecture.
It also pays to use common sense: Bloggers who include the full content of their posts in their RSS feeds, where ads rarely display, do nothing to make readers visit their site and click on those ads. Other, smarter bloggers maximize their income with advertorials, sponsored reviews, affiliate programs such as Amazon’s and even merchandise such as T-shirts and hats.
Know The Rules
No matter what your approach, you need a firm grasp of the rules. First, content is king. Always. If it’s not useful, clear and engaging, people won’t read what you write. And if they don’t read it, you don’t make money. Keep your content focused and frequent. Because you’re a consultant, not a comic, don’t blog about your husband, your wife or your sex life. We can do without your politics, too.
Instead, blog about Sun, MySQL, intrusion detection, iSCSI or knowledge management. And blog frequently. A post a month won’t cut it — three posts a week is better if you plan to have loyal readers.
Last, remember that it takes time to build an audience, and it takes even longer to build a reputation. If you truly plan to earn money blogging, you’ll need to attack it daily and market your blog ferociously. You’ll need, in essence, to spread word of your blog like seeds on the Internet. Spread enough and spread them long enough, and what grows might flower.
David Garrett is a Web designer and former IT director, as well as the author of “Herding Chickens: Innovative Techniques in Project Management.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.