How to Monetize Your Blog

Saturday Nov. 2nd, 2013

I thought I’d write a how to article about monetizing a website because it is one of the most frequently asked questions I get about blogging. I grab coffee with fellow entrepreneurs interested in figuring out how to monetize their website a few times each month and go over the same things time and time again.

Before explaining the whole process, I want to let you know that monetizing a website will take a big investment in your time, and it is not something that happens overnight. It’s taken me a number of years to figure out how to actually monetize my own sites, and now I would like to share what I’ve learned with you.

No matter what stage of blogging you are in, it is important to have a vision and strategy to turn your passion into a revenue generating business. Blogging is a large time commitment, and it is important to be compensated for your time.

In this article I will go over affiliate marketing, one of the easiest strategies to implement. Please realize there are other monetization methods, but I’ll get to those in a future article.

Affiliate Marketing
Let’s begin by looking at the definition of affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing  is a type of  performance-based marketing  in which a business rewards one or more  affiliates  for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. (Encyclopedia.com)
To make it simple, affiliate marketing is promoting a company’s product or service online. You are rewarded with a commission each time a sale occurs. No matter what industry or type of blog, you will have the opportunity to use affiliate marketing.

How to Take Action and Start Generating Affiliate Revenue

1. The first step in getting started with affiliate marketing is to set up a legal entity for your business. You can find the filing papers on the Montana Secretary of State’s website. Once completed, fill out the IRS form to get a tax ID number.  The tax ID number will get you in the door with all affiliate marketing brokers and companies like Amazon. You will also want to learn about other requirements for starting a small business in Montana.

2. Now that you have a legal entity and tax ID, it’s time to start promoting products in blog posts and as advertisements on your website. If you don’t have a blog set up, I’d highly recommend using the WordPress platform, which is free and very powerful. Next, find a hosting service to store all of your websites data.

Once hosting and WordPress are set up, find a professional looking WordPress theme. There are many free theme designs available, but to easily make the site look professional right out of the box I’d recommend getting a theme from a company like  Elegant Themes or Theme Forest. This will eliminate a lot of stress and ultimately save you time.
amazon cash
Becoming an Amazon Affiliate

With the groundwork covered, it’s time to get started with a  free Amazon affiliate account. It should only take a few minutes to get signed up. Once approved, you’ll be able to market and sell any product on Amazon. The commission is generally around 4-7% depending on the amount of items you sell each month. The payment also varies with the category of the product. Your sales are monitored by a cookie or tracking code that is assigned to anyone who clicks on your affiliate link. If the person who clicks on the link buys anything on Amazon after clicking on your link you will get a commission. The cookie stays with them for 30 days.

Example
I have a niche blog named  DIYPETE.com where I teach and help people create their own furniture and art. Many of my visitors are just getting their feet wet with woodworking or metal work and need to know what tools to purchase. So, in each blog post I type the tools I use for the project and then link text to my Amazon affiliate link  for the product. My top selling Amazon products for that site are the  Dewalt Miter Saw and the Kreg Jig Pocket Hole tool. The Kreg Jig tool retails for $99 on Amazon, which pays roughly $6 to $7 per jig that someone buys through the link. While this may not seem like much, the sales add up quickly over time.

How to get Amazon Links
Once your Amazon affiliate account is setup, log in and get links for any product on their site. Pretend you write a blog post about coffee and really like Keurig coffee machines. Simply link to the product using the Amazon code and if someone clicks on the link and ends up purchasing you will make a commission.

In addition to simple text links, Amazon also has nice looking banners to advertise with. Copy and paste the codes from your Amazon link into the blog post within WordPress or the web design platform of your choice.

Finding other Companies to be an Affiliate for
There are a number of companies with their own affiliate programs or who use a broker to manage their affiliate system. To find programs, go to the company’s website that you are interested in promoting. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will most likely find a hyperlink that says something like “Affiliates” or “Become an Affiliate.” Click on the link to sign up for the program. During sign up, you will be asked to fill out a W-9 form with your business name and tax ID#. Your account will most likely be approved within a couple days.
Companies in every niche have affiliate programs. If you are interested in outdoor activities like skiing or hiking you could become an affiliate for a site like Backcountry.com

How to Use Affiliate Links Offline
Any type of blog, website, or business can use affiliate links. For example, I met with a business consultant who helps others with tech related setups in large offices. She sets computers up with software named GoToMyPC that enables each employee to access their office desktop computer from home or while traveling. I told her to become an affiliate for  GoToMyPC and to have the company go through her link for each purchase. Now, in addition to charging for her install services she is also making between $15 -$30 for each employee set up with the software.

You might be a web designer who gets customers set up with site hosting on a daily basis. Why not make a commission by signing up your customers through a link? Just about every hosting business has an affiliate program and the commissions can range from $50-$200 on average per signup. Some companies even pay residual income. So instead of paying one lump fee at the beginning, you’ll get a percentage of the renewal rate on a monthly or yearly basis.

You can email the links when friends ask you for a recommendation, post text links on your site, or use banners on the pages.

Affiliate Link Brokers
Many businesses use brokers to manage their affiliate programs. Two very well known programs are CommissionJunction.com and ShareaSale.com. You can go to their website to sign up for an account and then browse the companies they represent. I use both brokers and  ShareaSale.com  is one of my favorites. I can log into the ShareaSale site to see statistics and the number of sales I’ve made.
How and when do I get paid?

Companies generally payout by doing a Direct Deposit, sending a check in the mail, or using PayPal. Expect to get paid 2 or 3 months after the actual sale on average. This is because companies have what is called a holding period to ensure the customer stays with them beyond a trial period or 2 payment periods. While getting started it seems as if you aren’t ever getting rewarded, but after the first couple months you will see checks coming in each month for past periods.

Summary
Monetizing your website using affiliate marketing is an excellent way to get started with a business model for your website or blog. It allows you to market other company’s products while you are in the process of starting to create your own. In addition to affiliate monetization, you will also want to look into selling advertisements, finding site sponsors, creating a membership site, Youtube/Adsense programs, and offering paid services. Feel free to check out my blog for entrepreneurs if you are interested in learning more. Good luck!

Pete Sveen helps and inspires others through his ThinkEntrepreneurship.com Blog and Podcast. He also owns SignsofTheMountains.com