The Business of Blogging

Occasionally, I get a wild hair and decide to sit and write up a post about blogging.  Today is one of those days.  My friend, Sarah, did a nice post recently about advertising, so I thought I’d expound on that and give my experience with that and blogging.  I hope by doing this it helps many of you who are new to blogging.  I learned all of what I know by reading and asking questions along the way, so if I can pass on some of my knowledge, I’m glad to do it.  I certainly don’t claim to know it all by any means and I’m STILL learning, all the time.  This is a long one, so get comfortable.

To advertise or NOT to advertise, that seems to be the question that bloggers ask. You can’t make everyone happy.  Some will not like the fact that you advertise and many will not care one way or the other.

So, to start off, let me say that I’ve now been blogging for 3 1/2 years.  In blog years, that’s a long time.  Back when I started, there were not all that many blogs in my niche of decorating, design, crafting, DIY, or home blogs.  There just weren’t nearly the amount of blogs back then.  We all visited each other, linking back and forth and I pretty much had a handle on most of the blogs in that niche and got to know a lot of them.

But now….now, there are millions of new blogs. Just the last year, I’ve seen an explosion of new bloggers.  So, welcome to all of you who are new.  We were all new at one time.  Today I’m going to share my experiences with advertising on my blog.  How I decided what to do and the process I went through to get to where I am now.

Back in the early days, I remember seeing lots of discussions on whether or not someone was going to advertise on their blog.  It seemed that there were decidedly 2 camps:  those who would advertise and those who felt strongly against it.  I was somewhere in the middle, not knowing anything about advertising or what it all meant.  I had no idea of the ins and outs of advertising or if any money could be made blogging.

Those of us who went to Blissdom in 2009 learned even more about advertising and blogging and how it all works.  But, still it’s a continual learning process and some days, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this big world wide web is all about.

Sarah gave a really good point on her post which I totally agree with:

DO NOT start a blog for the purpose of making money!  That’s a BIG amen. It simply will NOT work and I can’t say that strongly enough either.

When I started blogging, I really just began on a whim, not knowing what I was doing or the right way to go about starting a blog.  As I did back then, I still blog because I LOVE it, not for any other reason.  Making $$ is just icing on the cake and adds another dimension to it, but the main reason I blog is because I enjoy the community and friendships so much.  I feel like I’ve got about 7,000 friends that I can reach out to at anytime and you’d be there for me.  I know I can count on some dialogue with all of you if I need it and that is such a fun part of blogging for me.  Reading your comments makes my day!

You may ask how big your blog needs to be before you advertise?  I would say to make it worthwhile, you would probably need about 20-25,000 hits a month to even get started.  After my first year of blogging, I began to get inquiries about text links.  I added a few of those, but they certainly aren’t big money makers and I will only add those now if they are relevant to my topics.  In fact, I will only use advertisers that are completely relevant to what I talk about on my blog.

If you want to keep up with your stats, be sure to sign up for Google Analytics and even Sitemeter (I use both) to track how many visitors come by your blog.

The rule of thumb for what to charge for an ad is this:  $1 per 1,000 impressions or visits per month.  So, with that in mind, if you get 100,000 visits per month, that would equate to being able to charge $100 per month for an ad.  I don’t charge what I could, but you have to keep in mind the economy and what people are willing to pay.  My rates are very reasonable and in keeping with the economic climate.

Like I said, I had no idea about the money-making thing when I started blogging. It was only a year or so into it that I saw that there were blogs advertising and especially noticed a blog ad network called BlogHer.  That’s when I decided to apply and join.  I waited until I was blogging a whole year before I jumped in and joined BlogHer and I’m so glad I did.  They are the 5th largest women’s network on the web and they have a blog network of 2,500 bloggers.  I got in at a great time with them and have been completely happy with my association with BlogHer.  I think they are still closed for the most part, but if you get on their list, you may be able to get in eventually.  I had to wait a couple of months before I was accepted in 2008.

Just for reference, I went back and looked up  my first check from Blogher, back in 2008.  It was $84.   Yippee!!  I can still remember the thrill of actually getting a check in the mail from my blog.  You would have thought it was $1,000 from my excitement.  It has steadily gone up from there.


I totally believe that first year should be a year of getting your feet wet, learning the ropes and establishing your topics and voice.  Most of us need that time.  My blog traffic back then was about 1/4  what it is now.  I don’t keep secrets on that and you can click on my Ad button over there to the right, to see my stats on my Advertising/PR page.

I now have around 100,000 + visitors a month, much more than I had 2 years ago.  So, I started off slowly with BlogHer and grew into it.  The amount of money you make with them is solely dependent on how much traffic you have.  It started out slowly, but has grown for me and that’s been a good thing.  I do get perks and opportunities for promotions with them, like the ones you see me doing on here with reviews and giveaways.  The products that they represent are ones that I can get behind, so I have no problem with that aspect of it.  I like the fact that they represent women bloggers with advertisers and the advertisers are realizing what a powerful force that women are.


Last year, I also added my own advertisers, like many others have.  Those small ad buttons you see over there are for independent business owners, many of them mom-preneurs who are staying at home and starting their own businesses.  I love supporting them whenever I can.  I never try to push anything on any of you out there who faithfully read my blog, but I hope that you will buy from these small businesses whenever you can.  Many of these businesses have started from folks who have lost jobs or are starting over with home-based businesses and with our economy, I applaud those who wish to stay home and still make a living.

I also sometimes do “trade-outs” for ads.  If there is a service or product that I’d like to have, instead of monetary compensation, I will sometimes trade ad space for products or services.  That’s a win-win for both parties too.

I have never apologized for putting ads on my blog, nor will I do that now.  It’s a necessary thing once you get to a certain point with blogging, I think. Most of us who do ads are putting a LOT of time and energy into our blogs and I see no reason not to be compensated for that.

Believe me, it is not fulltime pay in the least. But, bringing in some extra $$ has been great for me.  It really helps me feel fulfilled as a small business owner to be able to make a little income of my own. I started my own decorating business 2 years ago, with the hopes of making a go at that locally.  I’ve done some local decorating consultations and love doing them, but the bulk of my business is now this blog.

There are other ways to advertise on blogs too.  Google Ads has  a program that anyone can join.  You can sign up and start running those on your blog if you choose.  Those are mostly dependent on how many visits you get for the most part, I think and I’ve just added one of those to my blog.  I don’t expect to get rich off of any of them.  You can choose the size, whether or not it’s a text ad or picture ad and just add it to your sidebar.  You will need to send in Tax info on all of these, if you decide to join them.

There are also affiliate ads, which you can sign up for through sites like Commission Junction, for one.  I don’t know a whole lot about affiliates, but I did try them a few times and didn’t see much happening, so stopped those. There is also a site called Juicebox Jungle, which some of my friends are using and happy with.  There are SO many avenues out there, but these are the main ones I know about.

To break it down, here are my main tips on advertising.  When to advertise, how to get started and all of that:

  • My personal  opinion is that you should wait until you’ve been blogging close to a year before you try to advertise.  Unless your blog just explodes that first year, you’ll need the time to grow and learn the ropes.  Again, just my personal opinion and what I did myself.  I cringe when I see bloggers trying to get advertising when they are 3 months old.
  • Don’t blog to make money.  Again, that just will not work.  Your readers will see right through that and won’t come back.  I’ve been so fortunate to have my readers grow right along with me.
  • Try out an ad network or your own personal ads and see how it goes.  Don’t expect to get rich.  You will not.
  • Always keep your content first and foremost the most important thing.  I blog more often than I used to, but it’s because I still have plenty to talk about.  I really thought I’d run out of topics by now, but I still love decorating so much and home stuff so much that it hasn’t happened.  I still have plenty to run my mouth about.  🙂

I really think it’s much harder now to grow a blog really big. There is just so much competition out there in each and every niche.  But, if you’re true to yourself and visit and comment and are friendly and open, then that is my best tip on growing your blog.  I just don’t think every blog is going to grow big.  I’ve been very fortunate to see mine grow at the pace it has, but there are many blogs in my niche that are MUCH bigger than mine.

There are other ways to make money on a blog too.  I do some online decorating consultations that I enjoy and that brings in a little income and  I have also been fortunate to be a part of Open Sky, with my own online shop which has also been rewarding. (NOTE: Open Sky changed formats, so our shops are no longer open, I hope to get my own shop open soon!)  So, it’s a combination of things that can be embarked on to make money from blogging.  Again, it’s part-time income and not at all what I made when I was working in the Corporate world, but it’s a whole lot more rewarding.

I’m so fortunate that I get quite a lot of offers for book reviews and giveaways and anything that I think I will enjoy AND YOU will enjoy, I will take it on.  I look at it this way.  If I’m getting a perk, then I want to be able to pass it on to some of you who are so great to come by and support me. Being able to give out great prizes makes me happy for all of you who win too.

So, as long as all of you keep coming back to visit and support me, I’ll keep on passing on great books and giveaways too.  Blogging has been such a great venue for me as a decor-aholic and  I’ve enjoyed it tremendously and sharing it with ALL of you just makes it better than ever.  If you stopped coming by, I would be so sad.  I truly don’t care if my blog grows any bigger than it is now. I’m quite happy with where I am and honestly, I don’t know if I would want more to do or to keep up with.  My schedule is pretty busy as it is and I don’t ever want the FUN to go out of blogging.  It is a whole lot of fun for me!

I will tell you this too.  As your blog grows, so does your busy life grow with it.  If you aspire to have a bigger blog, be prepared to do the work on it to keep it that way.  I spend as many hours at my computer as most of you do who have full-time jobs, but it is still very rewarding and enjoyable for me and that’s why I do it.  I also think I’ve lost a few friends along the way.  Many, many people who used to stop by and say hello in that beginning year or so simply have disappeared. I have no idea if some are still around or not, because I can only read my comments to see who stops by.  So, as your blog grows, it just may cause some to lurk or leave?  I’m not sure the reason, but I suspect it is time constraints, as blogging has just added more busyness to all our lives.  I guess since I can’t keep up with so many of you, that the same thing happens with people commenting here too.  I’m still working on that balance thing! 🙂

I have said over and over that the one thing that makes me sad is that I cannot connect with every single one of my readers on a regular basis.  It is an impossibility, as much as I’d like that to happen.   So, remember that too.  The bigger your blog, the less personal contact you have with a lot of your readers. You just will not physically have the time to visit all of them, as much as you want to.

So, that’s why I blog and that’s why I advertise.  Making some extra money is fun and doing what I love to do by working at home and making a little $$ is the best scenario.

As a blog grows and gets recognition, there’s a flip side to that too.  There are one, maybe 2 negative and mean anonymous commenters who will not go away and just love to come by and leave me nasty-grams.  They go right into a spam folder, so none of you read them, but it just amazes me that some girls have nothing better to do than hang out at a blog that from their very mean and hateful comments, they obviously despise everything I do and take the time to spend their energy on negative remarks.  Thankfully, the MANY wonderful readers I do have that leave me fantastic comments, by far outweigh the negative ones.  That’s what keeps me going! 🙂  Let’s see, 7000 subscribers vs. one MEAN and UGLY commenter.  That’s a no-brainer! 🙂

This is a BIG thank you to all of you out there who never comment, but drop by and read what I’m up to.  Lurkers, I would love to hear from ya’ll sometime!!  Without all of your support, my blog would not be where it is and I truly do appreciate each and every one of you.  Thanks for hanging out with me these last 3+ years.  I just love ya’ll! It’s like having great friends all over the country.

So, now the question is:  What do you think about advertising on blogs?  I know I’ll get lots of answers and that is fine.  Some will agree with it and some will not.  Just be respectful in your comments, please!

Go here for my Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers.

- Rhoda

Comments

  1. You are the best. I’ve learned more from your posts on tips for successful blogging! I truly appreciate your generosity. Your tip about not using a flash has improved my pictures 100%. I have printed this so I can relax with a cup of tea and absorb all of the info. Thank you!

  2. Rhoda,

    I’ve been one of your faithful ‘lurkers’ for a couple years. I came to your blog specifically due to your location in Alabama. I have wonderful family in that beautiful state and I love to read anything I can from Alabama and the South. I have learned so much from your blog about decorating….I’ve bought the supplies to frame my bathroom mirrors and I hope to install the beadboard wallpaper soon. I continually go back and forth on starting a blog – I have quite a few people encourage me to do so (many FB friends) as I love to share what I learn with everyone! I hesitate because I think it would overtake my ‘real’ life and I don’t think I could handle the negative stuff! But, I love your blog and I have referred quite a few of my FB friends (even linked your blog on my page) to your posts! Keep up the good work:-) ~ Rhonda
    PS: I’m now a Goodwill addict thanks to your thrift shopping posts!

  3. What great words of advice. Thank you so much for writing this. My own blog is two years old and I still am so passionate about it. I am one of those who used to comment more, sorry about that! I’m still here though…

  4. Hi Rhoda,
    Very interesting, I’ve been wondering about some of this for awhile now! Wednesday was my blog’s one year anniversary (whoo-hoo!) and I’m still growing into it, and trying to keep up with you, which I’m finding out is impossible! I want to thank you for always having been open and friendly and helpful to me in the past when I’ve asked you questions. I agree with you – this blogging thing takes a lot of time and energy, and some people just don’t get it! That said, I think advertising is okay depending on how it’s done. I don’t like things flashing in my face, or posts that are so obviously just advertisements that they are almost offensive (like a REALLY LOUD commercial on tv!). I think your site balances everything well.
    Two things I’ve noticed about myself: 1. I leave fewer comments when I see there are already 90, 100, 140 comments. I figure mine won’t be seen anyway, which might not be true, but it’s an impression and so I’m less inclined to leave a comment. 2. I hate having to sign in every time I want to leave a comment! I’m not very succint so I write a lot, signing in just adds to the large amount of time I spend in front of the computer! I understand the need to thwart spam and some of those meanies, but still…
    I admire you and your warmth and your style, and wish you many more happy years blogging!! I’ll keep looking up to you!
    XO
    Heidi

  5. Rhoda,

    This is an absolutely magnificent post! Thanks for your honesty and your transparency, and for actually getting into the nitty-gritty of the issues rather than just talking around them. I completely agree with all of your perspectives, and found them very helpful!

    Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  6. Rhoda–love your thoughts! I have always respected your advertising etiquette! I am somewhere in the middle on the advertising feelings but I have a hard time seeing some of my favorite bloggers get caught up in the advertising and we miss out on their great content. Yet as your blog has grown I have not felt that way at all! I appreciate your respect to your blog and readers and that those things come first!

    As a fellow BlogHer advertiser, I have often referred to your blog to see how you balance that along with your own personal advertisers. I do not think I am in a place to start independently but when I tinker with the thought, I always come back to you. And, yes I giggled and jumped up and down when I got my first review/giveaway check from BlogHer! So icing on the cake!

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  7. Wow, what a great source of info for new bloggers. I appreciate your time and candor. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen such long and involved comments on a blog post.

    I really like what you said about not blogging to make money. You really do have to “love” what you are doing. That pertains to any job in my experience, not just blogging.

    Brittany
    http://www.prettyhandygirl.com

  8. As a “new” blogger, I am extra attentive to the layouts of other blogs that I am reading and finding along the way. I do think your advertising is displayed very nicely. It does not distract from the content of your blog. I agree that as long as your content and readership is solid than advertising makes sense. It’s a lot of work to blog! Every other source of “entertainment” (i.e. movies, TV, radio, magazines) utilizes advertising as a means to make money. Why should blogs be any different? Thank you Rhoda for sharing these ideas. I really appreciate it!

  9. Dear Rhoda,
    Since my blog is still a baby, I am not even thinking about advertising. When I feel ready, I will be armed with all this passed on knowledge. Thank you for that. Great post.

    your friend,
    janet xox
    The Empty Nest

  10. Since I am relatively new, I so enjoy reading these kinds of tips. Yours are so much more helpful and practical than a lot I have read. I really appreciate you sharing these tips with all of us!

    Thanks
    Allyson

    http://cupcakescandycanes.blogspot.com

  11. This was just amazing! I have bookmarked it as I am sure around my one year mark I will come back and consider the option of adding advertisers to my blog. This was so comprehensive and well done from an insiders view……thank you so much!! SO many of my questions were answered in one place!

  12. Emily Clark just published a post on blog advertising and included the link to this post. I so appreciate all the advice and honesty. I have been blogging almost 6 months. I was totally and utterly clueless when I started my blog…no idea of the time involved or what it took to keep up. I am doing all the same things I have always done: sewing, painting, changing this or that, cooking, etc. The only difference is now I’m taking pictures and writing about it. I enjoy it so much but am having trouble finding balance. I’m happy when I have a popular post but then I spend hours and hours replying to comments and visiting blogs. I knew very early on that I was about 2 years late in starting out…meaning that the number of blogs out there is huge and the competition fierce. I feel as though I sort of missed the boat. I wonder if I should continue or maybe just stop. I continue though because I truly love doing it. I think I would miss it and I would certainly miss the wonderful people I have met. Any advice you would have on balancing the time involved would be appreciated. I have a full time job as a school secretary and am several years away from retirement. I blog in my “spare” time. Now I don’t have any spare time because I’m always blogging! Anyway, thanks for listening and don’t be surprised if you start getting comments on this post again!

  13. Hi Rhoda!
    I’m one of your lurkers-turned-followers and I SO appreciate your honesty and information for us newbie bloggers! I’ve had my blog for about 7 months now….with followers being mostly family and friends so far. With a new house and a new baby coming in the next month, I’m *hoping* to get some time in the coming months to explore and comment on other blogs a little more in order to get more followers (currently, I just lurk!) With all the new happenings in our life, I have no shortage of things to talk about! Thanks so much for your advice!
    -Shara

  14. I’m a lurker! I have really been enjoying your blog and seeking out all your posts about blogging. I started blogging in April but I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t even know “linky” parties existed. Ha! I LOVE blogging but it is incredibly time consuming. People outside the blogosphere have no idea, do they?! Thank you SO much for sharing your experiences.
    -Kristen

  15. We started blogging around 6 months ago and would like to push our blog further. This was a really useful post thank you! x

  16. I’m so pleased I came across your blog and this post. Being a new blogger, this information was most helpful – thank you!

  17. I know this is an ancient article, but I am a new blogger (6 months in) and this answered so many questions I have had. I found you on Pinterest today. Can’t wait to explore your blog. 🙂

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