If you work on your blog long enough and hard enough, at some point you’re probably going to want to earn at least some revenue from it. After all, though most bloggers get started out of fun or love, revenue is not only a powerful motivator but it also frees a blogger up to invest more time and energy into their site.
Contrary to what many believe, earning money from your blog does not mean “selling out” nor does it mean you’re no longer blogging out of love or passion. Most understand the need/desire to earn revenue from your site and, if the business model is respectable to both your content and your visitors, many will actually find your site to be more professional and more respectable.
However, finding the right business model is both tricky and vital. A bad approach will not only fail you to earn any money, but can effectively kill your site by turning visitors away and destroying your reputation.
So how do you choose the business model that’s right for you? It’s not a simple question to answer, but one that every blogger has to address.
We discussed previously how having a good business model or other long-term goal is a key to running a successful site.
However, one of the amazing things about the Web and, in particular blogging, is that there are dozens of ways one can make a great deal of money from it. Unfortunately though, there is no one “right answer” for every blogger just as there is no single definition of “success”.
But with that great opportunity comes a good deal of risk. The wrong business model can actually help sink your site. Not only is a business model that fails to produce revenue likely to cause frustration where none existed before, but a truly disastrous one can literally drive your visitors away.
So while there are great opportunities online and plenty of chances to experiment, you need to find a business model that:
- Earns Revenue
- Respects Your Readership
- Is Sustainable Long Term
This can be an incredibly difficult trifecta to complete and any misstep can be devastating. Fortunately though, if you move carefully and with good planning, even if you do make a mistake, it won’t ruin you or your site.
However, doing so requires putting some thought into your model before you flip the switch.
How to Avoid It
When trying to determine what your business model is going to be, the first step is to take a good, honest audit of your site, in particular your visitors. Specifically you need to look at the following things:
- Your Audience: How large is your audience? Who are they and why are they visiting your site? You may wish to conduct a survey to get a better handle on this.
- Your Content: What type of content are you posting? Is it video, text, audio, etc.? Is humorous, informative, etc.?
- Your Presence: Do you have as highly centralized presence or is it one spread out over a large number of sites, social media outlets and so forth?
- Similar Sites: What are sites similar to yours doing in this area? How successful have they been?
- Your Brand: How strong is your blog’s brand and is it something you can trade on without sacrificing your reputation?
If you honestly and truthfully evaluate these elements, you can start to get a clear picture for the types of business models that may work well for you. For example, highly-centralized sites with a lot of traffic usually do well with traditional advertising models. However, if you have a low-traffic, decentralized site that has a particularly influential audience, you may do better with a consulting model or something similar.
The goal is to find a strategy that works well with your reality, not with your ideal. While most bloggers would love to have a site that gets a million visitors a month and can be bathed in ads easily, very few will achieve anything anywhere near that.
As such, it’s a good idea to look at alternative business models and the possibility of combining them or using variations of them.
Here are just a few to consider:
- Advertising: Advertising is probably the most common and the most easily abused, however, there are variations of this theme including sponsorships and paid posts that may work well for you even if Adsense-based advertising doesn’t.
- Services: Selling consulting or other services can be a natural tie in if you have a blog that is considered authoritative on a subject. Paid writing might also be a good industry to look into as well.
- Physical Goods: T-shirts, books and other physical goods can be an easy sell if you have a dedicated fan base.
- Digital Goods: As with physical goods, ebooks, videos and other electronic goods can be an easy sell for a site with a dedicated audience or one with highly-desired information.
- Donations: Many sites, especially those that operate for some greater public good, reap more in donations than they would as a for-profit site. This is especially appropriate when the content would not be viewed the same on a commercial site.
However, no matter which model or combination of models you choose, it is most likely best to introduce the model slowly. Visitors, especially of a well-established site, generally need time to adapt to change. So rather than throwing the doors open to a huge online store, maybe start out with a single item and grow from there.
If you give your visitors time to adjust during the transition either to a commercial site or between business models, they are less likely to to revolt and more likely to go along with the changes in a productive way.
All in all, the important thing to remember about choosing a business model for your site is that there is no single right answer. Every site is different and what works well for your site may not work for someone else and vice versa.
If you can keep that in mind, do an honest evaluation of your site and then move slowly but deliberately toward the business model of your choice, you can avoid major disasters. However, to maximize the benefit of your site, you need to be continuously monitoring and experimenting with an eye for growth and improvement.
If you can do all of that, most likely you can find a business model that will let you generate at least some income from your site without destroying it. Even relatively small sites can do very well for themselves with the right plan, but developing that plan is going to take a lot of work, at least a few failures and a great deal of honesty.