When is a Good Time to Monetize Your Blog

Welcome to episode 123. Today I am answering a question that I get asked a lot. The question is how early should I monetize my blog?


I know a lot of you are starting or relaunching blogs or starting second blogs. I want to outline a couple of different approaches that I see bloggers taking, and then give you some suggestions on how I would start to monetize my blog if I was starting again today.

Currently, there is a $100 off special on tickets to the ProBlogger Event in Australia happening on the 9th and 10th of September. This discount ends on midnight of July 1st.

NOTE: you can listen to this episode in iTunes here.

Here are a couple of the recent questions I have received about the topic of when to monetize.

“How much traffic should you have to offer advertisements on your blog?” or “How early should consider monetizing my blog?”

In Today’s Episode: 2 Main Approaches for When to Monetize a Blog

  • Wait – Some people think you shouldn’t waste your time by monetizing too early before you have traffic
    • Takes traffic
    • Will take time to implement
    • Ads may put some people off
  • Do It From Day 1 – There are reasons to wait, but I always monetize right away
    • It’ll earn you a little bit from day 1 – even if it is a little bit, you are earning something, and if you get a traffic spike that money will go up
    • It gets readers used to ads – I’m a little skeptical about how many people are really put off by advertising on blogs. I’ve also seen pushback from readers when bloggers put advertising up even later on. People who don’t like ads, just don’t like ads.
    • You’ll learn about monetizing blogs – You’ll also learn a lot through trial and error. By putting AdSense up, you will learn things like which ads perform better and best placement, size, etc. This will position you well for other advertising options later on.

A Couple More Thoughts on Blog Monetization

  • Firstly, don’t invest too much time into too early – do so in a low level way, some methods will take more energy and time, look for easy ways to monetize
  • Some monetization methods will probably be out of the question early on – sponsors won’t work from day 1 because you need traffic
  • Some ad networks let you sign up early. AdSense does have some requirements.
  • Do affiliate marketing – this is the monetization method with one of the lowest barriers to entry. For example, Amazon’s Associate Program can have you up and running with ads in minutes.

If I were starting today, I would probably start with affiliate marketing. Depending on the topic of the blog, I would probably look beyond Amazon at eBooks, courses, and software affiliate programs where the commissions are higher. I would not only be doing this to make money, I would be testing out the following things:

  • Test out promoting different types of products
  • Test different price points
  • Test different marketing (banners, reviews, emails etc)

Don’t obsess about monetization too early. Profitable blogs are built on a number of pillars:

  • Great content
  • Traffic (promotion, guest content, SEO, social)
  • Engaged Readers (building community, building email list, social)
  • Appropriate Monetization Strategies

Consider monetization early – but work on other factors as well. I did this on dPS and it set up the foundations so I could start to:

  • Try other affiliate marketing (eBooks, courses mainly)
  • Reach out directly to advertisers for sponsorships
  • Develop my own products (eBooks at first, courses, software, printables later)

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Darren: Hey there and welcome to Episode 123 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse. I’m excited today to tackle a question that I get asked a lot when I do Q&As. That is, “How early should I monetize my blog?”

I know a lot of you are starting blogs, or are relaunching blogs, or are starting second blogs and are pondering this particular question at the moment. I want to outline a couple of different approaches that I see bloggers are taking and then give you some suggestions on how I would start to monetize my blog if I was starting again today.

Before I do, I want to mention two things. Firstly, you can get today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/123 where I’ll link to some further reading for you. Secondly, if you’re pondering the idea of coming to the Australian ProBlogger event on the 9th, and 10th of September, just want to let you know that currently, you can get $100 of your ticket. That ends on the 1st of July. In fact, it ends at midnight the night before. 

You want to go to probloggerevents.com if you are interested in checking out that event. It’s on the Gold Coast here in Australia. It will mean some of you will need to fly in for it which I think is well worth doing, spend some extra time on the Gold Coast, a beautiful part of the world. If you’re an Aussie, you’ve got a little less, hopefully, traveling to get there. I would love to see you there.

It’s two days of great training with some amazing speakers flying in from around the world. You’ll meet hundreds of other professional bloggers and people who are on the way. We have a lot of people who haven’t even started a blog yet and who are right at the beginning of their journey, right through to people who have been blogging for 10 years or more. We try and put something on for everyone. There’s a whole track of beginner information, sessions, and a whole heap of workshops that are a little bit more advanced. Check that out at probloggerevents.com. Now, let’s get into today’s show.

The question that I want to tackle today is a common one that I get about monetizing blogs. It’s about how early. It’s actually a question I got on this exact topic this morning, “How much traffic should I have on my blog before I offer advertising on my blog?” That’s one of the questions I got. Another one I got a couple of days ago now, it’s simply, “How early should I consider monetizing my blog?” 

With most of these questions, there is no one answer to it. There’s going to be a variety of approaches that bloggers take. Having said that, most of the people I see talking about this topic take one of two approaches. The first one is you need to wait. You don’t want to monetize too early. I guess, ultimately, most of the people who say wait are coming from the position that unless you’ve got traffic, monetization, using almost pretty much any method is not going to work. You do need traffic and you need a reasonable amount of traffic.

Different types of monetizing blogs, different approaches to doing that will take different amounts but all of them take some. The advice really does make sense on that level. You are not going to make much money on your blog until you got some traffic. Why would you spend a whole heap of time and effort trying to monetize your blog? No matter what monetization method you use, you’re going to need traffic. It does take time to set it up. Although, I would argue that some of them don’t take a whole heap of time. I’ll talk a little bit about that later.

Ultimately, if there’s no chance of making money from your blog, why waste time on it? You’re better putting off your time and energy into other activities such as creating great content, building your audience, engaging with the readers that you’ve got because then you’re building the foundations to be able to monetize later. That’s good advice on one level. 

I take a slightly different approach. Before I tell you what I do, the other reason I hear some people saying wait is that it might put off readers who come to your blog. The argument goes when you’re just starting out, you want to attract as many readers as you can to your blog. Any ads or any calls to action to buy a product or affiliate marketing calls to action are going to put people off and new readers off. Again, I can see some sense with that but I have another argument as well to make for you in a moment. That’s one approach—wait. You need to wait until you have enough traffic, until you’ve built the foundations to your blog. Then, you can think about monetizing later. That may be one approach you want to take.

It’s not the approach that I take. My approach–and I’ve done this with every blog that I’ve started except for the first one. The first one was a personal blog and no one was monetizing blogs back in 2002, at least not directly. The approach I’ve taken is to always think about monetizing my blog from day one, or at least in the first few weeks of my blog. Sometimes, I’ve launched a blog without any monetization on it. But within a couple of weeks, I’m always thinking about, “How can I at least have some kind of monetization going on on this blog?” 

There’s three main reasons that I would suggest that you consider doing these as well. I’m going to give you some qualifications. I want to give you my reasons and I want to give you some tips on how to actually do it.

The first reason that I think it’s worth monetizing your blog from day one is that it will earn you perhaps a little bit of money from day one. Even if it’s just a few cents, even if it’s just a dollar or two, I remember the first day that I monetized my blog, I made a few dollars on it. Then, I realized, my wife is clicking all the ads, and that wasn’t a good thing. I told her to stop and it went back to $0.30. The next day it was $0.30. 

That wasn’t much but $0.30 every day over a year actually does add up to a little bit. That’s money I wouldn’t have had otherwise. As your traffic grows, you find that that does actually grow. You’re positioning yourself to have a small income stream there. It also means that if you get a spike in traffic one day, you might get another blog linking to you. You may have a social media event that kind of happens around your blog. It means you’re well positioned to be able to monetize that particular traffic. You’re not going to earn a whole heap but it’s something. 

Sometimes when you do earn that first $0.30, that gives you a little bit of energy, and it sparks you up. That gives you a little bit of hope that maybe if you make more traffic come to your blog, and learn to use the monetization strategies better, you can increase that. 

I still remember in those early days of my own blog, that $0.30 turning into $0.40, that gave me motivation. That gave me a little bit of hope. Yeah, it wasn’t much. I couldn’t even buy a coffee with it but it gave me hope. It showed me that I was moving in the right direction. Then, it hit $1. Then, it hit $2. Then, it hit $3. It gradually grew. As that grew, so did my excitement, so did my energy for my blog as well. Yes, that’s my number one reason. It will provide you a little bit of income stream. That can energize you.

Number two, this is probably more important in some ways. It gets your readers used to you monetizing your blog. I do understand the argument that I put forward before that you don’t want to put off new readers who comes to your blog by having monetization on it. I understand where people who argue that are coming from. However, I’m a little bit skeptical about that argument because if someone’s being put off when they first come to your blog because you’ve got ads on it or because you’re selling something, they’re going to be put off in years time when you start to monetize your blog as well. They may even be more upset at you—the fact that you are changing the rules of your blog.

I’ve seen bloggers get into trouble with that. They might have been blogging for two or three years then suddenly they start to monetize. Readers are not used to that. I think there’s an argument for having some monetization on your blog from day one because when they first come, they see this ad, or they see this call to action, then they get used to that idea. They have no other expectations. They know that you’re in it to make a little bit of money. They know you’re in it to make it sustainable. If they hang around, then they’re cool with that. You don’t have to transition them later on. 

Even if the ads on your blog or calls to action on your blog are not converting at a great rate, I think there’s an argument to be said there. It is helping your readers to come along the journey for whatever you do later. 

The last reason that I think it’s probably a good idea to monetize from day one is that you’re going to learn a lot about monetizing blogs simply by doing whatever it is that you do. For example, if you decide to put some ads on your blog using an advertising network like AdSense, or Chitika, or many of the other advertising networks that are available, you’re going to start to learn about things like, for one, how to put those ads in your blog. Two, you’re going to start to see which ads are performing better than others in terms of the positions that they are, the unit sizes, those types of things. You’re going to learn how many people click on the ads in different parts of your blog when you start to analyze those reports. This positions you really well for later on when you might monetize in a more serious way, when you start talking to advertisers directly, for example.

Another example, if you start to put a few affiliate ads into your blog early, you’re going to learn a lot about what your readers respond to, what type of products they respond to, what price points they respond to, what marketing messages they respond to. They may not convert in a massive amount but you’ll begin to get a little bit of information, you’ll get used to, and you’re gaining confidence in terms of using some of the tools that you will later use to monetize your blog.

I guess you make your mistakes on monetizing your blog. Most of us make mistakes. Most of us put the wrong ad code in the wrong spot or forget to put the affiliate link in the right way or something like that. You make those mistakes in the early days when you don’t have a whole heap of traffic and you won’t be doing it in front of a large audience. 

I think there’s three reasons there. One, you’ll earn a little bit from day one, that can give you a bit of energy. Two, it gets your readers used to the idea of you monetizing your blog. Three, you’re going to learn a lot by doing it as well. There are my reasons. That’s why I do it. You may take the other approach and that’s totally fine. 

If you do take my approach and you do decide to monetize from day one, a couple of thoughts for you. Firstly, don’t invest too much time into it too early. I do think it’s worth monetizing early, I would do so in a low level way. Some monetization methods will take more energy and more time from you than others. I’ll be looking for some easier ways to do it.

To give you an example, if you wanted to eventually gets sponsors for your blog, that’s probably not going to work from day one. A sponsor’s not going to give you money to sponsor a post or put a banner ad on your site until you’ve got traffic. Yeah, you probably couldn’t do that. You could sign up for an advertising network. Some of them do have some requirements in terms of how long you’ve been blogging. AdSense, for example, says that you probably have had your site live for six months or more although their terms and conditions page is a little bit vague on this. They mentioned that if you’re in China or India, you’ve had to have your site live for more than six months. Others, it kind of really doesn’t really say. They pick and choose a little bit from what I can see. 

You can apply to join AdSense. You can apply to join another advertising network. They’re relatively easy monetization systems to use. You just copy and paste some code into your template. Then suddenly, the ads start appearing. You’re not going to earn a lot from that as I said before because those ad networks take a lot of traffic to earn a lot. You are going to learn about positioning ads and that type of thing. That’s one of the monetizations streams that I had on my blogs from the early days when I started Digital Photography School. AdSense was running on my blog.

The other option is to do some affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing does take a little bit of work. You’ve got to research the right product and sign up for the program. It’s one of those things that doesn’t take as much effort as creating your own product. You could join Amazon’s affiliate program, their associate’s program. That’s pretty easy to sign up for. You’re just filling the form and apply. A day of two later, you’ll get approved for it. Then, you can start to generate affiliate links for it. That’s probably the easiest affiliate program to start up with. 

Then, there’s others. You might look for courses, ebooks, that people are creating in your particular niche, and sign up for affiliate programs for those as well. There’s hundreds of those around, thousands of those around. This is probably where I would be starting if I was starting a blog today. Particularly with affiliate marketing, I probably wouldn’t go with AdSense from day one just because it takes so much traffic to make anything from it these days. I think with affiliate marketing, there’s potential there to do reasonably well. We’ve got some podcasts that I’ve recorded on affiliate marketing that I’ll link to into today’s show notes so if you want to learn a little bit more about how to do that. 

Depending on the topic of the blog that I was starting, I’d be looking to signup for Amazon’s affiliate program. I’d be trying to find some books and products in Amazon that relate to my audience and recommend those. In some blog posts, maybe create some recommended resources, pages, for my blog, and feature those types of products. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be looking for ebooks, courses, or maybe some software that are related to my particular audience, and be signing up for affiliate programs for those. That’s often where you go to the actual provider, the creator of the book or the course, and they may have an affiliate program for that. That’s where I’ll be signing up. For those ebooks and courses, you earn a higher commission than you will with Amazon which is a good thing. You, sometimes, can build a relationship with the creators of those products as well. 

As I said before, when you sign up as an affiliate for a product, the beauty of that is you’re going to learn a whole heap about what type of products you could potentially create as well. This is what I did when I started Digital Photography School. I, in the early days of DPS, had AdSense on my blog, did some Amazon affiliate programs. About a year or so later, I started to test different ebooks, software, and courses. Part of the reason I was doing those affiliate marketing pushes was to make money. Also, because I wanted to start to see whether my readers would buy those types of products, and how much they would pay for those products. This is where affiliate marketing is good in terms of the income that it brings but also what you learn from it as well. 

The last thing I’ll say is don’t obsess too much about monetization too early. Profitable blogs are built on a number of things. Yes, you need to have some monetization on it. That’s one of the things. The other three things that you really do need to put effort into, particularly in the first few years of your blog, is creating as much great content as you can, building your archives of content, working or promoting your blog, and building traffic to your blog. Getting those first eyeballs into your blog. We’ve talked about that in some of the most recent podcast episodes as well. Promoting your blog, creating guest content to get off your blog, and have that appear on other people’s blogs, and in the forums. Working on your Search Engine Optimization, working on your social media, and driving traffic to your blog.

The third area you really do need to work on is building engaged readers. Not just getting the eyeball but getting people subscribed to your email list, connected with you on social media, and building community with those readers. It’s not just about finding the right monetization strategy. You need to work on content, traffic, and engaged readers. I guess in my mind, the four pillars of building a profitable blog—content, traffic, engagement, and monetization strategies.

Definitely do consider monetization early but you need to be working on those other pillars of building a profitable blog as well. Again, when I started Digital Photography School, I saw the first two years of that blog as the launch phase. Once I did have monetization going on during those first year and a half, I think. It probably was about 18 months before I did anything else other than AdSense and Amazon’s affiliate program. Up until that point, I really was putting most of my active energy into creating as much content, and building as much traffic as I could. That was where I was putting my active energy. I’d set up the AdSense ads. 

Then, it became almost like a passive thing. I just sat there and gradually built up the income. I occasionally would insert an Amazon link into a post but it wasn’t something that I was actively spending a lot of time thinking about. I was being more active in these other areas. 18 months into using it, I began to get more active in monetization. Once I built the foundation, once traffic began to flow, then I could turn my attention into researching what products I wanted to promote from other people as an affiliate but also what products I should start creating, what ebooks we should start writing. Also, it was around 18 months in, we began to reach out to advertisers as well. We got a little bit more active in our monetization strategies in those three different ways. 

That’s my answer. It’s a long answer to a simple question, really. You can wait. That’s totally fine. I see people doing that all the time but you’re also going to have some benefits of monetizing early. It’s totally fine to do it. In fact, it’s my recommendation that you do. Again, start with something simple. Don’t obsess about monetization. Don’t do it at the expense of creating content, building traffic, and building engagement with your readers. They are the foundations that profitable blogs are built on.

I would love to hear what approach you took with monetizing your blog. If you’re a more experienced blogger, when did you monetize? Did you monetized from day one? What monetization strategies did you use in the early days? Two, if you’re starting again, what would you do differently on that particular front? 

If you’re starting a blog and I know many of you are, we’ve had a bit of a theme recently in the podcast of How to Start Blogs, if you’re starting, what’s your intention? How do you want to monetize that blog? What are you doing from day one or you’re going to wait? I’d love to hear your feedback on that over the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/123.

Thanks for listening today. I’m actually off to Thailand tomorrow for a bit of a holiday but guess what? I’ve recorded a whole heap of podcasts just to keep you going while I’m away. You can imagine me over the next couple of episodes sitting on a beach. I’ll be trying to keep my kids safe from the pool and probably out and about having a good old time in Thailand, eating some curry puffs and stir fry. I’m not sure what we’re doing but hopefully it’ll be a good time.

I hope you’re having a good time. It’s halfway through the year now. I hope your blog is firing. You still got over six months to go for this year. There’s still time to make 2016 count. I look forward to chatting with you in the next couple of episodes of the ProBlogger Podcast. Thanks for tuning in and I’ll talk to you shortly.

This episode of the ProBlogger podcast was edited by the team at PodcastMotor who offer a great range of services including helping you to set up and launch your podcast as well as ongoing editing and production of the podcast that you produce. You can check them out at podcastmotor.com.

How did you go with today’s episode?

I would love to hear what approach you took. When did you monetize? What strategies did you use? If you are a new blogger, what is your intention. I’d love to hear your methods and experiences.

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