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  • Blogging 101: Ways to Make Money Blogging

    When someone asks what I do now, I’m always greeted with amazement that I can actually make money from a blog. It’s not much, at least compared to what I used to make as a lawyer, but it’s still very helpful to our family’s bottom line. If you’re a blogger and looking for ways to monetize your blog, here are the three main ways I make money:

    Affiliate and Referral Links – This is one of the two most obvious ways to make money as a blogger. It’s also very simple – you include links that contain a specific code in your posts, and when someone clicks through and/or buys something using your link, you get paid. You’ll need to sign up with the various programs and sites that you like to link to – not every site has an affiliate or referral program, and some programs have requirements that you may not meet. Be sure to read the fine print of all Terms & Conditions, as you are entering into a contract when you apply to be an affiliate. Also, each site has different payment terms and options, and there are a huge number of sites you can join out there. But here are some of my personal favorites:

    • Amazon Associates – This is Amazon‘s referral program and maybe the biggest one around. It’s not available everywhere, as Amazon has chosen not to have affiliates in certain states because of their sales tax laws. But I highly recommend it because it’s easy to use, and their selection of products is so huge that pretty much any blogger can find legitimate reasons to link to it.
    • Escalate Media – Escalate has advertising campaigns that you can share with your readers, including coupons, discounts, newsletters, free samples, and other offers. They are one of my favorite networks because of their outstanding customer service – it really feels like they care about their affiliates, they are responsive to emails, and they pay within fifteen days of the end of the month with a minimum payout threshold of $25.
    • MySavings Media and Logical Media – Like Escalate Media, MySavings and Logical Media offer campaigns to share with your readers. Each network has some exclusive offers that you won’t find elsewhere, and even if they have the same offer, sometimes their payout is different so it pays to check the value. All of these sites are easy to use, but note that MySavings pays out at a $50 minimum and Logical Media pays out at $100.
    • Viglink – I’m fairly new to Viglink, but I like them as a “catch-all” affiliate link. In a nutshell, they are the affiliate of hundreds of sites, so inserting their code into your site turns un-affiliated links into affiliate links for Viglink (they don’t do anything to your links that are already affiliate links). If they get paid for a purchase made through a link on your site, they’ll share that amount with you. Basically, it’s one way of making money through affiliate links without joining each and every affiliate program out there, although there are quite a few sites that Viglink isn’t affiliated with. I think they miss some links, but overall I’m pretty happy with them. And if you are in a state that doesn’t have Amazon Associates, you can still make some money from Amazon by using Viglink.
    • Linkshare – Linkshare is an affiliate manager, meaning they handle the affiliate program for a number of sites such as Barnes & Noble. You have to join Linkshare, then apply to each program separately – each program has different requirements, like a minimum number of daily visitors or minimum number of conversions within a specified period of time.

    Two big affiliate managers that I don’t personally use but are worth mentioning because of their size include Commission Junction and ShareASale. I might join them at some point, but I haven’t found myself linking to enough stores that use them to make it worth my while.

    Ads – Ads are the second obvious way of generating blog income, and perhaps the easiest way is through Google Adsense. There are no minimum requirements, it’s easy to set up on your site, and you can choose from quite a few different customizable options. There are also private ad networks, such as BlogAds. Many of these networks have minimum daily visitor requirements, and it can be difficult to get in. One that I haven’t tried personally but may be good for beginners is Project Wonderful. You can also sell ads privately, and will have to decide if you are willing to sell text link ads (which can cause a drop in Google page rank). Again, be sure to read the fine print in the Terms & Conditions (for example, you’ll see that Google requires Adsense users to have a privacy policy).

    Sponsored Content – A third way of making money by blogging is to publish sponsored content, or content that you are paid to publish. You can write it yourself, or simply publish material provided by the sponsor.

    The biggest obstacle with the latter two methods is finding sponsors. The bigger and better your blog is, the easier it will be – which is why I recommend signing up for some of the main affiliate sites and Google Adsense, and then focusing on giving your readers good content. That will help build your blog, and instead of you hunting for sponsors, sponsors will come to you.

    Keep in mind that in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission requires that bloggers disclose any benefit received. Disclosure is good practice anyway, because who wants to read a blog by someone they can’t trust?

    In that vein . . . This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for clicking through them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Morning Coffee: FTC regulations now affect bloggers

    The Federal Trade Commission issued new regulations yesterday requiring bloggers to disclose if they receive cash or in-kind payment to review a product. I’m happy to say that it’s always been the policy here at CFO to be upfront about disclosing any benefit I may have received when I write a review, so this regulation doesn’t affect CFO at all. And I am always honest about my opinions. Read the FTC press release here, and the official CFO disclaimer here.

    After yesterday’s “sparking” water post, I feel compelled to let you know that I do go back and fix typos when I spot them. I hope someone got a good laugh out of that one!

    The high value coupon for $1.60 off Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters is back (FF or IE). Print them now because they may run out quickly like the last time. (Via DealSeekingMom.)

    A Full Cup user Coupon-Nut reports that Publix has “buy theirs, try ours” offers on some store brand items. She specifically mentions Jif peanut butter, DelMonte no sugar added sliced peaches, and DelMonte fresh cut green beans. If you buy any of those items, you should get the Publix version free. I’m going to guess that other Publix brand items qualify for this deal, so if you have a Publix nearby, definitely take a look around.

    Register to print a printable coupon for $1 off Pepperidge Farm Baked Naturals Snack Crackers. (Via Coupon Geek.)

    Centsible Savings has the scoop on a $5 moneymaker deal on Zantac at Walgreens during the week of 10/18. You’ll need to register for this $5 coupon.

    Speaking of Walgreens, you can learn about a moneymaker deal on Glade Candles at Common Sense with Money.

    Bargain Briana has the scoop on a new YoCrunch promotion: send in candy wrappers after Halloween and get a YoCrunch coupon in return. Depending on the value of the coupon, this could be a great deal.

    P&G is publishing a new magazine called Rouge, which will have P&G coupons. When you subscribe, you can also enter to win a trip for 2 to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Via A Full Cup.)

    Gourmet magazine is being shut down, and will only have an online, TV and book publishing presence. It’s part of Condé Nast’s plan to stay in business. (Via LA Observed.)

    Ad via Logical Media – Make Money!

    Deciding how much to share

    I think every blogger struggles at some point over how much information to share. If a blog is public, anyone can read what’s published. And once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. Even if you un-publish something, it might be cached, or quoted, or at least indelibly etched in someone’s memory.

    Since day one of this blog, I’ve tried to err on the side of caution, and not publish anything I might later regret. There are times when I’ve been unsuccessful, but for the most part, I think I’ve done a good job of protecting my family’s privacy. I particularly don’t want the day to come, five or ten or fifteen years from now, when one of my boys is furious with me for something I innocently revealed.

    This is all a roundabout explanation of why I’ve been so mysterious about our medical crisis. I don’t want to go into details simply because I don’t want to compromise my children’s privacy – now or in the future. But I did want to explain why I’m not sharing details, since I know I’d be curious if it one of the bloggers I read every day was so oblique. And I sincerely appreciate all of the kind thoughts and prayers. They truly mean a lot!

    Follow-up to my interview with Meredith

    I’ve unfortunately been too busy to listen to the entire podcast of my interview with Meredith of Like Merchant Ships and expand on what Meredith and I talked about, and I know there were many things I wanted to add! But rather than make you wait, I’ll offer some thoughts now from memory, and later I’ll give you some of the finer points that have escaped me for the moment.

    On balancing work & family
    This is the hardest part of my life, and I’m actually quite lucky in that I have a well-paying job that still gives me a pretty decent quality of life. In fact, I probably have the best quality of life of any attorney I know, although I’ve limited my opportunities for career advancement in exchange. I do think it’s important to not try to have it all. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine that I wouldn’t care that much about my career. The turning point for me came when I had two miscarriages and put having a child ahead of work. I realized that I didn’t miss the importance of work and have been happy about my priorities ever since.

    On grocery shopping & budgeting
    I mentioned in the interview that I shop off a list at the market but that I could save more money if I considered what I have on hand before making my weekly menu. Part of the reason I shop the way I do is that we are frugal but money isn’t particularly tight, i.e., I don’t have to watch every penny. If I did, I would plan out my shopping in much greater detail. Instead, I budget primarily to meet a savings goal. However, I did learn in January that I can probably increase my monthly savings amount by controlling my impulse spending.

    On being a part of an online community
    We only briefly touched on the subject of the support we get from our online friends, but I think it’s safe to say that both Meredith and I really enjoy being a part of an online community. Personally, I can’t say enough about how much I’ve learned from my readers and other bloggers, and how much I enjoy sharing my own knowledge in return. And especially because I blog about money, which is a sensitive topic for most people, I have greatly enjoyed forming online friendships with people who share similar values. I think it’s one of the very best things about blogging!

    How to Read Blogs

    I recently discovered that many of my closest friends haven’t been keeping up with CFO simply because they don’t read blogs regularly. So I wanted to share some blog-reading basics:

    The easiest way to read blogs is via subscription, which lets you know when new posts are up so you don’t have to keep checking the site to see if it’s been updated. As far as I can tell, there are two kinds of subscriptions: RSS feeds and email.

    You can check out Wikipedia’s technical definition of an RSS feed. But all you really need to know is that RSS feeds enable you to view the most recent headlines and some or all of the posts of a whole bunch of blogs in one place, known as a feed reader or aggregator. That means you only need to go to one place to see which blogs have been recently updated. Almost every blog offers the option of subscribing via an RSS feed. Some popular readers are My Yahoo!, Bloglines, and Google Reader. I’ve been using My Yahoo! for almost ten years, but I am switching to Google Reader since I can read many blog posts in their entirety there, while Yahoo only allows me to view the first few lines.

    Some blogs offer the option of email subscriptions, meaning you give them your email address and they send you an update with the blog’s recent posts. You can also create an account at Feedblitz and sign up for email notifications of blogs that have an RSS feed, even if the blog itself doesn’t offer the option of subscribing by email. (Note: I’ve recently begun offering subscription by email. You can sign up for a daily email of each day’s posts here.)

    To get started with your blog-reading, please subscribe to CFO via RSS or email, and then check out the “Links” section to your right to see the blogs that I read regularly. Before you know it, you’ll be reading blogs every day!