How to make money from your blog

SUSAN EDMUNDS
Last updated 05:00 10/03/2017
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Maria Foy says making money should come second.

First, you'll need a loyal following.
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Lucy AitkenRead says most of her online income comes from selling ebooks.

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Around the country, hundreds of bloggers are toiling away, penning posts on everything from politics to giving up shampoo.

Some are turning their hobbies into a steady flow of cash, as brands seeking word-of-mouth advertising look to online influencers. 

Nielsen data shows that 30 per cent of online New Zealanders aged 15 or over had read some sort of blog or forum in the past four weeks. And 16 per cent had posted themselves.

"If you want to make a little bit of money, that's achievable," Rebecca Dolan, University of Auckland marketing lecturer, said."If you want a full stream of income, that's quite challenging."

READ MORE: Advert or honest opinion? Australia cracks down on social influencers

Here is how it could happen.

Start writing/adding content

The first thing you need is a blog full of great content.

Dolan said building a strong relationship with an audience was crucial to a blog's success. "Bloggers need to establish trust with their writing style and format, first. They have to be relatable and authentic and show that they do have the right experience and knowledge, and you're not just going to promote 100 different suppliers' products."

Amass a following

Maria Foy, who runs Happy Mum, Happy Child, said she had no idea at first that making money from her blog would be possible. "When I got to about 10,000 followers, people started to say 'you know, people will pay you for that'."

Businesses began to get in touch, wanting to talk to her about featuring their brands. 

Dolan said brands would be drawn to bloggers whose opinions were valued by their target market.

"People seem to trust a blogger more than they trust the brand itself because we are so inundated with advertising. If you find a blogger you trust and you want to be like them, they can be really influential."

People have always been influenced by word of mouth, said PR guru Deborah Pead, of Pead PR.

"The personal recommendation is the most powerful marketing force available to us. And thanks to technology, we are now spoiled for choice in the recommendations we decide to listen to.

"The blogging community have been no slouches in recognising and harnessing this power and in doing so have carved out a handy space for themselves in the marketing mix," she said.

"We now include bloggers in our communications plans – what was a short time ago fresh  and untested has quickly become mainstream."

Don't just work with anyone

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Foy said she was careful to limit how much sponsored content she ran.

She tried to keep the blog "80 per cent relaxed and 20 per cent business", and had been open with readers about what she was doing. Too much sponsored content was a turn-off for readers, she said.

Pead said her team would respect bloggers who knew their target audience, what worked for their channels and could offer promotional ideas that showed an understanding of a brand.

 "We want them to care as much as we do about the brand. It's a two-way relationship – the more support a blogger shows for a brand and its values and causes, the more a brand will invest in the blogger."

Paid advertising

One of the most basic ways to make money on a blog is to sell advertising. But this is also one of the hardest.

David Farrar, who runs Kiwiblog, said he used to be able to sell a solid amount of advertising via digital agencies.

But now all advertising is sold through GoogleAds. He makes about $1000 a month from that. "It's nowhere near what you could live on," he said. "You'd need a global audience to do that. But it allows me to invest in the blog."

Lucy AitkenRead, who runs Lulastic and the Hippyshake, said she earned a significant portion of her income from the advertisements that run on her YouTube channel.

Affiliate marketing

Dolan said some bloggers would earn money from affiliate marketing, where they were paid when customers bought a product they recommended.

"They might say 'use my code Rebecca's blog to get a discount on this product' and then make a bit of money back from that brand in that way."

AitkenRead said she promoted one or two affiliate products on her blog - things she used in her daily life and would recommend to others. "I get a percentage of each sale."

Sponsored content

Sponsored content is the most common way for blogs to make money. Bloggers might be paid, or receive free products, in return for running a blog post about a product or service. Some make clear which posts they are being paid to run but many do not. 

If you want to get sponsored content deals, you could create a media kit with some statistics about your blog, information about yourself and examples of other posts you've written.

Offer this to a brand you are interested in, or a PR company, with an idea about how you might feature them in your blog. 

Foy is now represented by agency Bloggers Club because she gets so many requests to showcase products.  

Products

Dolan said some bloggers were able to make good amounts of money selling products, such as ebooks or physical products, or promoting their services - consulting, public speaking, writing or coaching. But she said this could take time and resources to establish. 

AitkenRead said most of her money came from sales of her ebooks. She now has three. 

Foy started her blog three years ago in August. She now has more than 120,000 followers on Facebook.

She said the biggest piece of advice she had for other bloggers was not to do it for money. "Do it for yourself. Blogging is writing. The people that are the real bloggers are more than just about making money. Whatever comes along is second."

Foy was an office temp before having children and said she could earn more than that income from her blog if she were willing to put more work into it. 

She chooses to limit her work to about five hours a day. "Happy Mum, Happy Child is not a business to make money, it's for something else. If I can make something from it, that's great."

Pead PR's tips for social influencers.

  • Be authentic.
  • Find your point of difference
  • Think content before cash. "Brands want to work with bloggers and influencers who have a loyal following. You only get that by prioritising the quality of your content."
  • Good visuals are key.
  • Establish long-term relationships with brands.
  • Send PR companies ideas to present to their clients.
  • Know how many people a post might be expected to reach, who and where they are.

- Stuff

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