Lucy Feagins established The Design Files in 2008. Today, it is the most popular design blog in Australia, with more than 200,000 unique visitors per month and over 1 million page impressions per month. It’s rise to fame was slow and steady; Feagin started generating income 18 months into the venture, getting smaller, local advertisers onboard. Today, she has two full-time employees, and a very steady flow of income, including major global brands as regular advertisers.
Feagin admits that she is quite cautious. She maintains control over all advertising on The Design Files. She has never used an advertising network, and is never likely to. But her approach to advertising has not limited her reach; she regularly partners with Dulux, the Bank of Melbourne, and Mini. At day two of Problogger, Feagins explained exactly how she does this.
How Do I Make Money From My Blog?
According to Feagins, from advertising. She admits that her way is not only way, and not the quickest way. But its has clearly been lucrative for her. Feagins refuses to take on sponsored posts, explaining that she doesn’t feel right about writing them, that they don’t come from the heart. Instead, Feagins encourages bloggers to create value, when thinking about advertising. Creative people are notoriously bad at putting a value on their work. And, what advertisers consider to be valuable is completely different to what you value, or what your readers value. Advertisers always value who your audience is, the size of your audience, and the quality of your readers. Oftentimes, a small, engaged readership can be better for advertising than big, engaged audience. Not only that, your audience needs to be relevant to the advertiser: a men’s deodorant brand is unlikely to advertise on a blog with a predominantly female audience. So, bloggers need to know their demographics. A great way to do this is to conduct an annual survey that collects this demographic data.
Image courtesy of www.thedesignfiles.net
Your Readership Is Your Value
Your content is what drives your readership. It’s what keeps your readers happy. Your readership is what confers the potential to introduce advertising. This is the same for every magazine, every newspaper. Your value to an advertiser is your readers. That’s why you need to put them first. Without them, you have no value. As soon as readership diminishes, your power does too. Your influence and power comes from your readers. So, it should come as no surprise that readership should be your number one priority. Respect your readers. Put your readers first. Always trust your intuition when it comes to advertising.
Know Your Readers
Conduct a survey at least once a year. Think about what your advertisers are going to want to know: what they do for a living, whether they have kids, how old they are, household income. And ask them what they think of your content; what they like, what they don’t like, what they’d like to see more of.
Advertising Is Not Complicated
When it comes down to it, advertising is a simple value exchange. It does not need to be big and scary. There are no rules, and there is no formula. You can set your own rules. You can choose to work with a network in a structured way. Or you can choose to do it your own way.
A few step-by-step tips from Feagins include:
- Add a little sign to your blog that clearly states that advertising is available.
- Create a rate card, starting with a low, but reasonable price point to begin with. Feagins started out with ads for just $100 per month.
- Pro-actively write to a few local companies, or companies that have been previously featured, or that have previously enquired about advertising, and tell them that advertising is now available.
- Once you have a few advertisers onboard, create some sponsorship banners, that advertisers have to buy out for an entire month. Make sure that you have options for the big brands to advertise, but also some smaller, cheaper options for local companies.
Be Wary of Monetising Too Soon
Feagins warned the eager Problogger audience to be wary of monetising too soon. Instead, she suggested that budding bloggers build what they’re doing first, get their editorial spot on. Blogs really need between 30,000 and 50,000 unique visitors per month before advertising is viable. Feagins now spends 50% of her time on advertising, and 50% on content creation. So, it’s really not worth starting with advertising until you have the readership to warrant it. If bloggers start monetizing too soon, they are likely to set their rates too low. And then it is extremely difficult to up them in the future.
It Pays To Be Selective
It isn’t enough just to place an advert on your website. You have to care if its working for your readers. If the ad is getting lots of clicks, then you have a happy advertiser. If the ad is not relevant to your readers, or it looks ugly, then it wont get clicks. And then you have an unhappy advertiser. So, if the ad doesn’t look appealing, then you need to tell your advertisers. You need to fix it. You also need to know what your readers want to see on your blog. Feel in your heart what your readers want to see. Defend your brand, and your blog, and your readers. Really assess what comes across your desk. Don’t just take every advertising opportunity that comes your way.
Your blog is you business, and your business is your responsibility. That’s why Feagins chooses to have all negotiations with advertisers personally. She vets everything and has all the conversations. If you hand over the responsibility of advertising to ad networks or blog agencies, then you loose power, and cannot be discerning. No one knows your business or your readers better than you do. So it’s your responsibility to be involved in the whole process. Be proactive. Be bossy. Protect your brand, and your blog, and your readers.
Integrations and Activations
The big advertisers always ask for integration. While integration can feel like a ‘dirty’ word, it need not be. You just need to do it your own way. By asking for integration, the big advertisers are really just asking how they can be more involved with your brand. So, work out a program that you feel happy with. For example, The Design Files partner with Dulux every year at The Design Files Open House. Dulux paints all the walls in the house, and Feagins can then mention them in a natural, organic way that respects her readers, as well as Dulux. Think of integration as a challenge and an opportunity to do something new and fun, rather than selling out.
According to Feagins, selling ad space is hard and boring. It is better, and more fun, to focus on creating great content. Stop worrying about what is being offered to you, and start worrying about what you are doing and what you are offering to your readers. Focus on creating great value and everything else will follow.
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