Did you once think that monetizing your blog meant slapping up spammy ads?
Have you ever wondered how smart bloggers and site owners sell without turning off their readers?
Are you interested in earning money from your blog by only promoting things that are really useful and can help your readers in some way?
Keeping your blog fresh and updated is hard work. You collect your readers and visitors one at a time. They must spend some time on your blog before they can know that they trust you. And if they don’t, well, they won’t listen to you.
What should you do about that?
This post doesn’t tell you how it make a six-figure income on your blog in two months. Nor does it promise the dream of passive income.
Instead, we’ll look at all the options for making money on your blog, with both the pros and the cons. I have learned everything here either from my own experience or from watching how other bloggers and site owners found the sweet spot for monetizing their WordPress sites.
Three Essentials For Monetizing Your Blog
To monetize your blog, you need three essential pieces in place.
Wikipedia defines a niche as:
A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. The market niche defines the product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that it is intended to impact. It is also a small market segment.
The key is to find that speciality and grow your audience and readers around it. But be careful: there is a danger in being too niche.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you love this critter called the Naked Mole Rat. You cannot get enough facts about how it lives, its habits and, well, just how darned cute it is.
You already blog about the little bugger, but now you are thinking of monetizing this interest of yours. So you start offering mugs, t-shirts and even posters with clever thoughts about the creature.
Sadly, in the end, you realize that there aren’t that many people who are as passionate about the naked mole rat as you are.
You find out that there was probably a good reason why no one else was doing this.
Back to the point about your niche. You don’t want it so general that thousands of other blogs are doing the same thing. Nor do you want to go to the other extreme. You really need to find that perfect spot.
If you haven’t read the book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, I would suggest you give it a whirl.
Community & Fans
Any blog you want to monetize cannot survive without a community. They are the clients and readers who rave about you online. The ones who trust every product and service you bring to them. They know they can depend on you.
For any new business, whether it’s online or brick-and-mortar, you need to start building a community of fans. It’s just basic Sales 101.
Some monetization strategies require that you have your community in place before you even begin. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for a lot of headaches and, eventually, failure.
Just about any form of monetization will not be successful without a fair amount of traffic coming to your blog. Of course, there are some models that require much heavier traffic. Getting that traffic is a lot of work and it takes time.
This post doesn’t include lessons on growing your traffic, but it can be accomplished through social media, creating good content, paying for advertising, and other options. In the end, it depends on your goals, your needs and the variables involved in selling your products or services.
Advertising On Your Blog
There are many avenues for including ads on your blog. Here we’ll talk about placing specific ads or using other advertising options, such as AdSense. Later on, we will talk about selling ad space on your blog and affiliate advertising.
It’s helpful to consider three things before you start putting ads on your blog.
- Does it distract from the main purpose of your blog or does your site’s major revenue come from ads?
- Is it making your blog too commercial and spammy?
- Are your turning off your readers?
Distraction or Income?
We are bombarded with ads. And though they are commonplace in today’s digital space, they can cause major distractions. We notice it especially when we land on a blog where the sidebar is loaded with ads. The first thing you need to decide is whether you intend to use advertising as supplemental income or as a major source of revenue.
One good test to see what areas people are clicking through on your blog is to use a heatmap. This is the perfect way to know if people are clicking through via your sidebar or if they are ignoring it. Sumome.com is a great resource for this. They give you examples of what heatmaps are and how they work.
As I mentioned before, if your blog is primarily focused on selling your own products and services, and that is the bulk of your income, make sure that any ads you place do not distract or pull visitors away from hiring you or buying your product.
Too Spammy Looking?
One thing I hear from a lot of people is that a site with a glut of ads looks spammy. They are afraid that if they use ads themselves, that is how people will view them, too. In reality, it depends on your site. Of course, if you land on a news site, you consider ads as part of the territory, whether you pay attention to them or not. But on a professional services site, it may distract visitors and can make your site look cheap.
Are You Turning Off Your Readers?
One mistake a lot of blog owners make is to start using ads after their site has been established and running for some time. It can have a jarring effect on your readers, especially if they had one set of expectations and you have made a drastic change.
Ads Within Posts
These days, we are finding ads inserted within posts that often draw the reader’s attention completely away from the content.
With this kind of ad, ask yourself these questions: .
Is it a distraction for my readers?
Is it cheapening the feel of my site?
At the same time, many sites are very successful with these kinds of ads. Again, it’s important to understand your audience and most of all, to test and retest.
Focus Your Ads
Most advertising services can help you make sure that the right ads are being shown on your blog. If you are a web designer, you obviously don’t want to be advertising Caribbean cruises. I have seen this happen on sites before, and all I can wonder is what the heck were they thinking.
These ads use algorithms and create text links to match reader with specific ads of interest. One such service is called infolinks and you can see a review of it here. If you want to take advantage of a service similar to AdSense, you might check out this option.
What Ad Service Should You Use?
My advice is that any advertising campaign is going to take some serious bucks to see some real results. So ask people you know what has and hasn’t worked for them.
Also, you may consider getting a reference from a colleague or someone who, for example, specializes in Adsense. These are precious bucks you are spending and it isn’t worth gambling to see if something will work or not.
What is a Good WordPress Plugin to Display Ads
If you are going the route of display ads, or perhaps you want to display sponsor logos, check out this post I did on Advanced Ads Plugin that we use here on our site.
Is there a hard and fast rule for placing ads? Honestly, I believe you need to determine that for yourself. I have heard of many blogs that make incredible amounts of money from ads. I have also heard about huge failures.
If you are thinking about making income by selling lots of ads on your blog, it is probably wise to dive into some research and strategically plan for success. Most of all, do a lot of testing to find that sweet spot for your blog.
Affiliate Marketing is different from using a service to just place ads randomly on your site. Two key points:
- You choose who you want to be affiliated with.
- You are paid for each sale with a flat rate or percentage.
I am a big fan of affiliate marketing and you are likely to find these kinds of links scattered throughout my blog.
You Make Your Own Rules
In the past, when I chose to put an affiliate ad on my blog, it had to meet these three requirements: know, use and trust. I know the people behind the service or product personally, I use or have used it myself, and I trust them 100%.
I have since loosened my thinking on this. Think of it this way. Does the owner of Amazon use every product they sell? Does a store owner use every product they sell? Affiliate marketers should have that kind of flexibility as well.
Affiliate Ad Placement
Frequently, you will find affiliate ads stacked on top of each other in the sidebar of blogs. Affiliate advertisers often provide artwork for these ads. Here are examples of a few of them:
Often sites display several of the smaller ones using a widget that makes for easy placement—and they will track the clicks.
You may also find them in the header, footer, or at the beginning or in the middle of a post. There are all sorts of strategies for these kinds of placements. You will need to experiment with your own blog and your own readers. You may want to use a heatmap as I talked about earlier in this post.
Since I use affiliate links quite a bit on this blog, I have tested several different methods of placement. The best results for me have come from linked text in posts. Whether it’s a specific review of that product or service, or a mention of it in a post, people are more likely to click on these links when are part of your educational content, rather than an ad in the sidebar.
Here is an example of a few links in a post of mine, with the affiliate links highlighted. The yellow highlights are links directly to the product and the purple highlights are links to a tutorial on my site, which in turn has the direct affiliate link to the product.
In other instances, you might want to create a button for the affiliate link to make them stand out more.
Once I decided to move the links into the content of my posts, my affiliate sales increased 200% – 300%.
TIP: If you are writing a post about one single service or product, don’t scatter numerous links throughout the post to things like the product features, product FYIs, or every time you mention the product. Too many choices for the reader can confuse them about which one to click. I typically put one at the beginning of the post and one at the end.
It is recommended, and in some places in the world, required by law, to let your readers know that some of the links on your site are affiliate ads. This doesn’t mean you have to put the word “affiliate” next to each link, but at the same time, you should have it somewhere, and not hidden. There is no reason not to disclose that you are using them—unless you are unwilling to admit that you endorse the product, which as I have already explained, is not the route to go when using affiliate ads.
The important thing to let readers know is that you endorse these products and that by clicking on them they are not paying any more for the product. I have my disclaimers in two places.
In the Footer
This works great, since it appears on every page or post on my site.
I also explain more about my affiliates on my policy page.
Where Can You Find Affiliate Ads?
You will likely find the option to apply to be an affiliate on the product or services website. Most times, I find these in the footer. They may run the program themselves or use a third-party service.
When applying, you will be asked several questions. For example, what is your website and how will you promote their product? There are several factors involved in getting approval, but don’t worry, it’s likely you will get a green light because they want to get their product and service out to a wider audience.
One example of abuse that they will not tolerate is if you use the link yourself to purchase for you or your client. There are other ways that people take advantage of affiliates that border on fraud. Many sites closed their affiliate programs because of that. And sometimes a product or service has an affiliate program, but it’s only open by invitation.
Managing Your Affiliate Ads
Once you start using these, it can be a challenge to manage and place them. It can be a pain to have to find the link or artwork. There are a few plugins for this, but I recommend Thirsty Affiliates. It’s free and most likely it will be all you need. They also have some add-ons if you are looking for additional analytics and functionality.
Visit this post to learn more about this plugin and how to set it up.
What About Sponsored Posts and Reviews?
Another monetization strategy is to offer vendors the opportunity to pay you to mention or review their product or service.
Reviews and Sponsored Posts
Many companies are willing to pay you for reviewing their product or service. I have offered this service in the past. Or others may want to sponsor a post that just mentions their product in the context of some news in their industry—or simply pay for a banner ad or mention at the end of the post.
Five Considerations When Doing Reviews and Sponsored Posts
Going this route is a big decision, especially on a blog that has been up and running for some time. Consider:
1. Your Style
Your readers may have differing expectations when reading sponsored reviews and posts. Some may be looking for comparisons with other brands, while others want the down and dirty pros and cons of this particular product. You need to decide how you approach this. Unfortunately, you cannot make every reader happy.
For example, our past sponsored reviews on BobWP are informational. My intention wasn’t to over-hype the product nor to focus on shortcomings. The majority of those reviews on our site simply cover the features and options of a plugin or theme to help readers better decide if it’s for them
2. Your Guidelines
You need to clarify exactly what the sponsor will get and how you will approach your review. Most of the reviewers I encounter say in their criteria that they will be brutally honest and will give both the pros and cons of the product.
3. Your Reputation
It’s all about trust. You need to decide whether you will do any product that fits the subject area of your site, regardless of if you use it yourself or not. Most reviews are objective and it doesn’t always have to be a product that you use or would even admit to using. But you must have enough knowledge to write a comprehensive review.
As I mentioned before, we had our own guidelines and had turned down reviews because of them.
4. Your Transparency
You need to let people know if someone is sponsoring the ad or paying for the review. I have seen sites that bury the disclaimer deeply within their sites and it isn’t always obvious that someone has paid them. We added a simple disclaimer to the end of our past reviews.
5. Your Goals
The most important things to look at are the goals of your site and your ability to continue to meet the needs of your readers.
SEO and Reviews
Be careful when doing reviews and sponsored posts. Google is looking at these closely, especially reviewers who get free products in exchange for a review. Three important things:
- Make sure that you have that disclaimer that the post is sponsored. Google recommends it at the beginning, as not every readers will finish the post. But I have mine at the end. I believe that if it’s there somewhere within the post, it works.
- Provide quality content in your reviews.
- Make sure your links to the product pages and other external pages to the sponsor’s site have a nofollow on the link. When looking at the your post in the text tab, your link should include it there.
<a href="http://forgeplugin.com/?ref=2" rel="nofollow"><img class="aligncenter wp-image-24782 size-full" src="https://bobwptrainer-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Forge-drag-and-drop-plugin.jpg" alt="Forge drag and drop plugin" width="1000" height="407" /></a>
Thoughts on Sponsored Posts
Sponsored posts are different than reviews. Typically you write the review on your blog. But a sponsored post is when you will let someone else write about their product and they pay you to have you put on your blog. If you are going this route, you need to have some strict guidelines in place.
We have chosen not do them for two reasons.
- People come to our site to read posts by Bob and Judy. Not someone else.
- We are very picky about style and writing skill. We would find it hard to post someone else’s writing, as Judy would probably want to edit it to death, or simply rewrite it, which defeats the purpose.
One Last Thing
This monetization strategy works best if you have a decent amount of traffic coming to your blog. When you start promoting these, your potential customers will be interested not only in your site visitor count, but your social reach and exactly how you will promote the post. Be ready to answer those questions.
Content Lockers and Gateways
This form of monetization has been around for awhile, but hasn’t quite caught on in the mainstream. Some newspaper sites have gone this route and succeeded, others, not so much.
Content lockers and gateways place certain content behind a paywall. They often include a teaser that leads the reader to a call to action to purchase the rest of the content.
Many people I talk to aren’t big fans of this approach. I like to give this example:
Imagine you came to a workshop of mine in the past, and 10 minutes into it, I show this on the screen.
Then I pause and wait for everyone to pay before continuing.
That is an exaggeration, but you get the point. This is the same thing your reader might feel. They have been lured to your content only to find that it’s only partially available.
Searching the web, I found an example of this:
Typically, you will find that most of these are on the low end of pricing, so for any substantial monetization you will obviously need enough content to offer as protected— and a good amount of traffic.
Some WordPress plugins make the setup very easy. But as with any monetization, carefully consider how you have been providing your content and how it will affect your visitors and loyal readers.
Compared to content lockers and gateways, a membership site utilizes the same concept, except that the content is fully protected and accessible to members only.
The Myth of Membership Sites
Most people are lured into starting memberships by marketers who tell them how easy it is. Even WordPress people talk about the ease of setting up a membership site. But they never speak of all the other work involved.
What you will hear a lot is:
Memberships are passive income. You will make money while you sleep.
Of course that is partly true.
I could make money during the 6 hours I sleep if I worked my butt off the other 18 hours.
This is more like the reality.
10 Steps to Adding Memberships to Your Blog
Here is a breakdown. The time committed to each step varies depending on your blog.
1. Discover Your Niche
This is one of the most important pieces of a memberships on blogs. We talked about how critical it is earlier and it holds true for memberships, too.
2. Research Your Competition
This can be a bit overwhelming. On the one hand, if you see a lot of competition out there, you may be frustrated and feel the market is oversaturated. On the other, you might get excited when you see that no one else is doing this.
On the first point you need to figure out what will be unique and stand out from the competition.
On the second, consider that there may be a very good reason no one else is doing it.
3. Build Your Community
Before you launch, you need a following, a tribe. You need your fans. You can grow your community in several ways through your blog and social media. One of the biggest failures is not building their community first. Look initially to the people who know and trust you because they are most likely to become your first members.
4. Choose Your Theme
If you plan to add a membership component to your blog, consider that when choosing your theme. Make sure it works with the membership plugin of your choice and above all, make sure it is mobile-friendly.
5. Add the Membership Plugin
This is as hard or as easy as you make it. You will need to research to find the right membership plugin. If you are doing it yourself, realize this will take time, as you will need to work out the flow that your members go through. Otherwise, I recommend having someone help you to add a membership component to your blog.
6. Create your Content
This is one of the most time-consuming parts of creating a membership site. Likely a lot of your member-only content will be media: posts, pages, videos, audios, etc. Creating valuable content for your members takes work. Don’t be fooled by people who say, “Oh, you are teaching this already, just put it behind a paywall and start charging.”
If it were only that easy.
Get people excited about your launch first, rather then just having your site suddenly appear one day. This can be done through a mix of blog posts, emails and social media. Make a plan and if you announce a launch date, make it realistic and stick to it.
8. Launch the Site
Get ready for the launch date. Test your site. Have any promotions you plan to offer in place. Make sure everything is working. And most importantly, test the purchase process to make sure all your payment gateways are connected. It’s best to create a check-off list of all you need to do.
And don’t forget to tell the world about it.
9. Find Your Customers
Now that your site is up, the real work starts. This is going to take time and research. Hopefully you have your community in place that you can reach out to.
10. Keep Your Site Fresh
Remember about sleeping and making all those big bucks? In order to go to bed with any hope of waking up with more customers, you need to be adding new content and benefits all the time. If you are hoping for recurring members, putting up a series of videos one time, and sitting back to wait for the money to roll in is not a realistic plan. With a membership site, you need to be in it for the long haul and the only way to retain members is to keep giving them more good stuff!
As you can see, adding a membership component to your blog is a lot of work. It’s not the best route for everyone. But if you have unique content and are willing to see small but satisfying gains as you grow your community, it may be for you.
To learn more about running a membership, listen to my interview on our podcast with membership expert, Chris Lema.
If you are thinking of adding memberships to your blog, take the time to think through each step. It may be tempting to you, but don’t take the leap without careful consideration.
Online courses are the rage. Many people will tell you that everyone has something to share and online courses are easy. I agree that everyone has some special knowledge. But it’s not easy to put courses—good courses— together. If you want to just throw them up on YouTube and share, go for it. But if you want to monetize them, the competition is stiff, getting stiffer and not everyone is willing to pay.
As with memberships, the technical part is the easiest part. Several different plugins can create online courses on your WordPress site. In the past, we have used Sensei , which works with WooCommerce. But there are tons of other ones out there. And it will really depend on your needs. For example, you can see our review on the WordPress plugin WP Courseware that has some very powerful features.
The challenges are similar to membership sites. At first thought, it seems simple. If you are an expert in something, why not teach it to someone else?
But while you need know your topic inside out, there are a few other things you should ask yourself before you jump in. In addition to finding your unique market niche, ask yourself these questions before you start:
1. Can I teach?
In the excitement of envisioning masses of students eagerly consuming your lessons, this question is frequently overlooked. You may be really good at something. But teaching is a completely different animal and not everyone is not a teacher. Did you ever have a teacher in school (it was middle school algebra for me) who was brilliant, but couldn’t show his students how to master a subject or solve a problem? He was an expert, yet he lacked the skills to successfully teach the concepts to someone else.
Teaching is both a science and an art. The best teachers know how to present topics in ways their students can grasp. If it doesn’t come naturally (or you don’t have background in education), you will have to teach yourself how to teach. To start out, it helps to have both of these character traits:
Patience: What may seem simple to you often needs to be broken down into smaller, more understandable pieces. Sure, it makes a difference whether your students are beginners or advanced, but if you are in doubt, you should present more explanation as opposed to less. Even with an online course, you need to have the patience to make sure you are including everything and not leaving your students with questions. If you provide a forum, listen to your students’ questions because they will help you improve the course for next time around.
Empathy: This is probably the single most important trait. If you have ever tried to learn something that was outside your comfort zone or skill level, you’ll remember how it felt when you didn’t get it the first time. Bottle that feeling and keep it in a jar on your desk. Use that empathy to gently nudge your students and bring them along. They will appreciate you, remember you for it, and maybe even sign up for more of your courses.
2. Will I offer my courses for free or paid?
This is another big decision. There are a lot of free and really cheap online courses out there. You may just have the passion to share your knowledge with the only compensation being praise and feel-good moments.
Or maybe you want to actually make some money doing it. Pricing is all over the board in this industry and you need to figure out what you are worth and what people will pay. (Those two numbers can be vastly different.) If you are just doing what everyone else is doing, people are not going to want to pay for it. But if you offer value and unique course content that is missing in other classes, you just may be able to sell that.
3. How will I structure my content?
First off, you need to decide whether your course is all text, text and screenshots, video, or a mix of all three. Have you considered the learning styles of your students? Is what you are teaching better demonstrated through content and screenshots, or are videos a must? I did a survey a while back on how people prefer their online learning. Text and screenshots won out. You can see the results of that here.
A couple of notes about videos
Creating and Editing: Video creation is not an easy or quick task. If you expect people to part with their cash, you need to make sure that your videos are high-quality and impeccably edited. If you are expecting to create cool intros with animation, that is going to take even more time and talent.
Updating: If you are teaching people to play a guitar, well, that is pretty standard. But if you are teaching them how to use WordPress, like I do, that technology is constantly changing. And every time it changes, that means new full video production vs. editing text and replacing screenshots.
4. What about quizzes, tests and certificates?
A lot of WordPress-focused online course plugins let you create quizzes and tests. Should you use them? There is really no straightforward rule. For some students, these kinds of things can be intimidating and cause them to have scary flashbacks from their school days. On the other hand, others may find that they help them to retain the information better. If you use tests and quizzes, you might want to consider making them an option.
With certificates, unless you are a certified instructor in what you teach, a piece of paper declaring that your students have completed your course may not mean much to them. But for some, it might be something fun to hang on their wall. Again, your choice.
5. How will I market them?
Creating your courses is hard work, but figuring out how to market them can be an even bigger challenge. It is crucial that you find ways to personalize your messages so they don’t get buried in the muck of the internet. Giving prospective students a taste of your content is one of the best marketing strategies you can implement.
For example, you might want to pull a specific lesson and share it on your blog. This not only gives prospective students a hint of your teaching style, but also shows them what they can expect before they lay some money down.
These are just five things to consider before starting. With so much out there on the web, and with all the variables that are based on what you are actually teaching and who you are marketing to, other things will likely crop up.
Today, donations are not just for the nonprofits. We can break them up into three categories:
This is where donations are still used the most. For smaller nonprofits, especially, donations can be the lifeblood of the organization. They can relate to specific projects, campaigns and all types of other fundraisers.
Over the last several years, sites like Kickstarter have changed the face of raising capital for new products and startups. People are using sites like GoFundMe to ask for money to help them in a variety of situations.
Remember the old days of landing on someone’s blog and having the blogger ask for donations to keep it going? Or maybe they requested you buy them a cup of coffee or a beer if you liked the content. Some bloggers still do that.
How to Accept Donations
Depending on your blog and your specific needs, there are several directions you can go:
1. Use An Existing Option
You may have an existing plugin installed that will let you do this without adding another one. It might be as simple as a contact form that will let you hook up to your PayPal account or another payment gateway. Gravity Forms is one example of this. The developer’s license gives you several add-ons that you can use to easily add a donation form to your site. Or it may be as extensive as a larger eCommerce plugin, like WooCommerce. So do some checking first.
2. PayPal Buttons
If you have a PayPal account, it’s fairly easy to set up a payment button within your account and paste the code into a page or post. It’s that ugly, but well-known, yellow button. There are also free widgets that will connect PayPal to your site so you can take simple donations.
3. Donation Plugin – Give
As you can see in the link I gave you on widgets, there are several options for free plugins on WordPress.org as well that let you take donations. One in particular that I recommend is the Give plugin. It allows you to create a full post with easy-to-set-up donation buttons and even a progress bar to show how much money has been raised. To learn more about this free plugin, check out this post.
As you can see, there are several options for receiving donations on your WordPress site. But there is an art to having a successful donation campaign. We would highly recommend check out our friend John Haydon, a nonprofit specialist, or the Give blog for WordPress-specific tips.
This is a broad area and covers a large percentage of all business websites. Selling your services on your blog are can be direct, indirect or both.
Indirect – You use your website to help promote your expertise and pull in customers. Your site is built to entice new clients with your promises and your brand. This is the most common way of selling your services online.
Direct – Your service can be bought directly online and likely the service itself is online. For example, online coaching or consulting. You may charge for one-hour consults, giving them an opportunity to book and pay, then doing your consult via Skype or another online service.
Both – Many of you will have a mix of both. Your consultations are online, but services, or your in-depth consultations may need to be booked and paid for in person.
The Key Is To Keep It Simple
When people are purchasing your services online, make it as simple as possible. But at the same time, make sure to clarify what exactly it is you are offering. If necessary, ask them questions via a form or questionnaire. And always give them an easy option to ask you more questions if they are still on the fence.
What Can I Use to Sell My Services Online?
As with most ways of monetizing your site, it really depends on your needs:
Some of the more advanced contact form plugins allow you to connect forms with specific gateway payments. So someone can fill out a form, get answers to questions and pay you now. Gravity Forms is one example of this. The developer’s license gives you several add-ons that you can use to tie into payment gateways such as Authorize.net, Paypal, and Stripe.
There are lots of eCommerce plugins out there. Most of them may be overkill if you are simply selling a single service or two on your site. In fact, there are several free widgets that work with PayPal for that purpose.
Or you may need something as extensive as a larger eCommerce plugin, like WooCommerce. So always check first.
If you have a PayPal account, it’s fairly easy to set up a payment button within your account and simply paste the code into a page or post. There are also free widgets that will connect PayPal to your site to take simple donations.
In this post, I have given you several additional tips for monetizing your blog. One of them I would like to visit in particular.
I suggested making a catch-all payment page: a place to send people when they were ready and eager to pay.
When I was offering coaching, not everything fell into a neat package or price. Sometimes I would be talking with a potential client online or via email. They would explain what they needed and I would give them a quote then and there. Many times what came next was “How do I pay you?”
I created a page, which is something you could do with your eCommerce plugin or a plugin like Gravity Forms. It looked like this and listed several different payment options:
The result? The payments came through faster. Isn’t that what we all want?
Again, if you are selling your services online, the important thing is to make it easy for you clients to do.
To learn how we used WooCommerce to sell our services online, you can listen to this podcast or watch my presentation from WooConf 2016: Building an Online Training Business with WooCommerce.
Products are probably one of the most common ways of making money online.In fact, eCommerce sites have grown incredibly. As I said, it’s all about making it easy.
eCommerce is a huge area to cover in a single post. When we are talking about everything from a blog that has a single ebook for sale to an online store that has tens of thousands of products available, we are talking about a lot of variables.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll break it down into two areas, but realize that you could very well be selling products on your site both ways.
Gone are the days of having CD’s or boxed software shipped your way. A great number of products are downloaded these days, bypassing the pain of shipping, and giving customers immediate access to their purchases.
There are several WordPress plugins that will do this, but the one I recommend over and over, especially if all your products are downloadable, is Easy Digital Downloads. Many other eCommerce plugins will do the trick, but they are often much more than you need, especially if you are just doing simple product downloads.
Physical Products and More
As I mentioned before, there are several eCommerce plugins out there. The one we have used most is WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a dynamic, free eCommerce plugin that also can be built out to accommodate just about any kind of online purchasing you need to set up.
From downloads to physical products, bookings, memberships, services, you name it, it can do it. The default products that come with the free plugin are:
Simple Products – These can be physical, virtual or downloadable.
Grouped Products – Products that you want grouped together, such as sizes of a specific computer monitor or any product that might have varied models.
External/Affiliate Product – The ability to display products that you are an affiliate of or products you are making a commission on. An example of the latter is if you are an Amazon partner and make a few bucks on sales of their products, you could display a specific product, and provide product information, all on your site, but when they go to purchase they are sent to Amazon.
Variable Products – Products like t-shirts or other clothing that range in sizes and colors.
We have a guide for WooCommerce here, but there have been changes since then. If you are new to WooCommerce, we highly recommend joining WP101 as they have a video series on the WooCommerce basics that will get you started in the right direction.
Final Thoughts on Products and Online Stores – Shopify
This is a huge space to cover and running an online store takes serious planning, implementation and upkeep. We have touched on just a few of the WordPress plugins that can help you. Again, do your research and find what best fits your needs. For example, Shopify is another option. This is a very popular eCommerce platform and there are features that might work for you better there. In fact, you can also put your products via Shopify on your WordPress site using their free plugin.
Here are a few other resources that may help you.
10 Tips For Selling on Your Blog
There are lots of options for monetizing your blog that will work if you are willing to plan, strategize and put in the work. My tips:
1. Balance the Free
Evaluate what you are now offering for free. Likely you are already giving some of your knowledge away. Some deep thought needs to go into how you can differentiate what you plan on selling vs. what you have been known for giving away for free. There is a lot of gray area and you need to watch that you don’t lose your current followers while attracting new followers who see the value of what you are selling.
2. The Freemium Concept
This is becoming more and more popular. An example in the world of WordPress is the plugin industry. More and more developers are coming out with a free, limited version, with the opportunity to add more features by purchasing extensions. I like this approach because it allows entrepreneurs to contribute to the community while building their business model. And as a customer, we can decide whether the free model does the job, and if not, only purchase what we need, instead of a high-priced, one-time, feature-rich plugin where you might only use a few of its options.
3. Make It Easy to Purchase
Someone should be able to find what they need on your blog with the fewest click-throughs and the process for payment should be just as seamless. Don’t make them jump through hoops or require more information than needed. Cart abandonment is one of the biggest challenges of online sellers.
4. Give Them Payment Options
Dovetailing on the previous tip, this is part of making it easy. Don’t offer PayPal as your only option. Although it’s extremely popular, there are still some people who refuse to use it.
On an earlier video site where people purchased for access, I originally started with PayPal. But a lot of my colleagues at the time were raving about a new payment gateway called Stripe. I decided to give it a whirl. I was so impressed, I dropped PayPal as an alternative method. Within 24 hours I received several emails asking why PayPal wasn’t an option. Needless to say, I added it back and ever since then, payments between the two are close to 50/50.
Another example of a payment gateway is Pay with Amazon. This allows anyone to purchase from your site by logging into their Amazon account. Why might this work for you? Almost everyone has an Amazon account. And a lot of people are more confident paying Amazon than some new and strange site. Besides, their Amazon login is at their finger tips. No adding a card to yet another new site or account.
5. Have a Catch-All Payment Page
When I was doing one-to-one coaching and training, I had a few set retainers. But there were times when I worked with people who wanted to buy an odd number of hours: something that wasn’t listed on my regular sales page. So I created a page with several payment options and amounts. When I talked with someone, I could easily send them directly to that page. They took action then and spent their money with me. And I was able to get payments quicker this way.
6. End-of-Post Sales
A lot of WordPress themes out there have an end-of-post widget area. If yours doesn’t, there is a good, free plugin that will do the trick. This allows you to add a banner ad to the end of posts for an action call. It’s a great way to advertise a product or service on your blog.
You can take this a step further with some other plugins that target the ad based on the category of the post.
7. Popups. You Love Them or Hate Them.
I am not going to beat this one to death, but it’s true.
On one hand:
Almost everyone I talk to say how much they hate popups.
On the other hand:
Sites that use popups often get increased signups.
In my view, there are no hard and fast rules. They work and if you want to experiment with them, go for it. If you are looking for a great WordPress opt-in plugin, I highly recommend OptinMonster.
8. Avoid the Clutter
Sidebars on your blog can be wonderful things. Or they can be a mess of confusion. Ad after ad after ad. Unending sales pitches. Cluttered to the point where no one can focus.
Be careful of the widgets that you use and make sure they enhance your readers’ experience versus distracting them with unnecessary shiny objects. And consider custom sidebars that will let you choose which widgets show on what pages. There is a module in Jetpack that allows you to do this, as well as other plugins, including one for Genesis themes and another one that works with most themes.
9. Be Authentic
I know, you hear this all the time and yes, it’s an overused term. But when selling, this is so important, especially if you are a smaller brand, unknown to many—or an individual selling services. People want to know who the heck they are spending their money with.
I cannot tell you how many times I have landed on a new blog and clicked on the about page only to find some generic paragraph that says something like, We are a group of talented individuals that want help you increase, blah, blah, blah. I want to know about you. I want to know the person behind the brand. You don’t have to tell me all the details of your life, but let me know who you are.
10. Use Up-Sells and Cross-Sells
A lot of the WordPress eCommerce plugins offer this as a feature. You should take advantage of it if it fits your model.
Up-Sells – When someone is looking at a specific product, you have the option of adding up-sells. An example would be if you chose an iMac on Apple.com, an up-sell would be showing your iMac with a larger screen and one with a Retina display. This is a great way to get your customers to think about a similar product that has more features, added options, and, of course, is more expensive.
Cross-Sells – At checkout, there are other products the customer could use with the existing product they are purchasing. Using the iMac example, I may suggest that they also get an Airport Extreme for networking their iMac and an external hard drive to give them even more storage space.
Consider these tips when you are selling. Find out what works for you and take the next steps toward monetizing your blog.