We’ve arrived at a mission statement for the Hit Subscribe blog. As an aside, I recommend this to all of our clients, our followers, and our authors — your blog should have a mission statement that explains who you’re helping and what you’re helping them do.
Here’s the Hit Subscribe blog’s mission statement:
We help techies use their blogs to generate more business.
Pretty short, sweet, and simple, huh?
Why We Want to Help
You might wonder why we address any techie with our blog when Hit Subscribe only targets dev tools and SaaS companies as our clients. Why would we help a salaried software engineer with a little side hustle when that engineer obviously wouldn’t hire us at four- or five-figure price points? Why should we speak to just any old software developer?
Well, two things. First of all, we’re not actually speaking to any techie. We’re only speaking to techies that want to make money. And the reason we’re less picky about our blog’s target audience than we are about our ideal client is simple. Today’s software developers with side hustles will start tomorrow’s SaaS and dev tools companies. And when those of you reading do exactly that, we want you to think of us for your content needs.
Until then, please feel free to follow along and make use of any and all information that we publish!
Okay, so why did I lead in with all of that stuff about the Hit Subscribe mission and our audience? Well, to set the stage for this and future posts. You’re interested in making money and in blogging, so we’re interested in telling you how those things go together.
The Two Main Ways Tech Blogs Make Money
Alright, so how does a tech blog make money? There are two main ways this happens. (I might argue that this is true for any kind of blog, but we’re only interested in the ones made by techies and tech companies.)
- The blog itself earns you money and serves as a profit center.
- The blog (and site in general) is an investment that you make to attract clients/customers and convince them to purchase an offering of yours.
Understand that these are not mutually exclusive. For instance, my consulting site/brand DaedTech makes money in both ways. It has ads and affiliate links to recoup the cost of the site. But I also sell consultative services and books that I promote through the site as well.
Making Money Through Ads
Let’s take a look at what I’ve described in a little more detail. First up, ads. This is pretty straightforward. And because it’s straightforward, it’s probably how those who’ve never thought about it imagine bloggers earn a living.
Ads and direct sponsorships are a nice way to earn money. Unless you have millions of visitors each month, banner ads and the like probably won’t earn you more than beer money. But, still, beer money isn’t bad.
Other forms of sponsorship get a little better. For instance, some bloggers (not DaedTech) will seek sponsorship arrangement where they mention the sponsor in the text of the post. Like its television cousin, product placement, this works a little better because of a very real phenomenon known as ad blindness. We don’t just ignore ads, we literally train ourselves subconsciously to stop seeing them.
So ad/sponsorship revenue on your site can take a variety of forms, but you’re unlikely to earn a living this way.
If you want to start earning a living in earnest, you turn to affiliate marketing. This tends to be a lot more profitable than traditional advertising. In exchange, it asks you to blur the line between content and sales.
Here’s how it works.
Amazon offers one of the most expansive affiliate programs around, so let’s use that as an example. You sign up with Amazon for their affiliate program and get an account (after filling out some legal/financial forms and such). With this account, they give you special URLs to use to link to Amazon products when you’re logged in.
These URLs contain a way to uniquely identify you. The upshot is that Amazon wants to know when you, as an individual, have sent traffic their way. If the traffic you send their way buys something, they give you a little cut of the sale. This form of linking is called affiliate linking.
Why is this so profitable? You link someone to a book, and they buy the book, giving you a chunk of $9.99. So what? Well, think a lot bigger, and a lot more traffic. Maybe you build a website for digital camera enthusiasts, build a lot of traffic, and recommend $800 cameras to thousands of readers.
These guys started a YouTube channel where they teach you to do this exact thing. I’ve never tried this, so caveat emptor. But people apparently do this and earn their entire living at it.
Now we get into Hit Subscribe’s wheelhouse. The things I’ve already covered fall under the heading of the first way tech blogs earn money — by actually generating e-commerce revenue from the blog itself. Now I’ll talk about the second method, which involves investing in your site to use it as a means to make money in a different way.
For DaedTech, I sell consulting services and some books. For Hit Subscribe, we hope you might find our monthly content offerings interesting. Go through the links in this post, and you’ll find no affiliate links. You also won’t see ads. And, interestingly, I haven’t bothered to link to our offerings page.
(That’s saying something — do you know how tempted I was to link to our offerings page when typing “our offerings page,” out of habit?)
The reason for this is that I’m currently engaged in content marketing. We’ll get a lot more into what that means in subsequent posts, but for now, let’s go with a stock definition. (This one’s a little wordy, but I really like this guy’s work.)
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
The author talks about “eventually [driving] profitable customer action,” but he’s intentionally vague on how you get from “valuable, relevant” content to profit. That’s because content marketing is a long play. Seriously, it’s a REALLY long play.
Basically, you write for months or even years, sharing what you know. You give away value for free. At first, nobody pays attention, but you slowly start to build an audience if you have a good mission and some enthusiasm about what you’re doing. Gradually, folks start to listen and they start to trust you. But this only works if you’re legitimately helping them in some fashion, entertaining them, piquing their interest, or doing something that they value.
Once you’ve built that audience (and assuming that you’ve built the right audience), you can start to monetize it. And you can do this without it being sales-y in the slightest.
Let’s go back to DaedTech, for example. I wrote for years and years about unit testing and test-driven development. On the blog, I asked for nothing. I just shared my experience and helped people. Eventually, I published a book about unit testing. When I then announced it on my blog, longtime readers hardly felt I was somehow manipulating them — many of them were really happy to pay because they valued my content over the years.
Content Marketing is Serious Blog Commerce
I’ll close by saying this. We’re going to offer all sorts of blogging advice here, some of which will talk about ads, affiliate linking, and advice for bloggers looking to side hustle. But the serious money in the world of blogging is in the arena of content marketing.
No matter how many niche sites you make and how much bank you earn doing affiliate marketing, you’ll never compete with a tech tools company employing hundreds or thousands of people and doing millions and millions in revenue. The long tail money they make from their blog isn’t a lifestyle business like affiliate advertising — it’s big business.
Most of the blogs you see out there offering lots of free value aren’t really free. They exist to provide readers with free, valuable content, but the blogs themselves are worth a lot of money, both in investment and in potential revenue.
So the best way for you to make money through blogging is to build a valuable product or service that people will happily pay for, and then to give away a lot of value talking about related topics on your blog. Your blog’s most important property is how credible it is and how much it inspires trust in your audience.