Whether you're a large organisation, a small business, or just really love your cats, a blog is a great tool to get your story out there.

If your content is engaging, a blog can tick a lot of boxes in terms of your online goals. Great blog content can successfully draw users to your website from organic search and social media, drive brand awareness and convert readers into valuable customers.

A blog can also be a money-maker in its own right by serving as a place to sell ads to other companies eager to reach your audience.

In this beginner's guide to blog monetisation, we'll explore how to:
  1. Maximise your content
  2. Get started with ad networks
  3. Use targeting methods to reach the right audience
  4. Decode ad lingo
  5. Explore other ways to monetise your content, and,
  6. What to do once your ads are up and running.
Let's dive in:

Maximise your content

From a reader's perspective, your blog can provide enormous value. Your content can introduce them to new concepts and resources, help them troubleshoot problems, entertain them and inform their decision making process.

But there’s a snag: For the most part, readers expect to consume your content without paying for it — even if you pour considerable time and resources into making it. So how can you monetise content your audience expects to get for free? One option is to sell advertising spaces alongside your content to relevant advertisers who are keen to reach your audience.

For small businesses, finding advertisers could be challenging and time-consuming, particularly when it comes time to arranging and managing ad campaigns with a large number of publishers.

Fortunately, there are online advertising networks that help connect publishers with advertisers.

Get started with ad networks

Online advertising networks bring together advertisers and publishers using automated targeting technology. Google and Facebook have large ad networks, and there are also others like AOL Advertising or Yahoo's publisher network dedicated to placing ads at scale across the Internet.

Turning your blog or website into a destination for ads is fairly simple. You sign up with an ad network, add some code on your site and start displaying ads. Advertisers pay the network for the ads, and then that revenue is shared between you and the network. The largest share of revenue generally goes to you, the publisher.

AdSense allows you to copy and paste a piece of code on your blog where you want to show ads. Advertisers then bid for your ad space in a real-time auction.

Use targeting methods to reach the right audience

To ensure the ads on your blog reach the right audience, there are a number of targeting methods ad networks may use in assisting to achieve high relevancy.
  • Contextual targeting allows advertisers to place ads on a web page based on the words and subject matter of that page. Similar to a keyword-targeted search campaign, advertisers choose a small number of keywords on a particular theme and then the network matches their ads to pages or articles on the same subject. So if you run a menswear blog, and ads about shoes start popping up, it's no accident. And it's a double win — the advertiser reaches people who are likely interested in shoes, and the ads on your site pair nicely with your content. 
  • Placement targeting allows advertisers to choose a number of specific sites for their advertising. This affords the advertiser more control over where their ads are shown. 
  • Remarketing or personalised advertising lets advertisers target users based on their past browsing behavior. (You know when you're shopping online for clothes, and those same styles mysteriously appear in an ad the following day?) Although this strategy is based on targeting people rather than content, it can still produce good results for publishers. Since ads are tailored to the known interests of visitors, users may be more inclined to click.

Decoding ad lingo

When you begin working with an ad network, you may encounter some technical speak. Here's a quick glossary to some of the most common words used:
  • Cost-per-click (CPC): the amount you earn each time a user clicks on your ad. The CPC for any ad is determined by the advertiser; some advertisers may be willing to pay more per click than others, depending on what they're advertising. 
  • Cost Per Mille (CPM): CPM stands for "cost per 1000 impressions." Advertisers running CPM ads set their desired price per 1000 ads served and pay each time their ad appears. As a publisher, you'll earn revenue each time a CPM ad is served to your page and viewed by a user. This number is useful because it allows you to compare the efficiency of ads across networks or campaigns. 
  • Revenue Per Mille (RPM): Represents the estimated earnings you'd accrue for every 1000 impressions you receive. RPM doesn't represent how much you have actually earned; rather, it's calculated by dividing your estimated earnings by the number of page views, impressions, or queries you received, then multiplying by 1000 [RPM = (Estimated earnings / Number of page views) * 1000]. RPM is a commonly used number in advertising programs, and you may find it helpful for comparing revenue across different channels. 
  • Clickthrough Rate (CTR): The clickthrough rate is the percentage of impressions that led to a click. 
  • Viewability: Whether an ad on the Web is typically seen on a user's screen. Sometimes ads are said to be shown, but in reality users might need to scroll down to see them. AdWords, for example, lets advertisers choose 'above-the-fold' targeting, which guarantees that an ad is viewable when the page loads. See this infographic for more on viewability.

Explore other ways to monetise your content

While ad networks will typically bring display advertising to your website through image-based, animated or video ads — there are a number of other monetisation options to consider as well.
  • Subscriptions: If your content is highly desirable to a particular audience (especially if it caters to a niche set of readers or contains expert information that's difficult to find elsewhere, like The Financial Times) you could opt to charge a subscription fee. (This is sometimes referred to as a "paywall.") You could charge on a per-article basis or for access to unlimited or a certain number of articles per month. 
  • Sponsored content: Another route is to create sponsored content, where an advertiser buys a "paid post" that gets embedded with your original content. Ideally the sponsored content blends well with your site. For example, Wedplanology, a course that teaches you how to plan your wedding, paid for a post on a wedding blog, Love My Dress. Perfect fit. (If you decide to publish paid posts, be sure it's clear to readers that they're reading ads by labeling them "sponsored content" or something similar.) 
  • Affiliate programmes: Affiliate programmes allow you to display image ads or product links from online retailers. But rather than being paid to show the ad, you're paid a commission if one of your visitors buys that product via your website. Large retailers like Amazon run their own affiliate programmes, or affiliate networks like Affiliate Window run programmes for a variety of retailers. 
Keep in mind that monetising your content with online ads is not just open to bloggers. Ad networks can also place ads in mobile apps, games and videos.

Ensure your ads are mobile responsive and automatically adapt to different screen sizes - this way you can create a great user experience and continue to earn revenue when people view your blog on a smartphone or tablet.

Your ads are up and running — w​​​​​​hat's next?​

To grow your audience and generate revenue from ads, it's not enough to just create content — you have to create good content that satisfies your readers.

This means you'll want to:
  • Make sure you choose topics of interest. Listen to customers, keep your finger on the pulse of your industry and monitor social trends for inspiration. Google offers free alerts and also a trends tool to help you tap into what's popular. (See here for more on uncovering trends). 
  • Dive into the data. Use your blog analytics to see which of your published articles are most popular and engaging and then build on those themes. 
  • Distribute content on social media and then measure its success on those platforms. 
  • Encourage feedback and comments, as this can inform future posts. 
  • Plan your content ahead and have a regular schedule so people know when to expect the next post. 

Focusing on producing quality content your audience loves will ensure your traffic grows and - if you have the right tools in place - that your monetisation efforts are rewarded.

Find out more about Google AdSense by checking out these helpful videos, or download the free AdSense Guide to Audience Engagement ebook.