I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ways to generate revenue that accrues every month without a bunch of extra work. Many entrepreneurs do this – set up an online course or build an app – and let it make money every month. This is called passive income.
The best way to set this up is to find ways to monetize things that you’re already doing. For example, blogging.
Artists have blogs for different reasons. Some do it to connect with fans, others to drive more traffic to their websites, and still others do it to build connections with other artists. One thing many artists don’t do is utilize Google AdSense on their blogs so their blog posts are earning them money, even as they sleep.
Maybe you’ve heard of it – Google AdSense is the single easiest way to monetize your blog. This doesn't mean it's the best way, but it certainly isn't hard. Copy and paste a bit of code into your website, and Google will throws ads up on your page. Then, you get paid per click/view. The more traffic you’re driving to your page, the more money you’ll make, at least in theory. There are some other important factors to be thinking about.
AdSense was designed for big websites and blogs in mind, but anyone can use them. If you maintain your own website, you can use Google AdSense to monetize it.
However, having ads on your blog may not be completely hunky dory with your audience. There are disadvantages to having ads on your blog, and there are in fact other ways to monetize it. In this guide, we’ll look at setting up Google AdSense, determine whether it makes sense for you, and how to monetize your blog with it.
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How To Set Up Google AdSense
Setting up Google AdSense is easy. For many blogging platforms, you should just be able to go to a section that says “Set Up Google AdSense” or “Sign Up For Google AdSense”. If so, click this and it will guide you through the process.
You can also try setting up AdSense through this Google Page. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right button on your web builder, so this is the safest bet.
If you do not see this sort of button, you may not be eligible for Google AdSense at all. According to Googles AdSense eligibility requirements, you need to: Have a website, be at least 18 years of age, comply with Google program policies, and have been active for at least six months.
You’ll also need to have a fair bit of content. Google will sometimes tell you to create more content first, and then reapply in a few months.
YouTube and Blogger are both AdSense partners and are very easy to set up. If you post regularly to either of these platforms, it will be incredibly easy to set up AdSense and start making money.
The Advertising Effect
It’s important to carefully consider whether having ads on your blog is the right thing to do and is the right thing for you as an artist. You’re probably already blogging and enjoying yourself without display ads on your site, so why mess with a good thing?
Of course, the extra income is nice, but you must remember that visitors judge your site immediately when they visit, based on many factors. The overall design, layout, and content are all incredibly important, but so is how you use ads.
You’ve almost certainly been browsing the web and had an ad negatively impact your experience. I literally can’t count the number of times I’ve left a site because of their annoying ads. Popups, screen takeovers, and slow-loading video ads are among the worst.
You do not want to end up like this. It’s completely pointless to have ads on your blog that take away from your content, your themes, and drive away visitors. Careful thought has to be put into what kinds of ads your visitors might want to see, and where to put them.
If you do decide to use ads, make sure to read the next section on designing your site properly. Also, monitor your traffic as your introduce ads. If your traffic declines suddenly when ads get thrown into the mix, you may need to reconsider your approach. Mind you, there's no reason why ads should have such a drastic impact on your website experience, unless you're bombarding people with them.
Designing & Curating Your Blog With Ads
It is absolutely crucial to keep the vision, design, and aesthetic at the forefront of your mind when you’re creating your blog. The design should be completely focused at keeping visitors on the site, both so that they have the opportunity to become fans, and so they generate the most ad revenue.
There is one counterpoint to this, which is that the sites that get the most advertising revenue tend to be those where visitors quickly bounce off of their site. So, if you're trying to build an audience with your blog, and not just monetize it, you want to strike a meaningful balance.
There are a few key areas you should focus on when you’re designing the blog.
Firstly, most visitors look at the upper left hand corner of the screen as soon as they visit a website. This is where your business name, logo, or slogan should be. Do not place an ad here. Putting an ad there feels very fake and leaves the wrong impression. It also takes the focus off of you and your website.
Next, you’ll want to focus on the upper center of the screen. This is where you’ll usually find mission statements or titles. This is also where you’ll often find a navigation menu. Sometimes, you’ll find banner ads in this area, but for a music blog, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s hard enough just to get people to your blog, I wouldn’t risk scaring them off.
Of course, the bulk of the screen is taken up by the blog content itself. You’ll want to start off with some nice engaging content that keeps people interested. Then, you can tastefully distribute ads throughout the post. In-content ads tend to perform well, but this can be a bit trickier to set up without the right plugins.
The ideal spot for ads tends to be on the sides and near the bottom of the page, and sometimes mixed in with the actual content.
With traditional AdSense ads, it’s best not to stray too far from these guidelines. AdSense ads can be distracting, and you want visitor focus to remain on your message.
Using Keywords With Google AdSense
You get to choose keywords that dictate what kinds of ads are shown on your site. There are thousands of companies vying for ad space, and it’s important that you choose companies that actually make sense.
As a music blog, you would not want an ad sell car parts on your site. That would be distracting from your messaging and send a cheap, inauthentic vibe to your visitors.
Choosing keywords that fit with your location, fit with your style of music, and fits the topics you cover on your blog will not alienate users and will in fact generate more clicks and revenue.
In general, Google will do your job for you. You can put ad selection on autopilot, and most of the time this won't affect ad revenue or the visitor experience negatively. Here's the thing – people visiting your site might have just come from an E-commerce site like Amazon, or maybe a floral arranger. So, the fact that they're seeing ads connected to whatever they were looking at before coming to your site isn't necessarily a bad thing, because they might be relevant to them.
Keep in mind that Google personalizes ads. So, you're the worst judge of what's being shown on your site. People sometimes go, “I'm not happy with the ads I'm seeing here. They seem irrelevant.” Think carefully about the other websites you visited that day. You might be surprised to find that the ads are entirely relevant to products you've been looking up recently.
So, most of the time, you can put this entirely on autopilot. But you can make a few quick tweaks in the settings to make sure no questionable ads are showing up on your site.
Traffic = Money
Just having ads on your website doesn’t actually do anything. Just because you've built the website doesn’t mean anyone will come to it. Advertisers are paying for people to see your ads.
With Google AdSense, you can have up to three ads units on your website at any given time, and to maximize your earnings, you should use all three. More than three ads could drive visitors off of your site.
Considering your blog is primarily about music and creativity, it may be wise to just put one or two ads on your site and start there. You’ll still get a little bit of revenue, but less ads seems a little more tasteful. Try experimenting on your own to see what works.
For AdSense to work, you need to employ all the usual marketing effort you put into any content. Facebook posts, Twitter, Instagram, maybe a few ads of your own! Driving people to your website not only gets people reading and engaging with your content, it literally makes you money.
Again, keep careful track of who is visiting your website and whether your traffic goes up or down. Listen to your fans and followers if they're telling you to remove the ads – if people don’t like them, it’s not worth keeping them. But most of the time, people probably won't complain about this.
Just one more thing about traffic. It's great to have, but it quality is just as important as quantity. If you can get the right people to your site, you'll do a lot better than those who are only concerned with numbers. If people know you and understand what you're about, you'll see more benefit from blogging – not just the money you earn from ads.
Alternatives To AdSense
If you like the idea of making money off of your blog, but find ads a little tacky or simply not the right fit for your brand, there are other ways to monetize. Here are a few options to think about.
You can build ads right into your content by getting advertisers to pay you to mention their products or link to their products. This form of advertising is very unobtrusive and doesn’t disrupt a user's experience. Just keep in mind that you typically need to disclose this kind of business relationship right on your blog.
Building Your Mailing List
If you can build your mailing list to a respectable number, you can use it to advertise. By putting ads at the ends of emails, or by putting links in the body of your emails, you can earn some money. Again, this can be a little risky, but as long as it’s done tastefully it shouldn’t upset any fans.
Some email services will tell you not to do this, and others may even ban you from their service. Just beware.
Sponsored Post And/Or Paid Reviews
If you have a good following on your blog, you can put sponsored posts on it to make a little bit of extra cash. You may have noticed these on sites like Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. These are great, because they usually feature good content, just provided by an advertiser.
If you do reviews or guest posts, you can ask for a small sum to do these sort of paid reviews on your blog. These can be great for cross-promoting and a little bit of extra cash.
Keep Track Of Your Traffic
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that the ads you’re putting on your blog do not take away from your content. Ultimately, your music and brand is the most important thing to sell to your fans, not your ads.
In an ideal world, your music would provide your static income. Always work on the music first, revenue later.