Insider Advice on Making Money with your Travel Blog

This guest post is by Amar Hussainand is Part One of a Two Part article.

Text Link Ads

I remember the first time I ever sold a text link. It was for 3 months and I got completely ripped off. Still at the time I was over the moon. As a blogger when you make your first buck that’s when you’ve made the move from amateur to professional, by definition anyway. I’ve come a long way since then and it’s not been smooth sailing. Trial and error has taught me different aspects of monetization and I will share with you some lessons that I’ve learned.

To give you a little background on my blog. It’s just over a year old and is PR3. I’m not a big name blogger, I don’t have massive stats and I’m not a regular feature on Top 10 lists. Sure the accolades and the prestige would be great, but they don’t pay the bills. What actually makes me sad is there are blogs bigger and better than mine but they have no idea how to convert what they have into financial reward.

Blogging started as a hobby and then I realized its potential for monetization. I run a business, not a blog. Don’t get me wrong I think the community we have is great and I have made some fantastic connections. I see my blog as a means not an end. Yes I like making money but only because money enables me to do the thing I love; Travel.

I’ve tried various monetization strategies mainly text link ad sales and affiliate links. I’ve had more success with text link ad sales and currently average $1800 a month from these. So how do I go about leveraging this? My top tips for you…

Be open

I lead a busy schedule but I do my best to hop around on different blogs and discover new ones. It’s actually infuriating when I see a good blog and I think to myself I’ll get in touch. Do I see a contacts page? Is there an e-mail address? I mainly see this with newer blogs but if I was a perspective advertiser how am I to get in touch with you? Something I see rarely is an advertising page. Are you open to advertising and what do you offer? Advertisers will trawl through many blogs to find yours and you need to make it easy for them. One of the best examples I have seen of an advertising page is on GoBackpacking.com. Personally, I wouldn’t list my advertising rates mainly because I think it improves your negotiating position. Sometimes advertisers have come in and offered me more than what I would have quoted.

Be seen

When I first started getting approached by advertisers I used to ask them where they found me. A lot of the time they responded that they found me on a blogroll or comments. Exposure is paramount. I do a lot of link exchanges which means that not only do I get back links and referrals but my blog’s name is out there. It’s also great for networking too. Some of my friendships in the community started this way.

Be prepared

I’m a slave to my e-mail but this is for a good reason. One time I didn’t respond to a potential advertiser until a week later. By the time I got in touch he had already spent his advertising budget. An early bird really does catch the worm. I have a template e-mail saved meaning that when I receive an advertising query I can respond quickly. The most common query I get is “what advertising do you offer and how much does it cost?” Work out what advertising options you are willing to offer and how much you will charge for them. Always set the price slightly higher. This way you have room to negotiate the price down to an acceptable level.

Be practical

The industry standard is for payments to be made via PayPal. I’m sure most of you have one but in case you don’t it’s worth setting up. Getting money out of anyone who owes it you is a pain and it’s no different with advertisers. I once had an advertiser that would transfer money monthly, well that’s what they were supposed to do. I spent that much time chasing them each month that I actually refused to work with them again. Time is a valuable commodity too.

My advice would be to upgrade your PayPal account to a Merchant account. This enables you to create subscriptions that will automatically transfer money to you from the advertisers account. Alternatively, and more preferred by advertisers, is to be paid for a fixed term. I normally shoot for 6 or 12 month ad lengths which means that I don’t have to go through the renewal process too often. As an incentive I will offer a discount for a 12 month ad or if they opt for multiple links. For something like this I offer around about 10% discount.

Be organized

I have a spreadsheet that tracks all my advertisers. When I see that an ad is about to expire I get in touch in advance to inquire if they want a renewal. They aren’t going to come to you and say “oh yes we owe you more money.” It’s your responsibility to keep on top of it all. It’s also important to keep track of the amounts in case the same company come back and want another link. You can easily work out what they have been quoted before. Finally, I always keep in touch with advertisers. That really does mean all of them. This includes ones that have decided not to go ahead at all and long term advertisers. I check in every 2-3 months to see if they have any new clients that they are representing and need advertising for.

Be transparent

This should go without saying really. If it’s a sponsored post, say so. I always put a disclaimer in my posts. Not only is it best practice but it’s the law. I’d like to think that readers understand that you should be able to profit in some way from all the free content that you provide. People prefer honesty at the end of the day. If you are writing a sponsored review ensure that you are writing a fair and balanced review. Let the advertiser know that you will only agree to write an honest review before you accept.