I am the creator and writer of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, a blog dedicated to Syracuse University sports, which gets over 500K pageviews/month and has been featured on ESPN.com, SI.com, Deadspin.com and others. I am also an Adjunct Professor for Syracuse University on the topic of blogging (seriously!). I currently live based on income generated from my blogs as well as books, magazines and related writing jobs. For more, visit...
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I would actually recommend becoming an Amazon Affiliate and building banners and links through that. You can control the specifics of everything offered and really target your audience so they see things they're interested in. Plus, its easy to control, easy to keep track of profits and they do a good job of paying. Google AdSense is fine but I've run into (and heard of) issues with them denying payments for shady reasons.
I started my initial blog in 2006 and I stopped working a day job in 2010. Even then, it required a lot of extra work to maintain but it was great to be able to get to that point.
My all-time favorite blog is Videogum.com. Snarky, funny and about topics I'm interested in. Other daily stops of mine include FilmDrunk for my movies info, io9.com for my sci-fi/nerdy info, Gawker for news o'the day, Daily What when I want a laugh or to find an interesting video, FourFour for funny and insightful commentary. I know I'm biased but I think most of the sports blogs on SBNation.com are all really informative and worthwhile as well.
First and foremost, get familiar with SEO strategies. Knowing the best ways to write a headline, set up a URL and write keywords into your posts can make or break your search engine traffic. Second, start linking up. Search engines see links to your site from larger sites as a cross-reference that you're site is worthwhile. Ask like-minded blogs to link you but don't be offended if they ignore you/say no. Third, get on social media. If everything you write doesn't go on Twitter & Facebook, you're missing out (and keep an eye on Google Plus). Fourth, identify "Blog Carnivals" and blogs that do linkposts and submit your best stuff to them. Not everything, pick your spots. Finally, encourage discussion & comments. Readers need the okay from you that its safe to share their thoughts. Ask for their opinions in every post with polls, questions, etc.
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I spend a lot of time on my blogs. Not just writing them but maintaining the look and feel, monitoring comments and social media, etc. Direct income (advertising, affiliate programs) earn me a few hundred a month, not much. Where I make most of my money is on indirect income. I wrote a book that's available for purchase. I've edited a year magazine about Syracuse basketball that's for sale. I host classes on Professional Blogging and starting your own sports blog. And I have a few other things in the works that all stem from my blogs. I think the more you put into growing your blog and maintaining the community around it, the more financial possibilities will open up around it.
Fill in the gaps. What stories aren't being covered by your competitors that you can capitalize on? Are they posting 3 times a day? You should post 5 or 6. Create linkposts that link to your competitors but position yourself as the "source" from which all news flows. Maintain the friendship, there's value in sticking together and cross-linking. But just always think about what's not being done and how you can become the "expert" on it.
You don't get too much for an individual sale. Depending on the type of product and the way the user ends up buying it, you're looking at between 1-5% usually. You're right, the more traffic you have, the more money you'll make. But you can up the odds by really finding targeted banners and links. I write a Syracuse blog so all my Amazon banners are Syracuse-related products. And anytime I write about a random movie or book, I create an affiliate link to it. It's funny, the more you do it the more you'll find that people buy the most random stuff through your links. Because they wanted to go to Amazon to buy something but kept forgetting to go, but you gave them the reminder. The more you post links and integrate them not only into your blog but also your social media, the more sales you'll generate. It won't pay your rent but it'll make you enough to pay some bills.
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