This post brought to you by SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
The rather large (and growing) section of the Internet dominated by sports news and discussion is filled with independent sports blogs launched by fans who, initially, wanted nothing more than an outlet for their hot sports opinions.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these blogs are abandoned after only a short time, or are unable to grow an audience, because running a successful blog of any kind, sports or otherwise, requires a significant time investment; and for most us, as we grow older and gain more responsibilities, it is very hard to make a significant time investment into something that is not generating some kind of revenue.
So today, I am going to provide a few tips that I’ve learned over the last three years about how to generate revenue with a sports blog.
* – and by motivation I mean my motivation in addition to the obvious motivation that comes from Social Spark compensating me for the time it takes me to create this post. Just consider this an example of me practicing what I’m about to preach.
I have been fortunate in that Midwest Sports Fans was started as a side project as part of my duties at Orangecast, the web consulting company I am a partner in, so its value initially was tied more to what I could learn from the hands-on experience than whatever revenue I might be able to drive by monetizing pageviews. And let’s be honest: what sports fan wouldn’t want to be able to spend a part of their work day getting paid to develop a website about sports? I know I’ve been lucky to have such an opportunity, and I do not take it for granted.
My good fortune also motivates me to try to help others who are in the blogging game with far less of a safety net than I had. There are so many earnest sports fans out there who run their websites with passion and commitment and who produce really good content day-in and day-out. But because these bloggers didn’t have their blog training subsidized as part of their on-the-job training, like I did, they don’t know certain “tricks of the trade” for how to drive traffic and then monetize that traffic.
Blogging Revenue Tip #1: Social Spark
The first tip I will offer, not surprisingly, is that you should sign up for Social Spark right this very moment. Do so easily by clicking this link: http://izea.in/r3gm.
Social Spark is an online marketplace that matches advertisers with publishers to create sponsored posts that ideally should benefit three parties: the advertiser (who gets exposure); the publisher (who gets paid); and the audience (who learns about an interesting new product or service).
What I like about Social Spark is that by signing up I am obligated to do nothing. If I do not see any opportunities that I think would be relevant for readers of Midwest Sports Fans, I do not have to take any o the opportunities presented to me.
Luckily, Social Spark does a great job of bringing in relevant advertisers with interesting, unique products. Take a look at a few recent sponsored posts I’ve written for Social Spark (here, here, and here). Each one of these products is reputable (trust me, I researched them before posting) and relevant to the majority of our readers, even if it’s not directly related to sports. And I got paid $150-200 a pop to spend the 30-45 minutes it takes to create the post. Not bad, right? Again, it’s a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.
Blogging Revenue Tip #2: Affiliate Programs
Another great way to generate revenue is through affiliate programs. The way these programs work is that you promote a product or service and get a portion of any revenue generated from people who clicked from your website. The most lucrative example of this is our annual series of March Madness posts that include ticket links. There are a number of good affiliate marketplaces; we have found the most success with Commission Junction.
A more recent example is our current deal with FanDuel.
See the link in this post? If you click on that link (or this one! Or on the image above!) and become a paying FanDuel customer, we generate revenue. And why shouldn’t we? We’re trusting FanDuel with our readers and giving them qualified leads. When you do that, you deserve to be compensated. This is why affiliate marketing continues to grow as a revenue-generating means.
Like Social Spark, affiliate marketing is another win-win-win situation for all involved, which is what I always look for when it comes to revenue-generating opportunities on MSF. Obviously it has to make sense for us, it has to make sense for advertisers (or we wouldn’t have the opportunity in the first place), and most importantly it has to make sense for readers, because if you alienate your readers then you have no audience and thus nothing to monetize.
Blogging Revenue Tip #3: Networks
When it comes to banner ads, I’ve always found being part of a network to be the most efficient and cost-effective model. We are part of the Yardbarker Network, and many of the banner ads you see on MSF come from YB. Whereas I would have to spend tons of time on my own selling ad space, instead of creating or promoting content to grow our audience, YB has a sales team out there striking great deals for its network of publishers.
Whatever blogging niche you are in, I highly recommend you join a network, both for the ads and the increased exposure and networking. And if you don’t know of any networks in your niche, sign up with our friends at Lijit. They have a solid ad network you can opt into.
Blogging Revenue Tips #4: Premium Ad Marketplaces
The one alternative to ad networks that I have found for selling banner space is a premium ad marketplace called iSocket (which, not surprisingly, was founded by a fellow IU grad). You do have to pay for this service, but we have more that recouped our investment by being able to sell individual pieces of real estate on the site for premium CPMs. I would not even think about this option, however, until you’ve thoroughly explored the first three.
Hopefully you find one or all of these tips helpful. Midwest Sports Fans has most certainly been a labor of love for me, and I like to think the site would still be going strong even it was not generating revenue, but the cold, hard fact is that for almost any blogging endeavor to grow and stand the test of time, it needs to generate some revenue to offset the operating costs and time it takes to maintain. I can speak confidently from experience that If you follow the four tips I’ve laid about in this post, you will be able to maximize your site’s ability to generate revenue.
With that said, I can also speak confidently when I say that even though you need to have a revenue-generating plan in place, content is and will always be king. So never take your eye off the ball — this means always put your readers first and never lose sight of your responsibility to create consistently engaging content — because you cannot monetize an audience that doesn’t exist.
My thanks to SocialSpark for providing the incentive to write this post, which I’ve been meaning to carve out the time to write for a while now.