How to make money with a blog?

I guess the wider topic would be How to make money online and one day I'll write an article with that title as well, but for now let's focus on this one.

I have a number of web sites where I write articles. This one is just my personal site where I write generic articles, but my biggest site is the Perl Maven. In October 2015 it had 400,000 pageviews. Not bad for a site that was primarily built by one person. (Actually there were a few guest posts, and several people translated articles to other languages which is quite awesome.)

I don't really call it a blog as I am not telling stories there. I just write articles. Sometimes I record and publish screencasts.

In the end it does not matter how do I call it. The important thing is that it has a lot of content freely available to anyone to read and I have a strong interest in making money from this. That money will enable me to focus more on this topic (Using the Perl programming language) or to build other sites. Instead of, you know, being an employee or selling my hours to clients.

I put quite some energy in researching how to make money with the content I have and got a few directions.

These directions might help you too. Assuming you already have a web site with a lot of content and many visitors.

Use Google Adsense

This is very easy and as I understood from some "experts" (frankly, I don't know if they are really experts or just pose as one.) that this is the lowest form income. It is very easy to set up Google Adsense. You just register with them. Click a fews buttons and fill out a few forms to create "ads". Then copy some JavaScript code to the appropriate places in your HTML and within a few minutes when you visit your site you'll start seeing ads.

Every time someone clicks on one of the ads Google charges some money and part of that money will be yours. (But don't click on the ads yourself, neither ask your friends or readers to do so. That's against their rules and will get you banned quickly.)

Once a month, if your revenue reached a threshold they will transfer the money to your bank account.

Nothing easier than this.

It won't bring you wealth though. Due to the TOS of Google I can't go into details, but my site is quite far from bring in enough money to live from it. It's a nice income but I think I could have earned a lot more money if did contract work in the time I spent building the site.

This is more or less where I am currently at.

Alternatives to Google AdSense

There are a lot of alternatives to Google AdSense, and I'll write about those later. Suffice to say that after checking several other Ad Networks I am still using Google AdSense. It brings a lot more money RPM (per thousand pageviews) than any of the other networks I tried.

Affiliate programs

Supposedly the second step climbing to higher revenue are Affiliate programs. They require a lot more work on your part, but hopefully you know your readers much better than and automatic ad-network can, and thus you can target them better.

Affiliate programs usually pay you per actions and not per click. Sometimes it might be a person signing up to their free web site, but most likely affiliate programs will only pay you if the visitor you sent them buys something on their site.

You can understand this will happen a lot less than clicking on ads, but then the revenue you get from each action is probably much higher.

There are plenty of affiliate networks, one of the big ones is being CJ or Commission Junction, but there are plenty of others and there are plenty of sites that run their own affiliate program.

With each individual affiliate program you need to sign up, accept their TOS, pick and ad and put some code in your HTML pages. The problem is that for each individual ad you need to do the same. You need to monitor how much revenue they generate and decide which one is a better fit to your audience.

So far I had good luck with only one. Digital Ocean provides VPS - Virtual Private Servers - where you can host your sites. I am renting several servers from them, and I hardly paid anything to them. I get more money promoting them than I spend on them. This does not mean much though. I still pay to Linode where my bigger servers are. (BTW Those are both affiliate links.)

I don't know how much money make from either of these, but my gut feeling is that the RPM (revenue per 1000 pageviews) is much lower than what I get from Google AdSense.

Which probably means I have not yet figured out how to use affiliate marketing properly.

Sell your own products or services

This is, as I understand the highest form of "making money online" or "making money with your content". The idea is that you build a product (this can be an e-book or anything else) and then you offer this product or service to the visitors of your site.

I have a number of e-books on the Perl Maven site and I even have a subscription service.

The idea is that if you've built your product then all the revenue goes to you and not only a small percentage as affiliate site would give you.

I have two issues with this.

One is that it has not worked out that well for me. I make about the same amount of money with my products as I do with my AdSense ads so its not bad, but I was expecting a lot more. This might be due to the fact that I don't know how to sell these items. Which is definitely true. This can be also due to the fact that in the subject I cover "Programming in Perl" there is not enough money. I'll write about this later. The main point is that you need to pick a subject where people are ready to pay for product and you need to learn how to sell your product.

The other issue, which is probably related to the first, is that this switching gears. Instead of focusing on writing the best articles on your subject and making money as a result, now we need to focus on building a product that is best in its class (even if the "class" is a special case in some obscure subject) and we need to think on how to sell it. An that will probably change how we write as now the writing is a tool for selling our product.

So I am not sure. Maybe the reason I don't sell a lot more of my e-books and my subscription service is because I have not made that switch. I still give away too much free content and I still focus on the quality of my free articles more than on their capability to sell my products and services.