Monetizing Your Travel Blog

3 August 2009 Post Author:
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Lately we’ve been receiving emails – and questions in the Forum – from travel writers who are confused about how to monetize their travel blog. They’re just a little fuzzy on the whole concept of advertising, or perhaps just leery of it, and a few even confuse the concept of displaying ads on their travel blog with paying to advertise to bring traffic to their site.

Hopefully this post will clear up some confusion, help you make some decisions, and get your travel blog on the path to earning you some income.

First, I think it’s important to clearly identify the types of advertising and some terminology. There are two primary models of online advertising:

  • Per Click (aka “CPC”) – The best example is Google’s AdSense. If you are displaying Google Ads on your site, you get paid each time someone clicks on an Ad;
  • Per Action (aka “CPA”) – If you display an Affiliate Ad on your site, and someone clicks on that Ad, you don’t get paid unless they then “do something”, such as purchase a product, open a new account, or sign up for something – that is the “action”. If they complete the “action”, then you get paid;

There is one other – albeit rare – model, which is Per Impression (aka “CPM”). This is an old business model that is rarely used anymore, but basically refers to getting paid based on how many times an Ad is displayed (page views), regardless of clicks or actions. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Forbes is starting a “Luxury Blog Network” using the CPM model, but have not seen anything in writing yet. I’ll keep you posted!

If you are displaying ads on your site, and earning income for clicks and/or actions, then you are the “Affiliate“. If you are the one producing the ads for someone else to display, and paying them for clicks or actions, then you are the “Advertiser“.

This article will deal strictly with the Affiliate side of advertising. We’ll do a follow up article next week on the Advertiser side of advertising, in case anyone is interested in how and why you would want to pay to bring traffic to your travel blog.

There are hundreds — maybe thousands — of Affilate Programs out there that you can join, dominated by the “Big Three”:

These three are “aggregators” for thousands of advertisers who are either too small to run their own affiliate program or just don’t want the hassle of managing one – the aggregators keep track of all clicks and actions, and coordinate payments from the advertisers to the affiliates. It is free to join as an Affiliate, and I recommend that you join all three to find the best selection of relevant advertisers for your travel blog.

In that last sentence, the most important word is “relevant“.

If you want your affiliate ads to perform effectively for you, you absolutely MUST keep them relevant to why someone is at your travel blog. Is your site about traveling with a dog? Then you may choose to display an ad for a pet carrier, and maybe one for a pet-friendly hotel chain. Are they interested in learning more about traveling with kids? Find an ad for children’s audio books or maybe educational games.

The important thing is to know why someone is on your site — what their interest is — and give them an Ad for something related that they will find equally interesting, and therefore more likely to entice them to click (and hopefully make a purchase).

Avoid this Mistake!
The biggest mistake we see when we look at some travel blogs, is that they go a little TOO heavy with the advertising — particularly with the Google AdSense. While I do think you should include some where it fits appropriately, I see sites where it is done obnoxiously – at the top and middle (and sometimes bottom) of every post, making it difficult to easily read the content, or sometimes disguised as “navigation” that seems designed to “trick” a site visitor into clicking on an ad. I generally leave these sites as soon as I land on them, and many others do the same. Don’t drive away your visitors with poor placement of ads.

I hope this helps make things a little clearer. If you have questions, post them in the Forum and we’ll do our best to answer quickly!

~Rebecca

Does advertising on your Travel Blog work for you? Share your experience!

17 Responses to “Monetizing Your Travel Blog”

  1. Thanks for the info! I will definitely take your advice about the Google Adsense.

  2. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Glad you found this post helpful. Google Adsense does a good job with their ‘help’ section. They provide you with tutorials if you’re not sure how to set-up a campaign and things like that.

  3. Julie Gilley says:

    This is the most concise explanation I’ve come across – thanks for the tips!!

  4. Dave and Deb
    Twitter:
    says:

    I haven’t used Link Share, I will check that one out. We are starting to make some headway with advertisers. Just had a sarong company approach us about putting a link up on an article we wrote about sarongs. We definitely said yes, as it is relevant to our content and they will be paying us a monthly fee as opposed to pay per click.
    We don’t make a lot of money with adsense yet, but every month we make a little more so I like it. And it is not a bad amount of monthly income from just having it on our blog and we don’t have to do a thing. Amazon has been a good affiliate as well. We enjoyed the process of picking out gear we like and suggesting it on our store page.

  5. Dave and Deb
    Twitter:
    says:

    OK, I have a question regarding my Sarong link. They just emailed back all of the details. 12 months for a link to their site from the word sarong in my post title. I am a little worried because it is a follow link. I haven’t sealed the deal yet, so I was wondering if anyone had any advice about follow links. All I ever read about is no follow links. It is a confusing world out there. We are still trying to build our page rank so I would hat to lose everything we have built for one ad. Thanks!

  6. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hmmm…I would think that in this case you’d want the ‘follow’ link. I believe ‘no follow’ links were created so people could ‘sculpt’ their page rank, control the links (too much spam), and avoid posts, articles, etc…that were not aligned with their website.

    Trisha’s post on the ‘no follow’ can be found in TWE’s June Archive (link is below) http://www.travel-writers-exchange.com/2009/06/eliminate-nofollow-to-stimulate-conversation/

  7. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Deb

    Those are “text link” ads, and I’m in favor as long as (as you’ve noted) they are relevant to both your content and your site visitor -however, I’d caution you against it if the request came from a company called Linkstar – they are a rather creepy outfit with many complaints against them. If it’s not them, then you can go ahead and do the link if you’re happy with the price you’re getting from it, BUT I would NOT do it from the Title of your post – UNLESS you are earning at least TWICE the going rate for a text link ad, because most text link ads are from the content, not the title. A “title” generally uses an H1 (or H2, H3, etc) tag for both style and importance, and in SEO terms, a link that is from an H1 or H2 tag is much more important than a link from your general content – thus it should be worth more for advertising purposes.

    And yes a “follow” tag is standard for a text link ad – a “nofollow” link would do the advertiser no good.

    Let me know how it turns out!

  8. Dave and Deb
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for your response Trisha. I will not let them link to my title, lucky your site is here to learn from before we make mistakes! I will let you know how it turns out. I need to look up H1 H2 H3 etc tags. I don’t even know what they are:)

  9. Akila
    Twitter:
    says:

    As usual, this is all very helpful. We weren’t really thinking about trying to monetize our blog for a couple of months because we wanted to build interest and a following before including ads. Recently, we got an invitation to join a blog network that pays by CPM. What does this mean and how does it work? I am going to call them and find out all the details but I would like to talk to them without sounding like a complete idiot.

  10. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    @Akila – welcome back! CPM generally is used to refer to “Cost Per Thousand” (‘M’ being the roman numeral for 1000), and it refers to “impressions” – how often an Ad is displayed as a “page view”. I’m surprised that anyone would pay based on CPM because as metrics go, it’s an easy one to monkey around with and impression fraud is almost as rampant as click fraud.

    I would be interested in knowing who you received the invitation from – if you’re not comfortable posting it in a comment, email me directly (use our Contact page) – perhaps I can give you more advice.

  11. Akila
    Twitter:
    says:

    Trisha, I have been here all along — all your wonderful articles keep me sane when I get completely confused! :) That’s very interesting about CPM usage. I sent you an email about the details that I received from the company.

  12. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    @Akila – thanks again for your kind words! It’s so nice to know that we’re able to help……

    You’ll already know this from my response to your email, but I thought I should post it here as well, in case anyone else gets a similar advertising invitation from the same blog network……

    From what I’ve been able to learn by researching, it seems like a perfectly legitimate opportunity with a reputable company, and I am comfortable advising anyone who is considering it to have no worries as long as they pay attention to two factors:

    1. Your site’s design and layout – can you fit the ads where they want them? If not you may have to consider changing your design or Theme;

    2. Page views – ads that pay based on CPM are, as we’ve already mentioned, a “pay per impression” model, which should be the number of pages views on which ads are displayed – you’ll want to be sure you know if the agreements specifically states that it must be “unique” page views (from different IP addresses) or not, and you’ll want to match any numbers provided by the advertiser network with your own statistics. Google Analytics is free and a great way to track your sites traffic statistics.

    Please let us know how it works out for you if you proceed with it and we’ll do a follow up blog post about it!

  13. CryStyle says:

    Great idea, always looking for news to better my blog.

  14. Francine says:

    I have the CPC ads and it seems to work fine so far. So if you will be asking me which to use, of course, I will suggest the Per Click.

  15. Billy Cruz says:

    Advertising travel blog is not actually easy for those travel writers. They just need some advices so that they will be able to post their blogs and make some money at the same time.

  16. Jim Sutton says:

    Thanks for the awesome tips on blog monetizing, I just made a new blog just for this purpose.

    In my past experiences with blogging is that it’s hard to get started. you really need a good or controversial topic to even get people to view your blog.

    I was looking for help with driving traffic and this forum seems to have some good discussions going on that helped me.
    http://www.monetizationforums.com

  17. Michael
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great article, currently we are using Adsense and affiliate programs to monetize our blog of 100 places to visit before you die. http://www.100placestovisit.com but still trying to get more conversions, traffic is increasing but just need to provide the exact advertising to match each destination to make it more relevant.

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