This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes the Frugal Cool blog for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving.

Let me say that initially I was skeptical about both the size and cost of How I Make Money Blogging: The Beginner’s Guide to Building a Money-Making Blog. The $27 freight seemed a bit steep for a 32-page e-book.

Then I opened the PDF and began to read.

Within minutes I realized that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover price: Reading “HIMMB” is like a long, fruitful session with an Internet consultant. The difference is that a consultant might give you only part of the picture in order to guarantee a follow-up appointment. The author, Crystal Stemberger, holds nothing back – and the reader benefits.

Stemberger owns or co-owns eight sites and while her posts won’t win Pulitzers for prose, they’re lively and informative. Ditto her e-book: While she at times needs an editor (who doesn’t?), the information comes across as chatty advice from a trusted friend who’s been at this a lot longer than you have.

She is, in fact, as Internet-savvy as a person can be without actually being an android. As noted in her GRS Reader Story (“Turning a side hustle into self-employment“), in the space of a year Stemberger went from blogging for fun to earning as much as $25,000 in a single month. She did this without spamming, running naughty-bits ads or polluting the Web with SEO-drenched “content.”

Note: SEO stands for “search-engine optimization”, techniques that make a website more appealing to search engines like Google — but less useful to readers like you. SEO is a shortcut to high search results, but it comes at the price of long-term usefulness. As J.D. is fond of saying: “The best SEO is actually great content that other folks want to link to.”

That’s not to say that the author is averse to search engine optimization and other traffic-enhancing tricks. That’s how online commerce works, and “HIMMB” gives all the equipment you’ll need to play in the big leagues. For example, here’s how the author suggests you choose a blog title: “Figure out some keywords that will be searched for and include them in your name.”

On first read, that piece of advice gave me the wimwams. It seemed so calculated, maybe even a little cold-blooded. But that’s because I tend to approach blogging from a writer’s angle vs. a business mindset. If you want to write for free, nothing’s stopping you. If you hope to bring in a little (or a lot) of extra money, then you need this e-book.

An evolving landscape
Plenty of us could search all day for information on the business of blogging yet be unable to comprehend it completely once we find it. Much of what’s out there is so larded with jargon as to be impenetrable. I’m not a complete Luddite; for example, I know that the Internet isn’t really a series of tubes. Yet the alphabet soup of online shorthand sometimes makes me long for the days of Linotype.

Not knowing what we don’t know can cost us, literally. Many newbies (like, um, me) have accepted criminally low ad rates because we just didn’t know any better. Anyone who buys this book will know exactly what to charge: Stemberger provides a list of revenue types and how much each one should bring in, based on page rank.

What’s a page rank? Good question. Stemberger explains three different types of rankings and goes into some detail about Google vs. Everyone Else. It’s a complex issue because many bloggers live in fear of being penalized by that particular 500-pound gorilla. The upheaval from two recent tweaks to Google’s algorithm cut many online entrepreneurs off at the knees, financially speaking. (The author’s own page rank slumped to zero and hasn’t budged since.)

Does that mean that big-bucks blogging is a thing of the past? Not necessarily. Stemberger explains that even though many of her advertisers and clients were body-slammed by those algorithm updates, “there is still plenty of money to be made online – it’s simply a matter of adapting your strategy as the landscape evolves.”

Yet she also says what must be said: “Don’t be in this for the money.” Your blog might not make much right away – or ever. If you think you can slap together a few basic sites, staple on some SEO-heavy content and sit back as the money rolls in, you’re likely deluding yourself. Those algorithms are getting smarter all the time, and so are readers.

Reasons for writing
It’s the readers — not the lucre – that should keep you in the business, the author cautions. While the money is “a huge bonus,” it’s building an online community that motivates her to work so hard.

And it is work. Note that the title calls it “building” a blog, not “lying in a hammock while the blog makes you rich.” Although the notion of passive income is a persistent online meme, it takes considerable effort to bring in the big bucks consistently.

Incidentally, those bucks need not come only from advertisers. The author reveals a list of other online gigs she has done/still does, such as ghostwriting, commenting for hire and acting as a blog virtual assistant.

What about those who just want to write for an audience, to share ideas and generate conversations? I’m sure some of you actually exist. But I bet the rest of you alleged purists would leap on even a penny-a-click ad account if it were offered – and I say that as someone who maintained a personal website for months without ever investigating how she might make that blog pay for itself.

Putting ads on your site is not selling out, by the way. The laborer is worthy of his e-hire. Ideally your readership would grow to the point where you could make writing your full-time job. Unlikely, mind you, but it could happen – after all, this time last year Stemberger had just bid farewell to the cubicle life.

Yet even if you don’t want to “monetize” (ugh) your site, Stemberger’s book is still incredibly valuable for its traffic-generating tips. That audience you crave won’t find you all by itself.

Note: Crystal Stemberger, the author of this ebook, is also a long-time GRS reader. She’s created a $10-off code for readers of this blog. Use the code “GRS10″ throughout the month of August, and you can purchase How I Make Money Blogging” for only $17.

Addendum: As has been pointed out in the comments, this book is available in a Kindle edition for $9.99. Not everyone has a Kindle but those who do will pay a lot less.

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