Free – The Best Strategy for Increasing your Blog’s Income

What are you giving away for free on your blog?

It’s an important question, because giving things away for free is one the best ways to increase the income you’re earning from your blog.

Giving things away for free in order to increase your income?

Seems a bit backwards, doesn’t it?

Let me explain.

Graphic of laptop with a present on the screen that reads 'Free - The Best Strategy for Increasing Your Blog's Income'

Note: It’s important to know that I’m not talking about giving something away to encourage people to sign up for your email list or use your affiliate link. Those are effective strategies, but today we’re focusing on things that are truly free, no strings attached.

Traffic vs. Links

Last year I wrote a post called How to get more traffic to your blog, lessons from The Matrix. The idea with the post was that you shouldn’t think about building traffic to your site, you should think about building links to your site.

It’s a small (but important) shift in thinking.

Traffic is about clicking. Links are about sharing. If you focus on the person that will share vs. the person that will click then you’ll be in a much better place to build traffic to your site.

Question: What’s one thing that people are likely to share?

Answer: Free (and awesome) content.

The process looks something like this:

  1. You create something free and awesome.
  2. A visitor finds it.
  3. They think “Wow, this is awesome.”
  4. They share it on their blog and/or social media accounts.
  5. Other people click on that link and visit your blog, but more importantly…
  6. Google takes note of the link back to your site, rewarding you with some “SEO juice.”

Related Post: 10 Food Blog SEO tips from Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO

An obvious example would be recipes:

  1. You take the time to make and test a recipe, take beautiful photographs, write a post, and publish it for free on your blog.
  2. A visitor sees the post.
  3. They think “Wow, this is awesome.”
  4. They like the recipe so they share it to social media and maybe even post about it on their blog.
  5. Other people click on that link and visit your blog, but more importantly…
  6. Google takes note of the link back to your site, rewarding you with some “SEO juice.”

I’d like to focus on the benefit of item #6 in that list.

Google takes note of the link back to your site, rewarding you with some “SEO juice.”

One of the most important factors with SEO is the quantity and quality of links that you have pointing to your website. That’s one of the reasons why we allow sites like Buzzfeed (example here) and Huffington Post (example here) to use food photos from Pinch of Yum (learn more about why we do that in this post).

It’s also one of the reasons why we write the traffic and income reports on Pinch of Yum. The traffic that we get to those posts is relatively low, but the links we get (from other blogs and websites) is relatively high, and the quality of those links is usually pretty good (meaning the links are coming from other established blogs and websites).

Examples of Free

Here are some examples of websites or blogs that are effectively using free content or resources to encourage linking:

1. Moz – Moz has a range of different guides, cheat sheets, and services that they offer to help people learn the basics of SEO and search engine marketing. It’s common to see SEO professionals linking back to Moz resources.
Screenshot of Moz that reads 'Learn SEO and Search Marketing'

2. CreativeLive – Creative Live offers courses for free when you view them live, which means that lots of people link to the course leading up to the launch day. Those links don’t go away, which means CreativeLive has hundreds of links pointing to the sales page after the course closes and converts to a paywall.Screenshot of CreativeLive that reads 'Creative classes from the world's top experts'

3. RecipeGirl – Lori put together a post called Food Bloggers: 150+ Links to Everything You Need to Know. It’s a great example of a post that’s really easy for other blogger’s to link to as a resource or guide.
Screenshot of RecipeGirl that has a post called 'Food Bloggers: 150+ Links to Everything You Need to Know'

Recipes vs. Other Resources

So why not just continue making awesome recipes and encourage people to share them?

It’s not a bad idea, actually. But you can do better. 🙂

Recipes are a great place to start, but my challenge to you is to think outside of the box a bit. What are some tools, resources, or “pillar posts” that you could create that other websites would be likely to link back to?

Said differently, (this part is important –>) try to think about things that other bloggers will share on their blog. Like we said at the beginning of this post, it’s important to think about building links to your site, not just building traffic to your site.

Because increased traffic comes from links…

…and increased income comes from increased traffic.

Hence the reason why free is one of the best strategies for increasing your blog’s income.

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  1. Well said, as always Bjork! I’ve found that adding a free resource has really helped increase my traffic and has actually increased my engagement! My free resource is a free ecookbook with some of the top recipes from one of my series, and I’ve found that it really gets the conversation going. I now have readers email me and say ‘I tried one of your favorite recipes and now it’s one of my favorites too’, it’s such a great feeling, and really goes back to the point you made about leveraging your strengths through sharing a free resource 🙂

  2. So true Bjork! I created a free food photography ebook on my food photography blog to build my email list and get new readers. My email list went from a sad 39 people to about 3000 in less than a year. My list is growing faster every month and my page views are going up accordingly. It’s still a long process, but I’m getting there.

  3. I have been thinking about making an e-book for my blog. I am very new to this so I have to find out how to do it. It will be free.

  4. Great tips Bjork! It is really great when I see other bloggers linking back. I always like to go back to their blog and thank them. I am in the works of putting together a free gift for signing up to my monthly newsletter. Love your articles! Ester

  5. Though I do not have a food blog this has worked well for me. I post free decorative painting tutorials which have proved very popular and people love to share them. The really great part of it, I am finding I love making the video tutorials that go with them. They are very amateurish but still a lot of fun!

  6. Awesome info! Is there a time when you’d give away content with no strings attatched to generate traffic vs content to use as incentive to build your list?

  7. As always, thank Bjork for the detailed, thought invoking post.
    Is it OK for me to share a link to my site here for a guide I wrote on where’s the best place to keep your favorite recipes, to get your opinion if this is something along the lines you mention here?

  8. You would be proud of the progress I made today! I signed up for mailchimp to start building my email subscribers list, and I am offering a free copy of my eBook to encourage people to subscribe. You can also read the free eBook on my blog as .html pages, but I think many readers would rather download the entire eBook all at once.. Hopefully offering something free will indeed increase income… Thanks again for the good advice!

  9. Hi Bjork, I agree and for my blog (not a food blog but following my passion) – it is for small business. Like this series for registering your physical store locations… the content is out there but most of my customers just don’t know where to start. So this is one way I help them – and of course if they need assistance I can setup everything for them (my consultant business). Not as glamorous as a food blog but I do hope to one day get enough income to help small companies 24/7 – well maybe 24/5.
    Here is the example:…

  10. Hi Bjork, this is such a good advice and it took me ages to work out what my Freebie could be and then I realized it was staring straight at me, I just had to ‘package it up’ even though you can actually find it on the site, but not in the succinct way subscribing to the email list gives you. I’ve popped my sign up form with a clear call to action, smack bang in the middle of my home page now, and since I’ve done that, subscribers have been so much better. Thanks for all you do in this space!

  11. Great post Bjork. Thank you. Lots of good ideas. This has got me thinking. What are your thoughts on giveaways / contests? Are they beneficial in driving traffic?

    1. No, not all you. You WANT to link out and to sites that provide value to your audience

      If u reference a topic or a recipe or place/thing that could naturally be more defined for the reader, link out accordingly.

      Problems arise when you link out sitewide with footer links, badges, or with affiliate partner links that bleed authority out and provide no value except to the linked partner.

      What Bjork is talking about is just making sure that you think FIRST about the user.

      If u can naturally link out within your content to a resource, site, example, or guide that helps expand topical awareness for the user do it. And do it often.

  12. This is some great advice… not to just make a game plan for how to get people to link back to me! I’m also working on figuring out how to build my email subscription list because I’ve got some good ideas for what to do with it once it’s built up. Thanks again!