So, you’re wondering, “Is doing a blog worth it?” Well, like with most of life’s big questions, the answer is: “it depends”!
Sorry, I know, you really wanted me to say that it was the easiest money I have ever made…but sadly it’s not 🙁
I’m about 1.5 years in (with a part time effort of 10-15hours per week), and I haven’t made much money at all. Actually, I’m in the red because I have spent money learning and getting help.
But the story doesn’t end there. I still do think blogging can be worth it. Let me explain…
My (Blogging) Story
If you have read any of my blog, you may know that my wife and I left our very successful careers in Los Angeles to attempt to work less and have more family time. We still needed to make some income for sure, but we wanted it to be less time consuming and hopefully mobile.
When we began to research how to accomplish this online, the concept of starting a blog CONSTANTLY popped up in my internet walk-about search results. Ultimately, I zero’d in on the idea of being an “Authority Blogger.”
My specialty is the convergence of personal finance, small business and real estate…and how the combination of the three can get you to early financial independence. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t run out of information to share with the world, on these topics!
When it came to putting together a successful blog, my feeling was that if anyone could crack it, it was me. I’m pretty smart with tech, I’m hardworking and I’ve already managed to create multiple successful businesses. So I figured blogging would be easy! Well…turns out it’s not exactly easy.
Knowing how to do it right is pretty easy to figure out, but the amount of time it takes to do it well is A LOT! I think reasonable success is achievable, but it’s going to take you years, not months, doing it part time. If you’re up for that, then the answer to, “Is doing a blog worth it?” is still, “It depends.”
Is Doing A Blog Right For You?
You need to ask yourself a couple of key questions. You need to know who you are, what kind of knowledge and experience you (currently) have and what your goals are.
Do you have an expertise?
First off, you should have an expertise. I think by definition, most successful bloggers are in fact “Authority Bloggers.” This means that they have some kind of expertise that can help people achieve an end result in a particular subject.
Some people are health experts and they help others solve their health problems. Some people are real estate experts and they help people start investing. Others are beer experts and help you locate the world’s best beer!
(Side note: you are going to find A LOT of people are experts on “blogging”, and their blogs walk you through “how to start a successful blog”. Why is this?
I think the reason is because after people put a ton of work into to their original blog, and realize it makes no money, they say to themselves, “Hmm, now I’m sort of an expert in bogging, and some of the highest affiliate marketing commissions are for blogging products! So I’ll try that!”)
What is your goal with the blog?
There aren’t a whole plethora of reasons to do a blog, in my opinion, but the two I can think of are pretty good ones!
A blog itself can provide both additonal income or even a very high full time income if done well. The ways in which the blog will make money are outlined below.
2) Building Your Personal Brand
You will be building the brand of YOU with your blog, and hence building up your professional notoriety.
That brand will hopefully have some “branded products” to sell at some point. For example, you can offer consulting , courses, books, speaking engagements, product representations, etc.
So again, is doing a blog worth it?
In order to justify doing a blog (vs other ways to make money online) you really should be planning on taking advantage of both of the above.
If it’s just strictly for money, using the blog as a product marketing machine, it might not be worth all the time. Largely because blogs have to be very niche specific, so you put a lot of time into a narrow field.
I think you have to really be honest with yourself on this question. Do you…
#1) have legitimate expertise on a topic that you can truly offer benefits to someone, and
#2) Is that topic one that you monetize pretty well?
If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” then I don’t think you should start a blog. Let me explain, using myself as an example…
My areas of expertise (personal finance, real estate and small business) are statistically some of the highest paying blog niches. And I believe I am truly a deeply experienced expert in all three categorys.
And as I mentioned above, I have not technically made money so far in the first year of my “blogging business.” However, what I have been able to do is to create a consulting business that uses my blog as a very effective marketing tool.
So, while my blog itself isn’t making any money, I am certain it’s helping me make money selling my time. So, it’s still a win for me currently and still has the future potential for passive income.
Speaking of income (and expenses), let’s jump to that, so I can put all this in a better context.
How Much Does It Cost to Start A blog?
Ya know…It Depends! (ha!) But seriously it really does depend. Full discourse...I have spent nearly 20K on developing my blog over the last 2 years.
That sounds like a lot, and it is, but it has helped me “close” more than 20K in services I believe. And my hope is the ROI on that keeps improving, now that the heavy lifting is done.
Now you don’t have to spend even close to that, if you literally do everything (you can) yourself. But it does take longer that way (depending on how many hours you are putting to it) Here is a breakdown of where I spent that money…
Of all these expenses, the ones that you can’t really avoid are the website stuff, some courses, research tools, productivity tools and software. So If I only did that stuff, it would have been about $3000-$4000 bucks over the two years.
But also keep in mind that I built the blog myself in WordPress….that probably saved me 2-4K in my estimation with the amount of customization I did. I also did all my own design, and general photography.
How Do You Make Money With A Blog?
Ok, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts and actually doing a blog. The MOST COMMON ways (it seems to me) that you make money (and I mean the supposed “passive income” you often hear about) are these…
You attract people to your site with your content. Next, you recommend products or services and offer a link to get them to that website. Then, that person buys. As a result, you make a commission. This method, and courses, can be the most lucrative way to earn money.
You package up your knowledge into an online course and charge a fee for it. The same traffic that you are attracting to your site with your free content, you will direct to your course, and hopefully someone will buy it. I’ve seen courses for as little as $10 or as much as $10,000! It all depends on how deep your course goes, and how much value you can offer.
Here is my first paid course on the Teachable platform (you should totally buy it. Buy it now in fact)….
This is where a brand pays you to write something about their products, and share it with your audience for a fee. They would do this only if you have a fair amount of regular traffic to your site, and/or a robust social media following and/or a decent email list to blast.
The other version of a sponsored post is a simple link placement within some content you have written about a specific topic. So, instead of you being an official “affiliate marketer”, you just get a fee to put in a link to their site. You still would generally decent traffic or good domain authority for this.
This is just having ads display on your website. I think “programmatic” display ads (ie google ads) are basically useless for bloggers. You need SO MUCH traffic to make any money. And if you had that much you can make so much more with other stuff that won’t muck up the user experience.
That said, if you can sell a direct advertising campaign to a brand, and only have their specific ads on your site for a healthy fee, then that could work well.
How Much Traffic Do I Need To Make Money?
If you have been paying attention, you may have noticed that all of those four categories of income rely on one important thing..SIGNIFICANT TRAFFIC!
What does “significant” mean? Well, I’m sure different people would tell you different things, but I’ll define it roughly…
At least 25,000 page views a month to start seeing “some ok money” (this is a rough guess, because I don’t really know yet!)
Makes over 100K/month and has about 500K page views per/month.
Now don’t forget that (in my opinion) Michelle is pretty masterful with affiliate marketing and sponsored posts, and she has two pretty valuable courses on those two topics. So, not just anyone with that amount of traffic will make the same amount of money.
Anyway, you are probably asking, “Ok, how do I get my traffic nice and significant?” Good question. Here we go….
How Do I Get All Of This “SIGNIFICANT” Traffic?
How do you get lot’s of traffic to your blog? The short answer is that you SPEND A SHIT-TON OF TIME on your blog! Yup…that’s how you do it. And that statement is assuming that you attack it strategically, as to shorten the timeline to success.
As I mentioned, I have spent a solid 10-15 hours a week on my blog for 1.5 years and I am currently getting about 7K pageviews per month. That translates into about $500/month in revenue, strictly from the blog and 3 of the 4 above-mentioned sources of revenue.
(Note: that time does also include educating myself, building the actual blog, writing content, applying to affiliate programs. All the steps involved.)
But as mentioned above, I have been paying other people to help me accomplish stuff for the blog on top of that, in the areas of SEO, social media and content writing.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Well obviously you’re a moron Joe. You’re losing money!” And on some of the bad days, I’d agree. BUT, I do see it as a long-term investment. It’s a marathon for me, not a sprint.
And as I mentioned, my blog does serve the very valuable purpose of being a marketing device for my services. It definitely has been the “closer” for well over 20K in services (I perform), in the past year.
But to answer the question more specifically, these are the ways you build traffic…
Create Quality Content
This basically consists of you writing mini-instructional manuals on the topics you are an expert in. SEO experts will say you have to minimally write anywhere from 1500-2500 words for a post to be considered “valuable by Google” – among 100 other factors. (To put this in perspective, this post is counting out at 1436 words right now).
Beyond length, what does good mean? Ok, imagine you read something instructional on a topic you need help with. “Good” means you found that article so helpful you just had to share it with your friends and family, and it even drove you to post it on your social media accounts for everyone you know to benefit from. I agree…it sounds hard…because it IS.
Your average SEO guru will tell you that you should be posting 3 quality pieces of content per week. It takes me 1-2 days to produce one article. That includes doing keyword research, writing it, getting images together, getting it in WordPress and SEO optimizing it. But if the post is really good, goes super deep on a topic and included data that I have created, then it could be more like 3-5 days.
This post is an example of one that took 5 days:
Learn and Practice SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
What is SEO? SEO is the practice of strategically playing the game of the google ranking algorithm, to (hopefully) ensure your content shows up (somewhere) on the first page of results, when someone searches for the kind of info that your content provides. But really you need to be in the top three results for significant traffic.
No matter how damn good you content is, it will be competing for eyeballs against other content that is also either very good, very strategically made or very well-funded. Or a combination of all three.
(Side-Note: Learning SEO really clues you into how much Google is in control of the information that society gets to see. They are literally the gate keeper of the world’s knowledge. And of course if you have money to throw at Google for Ads or both “Above Board” (aka White Hat) and “Below Board” (aka Black Hat) SEO strategies, your content will be seen over other content.)
And FYI…doing SEO for companies is a stand alone career in the world today.
Learn and Use Social Media
So after you write that great content (and SEO it up and all that), you have to get it out there. Social media is one of the primary ways you do this. Don’t worry though, there are only about 10 platforms you have to understand and master. Oh and put together a huge following in. Seriously…it’s easy. HAHA…I’m joking…it’s not easy:(
Actually spending any time on social media if you don’t have a following is hard to justify, because you are sharing content with a void. If you do have a following or even a decent personal find list, it may help a little. But if you don’t…you try this next part…
I personally have posts on linked-in, FB, Twitter and Pinterest. That said, my Play Louder FB account has like zero followers, so some of the time I post to my personal FB, but I don’t always want to clutter it with work stuff. My social posts don’t do much….except for Pinterest.
My Pinterest is growing, but that is because I pay a gal in the UK $200/month to manage it for me (see below). It’s been 4 months and this past month (July) I had about 450 page-views that were a result if Pinterest traffic. Again…it’s an investment.
Market your content! (Usually via “Guest Posting”)
So this and SEO are really the ways you should spend your “marketing time.” You need to find other bloggers and/or sites in your niche, with a much larger following than yours, that would be willing to share your content by placing a link to it on their site or social media accounts.
You largley accomplish this by “Guest Posting” on their site. You spend your time writing compelling content for their site, so you can place a link to your site in said content.
This practice is HUGELY beneficial for two reasons…
#1) when they share your content on their site, it will send new visitors over to your site. These visitors will hopefully become fans!
#2) when other bloggers place a link on their site to your content, it signals to Google that it’s valuable, it improves your SEO standing, and Google is more likely to move it up the search results ranks.
You are probably asking yourself, “Why would someone I don’t know want to share my thoughts and website with all their hard-earned followers?” Well, I have no idea. But you better come up with a compelling reason, because I don’t think they’ll do it “just cause”!
You may only want to bother to do this for bigger sites, but their email inbox is pretty full with these kinds of requests, so it can be challenging. (By the way, this is a “white hat” SEO strategy.)
So It may be best to start out with some smaller sites. Get your feet wet with them and then move on to the bigger sites with some guest posts already under your belt.
Now, once you’re realize that this is a healthy uphill climb of its own, you start investigating faster “black hat” SEO strategies to accomplish similar results…with less effort. But that’s a whole world in an of itself as well! You’ll probably decide to do both.
WELL SHOOT, JOE! This is Semi-Inspirational at Best. Do I Have Any Other Options?
Wait what?! What do you mean? I’m up to like 2200 words of inspiration already! Hahahah…yeah I know I can sound salty. It’s true..I’m a little salty.
My wife will tell you that I don’t do “inspiration” as much I do “reality”…ha. And I fully admit sometimes that can discourage you from doing something very worthwhile.
(Side note: if you want more of an “inspirational” blogging pitch, see Adam Enfroy (below). He does inspire me with his work ethic. He will answer “yes” to “is doing a blog worth it.”)
So, I’m not trying to be discouraging, as much as I am trying to help you avoid frustration, and choose the right path. More specifically…
I want to point out some additional ways you can make money online…
…if you’re maybe thinking “no” to the question “Is doing a blog worth it?” then you can find 100 articles about 100 ways to make money online (all chock full of affiliate links). But these are some that I think you could make real money at.
As you will see, I can really only recommend two. The third would be blogging. I mean you can go spend time taking online surveys or shopping on e-bates and all that shit too if you want!
The reason I picked these is because they are the ones that stick out to me as not needing an expertise like finance, marathon running, stock trading or graphic design. What you DO need, however, is to become good at digital marketing (but don’t worry, you can take a course on that)!
(Strictly) Affiliate Marketing (of Other People’s Products)
Being that affiliate marketing is probably the #1 income producer for a blog, why not just focus on affiliate marketing alone? This is not to say that AF is easy either, but at least you won’t be stuck in a specific niche, writing endless blog posts.
You can do affiliate marketing for literally thousands of products, and you don’t have to be a master in a particular topic.
Truthfully, most of the blogs that make money are people doing affiliate marketing within a niche. Which is really a more narrow way to do AM. That could be good or bad actually.
And a “distant second” (maybe) is…
Simple Print-On-Demand Products (that You Create)
This is not unlike affiliate marketing in that the real work here is Digital Marketing and SEO, but it’s an interesting approach.
Essentially, you sign up for “print-on-demand” services (the most common of which is Amazon), and then make simple products like Diaries and T-shirts (products that only have a small amount of design work to them).
Then you master amazon SEO and figure how to sell bazillions of them!
You’re not writing a book, you are designing a cover and a page with lines on it. Or slapping a simple design on a t-shirt (in photoshop), then putting the “picture” on Amazon.
Amazon prints and ships them as people buy them. Here are a couple examples….
Some Resources To Help You With Your Online Money Earning Adventures..
If you have decided that blogging is the right fit for you, I wanted to share some resources I have been using along my journey-aling. These can help you do any of the other approaches as well.
Other articles I have written..
(More to come. Someday)
People I have sought help or bought courses from..
You literally can lose your mind when you start doing research about blogging. For one, it can be discouraging because you quickly realize you are very late to the party and will have a steep uphill climb.
But also because there is a dizzying amount of email lists, podcasts, sales funnels and webinars that will barrage you until you want to cry.
So I decided after a decent amount of research and podcast listening that I was just going to “pick my guru’s” and get started. Then, after I got the site going, I picked a couple more guru’s (ie I bought their courses).
The Blog Millionaire (Brandon Gaille)
I’m not big on “fluff”, and I feel like Brandon is zero fluff. I started listening to his podcast and liked it because it got straight to the needed information and didn’t waste my time with “stories.” Though I realize that approach is not for everyone.
Brandon teaches you all the ways to get traffic to your blog. He is essentially an SEO guru. I bought his course 3 years ago (before I even started my blog) and felt it was very worth it. I still go back to it today. Plus he updates it often.
Making Sense of Cents (Michelle Schroeder-Gardner)
Michelle runs a highly successful blog about personal finance, but my guess is that much if her revenue comes from “blogging products.” She was also very gracious in allowing me to guest post on her very popular site.
In addition I bought both of her courses on Affiliate Marketing and Sponsored Posts. See…”how to make money blogging” products. But for sure she has tons of other affiliate links and sponsored posts on her site.
Out of all the sites I’ve perused, I think Michelle is really the master at funneling people through her posts (which are very good) and into affiliate links.
Detailed (Glen Allsopp)
Glenn is another SEO sensei. I decided to find a second SEO course to buy, just to make sure I was getting a good swath of info. While Glenn and Brandon cover a lot of the same ground, Glen has his own secret sauce.
I bought his course The SEO Blueprint and have liked it. It’s pretty damn long though, so I have only gotten through a portion. But I pick away at it when I have time and want to geek out on SEO.
Adam has a “blogging business” – and a very successful one at that (according to his posts). His blog is also about blogging, of course, but he set out to make it a very profitable endeavor in less than a year (when most people take 5-10 years and often fail).
Well he did it. “How,” you ask? I think he basically worked like fucking dog for an entire year. He sent an email recapping “what he had done in year one” (like how many posts he did and affiliates he found), and it was mind boggling. HE OBVIOUSLY DOESN’T HAVE KIDS!
Anyway, if you want to actually get inspired to start a blog, read his stuff. He almost had me convinced I could make some money with a blog… hahah! I also bought one of his digital products on Affiliate Marketing, which was good.
Easy Blog Emily (Emily Owen)
Emily has made a business of managing people’s Pinterest accounts. She currently focuses solely on Pinterest because it’s one of the top (if not the top) driver of traffic to blogs.
I met her on the Making Sense of Cents Facebook group. We scheduled a call and she seemed really sharp. So I decided to commit to having her help me with Pinterest for 3 months. We are now on month 5 and I’m very happy, as my Pinterest traffic is steadily climbing.
Plus, Emily clearly works super hard and genuinely wants to achieve quality results. So much so she has often offered to do extra work and “test” different strategies for me at no extra cost. She’s super solid. Hire her.
Growth Marketing Pro (Mark Spera & Haily Friedman)
I happened to come across GMP at the perfect time (in terms of them hooking me for a call). Largely because blogging can be kind of isolating, and I really needed to just talk with somebody that was good at it.
Anyway, due to great SEO on their part, I found their site and “Growth Movie.” I listen to everything on 1.75x speed, and Hailey was quite funny in the film at that pace, so before I knew it I booked a call for $250.
On the call she quickly was pitching me a much more expensive “playbook” product. I honestly thought “this is impressive…I just paid $250 to be sold on a more expensive product…these two are f’ing geniuses!” I ended up buying the playbook (but at least negotiated that they credit me the $250 against the price).
The detailed playbook they put together for me was super helpful, and I’m still working on it today. Additionally, it included consulting calls where I got many valuable questions answered about SEO marketing. They also have been very generous with sharing various contacts, and even helped me get a new client!
Lemonpie (Erik Jacobson & Jonathan Barshop)
Lemonpie is that new client I just mentioned. Hailey used them to book her on a podcast tour. That sounded like a good idea for me, so she hooked us up and we lived happily ever after.
Seriously…we did. I really liked what they were offering and it so happened that they were in the market for what I was offering, so we literally hired each other! I love how networking works.
Anyway, they are the best at what they do. I have since been on 8 podcasts, which not only drove traffic to my site, but also helped my SEO, because I got links to my content in the show notes of the podcast! 2 for 1!
I found Paul through that new client of mine, Lemonpie. They are a very modern operation and utilize all sorts of web based tools I have never heard of, but are super cool.
They also happened to get some training from Paul Minors on using Asana, which is how I learned about him.
Paul’s site and services focus on productivity, but he also preaches the blogging/consulting route. Reading his site basically pointed out to me that I was basically a blogger/consultant myself…so naturally I read more.
Since then, I have purchased his book summaries (which I think is a super clever product), and also some of his consulting time. He’s a cool dude.
The Hoth is a pretty cool company, that basically offers everything I was hoping to get from one reasonably priced outfit. They offer SEO strategy & research, content writing and back linking solutions. They also upload the content they write, right into my WordPress and “Yoast it up” for me. Huge time-saver!
They do a little bit of all of this starting at $500/month (which was right at my max budget). It has only been three months, but I am seeing progress for sure.
I also have an account manager I can call anytime to strategize content with. And she is willing to pull reports for me from KW research tools, that would otherwise cost me a healthy monthly fee. I really like The Hoth so far!
WordPress Beginner (Syed Balkhi)
I’m including WP Beginner because I am constantly looking up technical instruction for accomplishing things on my site. WPB must be pretty good at SEO because they come up A LOT in the search results.
But more importantly, the site has really useful and helpful information that is easy to follow. They are not the only site that comes up in search results, but I like them the best!
Man that post turned outed to be 4878 words. Holy Sh!T.