So you read or heard about blogging, and you’re wondering whether it’s the right kind of business model for you.
You came to the right place. I’ve been blogging since 2007, when I stumbled upon a website with articles about how to make money online—and got fascinated, to say the least, with the idea that I could do that.
Since, I’ve made blogs, sold blogs, and abandoned blogs. Some were successful, and others were complete flops. You can safely say that I’ve made pretty much every mistake I could make along the way. And that, by now, I know this business inside and out.
So here’s everything you need to know when it comes to what blogging is, the way it works, how it can earn you money, and where to get started today.
What Is a Blog?
A blog is an informational website with articles, called “posts,” sorted into categories and written in an informal, conversational tone of voice. Blogs can be written in every language and targeted to all kinds of audiences.
All blogs tend to fall into one of three categories: they can be generic, such as HuffPost, personal, such as Neil Patel’s Digital Marketing Blog, or niched down to a specific topic, for example, Minimalist Baker.
Niche blogs can be broad or narrow. Let’s take the food niche as an example. The Kitchn is a broader blog that posts recipes, gives cooking tips, and reviews cookware. Megan, the Vegan Mom, is a narrower blog that caters to a smaller audience of vegan moms.
Suppose you’re just getting started, and you don’t happen to have a multi-million-dollar budget for staff writers. In that case, it can be extremely hard to virtually impossible to build a successful generic blog from scratch.
Personal blogs—and personal brands as a whole—are not completely out of the question. However, you need to have focus and post within your area of expertise to gain authority and rankings in search engines.
Personal blogs usually focus on how-to guides and highly-opinionated product reviews that position their author as an authority on the topic. Personal bloggers often sell courses, coaching, or consulting.
Compared to generic and personal blogs, niche blogs are the “easiest” to build and have the highest chance of succeeding as long as you follow a good system and consistently put in the work (more on that below).
The typical niche blog contains articles 1,000 to 2,500 words long that answer questions, share how-to’s, round up the best products in a given category, and review individual products. Though there can be other types of content on a niche blog, these are the most prevalent.
Niche blogs mostly monetize their readership by displaying ads and promoting products (when promoting products, bloggers can earn a commission for every sale generated by a referred customer at the retailer; more on that below).
How Do Blogs Get Readers?
Generally speaking, blogs get their readers from three sources: search engines, social media, and email lists.
When you consider that the average blog, according to a survey by Income School, generates revenue of $29.08 per 1,000 pageviews, you can bring in some serious money if you consistently manage to attract a lot of traffic to your blog.
Every day, it’s estimated that there are 5.8 billion searches on Google. Needless to say, a blog can get thousands, hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of readers a day if most of its posts appear at the top of the search engine’s results pages.
By getting into Search Engine Optimization (SEO), bloggers can learn how to research topics, create content, and promote their blogs in a way that gets them higher rankings in Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.
A search engine-optimized post tends to bring in 1,000 pageviews per month on average. Though some will underperform and others underperform, I’ve seen that to be a good rule of thumb, and most blogging course creators tend to agree with me on it.
This tells you that, to get 100,000 pageviews/month from search engines, you need to publish at least 100 search engine optimized-posts. Also, it takes a good 8-9 months for a single post to achieve its optimal rankings in Google and such. So you’ll have to wait for a good while after hitting that “Publish” button before you start getting readers organically.
Social media-savvy bloggers with a large following on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can also attract thousands of visitors with a single post, especially if that post gains traction and goes viral. Though creating content for social media can be tricky, many bloggers have found massive success by building up a presence on these platforms.
By using tools such as Buffer and Tailwind, bloggers can schedule their posts on social media and see which of them get the best engagement so that they attract more attention and grow their audiences faster.
Last but not least, bloggers can entice first-time visitors from search engines and social media to subscribe to their email list, building up an audience of subscribers who frequently open, read, and click on the links in their emails.
How Do Blogs Make Money?
Most bloggers make the lion’s share of their money from display ads. They work with companies like Google AdSense, AdThrive, Ezoic, and Mediavine that let them create ad placements on their blogs, which they then sell to the highest bidders.
Some companies, like AdSense and Ezoic, act as technology platforms that the bloggers use themselves. Others, like AdThrive and Mediavine, act as full-service ad management partners that handle everything for you.
However, the latter won’t work with every blogger and tend to have a minimum traffic requirement before you can apply (AdThrive’s is at least 100,000 pageviews in the last calendar month, whereas Mediavine’s is at least 50,000 pageviews).
Bloggers also make money by joining affiliate programs, such as Amazon Associates, which allow them to recommend products in their posts and earn commissions on the purchases and actions of their readers.
The commission rates can vary based on the niche, affiliate program, and product category. Some merchants pay out as little as 1% on purchases made within a few days of referral; others give lifetime commissions, sometimes as generous as 40% on every purchase.
Bloggers can boost their earnings by partnering up with brands to co-create sponsored content that appeals to their readers while promoting the sponsor’s products or services.
Small blogs can find content sponsorship opportunities on influencer marketing networks like Clever and TapInfluence; those with large readerships and big budgets have sales staff capable of selling partnerships directly to big brands.
Some bloggers also create their own products like books, courses, digital downloadables, or merchandise. Depending on the price point and the type of product, it can be a major or a minor contributor to a blog’s revenue.
For example, a $119/month membership like Traffic Think Tank would make you more money than a $3.99 Kindle eBook about SEO. On the flip side, it would require a larger investment of time and effort to maintain the community and acquire customers (through channels other than your blog, like ads).
A blogger can also create a YouTube channel, repurposing content to a new form of media, growing their audience, and diversifying their sources of revenue with Google AdSense ads on their videos.
How Much Money Can a Blog Make?
The long answer short is, “the sky’s the limit.”
Of the bloggers who published income reports for August or September 2021, Growth Scouter earned $10,600, and Carl Broadbent earned $9,000 while on vacation. John Dykstra, who doesn’t publish income reports as often, has shared that his blogs consistently make more than $70,000/month.
If we keep to Income School’s figure of $29.08 per thousand pageviews, which I’ve found to be pretty accurate for an aged blog, a blog with 100k pageviews per month can make $2,900 monthly revenue, and a blog with 1M monthly pageviews can bring in $29,000/month.
That figure assumes you’re monetizing your blog with display ads and affiliate programs at a minimum. (Though sponsored content and your own membership or products can give that revenue a significant boost).
By “aged,” I mean a blog that’s been around for at least one or two years. This gives the blogger enough time to learn the ropes, and for Google to index and rank most of the posts published on it.
How Can I Get Started?
At a minimum, you’re going to need a domain name and a hosting service, which you can get for a total of $100-$150 for your first year.
Then, you’re going to need to install WordPress, a website platform that’s open source and therefore free for personal and commercial use, and set up your website.
Alex Cooper at WP Eagle has made the most comprehensive tutorial on the topic out there, so do give it a watch and—if this is your first website—consider following him along:
But before you get there, my advice is to buy yourself access to a blogging course and understand how this business works in the first place. Otherwise, you can spend years writing content that doesn’t show up on search and that nobody shares on social media.
The general rule of thumb is that it takes a good two to three years of blogging before you can earn enough to quit your day job and become an owner of an indie media company. And, to get there, you’re going to need to follow a good system. Check out my round-up of the blogging courses actually worth the money.
Just don’t expect to create a blog today, then start reeling in the big bucks as quickly as tomorrow. As I recently wrote, beginner bloggers can earn a couple of thousand dollars in their first year of blogging at best.
This is simply one of those businesses that start out incredibly slow and that reward you only if you survive—and find a way to thrive—during your first two or three years of doing it. And there’s no guarantee of success.