Blogging is a hobby for many and a career for some. It boils down to publishing essay-like articles called “posts” on a simple website, called a “blog,” that readers stumble upon in search engines and come across on social media.
That’s probably how you came here too, isn’t it?
Examples for blogs include Cycle Baron, My Backyard Life, and Own the Yard. Some big-time media companies also have blogs focusing mainly on how-tos and product reviews, such as The New York Times’ Wirecutter, or the more generic HuffPost.
Individual bloggers and “indie publishers,” as you can see, build blogs focused on specific niches, like cycling or backyard life (other niches include cooking, pets, and watersports, among others). By becoming an authority on a given topic, they get better rankings in Google and a more focused audience of readers that’s easier to monetize.
The logic behind that is simple: companies that make bikes and bike parts—and the stores that sell them—will outbid one another to show their ads on a biking blog. After all, that’s where all the buyers go to read about the latest gear or learn how to change a tire.
For the same reasons, they’re less likely to want to show their ads on a book or movie blog. That’s understandable when you consider that, if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie or you’ve seen Forest Gump 9,999 times, you’re not necessarily guaranteed to own and ride a bike.
With tens or hundreds of writers on staff, big-time media companies can afford to stay generic—and write about everything on the news or whatever’s trendy—while still producing outstanding content that readers enjoy and that ranks high in search engines.
Niche down, stay focused, and don’t try to compete with them, especially not in your first two to three years of blogging.
Bloggers get readers by having their posts show up on Google’s search engine results pages.
By practicing Search Engine Optimization (abbreviated “SEO”) and using SEO tools like Ubersuggest, bloggers can uncover how people are searching for information on Google, selecting underserved topics and creating content that ranks high on its first pages.
You can guesstimate the amount of traffic you can get from a blog post showing up number 1 in a search, but you can’t ever predict it. Only Google has that data, and they don’t share it with anyone else.
For example, tens of thousands of people search for “pizza” every day, but that search term is too generic for you to compete for. Fewer people, likely in the range of hundreds to a few thousand a day will search for “pepperoni pizza recipe.” Tens of people will be asking “How to make pepperoni pizza less spicy.”
With a blog that’s only a year or two old, you’d probably try to find those topical, question-based searches that almost nobody has written anything about, and slowly work your way up.
Some bloggers also promote their posts on social media sites like Pinterest or Instagram.
Years ago, Facebook was a great place to get a following and a major source of readership. Nowadays, it’s virtually impossible to reach your audience without paying for ads, and ads are getting increasingly expensive.
Once a blogger has gotten a steady flow of tens of thousands of visitors on a monthly basis, they make money by selling ad space to big brands who want to show their ads to their readers.
Getting there can take one to three years if you follow a good system.
In my experience, you need to write at least 100 posts, each no shorter than 1,000 words, and wait for at least 12 months before they start to show up on page 1 of Google’s search results (if you’ve done your job well).
Blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme: you need to show up, research topics, and write articles almost every day for at least a couple of years to start earning a decent income off of it. And it can take a good few years to replace your full-time income before you’re able to quit your job.
So keep that in mind, even though some people trying to sell you bullshit courses will try to convince you otherwise.
How Do Bloggers Make Money?
Most bloggers make money from selling ads (display advertising), linking to online retailers in exchange for a small cut from every purchase made by a reader (affiliate marketing), and selling informational products (books, courses, and downloadables).
Selling ads, also known as “display advertising,” is the main source of income for a vast array of bloggers who’ve managed to monetize their blogs.
Rather than trying to sell ads directly, which would take a tremendous amount of time and effort and yield mediocre results, bloggers join ad networks. Essentially, ad networks are brokers who sell ads and manage the technical ad placements instead of you. In exchange for handling most of the grunt, they take a (well-deserved) cut of your earnings.
The most popular ad network is Google AdSense. However, the ad placements on Google AdSense aren’t really optimized all that well, so you can’t earn much from it.
This is why most bloggers, me included, ignore it altogether.
Instead, they’ll wait until their blogs have at least 10,000 visitors to join Ezoic or at least 50,000 visitors to apply for Mediavine.
These two, along with AdThrive, highly selective and requiring a minimum of 100,000 page views to apply, are known as premium ad networks as they work with selected publishers only and earn a high Revenue per Mille (RPM).
Affiliate marketing is a way of making money by linking to online retailers’ product listings in your blog posts and getting a commission for every purchase a reader makes within a given period of time.
The commission rates depend on the retailer. For example, Amazon Associates pays out 1.00% to 10.00% commissions depending on the type of goods that the visitors you send to them from your links within 24 hours (here’s a list of all of its commission rates in one place).
Some affiliate programs, especially those of Software-as-a-Service companies, payout commissions as high as 40% for a lifetime.
Of course, everyone ends up competing for the search terms that generate them, so it can be really, really hard for new bloggers in software niches to get the wheel spinning (but not impossible!).
When your blog builds an audience of hundreds of thousands of readers per month, that’s a great time to start thinking about selling your own products.
That’s why, sooner or later, you see anyone with an audience self-publish a book or launch a course (those who don’t are literally leaving money on the table).
It’s almost a no-brainer. If, with the traffic that you already have, you’re making two, three, four thousand dollars per month from display ads and a few percents’ worth of affiliate commissions, imagine what you could make if you sold a $50, $100, or $250 product…
Informational products like books, courses, and digital downloadables are easier to make and sell than physical products, but, as long as you have the appetite for them, both can make you a lot of money.
How Much Do Bloggers Earn?
Though the exact earnings depend on the blog, audience, time of year, and economic situation, an average blog will generally earn a Revenue per Mille (RPM) of $10 to $35 for every 1,000 page views.
Earnings are the lowest in summer since most people are on vacation and big companies don’t advertise as much, and the highest in fall and winter, since brands will outbid one another to show their ads to consumers on occasions like Halloween, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
You can see the seasonality of ad earnings on a Year-over-Year basis for yourself at The Online Ad Revenue Index, a service of Ezoic.
So how much money can you make as a blogger, exactly?
Suppose your blog has an RPM of $20, so you earn twenty dollars for every thousand pageviews on it. Getting 10,000 pageviews on your blog will make you $200/month, 50,000 page views $1,000/month, and 100,000 pageviews $2,000/month.
An experienced blogger who knows how to research and select topics to write about can achieve 100,000 monthly pageviews with 100 to 150 articles of 1,000 to 2,500 words.
If you’re just starting out, you will have plenty to learn, and you’ll probably make a few mistakes along the way, like writing about too narrow topics that don’t get you any visitors or too competitive topics that you simply can’t outrank others on Google about. So it may take you two to three hundred posts until you “learn the craft.”
It’s important to note that this is your revenue before deducting expenses, fees, and taxes. Quite a few bloggers choose to reinvest 100% of the profits back into content written by content agencies or freelance writers since it helps their blog’s traffic (and earnings) grow faster.
What Do You Need to Start a Blog?
To start a blog, you need to select a niche and set up your website. Niche selection is more of a business decision, as it determines what your blog will be all about, and website setup is the steps that you need to take to get your blog up and running.
Selecting a niche:
Much has been said and written about selecting a niche for your blog. One thing’s for sure: blogging without a niche, though it’s possible to achieve success with it, isn’t your best way to go about this.
When selecting a niche for your blog, get specific but give your future self room for expansion. The pet niche, for example, may be too broad, and the niche for a particular breed of hamsters too narrow. A blog on pet rodents may give you just the right amount of focus and wiggle room.
What does a great niche look like, you ask?
A great niche for a blog is one where enough people are searching for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. Ideally, these answers and solutions involve products in the price range of $50 to $500 that you can review and write about in your blog.
Why $50 to $500?
Because products priced below $50 generate very small commissions. It’ll take you the same amount of effort to write and rank/share articles as it would on higher-priced products, but you’d end up with lower earnings nevertheless.
On the flip side, when buying products priced at $500 and over, people either end up on sales calls for services or software or in a physical store for appliances, furniture, and other kinds of stuff. Unless we’re talking about a pricey app, most readers will prefer to buy them offline (limiting your ability to earn an affiliate income).
Setting up your blog:
Most blogs are powered by WordPress, a publishing platform that lets you spin up a beautiful website quickly and easily, no matter if you’ve done it before or not. Thanks to WordPress, most bloggers can build and run a website without having to learn how to code.
WordPress is open-source.
As such, it’s free for personal and commercial use. But, in my experience (and I’ve been doing this since the early 2000s), owning a WordPress website will cost you about $250/year.
That’s because, for WordPress to work, it needs to be installed on a server. Unless you want to learn how to buy, assemble, and operate your own server at home, which makes no economic sense anyway, you’ll have to pay a web hosting company to do that for you. You can get a good hosting plan for a hundred bucks per year.
You’ll also need a domain name for your blog, which will set you back no more than twenty dollars. Keep your blog’s name—and the domain name that comes with it—brandable. “Maker’s Aid,” for example, gives us more room to add or change topics than “How to Blog.”
If we wanted to expand to podcasting at a certain point in time, the former would allow us to do that, and the latter would require us to create a second blog (that’s an additional cost).
Last but not least, you will probably end up buying a WordPress theme and a plugin or two to adapt the looks and functionality of your blog to your needs, hence my total estimate of two-fifty.