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Can You Still Make Money with a Blog Today?

Have you ever thought about starting a blog, but quickly dismissed the idea because you figured the market was already saturated? I understand why you would think that. After all, think about how many personal finance blogs there are out there! Anyone that has paid off some debts automatically think they’re an expert and has their own blog. Search for “personal finance blogs” on Google and you’ll get 696,000,000 results! So what are the odds that someone is going to stumble upon your blog if you start one? Is it still worth trying to make money with a blog today?

The Market When I First Started

This blog was born in August of 2010, and at that time there were already some very prominent blogs out there that had been alive and running for 10+ years. In fact, some of them had already grown their subscribers to over 100,000 subscribers! There were thousands of personal finance blogs that existed when I first came onto the scene, but many of them have fizzled, while mine is still thriving. How did this happen? Three reasons:

  1. I had a passion for finance and was going to write about it even if no one knew my site existed
  2. I enjoy writing and feel like my posts are simple enough that anyone can enjoy it
  3. I didn’t do it for the money

There are so many people out there that think they’re going to make thousands of dollars in the first few months of starting their blog. This just doesn’t happen, so naturally these people get discouraged and move onto something else that might earn them some quick cash. Their sites die from inactivity.

There are still others that love to put their thoughts onto their blog, but they do not have a skill for writing. Their sentences are choppy and are difficult to read, so first time visitors rarely make their way back to the site.

One of the biggest reasons blogs don’t make it is because the owners don’t truly have a passion for what they’re writing about. The only reason they selected their topic is because they thought it would be a good money maker. The average blog doesn’t make money for the first 6 months – it’s very challenging to write about something that you don’t have any interest in for that long.

Where the Money Used to Come From

Just over a year ago, my blog was absolutely booming. I had quite a few new visitors and advertisers were contacting me left and right. My income soared to over $3,000/month, but there was just one problem, most of this income was from direct ads. Companies would want to get their link on my site, so they would pay me for either a sidebar link, a banner, or a sponsored post. These direct ads only took about 10 minutes to put up, and I typically earned about $400 per ad – it was great!

So what was the problem? First of all, there was nothing regenerative about this income. Sure I might have a good month where 10 advertisers contact me and buy a space on my site, but the next month I might not hear from anyone, which means no money. Secondly, Google absolutely hates it when companies pay for links on other sites since it makes the company look better than they actually are (with all the links that are pointing to their sites). So, the big G decided to penalize many of these companies and sites that actively deal with direct advertising. Needless to say, many bloggers (including myself), no longer accept direct ads because they’re afraid of a Google Rank smack down.

So Do Bloggers Even Make Money Anymore?

There are some bloggers that are finding it difficult to earn a living with their blogs these days since they were highly dependent on direct advertising. Fortunately for me, I have other sources of revenue so it didn’t have any dramatic change on my life, but there are still ways to earn an excellent income with a blog. Mainly, your largest income will come from affiliate ads.

affiliate_linkAffiliate ads are advertisements that don’t pay out unless someone actually places an order. iPage (the ad seen on the left) pays affiliate money to bloggers that can sell their product (which in their case is webhosting). If someone wanted to start a site of their own, they could click on the banner and start their blog in a matter of minutes. Once they do so, I would receive a payment from iPage (at no extra cost to the buyer). This is how affiliate marketing works.  So in order to do well with these ads, you’ll have to find some promotions that fit the niche of your site.

The other method on income that works well for some bloggers is Google AdSense. I use their ad services quite a bit because they deal with quite a few large companies that my readers recognize and relate with. The ads are often very relevant and are wholesome for any viewer that might be perusing my website. For me, these ads have recently earned me $100+, and I only expect this number to grow in the future.

Passion and Payout

If you plan on starting a blog, it’s very important to write about something that you’re passionate about. If you choose a topic because of the potential payout, you simply won’t last. I’ve seen it time and time again. But, you also need to make sure your passion will be profitable. For instance, there are topics that are completely normal and might attract a lot of readers, but if your topic isn’t of interest to advertisers, then the payout might be minimal. I’ve recently seen this with leadership. There are quite a few people in this world that aspire to be great leaders and might read your articles, but there aren’t a lot of leadership companies out there that are looking to find a site to host their ads. It could happen, but it’s a much more difficult find than if you had a finance related site. Here are the top paying topics according to Tech Crunch:

  1. Insurance
  2. Loans
  3. Mortgage
  4. Attorney
  5. Credit
  6. Lawyer
  7. Donate
  8. Degree
  9. Hosting
  10. Claim

If you are passionate about one of these topics, I would say definitely go for it. The earnings could be huge!

Yes, It Can Be Done

While many think that the market for blogging is saturated, I still believe that there is a lot of money that can be made. All you have to do is write quality content, let others know that your site exists, and then just make sure that your site is good enough that people will want to keep coming back for more!

Are you currently making money with a site? Are you considering starting one?

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24 comments to Can You Still Make Money with a Blog Today?

  • The key is to write about something you are passionate about. At the end of the day, as long as you enjoy writing about the subject matter, you will continue regardless of earning money or not. I would encourage anyone who is passionate about a topic to begin blogging. Even if the market is saturated because any day, those bloggers could quit writing because they aren’t passionate enough. In the few years I have blogged, I’ve seen many sites come and go.
    Jon @ MoneySmartGuides recently posted..The Importance of Waiting Giveaway

    • The passion is the key, I agree. If I knew that writing about life insurance was the hot ticket to making big bucks, I would have gone for it….and then would have failed miserably… There’s no way I could write about life insurance for more than 6 months! How boring!

  • Great article Derek. One of your top if you ask me. Gone are the days of yesteryear when you could make a fortune from a blog right out of the gate. I think a blog with paid subscriptions is a nice alternative. Or ecommerce. And Jon above nailed it. You need to be passionate to blog. Start today even if there if it’s saturated. There is a bar on ever other corner in my neighborhood. They make it work so can we.
    Jai Catalano recently posted..First Job Out Of College: 5 Tips To Avoid Debt

  • CeridianMN

    In the article you mention that there are some great topics that just don’t pay well via advertising. This makes a lot of sense, but I think you missed an opportunity here. Maybe you are saving it for another day, but in these cases money can still be made.

    If you can establish yourself as something of an expert you can make money directly by selling content. In some cases it might be online courses, or a book of more in-depth content than what you put out on your site. In some cases you could even create a book that is little more than a select batch of articles from your site, organized and presented more professionally than what can be presented in the daily writings of a blog site.

    How do you become an expert? In some cases continuing to write well about your passion will be enough. To keep pushing new content you will have to have knowledge requiring learning and doing which both increase your knowledge base. Involvement in whatever the industry is, and examples of your real-world experience help. You might even get recognition from certificating bodies depending on the topic.

    • Great point Adam! I wasn’t really thinking along that avenue, but in regard to the leadership blog, if you wanted to write and sell your own book, that would be a great way to do it!

  • Great post Derek! I think a lot of it does come down to your motivation and why you’re writing. If it’s because you enjoy it, want to help people and have an outlet then I think you’ll have some level of success. If it’s solely to make money then it’ll be a struggle like you said. I do make some money, but that was not why I started the site and view it as extra more than anything else.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Graduated From College

    • Good point John. I think people should take this mantra into their work environment too! Do what you love to do (and that you have a talent in), and most of the time, you’ll earn more there than you would have in the job that you used to have.

  • Like you said, it shouldn’t be about the money. You need to have a passion for what you are writing about. Personally, I don’t expect to make a lot of money with my writing. If I can break even and help a couple of people then I am more than happy!
    Bobby @ Ban Excuses recently posted..Traditional Societal Definitions Of Success Are Wrong

    • If you start transforming your blog to earn a quick buck, it will fail pretty quickly. Readers aren’t dumb. They know when you’re just trying to make money with a site instead of truly helping them.

  • Google doesn’t punish nofollow links. Make your direct advertising nofollow, and you’re fine.
    Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide recently posted..How NOT To Run Your Finances Like The Federal Government

    • Good point Jenny. You could make the links nofollow, but the principle is still the same. I’d much rather create a site that earns passive income than having to continually put up and take down links.

  • Recurring or even passive income is certainly a worthy goal. I also got knocked down a lot from doing way too many direct ads, and am just now seeing a recovery. I certainly learned a good lesson in diversification though.
    Adam – HireMeHigherEd recently posted..Community Director

    • Well hopefully you’re making a full recovery from the smackdown! If you lasted this long, I suspect that you’ll stick with it and do even better than before!

  • Didn’t know that about Google Rank; thanks for the heads up. Interesting points about the nature of self-employment.

  • Good post Derek. A blog is also a great way to collect all of your thoughts in one place and figure out what it is that you think about your topic of choice through the writing process. Great point on being passionate about the subject. Blogging is not glamorous so you have to make sure it’s something you are interested in. You’ve been very helpful sharing your thoughts with me on blogging, as well.

  • I’m still trying to decide how I’m going to monetize my site. It definitely doesn’t seem like the money is even close to enough for the time I put into it.
    Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin recently posted..Waging War – Stock Direction

    • It probably won’t for a long time actually. You’ll be earning pennies per hour, which is why following your passion is so important. Just keep attracting followers and the money will find you. Trust me.

  • My website is very new, so I’m not an expert by any means, but I see the wisdom in your article. Affiliate ads and Google AdSense have the potential to create a long-lasting, consistent income stream. Once the necessary relationships are established, you can focus on increasing your visitor count (through quality content) and conversion rate (by expertly integrating your ads into your quality content).
    Anton Ivanov | Dreams Cash True recently posted..New Guide – How to Get Out of Debt Fast

  • Great points. I’ve been blogging with my current site for about 6 months. I don’t really make any money off it (few dollars through ad sense etc.), but that doesn’t really matter to me because I like to write and connect with others. I have however, picked up a few freelance gigs using my blog as a portfolio of sorts (something I’d never really thought about before I started blogging). It’s not passive income, but it’s paying for my hosting and domain registry etc. and I’m please with that for now.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..My Mother is Wonder Woman & Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Isn’t it awesome how all these other opportunities come your way that you never would have known about otherwise? Then, once you figure out the passive income stuff, you’ll really be sitting pretty! Best of luck to you!

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