The opportunity of blogging is an immense one, but is blogging worth it? Or is blogging dead? Is there still potential for new bloggers starting a brand new blog to build a successful blog withs solid income.
Absolutely! Blogging is definitely still worth the time and effort of investing. With diligence in writing and publishing, a few essential techniques, and a year of blogging, building a brand new, successful blog that generates a full time income is possible. Choose the right niche, set your blog the right way, monetize strategically (according to your traffic), and learn SEO, and you’ll have everything in place to build a successful blog.
If you have a topic you’re passionate about and would love to write on, ideally for a full time income, you are far from alone in your potential desire to start blogging.
A couple years ago, what started as a hobby, writing stories from my travel adventures, evolved into a travel platform to inspire and educate that became my full time income and my livelihood. Since then I’ve started a handful of other sites covering everything from international cuisines to personal finance. With the start of each project, I had to ask myself the honest and smart questions: Is blogging worth it? Or is blogging dead?
To ensure the opportunity to create a blog, grow the audience, and monetize it still existed I took a business approach, analyzing niches, average incomes, how long it would take to grow a profitable blog, and assessing if it was even worth it, to me, and if I was passionate enough.
My answer: Blogging is absolutely still worth it. With a little research, effort, and making a few key choices up front (niche, marketing channels, branding, and how to monetize), now is the best time ever to start a blog.
Then read on to understand more about the opportunity in blogging and why now is the perfect time for you to start your own blogging business.
CONTENTS OF THIS ARTICLE: IS BLOGGING WORTH IT
- AVERAGE SUCCESS BY BLOGGING NICHE
- WHAT WORK SHOULD YOU EXPECT WHILE BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BLOG?
- WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SUCCEED IN BLOGGING?
- A GLIMPSE OF OUTLIER SUCCESS IN BLOGGING
- ASSESSING BLOGGING AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU: WHY YOU SHOULD BLOG…AND WHY YOU SHOULDN’T
- MY FAVORITE REASONS TO BUILD A BLOG AS A BUSINESS
- BLOGGING FOR BUSINESS OWNERS: HOW BLOGS CAN BE A SOURCE OF CUSTOMERS
- THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BLOGGING
- ASSESSING YOURSELF AS BLOGGER: IS BLOGGING FOR YOU?
- GENERAL TIPS FOR HANDLING INEVITABLE BLOGGING CHALLENGES
- MY EXPERIENCE WITH BLOGGING: HOW I LEARNED, AND WHY MY PERSPECTIVE IS WORTH HEARING
As large, legacy publishers from the print age die or refuse to evolve, the opportunity for small content publishers (bloggers) grows even more vast. With a unique voice and a genuine message that people want to hear, anyone can step in and give the readers what they want in this time of change.
But not everyone is cut out for the opportunity of blogging and content writing.
Hours of research and writing. Months without success or observable achievement of goals. Potentially years before, a small publishing platform, website, or “blog” delivers an income that could sustain your life.
Is blogging worth it? Is the sacrifice of time and energy required to build a blog worth the payoff?
That depends on you.
Are you cut out for the opportunity and the underlying challenge?
That depends on you.
In this section, we’ll take an objective look at the opportunities (and demands) of blogging as well as ask some pointed questions to help you decide if the opportunity is right for you, your level of drive, and your expectations.
If the opportunity is right for you, we’ll have successfully calibrated your expectations, making it easier to create a viable, long term plan.
If the opportunity isn’t right for that’s fabulous too! We will have saved you hours of effort and months of heartache before burning out. You will also have insight into a growing industry and an appreciation for “the making of” your favorite blogs. Potentially, one day far down the road when your free time and aspirations have changed, you will return to this opportunity well informed and knowing the opportunity is right for you.
Now, let’s get into what you should reasonably expect from a blogging career, from start to success.
ASSESSING HOW THE OPPORTUNITY OF BLOGGING FITS YOU
The opportunities in blogging, both for profit and as a means to express one’s passions, are immense. However, they’re the prospect of blogging is not for everyone. Diligence and resilience in research and writing over a couple year and couple hundred posts are the minimum it will take to succeed.
In this chapter, we’ll look at the opportunity of blogging, the requirements, and the payoff before making a gut check to see if this is the right opportunity for you.
Either we’ll motivate you by giving you a glimpse of your future reward, or save you time by asking the hard questions now. Either way, this is an essential chapter.
- Personal Finance: $9,100 /mo. | Difficulty: 13
- Food: $9,100 / mo. | Difficulty: 38
- Travel: $5,000 / mo. | Difficulty: 78
- Marketing: $4,200 | Difficulty: 68
- Lifestyle: $5,200 | Difficulty: 69
(Note: Lower difficulty number implies lower difficulty of entering the niche)
Notes on success by niche
- The average blog making $2,000 per month has 135,000 monthly visits
WHAT WORK SHOULD YOU EXPECT WHILE BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BLOG?
To build a successful blog – which we’ll define as having 25,000 monthly sessions and an income of $2,000 to $3,000 per month or more – 2 years of “full-time work” is a reasonable period to expect. We are assuming that you will invest minimal cash into creating and marketing the site, and you are writing all of the content yourself.
Timelines will shorten, and the monthly profits can increase much sooner with the right cash investments – but we’ll save that for another book and set expectations at two years of diligent, intentional work to create a “successful” blogging business.
The requirements of you (for success) will be:
- Understanding basic search engine optimization (SEO) principles and keyword research
- Understanding how to build a site via WordPress
- Willingness to write 150 to 200 pieces of good, well researched, well-written content
- Willingness to adapt marketing strategies (and methods of sharing/publicizing your content with the world) to create a strategy and plan that is sustainable, repeatable, and will work for you.
- Willingness to work diligently for 2 years
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SUCCEED IN BLOGGING?
Regardless of which niche you choose to blog in, there are a few tasks and tools that you will need, either one time, routinely, or continuously. The tasks listed below should be high on your to do list on your way to blogging success.
- Publish new content routinely, monthly at minimum, ideally weekly or more
- Perform SEO keyword research and competitive benchmarking before starting any post
- Post your new content and refreshed content in a genuine, engaging way in a specific marketing channel (Quora, Reddit, Forums, Facebook Groups) suitable to the content topic and posted in a way that tribes embrace and appreciate. The “tribe” involved with the marketing channel should receive more value than you do from the exchange.
- Be accepted by “tribes” that you will “share” your content with, gaining rapport and recognition as a topic authority or expert along the way
- Building your own tribe of people and means to connect with them directly (email, forums)
- An SEO keyword research tool (Keysearch or SEMRush): For quickly and efficiently brainstorming and screening SEO keywords and low competition
- Google Analytics: The best tool for tracking your site, researching the performance analytics of your site, and getting the data necessary to improve your site and content
- A WordPress Site (self-hosted) and WordPress Theme: Using WordPress with a decent theme saves the costs of developing a website from scratch, allows you to manage the site yourself.
To succeed in blogging you will need to learn continuously. First, you will need to learn just enough to get going. Then, you will need to continuously return to these topics to stay up to date on best practices, identify opportunities to boost your site’s performance and profits, and use newly developed tools and tactics. The topics you will need to learn to become a successful, self-sufficient blogger are as follows:
- SEO: Low competition keyword research, on page optimization, technical SEO (UX and site speed)
- WordPress: Posting, administration
- WordPress Page Building (using a page builder): Using a WordPress page builder allows for maximum customization of your website without hiring anyone and tons of templates to choose from. Gutenberg (WordPress native page builder), Elementor, Divi, Thrive Architect, and Cornerstone are the most popular. Pick one and run with it
- Basic Graphic Design: For designing web pages, Pinterest pins, images for your site, and other simple tasks
- Basic Web Development: Understanding basic HTML and CSS syntax make it easier to style and design webpages, posts, and content
In blogging, most of the names you are familiar with and that spark your interest in becoming a blogger are outliers based on their income, audience, and overall performance. Though this may seem discouraging, “outlier” blogs achieve their success partly due to diligence and effort, but primarily by following best practices.
Average successes in blogging (usually defined as making $4,000 to $9,000 and as high as $25,000 per month) come predominately from affiliate marketing and ads. However, at the higher end of this range ($9,000+) bloggers begin creating and focusing on delivering their own products. Nearly 30% of bloggers making more than $2,000 per month sell their own product via their own content.
Bloggers in this area of “average success” for a mature blog generally share the following traits:
- Bloggers in this group have mastered affiliate marketing
- The essential skills, for transitioning into this category and growing beyond are converting traffic to email subscribers, and developing products for their audience
- Email marketing is key component to stable traffic and successfully selling a product. Email lists tend to be between 1,000 and 10,000 names
Outlier bloggers (defined as $25,000+ and roughly 3% of all professional bloggers) make their income primarily from courses and share the following traits:
- 80% of income for blogs making more than $25,000 per month comes from courses
- An email list, usually between 1000 and 10000 emails, drives course sales and product sales and outlier bloggers are experts in converting traffic to email subscribers to product/course sales
- Outliers bloggers have mastered product creation and generate a large portion of their income (usually over 90%) from their own course
- Outlier blogs generally receive the same amount of traffic as those in the $7500-$25,000 /mo. category, however they’ve have learned how to better monetize their audience with products, increase the rate of readers that become email subscribers, and convert email subscribers to customers at a higher rate
- Every single blogger that makes over $25,000 a month hosts a course that brings in minimum $15,000 per month
- Without a course, blogs generally have a ceiling of $10,000 per month
Blogging in general is sometimes romanticized, sometimes misunderstood, and usually underestimated…in terms of workload and potential payoff. Let’s make sure the opportunity is right for you.
MY FAVORITE REASONS TO BUILD A BLOG AS A BUSINESS
- Location Independence: Able to work from anywhere
- Scalable: Whether you continuously write and maintain content, or hire writers to make more money, there is always a way to grow easily, smartly, and quickly in blogging
- Low startup costs: The only true investments are hosting (~$10 per year) and an initial SEO keyword tool subscription (~$10 per month). Everything else can be done with no monetary investment, and lots of sweat equity, drive, and passion
- Possibility of running multiple at once and outsourcing: Once you learn how to successfully and efficiently build and operate one blog, outsourcing, building another, and collecting semi-passive income is a very real possibility. The skillsets and knowledge within “blogging” (Market Research, SEO, monetization, basic website design and construction) are very transferable between niches.
- Building and growing is the hardest part: Once a site is built, maintenance and continuing to provide value to readers in a sustainable is a much simpler, enjoyable experience
Don’t get me wrong. Blogging isn’t all roses and cupcakes. There are downsides you should very much be aware of before committing to building your own site.
The Pitfalls of Blogging You Should Be Aware Of
- Lots of time and mentalenergy until You Reach “Blogging Success”: Two years of concerted effort and regular publishing is a reasonable minimum amount of time to expect before achieving “success” in blogging
- Blogging is susceptible to the whims of Google and algorithms: Until you build a significant audience and a strong email list, then your site will be at the whims of Google algorithms, Facebook algorithms, and Pinterest algorithms. Whenever Google or any of the other platform’s updates, you may see a boost, or your traffic may plummet. It is a risk, it will happen at least once, and you still have to be ready to continue working and focusing on the long term through the down spell
UNDERSTANDING THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BLOGGING
As a blogger you will have extraordinary times, wherein your efforts, timing, connection with your audience, luck, and search engine performance add up to some impressive wins. These times will make you feel like a true digital Rockstar.
There will be times when things beyond your control (or missteps that you didn’t realize until it was too late) will result in plummeting performance and profits and you will feel powerless to stop the seemingly infinite downward spiral. Don’t fret, as these times are just as much a part of blogging as the wins. The best thing you can do now to prepare is learn what the biggest pitfalls in blogging are, become familiar with them, and anticipate them so that when your “down” comes, you can stay calm, stay motivated, and work through it.
The biggest downs in blogging will fall in the following areas:
- Google and search engine algorithm changes
- Social media / marketing channel changes
- Hacks, site issues, hosting issues
Google constantly updates its algorithm, which determines which pages rank for which keywords. Occasionally, Google pushes out massive updates, such as the Penguin Update, the Panda Update, and the Hummingbird update. These major updates create ripple effects that cascade across the internet as sites ranking for thousands of top keywords can suddenly lose the Google rankings that their enterprise was built on.
How do you mitigate the potential effects of the inevitable next algorithm change?
By writing high quality content focused on the needs of your readers and making the primary aim to deliver value to readers. If you do write this content that focuses on reader needs and make it your primary goal above all else then, yes, you will at times lose traffic due to Google algorithm updates, but in the larger scheme of Google updates your organic traffic will increase.
Some updates will prioritize other content over yours that is objectively better. If you’re smart, you’ll go back to your content that was outranked to understand how theirs is better and how you can improve yours. You’ll leave with a valuable lesson of how to write better content and a set of principles for improving your existing content.
In other updates, you will see a boost as Google recognizes how much better your content is than the competition at addressing the problems and presenting solutions for searchers.
Ultimately, produce good content and you will always fair out well. If you focus on creating good content relative to the needs of readers and their intentions in searching, it all balances out.
Secondarily, whenever a large Google update comes out, research it with the hopes of learning something new, learning a new tactic to bring value to your readers, or to find a way to genuinely improve the quality of your site. Ideas like addressing searcher intent foremost, utilizing latent semantic indexing, and using the E-A-T framework (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) to analyze the efforts you put into your site are all valuable lessons that have be pulled from analyzing major algorithm updates. There will be plenty more updates (and lessons to extract) in the years to come.
On the road to success in blogging, some point you will burn out, or come extremely close. As success is a long game (2 years on average with ~200 posts) there is a chance along the way that all of the thankless efforts will leave you drained and questioning whether you should continue.
From personal experience, my first site wasn’t “successful” until I had written over 200 pieces of content with most pieces being over 3,000 words. Along the way, I drew satisfaction from small wins such as ranking in Google, increasing affiliate sales, and accolades within my “tribes”. However, there were times I became so burnt out I would take two-month long breaks to recharge and reset my mindset. To be fair, these times were usually after content spurts (producing ~20 pieces of content in a single month) so the momentum of huge efforts carried my site performance through the burnout phases.
Most bloggers don’t make it past the first year due to burnout, which is barely halfway to the finish line.
So, how do you avoid burnout?
- Work at a consistent and diligent pace that you can maintain for two years
- Aim to work sustainably ensuring every action you take has enduring, cumulative effects that stack onto the results of previous actions
- When working on “sprints” with heavy workloads, build in recovery time and rewards to help you recharge and stay motivated
- Have defined goals and objectives with reasonable expectations (of time to completion and payoff) and stay focused on those goals and objectives
- Join tribes of bloggers like you for support through the rough times. Free Facebook groups and Reddit subs are excellent sources of this kind of motivation. Connecting one on one with other bloggers is exceptionally motivating too.
- Be forgiving of yourself and be careful of putting too much pressure on yourself for results. You’ll have plenty of critics, so be your own biggest fan. When you make mistakes, learn and brush them off as quickly as possible. When you miss targets and goals, forgive yourself and get back to work. Understand that if you’re doing the best you can (or reasonably close) that’s the best you can do and that’s worth a pat on the back.
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and every other social media platform are notorious for making algorithm changes that work in their favor. Most of these algorithm changes are fairly sudden and generally focus on keeping users (your potential readers) on the social media platform and avoiding having them leave (to your site) without some sort of monetary benefit for the company running the platform.
The algorithm changes generally result in making social media activities it more difficult for brands and businesses trying to connect with social media users without paying for ads.
Examples of this “restricting access to your audience” can be seen in how a Facebook page’s posts are generally seen by relatively few followers (between 1% and 10% of the group following the page). Another good example of Facebook’s aim to keep users on Facebook is how simple text posts with images or video perform far better than Facebook posts with a click out video or call to action that draws them off Facebook.
Other examples of the pains that creators can experience at the whim of social media algorithms include the Instagram algorithm changes that resulted in influencers with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers having their engagement (and exposure to followers) cut in half with a simple algorithm change.
As these platforms grow, become more “corporate” and try to drive more profit for shareholders, more changes will come in favor of the platform (and its ad sales) making your audience (followers) more difficult to reach.
So, how should you handle social media algorithm changes?
By intentionally not overinvesting in social media, and instead invest the time, money, and effort in the asset you own – your site, your blog, your email list.
Instead, make your social media engagement happen in “borrowed” groups – tribes you are part of that you contribute to and add value to regularly ultimately building rapport. This will allow you more time toproduce content (excellent content) that will be welcomed into a group in which you efficiently built a relationship, instead of building and maintaining the group. Maintaining relationships within 10 such groups is far easier than building and maintaining a group or page of your own and requires less investment of time and effort. Additionally, when the next algorithm change comes and the group becomes worth less (as interaction with users is more restricted) you will have lost nothing, and you will still have 100% ownership of your blog.
You may become a victim of hacking, general site bugs, or even hosting issues someday.
I have both had a site hacked and had a hosting company completely delete my site and all backups on their servers deleted as well.
Though there are unique methods for preserving your site (security plugins, daily checks, etc.) the best way to prepare is to routinely (monthly to weekly) store backups of your site on a hard drive you own and on your computer. By keeping these backups, and backing up weekly or monthly (depending on your publishing schedule) you will have the easiest option available for undoing damage to your site.
Now that you understand the basics of blogging, why it matters, and somewhat of what it takes, you need assess yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are your goals in blogging? Based on the information above, is that goal realistic?
- Are you ready to blog for two years in your niche without any big payoff in the meantime?
- What is your reason for blogging and what do you hope to achieve?
The Bottom Line: Select a single niche, validate that opportunity, validate your knowledge/passion within the topic, and assess whether you’re ready to put in the effort. If you are, let’s get started.
- Diversify: Content topics, monetization strategy, marketing channels
The more you diversify everything about your blog, the more resistant you will be to changes throughout the industry. No matter how well any one element is performing within your blog (marketing channels, monetization, traffic sources) don’t become too attached to or reliant on that success and incorporate backup options.
- Assess and adapt your content continuously and frequently, focusing on delivering value to your readers above all else
If you create things people want and love, you will never have a problem with readers gravitating toward your content, regardless of algorithm changes
- Stay plugged-in with other successful and grounded bloggers
Best practices, for an efficient path to success can be found throughout the industry, but if you’re not connected, you’ll only learn from your own mistakes…not everyone else’s. Stay connected with other bloggers for support, great ideas, and early warnings of changes to come. Continually read information on blogging, marketing, and digital business.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH BLOGGING: HOW I LEARNED, AND WHY MY PERSPECTIVE IS WORTH HEARING
Via my site ABrotherAbroad.com, I’ve become a successful travel blogger and self-publisher over the last few years with thousands of visitors a month and semi-passive income that supports my dream of indefinite travel and living anywhere I want. Throughout creating my blog, planning and writing content, and monetizing my content, I collected plenty of bumps and bruises but ultimately realized that successful blogging is all about applying a handful of best practices repeatedly and putting forth diligent work. That’s it.
The diligent work, hundreds of hours researching, writing, learning, and testing can’t be replaced. That drive and intention is half of what sets my site apart from the thousands of other travel blogs that failed in the past few years.
The second part of the equation – an essential set of best practices for blogging success – is an equally important component for blogging success. Those best practices, once learned, can be repeated for any site, any viable and validated niche (with a validated audience), or any small business to create a content hub that readers love and that pays the bills.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize most of these best practices until about a year into my blogging “career” (if we can even call it that).
“A Brother Abroad” started as a hobby, intended to be a simple record of my journey traveling the world, sharing the kinds of stories I loved to read as I planned to travel the world before. However, fate had a different plan for the long term. As I tinkered with my site and a handful of tools (primarily Google Analytics) during my travels and interacted with readers, I realized that some types of posts were performing better and receiving more views than other types of posts on my site. This same content that performed better all-around aligned much more with the questions people were asking the most, in comments, in travel forums, and on social media.
Eventually, I realized and accepted that as a traveler, the products of my efforts would be more useful, more impactful, and more successful if I responded to the needs of potential readers instead of writing blindly about the adventures at hand that I felt like writing about. My simple “travel journal” evolved into a travel resource that focused on delivering precise information to the problems people asked about the most, or engaged with the most – advice on travel gear, advice for staying fit, and how to undertake more adventurous experiences independently.
This shift, from instinct driven travel writing to problem focused solutions delivered via good content, made my readership explode and ignited new passion and purpose in my writing as I could see evidence that what I was providing information that was needed, useful, and appreciated. With that shift, I decided to make a career of writing travel content – but self-published and on my terms.
With that shift, I had to learn how to translate my passions (travel and writing) into a sustainable, scalable, and lean business – a monetized blog.
For the following six months, I studied how to identify and plan the content that readers needed, discovering it via SEO and simple “market research”. I then aimed to use this SEO and market research data to write engaging content that was genuine and performed well in Google and social media. Finally, I culminated this with a plan for how to monetize my blog, making money in a moral, sustainable, and honest way that respected my readers and truly filled a need for them.
Those six months of self-guided study were filled with immense learning. I scoured the internet intensely, I took courses wherein “pro bloggers” were all sharing their “secrets,” and I connected with other bloggers frequently and continuously to learn the essentials of writing, marketing, and monetizing. At the end of the six months, I had accumulated a groundwork of fundamental knowledge about blogging, content marketing, and online businesses that propelled me to my current success. More importantly, I learned the two most important things about blogging:
1) There are no secrets. The best practices of blogging and content marketing are widely known, openly available, and all you need.
2) The key to blogging success is creating a sustainable plan, putting in diligent effort to see it through, adapting according to your learnings and new information, and sticking it out to the long term.
You don’t need expensive courses.
You don’t need secrets.
You just need knowledge of what the fundamentals of blogging are and where to find them.
This manual delivers all of the fundamentals that you need so you can build a base level of success in blogging. On this path, you will gain a valuable set of experiences and knowledge within your niche and the skills of blogging as a whole. As your blog matures, we will use your growing knowledge and expertise to then chart a better path forward – based on your newfound assets, your developing brand, and what has been proven to work best for you.
With drive, diligence, and dedication, you can have the same.
My life has changed in a way I never could have predicted. I’ve not only built a viable, location independent business around my passions (travel and writing) but also developed an essential skillset from travel writing at A Brother Abroad that can be applied to create other new, profitable ventures in other niches. From creating sites and content platforms that people genuinely want and need, to buying websites that have unrealized potential and growing them, to helping small businesses move online and grow by building customers in digital channels. The experience of blogging and the lessons along the way have empowered me in ways I would never have expected.
…and every essential lesson from that journey is captured here and delivered in a way that I wish I had found three years ago. I’m happy to share it with you now.
Good luck on your adventure to come.
ACTION ITEMS FOR THIS ARTICLE
- based on your interests, skills, the effort you are willing to put in, and the payoff you require
- : In support of your goals – a publication or a storefront
Do one more gut check: Are you ready to commit to 2 years and write 200 pieces of SEO researched, optimized, and well written content, without immediate accolades and without an immediate payoff?