The Road to Blogging Success
Published: May ’07. Updated June ’08.
I’m writing this article because when I tell people that I Blog for a living, very few people understand what I mean because it’s so different to the average 9am-5pm office job. Also after I was listed in the Top 100 Australian Blogs Index several people asked me how much I earnt from my blogs.
Another reason is to show that you can be successful in business while still having fun doing work and knowing that you’re helping lots of people learn useful information.
After doing outsourced web development/SEO/Web standards work for several years, in mid 2004 I decided to put my skills and broad general knowledge to good use by writing blog articles at my Rambling Thoughts Blog and monetising them through Google Adsense and other internet advertising/sponsorship income streams.
Over time this income grew and by mid-2005 it reached the point many people dream about when it earnt me enough to make blogging my day job by itself and enabled me to quit doing IT contract work except for projects that I actually enjoyed working on.
In 2007 I launched a 2nd blog called the Road Less Travelled in order to split articles between the 2 blogs by category, leverage the benefits of inter-linking articles and be able to design a blog purpose built for usability and accessibility.
Three key things to note are:
- Some people have asked me if I’m a “5 figure Pro-blogger” does that mean I earn maybe $10,000 – $20,000? While I obviously won’t reveal exact earnings lets just say that blogging related earnings for 2007-2008 look like they’ll easily be closer to $100,000 than $10,000
- Having a Business Computing degree from University and experience in the web development industry meant I didn’t have to pay anyone for web hosting, design or modifying PHP/MySQL and other code because I could do it all myself. Also when I went “Pro” I already had the business skills to do effective sales and marketing, set prices properly,handle invoicing, make people pay my bills etc. These were big advantages
- It took well over a year and many hundreds of hours if not 1000+ hrs of experimentation with blog design and writing in-depth content before I started earning a half decent income from my blogs. When looked at in isolation my current working hours require little work for lots of money, but just remember this doesn’t take into account the early work which involves a lot of hours for little money.
Blogging Revenue Sources (Last 12 Months in Australian $)
1. $XXXXX (5 Figures)
The majority of my income from Google is via Adsense for Content and the rest is from Adsense for Search
Pretty much all bloggers use Google Adsense because it’s a relatively good option for lazy people who add it to their blogging template and then forget about it. However from talking to staff at Google’s Sydney office I know these kinds of people only get click through rates of 1-2% whereas my click through rate is in the double digits.
Each blog design is different so instead of just using the default Google ad settings or copying what someone else is doing, do what I did and try many different variations of Google Ad sizes, colours etc before you find the ones which work best for you.
One issue with Google Adsense is that the income is earnt in $US dollars and converted at the end of each month to your local currency (in my case Australian dollars). The problem is that if your currency rises in value against the $US dollar then you get less money in your bank account. For example
If $US 75c buys $AUS 1 than $US100 earnt from Adsense = $AUS 133.00
If $US 85c buys $AUS 1 than $US100 earnt from Adsense = $AUS 117.64
My Adsense earnings during the last 12 months have been charted below [without the actual numbers of course ]
EDIT: Problogger Darren Rowse just responded to my comment about currency risk by email:
yeah – the currency thing is something I’ve very aware of – but to be honest it’s something I’d never done anything about. I just cash the cheques as they come in and accept direct deposits as they arrive. I’m sure there’s a smarter way – but I’ve been so busy I never worked out what to do.
2. Direct Private Sponsorship Deals, $XXXXX (5 Figures)
This is a booming area with the biggest prospects for revenue growth, but the vast majority of bloggers don’t seem to target it.
For example to quote Problogger Darren Rowse from one of his recent articles: “I don’t do a lot of private ad deals (it’s something I should focus upon more but there are only so many hours in the day)”
What he says is true, negotiating direct private sponsorship deals is not easy, can be quite time consuming and requires you to accept different payment types and give the sponsor a proper legal invoice. However when it works it’s the best blogging income source by far and a 3 way Win-Win-Win situation as explained in the example below:
Interestingly since I wrote the paragraph above which I’ve now cancelled out, Darren has moved towards selling more ads directly and it’s become a significant earner for him.
For example, Amber Promotions advertise their exclusive Top Gear Merchandise on my article reviewing the Top Gear TV show when new Series of Top Gear are running on SBS in Australia.
a. For the Sponsor – they have tight control over their sponsorship (image, text link ad, banner etc) and get a fixed price per month/quarter/6 months with discounts for several months pre-payment.
b. For the Blog Readers – They had previously asked me where to buy Top Gear merchandise so now they have a direct link to do so by clicking on the sponsored photo of a Top Gear Tshirt. The key here is that the sponsored image is directly relevant to fans of the show so they don’t think of it as an ad.
c. For me – The sponsorship from Amber Promotions earns me a solid recurring income stream.
(TLA) Over $1000 (4 Figures)
I DO NOT recommend Text-Link-Ads (TLA). I recently closed my account with them in the middle of the month and they did not pay me a pro-rata 50% of the link income for that month
Also recently a lot of bloggers had their pagerank reduced for selling paid links through Text-Link-Ads, another good reason not to sign up with them.
Also TLA take too much of the revenue (50% for them and 50% for the blogger) which is why I now sell all of my sponsored links directly.
Another problem with TLA is that once you sell a link to a sponsor their price is fixed forever as long as they renew each month, even if your site gets really popular improves in Page Rank and attracts a lot more traffic. This is bad for the blogger and bad for TLA because if you’ selling a product/service which is consistently improving over time than it makes business sense to renegotiate prices every 6-12 months.
When I asked TLA why this was so their Inventory Manager Brock Boser replied:
Sorry but we guarantee our clients that they will stay at the same price if they keep renewing.
3. Over $1000 (4 Figures)
Commission Monster is an Australian company with the widest range of Australian companies offering affiliate programs. Their email support is pretty good, payout percentages for sales and flat payments for leads are competitive and their website affiliate statistics are top notch.
I’ve tried many of the Commission Monster affiliate programs but the only successful ones have been highly targeted to a specific product eg: my review of the iRiver T30 MP3 player.
The one flaw with Commission Monster is that the money you earn will take 60-90 days to be paid to you. For example if you earn $50 in affiliate sales during January, you won’t get paid until the first week of April. Want to earn revenue from your website? Become a Commission Monster affiliate and reach your full online potential
4. Other Affiliate Programs, $XXX (3 Figures)
I’ve tried several other affiliate systems like Amazon.com and Auction Ads but they haven’t been successful. I suspect they only work on web sites which concentrate on product reviews like Darren Rowses digital photography blog
4 Unexpected Benefits of Blogging
- Tips for Passing DQT NSW Driving Test P2 to Unrestricted Licence (12 comments)
- Digicrystal 9000 PVR & Digital Set Top Box Review & FAQ (149 comments)
- Australian Toll Road Etag comparison (37 comments)
- Iriver T30 WMA/OGG/MP3 Player (129 comments)
Consulting Job Offer – Being your own boss is great but it’s nice to mix solo work with group work and also be able to use your skills on projects with large organisations which you can’t win on your own.
Thanks to the reputation I’d built up through my blogs I received several job offers in early/mid 2007 and I was able to negotiate working 2 days/week part-time on the days of my choice as an SEO/Internet Marketer for a Sydney Advertising agency. That position lasted for 9 months in which time I learnt a lot and made many useful contacts.
Increased Profile – Australia is a relatively small place compared to the rest of the Internet and Sydney where I live has the largest population of any Australian city (about 20% of Australians live there) so when my blog post reviewing TV coverage of the Cricket World Cup got a lot of attention it ended up in my being interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper and even being quoted in Cricinfo!
Also I suspect that one of the reasons I was pre-selected as a Greens party candidate at the 2007 State and Federal elections was because of my youth and strong profile on the Internet.
Invitation to Charity Sailing Regatta – One of the companies I reviewed on my blog asked me to join their customer advocate panel and as part of that I was invited to lunch at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and participate in a handicap race on their sponsored yacht “Spirit” an International America’s Cup Class Yacht (IACC) designed by Iain Murray for Australia’s 1992 America’s Cup Challenge in San Diego.
How Much Does Blogging Cost Me?
In terms of promotional advertising, I spend $0
In terms of time usually 15-20 hrs /week. However if I’m doing a major site revamp or researching to pre-write a lot of articles than this can take 60hrs+/week. On the flip side if I’m really busy with other projects or personal stuff than I’ll spend perhaps 5 hrs/week just to reply to emails and moderate comments made on the blogs.
Otherwise there are general office costs like Broadband Internet, Printer and Stationery, Accounting Software, Backup Hard Disk and Imaging software and the cost of public transport for meetings and getting to places where I’m going to review an event/product/service.