I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from folks who are just starting out, mostly with travel type blogs, who are looking for some sage advice from me. I thought it might be a good idea to write a post with my usual reply to their questions – but with a bit more depth. The question usually goes something like this:
Hi, my name is Joe Blow, I found your blog recently and have been reading through it. I’m amazed at how much money you make and would like to know how to make money from my own blog. How much traffic will I need to make money? Can you give me some advice on how to make money from my blog? Where should I start?
That’s the summarised version of it. Generally people are curious about how much traffic it takes to earn from a blog and how to get started. So here’s my long-winded reply…
Where do I start?
For anyone who is just starting out and sends the “Where do I start? Can you help me?” type question I tell them to read some things to get an idea of some more specific questions and then come back to me. Nobody ever seems to do this… I think the people who ask for help from the absolute beginning are looking for some step-by-step guide from me with the secret to my success – which I don’t have. There’s no secret. I’m totally willing to help with specific questions or even non-specific ones that show me that the person has done a little bit of research themselves already… but I don’t have any answers for the general “Tell me how to do it, from the start” type person.
So if you’re just starting out, I’d tell you to find some blogs that are similar to what you have in mind. Either the topic (probably your most important resource is the competition), the way you hope to monetise it, the layout… whatever. Find these blogs, troll through old posts, examine their site, find affiliate programs, see who’s advertising, see what works for them, and maybe get in touch to make connections in the same niche or to ask advice. But come at them with specific questions, not the just “I want to do what you do, help me” type thing.
I would recommend building new sites on WordPress so if this is completely new to you then load it up, experiment with it, try different themes and plugins, and learn how to use it. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to get a site up and running on WordPress but if it’s completely new to you and you have no website experience at all then you’ll have a bit of a learning curve to navigate and the best way to do this is just that… do it. Install WordPress and experiment.
How do I make money from my blog?
I have no idea! I’m not a blogger. Sure, I have this blog but most of my earnings come from static information sites. This means that the information is up there for people to find using Google. There’s no interaction between the readers of these sites and I. Well, the occasional email asking for some extra information or to tell me that a link is broken or something. But I don’t want to hear from people with these sites. I want them to find my sites, read some stuff, hopefully get some information they were looking for and then go away… preferably through Google Adsense or an affiliate link. I don’t want a community or interaction.
Blogging is the opposite. It’s all about community and you’re very unlikely to make any money from Adsense and only likely to earn from affiliate programs if you become a very trusted source of advice and feel ok recommending products to your readers. Advertisers will be interested in you eventually but I think this has more to do with Page Rank, the age of your site and your Google search results than it does with being popular. But being popular brings with it advantages like being offered freebies in exchange for reviews and things like that. But this involves building a readership and that involves trust and that involves time and quality writing.
How much traffic do I need to make money?
I can probably count on one hand the number of people who’ve asked for traffic stats before buying advertising on my website. At least in my experience, nobody cares. Potential advertisers probably find me because one of my sites has shown up high in Google for the keywords they want to target – so ranking well with Google is key to having those random emails come in from people who want to give me money. They’ve probably checked out my Google Page Rank at some point which, I assume, is good on all of my sites. This is something I rarely check these days (although I used to obsess over it when I was starting out). They’re probably also interested in the age of my sites. Not much you can do about this except to get started now or try to buy old domain names, I guess. So… traffic, at least in my case, doesn’t matter.
However… the exceptions are sites like the living in Kigali and living in Kampala ones I’m working on now. They’re community sites. The people who are going to advertise on those sites will be folks who have businesses in one of those cities and who will want my readers to eventually use their services. In this case, traffic statistics are important. But I’m new to this sort of website. I think this kind of site is where the future is (at least for me… feels more ‘real’) but I’m still inexperienced and not quite sure yet how to earn with them.
How long will it take before I make money with my blog?
Ah… this question. If you want to make money, don’t start a blog. There are lots of ways to earn online and blogging is one that probably takes the most effort. If you’re successful it, I think, has huge rewards too in that you’re creating a community, helping people etc. But it takes a lot of work and if your main motivation for starting a blog is making money, then you’re probably going to get discouraged and fail. If you want to make money online, do something else. If you want to blog and share a message and help people then just get started. Be genuine, help or entertain people (or both), be consistent with your posts, be savvy with social network stuff (not something I can help with!) and grow slowly and steadily.
How long before you start getting the interest of advertisers? I don’t know with blogs… if you have a unique idea, are a great marketer and can get people excited about your blog then possibly pretty soon after you start. I don’t know blogs well but for my static websites, I don’t expect to earn anything from them for at least a year, or probably two. I make them, do a bit of SEO and then forget about them and let them age and rise up with Google.
Final, Slightly Discouraging Words
So, there you have it! All of my ‘sage advice’ for newbies rolled up into one handy dandy post. I know… it’s not the most encouraging post in the world but, if you want to earn online, there are no magic tricks. I am the first to admit that I’ve benefited hugely from timing. Nobody was earning online when I started, so my motivation was never money, so I was never discouraged when I didn’t make any.
These days people see others earning money on the internet and want to also earn money. They want the money part more than they want the business part. But it is a business these days and needs to be treated like one which could include investing money from the start and definitely includes a lot of hard work.
If making money is your sole motivation then find other ways than starting a blog. I don’t have any experience with these sorts of things because they’re no fun… but read around the net and you’ll figure it out. If you want to start a blog then make sure money isn’t your only motivation because you’ll be screwed before you even start if it is.