Can you make money from a blog?
Today concludes my first month with this silly little blog about beards and money. As I've mentioned before, I haven't really been too interested in making money with the blog. However, I am a scientist and ultimately a very curious creature. So I set out to answer a little research question: Can you make money from a blog? I also had a side-goal of answering another pressing question: Is Sam the Financial Samurai a lying asshole? I've got the data and I've done the analysis. My conclusions are beard-tastic and without fault. Yup. It's time for a blog post about blogging.
Make money from a blog? What happened to "no ads on my site, blah, blah, blah"?
As an apéritif before the big Net Worth Update I'll post tomorrow, I thought I would spend a little time on everyone's favorite blogging cliche: blogging about how to make money from a blog.
First, let's get something out of the way. I'm not quitting my job anytime soon like Millenial Money Mandid after his site managed to generate a ka-chingin'-bling-blingin' $3! (Yeah, I didn't miss any zeros. Look it up.) I still have no plans to make any significant money with this blog.
I make more than enough money from my primary job and side hustles to easily hit my goals. And more importantly, I really like what I do in those jobs. They're psychologically rewarding, pay handsomely, and nobody cares how big my beard gets.
This is just a silly little blog about beards and money. Maybe I'll help a few folks get off their ass and get their shit straight, and that's cool. But I'm not about to bet my family's future on it.
That said, I'm a pretty curious guy. I am a scientist, after all. So when I read about folks like Millenial Money Man (who seems to be doing A-OK), J. Money at BudgetsAreSexy.com, Sam at FinancialSamurai.com, and countless other bad-asses out there in Personal Finance Bloggy-Land making income like Kanye but saving like Mr. Money Mustache... well, I got interested.
I've been in the internet marketing game before. Here's how it usually works: I blow smoke up your ass. You give me money. I laugh as I walk to the bank. You? You get a shitty 25-page ebook for which you paid $97 that's filled with nothing but affiliate links for you to buy more shit.
So when Financial Samurai tells me that normal people are pulling down six-figures running even sillier little blogs about money, then my first reaction is to assume he's full of shit. After all, his next paragraph has an affiliate link to BlueHost.com. (See how I just shamelessly slipped my own affiliate link in there? I'm learnin'.)
My experimental make money from a blog experiment
Who's the worst person to teach you how to make money from a blog?
I HAVE run a big-time traffic generating blog before. Several years ago, I had a blog in my little niche close to my day job specialty. At its peak, I was pulling in over 100,000 page views per month. The blog was featured in several of the niche's national magazines.
With that level of traffic, Sam tells me that I should have pulled in a minimum of $1,000 per month.
Yeah. That blog made a net profit at its peaky-peak of around $50 per month. So I hope you can understand my EXTREME skepticism when it comes to online income claims.
What I wanted to know is if things have changed, or if I just used to be in the niche equivalent of "cats for teens." Is personal financeblogging as potentially lucrative as Sam says?
So, I decided to proudly become an outright hypocrite. I put up some AdSense ads, slapped a few affiliate links here and there, and started seeing what kind of revenue THIS blog could actually make.
The experiment was completely unfair, because my traffic ain't much to look at, I have demonstrated no particular skill at this, and I'm pretty sure Sam has said overand overthat no one makes money blogging in their first year, much less the first month.
I never said I was a good scientist. I'm going to talk about the results anyway as if they provide some amazing insight.
I've run this experiment now for about three weeks, and I think I have sufficient data to draw a convincing conclusion.
Is Sam a lying asshole? Can you make money from a blog?
Keep reading to find out.
My first month: page views
Step 1: Let's look at how the blog has been doing in its first month. I published the first post right at the end of February.
Below is a screenshot of my WordPress Google Analytics plugin showing the number of page views per day over the last month.
Over 15,000 page views is absolutely nothing to sneeze at, and I'm going to guess somewhere on the very high end for a 1st month personal finance blog. Hell, that's more than Mr. Freakin' Money Mustache in his first month. Suck it!
If you blew this number away in your first month, then let me know in the comments, and make sure to tell us all how you did it. Or just write a $97 25-page ebook.
You'll notice I had a little help. See that big-ass spike right in the center. That's from this site being featured on the content aggregator RockstarFinance.com.
J. Money (one of Rockstar's curators) shaved off a kick-ass beard in December and ever since has probably been super depressed about losing all that glorious awesomeness that the only way he could get to sleep at night was by helping out a fellow beard.
He sent a flood my way, and many of you folks have stuck around. Thank you.
Something else I find pretty neat from those stats is that you fantastic readers seem to stick around. The site's bounce rate is really low and the pages per session is insanely high for a site like this.
What that means is that people that come to Beards & Money stick around and read stuff. Considering my averagepost is a mind numbing 2,000 words that's pretty neat. We need to be careful, because I might start thinking I'm good at this.
What I did to QUICKLY build traffic
I built an old blog on which Google rained down more than 100,000 eyeballs per month. I drop a few posts on this site and I'm at 5-figures in weeks.
How did I build that much traffic?
I have no fucking clue. I assume I just wrote useful stuff.
Really. I comment on other folks blogs. I set-up a twitter thingy. Normal bloggy stuff. That, and a week-two feature in one of the niche's biggest traffic generators. You think that helped?
Basically, what I'm getting at is that I don't know diddly squat about blogging or how to make money from a blog. But I did manage to get enough traffic that I think we have a pretty good baseline for the experiment.
So ... how about that little experiment.
Sam's probably frantically reading to get to the part about whether or not he's an asshole. Let him play through. We'll just hang out here for a moment.
Did I make money from a blog?
The table below lists this blogs revenue for the month. Actually, it's only the revenue for a little more than 2 weeks, since not a single ad graced this space until the 14th or 15th of the month. (Just in time for the Rockstar flood, fortunately!)
Between Google AdSense and referrals to three affiliates, Beards & Money has managed to rake in $153.20. Holy shit.
My domain name cost $9.95 and I paid around $6 this month for hosting. That mean's the blog has paid for it's entire YEAR of expenses with over $70 left.
I want you to pay attention to the RPM value. RPM stands for Revenue Per Mille. "Mille" means thousand in Latin. Basically, you can think of it (and I present it here as) the amount of revenue your blog generates per 1,000 page views.
This month, Beards & Money generated $10.21 of revenue for every 1,000 page views. That's roughly 1 cent per page view.
Back to Sam. He says:
In general, you can make anywhere from 1-10 cents a pageview. In other words, if you have 100,000 pageviews a month, you can make $1,000 – $10,000 a month.
Well damn. It seems maybe Sam isn't a lying asshole, after all. This blog in its first month with a complete dumbass behind the wheel managed to fall right into the low end of Sam's income range.
Can YOU make money from a blog?
As a reminder, I don't think I'm going to tell my boss to fuck off 'cause I'm now a self-made hundredaire.
But let's play a little game. What if I grew the traffic from its first month 15,000 page views to something more impressive like 50k, or 100k, or more?
At the low end of the range, meaning "cats for teens," you could reasonably be making six-figures with 1,000,000 page views per month. I have a few reasons why I'm convinced it would actually be significantly higher than that, too.
First, I have no clue what the hell I'm doing. Do you think I might be a little more ballin' with a few years experience and several extra decimal places of traffic?
Second, there isn't any "consultant" money in that revenue list up above. No "sponsored post" money, either. If you look at Sam's examples, usually more than half of a bloggers income is coming in those forms. Most of the bloggers pulling those high numbers of page views will have better affiliate deals, too.
How awesome would it have been if I had an affiliate deal with a term life insurance company when I dropped that tear-jerker of a post on you the other day?
Get those those things straight and RPMs of $50 are probably in the cards, which give you numbers that look like this:
I'm just going to leave this little ad right here for ya ...
Start your own blog
I conducted the experiment so you don't have to. We now know that personal finance blogs can make money, Sam is not a lying asshole, and that Beards & Money is sort of a thing that people actually read now.
I'm a little surprised by all of those things.
Maybe I've convinced you to make money from a blog. If so, then let me suggest a couple of web hosts so that I can report even more revenue next month. I keep this up and eventually I'll be selling $97 ebooks.
If you were around in the beginning when companies were paying 15 year old kids like me to cobble together HTML, you think mucking around with file permissions is neat, and you get a kick out of using pico to edit PHP files through SSH, then use this site's host: NearlyFreeSpeech.net. (They don't have an affiliate program, so I don't get paid if you do.) I love them, but be warned, they literally laugh at you if you ask for some free customer support.
If you have no fucking clue what I was just talking about and just want a simple 1-click WordPress install and some basic customer support, then you should go with BlueHost.com.
If you already have an awesome money blog, then let me know about it in the comments, especially if you have managed to make money from a blog. I use CommentLuv so you get a great DoFollow link to your site for leaving a comment, which will help build traffic and search engine rank.
If your blog kicked my blogs ass in its first month, then I want to know that, too!
If you still think Sam is a lying asshole, then you should take that up with him.
Bam! 2,000 words blogging about how to make money from a blog.