Developing six-figure blogging income is great but more important are the lessons that will take your blog further
Six-figure blogging income seems to be the target for many bloggers. That mythical and rounded point you start making $100,000 or more and prove your credentials as an internet entrepreneur.
I got a taste of it over the last three months. Just as the keys to the secret bloggers’ washroom were being handed to me…the glory was snatched from my grasp. I’m afraid now that I may only hit a previous target for the year of around $70,000 from my budding internet empire.
Cry me a river, right?
I’m proud of the income sources I’ve built over the last 28 months and more important than hitting that illusive six-figure blogging goal are three lessons I learned over the first quarter of 2017.
I’ll detail how I grew blogging income to a record to start the year before sharing three lessons below that will help take your website to the next level.
2017 Blogging Income through March
The year has started with a bang, booking over $19,000 in blogging income for the first quarter including a record in March.
I published three more books in the first quarter and March income jumped to $2,153 on ten books. Self-publishing is a natural fit for bloggers and you can work it into your content calendar to make it seamless. Amazon owns an ebook publisher (Kindle), paperback (CreateSpace) and audio (Audible) which makes it easy to get all your formats sold through one platform.
As an added bonus for bloggers, your website will act as a natural marketing channel for your books. Driving a constant stream of sales from your website to Amazon means your book ranks higher and Amazon’s algorithm takes over to do the rest of the work for you.
Sponsored posts continued to do well with $2,763 for the quarter and $1,145 for March. I’m still only making between $90 and $150 per sponsored post so I am planning on spending the summer really pushing traffic higher through a content audit and an SEO strategy. That means I can come back to advertisers before the holiday shopping rush with higher rates.
Affiliate advertising was the standout this quarter, accounting for $10,108 for the three months and $3,664 in March. Running five websites opens up a lot of different categories in which to find affiliate products that I feel comfortable endorsing rather than being limited to one niche.
I did some Facebook advertising in January and March to promote an affiliate post for real estate investing. Advertising an affiliate post is always difficult because you have to get the per-click cost low enough to be worth it. This is easier on Facebook because you can test images, headlines and text through different ads to see which ones convert best. You start with a lower budget on the individual ads and gradually turn off the non-performing ones, raising your daily budget on the best ads.
Beyond the advertising budget, affiliate income has spiked after running a few posts through my Google SEO process. By carefully optimizing for the right keywords and building some backlinks, I’ve been able to rank my affiliate posts on Google to get free traffic every month.
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I’ve been limiting the Google Adsense and Amazon advertising on the blogs so display ads only brought in $150 last month. Display advertising is more intrusive than other income sources and it’s never going to develop into six-figure blogging income. I’m doing away with Google Adsense entirely this year to focus on higher-value income sources.
Freelancing Income Puts Me Over the Six-Figure Milestone…Almost
I started freelancing as an investment analyst in 2011 to build an income source until I could develop the blogs. I learned a lot about writing and web development even before launching the blogs in 2014 but have since cut back to just one client.
That client, an investing website I’ve worked for since 2012, was nearly half of my total income in the first three months of the year. I write a weekly investment piece ($650 a month) and a twice-monthly newsletter about investing in startups and equity crowdfunding.
The newsletters were massive projects, usually about 5,000 words or more, but were worth it. The contract paid a base of $3,000 a month plus 10% commission on the subscriptions which ended up being just over a grand a month.
That meant three consecutive months of income $10,000+ and what could have been my first year as a six-figure blogger.
…until the client unexpectedly pulled the newsletter at the end of March. It wasn’t a complete surprise. There are still very few investors interested in equity crowdfunding and evidently even fewer willing to pay for a newsletter subscription.
Blogging Expenses for the First Quarter
I haven’t shared my expenses in previous blogging income reports but thought I would start in the interest of transparency. It’s up to you how much of your blogging profits you put back into your online business.
I know one superstar blogger that makes a point of plowing 50% of profits back into his website. He’s been able to grow the blog beyond a six-figure site and gets millions of visitors a month so he must be doing something right.
I’ve been budgeting $1,250 a month for business expenses and growth which is just under 20% of monthly income. I’ve run the blogs lean over the last two years, trying to do as much as possible myself, but will probably try ramping it up a little with more service work and advertising this year.
Coca-Cola spent more than $17 billion last year investing in its future growth. You don’t have to spend a lot but don’t neglect putting money back into your blog to grow the business.
My quarterly and monthly blogging expenses included:
I like to break out my annual expenses on a monthly basis as well to give me a better idea of how much it costs to produce income. I have an assistant that helps with sponsored posts, taking 30% of the fee per post, but I record the blogging income net-of-fees so haven’t included it in expenses.
Three Lessons from my Six-Figure Blog
I was on track to hit that fabled goal of six-figure blogging income until the newsletter contract flopped.
I’m confident I’ll get there eventually. I tripled my blogging income for the first three months of the year compared to the $5,970 made in the first quarter of last year. More important that hitting some arbitrary income goal were the three lessons I learned over the quarter and what it means for the websites going forward.
1) Being successful in any business is about adapting and overcoming challenges. I know bloggers that have had to deal with blog traffic that dropped by hundreds of thousands in a single month. Affiliate advertisers are always pausing or terminating their programs, leaving blogs scrambling for other income sources.
I lost more than 40% of my income at the end of March but that’s how it goes sometimes. I can let it drive me into a depressive oblivion or I can refocus the extra time on growing my blogs.
Of all the superstar bloggers I know, very few are wunderkind tech kids that were bound to be successful. The vast majority of six-figure blogs are successful simply because the blogger put in the time over years to develop the business no matter what challenges they faced.
2) Probably the biggest news of the quarter is that I sold the dating website I bought last May. I bought the site for $500 because it was a three-year old domain with a strong profile of backlinks. I thought I could monetize it a little better and increase traffic. I ended up booking a few hundred dollars a month in affiliate and other income and selling the site for $1,300 in March.
I was able to double blog traffic and income was creeping up. The problem was, and this is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in blogging, that I just wasn’t interested in the topic. I’ve been married for almost eight years and have been out of the dating scene for a few years before that. I could read other blogs and pull from past experience to write posts but just found the site a pain to update. When it came to developing books or larger products, I procrastinated getting started for so long because the content just didn’t motivate me.
Whether your blog makes $6 a year or six-figures, it has to come from a passion. You can’t force yourself into a topic no matter how profitable or how much of an opportunity it might be. Even if you are able to force yourself to publish articles regularly, your readers will pick up on your lack of excitement for the niche.
Want to be successful, whether at blogging or anything? Remember Steve Jobs’ advice on work:
…the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
3) The final lesson I learned about blogging this quarter was the realization that I needed higher-value products. I’m doing well with self-publishing but that $2,000 a month means selling nearly 900 copies across the three Amazon platforms. Affiliate sales pay a little more, from $25 and up to $150 for one program, but you’re always dependent on an advertiser.
I attended a session at a conference last September where the speaker talked about making between $30k to $70k a month using webinars to sell blogging courses. He wasn’t spinning his wheels every month for nickels and dimes but getting $1,000 a pop for his course.
You can reach that six-figure blogging status with affiliates, self-publishing and a few of the smaller blogging income sources but you’re going to work your ass off! Taking your internet empire to the next level means creating higher-value products like video courses, membership sites and workshops.
That probably won’t happen overnight. High-value usually means putting in the time to master a subject and creating something amazing.
I’m trying to do that with a series of eight video courses on investing. Each course will be upwards of ten hours long and it’s looking like it will take at least nine months to write it all out. I’m taking the time and putting everything into these new products because I know they will help take my sites to the next level.
Six-figure blogging income is a fun target and totally reachable for anyone. Don’t take your eyes off the bigger picture of developing your internet assets and the lessons you learn along the way. You’ll grow your online empire every year and will create something to be proud of.