Can blogging still be a profitable way to earn a living?
In this article, I’ve compiled a list of six bloggers who can answer that question with a resounding yes! And they’ve got their profitable digital empires to prove it.
Now when you read about these bloggers making tons of money online, one of the many questions that could sear your mind is: how do they do it?
As an avid reader of blogs myself, I’ve rounded up these six successful bloggers’ case studies and interviews so we could all take a peek at what went on behind the scenes.
Read on to get some ideas that’ll give your blogging career that extra push!
1. Robbie Richards - Blog Earnings: Over $5K/Month
Solely through his blog, Robbie Richards was able to generate over $5K in monthly affiliate revenue without spending a dime on ads or any other traffic-generation strategies.
In his detailed case study, Robbie shared how he was also able to boost organic traffic by 402%, increase email sign-ups by 7x, gain over 4K subscribers, and monetize his email list.
Sounds very productive! Curious about his processes?
Here are his major blogging tips, summarized:
Perform keyword research for existing content and identify your low-hanging fruit. Any keywords that you are ranking between the top 6 and 20 results for and have a monthly average search of about 300 are your low-hanging fruit. In Robbie’s words: “These are the areas where a small ranking improvement can generate big organic traffic gains.”
Use Excel filters, conditional formatting, and other sorting techniques to help you sift faster through massive keyword lists.
Optimize, update, and re-publish existing posts that correspond to your final keywords.
Reformat longer posts into more readable, skimmable articles. Break paragraphs into three or four-sentence snippets, add images or other media for every 100 words and add a table of contents with jump links to certain sections of your article.
Use headlines and subheadings that are eye-catching and that clearly state the benefit the reader is going to get.
Upon relaunching your updated content, update the publish date as well. Reach out to people who’ve previously shared, commented, or whom you’ve promoted this article to before, and let them know of the update.
Pin your post at the top of your Twitter page. Using an auto scheduler, set your post to be shared on your social media platforms more than once throughout a 30-day cycle. Change your taglines and hashtags.
Change your email subject heading and resend your newsletter to users who didn’t open it in the first cycle.
Use Thrive Builder or other similar apps to reformat your main landing page using the Upside Down Homepage technique. Essentially, this puts your opt-in form at the topmost part of your landing page as a banner, where it will get the most attention. According to Robbie, changing his layout this way increased his conversions by over 7x.
Use the Welcome Mat (or a Lead Magnet) for all your highest-traffic pages. In essence, this strategy is about laying all your best offers on a single, full-page CTA to make it enticing enough for a reader to convert. It was this strategy that helped Robbie add over 4.8k subscribers to his email list.
Use Smart Links to differentiate the opt-in forms you show between an existing subscriber and a new reader. This lets you display your typical opt-in subscription form to a new reader, while you can set to display a new and more relevant deal, such as a new ebook, webinar, or app coupon to an existing subscriber.
2. Lena Gott of What Mommy Does - Blog Earnings: Over $10K/Month
Blogger and Founder of What Mommy Does Lena Gott shared how she was able to earn 10K/ month in just 10 months of blogging. As a stay-at-home mom, she only works from 20 to 25 hours a week, which makes this quite a feat. According to her income reports, Lena mainly earned from ads, ebooks, sponsored posts, and affiliate commissions on her blog.
Here are some of the pointers from her case study:
Identify your highest-converting content. Focus your efforts on directing more page views to those high converting articles (high-converting articles aren’t necessarily the high-traffic ones), and create more of the like. The goal is not simply to get more page views. The goal is to get more pageviews to the pages that matter.
Validate your ideas on a smaller scale before spending on paid ads. To quote Lena: “It’s much more cost-effective to test your ideas with a small data set first and then ramp up later with paid ads as opposed to spending money without knowing if your offer will convert on a large-scale.”
Write targeted posts by getting to know your readers better and finding out what problem of theirs you can help solve. According to Lena, before sitting down to write a blog post, she asks herself these questions:
Focus on getting your 1k loyal customers who will support you all the way and buy your products. These are a lot are better than 100k vaguely interested readers.
Unless you want to be just another “me-too” business, do not conform. Follow your own taste and find the tribe who will take to what you produce. But be careful not to reinvent the wheel on everything.
Don’t spread your resources too thin. Focus on being great at a few marketing channels at a time.
Give away great material for free, that way, once you establish your authority as a high-quality provider, you get to charge top dollar for the products that you do want to sell.
Be specific about your ideal customer. Think of your business as a high-end, selective boutique store where, because you serve top-quality work, you get to choose only the right customers to let in.
In whatever content you write, give 80% valuable meat and keep your sales pitch at 20%.
If someone who is not a fit wants to buy your product, let them know and direct them to another product, even if it’s from a competitor, if you think that it’s a better fit. Establishing this sort of trust is vital. They won’t see you as someone who just wants to get sales ASAP, but as someone, they can trust to point them in the right direction.
Do not pursue cheap clicks that don’t give you revenue. Insist on quality, deliver it, and charge for it.
Block off at least an hour in your day (Ramit blocks off one whole day per week) to sit down for some big picture strategizing.
In another interview, Michael Alexis distilled some of Ramit’s practical advice into a guide.
Below are some highlights:
Know your target readers and write blog posts with them in mind. Appeal to these target readers. Do not kowtow to the requests of readers who are not part of this cohort. It’s okay to, in Ramit’s words, “send them to that other blog.”
Pick the right kind of customer. According to Ramit, you’re better off targeting the customer type he refers to as “Vicky Value,” or someone who is more concerned with getting value and is willing to pay the commensurate price for it, as opposed to customer types he refers to as “Frugal Fred,” or someone obsessed with cost-cutting and is less likely to spend on anything if it surpasses his designated budget.
Write the way you speak and think; in other words, show your personality in every blog post you write. Do not be afraid to offend. The ones who get offended and leave aren’t your target readers, anyway. It’s a great way to help you filter your cohorts faster. Also, trying to appeal to everyone makes you boring. Ramit advises against it.
Read voraciously every day. Ramit admits that he consumes material related to his target niche for several hours a day. But don’t make it a passive activity, either. Take notes, write up ideas, save annotations into an app, and make very specific tags so you can pull these out the next time you need topics for a blog post.
Have an editorial calendar. List the top topics you want to be an authority for, pick the ones that resonate most with your target readers than consistently write your best articles around these.
Not every idea needs to be immediately turned into a post. According to Ramit, he has over 100 drafts saved in his blog of ideas that he hasn’t finished writing out yet. Post only when you think it’s ready, and when you think it’s the best you could make it.
Take as much reasonable time as you need to write your post as best you can. According to Ramit, it takes him on average 12 hours to write a guest post. In one case, it took him 18 hours! But these guest posts gave him major returns. So as long as you provide value and profit from the effort, don’t worry about those hours.
Use your email marketing platform’s segmenting feature to help you test different writing styles, copy, etc. You can, of course, test for other things that you need. In one case, one marketer even created his own advanced workflow just to create specific email funnel A/B tests that he wanted to do.
When it comes to guest blogging, research your prospects well and befriend the owners before sending a pitch. Make sure the blog has your same target audience, the same principles you believe in, and uses a voice and style you agree with.
If emailing doesn’t work, try building a relationship with a target prospect by commenting on their blogs. Not useless spam comments, of course, but comments that actually spark interesting conversations.
Do not monetize too early. Always test first what profit channel works, pays the bills, and doesn’t turn off your audience.
Offer value. And then offer more.
Think long-term and offer tons of value in your blog posts.
Sell only products that your customer wants. If your target readers are suddenly preoccupied with a topic you don’t necessarily write about, check out what it is and find common ground. For example, Ramit was never interested in frugality tips. But when the recession hit, almost everyone, including his target readers, was affected by it, so he found a way to compromise and adjust to the needs at the time.
4. Internet Marketing Blogger Matthew Woodward - Blog Earnings: Over $20k/Month
Matthew Woodward’s success has proven that anyone can seriously earn a living just by blogging—no SEO strategies and link building needed. Yep, he said it. His whole blog is a huge case study about what would happen if you simply followed Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and forgot all about SEO.
He has earned over $1 million as of November 2017 and has steady monthly revenues averaging over $20k, so this experiment seems to be working.
According to his income reports, he earns mostly from affiliate commissions, ads, and some side projects through his blog, such as consultations.
Know what your target customer wants, and create content based on that. Matthew browsed through forums, blogs, and read comments from his readers. This gave him more insight into what is really top of mind for his target audience.
Post on forums such as TrafficPlanet & WarriorForum. Interact with your readers in the comments section and reply to their emails.
Build a forums section on your blog where readers can ask questions. This can also be a source of topic ideas your next blog post.
Matthew also stressed the importance of writing the way you speak. Be direct and straightforward.
Set up your blog with the end goal in mind, whether that be subscribing to your newsletter/social media/product/email updates, selling products, or making money from affiliate commissions.
Offer exclusive content to readers if they sign up or share your post to their network. (Make sure to offer something they can’t resist in exchange for their email address!)
Post video tutorials along with the transcript and feature a CTA at the end of these videos.
Host a competition.
5. Smart Passive Income Blogger Pat Flynn Earnings: $200k in One Year
From being laid off to becoming an internet sensation, Pat Flynn’s success story is one for the books.
Entrepreneurs Journey published an interview/case study of Pat Flynn where he shared the details on how he generated 200K+ in just over a year.
To date, the Smart Passive Income Blog has made around 2M+ revenue, and here are some of what Pat did through his blog to contribute to that income:
Educate your readers through your blog and write about your expertise and interests. When Pat started out his blog, he was still an employed architect and preparing for a professional exam called LEED. He posted his notes on his blog and soon, it became a hit. At first, he earned only around $20 to $25 per month on Adsense.
Publish an ebook. Write something you’re well versed about or compile info from your blog posts. Once Pat saw traffic coming in, he compiled all of his blog posts together and sold these as an ebook. He made $8k in his first month.
Create membership sites. This is a good source of recurring and more stable income. But make sure that members get quality content and support. Launch with a pilot group and collect feedback. Keep tweaking your product until you get to MVP. Then, promote it on all channels. Add fresh content regularly and make time to interact with your members.
Start a podcast. Some learners are visual, some prefer audio—or may just be too preoccupied to read. Having a podcast can let you serve other types of audiences: the busy executive who only has downtime when he’s on the treadmill, the busy employee who can make time for extra content while on the subway, the work-from-home mom who can listen to your content while she’s cooking food with her baby strapped to her. Of course, when you start a podcast, add a transcript, which is good for SEO.
Sell online courses. These make for good products because you only need to invest time and cash to create these, and after that, you can keep reselling them for as long as your topic is not obsolete.
Become a consultant. Consulting services can also be a good source of income. This is something you cannot outsource, though, to maintain a great reputation and quality repertoire of learning materials so you can charge enough to make it worth your time.
6. Internet Marketing Guru Neil Patel Who Earns 1M+ Per Year Through Blogging
As a digital marketer who runs Kissmetrics, Quicksprout and Hello Bar, Neil Patel still highly credits blogging as his number one revenue-generating machine.In a case study, Neil Patel allocated over 90 percent of their marketing budget—roughly between $5k and $6k—on blog creation. This resulted in over 700k visitors and over 900k page views in January of 2015 (screenshot below), which translated to more than 8k leads. A little over 5k, or roughly 62% out of these leads, came from his blogs.
Neil has since enjoyed a 6-figure monthly income coming from the sales of his products and services i.e. KISSMetrics Analytics Solution Software—thanks in large part to most of the leads that were funneled in through the quality of his blog posts.
So, some pointers from Neil’s strategy:
Create exceptionally good content and increase your blog traffic to, ideally, from 10k to 50k visitors a month.
Put an opt-in box at the end of blog posts. For Quicksprout, this typically converted an average of 0.75% to 2% or 7 to 20 visitors out of every 1k sign-ups.
Network with influencers and bloggers. Answer questions in Q&A forums and comment section. Make sure these answers are detailed, helpful, and actionable. No generic fluff.
Make sure all your blog posts deliver clear, actionable, valuable advice to your readers.
Don’t worry about article length. Take as long as you need to research and expound if it adds value and clarity to your points. Add as many visual aids as you can.
The title and subheadings are your few-second windows to hook your audience’s attention, so make the copy of these sections count. In as concise and clear a manner as you can, show the reader, from a quick glance, the benefits they’ll get if they read your article.
As these successful bloggers show, it is still entirely possible to earn a living through blogging. I hope, by reading this curated list, that you’ve picked a quick strategy, maybe even hatched an idea or two of your own, to help you take your blog to the next level.
Finally, let me know which case study inspired you the most by sharing your thoughts below!
David Schneider is the co-founder and CEO of Ninja Outreach, an all-in-one Influencer prospecting, outreach, and CRM software for marketers. Ninja Outreach also offers expert, Done-For-You outreach services for those who want to outsource their influencer marketing campaigns to professionals. (Update - Dave no longer runs these websites, but can be found at lesschurn.io and daveschneider.me).