Personal Finance Blog Income Report - Month 1
Updated: Feb 16
Blogging is a bit of a weird industry. When you think "blogger" you probably think of someone who is a stay-at-home mom bringing in six-figures by blogging about recipes or how to stay on top of a home. Or maybe you think about some data nerd with unwashed hair sitting on an upturned bucket in their mother's basement talking about spin rate in Major League Baseball. And, while both of those are true, blogging has extended out into the mainstream. Reports of higher end bloggers making over $100,000 per month are plentiful now, and it's all types of industries: pets, finance, makeup, food, travel, whatever! So, as your humble finance blogger who has set out on a journey of his own, I want to break down exactly how much I've made in my first month. Let's go!
How Do Bloggers Make Money?
Advertising: A Blogger's Best Friend
Advertising is the main source of revenue for a blogger such as myself, and is the easiest source of revenue for a reader to wrap their mind around. It's the banner ads you see on my website that advertise some service or product, and each time someone sees an ad, I get paid a fraction of a cent. Advertising is primarily based on a "CPM" model, which is marketing speak for "cost per thousand impressions." Each time an ad is viewed, that counts as one impression. The rates for these vary wildly depending on the industry you're in. Are you a food blogger? Your rates might be $2-$5. What about a bit more niche, like makeup? You may be looking at somewhere around $7-$10. Blogs about finance can reach up to $20 CPM's, and you can get even higher if you get even more in the weeds, like a blog specifically about insurance or taxes.
The reasons these rates fluctuate is because of the advertisers behind them. They are more willing to pay higher prices to advertise if they are able to get more targeted with their ads, because it's then more likely that they will get a sale out of that ad campaign, offsetting the cost. So who are the biggest advertising platforms?
Google Adsense is the 800-pound gorilla in this space. Adsense not only runs across blogs, but they are also responsible for all of the YouTube ads you see on your favorite videos. They're the primary go-to for typical advertising, but they aren't the only game in town. You can be like me and use Propeller Ads, an up-and-coming ads platform that serves more engaging ad units, and in turn, can generate more revenue for the content creator. Or you can go the native advertising route, including clickbait-style links at the bottom of your pages. Those are run by companies like Taboola, Outbrain or Nativo and typically generate big revenue for their clients. In turn, they require big-time page views, so they are typically very selective with their clientele.
Just like a professional athlete gets endorsement deals with a shoe company, so too can a blogger get sponsored by companies in their industry. Sponsorships can be a large percentage of a blogger's income as contracts with individual companies are hammered out typically on a yearly basis. In return for the pile of cash handed to you by a sponsor, you either write about their company via a review, or mention a sponsorship and work with their sales team to develop ad copy. Congratulations! You're now an "influencer."
Self-made materials can be the most lucrative revenue generator for a blogger, but it can also take the most amount of time. When I mention this, it's focused primarily on: e-books, instructional courses or membership groups that directly drive revenue between the content creator and the consumer. Ramit Sethi of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" fame noted that his e-book was a growth and revenue accelerator for his blog when he appeared on Tim Ferriss's podcast several years ago.
This can also be merchandise made by the creator. James Charles, noted makeup YouTuber, has his own makeup line. Emma Chamberlain and Graham Stephan both have coffee lines. The Paul brothers have clothing lines and athletic wear. Whatever you can come up with, you can likely find a resource online to make it and ship it to your adoring fans at a nice profit.
This is the one likely most popular with bloggers, outside of standard advertising. Affiliate links are links unique to you and shared by you to a product or service from a company. When a user clicks that link and makes a purchase, you receive a percentage of revenue. If you Google "ways a blog makes money" (which is likely how you ended up here), you'll see this pretty high on everyone's list. You'll also probably see a link to "Bluehost," a popular blog hosting platform that many Wordpress users use. The reason why? Because Bluehost pays out 40% on their affiliate links, which is a remarkable percentage. You can certainly see how all of that cash ads up for a content creator.
So How Much Have I Made?
Drum roll please..............the answer is............not a lot. Let me break it down:
Advertising via Propeller Ads: $0.15
Affiliate links: $0
Medium.com cross-posting: $7.60
The reason for this is because I just started! Not too many people are swinging by the blog yet because SEO takes anywhere from 6-12 months to kick in. Side note: if you found me via Google Search, thanks for coming by! Stay awhile. Anyway, I've made a whopping 15 cents from Propeller so far, which is fine. I'm not too bothered about that yet. Check back in a few months.
The biggest revenue driver I have is via my cross-posting on Medium. Medium is actually where I started, and is one of the biggest blogging ecosystems on the internet. In an effort to get more eyeballs on my content, I cross-post content from here onto Medium, but I actually write custom articles for them as well. 100% of my revenue from them came from one post, where I responded to a writing prompt in one of their bigger publications about my professional salary history. That post went as viral as I've ever had a post go, and garnered nearly 300 page views. As most of them were Medium paying members, it was able to generate a bit of revenue for me.
Is Blogging Worth It?
For me, absolutely. I didn't start blogging just to bring in cash, though it would help. I started blogging because it was fun! It gives me a creative outlet to fuel my ideas, and helps me become a better writer. I'm also super passionate about personal finance, and I hope that this site really adds some value to the lives of people reading my stuff. I'll do another check in at the six-month mark to show you guys where I am at that point, and my future plans for the blog. Until then, thanks for reading my content and I hope to see you on the next post!