According to ahrefs, 33% of bloggers report making no income at all from their websites.
Why is it that 1 out of 3 bloggers are putting in the work and not getting concrete results?
In this article, I’m going to review 7 reasons why so many bloggers never make a dime and give you suggestions for what to do instead so that YOU can be part of the 67% making at least a part-time living online.
What we cover:
Reason #1: Lack of a Clear Monetization Strategy
Many bloggers, especially newcomers, dive into the world of online monetization with great enthusiasm but without a clear plan.
They understand the potential of blogging as a tool to attract visitors but often miss the crucial step of defining a monetization strategy.
The key question is not just about attracting traffic, but understanding the purpose behind it. How does this traffic align with your overall business goals?
The Mistake of Over-Diversification
A common mistake is trying to monetize through every possible channel simultaneously.
From ads, affiliate marketing, and brand collaborations, to selling ebooks, courses, or memberships, and offering personal consultations, this approach can lead to burnout and disappointing results.
While it’s possible to earn money through all of these channels eventually, achieving success in all of them straight out of the gate is unlikely.
Focusing on One Goal at a Time
The solution lies in clarity and focus. Choose one monetization method to prioritize and work towards that goal until you hit it.
Once achieved, you can then consider expanding to other streams. Remember, without a clear destination, it’s challenging to chart a path to success.
The Three Blogging Business Models
In my SEO course, I delve into three primary blogging business models:
- Publisher Model: Ideal for those focusing on content creation without direct selling. Monetization comes from display ads, affiliate links, and possibly sponsored content. This model requires significant traffic, with a focus on high-volume keywords and frequent publishing.
- Online Business Model: This model is for bloggers aiming to attract customers for their products or services. The content strategy revolves around attracting the right audience, not just any audience. It involves creating content that resonates with potential customers and addresses their specific needs.
- Services Model: Similar to the Online Business Model, but focuses on attracting clients for personalized services. The content should be tailored to draw in an audience that is likely to be interested in these services.
Aligning Content with Goals
The type of content you create on your blog should align with your chosen monetization model. Mixing models without a clear strategy can lead to confusion and ineffective results.
For each model, the approach to content creation and SEO should be clear and purposeful.
Reason #2: Lack of a Clear Niche
A major stumbling block for many bloggers is not having a well-defined niche.
Often, bloggers attempt to cover topics that are too broad, such as wellness, travel, or cooking. These areas are vast and highly competitive, making it difficult for new bloggers to stand out and establish authority.
The Power of Niching Down
To make your mark and be recognized as an expert, it’s essential to niche down significantly.
For instance, instead of covering the broad topic of women’s health, focus on more specific areas like nutrition for PCOS or prenatal nutrition.
Similarly, rather than general cooking, consider niching into dairy-free cooking, low-sodium recipes, or low-FODMAP recipes.
Becoming the Ultimate Resource
The goal is to become the go-to resource in your specific niche. This not only improves your ranking in Google by clearly defining your area of authority but also enhances word-of-mouth referrals as you cater to a specific audience’s needs more effectively.
For example, a blog dedicated solely to nutrition for Crohn’s disease is more likely to build a loyal audience who will share your content, compared to a site that covers Crohn’s, IBS, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease all at once.
Focusing on one topic ensures that each piece of content you publish is highly relevant to your target audience, fostering trust and leading to more sales.
The Risk of Varied Topics
If you cover too many varied topics, you risk losing momentum with your readers, especially if only a fraction of your content is relevant to them.
This is true regardless of your monetization model. Even for ad revenue, the better strategy is to delve deep into one content cluster, establish authority, and then consider expanding.
Don’t Skip This Step
This issue of not niching down enough may sound cliché, but it’s a frequent challenge I’ve observed in my SEO Made Simple program, which has enrolled over 950 people.
The temptation to write about a wide array of topics or chase good keywords that don’t align with your niche can be strong, but it’s crucial to resist.
Your website should immediately communicate what you’re an expert in and how you can help your visitors. If it doesn’t, it’s time to reassess and refine your niche.
Reason #3: Focusing on Your Interests Over Audience Needs
Another critical error many bloggers make is writing content based on their personal interests rather than focusing on what their audience is actively searching for.
This issue often arises from a lack of understanding of SEO and the fundamental purpose of blog content.
The Importance of Audience-Attracting Content
If the goal is to expand your audience, it’s essential to create content around topics that people are searching for.
This approach requires intention and strategy, not just random thoughts or inspirations. Success in blogging doesn’t happen by accident; it demands a well-thought-out content calendar.
Embracing Keyword Research
To achieve results within a reasonable timeframe (typically at least a year of consistent publishing), embracing the concept of keyword research is crucial.
This process involves using data to guide your content creation decisions. Tools are available to identify what phrases people are typing into Google, the frequency of these searches, and the competition for ranking on the first page for these queries.
Blogging as a Business Tool
It’s vital to remember that a blog is not a personal journal but a business asset and marketing tool.
Treating your content creation seriously and strategically can significantly improve your results. A lack of a clear keyword research strategy is a major reason why many bloggers struggle to monetize their blogs.
The Power of SEO
To illustrate, consider my own experience. When I first started food blogging, I lacked SEO knowledge and published recipes based on what I found appealing, hoping for social media traction.
After two and a half years and about 150 recipes, my site attracted less than 2,000 monthly visitors from Google – a poor return on investment.
In contrast, after understanding SEO and keyword research, I grew a new blog from zero to 20,000 monthly visitors in just 10 months with only 10 blog posts.
That’s an average of 2,000 visitors per post, a 100-fold increase in effectiveness with significantly less content. This example underscores the transformative impact of good SEO practices.
(Want to learn more about my blogging framework? Check out my free masterclass that shows you the ropes!)
Reason #4: Absence of a Structured Content Plan
Even with a clear understanding of monetization, niche, and keyword research, many bloggers still struggle due to the lack of a structured content plan.
A common issue is the absence of organized content categories on their website, leading to a disorganized stream of posts that doesn’t serve readers or Google effectively.
The Concept of Content Clusters
A successful strategy I advocate for is the creation of content clusters. This involves identifying a few main categories you want to be known for and developing clusters of content around these topics.
Creating Pillar Posts and Supporting Content
For each main category, start with a comprehensive pillar post that serves as an ultimate guide on the topic.
Then, create supporting content targeting longer-tail, easier-to-rank-for keywords. These supporting articles should link back to the main pillar post, helping to pass link authority and improve the chances of ranking for competitive terms.
For instance, a low-FODMAP dietitian might have blog categories for each phase of the diet, like the elimination phase, reintroduction phase, and maintenance phase.
A pillar post could be titled “How to Get Started on an Elimination Diet: The Ultimate Guide,” followed by supporting posts on topics like low-FODMAP pasta options, vegetarian tips, and other common challenges.
Benefits of This Structure
This approach is beneficial both for SEO and user experience. It helps Google understand the relationship between your content and its importance, and it organizes your site logically for visitors.
Many bloggers overlook this step in their content and site structure planning.
If you need assistance with this, it’s a topic I cover extensively in the site structure section of my SEO Made Simple course. I also address it frequently in my office hour calls.
For those interested in learning more and getting a special discount on my course, visit seofreebie.com to watch my free masterclass.
Reason #5: The Perfectionism Trap
A less commonly discussed but significant barrier to blogging success is the pursuit of perfection over progress.
Blogging, like any business, is inherently messy, and success often comes from taking consistent, albeit imperfect, actions over time.
The reality is that not every blog post will be a hit.
Some posts may unexpectedly soar to the top of search results, while others, despite meticulous effort, may not perform as well.
The key lesson is not to get bogged down in perfecting every detail of your blog posts. In blogging, done is often better than perfect.
Setting a Realistic Publishing Schedule
I recommend setting a realistic publishing frequency, such as weekly or bi-weekly, and committing to it.
Blogging allows for feedback, although not as instant as social media. This feedback is valuable for revising and improving posts over time.
Utilizing Google Search Console for Insights
After a few months, you can use Google Search Console to see how your posts are performing and what keywords they’re ranking for.
This data can guide you in tweaking your content to increase its relevance and authority for additional search terms.
Blog Content as a Work in Progress
Consider your blog content as an ongoing project.
I recommend revisiting and refreshing your content annually, as needed.
(You can find all my guidance on how to do this effectively inside my course, SEO Made Simple.)
The Importance of Getting Content Out There
The main takeaway is to publish your content and learn from real-world experience. There’s no substitute for actual feedback.
In the blogging world, done is better than perfect.
Remember, you’ll have opportunities to revise and optimize your content based on real data. There’s no such thing as a perfect post, so let real-world insights guide your improvements.
Reason #6: The Lone Wolf Approach
Blogging as a business involves numerous moving parts. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that it’s very normal to feel that way.
While it’s possible to learn and grow independently, it’s definitely worth considering the benefits of seeking guidance.
The Value of Learning from Experienced Mentors
Many bloggers underestimate what they don’t know, especially about SEO.
I’ve seen students join my course, thinking they had a good grasp on SEO, only to discover crucial strategies and insights they had missed.
Learning from people who are doing or have done what you hope to achieve can provide you with valuable shortcuts and insights that might otherwise be overlooked.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of community. Engaging with a group of like-minded individuals pursuing similar goals can be incredibly motivating and informative.
In my SEO Made Simple course, we have a vibrant community where students share experiences, challenges, and successes, fostering an incredibly supportive learning environment.
The Impact of Structured Learning
For most people, structured learning through a course or program can accelerate the journey to success.
Investing in high-quality training can offer returns that far outweigh the initial cost, especially when considering the potential for ad revenue or sales from an online business.
I personally have invested over $35,000 in trainings, communities, and mentorships that have been pivotal in helping me make leaps forward in my online businesses.
The Power of Conversion
Imagine reaching 10,000 people monthly with SEO-optimized content. Even with a modest conversion rate to your email list and subsequent course sales, the potential for recurring revenue is significant.
If just 2% of your website visitors convert to your email list, that’s 200 new subscribers every single month. If you convert just 3% of those new subscribers into customers each month, that would be 6 new customers every month, thanks to the power of SEO.
Recognizing the Need for Help
Many bloggers struggle to monetize their blogs because they try to do everything alone, missing crucial elements of a successful strategy.
If you find yourself in this situation, remember that help is available, and I would be thrilled to guide you through my course if my teaching style resonates with you.
Reason #7: Giving Up Too Soon
SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s common to see just modest results in the first 6 to 12 months, even with a solid strategy from the start. However, once growth begins, it often follows a steep, hockey-stick trajectory.
A Personal Example of Growth
To illustrate, let me share my experience with my nutrition blog launched in October 2018.
In the first month, we had only 20 sessions from Google search. The numbers grew slowly at first … 62, then 73, 212, 581, and finally 2,743 sessions in the sixth month.
This gradual increase eventually exploded to 6,000, then 16,000, and 20,000 monthly visitors by month 10!
The Temptation to Quit Early
Many bloggers quit just before experiencing significant growth. Six months of hard work with little to show can be disheartening, but it’s crucial to maintain faith in your strategy. Once the growth starts, it can be rapid and exhilarating.
I advise giving your blog at least a full year of strategic, consistent effort.
If, after a year, you’re not seeing an upward trend, consider getting an external audit. A fresh perspective can identify areas for improvement that you might have missed.
Persistence is Key
For those in the early stages, my advice is simple: keep going.
And for those who have been at it for years without seeing the desired results, don’t give up. Often, existing content can be optimized to attract more traffic.
Remember, every step is a learning opportunity, and with new knowledge, you can continually improve and grow.
That’s it, for the seven critical reasons why many bloggers don’t earn a single dime.
To quickly summarize:
- Lack of a Clear Monetization Strategy: Without a specific plan for making money, success remains elusive.
- Undefined Niche: A broad focus dilutes impact and authority.
- Content Misalignment: Writing for personal interest rather than audience needs limits reach and engagement.
- No Structured Content Plan: Without organization, even the best content can get lost.
- Perfectionism Over Progress: Focusing on perfection hinders growth and learning.
- Solo Endeavors: Going it alone can mean missed opportunities and insights.
- Premature Quitting: Giving up too soon before SEO efforts can truly flourish.
If this discussion has inspired you to shift your approach and embrace strategic SEO in your blogging journey, I invite you to check out my free training at seofreebie.com and learn the 4 key steps to more effective blogging.
And don’t forget to subscribe to The Unconventional RD on YouTube for more insightful content like this. Stay tuned for future updates and tips to elevate your blogging game!
Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.