Blogging can be a great way to earn money and grow your business online. But it’s no walk-in-the-park or get-rich-quick scheme.
Blogging is hard work and a long-term game, and success isn’t guaranteed. In fact, one out of every three bloggers never make a dime from their websites.
In this episode, I’m talking about seven reasons why so many bloggers never make ANY money online.
Plus, I give you suggestions for what to do instead so that you can be part of the majority making at least a part-time living online.
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If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably interested in starting or scaling an online business. And you’ve probably heard me talk a lot about the power of SEO for growing a large monetizeable audience in a slow and steady organic way. However, the blogging world is not all rainbows and unicorns. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Blogging is hard work
and a longterm game. And for every success you hear. There are seven other stories of burnout and meager results. In fact, according to some stats, curated by ahrefs 33% of bloggers report making no income at all from their websites. Now, why is that? You may ask why is it that one out of three bloggers are putting in the work and not getting concrete results?
In this podcast episode, I’m going to review seven 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 majority making at least a part-time living online. Let’s dive into it.
So the first reason why so many bloggers fail to make money online. Is that they don’t have a clear monetization strategy. Ah, this one is so huge. It’s an issue I see with newer bloggers and online business owners all the time. They’re all in on the idea of making money online. They understand how blogging can be a super effective way to bring people to their website and they get super, super excited about it and just jump right in creating content willy-nilly without a clear plan for what they’re creating and why.
Because getting traffic is just step one. The bigger, more important question is why do you want that traffic? What are you trying to do with it? How does growing your audience with SEO tie into your overall business goals? And the biggest mistake I see in this area is that people are trying to monetize in every possible way. All at once they want ads, they want affiliate income. They want to work with brands. They want to sell eBooks. They want to do an online course. They maybe might launch a membership.
Oh, and they’ll also work with you. One-on-one if you want. And that is a recipe for burnout and lack of results. And well, yes, it is possible to make money via all of these channels. It’s not possible to see rapid success in all of them all at once. You need to get crystal clear on which monetization method you want to optimize first and set your sights on that goal until you accomplish it.
Once you’ve met that goal, then you can build systems, start to outsource a little bit. And then tackle the next income stream. I mean, if you let clarity on where you’re trying to go, how can you really get there? Right. And since this is such a common problem point for bloggers, I’ve actually added a whole lesson on this to my SEO course, and I also added a special, fast action bonus for people who enroll in my course, after they watch my free master class.
And this bonus is called the successful bloggers roadmap. And I walk you through the three main pathways for making money on your blog and exactly what you need to be focusing on in each stage in order to see results as quickly as possible. I’ll kind of summarize that information right now on this podcast.
But just know that I go way more in depth with people. If you are in my course. So I’ve come up with three blogging business models that I see food, nutrition and wellness bloggers fall into the majority of the time. The first is the publisher model. The second is the online business model. And the third is a services model.
And the key point, if you’re listening to this right now, is that it’s really important that you pick one. Yes. One of these monetization models from the start and focus wholeheartedly on that model. Because the type of content you create and the reasons why you’re creating the content in the first place are dramatically different between the models and mixing and matching them is just a recipe for confusion and poor results. So let’s go over each one in a bit more detail.
I have covered this in past podcast episodes. So I’ll keep it short and sweet, but I just want you to really understand why you must know your monetization model before you really go all in on content creation. If you want to see success as soon as possible. So the first model, the publisher model, this is you. If you are purely interested in creating content and don’t really want to make a product or sell anything directly to your audience, you envision creating a website. That’s an amazing go-to resource for your ideal reader in your niche.
And you plan to monetize somewhat passively with things like display ads and affiliate links. You may consider some sponsored content down the road as well. So for example, many food bloggers, fashion, bloggers, and travel bloggers fall into this category. You visit their website for helpful tips and content, but you probably aren’t buying something like a course or signing up for coaching or anything like that.
Another larger example of this model. Is the website, healthline.com. Who makes millions of dollars per year from content monetized with ads and affiliate links. And for this model to work, you need traffic and lots of it. For ads, you get paid based on how many people view those ads on your site each month and you’ll need at least 50,000 sessions per month.
Roughly equivalent to 50,000 people coming to your site every month in order to qualify for a higher end ad network like media vine. Once you’re in, you’ll probably earn at least $20 per 1000 monthly website visitors, which means you can expect to start bringing in around a thousand dollars a month in ad revenue. Once you first get accepted.
So if you do the math. That means pretty conservatively. You can expect to earn $10,000 a month from ads. If you can get your traffic to 500,000 people coming to your site every month. And spoiler alert. It’s a lot easier to go from a hundred K to 500 K than it is to go from that initial zero to 100 K. So for many people in the publisher model, they’re all in on ads as their initial monetization stream.
And if this is you, your goal needs to be, to find the highest volume keywords in your niche and published content on those topics. At the highest volume you can manage. Because the more SEO optimized content you can put out, the more chances you have to rank well and grow your traffic quickly. And for reference of the students, in my course who have gotten into media vine, it has taken them an average of one and a half years to get there. Once they start taking SEO seriously.
And if the publisher model is what resonates with you, you can also start monetizing with affiliate links, but that does require some strategy as well. It’s not enough to just randomly sprinkle affiliate links into your content. When you mentioned a product you use, the far more effective strategy is to craft content around keywords with purchase intent, like review posts or comparisons, so that you can get in front of people who are almost ready to buy.
But they’re just doing a little bit of research first. If you integrate those types of posts into your blogging calendar, you can see what ends up resonating with your unique audience and niche, and continue to dive into that area of expertise. Obviously affiliate marketing is a whole another topic I could talk about for hours. So I’ll stop there. But the point is, if you want to passively monetize your content with ads and affiliate links and not directly sell anything like your own product to your audience, you need to find the highest volume keywords that you can realistically rank for in your niche.
And publish as frequently as possible to reach your goals. The second and third business models, the online business model or the services model. Are sort of similar in terms of the strategy we’ll use. So I’m going to lump them together here, moving forward. So for these two models. This is sort of the other side of the coin. This is people who are trying to use their blog to attract potential customers to their website. And that right there is the key difference between the publisher model and these two models.
With the publisher model, it kind of doesn’t really matter. Who’s viewing your content right. From an ad revenue perspective and eyeball is an eyeball, right. I mean, of course you will naturally attract people around your niche based on the content you’re creating. But if your niche is say Midwestern recipes,
Then it doesn’t really matter if it’s a young college student reading your meatloaf recipe or an elderly retiree, right. They’re looking for your style of recipe and you’re providing it easy peasy. You’re not selling anything. So you don’t need to worry so much about buyer intent or creating content around pain points. You can focus mostly on informational content.
And see great results. However, that’s not the case with the online business or services models with these models. You don’t just need anyone coming to your site. You need potential customers coming to your site. So let’s say you’re in the PCOS space. And you have an online course for people with PCOS or maybe you work with them one-on-one or you have some sort of group program.
In this scenario, publishing a meatloaf recipe is not going to get you closer to your goal of selling out your PCOS course or fully booking your group program. Sure maybe your existing audience would enjoy a meatloaf recipe if you posted it, but that content will not help you attract more of your ideal customers who have PCOS and are looking for help and attracting more of your ideal customer is the overall point.
of publishing SEO optimized content, right? It’s meant to be an audience builder first and foremost. So sure. A meatloaf recipe might bring thousands of people to your site every month, if it’s optimized well for SEO. But if those people have absolutely no interest in PCOS, then. Overall, like, what’s the point, right? If the traffic you’re getting isn’t attached to a monetization goal, then it’s just a vanity metric.
So for the online business model, you need to intentionally create content around the topics that your ideal customer is searching for. Related to the problems that you solve. That is how you will attract the right people to your website with SEO and be able to successfully sell your offerings to these people that you attract.
And for the online business or services model, it’s not really about attracting large numbers of people. It’s about attracting the right people. So even if you only attracted a hundred people a month to your site with a given blog, post those 100 people, if they’re almost all your ideal customers, You’ll have a much better success.
With eventually selling something to them. So if you’re listening and you’re in the online business or services model, your goal should be to find easy to rank for keywords. That your ideal customers are searching for, even if the volume is a little bit lower. So, for example, the keyword magnesium and PCOS is searched 260 times per month and is still relatively easy to rank for at the time of publishing this episode. So if you were able to rank at the top of page one for that keyword, maybe it’ll bring a hundred people per month to your website who are all essentially saying that they’re interested in nutrition and PCOS.
You can then create a super, highly valuable lead magnet that these visitors couldn’t resist so that a certain percentage of these people will opt into your email list. And then you can continue to provide value and eventually offer something for sale. See how that process is so, so different. And I found that a lot of bloggers don’t understand this important distinction and end up with an extremely muddy and ineffective content plan as a result.
So if this is you, I urge you to get clarity on your monetization model right now. And make sure that the type of content you’re publishing is in alignment with your goals. Reason number two, why so many bloggers don’t make money? Is that they don’t have a clear niche.
Most often this manifests as trying to blog about topics that are way too broad. For example, women’s health, wellness, travel, cooking, gut health, mental health, et cetera, et cetera. All of these are not specific enough for new bloggers. To stand out and become a known expert in something online. You’ll need to niche way, way down. For example, instead of women’s health, can you niche down into PCOS or menopause or prenatal nutrition? Just as a few examples instead of cooking, can you niche down into dairy free cooking or 30 minute recipes or baby led weaning.
Instead of gut health. Can you niche down into IBS D or Crohn’s disease or something else? Way more specific. The idea here is that you want to become the ultimate resource on a topic.
And that will help you not only rank better around those topics in Google, because Google is able to better understand what you’re an authority on, but will also help you gain more traction from word of mouth, because you’ll be really serving one specific type of person as best as possible. For example, if you blog specifically about nutrition for Crohn’s disease, you are way more likely to build an audience of raving fans who will share your website with their peers. Versus if you try to blog about Crohn’s IBS, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease altogether on the same site.
In the first example, every single piece of content that you put out will probably be relevant to your ideal reader. You will be directly serving them each time you hit publish, building your relationship and trust with them. And that will eventually lead to more sales. If you publish on too many varied topics, you may lose momentum with your readers. If you’re only publishing content relevant to them once every few months. And yes, some of this, again depends on your monetization model, but even if your goal is to get a lot of traffic to get ads on your site covering more and more and more topics on your site is usually not the best way to get there.
The better strategy is to go deep into one content cluster and firmly establish yourself as an authority on that topic. Get that content ranking well and driving lots of traffic before expanding into another vertical. And I know this reason. Not niching down enough. Might sound cliche to some of you, but after enrolling over 600 people in my SEO made simple program and running office hour calls for many, many years. Now, I cannot tell you how many times this comes up and I get it. People are excited. They want to write about all the things.
They find a good keyword and maybe it’s not really related to their niche, but they just can’t help themselves. But if I visit your website and I can’t immediately tell how you can help me or what you’re an expert in, then we have a problem. And in the future here, I’m going to start doing some mini website audits for people and recording them for people to watch this. Won’t be the same thing as like my full actual website audit service. I won’t be doing any technical peaks into the backend of their website, but I’ll just be giving some holistic top level advice for things that they can work on with on-page SEO and just kind of like overall branding.
And I think you’ll really enjoy these. So I will keep you in the loop about how to sign up for those. I’m still debating whether it’s going to be like a standalone webinar and then I’ll maybe share the recording on the podcast or just do it directly as a podcast episode. so stay tuned for more details about that.
And reason number three. Why so many bloggers never make money. They are writing about what they want. Versus what their audience wants. Again, this is such a common mistake bloggers make, and it all stems from not understanding SEO or ultimately what the purpose of blog content is. If your goal is to grow your audience with your blog content, then you need to be creating content that will attract new people to your site.
And that means creating content around topics that people are searching for. Not about whatever random thought. Flows through your head on a Tuesday. And yes, I am telling you that it takes intention and strategy to create a content calendar that will bring droves of new visitors to your site every month.
It does not happen by accident. I repeat. You will not fall backwards into instant online success with blogging to see results in a reasonable timeframe. And by reasonable, I mean, at least a year in. You really need to understand and embrace a concept called keyword research. And the idea behind keyword research is that you let data guide your content creation decisions.
Rather than just guessing on what topics to write about. There are tools out there that you can use to figure out exactly what phrases, AKA keywords people are typing into the Google search bar, how many times they search for these phrases per month and how difficult it would be to get your content on the first page of the search results for any given query.
You can then use that data to find the keywords that best fit into your overall business goals. Like we talked about at the beginning of this episode, but the key point I want to drive home here is that your blog is not a personal journal. It’s a business asset and a marketing tool, and it should be treated as one.
The more seriously. And strategically you take your content creation, the better results you will get, but lacking a clear keyword research strategy is one of the other biggest reasons why many bloggers are never able to make money. If they don’t understand how to create content that people are searching for and that they can realistically rank for, then they have a very small chance of ever getting their content found through Google search. And just to highlight some examples.
when I was food blogging. Many years ago. I had no idea what SEO was or how I could use it to grow my blog. I was just publishing recipes based on whatever looks good at the farmer’s market, or just trying to create really creative recipes that. I thought maybe would pick up some traction on social media.
And I did that for two and a half years. I published one to two recipes every single week. And in the end I had maybe like 150 recipes on my site. But I was never getting more than 2000 people a month to my site from Google search. That’s less than 20 people per recipe per month. And that’s a really bad return on my time.
In contrast once I understood how to do keyword research and all the other aspects of SEO. I was able to grow a new blog from zero to 20,000 monthly visitors in just 10 months with 10 blog posts. That’s an average of 2000 people per post that’s over a hundred times better results publishing one eighth of the amount of content each month.
That’s bananas. And that is the power of good SEO and not understanding. Keyword research is one of the most common mistakes new bloggers make that holds them back from growing their audience and making money. Reason number four, why some bloggers struggled to make money online? Is because they lack a structured content plan for their website.
So even if they have an understanding of how they want to make money, Even if they have a clear niche, even if they understand keyword research, it’s still common for people to get stuck when coming up with a cohesive content plan that positions them in their website as an authority on a specific set of topics. So the way this most commonly manifests is that people don’t take the time to organize the content on their website, into categories.
Instead they just have one long running stream of posts that are not organized in any helpful way for either their readers or Google. And a strategy that I teach and have seen good results with is creating content clusters on your website. So this involves coming up with a few main categories for your site that you’d like to be seen as an expert on, and then creating clusters of content around them. So for each main category, you’ll create a solid pillar post.
That’s sort of like your main introduction to the topic, think of it. Like what you think your audience could use as an ultimate resource on the topic. So, for example, if you’re a low FODMAP dietitian, you might have categories on your blog that focus on each phase of the low FODMAP diet, like the elimination phase reintroduction phase, and maybe like long-term maintenance phase or something.
So for each of these categories, the idea is to create an ultimate guide on each topic, probably targeting a pretty high volume, difficult keyword that you don’t. Have the authority at the moment to rank for. And then create a cluster of other content in that category that covers longer tail, easier to rank for keywords that are sort of like the supporting characters in your story.
So, for example, you’d have a pillar post on the elimination section, maybe titled how to get started on an elimination diet, the ultimate guide or something like that. And then you can have lots of supporting posts on longer tail keywords in that category, like 10 best low-FODMAP pastas, or why do I feel worse on a low FODMAP diet or vegetarian, low FODMAP tips, things like that.
And within each of these smaller, more niche posts in the category, you would then link back to the main pillar post so that any backlinks that you get to the smaller posts will pass on some link juice to the main post and possibly help you rank for some more competitive head terms in the future. And this structure is great from user perspective and an SEO perspective. It makes it easy for Google to understand how your content is interconnected and what the most important pieces of content are on your site. And it’s well organized by topic when people are browsing your site as well.
And I found a lot of people skip over this step when planning out the content structure on their site and while doing keyword research and content, calendar planning. And if this is something you could use help with, it is a topic I cover in the site structure. Section of my SEO made simple course.
And something that comes up often in my office hours calls. And I’d love to help you sort this out as a student of my course, if that sounds like something you’re interested in, just add your name to my course waitlist at seowaitlist.com to receive an email invite to join the course. And reason number five.
Why so many bloggers are unsuccessful in making money online. Is that they’re focused on perfectionism versus progress? Hi, yes. This bugger gets even the best of us sometimes. One of the less commonly talked about reasons. Why so many bloggers don’t make money is because they’re caught up in perfection instead of progress.
And I’ll be honest, blogging and business in general is a messy game. And getting out there and taking imperfect, but consistent action day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year is how you will eventually see success. And the real truth is not every blog post you create is going to be a winner.
Sometimes you’ll have a quick and easy post fly to the top of page one and the traffic will take you by surprise. Other times you’ll spend days on one epic post. Sure that it will rank really well after you publish it only to never have it quite takeoff. So the real lesson here is to not get stuck in the minutia of creating your blog post done is better than perfect in almost every case.
I recommend picking a realistic publishing frequency. Maybe weekly or even biweekly at first and then really committing to sticking to it. No matter what. And the nice thing about blog content is that you do get feedback to work from. You don’t get instant feedback in the same way that you might with social media, but you get very detailed feedback that can help you revamp your posts in the future so they can rank better and bring you even more traffic.
So after your post has been live for a few months, you’re able to see in Google search console, what keywords it’s been ranking for and how it’s been performing overall. And sometimes you might notice the post ranking for some keywords that you didn’t actually target in your post, but that could be easily added to help boost the topical authority and help you show up for additional search terms.
So I like to think of blog content as a constant work in progress. In fact, I recommend going back through your content on an annual basis and refreshing your post as needed. If you’re curious how to do that or how that works again, I have a whole lesson on how to do this in my course, SEO made simple.
And as a reminder, you can get access to my course by heading over to SEOwaitlist.com and adding your name to the list. But honestly the main point here is to just get your content out there. Learn from actual experience. Nothing can replace that real world feedback. Done is better than perfect. 1000000% in the blogging world.
Because remember you will be going back and tweaking, updating, optimizing that content in the future. There is no perfect. Let the real world data. Tell you what you need to do. And reason number six. why bloggers don’t make money. They are winging it alone. So if you are listening to this episode right now and feeling like, man, I do almost all of the things on this list so far, maybe you’re starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. I want you to stop and take a deep breath.
First of all, I want to acknowledge that. Yes, blogging as a business is a shit ton of work. There are a lot of moving pieces that need to come together to build a successful SEO and content creation strategy. And while yes, you can certainly teach yourself and learn as you go. I think it’s really important to pause for a moment and consider if that’s really what will serve you best.
’cause, I can’t even tell you how many people have joined my course, thinking that they know a lot about SEO already, and they’re just mind blown over the things they didn’t even know. They didn’t know. In fact, I was just reading through some of my feedback surveys. And one student said that one small strategy tweak that she learned early on in my course was worth every penny she paid, because it totally changed the way she was creating content and it dramatically improved her ability to rank in Google.
And this was a seemingly small factor that she had just simply overlooked when trying to do it all herself. And there really is no need to go at all alone. You can learn from people who are doing or have done what you aspire to do. Surround yourself with a community of doers who are out there focusing on the same goals as you and those communities exist and not to be biased, but I’m freaking obsessed with my private students community for my SEO made simple course.
We have a smaller, more intimate Facebook group, just for students of my course, where we chat all things, blogging and SEO and troubleshoot problems and questions as they arise. It’s a super supportive and encouraging space. And in fact, every Friday we share our weekly wins and cheer each other on, and those threads are some of my absolute favorite things to read every week.
So honestly, unless you’re a really, really, really self-motivated learner and a doer. Like an implementer. I can almost guarantee that you will reach your goals faster by signing up for more direct guidance through something like my SEO made simple course. It’s really, almost a no brainer if you think about it. So at the time of this recording, my course currently costs just about a thousand dollars.
So you can invest a thousand dollars now, and then you’ll make that back in the very first month that you’re accepted into an ad network like media vine. And from then on all additional ad revenue you earn will be mostly profit. So, if you think about the timeline for my students who have made it into media vine,
It’s really not unrealistic to think that your one time, $1,000 investment could turn into two thousand three thousand four thousand or more every month in passive ad revenue in just a few years time. For work that you can do on the side, really during nights and weekends, if that’s all you have right now, it’s really an incredible opportunity. So long story short. Yes. One of the reasons why some bloggers never make any money is because they’re going in alone and they just can’t see their own blind spots. Maybe they understand bits and pieces of SEO, but they lack the bigger picture. And so it’s not, it’s just not coming together.
So if that resonates with, you know, that there is help out there and I’d love to see you inside my course, if you think my teaching style resonates with you. And finally reason number seven. Why so many bloggers never make any money. They give up too soon. And I’ve said this multiple times already in this podcast, but I’ll say it again.
SEO is a long game. It’s not unusual to see somewhat dismal results for the first six months to maybe even a year. Even if you’re doing everything right from the start. But when things do start to take off, we often see hockey stick like growth. In fact, I can give you a concrete example that might help you feel better about your own blogging endeavors.
When I launched my nutrition blog in October, 2018, that first month we got 20 sessions from Google search. With one post live on the site. The next month we got 62 visits, then 73, then 212. Then 581, then 2,743. So you can see it took us all at six months to even break pass, getting those first 1000 monthly visitors. And that was when we were publishing one new post a month.
But from there things took off quickly. The next month it was 6,000, then 16,000, then 20,000. It was wild. So the point I’m trying to make here is that many, many people give up right before things start to take off. Because when you’re in the trenches, six months of consistent work kind of feels like an eternity when it’s not really paying off yet.
And the tricky part is that it requires some amount of faith and trust that things will work over time. If your strategy is on point. But once it starts to flourish, things can grow very rapidly and it’s really, really exciting. So my best advice is to give it six months to one year of solid strategic, consistent effort.
And if it’s still not working, I would recommend hiring someone to go deeper with you. Book an audit with me, which you can find at theunconventionalrd.com/audit. And have a neutral, third-party take a peak at your site and give you some concrete and actionable areas of improvement. That you may not have even had on your radar.
Cause honestly, SEO works when it’s done. Right. So if you believe you’ve been doing everything right for at least six months, And you aren’t seeing at least a solid upward trajectory. Then please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can do so on my website at theunconventionalrd.com/audit. And I’d love to help you form a strategic action plan.
But if you’re still in month, 1, 2, 3, 4. My advice to you is just keep going. And even if you’ve been at this for years and you feel like you’re not seeing the results you wish you had. I still would not recommend throwing in the towel completely. Chances are a lot of your content could be reworked and optimized to bring you a lot more traffic than you’re currently getting. So don’t get discouraged.
Everything in life is a learning process. And once, you know, you can start to do better. So that’s it for the seven reasons why so many bloggers never make a dime online? And to recap, those reasons are number one, they don’t have a clear monetization strategy. Number two, they don’t have a clear niche.
Number three, they’re writing about what they want versus what their audience wants. Number four, they lack a structured content plan. Number five they’re focused on perfectionism versus progress. Number six, they’re winging it alone. And number seven, they give up too soon. So if this conversation really moved you to want to do things differently and start to take strategic action with SEO in your business. I again, would love to invite you to check out my course at SEOwaitlist.com. And other than that, I will see you next week.
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.