If you follow my twitter feed, you'll know that I'm one of the columnists for new travel tech media website Tnooz. Agreeing to do this gig took some thinking. I get no remuneration for doing it (yet). And you know how much I HATE free. Shouldn't I stick with what I'm doing on Travelblather instead? Writing for Tnooz though gets me a far bigger audience - which is nice - and a degree of credibility that I didn't have before.

My first post on Tnooz evoked quite a lot of comments - it's titled The Internet Is Ruining Travel Journalism. One of the comments was from Christine Gilbert - who writes an interesting blog called Almost Fearless. (In July 2008 she quit her high-powered job, sold her stuff and dedicated herself to travelling and blogging about her experiences.)

Her comment on my post (slightly abridged - underlining mine):

.... your personal site, (ie this one, Travelblather) could be making you $1000/mo. You’re a great writer, you have the credentials and you write interesting posts. So why aren’t you one of the most popular travel writing blogs out there? Well it’s on typepad, you don’t update often enough and you need a new design. If you networked a bit with other bloggers, then you’d start building a loyal and rabid following. Heck, when you do post everyone comes running… but you don’t take it seriously as a way to make money.

That’s the problem with all travel journalists who complain about the internet– they don’t actually take it seriously. Meanwhile, people with no journalism background are building sites and doing well, because they think about it completely differently.

Some challenges, some nice compliments and some pertinent advice. I do actually take what I write here really seriously. That's partly why I don't post that often. I only want to say stuff, when I feel it's worth saying. I take time to write posts. Partly I think because I am a journo at heart, I craft stuff and tinker with it more than perhaps I need to. Do I think about this blog differently from someone like Christine? That's a really interesting question for consideration sometime... Does having a more focussed financial imperative mean the content suffers? I honestly don't know. (Interestingly Christine doesn't run ads on her blog - instead she chooses to let people make a donation via Paypal should they want to.)

Sure I'd really like this blog to earn me that $1000 a month. I do wonder if Christine really is earning $1000 a month in donations - but she has over 3000 readers subscribed to her RSS feed and 30,000 followers on Twitter... so maybe she does.

I have no idea how to monetize this blog... I use Google adwords and that gets me about $2 a month.

Other bloggers in this space are clearly thinking along similar lines.

Christine seems to suggest in her comment that it's about posting more, using a better platform (ie WordPress) and networking. Is that really all it takes? (Actually, that could be a lot of work - networking could be a full time job I guess.)

So... can anyone help me? If someone can help me migrate this blog to WordPress (keeping the current URL structure so I don't lose links) and show me how to set up proper advertising deals or find other ways to earn income I will share revenue from the site 50:50 for the first 6 months. Assuming Christine's numbers are correct that would equate to around $3000.(Heck if they really do help me I'll share income for the first couple of years. Seriously.)

Assuming anyone is prepared to share their secrets of monetization... I'll of course post about it here. (Unless they are so fantastic I become RICH.... Cue manic laughter, fade to black etc.)

20 thoughts on “How do you make money from a blog?

  1. Hi Jeremy,

    I read your tnooz piece and most of the comments before coming back here to help answer your questions. Before I get to that, I just have to say that I was at a mediabistro.com seminar earlier tonight in Wash DC with a veteran freelance writer teaching us "how to pitch editors." I left the seminar feeling great, not only for learning so much, but because when I mentioned that my travel blog gets 13,000 unique visits/month, people were impressed! I get the same reaction when I tell people how much money I make per month.

    "it's about posting more, using a better platform (ie WordPress) and networking. Is that really all it takes?"

    Almost. Most probloggers will recommend consistency in your posting schedule vs quantity. However, in my experience, there is a direct correlation between number of posts and traffic. I average 6 posts per week on GoBackpacking.com, with the aim of at least one of them being a "pillar" (authoritative) article. The higher your traffic, the higher your site is valued in the eyes of advertisers, and the more money you will make. I've had a few $1,000 months before, though getting to that point consistently will take a lot more effort.

    WordPress is the #1 blogging platform for countless reasons. The sooner you make the change, the better. Your concern about keeping permalinks the same is wise, though it should be relatively easy to install WordPress on your web hosting account and import the archives from Typepad. You're being unbelievably generous with your advertising offer. I'm willing to bet someone in your personal network would help for free. That was my experience when I needed help some changes at GoBackpacking last month. WordPress will allow you to present your content in a more stylish theme, and more opportunities to optimize your blog/posts/pages for better results in the search engines. This leads to more traffic, which can lead to higher ad rates.

    Networking takes many forms. My traffic and Google AdSense earnings have gone up considerably the last 6-8 weeks that I've been building my Twitter following. I'm reaching new readers, building RSS subscribers, and having my content retweeted by professional writers. More visitors and a higher perceived authority will lead to more advertising income.

    There is no secret to monetization - just hard work and self-education. All the information and strategies are available for free on the internet, and I'd be happy to share some of my favorite resources and tips to help get you started.

    Feel free to email me (this comment is already too large!!)

    PS - Almost Fearless is a great blog to follow. :)

  2. Oh God.

    Well I didn't mean to give throw your entire plans up in the air with that comment. It's late, but I wanted to post something here, before everyone jumps in and claims my comment doesn't cover the breadth of steps you'd need to take to make money online.

    First, I do think you think about blogging very differently than I do. It's not a bad thing. There is plenty of room in the world for your blog and others. But, I was responding to your post about why it's so darn hard to make money because of the online world. And here you are with this personal site that you don't take seriously, in terms of monetizing. Listen, I don't take monetizing my site 100% seriously either. I'm not some online guru either-- I'm not selling books on how to make money. I'm just saying that if other people can do it, then there really is no reason you couldn't. It's a if you can't beat em, join them, sort of thing.

    Also, I think that YOU could make $1000 a month-- not necessarily any writer or blogger. Is it going to be adsense? Nope. Will it be a lot of little things, like syndicating your content, getting donations, selling advertising, having site sponsors, using affiliate links very smartly, writing ebooks, selling consulting services etc? Yes, absolutely. I'm a little nervous that you're willing to split your revenue up front. Anyone who has the time to give the advice, probably shouldn't. That includes me. For the most part, this will be a learning process about what works for you... even if I wrote down A-Z what I do everyday and you copied it, it doesn't mean you'll do well. As with anything, right?

    Oh and should you write for a bigger site for free? Yes, but Tnooz isn't big enough-- yet. Although it looks like they are growing pretty fast, there is no community (no one is commenting) and you can do better. Write a post for lifehacker about travel whatever and then you'll see 10,000 people visit your blog in an hour. That's worth writing for free.

    This isn't really general advice, but advice to you Jeremy, because you can write. I don't think you're shooting high enough. Also, how long did it take you to become a journalist? Well blogging has a learning curve too. Making money online has a learning curve. If I posted an article saying, "Tell me how to be a journalist and I'll split my profits with you" would you respond? Or would you secretly think, "woah sister, you have a way to go".

    Take it slow. Get your site on your own domain. Look at getting a new theme. Start reading about all the millions of things you can do to make money. Implement one at a time as you have time. Track the results. Swap out with something else. Did you make more? Keep tinkering until you have something that works. Talk to other bloggers that have similar sized sites (you can used the alexa.com toolbar/firefox plugin to see your ranking/traffic and other sites ranking-- lower is better).

    I mean I could forward you about a dozen emails from advertisers looking to buy advertising, but is that what you want? It kind of sounds like you're looking for folks to tell you whether I'm full of crap or not.

    I'll be curious to hear what people have to say. You have my email now, with this comment, so feel free to reach out if you want.



  3. Interesting comments.

    But specifically to Christine...>

    Tnooz is seven days old.

    "There is no community (no one is commenting)" - for fear of sounding just ever so slightly defensive (that's what happens when you live and breath something you've just launched), we've had 251 comments in those short seven days.

    As someone who has launched a number of magazines and websites over the years, this is actually quite impressive in terms of engaging with the audience.

    Of course, I might be wrong and we should have secured 500 comments in half the time if we were better.

    Media sites are slow burners, as you will all know, especially if you do not market to huge numbers on bought databases or have an event to spread the word.

  4. Monetizing a blog does take lots of time ... And far too many hours but it's certainly possible. As Christine said, there are many different steps to take and each one takes effort to set up and then maintain. But I think you can do it too; just change gears and start thinking like a publisher rather than a writer for a few hours a day and don't turn down any commissions in the meantime.

  5. Very good of you to be so open there, Jeremy. I think you've voiced what all of us are thinking: how do writers (whether they call themselves bloggers or journalists) make money writing for the web? As you spotted, I'm having a bit of an experiment myself...

    Christine is right - you're a superb writer and excellent commentator on travel in general. I'd argue that the sort of content on Travel Blather isn't the sort that will make money though. It's hugely thoughful and fascinating to read, and shows off your talents as a writer and analyst. But it doesn't sell things or pull in people who are looking to buy certain things (ie a flight to wherever) via Google.

    As far as I can see, there are three ways of making money out web travel content.

    1. Write for websites that pay (the majority of my income now comes this way, albeit mostly in return for top ten lists).
    2. Set up a travel planning site specialising in a particular area or form of travel (most of the visitors are looking for information on what you're specifically writing about and looking to buy).
    3. Writing about 10,000 SEO-heavy words a day, posting constantly.

    And one more.

    4. Developing such a strong reputation for writing well that editors come to you as a result.

    You're currently doing number four. And very well. If you're wanting to try one of the other approaches, I'd suggest setting up a new site aimed specifically at a particular segment of the market and work hard on it. Christine has some good advice, but I think it has to be said that most bloggers - even very prominent ones - are not making a living wage from their blogs.

  6. My mate Dan Lyons (I took him on a folding bike tour of Hadrians Wall...) was one of the very top bloggers of the past few years. While at Forbes, he wrote the Fake Steve Jobs blog which got a stunning number of visitors.

    In February this year he revealed that his blog - although huge - made him peanuts.

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/183666 "Growing Rich By Blogging Is a High-Tech Faiytale"

    Lots of bloggers attacked him but the fact remains, rely on Adsense and you're toast.

    I use WordPress, it's sweet and easy. But it's not a passport to riches. I make most of my (blog) money from third-party sponsorships, and most especially by selling sponsorships on videos which I embed on my blog.

  7. I usually link to my travel blog here but today I've swapped to my make money online blog as that is what you are asking about. Starting from bottom up

    @Carlton that is a famous example of how clueless most blgogers are - be they professional wirters or otherwise - you may want to check out this post - http://makemoneyforbeginners.blogspot.com/2009/01/making-money-online-anonymously.html yes its an ugly blogger blog - which at the time was running Adsense, now he makes more running affiliate offers - more tha $20k / month that is for those who don't bother to click thru. The short answer is that its NOT important how how often you post - what is far more important is the keywords that use - and the most important is the backlinks taht you get for the post. That particular post illustrates how posting regularly can actually reduce your Adsenes earnings.

    @Christine is actually suggesting to you the standard A-list blogger advice; pretty blog, lots of social networking and lots of pretty content. If your intent is to publish (another) book or get a profile on the speaking circuit its not bad advice.

    If you actually want to earn passive income from your blog its poor advice. To get income from Adsense particularly you need a steady stream of search engine visitors who are searching on a topic that they despartly want an answer to. Find the right keywords - right a long post, develop backlinks to the post with the correct anchor text (i.e. Christine would get much better benefit from you ilnk if you had linked to her as Christine from

      travel the world

    (assuming that's her main keyword.

    RE the typepad to WordPress conversion - I'm not sure - your actual layout you are using at the momeent is not good - your blog post title should have the only h2 title tags not some of the unimportant section titles, your content should come first on the page not after the left sidebar- but it may be a simple fix if typepad has better SEOed themes available - the layout on the page is what matters for the SEO - the actual CMS (Typepad, WordPress is irrelevant). WordPress is great - but it will be a learning curve - if you can fix your on-page SEO by just changing theme do that - much easier.

    I am sure that your Adsense is absolutely the worst that you could do - where it it you might as well just remove it - in fact your blog is probably not focussed enough for Adsense I would think you'd do better promoting your own products - do you have any idea how many travellers want to be travel writers? I don't know what % of a sale you get for your guide books (I'd be dead curious to know) - but I am sure you could write an e-book (say 20,000 words - not really a book) and sell it for $27 or $47 and keep the lot except for a small fee for the agency you use (paypal, eJunkie or similar). Work out how much you'd make - say a 5% conversion times your unqiue visitors.

    You have endless opportunities - but the big thing is that you have to make the leap from being employed (or a contractor which is basically the same mentality) - to being a business owner or entrepreneur. I think you would be wise to make the leap sooner rather than later.

    I used to love reading the travel pages of The Australian (here down under) - then I started travel blogging and I started looking at the stories with a more critical eye. Some were syndicated from UK papers - that was all the Irish and English stuff - the local Australian and Asian content appeared to all be written with the asistance of the airline and/or the 5-star resort the writer stayed at- it was pratically all advertorial to some level. The pictures were usually the same one on the property's website.

    Why not take out the middle man - i.e. the paper - you have the contacts with the properties, you have a popular travel blog - don't you think the properties are going to be happy for you to provide the advertising for them? They will pay less than they used to pay the paper - but there is no reason why you cna't earn more than you used to - everyone wins.

    Hope some of this helps - I am not a journalist but I make a living from developing websites online - its a steep learning curve - but its a sunrise industry not a sunset one - which unfortunately I really think newspapers as we know them today is.

    I too am horrifed that the above commentator from The Times Online doesn't pay for contributions. That site makes money from their own advertising - I am quite willing to provide content for other people's sites - but I alwasy expect either an up front payment or a profit share on the page's advertising revenue.

    Sorry this is too long - hope some of it helps !

  8. Damme I stuffed up the html above the idea with anchoring a link for someone is the link is one their keywords NOT their name (its easy enough to rank for your name - but it doens't make most of us any money!)

  9. Hi Lis.
    A really excellent list of stuff to consider. I don't know much yet, but I think what you are suggesting makes a great deal of sense. The issue for me and people like David who writes a similar blog to mine (see his comments above, which I pretty much concur with completely) is that whilst we are quite enterpreneurial by nature (you have to be to be a freelance journo - you don't sell, you don't eat)... we are at heart writers. I could devote myself to doing lots of very business-oriented stuff, but I never got into this game to be a web-business owner, to sell affiliate deals etc. (David... do you agree?)
    It feels like there's a trick being missed here. Someone who isn't that interested in the writing, but can see this niche needs to set up the platform, so that people like David and I can do exactly what you suggest - cut out the middle man - and they keep a chunk of the revenue for themselves into the bargain. Ought to be easy to do... and keep doing for different lifestyle sectors... I guess it's been done already to a degree - I'm thinking for example of the about.com sites. But the set-up I am envisaging is ALL about pro content - NO UGC - and works to develop each writer as a brand. (ie NOT another Matador or Simonseeks or thetraveleditor.

  10. Re: above comments. Christ, no, I've no desire to be a website owner churning out things for Google searches. I like writing first and foremost, but I also regard myself as an editor. I like building something, and shaping something - an online guide, or online magazine I can happily get to grips with.

    I'm working on the former, and the latter is the next idea for development. I've no idea if they'll work or not, but I know I'll be primarily writing for people, not search engines.

    The day I start spending more time on keywords than the overall tone and quality of the piece is the day I quit. In fact, I imagine that the SEO on Grumpy Traveller is pretty damned appalling.

    At the moment, like many of us are, I'm experimenting and hoping something comes off. I suspect all media, not just travel media is about to go through a dinosaur extinction level period. It'll be carnage, but some very different creatures will emerge out of it, and will thrive.

    I've no idea what those creatures will be, but the good writers with a bit of business sense, drive and survival instinct will probably be riding on the back of them. On the whole, I'm more optimistic than I am pessimistic. A bit like when you've had three beers and you know it's really downhill from there, but you still feel rather boisterous and joyful.

  11. Sorry, Kevin, I wasn't disparaging the work you've done on Tnooz. But you just launched! I think you took my comment out of context. I didn't say it wasn't enough comments considering that you launched last week. I was comparing you to an established site. Which may seem unfair to you, but is the exact kind of business decisions writers have to weigh when they write for free.

    I do wish you good luck on the site. I was excited to see it this week.

  12. "The day I start spending more time on keywords than the overall tone and quality of the piece is the day I quit." -- David W

    Me too. There are a lot of ways to approach getting good results in the search engines, and it pays to have a basic understanding of what works, however adopting the right WordPress plugins and themes can take a lot of the work out of optimizing your site and blog posts. And best of all, the quality and effectiveness of both continue to improve.

    "It feels like there's a trick being missed here. Someone who isn't that interested in the writing, but can see this niche needs to set up the platform, so that people like David and I can do exactly what you suggest - cut out the middle man - and they keep a chunk of the revenue for themselves into the bargain. Ought to be easy to do..." - Jeremy

    Now I catch your drift. I don't blame you - it takes a lot of time and energy to teach yourself how to be an effective blogger. I've never had an interest in marketing or advertising, however it's a necessity to think as a marketer if you want to make money online. Personally, I'd rather be writing about my silly travel adventures, but if my efforts ultimately lead to self-employment, it'll be worth it. Self-employment and living in the country of my choice would be the dream!

  13. If I had a brilliant answer for all this, I wouldn't have the time to post here :) but I do know this - chasing little bits of ad money via wads of content and SEO tinkering is, in my opinion, a huge amount of effort for too little return, at least in our particular business niche of travel.

    Sell something people will spend money to buy. It could be a physical product, but more likely, it's going to be your knowledge (I think the ebook idea comes close to part of the answer. I think charging for mobile/smartphone content is another part of the answer. I think speaking and teaching is another part of the answer.)

    How does Rick Steves make money? I read in "Writer's Digest" that it's mostly royalties on his big back catalog of books, and leading people on his tours in Europe. People will pay for his insights and his brand of seeing "Europe through the back door." There's value, professionalism and some degree of dignity there: the alternative of waiting/hoping for enough random visitors to click ads just can't match it.

  14. Very interesting discussion, as always (thanks Jeremy). I'm coming to this late, and am not going to blather on, but just to add my voice to those who simply don't WANT to learn how to make money blogging. It's like fixing a car. I might enjoy it, but I simply can't afford the time to learn properly - and it's not what I'm good at anyway.

    I write. That's what I do. I also travel, and travelling helps me to write - but I write. That is the reason why I am blogging - in order to further my writing career, not to further my blogging career, or even to make money. I blog to write. That's all. I couldn't build a website to save my life.

    But look - plenty of other people can't write to save their lives. But they CAN build and maintain successful, money-making websites.

    Why aren't more of us (writers) getting together with more of you (money-makers)?

  15. Hi Matthew... I agree completely with you. I'm increasingly thinking that what we need to do is set up an ad-network that features all of our blogs. A kind of collective that would be really interesting for key, niche advertisers to advertise into. Maybe there's someone out there who can help us do that? Is there??

  16. "..we are at heart writers" - JH.

    And you're a prince for understanding that. Hold onto that, whatever other business model online you choose to follow. Above all, don't let anyone;) browbeat you into the voodoo of "community" and 24/7 social networking. Yes, having the Facebook, linkedin and one or two other things is standard for most people but it's not a magic formula to guarantee traffic as some would have you believe. Self-marketing is great and essential but I think you know where I draw the line with that one, so I won't go down that path again:) I'd say you do need to find a niche and a brand for yourself in travel before you do the site for yourself. I've heard other people claim elsewhere that the Adsense and affiliate program links can actually work once you've developed a srong brand or travel identity. I don't know if WP is the magic key to website construction, I think it's the content and the voice and niche you speak from that will carry you, not necessarily the vessel you've chosen to transport your message. Wp is certainly the Blogger's Darling du jour, but then you know by definition it's not mine;) Cheers.

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