If you know me, you probably already know that in 2019 I conducted an experiment.
I’ve been blogging for over 20 years on a variety of subjects, for myself, for clients, under my name, under pen names, as a ghostwriter. I’ve blogged to improve SEO. I’ve blogged for pleasure. I’ve blogged to help clients position themselves as experts in their fields.
And, of course, in 20 years of blogging, things have changed a lot. When I first started, not many other people were doing it. It was easy to stand out. Easy to find a niche that wasn’t well covered. Even easy to rank in Google.
Now, the market is more saturated. How we work is different.
Still, so many people still think blogging is a quick way to make money. Quit your job to travel the world, the internet crows! How will you support yourself? Why, blogging, of course!
Now, I know people who do support themselves as bloggers. But they’ve been at this thing for a long time. Many of them make money from not only blogging, but also consulting, books, or products. Most have put in a lot of hours on those blogs before ever getting any payoff. Almost all of them still work full-time hours on their blog (so calling it passive income is a stretch).
Which is why when people think of blogging as a get-rich-quick scheme, I’m a big ‘ol skeptic.
Still, I wondered: if you do everything right, could you start a blog and make money within a year? On this blog, I make a small amount of money, but it’s not my purpose. I blog here because I love it. Because I think I have something interesting to share. I don’t cater to keywords. I don’t allow guest posts or sponsored posts. I don’t choose what to write based on what will make me money or get click-throughs.
But what if I did?
What if I started a brand-new blog in my spare time and did all the things bloggers are supposed to do?
Can a blog make money in a year?
In 2019, I took on those questions. I started a brand-new blog with no existing content, no existing Google cred, and I tracked its progress over the course of the year.
So, what did I find?
Growing blog traffic
I started the new blog on January 13th 2019. From then through January 13th 2020, I racked up a total of 28,199 page views. That number mostly grew steadily. My first month, I had 757 page views – at least in part because I already had an existing audience here and on social media. That number grew fairly steadily to my banner month (October) at 3,722. The holidays tend to be a slow time for travel-related blogging (and a food blog like this likely falls into that category), but November and December still came in in the respectable 2,700 to 3,100 range.
Most of the gains I’ve made over the year have been due to search engine traffic. As you can see in the chart below, my search rankings started to really climb in the summer and have brought in just under 12,000 users over the year.
My total spending for the year was $205.26, all spent in January.
2019 blog earnings
So, did Vicious Foodie make its first dollar in 2019?
The answer, friends, is no.
It came close. I had a sponsored post all lined up for late in the year, but the company doing the sponsoring sent me a draft that wasn’t up to snuff, so I asked them to re-write it. They sent the new draft and payment just two days after the blog’s first year was up.
If that had come through, the blog would have made a whopping $75 in its first year, leaving it over $100 in the red.
Now, this is one person’s experiment and it was absolutely part-time. So it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make money within a year. But I do think it tells us one thing: It’s not as easy as the internet gurus would have you believe. Even with super fast writing skills, years of SEO experience, and a reasonable amount of free time, this blog’s steady growth still didn’t launch it into an earning machine.
Which tracks with what I’ve seen in most blogging circles. People who work on their blogs full-time usually gain traction quicker (of course), but most bloggers who make any real money on blogging have been at it for upwards of five years.
Now, those long-term bloggers who make money doing it fall into two camps: bloggers who earn a good living because of search traffic and consider their blogs relatively passive sources of income after many years of effort and bloggers who earn a good living by working on their blogs constantly. Posting hundreds of pins to Pinterest each week. Sharing on social media like fiends. Pulling their traffic in constantly and relentlessly.
So, does this mean blogging isn’t valuable? Personally, my answer is no. I LOVE blogging. It’s taught me to be a better writer. It teaches me what people want to read. It keeps my SEO and content management system skills sharp. For big companies who want to position themselves as thought leaders, it can be a huge source of business leads. And I’ve landed multiple large clients through my primary blog.
But is it a get-rich-quick scheme, a way to travel the world indefinitely, a part-time gig with huge payoffs? All evidence says the answer for all but a select few lucky souls is no.
What comes next?
With a year under the belt of Vicious Foodie, it’s not going anywhere just yet. I won’t be tracking monthly progress in 2020, but I still think it’s a valuable little site, so if European food is your jam, keep following.
So, now to you: have you started a blog and managed to make money quicker? If so, what’s your secret sauce?