Not that long ago, “blogging” wasn’t even a word. Now, people are making a living from publishing content to the web. But experts say earning a paycheck from blogging takes a lot more work than picking out a quirky name and making daily posts—but that’s part of it.
“Making money through blogging isn't easy,” says Neil Patel, co-founder of analytics platform Kissmetrics. “It takes months--if not years--to make a blog generate enough income to live off of. And for every blog that makes thousands of dollars a month, there are thousands that don't even make a dollar.”
Health and fitness blogs have surged in popularity over the past few years, as content like videos and graphics are relatively easy to create. “Fitness gurus have realized that with a blogging platform like Wordpress and a distribution channel like YouTube, you can get thousands if not millions of people to see your advice. That's much more lucrative for them versus training people one on one,” Patel adds.
Experts say a revenue-generating blog needs to be updated daily, strike a balance with a professional and personal tone that resonates with readers and offer special elements such as step-by-step instructions on how to do a specific workout move or a video detailing how to make a specific recipe.
Where to Start
Personal trainer Julie Fagan writes popular health and fitness blog Peanut Butter Fingers and says the key to her success is blending her personal life with her expertise.
“My mom says my blog is like a little TV show where readers can come back to see the next episode,” says Fagan. She updates her blog roughly twice a day with a variety of information including, new recipes, work out routines and even pictures of her husband and dog.
“I think the personal feel is what makes my blog standout,” she adds. She created Peanut Butter Fingers as a hobby in September 2009, thinking that it may lead to a future job in health and fitness. “It was an outlet to talk about things that I was excited about.”
According to Fagan, her blog has grown pretty steadily and started gaining a lot of traffic after about six months to a year after her launch. She says her blog gets around 320,000 unique views each month.
In 2011, she left her full-time job to commit to her blog and pursue freelance opportunities. Fagan’s main source of revenue from the blog comes from advertising in a sidebar, which is based partially on page views, making her cash flow vary month to month. She recently accepted a job at a gym close to her house, but claims the decision wasn’t due to financial reasons, but more about missing personal interaction. “I really enjoy being around people, so accepting this new position has been a great decision so far,” she says.
Katie Farrell of blog Dashing Dish, advises potential fitness bloggers to provide a variety of content to keep readers coming back. She says her mix of recipes and devotional posts keep readers inspired.
“I receive a lot of emails from people telling me that [after reading my blog] they feel motivated to pursue a healthy lifestyle.” Farrell posts new recipes roughly three times a week, as well as devotional posts and workout routines.
Dashing Dish offers some content for free and through a paid membership. Free items include approximately one-fourth of the total recipe index and video content, a few of her workout routines and devotional posts, and more personal blogs posts.
The membership option offers access to all of her recipes, videos and workout routines. The program’s cost is donation based, with a suggested monthly payment of $5. She also offers a variety of meal plans and health coaching tips available for purchase outside of the monthly membership.
Much like Peanut Butter Fingers, Dashing Dish began as a hobby when Farrell was working as a labor and delivery nurse and her husband suggested that she post her recipes online. The blog became popular after about a year, leading to her decision to leave her nursing job to devote more time to the blog.
One thing you immediately notice on Dashing Dish is the lack of advertisements. Due to the revenue from membership program and other paid content, she chose not to have ads on her website. “I don’t have ads so that I can create more of an inviting website,” she says. Another source of income has come from companies such as Cabot Cheese and Idaho Potatoes asking her to create recipes using their products. All of these opportunities make Farrell financially comfortable to not have to go back to her full-time job.
She hopes to turn her blogging venture into other industries including publishing a series of cookbooks and perhaps take some nutritional courses and get a personal training certification.
How to Gain Momentum
Experts using say social media to promote blog content is the best way to gaining traffic and get brand exposure.
Farrell says that Pinterest and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) have been the most helpful in gaining traffic for her blog. Through Google analytics, she discovered many of her blog’s referrals come through Pinterest from users “pinning” pictures of her recipes, ultimately leading others to visit her blog. Facebook is more of a community for her readers, she says. “Members will write to each other and answer each other’s questions.”
Neil Patel says upselling content rather than just providing free content is a growing trend in the blog world along with ads on pages.
“Very rarely can a blog make five figures a month on ads,” Patel says. He points to website PaleoHacks, saying it gets more than one million views a month, but only received between $3,000 and $5, 000 in ad sales.
He says it takes at least six months to a year to get a solid reader base, so bloggers need to stay focused even if their readership is small. To help grow an audience, he suggests using Pinterest over Twitter to promote information and add video content. “People want details.”
He says extending the blog’s brand into products like cookbooks, are good revenue creators, saying a blogger could make $30,000 to $40,000 from a book deal.