I started blogging in 2011, and by 2012, I’d met a dozen people who’d proved it was possible to make a million dollars blogging.
This is a more-or-less accurate picture of what I looked like every time I met someone who was bringing in that kind of money:
I wanted to figure out how to do it. I read every word Pat Flynn wrote back then (I haven’t kept up, sorry Pat). I studied what other people were doing.
And I started making money. Not millions, ever. But I started realizing that there’s money to be made online.
Looking back, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have sold my first blog, or if I did, I would have sold it for much more than my initial asking price.
People who start blogs today have it both easier and harder than we did back in my day (this post is sponsored by “get off my lawn!”). Easier in the sense that the tools have a much more reasonable learning curve and there are ways to get started by simply throwing money at something instead of doing things the awful way and hoping no one remembers your first online words. Harder in the sense that there’s more content being published in one day than all of us were publishing in a week. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if those numbers check out.
So it got me wondering… is it still possible to make a million dollars blogging?
The short answer is yes, absolutely. And the good news is, you don’t have to invent a time machine and start blogging in 2011 to do so.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of my friends, Claudia Pennington, who runs DIY Marketing and helps people navigate the ins and outs of getting started with affiliate marketing. To say she’s an expert at turning blog traffic into high revenue is an understatement. She has an innate knowledge of SEO and a real sense for which affiliate links different audiences will click on. She partners with bloggers who already have a good amount of traffic but have had a difficult time turning that traffic into dollars.
She doesn’t say publicly which blogs she partners with but suffice it to say that working with Claudia will make you more money. And the most interesting part about the way she works isn’t that she’s completely silent on social media. It isn’t that she’s happiest behind the scenes (she’s the textbook version of an introvert). The most interesting part is how naturally it all comes to her.
It makes you want to hit the ‘record’ button on your phone.
“I don’t know why bloggers have such a hard time monetizing their traffic,” Claudia said.
She had been talking to two bloggers who get a lot of search traffic, but were lamenting how difficult they were finding turning traffic into dollars.
“I told them that ‘dog DNA kits’ gets about the same amount of traffic as ‘ways to save money’ but that only one of those terms is what we call buyer intent. So they can create all the educational content in the world, but there’s a much smoother path toward affiliate revenue in dog DNA kits than tips and tricks to save more money.”
I was intrigued, and also a little chagrined. I haven’t attempted to work seriously with affiliates for ages, simply because I didn’t think I was creating the kind of content that could lead to affiliate revenue.
But after that conversation, I was curious.
Sure enough, here’s the data from Google Trends:
As a human who lives in the world, it warms my heart a bit that more people searched for ways to save money than how to figure out the genetic makeup of their dog, but she’s absolutely right.
If you’re searching for a dog DNA kit, your mind is made up. You want to buy. If you’re searching for ways to save money, you’re in the exact opposite mindset.
Should people stop putting out education content altogether? Decidedly not.
But this brought to mind another conversation I’d had with a marketer. Educational content doesn’t inspire action.
Educational content builds authority and ensures that once you do start working with affiliate programs, people already trust your recommendations.
So, how can you make a million dollars blogging?
On Claudia’s website, she lists a simple (simple is not the same as easy!) three-step process to building toward a big payout on your blog.
Step 1: Consistently produce high-quality content
There’s no getting around the inherent nature of blogging, which is consistently producing content. She doesn’t mention quality, but I think it’s important to list here, simply because it’s the best way to stand out. Plus, you’ll be more likely to share content that you know is the best you could create, versus the content that you don’t put much effort into.
Step 2: Build an audience
Kathleen’s note: you should have been doing this all along! Publish once, repurpose as many times as possible, across all the channels you care about (and some you don’t!). Claudia’s nicer about it than I am, but does say to build an email list, start getting active on social media, start selling your own products or services, and start researching the types of companies you could see yourself aligning with.
Step 3: Find one advertiser
I like this tip most of all because it doesn’t allow for overwhelm. Notice how she didn’t suggest anything technical, overly administrative, or otherwise mundane. She suggested finding ONE advertiser you might want to work with. A company you’ve mentioned before. Bonus if you’ve mentioned that company more than once.
Is that really all there is to making a million dollars blogging?
Yes and no. Those three steps will work for bloggers who are already consistently putting out content. They’ll work for bloggers who know how to turn traffic into subscribers. They’ll work for the people willing to do the research into working with advertisers.
Claudia knows because she’s been behind the scenes of a lot of blogs that don’t look like they’re printing money, but they are.
That designer outearned her graphic design business through a travel blog for the Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee. You’ll see in that recap article there are affiliate links sprinkled throughout, including one to Bluehost, which reminds me of why I was hesitant about affiliate marketing all those years ago: Bluehost is a garbage hosting company that unsuspecting people buy because every blogger promotes them.
Their service is cheap and they pay their affiliates very well, which means you’ll see links all over the internet talking about how they’re a “good place to get started.”
What I’ll be doing, moving forward
I’ll be following Claudia’s advice and looking into a couple of affiliate offers. I’m not going to align myself with any company I’m happy to call ‘garbage’ in print, but there are PLENTY of companies I’m happy to spend money on and suggest in the future.
Plus, the holidays are coming, so I’ll be putting together a gift guide or two, which are always fun.
So, are you ready to make your first million? You could do it in a hundred different ways, but don’t discount blogging because it’s still a totally valid way to make some serious cash.