How To Make Money Blogging: What We Can Learn From 21 Successful Bloggers (2017 Edition)

How to make money blogging?

Many people jump into this industry after reading some over hyped content that tells them they can earn thousands of dollars each month with very little work. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Here at Authority Hacker, we are big fans of cold hard facts. We hate fluffy, vague, unproven points.

That is why, in order to answer this question, we’ve gone out and collected income statistics from 21 successful and profitable bloggers.

This post is a (very) long case study which looks at the success of other bloggers. We compare all the stats and try to understand what are the real drivers of success. It’s not a step-by-step guide; rather, it’s a collection of case studies.

Fair warning: All of the stats we used here were self reported from bloggers who regularly publish income reports. We can’t verify the authenticity of all of them, however we expect these to be fairly accurate.

What you will learn

  • ​Who the highest earning blogger is and exactly how he makes money blogging
  • The exact ways 22 other successful bloggers make their money monthly.
  • What the most profitable business models in blogging are.
  • What metrics correlate the most with high blogging revenue.
  • Who earns more between males and females
  • The 9 lessons these 21 bloggers teach us on building more profitable blogs

Our Sample Of Bloggers

21

Bloggers

$ 1,286,866

Total Monthly Earnings

9,844,896

Total Monthly Traffic

*All the income figures presented are April 2017’s figures.

Top 5 Earners

$948,769 in April 2017

John Lee Dumas

John Lee Dumas
Podcaster&Teacher
$490,641​

Pat Flynn

Pat Flynn
Podcaster&Blogger
$176,619

Michelle Gardner

Michelle Gardner
Finance Blogger
$130,856

Lindsay Ostrom

Lindsay Ostrom
Food blogger
$95,162

Justin Weinger

Justin Weinger
IM Blogger
$55,481

Jennifer Food Blogger

Jennifer
Food Blogger
$46,367

Abby

Abby
DIY Blogger
$41,700

Harsh Agarwal

Harsh Argawal
IM Blogger
$34,390

Matthew Woodward

M. Woodward
IM Blogger
$24,261

jon dykstra

Jon Dykstra
Blogger
$22,356

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey
Blogger
$20,492

Kristen

Kristen
Finance Blogger
$15,170

Rose Atwater

Rose Atwater
Family Blogger
$9,416

Alexa

Alexa
Finance Blogger
$8,872

Dave Child

Dave Child
App Developer
$8,416

Dusty Porter

Dusty Porter
MMO Blogger
$5,846

Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws
IM Blogger
$5,176

Matthew

Matthew
Video game creator
$4,575

Paula Dennholdt

Paula Dennholdt
Family Blogger
$3,984

Nathan Income Bully

Nathan
IM Blogger
$2,697

Will Tang

Will Tang
Travel Blogger
$2,271

Let’s start the analysis with the most basic question…

Where does the money come from?

When non internet marketing people first hear about bloggers making thousands of dollars monthly, their first reaction usually “huh? Really? How??”.

We took the 21 income reports for March 2015 and tried to split the income into 3 categories:

  1. Affiliate income (via affiliate links) – Money bloggers own for referring sales to another company​ through blog posts
  2. Advertising – Money bloggers get paid for to show ads on their site or get clicks on these ads (CPM vs CPC).
  3. Products & Services – Money bloggers get for selling their own products and services to their blog audience.

Here is what the breakdown looked like when we added it all up across all income reports:

21 Blogger's Income Reports Breakdown
Source: Authority Hacker

Where does the profit come from?

21 Bloggers Profit Breakdown
Source: Authority Hacker

If there is one thing Mark and I learned, it’s that revenue does not mean much if you’re spending all the money back into the business and are left with very little profit.

That’s why I was interested in finding out just how profitable building authority sites and online businesses was. As you can see from the graph above, they tend to be VERY profitable compared to most brick and mortar businesses.

For the bloggers analysed, $1 spent on their business yields $4.93 on average. That’s about 79.7% gross profit margin. To give you a comparison point, normal Brick and mortar businesses have an average gross profit margin of 10-53% according to smallbusiness.cron.com.

For every $1 invested in their business, top bloggers earn $4.93 back.

That means that if a food processing company (around 10% gross margin) wants to make as much gross profit as John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire, they need to sell roughly 3.7 million dollars/month of products (over $44 million/year).​

That. Is. Insane.

​Now, because I’ve realised that services and products were very different in terms of scale, sales and profitability, I have decided to split those 2 for the rest of the analysis. The 4 categories we will be analysing from this point

These business models are drastically different, I think it’s only fair that we split up their profitability to get an idea of what business models are the most lucrative, regardless of the size of these blogger’s businesses.

Because the costs are usually not broken down per area in most income reports and because most bloggers run multiple business models on top of each other, we’ve grouped them depending on their main source of income and looked at their profitability.

One last note on this table: some bloggers don’t list their expenses; we excluded them from this part of the report, since it would skew data, which is why these totals may be different than the overall totals.

Here are the results:​

Business Model Total Income Total Expenses Profit Margin Profit
Affiliate $170,300 $23,181 $147,119 86.38%
Advertising $179,545 $64,589 $114,956 64.02%
Product Sales $570,485 $173,427 $397,058 69.60%

One of the most interesting results here is that affiliate marketing is on average more profitable than creating and selling your own product. So why would you bother?

If you also look at the total profits, you will also see that own products generates over 3x more revenue than affiliate marketing, and more than twice more total profit.

One of the reasons they general so much revenue is that selling your own products opens up a lot of new marketing channels that are not opened to affiliate marketers (learn more about this in this podcast).

Advertising is both the least profitable and generates the least total profit; however, the massive benefit of using ads to monetize is that they require a super low commitment.

What metrics correlate the most with higher revenue?

Before we venture into correlation, let me remind you that correlation do not equal to causation. It’s not because high earnings bloggers have a lot of Twitter followers that buying Twitter followers will help you earn more money.

This study simply highlights the characteristics of highly profitable blogs. If you want to learn more about correlation vs causation, check this video out.

Correlation: Alexa rank against earnings

-0.28

Correlation: weak positive

21 Bloggers Alexa Rank vs. Total Revenue
Source: Authority Hacker

In this case, the correlation is a negative number because Alexa rank is a reversed metric (lower = more popular). Alexa rank is supposed to measure the traffic of a website and it seems logical that with more traffic, websites should be more lucrative.

But the weak correlation​ shows that traffic is not everything and many lower traffic bloggers make a lot more than high traffic bloggers.

Overall, while Alexa does a pretty good job at knowing which sites get traffic, it’s not a metric you can rely on when it comes to assessing revenue generated.​

Note: some of the bloggers here have money-generating sites that they do not disclose but that contribute to their revenue totals, which is a flaw in this analysis.

Correlation: Linking root domains against earnings

0.36

Correlation: semi-weak positive

Bloggers Linking Domains vs. Total Revenue
Source: Authority Hacker

While the number of backlinks does seem to have a correlation with earnings, there are some serious outliers–those who make bank without loads of links.

One of the biggest factors in the outliers is that they seem take advantage of other platforms such as iTunes (John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn), Pinterest (Lindsay Ostrom), and others. Consider going beyond Google and backlinks if you want to do well.

Note: this analysis is slightly flawed in the same way the Alexa rank correlation was: a lot of these bloggers make money on sites other than the sites they blog on, therefore the correlation could simply mean that people earning more money get more attention.​

Correlation: Twitter followers​ against earnings

0.67

Correlation: moderate positive

Blogger Twitter Followers vs. Total Revenue
Source: Authority Hacker

This one made me raise an eyebrow. I always expected Twitter and social media fans to not be very good at monetising and obviously I was wrong.

There is a fairly strong ​correlation between blogging revenue and Twitter followers.

Once again, the correlation could be reversed meaning that high earning bloggers attract a lot of followers because they earn a lot but ​it is also possible that social media is a better indicator of audience than backlinks or alexa rank.

​Most importantly it’s a better indicator of ENGAGED audience since they took the time to follow the blogger on social media.

This goes towards pointing out that a smaller engaged crowd is much more profitable than a large unengaged audience and traffic really is not the most important thing in an online business.​

The amount of Twitter followers for your blog directly correlates with your blog's earnings.

Learn more: How To Get More Twitter Followers And “Automate” Relationship Building

Guys vs. Gals: Who earns the most?

Given that 9 of our 22 bloggers are women, we thought it would be interesting to see how their income compares.

In the real world, women earn on average $0.77 when a man earns $1. Is the world of blogging more or less discriminating than the real world?

​Here is what came out of the numbers:

Bloggers Women vs Men: Mean Revenue
Source: Authority Hacker
Bloggers Women vs MenL Median Revenue
Source: Authority Hacker

This one was very interesting. On average, men earn 184% of the money women make online. At least in the sample we analysed. That seems hugely unfair and the difference is massive compared to the real world.

So should we get out and protest?

Well, not really. When we ran the median of earnings, we actually found that women were earning 33% more than men (up 69% from the last time we ran this study), meaning that while the average is higher for men, they also suffer from a much greater spread of income.

Women blogger have a higher median income than men.

In fact, John Lee Dumas earns so much more than the rest of the pack, he skews the data a great deal. Here’s what the chart looks like if you omit John Lee Dumas:

Bloggers Women vs Men: Average Revenue without Factoring John Lee Dumas
Source: Authority Hacker

Here, it’s about equal, and the women have even pulled ahead. Not bad!

Let’s now look into the outliers to understand the spread of income…

The 1% of the blogging world

As seen in the previous section, spread of income (and somehow low sample number) shows that there are huge spreads of income across bloggers.

I thought it would be interesting to see how wide that spread is and if the Pareto principle verified in this industry as well.​

So we took the top 5 bloggers (John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, Michelle Gardner, Lindsay Ostrom, and Justin Weinger) and compared their income against the rest of the crowd.

Here is what this looks like:​

The 1% of the blogging world
Source: Authority Hacker

It was interesting to see that the Pareto principle verifies itself in the blogging world as well. The top 20% of our sample group earned 80.1% of all revenue.

This means that if you’re looking to get into this industry, realistic expectations should be set with the ​median income (see section above) and not the average income because the outliers push it up really hard.

Zooming into each blogger's business

John Lee Dumas

John Lee Dumas

Website: eofire.com

Site age: 4 years

Niche: Entrepreneurship, online business & podcasting

Total Monthly Revenue: $490,641​

Total Monthly Expenses: $117,962

Net Income: $372,679

John’s entrepreneurship focused website, ‘EntrepreneurOnFire’ has lived up to its name – within 3 years of launching, it grossed over $3.7M with $2.8M in pure profits. That the site made just $69k within the first 365 days, but $232k in March alone is a testament to John’s hustle and content quality.

​John also deserves credit for being one of champions of the podcast movement among entrepreneurs. With over 900 episodes, he has interviewed everyone from Tim Ferriss to Michael Port. Along the way, he has inspired thousands to take the entrepreneurship leap and run better businesses.

Podcasting remains his biggest source of revenue. Between sponsorship for the EOFire podcast and his “Podcaster’s Paradise” course, ​John made over $400k in March revenue alone!

Revenue Over Time for John Lee Dumas

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

26,967

Twitter Followers

32.4k

Linking Domains

4.63k

Monthly Traffic

270.1k

Organic Traffic

42%

Social Traffic

4%

John Lee Dumas Blog Stats

‘John Lee Dumas’ and ‘Entrepreneur on Fire’ are big brands in the entrepreneurship niche.

Because of the strength of the brand name, John’s websites get a lot of traffic through direct type-ins.

Referrals from his podcast guests’ websites also land him a lot of traffic as well.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$51,318

John earns a smaller (but still significant) portion of his income from affiliate commissions.

Advertising

$59,600

Nearly all of John’s ad earnings are from EOFire podcast sponsorship.

Products / Services

$382,423

The bulk of product earnings come from “Podcasters Paradise”.

Top Expenses for John Lee Dumas

John is a huge proponent of smart outsourcing on his podcasts and blog. This shows in his expenses as well – John spent $$3,121 in March on virtual assistants. His expenses also show he spent $10,000 in sponsorships, which could be a novel form of advertising for him.

What we can learn from John

1. Try podcasting

John Lee Dumas pretty much started the recent podcasting phenomenon among entrepreneurs. It’s still his biggest source of traffic and revenue. Podcasts are not only fun to create, they also help you connect with leading figures in your field. The sponsorship money isn’t bad either!

2. Brand yourself

EntrepreneurOnFire.com is an exercise in self-branding. John’s face is all over the website and he uses the same colors/graphical elements everywhere. Based on the strength of his brand, John is able to command a premium on ads/sponsorship for his podcast.

Pat Flynn

Pat Flynn

Website: smartpassiveincome.com

Site age: 7.5 years

Niche: Entrepreneurship, online business & podcasting

Total Monthly Revenue: $258,737

Total Monthly Expenses: $46,620

Net Income: $212,117

As the founder of SmartPassiveIncome.com, Pat is easily the most recognizable name on this list. For the last 7.5 years, Pat has been sharing his entrepreneurial journey with the world.

It started with him declaring that he will quit his job with passive income in October 2008, to making over $212,00 in revenue in March 2017.

By all means, that is one really impressive journey!

Pat writes at least once a week about marketing, blogging and building businesses on the SmartPassiveIncome blog.​ He also runs the highly rated Ask Pat podcast, a popular YouTube channel (73k subscribers and counting) and the wonderful Smart Podcast Player.

Additionally, Pat runs a handful of web properties such as GreenExamAcademy.com​, FoodTruckr.com and SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com.

Full though his hands may be, Pat still publicly shares every aspect of his buinsess with his readers through his detailed monthly income reports. ​The earliest report from October 2008 had revenues of $7,906.55.

Revenue Over Time for Pat Flynn

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

34,713​​

Twitter Followers

146k

Linking Domains

10.4k

Monthly Traffic

883.8k

Organic Traffic

34%

Social Traffic

5%

Pat Flynn Blog Stats

​Pat’s website is one of the most linked-to money making blogs online, so it makes sense that search traffic forms the second-largest chunk of his incoming traffic. The biggest, of course, comes from his email list.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$64,717

Pat primarily promotes web hosting and email products.

Advertising

$15,984

​Pat’s advertising income comes through AskPat podcast sponsorships.

Products / Services

$161,552

Pat sells eBooks on his niche websites, plus a web player for podcasters.

Pat sells books, themes, apps and courses. Courses account for over $150,000 of his product revenue.

Pat makes the vast majority of his revenue with course sales. Of course, he does very well with affiliate marketing, too. He earns $31,000 from Bluehost commissions generated on SmartPassiveIncome.

Top 3 Products / Services He Promotes

  1. Bluehost
  2. ConvertKit

@patflynn earns $161,000+/month with product sales. Find out how much 22 other top bloggers make

Top Expenses for Pat Flynn

Besides revenue, Pat also shares a detailed breakdown of his monthly business expenses.

The biggest expense for Pat is hiring what he calls “professional services,” which includes stuff like developers, accountants and virtual assistants. Developers, writers and virtual assistants make up the biggest chunk, costing Pat a bit over $31,000.

What we can learn from Pat

1. Consistency is crucial

Pat has been blogging regularly for 6.5 years. Thanks to this consistency, the SmartPassiveIncome (SPI) blog has developed tremendous clout with readers, other bloggers and search engines. This shows in the income as well: in October 2008, Pat earned barely a few dollars from SPI. Today, he makes well over $100,000/month from it.

2. Diversify your income sources

Blogs, SPI TV, Ask Pat podcast, software, websites, eBooks – Pat has his fingers in many different pies. Each of these contributes to his personal brand and brings him increasingly higher traffic and revenues. I can think of the old adage: never put all your eggs in one basket.

3. Personal branding

Pat’s face is everywhere on his website. He once even wrote about how a reader recognized him on a flight (a ‘celebrity’ moment few entrepreneurs will ever have). Today, the Pat Flynn personal brand is arguably bigger than all his blogs combined. Thanks to this brand, Pat could start from scratch and still build an enviable following within months.​

Michelle Gardner

Michelle Gardner

Website: MakingSenseOfCents.com

Site age: 5 years

Niche: Frugal lifestyle, savings

​Total Monthly Income: 130,856

Total Monthly Expenses: ​$4,000

Net Income: $126,856

Michelle runs the popular MakingSenseOfCents blog where she teaches her readers how to save money, get organized and live a better life. She’s been blogging for more than five years now, and in that period, she has grown her ‘side income’ blog into a monster. She now earns over $100,000/mo.

Michelle’s blog is devoted to finding answers to problems we all understand: controlling emotional spending, earning extra income, and making better financial decisions. This is a trillion dollar industry globally and people buried under debt are desperate for solutions. Michelle herself proudly talks about paying off $40k in student loan debt within 7 months.

Michelle updates her blog around 8-12 times a month, usually with in-depth guides on everything from product reviews to renting out rooms. Along the way, she also teaches her readers how to make money from their ‘side hustle’.

Revenue Over Time for Michelle Gardner

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

75,536

Twitter Followers

10.7k

Linking Domains

2.4k

Total Traffic

305.5k

Organic Traffic

27%

Social Traffic

19%

Blog Stats for MakingSenseOfCents.com

Michelle gets over 300,000 readers/month, and a big chunk of her traffic comes from other financial advice/entrepreneurship blogs and search engines. She tries to stay away from the linkbait, ‘viral traffic’ trap and instead, focuses on providing real value to readers. This has helped her earn a substantial amount with only only 300,000 visitors.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$86,225

Advertising

$14,513

Products / Services

$30,088

Michelle’s income is well-divided into all three broad categories, but the bulk comes from affiliate revenue. It’s worth noting that the majority of her advertising income ($11,750) comes from sponsored content and direct ads. She also sells a course that earns her $30,000 per month.As befitting a blog about frugal living, Michelle’s expenses are quite low – she paid $4,900 in transaction fees and hosting to run the blog in the last reported month, which makes her net income pretty ridiculous.

Top 3 Products / Services She Promotes

  1. Bluehost
  2. Survey Companies (various)
  3. Bookkeeper Business Academy

What we can learn from Michelle


1. Simplify complex topics

The biggest reason for Michelle’s success is her ability to explain complex topics in layman language. Debt reduction, credit cards, insurance – these are subjects few people understand. By simplifying them, Michelle has been able to carve a niche for herself in a competitive vertical.

2. Target one demographic

Instead of creating generic financial advice pieces, Michelle carefully targets a narrow audience – millennials who want to reduce debt, earn a side income, and travel the world. This makes her blog so much more relatable than your average finance website.

Lindsay Ostrom

Lindsay Ostrom

Website: PinchofYum.com

Site age: 6 years

Niche: Food Photography, Cooking

Total Monthly Revenue: $95,197

Total Monthly Expenses: $58,497

Net Income: $36,665

Lindsay Ostrom is easily the most recognizable face in food blogging. The founder of PinchOfYum, Lindsay has been whipping up delicious fare and photographing them for close to 5 years.

In the course of these years, ​she has grown the blog from a mere $21/month to an industry behemoth that earns over $95,000 every month.

The most interesting part about Lindsay’s journey is that she has managed to build a six figure business in a niche most don’t think about – food photography and blogging.

Revenue Over Time for Lindsay Ostrom

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

25,717

Twitter Followers

12.9k

Linking Domains

11k

Total Traffic

1.9M

Organic Traffic

40%

Social Traffic

16%

Blog Stats for PinchOfYum

Lindsay has a massive presence on Pinterest and Instagram. Between these two social networks, she has over 100k followers (113k for Pinterest, 374k for Instagram). Naturally, these followers send massive traffic to her posts every day.

As one of the biggest brands in food blogging, she also gets a lot of referral traffic–over 100,00 visits from BuzzFeed alone in November.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$10,255

Advertising

$82,112

Products / Services

$2,546

Lindsay most of her money with advertising, though affiliate marketing and digital product sales also make up a big share of her earnings. Given the size of her audience and brand positioning, she can command a premium on advertising rates. This helps her earn $82,000+ with advertising.

Lindsay also has a bunch of products of her own that teach others how to take better food photographs. She also promotes affiliate products, mostly hosting offers as part of her ‘how to make money blogging’ course.​

Top 3 Products / Services She Promotes

  1. BlueHost
  2. Tasty Food Photography (own product)

Top Expenses

Lindsay’s biggest expense for november (after her salary) was studio space. She spent $3,735 on student related expenses. And this makes sense, right? A major part of her business is taking great pictures.

What we can learn from Lindsay

1. Age matters

Lindsay has been blogging on PinchOfYum for over 6 years. This amounts to hundreds of posts with thousands of pictures. Every new post you create has a compounding effect on your traffic and income potential.

2. Focus on visuals

Lindsay’s website traffic shot up substantially after she started taking better pictures of her creations. Even her best-selling course is on taking better food pictures. In our image-dominated social age, it is crucial that you focus on better visuals on your blog.

3. Don’t ignore Pinterest

Unlike a lot of other bloggers on this list, Lindsay gets a over half a million visits from Pinterest. This is one social network many bloggers tend to miss, even though it can drive a huge amount of traffic. If you have an image-focused blog, it might be wise to shift focus from Twitter/Google+ to Pinterest.

Justin Weinger

Justin Weinger

Website: SoOverThis.com

Site age: 5 years

Niche: Internet marketing

Total Monthly Revenue: $55,481

Total Monthly Expenses: $1,571

Net Income: $53,910

Want to get ‘over’ the rat race, debt and financial responsibility? Then Justin Weinger of SoOverThis.com is your friend and sherpa.

The site started in February 2011 as ‘So Over Debt’, a blogger’s journey to getting out of debt. Justin purchased the site in 2013, chronicling his own journey to financial freedom and making a promise to be as transparent and ‘non-guru’ like as possible. In the last two years, he’s made a remarkable habit of sticking to that promise.

Today, Justin has completely crushed his goal, making over $53,000 in profit in the last reported month.

Revenue Over Time for Justin Weinger

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

1,060,235

Twitter Followers

0

Linking Domains

3.35k

Total Traffic

7.9k

Organic Traffic

31%

Social Traffic

20%

Blog Stats for SoOverThis.com

SoOverThis.com contributes very little to Justin’s total earnings. He doesn’t sell any products, nor does he promote any affiliate programs heavily. The traffic he does get is largely organic or through referrals.

For his money making sites, Justin relies on search engines and social media to drive the bulk of his traffic.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$0

Justin reports no affiliate earnings.

Advertising

$55,481

Advertising makes up all of Junstin’s income.

Products / Services

$0

Justin doesn’t sell any products.

Justin makes all his income through ad sales, primarily display ads. He runs high traffic, high quality niche sites with targeted traffic. Selling advertising on such sites is a legit way to make money online in 2017.

Top 3 Products / Services He Promotes

  • Private Ad Sales

What we can learn from Justin

1. Don’t forget about ads

Bloggers are often so fixated on affiliate marketing and info products that they forget about the oldest legit money making method online: advertising. If you have a high-traffic, authoritative website, you can easily make thousands of dollars every month through ad sales.

2. Private ad sales > AdSense

AdSense is the easiest way to make money from a site. But because it is easy, it is also hardly lucrative. If you go down the advertising path, make sure that you maximize display ad (e.g. banner ads) and private ad revenues. Use AdSense only to fill up unsold inventory on the site.

Jennifer Food Blogger

Jennifer

Website: ShowMeTheYummy.com

Niche: Food and recipes

Total Monthly Revenue: $46,367

Total Monthly Expenses: $2,185

Net Income: $44,181

ShowMetheYummy is a four-year-old site in the food recipes niche. Jennifer, the owner of the site, started publishing income reports in November 2014. That month, she made just $28 from a little over 19,000 pageviews. Since then, she’s grown the site to over 700,000 pageviews and over $40,000 in monthly revenue.

Here’s what I really love about this site, though: Jennifer has been keeping track of her RPMs since she started publishing income reports, and, to me, it’s the most interesting part of the case study. Since she started reporting her income, her RPMs have grown from a little over $3 to over $65 in the last reported month–which is a testament to her extreme focus on monetization.

Revenue Over Time for Jennifer

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

194,638

Twitter Followers

1k

Linking Domains

1.4k

Total Traffic

263.5k

Organic Traffic

54%

Social Traffic

15%

Blog Stats for ShowMeTheYummy

ShowMeTheYummy get the majority of its traffic through organic channels, but Jennifer also has a solid social presence, and social traffic accounts for nearly 15% of her total visits. The site doesn’t have and outrageous DR (it’s 52 as of this writing), but it’s clear the site has steadily gathered a strong profile of natural links.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$432

Affiliate income makes up a very small percentage of Jennifer’s revenue.

Advertising

$26,574

Advertising is the biggest revenue stream for Jennifer.

Products / Services

$19,360

The site also make substantial income from products.

The biggest chunks of Jennifer’s income come from advertising and products and services; in fact, it’s almost a dead split. One of the interesting things here is that AdThrive makes up the majority of this sites advertising revenue, and since it’s an ad optimization platform, it seems to be a big factor in the dramatic increase in Jennifer’s RPMs.

Another thing to note here is that Jennifer makes about $11,000 from sponsored content, a monetization method that seems to be trending. She also makes nearly $20,000 from a course on food photography she created with her husband, Trevor.

Top 3 Products / Services She Promotes

  1. Show Me the Yummy Digital Food Video Workshop
  2. Sponsored content

Top Expenses

Jennifer and Trevor like to keep their expenses low, spending just over $2,000 in the last reported month. The biggest expense for Jennifer was “equipment,” which presumably means photography and videography equipment. Her next-biggest expense was payment processing.

What we can learn from Jennifer

1. Focus on monetization

Jennifer was able to increase her RPMs from $3 to a whopping $65. If her RPMs were still $3, she would have earned about $2,000 last month instead of $46,000.

2. Your product can be slightly unrelated to your niche

Jennifer’s blog is about food and recipes, but her course is about food photography. Their related, but they’re not the same topic.

Abby

Abby

Website: JustAGirlAndHerBlog.com

Site age: 3 years

Niche: Home organization, DIY, and home decor

​Total Monthly Income: $41,700

Total Monthly Expenses: $6,340

Net Income: $35,360

Abby teaches her readers how to turn houses into homes, and in the process, makes over $35,000 every month. That she managed to reach this figure in a tough niche with minimum spend on advertising shows what’s possible if you just focus on creating high quality content.

Abby shared her first income report in February 2014. In that report, Abby had total income of $2,446 with expenses of $272. Within one year, this figure was up four times to $13,887 – well over publicly shared goal of earning $10k/month by April 2015 (proof that you need to set hard goals for yourself!).

Abby writes 2-4 posts every week on her blog. This includes detailed DIY projects as well as listicles and roundups from social media. This kind of content isn’t easy to create, but Abby does a smashing job with her write-ups as well as the quality of her pictures

Revenue Over Time for Abby

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

97,554

Twitter Followers

7.9k

Linking Domains

3.5k

Total Traffic

284.7k

Organic Traffic

41%

Social Traffic

17%

Blog Stats for JustAGirlAndHerBlog.com

Abby’s blog is well loved within the ‘mommy bloggers’ niche and gets a lot of referral traffic. Her presence on social media is strong as well: she has over 92k followers on Pinterest, which makes up a bulk of her social media traffic.

Of course, with hundreds of posts and strong domain authority, Abby gets a ton of search engine traffic as well (currently about 40% of her total traffic, according to SimilarWeb).

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$27,507

Abby makes good money from a variety of different affiliate programs.

Advertising

$0

Abby doesn’t list any advertising income.

Products / Services

$14,193

Abbey sells several eBooks and courses.

Abby’s biggest earner seems to be products she sells with the Amazon Associate’s program, but she also makes good money from BlueHost commissions, thanks to a well-received post on ‘how to stat a blog.’

Her biggest expense is affiliate payouts (amounting to $1,748 in the last reported month)​, followed by fees she paid for an assistant and professional services (legal and accounting).

Top 3 Products / Services She Promotes

What we can learn from Abby

1. Brand yourself according to your niche

Abby’s readers are largely other moms. This reflects in her brand as well. She uses plenty of pastel shades and a friendly, feminine theme, which works perfectly with her audience.

2. Mix it up

Abby writes in-depth posts on DIY topics and follows them up with listicles and roundups from across the internet. By writing a mix of authoritative and link bait content, she is able to get the best of both worlds: rankings and social media traffic.

3. Add pictures wherever possible

Instead of simply writing long posts, Abby uses a lot of pictures to create visual DIY guides. These are easier to follow and bring in additional traffic through social shares.

Harsh Agarwal

Harsh Agarwal

Website: ShoutMeLoud.com

Site age: 7 years

Niche: Tech tips, make money online and blogging

Total Monthly Revenues: ​$34,390

Total Monthly Expenses: ​$12,943

Net Income: ​$21,447

In terms of sheer traffic, Harsh’s website, ShoutMeLoud sits at the very top of our list of blogs. ShoutMeLoud gets over a million of page views every month. Part of the reason is the broad nature of the website; ShoutMeLoud shares tips on everything from blogging to making your phone work faster. Another reason is Harsh’s prowess as a blogger which has helped his site thrive even when other similar sites sank under Panda and Penguin.

Harsh has been publicly sharing his site earnings since February 2009. That month, he made $434. In 7 years, he’s grown to over $34,000.

Harsh is a prolific blogger. Over the course of 7 years, he has written well over 3,000 posts, which averages out to around 2 posts per day!

Revenue Over Time for Harsh Agarwal

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

4,787

Twitter Followers

18.2k

Linking Domains

10k

Total Traffic

4.1M

Organic Traffic

71%

Social Traffic

3%

Blog Stats for Harsh Agarwal

With nearly 3,000 posts, ShoutMeLoud has covered nearly every keyword imaginable in the make money, blogging, and internet tips niche. Since it is an aged domain with quality content, Google gives it a lot of love as well. Consequently, search makes up a large part of ShoutMeLoud’s traffic

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$12,754

Harsh primarily promotes hosting and social media tools.

Advertising

$921

Harsh’s ad earnings come from AdSense and Media.net among others.

Products / Services

$1,449

Most of Harsh’s product revenue comes from the ShoutMeLoud store.

Harsh’s earnings are well divided between the three broad categories – affiliate, advertising and products. He makes money through affiliate marketing by promoting SEO and social media software. He also earns good money (over $4k) with AdSense and direct ads. In addition, he also sells his own eBooks and domains.

Top Expenses for Harsh

Aside from his salary, Harsh’s biggest expense was travel. He spent a little over $3,000 traveling to an affiliate conference in the U.S., indicating that traveling for education and networking is worthwile.

What we can learn from Harsh

1. Long tail matters

ShoutMeLoud began as a how-to blog covering tech and internet tips. Over the years, Harsh has written hundreds of articles targeting long-tail how-to keywords. This is one reason search accounts for more than 70% of his traffic.

2. Try out alternative income sources

Instead of putting all his blogs in the affiliate/product basket, Harsh has radically diversified his income sources. Besides the usual affiliates, he also sells domain names through the ‘ShoutMeDomains’ brand. This contributes a couple of thousand dollars to his bottom line, and gives his readers access to a much needed commodity – domain names.

Matthew Woodward

Matthew Woodward

Website: MatthewWoodward.co.uk

Site age: 4 years

Niche: SEO / Internet Marketing

Total Monthly Revenue: ​$24,261

Total Monthly Expenses: ​$2,269

Net Income: ​$21,992

Matthew Woodward is one of the foremost SEO bloggers online. His nearly 4 year old blog deals with various aspects of making money online with blogging.

Matthew has shared his income reports publicly since August 2012​. From just $605 in August, he has grown the blog’s income to over $24k today. Over the course of 4 years, his lifetime earnings through the blog and consulting work total over $900k.

Matthew’s primary monetization method is affiliate marketing. However, he also takes on consulting work on the side and has started a project not associated with his internet marketing site that now makes up about half his income.

Revenue Over Time for Matthew Woodward

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

53,443

Twitter Followers

15.6k

Linking Domains

4.8k

Total Traffic

577.4k

Organic Traffic

36%

Social Traffic

11%

Blog Stats for MatthewWoodward.co.uk

Although Matthew’s blog deals primarily with SEO, he built up MatthewWoodward.co.uk without any external link building (even cataloging the experience in his ‘zero link building experiment‘). That is to say, he focused on creating high quality content and letting the blogosphere do the rest. If you want to learn how to start a blog, you should read his blog

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$11,986

Advertising

$768

Products / Services

$0

Matthew makes nearly all of his money with affiliate marketing. As a SEO blogger, his primary choice of products are SEO tools. He also promotes a handful of social media marketing tools. His “other project” makes up about half of his total income, but he doesn’t disclose how.

Top 3 Products / Services He Promotes

Top Expenses

Matthew keeps expenses very low, and he doesn’t appear to pay for VAs or employees, like lots of bloggers do. The biggest expense for Matthew is Facebook ads. Last month, he spent $1,754 buying ads on Facebook. Other expenses include hosting and marketing tools.

What we can learn from Matthew

1. Focus on one topic

Instead of blogging about every topic under the sun, Matthew writes mostly about SEO. This not only gives his blog a hyper-targeted audience, but also helps establish him as a leading authority in the industry. This has led to speaking and consulting gigs.

2. Diversify affiliate products

Matthew promotes a whole range of products to make his $12k monthly affiliate earnings. This means that even if one product fails in the near future, his income won’t be affected much.

jon dykstra

Jon Dykstra

Website: fatstacksblog.com

Site age: 1.5 years

Niche: Undisclosed

Total Monthly Revenue: $22,356

Total Monthly Expenses: Undisclosed

Jon runs the ‘Fat Stacks Entrepreneur’ blog where he shares his lessons in, well, making ‘fat stacks’ through niche sites.

Jon doesn’t share detailed reports on different income channels for his website, except that he makes the majority of his money through display ads, although from personal conversations, I know he’s been working hard to diversify with affiliate revenue and has been having a lot of success.

Jon also runs a smaller affiliate-focused website in a B2B which he uses to test new ideas and ad networks (such as Bing ads).

Jon does sell a (great) course, and it of course earns him some nice money. However, he does not include this income in his income reports.

Blog Stats for Jon Dykstra

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

130,477

Twitter Followers

142

Linking Domains

372

Total Traffic

277.2k

Organic Traffic

34%

Social Traffic

2%

Blog Stats for Jon Dykstra

When Jon launched his primary B2C site, his primary traffic- and revenue generation tool was paid traffic (using mostly Facebook and Outbrain and at one point spending over $100,000 per month). He’s moved away from that a bit as his organic traffic has picked up but is still heavily diversified and still invests in paid traffic.

Jon’s been experimenting with lots of ad networks but always returns to AdSense and Media.net, his best combo for years. He does, however, report record RPMs after implementing Ezoic (an ad testing platform).

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

Jon monetizes his B2C site with AdSense & Media.net

Advertising

Both Jon’s sites now bring in affiliate revenue.

Products / Services

Jon sells a course but does not include that revenue in income reports.

Jon makes nearly all of his money with affiliate marketing. As a SEO blogger, his primary choice of products are SEO tools. He also promotes a handful of social media marketing tools. His “other project” makes up about half of his total income, but he doesn’t disclose how.

What we can learn from Jon

1. Spend money to make money

At the beginning of his site, Jon was spending an enormous amount of money to earn the profits his site generated. This got him off the ground quickly and allowed him to make money while he waited for his search traffic to grow.

2. Build a proven system, then scale it up

When Jon launched his main site, for every dollar Jon spent on ads, he got $1.5 in return. He’s also heavily scaled his content systems. He’s a master of getting something working and boosting it to the moon.

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey

Website: HorkeyHandbook.com

Site age: 1 year

Niche: Freelance writing

Total Monthly Revenue: $20,492

Total Monthly Expenses: $6,521

Net Income: $13,971

Gina Horkey is proof that you don’t need to be a marketer or seller to make money online. If you can provide a service people want, you can make a decent income, even if you don’t have much experience.

Gina embarked on a freelance writing career nearly two years ago. In that her first year, she grew her income from $0 to a healthy $6.5k/month. And now, she makes a whopping $20k/mo. In the process, she has also sold her own product and written for some of the top publishers online.

Revenue Over Time for Gina Horkey

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

337,343

Twitter Followers

3.8k

Linking Domains

466

Total Traffic

51.5k

Organic Traffic

36%

Social Traffic

24%

Blog Stats for Gina Horkey

Gina’s blog, the HorkeyHandbook has become a mainstay in the freelance writing niche (itself a part of the larger writing vertical). It has a loyal following and highly engaged audience (as can be seen in her blog comments). It also gets a lot of link love from other industry blogs, as Ahrefs data shows.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$3,800

Affiliate revenue makes up about 19% of Gina’s revenue.

Advertising

$0

Gina doesn’t report any advertising revenue.

Products / Services

$16,600

Products, services and coaching make up over 80% of Gina’s revenue.

Gina’s offers her own writing and administrative services to make up the bulk of her earnings. Although she doesn’t share exact income breakdowns, it is suffice to say that she makes more than 60% of her earnings through various services.Most of the rest of her earnings are made up of product sales, specifically, an eBook that promises to teach new writers how to start their freelance writing careers.

Top Products She Promotes

What we can learn from Gina

1. Give freelancing a shot

Freelancing is seriously underrated as a way to make money in 2015. Gina was able to grow from $0 to $6,000/month within a few months, all through freelancing, and now her whole business earns over $20,000 per month.

2. Branch out

When she first started, Gina was making almost all her income through freelancing. Now, she’s added product sales to the mix. And it’s always good to diversify your income

Kristen

Kristen

Website: Kristinlarsen.co

Site age: 2 years

Niche: Budgeting, finance, making money online

Total Monthly Revenue: $15,170.31

Total Monthly Expenses: $2,938

Net Income: $12,232

Kristen started Believe In a Budget in January 2015. In her first income report, her site made just $66. It started mostly as a budgeting and finance blog but expanded into content that helps readers make money online and develop profitable “side hustles.” these days, her blog makes five figures per month in net income.

Revenue Over Tome for Kristen

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

321,371

Twitter Followers

2.3k

Linking Domains

235

Total Traffic

30.8k

Organic Traffic

26%

Social Traffic

31%

One of the interesting things about Kristin’s blog is that she makes really good money with relatively little traffic. According to SimilarWeb, her site generates just 30,000 visits per month, and she still makes over $10,000, which means or monetization is very good.

Another thing to note here is that her traffic is spread across lots of different channels: direct traffic, organic traffic, and social traffic all make up roughly equal numbers of visitors.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$12,179

Kristen makes most of her money with affiliate commissions.

Advertising

$1,305

Kristen makes over thousand dollars with advertising that says she has been trying to reduce ads on her site.

Products / Services

$1,639

Kristen also makes some decent income from her courses.

The bulk of Kristen’s revenue comes from affiliate commissions, although she generates solid revenue through her courses as well. She also makes a little over $1,000 with advertising and sponsored content, but she says she’s trying to reduce the number of ads in her site, so this revenue is decreasing.

Top Products She Promotes

Top Expenses

Kristen’s biggest expense in the last reported month was a new computer, although that’s obviously atypical. After that, her biggest expense was affiliate payouts, which indicates she’s using affiliate courses.

What we can learn from Kristen

Use affiliates even if you have a small course

Kristen’s courses aren’t huge and seem to still be growing, but she still recruits affiliates to promote them and makes some decent money.

Rose Atwater

Rose Atwater

Website: RoseAtwater.com

Site Age: 4 years

Niche: Finance, food and family

Total Monthly Revenue: $9,416

Total Monthly Expenses: $1,112

Net Income: $8,304

RoseAtwater.com is a site built around Rose’s personal brand. Her income reports, however, include multiple sites that she owns, such as rosebakes.com. Her site portfolio covers covers a few different seemingly unrelated niches: finance, food and family. Rose does very well by touching a few different niches, earning almost 5 figures per month

Revenue Over Time for Rose Atwater

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

2,718,343

Twitter Followers

3k

Linking Domains

123

Total Traffic

2.4k

Organic Traffic

10%

Social Traffic

33%

Blog Stats for Rose Atwater

On most of her blogs, Rose generates the majority of traffic from search engines, although she also has a strong presence on social media. This is especially true for her baking sites, which does very well on interest.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$2,190

Rose earns about 20% of her income through affiliate commissions.

Advertising

$7,225

Advertising makes up the biggest chunk of income for Rose.

Products / Services

$0

Rose doesn’t sell any products or services.

For Rose, was of the income comes from advertising. Here, again, we see a blogger having a lot of success with AdThrive, and add optimization platform. Rose still uses AdSense, though, and she also make some money with sponsored posts.

Top Products She Promotes

Top Expenses

Like some of the other blogs on this list, Rose likes to keep her expenses low. However, she does spend money on a virtual assistant, and that makes up the majority of her overhead.

What we can learn from Rose


1. Slap your personal brand on several niches.

Rose is in multiple niches, and all of her sides have her personal brand despite then being unrelated. Both her finance and her baking blog leverage her personal brand.

2. Triad optimization platforms.

Rose doesn’t have as much traffic as some of the other bloggers here, but by using an ad optimization platform, she’s able to generate pretty impressive RPMs.

Alexa

Alexa

Website: Singlemomsincome.com

Site Age: 5 years

Niche: Financial management and freelance

Total Monthly Revenue: $8,872

Total Monthly Expenses: Undisclosed

Single Moms Income started as a way for Alexa to chronicle her journey of trying to escape what she calls “dead jobs.” She started the site in 2012, and since then it has grown to nearly 150,000 visitors per month.

Alexa covers financial topics with a focus on earning income from side jobs and freelance gigs. This is reflected in Alexa’s own revenue, which still includes money from her own freelance gigs.

Revenue Over Time for Alexa

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

172,511

Twitter Followers

2.8k

Linking Domains

1k

Total Traffic

143.9k

Organic Traffic

24%

Social Traffic

16%

Blog Stats for Alexa

Most of Alexis traffic comes from the search engines, although, many of the bloggers on this list who use their personal brand on their blogs, Alexa leverages Pinterest to capture a social audience. She also has quite a bit of direct traffic.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$4,871

Most of Alexa’s income comes from affiliate commissions.

Advertising

$2,500

Alexa also makes money with ad networks and sponsored post.

Products / Services

$1,500

Alexa still earns a significant portion of her income through freelancing.

One of the things I love about Alexa’s blog is that she truly practices what she preaches. Although she earns a nice wage from affiliate commissions and advertising, she still freelances, which, aside from supplementing her income, I think, wins her blog a lot of credibility. She’s not just teaching people how to do it; she’s in the trenches doing it herself.

Top Products She Promotes

  • Her own VA services

What we can learn from Alexa

1. Don’t be afraid to diversify your income with “real work”

Alexa doesn’t hire virtual assistants. She is a virtual assistant. She’s got a blog that makes great money, which still works part-time to supplement her income.

2. Practice what you preach

In my view, everything up Alexis says about earning extra money carries a lot more weight than it might on other blogs because she is actually out there doing it, and her income reports are coldhearted proof.

Dave Child

Dave Child

Website: GetPostCookie.com

Site Age: 1 year

Niche: Various app-driven sites

Total Monthly Revenue: $8,416

Total Monthly Expenses: $2,324

Net Income: $6,091

Dave runs a bunch of cool sites that are very much outside of what most “niche site builders” are creating. Most of his sites provide aid some kind of app or service and, as far as I can tell, operate on a freemium model. His sites include:

Revenue Over Time for Dave Child

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

2,399,790

Twitter Followers

1.9k

Linking Domains

132

Total Traffic

3.3k

Organic Traffic

71%

Social Traffic

4%

Blog Stats for Dave Child

Dave’s best-earning site, Readable.io, generates about 150,000 visits per month. Because it’s a highly useful service, it generates about as much direct and referral traffic as it does through the search engines.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$0

Dave reports no affiliate revenue.

Advertising

$0

Dave reports no advertising revenue.

Products / Services

$8,416

Almost all of Dave’s revenue comes from products memberships.

Now, I could be wrong here, but I don’t think any of Dave’s websites generate money with affiliate commissions or ads. All the revenue generated through products and memberships sold on the website.

Top Products He Promotes

  • Freemium memberships

Top Expenses

But of the interesting things about Dave’s expenses is that he drops couple hundred bucks per site on social media to market them every month. He also pays a couple of writers.

What we can learn from Dave

1. Make something useful and give it away for free (and then charge for it)

Freemium has always been one of my favorite business models, and Dave executes it really well. Giving something away for free is a great way to bring in traffic.

2. New designs can mean more money

When Dave redesigned his readability websites, it quickly became his highest earner.

Dusty Porter

Dusty Porter

Website: Onlinebusinessrealm.com

Site Age: < 1 year

Niche: Making money online

Total Monthly Revenue: $5,846

Total Monthly Expenses: $425

Net Income: $5,421

Dusty’s site began as many of ours do: getting laid off. After losing his job in 2011, Dusty decided he didn’t ever want to go through that again and started trying to figure how to make money online.

He’s done just about everything — from selling stuff on Amazon and eBay to recording voiceovers to selling services on Fiverr.

Eventually, he started a YouTube channel dedicated to helping people grow and monetize their YouTube channels. He now has over 163k subscribers, and YouTube-related income makes up the bulk of his revenue.

Revenue Over Time for Dusty Porter

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

4,557,927

Twitter Followers

0

Linking Domains

10

Total Traffic

398

Organic Traffic

69%

Social Traffic

0%

Blog Stats for Dusty Porter

Site data isn’t overly important here, since Dusty makes almost all of his money on YouTube.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$1,077

Dusty makes about a fourth of his revenue by promoting affiliate offers.

Advertising

$2,969

Most of Dusty’s income comes from display ads and sponsored posts.

Products / Services

$1,768

Dusty earns this money mostly from a freelance gigs but also from courses.

Dusty is kind of a jack of all trades, and he’s got his finger and a lot of different pies. He has a YouTube channel. He has four podcasts. He has a website. He does freelance work. And he makes money with all of them

Top Products He Promotes

  • Bluehost
  • His own services on Fiverr

Top Expenses

Dusty’s expenses are relatively low, and most of them are associated with keeping his website running. He does, however, hire a virtual assistant that costs him about $200 per month.

What we can learn from Dusty

1. Diversify everything

Dusty seems to be the master of diversification. He diverse is not only his traffic and revenue but also his platforms.

2. Monetize everything

Dusty also monetizes basically everything he touches. His YouTube channel, podcast, and website all generate revenue.

Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws

Website: NichePursuits.com

Site age: 5 years

Niche: Niche websites, internet marketing

Total Monthly Revenue: $5,176

Spencer Haws is a name familiar to most internet marketing veteran. He’s one of the most successful IMers around with multiple six-figure websites under his belt. With NichePursuits, Spencer is taking a new route – he is building niche websites from scratch and sharing the results with everyone. He also has an Amazon FBA business.

His income figures are ONLY reporting earnings NichePursuits.com. He owns many other websites, products and companies that he does not report the earnings from.

On NichePursuits.com, readers will find a treasure trove of case studies and advice on building, buying, and monetizing websites.

Note: There’s no graph here because Spencer only recently started keeping income reports again.

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

71,377

Twitter Followers

6.4k

Linking Domains

1.9k

Total Traffic

368.5k

Organic Traffic

33%

Social Traffic

7%

Blog Stats for Spencer Haws

NichePursuits benefits immensely from Spencer’s extensive marketing experience. Within a few months of its inception, it has grew into a top-tier property with thousands of monthly readers, tons of incoming links and a growing social media profile. It ranks highly in search engines, and also gets referral traffic from podcast guests linking back to his site.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$5,167

NichePursuits earns all of its income through affiliate commissions.

Advertising

$0

Spencer doesn’t report any advertising revenue.

Products / Services

$0

Although Spencer has lots of other businesses and products, he doesn’t report them in his income reports.

Spencer didn’t make make much money directly with affiliate commissions on NichePursuits for most of the site’s life, but he appears to have been making a push to promote more of the products he uses and recommends, and its’ been paying off. He now earns over $5,000 per month in affiliate commissions.

Top Products He Promotes

What we can learn from Spencer

Get help

Spencer spreads his attention across dozens of niche websites and projects. Obviously, he can’t do all this on his own. He’s made a habit of outsourcing the bulk of content creation work so he can focus on what he does best: marketing.

Matthew

Matthew

Website: TrueValhalla.com

Site age: 3 years

Niche: Making video games

Total Monthly Revenue: $4,575

Matthew’s blog is proof that you don’t need to sell eBooks or courses to make money – you can just do what you love and the money will follow.

For three years, Matthew has been sharing his journey making a passive income from creating HTML5 games. He designs these games from scratch then sells the rights to various gaming portals, pocketing the royalties.​ Altogether, this amounts to just over $4.5k in earnings each month (and he reports a 12-month average of $9k+).

One thing to note here, though, is that Matthew’s income has extreme peaks and valleys. In his best months, he’s earned over $30,000.

Matthew’s success furthers my view that there are many, many ways to earn a living online. Some create niche websites, some offer writing services, while some do what they love – make games – and live the internet lifestyle.

Revenue Over Time for Matthew

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

498,062

Twitter Followers

20.9k

Linking Domains

277

Total Traffic

58.4k

Organic Traffic

14%

Social Traffic

33%

Blog Stats for Matthew

Matthew’s blog is one of the few sites devoted to making and selling HTML5 games online. As such, it has a small but highly engaged readership. This has helped it earn strong referral traffic and an authoritative position in search engines, both of which contribute heavily to its traffic.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$0

Matt doesn’t report any advertising revenue.

Advertising

$0

Matt doesn’t report any advertising revenue.

Products / Services

$4,575

Products make up all of Matt’s revenue.

Top Products He Promotes

What we can learn from Matthew

1. Tiny niche, big profits

Matthew makes HTML5 video games, then sells them to gaming websites. This is a very small niche compared to ‘make money’, ‘fitness’ and ‘finance’, but it also has much less competition. This helps Matthew earn big profits with less effort.

2. Dominate one niche

Matthew is a recognized authority on making and selling HTML5 games. He’s been able to achieve this despite a very relaxed posting schedule. This is another advantage of narrow niches – you don’t need tons of content to establish yourself in non-competitive markets.

Paula Dennholdt

Paula Dennholdt

Website: Easybabylife.com

Site Age: 11 years

Niche: Babies and parenting

Total Monthly Revenue: $3,984

Total Monthly Expenses: $212

Net Income: $3,772

EasyBabyLife is a baby site founded by Paula Dennholdt in 2006. Paula grew the site from scratch into an impressive authority parenting site that garners over 300,000 visits per month. She also uses the blog as a personal branding tool and a way for her to blog about her personal life, family, and entrepreneurial journey.

One of the cool things about this site is that Paula employs a medical reference team (well, she doesn’t employ them, but she has access to doctors who are listed on the website and who can help answer medical questions she has so that the information on the site stays accurate).

Revenue Over Time for Paula Dennholdt

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

2,399,790

Twitter Followers

1.3k

Linking Domains

682

Total Traffic

332.2k

Organic Traffic

90%

Social Traffic

6%

Blog Stats for Paula Dennholdt

Contrary to a lot of similar blogs on this list, Paula’s site gets almost all of its traffic from organic sources. She says in her last income report, though, that she is learning a lot more about interest in this trying to get more aggressive on that platform.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$448

Paula earns a small chunk of revenue from affiliate commissions.

Advertising

$3,536

Most of Paula’s revenue comes from advertising networks.

Products / Services

$0

Paula does not sell any products or services.

Paula says she’s trying to learn more about monetizing her site with affiliate offers, but currently most of her revenue comes from advertising works. Interestingly, she seems to use only one network, and it’s one I don’t see used very often: Mediavine.

Top Products She Promotes

  • Amazon products

Top Expenses

Paula keeps her expenses very low. Her only real expenses are technical expenses associated with keeping her website online and healthy, like web hosting services and website protection services.

What we can learn from Paula

1. Try Mediavine (or any other ad network)

I think Paula might be the only person on this list who’s using this ad network, and it’s going very well for her. If you have the traffic, could certainly be worth testing.

2. Get one thing working and then stack other stuff

What’s working for Paula is search traffic and ad revenue. Now, she’s trying to learn about Pinterest and affiliate marketing

Nathan Income Bully

Nathan

Website: IncomeBully.com

Site age: 1 year

Niche: Internet marketing

Total Monthly Revenue: $2,222

Nathan’s blog is the youngest on this list, but it still boasts some extraordinary posts on blogging, entrepreneurship and local SEO.

Nathan is hardly a newbie blogger, however. He’s a seasoned internet marketer with extensive experience running an offline web agency. He even has over 6,000 posts to his credit on WarriorForum. Thanks to this experience, he’s tasted significant success within a few months on his new blog.

It’s also worth noting here that Nathan has some extraordinarily good months, earning close to five figures at times.

IncomeBully is Nathan’s journey to creating a passive income stream while slowly folding his web agency business. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to replicate his success and make a passive living online.

Revenue Over Time for Nathan

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

414,870

Twitter Followers

3.2k

Linking Domains

261

Total Traffic

22.4k

Organic Traffic

31%

Social Traffic

12%

Blog Stats for Nathan

A big chunk of the traffic here comes from search, and about an equal number comes from direct traffic. Nathan also has a solid social presence, and social traffic makes up about 10% of the visitors to his site.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$128

Nathan recommends a few affiliate products here and there, but it’s not his biggest revenue stream.

Advertising

$0

Nathan doesn’t report any advertising revenue.

Products / Services

$2,094

Coaching and courses are where Nathan makes most of his money.

Nathan’s biggest source of earnings is one product – a course on running an offline web agency. He sells the course on WarriorForum and pockets close to $2,600 from it every month. He also makes money with affiliate marketing, though its small change compared to his product sales.

Top Products He Promotes

What we can learn from Nathan

Sell your own product(s)

Despite having relatively little traffic or search engine authority, Nathan is able to pull in over $2k every month, all thanks to his products. It’s amazing what you can do with just a few hundred visitors when you own the entire sales funnel, from lead generation to actual product.

Will Tang

Will Tang

Website: TravelBlogBreakthrough.com

Site age: 2 years

Niche: Internet marketing, travel blogging

Total Monthly Revenue: $2,271

Total Monthly Expenses: $587

Net Income: $1,331

Will is an up and coming blogger in the lucrative travel blog niche. He runs TravelBlogBreakthrough.com where he helps others to get started with their own travel blogs.

Will also publicly shares his income with his readers. His first detailed monthly income report for November 2014 stood at $499.79. The blog had it’s up and downs but the income is averaging around $1,250/month.

Revenue Over Time for Will Tang

Blog Stats

Alexa Rank

970,374

Twitter Followers

2.3k

Linking Domains

168

Total Traffic

11k

Organic Traffic

70%

Social Traffic

1%

Blog Stats for Will Tang

While it’s admirable that Will is both travelling the world and making money, the income had been stagnating for a while now, maybe due to the lack of promotion of the site.

Main monetization methods

Affiliate Marketing

$275

Affiliate income makes up a little over 10% of Will’s income.

Advertising

$1,648

Will earns the bulk of his income through sponsored content.

Products / Services

$0

Will doesn’t report any earnings from products he created.

Will’s has a well-diversified income stream. This includes services (freelance writing), sponsored posts, and affiliate income through web hosting offers. He also sells a course on Udemy and private links/ads on the blog.

His biggest expense​ last month was Facebook ads. He spent $104.18 testing out different ads for driving traffic to his sites. He also spent $89 on a WordPress plugin + podcasting.

Top Products He Promotes

  • Sponsored content
  • BlueHost

What we can learn from Will

Start earning from day one

Lots of bloggers wait for months to build up traffic before making money from their websites. Not Will. He’s been monetizing his website through freelance gigs and affiliate programs right from day one. This has helped him learn the ropes much faster than most bloggers.

8 Lessons The Numbers Teach Us

#1 – Start by being an affiliate for products with recurring commissions before you launch your own products

While selling your own products can bring (much) more money and opens a lot of very scalable promotion avenues (PPC, JV’s, etc), Affiliate marketing still yields a higher returns on investment.

It’s also much easier and faster to get going as an affiliate than it is to create and sell your own information or physical products.

For that reason, starting with affiliate marketing for monetisation and THEN moving on to selling your own products when your audience is big and engaged enough looks like the best way to scale revenue for online media properties.

It’s interesting to note as well that the biggest earners by FAR in the affiliate world focus on recurring revenue commissions.​ This means that they make the sale once and get paid every month as long as the referral remains a client.

It’s great way to build ​a monthly income that pays the bills and business expenses allowing you to take more risks with other parts of your business as you don’t rely on their success to keeps things going.

Learn more: How To Make Money From ClickBank in 2015 : No Nonsense Guide

#2 – Advertising requires LOTS of traffic

If you count on making money from advertising, your site really needs a LOT of traffic. Those who are making bank from ads are in the millions of visits per month.

Don’t bother with it unless you are either in a really high paying niche or have at least 100,000 visits/month.​

Learn more: How Jon Dykstra Made $1,006,761 With Display Ads Arbitrage in 2015 (And How You Can Emulate His Success)

#3 – Focus on building an audience rather than metrics

When we studied correlation between metrics and revenue, the closest one to real people (Twitter followers) had a much higher correlation with revenue than more abstract and SEO metrics such as Alexa rank or linking root domains.

This conclusion may be a bit far stretched, but I am sure that if these bloggers shared their email list size, the correlation would have been very high.

The reason for that is that a lot of the more “abstract” metrics we rely on such as Alexa or Backlinks are somewhat outdated in the social media world we live in.

So stop building backlinks and start building loyal followers to increase your blog income.​

Learn more: How To Get Twitter Followers on Autopilot & “Automate” Relationship Building

#4 – Invest a large chunk of your money back​ into your business

While the idea of passive income only requiring you to pay for your hosting sounds sexy, those successful bloggers actually spend 1/3 of their income back into their business in order to stay competitive and improve it.

Expenses range from assistants helping them with technical tasks and content to tools that improve their productivity.

Once you start making money online, you’ll have to spend back a large chunk of it if you want to keep making money, it works that way for most offline businesses and blogging is no different.

#5 – Be transparent​ for more visibility

Here is an interesting one: most bloggers who report their income seem to earn way more than the average of the industry.

The excellent Problogger ran a survey a few years ago asking his readers how much they earned and here is a graph representing the answers of people:​

Now these figures are way lower than most of the income reports we can read about in this post, so one of two things should explain this:

  1. Mostly successful bloggers report their income because they know they’re on top of the ladder.
  2. Reporting your income gets you attention that allows you to grow an audience you can monetize. This ends up making you more money.​

Companies like Buffer, WPCurve and Empire flippers also report their income and all of them have earned a significant amount of exposure doing so.

​All of this leads to believe that transparency is great marketing (should we start doing income reports?) and that people are eager to see real business numbers.

So if you’re starting a business and need more attention: consider transparency as an option.​

#6 – Push hard for big paydays

As with most industries and jobs in the world, the top 20% of the profession make most of the money so don’t aim to be “average”. If you want a real payday, you need to make it into the top 20% of the industry at least.

This means you should invest in things like branding, relationships and overall superior content.

#7 – Don’t just focus on SEO

Almost all of these bloggers rely on multiple platforms to drive traffic or sales. John Lee Dumas is focusing on itunes, Lindsay Ostrom drives most of her traffic from Pinterest, Daniel makes sales from Amazon and the list goes on.

The point is, most people see SEO as the holy grail of traffic and sales when they get started but looking at these guys, while they do get traffic from Google, it almost always is their secondary source of traffic, not their main focus.

So while thinking about SEO is a good idea​, it’s not enough to JUST focus on SEO and if your plan is just to rank on Google you may be left behind. Pick 2 or 3 platforms where your audience hangs out and focus on them while having SEO in the back of your mind, you will do better for yourself.

#8 – Girl power!

The fact that the median income for girls is higher than men is great news in the battle for sex equality. While the average certainly is lower, in our sample test, girls have more chances than guys to get over $10,000/month which is awesome.

If you are a girl and you are looking to get into an industry where you have the same chances as guys, get into blogging!​

Wrapping it up

​If you have made it this far into the post (over 11,000 words!) then you must really be interested in building a successful blog.

You now know everything there is to know about 21 5-7 figures/year bloggers and exactly how they make money blogging, what business models are the most profitable, the product they promote, their sales pages, their domain metrics etc.

Is there something you would have covered or analysed differently? Let us know in the comment section!

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188 Comments

    1. I have read many how to make money from your blogs and such articles and online posts . Never felt they were complete or were honest. Your this entire series of posts on blogging A to Z is like a bible for aspiring and seasoned bloggers. Keep up the good work and god bless you!

  1. Hi Gael,

    Thanks a lot for including me here! I’m flattered to be next (well, actually far below) my heroes.
    I swear I did change my avatar in 11 years :)

    But I’d like to clarify that I’m not making any money from the blog itself. My earnings are coming from other websites I’m running: job boards, niche websites, affiliates and the WordPress theme you mentioned.
    I’ve been doing that since 3 years now and really like it :)

    Cheers!

    1. Hey Daniele,

      Thanks for dropping by, Yep, most bloggers don’t reveal all their income in their income report but we’ve worked with what we had, I’m sure you do a lot better than what is shared in the reports but due to the sensitivity of the information we did not feel like going in and asking unshared business data.

      I hope you enjoyed the analysis nonetheless.

      Gael

  2. Epic post, Gael. This must have taken you an eternity to write.

    Very inspiring to see so many people making money online, and in so many different ways.

    Personally I’m thinking of getting into the “products & services” space after I grow out my blog a bit more, and this has me very encouraged!

    1. Hey Mike,

      Thanks for dropping by. Yep one of the goals of this post was to show that there’s not just IM bloggers making bank and that business models can vary a lot. Although some are more profitable than others.

    1. Hey Pedro,

      Well it seems like most people who are killing it are rarely relying on just SEO to make money which explains the low correlation. Basically the learning is that if your plan is just to try and rank in Google you probably won’t go very far.

  3. Holy wow! You put a lot of time and research in to this. This is amazing. I’m super impressed and learning a ton! Where does your site fall among the rest?

    1. Hey Matt,

      Thanks for dropping by, glad you like the research. Authority Hacker has modest revenues, around $3,000/month atm (but ramping it up as you can see ;)). Our health site though is around $15,000/month :).

  4. Hey Gael, great Post. And special thanx for the girl-power encouragement. I am just starting a blog beside my Webdesign-Business. Authorityhacker is one of my favorite model. :-)

  5. Great post with awesome analysis. LOVE this.

    I saw some people elsewhere had mentioned other blogs that certainly make more money, but I understand what you were doing here. Rather than speculating, you went with those that were (already/willing) to share their information publicly.

    There are, of course, PLENTY of bloggers making significantly more that just don’t talk about it publicly like the rest of us.

    Thanks so much for the Empire Flippers mention, btw! I’d love to see a follow-up to this with companies instead of bloggers. (Buffer, WPCurve, etc.)

    1. Hey Justin,

      Thanks for dropping by, good idea with businesses! Yeah I know a bunch of people making 6 figures monthly from their blogs but if I wanted to do some proper analysis I had to have the breakdown of expenses, income sources etc which is not the kind of info most people are happy to share. That’s why we went for income reports.