5 Reasons Why It is Hard to Make Money Blogging

This is a guest post by Richard Adams.

There are literally tens of millions of blogs online and yet only the tiniest fraction of them really make their owners any significant income. While there’s nothing wrong with simply starting a blog for pleasure or as a networking tool, for those people considering trying to make money blogging there are a few home truths you need to be aware of which you might not have considered before.

Make Money Blogging

In this article then we’re going to “devils advocate” and look at five reasons why it can be harder to make money blogging than with some other Internet business models.

1. Constantly Changing Front Page

When it comes to getting free traffic from the search engines arguably the most important page of any website (whether that’s a static website or a blog) is the homepage. After all, the homepage receives the vast majority of the links that point to a site and furthermore is typically built around a specific keyword phrase which the owner hopes to rank well for in the search engines.

With a static website it’s easy to constantly test and tweak your homepage – adding or removing text, images, videos and links until you find the combination that gets you the highest search engine ranking possible.

However by definition the average blog’s homepage displays the latest posts that have been added to the site. This has two effects. The first is that it becomes impossible to “tweak” your homepage because it’s content changes constantly. Secondly you are likely to find your rankings for the primary keyword phrase you have chosen going up and down over time as the content on your homepage changes unless you have invested serious time and money into an effective link building campaign that makes you “untouchable” for your keyword.

This means getting predictable, reliable, long-term traffic for your main keyword phrase can be far more difficult than if you were creating a static website.

2. Regular Content Updates

A further key element of blogging is that a blog is meant to be regularly updated. And this need for regular new content puts you under pressure to constantly be producing it – either personally or through the use of paid writers or guest bloggers.

I have a static website that I haven’t added to, changed or modified for the last 8 years yet it still brings in AdSense income and affiliate commissions like clockwork without even being touched. Only when the AdSense income stops do I realize my domain or hosting must have expired, then I renew them and the income carries on.

Not so for a blog though. A blog requires a more constant source of effort when it comes to creating content which makes it far harder to generate “passive income” from a blog than a static site which can be left for months or even years between updates. Blogging, in many ways, is therefore harder work and requires more effort than some other ways to earn a living online.

3. Time-Intensive Link Building

Every article you add to your website needs to be focused on a specific keyword phrase that you hope to rank for. And while onpage SEO will take you so far, the other key element to a high-ranking web page is the number and strength of the incoming links pointing to it.

In short – every article on your site needs links pointing to it.

And as we’ve already said blogs require more content than most static websites, which in turn means more link building required.

There are those people who just keep churning out article after article and over time the long-tail phrases these articles appear from draw in some traffic but if you really want to get the most traffic possible to your site (and consequently make the most money possible) then you need to create articles based around keyword phrases that get a decent number of searches and then you need to build links to these.

4. Less Content Structure

Static websites typically use a “forking” structure for their site navigation. Let’s take the example of a website about how to make money blogging. The site may be split into categories such as “setting up a blog”, “blog layout”, “blog traffic” and so on. And within each of these categories may well be subcategories and so on, all linking to each other in a neat, organized way.

The benefit of this type of site structure is not only that it makes it easy to navigate for visitors but thanks to the different sections it also makes it easy for the search engines to find all your content, understand what it relates to, and rank it well in the search engines.

Blogs, in contrast, typically don’t use this rigid structure and instead broadly categorize their posts into a small number of categories which may each contain hundreds of individual posts.

This structure can not only make it harder for your visitors to find what they’re looking for because they have to search through page after page of content to find a topic they are interested in but it can also make it harder for the search engines to find, index and rank that content that lacks a clear navigation structure. Which can mean yet more lost traffic (and as a result, revenue).

5. Entrepreneurial ADHD

Blogging is exciting and there are constant stories about new technology or new marketing strategies. From Facebook and Twitter marketing, to social bookmarking, podcasting, video marketing and so on. From selling text links, display ads, product reviews and even sponsored blog comments. From new themes to new plugins, widgets and applications that all promise to make your blog better, boost your visitors or help you earn extra money from your site.

Whilst all these “bells and whistles” are one of the things that can make blogging exciting – after all it’s a constantly changing landscape – it can also become a big problem and can lead to lack of focus.

Rather than concentrating on getting the basics right – producing great-quality content and then building high-trust links to it – it is too easy to find yourself going round and round in circles, investing time and/or money into the latest “must have” tools only to find that at the end of the month you’ve seen no noticeable increase in the results that really matter – such as your profits, traffic and subscriber numbers.

Older, more “boring” ways to earn a living online such as building static authority sites rather than blogs can help you to tune out the “noise” and achieve the results you want sooner.

Conclusion

I’m not in any way trying to knock anyone trying to make money blogging. It can and has been done and I’m certainly not saying that blogging is necessarily “worse” than any other way of making money online. Instead my goal is simply to highlight a few issues that readers here may not have considered. If you’re currently trying to make money blogging but are having a hard time of it, or if you think I’ve missed any important points out, please leave a comment below with your opinions.

Photo Credit: Steve Depolo

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Comments

  1. says

    Very true, blogging for money is hard. On the other hand, no need to give up. If you keep trying and find your “voice” you will sooner or later have some success. Find something you’re passionate about and write about that.

    Link building is time consuming, but if you make a bit of money, consider outsourcing a few of these tedious tasks to for instance scriptlance or some other marketplace.
    Rick just posted Buy Cheap Adsense Safe Traffic From a Real Traffic Source

  2. says

    Great read Richard, I run a few blogs, and have been thinking I may be smarter to turn some into static websites, and focus on the others as blogs, I’ve actually given myself a deadline to get my blogs up to a minimum monthly earning, and then start switching the weaker ones to static websites.

    • says

      Jamie,

      One of the things I’ve been doing recently is using a date removal plugin to take away the “published” date on my posts, adding only “timeless” posts that will be good whether they’re read in a day or a years time, and then just slowly adding content to my sites when I’m in the mood. In doing so I’m having more fun and feeling less pressured as I can write when I feel like it, gently grow my sites and yet my readers aren’t “expecting” content on a regular basis. It’s working for me!

      Richard
      Richard Adams just posted How To Get Free Products To Review On Your Blog

  3. says

    Hey Richard great post. Many people thinks that by doing blogging they will become rich overnight. But whosoever believes this, will never ever succeed in blogging. Dedication, hard work and consistency is required in blogging then only there are great chances to become a successful blogger. So every blogger must do hard work and devote his or her time smartly in blogging in order to earn good money from blogging.
    Manish just posted 4 Best Tips To Improve Blog Traffic With StumbleUpon

  4. says

    Wow… You mean it actually takes work to make money blogging? Who would have figured…

    I love this post because these are the harsh realities of what so many people doing because it’s easy. I’m a part-time blogger/writer, I would love to be full-time but it takes serious time and work to get there.

    That’s for laying all this out there. Great article!

    Ryan H.
    Ryan Hanley just posted Small Business SEO Experiment Results – Week 1

    • says

      Hi Ryan,

      Yes I suppose one of my motivations in writing the article was really that I every week I seem to hear “start a blog, earn money” but there are arguably easier ways to make money online. Blogging works – there’s no doubt about it – but it takes persistence and effort that many people aren’t willing to put in. I think it’s important to realize just how long it can take for a blog to really “take off” and all that time you’re slogging away just *hoping* the results will come.

      Richard
      Richard Adams just posted 3 Powerful Tips For Finding Affiliates That Produce Results

  5. says

    You make some great points here, the rapidly changing nature of blogs can also work against an entrepreneur if they aren’t careful. My own blog is a prime example on doing so much with 1 site that it is hard to find a real profit. Perfect example is how Ana from TrafficGenerationCafe can make 3.5x my earnings on her site over mine with 1/4 of the traffic. Her tight focus niche is ideally suited for marketing and earning in the related field while mine is too unfocused to truly optimize for earning potential other than relying on heavy traffic and CPM/CPC earnings.
    Justin Germino just posted The Saga continues in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II

  6. says

    While I agree with the general point you’re making (yes, it’s difficult to make any decent income from a blog), I definitely disagree with your no. 1 reason for that. In a typical blog, each post has a permalink, and these permalinks should be your targets in the linking efforts.

    Yes, you should also add some backlinks to the homepage to get a proper mix, but a majority of backlinks should lead to individual inner pages of your blog, especially backlinks with targeted anchor text. If you follow this strategy, a changing content of the homepage will actually be an advantage, encouraging spiders to crawl your blog more often.
    Marcin just posted No Hands SEO review

  7. says

    @Dave – Thanks for the comment. Like many people I too have found I am far more productive when I focus on just one task at a time rather than jumping from one shiny object to another.

    @Justin – I agree that Ana’s blog is a great example of a very focused – and monetizable – niche that has been very well chosen – yet it also leaves enough scope for plenty of content (unlike some tight niches where you soon run out of post ideas because you’ve covered everything already ;-)
    Richard Adams just posted The Definitive Onpage WordPress SEO Tutorial

  8. says

    Great points you make. For me I do suffer from the ADHD you mention but not so much with having the newest things but rather always embarking on next projects or new blogs. Just a couple of weeks ago I started another blog, not sure if that was a good idea to spread myself so thin, but I couldn’t help myself.
    Dan Keller just posted 8 iPad 2 Tricks you should really know

    • says

      It’s funny Dan – I have a few “unloved” blogs I started then virtually gave up on some years ago as a result of entrepreneurial ADHD. However recently I added some new content – and built some new backlinks – and it seems that now these sites have had time to “age” in Google the traffic to them is actually higher than ever before! So there *are* potential upsides too when it comes to always starting new plans!

      Richard
      Richard Adams just posted 4 Unusual Ways To Increase Your Blog Profits

  9. says

    It is indeed a great read.

    I wanted to input a few points of my own perspective. I have often found blogs start with great content. At around 90 days the blogs gets to saturate a lot because the blogger is furiously trying to market his article and at the same time coping with guest posting.

    I have noticed that the intention of most of the blogger is purely profits which is indeed very wrong in the first place. Name a business where you only invest close to $100 and expect to reap $5K a month without putting in 18 hours a day. Zilch. Nada.None.

    Most pro bloggers I have read or seen have gone through series of changes over at least 1-2 years before they have established a work from home income.

    Nonetheless Kudos to the original author of this article(Richard Adams).
    Ajay just posted Recruitment Agency Web Design

  10. says

    Richard

    I see the blog as being the catalyst / central cog to building an on-line business. The blog brings the traffic but you then have to create your products, sell your expertize in the way of services and offer affiliate products.

    If you have picked the right niche, keywords (and numerous others things!)…then you can make decent money on-line.

    It did take me 3 years of working part-time creating/building my on-line business until I was ready to give up the 9-5 and concentrate on it full-time. That was 3 years ago.

    Andrew
    Andrew just posted How To Make A Blog: Everything You Need To Know

    • says

      Doug at the risk of sounding like an “oldie” I can tell you when I got online back in 2000 it was a *lot* easier to drive traffic to your site than it is now. As the online community get ever smarter and more experienced and furthermore there is an evergrowing suite of tools and sites that many of us use regularly it’s becoming ever harder to “be everywhere”. I wonder if we’ll see the many, many social bookmarking sites nexistence at the moment start to consolidate and/or go out of business over the next few years as has happened with the search engine world…
      Richard Adams just posted 4 Unusual Ways To Increase Your Blog Profits

    • says

      Ricardus,

      While I agree with you to a degree also appreciate that getting paid to write at other blogs is a short-term solution where you only get paid once for each article you write. In contrast building your own blog means that you can earn ad revenue and subscribers from your content for years to come. It would seem finding a balance between these two revenue streams would be the best solution…?

      Warmly,
      Richard
      Richard Adams just posted 4 Unusual Ways To Increase Your Blog Profits

  11. says

    Good to see these points. Many of the bloggers who thinks blogging as the easy money making option, will get to know that this is not that easy to make money from blogging. They need to constantly work on their blog. One of the advantage of static site is that its difficult to loose the ranking even if you don’t touch the site for months but in blogging, you will lose it one you stop writing.
    Pritam Nagrale just posted Top 5 Advantages of Exact Match Domain

  12. says

    Hello Richard. I AM more inclined to say this: I think it’s hard for people to make money because they perceive it as hard. And the reason why there’s that mis-0conception is because blogging shouldn’t be your only avenue of income online. If it is, you’ll lose, because you’ll most definitely get despondent.

    You must allow your blog to grow to where Brian Clarke’s Copyblogger or Darren Rowses’ Problogger is, until then, diversify!
    bbrian017 just posted Blog Engage Official Theme Launch

  13. says

    Great post Richard! I especially agree with No 2. Content in these days of the Panda is so important and I think anyone with a sizable site would agree that new posts/pages are published sooner and rank higher.

    Also in complete agreement with a previous comment about monetizing blogs correctly. There’s much more to it than just which monetization type to use, but it can be about ad placement, copywriting, etc.

    And my final point would be that often bloggers miss out on capturing readers/leads and ensuring return traffic. Building a list can be super lucrative.

    Thanks again!
    Iain just posted Learn Affiliate Marketing

  14. says

    Hi Richards,
    Nice post, there are a lot of newbies who start blogging because they think blogging is very easy money but it is not that easy as they think taking into account the amount of new content, link building, troubleshooting, website maintaining that one has to do. None the less, if one can define a business model for the blog and outsource few of the task blogging can surely give a good amount of money.
    Shiva just posted Commission Autopilot Review – Breakthrough Profit Generation Software

    • says

      I think you’re correct – blogging with a goal – as part of an overall business strategy – makes a lot of sense. Trying to build a blog and then turning around and going “OK, so now I have readers how on earth do I make money off this thing” may well be a very backward way to go about things.
      Richard Adams just posted The Definitive Onpage WordPress SEO Tutorial

  15. says

    I am kinda confused here. The blog work’s like this way it will change often it’s main page so search bots will come again and again. I do not see it as a back lash. Actually it’s good. new content is good for SEO.

    And yes – I agree with bbrian017” only blogging won’t mae your living unless you are one of those like problogger or copyblogger. Thinking of doing freelancing.
    D.J.Rony just posted The SEO Bloggers- Pick of The Week

    • says

      Surely you’d agree that it’s far harder to control your onpage SEO if the content of your homepage changes all the time which can lead to your site jumping around in the SERPs?

  16. says

    Agree completely and you need to blog because you love doing it, not for the money, otherwise there really is no point. Getting a serious amount of traffic is probably the biggest barrier to making proper money. Any sales person knows that only very small percentages of those you reach will turn into a sale so you need to reach a huge number of people to make any real money.
    Matt Kinsella just posted Work Life Balance

  17. says

    “A blog requires a more constant source of effort when it comes to creating content which makes it far harder to generate “passive income” from a blog than a static site which can be left for months or even years between updates.”

    I not sure I agree with that. My personal blog (which happens to be the site that makes me the most money) sometimes sits idle for a month or two, because I don’t have anything interesting to write about, and my income from that site has been stable for a very long time now. :-)

  18. says

    Richard, you are so right. My profession is music composer, and I’m a blogger just because I love it, I’m an enthusiast blogger, I can say.

    It’s very very hard, and also I think that latest times are even harder than in the past years.

    I think blogging today can’t be considered anymore a first activity, but if you do it just for fun, well it can be rewarding.
    Manuel Marino just posted Upgrading Your Car Audio System

  19. says

    This is a really well thought out post. After reading about it, it strikes me that also blogs tend to cater to a certain degree an ADHD personality as well. That is that it tends to promote the short attention span in that content is constantly being produced and changed. This cycle of going around and around that you mention. But that type of churning can lead to the high burnout rate. Also, I would imagine that it draws in the less patient marketeers who are looking for the next get rich quick scheme. Whereas a blog can take quite a long time before it generates money. People only see the end result when the money is coming in, it can become more passive, but in the beginning it’s a ton of work.
    Richard just posted Free Premium Services To Help You Save and Earn Money

  20. says

    Hi Richard,
    Good that you write that it takes a hard and regular work to have success as a blogger. There are too many who write in their blogs that they earn $ 10,000 a month and trying to sell people on their “$ 79 program on how to get rich quickly”. There are no shortcuts, only patience, good articles, and anything else you’ve written in the article.

    • says

      I agree with researching before taking the plunge. I’ve had websites that get top search engine placement in one week and make money, and I’ve had my share of sites that don’t get anywhere.

      Making money on blogs is rewarding, I don’t necessarily think it’s easy, but with the proper intel, strategy, and all round “luck” (we all need it), then I can agree, it can be easy to make money blogging.
      Taikun just posted 10 Fiverr Alternatives – My Two Cents

  21. says

    I’ve just started blogging full time and yes, I must agree, there are a few obstacles you need to be aware of. Sometimes it’s daunting to know how many blogs are out there, which makes me want to laser focus what I write about. Nonetheless, I do enjoy blogging about my passion. Great article piece!
    Taikun just posted Essential WordPress Plugins To Build On

    • says

      You’re right – there are a huge number of blogs out there but remember it’s not just the content you cover that can set you apart. The communication medium you choose, how often you blog, the personality you put into your pieces and so on can all help you to stand out from the crowd and gain a passionate readership.

      All the best,
      Richard
      Richard Adams just posted Stop Planning And Start Living

  22. says

    Just following up to your conclusion, a great way to monetize your blog is through selling video lessons. You can do this easily using a platform called Sparkeo, which let’s you upload videos and embed & sell them straight from your blog. Obviously, the better your video is, and the higher your traffic, the stronger your video sales will be!
    DJ Trinity just posted New House Music 2012

  23. says

    Hey Richard,

    I have read so many people claiming to make so much money online and then so many that claim making money through blogging is tough. What really works many claim is that offering services and marketing that through your blog is one good way of going about it.

    There are many things that work and that might not; we need to figure out what works best for us!

    This has been a helpful post!
    Hajra just posted Will they call you over for a bloggers party?

  24. says

    Blogging has evolved considerably from the day of its humble beginnings. There are several people who do make money blogging, but essentially most of them have established themselves as an expert in their chose niche, and more than anything that brings the traffic to their site and thereby the revenues.

    Blogging is rapidly picking up as a medium for businesses to establish their presence. So if not directly, blogging can be useful for a business by way of constantly being in touch with customers, prospects and target audience. And I believe, that’s the way of the future…

    Your thoughts?
    Raj just posted Content Writing Vs Content Curation

  25. says

    There are some great points here, especially #5. However this post seems to be based on one rather large assumption – that a ‘blog’ is distinct and separate than a ‘website’. This still seems to be a common misconception among new bloggers and posts like this seem to perpetuate the misconception :(
    In fact if you’re using self-hosted WordPress, for example, this distinction is totally false. A blog is simply a type of website, or just one component of your website. A blogger could easily set up a static homepage (or multiple static pages) AND have a blog, for example. Likewise, it’s very simple to create categories for you blog posts and have a easily crawl-able site structure. So while there are valuable points here, I do hate to see the ‘blog’ vs. ‘website’ myth perpetuated…
    Lucy Beer just posted Planning Your Website Effectively- WordPress Is A Tool Not A Strategy