Today I'm going to tell you the tale of how someone makes a living as a blogger in the year 2022. Which is very different than how one made a living from blogging in the golden era of 2010 which is when I started my blog and "Dooced" was an answer on Jeopardy.
I'm gonna let you know right now this is more than a 2 minute read.
If you were around here then, in the golden days of blogging (10 years ago) you recognize this as the original header for my website. Each frame was a different category. You could click on Kitchen for kitchen tips or recipes, Outdoor for any outdoor projects, and so on.
Everything Else was apparently where you were going to get the idea that people like to point it out when a jaguar is about to collide with a Volkswagon Beetle.
I had to get rid of the header a couple of website redesigns ago. And that, my blog reading friends, was the first change that I didn't want to make but had to make - because of Google.
More on that asshead later.
But first, to understand how a blog makes money I think it's a good idea for you to just see how we got to where we are today. Which is a place where content creators are trying to find a symbiotic relationship between making long time readers happy as well as Google.
Why? Because those are the 2 main places any website makes money from: regular readers and Google.
Table of Contents
The Quick History of Blogging
Teenager Justin Hall - Created a personal online diary for sharing links and information about his personal life. It's disputable but according to the big bad Internet, he's been recognized as "the founding father of personal blogging". He was given that distinction in 2004 by New York Times Magazine.
Now: Justin's last blog entry was in 2021 and his blog looks pretty much like it did in the beginning. He's now the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) at bud.com, an online site that sells and finds cannabis and cannabis products near you.
Justin registered (bought) the domain name bud.com in 1994. He was one of those forward thinkers we all wish we were. He probably also bought Apple stock when he was 7 years old.
Weblog became a word. Referring to keeping a log on the web - usually a list of links that the creator of the weblog liked. The word weblog became shortened to "blog" in 1999.
Invasion of the mommy bloggers. This is the year that Heather "Dooce" Armstrong got fired for blogging about her work life online. The verb Dooced (meaning to get fired for something you said online) was the result.
An explosion of I got baby poop in my mouth stories infiltrate the web. Mommy blogs start offering more authentic, real life advice and moments from parenting than any book ever had.
Now: Dooce has since divorced, battled serious depression, attempted suicide, been involuntarily institutionalized for mental health issues. She attributes her severe depression to a history of it that was exacerbated by the magnitude of hate she was subject to for sharing her personal life online.
Heather Armstrong's blog Dooce received almost 9 million views every month when she was at her most popular. Today it receives 9,000 views a month.
Google introduces "Adsense". A way for bloggers to make money by running Google ads on their sites. The ads are terrible and you only make money if someone clicks on the ad. You would make about 10 cents per click. (now clicking doesn't matter - as long as someone sees the ad you get paid)
Remember this ad?
Or this one?
YouTube launches - as a video dating website. Soon after they transition to what you know it as today; a place for women to learn that they need to commit 14 hours a day to applying contouring.
Twitter launches as a new form of "micro-blogging", 140 characters at a time.
Instagram launches (the same year as The Art of Doing Stuff.)
Ad networks start becoming a better way for blogs to make money. The networks (that have much better ads than Google) find and place advertising on websites in exchange for sometimes as much as half of the revenue.
Readers are alarmed and backlash happens when bloggers place ads and try to make a profit off of their 7 day work weeks.
Tik Tok launches and is almost instantly popular. In 2020 it EXPLODES in popularity.
Back in 2010 there weren't a lot of rules, regulations or competition for bloggers. We were winging it, posting about everything and anything in various random ways.
And we did it every single day.
Popular bloggers started to suffer from burnout and mental health issues from the pressure of pumping out such a relentless amount of content with fewer readers because Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were frankly, created to be more addictive.
Remember Young House Love? They had 5 million views a month, tv appearances, books on the NYT bestsellers list then they crashed and burned, calling it quits (kind of) in 2014. Lifestyle blog followers were STUNNED.
They came back a couple of years later but on their own terms, only posting when they felt like it and not succumbing to the pressure they used to feel about posting every day about every little thing in their life.
Or how about Design*Sponge? In 2019 Grace Bonney, the founder of Design*Sponge quit as well looking for something more personally fulfilling for herself.
I mention these things to point out that blogging as a career is not just a matter of tapping for 30 seconds on your laptop then smiling dreamily out the window like all Hallmark movies would lead you to believe.
Blogging is an enormous amount of every changing technical and creative work with the added bonus of getting worldwide love. And hate.
In the olden days I used to be able to write a blog post in a day or two. Some days I could even pump out two posts a day because posting a video of me suffering from very dramatic hiccups could actually be a well received blog post then, lol.
But now? It just takes a lot longer to create a blog post. It can easily take 4 days to write, format, optimize, research and photograph a single blog post in the hopes that Google pulls it into its increasingly suffocating bosom.
Even republishing older posts can take 2 days or more by the time you do all the work that needs to be done.
And in terms of keeping a regular reader's attention, it's hard to compete with the short bursts of entertainment and dopamine that social media sites give with mindless scrolling.
According to research, at the rate the world's population is consuming social media now, someone born today can expect to lose approximately 10 years of their life to scrolling. That's a guess based on data, but it seems on track to be right.
Ten years. Poof.
O.K. 700 or so words into this post and now you have a tiny bit of background and a healthy fear of Instagram and TikTok. So - blogging. That's what we're here for, right?
I'm going to answer the most common questions I get about blogging with explanations of the how and why.
How Do Bloggers Make Money
Through advertising. Bloggers use those dreaded ad networks. The ad network finds and places ads on your site in exchange for 25% of the revenue.
The Amount of Money You Make
As a blogger the amount of money you make depends on 1) how many people are coming to your website, 2) how long they stay on your page and 3) how many pages they visit on your site.
The more people that visit your site, the longer they stay, and the more pages they look at the more money you make.
How do you get visitors to your blog
Google. For the most part, this is how blogs are found. A person searches about something in Google, clicks on a blog post to read the information and then hopefully they like what they found so much they become a subscriber and regular reader.
They then share your posts with friends and family and so on.
This is how you build an audience and increase your earnings.
Pinterest used to be as big a traffic provider as Google, but that's slowed down a lot in the past few years.
How Google Works
Google ranks websites and posts based on Google's own internal algorithm. The posts then get placed in order of best to worst (which is what you see in their search engine).
Google is constantly changing their algorithm and their search results. They make little tweaks daily and big tweaks (called core updates) a couple of times a year. These tweaks affect how posts are ranked.
So one day a post could be in the #2 spot on the first page of Google and the next day it could be #37.
NO ONE knows exactly what Google wants or what rules to follow to rank high in their search results. Their algorithm is the most closely guarded secret on the Internet.
So we guess. Entire businesses are devoted to guessing what Google wants. These are called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts. These experts don't have insider information. What they do have is an insatiable desire to try to figure out what Google wants through experiments, statistics and observation. Many bloggers hire SEO experts to help their site perform well in Google search results.
Every blogger's goal is to be on page 1 of Google. Why?
90% of people never click past page 1 of Google.
As the saying goes, the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google.
So every time Google changes - blogs have to change, trying to keep up with and figure out what they're looking for. This because Google is usually the largest source of traffic and therefore the largest source of income for anyone who publishes anything on the Internet.
Remember when I said I had to change the original header of my site? It's because Google started to show a preference for websites with smaller headers. (A header is the section at the top of each page with the site's logo and menu.)
Why Do You Republish Old Posts?
THIS is the question I get the most. Why are you republishing old posts? Why are you being so lazy and ruining my life with your laziness being lazy, you lazybones?
Once I tell you why bloggers update and republish old posts it's going to make a lot more sense to you I think.
- We all keep learning. You're probably a lot more knowledgeable about certain things than you were 10 years ago. I have learned a LOT over the years about all this stuff I do and I keep learning. Cooking tricks, or gardening techniques.
When bloggers update old posts a lot of times it's because they have better information now. Or better photos, maybe a video, and nicer structure on the post that makes information easier to find and understand.
- Websites are getting new readers all the time. As a long time reader you may have already read about how to can tomatoes, but someone who just joined recently hasn't. And when it's canning season I want to make sure they know how to can tomatoes too. We're also all prone to forgetting. You say I'M GOING TO DO THAT NEXT YEAR. And then you forget. So republishing seasonal posts helps with that.
- Google. If your post used to be in the #1 spot on Google but is now in the #5 spot, republishing a post with newer information or formatting can get it back to the top of the mountain.
How Come All Blogs Look The Same Now?
You can blame and/or thank Google for that as well. Google decided people just wanted information. They didn't want long back stories or entertainment. Just the facts.
So blog posts that show the facts right away, rank more highly in Google.
Google also noticed people were more likely to click on blogs and stay there when they had short paragraphs, clear & easy to read fonts and noticeable topic titles.
I agree. It's much easier to read that type of website than one that's all small type with huge paragraphs and no formatting in between to make the page more interesting.
Like these little bars below for instance. They instantly let you know I'm about to say something super insightful.
EVERYBODY KEEP IN MIND THAT ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOOGLE IS A GUESS. NOBODY KNOWSSSSSSSS. We are all just throwing spaghetti against a wall.
As far as keeping to the facts, especially at the beginning of a post, the reasoning behind it is pretty solid really. If you're standing in the grocery store with your phone looking up a recipe for chili con carne for dinner that night you don't want to have to sift through a bunch of confusing words and paragraphs and stories about farting. You just want the recipe.
Blogs should make that important information easy to find.
That's why blogs now all look similar. They're all trying to please Google. Because without Google's support, you're out of business unless you have hundreds of thousands (or millions) of subscribers.
And also, sometimes Google actually knows a thing or two.
Last week the Google rules changed again. There was another algorithm update. They all have names and this one was called "The Helpful Content" update.
With this latest algorithm Google is trying to weed out content that's been generated by robot writers (there is too such a thing) and content that isn't being written about by an expert.
The majority of what I find ranking high on the Internet is content that was written by someone who has never in their lives experienced what it is they're writing about.
So this is the update I've been hoping for. I've said for years not to garden according to what big websites recommend. Find actual gardeners on the web that are teaching you through experience.
These posts are often nowhere near Google's page 1.
Google's latest update was supposed to pay attention to and reward when a writer was writing about something they have personally experienced.
That should benefit a site like The Art of Doing Stuff where EVERY piece of content is based on personal experience. But it might not. Because it's Google.
The Future of Blogging
Don't ask me. I have no IDEA.
I'm still calling it blogging. The updated term is content creator.
I, and most other bloggers at heart, feel like they're tangled within an epic 1992 NHL mullet.
Google is the business in the front and regular readers are the party in the back. Google is the bore, regular readers are the fun.
I'm not sure what the solution is or even if there needs to be one. We (the original bloggers) do our best to write posts that are good for both the big G and fans.
I do miss being able spend more time on the fun writing and I'm trying to figure out a way that I can do it.
I have to say I'm stunned that you made it this far. This isn't any long preamble to me saying that I'm quitting blogging. I just know how many people wonder about this.
The world of blogging that I work in.
This post by the way? This will never rank on page 1 of Google for anything.🙄😆 Remember when I mentioned at the veryyyyyy top of this post 2 days ago that this was not a 2 minute read?
Google is now experimenting with adding "Quick Read" beside posts that are ... well ... quick reads. I would guess that's because they've evaluated that people like very short content. Easy bites to digest.
Like an Instagram post, Tik Tok, or Tweet.
As a DIY teacher, I can tell you, you cannot teach someone how to cure their own yeast infection with a frozen yogurt tampon in 140 characters or less.
I can't believe you're still here.
thx. hope you enjoyed it!
Would you ever consider opening up a subscription option? Not really a Patreon thing, which would be more work - just an option for regular readers to pay monthly, in support? And apologies if this came up before!
And yes - thankful for the work you do here, too!
Thank you for the more than 2 minute read! 🙂 I did not know all those details and now I do- which is why I like reading your blog. I have been annoyed with certain bloggers whose writing is boring and rambley when I AM there for the recipe. I don’t follow any of them. The recipe never is good enough to elicit a care in me that precious Zoe turned 4.25 years old yesterday… 🙄. I like your blog(content) specifically BECAUSE of your writing. I think your just a better, funnier writer and quite informative to boot! You write better than many of the “articles” I read in “Apple news”- my personal addiction…..
Thanks for quality content.zzz
I do, and always have, read every word of your posts. (See what I did there, using read as both present and past tense in one go?)
Can't remember if Google led me to your blog those many years ago, but I rarely use Google these days. But, I always read your blog. Love it.
Thanks Robin! I appreciate it. ~ karen
Thanks Karen! I have wondered about pretty much all of those things. Good to know. I'll continue to enjoy your other fun posts on FB and IG. <3
Fascinating history and insight into Google mysteries Karen!
I have read an d loved your blog for years since I followed a link in an article about your new kitchen (when it was new!) and at one point early on, when back to your early posts to catch up. While i have been semi MIA for the past couple of years when I fell under the spell of IG stories (I am weaning myself off those because they are too addictive, and ultimately unsatisfying) which didn't leave much time for reading my favorite blogs I did check in from time to time to read a few blog posts at a time when I visit your blog.
Thank you Karen for the many hours of reading and learning enjoyment!
Thank you for saying that! And thanks for sticking with me. ~ karen!