Updated on 01.15.15

Building a Better Blog: Money Doesn’t Matter

Trent Hamm

This seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? On a series on professional blogging on a personal finance site, I’m writing that money doesn’t matter? What gives?

The truth is that many people dream about becoming professional bloggers, but after blogging for a month, they peek at their AdSense account, see they’ve only earned $1.03, and they get very disheartened. They slow down their posting and move on to other things. A few months later, they see they’ve only earned $1.54 total and they abandon it entirely.

The problem is that they’re viewing their success by an unrealistic yardstick. In order to build up any significant amount of income on your site, you have to have readers. Once you have a lot of readers, money will start to drift in, but money simply won’t come without readers.

The real measure of a blog’s worth is its audience. There is no other measure of long-term success. Anyone that tells you otherwise is telling you a fairy tale to sell a product, likely an SEO tool.

Why is this so? Isn’t a measure of an item’s worth the amount of money it generates? Of course. I’ll use a simple analogy to explain. Your readership is much like the money you’ve invested over time; it’s the result of a lot of hard work and effort. Similarly, a blog’s income is the equivalent to the return on that investment. If you have a lot of money invested, you can expect a solid return on that money, right? But expecting great income from a blog with only a few readers is like putting ten dollars in a mutual fund and expecting to quickly become a millionaire.

In short, the income from your blog is pretty much the worst measure of success that you can have unless you’re near the top of the top blogs on Technorati. It’s similar to saying that you’re not a success because your investments only made $1 this year, but you only invested $10 to begin with.

Another wrinkle is that there is no strict relationship between readers and income outside of “more readers means more income”. There are countless variables in this relationship: total readers, propensity of readers to click on ads, value of your keywords, the current status of people participating in the advertising program, and so on.

What it comes down to is that you should measure your success based on your readership, not on your total income. The total income will come slowly, and it will vary; if you’re looking to get rich quick, you’ll never be successful blogging.

What metrics can you use for success, then? Here are a few good ones.

Google Analytics Sign up for Google Analytics to keep track of the visits and page views on your blog. It does a splendid job of showing you a wide diversity of angles on the visitors to your site, but two big measures of success are repeat visitors and pages per visitor. Whenever you can build increases on either one, your site is doing well.

Comment count Whenever people comment on your site, that means they’re taking an active interest in what you’re writing. Once they’ve reached the point of commenting, you’ve engaged them. Keep the conversation alive and you’ll do nothing but build up your investment in readers.

Feed readers Hook yourself up with Feedburner to keep track of your feed readers. Some people argue that people who read feeds are just gobbling your bandwidth, but the truth is that they are readers who are engaged enough with your site to incorporate it into their regular reading regimen. They’ll visit your individual posts and, even better, many feed readers are bloggers themselves who will link to you when you’re interesting.

Define your own success. No matter what you use to measure your site’s growth, be sure to set goals that are realistic. Don’t expect 80% week over week growth – it simply won’t happen over the long term. Instead, set your goals moderately and well in advance so that you have an achievable goal to work towards. For me, the goals involve page views and feed readers; if I can keep increasing these, I’m meeting my goals with The Simple Dollar.

Building a Better Blog is a month-long series at The Simple Dollar, outlining steps you can take to build a long-term healthy blog that will attract readers. Jump ahead to the next essay, Don’t Give Up, or back to the previous one, The Content Comes First.

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  1. Shelley says:

    Well, making money blogging is a tough gig. I’d say that its more of a by-product of doing what you really love–writing and meeting people. Then, if you’re lucky and good, money may come. Another option is to become a resident blogger for a company or foundation who is interested in grassroots-style media, or get noticed by a platform (ScienceBlogs, etc) that pays.

  2. Matt says:

    Awesome post, I couldn’t agree more. Initially I started a couple blogs thinging I would drive some people and money would start appearing. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and I lost interest. With my current blog it’s not about the money (though seeing some trickle in is nice), it’s about the content and hopefully I’ll get more readers.

    Then maybe I’ll start making enough money to cover the hosting costs.

  3. FrugalTrader says:

    You know what they say, do what you love to do and the money will follow.


  4. It seems comments are often hard to come by. I often think about it like giving a presentation where everyone wants to hear what you have to say. However, when it comes to audience participation, say the speaker asks a question, most people are quiet and don’t interact.

    Not sure why this is, it seems the more comments or questions, the better the discussion and the more everyone learns.

  5. Sally says:

    I’m so glad I read this post, I was going through this process very recently. Looking at my Adsense figures and thinking “this is never going to work”.

    But try as I did to spend my time more “productively”, I found it difficult to drag myself away from my blogs. I enjoy writing them, enjoy interacting, and my visitor numbers are growing slowly but steadily. I believe in the worth of what I am producing so I decided to go with my gut, keep plugging away and perhaps one day they will make a modest income.

  6. Sierra says:

    I’m late to this party, but I have a question about this post:

    I just started my blog: http://childwild.com. I decided not to put any ads on the blog because I’m pretty sure 90% of my readers now are friends and family.

    I set a fairly arbitrary number of page views I wanted to see daily before I start running ads, about 10x what I saw during my first week blogging. Your article seems to assume that I’m running ads from the beginning.

    Should I be? I figured the trickle of income would not be worth the hassle and annoyance to myself and my readers. But maybe it will be more off-putting to switch and start running ads once I’ve built up a following?

  7. rodgerlvu says:

    I’m so glad I read this post, I was going through this process very recently. Looking at my Adsense figures and thinking “this is never going to work”.

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