How Successful Blogging for Money Actually Works


Does blogging success mean you have to become a superstar? Do you need millions of followers?

Is this how successful blogging for money actually works? Is it about fame or notoriety? Not really.

The superstar blogging approach may have worked in 2007 or even better in 2002.

How do I know? I started reading blogs around 2001 I think.

I tested Blogger in 2002. I started my first blog in 2003. So what?

Those days are over! It’s not the early days of blogging anymore though.

The superstar blogger era is gone. It’s about niches now. Let me explain!

The Early Days of Blogging

My first blog dealt mostly with radical art. Indeed I was one of the first to cover the likes of Banksy.

For the tiny niche it covered and the language it was written in (German) it was really successful. I got lots of

  • traffic
  • comments
  • links

Heck, I even met people in real life who found me on my basically anonymous blog!

It was the very early days when real names weren’t that common yet online.

My early blogging success one of the reasons I moved on to professional blogging and then writing in English later for an international audience in 2007.

I still offer blogging for clients aside of the social media management and search engine optimization business.

I never was a blogging superstar though. I was successful, even popular

Yet I wasn’t huge like many others, so called a-list bloggers.

Why I Didn’t Become a Superstar

Why didn’t I become a superstar blogger? Did I fail in that sense?

I think the main reason why I wasn’t one is time and money. Add to it a chronically ill wife and then being chronically ill myself without even noticing (apart of the chronic migraines).

I had to do client work that paid immediately instead of blogging for revenue that would follow one day or was unstable depending on how many ads I sold etc.

My blogging brought me more SEO clients and even blogging clients.

I started working for them and neglected my own blogs over the years.

After all the day has only 24h even when you blog at night.

Long story short, the last really successful blog I have worked for has gotten the UK Search Awards for the best SEO blog in 2011.

9 out of 10 of the most popular posts that year were written by me.

Despite “my success” I wasn’t even invited to the award ceremony.

The company I worked for has fired me instead shortly after receiving the awards. I was notified a few days before Christmas.

Apparently they wanted to keep the success for themselves.

They promoted themselves as an “award-winning blog” ever since.

That episode (4 years of blood, sweat and tears) made me a bit cynical about working as a blogger for other people. I had to pause for a year or so.

Blogging Success for Me and You

I could have started afresh and make my own blog as or even more successful as it was but it doesn’t feel the same as all these years ago.

It’s not just that I was older or something and frustrated with building up someone else’s brand and getting kicked out. It’s just that

the days of superstar bloggers are over.

I have explained why in my stone age of blogging post. That’s not the point of my post here.

Whining around is not my style. I prefer to learn from mistakes and failures. I want to write about the most viable alternative for successful bloggers.

Instead of becoming a blogging superstar there is at least one more preferable way to go.

It’s about being profitable on a small scale.

Do not become just a blogger, be mainly an entrepreneur! When having a whole team of people working and earning money for you, you also have the time left to write.

Becoming a superstar blogger takes a lot of time and perseverance.

It takes not only effort, it also requires luck. Plus nowadays the competition is overwhelming as I suggested in my blogging articles already.

Most established blogs have been acquired by large corporations or publishing houses who pay many writers to blog for them.

Are You Competing with Corporations?

You don’t want to compete against the big guys! That’s good news indeed!

On the flip-side: It’s not 2007 or 2002 anymore when blogging was new.

Corporations with whole teams “blog” now. As a standalone blogger you can’t match the wo/manpower.

What you can do though is to become an authority in your niche or industry.

Ideally you have a business model for your blog from day one so that after a few months of hard work and steady gaining popularity you earn money with the blog directly.

You know blogging by itself doesn’t make you money automatically.

You usually need a product or service you sell by becoming well known and respected through your blog.

There are still amazing success stories like the one of Brian Dean of Backlinko. Yet in general the corporate competition is fierce when you start out.

How to Make Money Blogging?

When I met him Brian Dean was a relative newcomer who made himself more popular in the SEO industry like no other in just a few months.

Such a feat truly inspires. He even outranked Moz – the number one authority on SEO at that time.

Still that type of popularity alone doesn’t automatically secure you an income.

As suggested above you need to earn money by something else than just the blogging.

There are several possibilities for those who don’t have a product or service to sell yet to make money with your own blog:

  1. affiliate marketing
  2. advertising (Google Adsense e.g.)
  3. sponsorship

Personally I don’t like the affiliate marketing path because it compromises the integrity of the blogger too much.

You have to praise affiliate products all the time and make sure people click and buy the products of your partners.

Other types of sites work better for affiliate marketing.

Comparison sites for example where you have several products compared and all of them are linked with an affiliate code. This way you don’t have to stretch the truth.

Brian Dean in contrast sells his own SEO course or coaching. It’s like a standalone product but better because it yields regular revenue.

My Epic Blogging Failures and Successes

I even tried affiliate marketing more than once yet failed miserably each time! I never made any significant money by adding affiliate links to blogs! I did with microsites once.

I have tried the other two models successfully though. I even combined them. I have created blogs with clients or for them in that they were sponsored.

The blog has been paid by the client in order to spread the word about the brand. The content was not necessarily about the client itself.

It just covered the niche or industry the client wanted to get known in. The blogging worked great for SEO as well.

One of the blogs I led earned its money for both me and my client by Yahoo ads. They were similar to Google Adsense but better.

The blog was profitable for years until the Google Panda update came. The blog was on a subdomain and as the main domain was hit the blog lost as well.

The other blog has been sponsored for two years by a client who got both rankings of the main site through it and became popular as a brand.

Right now I work for clients who want to succeed the same way with their own blogs so I make it happen.

As long as you have a dedicated team who writes for the blog it still can work. One man show blogs are much more difficult though.

Still even today you can pick a niche too small for the huge competition and become profitable in it. Then it will still be your full time job to make it work.

You can follow the advice of Neil Patel but don’t expect the superstar blogger status.

You will be probably disappointed. Instead try to follow the 1000 true fans approach:

A thousand customers is a whole lot more feasible to aim for than a million fans.

Kevin Kelly on The Technium/

Not everybody has to be like Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. Lots and lots of bloggers can earn a living by excelling in their

  • niche
  • industry
  • country

Do you want to know how exactly I made my niche blogs profitable? Tell me in the comments in case you are interested.

In short three business models worked for me to make money:

  • blog sponsorship
  • contextual pay per click ads
  • blogging for clients

None of them even required the 1000 true fans. Some old school SEO (search engine optimization) and modern SEO (sharing, engagement, outreach) were enough in most cases.

* Lady Gaga: Creative Commons image by Graham Blackall.