23 Reasons Your Blog Isn’t Making Any Money (And What To Do About It!)

image of broke man

Sure, you want comments.

And subscribers, and shares, and likes.

But you don’t really care about any of these things. You want what they will eventually lead to …

Money.

Yes, traffic is good, and so is reader engagement. But if you’re reading this, chances are you’re running a blog with the intention of marketing a business and making some money.

Now, that could be a bit distressing, because most bloggers are broke.

Some bloggers don’t have traffic or reader engagement, and some bloggers have lots of both. But most bloggers aren’t making any money.

Here’s why …

The chain of conversion is everything

We tend to think of conversion as a single event, but it’s really more like a chain of events.

If you market a business online, several conversions need to take place:

  • A stranger has to convert into a lead by being exposed to your message for the first time (in the online world, we call this traffic)
  • A lead has to convert into a prospect by liking what you have to say (this is often done by opting in to your email subscriber list)
  • A prospect has to convert into a customer by buying something from you
  • A customer has to convert into a repeat customer by turning a single purchase into an ongoing buying relationship

This entire process is called the chain of conversion.

Does that sound like a tall order?

It should, because it is — for your blog to make money, you need not one, but many people to smoothly move through this entire process.

And if your blog is like most, then that probably isn’t happening.

Let’s explore all the reasons why that might be, and what you can do to fix it.

Problem #1: You’re a billboard in the desert

The most common problem that bloggers face is that strangers aren’t converting into leads.

In other words, there’s no traffic.

And if there’s no traffic, then it doesn’t matter how well-optimized the rest of your funnel is, because nobody is feeding through it.

So the first order of business is to get traffic flowing to your site. Here are some of the reasons why that might not be happening, and how you can fix it:

  1. Build it and they will come. Yes, content is king, but without an army of marketers, the king can get pretty lonely! The truth is that while epic content is critical, it won’t go viral all by itself without an existing audience to start the ball rolling by seeing and sharing. If you don’t have traffic, you have to go and get the word out about your content.
  2. You just tweet to your followers. If you’re Guy Kawasaki, then your marketing can consist of tweeting to your followers, and calling it a day. But for the rest of us (who don’t have 400,000 followers), you’ve got to get out there and promote. Build relationships with other bloggers, write guest posts, put viral campaigns together, and apply any other strategy for blog growth that you can think of — just get out there and do something!
  3. Marketing in the wrong place. We love to fall for the promises of magic strategies that will get us tons of traffic — the kind that showcase the success that somebody else had. The problem is that you aren’t going after their audience, and your audience may not hang out where theirs does. If you’re marketing in the wrong place, then your audience will never find you! Of course, to market in the right place, you have to know who your audience is …
  4. No clearly defined audience. Obviously, you can’t market to your audience if you don’t know who your audience is. It isn’t enough for you to have a general idea that you’re marketing to “bloggers” or “writers” or “stay at home moms” — you’ve got to get way more specific, to the point that you’ve created a profile of the ONE person that you’re targeting.
  5. Asking for the wrong action. If they haven’t heard of you, then don’t start by asking them to buy — it isn’t likely to happen. Remember that your goal with each piece of messaging is to get the audience to take the single next action. When you’re talking to strangers, the goal is for them to become leads (visit your site) and then prospects (opt in to your list). So don’t even mention whatever it is that you’ve got for sale.
  6. You don’t hook their interest. Yes, I’m talking about headlines. For your blog posts, for your ads, and for the teaser links to your content. They all need to hook your audience’s interest. And you happen to be reading the world’s best blog about copywriting. So go read all about headlines!

Problem #2: Selling ice to Inuits

The second problem is that you get traffic, but they all bounce — no subscribers, no customers, and you’re on a constant treadmill to generate more traffic.

In other words, leads aren’t converting into prospects.

Here’s why that might be happening, and what you can do about it:

  1. It’s all about you. Yes, that’s right — all of your posts are about your news, your products, your company. And you wonder why nobody signs up for more? Forget about your subject area, and think about your customers. What are their problems? What matters to them? That’s what you need to be writing about.
  2. Your content is “me too” content. If you’re just writing generic, bland content of the “6 tips everyone already knows about productivity” variety, or (gasp!) going so far as to actually spin articles, then the truth is that there’s no reason for people to come back to your site, because you haven’t impressed them yet. So pull out the stops and write some truly compelling content!
  3. You don’t draw them in. You get them to start reading your stuff, but their attention wanders, and pretty soon they’re gone forever. You need to draw them in and keep them going, section to section, until they reach the action that you want them to: subscribing!
  4. You don’t make it explicit. Yes, that’s right. If you want your visitors to opt in to your mailing list, then you have to say so, in so many words: “Sign up for my list to get all sorts of goodies. Do it now. Click here.” Put those words, or words like them, near your opt-in box, and make sure to include a call to action in your posts, too.
  5. You don’t optimize. No matter how good you are, and how well you’ve done everything else, there’s always room for improvement — and improvement is had by split-testing, split-testing, and then split-testing some more.

Problem #3: “Just the free sample, thanks”

Sometimes you’ve got traffic, and you’ve got subscribers — but you still aren’t making any money.

In chain of conversion terminology, prospects aren’t converting into customers.

This might not sound so bad (“at least they have the traffic and subscribers”), but without the money, you’re just sinking more and more work into what might be a dead-end project.

The good news is that when you’ve got an audience, you can usually find a way to make some money — let’s explore why they might not be buying, and what we can do to fix it:

  1. You’re selling what they need instead of what they want. As an expert in your field, you know exactly what the customer’s problem is. I don’t mean the symptoms, or the issue that they want to fix right now — I mean the real problem that lies deep down at the root of it all. The trouble is that they don’t know that, and so they aren’t looking for that solution. Start by selling what they want, and then you can deliver what they need along with it.
  2. It’s in the wrong format. Maybe they love what you’re offering, but they just don’t like the format. I mean, really, how many more e-books can someone buy? Try a different format — like audio, video, a virtual conference, live workshops, infographics — or something else entirely.
  3. The price isn’t right. Maybe your product is great, but the price doesn’t fit. You could be asking for way too much money, or you could be asking for way too little. Remember that not only does the price have to fit with the buyer’s budget, but it also has to communicate the right thing about how valuable your offering really is. So test different prices, and find the price that works best.
  4. You don’t ask for the sale. Yes, this comes back to being explicit. Don’t just have an “Add to Cart” link on your site — you’ve also got to tell people that you want them to buy your stuff. Tell them why they should do it, and what they’re going to get. And tell them when they should do it (right now!), which leads us to the matter of urgency …
  5. There’s no urgency. Why buy today when I can buy tomorrow, right? You need to give your audience a reason to take action now. Make sure the constraint is real — maybe you’re raising the price after a certain date. Maybe the first 50 people to sign up get a special bonus. Or maybe you’re closing your program on September 1 (hypothetically speaking, of course …).
  6. No social proof. Nobody wants to be the first one to arrive at a party — you want to know that other people are there, and having a good time. So who’s already bought your product or service? What was their experience like? Were they happy? Were they a lot like the person who is thinking about buying today?
  7. No guarantee. There’s something comforting about a money-back guarantee. It provides a safety net, and shows how much confidence the seller has in whatever is being offered. Most companies offer guarantees, to the point that it looks sketchy if you don’t. So you have to offer a guarantee. But don’t just offer a simple “if you’re not satisfied we’ll give you your money back” guarantee — go over the top. Give them 110% of their money back. Donate $100 to charity. Set it up so that it’s not just about satisfaction, but about results (we guarantee that you’ll add $1,000 to your bottom line in six months, or your money back).
  8. You don’t optimize (again). Yes, it applies here, too. If you want to make more sales, then there are a lot of things for you to split-test: your headlines, the placement, text and colors of your opt-in boxes, the style of your introduction, your product imagery, your trust seals and their placement on the site … and the list goes on.

Problem #4: Once is (apparently) enough

Okay, if you’ve made it to this point in the chain, then you’re probably doing all right — you’ve got traffic, you’ve got subscribers, and you’re even making sales.

But customers aren’t converting into repeat customers.

Which means that you’re always scrambling to find new customers, and to keep that wheel in motion. Wouldn’t you rather have the wheel sustain itself?

Here’s why your customers may not be buying from you again, and what you can do to change that:

  1. You don’t deliver. This is a HUGE problem; if you promise something, your customers sign up, and then you don’t deliver, then you are doing irreparable damage to your reputation and business. In the words of my marketing professor, “marketing is a promise that the organization has to keep” — and you should never, ever break a promise. This probably doesn’t apply to you, but if it does, stop reading this article, and fix it immediately!
  2. There’s nothing else to sell. This is a more common problem: you’ve worked so hard to build and sell your product, that by the time they’ve bought it, there’s nothing left to sell. This is worth taking the time to fix; think about what else they might benefit from — an easy add-on is some consulting to help them get the most out of what they’ve already bought. Remember that a customer who’s already spent money with you is 8 times more likely to buy from you again, and you’ve already spent the time and money to convert them the first time!
  3. You don’t communicate. This is sad to see, but easy to fix; you’ve got happy customers and more great stuff to sell to them, but you don’t communicate with them after that first purchase. This is terrible — you should be communicating with your customers on a regular basis, both to collect feedback about their experience, and to keep the lines of communication open so that you can sell to them again. An easy way to do this is to build follow-up directly into your product, for example with automated follow-up emails and surveys.
  4. You don’t ask for the sale (again). Yes, you’ve got to ask for the repeat sale, too — periodically reach out to your existing customers to see if there’s more that you can do for them, and have a specific offer ready if they do have a need.

Fixing your blog, one link at a time

Every blog has holes in its chain of conversion — and most have lots of them!

So where should you start making repairs?

The answer depends on whether you’ve already got a functioning funnel:

If you’ve already got traffic, opt-ins, and customers: Start at the end, and work your way backwards. First get more customers to buy again, then get more subscribers to buy from you, then get more website visitors to subscribe, and only then get more people to visit your website.

If you don’t have any of that stuff: Then start at the beginning — start by getting traffic to your site, and once you have traffic, work on getting them to opt-in, and then buy from you, and then buy from you again.

Now, a question: how long are you willing to wait before your blog starts delivering dollars to your bank account?

Having realistic expectations is important. If you try to run a marathon as though it were a sprint, you’ll end up exhausted on the side of the road. And if you try to run a sprint as though it were a marathon, you’ll finish dead last.

So what kind of race do you want your blog to be running?

If you’re willing for it to take 2-3 years to get your blog to where you want it to be, then a good strategy is to read business books for bloggers, along with the best blogs in the industry.

But if you want to see results sooner, then get some help. For example, you could click the link in my bio and read about our marketing training program, that just happens to be closing to the public on September 1. ;)

About the Author: Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the program that teaches non-marketers to fix their chain of conversion like expert marketers. Get his free video course on how to get more money out of your business, website or blog, or follow him on Twitter @DannyIny.

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Twitter or LinkedIn to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. If you are starting a blog with the sole purpose of making money off of it, you shouldn’t expect to see any revenue any time soon. It could take years to build up the reputation and readership to make your blog profitable. I’m not saying it is impossible, but you have got to be realistic!

  2. Awesome list, it’s probably one of the most comprehensive lists I’ve come across.

    However, all these strategies are a lot easier to work with when you have SOME traffic. A good intermediate guide to kicking some ass blogging.

  3. communication with bloggers really help for sure. This is something most of us skip sometimes

  4. Great outline, and you’re absolutely right that it’s a multi-step process in order to make money online. Simply building a website and making a few token efforts towards attracting traffic isn’t going to cut it. Websites need to evolve over time in response to their customers’ demands, and you just can’t do that if you aren’t actively working on improving your site.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Sarah! I think oversimplification is the plague of the online world – it’s great to keep things simple, but not at the expense of crucial details. That’s why I like the Chain of Conversion – it gives enough detail for us to be able to do something about the situation, and make it better.

  5. Great post. Even though I have customers, I only have one product. I’m working on a second one so I’m hoping some will turn into repeat customers.

    I’ve got a lot of newsletter subscribers and a fair amount of traffic for my niche(16k pageviews/month) but I’m always trying to get more. I’m mostly doing content marketing to sell one product but I’m looking to branch out and get more more guest posts on my site instead of guest posting on others. I think this is overlooked as a traffic generator.

    • Oh, you’re absolutely right – guest posts on your own site are a great way to get traffic, and they also free up your time and resources to do other things, so it’s a double-win.

      Everything you’re describing sounds like great actions for you to pursue – the question is, which will give you the most leverage and best results to start with? Which link of the chain is the bottleneck right now?

  6. What else can I say, this is amazing. I found out that I fall into the second group of bloggers. I’ve got great traffic, in fact, they love my content and keeps coming back. But I barely make any significant cash monthly. I now know the problem, the format of my offers is the problem. I don’t have to stick with e-books, maybe I should switch to audio and videos.

    Thank you very much for sharing this comprehensive post. I’m totally in line and have gained
    so much. Good works and keep ‘em coming!

    • I’m really glad you liked the post, Michael!

      Don’t jump to conclusions – make sure to test what works best for your audience.

      And hey, if you found this post helpful, you just might want to check out our whole marketing program… ;)

  7. This is the best sentence August has produced:

    “Yes, content is king, but without an army of marketers, the king can get pretty lonely”

    Great job Danny.

  8. Great post, Danny!

    Lots of original stuff here that I hadn’t thought of before. I “do” have some holes in my chain of conversion.

    Will definitely share. :)

    Best,
    Jennifer

  9. I have “blogs” that make money, that haven’t been around a long time, but I’m working hard on one that will probably take longer to make money, but I think in the end it will make more and last longer than the others, and I will definitely go through your chain of conversion, first from the beginning, and hopefully also the reverse way down the line.

    Thanks for sharing Danny!

    • Jamie, you’re right that it isn’t just a process you go through once; as soon as you fix one link, you’ll find that another has room for improvement. The goal is to turn your blog and business into a humming conversion machine! :D

  10. Great post Danny. I have noticed that a lot of local business websites need a lot of help turning their sites into lead magnets and ultimately convert. The chain of conversions is an excellent way to explain this process. Thanks for the gems.

    Mick

    • You’re very welcome, Mick! This is exactly the process that we use when we consult for small businesses – feel free to make use of it. :)

      And if you want the whole process that we use for fixing problems, too, you should check out our program. ;)

  11. Another particularly excellent, useful post. Thanks.
    Can you stop now for a while please so I’ve got time to apply all this useful information.

  12. Great post and very good comment from Nick! Maybe that’s why I don’t have a sale. Well I can wait a few more years.

  13. Thanks cop blogger. I manage to learn something precious today.I am now repairing my mistake on my blog :)

  14. Such a great post!

    I keep asking myself – why some of my blogs can’t make money like the successful affiliate marketeers did? And I found the reason in your post.

    Thanks a lot. Time to fix the mistakes and start to make money!

  15. These are great tips, with a lot of ideas that I’ve never seen spelled out anywhere else. Thank you for making me look at things in a new way.

  16. Great post. I’m just working to get my new blog on writing going. I have a couple other blogs, but they are doing well and I forgot all I did to get them going. This will help me get on with it. Thanks. Lou

  17. Hi Iny,
    Well these are some great tips that most of us either don’t know, or don’t want to face them; that is a lot of work for a ‘lone ranger’ like me :S However, I have copied this post and will try to follow step-by-step! Thanks again.

    • Hey ghost writer – you’re right, it is a lot of work, but the way to make it manageable is to focus on the link in the chain that is causing you the most trouble, fix it, and then move on to the next one. that way you’ve only got to do one thing at a time. :)

  18. It is virtually impossible for a newbie to write a blog and make money. It is something for the hardened pros – people who have already cut their teeth and are already experienced professional copy writers or journalists or marketers . But, even for them, at this stage in the game, it will be a tough option. The truth is that you will need truly vast numbers of visitors to make money, and getting there will be like chasing a mirage. Think of writing a blog as being in the california gold rush – the people who made the most money were those that sold the shovels.

    That being said – writing a blog is fun – but don’t do it with the belief that it will provide anything more than pocket money.

    • Hey Joe, that’s a fair perspective, but I have to disagree… I pretty much started blogging at the beginning of the year, and I don’t have crazy high traffic numbers, but I’m making pretty good money (and I don’t do it by teaching people how to blog).

      • Hi Danny, kudos to you – but I believe that is more due to your background and skill set. You obviously write well, and probably have a really strong background in marketing. I believe it is correct to say that only a very small minority, out of the hundred’s of thousands (or millions?) who try, will ever make any money at all writing a blog. All that happens is that the internet will get more cluttered with pages that are never read, and never ranked by the search engines, and also, many people will just waste money buying all the addons (mailing list generating tools, hosting costs, special site designs, etc), perhaps spending money on promotion, at the same time generating affiliate income for the top bloggers, and getting nowhere themselves.

        • Hey Joe, for sure, I don’t mean to suggest that it’s easy, and yes, I’m coming to the party with a lot of entrepreneurial and marketing experience. I’m just saying that it is *possible*, as long as people learn the right things and do the right things.

          I really appreciate that you mention marketing, by the way, rather than internet marketing, SEO, or anything like that, which is tactical. That’s why we make a point of teaching *marketing* in our training program – so that people have that same foundation to build on. :)

    • As I said in the comment below, blogs don’t make money, businesses do.

      A blog is a strong marketing tool. If you take or build a solid business and apply intelligent marketing to it, and you don’t get derailed by the many things that derail new businesses, you should start to see revenue.

      You do need vast numbers to make any revenue in some of the traditional “monetization” models, but that’s a different thing from using content marketing to support a business.

      • Hi Sonia – right on point – could not agree more. The monetization model is an oversubscribed marketplace. Blogs as a tool for real businesses, used to engage and inform the customer base, are commercially valuable.

  19. Great list. Each item could be an entire course itself but you really hit the nail on the head as far as the BEST things to focus on for building a profitable online business. Thanks for sharing and creating awesome content.

    JC

  20. Great post Danny! It almost starts looking like work to people, and that’s why people operate on the hope and pray strategy.
    I hope people show up, I hope they buy something, I hope they blah, blah, blah about me, etc., etc., etc.
    Nothing good comes easy, and that’s what separates the tribe. The weak from the strong, or those who are willing to invest time, effort, and money.
    Thanks for sharing great advice and guidance,
    AJ

  21. Very helpful post Danny! Thank you so much :)

  22. If you want to make money from your blog, you should have no misconceptions as to the amount of work you will need to put in at first. I think you have to be willing to devote a couple of years of your time to work on your blog and build up a good repository of quality content before you can think about making serious income from it. You should be prepared to make the odd couple of hundred every month at least for the first year.

    • Blogs don’t make money, businesses do. Danny’s post is very much about using your blog in service of a business, rather than as some kind of money-making thing by itself.

      How long it takes really depends on the business you’re in.

      • I disagree a bit that blogs don’t make money, businesses do. I think a blog doesn’t have to be in service to a business but at least needs to be treated like a business. No one should assume they are going to get rich quick off of it just like any other business. Danny’s post lays out what is needed in a blog to make it a real business.

        • Yayson, you’re right, but I think Sonia is right, too – the point is that a blog by itself doesn’t make money, and once you take all the steps to turn it into a business, the blog is really just the marketing arm. :)

  23. I agree 100% with your article, thanks for the super advise1

  24. I am just now starting to get my feet wet in the world of blogging and internet marketing. I recently got my site running and am starting to add content. I realize its going be a slow process to begin to grow my network but I appreciate the intermediate information and the tips you mention. Thanks.

  25. That was an awesome post.

    Presently, my blog is small as I have only been blogging for a few short months. I have spent about an year or so educating myself while writing for my personal blog, only recently shifting this one. I am pretty much at my first stage where I am building my audience and happy to be here. It will take time for me to go through all the stages efficiently but I am willing to put everything into it to do so. Only time will tell …

  26. Danny, I feel that main problem for you to not able to convert a stranger or make them stay is because you are not targeting the right audience and or not producing quality stuff. Good post.

  27. These are great point you have mention here, Thanks.
    My website is doing really good,as i am focusing on content,traffic and reputation rather then making money. Once you reached up to level to hold the users money will automatically credited, Am i right Danny?

  28. Hi Danny,

    Powerful tips here.

    Lack of persistence is 1 area where some bloggers fall short. They are doing the right stuff but don’t spread their message consistently enough.

    Think of some TV commercials. Eventually, hearing the message day after day grows on you. Sure, you might reach the annoyance factor too, but if you aren’t annoying anyone you aren’t doing anything of note in this world.

    Thanks for sharing your insight!

    RB

  29. This is such an incredible post but I almost don’t want anyone to see it because it essentially sums up everything I’ve learned about my blog through a year’s worth of trial and error! Haha. No, really, thank you for all of this. It’s been a long and hard journey to even get to step one of drawing people into our blog and we’re still not even close to reaching our goals with that one yet. Keep up the thorough + informative posts!

  30. Great Tips,
    I’ve checked out your site firepole marketing and really enjoyed what you have to say. I’ll be continuing to visit and what how your site grows.

    Cheers
    /B

  31. Danny, you hit the ball out of the park twice with this:

    Asking for the wrong action. If they haven’t heard of you, then don’t start by asking them to buy — it isn’t likely to happen. Remember that your goal with each piece of messaging is to get the audience to take the single next action. When you’re talking to strangers, the goal is for them to become leads (visit your site) and then prospects (opt in to your list). So don’t even mention whatever it is that you’ve got for sale.

    And this:

    Your content is “me too” content. If you’re just writing generic, bland content of the “6 tips everyone already knows about productivity” variety, or (gasp!) going so far as to actually spin articles, then the truth is that there’s no reason for people to come back to your site, because you haven’t impressed them yet. So pull out the stops and write some truly compelling content!

  32. Very good information. If you really want to make money online, you need to gain followers and people need to trust you. Build more followers through your blog by providing good information and automatically they will trust you and you can start your online business and make money online.

  33. This blog is the realest thing I’ve seen online so far

  34. Danny! I would love to speak with you about this more! I need help!

  35. This blog is really what I was looking for. So many marketing, e-marketing, affiliate marketing blogs, but this one really covers issue’s which are actual. I will follow this blog for sure! Thanks
    Eric, Belgium

  36. Beautiful points but what I always tell people is to blog for the passion of it and not for the money. Chances are your going to make no money from your blog for a very long time. Write from the heart and something you care about and it will show in your writing and draw people to return back again and again.

  37. Sooo much to do
    Why don’t you swing by my blog and fix it for me – yeah I wish :)

    Keep up the good work – and for the love of god keep the tips comming. For a newbie like me even the smallest things can be gold.

    All the best
    Simon

  38. Lots of helpful tips in this article! Thank you!