Why Your Blog Doesn’t Make Money

image of roll of money

Not a single founding member of Third Tribe earns the bulk of their income from the blogs that are practically (or in Brogan’s case, literally) synonymous with their names.

Yes, they make some money directly from those blogs. But revenue directly from the blog doesn’t represent the bulk of their income. Not by a long shot.

So why do so many bloggers equate blog success with financial success?

Many, if not most, of the bloggers I see are hoping that their blogs will make them popular. They are also hoping their blogs will make them money. This isn’t exactly surprising. Fame and riches are supposed to go hand in hand, after all.

But when you need a new stream of income tomorrow, you don’t write ten more blog posts.

You create a new product. You launch an email campaign. You make a special offer. You network. You find a great new JV partner. You ask for referrals and check in with your current clients.

Similarly, when you want to get more subscribers for your blog tomorrow, you don’t launch a product.

You write better content. You get more active on social media. You guest post on other people’s blogs. You link to other good articles. You improve your SEO.

Building a profitable business and creating a popular blog are two different things

Related, yes. But different.

The most popular blogs you know do not make most of their money simply by racking up the subscriber numbers. They make their money with products, consulting, services, and advertising.

They make their money by running a successful business. The fact that they run a popular blog facilitates that business.

If Brian wants to launch a product tomorrow, he has a big, engaged audience to whom he can launch it.

Having a huge audience who will listen when you launch a product isn’t the profitable part, though.

The profitable part is that Brian will create a product that his audience wants and needs. He’ll run an informative and compelling launch. He’ll have an affiliate program that works and a sales sequence that converts prospects into buyers.

Does the large subscriber base help with that product launch? Absolutely. But the blog itself is not the thing that’s making money.

If Copyblogger, with its magnificently large platform, were to launch a terrible product with a really weak campaign and only promoted it with a few blog posts to this vast audience of readers, they wouldn’t make enough money to pay my grocery bill.

Having a popular blog is not enough. You still have to build the business.

No, of course you shouldn’t neglect your blog

There are many, many virtues to a popular blog: social proof, credibility, enhanced visibility. They’re good for forging new business contacts and partnerships. They’re good for attracting potential customers for the products you’ll make or services you’ll provide.

They’re brilliant for creating relationships. I don’t know my dentist as well as I know some bloggers. And I trust my dentist with my teeth even though he comes at them with a variety of pointy things with hooks on their ends. Blogs help us make those trusting, potentially valuable connections, and for that reason alone, they’re worth pouring time and energy into.

But no matter how hard you try, your subscriber numbers are never going to magically transform themselves into your bank balance.

When it comes to making money, simply having a blog isn’t enough. Now you have to take all the things the blog has given you — visibility, authority, a reputation for knowing your industry, social proof — and put them to work building you a profitable business.

Because it won’t happen on its own.

If you want to use your blog as a jumping-off place for that business, though, Third Tribe has got you covered.

The seminar you’ll want to listen to is the 4-part series on Building a Business Around a Blog, which features interviews with Sonia Simone, Darren Rowse, Chris Brogan, Brian Clark, and Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. They cover a lot of ground, including:

  • The three factors your blog must have if you want to make serious money with advertising
  • Brogan’s two favorite ways to start bringing in revenue by using a blog
  • The specifics about where the bulk of their income really comes from (you may be surprised)
  • Why “blogging about blogging” isn’t the way to go
  • How Darren uses surveys to build his business (and why Brian doesn’t)
  • A quick creativity technique to develop the next killer idea for your business
  • How to handle pushback if your customers respond negatively to your products

I listened to all four of these interviews. And not once, in hours of discussing techniques, business-building ideas, and marketing strategy, did any of these bloggers say that the best way to make money was to get more subscribers.

They’ve got a few ideas for how to do that too, though. Because blogs are valuable — just not in the way you think.

You can get instant access to all four seminars (and a dozen more), as well as Q&A sessions and the web’s best networking forum for internet businesspeople, by joining the Third Tribe today.

About the Author: Taylor Lindstrom is a freelance copywriter and Assistant Editor of Copyblogger. She’s taking lots of notes about how to turn sharp copywriting into a profitable business.

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  1. Hey Taylor,

    Now, what you just wrote will open the eyes of many. My blog allowed me to create friendship with individuals that I wouldn’t have meet. It even has allowed me to do consulting work with other business owners. Now, this is cool! Thanks for this awesome content.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  2. I’ve listened to the four part series (guess that means I’m a member of Third Tribe Marketing) and Taylor has it right.

    If you’re making a living via advertising and all that page view stuff, more power to you. For the other 99.99947% of us, we probably need to think about the ideas in these seminars.

    • I know a couple people who make huge amounts of money online – and none of you have ever heard of them. They don’t have huge blogs. Some of them don’t have blogs at all. One of them has exactly 12 Twitter followers, two of whom are immediate family.

      But when we talk about “successful” online entrepreneurs, we talk about how many subscribers they have. I think it’s interesting. Also weird. It’s kind of the way we used to think the popular kids in high school were also the happiest. Then the computer geek everyone sort of shunned went on to become a bajillionaire by junior year, surround himself with the friends who supported him, and spend his time doing the stuff he enjoyed most.

      But since no one knew that guys’ name, no one aspired to be like him. Even though he had all the things everyone said they wanted.

      • You know, that brings up a good point. I used to think of people with high subscriber counts as successful publishers and possibly successful monetizers, but I never really thought of them as entrepreneurs.

        • Someone who starts a magazine, or a radio station, or even produces a film, is an entrepreneur. This medium is no different, it’s just that the barrier to entry is so low that more people are here hobbying around or trying to make money without realizing it’s businesses that make money, not blogs.

          • I don’t disagree with the reality. It’s just that I never thought of them as entrepreneurs if all they seemed to be were targets for page views and advertising sales. It’s a bit of a distinction.

            In the case of Copyblogger, your subscriber base and page views look huge to a lot of us. But, at this point, that’s almost a by-product of your real model, which is selling products.

            But you’re correct, it’s as entrepreneurial as a magazine really needs to be behind the scenes to actually turn a profit.

          • Great point Brian. One thing comes to mind – from the late and great Peter Drucker. Always know what business you are in before you can have a viable model. The rail industry failed because they did not think of themselves as being in the “transportation industry”. They thought they were in the railroad industry.

            The point here is that a blog does not mean you are in the ‘blogging’ industry. Copyblogger is not in the “blogging” industry either. They are in the information industry and as such can build a business model around that. If Brian thought of Copyblogger as being in the “blogging” industry, then we wouldn’t have such great and useful information products!

          • Great point, and I think Shane hit it on the head in his response. You have to know not only what you’re doing and what your goals are, but who the overall competition is as well. And they may not be who you think they are, unless you really take a hard look at what you’re ACTUALLY trying to accomplish. If the blog is the ultimate goal, then fine. But if the ultimate goal is to make money or establish yourself as an expert consultant, then you need to make sure you’re leveraging your blog toward that goal and not undercutting yourself by only aiming at the immediate goal of growing your subscriber base or increasing your popularity.

  3. Great Post, Taylor! I need to check out the 4-part series on Building a Business around a Blog. Your article speaks volumes to why traditional offline b2c or b2b companies need to blog. Even blogging experts like Chris, Brian and Darren don’t make the majority of their money from their blog. If you have a legit offline business, one way to grow that business is to blog.

    @RBeale

  4. Hi
    Awesome point you make and it is true blogger doesn’t make money from their main blog.Main blog is used to generate traffic and email id.

    Thanks For Sharing
    -Abhishek

  5. I think it’s a matter of goals – it’s know what you goal is when you set out to grow your business or grow your blog.

    As you said, you don’t grow your blog to make money – you grow your blog to get subscribers and fans, who will then buy your products to make you money.

    I was a part of Third Tribe, but decided to invest elsewhere. Had nothing to do with being unsatisfied with it though, so I still recommend getting inside.

    • That was more or less my point. I keep seeing people who think their goal is to build the blog – when that’s really not the goal, just a step toward the bigger goal of making enough money to support themselves.

      And then they make the mistake of compromising stuff that would make them money in favor of doing things that would make the blog more popular.

      Funny how focusing on the wrong thing can completely derail the whole project. Seems like it should still work to focus on the wrong thing if the wrong thing will eventually help the right thing – but I’ve never actually seen it work.

  6. Love it. To further the example this site is about copywriting and content but the actual products that have been offered haven’t really been about copywriting at all.

    Teaching Sells: Teaching what you know and make money from it

    Lateral Action Entrepreneur Course: Building a business for creatives

    And it’s interesting that this post then became a sales call for third tribe. Or did it start out that way? Lot’s to learn here…just got to spot it.

    • Don’t forget about Scribe, which is software that helps with SEO copywriting. More to come in the software department, but your point is still valid — give a lot away and sell things that are related.

    • Ian, I’ve had more (small) success selling directly from my blog than selling into my list. I realize that’s not saying a whole lot (yet). But it puts the lie to the notion that you can’t sell directly from a blog.

      This doesn’t mean I’m not continuing to build a list.

      I know one person, now deceased, that would have made a very successful living pitching from every single blog post. (He pre-dates blogging).

  7. You could say that a blog is only a small cog in the large wheel of running a business both on and offline today.

    A blog is a great way to build your brand.

    Sandy

  8. I have a question about Third Tribe. I’ve been a little nervous to ask. Does Third Tribe help narrow down a niche to find what services or business I could start around my blog?

    I always hear to go onto Ebay Pulse or Amazon to look at what’s selling and that’s great for products. I see how that has value in providing services to answer questions. I am not sure what exactly I should offer that would be unique from someone else that might have years of experience. So, I’m reluctant to start… that whole paralyzing thing.

    I’m not sure which area to focus on in my niche. Does Third Tribe help with that or should I have a clear idea what I want to do first?

    Thanks for your information and feedback of how it is helping you, Taylor.

    • There’s a really amazing column in Esquire magazine called Answer Fella, and his beginning blurb always goes like this:

      Answer Fella believes there are no stupid questions, just stupid people who don’t ask questions, fearing they’ll look stupid.

      Which is to say, it’s totally not a stupid question. And it has an answer! Even better.

      Yes, the Third Tribe can help with that. There are specific interviews that discuss how to brainstorm products around your niche, but there is also a massive forum of helpful people who can tell you whether your ideas are on the money – they’ll tell you whether *they* would buy it, they’ll help you refine your ideas, they’ll look at your services and say “Hey, have you ever thought of building a product around this?”

      It DOES mean you’ll have to ask questions that you worry might be stupid if you don’t want to simply use the audio resources to learn ways to brainstorm on your own. But you can do that. Look, you just did. And it wasn’t so bad, right?

  9. You make a lot of great points. The blogging itself is a way to brand yourself and you can use it in a variety of ways to bring in multiple streams of income.

  10. My blog only pays for my mortgage or so. It’s all the other stuff I do that makes *real* money. Great post, Taylor. Certainly woke me up. : )

    • Aw, thanks for coming around. And, you know. Humbling us all. The only thing my blog ever paid for was two rounds of Scotch and a dollar for the bum with the amazing hat on Walnut Street.

    • I wish MY blog paid my mortgage… I don’t think I could even manage the rounds of scotch. Maybe a dollar for the bum, if I didn’t already spend it on a can of Red Bull.

      So, on a more serious note, do you think your blog would make enough for your mortgage if you didn’t have the other stuff backing it up? Is it a reciprocal relationship or more like a building block? Does it just open the door to market the other stuff? I hope that made sense… too much caffeine makes it hard to type.

  11. Hey Taylor,

    Just made the connection, congrats on your new job.

    Great points, the blog and the business are two different creatures. It is interesting that each of the greats is doing things differently to make their income.

    I guess it boils down to your strategy. I think instead of using the words popularity, which sounds shallow, I would have used the purpose of the blog. If you are trying to change the world, each little success story is your payment. And more precious than money.

    • Do you know, I had a hard time coming up with a word that properly summed up the misstep I see many bloggers making? I think you’re absolutely right that they *ought* to be focused on the purpose, but they *are* focused on the popularity.

      Oh, semantics. Sometimes you ARE useful.

  12. I really enjoy writing my blog, coming up with topics, trying to best myself day after day, but never did I expect to make my money through my blog. Instead I use it as a way to establish my credibility and find clients through the blog.

    I see blogging as a means to an end, and thank you for reminding me of that. Great post.

  13. It’s all about the multiple streams of income. You start by writing in your own voice, with your own nuances and your own quirks.

    Your readership comes back to you, because they want to see what on earth you are going to come up with next.

    You end up building quite a following, because you are providing such good content that people would be foolishly stupid to unsubscribe.

    …then you get to cash in by taking the power of that audience, listening to what they have to tell you and pulling the trigger just at the right time.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  14. Taylor – as a member of 3rd Tribe I can certainly attest to the usefulness of it. It is the one and only place I have on my list to visit and engage in EACH day.

    More to the point, however, I assume that when you say “blog” you are not talking about affiliate blogs/marketing? Because those types of blogs can make a lot of money. I suppose the product they offer is whatever they are promoting but in my mind, this can be a viable business as well. One doesn’t need to throw up a site just for the sake of being an affiliate, rather, they can actually have a decent, useful and well designed site that makes a lot of money.

    or am i missing something?

    • Shane, blogging an affiliate offer may be the last step in execution, but it didn’t make the money all by itself. You had to find the right merchant, through the right network or directly via an affiliate program, and strategize the promotion.

      Affiliate marketing is actually one of the most tethered models, because without third party merchants, you can’t make money at all.

      • Or what Brian said. More succinctly. Sigh.

      • Thanks Brian (and Taylor) – that helps clear it up a bit in my mind. Ironically, this all goes back to basic business skills – whether it is a blog or not.

        After I got my MBA and started really looking at what was happening online, It was quite a shock to the system to see people forget the basics of business and figure that they could launch a site, get subscribers and then make money.

        The key here is that no matter what, there must be a market and a need and proper execution. Brick and mortars fail and so can online endeavors. We saw this in 2000 when dot coms thought all you needed was capital investments, a website, and an offer.

        But we see now where that went…and now…the web is growing up – we must grow up with it!

    • Hey, Shane -

      I’m definitely not arguing against the blog-as-business-funnel, I’m saying that when you focus solely on the blog numbers rather than on developing products people want to buy, you’re missing the point.

      Affiliate blogs are actually a prime example of bloggers who know where to put the focus. They’re creating popularity specifically so they can sell their products. That is the purpose of their popularity. If those blogs found out they could sell more products by targeting only 200 of their most loyal readers, though, they wouldn’t care about the numbers anymore. They’re focused on profitability, not popularity.

      So yes, affiliate blogs can make lots of money. But only if their owners don’t lose sight of the purpose of having a blog, and use it to further that purpose. The mistake I’m calling out here is people who are trying to make their blog successful without keeping in mind that their ultimate goal is to sell a product.

      And there are some blogs who have no intention of making money – who are content to have lots of readers and popularity but don’t care whether their site makes money. I think those guys have it right, too. Just so you know what you’re going for, and don’t mistake one goal for another.

  15. Taylor,

    You’re spot on, no doubt. It’s difficult as writer to differentiate between the desire to provide engaging content and produce an adequate income source. I battle with the desire to move away from strict consulting and into a mode of providing products that hold a much higher long-term value, specifically products that empower people to achieve on their own, rather than drive the bus for them.

    Every blogger starts in the same place; the real fun starts when the evolution process takes over and your wheels start spinning in new and unexpected directions.

    Thanks for laying it out so succinctly!

    • I think writers do have this problem more than others, definitely. We want the validation of knowing our words are popular, and that desperate need to have our writing appreciated easily overshadows more minor matters like, um. Rent.

  16. Well put, Taylor, and the comments on this post show another one of those things I’ve heard 3rd tribe founders say in various places – go ahead and keep repeating things you’ve said before. There will always be new readers and there will always be those who appreciate the reminder.

    • And there will always be those who still haven’t done it even though they know it’s a good idea. And if I don’t supply the guilt, then WHO WILL? Tell me THAT, Beth Robinson!

      (Whoa. That got heavy.)

  17. Taylor..

    Took the words right out of my mouth.. this is something a lot of people struggle with and this post will wake many people up..

    Products, Services, & Consulting make you the ‘real’ money – affiliate sales are ok too.. but you’re dead on with your points..

    thanks for sharing this – someone had to

    talk soon
    Hector

  18. Your blog is just your engine. It’s the thing that keeps your vehicle moving. Without it could they still get around? Sure, they could ride a bike or rollerskate… but something with an engine gets you there much faster. ;) Thinking of it like an “engine” really puts a lot of things into perspective for many people. Think about it.. if you don’t oil an engine or maintain it regularly, what happens?

    I tell the same thing to daily webcomic authors… it’s not the comic itself that makes the money really. It’s just the engine.

  19. Very interesting. The idea that top bloggers don’t make their money from actual blogging is definitely mind boggling. I’ll consider investing in the Third Tribe sometime in the near future. Should prove to be a profitable experience.

    • Christina, with the Copyblogger model, the business wouldn’t exist without the blog — it’s the launch platform that we’ve used to propel several satellite businesses to success. At the same time, it’s important to understand that the satellite businesses (or product lines) are where the revenue comes from.

  20. Build the blog? Build the business?

    Depends on your goal. If you’re blogging for self expression, as are many hobby bloggers who think people might simply pay them to show up, then subscriber count may make you happy for a while. The blog exists for its own purpose.

    If you’re using blogging as one marketing vehicle, or engine as DJ says, then blogging has a different purpose — to engage your target market, create the know-like-trust relationship. The blog then exists for a different purpose.

    Then you can build your business on the back of the blog, as we’re able to witness happen so brilliantly with Brian, Darren, Chris and Sonia.

    Thanks, Taylor, for bringing clarity to the discussion.

    • And it should be said that there’s not a thing in the world wrong with blogging for self expression. Just know that’s what you’re doing. Which some people don’t seem to realize.

  21. Blogging (or emailing or whatever) isn’t the business, or the goal, it’s the delivery vehicle. The purpose of a truck isn’t to move around trucks, it’s to deliver the stuff inside the truck (the products) to people that want it (the customers).

  22. Great post!

    I’m in the middle of building my business right now and the majority of my business IS NOT directly from my blog or website…although the website/blog does help with transitioning prospects to buyers but its moreso informational at this point.

    I would also recommend the Third Tribe Community to everyone interested in marrying your blog and business together! Amazing community, Amzaing support!

  23. Wow Taylor. Finally, someone that will actually mentioned the term “make money”.

    Every time I’ve mentioned the word “profit” or term “make money”, replies in forum posts or on blogs always come back something like this:

    - you shouldn’t be in it for the money it’s about “passion”
    - it’s not about the money, it’s about building “something big and beautiful”
    - follow “your passion” and the money will come

    I don’t know what bloggers are smoking, but if you’re using the word “business” in your conversations, you should be using the word “profit” in the same sentence. Bloggers gotta get over that making money is a bad thing, it’s holding a lot of them back.

    Thanks for bringing the topic up.

    I don’t think it’s the blog or products that are really making the four musketeers you mention in this post money.

    What’s making them money is their entrepreneurial mindset. They’re dreamers, they have vision, they’re innovative, they’re passionate, take risks, they keep learning and most of all they share.

    They’re making money because of these qualities, not because of their blog or the products they sell.

    • I may write something about this in a future CB post. Blogging can definitely be a for-the-love project, and there’s no rule that says your blog must be a business vehicle. I wrote this one for people who see their blog as part of their business (or, in my mind mistakenly, AS their business), but it might be good to write one for the other kind of blogger, the one who IS just in it for the love.

      What’s making them money is being good at running a business. The fact that having an informative blog became part of their business model is great, but you’re absolutely right – the success comes from having an entrepreneur’s mindset, not from any one thing they’re doing.

  24. Taylor, excellent stuff, thanks.

    Frank, pragmatic, friendly.

    And this… “Now you have to take all the things the blog has given you … and put them to work building you a profitable business” was outstanding.

    As a newcomer to this whole writing game this is sage advice.

    Cheers

    • This might be my favorite compliment of the day. Thank you, but thanks everyone. Lots of ego-strokin’ for me today. I shall cuddle it close to me at night and sing it little songs.

  25. I would have otherwise missed the fact. However, this is so true. Popular blog doesn’t make any money. Popular blogs makes the blogger popular. He has to use his intelligence and creativity to get the most out of his popular blog.

    Nicely written. :) Liked it.

    I was wondering if CopyBlogger has moved to some other framework leaving Thesis.

    • Oops okay. I just found that it’s using Genesis theme framework. :D I think the Thesis trend is likely to be over.

    • Popular blog doesn’t make any money. Popular blogs makes the blogger popular. He has to use his intelligence and creativity to get the most out of his popular blog.

      Precisely. Well put. :)

      It’s a little bit like benefits and features again. You don’t get the benefits without the features, but you have to remember to keep the benefits at the forefront of your thinking.

  26. Great clarification on the difference between successful business and popular blog. We all secretly want “fame & riches”, but don’t we really need money to feed & clothe our families!

  27. The way I teach blogging is this: it’s a demonstration of the level of service a person will get when they become a client. You demonstrate–for good or ill–what you know, how you sere & how you help. It’s a “free sample” for nobody in particular and everyone all at once.

    And it can be effective for people with fewer than 100 hits a month.

  28. This is so true! A lot of marketer these days can barely make $1 a day to start. I personally think a blog is a great gateway to opportunity, meeting new people, other bloggers in your field, and getting sponsorships, not just about the ad revenue.

  29. I’ve heard it said that before someone will buy from you, you have to “touch” them a number of times. These “touches” could be adverts they saw or heard, telephone conversations you had, editorial copy about you they read or whatever. The customer isn’t ready to buy until they have been touched a minumum number of times.

    A blog, and social media generally, gives you the opportunity to touch potential customers in this way. Blog posts, tweets, free reports and so on let the customer see you can be trusted so they feel confident in buying your products from you.

    • This is very true. People feel much more comfortable and confident buying from someone they recognize. The unfamiliar is risky.

    • Yes. And then, when you’ve touched them enough, you convince them to buy a service.

      Um. Wait. That sounds . . . rather scandalous, really. Oh, my.

  30. People just getting into blogging have no idea how blogging makes money. They just know it does (or can, anyway) I was there less than six months ago. Blog+AdSense+readers = millionaire I wasn’t THAT naive, but you get the idea. I think it’s just the nature of the game. The quicker we can wake up and learn what it’s really about, the better. Then we can change what we’re doing in order for it to be in line with our real goals. Blogging to blog is one thing, and blogging to make money is another.

  31. Strangely, this thought had just struck me a couple of days ago!

    I’m fairly new to blogging and I love it and that could easily make me lose sight of the fact that I originally started my blog to promote my business! I’ve had to take a step back and remind myself that counting my sales is at least as important as counting my blog followers!

  32. Nice.

    I really enjoy blogging without the pressure of selling. It’s motivating to reflect on ideas and beliefs through writing, and it’s even more motivating if you see that it’s doing someone else some good.

    Marketing and selling is all about numbers. I just prefer not to worry about numbers when I blog. What counts on a blog is how much I like it, and how much other people get out of it.

    When I want solid, meaningful numbers that correlate with one another consistently, I fire up Adwords and split test. My blog is the one place I don’t have to worry about that.

    • I like that you know what you want from your blog. If you’re secure in the notion that you don’t need the blog to promote your business and you’re just enjoying making something you’re proud of, then the numbers question shouldn’t come into it at all. Sounds like you’ve got your head on straight.

  33. This has been on my mind, and I’ve held off on active traffic-building in hopes of more subscribers for several reasons around what you’ve mentioned.

    Thanks Taylor for picking this apart and explicitly stating the differences between subscriber count and actual revenue. It’s interesting how easily the two can get blurred. Maybe to evade the harder questions about running a business?

  34. Very true words indeed!

    This distinction really makes all the difference between successful bloggers and mediocre ones. I especially like the conversion part, the key thing to making money from blogging is really sitting down to ask and answer this question; “what do I do with all these attention?”

  35. I know that Darren Rowse sells e-books, sells job listings ad space, give speeches for fee and has another blog which he has posts about digital photography that makes some money with Adsense.

    This wouldn’t have happened without the success of Problogger.

    Your blog can be popular but use the popularity to your advantage.

  36. This hits me right where it hurts – in a sort of good way. When I started blogging, that was my idea, that I could just make money blogging. That’s worked out well so far – In going on 3 years, I have made about $14.00 from blogging. On the other hand, one blog (where I don’t even write any longer) feeds a part time business.
    Shane mentioned Drucker. There was a second thing he said in maybe that same paragraph –

    “There are only two questions in business.
    What business are you in? and
    How’s business?”

    Something like that.
    Mike

  37. By the way, the post was great, the comments incredible. Lotta knowledge out there.

  38. I understand the spirit of this post and I’m not harping on the content. I’m just not sure the point of posts like this other than to dissuade others from blogging.

    I think if you’re trying to break into 6 figures then, yes, blogging is going to be a tough row to hoe.

    But for peons like me who, combined with my spouse’s business income, will be able to quit my nutty job making a few thousands $$ per month, blogging has been a godsend.

    It would be a shame for someone *not* to try blogging because they think there’s *no* money in it. It really depends on the person, their needs, and their niche.

    And that’s my 2 cents.

    • Jerret, the idea is not to dissuade anyone from blogging. It’s to show people where the money from blogging comes from.

      Even an advertising model doesn’t make money just from blogging. It comes from selling ads, which is often more of a task than people realize.

      Make sense?

      • Oh yes. Totally agree. The slot machine mentality is rampant. It’s really like ANY business. Most people expect to get something for nothing and then give up because “it didn’t work”. That only happens if you work for the government :-)

    • Brian’s got it right. I’m definitely not saying blogs are not an excellent tool to make money. I just see so many bloggers believing that if they write excellent content, money will magically appear.

      Without setting up adwords or independent ads on their blogs. Without letting people know they also provide services. Without promoting their products. They think they can blog and money will just happen.

      Which is not the case, and I do want to dissuade people from thinking that. After all, it sounds like you’ve been doing a very successful ad model on your blog – and wouldn’t it have been terrible if you didn’t think you had to set one up? If you thought you could just create content and that would have been it?

  39. You left out making money writing promotional blog posts;)

    • Oh, you poor, misguided, optimistic soul. They don’t pay me a penny for posts. I’m on staff as an editor – a junior editor, at that, and as you can see from other editors (Sonia, Jon) part of the job is putting out quality posts. Sonia actually recommended I write about Third Tribe because when I started I was having a hard time coming up with topics, but I was on the Third Tribe and usually had opinions about what I read or heard there. So I use Third Tribe for an inspiration on good topics that need discussion and write posts about those topics. Eventually she’ll take the training wheels off and I’ll have to come up with my own ideas out of the pure driven magical ether, like she does. :)

      But until then, if CB didn’t use posts ABOUT the Third Tribe to PROMOTE the Third Tribe, they’d be making the same mistake we’re bemoaning here. A post about good ideas isn’t worth much unless we tell people where I got the ideas and let them use that resource if they think those ideas are valuable.

  40. Great post! It’s hard to see it from the point of view you’ve set. You’re right in saying that the blog is just a platform of spreading the word of how authoritative/trusthworthy you are as a person/blogger/website. And you use that authority to help boost your position as an entrepreneur towards the people who already trust/follow you. it’s kinda like Seth Godin’s idea of giving gifts and art.

  41. Thank you Taylor for a great post that tells the truth. I wish more people, especially Internet Marketers, would make an effort to be honest and truthful, it would sure be refreshing. There are way too many snake oil salespeople in the Internet Marketing field.

  42. I like the way you get to the point.

    I think blogs don’t make money when they aren’t a business, and products don’t make money when they don’t solve a problem that your tribe cares about.

    The value of a business is the value of a problem solved.

  43. Andy Richards :

    It’s funny, I just finished reading the part of “Trust Agents” where it talks about leveraging what you create online (expertise, reputation, etc..) to find new opportunities. This article seems to fit nicely into what I just read.

    Thinking of blogs in this way gives me a whole new perspective and also made me realize that there are several moving parts when it comes to “making money from your blog.” It’s not so much about building a bigger blog as it is building an effective one.

    Nice Work.

    • Andy, thanks for mentioning Trust Agents. I also remember that part of the book and it stands to reason, just like in the offline world that the best and brightest entrepreneurs always understood that trust and relationships came first – - long before the “ask”.

      Ironically, the barriers to being online are so low that the most important parts about building a real business are often forgotten due to the thrill of the game of being online and having a voice.

  44. The blog is just one piece of a huge marketing pie, and its really no good on its own without a great website, a nice targeted email campaign and the rest. Also there is a huge difference between blogging (top of mind thought) and article writing. I do article writing for others – on their blog – and the more professional and helpful voice gives it credibility, whereas blog writers sometimes ramble. Just like this comment.

  45. I understad blogging as a medium to markets one product or services. In order to do this you need to have a good customer interaction as well as good visibility.

  46. It’s an eye opener for sure. I have always maintained that without having proper products or services to offer, the blog itself may not fetch you a lot of money (if not exactly fame).

  47. This post is pretty misleading really, though ‘blogging’ the way you guys are talking about it is a bit different than traditional affiliate/IM blogging as distinct from simple personal blogging.

    The way internet marketers mean blogging, is basically just using wordpress as a CMS and adding content frequently that is SEO’ed to the wazoo. In that case, you can make money without products, JVs, consulting, etc.

    Similarly, using a blog to build a list and then promoting offers to them is also a money making strategy, and quite a good business.

    Honestly guys, you’re really just talking about blogs being bad at getting traffic unless you know SEO, not the “create great content and attract heaps of no follow links!” BS that gets peddled around the blogosphere.

    Alternatively paid traffic sent to a blog with a proper sales funnel is also a viable strategy.

    In conclusion I think this post is an oversimplification.

    Gavin

  48. Hi Taylor:

    First let me say you are dangerous with a pen or in this case a keypad!

    My former employer didn’t make their money with its core product they made it from the ongoing consumer expenses. So, I can see where you are coming from. However, as Brian so eloquently put it a blog with paid traffic and a ‘proper sales funnel is also a viable strategy.’

    Thanks for sharing.

    Michael

  49. After reading this post, I think I need to rethink about my business model for my blog. Instead of depending on my blog to make money, I should instead focus my energy on creating products.

    Cheers,
    Vincent

  50. Thanks for this post Taylor. You provided really insightful information which I completely agree with. I believe one of the best ways to build out products for your audience is by simply asking them what they need/want. :)

  51. Great information on developing income streams, product creation, list building and networking with others.

    My blogs account for a small part of my online income. They do play a large part in directing visitors to products I’ve created and building subscriber lists.

    • Jordy. Great point. As I’ve been following these comments, it is increasingly clear that for the most part our blogs are the doorway to trust building, authority and a foundation. I liken this to the offline world, where you have to establish a relationship before asking for the sale. It’s the same principle really. And those that simply just ask for the sale first, might get a few here and there but they won’t build a real business out of it.

  52. This is interesting. I’m experiencing exactly the same thing, without comparing myself to the people you mention in your post :-)

    Although I don’t have a really popular blog, I have experienced a lot of success offline because of it. I have now been offered a new job and I have been offered to speak at a large conference. Everything is in Norway.

  53. I enjoyed how this post didn’t just provide information, it offered an implicit example as the intent is to increase membership sales to Third Tribe.

    I have read through the description of Third Tribe; however, here are my reservations: I once was a member of Gold’s Gym and they offered a program at additional cost to work individually with a trainer to meet your fitness goals. I decided to keep my money while a friend joined. What he was getting turned out to be most underwhelming – while the information was useful it could have been obtained elsewhere at a much lower cost (i.e., the cost of a book). In addition it failed to include other factors that had lead to the “success” of some of its trainers (i.e., maxing out credit cards to eat 7,000 calories a day and steroids). Which leads to my next point.

    My other concern is the principal of the black swan – after an event there is a tendency to make it appear less random and more predictable than it was. What you are selling is: if you join Third Tribe you will reach your business goals – “Third Tribe has got you covered.” It sounds very familiar to me. However, if such were the case the members should all demonstrate similar success, correct? It would be nice to see the statistics for all Third Tribe members – the difference between their businesses pre and post Third Tribe membership. Also, where did they begin? what was their background? were they already established? were the gains of new unestablished members similar to the more established ones?

    Lastly, it would be interesting to put this to the test:
    “Having a huge audience who will listen when you launch a product isn’t the profitable part, though.”

    Make a mediocre product (whatever that might be) and offer it just as you described. I would put money on it doing well. Leo Babauta himself once said something to the effect of: once you have a platform you can do anything.

    The reason I wrote this is because I am an interested, albeit skeptical, consumer who has questions. While I am critically thinking about what you have said, I did not show up to just be critical.

    Any further information would be appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Damon Clark

    • Probably the most important thing I can tell you is this:

      Most people don’t put information products to use.

      They join. They show up in the forums. They like chatting to other people about their products. They listen to the audio and nod their heads and go, “Oh, yes, that’s a good idea.”

      And then they don’t. Do. A damn. Thing.

      This is rather like you joining a gym and then being mad that the trainer doesn’t do the work for you.

      The trainer can’t do the work for you. The trainer can encourage, persuade, and offer motivation – as well as the relevant information so they aren’t motivating you to do the wrong things. Now, if the trainer your friend had wasn’t motivating, only offering information, then you are correct. He wasn’t doing his job. I can assure you that the Third Tribe is far from simply offering information without also offering motivation, accountability, and support.

      Most small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs have a hard time succeeding not because they don’t have the information available to them – but because they do not have the motivation on their own. They need to be accountable to someone. They need to get encouragement and feedback. They need to feel safe that at least their tribe of people have told them their product is worthwhile before launching it.

      You asked a lot of questions about Third Tribers that we can’t possibly give you. First of all, we don’t have their permission to profile them individually, and shockingly enough, a lot of people don’t much care to have their prior so-so-ness displayed so that we can profit off of their eventual success story. It’s not fun for them.

      You didn’t ask the most relevant question, though -

      “How many Third Tribers actually put the information to use?”

      Which makes me think you’re hoping for a magic wand. You join the Third Tribe and presto! You have a successful business!

      Yeah, no. You won’t get six-pack abs without doing the crunches yourself. It is not the trainer’s job to do the crunches for you. It is the trainer’s job to show up every day, to show you new ways of doing crunches so you get results faster, to modify other parts of your lifestyle that you may not have thought of (your diet, for example) so you can get to your goal, to encourage you, to motivate you, and to hold you accountable to the goals you’ve set.

      But he can’t do it for you. If you don’t show up to train every week, it is not his fault if you don’t get the abs.

      So could Third Tribers do it on their own? Sure.

      But most of them won’t.

      Re: the promise. We’re not promising that you WILL reach your business goals. We have absolutely no control over that. We’re saying if you USE THE INFORMATION, you will reach your business goals.

      If you join the Third Tribe and put the information in it to use, then yeah, you’ll succeed. It would be damned difficult not to.

      Re: platform is instant path to money – I’m not going to call out any particular people whose launches have done poorly because they got lazy and thought they just needed to write a couple blog posts saying “Hey, My Giant Audience, here’s my new thing.” I do, however, know several. They are names that you know. They did make *some* money, of course. Get that many eyes on a blog post and a few will buy.

      They didn’t make anything like what they should have made, though. And since all of these people have pulled off successful launches with similar products in the past, the disparity is humbling.

      As for Leo, who is much beloved around here: he said, “Once you have a platform you can do anything.”

      He did not say, “Once you have a platform, you don’t have to do anything.” Leo “Eight Kajillion Guest Posts to Build His Platform” Babatua is the last person to advocate getting lazy because you’ve managed to make one support of your business particularly strong.

      I appreciate that you seem to sincerely want answers and I’m happy to provide them to the best of my ability (I didn’t MAKE the Third Tribe, after all; I just use it). It is, however, one of my biggest frustrations that people seem to want guarantees about their success without having to put in any effort of their own. The Third Tribe offers sound business consulting and a community of peers to discuss ideas with and be accountable to. The equivalent service is hiring a business consultant to be around 24/7 whenever you want to chat with them and ask their advice. I know a few business consultants. You couldn’t pay them enough to be willing to do that. For the few who would be willing for the right price, the right price is in the mid-six figures. Annually.

      Third Tribe is $97. Forever.

      If what you’re really looking for is someone to take your business and make it succeed FOR you (without your having to do any planning or execution), there are people you can hire to do that. Most of them are working for companies like Coca-Cola, and their price tag is in the millions.

      Third Tribe can’t do that. You’re going to have to put in some effort yourself.

      • Taylor – Great Reply!

        I am a member of 3rd Tribe. And while I cannot speak for anyone else, I can tell you that no one forum I have ever been a part of was as meaningful as the “tribe” is.

        But it’s not because anyone in there actually does anything for me. I still have to work. I have to put in my efforts.

        The value I get is purely from connections, communication, and learning from others.

        It is a group of like-minded individuals that have come together to share what they know and seek advice in order to drive their own businesses forward.

        That’s the best description I can come up with – without selling it.

        Third Tribe is not going to “work” for you – it works with you.

      • Taylor,

        Thank you for taking the time to reply. I do appreciate it. I was somewhat concerned that my questions might come across too negative.

        I am not looking for a magic wand. I did not ask the most relevant question because I already get it. My wife and I are in the business of helping people lose weight. My profession is helping people to change their behavior. Day in and day out I experience people who would point the finger of blame rather than “actually put the information to use.” I am not one of those people.

        I’m also not looking for anyone to make us successful. I understand that as well. I would say we are quite successful as small business owners, especially by Hawai’i standards given our business is our sole source of income when many people here have two jobs.

        So, my apologies if the tone of my post painted a somewhat different picture of myself. My wife and I work very hard, but sometimes you can work hard at the wrong things, or we may be unaware that there is a better path than the one we are currently taking.

        For example: we are right now looking to manufacture a product and a patent lawyer told us one method while a small business owner suggested another. It becomes confusing and we have felt defeated at times. So, I guess what I am looking for is sound advice that cuts through all the BS (i.e., with regards to improving the blog portion of our business – as Gavin stated earlier the ubiquitous “create great content” to grow your blog).

        Anyway, I’ve said too much, but again, thank you. I have some thinking to do.

        Sincerely,
        Damon Clark

  54. There are times when I can’t believe ANYONE makes money from blogs. There are some valuabe professional blogs out there, but I always get the feeling that in order to get the real stuff, you gotta swipe the old credit card.

    Personal blogs are fun and revealing, and community blogs can be useful … but sometimes, sometimes, I just wish the bar was set a little higher. (Myself included.)

  55. There are those who have done reasonably well in term of popularity and monetary with personal blogs. Especially some female bloggers who have made a name for themselves and good money as well.

    Having read Copyblogger and its readers’ comments for a couple of years now, I agree this site doesn’t make money. But Third Tribe definitely make money.

  56. Good article. My wife got started creating her food blog and this is something that we have learned over the last 4 months. It is interesting since her blog keeps growing and yet the income from it grows rather slowly. She actually is working on a cookbook to go with her site. Keep up the good work.

  57. This is probably one of the most useful articles I’ve read in a while. I’ve been blogging for only a few months, and I’m glad I’ve been fortunate to realise early on that my blog is essentially a shop window. The real work is what goes on behind it – the business – and it’s what I really need to pay more attention to.
    Thanks for this :)

  58. Awesome post Taylor! So many bloggers should read it because they don’t understand how to make money out of their blogs. They think that the only way is selling ads or getting some adsense money. But there are so many ways: Information Products, Membership sites, software, etc.

  59. I agree with the blog not so much being a direct revenue generation tool, but that it can provide credibility and social proof, providing that you’re consistent. Inconsistent blogging can actually drive you further from your goals.

    While I have received one penny directly from my blog, I have been given many opportunities; free tickets to a marketing conference, speaking at a local home builders association, teaching a social media course. I believe all of these opportunities are an indirect result of my blog efforts.

  60. I think the purpose to build up a blog is more like trying to build a committed fanbase and a pack of followers. These are people who you can market to for a lifetime, especially if they constantly follow you, your blog and sign up to any newsletter or e-mail list that you offer. That’s my current goal with my blog that I’m building now. Offer good, top notch quality content and expand your reach and you’ll start to see the traffic trickle in and more people get involved. That’s what it’s all about :)

  61. Agreed with you, Taylor. Many beginner bloggers think that they can make a lot of money when their blog is bigger, however, when it happens, they realize that they don’t make any income if you don’t do a business.