Contrary to the opinions of some questionable YouTube videos, I don’t believe you can make money equal to that of an average salary by just blogging in 2022. There are still valid reasons to blog, but lots has changed in the past ten years or so.

In this post, we’ll look at the reasons for the decline in the blog as a means of monetization, but also as a medium. In the second half, I’ll run through the positives of blogging and ways you can be (relatively) successful at blogging in this day and age.

Decline in Affiliate Cuts

Amazon, in particular. 2020 was a bad year for Amazon Affiliates, which saw commission share from things like the “home and furniture” category go from 8% to 3%. Amazon is the easiest affiliate scheme to sign up to, but unless you drive hundreds of thousands of visits monthly, you’re not going to see any meaningful return as an Amazon affiliate. As a result, other affiliates have grown in popularity, but they are generally more selective and harder to be approved for. Source: Affiliate Marketing Hub

What’s the Point of Adsense?

I just don’t get it. You’re placing a bunch of crazy, intrusive ads from companies who you haven’t sanctioned all over your content in the hopes that you can drive traffic there and some fool will click an ad and you’ll get a commission. You’re 99% more likely to annoy your users and sacrifice brand loyalty than you are to earn thousands of dollars a month. It literally just doesn’t pay.

The other day, I went to read an article on rugby and was confronted immediately with an advert trying to sell me boxing tickets, above the title of the article I had clicked on!

Word Counts Eroding Experience

You could make a more general argument for SEOs trying to game the SERPs in many ways but in the blogging and affiliate communities word counts are one of their most heralded prizes. If you go to Reddit’s Just Start subforum, you’ll often see site owners post their monthly stats and average word counts will be one of those stats. As an SEO and content professional, I’ve never used average word counts as a metric for anything, preferring a more “if the shoe fits” approach with what the user’s going to expect – for instance, if someone wants to look at the safest cars on the market, a few thousand words providing great detail is going to ensure they can get stuck into a good read to help inform a decision; if they’re looking for advice on if Brandon Cooks will be playing on Thursday night, 100 words and a few screenshots is all you’ll need – but it seems website owners/bloggers have become obsessive over word counts in recent years.

Not without reason, it should be said. This study shows a clear correlation between higher word counts and higher rankings. The problem with a lot of SEO comparisons is that no two sites are ever equal. Drawing conclusions from word counts without looking at the other key ranking factors for the websites (link data, user experience) does not give the full picture. On the topic of user experience, how many articles/blogs have you read recently where you’re certain 50% of the content you’ve read has had no real relation to the topic you clicked on the search result for in the first place? Elongated, “puffy” writing just annoys people. This isn’t a critique of bloggers alone, journalists are repeatedly told to buff up the content on their articles to hit nonsensical word counts for no other reason than to rank. It’s a shocking experience. When you combine this with encountering a Google Adsense placement after every paragraph, reading content is an unattractive proposition. Create content for the reader, not for Google.

Turns out, there is no actual answer for if Brandon Cooks will play. What a surprise.

Video > Blog

So, you’re trying to set up a niche website. First, you have to buy a hosting plan. Next, you probably need to buy a website theme or get a professional to design one for you. Finally, you have to write thousands of words of content, on the regular. It could take you months to get out of the Google sandbox and earn your first email subscriber. It’s  a lot of sweat equity.

Then, you remind yourself you live in 2022. You can film a video of yourself talking about the subject you were about to write on, upload it for free to YouTube, and put the content out there to be discovered by anyone. Okay, this is a very simplistic view and everything takes time and effort, but as far as sweat equity, and actual cost, goes, starting a YouTube channel that you can freely monetize is probably going to be the more profitable option out the gates.

It’s no secret that people love videos. The number of videos watched online doubled between 2018 and 2021, and most shoppers now expect brands to show “explainer” videos on product pages, with an incredible 88% saying videos prompt them to make a purchase. Source: Wyzowl/Hubspot.

While these stats aren’t totally relevant to the creator economy, they represent a marked switch between people reading information to people consuming information. People don’t want to read about your outfit ideas for summer, they want to watch a reel of you trying the outfits on. Of course, you need to decide which medium is going to work best for your subject/business, but there is no denying video is becoming the norm.

Blogging is still a viable option if you’ve assessed that written content is the right medium, you just need to bear these things in mind.

Blog for the Right Reasons

It makes sense that if you’re going to produce content on anything, you should have at least some passion for the subject matter you’re writing about. That passion is going to shine through in your writing, just as it would on a video or podcast, and make your posts engaging for the reader.

Cultivate a Community

Following on from “blogging for the right reasons”, as a content creator your first goal should never be “how am I going to make a quick buck out of this?” but rather “how can I positively impact my readers?” Of course, having a clear plan of how you can monetize your content in future is something you can build back from, but if you have an engaged audience who want to keep coming back to your site because there’s value for them, monetization will be a heck of a lot easier. Add value, not profit.

Use Email to Your Advantage

To the above note, email is a great way to grow your community’s engagement. You can offer email subscribers incentives to sign up, such as content only for them or bespoke deals from brands you partner with. In the digital world, an algorithm change on Instagram or Google can dramatically alter your website traffic. If you build up an email list, or what’s referred to as “first party data” you can communicate directly with your community and not be so heavily reliant on third party platforms to promote your brand.

Gaining emails/trust can be as simple as:

  • Getting them to sign up to a weekly/monthly newsletter that “curates” content based on your niche from around the web
  • Asking users to fill out a survey based on your niche and incentivize them by entering them into a draw to win an Amazon voucher

So, the blog isn’t totally dead. It’s just much harder to turn a profit from “blogging.” If you want to be a voice for a community, you need to look at different ways to engage with that community and focus on how to add value first, not profit.