Blogging has always been a hobby of mine. I’ve documented my travels through writing, pictures, and videos for the past few years as a way to remember everything I’ve done. Unlike a lot of the bigger bloggers that travel full time and write constantly, I work full time and travel with my vacation days like most people. I am lucky in that I’ve lived in South Africa for a few years which allowed me to travel Africa extensively, and now I live in Europe which affords me easy access to dozens of countries.
I’ve had this blog for some time now and the amount of things I’ve learned about blogging, SEO, traveling, and the like have been unspeakable. I did not make any money the first few years of blogging as unlike 95% of travel bloggers out there, I merely started this blog for the fun of it. In recent years however with traffic picking up, I’ve been able to monetize the blog through various means. This post will detail how I got to this stage and how much money I made in certain years.
How to make money as a travel blogger?
There are many bloggers who love to talk about how much money they can make as a blogger, how easy it is, and how you can do it too.
They merely are writing to say you can make money, but you probably won’t. Just think about it logically. If it was so easy, everyone would do it and everyone would be living their best life making money doing what they love to do, aka traveling.
I absolutely despise the blog posts that advertise how easy it is to make money as a blogger and how you can make $100,000 in your first year. I mean common sense would dictate that if everyone could make six figures blogging, why would anyone want to work the 9-5 grind anymore? Nothing is ever that easy so do not fall into the bogus traps that other bloggers like to advertise for their own personal gains.
Choose the right niche
Depending on what topics you’re writing about, you can make more or less money. Insurance, Finance, and real estate would definitely be the most lucrative options while food blogging is generally lower. This is because the companies that advertise financial products like banks, funds, and fintech companies have larger budgets can spend more for this time of thing.
However, don’t write something just because it is the highest money generating. If you don’t know much or are not interested in writing about selling insurance, your blog will not last long.
I mostly write about travel with a sprinkle of financial advice thrown in with my topics on credit card churning and managing finances while traveling. The reason the latter generates so much more money is because advertisers tend to be big banks and insurance providers that have much larger marketing budgets.
Like pretty much any business on Earth, you need to dedicate some time an effort before you see any results. There may be easy money in other fields, but not within blogging. Be prepared to work hard. This means you should consistently be writing very good content, sharing said content, building relationships with other brands etc. Know that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your blog. Don’t be dismayed if it takes a long time to make money because it is all too normal.
Consistently write good content
This is common sense but in order to be a successful blogger, you need to…well? Blog. And blog a lot. The more content you have, the more likely you’ll have more visitors. You also need to make constant updates because Google will not look kindly on a website that as not seen updates in years. On top of abundance of content, the content needs to be good.
Is it too late to make money as a Travel Blogger?
Everyone and their mothers have blogs in this modern day and age. Gone are the days when you could just put up a simple blog and make money. The market has become far more saturated and you’re competing with everyone that has had a whiff of wanderlust and think they’re going to become the next travel sensation. You are approximately 10 years too late because there’s been millions of travel blogs that have materialized in the last 10 years.
The first travel bloggers like Nomadic Matt that started in the late 2000s really capitalized on the trend before it was a trend. They were first to market with little competition meaning many of their posts would skyrocket right to the top of Google. However, that doesn’t mean they just wrote a few things, stopped, and continue to sit as king of the hill. The most successful travel bloggers create content and media very regularly. Far more regularly than I do.
Does this mean you can’t make money anymore? No of course not.
It just means monetizing a blog does not happen overnight like many bloggers out there would have you believe.
Blogging takes a lot of work and its returns correlate to how much time you invest in it. If you just want to have a casual blog that your family reads, then sure an update here or there is fine, but for the purpose of this article, it’s discussing how much and how to make money from it.
Approach Blogging as a hobby, and not a real job
For me, blogging was never a way to make a living. I never viewed it as such and never treated it as such. It was always out of interest and to just have a place where I can tell people, hey look at all these cool places in the world and of which I just happened to visit.
It was only the last two years that I was able to make “real” money from blogging because my web traffic really took off. Up until then, I mostly just had modest traffic and just kept writing as a way to log my travels beyond just social media. If your blog does pick up and you really start making money, then consider this a great blessing and roll with it. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by blogging for the sole purpose of making money.
I’m not a full time travel blogger. This means I’m not traveling the world full time with lots of free time and no other sources of income. Almost all the big travel bloggers out there are exactly this so to them, their blog is really their business/livelihood and they will treat it as such (As they should).
How much traffic does Johnny Africa receive?
I started my blog in 2013 as a outlet for myself to write about my experiences living in South Africa. I wanted to document my experiences beyond Facebook and Instagram and the blog was born. The blog was more of a personal thing to start with. Something I could update my friends and family on. I had no idea about best blogging practices, SEO, design, key word targeting or anything else. I was just documenting my day to day experiences like writing a personal diary.
Traffic in the early years was hard to come by. I was totally clueless on how to write good content and how to really have my posts rank on Google. I would be ecstatic if I could get over 100 page views a day! My blog dabbled in this territory for some time before I really put more energy and focus on writing good content.
Focusing on SEO
For most travel bloggers, Google is the main driver of traffic. Think about what you do when you are looking for a travel guide for Peru and Bolivia? I suspect the first thing you’ll do is go on Google and search for “Peru and Bolivia travel” or “Peru and bolivia itinerary”.
It’s also likely that you’ll likely click on a link or two in the top ten results and call it a day. This is something I research beforehand and I write my articles with this in mind so when do you search for that query, my blog will rank in the top few results. As you can see from the below picture, my blog is the #1 hit for such a query!
Over the years, I’ve learned endless amounts of information when it comes to blogging and I’m still constantly learning new things. It was a slow start at first sharing my posts on Facebook and begging friends to share the content. It wasn’t until about 3 years into when I really spent time focusing on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), good content, and a more polished design that I really saw my traffic pick up. Also, focusing on my Pinterest profile has really helped traffic as well.
In fact, the whole purpose of this post is for SEO. It is purely to rank on Google. When someone in the future searches for something like “How much money do bloggers make?” or “Can you make money blogging?”, or “How much do travel bloggers make”, the idea is that my blog will rank in the top few results. If it does, this means it’s much more likely someone will click into my blog, which in turn generates traffic, and in turn generates revenue.
My Traffic Numbers
Fast forward to 2019, while not even close to being in the same echelon as the big travel bloggers, I have a respectable amount of traffic to boot. On average in 2019, I received about 1,000-1,250 unique visitors a day, and about 2,000-2,500 page views per day. This translates to about 60,000 to 75,000 page views a month.
My traffic saw a huge increase from the start of the year to the end. As I write this in Jan 2020, my traffic is now somewhere between 1,400 and 1,700 unique visitors per day, and roughly 2,500 to 3,000 page views a day. So I am almost approaching 100,000 page views a month which would be a huge milestone for me.
I’ve published about 250 blog posts since I started blogging in 2013 which means I get an average of 10-15 views a day per post. In reality, around 50 of my posts make up about 90% of my traffic. For example, my posts about Zion National Park, a Travel Planning Spreadsheet, and a guide to how to travel hack with credit cards average 150-200 views per post per day. With this type of traffic, it is enough to start making some money when it comes to advertisements and affiliate marketing.
How much traffic do you need to make money?
There is no one stop shop number for making money as a blogger. I started making money from Google Adsense years ago when I had maybe 200 pageviews a day. I made money but as you’d expect, it’s scraps compared to what I would make now (which is still scraps compared to the bigger bloggers).
I get about 2500 page views a day but ideally, if I could get to about 10,000 pageviews a day, that’s when you can start doing some real damage. This will probably never happen but you gotta dream big right?
This post is not about how to increase your traffic but merely how much money I make blogging. Perhaps I will write about that in the future because that would be multiple posts and thousands of words worth of content itself.
How Do I Make Money Blogging?
Before I even start, I want to emphasize that like working out or dieting, everyone is different. Some core principals will apply to every blog but every blog has its own niche and the expertise of the blogger will dictate how they make money. So how I make money might not be the same way another blogger does.
For example, I’m not that big into social media. I guess I was just never into taking a million photos to get the “best shot” because I just like to be in the moment and enjoy my experience. Others are really into YouTube and make killer videos that get millions of views and generate serious income. I never got into that either.
Again, everyone has different ways of monetizing their work. Others with the same traffic stats as myself probably monetize their blogs better than me and I should probably learn from them. Nevertheless, I’ve figured some things out and this is purely how I make money.
Conventional Advertisements – Ezoic and Google Adsense
Google Adsense is the go to platform for website owners to monetize their website with ads. After you’ve built your blog to have 10,000+ unique visitors a month, you can then utilize premium level publishers like Ezoic and Mediavine which optimize your ads infrastructure to generate the most earnings possible. Mediavine and Ezoic require at least 10,000 to 25,000 unique views a month. With this money, depending on your niche of course, you can probably generate $100-$500 a month with ads alone.
Ezoic is an ad testing platform that helps publishers improve their website’s revenue and user experience. The Ezoic Ad Tester App helps publishers optimize ad performance.
When I was using Google Adsense, I was earning maybe $2-5 a day on average. After switching to Ezoic, my revenue almost tripled within a month. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what Ezoic does so differently than Adsense. It still displays ads the same way that Google does but there is no doubt that the amount of money generated has increased multiple times. So on average I make about $15-20 per day on traditional advertisements that you’re used to seeing on any website. On high traffic days, I can generate $30!
This is probably the first and most common way that bloggers generate income. It is certainly the easiest once you have enough traffic as you just implement Ezoic and the money will flow in consistently without having to do anything besides well, just blogging.
If you’re a blogger reading this post and want to give Ezoic a shot, I would 110% recommend it. You can easily apply on Ezoic’s website if you meet the traffic threshold. Also, feel free to ask me any questions you have on the platform.
Once you’ve started blogging, it’s almost inevitable that you will start to get emails from interested parties asking you for rate cards, wanting to know how much you charge for advertising and trying to get you to share their content in exchange for a free product or money. I first started receiving such requests in 2015 and nowadays it is a bit overwhelming with the amount of requests of people looking to advertise on my blog.
Sometimes this means they request that I write an article reviewing a product with a link to their business in exchange for money. Others will send me a pre-written article that I can review and amend accordingly and then post it on my blog. Many bloggers and social media influencers receive a big chunk of their revenue from these methods. In fact, I’d reckon the biggest bloggers make the vast majority of their money with this method. Normally I would charge around $50-100 per post. Sometimes they ask that I write the article (usually some travel related topic), and I will then charge $100-$200 for this.
Other times, a travel agency will ask to advertise their company on one of my established posts. These posts are usually my best performing posts that rank in the top 5 on Google for certain search queries (Egypt Travel Itinerary). For these, there is no right amount to charge because it all depends on how much traffic the post gets. If I have a post that receives 100 pageviews or more a day, I will charge around $150-$200 per link.
I’ve had to start being choosy with who I do business with because you don’t want your blog to just be a bunch of advertisements otherwise you risk annoying your readers and increasing your bounce rate, which is usually seen as a negative with Google.
Travel Affiliate Programs
Travel affiliate programs are what most bloggers will say the meat of the money is. I would agree with most of them but it is also the most difficult. Essentially, affiliate marketing is convincing your readers to buy something from another company. You in turn, receive a % commission from your sale. It’s just online sales through your blog.
The most popular affiliate programs are booking.com, Amazon, Expedia etc. If someone uses your affiliate link to make a hotel reservation on booking.com for example, booking will earn a % commission from the hotel and give you a % of Booking’s commission. It’s usually around 4% of the total booking price. So if your reader used your link to make a hotel reservation for $1,000, then you receive $40 cash. You can see how this could snowball quickly if you have the right marketing strategy and traffic.
My booking link is https://www.booking.com/index.html?aid=1616432 with the 1616432 ID as my personal affiliate ID. When someone uses this link to book their accommodation, I will earn a percentage of the sale.
Alternatively, if your blog specializes in travel equipment, fashion, or something involving buying lots of goods, Amazon would be perfect. Anything your reader buys from Amazon using your affiliate link will be a % commission to you as well. I know bloggers that make a killing using Amazon to sell goods like travel backpacks. But my blog is just not geared towards that and I have largely stayed with booking.com for my affiliate program.
Many bloggers offer some bespoke service or goods that their readers can purchase. For fashion bloggers, this might be their own line of products or for financial bloggers, it could be e-books or personalized services. This can literally be anything that you may think could be profitable. My favorite are the bloggers (successful ones let’s be clear) that offer “how to start a blog” classes to other people for a hefty price knowing full well that most of those people will never be successful. Popular ways are the following:
- Photography and videography
- Freelance writing
- Brand Campaigns
- Social Media Management
For me it was organizing trips, specifically honeymoons. This was not really planned but merely something I fell into. I planned a friend’s honeymoon in 2018 to South Africa, had them write a detailed post about it and now when you Google “South Africa Honeymoon Itinerary“, it is the first result! Since then, I have planned numerous other honeymoons from my readers.
How Much Money Did I make blogging in 2019?
As 2019 is coming to an end, I have tallied up my profits for the year. 2019 has been a good year for me as my traffic has really picked up from previous years, and the amount of money I was able to earn increased. I’m hoping the growth continues but you never know in this industry. But in total, this is the breakdown of my profits for 2019!
Traditional Advertisements through Ezoic and Google Adsense – $5,905
I use a combination of Ezoic and Adsense to display my ads as recommended by Ezoic themselves. I use 95% Ezoic and 5% Adsense and this year have made an average of $450 a month. Ezoic income is based on EMPV, or “Earnings per thousand visitors“. This fluctuates with seasonality but I average about $10-15 EMPV. Adsense is largely paid per click on advertisements and the rate varies wildly depending on what category the company is.
Ezoic pays me via PayPal and Google Adsense pays me via Direct Deposit. Both services have been fantastic when it comes to getting paid on time.
For 2020, I will experiment with Ezoic Premium Ads. This is for their highest level publishers (which apparently I am) that get above a certain amount of traffic. They display more lucrative ads and charge a service fee for doing so. After researching this more, I’ve read on numerous other blogs that their EMPV increased significantly from this (almost 50%) so it is something I will definitely explore.
Sponsorships – $3,516
I try to work with a few people that want to sponsor products on my website. This usually means they compose a blog post (or can pay me to compose something) in the form of a travel orientated article, and it can be to influence a product. Overall, I work with various different travel companies and charged around $50-$200 per post depending on the content and request.
Affiliate Marketing – $810
This amount is the money I made from booking.com purely from placing links to accommodations on my most popular articles. When someone clicks that link, they will be transported to the hotel page on booking.com where if they book, I will receive the commission. This is not the easiest way to monetize a blog and requires some serious traffic to really make it meaningful because it’s likely 99% of readers won’t actually book the accommodation you’re promoting.
Also, most bookings are quite small commission (under $20) but every now and they you get a unicorn that books a super fancy hotel in Turks and Caicos garnering a commission of $150.
Travel Planning – $1.950
In total, I planned about 10 honeymoons in 2019. Each honeymoon cost about $8,000 to $12,000 including flights with hotels (eligible for booking.com affiliate) being roughly $4,000 to $8,000. I get 4% commission from Booking.com so this averaged out to be around $150-300 per honeymoon. I’m thinking I will eventually add a service charge here of some sort (a few % of the total cost of the trip) but for now, it’s been relatively easy and quite fun to talk to so many couples.
Here are some examples of the trips I’ve planned around Africa.
- Niv and Avi | Three Weeks in Southern Africa: Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Garden Route, Safari, and Mauritius
- Lauren and Brandon | The Perfect South Africa and Mauritius Honeymoon
- Marissa and Albert | South Africa and Zanzibar Honeymoon
- Susana and Eric | South Africa and Victoria Falls Honeymoon
In 2020 so far, I have about $2,000 already booked before the year even starts so hopefully this can turn into something more fruitful as the years progress!
Expenses – ($100)
As far as expenses go, there really aren’t many to speak of. I’m not creating a physical product of any sort. The only things I pay for regularly are my domain name ($10/yr), hosting (about $75/yr), and some premium WordPress plugins. I think as the blog grows, there is room for more premium WordPress plugins like a newsletter management system but for now, it is unnecessary.
Total profits – $12,031
All in all, minus expenses, I have cleared just north of $10,000 in 2019. This is about 6 years in the making and god only knows how many hundreds of hours writing blog posts.
I am hoping 2020 brings about the same growth and revenues but who knows! Blogging is still a new business and a minor change in Google’s search engine algorithm can mean prosperity or famine. For the most part, I think if I just continue to write quality SEO optimized posts, the party can continue (hopefully).
Can you make a living off blogging?
Well it all depends on you. Now that you know how much money I made and how much work went into it, do you think you can replicate it and take it to the next level. $10,000-$12,000 cash is a good chunk of change for doing something I actually just enjoy doing, but is it enough to actually travel and live off? Probably not. Even the most budget traveler out there would have difficulty living off $35 a day. I certainly can’t. I work a full time job (for now) and have mastered churning credit cards rewards so I pay nothing for my flights and can stay at some amazing places like the Park Hyatt Maldives.
However, this is purely just how much money I make. I know people that have made a killing using Instagram and Youtube but this is just not something I bother with. Perhaps that is your niche and you could be making 10x as much money as I do if you invest time into it. I have just focused on what I know has made and will continue to make me money.
Money is not guaranteed
Blogging is a recent industry not even 10 years old really. The money earned from internet blogging is very volatile. Just because I earned $x one year does not mean I will continue to earn this.
So much of my traffic is dependent on Google that any change in search algorithm in their world could completely change my traffic for the worse. I have no control over how Google evolves their search algorithm so I can only adapt when the changes come.
In addition, cyber security is a huge issue once you have more traffic. My website was hacked in December and was down for a few days. During these days, I earned almost nothing and spent countless hours with my hosting support. When my blog was back up and running, something that I still can’t pinpoint changed and I lost about 10-20% of my traffic. There are so many variables to monetizing traffic that I have no idea what the root cause of this was. Something like this could easily happen again and next time, losing 10-20% might be very lucky.
Outlook for 2020
If my traffic doubled tomorrow, I would see my advertising income likely double because I am paid on a CPM, so $x per 1,000 visitors. I would also probably see more travel brands reaching out to me to offer some sort of work in return for compensation. I can’t say for certain if my overall income would increase linearly with my traffic but it is certainly strongly correlated. I would say I could easily make $20,000 to $25,000 a year if my traffic doubled. I am sure the biggest travel bloggers out there can easily clear $100k a year purely based on their traffic count, and investment in their social media presence.
I saw big organic traffic growth in 2019 and this really helped propel my earnings as you can see from my trend graphs. If that momentum carries into 2020, and even if it grows at a much more modest rate, I am on pace for a big YoY growth in 2020.
I would estimate that I could earn about $8k from advertising alone, another $3-4k from sponsorships, and $3-4k from affiliate marketing. In total, this would put me somewhere between $18k and $20k. If I could achieve a 50% YoY growth on income, this would be a huge for me. Assuming linear growth, I think by 2021, I could be on track to clear $30k. This amount of money coupled with free flights from credit card churning would ensure I could travel while never having to touch the income from my real job.
EDIT APR 2020: Because of the Coronavirus epidemic, international tourism has dropped off a cliff. Therefore, my traffic and revenue numbers have plunged 60-70% within the span of a few weeks. This is the case for all travel bloggers from what I can discern. I don’t see my revenues coming back for at minimum another year. Nothing is risk free!
EDIT SEP 2020: Revenues have come back slightly from the lows seen at the start of the pandemic but it’s a far cry from what I was generating prior. Most countries are still restricted from traveling to each other and therefore, there is little to no travel demand.
How much do the big bloggers make?
There are many big travel bloggers that release the details of their incomes. Often times this is a good tactic to enthrall the reader into purchasing e-books or online classes about how to start your own blog. Nevertheless, I don’t think these numbers are inflated. All of these figures were taken from Two Monkeys travel blog who did an excellent job surveying a huge number of travel bloggers! They make over $100k a year themselves!
Nomadic Matt – Over $500,000 a year
Goats on the Road – $100,000 a year
Wandering Earl – $100,000 a year
The Planet D – $200,000 a year
OneStep4Ward – $250,000 a year
How about taxes?
Before I delve into this topic, I am not a tax expert by any means so please do not take this as anything more than a blogger rambling his thoughts online. As I am American, this advice is ONLY for US citizens. If you’re American, once you start making above a certain amount, you’ll need to pay taxes on your income. Blogging as a business will fall under the schedule E “business” income.
This means you can claim deductions relevant to your business. In this case, if you are blogging and you view yourself as a “business”, then you can claim deductions for your travel related activities. This is because your travels will lead to blog posts, which will then lead to you earning money from advertisements, sponsorships or whatever.
Hopefully this article has helped you with some realistic viewpoints on how much money you can make blogging. The bloggers out there who claim you can make thousands per month within a year are just doing it to get readers, which funny enough means extra revenue for them.
However, if you are put in hard work, really optimize your SEO and traffic output, and focus on writing quality content, then there is definitely the possibility to make some money. It is not a sprint, but a marathon. Be patient and keep working on your brand and you will see the results. Happy blogging everyone!
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