2021 has come and passed. It’s time to recount how much I made this year from blogging. In early 2020, I wrote a post about how much money I made blogging in 2019. This goes into extreme detail about how I monetize my travel blog and exactly how much money I made in 2019. I won’t go into as much detail in this post because I’ll just be repeating myself from that post.
What happened in 2020?
I made roughly $12,000 USD in 2019 from all my blogging activities. My traffic was on the up and up and I was on my way to making over $20,000 in 2020. Cue the Pandemic, and all that came crashing down. I lost 70% of my traffic overnight and this lasted for quite a few months. As countries locked down and people stopped traveling, there was no need to read about how to travel anymore.
This was quite discouraging at times because you work hard on something and it doesn’t pan out the way you want. However, this is just the way of life and crazy things (like the Pandemic) happens!
Over the months, I did not stop blogging and I wrote whatever I could. Thankfully, Europe reopened to European travelers in 2020 and as I was living in Germany, I was able to travel again in the summer of 2020. I spent weeks traveling through Italy and even months traveling through Greece without the typical summer crowds. It was quite the amazing summer and I was rejuvenated again.
Fast forward a few months, and my traffic was slowly picking back up as the vaccine came about and countries started reopening.
I didn’t write a post about how much money I made in 2020 because the figures were so low that it didn’t warrant talking about. However, 2021 has seen a rebound in travel (although still not that of 2019). Some bloggers, particularly those that focus on US based travel didn’t see such a dip in their traffic because Americans resumed domestic travel in full force. I’ve been to a lot of the national parks in the US which are incredible of course but I much more prefer traveling elsewhere.
Pivoting my blog to Personal Finance
Writing about travel has always been my passion. However, I realized that personal finance has also been one of my passions. In 2020 and 2021, I’ve spent more time writing about personal finance including how I trade options, and manage my portfolio of stocks.
In 2020, I also pulled the trigger on FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire early) meaning I left my job and are now living on my investments! Essentially, I’ve stopped working early to focus on pursuing a life that I want to live. Of course, I could always go back to my old corporate job if I don’t find what I’m looking for. It’s all about having the choice to decide.
I decided that writing about personal finance in addition to travel was my next step for the blog. This has paid off quite nicely as this niche has added to my traffic and also the amount of money generated from my ads. Whether it’s about trading options, tracking net worth, or traveling the world for a year but still being able to increase my net worth.
How much traffic did Johnny Africa receive in 2021?
2021 has been quite a whirlwind. COVID of course dominated everything related to travel in 2021 and I think it will continue to do so in 2022. The first few months of the year were dark times for much of the world. Europe was going through a vicious 2nd wave and international travel was all but non-existent.
Europe finally reopened to non European citizens and v were finally traveling again. It was noticeable in my blog as traffic was very depressed in Q1 but picked up again as the summer arrived. Q2 and Q3 were very good as COVID was mostly under control. Q4 was really on a strong trajectory but with the Omicron variant, travel was muted once again.
As I write this in Jan 2022, I’m hopeful that Omicron’s worst is behind us and we have clearer skies ahead!
Focusing on SEO and not so much on Pinterest
Google is still the name of the game. Anyone that blogs and looking to maximize traffic and income is just playing the Google SEO game. Organic search is the main driver of my traffic accounting for about 80% of the traffic. This means I focus on writing good quality articles with strong content, good keywords, and more.
I won’t get into too much detail surrounding keyword analysis but will just summarize that Google still accounts for the majority of my traffic.
In addition, Pinterest used to send me a lot of traffic but due to algorithm changes, Pinterest no longer is a viable traffic source. I still share things on Pinterest but not nearly as much as before.
My Traffic Numbers for 2021
In 2021, I saw my traffic increase significantly from 2020. As the world reopened for travel, more and more people searched for travel related things again. In addition, my personal finance posts centering around options trading and other topics have generated significant amounts of traffic.
I don’t receive a lot of traffic like the big travel blogs but I am satisfied with the progress. As of end 2021, I am receiving about 1000-1200 unique visitors a day and roughly 1,300 – 1,500 page views per day. This translates to roughly 40,000 to 45,000 page views a month.
Of my published posts, much of my traffic comes from my biggest posts as you can see here. 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.
Traffic is still down versus 2019
Compared to 2019, the blog has not recovered. Not even close in fact. It’s about 65% of the traffic levels I had in 2019. International travel has still not recovered. Not even close in fact. Many people are still hesitant on traveling abroad and popular destinations like Indonesia are still not fully open to tourists as I write this in Jan 2022.
I spent Dec 2021 in Thailand which had only just reopened a month prior. The world is slowly coming back in terms of reopening but it will take some time. I hope by the end of 2022, we will all be back to normal!
Earnings per visitor is up versus 2021
However, it was not al bad news. Because of my pivot to personal finance as well as optimizing some settings with Ezoic (the advertisement company that I use), my earnings per visitor has almost doubled versus 2019. This has resulted in Ad earnings that are actually higher than that of 2019!
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.
For the most part, my methods of earning income has largely remained the same throughout the years. Advertisements and affiliate marketing are the primary ways I generate revenue while blogging.
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. Mediavine has changed their requirements to 50,000 sessions a month in order to qualify. This is double what they required in the past.
I have used Ezoic’s ad platform for a few years now and have been very satisfied. The earnings I’ve seen have continually increased and this has been very prevalent during the pandemic. Ezoic’s “Ad Index” which is a value specifying how profitable ads are at any period of time, has continually increased throughout the Pandemic.
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 2021?
As 2021 is coming to an end, I have tallied up my profits for the year. 2021 was a good year especially after the disaster that was 2020.
2021 saw a big bounce in traffic and therefore earnings for me. I break down my earnings based on all the points I listed above with the ways I monetize the blog. These numbers are all
Traditional Advertisements through Ezoic and Google Adsense – $9,308
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 $700 a month. Ezoic income is based on EMPV, or “Earnings per thousand visitors“. This fluctuates with seasonality but I average about $25-30 EMPV (which is almost double of what I made in 2019). Adsense is largely paid per click on advertisements and the rate varies wildly depending on what category the company is.
Adsense used to earn me much more money but this was because I was running my mobile pages using AMP. Only website owners will really understand what AMP is but I’ll just keep it short by saying that my earnings went up with Ezoic and down with Adsense after removing AMP.
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 – $2,822
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 – $1,821
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 – $2,800
In total, I planned about 12 honeymoons in 2021. 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 – $16,831
All in all, minus expenses, I have cleared almost $17,000 in 2021. After my great year of blogging in 2019, I thought for sure I would reach this amount and more in 2020. Of course the pandemic had other plans for me. 2021 resumed the trend I had in 2019 at long last.
I am hoping 2022 brings in stable growth. I don’t need to see massive growth in my numbers but I just hope that travel recovers not for myself but for the world’s sake. If travel does recover, that means that COVID is no longer a major issue in the world which would be the best case scenario.
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? $15,000-$20,000 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 if you are among the most thrifty of travelers. I theoretically could as I 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.
Thankfully, I don’t need to as I also have plenty of income coming from my wealth of investments thanks to my pursuit of Financial Independence. In addition, I also sell options on the side as a way to earn extra income. I would not recommend trading options to people that aren’t familiar with financial instruments. However, I do believe that selling covered calls on high quality names is among the lowest risk investments you can have with options.
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.
Blogging income for me is nice but ultimately it’s just a byproduct of doing something that I already enjoy. Earning money and increasing traffic is just a method of self-validation that I’m actually succeeding in doing something on my own.
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. I’ve seen Google’s algorithm completely ruin my organic search traffic with it taking months to recover.
In addition, cyber security is a huge issue once you have more traffic. My website used to be hacked continuously when I was using Bluehost. I switched to Siteground two years ago and these cyber attacks have since stopped which has been amazing. Nevertheless, this could easily happen again and I can’t take anything for granted.
Outlook for 2022
2022 is looking up. However, this is the exact same thing I said in 2019 about 2020! I’ve learned to never take things for granted and always expect the worst. I think if nothing catastrophic happens like a completely new version of COVID, and my traffic remains stable, I could feasibly have $12k to $15k in advertising revenue alone.
In addition to my other income streams, I could feasibly clear $20k and even reach the $25k mark in 2022. 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 may 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 will continue to write about my travel as that is the whole purpose of this travel blog. In addition, I enjoy writing about financial topics as well which will help to hedge the blog traffic if the worse happens again.
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.
2020 was a dark year but 2021 gave me some hope. The world of travel will forever be changed because of COVID-19 but I think some things are for the better. I hope this article has been helpful with some realistic viewpoints on how to make money from blogging. The bloggers out there who claim you can make thousands per month within a year of work 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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