2022 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 which was my first foray into tracking how much money the blog makes. 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.
I wrote another piece about my earnings in 2021 which showcased the recovery of my blog in traffic and earnings due to the pandemic. The early days of the pandemic were dark and grim but travel reopened with a bang in 2021!
What happened in 2022?
I made roughly $12,000 USD in 2019 and about $18,000 in 2021 from all my blogging activities. 2022 was a landmark year. Everything seemed to be running well on my blog and I hit records in terms of traffic and revenues.
I spent the whole year traveling the world. I spent half of the year living and being a digital nomad in Bali. Life in Bali during the pandemic was an absolutely slice of heaven that I don’t suspect we will ever see again. I traveled extensively around Bali living the digital nomad life before spending the summer months traveling through Europe. I spent a lot of time in France, Germany, Greece, and Italy before coming back to SE Asia at the latter half of 2022.
In total, I made around $34k in 2022 which was the highest I’ve ever made in any year while blogging. This money didn’t come without its ups and downs as there huge changes to Google’s algorithm that really affected me and blogging as a whole. I will go into detail about these things later on in the post!
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 2022?
2022 was my best year yet as far as traffic goes. With the world mostly having moved on from COVID, everything was opened up meaning travel was firing on all cylinders.
I received a lot of traffic to my blog in 2022 eclipsing any previous traffic records I had.
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 2022
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.
2022 was a record year. As the world reopened from the pandemic, people wanted to travel and I was getting a lot of hits for many of my posts. The first half of the year was simply insane.
I had more visitors than I had at any point in my history of blogging with some days in April and May having more than 2,500 unique visitors per day! Absolute madness.
As you can see from this chart. There were many ebbs and flows. In November, there was a huge Instagram outage and one of my top performing posts about how to recover a hacked or disabled Instagram account went viral and saw an insane amount of views. If I take that one day out, the chart would look something like this:
As you can see, traffic peaked in Q2 and dropped noticeably for the rest of the year. This is all due to Google’s search engine updates. Google rolled out various algorithm changes that negatively impacted my blog (as well as many other blogs that I’m friends with). I will go into more detail about this later.
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.
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!
Google Core Updates in 2022 had huge impacts
When you’re in the blogging business, you are in the business of understanding and playing nicely with Google. Many people I come across thinks much of my traffic comes from social media like Instagram or Pinterest but that’s simply not true. Almost 80% of my traffic comes directly from Google search and I’d wager most of the travel bloggers in the world have a similar breakdown.
Simply put, Google is the most important thing to every blogger and is the one company you must understand the most.
If you’re not a blogger, you just search for what you are looking for, results appear, and that’s the end of it. However, if you are a blogger, you really need to understand how Google’s algorithm is changing and how your blog stacks up.
In 2022, Google made many different changes to their algorithm. They make changes constantly but 2022 was a much more active year than years past. I won’t get into the technicality of their algorithms because I don’t fully understand it but the main thing to understand is that certain updates will be beneficial for my blog, and some will be detrimental. Many times I have no idea what will happen or how to plan for them. Google is a mean master that giveth and taketh without remorse.
The updates in 2022 negatively impacted my blog and I saw my traffic decline precipitously from their highs in April. My revenues also declined significantly due to this which goes back to the point that blogging is rarely a reliable source of income. A lot of websites make a living on teaching people how to recover from a Google algorithm change but to be honest, there really isn’t much one can do.
You just need to hope for the best and to have your blog eventually recover. The biggest changes Google made this year centered around AI generated content which has become a huge thing in recent years. I experimented with a few AI content writing websites like Jasper and Copy.ai just to see what all the fuss was about. Generally, they created decent pieces of writing but they have no substance. A lot of websites that focused around AI generated content got destroyed by Google.
At the latter half of 2022, my blog has since recovered substantially from the August lows. I’m still nowhere close to the traffic numbers I received in Q2 but hopefully I’ll get there again some day.
Recession fears impacting earnings
The money I earn from blogging comes directly from companies advertising with Google and other platforms. At the end of the day, no one will pay for advertising if the economy is going downhill. In fact, during down markets, marketing is often the first expense to go. My earnings are very directly correlated to the general health of the economy as is any other publisher.
In good times, companies are willing to pay more for advertising if they are flush with cash. 2022 was the worst bear market since the financial crisis with the FED raising interest rates to 20x to 4.5%. This essentially killed the stock market which directly affects the value and cash flow of the companies that advertise.
The first quarter of 2022 was great. Even though the stock market was beginning to fall, the direct impact on companies was lagging and I made $2.5k in one month on advertising alone which is crazy. My earnings declined in line with the stock market (particularly the NASDAQ) which is of no surprise.
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 sessions a month. With this traffic, 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 satisfied. The earnings have mostly been stable and in line with what the broader market is doing. 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. This translates to them 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 2022?
As 2022 is coming to an end, I have tallied up my profits for the year. 2022 was a very good year for blogging profits after a 2021 that was already on the rise.
2022 was particularly fruitful in the first two quarters of the year before tailing off due to lower advertising revenues and Google search engine updates. I will go into more detail on those points later in this section.
Traditional Advertisements through Ezoic and Google Adsense – $17,203
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 $1400 a month in 2022. Ezoic income is based on EMPV, or “Earnings per thousand visitors“. This fluctuates with seasonality but I average about $20-25 EMPV (which is about 20% lower than it was in 2021).
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.
Ezoic pays out ad revenue based on your EPMV which is calculated based on your blog’s niche and where your visitors come from. Visitors from countries like the US, Canada, UK, AU generally pay the highest and places like India, Nigeria etc. pay the least. I suspect this has to do with spending power and GDP per capita of the countries involved.
Certain niches are just more profitable than others like finance, home and gardening, automotives, etc. The profitability of niche’s also change year on year based on the current trends of the world. Travel generally performs quite well and performed exceptionally well in 2021 when the world was opening up whereas it performed very poorly in 2020 when the world was locked down. Conversely, personal health and personal finance performed very well in 2020 when people had nothing to do but stay home and read about health.
Finally, Ezoic has an “Ad Revenue Index” which gauges the strength of the advertising market. This is generally quite correlated with the strength of the economy and to a lesser degree corelated with the NASDAQ.
As you can see from the last two years, 2021 was a banner year with some very high numbers being hit. Stocks were on a tear in 2021 and the economy was generally very bullish. 2022 saw an index that was generally flat to slightly negative but it actually held up very well given how poorly the markets performed.
Sponsorships – $5,590
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. I’ve since increased the minimum amount I accept to $70 in 2022.
Affiliate Marketing – $7,621
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.
In addition, I also write a lot relating to credit cards. I generate referrals based on readers clicking on my referral links to various credit cards. My most successful post talks about how to get multiple itineration of the Chase Ink credit cards which have huge sign on bonuses. Everyone that I refer gets me roughly $300.
Travel Planning – $3,600
In total, I planned about 20 different trips in 2022. Most of these trips were honeymoons to South Africa costing between $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 also add a flat planning fee to each trip which ranges from $250-$350. I actually quite enjoy this and it’s been quite fun to talk to so many people.
I think if I spent more time on this category, I could probably expand it and make it a much bigger business than what it is. Let’s see what the future brings!
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
Expenses – ($250)
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 ($15/yr), hosting (about $150/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.
In recent years, I’ve spent more on hosting because my blog has gotten large enough when I need more space and bandwidth. I also want a faster host which helps improve Google Core Web Vitals which measures the speed of the website.
In 2022, I also purchased a new WordPress theme which helped improve my speed and user experience. This cost $50.
Total blogging profits – $34,338
All in all, minus expenses, I have cleared almost $35,000 in 2022. After my landmark year of blogging in 2021, I never thought I would double my profits from that year! Given that the year saw so many ups and downs with Google core updates and the whipsaw of the economy, I feel very good for the amount Johnny Africa made.
I am hopeful 2023 brings in similar numbers but I’m not sure this number will be sustained. I had a lot of things go right especially in the first part of 2022. I don’t suspect 2023 will be as fruitful for the economy or the advertisement market. Nevertheless, blogging is not my living so I will continue to feed myself even if revenues dip.
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? $30,000-$35,000 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? For many budget travelers, this is more than enough to live off of in one year.
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 an industry that’s only really come into the forefront in the last decade and therefore, 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 2023
My outlook for 2022 was to make around $20-$25k and I easily eclipsed that. I was very surprised just how much money I made from blogging in 2022 but I don’t think this will last into 2023.
I am pessimistic about 2023 because of just how volatile Google’s updates are. Google makes a lot of algorithm updates and they’ve really gone full speed in recent months. Google has made a lot of changes including rich snippets which show small snippets at the top of results that largely answer a question you might have been searching for. This reduces the clicks to someone’s actual website and keeps you on Google more than before. Remember, the only way to make money is if someone actually visits your website.
In the end, there’s no way to predict how Google will change their algorithms. The only thing someone can do is continue to produce good quality content and write informative blog posts with good SEO practices!
I also suspect the economy will not recover fully in 2023 and EPMV numbers will continue to decline and this would reduce my revenues. The Ezoic Ad Revenue Index is already declining to the lowest levels not seen for many years which means companies are pulling their advertising budgets.
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. 2022 put it all together as the world reopened which is a good sign for the world coming out of a very dark period of history. 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!