Ritz carlton maldives overwater villas

How Much Money Did I Make Blogging In 2023?

Another year has come and passed and what a year it was! It’s time to recount how much I made this year from blogging in 2023. 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.

Since then I’ve been writing a yearly earnings report for my blog to recount the year’s activities, how much money I earned, how I did it, and much more.

digital nomad fiji work remote from the beach

This detailed earnings report is a real example of how I use blogging as one of the many passive income streams for myself and allowing me to live in amazing places like Bali for many months as well as travel to places like the Ritz Carlton Maldives!

Ritz Carlton Maldives resort overwater villa drone
Enjoying an amazing stay at the Ritz Carlton Maldives

What happened in 2023?

I made roughly $12,000 USD in 2019, $18,000 in 2021, and $34,000 in 2022 from all my blogging activities. 2023 was another landmark year. Everything seemed to be running well on my blog and I hit records in terms of traffic and revenues.

Lombok nohi cafe digital nomad remote working bali

It’s been an incredible year full of travel and new experiences. I spent much of the year traveling to amazing places like Fiji, the Ritz Carlton Maldives, and Vietnam. 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 rest of the time living in Singapore.

canggu remote working digital nomad villa
Working remotely in Bali

In total, I made around $42k in 2023 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.

One of the spreadsheets I made for trading stocks and options.

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.

In 2023, I went back to the work force as new life changes were abound and am now living in Singapore. However, I’m still by all intents FIRE’d which I won’t get into too much detail with.

How much traffic did Johnny Africa receive in 2023?

2023 was a year of consistent traffic and statistics. While 2022 was by far the best year I had in terms of traffic, the quality of traffic in 2023 remained strong. With the world mostly having moved on from COVID, everything was opened up meaning travel was firing on all cylinders.

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 2023

In 2023, I saw my traffic stay consistent with 2022. 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.

Athens working remotely digital nomad
Not a bad place to work in Athens!

2023 was about the same as 2022, if not a bit less. I produced a solid amount of content but I think Google Algorithm changes hit my site hard especially in the first half of the year. Nevertheless, I still had solid numbers. I averaged at least 2,600 page views a day throughout the year which is nothing to scoff about.

As you can see from this chart. There were many ebbs and flows. Traffic peaked in Q3 and dropped noticeably for the rest of the year before recovering in November. 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.

One thing I am particularly proud of with my blog is the engaged time per visit. As you can see from the graph below, my engaged time per visit is somewhere between 300 and 350 seconds (5 to 6 minutes). This means that everyone that visits my blog spends an average of 5-6 minutes reading through my posts. This could be one post or five posts, but the total time spent between them all is 5-6 minutes. The engaged time also means that they are actively reading and scrolling through the posts, not just leaving it idle.

Most blogs get something between 1-3 minutes of engaged time so my metrics are comparatively very high. This generally translates into more revenues as this means there’s more time for each visitor to view ads.

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 2,500-3,000 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 revenue. 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 down versus 2022

While my traffic stayed relatively consistent, my earnings per visitor went down. With economic uncertainty, advertisers were willing to pay less money for the same advertisements which led to lower rates for publishers like myself. I will explain this more later in the post.

Google Core Updates in 2023 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.

google core updates

Simply put, Google is the most important thing to every blogger and is the one company you must understand the most to succeed.

In 2023, Google made many different changes to their algorithm. In fact, Google changes their algorithms constantly to adapt to the modern world. While the average person might not notice anything, it can make the difference between a successful blog and a non-existent blog.

2023 was the year of AI. With inventions like ChatGPT, the entire search landscape was turned upside down. Now you suddenly have many new websites that are created simply by inputting a single sentence prompt into ChatGPT. Google made so many changes to their search engine to check for AI content vs human content.

I won’t get into the technicality of their algorithms because I don’t fully understand it but the main takeaway 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 2023 surprisingly were not as negative as I had thought. There were traffic spikes and dips depending on the algorithm change, but overall, my blog’s traffic remained strong. I know many bloggers that were completely decimated and their blogs went from receiving lots of organic traffic on Google to being completely out of the search engine. My revenues from ads were okay but generally speaking, they started to decline.

Experimenting with ChatGPT and AI

I experimented with ChatGPT on numerous occasions to write content for teh blog but in the end, that’s just not my cup of tea. The whole point of this blog was to just have something for me to showcase to the world my travels and the different tips/tricks I’ve picked up along the way. The day I start churning our hundreds of AI generated posts in hopes of making more money is the day I should probably quit blogging.

In the end, while this blog makes money, I don’t actually need it since I have plenty to go around in my investment portfolio.

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.

2023 saw an epic rebound of the stock markets back to all time highs that were last seen 2 years prior. While the stock markets have rallied hard, the overall economic sentiment has flatlined. Even with a strong consumer and a resiient labor market, ad rates have stayed low in 2023. I’m hopeful this might change in 2024 but who knows what the future holds!

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.

Ba Na Hills golden bridge Da Nang Vietnam

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.  While I like making reels and such, I find them to be too cumbersome and a bit too vain. Others are really into  YouTube and make killer videos that get millions of views and generate serious income. I never got into that either.

Amorgos Chora

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.

In 2023, I’ve come to dislike Ezoic. Their ad rates don’t pay as much as they used to and their ads are overly spammy for my liking. I will look to migrate to Mediavine or Adthrive in the future which are similar competitors to Ezoic but more of the “gold standard” of the industry.

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. For this, I generally charge $100 to $200 per article.

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.

Bespoke Services

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
  • E-books
  • E-Courses
  • 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.

mhondoro safari elephants by the pool
I charge a small fee for planning out their entire itinerary and ask them to use Booking.com to make their hotel reservations so I receive my affiliate commission. On average, each honeymoon will net me $300-$500 in commissions depending on the total cost of their trip. Eventually I may turn this into some sort of legit business but for now, I am helping millenials on a budget realize their honeymoon dreams.

How Much Money Did I make blogging in 2023?

As 2023 is coming to an end, I have tallied up my profits for the year. 2023 was the highest grossing year I had in blogging which was surprising as I never thought I would have eclipsed my 2022 numbers.

Traditional Advertisements through Ezoic and Google Adsense – $13,415

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 $1100 a month. Ezoic income is based on EMPV, or “Earnings per thousand visitors“. This fluctuates with seasonality but I average about $20-25 EMPV depending on the time of year.

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.

Both services pay me using direct deposit monthly which makes for stable predictable earnings.

Ezoic pays out ad revenue based on your EPMV which is calculated based on your blog’s niche, where your visitors come from, and the general state of the advertising space. 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 economy.

2023 has been a terrible year for display ads as the economy has prevented companies from spending big on advertising. The rates paid by advertisers in 2023 has been much lower than years past. The economy, while still resilient, has seen a lot of uncertainty on the back of rising rates. Companies in these periods tend to temper back their marketing budgets and opt to wait out the storm.

Sponsorships – $14,060

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 $100-$200 per post depending on the content and request. I’ve since increased the minimum amount I accept to $100 in 2023.

Affiliate Marketing – $12,151

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 $600.

Travel Planning – $2,780

In total, I planned about 10 different trips in 2023. 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.

Expenses – ($300)

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 2023, I purchased a few premium WordPress plugins that hopefully improve the site experience and generate better SEO (but the verdict is out on that one) and spent a total of $100.

Total blogging profits – $42,107

All in all, minus expenses, I have cleared almost $42,000 in 2023. After my landmark year of blogging in 2022, I never thought I would increase my profits beyond that! 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 blog made.

I am hopeful 2024 brings in similar numbers but I’m not sure this number will be sustained. I don’t suspect 2024 will be as fruitful for the blogging industry as Google algorithm changes could destroy much of my income overnight. Thankfully it hasn’t happened yet, but I feel that it is only a matter of time before something like this happens.

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? $40,000 cash is a good chunk of change for doing something I really enjoy, but is it enough to actually travel and live off? For many budget travelers, this is already an insane amount to live off of in one year. Others who are more into luxury won’t see this money last half that time. For myself, $40,000 is more than enough money to live a good life. After all, I was living the good life in Bali for about $2,000 a month.

bali scooter rice field Jatiluwih ubud
Living the good life in Bali.

Thankfully, I don’t need to decide as I also have plenty of income coming from my 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.

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.

This posts focuses purely just how much money I make with the methods I’m familiar with. There are a million ways to make a buck in the blogging business and these are just the ways I’ve discovered and have found success. Other bloggers choose to focus on Social Media like Instagram or YouTube but this not something I’ve been able to succeed in nor is it something I plan to focus on in the future.

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 2024

My outlook for 2023 was to make around $30k and I easily eclipsed that. I was very surprised just how much money I made from blogging in 2023 but I just don’t see the good times lasting into 2024

I am pessimistic about 2024 because of just how volatile Google’s updates are. While the Google changes in 2023 didn’t kill my blog, you are literally just one bad update away from it all crashing down.

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 suspect the economy will continue to be volatile with shocks at every corner. While the stock market has mostly recovered, it all depends on the health of the consumer and whether it stays strong. My Ad rates are based on the health of the consumer and the economy after all.

I do plan to switch hosting providers in 2024. I’ve been with Siteground for 4 years now and while they have served me very well, the prices have skyrocketed. It doesn’t make sense to host my blog on their platform anymore. Therefore, I will most likely move to a platform called Cloudways which is cloud-based hosting.

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.

Closing Points

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. 2023 was a continuation of 2022 and the reopening theme took full steam. Travel was one of the biggest spends of the year even among economic uncertainty. I traveled to so many places in 2023 which translated into new content for the blog.

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 just for clickbait. It’s not easy by any means.

Nevertheless, if you are put in hard work, ooptimize your SEO, 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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