Passive income is the goal and dream for many people. Whether you’re a digital nomad, burnt out career professional, unemployed, or somewhere between all of these, passive income seems like the lucky ticket out to a world of freedom and a meaningful life. There are countless ways to generate passive income from drop shipping, online coaching, Airbnb, trading options, this post will focus on the passive income received from blogging.
My blog, Johnny Africa, is a prime example of how to generate passive income from blogging. I’ve had this blog for many years now. In the early days, I was very uninformed about best practices when it came to blogging and how to optimize my SEO. I would be happy if I made $50 a month from my advertisements. Fast forward to 2022 and I’m well on my way to earning $3,000 a month from blogging. At some level (everyone is different), you make enough passive income where you don’t need to do your day job anymore or you don’t need to withdraw from your investments if you’re already early retired.
What is passive income?
Many often see passive income as the most desirable type of income because it acts as money you’re making while you sleep, working out, go to the dentist, or generally just doing nothing. This does not mean you’ve done nothing to earn this income as it often requires a lot of upfront work.
Many popular passive income strategies include blogging, Airbnb and real estate investing, YouTube, creating some sort of online course, etc. For the purpose of this post, I will mostly focus on the passive income strategies involving blogging.
Again, this passive income doesn’t mean not doing anything. It’s just simply a type of work that is separate from your full time job. It’s a type of income that is there even if you decide you don’t want to work for a “traditional” job.
It’s “passive” at this means even when you’re not writing blog posts, your existing blog posts are constantly earning you money.
How to start a blog
The first step to starting a blog is choosing your niche. Your niche is simply the topic that you blog about. For example, there are blogs out there in niches like fashion, cooking, parenting, personal finance, and so on.
The main thing to understand here is you should choose a niche you have some sort of knowledge on and some sort of passion. It gets really boring to write about something you don’t really enjoy writing about, even if you can find things to write about. In order to generate passive income from blogging, you’ll need to constantly write articles to gain more traffic.
From here, you’ll need to understand other topics like the following:
- Choosing a good blog name
- Using wordpress.org as your main blogging platform
- Choosing the right hosting service
- Choosing a visually appealing theme
- Take amazing photos and videos (if you’re in a niche like Travel)
- Understand SEO and how to target keywords
- Set up ads to generate income
These are just a few of the things to understand before running your own blog. I’ve written a very detailed guide on how to start your own blog so make sure to read that to get all the details!
Write evergreen content for more traffic
Writing evergreen content is probably the most important thing when it comes to blogging. Evergreen content simply means content that is always or almost always relevant. In my own niche of traveling, this is usually not too difficult to write about since travel tips, information about certain destinations and such don’t change so quickly.
If you’re a blogger about technology for example, a review of a phone that came out this year will probably be irrelevant and generate very little traffic in two years. You’ll need to constantly update your content and write new posts to stay relevant.
In the travel niche this is also the case. For example, my post about visiting Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon has been one of my best performing articles of all time. I wrote it in 2016 and it has stayed relevant to this day. National parks have been around for millions of years so they aren’t going to change much. Entry prices, ticket reservations, hotel recommendations will change but the general theme of renting a car and driving around the parks will not.
Conversely, writing about why Coronavirus will change travel forever was a hot topic in 2020 and 2021. As I write this in mid 2022, the topic is becoming irrelevant and there are very few people searching for Coronavirus restrictions and articles anymore. In another year, this will probably earn me little to no views at all.
Essentially, if you’re writing about current events or something related to what is recent and exciting, your content will go “stale” much quicker. It’s better to always have many posts that can withstand the test of time, are well rounded, and stay relevant for longer. For Johnny Africa, writing travel itineraries and guides about going on safaris, or living in Bali will stay relevant much longer than if I write a piece about when Bali is reopening from its COVID lockdowns and quarantine measures (they reopened 3 months after I wrote the article).
Running advertisements to generate passive income
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, Mediavine, and Adthrive 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 in recent years. 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.
Earning money from views and clicks
Advertisements are traditionally structured between clicking on the advertisements themselves, or just simply viewing them. Ezoic combines both methods to generate revenue for its publishers. Generally, the more views you get, the more money you’ll make. However, it is a lot more complicated than that.
Your niche will greatly affect how much money you earn. If you are blogging about finance for example, you’ll earn much more money than someone blogging about funny jokes. That’s because the companies advertising for finance related websites are generally banks, brokers, and other institutions that have larger budgets for marketing. In addition, other factors like which countries your readers come from, the overall state of the economy, how long they stay on your website all factor into how much money you earn.
Nevertheless, what’s always true is that the more views you get, the more money you should expect to make. That’s why content is always king.
Advertisements are the ultimate passive income source
Income from advertisements are the ultimate income source in my opinion. For me, it is by far the most lucrative of all my income streams and also the most reliable.
I spent many hours setting up my Ezoic ad system years ago when I first joined the platform. I carefully placed ads in different areas of my website to optimize how much money I earn. In the end, it paid off as I’ve earned thousands of dollars per month just by ads. Of course, I am constantly adding new content through keyword research and SEO optimization but all my articles in the past are working hard to generate me income even while I’m sleeping.
This is the definition of passive income!
Do ads harm the user experience?
I get a lot of questions on whether using ads diminishes the user experience and the ability to attract people to come to the blog. The answer is simply no.
While yes, ads are annoying and no one likes to see them when browsing a website, they aren’t a complete deal breaker. If you write a good quality piece of content, people will mostly just tune out the ads and get the information they’re looking for. They might leave your website if they are too annoyed with the ads but that doesn’t mean they didn’t already spend the time to read through the content you wrote. More screen time means more ad revenue for you.
What about repeat visits you ask? Sure you might have friends and family you tell about your blog and they might get annoyed by ads. However, these are just a tiny subset of the people that will visit your blog. Most people will discover your blog via Google and social media so 99.999% of your readers will be completely random. It’s likely that a blog with no ads will have little difference in terms of repeat visits versus a blog with a lot of ads. If it’s good content, you’ll keep coming back in the end.
Affiliate programs for passive income
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.
As a passive income generator this is the dream. It’s literally the most reliable and consistent income generator with the least amount of work. Here is how I go about doing it
- Write a really good travel article that ranks highly on Google
- Post a lot of very beautiful and FOMO-inducing photos of the hotels that I stay at
- Link to the hotel in which the reader can then book their own stay
- Earn a commission
This commission of course varies depending on the price of the hotel and my overall bookings per month (higher percentage if I have more bookings during the month). Regardless, this is one of the most reliable ways to generate passive income.
Affiliate programs work better for other people
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.
This might all seem pretty straightforward, but there are many advanced strategies out there to help boost your affiliate income to the max. This Affiliate Lab review gives an overview of a program that breaks these advanced methods down into a science.
E-books are another way that many bloggers make money. E-Books about a life story or a detailed guide on a topic that someone is an expert on are popular topics. I’ve never created an e-book but the thought has certainly crossed my mind about turning my blog posts about my travels around the world to a concise book format.
I’ve written hundreds of blog posts now with more than a million words to boot so it wouldn’t be so difficult for me to create something like this.
I know a few bloggers that have created great selling E-Books and generate hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month on the book alone. It’s as simple as charging a one time fee of $15 per book and if you have enough readers then you can see how quickly that adds up. Of course, creating a good book will take a lot of time, research, and dedication. Often times, bloggers will hire freelancers to help in this endeavor which adds additional expenses.
In the end, it could all be worth it if you can create a good product that other people want. If you have a blog that already gets a lot of traffic, then it is free and easy marketing to your book.
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.