[AMA] I run a technology blog with my girlfriend that generates $180k+ a year
It's been running since mid-<year>, we got 2.3M hits last year with 1.1M visitors. My girlfriend has quit her job to run the blog fulltime, while I work on it around 5 hours a week with another fulltime job. We've managed to double revenues for the past 4 years or so each year.
Revenues is mainly made up of 8 sponsors that pay $20k each on an annual basis, with $20k made with a premium subscription.
Let me know if you have any questions!
How did you get started? What expertise did you have before launching and how much did you learn along the way? What did you do to gain knowledge about your topic?
I started working in a new job as a graduate on a technology platform. About a year in I started blogging about the technology platform and it snowballed from there, it's now the largest blog of its type in the world.
As I got more senior in my day job, I was able to blog about more advanced topics. But also, If I didn't know a topic that well, I would research the hell out of it so I could deliver a good blog post. This has a good effect on my day job as well!
At what point did you tell your job about the blog, and did they mind?
Were you afraid of non-compete clauses, etc, or was all of that irrelevant for some reason
I've had 3 jobs in total during the 6 years running it and I didn't actively tell any of my employers about it. The blog is pretty big now and I'm a little bit famous in my niche, so in fact, it massively helps the employers with their brand.
In terms of a non-compete, all I do is write articles so I don't this would ever come into play. I suppose if they had a blog as well this could act as competing, but it's never really crossed my mind.
What is the nature of the content?
News, How-to, reviews, a mix?
Bit of everything really. Originally it was purely tutorials and how-to guides. Then I started writing tips on career tips, coverings big news articles, new releases, products and features.
First of all congratulations! Seems you're doing a really good job!
When did you know you are up to something big? Was there any particular views number or something like that which made you think: "this is going to be big"?
And also, how did you promote your blog in the beginning?
I used to use loads of metrics for success e.g. if you type into Google "XYZ Blog" (XYZ being the niche I focus on), I loved seeing my blog rise over the years to the #2 spot (#1 is the actual technology companies blog). I used to try and beat my views each month which really spurred me onto write more and compete against myself. I think when I became the #1 blog in my niche, I was really proud of it and saw the potential to help a lot of people in my niche, and also make some money for myself.
Promotion at the start was social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook). I used to go around adding everyone I could to all my networks, now I've got around 25k social followers in total. I focussed on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) a lot, I used to give titles to my blog posts of EXACTLY what Google suggest said. I figured if people were typing this into Google exactly, then my blog would come first, the logic kind of held out. I also used Reddit a bit.
Hace you considered diversifying your income sources? Maybe an info product or a subscription service? If you did and decided not to do it, what is the logic behind that?
Yes indeed. I would love to do affiliate at some stage, I think there's a lot of potentials there. I do sell a premium section of the site, which is a one-off cost of $20, on reflection I wish I did do a subscription here. A lot of it is down to lack of time, I've always had a fulltime job running this thing. Now my girlfriend runs it fulltime, there's a lot more opportunity.
Can you explain the sponsorship approach a bit? Do you have any tools to track clicks? Do you run HTML ad codes for the sponsor?
So it's pretty straight forward, one-off cost of $20k a year, they get an email banner ad which goes out once a month to 1000's of people. Banner ad on the site rotating between 8 advertisers, and the opportunity to post promotional content. We are a bit bad at tracking clicks, but we have a WordPress plugin called Ads Pro, this handles absolutely everything, highly recommended.
At what point did you start reaching out to companies for sponsorship? I am in process of starting my blog. When should I start affiliate marketing?
How should I approach companies for high dollar generating sponsorships/ads?
I started advertising in year 2 at quite a low amount per ad. At the moment we are only doing a fixed cost package, but I have tried affiliate marketing in the past. I wrote an app review for one company and agreed a cost of $50 per lead for every sign up they got (Not deal closed, just form submission to get a demo). I think I got around $1000 for this with 20 leads which was pretty good. I want to work with affiliate marketing more in the future, as getting 10% of a multiple 20k deals could be quite lucrative.
In terms of yourself, you just need to have enough traffic for people to be clicking Ads. Google Adsense is a good indicator, Google might pay you $1 per click for a high ticket item, but a sponsor might pay the equivalent of $5-10 per click.
Hey congratulations on your blogging success.
Which social media channels are an important source of traffic for your site? Did you give up on any?
LinkedIn is about 10x more valuable to me than Twitter or Facebook. I think it's just the nature of my business. I used to post on Reddit but I found it pissed people off lol as it was too promotional.
How did you initially go about promoting the site?
I remember when I launched it on LinkedIn & Reddit, I got all my friends to like and upvote it for a few weeks. Probably didn't do too much ,but every little helps! After that it was mainly social, and concentrating on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO was and is by far the greatest traffic contributor to the blog.
Are you not using affiliate links? You could make wayyyy more with valuable affiliates and that traffic.
I think you could be right, however there's no guarantee of money. In addition, as I work in Business-to-Business (B2B), I would have to rely on the companies to tell me what has closed out of leads I passed over. There's no real system we can use.
There's no guarantee of money, but there's also no risk, and it infinitely scales. That's the beauty of affiliate. From experience, I know you could make even more with your traffic (depending on your niche). Just sign up for CJ, AWIN, Shareasale etc and start browsing offers to see what links you could put in.
That's great, man, congrats!
Quick question, if you don't mind.
Could you speak a little on your guest blogging system?
I ask because my primary blog is in the M's for visitors as well, but I write all the articles.
So I'm a little locked in in terms of my time management.
I find that working with guest writers is usually more time than it's worth.
Due to the quality being not up to par.
I'd love to have more ghostwritten/guest written content in the future.
Sure happy to! So in our industry we have a lot of people who want to boost their personal brand so they write for the blog. We do have to provide a lot of guidance and do editing, but this is ok for us in terms of reward vs time spent.
We also have a lot of companies that want to guest post to boost their profile, get back links, and act as thought leaders. This works really well for us and them. We make sure that none of it as promotional, but if they want to give a 1 sentence pitch at the end of the article this is fine.
We also have a bunch of paid guest posters where we pay 50-$300 depending on the quality and length. These still need some editing and guidance as we have a fairly high standard, but if we're paying we can be sure it's pretty good.
Hope this helps.