How Much Money Can You Really Expect to Make Travel Blogging?

Posted By Jeremy in Blog Your Trip


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By some accounts there are over a billion blogs out there in the world. That's 1,000,000,000 blogs. That is roughly one blog for every seven or so people on the planet. Filter that down to English-only blogs and you are in the realm of hundreds of millions of places on the internet that would call themselves a blog. Filter that down even more to travel blogs and you're likely into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions (our approximation).

That's a lot of people talking about travel.

And while most of these are hobbies run on 3rd party “blog” journal sites, if you remove even these a good percentage that are left are actively trying to make money through growing their blog to become a viable business- or at the very least a modest side hustle. (These likely number in the tens of thousands or low hundreds of thousands.)

Naturally, for those following this path one question comes about and that is how to make money travel blogging?

Today, I want to shed some light on that question with an emphasis on travel blogging. The exact amount of money you can expect to make is $0.

How to Make Money Travel Blogging? You Probably Wont

Before you get up in arms and tell me that I'm wrong, let's circle back to that starting number.

There are likely a billion blogs out there in the world, and the vast majority get no traffic at all other than the writer (because they don't filter their own page views), their mother (who reads everything), and an occasional friend (who is bored or feeling sympathetic).

Therefore, statistically speaking, if you are launching a blog and have no idea what goes into making it work, odds are good you're not going to earn any money at all. Yes, you, the person reading this article, are very unlikely to ever earn money from blogging. (So if you are, congratulations on being an exception!)

It is a fact of our industry in that if you took a sampling of 100, or even 1,000 random new blogs and came back to them all a year later, odds are good that none of them earned any money whatsoever. Odds are just as good that most of them probably stopped writing a few weeks after they started. And that timing of when you return to check doesn't matter either. Check back five years and the story will be no different, except that more of them will likely be closed for good.

Blogging in general just doesn't make money the way conventional jobs do, and simply showing up, doing your thing, and repeating multiple times a week is not a surefire way to make money as it would be in just about any other industry.

In fact, if you're using conventional best practices it will cost you money for a long time before you make any in return.

Plan on Making Less Than Nothing

To make money blogging you need to make your blog be within the top 1% of all serious blogs on the internet. In fact, you may want to shoot to be in the top 0.1% or even 0.01% these days to make anything appreciable.

Gone are the days where you could just show up with a blog and have it be an overnight success. You have to make it work. This means putting on a lot of hats, mastering the skills associated, and building the best damn website you can possibly make all while standing out from just about everyone else.

Doing so includes doing the following, at a minimum:

  • Learning how to manage self-hosting? Yep. Sign up for a hosting site like Bluehost and manage your WordPress yourself.
    • Or if you have money to burn, a managed hosting account works too. We use Performance Foundry and love it, but it does cost as much for a month as Bluehost does for a year.
  • Customize a premium theme with HTML and CSS coding? You know it. Read everything you can to make minor improvements yourself.
  • Optimize plug-ins? Blogs don't perform that great from the template alone. You'll have to edit them with CSS (above) and optimize performance with plug-ins.
    • A list of the blogging plug-ins we personally use is found at the previous link.
  • Take a few blogging courses? Doing things right the first time is huge. Courses such as Super Star Blogging help get you there.
  • Dominate SEO? A must. Read everything you can and do it right the first time- going back to fix mistakes is time consuming.
  • Excel at social media marketing? This is one of the best things anyone can do in this day to leapfrog ahead of the rest, and don't fear paying for ads.
  • …and these are the things we thought of in the few weeks we worked on this article.

Now do this all for a year or two without missing a beat and you just might start making money through CPM marketing and affiliate sales. Maybe.

But there is a problem here that goes unsaid. If you are doing a good selection of the above, all of which we think are absolutely critical mind you, odds are good you'll be spending money to get your blog off the ground. This means that in the time it takes you to grow your website you may be going into the hole quite a fair bit just to start making some back.

Some people spend as little as $10 a month. Others spend about $100. If you do a fair share of the list above you'll probably be spending probably close to $100 a month as well just to get started. We spend upwards of $700 a month on our two sites combined, and have slowly been ramping up our spending as our earnings have gone up (our earnings now more than cover this).

How long is it going to take you to start earning that little bit to cover your costs? An expert blogger can get a new site earning over $100 a month pretty fast. Our most recent blog did it in under a year. A new blogger may take months or even years to make the first few dollars, let alone something steady, as the learning curve is just that high even for those who get it all right the first time.

There is no correlation to spending money and succeeding, but we have to admit that if you spend money on the right things, along with knowing what you are doing, you'll have better odds for a payoff in the long run. But those odds are still not great.

What it Takes to Earn Money

So what does it take to earn money with your blog to at least start breaking even with your spending? (You know, to stop going in the hole.)

Generally speaking, the most reliable way to earn money is through display advertising which traditionally pays you based on the impressions that you deliver. The common terms used here are CPM and RPM, two often interchangeable terms used to calculate your earnings on a dollars-per-thousand-impression basis.

  • Breakdown: CPM is typically denoted as $ per 1,000 ad impressions on a single ad unit, while RPM is denoted sitewide $ per 1,000 impressions based on all filled ads. So if you have five ads paying $1 CPM each, you will likely get a $5 sitewide RPM. For every 1,000 page views you deliver, you make $5.
    • These terms are sometimes flipped, so be careful when reading terminology.
    • Clicks play into the earnings you can make, but for display purposes most networks average them out in your displayed CPM / RPM earnings.

For travel bloggers, we've found the following breakdowns from popular networks to be common on a site-wide, RPM basis with a higher concentration of ad units on any given page:

  • Google Adsense only: $1.50 per 1,000 impressions
  • Amazon CPM + Google Adsense waterfall: $3.50 per 1,000 impressions
  • Private ad networks (Mediavine): $10-$20 per 1,000 impressions.

So let's look at these a bit closer, shall we?

For someone starting out who throws Adsense onto their blog without thinking about it, you'll likely need 6,667 monthly page views, on average, just to cover $10/month in costs. It took us two years to get there on our first blog, and six months on our second.

If you are getting a bit more creative and put together an ad waterfall, but also have expenses of say, $100 a month, you'll need just over 28,000 monthly impressions to cover your costs. It took us six years to get there on our first blog, and eight months on our second (yes, we managed a 4x traffic increase in 2 months).

Getting to that threshold can take quite a bit of time for new bloggers, and therein lies the problem. Time is not on your side, especially if your site's goal has a drop dead succeed by date.

What it Takes to Be Profitable Travel Blogging

As is the case with most websites, there are really only four ways to make money (we outline each in our ways to make $100,000 a year blogging article). For new bloggers, you're probably going to consider just two starting out.

The first is to display a lot of ads and the second is to sell a lot of products or services from other companies. The third category is selling your skills when opportunities come about because of your website, and the fourth is selling your own products. We're not going to get into those two here as we're talking about what you can reliably make from your website itself starting out.

If you stick to display advertising alone, with an Amazon and Adsense waterfall you'll likely need to get to 285,000 monthly page views in order to make $1,000 a month- which is hardly any money at all (not to mention 285,000 monthly pageviews would put you at the top of your field in just about any niche).

Thankfully, for display advertising you get a break at around 50,000 to 100,000 monthly page views through being able to join private ad networks. These networks take exclusivity for higher paying display ads and can command rates of up to $10-$20 per 1,000 impressions as we've found out with our own network, Mediavine.

So once you hit a certain traffic threshold (say 50,000 monthly) you can very easily take your earnings from around $175 a month to $750 a month simply from switching your ads to a different service provider (based on $15 RPM). It still isn't a lot on the surface, but it does get you in a good position for if you are able to continue to grow your traffic.

So if you grow from that 50,000 monthly to 285,000 monthly, as noted above, you have the potential to pull in over $4,000 purely from your traffic figures. Now we're talking real money.

But that's CPM ads. What about affiliate marketing?

I'll be 100% honest in saying that affiliate marketing is where the money is at in blogging, but it is also much harder and much less reliable than CPM advertising like above.

With CPM advertising you can set you earnings like clockwork to your page views. If you reliably get 3,000 page views a day, with a private ad network odds are good you're going to earn $30 to $60, with the only real swing being seasonality of ad purchases within your niche. With 3,000 page views a day and affiliate marketing, you can earn anywhere from as low as $0 to as high as hundreds of dollars a day.

The keys to affiliate marketing are as simple as they are complex. You either have to convince your readers to buy something via your links, or insert yourself between them and a sale that was already going to happen. The more you sell, the more you earn.

Unfortunately, it is harder than you think.

Many bloggers who succeed will tell you that they only have one or two articles that convert, and it is because they rank well for certain keywords in Google that capture those who are looking to buy. Others may tell you they hustle high-priced products that require just a few sales a month to earn a lot of money. Or others may even say that it is their hyper-focused niche that helps them target the right people. All of these can be true.

What they often neglect to tell you is that they have a large amount of traffic to start off from in order to make this work, just like above in CPM advertising.

Travel bloggers we know who make $2,500 a month or more in affiliate income receive well over 100,000 page views a month, and often generate well over 250,000, 500,000, or even 1,000,000 monthly views on their sites. They are able to drive tens of thousands of outbound clicks to services such as Amazon, Booking.com, HotelsCombined, or more with conversion rates of 2.5%, 5,%, or even 10% of those clicks.

We're talking thousands of sales for pennies or dollars per transaction.

The holy grail of the right niche with high conversions on low page views is somewhat of a myth in travel writing simply because the purchase dollar amount is often quite low. You may score a couple hundred dollar pay out every once in a while (I can count ours on one hand in nine years of blogging), and odds are good you'll have to rack up the pennies and quarters in high volume to make it work.

All this circles back to the problem of traffic. You must get the traffic.

Can You Make a Career in Travel Blogging?

There are probably less than 100 bloggers making a full-time career in travel writing solely from their websites.

I use the words career and solely purposefully here because while there are many travel bloggers who explore the world full-time through brand comps, sponsorships, freelance writing, house sitting, being a digital nomad through a non-blogging business, and other third party sources, there aren't that many who can say without a doubt that they earn enough income from their own website itself to support their lifestyle and operate as a truly profitable business.

In the end, they're still working for someone else.

We do have to admit that you can earn a lot more money using your blog as a launching pad for something that is much more lucrative. There is a ton of money out there when it comes to freelance writing, working for a brand, or through other travel related businesses. But these come about by using your website to market yourself and your expertise to get hired for work, and not because of your website earning money on its own.

It is entirely possible that you can make a blog work to be a viable business on your own right, but it is an uphill battle no matter how you look at it. It is up to you to prove me wrong by killing it.

There is a Reason Why I Wrote This Article

When it comes down to it, I did not want to write this one as a means to discourage a would-be blogger from starting a website in hopes of earning money.

In fact, I mean it as encouragement.

There is a problem out there that blogging is perceived as an easy thing to do when it is nothing of the sort. People blog, and blog, and blog, and wonder why they're not growing or, worse, have the pageviews but still haven't figured out how to answer the question of how to make money travel blogging. 
This piece was my attempt to explain what you need to do in order to actually make that money and help manage your expectations and, subsequently, shape your goals.

I am sure it will be discouraging to some, but now you know your target. Let it consume you. Do everything you can to get to that. Don't stop until you get there.

Now that you know your target, make it happen.

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3 Comments

  1. I am a fan of your writing style and really look forward to your future posts. Great work!

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  2. A quality article!

    As much as the truth hurts, it’s the truth all the same! As my blog traffic stagnates, more and more I’m drawn to these “blogging income” posts… Just looking for some inspiration, some hope, some light at the end of the tunnel.

    As many other before me and I’m sure many others after me, sold the illusive dream of working from anywhere, with nothing more than a laptop and some stolen Wi-Fi fades into the abyss of broken reality. One things for sure, there isn’t as many true/honest reflections as there are stories of false earnings and unrealistic promises. All with their own affiliate links scattered through text, starting the whole cycle once more.

    Sorry I’m rambling a bit here! The truth of the matter is from my experience of blogging so far, everything you say here is true and only the most determined and hardworking need bother. It’s not going to make everyone money overnight but for those who stick at it and put in the vast amount of graft required.. You’ll be rewarded!

    For me I love to blog. Am I any good at it!? I guess 2 years will tell….

    Thanks again for the amazing article, oh and being honest 🙂

    Post a Reply
  3. Hi! We’re just starting out writing about our adventures and this article helped explain a lot of my questions about blogging and earning from ads. Thank you for this comprehensive run-down of the reality of travel blogging! Appreciate this work. 🙂

    Post a Reply

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