Can a blog make enough money to recoup the cost of supporting it? The main goal of my blog is to showcase my projects, but a little revenue on the side would be pretty darn awesome.

I monetize my web site using two methods: Google AdSense and the Amazon Associates program. It’s not enough to live off of, and in fact it doesn’t even pay for a cup of coffee each day, but it does cover the web-hosting costs.

My expectations were set by an article about Nomadic Matt in the New York Times, back in 2009. He said his blog alone made $3,000 per month, from Google AdSense, affiliate sales, and direct advertising. He advised that “1,000 visitors a day would get you enough traffic to generate a good-size income.” My Flickr site was getting thousands of hits per day, so I figured if I could somehow transfer my Flickr readership to my own blog, I could generate a good stream of income. So, in July 2011 I procured a web host, and the next month I set up WordPress and got started.

Over the past year, I’ve had 32,149 unique visitors. Or, depending on what you prefer to measure, 38,443 visits and 57,409 page views (stats via Google Analytics). So, I’ve averaged 195 “unique visitors” a day. By contrast, my Flickr site had an average of over 3,200 hits per day over the past 3 weeks. According to Google Reader, my blog has 22 subscribers, which I know is pathetic.

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The costs for the web site come to $4.53 per month. I opened an account with BlueHost, paying $94.80 for two years (at $3.95 per month). The first year of the domain name registration was free, but the second year cost $13.99.

Soon after setting up my web site, I signed up for Google AdSense, and promptly put up an ad on my meager, barely-populated home page. A few days later I got an email from Google, saying I was being kicked out of the AdSense program for “insufficient content.” That was so depressing, but of course they were right. AdSense picks ads for your site partially based on keywords it finds in the text. Two months later, after adding a few simple posts, I re-joined AdSense and managed to stay in that time.

AdSense doesn’t share its formula for determining how much it pays you. It’s based not just on how many clicks the ads generate, and to a much-lesser extent, the number of views they get, but also which companies end up on your site. And that partially depends on your content and your audience. There have been many days when my ads generated zero revenue. Granted, the site has meager traffic, but $0.00 is such a depressing number. Over the past year, AdSense has brought in about $15 per month, or 51 cents per day.

The AdSense program also includes potential revenue from those annoying ads I’ve put in my YouTube videos.

I felt bad for including ads; it felt like a form of pollution, and it seemed in conflict with the spirit of the Internet. But the trend is definitely for big media to saturate their pages with ads, so hopefully my handful of ads don’t distract from the value of the content.

I joined the Amazon Associates program to see if that might add any revenue. My WordPress template has a few Amazon widgets, and if you follow those links and buy something (even if it wasn’t what you originally clicked on), I get a tiny sales commission. Over the past year, my Amazon commissions have added up to $89.15, which is pretty amazing to me, since I myself never shop online. But many thanks to those of you who have actually shopped from Amazon via my links! Though now I feel icky not just for plastering my site with ads, but for encouraging folks to shop online. DC has some awesome local shops that you should definitely shop at, like Home Rule, Miss Pixie’s, and BicycleSpace.

This table shows the numbers over the past twelve months.

Google AdSense Revenue
$6.27 $13.72 $1.98 $9.58 $12.16 $17.15 $4.97 $14.47 $27.65 $22.58 $24.80 $29.99
Amazon Associates Revenue
$9.05 $3.73 $0 $0 $6.69 $26.63 $6.40 $5.76 $9.60 $21.29 $0 $0
Unique Visitors
  2,755   1,381   1,849   1,236    898   1,637    801   1,667   1,522   1,238  10,825  12,634
Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
2012 2013

So becoming a full-time blogger like Nomadic Matt doesn’t seem too likely at this point. Am I missing any tools that would be a good fit for improving this blog? My goal is to earn a Starbucks mocha coffee each day, and eventually lunch at Chipotle too.

See earlier post on Amazon Affiliate Marketing.

Can Blogging Be Profitable?

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