It has been a long time since I published a data-centric blog post, even though they’re often my favourite to write and tend to get the best response. Today I’m going to share with you some of the biggest earning blogs (and a few non-blogs) on the web that don’t rely on affiliate links or selling products. Instead, they make a good portion of their income – and in some cases all of their income – through good ol’ advertising.
One site is pulling in over $10,000 per month with only two posts per week, while others are hammering out 50 articles per week and making a livable income as well. Of course, there are blogs making much more money than this – Digital Photography School, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, etc – but there isn’t much inspiration when you think of how many people are actually working on those sites. Instead I’ve decided to focus on this with just a few people behind them (and often just one) to show you what is possible online.
To make this more accurate (and to make it easier on myself) I’ve sourced all of the information used in my analysis below directly from BuySellAds. They’re the biggest (open) blog advertising network that I’m aware of, though in recent years they have featured more and more sites which aren’t blogs. When the site started off they were heavily used by graphic design blogs – and still are – but a large number of other niche bloggers now use their services as well.
For my analysis I gathered the following statistics:
The final point I want to make is that each website is making more money than what I report here. Some of them do have their own products for sale, use other forms of advertising besides BuySellAds or promote things as an affiliate. The aim with this post is to show you what people are doing, who is earning great money, and to try and inspire those who think that blogging or advertising is dead to reevaluate their views.
The first thing that’s apparent about this website is how much effort they’ve put into their design. I mean, even their ‘connect with us on Facebook’ box at the bottom of the blog homepage has a certain design flair to it. The fact that they’ve put so much work into their design seems to be a direct opposite to their content: Their posts often contain few words and just a smattering of images.
They’re clearly focusing on a market where people just want quick access to cool stuff (whether it’s a skateboard or a scooter or an awesome kettle) and to get the product across with images. Although this is the lowest earning blog on my list, they are making money elsewhere. They sell ads which aren’t part of the BSA network, such as utilising Google Adsense in the middle of their blog.
Also interesting is how many top rankings they have for all of these blog posts. The fresh content – even though it’s a minimal amount – definitely seems to be working and I’m sure they’re benefitting from those affiliate links where applicable.
Here’s another random post title of theirs that I put into Google.
Though they may be long-tail phrases, there are a lot of competing search phrases for each term but they seem to be beating other sites very easily (sometimes even the actual product manufacturer).
This is one of those sites I mentioned when I said (and some non-blogs) in brackets. Who.unfollowed.me is probably the least ambiguous domain name you’ll come across for a Twitter app: The site shows you who unfollowed you on Twitter.
What’s so impressive to me that a simple one-page website started a few years ago is still pulling in over 8 million pageviews per month. To figure out why that’s happening – I assumed the service would just be a one-time thing – I decided to use it on my own account. The reason why people are returning is actually quite obvious now that I know about it: You want to keep checking who is unfollowing you on a regular basis. Every time you come back to the site, you click a little brown button in the sidebar and you’re once more told who is no longer receiving your 140 characters of wisdom.
The income is fairly low for a site which does get so much traffic, but you should know by now that all traffic is not created equal. That being said, there is a pro version of the service for $4.99 per year, which may be bringing in quite a bit more revenue for them.
Hong Kiat is one of those blogs which feels like they’ve been around as long as the internet. I distinctly remember back in the day when Digg.com was popular that user MuhammadSaleem would keep getting them onto the homepage of the site, making me thinking he probably has (or did) something to do with their marketing / ownership. I could just email and ask them about that, but speculating is more interesting 😉
At 24 posts per week, they clearly aren’t targeting your typical RSS reader, but likely someone who comes back to the sites manually and picks out topics which catch their eye. Loosely focused on design, you’ll notice that their homepage is littered with different authors for each topic. Word from a source of mine is that regular contributors don’t really get much in the way of financial payment (though there are probably some exceptions) but do it to build up their own profile and to get used to writing for a large audience.
Their write for us page also doesn’t mention any form of monetary compensation for getting on their site, just guidelines on how to get accepted as a publisher there. I have an interview going live on the site in a few days, so I’ll share a link to that when it’s up!
Just like Hong Kiat, Logopond is one of those sites that seems like it has been around forever. There’s honestly not much to say about this site, other than it allows designers to showcase their best logo designs. It’s something that you probably couldn’t duplicate yourself very easily, because you really need the audience of designers there who are willing to give feedback to other designers. It has been in many a freelancers bookmarks for a long, long time.
What I did want to point out though was something pretty interesting. Check this out:
For me this really borders on the verge of deceptive advertising. I mean, how small is that ‘powered by’ on the right hand side, and that Top 10 link just jumps straight out at you. The only reason I realised it was an ad was because I clicked on top 10 – which is a feature a website like this should totally have – and ended up on Wix.com
Wix, coincidentally, filed for a $75m Wall Street IPO just two weeks ago. They’ve already raised $58.5M from previous funding rounds, so they have to do something with that cash. Again, to me, it seems a little deceptive though. When you click on ‘Top 10’ on a logo design portal, the last thing you want to do is build a free website, surely.
The last site I’ll feature here which has a heavy design focus, Abduzeedo started this blog as a lone-Brazilian, Fabio Sasso, but in recent years has branched it out to include other writers as well. He built up his name by sharing in-depth tutorials for Photoshop, helped by the fact that he’s seen as a genius by many with the software. Another way Fabio was able to grow his audience was by being a regular contributor on PSDTuts, which in its prime found itself constantly on the homepage of Digg and Reddit.
Honestly, there’s not much you can duplicate here unless you’re a Photoshop wizard, but it is one of the best sites of its kind. I do wonder though how much of his audience is interested in so many topics per week, which are very different to what the site used to cover ‘back in the day’.
This is by far my favourite example. Not because of how much money the site makes (they don’t make the most) and not because I’ve had a growing interest in bikes over the last few months. Instead, I love that they’re making so much money on advertising by posting such few posts. A big contradiction to many of the other sites on this post, and particularly BuySellAds as a whole.
As you’ll see from the latest post when I took the screenshot, they’re also in the process of publishing a physical book about the best bike designs they’ve seen – very similar to what each of their blog posts are about – so that will be another great income source for the website. I think the key to their success is that they’ve really honed in on a subset of a very bike industry (automotive >> motorbikes >> custom bikes), stayed consistent, and highlighted each bike in a really attractive way.
As far as I can tell, they rarely use their own images (some are watermarked with Bike Exif) making me think that each blog post is fairly ease to create in terms of creativity, and just mainly requires the posting of other peoples pictures. It’s a great site for people who are interested in this subject. Love it!
This is another website I have absolutely fallen in love with since performing this research. A quick look over on their blog and you’ll find some amazing tutorials for web developers and designers. And I mean really amazing. I honestly can’t over-hype their site unless I said finding them was better than seeing my child for the first time (side note: I don’t have kids).
Like Bike Exif, this is another style of website which really fits in with my own ideas and goals I have when building and growing a blog. Though I have ran sites which posts dozens of posts per week – and made a lot of money from them – I much prefer to pump out higher quality content on a less frequent basis. That’s exactly what the team over at Codrops are doing. They don’t write a lot, but when they do write something, you’re going to want to share it with your friends.
In a niche like web development – or any niche for that matter – where there is a ton of competition and an especially large audience, never underestimate the power of doing more by saying less. Signal vs noise.
I was quite amazed about how many app sites I found on BuySellAds to be making such a great income. I’ve decided to put them all in one category here, so you can see exactly what I’m talking about.
There are a few things I think you can take away from this. First of all, always be looking to take advantage of new niche opportunities as they rise. Angry Birds and the whole app eco-system was really only built up over the last few years. It’s also growing at an alarming rate. The best earning app site is actually the most recent, at just two years old. I’m sure they’ve been making money for quite a long time as well.
I really don’t want to downplay the success of SmartAppsforKids, but it’s not a remarkable website in any sense of the word. They do their little giveaways and their app reviews, but no doubt they’re relying on Google for a huge portion of the traffic they receive. I can’t imagine they have a very loyal readership. Their Facebook page suggests they have 34,000 fans, which is fairly impressive, but their updates only get one like at most.
Though there are sites making more money than all of those I’ve featured here today, I’ve tried to share those which can either a) be replicated in some form; b) motivate you to take action or try a new idea; c) inspire you to see that this making money online stuff is really possible in a huge number of industries.
Make sure you’re on my email list (subscribe below or in the right sidebar) because I have some really incredible content coming up over the next couple of weeks. They’re going to make this blog post look like I barely cared about it. Thank you as always for reading!