What does the future of blogging look like? Is blogging dying? Or are we about to enter a new era of unprecedented blog profits? The answer is: both.
Blogging is changing. Monetization potential is increasing, but so is competition. To succeed in the future of blogging, you need to produce top-quality content, demonstrate niche-authority, establish a strong brand, and employ a multimedia as well as a multi-channel approach.
I firmly believe that the following six trends will shape the future of blogging:
In 2005, Darren Rowse published the big news that he was now a six-figure-blogger. At that time, this was a sensation. Darren proved that making six-figures blogging was actually possible.
Today, the biggest blogs are making millions of dollars… per month. While still a great achievement, earning six figures per year from a blog is nothing newsworthy anymore. Blogs being sold for millions on Empire Flippers is a frequent appearance. And blogging as a full-time living is now a popular career path.
Blog Profitability Examples:
Let’s take a look at how the estimated income of some of the world’s most successful blogs has developed from 2017 to 2020:
|Blog||Income Estimate 2017*||Income Estimate 2020**|
|HuffPost||$168 million||$500 million|
|Engadget||$66 million||$47.5 million|
|Moz||$51 million||$44.9 million|
|PerezHilton||$6.9 million||$41.3 million|
|Copyblogger||$12 million||$33.1 million|
|Mashable||$24 million||$30 million|
|TechChrunch||$30 million||$22.5 million|
|Envato Tuts+||$2.1 million||$10 million|
|Smashing Magazine||$2.6 million||$5.2 million|
|Gizmodo||$3.9 million||$4.8 million|
|Total||$266.5 million||$739.3 million|
** Owler data, summarized by Targetinternet
It should be noted that the estimates are coming from two different sources, so the methodology to derive the estimate may not have been the same. Take the exact numbers with a grain of salt and remember that it’s more about getting a general idea of magnitude and trend.
First, we can see that income is enormous. HuffPost was estimated to make half a billion dollars in 2020. Second, there is a clear upward trend. The income estimates for 70% of the blogs have increased, and the total income sum of all ten blogs has increased from $266.5 million to $739.3 million.
While hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly blogging income may only be achievable for big corporations, individual bloggers are making seven-to-eight-figure-incomes as well.
And the above list is just a small selection. Many other bloggers make a very healthy income, too.
For example, according to my food blog profitability research, I estimate Gina Homolka’s Skinnytaste to earn upwards of $8 million, and Nagi’s RecipeTin Eats to make approximately $1.8 million per year in profit. Michelle Schroeder-Gardner makes about $1.5 million per year from her personal finance blog, Making Sense of Cents.
Jon, the owner of Fat Stacks Get Fatter, made about $45,000 in April 2020 alone from three of his niche sites. (He has more than those three sites and even more than the seven sites which he features in his income reports.)
Unfortunately, most bloggers stop publishing their income once they are starting to really make bank. That’s why it’s difficult to get precise data and why we only have estimates for the most successful blogs.
However, the data we do have clearly shows that big money is made with blogging, and the profits seem to increase.
Monetizing Blog Traffic Will Get Easier
One of the reasons for the upward income trend is that monetizing blogs is becoming easier as consumer purchases and business processes increasingly move online. Covid-19 has further helped to accelerate this trend.
According to the US Department of Commerce, US online retail sales in the first quarter of 2020 have increased by 15% year-over-year, while total retail sales (including offline sales) rose only by 2%.
Some niches are enjoying particularly strong online growth:
- Grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is only just beginning to move online. According to Supermarket News, US online grocery sales grew by 22% in 2019 and, supported by COVID-19, were expected to increase by another 40% in 2020.
Online grocery shopping enables food bloggers to make their ingredients lists shoppable with tools like Relish, and thereby earn an affiliate commission.
- Fashion. The global fashion e-commerce market is estimated to grow from US$528.1 billion in 2019 to US$829.6 billion by the end of 2024 (Statista). For fashion bloggers, that means it becomes easier to recommend clothing or accessories as an affiliate, or even to sell their own fashion line.
- Software as a Service (SaaS). The SaaS market has seen massive growth over recent years, exploding from $5.56 billion in 2004 to an estimated $157 billion in 2020 (Statista). Partly thanks to COVID-19, significant further growth is probably ahead. Software as a service is extremely profitable for affiliate marketers and has enabled bloggers to make a fortune. An example is Adam Enfroy, who took his blog on business software to more than $80,000 in monthly revenue (May 2020) within 18 months after launch.
- Online education. According to Global Market Insights, the e-learning market surpassed $200 billion in 2019 and is estimated to reach a market size of $375 billion in 2026. I own two websites in the online education sector and can testify that it is a great niche to be in. Affiliate commissions are high, and you can sell your own info products for even higher profit margins.
- Online gaming. The online gaming market was estimated to produce $68 billion in revenue already in 2018 and is anticipated to reach $286 billion by 2027. With in-app purchasing going through the roof, gaming companies can pay bloggers handsome affiliate commissions and ad rates.
With further advancements in AI technology, Google will become even better at identifying great content that meets user intent. As a result, classic SEO techniques will become less and less effective.
The days of keywords stuffing and mass-building spammy backlinks are long over anyway. However, high-quality backlinks are today still an important factor in Google’s algorithm.
I anticipate that as Google gets smarter, it will also rely less on backlinks to individual pages to identify trustworthy and high-quality content and instead become increasingly better at figuring out on its own which content is worth ranking.
Consequently, producing best-in-the-world content is the most promising strategy for succeeding in the future of blogging.
Note how I underlined “to individual pages” in the preceding section. I do not expect relevant backlinks to and mentions of domains and authors to lose value. On the contrary, the current trend goes in the opposite direction.
With the E-A-T and YMYL algorithm changes, Google has started to place more emphasis on the authority and trustworthiness of authors and domains.
In YMYL niches, E-A-T is especially essential. That is not surprising if you consider what the user would want to rank at the top of Google. Most of us would rather read a legal article written by a lawyer than by a high school student.
When determining E-A-T, Google will look at the author and the domain of an article. Are they recognized authorities on the subject? That is where relevant backlinks to the domain (not necessarily the individual page) and a strong author profile help.
To do well with the E-A-T part of Google’s algorithm, you need to show to Google that you are an authority on the subject you are blogging about. One way to do this is by getting quality, high-authority backlinks that are relevant to the subject matter of your expertise.
For example, my legal education website has backlinks from universities that recommend my website as a study resource for law students. These links come from trusted sources (legal departments of universities) and recommend me as a subject matter expert for legal studies. That is great for establishing E-A-T and helps me rank in this YMYL niche.
In light of the E-A-T and YMYL trend, I believe that the business model of having 15 different affiliate websites and letting an army of poorly paid writers create the articles for those websites is going to slowly die in the future. In fact, those kinds of websites have already repeatedly been slapped by recent Google updates and are outperformed by authority niche sites whose authors deeply understand the subject matter.
In my view, the future of blogging lies in focusing on just a few websites and niching down sufficiently to position those websites and their authors as authorities in their field.
For many years now, long-form content has been all the rage. While bloggers where doing great with 500-word posts back in 2005, a post of 1,500 words is considered short today, and long blog posts can consist of more than 10,000 words.
One of the reasons for this trend is the publication of data showing a correlation between longer content, more backlinks, and better Google rankings. The word to note here, though, is “correlation”. Correlation is not causation.
I expect the “long-text trend” to slow down in the future of blogging.
Google wants to promote the best user experience, and long text does not always deliver that. Depending on the specific question that needs to be answered, a table, a graphic, or a video may be more suitable than a wordy written explanation.
Take a look at my blog post on how food blogs make money:
The pie chart and the table bring the information across much more effectively than any text ever could.
Moreover, increasingly more traffic is mobile. Long text is not a great experience on mobile phones.
At the same time, the spread of faster mobile internet bandwidth makes mobile phones more suitable for multimedia content. This trend may well make another leap forward when 5G technology becomes well established because 5G makes it easier to stream large quantities of video content on mobile.
Just to be clear: I’m not saying that long-form text doesn’t have its place. People will always read long-form text content just as they have kept reading books after the television was invented. But I do feel that long-form text content is overrepresented on the web right now, and I expect this to change in favor of multimedia over the next ten years.
In the early days of blogging, user attention was on Google and written websites and blogs.
Today, it is spread out across Google, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, TikTok, Spotify, Amazon and other platforms.
If you only focus on building a blog and driving traffic from Google, you will a) only ever be able to get a part of the user attention pie, b) not be able to build as much branding and engagement as if you adopt a multi-channel approach, and c) build a vulnerable business that depends on one medium and one traffic source.
In short: A single-channel approach will not work well in the future of blogging.
Instead, the future of blogging lies in following user attention and adopting a multi-channel approach.
That can sound overwhelming at first, but you don’t need to come up with new content for all of these different platforms. Instead, you can take the same content and repurpose it to meet each user where she is.
For example, you can write a blog post and record a video on the same topic. The soundtrack of your video can be your podcast. You can highlight parts of your post by creating infographics or images for them for Instagram and Pinterest (which, by the way, should not be the same – images that work well on Instagram are often not well-suited for Pinterest and vice versa).
To see how content repurposing can be done on an extremely professional level with a big team, take a look at Gary Vaynerchuck’s content pyramid slideshow.
Of course, unless you have substantial team support, you won’t be able to pump out content like Gary Vaynerchuck. But you can always start by concentrating on one to three platforms and expand later. Just make sure to focus on those platforms that work particularly well in your niche.
With bigger blogging profits awaiting as a reward, competition is increasing. Big media companies have long entered the blogging space and are spending large sums on content. I’m talking about companies like InterActiveCorp, which stands behind publications such as The Spruce and The Daily Beast and, in 2019, generated $4.76 billion in revenue.
If you’re a small publisher, competing with big corporations on domain rank or quantity of content is challenging.
You’re much better off leveraging your brand as a relatable expert who produces top quality content in a specific niche.
Establishing a Brand is Easier as an Individual
As an individual, you are inherently more relatable than a big corporation. Many people prefer getting their information from an individual they know and trust, rather than an anonymous company.
Picture yourself as the cheese vendor at the local market. Not only is your cheese better and more individual than that at the supermarket, but shopping at your booth gives the customer an entirely different feeling.
Someone who got her branding down perfectly is food blogger Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste. Her info box tells you that she is a busy mom of two girls. From her tag line, you learn that she’s offering you “delicious healthy recipes from my family to yours”.
She’s also getting more than 17 million unique visitors per month, and, in my food blog profitability analysis, I estimate her to make more than $8 million per year in profit.
A Strong Brand Synergizes with a Multi-Channel Content Approach
Moreover, an emphasis on branding goes hand in hand with a multi-channel content approach:
- A multi-channel approach supports your branding efforts. If users have touchpoints with your brand on many different channels, they will grow more accustomed to it.
- At the same time, strong branding makes a multi-channel content strategy work better. When a user is starting her car in the morning and thinking about what she should listen to on her commute to work, wouldn’t it be great if she thought of your podcast? But that will only happen if you have used branding to earn a place in her mind.
To sum up: A lot of money is to be made in the future of blogging. As a result, competition is increasing. Blogging has long become professional and will professionalize even further in the future.
If you want to be a big player in the future of blogging, you need to produce high-quality content, establish yourself as an authority in your niche, and, ideally, adopt a multimedia and multi-channel approach.