S1 EP6: Is Blogging Dead? Here’s How Blogging Has Changed in the Last 7 Years

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Is blogging dead? Should you start a blog? How long does it take to make money blogging? Is it even possible to make money blogging these days?

In today’s episode, DollarSprout Co-Founders Ben Huber and Jeff Proctor answer all of these questions and more as they discuss how blogging has changed in the last 7 years.

Links and resources:


Key Takeaways

Here are the key takeaways from Ben and Jeff’s conversation:

Key takeaway #1: Algorithms aren’t what they used to be.

Algorithms are mathematical criteria that social media platforms and search engines use to determine who sees your content and how much it gets shown to new users. In the days of chronological Facebook and Instagram feeds, if you posted on your account, most of your followers would see it. Nowadays, depending on the content, only a fraction of your audience may see your content.

Algorithms use information about the post’s engagement, watch time, your account history, and more to determine who sees your content and who doesn’t. This change has made it more difficult to get your content in front of people, including your own followers.

Key takeaway #2: Google cares about your EAT, especially for Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) websites.

Google defines Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) content as content that “could directly impact a person’s happiness, health, or financial stability, or safety.” Some topics that fall into this category include news, civics and government, finance, and health and safety. EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

Is the person who created the content an expert on the subject? Do they have credentials to back up the content? Are the person who wrote the content and the site itself authorities in the field? And are the site and the content creator trustworthy sources for this information? Even if you are an expert in your field, it takes time, effort, and quality content to prove your EAT and start ranking highly (especially for YMYL content) on Google. Here are a few ways you can increase your authority:

  1. Show off your credentials. If you have any formal certifications or education in your field, include that on your website.
  2. Increase your web presence. Create profiles or listings on professional websites in your niche, pitch yourself as a resource for articles on sites related to your area of expertise, and write for authoritative websites.
  3. Stay consistent. It could take 6 to 12 months (or longer) to gain Google’s trust and begin ranking for good keywords in your niche.

Key takeaway #3: Personal brands are no longer as common in the blogging space.

In the beginning days of blogging, it was common for bloggers to share their life and experiences with their content. Nowadays, people expect more value, more information, and higher-quality content.

As such, creators are more commonly using blogs as a space to create more authoritative, long-form content and social media as the way to share their life, connect with their audience, and build their personal brand.

Key takeaway #4: User experience matters more than ever.

User experience refers to how a reader interacts with and experiences your website. Good design, working links, and pop-up free content all makes for a much better user experience, which impacts your search engine rankings.

Key takeaway #5: Consumers are savvy with affiliate marketing and sponsored content.

Because of the rise in popularity of social media influencers and affiliate marketing, consumers are more aware of when a website is trying to sell them something or push a product. This has led to more skepticism among readers and consumers. This is a good thing!

But it does set the bar higher for those looking to make an income with affiliate marketing. If you decide to go this route, do your research on any products or services you promote, make sure it’s something you truly believe in and would feel comfortable recommending to others.

Key takeaway #6: Content quality is still the most important factor.

At the end of the day, content is the backbone of any blog. The number one skill any blogger can build is learning how to create great, high-quality content. That means providing as much value as possible to the reader, whether that value is educational, inspirational, entertaining, or all three.

If you’re not sure about the quality of your content, get feedback from friends, family, or people in your online community (i.e. other bloggers and business owners) on how you can improve. And remember: always look at your content through the eyes of your reader.

Key takeaway #7: The fastest way to monetize your blog? Freelance.

The fastest way to monetize any new business is usually to offer a service. And blogging is no different. It could take 6 months to 2 years (or more) to make a full-time income with your blog. In the meantime, you can improve your skills, build your network, and make some money by freelancing for other blogs and websites.

Fiverr and Upwork are good places to start. You can also reach out to bloggers in your niche and ask if they need writers or help with anything else you can offer.

Key takeaway #8: Is blogging a good side hustle?

Blogging can still be a good side hustle. But since it can take time to see any results at all, and even more time to build a full-time, sustainable income, it’s probably a better fit for someone looking for an alternative career with passive-income opportunities. You can still start blogging on the side of your 9-to-5 job. Just don’t expect to be pulling in “side hustle” income for at least 6+ months.

And even if your blog doesn’t take off, you’ll still learn so many valuable skills along the way: how to write better, optimize content for search engines (SEO), marketing, selling, and way more skills that can be applied to your job or a new career.

Episode Transcript (click to expand)

Note: This transcript was automatically generated and may include typos.

[00:00:00] Ben Huber: Hey guys, and welcome to the show. It’s Ben stepping in for Megan today. Today’s show I’m actually going to be joined by Jeff Proctor. Jeff is my business partner and the co-founder of dollar sprout. And we wanted to spend a few minutes today talking a little bit about a subject that’s actually kind of near and dear to our hearts.

[00:00:32] And that is blogging. Blogging is the exact side hustle that Jeff and I have been kind of hacking our way around for the last seven years or so now. And it’s kind of allowed us to gain our own level of, of lifestyle independence, so to speak. I know that this has been a central theme for the podcast for the last six or seven weeks now.

[00:00:52] And I w we’d love to kind of keep it that way going forward. But like I said, for, for blogging, There’s been a lot that has changed over the last seven years in, in, in our Facebook group, we, we constantly get questions about whether or not is it still worth it? You know, what, what has changed?

[00:01:10] Can you still make money blogging? And Jeff and I just wanted to take a few minutes today to talk about the ways that blogging has changed over the years, the ways that it’s still exactly the same kind of the challenges that we face on a day in and day out basis and what we try to do any ways to overcome those challenges, to kind of continue this again, this, this lifestyle that we have kind of embarked upon and in terms of creating a business that can support financially the, the dreams that we have.

[00:01:41] So, like I said, without further ado, I’m gonna invite Jeff to, to hop on here. How you doing Jeff?

[00:01:47] Jeff Proctor: Hey, good to see you,

[00:01:49] Ben Huber: I know.

[00:01:49] Jeff Proctor: Ben. And I talk like every day, so this is kind of

[00:01:51] Ben Huber: Yeah, no, it’s not, it’s not every day that we sit here and actually record ourselves having the sort of conversation, but we thought it would be cool just to, to spend a few minutes again, talking about the things that we’ve really learned over the last few years, especially the last year or two in particular.

[00:02:06] I think there’s been a lot of changes in the blogging landscape that are worth noting and what we can do to help basically perspective bloggers or even bloggers that, that might already have a blog. And they’re struggling to gain a little bit traction kind of share our insights and to, to how you might be able to overcome those hurdles and go from there.

[00:02:26] But anyways, I’m going to let Jeff give just like a 22nd or maybe a 32nd overview of, of where you know, who we are, where we came from and how we got to where we are right now. So if you don’t mind, Jeff, just kind of sharing our blogging journey and then just bringing us up to speed.

[00:02:42] Jeff Proctor: we would start in 2015 when we started it’s 20, 22 now. So yeah, about seven years ago. And basically it just started as a personal finance blog. We were writing articles on our website and getting traffic from, and this is like a super condensed version, but we were writing about different side hustles ways to make extra money, like how to invest, how to save all that kind of stuff.

[00:03:08] And to get traffic to our site we were using social media a lot back then. And Pinterest was a big one that we used to get people to our site. And, once we had people on the site, we had advertisements running on our site and whether that’s display ads or, like. Advertisements, which is, basically you get a commission on any sales that you generate. So let’s say, I want to sell you a water bottle for $10 and, you buy it from Amazon and we get a dollar of that or whatever. So we would do that for offers within the finance space.

[00:03:44] So yeah, that’s basically how we started. And then, it took a long time for us to finally get some traction, get, people coming to the site regularly and, signing up for offers and doing all that stuff. And, as we’ve grown, a lot of things have definitely changed since, the first days of us on Pinterest versus, now we are way more focused on getting traffic from Google, which is good and bad in a way, it’s definitely a tough platform to get traffic on.

[00:04:14] There’s just been a lot of changes over the years for, where you want to get traffic, how competitive these platforms are. And that sort of thing.

[00:04:23] Ben Huber: Yeah, it’s one of those things where, I hear you talking about how, even in 2015, we were using Pinterest and Google to get traffic. And now seven years later, we are still using those two platforms to, to bring in a good portion of our monthly user base. Can you speak at all to, like I said, how the Pinterest environment or how the Google environment really, I guess, just to kind of back up a little bit, so like Pinterest is obviously organic organic traffic in a way it’s, it’s free traffic that you can get through social.

[00:04:56] So social platforms, be it Facebook or tick-tock or Pinterest, can you speak at all to, how things were for us on those social outlets back in 2015 versus maybe how they are now to somebody.

[00:05:12] Jeff Proctor: So actually, in 2015, when we started at that point, a lot of websites had already grown really large from Facebook traffic, Facebook, maybe in like the 20, 12 to 2015 era was, you could grow a page, like, post something and then every one of your followers would see it and share it.

[00:05:32] And you could get massive amounts of

[00:05:34] traffic from Facebook. But yeah. So,

[00:05:38] Ben Huber: generous.

[00:05:38] Jeff Proctor: Yeah, so by the time we, we started blogging like that trend on Facebook, like Facebook became so saturated and so competitive to where, when we started, you put up. A blog post on Facebook and, 2% of your followers would see it.

[00:05:56] And it was just so hard to actually get traction or get attention to your posts. So that’s why we were kind of looking at other platforms and, for us, Pinterest was one of those where we could post something and it would get much wider distribution than anything we would ever post on Facebook.

[00:06:17] I’m not a Pinterest user. Ben and I had never used Pinterest as consumers in our lives before then. And honestly, I still don’t it’s, but I mean, it was a great traffic platform back then. And nowadays and this kind of happens with every social media platform to some extent, and it’ll happen with Tik TOK eventually, but. As time goes on, more people use the platform and it’s more competitive to where it’s just harder to get organic traffic on that platform. So right now, Pinterest is kind of going that same way where you’re not going to get a ton of free traffic from there anymore.

[00:06:52] So nowadays as you see a lot of bloggers going on Tik TOK and getting a ton of traffic from tick-tock and if you fast forward whether it’s like three years from now, five years from now, whatever, like I guarantee you, it’s going to be similar to how things have happened with Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest, where organic reach just gets harder and harder to come by.

[00:07:14] Ben Huber: Yeah, I think, I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head in the sense that. Organic social is like a rapidly evolving platform or technology, I guess these social media giants. If, if, I guess if we even go back 15 years are less than a decade old for the most part. And their distribution algorithms are like quickly changing.

[00:07:36] And I think that in the early days of blogging, maybe even prior to 2015, when we started even in the mid 20 15 area these algorithms were still being tinkered and tested as they are today, but they were very generous in the sense that distribution on Facebook, on Pinterest on a lot of these social platforms, even Twitter was, it used to be chronologically based.

[00:07:58] So like, like you said, when you would put something out there your followers would see it. And like an exact time the exact timeframe that you put it out. If they were on, they would see it the first time that they logged back in, they would see it just because all the feeds were chronologically based.

[00:08:12] And now we’re in this era where algorithm are engagement based. So like Facebook, Pinterest, tick-tock, it’s one of those things where the more engaging your content is the more frequently it’s pushed out by the algorithm. And I think that that’s been one of the more stark differences between when we first started and where we’re at now is just that recognition that that’s happening and then adjusting in our strategies.

[00:08:39] And we’ll get into that a little bit later, or just in our strategies to kind of cater to that ever evolving algorithm. So, yeah, like I said, getting, getting back to like count of how. When we started versus how a blogging is now, I guess one of the most fundamental changes is obviously the distribution of algorithms on the search side of things.

[00:08:56] So it’s one of those things where, like I said, the organic social side of things, is it substantially different in the sense that the way algorithmic distribution still works, but a lot of the content planning is still the same, a lot of the content strategy behind.

[00:09:13] I guess could be catered towards how the algorithm has changed. And that’s unlike like a more nuanced discussion that we can get into sometime kind of about how to do perhaps content planning in light of the way organic socialists changed. But organic social is just one piece of the puzzle that, that was the part of the puzzle, right?

[00:09:31] Jeff, that really helped us gain some traction. We didn’t have really the budget, like a lot of bloggers doing the first starting out to kind of do paid acquisition. We couldn’t do like ads, for example to drive people to our blog. So we relied on free sources of traffic primarily of which was organic social through Pinterest a little bit through Facebook, a little bit through Instagram.

[00:09:52] But that’s really what was available to us at the time. And, and the three kind of platforms where he found a little bit of traction, what we began to realize about a year or so in was that. We started to get traffic from Google, right? So organic search, not organic social, but organic search where people are searching for answers to queries that they had entered into Google.

[00:10:15] And some of our blog content was I guess, providing that answer. So Google was, was sending people our way primitively or just in small amounts of first. And it began to grow as we began to learn more about organic search and how to get people or drive traffic to our site in that manner. And I’d say about what 18 or months, 18 months or so.

[00:10:35] And we really, we noticed that the articles that were doing well on Pinterest organically also started to rank well in search. Now that’s not necessarily like a cause and effect relationship, but we were just happy to be getting traffic through organic search. And from 2015, until now we have.

[00:10:55] Obviously spent a lot of time studying organic search. How do we appease the Google algorithm, so to speak so that they do send traffic our way. Can you speak at all to the environment of blogging in 2015 with regards to organic search then, and maybe how I won’t get into a little more nuance in this later in this discussion about how it’s changed, but you know, just the, the, the major differences between then and now

[00:11:22] Jeff Proctor: Yeah, I think for, it’s obviously gotten more competitive over the years, but I think it’s important to like, look at Google traffic a little bit different than social media traffic in terms of your. You know, on Google there’s on the first page, there was only 10 results for any given query.

[00:11:41] So there’s like a finite amount of real estate available and you know, you’ve got everyone basically competing for that space. now

[00:11:49] In 20 15, 20 16, when we started getting some traffic on Google we were a small site that was somehow still able to for, for a handful of articles start ranking on that first page of Google and getting traffic.

[00:12:03] And nowadays I think that’s definitely changed. It’s there’s if in 20 15, 20 16 there were a thousand websites in our niche competing for those top 10 spots now there’s 5,000 or whatever, and you know, the top sites. Yeah. A lot better at it’s just at the top of it is much more competitive.

[00:12:25] So it’s not as much that the sound as much like the algorithms are like becoming like harder it’s, it’s a more a product, I guess, of like the competition becoming harder. And then they that in turn is making like the algorithm more selective in that, who they pick to display.

[00:12:43] So there’s a lot that, I mean, I guess if you want to talk about eat a little bit that’s like the big one that has, has really affected a lot of people, especially in our niche expertise, authority, and trust. And that’s basically this kind of system that Google uses for queries that are related to, they call it your money, your life.

[00:13:07] So like health-related stuff or. You know your money, like investing or the kind of stuff that we write about Google basically looks at it and says, Hey, these topics are really important. And the type of stuff that we rank for these types of queries we have to take extra steps to make sure that we’re showing really trustworthy sources.

[00:13:27] So they have more, more of their algorithm is built out for like those niches and in particular that it’s like much more stringent. And , they’re not just gonna let anybody rank for some of these keywords.

[00:13:40] Ben Huber: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s definitely something like you said that I’ve noticed over the years and it’s, it’s kind of like a welcome change in a way. And in terms of the user experience, like when you’re searching on Google, it’s frustrating to get a re returned resolve. That’s like completely irrelevant, or maybe it’s just like spam completely spam, or it just comes from a source of you’re like where in the world did they get this answer from?

[00:14:02] And so what we’ve noticed over the years is Google’s made like a concerted effort to clean up necessarily clean up, but return the best possible result that a user would want to see when they search for a particular query. One of the main components of their algorithm are not necessarily mean, but a significant portion of the weight of, of what they return has to do with eat.

[00:14:28] So kind of getting back to Jeff, what Jeff was saying, expertise, authority, trust does, does their search result display these things? Is it written by a subject matter expert? Are they an authority in their space? Can you trust what they’re saying? And because of that there are certain queries that Jeff was alluding to at Y M Y L your money, your life, that they require an even higher level of eat to kind of be surfaced on the first page of Google.

[00:14:53] And so that’s been a challenge that we have been facing for the last probably about two or three years now is how do we become an authority in our space so that our content is displayed on those, that coveted first page. And so that, that is something for bloggers that are starting out right now, what you may learn.

[00:15:13] Is that it’s hard to gain traction. It’s hard to get traffic either be it or through organic search or through organic social. And you, you’re gonna have to spend a little bit of time kind of overcoming some of these barriers. And that’s again, kinda something we’ll get back to here in just a minute.

[00:15:27] But at least from the organic search side of things, we have basically here at dollar spot, any ways, worked hard to display our authority. We kind of through our blog content, we like take the time to highlight our writers, their credentials, and why they’re qualified to write on a particular topic.

[00:15:50] And then we obviously make sure that when we publish a piece of content, that is the best piece of content that we can put out there. And so those two things coupled together, we say, we kind of algorithmically, we say here, Google, here’s what we got Is it good enough to be surfaced on that first page?

[00:16:04] And so that, like I said, that’s been a challenge for us because we’re not new to blogging. And it’s still something that we have to compete with with the other top tier competitors. In our niche, there are large personal finance companies in our space that have a lot of authority. They have highly qualified writers and trying to essentially compete with that market share is difficult.

[00:16:26] And so that is something that a newer blogger might grow frustrated by. Is there, they feel like they’re, they’re putting out great content. They might be like an expert in their field. So say for example, you’re a financial advisor writing about finance, say you’re a personal trainer writing about fitness, say you’re a dietician writing about Some sort of fitness or wellness topic you might feel like you’re credentialed expert in that area, but you still don’t necessarily have the authority in your space yet to rank on the first page of Google.

[00:16:52] And so that is something that comes with time and it comes with consistent effort. And that, like I said, that’s probably one of the biggest changes that we have really seen from 2015 to 22. Now, 2022 now is that Google Bing, Yahoo. A lot of these search engines have focused very heavily on surfacing this more authoritative content to kind of root out misinformation, to kind of weed out spam.

[00:17:17] And in that, in that little section of the algorithm, we’re impacted by it because we’re not as authoritative as some of the figures in our space. So it’s just one of those things where, like I said, when you’re first starting out and there’s a finite number of ways to get traction and build an audience, it can be frustrating too.

[00:17:37] Be excited about organic search, knowing that it’s like probably the future of where your blog might be, but then not seeing the results that you’re, that you think you should be getting. You’re just not getting them yet.

[00:17:50] Jeff Proctor: so let’s say, let’s say you want To start a blog today in one of these, your money, your life spaces, like let’s say you want to. You know, you’re a dietician and you want to start a nutrition blog or whatever. What do you say to someone that is looking to get into that type of niche?

[00:18:08] Do you say, like go for it, good luck. Or do you try to maybe steer them to one of their other passions that might be more realistic, more feasible to rank for if they’re really into like lawn care or something where like nobody’s going to die. If your lawn care advice is not great.

[00:18:27] Yeah. What do you, what do you say

[00:18:28] To

[00:18:28] Ben Huber: someone who’s new. Yeah, that, that’s actually a really good question. Just because I feel like for someone who’s contemplating getting started in blogging, it is really important to be aware of, like you said, that the niche that you might be getting into if you feel like the niche that you’re interested in, or like say you are a dietician or whatever the case may be, if you feel like that, the niche that you’re interested in might fall into one of those, Y M Y L categories, your money, your life categories, where like the standards are a lot higher to surface and search.

[00:19:00] It definitely should give you at least not necessarily some pause, but just a moment of like reflection of what can I do differently to maybe break through down the road or at least go into that particular niche with the understanding that you may not see traction right away because of the barrier that you’re going to face in terms of.

[00:19:22] Becoming an, an authority figure in your space. So for if, say, for example, I’ll just talk this out for a minute. So you are a dietician and you’re interested in writing about ways that people can live a healthier lifestyle at home. You say you want to write blog content about healthy, eating about maybe diet plans that a particular profile of a person might need to follow say someone’s overweight.

[00:19:48] And they were looking to lose weight, say someone is lacking in lean muscle and they want to grow muscle. You know, you’re writing on topics that are intimately affected by this Y M Y algorithm. You know, it’s going to take time to build authority in your space and by build authority in your space.

[00:20:04] I mean, a lot of it comes down to, I guess, your web presence in a way, once a search engine recognizes that you are an authority, say you appear. Throughout the web in several different ways as like a, as a credential dietician, Google will start to recognize like, say you’ve posted not only on your own blog, but you’ve networked and you’ve interacted with other bloggers.

[00:20:27] You’ve maybe even written articles for like a large site. At some point down down the road, maybe you rent for Healthline, whatever the case may be. Google will begin to recognize that you are an authority in your space, that you are a credentialed figure and that they advice that you give is trustworthy and authoritative.

[00:20:45] And then you may see your, your ranking start to, to gain some traction in terms of your content, meaning displayed on Google on a cautionary note especially in the MYM, well space, a lot of times there’s like medical consensus. So if you do write on a medical topic and you’re writing about opinions that go against medical consensus, that is an area where Google has been trying.

[00:21:11] Weed out, unless they say, not necessarily say weed out, but it’s just more difficult to, to give an opinion that goes against medical consensus and surface on Google. So people will complain of censorship. Whatever the case may be. It’s just a cautionary tale that if you’re going to go into that space, be careful about what, you’re just, it’s just something to be aware of, I guess.

[00:21:32] But yeah. So like, if, like I said, if you’re, if you’re just getting into blogging and you write in one of these topics, you really need to go in with the mindset that it’s going to take probably six to 12 months to not only build your blog and build out a library of content on all the topic matters that you want to write about that in and of itself is a time-consuming and difficult challenge to overcome.

[00:21:57] But then it might take you an additional six to 12 months. Really work on that networking component, getting your name out there, working on like kind of press and PR opportunities so that you’re seen as an authority and your space. And so it’s, it’s really a long, it’s a long game in a sense that if you’re going to create a blog and a Y M Y L topic, at least from the organic, the organic search side of things, you’re really committing to a one to two year experience of, of building your website and networking before you really going to start to see any sort of audience building and monetization through organic search.

[00:22:38] Now you can, you could leverage tick-tock for example and gain traction in other ways, but from a specifically from the organic search side of things, it’s going to be a a tough hill to climb. So kind of getting back to your question of whether or not maybe you would want to dabble in another area, like, say for example, you are interested in like lawn care or grilling.

[00:22:58] Underwater basket weaving, whatever it is that you’re into those topics don’t have as much competition on Google. And you might find a lot more success and maybe even a lot quicker success in terms of gaining organic traction in that regard. So just going in with a mindset that the space that you move into matters, and it may, if you see blogging as a way to achieve lifestyle freedom, it’s probably worth noting that you could potentially be looking at a much longer road.

[00:23:32] If you move into one of these more authoritative subject areas. Whereas if you start a niche blog on how to take care of your pool during the summer, you could potentially monetize a blog much easier and much quicker going that route.

[00:23:45] Jeff Proctor: Yeah,

[00:23:45] I think also one, one thing that I was just thinking of, that’s kind of changed a lot since when we started is back when we started people weren’t. Th the concept of like a, an influencer on Instagram or, I mean, tick-tock, didn’t even exist yet, but you know, the concept of like influencers, like sharing their personal lives and that sort of thing, like that was kind of just getting started.

[00:24:09] And so a lot of people, a lot of bloggers back then would kind of take that approach with like their content they would have an art, like if you’re writing, I can’t think of an example off the top of my head, but say you’re like writing an article, teaching someone how to do something.

[00:24:25] Like there might be quite a bit of personal narrative within the article, kind of sharing your story behind whatever you’re teaching or whatever it is. And I think nowadays that’s much less common. You know, people are getting that like storytelling type of content just on social media, on inside.

[00:24:44] That’s my dog up there. There’s a lot more of the storytelling happening on social media as opposed to blogs. So I think if you’re starting a blog, now, you almost more look at it. As you are essentially building a, a media company rather than a personal brand.

[00:25:05] Like you can still make a personal brand. That’s like attached to a blog, but it’s, it’s much less common. I think if you go like the personal brand kind of route doing something like YouTube or a podcast, or just sticking to Instagram and social is definitely more common than having a blog.

[00:25:22] That’s more of just your personal brand.

[00:25:25] Ben Huber: So what you’re saying in a way is, is that personal, like storytelling and personal branding has kind of, we don’t see it as frequently in the blog environment so much as we are now kind of seeing it more on the organic social side of things. People are using creativity and social and storytelling to kind of build their audience on the social side.

[00:25:49] And then they’re kind of figuring out how to monetize that audience. Be it through a blog, maybe it’s a paid course, whatever, whatever way influencers are able to get. Off of social platform either, like I said, onto a blog or the way that they anticipate or would like to monetize that audience.

[00:26:08] Is there anything other, I mean, is there anything else that you’ve seen that’s really changed over the years? It could be organic social related. It could be organic search related. It could be blog content itself.

[00:26:19] Jeff Proctor: I would say kind of the, like the focus on, what is the value proposition of a blog? Like what, what value does a blog provide has somewhat shifted from letting letting readers into your life or just whatever creative angle you want to take with your blog.

[00:26:37] And now I think blogs are much more. Widely expected to be focusing on the value of the information that you’re giving. So it’s, it’s more about how thorough are you, how helpful are you to the reader? Like what value are you giving to the readers? And then on top of that, I think another thing that’s really gone up in importance is a lot is like the user experience on your blog or your website.

[00:27:05] So good design really matters now a lot more than it did. You know, people are getting tired of, or readers are getting tired of websites that have a ton of pop-ups and ads and links that don’t work or just clunky mobile experiences. Like the, the bar is set much higher now for user experience and that’s. for for blogs that are, that want to be competitive today you have to nail the user experience and that’s definitely become more of a requirement now than I think it was back when we started and overall, I mean, that’s a good thing that’s what I mean, we’re progressing through time and that’s just how it is.

[00:27:45] I mean,

[00:27:46] you know, people want better stuff and that’s just how it goes. I think another thing that I’ve noticed is with the rise of social media influencers, especially on Instagram like the general public now is much more aware and familiar with what affiliate marketing is and sponsorships and like that sort of thing.

[00:28:07] So I think maybe back when we started it would be pretty easy to throw an affiliate link here or there. And like people might not realize that it’s an advertisement even if. You know, disclose it or whatever, which you’re supposed to you know, your, your average reader back then, wasn’t really familiar with the concept of, oh, Hey, if I click this link like this, website’s going to make money, or that they’re only writing this because our nowadays I think a lot of people will if they look at an Instagram post where an influencers holding up like a protein shake with some brand that is paying them, I think consumers are much more aware now that like, Okay.

[00:28:44] this is a sponsorship, like is this truly what they’re recommending or are they just doing it to get paid?

[00:28:50] And I think that there’s a lot more skepticism among readers and consumers, which I think again is ultimately a good thing. But it, it just sets the bar higher for if you are going to do affiliate marketing you want to do your own research on the product, make sure it’s something that you truly believe in and really feel comfortable recommending to your readers.

[00:29:14] I think that seven years ago, it wasn’t as important as it is now, but I do think it’s a good thing that it’s become more prevalent.

[00:29:23] Ben Huber: It’s one of those things where, like you said, monetization is certainly changed in consumers, are, are shrewd in a sense they they’re not going to be duped forever. And I think that we’ve certainly recognize that even in our own content that sometimes you’ve always heard the phrase, honesty is the best policy, but in a lot of ways, like, I think consumers appreciate transparency and I think it provides like a better user experience as well.

[00:29:48] So when we, we obviously have an F very heavy affiliate marketing focus on our blog content, it’s the way that we monetize our blog for the most part. But we also know that readers don’t appreciate being lied to, or like misled. Finding out that there was an ulterior motive all along and then becoming jaded with, with the fact that the website that they were just on recommended something and they didn’t necessarily disclose it.

[00:30:15] So we have like, obviously tried to adapt with, with that as well. And just being, becoming more, I want to say more forthcoming. We’ve always been forthcoming. We just want readers to know that they can come to us as a trusted source of information. And while we will endorse or protect or even offer like product comparisons, like the, the research that went behind the behind those recommendations was legitimate.

[00:30:42] It was unbiased and it genuinely reflects the user’s best interest. And I think that that’s something that you’ll start to see even on social be it an influencer or whatever the case may be is that influencers are going to start to get called out when they recommend a product that isn’t actually good.

[00:30:58] And. Are going to recognize that, and they’re going to necessarily turn on them, but there’s definitely going to be a portion of the population that sours on that particular influencer. If they find out that they’re just being a shill for a particular company and we, we don’t want that to happen to our blog.

[00:31:14] And so we are taking proactive steps and we try to proactively display if, and when we are recommending a product that we feel like our users would benefit from. All right. So a couple of questions for you here to wrap up. So say getting back to that, I liked that point that you brought up earlier about what would you do if you were a new blogger or someone that maybe is been blogging for a little while, but it’s looking to gain traction.

[00:31:39] The first question for you is other than organic search and organic social, the two free platforms that are not constrained by budget Other ways that you feel like new bloggers can gain traction or do you feel like those two areas are the best two ways for, for bloggers to gain traction? And they just need to spend time thinking either thinking outside of the box or really they don’t need to invent anything new at all.

[00:32:10] And they just need to learn how to execute in terms of audience building, getting that initial traffic. Do you think that people should be going to like the old state mainstays of organic search and organic social? Do you think they should be looking outside the box? Give me thoughts on that.

[00:32:26] Jeff Proctor: That’s a tough question. And I think it, a lot of it it’s like what comes first? The chicken or the egg. It’s like you, I still think that what’s most important for a new blogger isn’t finding your first a hundred readers or something. I think it’s becoming a master at creating high quality content, because that is going to be if you have like say you go viral on Twitter or whatever, to like one of your blog posts, but then like your blog posts, like kinda like your email signup link doesn’t work or you’re like, you don’t even have ads set up yet.

[00:33:00] Or the grammars choppy, you’ve got typos. Like if you, if you don’t have a well polished product, then it doesn’t matter. How much traffic you get, because it’s not going to last. So I think like right now, and this is something that has not changed since when we first started was content quality is like still the most important part, I think.

[00:33:22] And I think that should be like every new bloggers, like first priority is like, learn how to make a, it doesn’t have to be a fancy website, but it has to be a a polished website that is like clean and easy to use and make sure your writing is good. You know, have other people read your content, like actually give you feedback on like, Hey, I got bored during this paragraph.

[00:33:46] Or like the sentence doesn’t make sense or, or whatever. Cause no matter how many times you read your own stuff, there’s, there’s going to be stuff that.

[00:33:52] you don’t catch. So I think like building that skill is the most important thing. And then ’cause that that’s the skill that, that doesn’t go away is like the importance of that.

[00:34:02] All these other platforms and algorithms, they change over time. But like the skill of like making good content is,

[00:34:10] is still the most important

[00:34:12] Ben Huber: Yeah, I would, I would agree. I think that. If you hope to succeed in the long-term, it’s one of those things we’re creating, , don’t say the word epic, but creating like solid content is, is kind of like the foundational brick to your blog. I think that organic from an organic search perspective you can optimize that content for search engines and for readers so that you can make the most of, of that avenue of audience building in the future.

[00:34:43] And then furthermore, like you said, it’s all well and dandy to pur to maybe have a single blog post that does well on Twitter or on Pinterest or on Facebook or on tick-tock. But if there’s no stickiness to it, if there’s no way for consumers to come back to your site over and over then that traction that you’ve got on that social platform is likely gonna eventually end.

[00:35:07] And you don’t have anything to show for it. Creating high quality content that a user can appreciate interact with, engage with, and then creating some stickiness to it, be it some sort of lead generation. If you, when you eventually get into email marketing and that kind of thing, finding a way for, to bring your readers back to you and your value proposition is exactly that.

[00:35:29] What do you, what do you offer to the, to the reader? That’ll keep them coming back for more, but yeah, like you said, I think it’s not necessarily focusing on, on Facebook or focusing on our search. It’s let’s, let’s build the pillar stones of our S our site first, and that will hopefully be enough not, hopefully be enough.

[00:35:47] That’s like the foundation of getting everything started.

[00:35:49] Jeff Proctor: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:35:50] I think it’s like tempering those expectations of a blog is not something that is a blog as a whole is not something that really can go viral nowadays. It’s not like you have some influencers will just pop up out of nowhere and become huge on social media, like on Instagram or something like that, that happens. Sure.

[00:36:12] But with blogging, it really doesn’t happen. So it’s almost like when you go into it back when we started I think a reasonable to expect expectation was six to 12 months before seeing results. And are part of that six to 12 months a lot of it is learning the skill of creating content, but then also getting traction on social media or getting traction on Google.

[00:36:35] So I think now, like maybe the, the time expectations might be a little bit higher, I would say give yourself. One to two years. And that’s definitely daunting, I think when you first hear it, but I think that it’s, that there’s still such an asymmetric, potential reward for your time it’s you can still go.

[00:36:59] Even if you start today you could go two years from now, you could be making $20,000 a month from your blog. But you know, two years down the road is a long time. But I mean, that’s not that long in the grand scheme of things, especially if you start making 20 grand a month from your website.

[00:37:17] So I think, and this is something I was explaining to my wife page the other day is when you decide to become an entrepreneur and especially one. Has their business online. It’s like, you’re never really fairly paid for your time. You’re either going to be vastly underpaid or like vastly overpaid.

[00:37:39] So the first one to two years will be vastly underpaid because you know, you might not make any money and you’re putting in hundreds, if not thousands of hours into this business, but then you fast forward to two years later and you know, you’re spending five to 10 hours a week on your site, and it’s now making 20 grand a month or whatever it is because of that work that you put in before.

[00:38:03] So now you make five, you work five to 10 hours a week and you make 20 grand a month. That’s like unreal. Like, like no one really should be never getting paid that much, but that’s kind of like the nature of these online businesses. So it’s almost like you have to like disconnect your time from the money in a way, because it’s never going to be like something that makes sense.

[00:38:26] You’re, they’re going to get paid nothing for your time or like way too much

[00:38:30] So.

[00:38:31] Ben Huber: you’re dead on in the sense that I think that’s one of the, maybe perhaps more discernible differences between. A lifestyle business and like a scalable lifestyle business. And by that, I mean say for example, you are a editor for a print magazine or something like that.

[00:38:49] You know, you, your, the time that you put in directly correlates to your hourly pay in a way, and then you could have, you could be an editor for an online magazine and have that same correlation and have some element of lifestyle freedom in the sense that you get to work from home, you get to enjoy being, spending time with your family.

[00:39:10] You’re still getting paid on like an hourly basis, but you have already achieved some level of lifestyle freedom in the sense that you’re not committed to getting up every day and going to work. I think that something that a lot of people really desire is to that element of scalability where they, they can create a business or, or a lifestyle.

[00:39:30] Income isn’t directly correlated to the time that they put in. And with blogging specifically, you’re going to put in a lot of time early on that has no correlatable income. You’re going to, like Jeff was saying four to six to even 12 months of hundreds of hours worth of work that lays the foundation for success down the road.

[00:39:51] And then you might get an inordinate return on your time or your time on an investment down the road. But that’s, that’s something that, that discipline in that patients can be wildly frustrating. And so this kind of leads into my very last question for you. And that is for someone who does struggle with that ability to commit a lot of time and effort without seeing any return is there, let’s say you’re a new blogger.

[00:40:17] You would desperately could use some income. Is there a particular monetization stream that might be a little bit easier for a newer blogger to dabble in? So like, we’ve

[00:40:29] talked about affiliate marketing, we’ve talked about courses, that kind of stuff. If you are dependent on it, where would you say start?

[00:40:37] Okay.

[00:40:38] Jeff Proctor: I think, I mean, the first thing that comes to mind for me that I’ve seen work for a lot of bloggers that are just getting started is do freelance work on the side for, for other sites. So like, let’s say you. You’re working on starting like your food blog, but then let’s say you have a you, you can go on sites like Upwork or Fiverr, or even go in like Facebook groups and find other bloggers that are willing to pay content writers for content.

[00:41:08] So if you know, you’re working on your own food blog, but then let’s say you write three articles a month for another food blog for $300 or something like that. You know, that’s a way to th you’re really doing a lot there. I mean, you’re, you’re making money, which is great, cause you’re not going to make money for a while if you’re just only doing your own thing, but you’re also learning a lot about like, you’re becoming a better writer in the process just from more repetition and you’re learning kind of more depending on like who you work with, like how other sites, like editorial process works what their process is for coming up with content.

[00:41:45] So, and that is. Extremely valuable. Like when you go back to your own

[00:41:51] blog

[00:41:51] to

[00:41:52] Ben Huber: like ethical, cheating in a way, in the sense that you, you get to see how another site in your niche is operating, depending on how much they share with you about their content creation process. And then you can apply not necessarily copy, but apply many of those same systems and principles into creating your own content.

[00:42:08] So it’s like an inside view and to what other people in your niche are doing. And plus you’re getting paid to create content for them. So beyond, other than freelancing on the side, is there any other sort of income stream that you feel might help kind of bridge that gap down the road?

[00:42:26] Jeff Proctor: I mean, I know that people making online courses and whatnot are, are very popular nowadays. I mean, that’s still for, in order for that to be successful you have to still have an audience and to have an audience. You’re not just going to have an audience. If all you have is a paid course, so you still need free, free content out there.

[00:42:43] I, I really think that, that the freelancing is the best route to go. If you want to start pulling in money. Now I do think there’s nothing wrong with getting in the habit of like, or working on getting affiliate offers, in your content, even if you don’t have a big audience you know, signing up for any of these affiliate networks out there, like CJ or impact, or there’s, there’s dozens of them that you sign up on these sites and then you can get set up with different affiliate offers with brands in your space.

[00:43:13] So, you know yeah. So if you start recommending products. in your content and just kind of getting used to setting it up to where it. Is authentic and it looks good. And it’s not just like you’re randomly blurting out products in the middle of your blog posts. I, it’s definitely a kind of a fine

[00:43:29] line.

[00:43:30] Ben Huber: product still ultimately has to help the user solve a

[00:43:33] Jeff Proctor: yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. So, I mean, I think it, there’s nothing wrong with getting started with that. Like from the get-go it’s just you’re not gonna see a ton of results right away, just because the traffic is going to be low. But you know, once you start getting that traction, then you know, you’ve already got that foundation in place.

[00:43:52] Ben Huber: Yeah. I think like you said, I think the barrier to entry for affiliate marketing, it might be a little bit lower than that, of creating a course right off the get-go just because not only does it require an audience to sell a course, but you also have to learn how to market your course. And there’s a host of other things that go into it and that’s not necessarily.

[00:44:12] It can be a very lucrative, like I information courses can be very lucrative for the course seller down the road, but there’s just, it seems like there’s a larger barrier to entry than just creating good content. And if that content happens to solve a problem with a product for a reader that that can be like this mutually beneficial relationship between your, your readers, where you’ve solved one of their problems you’ve recommended a product that might help them do that.

[00:44:37] And then you may receive a commission and income that way. So like you said, I think I like, I like the tiered approach of let’s let’s freelance. Let’s create some digital income in that regard. Let’s learn more about the processes that go into blogging, especially if there’s like the benefit that it may help me on my own site.

[00:44:56] You you’re all the while you’re learning how to. Very good content that you may be able to incorporate some affiliate marketing, and then you kind of branch out from there. As you begin to learn and master more skills. But anyways, so just tying this all up Jeff what, what’s your verdict?

[00:45:10] Do you feel like that it is still worth it , in terms of like side hustles, how do you see blogging fit in to a side, like a lay users or lay readers, side housing, side hustle, repertoire, as opposed to something else that they might be able to make income more quickly, who is blogging for?

[00:45:32] Jeff Proctor: I think blogging is for someone who is looking for an alternative career, that they can start building. Now that there’s a potential for them to go into that career or that that business full-time in one to two years. I don’t think that blogging as a side hustle is I think there’s nothing wrong with working on it as a side hustle.

[00:45:57] Like as you’re starting out. But I think even the term side hustle, it kind of comes with the expectation that you’re going to be pulling in some kind of money. So if you’re, if you’re signed up to drive with Uber that’s a side hustle and you’re making money like today, that’s not the case with blogging, but I think that you can start a blog today, like on the side of your nine to five job.

[00:46:18] And as long as your expectations are that, Hey, this is not a side hustle in the sense that like I’m gonna be making money right away. But this is a, a hustle on the side that could lead to something life-changing. And in that sense, I think it’s definitely blogging is not dead. You know, that is still a very viable career slash business option for somebody.

[00:46:44] And I think knowing what I know today, I think if I were to let’s say we never started dollars sprout, we had never blogged before I would still start with. Today and I still think that it’s worth it. It’s harder. It’s more competitive, all that stuff, but you know, it’s definitely, it can still very much be worth it.

[00:47:07] And then also by doing, by starting a blog, even if it never really amounts to anything down the road, let’s say two years later you start really getting traction and you kind of just want to throw in the towel. You’re still learning so many core business fundamentals just by doing this.

[00:47:24] You’re learning how to write which 99% of people are not good at your learning how to like market your content. You’re learning about why people buy the things that they buy, why they don’t buy, why they trust certain sites over others. You know, you’re learning all this stuff that will translate into.

[00:47:43] So many other careers, like, let’s say in two years, your blog isn’t working, but you decide, okay.

[00:47:49] I’m actually going to be a YouTuber. Like I’m way more comfortable on camera. I’m not as good at writing, whatever. You’ve still have. So many of those skills that you’ve learned from blogging that can then translate to YouTube, or let’s say you want to start your own lawn care company, like in your town or something.

[00:48:06] I just say lawn care. Cause I’m looking at my yard out the window. I’m like, if you want to start like a landscaping business you now because of blogging, like you know how to build a website you know how to at least some basic level, get the word out about your content about all of that.

[00:48:24] So like you’re, you’re way better positioned for success, even if you end up doing something outside of blogging. So that, that’s kind of how I look at it is it’s. It can lead to something huge. If your blog becomes successful and if it doesn’t become successful, it’s still worth it because of what you’d get out of it.

[00:48:45] That can be applied later on.

[00:48:46] Ben Huber: Yeah, I think, I think that’s a really good point that a lot of people don’t necessarily think about. And it’s something actually that we’ve probably even talked about in the past. It’s like if dollar sprout failed today what would you do? In terms of. You know, would you go seek a job out?

[00:48:59] Would you try to start your own lifestyle, business, whatever the case may be. And it’s, it’s neat in so many ways because we have be it self-taught or through courses, we’ve learned so many skills over the years that I feel like either one of us would be a capable entry-level SEO. So like a search engine optimization specialist for like maybe a corporate company.

[00:49:17] I feel like we could quickly demonstrate proficiency and a lot of basic marketing skills and work on a marketing team if need be. So it’s like, this has truly been like a life-changing experience beyond just the financial component of it. It’s I’ve learned so many skills that can help run an online business that I never need are I likely, never need to join the in-person workforce ever again.

[00:49:44] If I didn’t want to I feel like I could approach a team and say, I want to work remotely, especially given today’s job environment. And these are my skills. Here’s my demonstrated proficiency at running this website. Here’s like our concrete, tangible numbers that we performed with. And that’s like, that is like such a reassuring.

[00:50:02] Yeah. It’s such a reassuring thing in a way, because being able to show people that you’ve done this is, and you’ve learned it is it’s a really cool feeling. And not just for us, I know that one of the. Pieces of content that we were at recently was we wanted to go out and find bloggers that had started within the last one year and see where they were at in their income journey.

[00:50:24] And these are we’ve had like a coffee niche site. We had like a sewing site. We had a recipe site. We had about half a dozen bloggers. I’ll even see if I can include the post in the show notes of people that started within the last one year. And we’re already consistently making four figures of income within the first 12 months.

[00:50:40] Now four figures of income is a lot of income. Some of these people were making five figures of income in their first year. Now that’s, they’re probably in the top 1%, not every blogger that starts will do that and perform that well. But there is one, I guess the best takeaway here is that all of them started with a very.

[00:51:00] Deliberate and concrete plan for how they wanted to accomplish their income goals. And then to achieve that they executed on these plans. I said, I highly recommend the post I’ll I’ll I’ll link to it here in the show notes. They all had a strategy. They all executed very well on that strategy and they, and they were already making four figures of income in the first 12 months, which I thought was really cool because it speaks to the fact that blogging as a concept is clearly not dead.

[00:51:27] It’s things have changed. How do we execute differently now in light of those changes? Are we going to sit here and try strategies that people have been trying for five years? Are we going to try to. Maybe niche down and focus on a various particular topic area and find success within that area.

[00:51:46] And I think that is also a commonality to that. You know, a lot of times niche blogs are maybe over-performing in comparison to, to non niche blogs, but again, a topic for another day. I appreciate you joining me, Jeff. And like I said,

[00:51:59] if if you guys have any questions, feel free to drop drop them in the dollars by blogging group.

[00:52:04] We, Jeff and I are in there all the time. We’re happy to answer them. If you have a topic that you’d like us to discuss, be it a blogging topic in particular, it could be courses, it could be search engine optimization. It could be creating the epic content that we kind of discussed in this show, whatever it may be, feel free to drop that in the, in the, in the blogging group.

[00:52:24] We are, we’re here for you guys and we just wanna help out,

[00:52:28] Jeff Proctor: Yeah.

[00:52:28] Ben Huber: but awesome animals. Good talking to you. And I will see you later. Appreciate it.

[00:52:32] Jeff Proctor: See ya.

[00:52:33] Ben Huber: See

[00:52:33] Jeff Proctor: Bye.