This report is the most extensive research study into blogging income that has ever been completed. My research focused entirely on bloggers and their income and looked into what was happening in each income bracket and niche. That’s where the magic happened: I learned what turned a bunch of numbers and graphs into a proven road map for taking a blog’s monthly income from zero to six figures.
This report answers the four biggest questions out there about how to make money blogging.
How do the wealthiest bloggers in the world make their money?
Which blogging niches are the most lucrative?
Which ad networks generate the most income per page view for bloggers?
Which affiliate programs make the most money for bloggers?
Before I answer each of these questions, let me give you a quick summary of this study. I identified four distinct blogging income brackets in my research and defined them as hobby, lower, middle, and upper income brackets.
The focus of my statistical analysis lies primarily on the lower, middle, and upper income levels. While I reviewed hundreds of blog income reports at the hobby income level ($0 to $2K/mo.), I left them out of this report because the large majority of these bloggers had less than $200 in monthly income. This left me with very few statistics from which to draw number-backed conclusions.
As for the earnings, there were five revenue categories making up over 85% of total income within all three blogger income brackets. These were ads, affiliates, sponsored posts, consulting and services, and courses.
Allow me to make one more note before moving into Part One of the study. Many of the statistics herein are summarized in visually pleasing charts and graphs. If you want to write your own blog post and include some of my findings, feel free to use any of the charts and graphs from this post. All I ask is that you link back to my study somewhere in your post.
Let’s take a look at the percentage makeup of the five major revenue categories for each of the three blogger income brackets. After I reveal the numbers, I will explain the four big findings from this part of my research.
Lower Income Bracket
Average Monthly Earnings Per Blogger = $4236
$2,000 is the first tipping point that points toward blogging success. When bloggers are making just hundreds of dollars per month, their blogs are treated as hobbies. Once it gets to $2K per month, the mindset of the blogger completely changes; their blog is now seen as a legitimate business and can be treated like one. This leads to the blogger dedicating more time and resources to it, which in turn pushes the monthly income up even further.
When I looked through the hundreds of income reports of bloggers that were making less than $2K per month, there was a clear trend: a lack of hustle and a naïve hope that their ads and affiliate links would eventually make them money.
You have to do whatever it takes to get your total blogging income above $2K/month. My research revealed that the majority of bloggers that make over $2K in monthly income are seeing money from more than just ads and affiliate links. They hustle to get sponsors for their posts and they get on the phone to sell people on paying them for monthly client services.
Middle Income Bracket
Average Monthly Earnings Per Blogger = $10986
With the average yearly income in this bracket being beyond six figures, getting to this level is a lifestyle changer. Bloggers that break into the middle income level start to look hard for ways to scale their income.
At this point, most of them have accumulated a nice email list of somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 subscribers. Their email list puts them in a position where they’re able to sell their own products without having to pay for advertising.
Most of these bloggers are taking their education seriously. They are consistently listening to podcasts and are occasionally purchasing an online course to further their marketing know-how.
Upper Income Bracket
Average Monthly Earnings Per Blogger = $99534
With the average monthly income right at $100,000, these elite bloggers are pulling in over $1,000,000 per year. Interestingly, the middle income and upper income bloggers are getting pretty much the same number of monthly visitors to their blogs. The big difference is that the upper income bloggers have become experts at two major areas.
The first is in converting their traffic into email subscribers. They recognize their blog’s traffic has reached a plateau but their email list continues to grow. How? These bloggers are masters at optimizing email subscriber conversions across every single blog post.
The second area they have become an expert in is product creation. Most upper income bloggers offer several course-related products. They understand that their subscribers will buy virtually every course they make. In contrast, the middle income bloggers tend to offer only one course.
The Four Big Findings From The Distribution of Income
When I finished analyzing this part of the research from every possible angle, there were four statistical trends that clearly stood out.
#1 The percentage of total blogger income coming from ad revenue drops with each successive income level.
This finding conveys that almost all bloggers are going to throw a quick piece of code onto their sites to start making money from ads. Most ad revenue is going to have a direct correlation to the number of page views. In the first 12 months of a blog, you might see 100% month-to-month growth in page views. As time goes by, even the best blogs will experience only 10% month-to-month growth.
My research revealed that the ad revenue for middle and upper income bloggers is relatively the same. That is, the blogger making $15K per month and the blogger making $100K per month are bringing in the same amount of money from ads. This is why you see the huge drop-off in percentage—from 30% in the middle income level to 3% in the upper level income. At some point, the ad revenue will just top off.
#2 The percentage of total blogger income coming from sponsored post revenue drops with each successive income level.
While the drop-off was not as significant as with ad revenue, the profitability of sponsored posts also saw a sharp decline between the middle and upper income level. Sponsored ads are a great way to diversify revenue and can easily add $2K to your monthly income, but they are hard to scale. You have to find the sponsors and write the posts. Many of the upper level income bloggers likely end up dropping sponsored ads altogether, because of the time they require and their lack of scale.
#3 The percentage of total blogger income coming from consulting and services revenue drops with each successive income level.
There was a large drop-off between the lower income level and the middle income level for revenue earned from consulting and services. When you are just starting out, it is a good idea to build some residual revenue from client services. A few clients can add several thousand dollars to your bottom line. However, most bloggers have the long-term goal of passive income. Having 5 clients is like having 5 jobs with 5 bosses. Once bloggers build their passive income beyond $7.5K per month, they say goodbye to their clients forever.
#4 The percentage of total blogger income coming from course revenue increases with each successive income level.
The course is the clear difference maker that separates the blogging lower class from the blogging upper class. If you want to be part of the blogging elite, then you need to have a signature course. The upper income bloggers make 80% of their income from their own courses.
If we look into the course revenue stats a little deeper, we discover a compelling revelation: every single blogger that makes over $25K in monthly income has a signature course which brings in at least $15K per month. Let’s think about this for a second. We are not talking about the law of averages. In the whole scope of my findings there was not one blogger in the upper income level that was not making a significant amount of money from a course.
In the middle income level ($7.5K-$25K), 45% of bloggers have a signature course which makes between $600 and $6K per month. And in the lower income tier ($2-$7.5K), only 12% of bloggers even have a course.
From all the data and key findings in this part of the research, there is one conclusion that is crystal clear. As we progress upward through the three blogging income levels, the focus shifts to scale-able revenue. This eventually leads to an avalanche of earnings from online courses.
Before you start reading section two, please take a quick second to subscribe to my podcast, The Blog Millionaire. It’s the top blogging podcast on iTunes, and it has a perfect five star rating.
When I classified the blogs in my research study, they all fell into six niches. These niches were food, personal finance, mommy, travel, marketing, and lifestyle.
The bloggers included in the lifestyle niche wrote about a variety of interests that made up their everyday lives. This included some blogs that had a secondary emphasis on fitness, fashion, journaling, and sewing.
The mommy blogs could theoretically fall into a subcategory of the lifestyle niche. However, I gave them their own category because they had a clear focus on motherhood. To qualify as a mommy blog, the blog had to have the word “mom” within its title and have a collective theme of mom-related topics.
The marketing niche included any blog with a focus on marketing and business topics. This included SEO, blogging, social media marketing, and small business.
There were no gray areas in defining the blogs that fell into the niches of personal finance, food, and travel.
Which Niche had the Most Bloggers Making $2000+ Per Month?
One of the questions I get asked a lot by new bloggers and those about to launch their second blog is…
Which blogging niche is the most lucrative?
Here is the percentage breakdown of bloggers, by niche, that my research found were making above $2K per month.
The statistics in this graph show us the easiest path to the $2K per month tipping point. The top three—personal finance, marketing, and food blogs—made up 62% of the bloggers in this study who were making $2K+ monthly.
This is the first component of a two-component Venn diagram-like equation. The second component of this equation is the median income of each blogging niche.
Which Niche had the Highest Median Monthly Income?
Here is the median monthly income of the six blogging niches.
For the median income, food and personal finance bloggers lapped the rest of the field. The food bloggers had a median monthly income of $9,169, and the personal finance bloggers came in just a hair below at $9,100. The remaining four niches were all between $4,200 and $5,200 in median monthly income.
The Three Findings From Researching Blogging Income by Niche
There were three statistical trends that stood out when I had finished combing through all the income statistics of each blogging niche.
#1 Personal finance is the best blogging niche in terms of making money, and the food blogging niche is not far behind.
While the personal finance and food niches were neck and neck in median monthly income, the personal finance niche had 30% more bloggers that had broken $2K in monthly income. This was found in the first group of statistics, where I looked at the percentage breakdown by niche of bloggers that were making above $2K per month.
I created an equation to take into account the median blogging income and the percentage of blogs making at least $2K per month. This weighted equation would yield the answer to one of the most-asked questions by bloggers.
Which niche is the easiest one to make money in?
The equation gave each niche a score between 0 and 100. The closest score to 100 would signify the easiest path to making the most money.
And here are the final results.
Personal finance was at the top of the mountain, as I expected. The real surprise was that the marketing niche ended up being number three on this list, in spite of the fact that it came in dead last in median income.
This is why you have to look at all sides of the research before jumping to a quick conclusion.
#2 The marketing niche has an easy path to the $2K/month tipping point, but it’s tough sailing after that.
The marketing niche ranked number two in overall percentage makeup of bloggers making at least $2K per month. But in the median income, it ranked last. This is due to two facts about the marketing niche.
The first is that most people are willing to pay a premium for a marketing course or product. A marketing blog only needs to make a couple of sales each month to breach $2,000. Most marketing-related courses start at $797 and go all the way up to $3,000. In comparison, it is pretty hard for a food blogger to sell a $3,000 course to their audience.
The second fact is that the marketing niche is very saturated because of the intense amount of competition. If you do a closed-quotes Google search for “marketing blog” versus “personal finance blog,” you will see there are over 500% more results returned for the “marketing blog” search. This heavy level of competition makes it hard to increase your traffic and build your email list—thereby hindering a lot of marketing bloggers from breaking out into the next income level. This is why their median income was the lowest out of the group.
#3 The food blogging niche has a unique income distribution footprint.
Here is the income distribution of food bloggers.
The comparison between ad revenue and affiliate revenue stood out the most. Food bloggers were making 42% of their income from ads and only 10% of it from affiliates. After going a few layers deeper, I was able to find some statistical correlation for why this was occurring.
The majority of food bloggers making over $2K per month were using AdThrive as their exclusive ad partner. The ad RPMs (revenue per 1,000 page views) that food bloggers were experiencing were much higher than the other five blogging niches.
This is most likely due to the fact that AdThrive has a primary focus on food bloggers. AdThrive serves their ads to 96 million unique visitors a month. 49 million of those come from food blogs. Because of this, they have a high volume of quality food-related companies competing to place ads on food blogs. This leads to more competition for ad placement, which in turn increases the average RPM. In addition, the ads are highly relevant. This creates greater engagement and pushes the RPM even higher.
If a blogger’s ads are making super high RPMs and serving very relevant content to their audience, then there is no reason to mess with placing affiliate links.
One Final Note on Blogging Niches
While personal finance and food blogs are the most lucrative of the blogging niches, it does not necessarily mean you should choose between these two for your next blog. You should blog about what you are passionate about or have a specific expertise in. If it turns out you are passionate about both personal finance and travel, then you should gravitate towards the niche that makes more money. In this case, personal finance would beat out travel.
Passion is the ultimate multiplier in business and in life. If you’re blogging about your passion, it will show in every blog post you write, and your blog will never feel like work. This will allow you to reach higher levels of income than you ever would if you were to choose to blog about a topic based solely upon income potential.
In Part One of this blog income report study, I mentioned that ad revenue essentially begins to peak out as bloggers begin to make beyond $7,500 per month.
The bloggers in the lower income bracket averaged $2,070 per month in ad revenue. The ad revenue doubled in the middle income bracket by moving up to $3,922 per month. When we look at bloggers in the upper income bracket, the ad revenue only went up by another $700.
As I mentioned earlier in the study, this is because there is a direct correlation between a blog’s traffic and its ad revenue. A blog can easily jump from 10,000 to 100,000 monthly visitors in a year’s time, but once it reaches 500,000 monthly visitors, the traffic usually only increases by 10% to 20% from year to year.
For all bloggers making at least $2K per month, the median number of monthly visitors to their blogs was 135,000. When I looked at the traffic numbers a little closer, there was a clear top tier. Over 29% of bloggers in the top tier saw between 317,000 and 496,000 monthly visitors. There was only one blog that had over 500,000 monthly visitors. That blog had 715,000 monthly visitors.
I want to make one quick note here. My own blog receives over 1.5 million monthly visitors, but I did not include it in the blog income research study. I left it out because I did not want to have any researcher bias.
The bottom line is that the wealthiest blogs in the world have a well-defined traffic ceiling of 500,000 monthly visitors. The bloggers making $25K+ per month are able to recognize this ceiling and face the fact that their ad revenue has peaked. These elite bloggers shift their focus to building their email list and creating multiple online courses to sell to their list.
Usage Rate vs Percentage of Ad Income
With that being said, the majority of bloggers are trying to break into the $2K per month bracket or, if they’re already there, move on up to the $7.5K per month bracket. All of these bloggers need to know which ad networks can make the most money for their income bracket.
We will start by looking at the ad network usage rate of bloggers making at least $2K per month.
72% of all bloggers making at least $2K per month were using AdThrive or MediaVine. These two ad networks undeniably stand out above the rest. MediaVine edges AdThrive in usage rate because AdThrive’s minimum requirements are much higher. I will go into those requirements in greater detail later on.
Now let’s take a look at the overall ad network income generated by bloggers making at least $2K total per month.
There are two stats that stick out when you look at a side-by-side comparison of usage rate and overall ad network income of bloggers in the study.
#1 AdThrive stands above MediaVine.
MediaVine was used by 40% of bloggers and produced 35% of overall ad income. AdThrive had a usage rate of 32% and made up 57% of overall ad income. This means that AdThrive had fewer blogs using it while at the same time composing a substantially bigger chunk of the overall income.
#2 Adsense performs very poorly when compared against other ad networks.
Even though 21% of bloggers making $2K+ per month used AdSense, the AdSense network only accounted for 2% of overall ad network income.
At this point, you can see that AdThrive and MediaVine are in a class above all other ad networks in terms of blogger earnings. So, let’s look a little deeper into what my research revealed about both of these exceptional ad networks.
AdThrive vs MediaVine
We will start by looking at the total ad income generated between the lower and middle income blogger levels. Since we already identified that ad income was nearly identical in the middle and upper income levels, we will omit the upper income level from this comparison.
MediaVine was responsible for more income for bloggers making $2K to $7.5K per month than for those making between $7.5K and $25K per month. This goes back to the point I made about MediaVine’s minimum requirements being lower than AdThrive’s. The traffic requirement for MediaVine is 25,000 monthly sessions. AdThrive requires 100,000 monthly page views, which is the equivalent to about 50,000 monthly sessions for most bloggers.
These statistics tell us that the low income bloggers are using MediaVine as soon as they reach 25,000 monthly sessions. As they move into the middle income bracket and traffic breaches 100,000 monthly page views, many of these bloggers switch from MediaVine to AdThrive.
When you look at the average income and RPMs of both of these ad networks you can see why most bloggers will make the switch, if and when they qualify.
The average income of a blogger using AdThrive is almost twice as much as the blogger using MediaVine.
Now let’s look at RPM.
RPM is an acronym for “revenue per thousand impressions.” It is calculated by taking your ad revenue, dividing it by number of page views, and multiplying it by 1,000.
Page RPM = (Estimated earnings / Number of page views) * 1000
This is the key ad metric that bloggers look at when evaluating ad networks.
Here are the RPMs for AdThrive and MediaVine.
If you just look at average income by ad network, you’re not seeing the real story. AdThrive bloggers might make more money because they have more traffic. The RPM takes into account the number of pages views of each blogger.
Even though the AdThrive bloggers had more traffic, their RPM was still significantly higher than MediaVine bloggers’ RPM. AdThrive had an average RPM of $12.43, and their RPM range was from a low of $8.77 to a high of $19.89. MediaVine had an average RPM of $8.77, and their RPM range was from $6.67 to $13.58.
While AdThrive outperforms MediaVine on virtually every metric, let’s get some perspective here. There are very few examples of any other ad networks achieving RPMs beyond $2.50. If you switch to MediaVine from any other ad network besides AdThrive, then you are going to easily double or triple your monthly ad income.
Finally, AdThrive has a focus on food and mommy blogs. They tend to turn down the majority of blogs that fall into other niches. This is a big part of the reason why their RPMs are so much higher. With that being said, all food and mommy bloggers should have a long-term plan of reaching 100,000 monthly page views and applying to AdThrive.
The Final Ranking of the Major Ad Networks
When I weighed all the different metrics, I was able to score the ad networks on their ability to earn bloggers money. I narrowed it down to 5 ad networks, in the following order, using a scoring system from 1 to 100 (100 being the highest overall revenue return for ads placed on blogs).
#1 AdThrive (Score 94)
100,000 monthly page views
Must have U.S.-based majority
It is well documented that AdThrive is very picky about the bloggers they approve. Many estimates show that 75% of blogger applications are rejected by AdThrive. They prefer established bloggers that are in three specific niches: food, parenting, and home-related blogs.
Because they only approve the best sites in specific niches, they end up delivering amazing RPMs. When you think about this from an advertiser’s point of view, it makes sense why they are willing to pay a premium to have their ads show up on only high-quality, niche-specific blogs.
#2 MediaVine (Score 67)
25,000 monthly sessions
MediaVine has carved out their own niche in the ad network market by focusing in on the bloggers that are somewhere in between AdSense and AdThrive. They accept bloggers across all the major blogging niches.
One reason why they have significantly higher RPMs than AdSense is because they run adhesion units on desktop, tablet, and mobile. On desktop, the adhesion unit is in the form of a sticky sidebar ad. In tablet and mobile, it is a sticky footer ad. As visitors scroll down, these ads stick to the sidebar or the footer.
Although AdThrive has a higher score than MediaVine, the reality for the vast majority of qualifying bloggers is that they will never get approved by AdThrive. For this reason, you should think of AdThrive as 1a and MediaVine as 1b in the rankings.
#3 Monumetric (Score 16)
10,000 monthly page views
WordPress or Blogger CMS
Monumetric is attempting to take a play out of MediaVine’s playbook by focusing on a lower traffic requirement. One note about Monumetric is that they require you to have a minimum of 6 ad slots on desktop and mobile. That can be a whole bunch of ads if your posts are not consistently beyond 2,000 words.
#4 Adsense (Score 2)
Site must have been active for at least six months
Content must comply with Adsense policies
Most bloggers will be able to get approved by AdSense. A few key points are that they do not allow ads to be on sticky sidebars, and you cannot place ads before your content on mobile. AdSense is the best option for bloggers getting less than 10,000 monthly page views.
#5 Media.net (Score 2)
No offensive or negative content
Media.net is on the same level as AdSense, but there are two differences between the two. The first is that Media.net requires two clicks for a blogger to get paid, and the second is that they allow use of their ads in a sticky sidebar. If you are having trouble getting approved by AdSense, then Media.net is a good second option.
Here is a quick summary of the top 5 performing ad networks for bloggers.
Whether you are just starting out or have gradually built your traffic to 10,000 visitors a month, these research results give you a clear road map for monetizing your blog with ad networks. The majority of bloggers are simply not aware of any other networks beyond AdSense. If you fall into this group and are getting more than 25,000 sessions per month, then you might be just an approval away from instantly doubling or tripling your ad income.
Out of the major monetization channels, affiliate marketing is the most poorly executed of them all. Newbie bloggers have a history of cementing themselves at the hobby level by plastering their blogs with affiliate banners. Even if someone actually clicks on a banner, the chances of them converting and producing commission are next to none.
After I go over the affiliate findings from the study, I will share some of the affiliate marketing tactics that have consistently produced big commissions for the wealthiest bloggers in the world.
Average Affiliate Earnings by Income Bracket
Let’s start by looking at the affiliate marketing income percentage of overall blogger earnings by income bracket.
As I have mentioned before, you want to look at the numbers from both sides in order to see what is really going on. With that being said, we will now look at the average affiliate earnings by blogger income bracket.
Here are a few takeaways from my research into these numbers…
#1 Bloggers that reach the middle income bracket have mastered affiliate marketing.
There is a substantial jump in affiliate income from the low income bracket ($2K-$7.5K/month) to the middle income bracket ($7.5K-$25K per month). The percentage of income from affiliate marketing accounted for 27% of the low income bracket bloggers’ total take. This increases to 38% for the middle income bloggers. As for the average affiliate income, there is almost a 300% jump from the low income bracket to the middle income bracket: from $2,069 per month to $6,041 per month.
Part of this increase in affiliate earnings is due to getting more traffic. However, when we go back and look at average ad income by blogger income bracket, we see that traffic accounted for only half of the growth.
Ad income and affiliate income were virtually identical in the lower income bracket. The low income bloggers made $2,070 from ads and $2,069 from affiliates. In the middle income bracket, the average income from ads was $3,922 and the average income from affiliates was $6,041.
This conclusively shows that the middle income bracket bloggers have clearly figured out how to monetize their blog with affiliates better than the low income bracket bloggers have.
#2 Average affiliate income peaks at around $6,000 per month.
The high income bloggers made an average of $6,598 per month from affiliate marketing, and the middle income bloggers made $6,041 per month. When you account for the difference in traffic, the average affiliate monthly income is almost identical between these two income brackets. Just like with ad income, there is a clear point where affiliate income will have no more room for growth. As I mentioned in Part One of the study, the high income bloggers realize these limits and move on to creating multiple online courses to sell to their audience.
#3 The middle income and high income bloggers rely less on Amazon for affiliate revenue.
Shortly, I will be breaking down the specific affiliate programs that make the most money for bloggers. One of my findings was that Amazon had the highest usage rate of all the affiliate programs by bloggers. This made Amazon the top money maker among all affiliates.
Amazon is the easiest of all affiliate programs to implement into a blog. They have unlimited products that can be plugged into pretty much any blogging niche or post topic. This is why the program is so widely used by bloggers.
When we look at the percentage of overall Amazon affiliate income by income bracket, something very obvious stands out.
Bloggers rely less on Amazon as their income grows. In the details of my statistical analysis, I was able see the income broken down by each individual affiliate program. The middle income bloggers had successfully diversified their affiliate income across multiple sources. This led to a dramatic decrease in overall reliance on Amazon as a primary source of affiliate income.
Affiliate Income by Blogging Niche
Now let’s move on to take a deeper look into affiliate income by blogging niche. We will start by looking at the average affiliate income by niche.
Bloggers across all niches had a similar percentage of affiliate income as part of their overall income. The only niche that did not follow this trend was the food blog. As I outlined in Part Three of the study, this was due to the fact that food bloggers were achieving incredibly high RPMs with their advertising network. Because the ads were making them so much money, there was no need to spend time attempting to master affiliate marketing.
Let’s review the top performing affiliate programs by niche.
Top Affiliate: Amazon Associates
Accounted for 45% of total affiliate income.
Top Affiliate: Amazon Associates
Accounted for 51% of total affiliate income.
Top Affiliate: Joint Venture Courses
Accounted for 11% of total affiliate income.
Top Affiliate: Amazon Associates
Accounted for 12% of total affiliate income.
Top Affiliate: Amazon Associates
Accounted for 22% of total affiliate income.
Personal Finance Bloggers
Top Affiliate: Survey Programs
Accounted for 23% of total affiliate income.
The Three Big Takeaways from These Stats
#1 Amazon accounts for a large percentage of affiliate income in food and lifestyle blogs.
Although Amazon had the top spot in 4 out of the 6 blog niches, the percentage of overall affiliate income was varied. The food and lifestyle blog niches received about half of their affiliate income from Amazon. This means there was a failure to diversify affiliate income. We already know that food bloggers do not spend much time on affiliate marketing because of the massive amount of money they were making from ads.
For lifestyle bloggers, the reason was due to the lack of topic focus. A lifestyle blogger writes about anything and everything; and when your topics are all over the place, it is really hard to segment your audience into specific targets. The fact that Amazon sells all kinds of products makes it the perfect fit for lifestyle blogs.
#2 Marketing blogs make the most affiliate income from joint ventures involving courses.
In Part Two of this study, I pointed out that marketing blogs are able to sell their own online courses at an extremely high price point. These price points range from $797 to upwards of $3,000. For many marketing bloggers, it is easier to create several course joint ventures as opposed to building out more courses on their own. The average commission percentage for JV courses is right at 35%. For a course costing $3,000, marketing bloggers end up making $1,000 from just one sale.
#3 Survey programs account for the majority of affiliate income from personal finance blogs.
When I looked at all the data, personal finance blogs had the greatest amount of diversification in affiliate income. Survey programs ranked at the top, and rewards affiliate programs were a close second. Although the niche is called personal finance, it really should be referred to as the “how can I make money” niche. Almost 90% of a personal finance blogger’s income comes from products and services showing their audience how to make money. It is no surprise that there are plenty of high-paying affiliate programs available for this niche.
Top Money-Making Affiliate Program Categories
Finally, I will reveal the top 6 affiliate categories that generated the most money for bloggers who were making at least $2K per month.
Sixth Place: Joint Venture Courses
Not everyone is going to agree that this is an affiliate program, but it is. You sign up and are approved or rejected. Then you get paid a percentage of commission based upon a tracked sale, which is the same process for most standard affiliate programs.
All of the bloggers generating money from joint venture course deals are in the marketing and personal finance niche. There was not one dollar made from joint venture courses in the food, lifestyle, mommy, or travel niches. If you are not a marketing or personal finance blogger, you should stay away from joint venture deals.
Fifth Place: Affiliate Networks
Most people will think of Commission Junction, or CJ, whenever they hear the term “affiliate network.” An affiliate network has a large assortment of different affiliate offers for its members to choose from. Interestingly enough, CJ did not account for a single dollar in revenue for bloggers making at least $2K per month.
Because the affiliate networks have sometimes hundreds of offers, it is hard to draw any conclusions from the income generated. What I can tell you is there were 5 separate networks that accounted for over 90% of the bloggers’ affiliate revenue: ShareASale, Panthera Interactive, Awin, FlexOffers, and Impact Radius.
Fourth Place: Rewards
The most popular awards affiliate program used by bloggers was Ebates. They give members cash back whenever they buy a product. This is usually done by using one of their discount codes or special links. You can see why personal finance blogs make a large portion of their affiliate income from rewards programs.
Third Place: Hosting
Good old hosting comes in the third spot. I should actually say Bluehost specifically, because they made up 89% of the affiliate hosting income. Many of you may be thinking to yourselves that you already knew this one. What you may not know, however, is that most of this hosting affiliate income is driven by an anomaly. Pat Flynn, whom you have probably heard of, was one of the pioneers of income reports. Back in 2013, he started telling the world how he was making close to $500,000 a year from the Bluehost affiliate program.
This led to a viral phenomenon of bloggers all over the world trying to copy what Pat was doing with Bluehost. Pat had a link in his main navigation that read “Start a Blog.” It linked to a long-form blog post, which walked you through the basic steps of setting up a blog in a matter of minutes. It consisted of some screenshots from Bluehost and was followed by a link to sign up. If you do not have one of these posts on your own blog, then you probably have come across many other blogs using this strategy.
There is a simple fact here that is often overlooked. If all of these bloggers created a long-form step-by-step post, paired with a link in their main navigation for a different affiliate, then we would not see hosting showing up as a top affiliate category. Just having a spot in the main navigation plays a significant role in the affiliate revenue generated by Bluehost.
For example, personal finance bloggers would probably make even more money from a link in their main navigation that read “Make Quick Money Now.” That spot could link to a post listing out all the different survey and awards affiliate programs. The big takeaway here is that the process produced the results, not the actual affiliate program.
Second Place: Surveys
For these type of programs, you get paid when someone takes a quick survey. Survey Junkie was the top performing survey affiliate program. The vast majority of the survey affiliate earnings were generated by personal finance bloggers.
First Place: Amazon Associates
At this point, it is no surprise that Amazon was the top producing affiliate program among bloggers making at least $2K per month. Amazon is the easiest way to begin building some affiliate income from your blog. As a store, they are unrivaled in product selection, price, and ease of making a purchase. 64% of all households in the United States have an Amazon Prime account.
With this being said, most bloggers in the hobby income bracket are doing Amazon Associates all wrong. Instead of telling you the incorrect ways to use Amazon’s affiliate program, I will focus on the four most successful tactics of the highest-earning Amazon affiliate bloggers.
Tactic One: They link to Amazon often.
As a rule of thumb, you should have multiple links for each Amazon product you promote in a blog post. Many affiliates can increase their earnings by 50% just by doubling the amount of links per post in strategic locations.
Tactic Two: They include awesome linked product images.
All of your Amazon posts should have plenty of high-quality product images. A large percentage of your visitors are going to click on the images and be taken to Amazon. It is crazy how many bloggers fail to link up their product images.
Tactic Three: They write lots of comparison posts.
Many bloggers make tens of thousands of dollars a year by writing simple comparison posts. The great thing about comparison posts are that there are loads of high-volume keyword phrases with very little competition. The high income bloggers tend to focus their efforts on low-competition “vs” keywords. For example, “Fitbit Blaze vs Apple Watch.” Every month over 8,000 people type this high-converting phrase into Google, and there are only 500,000 competing results.
Tactic Four: They create “best” lists.
As you have heard me say many times, list posts that lead with an odd number dominate most of the Google rankings. You can implement this tactic by creating a list post of the best products for a specific segment. The more specific, the better. The longer-tailed keywords will have less competition and a significantly higher conversion rate.
Here are a few examples of searches…
Best tents for cold weather camping
Best headphones for drummers
You can take this to another level by targeting the people searching for high-ticket items. The higher-ticket items will make you more money per sale.
Here are some examples of high-ticket searches…
Best acoustic guitar under 1000
Best drone under 1000
If you focus on these four tactics, then you should have lots of success as an Amazon affiliate.
Before we conclude Part Four of the study, here’s a quick summary of the top affiliate category rankings. The list was based upon the percentage of overall affiliate income for bloggers making more than $2K per month.
Over the past 2 months of sifting through thousands and thousands of numbers, I was able to perform advanced statistical analyses that generated some pretty incredible findings. These findings have been both eye-opening and very rewarding to me. In addition to writing this blog post, I have also taken action to align my own blog with what is making the richest bloggers the most money.
Here are three big actions I took or will take to mirror the wealthiest bloggers…
Action One: I Will Create a Joint Venture with My Own Course
I spent over 6 months this past year updating my online blogging course. My goal was to make it one of the best online courses in the world, not just the best course on blogging. I believe I succeeded in doing this. In 2018, I have had zero refund requests, and the industry average is 12%.
Since I redid the course, my students have been asking me the same question over and over again: when are you going to create an affiliate program for your online course? Once I saw joint ventures with courses ranking number one for the marketing blogger niche, I began the process of setting up an affiliate program for my own online course.
Action Two: I Will Create More Online Courses for My Audience
After seeing that all upper income bloggers have multiple online courses, I came to a realization that I was cutting myself short by having only one course. I have started to outline my next course, which I will be launching in the fall. My new courses will be an extension of my signature blogging course. My plan is to create one new course every year over the next three years.
Action Three: I Switched My Ads Over to MediaVine
As soon as I found out the RPMs of AdThrive and MediaVine, I put in my application to MediaVine. I was approved after a week, and it took another two weeks to launch with the new ads. I jumped for joy a few days later. The switch tripled my daily income from ads. The crazy thing about this is that I achieved this by using fewer ads in my blog posts. Because of this, my average time per page actually increased after I made the switch.
Before I say goodbye, I encourage you to take a moment to read about my signature blogging course. For the next couple of days, you can bypass the course’s wait list by signing up to watch my free masterclass webinar (How I Got to 1 Million Monthly Visitors).
Feel free to use any of the charts and graphs from my study in your own blog posts about these findings. All I ask is that you kindly link back to my study within your blog post. I know the results of this study can literally change the lives of bloggers, and I want every blogger to have access to all of these findings.