The Critical Mistake that Keeps Bloggers Broke

The Critical Mistake that Keeps Bloggers Broke

Reader Comments (74)

  1. Well said.

    I always say your site is your “face” and your content is your “voice.” Both are equally important in your business. And I agree, if your not blogging with a purpose – then you are not running a business but rather a fun house.

    Blog for fun, that’s okay – but blogging in a business requires you to make a profit. Otherwise you are just running a daycare center on the web.


  2. I remember reading David’s article too, and as an internet marketer I knew exactly what he was talking about. There are far too many blogs that throw some articles up, stick affiliate ads everywhere, add adsense into every post as many times as Google allows, and waits for the money to pour in.

    I have a blog tips type site I recently took over from a friend of mine, and I also have a products site where I sell real products, which one do you think I actually make my living on?

  3. Sadly, I am running a hot air factory. How to fix that, how to fix that…. Thanks for giving me something to do with my Monday.

  4. Wow. I was jolted when I learned that Larry was the author of this post! His post finally convicted me that I need to sell something and I thought Larry was an expert only about writing. Bravo Larry!

  5. Oh, this is so very true! I read David’s post as well and found it very compelling. I posted about this very same subject on my blog as well in a post entitled “Why 99% of Blogging Experts Have Got It Wrong”.

    Your blog is simply a tool in a greater business effort. That is if your intention is to make money with your blog. It is an extension of your business and should be viewed as a marketing tool, an outpost on the internet which you use to attract attention. Once you have someone’s attention, you can sell them whatever you’d like, but you must first understand what your business is and how your blog plays into your business.

    Well said Larry, and thanks for supporting this effort!

  6. This is a great post and very true.

    I’m looking at my blog as my vehicle. It’s admittedly barely a “tuc-tuc” at the moment, but i’m hoping with all the things I’ve learned from the A-list blogging bootcamp that I can turn it into a business.

    You can monetize your blog if you have an audience, and you attract an audience by providing great content. Adsense and all that jazz tends to detract from the quality of the content.

    I don’t follow any blogs that are littered with ads, not one. I do however, follow lots of blogs that try to sell me things. But because they are providing great content all the time, I don’t mind. It’s all good. Sell away I say.

    It’s a lot of work to get an audience though!

  7. I couldn’t have said it any better…not even close! The blog is not the money-maker. The person(s) behind the blog is the money-maker. Not only that, the only way to get rich quick is the lottery. Making money takes work and planning. A blog is no different.

  8. I must say that I completely agree with this article. My blog was just a blog…until about a year ago when I made a conscious decision treat it like a business and actually start a business. I started dealing with contacts and PR folks as if I was truly in business…guess what? things have skyrocketed and grown 10 fold. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi –

    I subscribe to both Copyblogger and Internet Marketing for Smart People. I have begun a newsletter ( and I’m just beginning to wade through setting up a blog.

    I noticed that when I place my mouse over one of your highlighted texts/links, the URL shows, but when I actually click on the link, it takes me to Can you explain this to me for my benefit? Thanks – btw, enjoy both Copyblogger and Internet Marketing….

    Laurie McCormack

  10. This post will help a lot of folk avoid unecessary heartache. If we don’t have long term blogging goals, it’s so easy to get blogweary or lose our way. Nothing in blogging feels wasted if you know what your big picture is and can connect every decision you make with a goal it’s taking you closer to achieving. A bit like story architecture in some ways.

  11. Laurie, the AWeber links allow us to see how many people clicked on links in the message. Gives us an idea on how the content was received by the audience.

  12. I think if I tried to get my wife to bring my lattes, I’d wake up with one down my pants!

    Good point though, there are way too many blogs out there that aren’t ‘kick-in-the-ass’ enough. People need to realize that hard work alone will not bring success (though it helps. A lot.)

    Having the best store in the world won’t matter if you don’t have a door.

  13. Right on Larry. I keep telling those I visit with that a blog is a tool. And it is a way to promote and market their business. While we all may sell things on our blogs. We are selling a product or service with it. And you are so right, the blog is not for sale so to speak. What we do there is usually free.

    Too many bloggers are also looking at their blog as a way to get rich quick. If that was truly what we could do with a blog, wouldn’t we all be rich?

    We also should be using our blogs as a tool to build our community, audience, followers, tribe or connections. With that, we than have someone and something we can market to.

  14. Great article, I just don’t understand why it had to end with accusing every other possible goal for blogging besides selling product as being for ‘ego’ or ‘hot air’. I think there should be more room in your brains for just ‘money’ vs. ‘hot air’. Don’t mistake the wisdom you have achieved in some things (making money with a blog as part of your strategy) for wisdom in all things, as this makes you appear smaller-minded than you probably are. The writer achieved a very persuasive post, why throw it all away in the final paragraphs? It’s comes off as much smaller-minded than it needs to be.

  15. Sometimes it seems to me like pro bloggers all have chips on their shoulders and feel the need to put down all other forms of human motivation so that they can feel good about themselves. You don’t need to do that to feel good about yourself; also, it’s just plain wrong. As in, incorrect. Why be incorrect?

  16. I think most people start a blog as a way to further promote an ongoing business. Then, all of a sudden they see that some people in the blog world are making a good living just by blogging (or so it seems). That’s when the blogs start getting loaded up with ads and the posts start to deviate from the original business promotion purposes. The blog becomes the business and the real business becomes secondary.

  17. There has to be a perfect balance between what you are giving the customer and what they are willing to pay you for. If you provide them with content and give them the answer 95% of the way, so that there imagination is sparked, then you will have a ton of people that are willing to go the extra mile and shell out the money for the whole answer, that last 5%.

    This is where the blog is critical. I use mine as an extension of my email list, but it’s all the same. You need to have a vehicle to let the prospect know they are missing out on something important.

    You have to have a vehicle to show the customer that you have a solution for their pain, and by the way, here is a blog post explaining the pain that you have. It’s all part of your whole marketing package. You have to give away someting of value, just don’t give away EVERYTHING so that people are willing to come back and spend a few bucks on the whole answer.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  18. Enjoyable post,

    I also think that the more you work on your business and have experience in selling your product / offering your service etc, the more valuable content you’re going to be able to feed back to your blog.

  19. Great read.

    I couldn’t agree more, your blog, unless just a personal blog is just a means to an end. It allows you to give a more human voice to your business, but in the end it must still be about your business and in generating revenue for your business.
    Blogging simply to say that you have a blog is not a good strategy.

  20. Great post! I’ve never thought of it that way. In fact, I was thinking the exact opposite. I do offer services through my business, but I am leaving so much on the table. I haven’t created a single product that sells but I’ve spent weeks beating myself up about not blogging. While I do need to blog more, I also need to work on creating something (or a few things) of value. Thanks for this post! It’s time to re-shift my priorities.

  21. This post really struck a cord with me.

    When you said, “You really care. You’ve become your blog. Just possibly, at the expense of your business plan.”

    It reminded me that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the content, the subscriptions, page view and comments that the business part get lost.

    My blog is only 7 weeks old and I wonder what the best approach is for a new blog? To build the content up, attract readers and then add the business, or should there be a balance from the start?

    But then I think, how can you make money if no one is reading? Maybe the initial emphasis should be placed on the content and readership?

    Thanks so much for your interesting perspective.

  22. Excellent post! And this applies to social media as well. When I see people who post incessantly on Twitter (or other social networking sites), the first thought I have is: “They can’t be too successful if they all this time to Tweet.” If, on the other hand, someone only tweets occasionally, then I assume they have a real business, a real life, and are making real money.

  23. @Laroquod, we’re not trying to put anyone down, we’re trying to help people see their own patterns so they can get to the goals they want to reach. If we tried to make every blog post work for every possible reader, it would be pretty dull and not very useful.

    Larry did have some qualified and respectful remarks after the “hot air” line; I was the one who chose to end the post there. I felt it was already clear that he was speaking to those who wanted a blog as a business, not to blog for personal expression.

  24. If you want to make money, think of your blog as a brick and mortar shop where your blog is the smiling face that greets people at the door.

    If you secretely want to make money, but don’t have anything to sell, think of your blog as the collection can of a homeless man who hopes money will fall into it.

    If you don’t want to make money (and regardless of your motivation) tell a story! Everyone needs those.

  25. Thanks for the great blog. So true! When I read headlines like “How I used a blog to attract thousands of subscribers my first week” I think they do a disservice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

    One of the key parts of business is sales but a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs want to avoid the discomfort of sales, and they end up falling for high priced schtick that suggests they can bypass selling.

    It takes hard work to be successful. And it takes the hard work of sales to be successful in business.

  26. I’m not sure I agree with this article. People make decent money copywriting when they do not own the product themselves, so why can’t you make money blogging when you don’t own your own product? With blogging conjoined with affiliate programs, you actually get a share of the profit, so it seems like it could possibly be at least as profitable as just plain writing. Of course, if you have the means of developing or contracting your own product that lends itself to your site, that that could be even better.

  27. Funny that it took me a year to realize that. Well, I just realized that earlier part of 2009. I think it’s being a function of being young and naive about businesses.

    Which then leads us to something that I’ve been tackling on for months now. We know it’s not blogs, but what kind of business models actually fit in or complement to blogs? I know selling ebooks is just part of a bigger scheme.

    Hope you can enlighten me the “bigger picture”.


  28. @Brad, I think you’re 100% right. But Larry doesn’t say you need to have created the product — his advice works very well for solid affiliate marketing as well.

    @Liane, stick around, we have lots of thoughts on that. 🙂 You can get a fast start by taking a look around at a) what we advertise here on Copyblogger (that will give you some thoughts on our revenue model), and b) doing the same for other large blogs like Problogger.

    A blog is just a way to communicate with many people, cheaply and easily. So it’s a matter of taking your customer communication and translating that to blogging tools — there’s a way to do it for almost any business imaginable.

  29. @Sonia, Larry… I understand that no big offence was intended, but it’s just too bad when I don’t feel comfortable linking to a great article like this because of the sudden burst of ‘tude, y’know? Not everybody who follows me cares about money and I have no desire to be insulting to them — quite the opposite.

  30. @Laine — you ask what kind of business models actually fit in or compliment a blog… that’s a good question, one that is best understood (and works better) by turning it around: what kind of blogs fit in with your business model? It’s a chicken-egg thing.

    I grant you, many people begin with a blog and then, when it’s successful, look for a way to monetize it. Nothing wrong with that, but success in that case does demand that you understand what fits and what doesn’t. But in either case, the blog becomes a marketing tool.

    Sonia is right, certain blogs make for great affliliate-based business models, some don’t. Mine doesn’t, so I write and publish ebooks as a business model, and the sum of all that has led me to a major book contract, as well as supported my novel writing endeavors. But enough about me. What will work for you depends on what you intend to sell, and thus, what you suspect is absolutely valid: not all blogs lend themselves to just any type of business.

    It begins with your passion and expertise. If it’s product-centric (in other words, if there are products out there, like software or tools or anything that you’d find at Walmart, that naturally associate with your topic, and that you can actually review and promote), then think affiliate marketing. If it’s information-centric, then think ebooks (your own, or you can become an affiliate of thousands of ebooks out there), consulting services, training programs and memberships. Either way, make your blog chock-full of good stuff that keeps ’em coming back, and if your business model is a good fit, it’ll work.

  31. Beautiful points on connecting the dots back to your business plan, and I really liked the point that your blog is not a business.

    It’s funny how much intentional and by design can go a long way … over just hoping for the best or just build it and they will come strategies.

  32. Larry

    There is a misconception that a blog will be an income generator right away as you will push it to the SM tools/channels, get an immediate following, subscriber rate will be through the roof, people will love you and through advertising and ebooks you create for a fee to users, you will be making money in no time. That is where so many blogs fail as people lose interest in them as they are not making money.

    While I would really like to think that my thoughts and ideas and helpful hints are a gigantic revenue generator when you really break it down and like you said really read Risley, common sense sets in and as a new or newer blogger it becomes clear that the blog is not going to make you money but the person/business behind it, is where the real money is at. Use the blog for awareness and work hard, harder than anyone else.


  33. I think blogging has turned more into and art than ever before and it takes an “eureka” moment for an individual to figure it out.

  34. Great message Larry,

    I definitely had this concept a bit confused when I started — “your blog is NOT your business.”

    But it does do wonders for marketing and branding!

  35. Sometimes, too, I think that you start with a blog and run it for awhile while you figure out what the business is, exactly. And that’s fine as well, as long as you aren’t expecting magic money elves to shower cash on you just because you figured out how WordPress works. 🙂

  36. A very simple but effective post. I see a dozen people in a month – planning to make it big with their Blogs. I am saddened to see a few of them looking to just write and make money out of it.

    As clearly pointed out in this post – Blog and Business go together. It’s not the Blog alone, that makes you an overnight millionaire!!

  37. Great point, this is something I really see a lot of bloggers miss out on – still!

    Communication, at it’s core, is simply communication. In the digital age we all know it takes something a little more than that to get things humming…if you’re after profit that is.

    Man, ever feel like you’re preaching to the choir at Copyblogger?

  38. What an interesting post. I appreciate the “in-your-face” approach. It appears I am running a hot air business focused only on expelling my hot air. Philosophically I suppose I need to come up with a product to sell that meets the high standards of the content (read, “Hot Air”) I appear to be expelling. What a dilema!

  39. Okay, okay, I get the message: My blog is, ultimately, supposed to sell…something!

    Problem is, I don’t know what.

    I have a lot of ideas floating around in my unfocused subconscious.

    I just don’t know which one to focus on.

    Which one do I try to monetize?

    Is it the eBook that looks at the “Lighter Side of Attracttion Marketing” which I’ve illustrated (masterfully) with my own cartoons?

    Is it the Graphic Novel eBook “The Adventures of Captain Attraction” which (you guessed it), I’ve illustrated.

    Is it the primer on “How A Classroom Teacher Became an Internet Network Marketer Overnight” (my autobiography)?

    I’m thinking that the reason I’m reticent to launch a blog is because I haven’t an accompanying product.



  40. Looking for a bullet list, I was expecting to find “You quit your day job”.

    It’s all about the plan. For my main blog, I used the well known technique of sharing your expertise. Not expecting much dollar wise, I landed a killer full time job out of it doing what I love.

    Blogging for ad money…oh my, what a mistake.

  41. Just thought I’d add some positive support for anyone who doesn’t have a ‘product’ to sell…the fact is you do!

    All of your previous posts are your inventory…go back and reread them…rejig the tags and keywords…fix up your content to better align with SEO….put in cross links where ever possible…find opportunities to promote older posts with ‘best of’ articles or ‘most searched’ articles, etc….add headers and anchor tags…there are many way to use existing content to promote sales of affiliate products or get more adsense clicks etc…

    Just because you haven’t spent 2.2 years part time writing a book (like I have) you still can ‘sell stuff’ on your blog….all is not lost!

    Better yet…start writing your e-book today!

  42. Well said. It’s a fine balance though, isn’t it. For a community blog, I think it’s best to get a following first before gently introducing the monetization. When the mix is right, it’s beautiful to watch.

  43. For those folks who do not have a product to sell, using a blog as your outline for your product is a great idea. Much like many smart business owners use their blog as a way to write a book. Pick the you want to create a product around and each post becomes a part of your product. All you have to do is bundle it up and make it look pretty. Work once and get paid lots!


  44. Thanks for the great post Larry. I like it when people can say things bluntly.

    As much as we all love our creation (the blog) we have to also recognize that it is not the blog we are selling…even if we consider ourselves writers. The blog is the alluring scent that draws in buyers for what you REALLY want to sell. As a writer we aren’t selling our blog (although we may think so)…there is likely a manuscript somewhere with our blood, sweat and tears on it, collecting dust just waiting for the right moment to offer itself as a formidible product. If there isn’t…no worries, there are affiliates that you can sell.

    It took me a long time to accept that it was okay to make money with my blog. We all want to do it but we don’t want to step on toes. What is the alternative? Work a 9-5 just so we can retire with very little income at 65 years old, struggling for the rest of our existence? It may be for some but it isn’t for me.

    Thanks for the clarity Larry.



  45. So true ! Blogging is an excellent tool, but it is just that. Whatever the blogger is doing, it is for that person/business to generate the readers and interest into business. We have done that well in the real estate industry. Is hard work though !

  46. Amen. I’ve said a bunch of times recently, “I don’t make money blogging. I make money in my business, which just happens to market primarily through blogging.”

  47. This has been a very interesting thread and I personally have gotten excellent insight. I completely agree with the philosophy of building the business using a blog as one of several tools. Like many others, I’m still a bit confused especially about how to work towards the blog generating income – without losing the quality of content.

    Someone mentioned using ads was a mistake. I’d like to learn more about why… Vincent kind of echoed some of my thoughts…

    There seems to be some very experienced bloggers in this thread, so I’m throwing out some of my confusion which I’m certain others have as well, and welcome input, ideas and suggestions.

    How do you set up a blog (what features, etc. should there be) when you have an existing sales website that is working well, publishes a newsletter, but is capable of generating a lot more income if complimented by other marketing/informational sites? I do not want to change the current website, but I definitely see a reason to expand…

    How do I go about defining the blog objectives, defining the blog layout, and making the existing site, the blog and our newsletter all work together. Are there particular theme types and/or colors that work better than others in a blog? Can anyone offer any tips on blog design?

    Thanks and please keep the ideas coming ….

  48. @Vincent — I think all of the ideas you mention would make great ebooks. Don’t over-think this, it’s really very simple — you’re a creative guy, an illustrator, so write a blog about THAT. Not “about” your ebooks, per se, but about what you love to do. Share it, teach it, explore it, expand on it… draw others in. Make the goal of each post to give a gift to the reader. Over time, they will come. When you get a solid following, then publish your ebooks, one at a time, and announce them to your new online friends who share your passion. That’s the business model. You’re wrong about one thing: your blog ISN’T supposed to sell something, it’s supposed to give something away. Sell from the sidebar.

    @Shane — amen brother. When I began I did a one-on-one with one of the cheeses here on Copyblogger, who told me I needed, at a minimum, about 1000 subscribers and hundreds of daily visits before I began to address the issue of monetization. Just a rule of thumb, but it supports your point. Thanks for contributing.

    @Laurie — your questions are very good and the ones we all face when we begin. As for having an existing website, you have a couple of options: you can add a blog to that site, or start a separate/new blog that drives traffic to your business website. As I told Vincent, though, don’t use the blog to sell your products, use it to brand yourself as an expert or a source of knowledge and energy, and draw people to your business through that credibility. Sort of like Nike throwing a free tennis clinic in the inner city… they aren’t there to sell shoes that day… but they will. As for your other questions, there are many resources online about choosing themes and getting started on WordPress. I used a mentor with the technical expertise I don’t have, and it worked well for me and didn’t cost all that much. I wish you the best on your blogging journey!

  49. @Vincent, I love Larry’s suggestions. Also, don’t panic. 🙂 Brian took quite awhile to decide on what he wanted to sell with Copyblogger. I do like starting with something commercial early (even if it’s small), as it gets people used to the idea. But if you’re still working out your ideas, that’s totally fine as well. The problem just comes when people think that the blog itself (with a bunch of poorly-targeted junky looking ads) is supposed to be the revenue model.

  50. Yes ..its all true.. all except for the fact, that when people boost about making money online. And how they turned their careers around and how their sleep walking in their pajamas making money online…. Frankly, who cares… be thankful, be humble.
    Write what interests you, become good at what you do, make sense in the things you write about, keep it short, simple, sweet, accurate.
    The next thing you know your blog will become like honey. No need to talk about the result, instead talk about the action, no need to boast..
    This is a psychological opposite attraction syndrome. Its what we all want you to believe.
    When people talk about what great achievements have been accomplished, the opposite is usually whats true..

  51. I absolutely am going to add to my recommendations page (about to be created) on my website. Really great quality content… 🙂

  52. Awesome post. I don’t take my blog seriously enough I don’t think, but hopefully my ideas will and points of view will get someone’s attention.

  53. You said it here. Blogging is the front door to the money you make an in order to make any money you have to have something behind that door once it’s opened: the business. The actual product people are opening the door to buy. You have to sell something and have it worth while more so than the wonderful free content you’ve been putting out there for free.

    Great post! I read David’s post that you mention and it’s also on the same lines as this.

  54. Hey Brian and Sonia, et al,

    Just a note to say Thanx for all the consistently good info. I’ve finally reached the point in my online education where your information has impact, sticking power.

    I’ve been developing a ‘links’ list with care and I’m going to add a link to copyblogger for all the right reasons.

    Blog design is essentially complete and content, mainly video, is soon to follow, soon. Thanx to copyblogger it’s a better product.

  55. Hi, Larry

    Maybe it is not my place to disagree with David Risley, but I do. I also read his post on how blog is not a business but a business tool. Fair enough. But you see, like the time you mentioned how you were your blog, I am mine. It is my sweat and my baby and I love it. Right now it is not making money really, but it is helping me get freelance gigs as a writer. And in the meantime, I keep working on it and my traffic is constantly increasing.

    Yeah, I am selling stuff. Advertising spaces and affiliate products on my blog. But for me, the real tool is the business plan- so that I can keep my blog going and eventually make some money out of it, directly that is.
    Maybe I did get it backwards. But right now, everything is going according to plan. So wish me luck. Backwards has kinda worked for me in other areas as well.

  56. i totally agree, in the first year i made very little money from my blog to the extent that the two people who used to work with me left, as soon as i started selling products and having a clear business model things changed dramatically, now i am selling more than 20 different products and services

  57. Larry, excellent article. Obviously, it is very helpful for anyone just starting a blog in order to market what they have to offer.

    But it is very helpful to someone like myself. I already have a blog. For my blog to be profitable depends very much on my focus. If my emphasis is just on the blog and the beautiful content I post, it doesn’t generate much income.

    On the other hand, if I treat the blog as a business and focus on ways I can better relate to the prospect and how I can help them and make money for me as well, I am much more successful. Thanks, Larry.

  58. I agree with the importance of a blog for a business, as well as with the fact that ‘there is nothing magic about a blog’. However, it takes will to actually write a blog on a daily basis for more than a few months. It is not magic, but it does require perseverence and consistency to make it worth it.

  59. I totally agree, to many new bloggers think that just having a blog will make them lots of money. You need to offer your readers quality content and build your reputation, there is nothing worse than a blog filled with ads and no substance.

  60. Hi to all,
    Coming in late, I diligently read all the comments. No one talks about the reader. Who is the blog for?? If it is to build business, are your prospects reading it? Too many bloggers are more concerned about the number of subscribers and comments rather than getting the right readers: quality over quantity. As a publication designer, the majority of my prospects don’t read blogs. So I have to promote it to them through the venue where they DO read–you have to know their behavior. The content of my blog is written for executives and managers; it also attracts colleagues who find it interesting because of that. A blog needs to be targeted and marketed like any product. Liane,

  61. Thanks for this post. There are so many people out there thinking that blog equals business but for me this only works if you have a “voice”. In countries like Austria having a blog and make a living from it is almost impossible. Still many people here dream about it and even more lure others into buying some useless E-Books…

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