So you’re thinking of starting a blog but you’re not sure whether it’s worth the time, effort and expense. You either want to make money online or you want to elicit change, but either way, you’re not sure whether blogging is the way to go. In this article, I’m going to go through the pros and cons of starting a blog and the situations that make it a good or bad idea. So, by the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll know how to answer the question ‘should I start a blog in 2021?’ given your own unique circumstances.
Note this blog post was first published in 2020 and has been updated for 2021.
Read on or listen to the blog post audio.
- Why do people start blogging?
- Are blogs worth it?
- Is blogging still relevant in 2020?
- Is it a good idea to start a blog?
Why do people start blogging?
Let’s get one thing straight. Are you keen to start a blog so you can share your personal journal with the world? Or do you want to start a blog purely for the joy of writing or to hone your writing skills? No (if your answer was ‘yes’, you wouldn’t need to read this article, and you’d have started a blog already).
So, there are only really two reasons you should start a blog:
- You want to make money from your blog; or
- You want to help people (or animals, or the environment etc.), in a truly altruistic fashion
Now, if you want to make money blogging, that doesn’t mean you need to be paid to write blog posts. And you don’t need to be paid for every blog visitor or anything like that. But your blog must contribute to earning an income, for example, by driving sales or attracting clients. If it doesn’t, it’s a waste of resources.
So why do people start blogging if making money is their primary motivation?
There are four main reasons; to:
- Sell products
- Sell services
- Make money through affiliate marketing
- Make money by serving ads
You might do one of these or a combination. (There are a few other motivations that also lead to greater income, such as to gain professional recognition that could lead to a job offer or promotion, or start a portfolio, but these are less common.)
Blogging helps brands (including individuals) sell their own products and services by funnelling members of the target market to sales copy. With affiliate marketing, blogs help in exactly the same way, except they funnel members of the target market through to sales copy for another brand’s products and/or services. Blogs do essentially the same thing for brands that want to make money by serving ads, except that some of the sales copy is displayed in (or around) the blog post and in many cases, the brand is paid for impressions and/or clicks instead of sales.
Each option offers advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re selling your own products and services, you get all the profits from the blog but you’ll experience all the disadvantages of selling your own products and services. If you’re an affiliate marketer, another brand gets most of the profits but you don’t have to come up with your own product or service. If you’re hosting ads, your success is more dependent on the quality of another brand’s advertising but it’s also not dependent on the effectiveness of the other brand’s product descriptions and landing pages etc.
And why do people start blogging if their primary motivation is altruistic?
The only altruistic reason to start a blog is to improve something like people’s lives, animals’ lives or the environment.
There’s also a little bit of crossover. Some of us develop products and services because we genuinely want to help people, animals and/or the environment and that happens to be the best way to accomplish those goals.
Given the amount of help we can offer is severely limited if we’re employed full time in a ‘day job’, purely altruistic blogs aren’t particularly common. As such, I’m going to focus on the non-altruistic side of blogging for the rest of this article.
What are the potential benefits of having a blog?
So we’ve covered why people choose to develop a blog in terms of their big, overarching goal. But how can a blog enable you to achieve your big goal? Here are the main ways blogs can help:
Are there other ways of achieving those goals? Absolutely. Are there better ways of achieving those benefits? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on a whole bunch of variables which I’m going to go through in the rest of this article. First up, let’s look at how worthwhile it is to have a blog.
Are blogs worth it?
Given people generally start blogs because they want to make money, is blogging worth it? The short answer is, it can be, but it depends.
When we ask, ‘is it worth it to start a blog?’, we’re actually asking two questions: ‘is blogging profitable?’ and ‘are the profits worth the required effort?’.
The first is the easier question to answer so I’ll start with that one.
Is blogging profitable in 2021?
So clearly a blog can be very profitable indeed.
But it can also be a complete waste of time.
In 2015, Buzzsumo and Moz did a study of 100,000 random pieces of content and found that 50% had been shared no more than eight times. If we extrapolate that, almost no one is sharing half of the content on the internet.
Now obviously some content gets traffic even if it’s not shared on social media etc. but that’s far from the norm. What we can gather from this, is that there are a lot of blogs out there that no one reads and which don’t make any money at all.
This is corroborated by a ProBlogger survey which revealed that nearly 40% of bloggers earn less than $10 per month from their blogs. Another survey by blogging.org found more than 80% of bloggers don’t even make $100.
Why do so many blogs fail to make money?
There are lots of reasons why a blog might fail. Chief among them is not putting in the time and effort required to produce and promote regular, quality content that meets the needs of the target market.
Sometimes brands just don’t understand the value of promoting their content. They just publish posts and hope people will read them. (But even if a post has been perfectly optimised for search engines, this just doesn’t work — you have to promote and distribute blog posts if you want them to get lots of traffic.)
Often though, it’s because the content is terrible or just doesn’t provide value to the intended audience.
As just one example, many people pick a topic and write 500 words about it and assume they’re done. But often that’s not enough space to cover the topic in full — or the topic isn’t narrow enough for that number of words.
Does anyone still read blogs?
I sometimes get asked whether the reason so many blogs fail is that people just don’t read blog posts anymore. But that’s simply not the case.
Yes, people do still read blogs.
If you need evidence of that, you need only look to the fact that you’re currently reading a blog post to help you answer your question about whether it’s worth it for you to start a blog this year. But if that’s not enough evidence, studies show more than 75% of internet users read blogs regularly.
But with so many blogs out there already (more than 500 million in fact), will people read yours if you start one?
The simple answer to that is, if you produce a valuable blog that solves real problems faced by your target audience and you tell that target market that you’ve produced that content and you optimise your content for search engines, then yes, people will read your blog.
But it takes a lot of effort to produce blog posts that meet all those criteria. Even the average blog post takes four hours to write and posts are taking a larger investment of time each year. But bloggers who spend six or more hours creating a single post are 56% more likely to get better results and realise the benefits of blogging.
And so we come back to our question about whether the potential profit from your blog will be worth the effort.
Is the potential profit of a blog worth the effort?
Ok, so we’ve established that blogging can be profitable. But we also know that doesn’t necessarily mean that the profits are worth the effort.
Now in the case of the top 10 blogs, it’s pretty clear that the substantial profits they’re making are worth the investment they’re inputting. But if your blog were to result in an extra profit of $10 a month, you probably wouldn’t continue to blog.
The problem is, of course, that you won’t know whether your blog will be profitable before you start it. You can make estimates by, for example, researching the profitability of existing blogs in the niche you want to explore. But you cannot know in advance whether you’ll achieve the same level of profitability.
Having said that, brands that prioritise blogging are far more likely to generate a positive return on their investment — 13 times more likely as a matter of fact. Indeed 80% of bloggers get results. However, only 30% of bloggers report strong results from their blogging efforts.
So, really, your best bet is to go into blogging with a clear plan and a detailed understanding of what you need to do to produce a successful blog that drives sales. And then constantly evaluate whether your efforts are producing a decent profit and investigate how you can improve your results.
Is blogging still relevant in 2021?
Lots of people wonder if blogging is still relevant today. And really it all comes down to whether people find value in blogs. Given that so many people read blogs, you’d think that would obvious, but there’s always the chance people are reading blog posts in the vain hope of finding what they need.
Back in 2012, research showed 61% of people in the US had made a purchase because of something they found on a blog. So clearly, blogging was highly relevant in 2012. But is it still relevant today?
Let’s look at some recent stats:
- Higher-quality content can increase blog traffic by up to 2000% (2019 statistic) — so high-quality content can drive lots more traffic
- 50% of people are more likely to click on a particular brand name if it shows up more than once on the search results (2019 statistic) — and blogging is a great way of getting multiple entries in a single set of search results
- 90% of consumers find custom content (like blog posts) useful, 80% prefer to receive information on a company through custom content and 70% prefer to get to know organisations via articles instead of ads (2018 statistics)
- Brands that blog get 97% more links to their website (2017 statistic) — which means more traffic from a wider variety of sources
Clearly, blogging is still super useful and relevant today. As Guerilla Agency said, “well-researched and composed written content will still be the backbone of a competent digital marketing campaign in 2021”.
Is it a good idea to start a blog?
So now we come back to our original question. We know blogging can be profitable with effort and we know it can absolutely be worth that effort. But should you start a blog now?
To answer that question, answer each of these smaller questions:
- What methods would you use to make money from your blog? Do you want to sell your own products/services or make money through affiliate marketing? If you want to use Google AdSense, blogging might not be your best option as one study showed only 18% of bloggers earning over USD50,000/year make money using this method. Affiliate marketing and selling one’s own products and services are the two most popular ways high-income bloggers use to generate income from their blogs.
- Do you have enough resources to invest in creating a blog? There are two ways to look at this:
- Do you have enough time to invest in blogging? If you can’t devote 4-6 hours to each post, blogging might not be the best way to go unless you’re willing to pay other people to write for you.
- Can you afford to invest financially in blog content? Nearly half of high-income bloggers spend a minimum of USD300 or more on written blog content. Nearly 20% spend USD500 or more on written content for their blogs. At the time of writing, that’s roughly AUD740, GBP380, EUR450 or INR35,560. Add to that the fact that 54% have someone edit their work, and including 10+ images in each article is likely to help you get much better results, and you can see the costs associated with blogging can quickly add up. And that’s not even taking into consideration the costs of producing video and audio or the cost of hosting, website maintenance and all that jazz. If you can’t afford this level of investment, you’ll need to have plenty of time to invest in creating content yourself.
- Can you repurpose blog content into other formats that will boost your return on investment? If you can also use your blog posts for other purposes, having a blog will be more likely to be worth your while. Examples of things you could repurpose blog posts as include brochures, email newsletters, podcasts and videos.
- Do you enjoy writing blog posts? If you don’t, you should only start a blog if you’re able to commission blog posts.
- Do members of your target market consume blog content? This will take a bit of research, but the answer to this question is ‘make or break’. After all, if your target audience doesn’t read blog posts, you’re not going to be able to produce a profitable blog. Two obvious examples of target markets that wouldn’t benefit from a blog are elderly people who can’t use the internet (if they can’t use the internet, they’re never going to see your blog) and vision impaired people (yes they could use a screen reader but if your entire target audience is vision impaired, wouldn’t it be better to provide content in an audio format — perhaps as a podcast?).
If you said ‘no’ to most or all of the questions, then a blog probably isn’t right for you. On the other hand, if you answered ‘yes’ to most or all of these questions, then starting a blog could be right for you.
In that case, I recommend you go through the other options open to you to determine whether starting a blog is your best option. It may be that a blog will fit your needs but that another asset is a better fit.
If a blog seems like your best option, go ahead and start one up and then evaluable its performance to see if it helps you achieve your goals. If you do start a blog, be aware that blogging is a long-term project and so you’ll need to trial it for at least a year if you want to quantitatively assess how useful your blog is.
When you’re ready to write your first blog post, here’s an overview of seven types of blog posts that drive sales to generate sustainable business growth and a detailed guide that will teach you how to write a great blog post in eight steps. Together, these articles will teach you the basics of what you need to know to write great blog posts that serve the needs of your target market.
And if you’re interested in learning more about the current state of blogging, Logo Maker has covered some good additional blogging statistics.