In the summer of 2019, I started a brand new blog. It was my summer challenge. I wanted to test if you can make money with a lifestyle blog.
At this point, I felt a bit of a fraud. I was teaching people how to blog and make money but all I had to show for my experience was a blog about blogging. It’s a very different experience growing a lifestyle blog.
To pile on the pressure, my aim was to start a lifestyle blog from scratch, in the public eye. I wanted to:
To launch and build a lifestyle blog as quickly as possible. To find out just how long it takes to make your first $500.
I had just 3 months before talking about my experience at the Blogging Mums Conference. Find out how I got on, all about my first sale, and how 12 months later my blog grew to 100,000+ visitors a month.
This post contains affiliate links. This means I receive a commission if you make a purchase through my links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read my disclaimer for more information.
Niche Or Broad Topic Blog
I’ve always had the view it’s better to start a niche blog than a broad topic blog. This is the advice I give to my students. But what if I was wrong?
Starting a lifestyle blog was also a chance to test out these convictions. I would find out what it’s really like to blog about lots of different topics.
The Lifestyle Blog (Full Disclosure)
I’d had the blog for a while, nearly 7 months before this “new start”, so technically I was cheating. But before you click away, here are the organic visits to the blog for the last 3 months before my new start:
16 in total. A few people have wandered on to the site by accident.
When I bought the domain I didn’t realize it had some history and I’d picked up a few visits from people looking to build big muscles. I’m afraid they were disappointed.
Back in November 2018, I added two rambling posts and an about page and that was it. The Pinterest account I set up remained completely blank with zero followers.
Starting A Lifestyle Blog From Scratch
In May 2019, I installed the plugin WP Reset and used it to wipe my blog back to a blank WordPress site. The site was hosted with SiteGround (which caused all sorts of problems when my site started to grow quickly – more on that later). I installed the Mai Pro Lifestyle Theme available through StudioPress.
I spent a day setting up the blog and 2 weeks churning out posts. By the end of May, I was ready to launch with 30 posts to promote on Pinterest.
Why so many? It was an experiment. I wanted the blog to grow quickly using social media. Usually, I recommend writing posts around 1000+ words. (I’ve since worked out that your post length needs to match the average length of the top 10 posts for your target keyword on Google).
The first 30 posts on my new blog LoveLifeBeFit.com were all short posts, mainly list posts, that were easy to write. The typical word length was just 300 to 500 words.
I didn’t even target keywords for the first 30 posts. My writing just covered popular topics on Pinterest.
I also broke my rule about categories. Normally I suggest going for only two or three categories when you first start a blog. For this lifestyle blog, I started with six! Everything from fitness to healthy eating and travel.
Yes it’s a lot but it’s a magazine-style site and I had the aim of producing frequent new content – short posts for a high traffic volume site.
Initial Income For My Lifestyle Blog
I set up Amazon Associates and added a few links to books and relevant items. They were very random links with little thought going into writing targeted posts focused on a reader’s need, (the only way to really win with Amazon).
As an afterthought, I signed up as an affiliate with an online yoga course provider via ShareASale.
It was Pinterest all the way starting out. Short 300 word posts don’t make any impact on Google, especially when you don’t target a specific keyword. It was two months in when I started writing longer posts, typically around 1000 words.
The topics I chose all get a huge following on Pinterest, especially healthy eating and fitness, and some of my posts took off big time!
Pinterest really loves new material so writing so many short posts helped. As soon as I launched my blog properly I spent a lot of time pinning.
Create Lots Of New Pins
For each blog post, I created 3 different pins, testing out pin titles and images. Ideally, I would have loved to create 5 pins per post but in practice, I caved under the workload.
3 pins per post was still 90 pins in total!
Promote Your Pins
It’s not enough to just create pins, you have to find ways to promote them. Once you’re an established pinner it may be enough just to pin new pins regularly but as a beginner, it’s completely different.
You need people to start sharing and saving your pins. This sends a signal to Pinterest that your pins are worth promoting in their feeds.
One method is joining Group boards. You save your pin to the Group board and share the pins of other members. Hopefully, pinners will share your pins in return.
These group boards worked really well a few years ago but are now becoming increasingly irrelevant. It’s mainly because Pinterest now sees these boards as a lower priority.
My solution was using Tailwind.
Tailwind is primarily a scheduler for your pins. Some people swear by manual pinning on Pinterest. I do some manual pinning, but I mainly schedule my pins using Tailwind. This saves a heap of time.
The big plus with Tailwind is their communities. You can join 5 communities as part of your membership. Create great pins, pick active communities and your community will share your pins for you.
These were my repins after just 41 days – all thanks to my community members…
I set up a Public Group on FaceBook but didn’t put much effort into it. As far as social media goes it’s been Pinterest all the way.
FaceBook is very difficult for social media traffic unless you’re willing and able to spend money on adverts. I’m not. Adverts are never a good idea purely for growing general traffic to a blog. They have their place as targeted adverts selling courses, and even then you need to know exactly what you’re doing or you can risk losing a lot of money.
Initial Blog Traffic
Here’s my blog traffic for the first 41 days leading up to my first sale:
I had 2,758 pageviews over those first few weeks and just about all my traffic came from Pinterest.
My First Sale
I made my first sale in just 41 days!
It was a whole 12 bucks…
Someone clicked on my recommendation for online premium yoga classes and signed up for the free 14-day trial.
Promoting free stuff is always a good idea, plus it’s a quality product I use myself. That’s really important for affiliate marketing. You need to promote products you believe in.
Yeah I know, $12 is not very much. It’s tiny when you think about how many hours I spent working on my new blog. But it’s just the beginning.
Making that first sale is huge.
It’s confirmation that your blog works. That someone has taken your advice and signed up for a course, digital service, or bought a product based on your recommendation.
That’s a big deal.
Can You Make Money With A Lifestyle Blog?
Over the first few months, my attempts to make any serious money were a big fat failure. In the summer of 2019, I didn’t get anywhere near my target of making $500. There were a few more sales of my recommended online yoga program and that was it. About 50 bucks earned in total over a 3 month period!
Instead I started growing traffic…
Grow Your Blog Traffic First
In July 2019, just my second month of blogging, I hit over 20,000 pageviews, (18,000 sessions), on my blog. Amazing! My traffic exploded overnight.
I had several viral pins as Pinterest responded to the frequent new posts and new pins I was sharing on the platform.
If you’re prepared to pour your heart and soul into frequent posting and pinning this is a valid way to grow a blog. It’s hard to keep up for long periods but it does work.
As soon as I took my foot off the gas in August and September, switching to writing longer posts targeting SEO (ranking on Google), my Pinterest traffic dipped dropping to 13,000 pageviews, (11,000 sessions), in August 2019 and 15,000 pageviews, (13,000 sessions), in September.
At the end of September 2019, I gave my talk at the Blogging Mum’s Conference and stopped working on my lifestyle blog. I did absolutely nothing except keeping my Tailwind feed for my Pinterest pins topped up.
You would expect my traffic to die off completely. It dropped to about 9000 sessions in October and stayed consistently at this level until the end of the year, (not a great time of year for fitness posts). Yet in this time my organic traffic from Google jumped 240% as my posts started to get traction in the search rankings.
My Growth In Google Blog Traffic
My lifestyle blog had it’s ups and downs over the first summer. It’s like that with all new blogs. One minute you’re elated when you get your first sale or a big hike in traffic to your blog.
The next you’re on the verge of giving up when your affiliate sale is refunded or your traffic has taken a nose dive! Traffic from social media requires constant attention.
It’s better to play the long game when you’re starting a lifestyle blog. You need a lot of traffic to make make money and it really helps to have consistent traffic from Google.
Unlike a niche blog that can focus on high-value product sales or selling your own products, lifestyle blogs generally make money from advertising and low commission Amazon affiliate sales. They need to be high-volume traffic blogs.
As I found in the summer of 2019, it is possible to get some incredible traffic from social media from almost the word go but this traffic can be unreliable. Google does have its ups and downs (and will also have algorithm changes crashing traffic), but long-term it’s more consistent.
It’s best to have both – social media traffic from one or two platforms (more is hard work and spreads your time too thinly), and the bulk of your traffic from Google. A big plus is your initial traffic from social media will help your ranking on Google.
Writing Search Engine Optimized (SEO) Posts
It was interesting to see what happens when you leave a blog alone and do nothing! Finally, after 3 whole months, I cracked and wrote four new posts at the start of January 2020.
These posts were optimized for SEO targeting achievable keywords. I used Ubersuggest to find keywords with a really low difficulty level. I wasn’t too worried about the predicted search volume.
Some of my posts that were already ranking didn’t just rank for my targeted keywords. They also ranked for lots of related keywords. These searches for similar low volume keywords can really add up.
My Traffic Grew Steadily
My January 2020 traffic almost matched my September 2019 at 13,223 sessions but this time 20% of my traffic came from Google. This has continued to grow and Google is now by far my main traffic source.
My lifestyle blog was accepted by the premium ad network Mediavine part way through May 2020. At the time I had around 30,000 monthly traffic sessions but by June 2020 this had jumped to 50,000 sessions with almost 70% of this traffic coming from Google.
Mediavine is an advertising network that typically pays out at least double the amount you can make on AdSense. Realistically most people can make around $600 to $1000 per month from advertising once they hit Mediavine’s new application threshold of 50,000 sessions.
I started my blog with SiteGround. This turned out to be a huge problem when my site started to grow. Even their GrowBig plan has a very restrictive 25,000 limit on monthly visits.
Just around the time of being accepted by Mediavine I was forced to change my hosting or upgrade to a much more expensive plan. I moved to a different hosting which turned out to be a disaster (I’m not even going to mention them by name but this popular host had my site down for two days and then running really slowly).
It made sense to move my lifestyle blog to WP Engine where I do pay a premium but in return enjoy hassle-free and very speedy hosting. Migration was free and totally painless.
✅ For brand new lifestyle blogs I recommend Bluehost. They have a really easy process for on-boarding new bloggers and you can grow your blog to around 50,000 to 100,000 monthly visits before having to upgrade your hosting. It’s so much easier to start your first blog with Bluehost.
Does My Lifestyle Blog Make Money?
Initially not very much. I was thrilled by my traffic in the first few months but wanted to hold off putting adverts on my blog. Instead, I waited until I could sign up with Mediavine.
This turned out to be a good move because so many bloggers end up being penalized using Google AdSense and this will prevent you from being accepted by Mediavine. Plus you won’t make a lot of money from AdSense, the payout is low.
For a blog that’s mainly making an income from advertising and Amazon Associates, expect to aim for a traffic level of 100,000 to 250,000 monthly sessions to hit a full-time income. It’s certainly doable if you’re writing frequently about popular topics. It all depends on the income level you’re aiming for.
I hit a full-time income level for my lifestyle blog last Autumn (2020). Payouts such as this:
These days I consistently make $3000+ every month from my lifestyle blog and I expect to grow this income in 2021.
Just about all my effort in the first few months went into growing traffic. I failed to focus on affiliate sales until 3 to 4 months in and never really made a success of affiliate marketing until I hit the 12-month mark.
You need to write articles that fulfill a need and offer a solution to make money from affiliate marketing. It’s difficult to do this when you’re focused on growing traffic, as these types of articles take longer to write and have a much smaller audience.
At least that’s my excuse.
These types of articles tend to draw less traffic. I found it made sense to play the long game – focus on the high traffic articles first and then write the type of posts that convert for affiliate income.
These days I’m getting payouts such as these from Amazon Associates:
Amazon Associates isn’t as generous as it used to be – rates have dropped drastically for for some types of products, but it’s still a reasonable way to top up your blog income.
I’m still extremely lazy when it comes to affiliate marketing, (after all my lifestyle blog is mainly a side hustle with most of my focus going on teaching my students how to blog). I tend to write posts that interest me but I always make sure I’m writing posts aimed at achievable keywords.
After all, there’s no point spending time blogging if you haven’t got an audience.
Conclusion. Can You Make Money With A Lifestyle Blog?
Niche is best.
I still think niche is best. You have better focus and it’s easier to attract followers interested in your subject. It’s easier to dominate on Google in organic rankings with a niche blog.
Niche blogs are also terrific if you want to create products or sell services.
Yet it can be a lot easier starting out with a broad topic blog… you just blog about popular topics and promote them on social media.
I have been blown away by the income I’m making from my lifestyle blog with very little effort beyond the first 3 months when I launched my blog. I cut back on the number of topics and made sure all my topics are related focusing on health and fitness. Most of my successful posts are about running.
This seems to be key – you can make money from a lifestyle blog but it needs to have a strong focus. Start with no more than 2 to 3 topics and make sure they’re related – likely to appeal to the same readers. For example I’m mainly writing about running, yoga, healthy eating and weight loss.
Social media will generate traffic when your blog is new but for long-term growth, you need to learn SEO. The aim is to write posts you can rank with a new blog on Google. Target achievable keywords and write great content. It really is that easy!
For the sceptics
Maybe you’re skeptical about the success of my lifestyle blog. You need to believe me – it is possible. I’ve grown my lifestyle blog without advertising, just using Pinterest and Google SEO. Writing the posts people want to read, answering the questions people are searching for.
Elsewhere on the internet you’ll find people talking about “Blogging is dead”. It’s so competitive, no-one can possibly get ranked on Google or make any money.
Well hopefully I’ve shown you it’s not true.
Maybe it’s a little harder than 10+ years ago and the focus has changed. Blogging is not longer the romantic “I’ll just write about anything I feel like today”, instead it’s creating content. Writing targeted posts at a targeted audience. This gets results.
Are you ready to start your own blog?
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes definitely but it takes time and hard work to make a good income from a lifestyle blog. There are many different ways to add income to your blog. The easiest, when you’re a new blogger, are advertising and affiliate marketing.
This is a tough question to answer. A lot of lifestyle bloggers don’t disclose their income. There are a few very successful bloggers who shout a lot about the huge amounts of money they make. For most people it will take time to build up a modest income. From my recent challenge of setting up a lifestyle blog, I believe you can expect to make $500 to $1000/month within a year if you work consistently on your blog and write about popular topics. Some people will be more successful but this is a reasonable target for most people.
Think of a lifestyle blog as a restricted window into the author’s everyday life. It’s a blog about their interests but very different to a personal blog. The blog is written for the benefit of the reader rather than a diary about what the blogger does everyday. It may include personal insights but it’s mainly a blog full of how-to articles, advice and inspiration.