Sigh.

It’s just an inevitable fact that when you teach people the formula for building successful, revenue producing blogs, you’re going to end up dealing with income reports at some point. I’m not a huge fan of the income report, as published content, and I think they generally exist for only a couple of reasons.

Read More: How to Hack the Sneaky Science Behind Income Reports to Build Your Own Crazy Effective Marketing Campaigns

However, I was making some eggs this morning, and thinking about how much cows weigh. It struck me that cow weight is amazingly applicable to the formula by which we build, grow, and monetize blogs.

See, about a hundred years ago, there was a guy named Francis Galton. Galton was a statistician and kind-of-scientist who thought most people were pretty dumb. He was British, so don’t hold it against him.

This one time, Galton visited a county fair, where he saw a contest that had people trying to guess the weight of a cow. At first, he approached the contest with the idea that some smart dude – maybe a guy who raised cows for a living, or milked cows, or who otherwise knew a whole lot about cows – would win.

Because that makes quick, intuitive sense, right?

If you spend a lot of time around cows, if you know them really, really well, then you’re in a much better place to render a guess about how much any particular cow might weigh. And all those people who don’t know a lot about cows? They’re idiots in the cow-guessing game, who cares what they think? (British, remember?)

But, to his credit, Galton had a flash of insight that led to a pretty clever experiment – rather than assuming the smart cow people were the best at this game, he instead surveyed a big cross section of all the people making guesses. He wrote down their guesses, and averaged them to get one single answer. And you know what he found?

The crowd’s averaged guess was almost exactly correct.

Galton had discovered an idea we now call the wisdom of the crowd. It’s a fascinating idea that’s really out of scope for this blog, but you should read about it – it’s everywhere around us these days.

Well, that’s all super interesting, but what the heck does it have to do with blogs and using blogs to make money? Tally ho, good sir (or madam), Sir Francis Galton’s insight would suggest that there’s wisdom to be gleaned by looking at income reports as long as we look at them in a wisdom-of-the-crowd fashion.

The Income Reports

To start, I looked through a fairly large list of published income reports that blogger Raelyn Tan has taken the time to collect and curate. That list saved me a bunch of time, so my thanks to Ms. Tan.

Next, I enlisted the help of a second person to pseudo-randomly select 8 blogs from Raelyn’s list. Now, my helper was nine, so her scientific selection method probably included how cute the name sounded, if she could in any way link the written words to gerbils, and so on. I did tell her that she couldn’t just pick the ones with the biggest numbers, but that was the only selection criterion.

Here’s the list. In each case, I’ve linked to the most updated income report available.

Surveyed Blogs by Niche and Total Monthly Income

After parsing the selected income reports, we can generate this simple little table, which tells us each blog’s niche and published monthly income.

BlogNicheIncome
SewrellaLifestyle / Hyper-Hobby$10,180
The Well Kept WalletMoney & Personal Finance$17,714
Practical WanderlustTravel$5,882
Show Me the YummyFood$46,367
Club ThriftyMoney & Personal Finance$21,566
Just A Girl & Her BlogLifestyle / Hyper-Hobby$41,700
Making Sense of CentsTeaching How to Make Money$159,592
Smart Passive IncomeTeaching How to Make Money$127,906

What We Can Learn

Generating Serious Revenue From Blogs Is Possible

Most obvious is the clear suggestion that what I’ve been saying since the very beginning is totally true – blogging is a serious business. Now, obviously, there’s some selection bias here, because not every blog publishes an income report, and successful blogs are probably much more likely to publish an income report than are unsuccessful blogs. But, you know what? That doesn’t really matter. Because the ultimate point is that blogging can be as serious and “big league” as you want it to be and are willing to work for.

Revenue Follows Predictable Niche Patterns

As I’ve previously predicted, blogs that produce significant revenue tend to fall into only a handful of niches. Just looking at our little list, every single entry (except one) is in a niche that I’ve already identified as having strong profit potential. The exception is Show Me The Yummy, which falls into a niche (Food) that I’ve specifically predicted to be not-very-profitable. This interested me enough that we’ve done a case study on them, which you can read for more discussion (when it’s done).

Nobody Uses Adsense

A lot of the blogs that publish income reports – not all, but a lot – take the time to break out their total revenue by income source. Advertising, Affiliate Marketing, Direct Product Sales, Speaking, Services, etc. You know what showed up never times? Adsense. I suspect that Adsense is likely a dead revenue stream for the vast majority of blogs.

The super-minds over on Reddit have recently discussed it, and I agree with most of the sentiment posted there.

While the majority of surveyed blogs did use some type of text or display advertising, it was usually through AdThrive or (sometimes) MediaVine.

Diverse Revenue Streams Produce the Highest Revenue (And the Safest!)

Without exception, successful (i.e. “high revenue generating”) blogs practice intense and deliberate revenue stream diversification. Whoah, whoah Mr. Fancy Words, what? They don’t put all their eggs in one basket.

The various affiliate income streams used by the homies over at smartpassiveincome. This is some next level diversification (and uncommonly transparent reporting).

Some sources were uncommonly well diversified. And shockingly specific about how they reported income from those diversified streams. For real, two thumbs up to the the team at smartpassiveincome for the Kobe treatment of their income report.

You know all those weepy, “what-the-heck-do-I-do-now?” threads you see posted all over the place whenever Google makes an update to their search algorithm? You gotta diversify yo income streams, fool! (Also, stop being shady enough to get ban hammered by an algo update. ProTip).

The most common “income trifecta” was a combination of advertising, affiliate sales, and direct product sales.

In almost all cases, when all three streams were utilized by a site, direct product sales produced the largest income stream, followed by affiliate sales, followed – very distantly, usually – by advertising revenue.

I did not see any specific notation of direct ad sales in any of the income reports included here.

Statistics, Insights, and Case Studies

I’m hard at work in my magical blog workshop putting together some more analysis of trends and ideas that I found interesting when reviewing all of these income reports. Watch for those, soon. Until then, take the lessons these income reports teach to heart. Treat your business with respect, choose niches with good profit potential, and diversify your revenue streams.

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