Revenue retrospect - 5 years of indie blogging

Winding down 2023, I’m looking over the past year, like many others. With my primary income as an independent blogger since 2018, this year was hellacious. Annual revenues weren’t just the lowest. They were massively lower.

I’m at the point where it may be time to pull the plug on

There are several reasons for this huge drop in revenue, but most of them are outside of my control.

Let’s look at the numbers

I’ll just get the hard part out of the way up front. Below are the annual site revenues for the last five full years.

Five year revenues

Note that although I started the blog in 2018, it wasn’t a full year, so I’ve left those figures out. And there are three days left in 2023, but those won’t move the needle.

Additionally, these are advertising revenue figures only. There is a very small of revenue earned each year from affiliate links. Not in the figures are expenses, which average around a reasonable $200 a month for hosting, liability insurance, blog plug-in subscriptions, etc…

What happened over time?

I’ve been making a living by blogging since 2006. Most of those years were working for others and I really can’t complain. I was independent (with a business partner) from 2006 to mid-2008 and averaged around $15,000 a year. But, the site was purchased for a reasonable amount of money and I was earning a great salary from then on.

Again, I can’t complain. The idea of writing online and making money wasn’t something I’d ever thought possible. It was. And I’m thankful for that.

In 2019, the first full calendar year of About Chromebooks, the site did better than I expected. I ramped up my efforts, thinking both page views and revenues would grow in 2020. That didn’t happen because… COVID. Page views dropped 20% year over year. Revenue fell by roughly the same.

2021 saw a small reduction in page views compared to 2020. Very small, like less than 5%. That’s not terrible. And the ad market was still strong. Stronger than in the prior year as people were home and online more. Companies paid more to get their products and ads plastered all over the web. So 2021 revenues for my site were up even though page views had declined.

And then the site got hit with a double-whammy. The first of several Google search algorithm changes occurred, dropping the visibility of About Chromebooks in search results. Annual page views dropped by roughly 30% in 2022.

This happened as the ad market tanked. And by tanked, I mean the ad rates I used to see were diminished by 60% or more that year. And they haven’t recovered for me yet although the trend for rates has been rising. So 2022 was the beginning of a revenue downturn for two main reasons.

The trend continued in 2023. Lower ad rates and even less visibility on Google for the site. A further reduction in page views by 35% over 2022 combined with still low rates equals the just-over $10,000 figure for revenues this past year.

Now what?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m strongly considering a shutdown of the site. While I enjoy sharing my passion for Chromebooks with others and (hopefully) bringing valuable information to my fellow Chromies, I have to pay my bills. And that means investing time into something else, i.e. a “real” job.

If I felt there were factors within my control to change the financial situation of the site, I’d certainly tackle them. But I don’t control ad rates. (In fact, I hate having ads in the first place but again, I have to pay the bills.) Nor do I control the Google search algorithm. So more effort on the site isn’t going to fix the problem.

It’s not like I didn’t know this decision was coming. I was earning supplemental income through some consulting, mostly for Stacey at StaceyOnIoT.

Stacey and I made a mutual decision to step away from that effort earlier this year, however. And I’ve been applying to various open roles, mostly in the dev and tech documentation space, since May of this year. None of those applications have panned out at present. More on that in a future post although spoiler alert: I’m more of a “technology generalist” and lack the depth of skills most roles are looking for.

I’m going to give things a few weeks, maybe even a few months, before deciding what to do with my indie site.

Minimalism has helped

On a related side note, I’m so glad I started to adopt a minimalist mindset about five years ago. When I was earning more income, I took a hard look at our spending. My wife and I decided that we didn’t need the large home we had because we weren’t using half of the rooms. And the acre of land meant we were spending more time maintaining the property instead of enjoying the property.

We downsized to a more manageable townhome with a much lower mortgage payment. We also went from a two-car family to a single EV. I generally don’t buy much these days. I’ve donated away many of the “things” I had but didn’t need.

As an example of the approach, I’ve invested in a very small wardrobe of decent-quality items: 7 long-sleeve shirts, 8 short-sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, and 3 pairs of sweats for example. I have a light rain jacket, a warm vest, and a winter coat. And I haven’t had to replace any of these clothing items because again, they’re good garments.

Thankfully, this mindset has cut our expenses by quite a bit. In other words, I don’t need to make $100,000 a year to pay my bills, have what I want, and be happy. Unfortunately, the required expenses we have do mean that I need to make more than I am making. Hence the decision to keep on blogging and hope things change, or make a change and earn revenue from non-blogging activities.