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The 10 Income Streams That Have Made Me Over $2,000,000 Online (Full Breakdown) Graphic © WealthPowerBoost. Background photo – Shutterstock (under license)
2023 UPDATE: My overall internet business income has now gone over $2M! Here’s a full breakdown of where the money came from. This will give you tons of useful insight in how money is earned by a blog / social media business. I’ve also included loads of “pro tips” and insights to help you get the best out of these systems if you decide to use them! 🙂
1. Google Adsense: Earnings to date: $1,405,157.02
By far and away the income stream that has made the most money for me is Google Adsense:
[ “All time” Adsense earnings screenshot from my “old” Adsense account prior to moving to a different country. When you move countries they close out one account and start another. I have made a few thou more in the new one.] Note also – the figure in the screenshot is the “estimated earnings” – there are always a few deductions for “invalid traffic”. Going through my tax docs gave me a correct final figure of $1,405,157.02 earned to date.
I’ve been using Adsense on my websites and blogs since 2009 – but it was not until 2013 that I earned more than a handful of dollars per day. Then, it took off like an absolute ROCKET – and here’s why.
In the really old days (2008-2012), I didn’t know very much about internet business. I was simply creating “nerdy” informational articles and posting them on various small websites that I owned. I had previous experience as a researcher and writer, so I made great, well researched written content – and I knew how to code HTML, however I didn’t really know anything at all about how to promote my content. I didn’t have a clue what a viral headline was, didn’t put any images in my posts… and (naively) believed that “If I build it, they will come”… Social media barely existed back then and I didn’t even know what WordPress was! I dabbled in a little bit of SEO, but that was about it.
That was all useful, but having good content was really only one of the tumblers to the combination lock. I could see that my pages were making a few dollars and I managed to get a few Google top 10 search results – so I concluded that all I needed was enough pages, and I would earn enough money to be financially free. Definitely the laborious way to go about things, but you could see the simple logic behind it.
I created hundreds of articles on all sorts of topics. Nothing really took off in a big way; but by 2012 I was earning $200-$400 per month from Adsense, which sure did help – and I was thrilled with the idea that I could receive automated payments and a residual income while working from home. That was quite unusual at the time (I didn’t know anyone else personally who was doing it) and I had no idea at all what was about to happen…
Then, in December 2012, I learned about Facebook fan pages. I created two new fan pages in the natural health topic and in Jan 2013 I created a new WordPress blog to host the content that would be posted on them. I used various techniques to grow these fan pages fast and they absolutely blew up, getting around 1 million fans EACH in their first year. I started making crazy money really fast!
By the end of December 2013, one year and 13 days after creating these pages, I had had to upgrade my web hosting TWICE because the massive Facebook traffic (up to 344,000 pageviews per DAY) was crashing the server! In 2013 I made over $233,000 total from Adsense, including 4 wild days in a row in December 2013 where I made over $5,000 per day.
Most of this income came from my natural health WordPress blog. This is a highly unusual growth rate for a blog and it was almost all due to the massive growth of the Facebook fan pages and the crazy traffic they were sending.
The main thing I am working on at the moment is trying to repeat that with brand new Facebook pages. I think it should still be possible.
The key takeaway here though is that just making content is not enough. You have to do things to “push” the content and put it in front of a lot of people. Visibility is key and getting that visibility is another whole skill set.
Pros and cons of Adsense: In those days, Adsense used to be by far “the best game in town”. It’s still a viable income source and I think all bloggers should apply for it – however it’s no longer my #1 income stream. I only use it on small websites that don’t have the traffic volume that is required to get approved for better paying alternatives.
My biggest critique of Adsense is the terrible lack of support. You can’t even contact them at all until you are earning a certain amount, and there is just this overall “vibe” that you are an irrelevant speck in their grand universe. Maybe we are, but there’s no need to treat people that way. It’s not as though they can’t afford it.
You also won’t get any star treatment – at all – for making them lots of money. Not even a personal note of thanks. On Youtube, if you hit a million subscribers, you get a cool looking golden plaque that you can show off to your friends and fam. And it’s very common for affiliate programs to give out fantastic prizes, trophies and all sorts to their star affiliates.
Google gives you 68% of the overall income, which means that if my $1,405,157.02 was 68% of the total, then “their 32%” is $661,250. What thanks did I get from them for making them $661,250…?
An automated email from their machine:
At least I got paid. 🙂 But come on. Really? This is just the sort of thing that illustrates how if ever there was a “dark side” to the internet business it is this; that you are dealing with megacorps who have essentially lost touch with “human factors”. It is what it is… just be mentally prepared for it, that’s all.
Adsense earnings “per click” (EPC) are less than they used to be in “the good old days”, coming in at around 25 cents per click on average for me now. But back in the day, it used to be around 45c per click average – almost double the income from the same traffic volume! Also, click through rates (CTR) are lower these days – partly because people learn to “tune the ads out” after a while, and partly because of the much increased use of ad blockers.
Adsense used to be the “best game in town” but other ad networks may now pay better than Adsense. For example Newor Media (my current fav) has delivered 36.3c per click in the last 30 days. Newor, Adthrive, Sortable, Mediavine and Ezoic (there are tons more) use a system called “header bidding” where various advertisers, including Adsense, compete for placement on your site. This system yields on average better earnings per click (EPCs) for bloggers. However some of these ad networks are very difficult to join because they have a higher “bar of entry” in terms of traffic volume and site quality requirements.
❤️ Related Post: List Of 20 Best Ad Networks And Affiliate Programs For Blogs
2. Clickbank: $433,324.54
I’ve now received over $400,000 in actual payments from Clickbank. I started as an affiliate with them in I think late 2013. They don’t keep a full history of your stats and after I think 6 months the data is removed, so I had to look through my tax documents to pull the numbers. Fortunately, too, I kept a few screenshots from “back in the day”… The screenshots are examples of daily Clickbank earnings throughout the last few years – however note that actual payments are a little lower because any refunds (typically around 5% of the total, depending on the product) are deducted prior to payout:
I absolutely LOVE Clickbank and of all the income systems I have partnered with, have found them to be the least problematic, the most reliable and the most awesome. I have NEVER had a late payment from them, never a problem of any kind in fact. In the old days I was paid by check and literally every single fortnight the Clickbank check arrived on time. Textbook professionalism.
This is almost unheard of in the online space, where, I have to be honest, quite a few of the players are not quite so cool. Clickbank just rocks basically. Great company.
Although almost all this income has been through being an affiliate (promoting other people’s products in return for commissions), my first efforts with Clickbank were not in fact as an affiliate, but as a vendor: I published my first Clickbank eBook in 2011 – but despite it being a high quality product, it probably only sold about 100 copies in total. I had absolutely no clue how to build a sales funnel. I thought all I had to do was make a cracking eBook and the affiliates would do the rest. Nope… 🙂
In January 2014, I discovered how to build an email list using Aweber (great company that I have been with ever since) from my then-massive Facebook traffic – and used this list to send a “mix” of free tutorials and Clickbank product promotions. It’s been this email traffic that has generated the majority of my Clickbank income.
To get the email list signups, I simply added an Aweber “lightbox” – this is a type of popup with an email signup form – to my blog, inviting people to join our list and get our free tutorials daily. I tried other types of signup forms but the “lightbox popup” blew them all out of the water – and I started getting anywhere from 20 to 500 new signups per day, depending on the traffic.
Several of my blogs now have their own email list, all managed via Aweber, with content tailored to the topic of the blog. Every day I would (and still do) send 2 emails to each list. The first of these emails is a simple list of a few links to interesting posts, which would drive some traffic back to my blogs. The second, was a short email promoting a Clickbank affiliate product. I still run the exact same method to this day and have a virtual assistant scheduling the emails using Aweber – so this is pretty much hands off for me now.
Here’s how I did this: I would go to the Clickbank marketplace, “sort by gravity” and look at all the top performing products. I would pick out all the ones I thought my audience would like and test them. Very often, Clickbank product vendors will provide their affiliates with tried-and-tested emails that can be used. You just embed your affiliate link and off you go. I always edited the emails and improved them if I could – but you can run them “stock”.
So whenever I want to test a new Clickbank product, I create a text file for the email, include the headline, body text and “hoplink” (Clickbank Affiliate link), drop the text file into the folder for my VA to upload to the Aweber schedule – and wait to see how much money it earned! If an email flopped, I would remove it from the cycle. If it earned money, I would keep that text file “in the loop”. I gradually built up a loop of around 60 emails that would be scheduled continually. If an email ceased to perform I would pull it from the cycle and add something new in. I’ve been doing this since 2014!
I also place some banners on my blogs with Clickbank affiliate links embedded and these generate additional money.
⭐ Pro Tip: Ad blockers will block images in the “standard” ad sizes, for example three hundred by six hundred. If you post images on your blog at those exact sizes, ad blockers will interpret that they are ads and prevent them from being displayed! However I learned that if you make the images non-standard sizes, and link via an HTML redirect, your banners can often fly under the radar (depending on the ad blocker), which gives a big visibility bump. Try 298×602 for example and test them with ad blockers enabled until you manage to get past the blockade 🙂
3. Private Traffic Deals: $64,110.72
Now this is a secret weapon tip that many don’t know about! 😉 But some of those who have a big social media following are nodding in agreement – because this can be a gold mine. I have made over $64,000 in total revenue from this method, from 3 traffic partners (one of whom has now retired, fortunately for him and unfortunately for me!) I don’t currently use this method for reasons I will explain below. Maybe I will rev it up again at some point…
The way it works is simple; many people and businesses who have ad-enabled web pages / blogs will pay you a cut of their revenue if you send them traffic – so if you have a big social media following (I used my Facebook fan pages) you can earn an additional revenue posting their stuff! You will start getting offers as soon as your fan base starts to get big – and you can of course do your own outreach. I’ve had better luck with outreach and building relationships with other business owners as you can hand-pick your partners that way.
Typically the cut for these traffic deals will be 50 to 75% of their ad revenue – but I had one partner who offered me 100% of their ad revenue from visitors I sent, because they were also collecting a lot of email signups from my big traffic and they wanted to incentivize me to send them lots of traffic! 🙂
If you have a big Facebook following, you can cut deals with other websites to send them traffic directly by posting their hottest posts directly on your Facebook pages. This can work well if they have slamming Facebook posts that already have proven super high engagement. Posting this content to a new FB audience, it will predictably do super well all over again! Typically your traffic partners will need to be experienced and have the tech savvy to be able to track your traffic, which you will identify by including a special code in the link, which enables them to extrapolate which traffic was yours and send you a report along with your earnings. There are also some businesses that have set up a stat server so that their traffic partners can log in and see detailed reporting.
Look for the other businesses that have big Facebook pages in your niche, because a big audience means that they have viral content – which will probably hit hard and earn you some money. Check out their posts to be sure that their stuff is getting tons of shares. Posting these will also increase your overall reach scores, which can give a lift to the engagement of your own content! You probably aren’t posting enough fresh content on your FB pages so you might be able to literally add their posts to your posting schedule and double up your income! 😉
NOTE – there is a risk involved in this method now, which is that in the age of rampant fact-checking, you run a risk of being penalized if you post something on your FB page that the fact checkers don’t like – even if it’s not linking to your own website! So you need to be careful here. I have in fact totally scaled back on doing this method since 2020, when we got all sorts of craziness with FB censorship in the natural health niche.
To minimize this risk, have your traffic partners send you pre-tested links only and vouch for their having not received any flags when they posted it on their own FB page. Even so, this can be tricky so you will need to fact check and simply avoid content that seems likely to stir up controversy. If you have been running FB pages for a while you will probably have a good idea of the kind of stuff they don’t like.
Also note that this might come under the category of “paid placements” even though you are not receiving a direct fee – which means that you might have to declare the post as “Sponsored” to be on the up and up with Facebook ToS, so you better check.
You could of course also run banners or links from your blog to their content but this will be small income compared to going direct from FB.
4. Sortable: $35,478.66
[Sorry for the tiny print size]
Sortable is one of the “modern crop” of ad networks that uses header bidding, allowing various advertisers to bid against each other for display advertising on your blog / website. Sortable has great CPM’s (earnings per thousand visitors). I signed up in 2018 and was earning better money with them than Adsense in terms of earnings per click – however I ended up having a disagreement with them over a policy – and bounced. I will explain what happened.
In early 2020, when the whole corona situation hit, natural health info all over the web was getting clobbered by heavy censorship. My natural health site (despite being well researched and carefully linking to all the scientific study references) got smashed – by Google, Facebook AND Pinterest – and… I was running Sortable ads on it. The traffic dipped heavily and my Sortable income dropped to well under $1000 per month. (You can see the big drop-off in March 2020 on the screenshot!)
Later in the year, I noticed something strange – my recent payouts were a lot less than the actual amount displayed in the platform stats. I wrote to support asking why, and they explained that they maintain a minimum monthly “take” of $300 from any publisher. In other words if their “slice of the pie” goes below $300, they deduct accordingly from my payout. Now I may simply have overlooked this in the small print (we all do it) but even so, I was a bit upset – I never heard of a policy like this before, and I had been “getting dinged” for months without realizing. And I could earn more on other platforms that did not have this policy! So, I said I wanted to quit the platform. They then said that there would be (get this) another fee for quitting and for my exit from the platform! I freaked! They very kindly waived the fee, but that was that.
⭐ Pro Tip: When you sign up with an ad network, read the small print! And be sure to check if there are hidden fees. It’s totally my bad for not RTFM but even so, I never heard of any other ad program charging you an exit fee. Left a bad taste, totally uncool to scalp publishers like that in my view.
5. Lockerdome $24,897.68
[ Lockerdome doesn’t allow you to pull “all time” stats; I had to get the total from my tax docs. Here’s a screenshot from Jan 2019 – a good month – my website names redacted for privacy. ]
Lockerdome is another display ad network. I signed up with them in 2018. My Lockerdome CPMs are not as high as they used to be for me and I’ll always place the ads that are generating the highest revenue – so I am not currently running these ads; but have them poised and ready to run if needed. It’s always good to get approved for a few networks, not only to test and keep the winners, but to have a reserve income stream in case “stuff happens”. Update, I moved on from this platform and am now using Newor.
6. Amazon Associates Program $14,635.44
[ Amazon Associates only allows you to pull 90 days data at a time and you can’t go back further than 2 years. Super annoying! I pulled the total income from my tax returns and here’s a “random” screenshot from a 3 month period in 2019… ]
I’ve now made over $14,600 from Amazon Associates since 2014 – honestly without trying very hard at all. I placed some relevant “product recommendation” affiliate links (and linked images) in some of my blog posts and then forgot about them. I never created blogs specifically tailored to generating Amazon revenue, for example product review sites or product list sites. I’ve come across affiliates who have given Amazon Associates Program significant focus and make 5 figures per month from it.
This is an affiliate program that is easy to join, easy to use and easy to start earning money from – and the number of products you can promote is virtually unlimited!
Amazon gives Associates a special “site stripe” (browser bar) that enables you to create your own special affiliate links from any product page:
Once you have been approved, you just click your “get link” – and a box will pop up that contains your special link, which you can place on your website and other places that allow it! (many people place them in the “about box” of Youtube videos to earn commissions from products they are using in their videos)
If someone clicks one of these link and buys something on Amazon within 24 hours (not just the product they landed on), you get a few percent commission!
In truth, I never really made a huge effort with Amazon. I created promotional links wherever it was appropriate within some of my content, and just let them sit there. It earns “pocket money” – however pocket money that comes in on total autopilot, without any further effort, is GOOD MONEY… and as you can see, over the years it starts to accumulate like interest. $13,000+ with no further effort? I’ll take it! 🙂
Even a dollar a day doesn’t sound like much but if you have evergreen content and an ongoing trickle of search traffic, that’s $3650 over 10 years. It all adds up! It also diversifies your income, giving you resilience. Some of my early websites from 10 years ago are still earning a dollar or so per day without me having touched them for years. Gotta love it.
⭐ Pro Tip: Now if you wanted to scale Amazon Associates into a big income – here is what I would do. I would make top 10 lists featuring product collections. For example “Top 10 Gifts For _________” or “Top 10 Essential Nifty Time-Saving Kitchen Tools” – and just scale up, building a big website and promoting on social media – or possibly even through ad traffic, if it can be made to convert. Hmm, cool idea… might have to do this!
7. Infolinks $8,568.42
I really like Infolinks. I started using it in 2018 and should have got this going sooner! Infolinks is a very reliable ad system for websites / blogs and though the amounts generated are typically smaller than other ad systems such as AdSense, it runs alongside them, is easy to use, is very little work to set up and is pretty much “set and forget”. Payments have been 100% reliable and website approvals are relatively easy! My Infolinks ads have averaged around $5 per day in total. What is interesting about this is that $5 per day seems like peanuts, however it’s essentially additional “free pocket money” if you already have content that gets traffic – and the internet is open 365 days a year. Get it going! 🙂 It all adds up: $5 per day for 10 years would be an extra $18,250.)
2023 UPDATE: Infolinks has added various other monetization options lately and has really come along as an income source. After running lots of split testing I have been finding it outperforming a number of other options. The basic text links (“intext”), which were there original ad format, are not very profitable but the “Infold” unit, which is a “sticky footer”, has been really performing well and I have been adding it to nearly all my websites. “Inarticle” and “Intop” are highly worthwhile also. I just had my best ever day on Infolinks (Feb 2023), earning $174.10 at $1.34 impression eCPM, which is pretty nice; interestingly Infolinks earned more than Adsense that day, running alongside it.
8. Newor Media $6,672.24
(personal info redacted)
Signed up with them in 2021 and everything has been sweet. Wholeheartedly recommend. They provide display ads. You have to have traffic over 30,000 per month for a site to be accepted but approvals are fast and support has been top notch.
Note: Newor requires an Adsense account in good standing as they are now in partnership with Google MCM.
9. Link Sales $4,644.51
(This was #8 but Newor has now overtaken it.) I haven’t put much energy into this. Most of these sales have come from emails, where I was approached by people/businesses doing link outreach and offering a sum of money for placing a link. The going rate for in-article links or “guest posts” these days is often calculated based on the “DA” (Domain Authority) of the website as reported by SEO tools such as this one – DA PA checker. A reasonable rate would be around $20 for a DA20+ site and $40 for a DA40+ site. I once had a homepage link on one of my best sites (DA53) where they offered $500 per year and this ran for 2 years.
If you wanted to go further with this method, there are link brokers who will be happy to add good quality sites with good SEO metrics to their portfolios. I know someone with a “private blog network” who receives a 5-figure monthly income just from link sales (he owns over 100 blogs!)
10. Scraps $3,310.11
Other small amounts were earned from Media.net, Propeller Ads, domain name sales, Kontera, Ezoic, Yahoo Ads, Widgetbucks (back in the day!) and more
There it is! Hope this was inspiring and gave you some helpful insights into some of the inner workings of the biz!