Last Updated 02/01/2022.
This post tracks our blogging income for 2021, the second year of the pandemic lockdowns. I’ve been a full-time blogger for almost a decade now. This site is the largest of the 8 websites we own, and normally, it makes the most money. At the end of 2019, as the pandemic hit, we were making a seriously good income. In 2020 our earnings were vastly reduced, in 2021 they are better, somewhat, but not even close to 2019 levels. Travel is not recovering from the pandemic as yet, at all, with many of the countries we cover remaining closed.
In this post, I’ll try to explain why our earnings dropped, and some of the measures I’ve taken to increase our revenue.
I’m in a fortunate position now, in that I have multiple sites, one with Mediavine, several with Adsense, one with Ezoic, so I can compare those 3 advertising agencies or platforms and give you some real information on which is best.
This post only covers our advertising revenue from Mediavine in detail. I’m not including our income from affiliate sales. As a rule of thumb, the two are roughly equivalent.
That said, our hotel booking and tour bookings, ie. our affiliate income, exploded in December 2021. After seeing virtually no hotel sales for almost 2 years, suddenly they were back.
I think this was down to a Mediavine setting.
If I make $1000 on Mediavine, it’s likely I’ll make $1000 from affiliate sales too. So our Mediavine income is approximately half our total income from this site.
As of December 2021, affiliate sales earnings were heading to above 50% of total blogging income.
How Much Money We Made Blogging in 2021
I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve done everything right on the travel blog this year. Since late 2019 we’ve had endless problems.
I switched to Trellis, switched to Rank Math, then back to Yoast again. I’ve had problems with the wrong dates appearing in the Google search results, also, most of the countries we cover are shut.
Traffic has been down significantly since late 2019 with no real increase. Rankings dropped too, because of the combined factors above.
Of course, search volume has dropped through the floor with travel so far off most people’s agenda right now.
In recent weeks, since switching back to Yoast Pro, things are better. I tied myself in knots with the super-complicated Rank Math Schema settings. I learned to speak fluent Schema, but it was no help.
I’m much happier with Yoast Pro, things are better, rankings are up.
Switching between these two SEO tools is not straightforward. Particularly not if you’re using features such as RankMath FAQ blocks. Which I was. That’s been another headache.
If Yoast had an affiliate scheme I’d be dropping my link here. Unfortunately, they don’t. I can’t make a cent from an honest recommendation there.
Mediavine v Adsense v Ezoic
These three companies place advertising material on our sites and make us an income when visitors see, or click on, an ad. There are pros and cons to each of them.
Mediavine makes us the most money by far because my site with the highest traffic is on Mediavine. You have to have a lot of traffic to your blog in order to qualify for Mediavine.
I believe that today you require 50,000 sessions per month. Mediavine prefer that the majority of your traffic comes from the US, as advertisers pay most to advertise to an American audience.
The bulk of my traffic is from the US, followed by Australia, then the UK and Canada. These countries are the ones you have to target.
I also get a lot of traffic from Asia, particularly Malaysia, India, and the UAE. Local people in those destinations are searching for local travel information. Sadly, the income generated for me, from Asian visitors, is very, very, low.
Google Discover keeps giving me virals in Kathmandu and Borneo, and while it’s nice to get the exposure, this doesn’t help my income. This low RPM traffic of course pushes down my average Mediavine RPMs.
A lot of bloggers block low-income countries. I will never do that.
If you plan to target Asia, go for Singapore, UAE (my Dubai and Middle East travel content is pretty strong), Japan, Malaysia and the more wealthy Asian countries. They consistently seem to have the higher CPMs and RPMs for the region.
These figures are my actual figures for November 2021. All figures are in US $. These numbers will be very useful if you are a new blogger planning an income strategy.
I’ve included some of the best and worst paying countries for comparison.
What I should be doing, of course, is targeting local US travel. Americans are travelling, or were. Unfortunately, they either stay within the US or visit Mexico and the Caribbean. I don’t cover that part of the world at all.
I do have some US travel content, and it’s popular, but there really isn’t enough of it and I don’t like creating content about places we haven’t been. That feels wrong.
So I’ll continue raving about Asia and our home turf in Port Douglas and Cairns until the tourists return.
See our USA content here. It won’t take you long!
I’m so sick of reading that these lockdowns have been great and life has been as normal. For us, in a tourist destination, it has been far from normal. No tourists has sent businesses under and cost us jobs and incomes.
I’m on the front line in a wealthy country in an expensive tourist destination. Imagine how it’s been for the guides and hoteliers in Nepal?
I don’t have to imagine. I get the begging letters.
My “normal” also doesn’t include being unable to see my family and friends for 2 years and missing my mother’s funeral. No, I’m not a big fan of lockdowns. I hope they go away soon and never come back.
So the take-away here is, if you’re starting a blog or destination-specific niche site, target America and Americans. Don’t even think of targeting Asia.
Let’s compare those Mediavine RPMs and CPMs to those I’ve seen on Adsense and Ezoic. On one day this year my Adsense RPMs were higher than Mediavine’s. My Adsense RPMs were consistently higher than my Ezoic RPMs. Then Ezoic took off.
Ezoic has a 3 month “running-in” period where it tests and adjusts ad placements. I now love Ezoic, they’re really my style and earnings are great. I’m moving 3 more sites to Ezoic ASAP.
They’ve helped optimise my site for speed and CWV too, I have a lot of good things to say about Ezoic.
Part of this variance in RPM is just niche, my Homeschooling site always has much higher RPMs than either of the travel sites.
Ezoic initially slowed my #2 travel site down a lot and it lost traffic. This resolved once Ezoic’s speed setting were optimised and I took the steps their tools suggested.
I can’t say for sure if this decreased traffic was down to Ezoic or not.
There is a school of thought where you don’t put ads on a new site at all and push hard to get to the 50K monthly sessions required for Mediavine. I don’t subscribe to it.
I’ve made thousands off those smaller sites over the last few years and they’re nowhere close to Mediavine threshold. They may never be. I’m happy to use Adsense / Ezoic on them for now.
Adsense is slightly different in that it pays well per click. If a lot of people click on the ads on my homeschooling sites I see very good income days. As the ads are very homeschool-specific, I see plenty of clicks. The travel sites are too general.
Monthly Income Report 2021 and 2020
Here are the actual Mediavine income figures for 2021 compared to 2020.
The 2019 figures were very different, back then I was consistently making over $200 per day from Mediavine, with spikes up to $500, even $700 per day. I was a 5 figure plus monthly blogger back then.
Life was great when we were making serious cash.
I’m not complaining, life is pretty good and Chef has plugged some of the financial gaps. Our heads have remained above water even through the worst days of financial ruin.
Work is very thin on the ground for Chef now too with close to zero tourists, not even domestic, in town. The coming wet season will be tough on everyone.
|Month||Page Views 2020||Income 2020||Income 2021|
So as you can see above, income has almost doubled in 2021 compared to 2020, but it’s not even remotely close to our pre-pandemic income. Note how high income was in January and February 2020, after the world was starting to shut down.
Advertising revenue follows a quarterly and yearly pattern. The year is broken into 3 month quarters. The last month of the quarter normally has the highest advertising demand and prices.
Q4 normally has much higher RPMs than the other quarters, Q1 has the lowest. It’s to do with Christmas and Thanksgiving and doesn’t correspond to when people are actually travelling at all.
It’s always been frustrating that the RPM pattern doesn’t reflect the high travel interest that comes each new year.
This year and last year, income has followed the patterns of the lockdowns. My Australia content was doing great until about June when internal borders were closed. Once they’re open we’ll see some recovery, but we need the international travellers back fast.
Our best month for advertising revenue is normally November, that didn’t happen this year. That was in part because of my recent switch from RankMath to Yoast. I haven’t ironed out all the kinks yet and fewer ads were showing per page on some of my highest revenue posts.
Increasing Mediavine Earnings and RPMs
Mediavine provide their bloggers with a lot of very useful data.
We can see which posts make the most money and which individual videos. We can see how posts and videos perform over time and compare this data, side by side.
It’s a really useful set of figures. I noticed recently that certain posts had dropped in RPM and not because of decreased traffic. Traffic had gone up, yet RPM down. Fewer ads were showing.
Obviously, the more ads on a page the more money you get. There is a maximum number you can show, set by Google. Mediavine ads are always beneath this threshold so there’s no danger of showing too many.
Going back into those old posts, making them longer, adding more photos and further splitting up the paragraphs soon fixed this.
Of course, improvements like this can also help rankings too, if you get it right and add usefulness to the post. This is all part of the process of updating old content.
I generally aim to update all 800+ posts, every year. It’s necessary and this is why this site stays at the top of the ranking for the keywords we choose to target.
Quality content. Ever-improving quality content is what Google demands.
So that’s it. My 2021 travel blogging income report. It’s not quite as gloomy as the 2020 one I published last year. If you take a look at the 2020 version there’s a lot more useful information in that one. My aim, as always, is to help new bloggers figure this stuff out.
I never published income reports prior to 2020 because I thought it was a bit vulgar to talk about money, but I think these pandemic years deserve to be shared. After all, I’ve got no travel to blog about!
Hope you’re safe and happy wherever you find yourselves. And did I mention we’ve bought a farm? That post is coming soon.
You can see what we’re up to farm-wise on this Instagram account.
Being Travel Bloggers in 2021
We did manage a weekend in Brisbane this year, before border closures came back and whatever number wave started.
The furthest we’ve been from home other than that trip, is about 100 Km, and that was to buy chickens.
What we have done, is try to enjoy local attractions, so we’ve taken a sunset sail, been out to the Great Barrier Reef twice, testing out different tours and trips so that I can recommend them to our readers.
Ready for when the tourists come back.
Of course, having a much lower income and struggling to pay the bills hasn’t allowed us to do as much as we would like. I’m not one to reach out for free trips, particularly as I know how much businesses here are struggling.
Chef had to get a job. We couldn’t support a family on my blogging earnings once the pandemic took a hold. He’s working 3 jobs currently, as a restaurant chef, a private chef on luxury yachts, and as a deckhand on the reef boats.
All are very erratic and part-time but he really enjoys being on the boats. He hasn’t been out on the reef boats since the borders closed in June or July, they’re barely running.
The restaurant he works in is down to opening just 3 days per week, very short hours.
So with his work commitments and the kids’ timetable, taking off on trips really hasn’t been an option. Even if we could afford to.
If you look, you’ll see that our local Australian content, particularly Port Douglas, has grown quite a lot this year. I don’t normally send these out in the newsletter because not many of our 5,000 email subscribers will be interested.
We were planning a trip for February 2022, home, Europe, and Asia. But I’ve got a bad feeling our borders will stay shut.
So we continue to be travel bloggers and always will be, but I’m shifting slowly towards our gardening and farming site. I’m looking forward to sharing my permaculture and livestock farm with anyone who’s interested!
We’re hoping that cutting our expenses on the farm will give us greater financial freedom, our expenses will be more in line with what we were spending while we were travelling, ie. a lot less. We’ll be “Living Differently” differently.
Of course, we will still travel, if our borders become open.
Further blogging information such as this can be found here:
- How to start a blog.
- Affiliate income
- 2020 Income Report
- How to Sell Everything and travel
- Digital Nomad Family Life
- Our Main Blogging Section With Loads of Useful Info and Tips!
Thanks for reading. You know, life without travel hasn’t been so bad once I recovered from the initial devastation and bereavement. I got fitter, lost over 10 Kg (about 2 stone), tried to get healthier and found joy in a simple at-home life. It’s been OK and I’m thankful for so much. But I’ll be very glad to get out!
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