Make Money Blogging: The Provocative History of Professional Blogging

75 amazing comments

How do I make money blogging? Can I go from hobby writer to professional blogger? Why isn’t it happening as fast as I’d like?

These are questions that almost every blogger will ask themselves at some point in their career. From the moment we get the itch and purchase our first WordPress blog host we are dying to make it big – or at least make some pocket money.

Well, one of the best ways to avoid pitfalls on the path is to study the history of those that came before you. And, funnily enough, it’s also a really good way to come up with new and profitable ideas. Remember the motto no ideas original?

In this post I want to show you some of the most controversial, interesting and inspirational events that have happened to people making money with blogs.

By looking back at these provocative histories I’m hoping we can avoid mistakes and come up with ideas that will help us in our time, with our journey.

Let’s dive in!

The problem with history

Have you ever heard anyone say that history is written by the victors?

It’s kind of true but what I really think is that history is can’t ever be that accurate because you are reading about it through the eyes of a person or people who have opinions.

And it’s also impossible to include everything while framing the event in the context of the time in which it happened.

So, with that little warning I’d like to make sure you realize that this post will never be complete. It’s more of a selection of the blogging events that I think we can learn from or that inspired/interested me while I was around.

Who’d really want to read the whole history anyway?

The history of making money with blogs

As usual I would love your help with this. The Blog Tyrant comments are often a lot more informative than the stuff I write in the post so make sure you include any other significant events or lessons if you think I’ve missed something.

And if I’ve made any errors on dates or timing please forgive me. It was actually quite hard to go back and figure out exactly when things happened. Add that to the fact that I still think the 90’s were 10 years ago and perhaps I’m not the best historian!

Here we go!

2002 – Dooce got fired for blogging about her work

Dooce - Heather Armstrong the original mommy blogger
Photo: Armstrong Media

As you probably know by now, I am a really big fan of Heather Armstrong. She is possibly the most famous female blogger in the world and it all started when she got fired from her job for writing about it on her personal blog.

This was a pretty monumental event and I actually think it was the birth of the “mommy blogger” (sorry to my readers who hate that term). She has an incredible ability to get her thoughts into typed words and has a massive and quite loyal group of readers who love her rants and her dog photos.

Heather serves as a wonderful example of how stay at home moms can make money using blogs. Because of her lead we now have a bunch of great female bloggers that might otherwise have not thought to put their wisdom and grace online.

2003 – WordPress started

Although the first versions of WordPress were nothing like the current ones, this event is probably the most important for the history of professional blogging.

It is by far the world’s most popular self-hosted blogging platform and is totally open-source having been downloaded over 65 million times.

It spawned the massive free and premium plugin and theme markets and revolutionized the way we go about building an income earning blog by giving us more flexibility and control over the way the site looks and functions.

2004 onwards – Free blogging platforms shifted towards self-hosted blogs

When I was first getting interested in the net there was Angelfire and a few other free website builders. But they weren’t really blogs. After a while we got introduced to Blogger and the other free platforms. Google even bought Blogger when it saw how fast the platform was taking off.

Finally, though, Google began to favor self-hosted blogs and websites as being more trustworthy and as such the trend moved away from the free hosted platforms.

The really important lesson here is that people began to realize the importance of totally owning the asset that they were building. This is something that we’d all do well to remember since the advent of Facebook and other places we put content that we don’t own or control.

2004 – Darren Rowse created ProBlogger

The influence of Darren Rowse can’t really be understated in the history of professional blogging. He is the ProBlogger after all!

Most importantly, however, Darren has from the very beginning advocated a very clean and value-based form of blogging. He never wrote about shady methods and always focused on developing lots of really useful content.

I think we, as bloggers, need to pay homage to that. There is hardly a blog out there that hasn’t been influenced by Darren and his work and I think that probably means there is a lot better content out there then there could have been if a different blogger had filled that space instead.

2004 to 2008 – Adsense was the main form of blog monetization

When I first started (and probably still, for some people) Adsense was the main way that people were making money with their blogs – especially when Google got good at matching ads to blog content.

My first big blog sale was pretty much based around Adsense revenue. It wasn’t enormous but it was very helpful for a Uni student.

After a while people started to realize that it was not a perfect model. As I wrote about in a controversial post, it seems a little bit wasteful to send a reader away from your site in exchange for a $0.10 – $2.00 click. Why not get them signed up to a mailing list and promote affiliates or future products?

2005 – Text link ads and paid posts took over

Around this time most bloggers were making money with ways that probably look insanely dangerous to bloggers these days.

Sites offering paid reviews and paid text links were hugely popular. You would sign up for an account, get your blog submitted and then accept offers for paid posts that included in-text links or sidebar text links that paid you on a monthly basis.

What this meant was that people started to create “fake” blog networks with high page rank (you needed usually a PR4 to get accepted) and then just do paid posts on them.

Google is still responding to this SEO strategy. Penguin and Panda updates have been particularly rough on bad text links with spammy anchor text. These days you wouldn’t want to put any links to other sites in your sidebar for fear of looking like you were paid to do it.

NOTE: Some of these “paid links” sites seem to be a bit more SEO friendly nowadays according to some bloggers but I personally wouldn’t risk it.

2006 – Shoemoney posted his Adsense photo

Photo: Jeremy Schoemaker

There was a time when Shoemoney was the go-to-blog for anyone wanting to make money online. Although Jeremy is still doing very well for himself, it seems as though his blog has sort of declined in popularity a bit if the comment numbers are a good indicator.

But it used to be a bustling metropolis – and it all started (I think) because of the photo of him holding an Adsense check for over $100,000. That one photo turned him into an overnight blogging celebrity.

Jeremy’s posts were characterized by really clever ideas and doing things that sort of pushed the boundaries. I was always really curious to see what fascinating tactics he would write about next. It was the perfect example of a quality content blog and an authority statement.

2006 – Blog carnivals and forum posting were big SEO favorites

One of the ways I built up my first blogs was by participating in Blog Carnivals. They were absolutely huge at the time and people would host these events where you’d submit a link and get it included in some person’s blog post about the related topic.

People still do this but it is not really a big a strategy as it used to be now that Google’s algorithm is a bit less forgiving. They are simply getting too good at sniffing out “unearned” links and it just isn’t worth the trouble.

These carnivals played a big part in the development of the way we do guest posts now. It’s not quite the same but I do think people wanted to continue with the underlying tradition of the carnivals. Nowadays people do them a bit differently like Pat Flynn’s reader challenges.

2007 – John Chow was banned from Google (and let back in)

John Chow was one of the first bloggers to make money by openly focusing on helping other people make money. But one of the things that actually really helped his career was his ongoing battle with Google.

It’s difficult to know the exact truth of the matter (because Google is quite private about their policies) but it seems as though John was de-indexed from the search results for running a competition that essentially asked people to link back to his blog. Google basically likened it to paying for links and kicked him off.

But it made him stronger. Word spread that he’d been banned and it caused a big influx of readers looking to learn from the guy who was making a fortune without any Google rankings at all. At the time it was really exciting.

Later on John met with someone from Google and managed to get himself re-indexed after explaining that he was all above board. All in all this guy has changed blogging by being pretty open about how he was making money and letting others learn from his example.

His “Google dramas”, to me, also pointed out how we must never rely on any one source of traffic for our own success. It’s just too risky.

2007 – Zen Habits was born and so was guest posting


Can you imagine a blogging world without Zen Habits and Leo Babauta? Well, as hard as it is to believe he wasn’t always there.

In fact, I remember being an avid blog reader in early college and seeing this unknown guy called Leo appearing on almost every blog you can think of. Back then his site was pretty ugly (sorry Leo!) and the whole thing was very unprofessional.

But his content was remarkable. And people knew it.

As far as I can remember he was the first blogger to go on a guest posting campaign that made his career skyrocket in a matter of months. He went from nobody to thousands and thousands of subscribers in record time and clued everyone into the idea of guest posting for growth. Since then he’s been in Time magazine and created one of the most popular blogs in the world.

As a side note, Leo gave me a month of free adverting on Zen Habits for one of my original blogs which helped me start my own career. So, Leo’s history is also quite linked to mine.

2007 – Twitter and Facebook started to take off

It’s hard to believe but there was a time when blogging existed without the major social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. They really are only recent additions to the whole online marketing puzzle.

Back in the day there were sites like Reddit, Digg and a lot of other bookmarking sites like Netscape which served as the place for bloggers to share and find content. But other than them and the good old forums there was really no centralized social networking hubs.

This totally changed blogging because it created a whole new method of promotion (and distraction!) for bloggers to explore. It even created pro-bloggers who just used them without the traditional blog.

2008 – Brian Gardner created the premium WordPress theme market

Brian Gardner is another blogger that you could probably ring up and ask him to help you move you house. He’s a really friendly guy and insanely talented when it comes to WordPress themes.

In 2008 he started Studiopress themes which are now a big part of Copyblogger Media. This marked a really big point in blogging history; showing people that they could take control of their blog design and giving developers a new market to tap in to. WordPress themes and theme design are now a huge industry.

Although I don’t use Genesis/Studiopress themes (yet!) they are extremely high quality and well worth a look.

2009 – Johns Wu sold his blog for $14.9 million

As Aaron Wall mentions in his interview, it took Johns Wu just three years to build and sell for almost $15 million.

Oh yeah, he was only 22.

This was a hugely exciting and inspirational story at the time as it signalled (for me anyway) the moment when traditional big business started to realize that blogging was a viable and upcoming way to make money. It also showed us how powerful one or two good rankings on Google really could be.

Well done Johns.

2009 – James Chartrand became a woman

One of the all time greatest reveals in the history of blogging. Better than mine even!

James Chartrand was another prolific guest poster and had made quite a name for himself. Then one day we were hit with a post on Copyblogger called Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s UnderPants and we found out that he was actually a she.

Great promotion, yes, but kind of sad when she explained the rationale: she hadn’t been getting a fair deal as a copywriter with female name. Once the male pen-name was introduced the earnings started to increase.

NOTE: Getting a guest post on Men with Pens is the hardest guest post you’ll ever land. Isn’t it, James? 😉

2006, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, etc. – Blogging died

Every few years some bright spark would declare that blogging, as a medium for us to make money, was dead. And every year people like Brian Clark or Sonia Simone would write articles saying, “… guess I’ll give it all back, then.”

One of the really interesting things about blogging is that is has been a consistently reliable source of traffic, readers and, yes, income. The people who have focused on building a readership through the development of quality content have weathered all the trendy storms.

I am quite sure that someone will soon enough declare blogging to be dead, again. But I am betting that their declaration will be wrong – unless some scary SOPA-style statute gets in and makes it all too hard.

One thing we do have to look out for, however, is the changing mediums. The method of delivery is changing to mobile very rapidly and that might present some challenges/opportunities.

2010 – Dosh Dosh disappeared

Maki, the guy who wrote Dosh Dosh, famously took a leave of absence around this time and never came back. This was a hugely sad and strange development for his fans because it was one of the most unique and actionable blogs out there.

Considering he had over 50,000 subscribers when he vanished it still strikes some people as odd the way it went down. There are some articles that have a go at explaining his disappearance but, for me, this will always be a huge event in the professional blogging niche because Maki was one of those guys who would change things for the better. I can’t help but wonder where he would have taken it by now.

This was a really interesting lesson in terms of how supportive a bloggers readers can be. There were scores of people asking where he went and begging him to come back. Content creation at its absolute best.

2012 – Google opened a scary zoo of black and white animals

Two of the most recently significant events for professional bloggers was the massive changes to SEO that were brought about by the Penguin and Panda updates. So dramatic were these rollouts that some blogs and web businesses found themselves struggling to make any money at all.

The two updates focused on mainly the issues of bad social and link signals and as such they seemed to favor large and popular websites. For example, if your back link profile had too many links from ordinary blogs you might have got penalized.

What this meant was that the entire SEO industry has essentially been turned into a premium content creation one. As has happened so many times before, the lesson that came out of the Google updates was that you need to focus on quality content and an email list or suffer the consequences.

2012 – Digg died (or choked a little bit)

Digg really was a bit of a King Maker when it came to helping blogs reach new heights. Sites like Boing Boing, TechCrunch, Huffington Post and even our mates Darren Rowse and Leo Babauta would spend days on the front page and receive tens of thousands of visitors.

But since Twitter and Facebook came around it seems as though Digg has fallen off the edge a little bit. After being valued at $175 million it recently sold for just a few hundred thousand. It just doesn’t seem relevant anymore.

Again, this is a huge lesson for the egg basket. Meaning that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in a basket that you don’t own. Sites that people thought were too big to fail (like MySpace) always seem to fail eventually.

2012 – Brian Clark won the internet

Okay so maybe this is a little bit sensational but he’s getting kind of close.

Just a few years ago (or so it seems!) Copyblogger was just a regular blog with a mailing list and some brilliant content. But each year Brian and his awesome team developed new software and ideas and integrated them to the blog. This year the “blog home page” style design took a backseat to the slick new interface that promotes their products first and blog second.

When I saw the design I instantly thought that this is where a lot of us will end up going (like when Darren shifted to a “portal” blog theme). Brian, again, showed us the way forward as the blogosphere morphs and changes.

Lessons learned from the history of making money online

As I said at the start, this post was not intended to be a complete history of blogging as a whole. It wasn’t even intended to be a complete history of blogs that make money. Rather, I wanted to show you some of the events that I remember or remember reading about that had a big impact on my own path.

Some of the main lessons I think we can take away from these events are:

  • Crisis breeds opportunity
    Both Dooce and Pat Flynn started their blogs because their work situation took a turn for the worse. John Chow succeeded without Google rankings. They are now absolutely smashing it online after landing on their feet and making something happen for themselves. Don’t let crisis get you down.
  • You gotta love it
    Darren and Leo are perfect examples of guys who have made it because they love the work and throw themselves into it with as much effort as possible. If you don’t love your blog or your topic you really need to consider changing.
  • You gotta own it
    Google is constantly changing their algorithm. If you rely too much on them for your traffic you could get stuck. The same has happened for people who have spend a lot of time growing Facebook Pages only to find that you now have to pay to increase your reach. Own your asset. Focus on email subscribers.
  • Persistence produces ideas
    One of the things I’ve noticed is that sticking at it for a long time often causes “break throughs” where you find a gap in the market that needs filling. Look at Brian Gardner’s premium themes or Johns Wu’s bank site.
  • Quality trumps gimmicks
    The guys and girls who have been developing distinct brands with quality content and a kind motivation seem to have weathered all the storms and changes in the blogging world. Forget promotional gimmicks and just work on a blog the helps people.

Learning from the past will hopefully mean that we all have a bright future as bloggers. But the best place to get an insight into where blogging is probably headed is in Glen’s incredible post on the future of blogging. It’s long and it’s detailed but it is full of knowledge that we all should pay attention to.

What have I missed?

So Tyrant Troops, what have I missed? There are undoubtedly a lot of other big events or trends that have made a huge difference to professional blogging. Please leave your usual amazing comments if you can think of anything special.

Ramsay from Blog Tyrant


Hi, I'm Ramsay. If you enjoyed this post you might like to check out:

Finally, hit the button below to get a free report and email updates so you're never out of touch.


75 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • Andi the Minion

    Excellent post Ramsay, as a relatively new blogger a lot of this is new to me and very interesting to learn too. After 3 years of work at 22 to sell a blog for $15 million….. incredible.

    1. Avi (@skyhitblog)

      hmm. finally hard work pays.

      Dedication ad hard work is very important to achieve success in our work…

      1. Ramsay

        Yeah it is pretty remarkable. It’s a lot of cash.

  • Nabans

    Although you wrote the complete history of blogging (I was pretty impressed with it) but more than that I’m inspired by this. I just left blogging because it never earned me a pie (I like to earn very fast. Maybe that’s why I left blogging). But now I’m thinking to start it again and refer to this post whenever I think that I should leave blogging.

    Thanks Ramsay for this wonderful and inspirational post.

    1. Ramsay

      How long did you blog before you gave up?

  • Ahmed Safwan@ To Start Blogging

    What a great post? You are really rocking Ramsay. The best part is the last part, Brian is now using his blog to promote his products and make millions yearly from his awesome blog.

    Thanks again for this awesome post.

    1. Ramsay

      Thank you.

  • Brian Clark

    I won the Internet? Excellent! 😉

    Thanks for the mentions, Ramsay. It’s been an interesting ride for sure.

    1. SI

      The Internet today, tomorrow the World? 🙂

      1. James Chartrand - Men with Pens

        Hey, HEY. Brian’s had his share. The World is mine. (Or at least a small empire within it.)

        Excellent post, Ramsay – that had to be a lot of work to timeline together!

        1. Ramsay

          Thanks so much for stopping by. Can’t wait to see what you cats do next.

  • Sheyi @

    Pure great content.

    I guess the next part should be blogging monetization.

    And you once advised people not to read blogs again. Those who TRULY took the advice then, where are they now?


    1. Ramsay

      If they aren’t reading blogs at all then I think they misread my post a little bit.

  • Ryan

    Wow, selling a blog at age 22 for almost $15 million! And Shoemoney’s check! It’s pretty crazy how fast everything online changes and moves with new technology. Digg even “dugg” itself 6 feet under (ba bum ching!) I liked your headlines by the way… esp Brian Clark won the Internet and Google opened a zoo. lol

    One thing that I really took away from this post is that you shouldn’t rely on Google for all your search traffic. That’s why it’s important to build an email list.

    I wonder what “The history of blogging” will look like 5 years from now.

    1. Ramsay

      Got any predictions for us Ryan?

      1. Ryan

        Hmmm. No real predictions. Maybe Google goes on the war path even more, and people turn to instant fixes and shorter blogging platforms like twitter and mobile. Maybe a new website takes over facebook…I guess time will tell. What do you think, Ramsay?

        1. Ramsay

          I don’t think Facebook will last. I think desktops will disappear.

  • Glynis Jolly

    Do you think blogging has died? I think it is still alive but it have evolved some. It looks as if people now understand that money cannot be made by the simple action of blogging. Some are adding stores/shops to their blogs, some, like me, are resigned to the fact of not making money but are still enjoying the craft. And, yes, some have left the building like Elvis.

    I still think blogging is a great way to put yourself out there on the Net and really let people get to know you without meeting them for a drink in a bar or pub.

    1. Ramsay

      Hi Glynis.

      I don’t think it’s dead. In fact, I think it is healthier than ever. It’s just changing a little bit.

  • Johanna

    Such an interesting history and well said Ramsay. Thank goodness though nothing like old school history texts! Read it to the end. Thanks for an inspiring post.

    Think it’s a round up of events all of us should pay heed to because as you infer blogging might not ever die but it will radically change shape and evolve into something which we might battle to recognise in 10 years time. The astute will keep evolving.

    One thing that amazes me in this mercurial and money grabbing world is that we can blog mostly for free or at least for very little investment. I keep wondering when Big Brother will clock onto the fact that so many of us are having fun for nothing and that many bloggers are making lots of Moolah 🙂 Really hope this won’t be added to the history list anytime soon.

    1. Ramsay

      Hi Johanna.

      It’s not exactly nothing – it’s a lot of time and effort! 🙂

  • SI

    It is interesting to see what has happenend in a relatively short period of time, a blog sells for $15 million after only 3 years, Facebook has grown to become a billion dollar property which could go the same way as MySpace and Digg.

    I find the whole blogosphere very inspiring, if planned well, time spent focused on quality information and it all seen as a long term project over at least four years, I believe anyone can change their lives with blogging.

    A tall order? hmmmmm I don’t think so, there are too many success stories out there to make me think otherwise. Things can only get better.

    Interesting read Ramsay, thanks

    1. Ramsay

      Totally agree with you SI. It is a wonderful workplace.

  • Sarah Arrow

    Never seen that pic with the cheque before 🙂
    I wonder if he’s making as much money these days?

    1. Ramsay

      Yeah I think he is making a lot more than that. Maybe not from Adsense but he is very clever with his business investments.

  • Aaron

    Great post and a great introduction for all of us newer bloggers. It’s good to know the roots and honor those who have gone before us. Thanks for a great post.

    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for commenting Aaron.

  • Serban

    Nice history, where is Danny Iny? I found you from his first book:)
    Anyway for me is informative.

    1. Ramsay

      Danny is awesome for sure. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Kerry Traylor

    This is just a BRILLIANT post, Ramsay. As a former history teacher and history enthusiast, I totally believe that if we don’t learn from history, we’re bound to repeat the same old mistakes! Thank you for this!

    1. Ramsay

      Oh crap a history teacher. I wonder how many mistakes I made! Ha ha.

      Do you ever find yourself getting overwhelmed by historical events? I love looking at Indian and Chinese history and when I think about Ashoka and the Muryan Empire and the silk road I get kind of stressed out because it’s so vast.

      Is that weird?

  • Slavko Desik

    Awesome post Ramsay!
    An excellent depiction on how blogging evolved throughout the years. It’s interesting for a blogger like me, someone who blogged for something less than a year, to actually see the chronological order of how things developed. I’m familiar with many of these things by just hanging around many of the blogs that you mentioned. Anyway it’s a great thing seeing them like this.

    And what you find as important is actually a real cornerstone and quite a landmark if we think about it. I especially love when you say about how if Darren hadn’t filled the spot of sort of a teacher, the whole thing might have looked quite differently.

    The post that Glen wrote is a manifesto for every aspiring blogger. It’s a must read really. Glad seeing it here in such connotation.

    I would only add 2005 as the time around when Rand Fishkin gathered some folks and they made SEOmoz, a company that changed the picture on how SEO should be done and ultimately used in making a complex internet marketing strategy.

    I enjoyed this post. Definitely a landmark for some future generation of bloggers to look back to. I personally like it not just because of the information it covers, but also because of the analytically formed observation on the evolution on professional blogging. Someone had to write this down.

    Have a great day my friend 🙂

    1. Ramsay

      Yeah I was going to include Rand. He is a really big inspiration to me and I had wondered whether the creation of SEOmoz changed the SEO game for the better kind of like ProBlogger did for blogging. I left it out because I thought that maybe it wasn’t close enough to making money with a blog. Could be wrong though.

      Great comment!

  • Chris

    Great recap and I’m about halfway through Glen’s “Future” post and am really enjoying it so far, so thanks for the link.

    I feel like I’m working in a relatively untapped market here in Canada and just need to figure out how to take it to the next level. There has definitely been a lot of great feedback and I’m now working on building my email list, along with sorting out a content structure that works for me.

    Funny, I started here on this website and decided that this is what I wanted to do. So I guess I shoudl say thanks for that too. ;D Have a good one!

    1. Ramsay

      THAT is what I’m talking about. Send me some money when you make your first $100k.


  • Lewis LaLanne

    I positively love this observation of yours Ramsay…

    “It’s kind of true but what I really think is that history is can’t ever be that accurate because you are reading about it through the eyes of a person or people who have opinions.”

    The idea that there is no right or wrong – there are only perspectives and at best all perspectives are partial is incredibly alluring to me.

    And this has led me to embrace the concept that wisdom comes from having multiple perspectives.

    On the path to doing so, I’ve come along an absolutely fantastic book titled, “You Are Not So Smart” by David McRaney.

    This book is an example of how a blog can be monetized as the book is made up primarily of the posts from the blog with same title of the book with the catchy subtitle of “a celebration of self-delusion”.

    Study after study after study in this book proves that we are our own worst enemy. If we don’t become conscious of all the ways we BS ourselves, we can never change the habitual autopilot behaviors that derail us.

    I just finished the book and I have to say that it is must reading for anyone who wishes to influence and inspire themselves to astounding themselves with the results that show up when they reach to be the best they can be.

    1. Ramsay

      Love your comments Lewis.

      It reminds me of a teaching by a buddhist lama called Chogyam Trungpa where he said something like, “Feel free to look at your ego directly and say ‘I am going to destroy you!'”.

      It can be a very sneaky thing and hard to know when we’re making our own troubles.

  • Ralph | Niche Websites

    Great post man!
    I actually know quite a bit of these guys (not personally) which makes me feel like I did learn from a few of the best haha 🙂

    There are obviously many other guys out there but great write up!

    1. Ramsay

      Thanks Ralph.

  • Srinivas

    Hey Ramsay,

    I know we’ve been saying we need to get on you on BlogcastFM for a few years. Now that you’re no longer anonymous I’d love to have you on the show. Have always enjoyed your stuff. – SRini

    1. Ramsay

      Man I am so keen! I haven’t got internet at my new house yet but let’s lock in a time for January – no excuses!

    2. Slavko Desik

      That will definitely be a great podcast! Looking forward guys 🙂

  • Patti Hale

    I truly enjoyed this post as well since I was not aware of all of it. Although their development may not be as significant as the ones you cited, I am curious as to how/why the content mills and the revenue sharing sites like Squiddo and Hub Pages got their start. Were they simply filling a need or just someone’s idea of how to make money?

    1. Ramsay

      I think probably both.

      Squidoo was the idea of Seth Godin who probably should have made the list. I guess he saw a gap in the market and filled it. It’s not for everyone but it can be quite useful.

      Thanks Patti.

  • Jeremy Cook

    Interesting article, enjoyed your thourough research. One thing I’ve heard you harp on before is the email subscriber thing.

    I’m pretty happy with my blog traffic-wise with around 800 hits a day, but my email subscribers are a bit lacking at only SEVEN! Am I missing something? I’d love if you, or anyone else would like to, would check my site out and see if there’s something important I’m leaving out!

    1. Ramsay

      Had a quick look.

      First thoughts are that the subscriber area doesn’t really stand out from the other parts of the site while still being branded tightly.

      I’d also put more of yourself on the site and maybe a logo to increase trust.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Jeremy Cook

        That makes sense about “standing out.” What do you mean “branded tightly” though?

        You’re probably right about putting more of myself on the site, although, as with you until recently, having a bit of anonimity is kind of nice sometimes.

        Thx for the reply!

        1. Ramsay

          Sorry, I mean like it should stand out but still also look like it is part of your site and not an advert.

  • Cham

    Oh my! I didn’t know that blogging goes back a long, long time. And the Philippines is such a latecomer in this. Thanks to you, I found dooce®. And I am on my way to following her greatness. 😀

    1. Ramsay

      Yeah Heather is very cool.

  • SL Clark

    And why was Seth Godin not automagically on this list? With the #1 Marketing Blog and a widely read base even in the early days, it seems he was waaay ahead of most listed here.

    Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan created Blogger, sold it for REAL money and then Evan went on to create the little micro blogging thing called Twitter, generating even more $$$

    And Kathy Sierra was death threated away from blogging by MALE tech neanderthals and then there’s Robert Scoble and Hugh MacLeod and too many others to mention…

    Oh wait, your focus is WordPress driven monetization.

    1. Ramsay

      Man… I forgot Seth Godin. That is the kind of egregious error I was hoping to avoid by waiting two days before publishing. Thanks for pointing that one out!

      Mentioned the Blogger and Twitter events in passing, just more from the side of people using them.

      Thanks again. As I said, it was sort of the history as I observed it so I knew I’d miss big chunks.


  • Kris @ Detailed Success

    Pure. F’in. Awesomesauce!

    It’s fun to see the history and events that inspired someone in through their own eyes.

    If someone else wrote this it would be probably completely different.

    1. Ramsay

      Exactly! I was hoping people would add their own inspirational events to this!

      Thanks Kris.

  • chris

    The biggest thing I believe bloggers SHOULD learn is that just because people like Rowse and Clark do something, it doesn’t mean we should do it.

    I’m not saying they do stuff that’s wrong (well, if they do, they learn from it). I’m saying that just because Brian Clark uses a new format for his home page, it doesn’t mean it’s one we should copy. For example, David Risley recently revamped his site, and domain name, which you can see here:
    I find that David’s homepage format is much easier to read than Copybloggers long page with lots of scrolling.

    With that, I’ll say that bloggers should learn this from looking at history; design layouts change because they are found to be more effective and just because someone else does it, it doesn’t mean it’s right for your audience.

    1. Ramsay

      Yeah good points. The thing about Clark’s design though is that it is mobile responsive meaning that it moves and looks good on all screen sizes. Not sure if David’s would do that.

  • Financial Samurai

    Fantastic recap Ramsay!

    I want to THANK all the trailblazers before us who have allowed the rest of us to lead our own path.

    I never would have through three years ago I could retire by the age of 35, “work” two to four hours a day from anywhere, and make a healthy living online.

    It is so fun to own what you are doing. There’s no better feeling in the world!



    1. Ramsay

      Thanks Samurai. Nice work on the early retirement!

  • Melody - Business

    Nice summary!

    I just skimmed the comments so pardon me if someone already mentioned this. A great book covering the history of blogging is “Say Everything” by Scott Rosenberg. Ask Santa for a copy ;-).

    1. Ramsay

      I’ll have a look. Thanks Melody.

  • Rob

    Another excellent post, it never ceases to amaze me what inspiration can be gained from well written quality content.

    Thanks Ramsay

    1. Ramsay

      Thank you Rob!

  • Debra Gould

    Fantastic retrospective on the world of blogging, love it! What strikes me though is how much you’re in the world of “writing about blogging for bloggers.” Which is not meant as a criticism, just an observation. The people you mention as “famous” are most famous amongst bloggers, not business owners or consumers in general, except for perhaps Dooce.

    There are millions of us who see our blog as one (albeit critical) marketing/communication tool in our arsenal to support our actual business of selling our products and services.

    At least that’s how I’ve looked at it for my largest brand, Staging Diva. That business isn’t the blog, but Home Staging Business Report supports my thought leadership position in a particular niche and ultimately sells my training program worldwide.

    1. Ramsay

      Hi Debra.

      I’ve been thinking about your comment for a few days.

      I suppose you are right about the blogs for bloggers in the list. I’m not sure it’s just Dooce that is the exception though – Zen Habits, Johns Wu and then all the updates about Google etc. The more I look at it, the more I realize I’ve missed a lot. I’ve lived a sheltered blogging life!

      As for the blog’s position in your marketing efforts – I completely agree. I sort of think of a blog as an interactive and useful brochure.

      1. Debra Gould

        Thanks Ramsay for that feedback. As it happens I read an article in the print (!) version of a national newspaper on Friday about the resurgence of the “less is more lifestyle” that mentioned Leo Babauta and said Zen Habits is “one of the world’s most popular websites.”

        So ironically given my comment, I hadn’t realized how big he was in the general population even though as a blogger who reads lots about bloggers (from you and others), I knew he was the “big time” to us 🙂

  • Chris McCombs

    Well done sir…

    I love your blog, along with quicksprout and copyblogger it’s one of the few I follow on the reg

    Gonna repost this one on FB, it’s awesome

    I came from more from the info-marketer / guru world as compared to the blog world, but used my blog and email list to build my biz, glad I built a list

    Just lately have been following your stuff and it really resonates me

    One thing that hit home in this post and another you did was about needing to love what your blogging about … blogging is one of my favorite things in the whole world, I really think this gives me a huge edge over those extrinsically motivated by just the money

    Bravo on your site and this post Ramsay

    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for mentioning me in the same sentence as Copyblogger and Quick Sprout! You’re my new best friend. Ha ha.

  • Dean Saliba

    I’m glad that I’m not alone in wondering what happened to Maki, it is bizarre that nobody seems to know what has happened to him despite him making many friends and fans. I would say his disappearance is up there with the disappearance of Shergar and Lord Lucan.

    1. Ramsay

      Yeah it is really weird. It’s almost as if he hasn’t even stopped in to let everyone know he is okay.

  • crazy sexy fun traveler

    Funny how this is the first time I find out abotu some big bloggers in the past!

  • Erik

    Interesting article. Lots that I never knew about.

  • Cameron@Health

    Oh boy do I know where you are coming from! My dog always wants to play, the unwatched DVDs on my shelf suddenly become VERY interesting, there is always a bit of cleaning to do in the house that suddenly become very important and because I work at home my family think they can ask me to pick their kids up when they can’t be bothered! Who said working from home was easy?