The Big Business of Personal Finance Blogs

Large public companies having been quietly buying personal finance blogs for seven- and even eight-figure amounts.

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Imagine starting a blog about money. You write about your monthly budget, saving for retirement, and how much you spent on your last car. Your friends poke fun at your blog and the hours you spend toiling over each article. But you’re having fun, so you keep at it.

Then something unexpected happens--you start to get a following. Perhaps your little blog gets mentioned by mainstream media or featured on a major website. As a result, the number of visitors starts to grow.

[See 10 Ways to Start Earning Extra Money Now.]

And as your visitors grow, you realize that you can make some money from the blog. Not a lot of money at first. But as your traffic grows, so does your income. At first you’re thrilled to make a few hundred dollars a month. But what started out as just a hobby turns into a business earning thousands of dollars a month.

Then you experience the tipping point. Your site starts to rank well in search engines for popular finance-related terms. These search engines drive more traffic to your site, and thousands of dollars a month in income turn into tens of thousands of dollars a month or more.

Does this sound like complete fiction? Consider that large public companies having been quietly buying personal finance blogs for seven- and even eight-figure amounts. The first such sale occurred in 2008 when Bankrate, Inc. (NYSE:RATE) paid nearly $15 million for, a personal finance blog run by Johns Wu. Since then, Bankrate has purchased another popular personal finance blog for $3 million, according to a recent SEC filing.

[See 10 Smart Ways to Improve Your Budget.]

Quinstreet, Inc. (NASDAQ:QNST) has also been on a personal finance blog-buying spree. Over the past few years, Quinstreet has purchased several of the most popular personal finance blogs for undisclosed amounts.

And this month in Chicago, bloggers gathered for the first-ever financial blogger conference. The conference was sponsored by the likes of Ally Bank, Bankrate, and ING Direct. The event was attended by more than 200 of the most prominent personal finance bloggers in the industry. And many of these bloggers who have not sold their sites earn a full-time income.

While blogging on many topics can be profitable, personal finance blogs can be a goldmine. These sites naturally cover topics such as credit cards, credit scores, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and the like. Companies with these products to offer will pay a substantial bounty for each new customer a website or blog refers its way. And while any one transaction does not generate significant income, with enough traffic from search engines, a single blog can earn five and even six figures a month.

[See 6 Extreme Savings Tips You Can Use Now.]

In fact, these markets are so lucrative that Google has entered the business. Branded as “Google Advisor,” you can search for credit cards, mortgages, CDs, checking accounts, and savings accounts without ever leaving the search engine giant. Search for “credit cards” in Google, and the first paid search listing is to Google Advisor.

And the beauty of a blog is that it costs very little to start. Registering a domain name costs about $10 a year. Cheap web hosting costs less than $10 a month. And the predominant blog software, WordPress, is free. So start your blog today, and perhaps you will be the keynote speaker at next year’s financial blogger conference.

DR is the founder of the popular personal finance blog, the Dough Roller, and author of 99 Painless Ways to Save Money.