A question I get asked often is how much does it cost to run a high traffic money-making blog? Most people are able to figure out that John Chow dot Com can’t be hosted on a $3.71 a month shared web hosting plan. As part of my presentation for the Seattle WordPress meetup, I decided to break down what powers my blog and the cost of running it.
I have never released this information before and I’m still questioning myself for doing so. However, I’ve received this question enough times in the past that I think a post about it is in order.
For those who’ve wondered, this is how much it cost to run John Chow dot Com.
Web Hosting: $374 Per Month
My blog is hosted on a Pro Dedicated server at HostGator. This Xeon Quad Core powerhouse features 8GB of DD2 RAM, two 500GB hard drives, 13 dedicated IPs and more bandwidth than I can ever consume. The two hard drives are set up as a RAID 1 mirror – whatever happens to drive 1 replicates to drive 2. Should one drive go bad, the blog can still run.
The Pro Dedicated server is the most powerful server HostGator offers. It’s also the most expensive at $374 a month. Because HostGator has a 20% sale on right now, the first month cost $299. However, if you use the JohnChow25 coupon code, you’ll get the first month for $280.50.
The server is fully managed, meaning HostGator takes complete care of it. This was important to me because I don’t know the first thing about server administration. I just want to blog, I don’t want to take care of hardware.
Content Delivery Network: $20 Per Month
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is one of the best way to improve blog performance. Unlike normal web hosting, where your content is housed on a single server, a CDN takes the blog’s static content and replicates it through hundreds of servers around the world instead of a single host at one location. This technology makes sure each visitor to your site gets their data from the city closest to them. By bringing your content closer to your readers’ connection point, your blog will have much quicker load times, superior scalability, and guaranteed uptime.
My content delivery is handled by MaxCDN, one of the biggest CDN providers on the Internet. MaxCDN is the content delivery provider for Mashable, Template Monster, BuySellAds and many other big sites and blogs.
MaxCDN charges on a pay as you go plan with no long term contract. They have a special right now. The first 1,000GB of data transfer cost $39.95 (normal price is $99). After that, you pay 9.9 cents per gig. Use coupon code JohnChow for a 25% discount. With prices this low (only $20 a month for my blog), any blog can afford to have their content delivered by hundreds of servers around the world instead of just one.
VaultPress Backup Service: $15 Per Month
In addition to the mirror hard drives, my blog is backed up to VaultPress. Made by the creators of WordPress, VaultPress is the best WP backup solution I’ve ever used. Backups are saved to the Automattic grid (over 1,200 servers in three data centers) that serves over 16 million WordPress.com blogs and 270 million monthly visitors.
The best thing about VaultPress is it’s on the fly and in real time. The VaultPress plugin monitors your blog for changes and immediately backs them up. A full back up of your blog is made every hour. The only downside to VaultPress is the service is in beta and you have to apply for it. Even if you want to pay for it, you might not get it.
Mailing List Service: $249 Per Month
It’s no secret that Aweber handles my blog mailing list. Well, now you know how much it cost. Aweber pricing start at $19 per month (get the first month for $1) and goes up to $149 per month if you have 10,001 to 25,000 names on your list. I have more than that so it cost me even more.
Aweber is one of those bills I like to see go higher and higher. The biggest my list, the more Aweber charges me but it also means the more I make. There has never been a single month in the blog’s history where the list made less than the cost of hosting it. In fact, there has never been a single month where the list didn’t made at least 100 times its cost. Having a mailing list does not cost you money. Not having a mailing list is costing your a potential fortune.
Go To Webinar Service: $499 Per Month
My live webinars, like the one I’m hosting this Tuesday, are handles by GoToWebinar. With GoToWebinar you can conduct unlimited do-it-yourself webinars with up to 1,000 people for one flat rate of $499 per month. If you can’t see yourself doing a webinar for 1000 people, GoToWebinar has a 100 seat plan for $99 a month.
Webinars are something I plan to get more into. You can do things with a webinar that are much harder to do with a blog or email list. I might write a post series on the webinar business model. Then you’ll understand why marketers are willing to pay $499 a month for this service.
Link Tracking Service: $27 Per Month
All my links are cloaked and tracked by a service call LinkTrackr. Not only does LinkTrackr allow me to cloak my links behind my custom short JCLink.me URL, it offers an awesome set of tracking tool so I can see how those links are performing. The upgrade to Version 2.0 adds split testing of multiple URL with one link and conversion tracking.
LinkTrackr plans range from free to $27 a month for the Xtreme plan that I use. The free plan allows you to create ten tracking links using the default LinkTrackr URL. If you want your own custom URL, you’ll have to upgrade to one of the paid plans. The free plan is a good way to test out the service. You can use the free plan for one full year. You can upgrade or downgrade your account at any time, so you can always start small and upgrade as needed.
To try LinkTrackr, simply go and create your free account. If you’re signing up for any of the paid plans, then be sure to use the coupon code JohnChow to get 20% off.
Grand Total: $1,184 Per Month
The above represents the ongoing monthly cost to run my blog. Other miscellaneous expenses include a Flickr Pro account ($47.99 for two years) and an Evenote Premium account ($45 per year). There’s also what I pay Michael Kwan to write my reviews (he used to work for Pho but not anymore). For privacy reasons I can’t reveal how much I pay him, other than say it’s less than the cost of the review.
What I find really funny is most people are shocked when they find out it cost over a grand a month to run my blog. They were expecting it to cost nothing (or next to nothing). I guess everyone is used to the Internet being free. While my blog does cost more to run than the average blog, it also makes a lot more than the average blog. If you look at the blog as a business, then the picture looks amazing. How many $500,000 a year business can run on a bit more than grand a month? I only know one.