How Casey Botticello Built a Portfolio of Blogs & Scaled an AI Site to $25K/Month

This is an interview with Casey Botticello of Blogging Guide.

Hey, Casey. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is Casey Botticello, and for the past few years, I’ve worked full time as a digital publisher and internet entrepreneur. One of my main projects is my online community for writers, which consists of my website Blogging Guide, and its award winning subscription newsletter.

How long have you been self-employed? And what was life like before that?

I’ve been self employed for a number of years, first as a freelancer and more recently as an operator of 40+ blogs. Before that, I worked for a digital PR and lobbying firm. During this time I worked a fairly typical 9–5 schedule in a traditional office.

How and when did you get into blogging?

I started blogging over 10 years ago. Most of the early writing was not published under my own name. I began to transition to freelancing as a ghost writer for several large tech businesses blogs.

How many niche sites have you started? And how many do you currently run?

I am not sure exactly how many blogs I’ve launched, but it is well over 100! Some of them failed to gain traction, some were sold.

Today I have a portfolio of 40+ sites. About half of these are income producing and the other half are essentially digital marketing experiments that I run to test the latest SEO theories or my own blogging strategies.

When did you start using AI as a blogger?

I started using AI as a blogger as soon as ChatGPT was released. At the time I was still writing articles for various tech blogs as an additional source of income.

I immediately realized the threat ignoring AI would pose to me as a writer and a digital publisher, so I immersed myself in all things AI and machine learning.

Although I still use ChatGPT for many purposes, my preferred AI writing tool is KoalaWriter. Koala allows users to generate solid first drafts of content with minimal input.

My model of blogging is now a hybrid model, where I write some of the content myself and I heavily edit the rest of the content (starting with AI generated content as a very rough draft).

I also use AI writing tools for content ideation, performing complex research, reformatting data, and for dozens of other smaller daily tasks. I’ve built my own AI tool that functions as a customized personal assistant and have found it to be incredibly valuable.

How long did it take you to make your first money blogging?

With most of my sites, I start with the two easiest forms of monetization, display ads and affiliate marketing.

Typically, it takes 6+ months to make the first few dollars on a brand new site with a fresh domain. Even for experienced site operators, it usually takes 18–24 months to reach the traffic levels that unlock a site’s full potential.

Also read: How to Make Money Blogging for Beginners: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Monetizing a Blog

Tell us about your technology niche site.

The technology site was a recent case study that I documented every month on Blogging Guide.

I showed readers the site’s growth from a brand new site earning $0 per month, to its peak in February 2024 when it generated over $25,000 in monthly revenue from display ads alone.

I sold this site in March for a mid six figure sum.

I picked this niche because I have an interest in the subject matter, and it was also something that seemed conducive to AI content production based on my experimentation.

While I can’t reveal the site URL (due to the NDA associated with the site sale), I can say it was a specific sub-niche within technology. It was hyper specific in focus and was a topic that was undergoing significant change. It was also a topic I had studied a bit in college. So I had a decent working knowledge of this topic. 

The case study was an experiment to test the viability of heavily edited AI generated content as a digital publishing strategy. I had pretty low expectations since the technology was new and ever evolving.

The actual results of the case study far exceeded my expectations both in terms of how well the site performed and on how much knowledge I’ve gained experimenting at the forefront of virtually every AI writing tool released.

While the results of this site are not typical based on my previous experience building, scaling, and monetizing sites, it does provide a blueprint for experienced bloggers to pivot their business model as technology evolves.

It also allows new people to try their hand at blogging. Previously I had a team of freelancers that produced content for many of my sites. This cost alone was at least $5–$10k per month. With AI, the cost is less than $100 per month (assuming I personally edit all the content).

In theory this editing task could be outsourced too, but there are so few people familiar with AI writing tools that I’ve ended up taking on this role myself.

What’s your current content strategy like? 

It varies based on the website, but I generally try to front load content production, so that I can get as many posts indexed as quickly as possible.

My content strategy hasn’t changed, but it is unusual in that I don’t chase long tail keywords or PAA (People Also Ask) Questions.

I create a topical map before I begin writing, and using some level of intuition, I plot out most if not all the articles I intend to publish on a site. I use keyword research tools to validate traffic afterwords, but I don’t let this guide the editorial direction of my sites.

Do you optimize every blog post?

I make sure each blog post has:

  • A custom featured image
  • An SEO optimized title
  • A catchy meta description
  • Supporting media (infographics, videos, audio)
  • Concise introductions that give an answer immediately to the reader (and then elaborate on this answer in the remainder of the article)

What’s one SEO strategy that has worked best for you, and that you constantly rely on?

Custom featured images. I cannot emphasize enough how many bloggers overlook this vital element.

What AI prompts work well for you?

The best AI prompts are often the simplest:

Some prompts I’ve used successfully include:

  • Avoid using technical terms or jargon. – This prompt is useful if your topic has lots of industry jargon and you are producing content for a broader audience.
  • Make sure the content shows ____  in a positive/ negative light. – This prompt is useful if you want to create content (such as a review) where you don’t want the AI system to equivocate or try to offer a “balanced” overview (which the system defaults to regardless of topic).
  • Paragraphs should contain no more than _____ sentences. – This prompt is useful if you are getting overly long paragraphs or you want to keep the article style less formal.

What do you edit once you get the first draft of an article using AI?

I write a unique title, rewrite the entire introduction and conclusion, and remove all extraneous text.

I then go through and fact check the content and look for areas where the AI tool did not go deep enough into, and supplement this content with my own.

I’ll then add custom visuals and media elements that are relevant to the article.

What’s a topical map and how do you create one for a new blog?

For me, topical mapping is the process through which a blogger plans the content for a large portion or the entirety of their site before they actually begin publishing their first post.

I’ve outlined my process in this article.

When did you start sharing income reports and how has that helped you build your reputation online?

I’ve shared them sporadically with my newsletter subscribers, and found that people really enjoyed reading them.

It’s allowed me to not only build a reputation and an audience, but it has allowed me to connect with other digital publishers who are testing cutting edge strategies.

How did you decide to start looking for a buyer for your most profitable niche site?

This was not my first site sale, but it was the largest. Generally, I build sites and hold them for long term cash flow.

Also read:

Tell us about your site in the craft and DIY niche. How is it doing in terms of traffic and income?

The craft site is doing well. It was pretty much unaffected by the March 2024 core update.

It has grown much slower than the first site in my case study. But it was accepted into Mediavine recently and is on track to earn over $1000 this month.

Do you use the same content, SEO and growth strategies for all your niche sites?

I use the same general SEO principles across most of my sites. I also try to build each into an authority site within its niche.

But depending on the niche this can require differing levels of content, backlinks, or even monetization methods. Ultimately, each site is slightly unique when it comes to the exact combination of these factors.

How much are you currently earning as a blogger per month?

I don’t fully disclose my monthly earnings across all my sites, partially because some are sites that are partnerships (I am not the only owner).

And it varies a lot month to month.

But this past month, the top 5 sites would have easily earned $30,000 from display ads alone.

I also have sites monetized with affiliate links, brand sponsorships, paid memberships, subscription tools, etc. but this past year, display ads have been one of the most profitable categories.

Are you actively building backlinks to your blog?

No, I don’t actively build backlinks on my new blogs.

I will for my older blogs in more competitive niches. I mainly do this through manual outreach or through digital PR campaigns.

What’s your take on Google’s March 2024 core update?

Google’s March 2024 core update was brutal for many site owners (including me). Several sites saw huge drops in traffic (80%+). None of my sites were hit with manual penalties. Just algorithmic fluctuations. 

Right now, since the update is still ongoing, I’m pausing or slowing down new content creation and studying the data.

Lots of people are jumping to conclusions about what specific “problems” might have led to their site being hit. The reality is far more complicated. Even Google has trouble fully anticipating the effects of their updates (which is part of why they need frequent calibration).

I’m definitely going to keep publishing, but I may decide to shift my attention away from sites that were hit.

Generally speaking, if a site was hit hard in any of the recent updates, there appears to be little chance that it will quickly rebound to its previous highs. 

This is partially why I built a portfolio of sites. Risk management is one of the biggest jobs a content creator has, and single platform dependency (i.e. getting all your traffic from Google, in the same way) has always been risky.

What are your tips for bloggers who are just starting out with using tools like ChatGPT for content creation?

Use these tools sparingly if you are new to digital publishing. If you don’t have a lot of experience, AI tools basically amplify your mistakes.

Ultimately, the best way to use AI writing tools is as an assistant who speeds up the content creation process in some novel way. Simply churning out lots of AI generated content is a bad strategy.

Also read: How I Ranked an AI-Written Article on The 1st Page of Google in 4 Days

What’s next for you, your blogs and your business?

I plan to launch a few new sites over the next few months. But I will probably let most of the existing sites function on auto pilot (adding just a few posts per month) and take this time to experiment with other monetization methods.

You have to be constantly testing and experimenting to even have a chance at finding overlooked opportunities.

While digital publishing is undergoing some massive shifts right now, this also means that many people will quit, or will abandon their otherwise sound strategies, giving new bloggers an opportunity that hasn’t existed in years.

AI writing tools have certainly been a game changer for me, but I still enjoy writing every single post on my site Blogging Guide. This is where I share useful blogging and give readers an inside look at my various projects.

I’ve also started a YouTube channel where I’ve been sharing blogging tutorials and documenting my other strategies for making money online to help others achieve financial independence.

Want to make money blogging? Learn how Casey Botticello, creator of Blogging Guide, built a portfolio of sites and scaled one blog to $25K/month in 1 year just by using display ads: